Part 2 out of 4
from my chestnut curls depended wild flowers, and wreaths of Herbert's
twining; altogether a pleasing picture presented itself to view, which,
without vanity, I was thankful to behold.
We had not been long at our lessons when a voice, gaily singing,
approached the door, and without the ceremony of knocking, the gentleman
whom we had passed in our morning ramble entered the room.
"I have been looking all over for you; why are you hiding yourself away
up here?" said he, merrily. "Can you not take another pupil, Miss Reef?"
at the same time drawing up his chair to the table at which Herbert and
myself were seated.
"If he is as tractable as Herbert, I might venture," I replied, assuming
the gay, mocking tone of my questioner.
I soon saw that he was bent on remaining; so, taking from my desk a
drawing-book and pencil, I placed them before him.
"There is your task; please not to interrupt me." I was determined not to
be beguiled from my duty by this gay cavalier. He permitted us to pursue
our studies uninterruptedly till he had finished his drawing.
"There," he exclaimed, placing it before me. "Will you not reward me for
I looked at the sketch. It was bold and clear, shaded with a firm hand,
spirited and original. I was truly surprised at the skill evinced.
After that day he visited our room often, calling in during the morning
to exchange a pleasant word, or at the close of the school hours to
loiter over our drawings and chat of books and music. His visits began to
grow too pleasant to me. Some effort must be made on my side to render
them less attractive.
One afternoon he entered as usual, and waited patiently till Herbert had
recited his closing lesson. Then he arose, and taking a guitar from its
case, commenced playing and singing a song in a most bewitching manner.
"Come, Miss Reef," said he, when he had finished, "that beautiful hand is
just made to glide over this instrument. Allow me to give you a lesson."
Feeling that if I permitted him to encroach upon my position as governess
I would be lost, I refused. I must give him to understand that I know my
place and will not be trifled with, I thought; so I arose and rang the
bell for Mary. She soon appeared, apparently surprised at seeing Mr.
Richard Bristed so much at home in the school-room.
"Mary, sit down; I wish you to hem this handkerchief for Herbert," said
She seated herself with my work-box before her, and commenced plying her
needle industriously. The young gentleman looked on my arrangement with a
lurking smile for a few moments, and then uttering a long, low whistle,
arose from his chair and sauntered out. Passing me, he whispered:
"I will remember you for this, Miss Reef." He did seem to remember it, as
several days elapsed without his presenting himself.
Once I met him in the hall, and he merely bowed. If he had wished to
arouse in me an interest in himself, he could not have pursued a better
plan; for I grew restless and uneasy, regretting heartily that I had
After three days had passed thus, I concluded I would explain to him my
motive. Accordingly, in the afternoon, when my hour of recreation came, I
brushed my hair carefully, changed my dress, and descended to the piazza
on which he generally lounged in the afternoon with a cigar.
As he was not there, I seated myself on a rustic chair to watch for him.
I had not sat many minutes when I heard the wheels of a carriage on the
gravel path; then the gay voice of Mr. Richard met my ear. I turned: he
was seated in the vehicle with a valise beside him, and was apparently
bound on a journey. As he caught sight of me, he raised his hat, bowed
distantly, and drove off.
A dreary sense of loneliness crept over me. The setting sun filled the
west with its golden splendor. Great yellow bars of sunlight streamed
through the railing, and lit up the floor of the piazza. Sitting there I
was bathed in its ruddy flood. Happy birds poured forth their evening
song in the bushes near by; but I was miserable and alone. All nature
seemed to rejoice, while I, her child, was desolate.
"You appear sad, miss," said a voice close beside me. I looked up and
beheld the elder Mr. Bristed. He had evidently observed my emotion, and
his dark eye looked a reproof that his lips did not utter.
Presently, he seated himself near me, and asked a few questions as to the
progress my pupil was making. Having satisfied him on those points, he
inquired kindly if I was lonely or discontented.
"Oh, no," I answered, heartily, hoping to place a barrier to any further
inquiries on that point.
"But you have been weeping," said he, in a subdued voice.
"Not because I am lonely," said I, resolved to have the truth out; "but I
fear I have wounded the feelings of your brother."
"My brother!" he repeated. "Ah! you have become acquainted with him? He
is bright and glittering like the sun; but be careful, my child, be
careful! Young birds should avoid the glittering steel of the fowler. But
youth will seek its own experience," he remarked, with a deep sigh. "No
friendly warning will teach the young to beware of danger. But consider
me your friend, Miss Reef, and let me likewise be your monitor."
Without waiting for my reply, he hastily left me and entered the house.
Four weeks elapsed ere Richard's return. During his absence Mr. Bristed
showed his sympathy for my lonely situation by many little attentions;
sending up to the school-room, now and then, choice fruit from his
hot-house, or a bouquet of conservatory flowers, and, several times in
the early evening, he sent for me to read aloud to him.
I found him to be a quiet, polished gentleman; and I grew to like him,
and to look for his tokens of kindness after my daily labors with growing
interest, and, if they came not, to feel disappointed and unhappy. He had
travelled much and could talk well, and under the influence of a
sympathetic listener, his countenance lit up with kindly emotion, and the
sad lines of his face disappeared beneath a happy smile.
But in the glowing midsummer his truant brother returned, and my new-born
interest vanished like snow before the harvest sun.
Again Mr. Richard exerted his varied powers to fascinate and amuse me.
Again I listened, and struggled, as formerly, against his wiles, and
finally bent a too willing ear to his soft words of praise and
admiration. With secret pleasure I reveled in his ardent language,
hugging to my heart the belief that I was loved.
How that summer sped by on its golden wings! Time passed on, as in some
delicious opium dream! And when the short clays and long nights of the
Christmas holidays set in, I found myself secretly engaged in marriage to
Of our plans and attachment his brother was not at present to be
informed: this stern brother who shut himself up apart from his species,
and who, Richard told me, was of too cold a nature to sympathize with
"He will dismiss you, Agnes, if he hears of it," he said. "Wait till I
have settled up my affairs, and then he can do his worst."
I believed this statement; I forgot all my former good impressions of Mr.
Bristed, and listened to the tales that were told me of how he had
wronged Richard. I learned to regard him as a robber, a hypocrite whose
statements could not be relied on; a false, dark, bad man. As for
Richard, he seemed a king in comparison; a noble, magnanimous being, whom
some kind fairy had bestowed upon me.
But that cold, relentless Fate, which comes to tear off the painted
wrappings of life, revealing the bare and ugly reality beneath, was fast
At the close of a cold, snowy day, I had retired early to my room, and
having locked the door that I might be free from interruption, sat down
to look over the dainty articles of dress which I had been shyly
accumulating for my approaching marriage.
It was but a scanty outfit, but to me it appeared munificent as that of a
princess. I could never weary of looking at these beautiful garments; I
placed them in one light, and then in another; I folded and unfolded
them, and finally ended by trying them on, and admiring in the mirror
their perfect adaptation to my face and figure. A long time must have
passed in this way, when the hall clock struck the hour of midnight.
Astonished at the lateness of the night, I threw down the laces and
ribbons which I was combining into some airy article of dress, and was
preparing to remove my bridal attire, when I was amazed to hear a key
turning in the lock of my door. Fear and surprise nailed me to the floor.
The door glided softly open and in stepped Mr. Richard Bristed! He seemed
surprised to see me thus.
"What! up and dressed?" he exclaimed, in a loud whisper. "O my beauty! my
wife! I have come to claim you to-night. You shall be mine. No power on
earth shall withhold us now!"
"How strangely you talk, Richard," said I. "You forget it is so late. We
cannot go to church at this hour."
"Ah, dearest, this is church! See, I have brought you this ring. We will
stand up before God and our own hearts, and I will marry you here. We
need no other witnesses than ourselves and this ring!"
Though my youthful heart was blinded by love and passion, I was not
prepared for this. Excitement and the strangeness of the proposition
overcame me, and I broke forth into sobs.
He endeavored to soothe me, urging his request with a pleading force
which I could scarcely withstand.
"I am not prepared, Richard," said I, drying my tears; "this is so
sudden, so unlooked for, I must have time for thought."
But thought only revealed a gaping abyss, from which I must fly.
He continued to urge his plea; but seeing I would not yield, his
countenance changed. The sweet, seductive smile vanished. He grew white
as the moonbeam, and, clenching his hand and setting his teeth, bent over
me, whispering huskily:
"Agnes, I shall not step from this room to-night. I have the key. You
have promised to be mine. You shall keep that promise. To-night you shall
keep that promise!"
If he was pale, I became paler. A cold chill crept over me. But I took my
resolution, unyielding as death, not to grant his request.
A chasm seemed to yawn before me. The loneliness and friendlessness of
my position were presented to my mind with terrific reality. A deadly
swoon-like feeling ensued. To yield in this might seal my fate. I paced
the floor rapidly, praying for help.
Help came suddenly. As I passed the door of my wardrobe, I remembered
that the same key unlocked this and the door of my apartment. I drew it
forth, and in the twinkling of an eye I was free.
The cool air from the outside passage, and the prospect of liberty,
cooled my excited nerves, and revived me for the work I had to
"Richard," said I, my hand upon the latch, "you or I must leave."
He made no reply, but violently rising from his chair, grasped something
that lay near him, and tearing it to atoms, rushed by me without word or
look, and reaching the stairs, hastened out of sight.
