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  • 1864
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fruit, and so the good angel Arthur St. Claire wept over the wayward man and then flew sadly away, leaving him to revel in anticipations of what the next Friday would bring him.

CHAPTER XIII.

FRIDAY.

It was just beginning to be light when Edith opened her eyes, and lifting up her head, looked about the room to see if Lulu had been in to make her fire. She always awoke earlier on lesson day, so as to have a good long time TO THINK, and now as she counted the hours, one, two, three and a half, which must intervene before she saw Arthur St. Claire again, she hid her blushing face in the pillow, as if ashamed to let the gray daylight see just how happy she was. These lessons had become the most important incidents in her life, and this morning there was good cause why she should anticipate the interview. She believed Richard was not going, and though she was of course very sorry to leave him behind, she tried hard to be reconciled, succeeding so well that when at 8 o’clock she descended to the breakfast room, Victor asked what made her look so unusually bright and happy.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “unless it is because we are going to ride,” and she glanced inquiringly at Richard, seating himself at the table.

Victor shrugged his shoulders. HE knew more than Edith thought he did, and waited like herself for Richard’s answer. Richard HAD intended to remain at home, but it seemed that Edith expected him to go, by her saying WE, and rather than disappoint her he began to think seriously of martyring himself again. Something like this he said, adding that he found it vastly tedious, but was willing to endure it for Edith’s sake.

“Pardonnez moi, Monsieur,” said Victor, who for the sake of Edith, would sometimes stretch the truth, “I saw Mr. Floyd yesterday, and he is coming here this morning to talk with you about the west wood lot you offered for sale. Hadn’t you better stay home for once and let Miss Edith go alone.”

Edith gave a most grateful look t Victor, who had only substituted “this morning” for “some time to-day,” the latter being what Mr. Floyd had really said.

“Perhaps I had,” returned Richard. “I want so much to sell that lot, but if Edith—“

“Never mind me, Mr. Harrington,” she cried; “I have not been on Bedouin’s back in so long a time that he is getting quite unmanageable, they say, and I shall be delighted to discipline him this morning; the roads are quite fine for winter, are they not Victor?”

“Never were better,” returned the Frenchman; smooth and hard as a rock. “You’ll enjoy it amazingly, I know. I’ll tell Jake not to get out the carriage,” and without waiting for an answer the politic victor left the room.

Richard had many misgivings as to the propriety of letting Edith go without him, and he was several times on the point of changing his mind, but Edith did not give him any chance, and at just a quarter before ten she came down equipped in her riding habit, and asking if he had any message for Mr. St. Claire.

“None in particular,” he answered, adding that she might come back through the village and bring the mail.

Once on the back of Bedouin, who danced for a few moments like a playful kitten, Edith felt sure she was going alone, and abandoning herself to her delight she flew down the carriage road at a terrific speed, which startled even Victor, great as was his faith in his young lady’s skill. But Edith had the utmost confidence in Bedouin, while Bedouin had the utmost confidence in Edith, and by the time they were out upon the main road they had come to a most amicable understanding.

“I mean to gallop round to the office now,” thought Edith; “and then I shall not be obliged to hurry away from Grassy Spring.”

Accordingly Bedouin was turned toward the village, and in an inconceivably short space of time she stood before the door of the post-office.

“Give me Mr. Harrington’s mail, please,” Edith said to the clerk who came out to meet her; “and–and Mr. St. Claire’s too, I’m going up there, and can take it as well as not.”

The clerk withdrew, and soon returned with papers for Richard, and a letter for Arthur. It was post-marked at Worcester, and Edith thought of Mr. Griswold, as she thrust it into her pocket, and started for Grassy Spring, where Arthur was anxiously awaiting her. Hastening out to meet her, he held her hand in his, while he led her up the walk, telling her by his manner, if by nothing else, how glad he was to see her.

“It has seemed an age since Tuesday,” he said. “I only live on lesson-days. I wish it was lesson-day always.”

“So do I,” said Edith, impulsively, repenting her words the moment she met the peculiar glance of Arthur’s eyes.

She was beginning to be afraid of him, and half wished Richard was there. Remembering his letter at last, she gave it to him, explaining how she came by it, and marvelling at the sudden whiteness of his face.

“I will wait till she is gone,” he thought, as he recognized Dr. Griswold’s writing, and knew well what it was about. “I won’t let anything mar the bliss of the next two hours,” and he laid it upon the table.

“Ain’t you going to read it?” asked Edith, as earnestly as if she knew the contents of that letter would save her from much future pain. “Read it,” she persisted, declaring, with pretty willfulness that she would not touch a pencil until he complied with her request.