Mechanically I sat down, and with sad, straining eyes surveyed the wreck
before me. My bridal wreath was shivered into fragments; its white
petals, like fruit blossoms caught in an untimely blast, sprinkled the
floor; my laces were in shreds like the riven mast of some shipwrecked
Of course there was no sleep for me that night. When worn out with
thinking and weeping, I drew a large easy chair up to the door and sat
there as guard, listening, with the hope which moment after moment grew
fainter, that he would return and whisper in my willing ear a sweet
demand for pardon, some word in extenuation for his unseemly conduct; but
he came not.
Toward daybreak, I was aroused from the lethargy into which I had fallen
from sheer exhaustion by the sound of excited voices and hurried
movements in the room below. As these subsided and the gray morning
broke, I was startled by the sound of a horse's hoofs on the graveled
A fearful foreboding possessed me; what could it mean? Somebody was
riding away; who was it? Through the gate and down the avenue I heard the
I dragged my nerveless limbs to the window and peered forth. Clear
against the horizon, now streaked with pale crimson rays of dawn, rising
in bold relief I beheld the receding figure of Richard Bristed.
He was leaving me without word or sign. My head reeled; I grasped the
window casement to steady myself, and sank insensible upon the floor.
I must have remained in this condition some hours, for the sun was high
in the heavens when I opened my eyes and became conscious. Where was I?
Not in my own room, surely; the fragrance of exotics did not penetrate my
lattice; the simple honeysuckle that twined around my window breathed
forth a different perfume from this. My heart gave one glad leap. Oh, it
is all a dream! I thought; Richard's galloping down the road, and all the
past night's misery is a dream! With this reflection a happy tranquillity
was stealing over me, when I heard a well-known voice exclaim:
"Look, Mary, attend her; she has opened her eyes, thank God."
It was Mr. Bristed's voice, and as he spoke Mary approached me, and
bending over, bathed my head with scented water. "Hope you feel better,
Miss," said she.
"Have I been ill, Mary? Where am I?"
"In master's library."
Surely it was so. I was lying upon a divan near the conservatory. Alas, I
was not dreaming! I sat up and looked drearily around, and as I did so
Mr. Bristed drew near with a beautiful lily in his hand, which he offered
to me. He inquired kindly after my health and looked pleased when I told
him I felt quite strong. Indeed I did feel strong for the moment, and
arose determined to leave the room.
"Sit still--where are you going?" he asked anxiously.
"Going to the school-room--going to see Herbert," I replied.
"Herbert," said he, and his countenance darkened; "you cannot see
Herbert, he is ill."
Not see Herbert, and he ill? What could be the matter? He was well but
Mr. Bristed's strange manner, coupled with Richard's absence and the
fearful events of the night, seemed likely to turn my brain.
He saw my startled look of inquiry, and said, "Be quiet awhile; I have
something of importance which I will communicate to you by-and-by, when
you are composed."
"Mary," he ordered, "ring the bell for breakfast to be sent hither;
meanwhile, Miss Reef, while awaiting our coffee, if you will walk with me
in the conservatory I will take pleasure in showing you my tropical
I followed him languidly with wandering thoughts. Gradually, however, I
grew interested and listened with increased attention to his animated
description of the homes and haunts of the wonders by which he was
surrounded. He had visited many climes, and gathered each strange flower
and plant he had seen in its native clime. He became eloquent and genial
as he described the strange habits and peculiarities of his floral
companions, which he seemed to regard as a species of humanity; to him
they were not inanimate existences--creations--but objects endowed with
soul and sensation.
While we were thus conversing, Mary announced that breakfast was ready,
and I reluctantly accompanied him to the library. He almost compelled me
to eat, selecting for me dainty morsels to tempt my appetite.
Mr. Bristed evidently labored under some mental disquiet, which he
evinced by undue efforts at cheerfulness.
Breakfast being removed I sought to withdraw from the room, but he
requested me to remain, and dismissing Mary, seated himself in an easy
chair next the ottoman on which I rested, and warming his hands over the
fire, his eyes bent upon the blaze, said, with an abruptness that was
natural to him:
"I am not accustomed to concern myself about strangers, Miss Reef, but in
you I have felt a peculiar interest since the day we first met. You will
remember I warned you then that you were too young for the responsibility
which I foresaw awaited you. I feared at that time that Richard, on
seeing so bright a flower, would endeavor to snatch it from its stem. My
fears have been realized; you see I am acquainted with what has taken
place, and now the hour has come when you and I must part."
"Oh no," cried I gaspingly, "not yet, not yet."
"Miss Reef," he demanded solemnly, "why will you delay? I understand what
you would say; you desire to see Richard again, but that can never be;
you have looked your last upon him in this life. I know his magnetic
influence over you; once again under that influence you are lost!"
I did not like what he said. He overstepped the bounds of courtesy, I
thought. The warning which Richard had given me against him revived in
force and I recoiled from him, saying:
"Sir, your brother is my friend; I can listen to nothing in his
He sighed, "Ah, Agnes, you are but a child. The sun just rising above
yonder horizon must soon be darkened; I see the gathering cloud and would
warn you of the approaching storm. Why will you turn from me when I
desire to help you?"
His musical voice was so sympathetic that it moved me deeply; but I shook
my head and answered passionately, "I cannot trust you. You wrong him,
and would compel me to wrong him too."
"My child," said he sadly, "I had hoped to have saved you from further
anguish, but perhaps it is best that you should know all. Come with me."
He opened the door and led me to a room on the opposite side of the hall.
I knew it to be the room where Herbert slept.
"Let us go in," he whispered.
We entered softly: the apartment was darkened, but a dainty crib which
occupied the centre of the floor could be dimly seen. As we stepped in,
his nurse, who was bending over the cot, moved with hushed footsteps away
to give us room.
There he lay, my dear, sick lamb! I was so glad to be permitted to see
him. But the result of no ordinary sickness met my eye.
Great purple rings had settled around his closed eyelids, his lips were
blue, his sweet mouth partly opened, he seemed to breathe with
difficulty. I could not speak. Mr. Bristed turned down the coverlet from
the little shoulders.
"Look, Miss Reef," said he hoarsely, his voice quivering with agitation,
pointing to some hideous marks on the little sufferer's throat--"those
are _his_ finger marks."
I sickened. What crime was this that he hinted at so strangely? But the
insinuation was too incredible. The thought that he was working on my
credulity exasperated me.
"If you want me to leave your house, Mr. Bristed, command me and I will
go, but you cannot force me to believe this horrid inference."
He must have felt the disdain with which I spurned him, for he turned
upon his heel and left the room.
I then spoke to Herbert. At the sound of my voice he moved, and I seated
myself by his side. Quietness seemed desirable, and I was not inclined to
break it. Now and then I moistened his lips with a little wine and water.
Seeing that I still sat by the crib, the nurse lay down upon a settee and
Hours thus passed. The days were short and twilight came on rapidly.
Sitting there in the gathering gloom, I began to hum inadvertently a
little song which Herbert loved me to sing to him. Hearing my voice chant
his favorite ditty, the poor little creature stirred in his crib, and his
pale lips parted into a smile. Presently, in broken tones he asked, "Is
that Miss Reef?"
"Yes, Herbert, darling, I have come to sing to you," said I, mastering my
emotions and chirruping more loudly his beloved song.
The effect seemed truly magical--he endeavored to raise up his little
body. "Oh sing it again," he cried.
"Would you like to sit upon my knee?"
He nodded assent, and I made an effort to lift him up, but he was weak
and heavy, and I not sufficiently strong to sustain him. As he fell back,
my eyes caught sight again of those fearful marks. Some power outside of
myself forced me to ask, "Herbert, what ails your throat; has any one
At the question, a tremor fearful to witness passed through his frame,
and looking at me with an expression of preternatural intelligence, he
whispered, "He tried to choke me."
Stunned with horror at this again repeated assertion, I sank down and
buried my face in my hands. I could think but one thought, and that was a
wish that I were dead!
But my nature would not permit me at such a crisis to remain passive
long. I must arouse myself and act. Calling the nurse to take my place, I
went to seek Mr. Bristed. I found him, as usual, in his library.
"Sir," said I, "I am calm now; will you not explain to me this frightful
mystery? I will listen and thank you."
He placed a chair for me to be seated, and taking my hand, said gently:--
"Miss Reef--Agnes, you are too weak to hear this that you seek to know."
"No, no," I exclaimed, vehemently; "I am not weak; I must know all."
He arose and paced the floor hurriedly for a few moments; then muttering,
"It is best--I will tell her," he said:
"You have been surprised, no doubt, Agnes, at the frankness with which I
have expressed my opinion of Richard's character--let me inform you that
he and I are not brothers. He is a half-brother, the offspring of my
father's second marriage; though indeed I doubt if he have a right to
even that relationship. I have heard dark hints thrown out that my father
had been deceived, and that this child who claimed to be his son should
look in a lower quarter for his father. Richard's mother was not a woman
of high moral principle, and he partakes of her nature. My father
provided for him well, but as I was the elder son the bulk of his large
property became mine by inheritance; but Richard has always made the Hall
his home when in England--indeed, he has a legal right during his
lifetime to the use of the room he occupies. He has not, however, often
availed himself of this right since I have had his son Herbert under my
"His son Herbert?" I repeated, mechanically.
"Yes, poor child, his son; though the boy has always been taught to call
him uncle. Neither Richard nor myself desire the relationship to be
known, and it is only in hope of serving you that I reveal it."
"Richard married?" I said, falteringly.
"Ah, Agnes, there are many women whom he should never have seen, as he
could not marry them," said he, with the slow determination of a man
resolved on uttering a repulsive truth. Herbert's mother was a beautiful
but penniless orphan of good family, who visited this house some years
since in the capacity of companion to our great-aunt.
"During that visit I became enamoured with her, and we were secretly
engaged in marriage. It was before the death of my father, and I was not
my own master; but I loved her truly, and meant well by her, only
desiring her to wait till I should be free to please myself. But Richard
stepped in between me and my happiness. He stole this girl's heart from
me; gained her love as he has endeavored to obtain yours, by flattery
and dissimulation you see I am not wily and smooth enough to please
women--but also he destroyed her peace under promise of marriage; leaving
her soon after and going abroad without acquainting her with his purpose.
"I was temporarily from home when this occurred. On returning in the
course of a month, Richard fled, as I have stated; but I was ignorant
then of the cause, and it was not till in the agony of shame she came to
me for help with her secret, that I became aware of his perfidy.
"I need not tell you that I gave her all the aid in my power; her child
Herbert was born and secretly cared for. When he was about two years old,
the great-aunt of whom I have spoken died, leaving a large proportion of
her property to Alice, of whose misfortune she had never dreamed.
"Wealth came to the unfortunate girl too late. The shock she had received
from Richard's deceit had preyed upon her health, and she was failing
rapidly, when he, hearing of her good fortune, returned home.
"With his specious address he might have regained his old ascendancy over
her had I not interfered. You know well, Agnes, his peculiar gift of
fascination. I believe he could by some unexplainable psychological
process make any great wrong appear right to a woman. But I induced her
to bequeath her wealth to Herbert, and secure it, for a time at least,
beyond Richard's control--and he owes me a grudge for it.
"Herbert, she left under my care, unless, of his own free will, he chose
to reside with Richard, who in that case was to become his guardian; and
in the event of Herbert's death before reaching his majority, the whole
property was to revert to Richard Bristed. You see she loved him still.
Unjust but womanlike, her love was stronger than her judgment.
"Well," said he, after eyeing me thoughtfully, "you listen as if you did
not rightly comprehend what I have been saying!"
I was indeed stunned by his communication. Could it be, I thought, with
suppressed fear, that the shadowy figure which had haunted my bed-chamber
and had visited me in dreams was the same wronged Alice? Had she arisen
from her grave beneath the granite of the church-yard to warn me? Or are
the dead jealous of their rights? Do they cling to their earthly love? I
queried. But when he spoke I shook off these thoughts that were rising
like mist to obscure my judgment, and answered, "_I_ am. I am listening;
"Agnes, through your influence Richard has hoped to obtain possession of
Herbert and control over his fortune. He has thought to entrap you as he
did Alice, and through his power over you has calculated to carry out the
project of his prolific brain."
Till this moment I had listened silently to his strange recital, but I
could not brook this insinuation. The story, to my mind, did not appear
clear. How could Richard expect to obtain, through my agency, possession
of a son whom he had never acknowledged? Tis true I remembered him to
have said that he feared I would miss my pupil very much. He had asked
playfully what would Herbert do without me, but he had not suggested
taking the child away with us, and therefore Mr. Bristed's charge
appeared to my mind unfounded, and I told him so.
"Ah, my child!" he replied, "you know not the devising power of this man.
He has an agent here in this place, in the shape of old Crisp, the
hunchback. It has been his plan, under promise of marriage, to decoy you
from this house; he would probably have left his child to Crisp's good
agency, with orders to join you. Herbert loves you, and would have gone
willingly in your company, but alone with Richard he would not have moved
one step. Once out of my reach in some distant city, he would have had
the reins in his own hand. It was by an unexpected, but I hope fortunate
chance, that I overheard a conversation to this effect between him and
the deformed servant. I could not ascertain the day set for this
adventure, but I surmised that it was at no remote date, and I have kept
alert. You have avoided me, Miss Reef, and I have been obliged to watch
your movements distantly. Not from suspicion of you, for I know you to be
pure and honorable, but because you are under my protection, and
because"--he hesitated--I wondered what was coming next. I had a
presentiment that he was about to make an avowal which I ought to shun,
but before I could evade him he turned suddenly toward me, his face white
with emotion, and continued--"I love you, Agnes, though it is no time now
to speak of my passion, and have watched over you as a father, a brother,
a _lover_ would watch."
This announcement affected me more than I care to confess, considering I
did not return his love, but it was the allusion to his sheltering care
that moved me.
"Yes, I have watched over you; orphan that you are, you need some
guardian care. I knew by your frequent journeys to the village, by your
cloistering in your own apartment, and more than all, by your speaking
countenance, that you were preparing for some great event in your life.
"Last night I could not sleep; I laid my head upon my pillow, but finding
it impossible to close my eyes I arose and dressed. Sitting by my window
I thought I heard a commotion in your room. I listened until my surmises
grew into certainty. The hour was midnight, and your door, which at that
season is usually closed like a cloister-gate, swung on its hinges.
"This alarmed me; I unlocked my door and looked out. Soon a hasty step
retreating from your chamber met my ear. Descending the stairs, this
untimely visitor entered the room where Herbert lay sleeping. A strange
suspicion came over me. Can the intruder be Richard? I thought. If so,
what was he doing at that hour of the night? I seized a lighted candle
and rushed to the boy's apartment, and there I found Richard, maddened,
and beside himself with liquor and frenzy. I was just in time to save
Herbert's life from his insane fury.
"I know not what had occurred between you and him, Agnes, but this I
know, he had failed in some diabolical plot he had contemplated. Chance
or a friendly Providence had thwarted his purpose. I had him in my power,
and compelled him to leave the house, not to return until you have been
removed where he will never find you.
"I cannot leave my beautiful bird, my pet dove, where the charms of this
wily serpent may ensnare her."
He ceased. My eyes were dry, my heart turned to stone. I arose, and
mechanically moved toward the door.
"Where are you going, Agnes? Tell me of your plans; regard me as your
friend, I beg."
"Take me away--take me away," I cried hysterically; "I must go! Oh, oh,
oh!" I should have fallen, but he caught me in his arms.
On reviving came the dread feeling that I must go. Go whither? I had no
home. I could not return to my uncle who had cast me adrift. The
inquisitive glance of his grim housekeeper would annihilate me. But go I
must, and that speedily.
With weary head and aching heart I commenced packing my little wardrobe.
My bridal attire I hastily covered from sight that it might remain until
time and mildew should obliterate it. My dream of love was past. I felt
that my youth and beauty were buried in that crushed pile of broken
flowers, pale silk, and dishevelled lace.
I had concluded my work, and was tying my bonnet-strings, when a knock at
the door announced Mr. Bristed. He appeared surprised at seeing me
arranged for my journey.
"So soon, Agnes?" said he. "You are not yet able to leave."
But as I expressed very emphatically my ability and determination to
start immediately, he saw expostulation would be useless.
"Well," said he, "let me hear where you contemplate going."
I told him I should take the railway or coach to some point, I cared not
where; any distant city or village from whence I could advertise for
another situation. I was too hopeless then to care whither I went.
"And do you think I would permit you to leave me thus at random, going,
you know not where, without any preconceived plans? Oh my poor, poor
child, to be thrown thus upon the world!"
He walked the floor several times, apparently in great agitation; then,
suddenly pausing, said abruptly, almost violently, "It must not be!
Agnes, don't go," lowering his voice, and placing his hand gently on my
shoulder; "stay with me--become my wife. I love you and will cherish you.
No rude blast that my arm can shield you from shall assail you. My life
has been one of gloom, you can render it one of sunshine. Stay, dear one,
oh, stay!" and in his transport he seized my hands.
"What do you mean, Mr. Bristed?" said I, recoiling from him. "Surely, you
must forget yourself and the circumstances which have so recently
occurred; you have accused me of loving your brother, how, then, can I
transfer my affections to you? Oh, you are cruel, cruel!"
"Forgive me," said he, penitently; "I will do anything for you,
Agnes--take you away, if you wish; only let me go with you and see that
you are properly cared for."
I shook my head.
"Richard may seek to find you; you may fall again into his evil hands if
you insist on going thus alone."
"Mr. Bristed," said I, "thus far I have acted as you directed. I will
depart at your solicitation; but further than this, I must be free. If
Richard seeks me out, and I can aid him, I will do so. Degraded and
fallen though he be, my love will not shrink from him. I will help him to
"You are a noble woman, Agnes," he said with a sad smile, "God protect
you!" and he left me.
As he went out, I heard him order the carriage. The serving-man came for
my luggage, and I summoned courage to pay a farewell visit to Herbert.
The poor little invalid became very much excited at seeing me, and clung
so tightly about my neck that it was with effort I could leave. I did not
then inform him of my intended departure, and with an aching heart and
forced smile I parted from the dear sufferer.
I met Mary in the hall; she told me Mr. Bristed had ordered her to
accompany me on my journey.
I did not want her company, my mind craved solitude; I would not have
her. I sought her master, and told him so. "At a time like this I must be
alone," said I, excitedly; "I want no spy upon my actions. I will go
wherever you wish me to go, but let me proceed alone."