“I suppose I must yield then,” he said, withdrawing into the adjoining room, where he broke the seal and read–once–twice– three times–lingering longest over the sentences which we subjoin.

* * * “To-day, for the first time since you were here, our poor little girl spoke of you of her own accord, asking where you were and why you left her so long alone. I really think it would be better for you to take her home. She is generally quiet with you, and latterly she has a fancy that you are threatened with some danger, for she keeps whispering to herself, ‘Keep Arthur from temptation. Keep him from temptation, and don’t let any harm come to little MIGGIE.’ Who is Miggie? I don’t think I ever heard her name until within the last few days.” * * *

And this it was which kept Arthur St. Claire from falling. Slowly the tears, such as strong men only shed, gathered in his eyes and dropped upon the paper. Then his pale lips moved, and he whispered sadly, “Heaven bless you, NINA, poor unfortunate Nina. Your prayer SHALL save me, and henceforth Edith shall be to me just what your darling Miggie would have been were she living. God help me to do right,” he murmured, as he thought of Edith Hastings, and remembered how weak he was. That prayer of anguish was not breathed in vain, and when the words were uttered he felt himself growing strong again–strong to withstand the charms of the young girl waiting impatiently for him in the adjoining room.

There were many things she meant to say to him in Richard’s absence. She would ask him about NINA, and the baby picture which had so interested her. It had disappeared from the drawing room and as yet she had found no good opportunity to question him about it, but she would do so to-day. She would begin at once so as not to forget, and she was just wondering how long it took a man to read a letter, when he came in. She saw at a glance that something had affected him, and knowing intuitively that it was not the time for idle questionings, she refrained from all remark, and the lesson both had so much anticipated, proceeded in almost unbroken silence. It was very dull indeed, she thought, not half so nice as when Richard was there, and in her pet at Arthur’s coolness and silence, she made so many blunders that at last throwing pencil and paper across the room, she declared herself too stupid for any thing.

“You, too, are out of humor,” she said, looking archly into Arthur’s face, “and I won’t stay here any longer. I mean to go away and talk with Judy about Abel.”

So saying, she ran off to the kitchen where she was now a great favorite, and sitting down at Judy’s feet, began to ask her of Florida and Sunnybank, her former home.

“Tell me more of the magnolias,” she said, “It almost seems to me as if I had seen those beautiful white blossoms and that old house with its wide hall.”

“Whar was you raised?” asked Judy, and Edith replied,

“I told you once, in New York, but I have such queer fancies, as if I had lived before I came into this world.”

“Jest the way Miss Nina used to go on, muttered the old woman, looking steadily into the fire.

“Nina!” and Edith started quickly. “DID you know Nina, Aunt Judy? Do you know her now? Where is she? Who is she, and that black-eyed baby in the frame? Tell me all about them.”

“All about what?” I asked Phillis, suddenly appearing and casting a warning glance at her mother, who replied, “‘Bout marster’s last wife, the one you say she done favors.” Then, in an aside to Edith, she added, “I kin pull de wool over her eyes. Bimeby mabby I’ll done tell you how that ar is de likeness of Miss Nina’s half sister what is dead, and ’bout Miss Nina, too, the sweetest, most misfortinest human de Lord ever bornd.”

“She isn’t a great ways from here, is she?” whispered Edith, as Phillis bustled into the pantry, hurrying back ere Judy could more than shake her head significantly.

“Dear Aunt Phillis, won’t you please tell Ike to bring up Bedouin,” Edith said coaxingly, hoping by this ruse to get rid of the old negress; but Phillis was too cunning, and throwing up the window sash, she called to Ike, delivering the message.

Edith, however, managed slily to whisper, “In Worcester, isn’t she?” while Judy as slily nodded affirmatively, ere Phillis’ sharp eyes were turned again upon them. Edith’s curiosity concerning the mysterious Nina was thoroughly roused, and determining to ferret out the whole affair by dint of quizzing Judith whenever an opportunity should occur, she took her leave.

“Mother,” said Phillis, the moment Edith was out of hearing, “havn’t you no sense, or what possessed you to talk of Miss Nina to her? Havn’t you no family pride, and has you done forgot that Marster Arthur forbade our talkin’ of her to strangers?”