"Well," said he, musingly, "I desire but to serve you. Go to the town of
M., present this letter according to its directions. You refuse my
further aid, but if ever you need a friend, send for me; otherwise, I
will never trouble you."
I answered that I would do as he requested, and with a heavy heart
entered his carriage, which was waiting to drive me to the railway
I will pass over my journey, and the lonely, miserable days which
succeeded my arrival in M. I made fruitless effort to obtain service, and
waited and watched for an application in my dreary lodgings until my
small hoard of wages was nigh exhausted.
I had been in the city a fortnight, broken in spirit and dejected by want
of success, when I happened to bethink me of the letter Mr. Bristed had
I took it from its undisturbed nook in my trunk, and having read the
superscription, set about to find the party to whom it was addressed. The
direction led me to a large manufacturing establishment.
The gentleman to whom it was written appeared to be a foreigner. Having
presented the epistle to him, he perused it hastily, then taking my hand
with great eagerness, he exclaimed:
"O Mees! I am greatly honored. Mons. Bristeed is my very good friend; I
well acquaint with him in Paris. I congratulate you on having one so
grand a gentleman for your acquaintance. He tell me you look for a
"Yes, sir," said I, glad to find my tastes had been studied; "I do desire
"I will assist with pleasure, Mees. Be seated; in a few moments I will
I sat down, wondering whither the gay, loquacious gentleman would lead
He soon rejoined me, hat in hand.
"Will you accept my escort, Mees; the place is near by," said he, reading
the note. "No. 14 B----, street. Will you walk, or shall I call a cab?"
"I will walk," I answered, scarcely knowing what reply was expected. As
we turned the corner of the street I ventured to ask:
"Is it to some school you are guiding me?"
"Ah, Mees," said he, rubbing his hands together and laughing, "it is some
great secret. Mons. Bristeed would surprise you. Have a leetle patience,
and all will be divulged."
We walked rapidly for a space and then paused before a handsome building.
Entering the courtyard, we rang the silver bell. A servant answered our
summons and invited us in. Seated in the drawing-room, I heard the buzz
of many voices.
"Is it an academy?" I whispered to Monsieur Pilot, my conductor. He
"This is a young ladies' seminary, Mees."
Before I could question further, the room door opened, and a lady of
tall, imposing figure entered.
Monsieur Pilot commenced a vehement conversation with her in French. She
responded in the same tongue. The dialogue ended, he turned to me and
"Mees Reef, permit me to introduce you to Madame Fontenelle."
Madame smiled very graciously upon me, and then recommenced the
gesticulation and babble of the two. At length she appeared satisfied
with the understanding at which they arrived. I was growing uneasy at
their prolonged volubility, when Monsieur Pilot pirouetted up to me, and
"Mees Reef, I beg to congratulate you. Madame consents to transfer this
mansion into your hands, She accepts our recommendation and that of your
own intelligent countenance. Mons. Bristeed was not mistaken in the
impression you would make. I wish you joy in having become the
proprietress of this splendid institution."
"How," I cried in astonishment; "I proprietor? I do not understand.
Madame looked blandly on; my remarks were evidently unintelligible to
"It is a very onerous and responsible position, Mademoiselle"--shrugging
her shoulders--"I should not like to advise you. Do you comprehend the
extent of the undertaking? I should not be willing to trust my pupils in
Her remarks stung me, and gave, I presume, the favorable turn to my
destiny, for I felt the power to undertake a task which I would before
have shrunk from.
"I will do my duty in all cases to the best of my ability, madame!" was
my brief reply.
"Ah, you do not comprehend, Madame," said Monsieur Pilot, coming briskly
to the rescue. "This is a surprise to Mees Reef. My very good friend
Monsieur Bristeed has not apprised the young lady of his bounty. I have
his commission to purchase for her this establishment, which he is aware
you desire to dispose of, Madame. His recommendation of the young lady is
"The whole establishment?" I asked, with an effort at composure.
"Yes," replied Madame. "I am obliged to start for the West Indies, and
must dispose of all. The present instructors are thoroughly competent for
their various positions; they merely need a supervisor. You appear young,
but I presume experience has fitted you for the office."
"Eminently so, eminently," answered Monsieur Pilot promptly, as if he had
been guardian of my reputation for years. "We will consider the
arrangements as complete, my clear Madame. I will call tomorrow and close
the transaction. _Bon jour_, Madame."
And with rapid strides he hurried me away.
The school became mine. By vigilance and perseverance, I not only
retained the pupils Madame had transmitted to my care, but added many
Monsieur Pilot, lively and friendly, visited me frequently. I liked the
little Frenchman; his gaiety served to divert my mind from reflections on
the past, which like spectres would sometimes stalk grimly before me when
unoccupied, I sought the quiet of my own chamber.
With my increasing success, my pupils' interest fully occupied every
moment of my time. Meantime, not a line or word reached me from Bristed
Hall. Upon my installment as proprietor of Madame's seminary, I had
written to Mr. Bristed, thanking him for his kindness, and informing him
that I should take measures to repay the expenditures he had incurred in
my behalf, by placing quarterly in the hands of Monsieur Pilot a sum such
as I could spare from my income, by means of which I hoped in time to
repay my external indebtedness.
The only reply I received to this letter was a peremptory refusal, sent
through Monsieur Pilot, to accept any return.
I had been more than a year in my new home. Constant employment had
developed my mind, and I flattered myself on having acquired a wisdom and
sedateness such as ten years of quiet experience could not have given me.
But of this I was lamentably mistaken.
Of my silly yielding to circumstances which follow, the reader must not
judge too harshly. I was still but an immature woman, not yet twenty; the
glamour of youth still hung over me. I craved human love, and took the
first that presented itself, just as any other ardent, imaginative girl
in my place would have done.
One night late in autumn, when the sharp winds were already giving
signals of the coming winter, of leafless trees and frozen ground,
feeling the usual sadness which accompanies this season of the year, I
walked out upon the piazza in front of the house, looking down upon the
street. I thought the keen air would put my blood in more active
circulation, and thus dispel from my mind the brown and yellow fancies
that filled it as the dying leaves of October strewed the ground.
My pupils had all retired to their rooms, and relieved of my charge, my
thoughts were free to recreate. I walked quickly back and forth, drawing
in long draughts of the invigorating air, and reviewing the morning's
duties. While thus engaged, my attention was arrested by the appearance
of a tall man on the opposite side of the street, standing still and
watching me. As he caught my startled gaze he lifted his hat and bowed,
and before I had time to reflect on his strange proceedings, had crossed
the street and was standing on the pavement below.
My God, he called me by name! My blood became like ice. Shaking from head
to foot I covered my eyes with my hands, and would have run in, but the
whistling wind brought the cry again:
"Agnes! Let me speak with you."
Quick as the words were uttered the dark figure mounted the stone steps,
only the little iron railing of the balcony dividing us.
I knew then who it was.
"Will you open the door, or shall I?" said a voice which I remembered too
I saw no alternative, without disturbing the neighborhood and betraying
myself; so, like a criminal, I stepped softly to the hall and unlocked
the door. He came in with a light, free step, and seated himself upon a
couch with the ease of an old friend and accomplished gentleman. It was
I will not detail what passed at this interview. But I fell again under
his fascination; his magnetic presence lulled my faculties, and, alas, I
must relate that this nocturnal intrusion was followed quickly by others!
He assumed his old ascendancy over me. The past became like an unpleasant
dream in my mind, dimly remembered, but never distinctly recalled.
Occasionally, however, a sharp doubt obtruded itself, and roused me for
an instant. One evening I ventured to ask:
"Richard, why are your visits so brief, and made only in the night?"
"Why?" he repeated, as if startled by the suddenness of the question,
then adding carelessly: "Because you always have that deuced old fellow,
Monsieur Pilot, running here. I am not very jealous, yet it would torment
me to meet one who dares raise his thoughts to my Agnes. He wants to
marry you. Do dismiss him!"
This conjecture proved true, and I was obliged to give a cold rebuff to
the man who had befriended me. It is possible Richard Bristed did not
care to be recognized by his brother's agent, but I did not think of this
at that time.
After this affair happened Richard visited me more openly, and my pupils,
when by chance they met him, were charmed with the stranger. He was only
known as "Mr. Richard." "Call me that, Agnes, I hate the name of Bristed.
Introduce me to your friends as Mr. Richard," he said, and I had done so.
About this time he explained satisfactorily, to my credulous mind, the
cause of his sudden retreat from Bristed Hall, and gave me reason to
believe that the statements his brother had made concerning him were
untrue and evil in design.
"My brother, as you have surely discovered, Agnes, is a cold, proud man,
and as I was not his equal in wealth or position he selected an heiress,
both old and disagreeable, whom he designed me to marry. Your youth and
beauty he intended to appropriate to himself. I feared if I made him
acquainted with my purpose to unite myself to you he would frustrate all
my wishes, and when I discovered that he knew of my plans, I determined
to forestall him by making you my wife that very night. I intended to
have gone through the form of marriage, which the next day could have
been legalized, for I feared the influence of his wealth and position
upon your unsophisticated mind.
"However, you refused to trust me, and I left your room maddened by anger
and the fear of losing you.
"I met my brother in the hall-way; he said Herbert was ill, and I accused
him of trying to injure the boy that he might defraud me. Sharp words
passed between us. I left him, and in blind haste mounted my horse,
thinking I would ride over to N., a distance of some twenty miles, to get
the clergyman of the parish, an intimate friend of mine, to drive with me
to the Hall and perform the important ceremony.
"The ride I accomplished in a few hours, but I found my friend absent
from home. The excitement and disappointment, added to the severe cold to
which I was exposed, broke me down, and I was taken suddenly ill. When I
recovered, I returned to Bristed Hall only to find my priceless bird
flown, and no clue to be had to her whereabouts.
"As to the tale about Herbert, that is all a _ruse_; he is not my son,
and only distantly connected with either of us. He is heir to a
considerable estate, and Mr. Bristed is managing so that upon Herbert's
decease (and poor child, he cannot live long) the inheritance will fall
to his lot."
Such was his version of the story, and as I loved him I believed it
In his gay society the winter passed quickly. With the opening spring he
departed--on business, as he said. I felt his loss, but as it was a busy
time with me it did not affect me as it otherwise would have done. Many
changes were being made in my seminary. I was obliged to employ workmen
to add new dormitories to the great house, for pupils were crowding in
from every point.
The reputation of the school was growing; I was immersed in business.
Some months elapsed; I ceased to hear from Richard, almost to think of
him, amid the activity of the spring term.
"Circumstances," some say, "are the Devil," and I almost believe that
saying. While employed I was happy, my mind well balanced and energetic;
but unfortunately for me, summer vacation drew near. It came finally; a
sultry sun, parched earth, and scorched verdure made life in the city
undesirable. My pupils fled to the country and to their homes until the
fall session, and I was left alone. Even my servants were absent, all
Shut up in the empty mansion alone with my own thoughts, I was growing
It was at this unpropitious moment that Richard Bristed returned.
He arranged quiet strolls to the country--little excursions here and
there with himself as my sole companion--and many sweet happy days of
unsullied pleasure I passed in his society.
One sultry morning, to my delight, he came in an open carriage, saying
that the atmosphere was so heated he would drive me out of town to a
charming little village with which he was familiar.
The prospect of such a jaunt was to me indeed agreeable; and as he liked
to see me in becoming dress, I arrayed myself in white, placed a fillet
of pale blue ribbon round my hair and a bouquet of blue forget-me-nots in
the bosom of my dress, and thus adorned set forth, sitting by Richard's
I was as happy as a young queen; all the black suspicions which had
darkened my horizon were absorbed in the fierce heat of that summer
morning. His beauty, his fascinating smile, his lively conversation,
filled me with rapture.
Arrived at the village, we stopped at a small but pretty tavern and
alighted. While I entered the dwelling Richard drove his horses under
shelter. He soon joined me, looking much disconcerted.
"Agnes, my darling, what shall we do? We cannot ride back to-night; the
carriage is out of order, and I fear the horse is injured by the heat and
"O Richard, I must return home to-night!" I answered decidedly.
"Well, I will see what can be done, but we will rest awhile and take some
A delightful half hour passed while we were regaling ourselves with
country fare and looking at the strange place from the window of the
little inn. Then Richard proposed that we should walk out while waiting
for repairs to our vehicle. Together we strolled through the quiet lanes
and open commons till we came upon a pretty, unpretending church, half
hidden in ivy and creeping vines. The door stood open. "Come," said he,
"let us go in." I followed him in. To my surprise I discovered a
clergyman in his robes at the altar. Richard whispered in my ear some
words which I could not understand and their import I could only guess
at, but his tender manner brought the hot blood to my face.
"Agnes," he continued, speaking with quiet determination; "you must be
mine; everything is in readiness. We cannot return to-night; Fate ordains
It did appear to me that Fate, as he said, ordained the events which
followed that country drive. All the love and sentiment of my nature was
aroused; but reason told my intoxicated senses that I must not act
without forethought, so I shook my head to his passionate urgency and
endeavored to withdraw. But my companion pressed me gently back into an
open pew, and hastened past me up the aisle.
A rapid conversation then took place between himself and the clergyman,
who, after casting his eyes in my direction, went to his desk and took up
Richard returned with quick steps to where I was sitting.
"Come," said he, smiling; "he is waiting."
Startled and trembling, I made no answer save an effort to reach the
"For heaven's sake, Agnes, do not make a scene! Recover your usual good
sense. Do you not see that it is best?" whispered Richard, with
earnestness almost fierce.
And so hurried, flushed and doubting, overcome with heat and excitement,
I permitted myself to be led to the altar.
The ceremony soon ended. As the clerk shut his book and we turned to
depart, I could not realize that this abrupt, informal marriage was a
reality. As I passed down the aisle, a white, fluttering, impalpable, and
yet clearly-defined form arose from one of the empty seats, and
unobstructed by carved wood or heavy upholstery, passed out through
frame and plaster! The slight figure, the golden hair, I remembered too
well--it was that of the _ghost of Bristed Hall_!
I clenched Richard's arm so that he muttered an oath, and said sharply,
"My God, Agnes, what are you doing?"
"Did you not see that figure? It passed straight through the wall," I
whispered in affright.
"Move on--none of your d--d nonsense, Agnes," said Richard, scowling;
then hastily adding, "Excuse me, love, you confuse me. My happiness makes
me forget myself."
My mind surged with conflicting emotions. I felt a secret joy in the
knowledge that I was united to the man I loved. This romantic, half
run-away match pleased the romance of my nature, and yet I was unable to
resist the feeling that I had done wrong. A strange foreboding of evil
intruded upon my joy.
Richard that evening was gay almost to wildness. "O Agnes! Agnes! we have
outwitted them, the fools! They thought they had conquered me, but you
are mine, and I have won!"
He talked so disconnectedly, I thought he had taken too much wine.
Indeed, to this he owned.
"I could drink flask after flask of it, I am so happy!" he exclaimed.
We were happy that night and drove home in the cool of the morning.
It was arranged that our marriage should for the present be kept private,
as Richard thought if it were known it might disorganize my school.
We had been wedded but two weeks when one morning Richard asked me to
show him my deed of the property.
"How strange," said he, as he looked it over. "Do you know, Agnes, before
I wedded you I might have married many a woman of wealth, but I would not
unite myself with a lady who would not honor me by giving me sole control
of all her possessions."
"Well, Richard," answered I, laughing, "you can control mine if you like.
It matters little to me who holds the deed, so long as my dominion over
the young ladies is not invaded."
"That is what I expected of your, loving nature, Agnes, and yet I suppose
you would hesitate to convey your property to me."
"No; why should I?" I exclaimed. "I will go with you to an attorney this
moment, if you desire it."
"Well, come, we shall see; get your bonnet," said he gaily.
I tied on my bonnet, and accompanied him down the street into a little
dingy office in a narrow thoroughfare.
At the door, laying his hand upon my shoulder, he said jokingly:
"Agnes, go back, I was only trying you; I wanted to see if you meant what
"Of course I meant it, and I will not go back till it is done."
"Well, well, you must have your own way, I see!" and with a gay, exulting
smile he led me into the office.
I signed the paper giving to him the house and lands, and was glad when
it was done, for I felt that it might atone for any suspicion or doubt of
his goodness which had crossed my mind, for he had made me very happy
since our marriage.
I returned to my school and its duties. In the interval between the
recitations, I had time to reflect. I had acted impulsively, and perhaps
unfairly. What right had I to give away a property given to me for an
Had I done right? That was the question which annoyed me--the question
which constantly thrust itself before me during the live-long day. My
sleep that night was disturbed. The form of the elder Mr. Bristed
appeared in my dreams. He seemed to reproach me by his looks, and when I
endeavored to speak to him, vanished from my sight.
Richard had left me after my signing the paper. He told me he was obliged
to leave town on business, and I had no one to council with. My own
thoughts startled me; I became nervous, and finally quite ill.
At length, after two days of unrest and self-condemnation, I quieted
myself with the assurance that I would go to the Hall and see Mr.
Bristed; then also I could see dear Herbert, to whom my heart went often
out with longing. His name was never mentioned between Richard and
myself. I avoided the subject; a dread which I could not overcome forbade
me to speak of it. But now a strange, irrepressible desire to see the
child filled my mind.
Yielding to this intense feeling, I arranged my affairs, and taking a
coach, set off early in the morning for the train which would convey me
to Bristed Hall. To my astonishment I met Richard at the depot.
Overwhelmed with surprise at the encounter, and ashamed to confess my
intended journey, I made some petty excuse for being there, and returned
home again. Richard handed me into the cab, but excused himself from
accompanying me as he had a friend awaiting him.
That day, after luncheon, taking me aside he informed me that a noble
lord had placed in his charge a lad who was partially idiotic and sole
heir to an immense estate; that it was necessary he should have at his
disposal a room in the upper part of the building in which he could keep
him from observation, as it had been discovered the sight of strangers
increased the boy's malady, and perfect seclusion would be the only means
of restoring him to reason.
I immediately directed a servant to put in order one of the rooms in a
remote portion of the dwelling; this was done, and towards dusk Richard,
who had left the house, returned in a handsome coach with the poor,
helpless, deranged boy. From the window I saw them alight. A slight, tall
figure, wrapped in a cloak, descended from the coach. This undoubtedly
was the afflicted youth. He walked so feebly I should have hastened to
his assistance, but Richard's command that I should not permit him to
see strange faces withheld me.