Old Judy at first received the rebuke in silence, then bridling up in her own defense, she replied, “Needn’t tell me that any good will ever come out o’ this kiverin’ up an’ hidin’, and keeping whist. It’ll come out bimeby, an’ then folks’ll wonder what ’twas all did for. Ole marster didn’t act so by Miss Nina’s mother, an’ I believe thar’s somethin’ behind, some carrying on that we don’t know; but it’s boun’ to come out fust or last. That ar Miss Edith is a nice trim gal. I wish to goodness Marster Arthur’d done set to her. I’d like her for a mistress mighty well. I really b’lieve he has a hankerin’ notion after her, too, an’ it’s nater that he should have. It’s better for the young to marry, and the old, too, for that matter. Poor Uncle Abe! Do you s’pose, Phillis, that he goes over o’ nights to Aunt Dilsey’s cabin sen’ we’ve come away. Dilsey’s an onery nigger, anyhow,” and with her mind upon Uncle Abel, and her possible rival Dilsey, old Judy forgot Edith Hastings, who, without bidding Arthur good morning, had gallopped home to Collingwood, where she found poor, deluded Richard, waiting and wondering at the non-appearance of Mr. Floyd, who was to buy his western wood lot.

CHAPTER XIV.

THE MYSTERY AT GRASSY SPRING.

For several weeks longer Edith continued taking lessons of Arthur, going sometimes with Richard, but oftener alone, and feeling always that a change had gradually come over her teacher. He was as kind to her as ever, took quite as much pains with her, and she was sensible of a greater degree of improvement than had marked the days when she trembled every time he touched her hands. Still there was a change. He did not bend over her now as he used to do; did not lay his arm across the back of her chair, letting it some times fall by accident upon her shoulders; did not look into her eyes with a glance which made her blush and turn away; in short, he did not look at her at all, if he could help it, and in this very self-denial lay his strength. He was waging a mighty battle with himself, and inch by inch he was gaining the victory, for victory it would be when he brought himself to think of Edith Hastings without a pang–to listen to her voice and look into her face without a feeling that she must be his. He could not do this yet, but he kept himself from telling her of his love by assuming a reserved, studied manner, which led her at last to think he might be angry, and one day, toward the first of March, when he had been more than usually silent, she asked him abruptly how she had offended, her soft eyes filling with tears as she expressed her sorrow if by any thoughtless act she had caused him pain.

“You could not offend me, Edith,” he said; “that would be impossible, and if I am sometimes could an abstracted, it is because I have just cause for being so. I am very unhappy, Edith, and your visits here to me are like oases to the weary traveller. Were it not for you I should wish to die; and yet, strange as it may seem, I have prayed to die oftener since I knew you as you now are than I ever did before, I committed a fatal error once and it has embittered my whole existence. It was early in life, to, before I ever say you, Edith.”

“Why Mr. St. Claire,” she exclaimed, “you were nothing but a boy when you came to Brier Hill.”

“Yes, a boy,” he exclaimed, “or I had never done what I did; but it cannot be helped, and I must abide the consequences. Now let us talk of something else. I am going away to-morrow, and you need not come again until I send for you; but whatever occurs, don’t think I am offended.”

She could not think so when she met the olden look she ahs missed so long, and wondering where he could be going, she arose to take her leave. He went with her to the door, and wrung her hand nervously, bidding her in heart a final farewell, for when they met again a great gulf would be between them,–a gulf he had helped to dig, and which he could not ass. Edith had intended to ask old Judy where Arthur was going, without, however, having much hope of success: for, since the conversation concerning Nina, Judy had been wholly non-committal, plainly showing that she had been trained for the occasion, but changed her mind, and rode leisurely away, going round by Brier Hill to call upon Grace whom she had not seen for some little time. Grace, as usual, was full of complaints against Arthur for being so misanthropical, so cross- grained and so queer, shutting himself up like a hermit and refusing to see any one but herself and Edith.

“What is he going to Worcester for?” she asked, adding that one of the negroes had told old Rachel, who was there the previous night.

But Edith did not know, unless it was to be married, and laughing at her own joke, she bade Grace good-bye, having learned by accident what she so much desired to know.

The next morning she arose quite early, and looking in the direction of Grassy Spring, which, when the leaves were fallen, was plainly discernible, she saw Arthur’s carriage driving from his gate. There was no train due at that hour, and she stood wondering until the carriage, which, for a moment, had been hidden from her view, appeared a second time in sight, and as it passed the house she saw Aunt Phillis’s dusky face peering from the window. She did not see Arthur, but she was sure he was inside; and when the horses were turned into the road, which, before the day of cars, was the great thoroughfare between Shannondale and Worcester, she knew he had started for the latter place in his carriage.

“What can it be for?” she said; “and why has he taken Phillis?”

But puzzle her brain as she might, she could not fathom the mystery, and she waited for what would next occur.