However, I stood in the partly opened door, hoping I should be called. As
the muffled figure passed me on the way up the staircase I vainly sought
to catch a glimpse of the youth's face, but he turned neither to the
right nor left.
Richard, however, saw me and shook his head, indicating with an angry,
peremptory gesture, that I should withdraw.
For days I felt a strange curiosity about this youth, but as Richard gave
my inquisitiveness no food, and conducted his attentions to his charge in
an orderly, business-like manner, I dismissed the subject from my mind.
Nothing new transpired the remainder of those autumn days. November was
now close upon us. About this time I remarked a sudden falling off of my
hitherto prosperous school. Determined to know the cause, I inquired of
one of my assistants, in whom I confided, if she was aware of the cause
of this decline. She hesitated to reply to my question, but when pressed
for her opinion she informed me that my pupils were dissatisfied with my
relations with Mr. Richard, and also with his conduct respecting the
youth who had been imprisoned on the upper floor. They asserted they had
heard groans proceeding from the room he occupied, and feared to remain
in a house where mystery and secrecy were rife.
I was astonished and alarmed at this information. You, reader, will be
surprised to learn that I was at that time more ignorant of events that
transpired around me than my own pupils. But I was not of a suspicious
nature, and happy in my new life of love, the few weeks that had elapsed
since my marriage passed as in a delicious dream.
But now I was thoroughly aroused and ready to return to duty. I thanked
the teacher for her information and then dismissed her, as I wished to be
When left to the quiet of my own thoughts I reflected how best to proceed
in the matter. Richard was not at home, I could not question him, and he
had the key of his ward's room with him.
I finally concluded I would go to the door of this private room and
listen if I could detect any unusual noise from within.
With trepidation I ascended the back staircase leading to the secluded
Near the door I paused against the alcove of the great window that
lighted the hall, and looked out. The sky was dull and leaden; a scanty
snow was falling, and the wind, blowing furiously, drove it hither and
yon. I stood for some moments looking out upon the gloomy prospect so in
accordance with my state of mind. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of Richard
crossing the street. I started when I saw him and was about to retreat,
when a thought arrested me. Why should I hurry away? Was I afraid of
Richard? Was he not the proper person to consult in my dilemma? I would
let him know that I desired to enter the room!
So thinking, I approached the door and tried it. It was locked, but at
the sound of the turning knob a sad, dreary moan arose from within--a cry
of mingled fear and weakness. The sound of that moaning voice seemed
familiar to my ear. What could it mean?
As I stood thus in suspense, listening for further development of the
mystery, I heard a step close beside me. I turned, and discovered
Richard. His fair, handsome face scowled at me fiendishly; his
countenance seemed transformed; his eyes gleamed like those of a panther.
"What are you doing here?" said he, laying a heavy hand upon me and
speaking through his set teeth. "Go down stairs!" and he pushed me from
I suppose his physical power and angry mood awed me, for I forgot my
determination to solve the mystery--forgot my own rights, and hurried
precipitately down the stairs.
With my mind filled with dreadful forebodings, I reached my own private
chamber, entered it, and bolted the door, that I might consider,
undisturbed, the best course of action to pursue under these fearful
suspicions that haunted me. Hour after hour passed as I sat thus absorbed
in thought which seemed to turn my very hair gray from its intensity.
I heard Richard descend the stairs and go out into the street. Not long;
after this the door-bell rang violently and the servant knocked at my
door to say that a gentleman in the drawing-room wished to see me.
Smoothing my hair and arranging my toilet, I obeyed the summons, but
started back on discovering the stranger to be no other than Mr. Bristed.
He pressed my hands and said:
"Agnes, can I converse with you in private here a few moments?"
My first surprise over, I answered, "Come with me; we will not be
disturbed here." Withdrawing to a small room adjoining, he drew forward
an ottoman and seating himself beside me, said:
"Agnes, Herbert is missing; can you tell me where I can find him?"
"Herbert missing!" said I with a shudder.
"Yes," said he, "I have heard, Agnes, that a gentleman visits you whom I
surmise to be my brother, and, if so, I thought perhaps you would know
through him of Herbert's place of hiding."
"Has Herbert left you?" said I. "Tell me--what do you mean, Mr. Bristed?"
"Yes," said he; "some few weeks since, I left the Hall to visit an old
friend. I expected to be absent a fortnight. While I was gone Herbert
disappeared, the servants knew not how nor where. At first, hoping to
discover that he had strayed off of his own accord and would soon be
found, they searched the country in every direction, but in vain. They
were at last obliged to send me word of his disappearance. You can
imagine my sensations on arriving at the Hall and finding the dear
child's room vacant. I made inquiries in every quarter, sent couriers out
in all parts of the neighboring country, but no trace of him could be
"I at length thought of you, that you might have seen or heard of my
brother. He is the one person likely to be concerned in the singular
disappearance of Herbert."
I trembled from head to foot. What could I say? Evidently he was not
aware of my marriage with his brother. How should I act? Richard might
come in at any moment and discover himself. I recollected him to have
incidentally mentioned that the following day he had an engagement at the
race-course with a friend; I therefore said hurriedly:
"Mr. Bristed, I have seen Richard recently, but tonight can tell you
nothing further. If you will call to-morrow morning at eleven, I will
tell you all I know."
He seized my hand, exclaiming, "Tell me to-night, Agnes, and set my mind
My head seemed on fire--I groaned audibly.
"I can tell you nothing of a certainty. It is all surmise, and my brain
is distracted to-night. Give me till to-morrow."
"I will, Agnes; I feel that I can confide in you."
"Now go," I replied. "My position is such that your presence here will
only destroy the purpose of your visit."
He clasped my hand in his and left me.
The next morning before leaving for the racecourse, while adjusting his
neck-tie, Richard said:
"I fear we shall lose our imbecile pupil up-stairs, Ag. I brought a
doctor in to see him last night, and he says he cannot live long."
I could not see his face, for he looked persistently away.
"If he is ill, I must see him, Richard," I managed to reply.
"Oh, no!" said he; "I thought you were foolishly scared to hear him groan
yesterday, but if he does not get better I will send him home to his
friends." This he said carelessly, as he walked out of the room humming a
How coolly he talks about the lad! thought I, half ashamed of my
suspicions. Perhaps I have wronged him. I have been too impetuous in my
The time drew near for his brother's arrival. He was prompt to the hour.
"Well, Agnes," said he, "I have passed a sleepless night. I hope you will
relieve my mind of its anxiety."
"Mr. Bristed," said I, covering my eyes with my hand, for I could not
endure his eager gaze, "I must first tell you I am married to your
"Married to Richard!" he exclaimed, starting up violently agitated; and
seizing my shoulder with nervous gripe he set me off from him at arm's
length--"You married to Richard! why, Agnes, that cannot be; has he not a
wife now living in France? But be calm, child," said he, "be calm,"
patting me gently on the head; "perhaps I am misinformed; we will talk of
this hereafter. Now about Herbert. Tell me what you know."
This question recalled me. I then informed him of the idiotic pupil who
had been received in the house about a fortnight since, and how my
suspicions as to his identity had been aroused the day previous.
He could scarcely wait till I had finished my account. "Come, quick!
come! show me the way to the room!"
I led him up the stairs in the direction of the suspected chamber. As we
neared the door a low moan could be heard distinctly.
"O my God, it is Herbert!" he exclaimed. "Quick, where is the key?"
"I have no key--you must pry the lock open." No sooner said than done--he
burst open the door and entered. I followed. Alas! our surmises proved
too true! There upon the couch lay the wasted form of poor Herbert.
As he recognized us his wan face lighted up with an angelic smile, and he
endeavored to raise himself at our coming, but he was too weak, and his
head sank nerveless back upon the pillow.
Silently and hushed, as in the chamber of death, we stepped to his
bedside. He held out his thin hand to his uncle, who clasped it between
his own, and, kneeling by his couch, bowed his head and sobbed aloud. His
first moments of bitter grief subsiding, he said to me, "Send for some
wine." Then, stroking the child's fair forehead, he groaned, "O Herbert,
Herbert, have I found you at last, sick and alone!"
Herbert attempted to reply, but his voice was weak and faint; we could
not distinguish his words. A servant brought the wine, and I moistened
his colorless lips with it. How I felt, it is useless to describe. Words
would fail to express my terror.
The rich, warm juice of the grape and the application of stimulants
seemed to restore him to life. His first effort on recovering was to call
me by name. I answered by bending over him and bathing his pale forehead.
At this he smiled, pleased and happy.
"Now, Herbert, my poor boy," said Mr. Bristed, "if it will not fatigue
you too much to talk, tell us how you came here. Who brought you? Why did
you leave Bristed Hall?"
"Uncle Richard brought me," said he, heaving a melancholy sigh. "He came
after you had gone, uncle, and told me that Agnes Reef was sick and going
to die, and wanted to see me and you, and that if you were home you would
let me go, because you loved her; and I thought so too. He gave me this
ring which Agnes sent so I would know it was her." And, saying this, he
held up a thin, transparent hand, and there, indeed, upon it gleamed one
of my rings, so loose that the wasted fingers could scarce retain it.
"My ring! So Richard gave you that," said I, with scorn I could not
conceal, even in the sick chamber.
"Yes," he murmured, "and he told me he would bring me straight back
before uncle got home, and he brought me here into this room, but Agnes
was not here. I could not find her. Then he locked the door and would not
let me out, and I have been hungry and cold. And when I cried, he would
kick me, and that made me sick, I think. Do take me home, uncle, before
he comes, and I will never go away again!"
During this recital Mr. Bristed and I exchanged glances of horror. We
could not speak. When it was finished, he said:
"Agnes, order the coach. I must take him away from this place."
I felt that the boy was too feeble to move, but I dared not suggest it. I
too wanted him removed from the baneful influences of the house. We
proposed to carry him down on the pallet, and thus convey him to the
carriage. One hour or more elapsed before everything was in readiness.
While we were moving him Richard appeared, unannounced. A wild, unearthly
scream from Herbert first gave notice of his arrival.
"O uncle! Miss Reef! save me! He will beat me to death!"
His uncle endeavored to calm him with his assurance of protection, and,
turning to Richard, in a voice husky with emotion said:
"Look, this, is your work! If there is a God ruling the universe, your
punishment, though tardy, must be sure."
"I see nothing strange about it," said Richard, with an assumption of
indifference which made his handsome face look to me at that moment like
that of a Judas. "If he is my child, as you say, why should he not be
here? Who has a better right to him than I? The little imp professes to
dislike me, but that is some of your teaching, and I will soon cure him
"You cannot have him, Richard. He must go with me."
"I know my rights, and I will use them," he replied, excitedly. "Move
that boy at your peril;" and he clapped his hand upon his silver-mounted
pocket-pistol. He had evidently been drinking. His day at the race-course
had maddened him. He was in a dangerous mood to oppose. This Mr. Bristed
evidently saw, as I did, for he beckoned me to go out for assistance. As
I was moving toward the door for that purpose, Richard's eye lit upon me.
"Ah, ha!" shouted he, coming toward me. "So you are the one who has been
prying into my affairs. It is you I must thank for this interference. Out
of this room directly! Get you gone!"
I should have obeyed, but a sound from Herbert's bed arrested me--a sound
that awed me more than the angry voice of Richard! I hurried to the
bedside. Mr. Bristed was there before me. I looked at the sinking boy. A
stronger hand than his father's grasped him now. _That_ hand was
No need now to remove the little sufferer from his couch to the carriage
in waiting. He would be borne soon by the white-robed angels from the
reach of us all!
Even Richard, whose cruel grasp he had eluded, seemed awed as the little
spirit burst from its tenement, and a transcendent smile settled on the
thin, waxen face, and the white hands folded themselves across the breast
with an air of unutterable peace.
Early the next morning Mr. Bristed accompanied the lifeless body of
little Herbert to Bristed Hall. He begged me to go with him, but I
refused his solicitations. I had other duties before me, which I must
perform. I should have been glad to have rid myself from every one, but
that could not be. Richard did not return, and I was alone; the days
dragged heavily away. I felt that I stood on the brink of a yawning chasm
from which I could turn neither to the right nor the left. The thought of
remaining with Richard was abhorrent, and the prospect of leaving him and
commencing life anew was also a dreadful alternative.
What shall I do?--I reflected, as I went my weary way through the
classes. Richard solved that question for me when he returned after an
absence of three days.
My pupils had just retired when a message came that he had returned and
desired to see me in the library. With a heavy heart I went to meet him.
He was not alone. A tall, passionate-looking woman, with dark hair and
restless eyes, sat beside him. She was richly appareled, and gazed at me
with a haughty stare as I entered.
Richard nodded to me a bare recognition and said, "I have sent for you,
as I wish you to inform your pupils that they must leave in the morning.
I have other uses for this building."
At this cool announcement I staggered. Good God! would he undo me? What
plan had he now in view? "Remove my pupils!" I exclaimed.
"Yes; do I not speak clearly? And as you have been plotting and scheming
for some time against me, I would advise you to leave, also. Bristed
Hall," said he sneeringly, "is likely to prove an agreeable shelter to
"_I_ leave!" said I, now fairly awake to the danger. "What do you mean,
"I mean," he replied with diabolical blandness, "that this lady is my
wife, and will from this time take charge of this establishment."
"Richard Bristed, you cannot, dare not make that assertion! I am your
wife, though I acknowledge it with shame and sorrow. He has misled you,
madam," said I, turning to the lady. "You are mistaken if you suppose I
shall abandon my rights."
"Ha, ha!" he laughed, "_she_ knows all about you. You cannot enlighten
her, so you had better hasten and pack your trunks."
"I shall not leave, sir; I shall defend my position here. I am a woman,
and you shall not sully my fair name," said I, maddened by his manner.
"Your brother will help me--the law will aid me. Here I remain!"
"You will?" said he; "we will see. This house is mine," and he drew out
his pistol with which to frighten me.
"Richard," said I, hoping to restore him to calmness, "put up that
pistol. You cannot, dare not use it."
"Dare not!" he exclaimed, coming up to me, his hot breath smelling of
wine; "I will show you if I dare not!"
I was alarmed as he suddenly cocked the weapon. What might he not do in
his drunken excitement?
"She is a coward, Dick," said the lady. "Don't trouble yourself about
her," and then turning to me and stamping her foot, "How dare you say you
are his wife!" she exclaimed. "Go out from here!"
I shook from head to foot, but did not leave.
"Come, Dick, give me the pistol," said the lady; "You don't know what you
might do with it."
"Don't meddle with me," said he, as she attempted to wrest it from his
grasp. "Why does that girl stand glowering at me?"
"O Richard," I sobbed, "my heart is ready to burst! Don't act so;
"Remember Herbert!" he muttered; "I do remember him. You killed him with
your pranks, and now you would accuse me. Go, leave my house, or I will
I believe he would have fired upon me at that moment, but the lady sprang
forward and caught his arm. A slight struggle ensued, then followed a
sharp report, and the pistol fell to the ground; a fearful shriek rent
the air, and Richard fell heavily to the floor, covered with blood. I
rushed to help him. He raised his glassy eyes to mine, and faintly
murmuring "My God! I am lost!" expired.
The shock was too much for me. I was seized with fearful dizziness. The
objects in the room became black before my eyes, and I fell to the floor
beside the bleeding corpse, insensible.
Convulsions, I was afterwards told, followed this swoon. A raging fever
attacked me, and for weeks my life was despaired of. At length the crisis
passed; my youthful constitution conquered the disease, and I was again
restored to the world in which I had experienced so much joy and so much
One morning the delicious feeling of returning consciousness revived me.
Where was I? The room looked familiar, yet strange. Surely I had seen
that silken coverlet before! The carved footboard of the bed on which I
was lying was not new to my sight. My weak brain was busy with
conjectures, when a woman approached, carrying a glass and spoon. It was
Mary, the housekeeper of Bristed Hall.
"Why, Mary, are you here?" I asked in surprise.
"Yes, Miss, but you must not talk. Take these drops. I am heartily glad
you are better, Miss."
A sense of rest and peace stole over me, followed by a few hours of
On opening my eyes from this refreshing slumber, I found Mary still
sitting near me.
"Mary," said I, "you must tell me where I am; everything here looks so
natural, and yet as if I were in a dream."
"You are not dreaming, Miss. You are in your own chamber in Bristed
Bristed Hall! A warm gush of gratitude pervaded my being. So I was not
friendless! I was cared for.
"Where is Mr. Bristed?" I asked after a pause.
"We have persuaded him to drive out, miss, as the doctor said you were
out of danger. Anxiety for you and grief for Herbert's death have quite
taken his strength away."
"I must get up, Mary. You must help me to dress."
"Oh no, miss!" she replied; "you are not strong enough yet."
"I am quite strong. Besides, it will revive me; I am weary of the bed,
and need a change."
She acquiesced in my wish, dressed me neatly, and smoothed my hair.
"Now, take me down," I requested. "I wish to surprise Mr. Bristed."
Of course she remonstrated, said I would bring on the fever again, and
all that; but as I persisted in my determination, she led me down the
stairs. The fresh air invigorated me; I felt every minute increased
power. At my request, she took me to Mr. Bristed's conservatory. The
bright flowers, the singing birds in their ornamented cages, and the
adjoining study with its well-filled shelves, all reminded me of the
past. Tears came to my eyes as I recalled the bitter changes I had seen
since leaving that sunny home!
I had not been long in the conservatory when I heard the wheels of a
carriage. Mr. Bristed had returned. He ascended the steps: I heard his
voice in the hall. His first words were an inquiry after my welfare. He
was told that I was better. Passing through his apartments, he entered
the study. I could see him plainly from the windows of the conservatory.
He looked, I thought, thin and sad; his hair had become sprinkled with
gray since the time when I resided in his mansion. Turning to Mary, who
was waiting there for me, he said: "I feel faint; bring me a cup of tea."
Mary left the room on her mission, and I stole from my hiding place.
"Mr. Bristed," whispered I, coming softly up behind his chair.
He started. "Whose voice is that? Agnes, where are you?"
"Here, sir," I answered, as I touched him lightly.
He turned toward me, his face flushed with pleasure, his eyes expectant.
"You, Agnes--you, verily? How came you here? I thought you were ill off
your pillow. What pleasant trick is this you have been playing me?" Then
taking both my hands in his and surveying me, his eyes the while beaming
with soft pleasure, he said:
"Oh, I am so happy that you are better. But you are wrong to come here;
you will make yourself ill again."
I told him how I had awakened, and of my glad surprise in finding myself
in my old chamber again, and how I had insisted on coming down to thank
him for his kindness in bringing me hither.
"Don't thank me, Agnes; for you I could do anything. This place shall
always be your home. Some day, Agnes, you may learn to appreciate the
worth of a heart that truly loves you."
I fell upon my knees before him. "O Mr. Bristed, I do appreciate!" I
cried. "I do know that you love me. Let me live for you. Let me by a life
of devotion atone for the mistakes of the past!"
He lifted me up, and folded me to his breast.
A few weeks of balmy spring air and soft sunshine completely restored me
One day when strolling in company with Mr. Bristed through a path
blooming with early hyacinths and crocuses, I ventured to ask him about
"It is entirely broken up, Agnes. After the fearful tragedy that
transpired within its walls, your pupils scattered like dust in the wind.
I arrived the next morning after the death of Richard, unconscious of
what had occurred in my absence, but intending to take you home with me.
I found you, as I then thought, on your death-bed. I settled with your
separate teachers, and closed the school. With the French woman who
claimed to be Richard's wife, and with whom he had probably gone through
the form of marriage, as with you, I made an arrangement satisfactory to
her to sell the property and give her an equivalent for its value."
"But what motive," I asked hesitatingly, "could Richard have had for his
"Motive? The same that had actuated him through life. With you, Agnes, he
would have lived probably as he did with others, until his versatile
heart demanded a change. Then, with your little estate in his hands and
Herbert's property in his power, he would have deserted you for some new
"But let the grave cover his mistakes and evils. I believe that a good
God will not punish him too severely for propensities which he
Once more I yielded to the charms of companionship and love. Severe
trials had proved Mr. Bristed's worth, and when he again asked me to make
the remnant of his life happy by my care and love--to become his wife,
and share his home, and reign queen of his heart--I consented. When the
June roses blossomed, we were married. The balmy air and opening buds
spoke of a new life. They typified my new life, truly. The glitter and
gloss which had deceived me in youth would never beguile me more. I had
learned that it was not the external man, but the internal that was
worthy of love.
The shadowy form of Alice never troubled me again, I believe reparation
can be made beyond the tomb, and that in some far-off world the new-born
spirit of Richard atones to Alice and Herbert for the wrong he did them
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING
_TO HER HUSBAND_.
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
You cannot see her in her glad surprise,
Kissing the tear-drops from your weeping eyes;
Moving about you through the ambient air,
Smoothing the whitening ripples of your hair.
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
You cannot see the flowers she daily twines
In garlands for you, from immortal vines;
The danger she averts you never know;
For her sweet care you only tears bestow.
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
Vainly you'll wait until the last trump sound!
Vainly your love entombed beneath the ground!
Vainly in kirk-yard raise your mournful wail!
Your loved is living in some sunnier vale.
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
You think her gone to her eternal rest,
Like some strange bird forever left her nest!
Her sweet voice hush'd within the silent grave,
While o'er her dust the weeping willows wave.
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
And yet she lives, and loves! Oh, wondrous truth!
In golden skies she breathes immortal youth!
Look upward! where the roseate sunset beams,
Her airy form amid the brightness gleams!
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
Oh, speak not thus! her tender heart you grieve,
And 'twixt her love and yours a barrier weave!
Call her by sweetest name, your voice she'll hear,
And through the darkness like a star appear.
Dead! dead! You call her dead!
Lift up your eyes! she is no longer dead!
In your lone path the unseen angels tread!
And when your weary night of earth shall close,
She'll lead you where eternal summer blows.
_AND OUT OF PURGATORY._
ARTEMUS WARD'S LECTURES TO POOR, PERISHING HUMANITY.
You'll remember, relatives and nabors, how I crost the Atlantic Ocean and
never agin set foot on my native soil. I naterally thought my
opportunities there, in the British Mooseum and with those Egyptian
Carcusses dun up in rags, and remaining for the space of six days and six
nights with a skeleton grinning at me and pointing its long skinless
fingers in my face and looking in an awful licentious manner, showing its
pivoted legs--I say I naterally thought such an unheard-of experience
would have prepared me for "the awful change" that follered. But it
One nite, cummin' hum from the Mooseum, where I had been instructin' and
elevatin' several thousand pussons, male and female, I innocently
swallered a fog--swallered it hull. I'd bin swallerin on 'em ever since
I'd bin in England, but that night I took in a bigger one than ever, and
it made me _sick_.
I sent for the physicians that received the patronage of the noble lords
and dooks and they made me _sicker_; and finally for the physicain "to
her most gracious majisty the Queen of Great Britain,"--but their
aristocratic attention to me was of no use. As I lie tossing on what is
known as "the bed of pain," I seed a big light coming through the dark
towards me. Behind that light appeared a grim skeleton, just like the
pictur of Death in the Alminack, walkin' on tiptoe toward me; and quicker
than a wink he put out his long bony hand and touched me--firstly, in the
pit of the stomach, so I couldn't holler; nextly, he pressed his finger
tips on my eye-balls, and they sunk right back into their sockets.
I tried to shake him off, and to yell, but I couldn't! Then I knew I was
"dun fur." Next came what a printer's devil would call a ---- blank.
I was skeered out of my seven senses, and when I cum to and tried to
recolect myself, I was like the old woman in the song who fell asleep,
"By came a pedlar and his name was Stout
And he cut her petticoats all round about;
He cut her petticoats up to her knees,
Which made the old woman begin for to freeze."
I was in the same predicament, for I was now only in my bare bones, and
knew I was a rolecking old skeleton.
Wall, it gin me an awful shock to find myself like a skull and
cross-bones on a tombstone, sittin' on my own coffin!
Presently I was grappled by a big worm with a hundred legs. He then sent
for his feller worms, and they licked me from skull to toe-jint. After I
had stood the lickin' as long as I could (they tickled so), I concluded
to run away, so I started on a full gallop, and arter I had run awhile,
where should I fetch up but in the vicinity of Vic's Palace. I know'd by
pussonal experience suthin' of the feelin' manner with which the British
public look upon the Royal Family, and a sensation of relief cum over my
mind as I thought if I once entered their ground no one dared foiler me.
So I gin a spring and leaped right atop of the middle chimny. Owin' to
private considerations, I did'nt mind the soot, but I clambered down, and
there I was, to my amazement, rite in the private apartments of the
Queen. She was sittin' at a table lookin' at a dogerotipe of Prince
Albert; and I walked straight up to her, not feel in' a bit afeared, and
making my manners, axed her if I didn't resemble the Prince?--rememberin'
that the preacher had kindly said over my coffin that "there was no
distinction in the grave."
I thought that as I was a pooty gay image of Death, I might remind her of
the "Prince Consort."
She looked up kinder sideways as I spoke, but she must have bin a leetle
hard o' hearing, for she shook her head.
Then I thought I'd try her on another tack. So I placed my hands on my
shakey knees, and bendin' over in this guise, so she could see me
plainly, while my teeth rattled in my skull as I shook my head at her and
"Haint you afeared of me, Madam?" With the pirsistent obstinacy of the
feminine gender, she refused to notice me. So I thought she was kinder
"set up on her pins," and I shouted louder:
"Victoria _Brown_! Aint you afeared of me? Aint you afeared I'll tell
Prince Albert of your _dooins_?"
At that she gin an awful yell, and flung herself down upon a yaller satin
divan, trimed with gold, and slobbered it all over with tears.
I know'd then I had a "_mission to perform_," and that my fleshless bones
were not given me for useless pleasure, but as a "warnin' to my race."
Arter this adventer I left the palace as I had entered it, "leavin' not a
trace behind me."
Since that affair, I have bin goin' about "doin' good," frightnin' the
wicked into fits, and follerin' in the steps of the parsen, and thus
working my way out of Purgatory.
ARTEMUS WARD.--OUT OF PURGATORY.
Relatives and nabors,--Thinkin' you'll, like to know whether I'd bin
roastin' in brimstone, along with Solomen and Lot's wife, and that you
might feel consarned to know sumthin' about my further adventers, I'll
One mornin' soon after this, havin' spent a restless nite, I was thinkin'
what I had best do, when I seed, cumin' rite out of a big marble edifice,
a nice little woman about as raw-boned as myself. As she carried an open
paper in her hand which was certified to by two bishops and three
clergeymen that she'd bin baptised and her sins washed away, I felt it
would be safe for me to foller her, knowin' I had no such dockerment to
admit me into the good graces of Abraham or Peter, or whatever porter
might keep the gates of Paradise.
She seemed kinder skeered and tremblin' like for a minit, not knowin'
what to do; then with a sudden start she spread herself out just like the
eagel of Ameriky, and soared rite up into the sky with nothin' to histe
her by. I felt in my heart to foller her, and spread out just as she did,
keeping near her on the sly.
As she went on she began to shine like a star, shootin' on through the
azure heavens for all the world like a sky-rocket.
That put me on my pluck, and I bust out just like a sky-rocket too. My
blazers! If it didn't make my head spin.
When I collected my idees, I thought I'd look and see if I resembled a
glow-worm behind, and there, by thunder, was a long stream of light, just
like the tail of a comet! I tell you, I felt happy! She's regenerated me,
thought I; and I, too, am one of the "shining hosts"! And then directly,