In the course of the day Victor, who, without being really meddlesome, managed to keep himself posted with regard to the affairs at Grassy Spring, told her that Mr. St. Claire, preferring his carriage to the cars, had gone in it to Worcester, and taken Phillis with him; that he would be absent some days; and that Sophy, Phillis’s daughter, when questioned as to his business, had answered evasively,

“Gone to fetch his wife home for what I know.”

“Maybe it is so,” said Victor, looking Edith steadily in the face, “Soph didn’t mean me to believe it; but there’s many a truth spoken in jest.”

Edith knew that, but she would not hearken for a moment to Victor’s suggestion. It made her too unhappy, and for three days she had a fair opportunity of ascertaining the nature of her feelings toward Arthur St. Claire, for nothing is more conducive to the rapid development of love, than a spice of jealousy lest another has won the heart we so much covet.

The next day, the fourth after Arthur’s departure, she asked Victor to ride with her on horseback, saying the fresh March wind would do her good. It was nearly sunset when they started, and, as there was a splendid moon, they continued their excursion to quite a distance, so that it was seven ere they found themselves at the foot of the long hill which wound past Collingwood and on to Grassy Spring. Half way up the hill, moving very slowly, as if the horses were jaded and tired, was a traveling carriage, which both Edith and Victor recognized at once as belonging to Arthur St. Claire.

“Let’s overtake them,” said Edith, and chirruping to Bedouin, she was soon so near to the carriage that her quick ear caught the sound of a low, sweet voice singing a German air, with which she herself had always been familiar, though when she first learned it she could not tell.

It was one of those old songs which Rachel had called weird and wild, and now, as she listened to the plaintive tones, they thrilled on every nerve with a strange power as if it were a requiem sung by the dead over their own buried hopes. Nearer and nearer Bedouin pressed to the slowly moving vehicle, until at last she was nearly even with it.

“Look, Miss Edith!” and Victor grasped her bridle rein, directing her attention to the arms folded upon the window and the girlish head resting upon the arms, in the attitude of a weary child.

One little ringless, blue-veined hand was plainly discernible in the bright moonlight, and Edith thought how small and white and delicate it was.

“Let’s go on,” she whispered, and they dashed past the carriage just as Arthur leaned forward to see who they were.

“That was a young lady,” said Victor coming up with Edith, who was riding at a headlong speed.

“Yes, I knew it,” and Edith again touched Bedouin with her whip as if the fast riding suited well her tumultuous emotions.

“His bride?” said Victor, interrogatively, and Edith replied, “Very likely, Victor,” and she stopped Bedouin short. “Victor, don’t tell any one of the lady in the carriage until it’s known for certain that there is one at Grassy Spring.”

Victor could see no reason for this request, but it was sufficient for him that Edith had made it, and he promised readily all that she desired. They were at home by this time, and complaining of a headache Edith excused herself earlier than usual and stole up to her chamber where she could he alone to wonder WHO was the visitor at Grassy Spring. It might be a bride, and it might be NINA. Starting to her feet as the last mentioned individual came into her mind, she walked to the window and saw just what she more than half expected to see–a light shining through the iron lattice of the DEN–a bright, cheerful light–and as she gazed, there crept over her a faint, sick feeling, as if she knew of the ruin, the desolation, the blighted hopes and beautiful wreck embodied in the mystery at Grassy Spring. Covering her eyes with her hands the tears trickled through her fingers, falling not so much for Arthur St. Claire as for the plaintive singing girl shrouded in so dark a mystery. Drying her eyes she looked again across the meadow, but the blinds of the Den were closed, and only the moonbeams fell where the blaze of the lamp had been.

A week went by, and though Grace came twice to Collingwood, while Victor feigned several errands to Grassy Spring, nothing was known of the stranger. Grace evidently had no suspicion of her existence, while Victor declared there was no trace of a white woman any where about the premises. Mr. St. Claire, he said, sat in the library, his feet crossed in a chair and his hands on top of his head as if in a brown study, while Aunt Phillis appeared far more impatient than usual and had intimated to him plainly that “in her ‘pinion white niggers had better be at home tendin’ to thar own business, of they had any, and not pryin’ into thar neighbor’s affairs.”

At last Edith was surprised at receiving a note from Arthur, saying he was ready to resume their lessons at any time. Highly delighted with the plan Edith answered immediately that she would come on the morrow, which was Friday. Richard did not offer to go, owing in a great measure to the skillful management of Victor, who, though he did not suggest Mr. Floyd and the western wood lot, found some equally good excuse why his master’s presence would, that day of all others, be necessary at home.

The wild March winds by this time had given place to the warmer, balmier air of April. The winter snow had melted from the hillside, and here and there tufts of fresh young grass were seen starting into life. It was just such a morning, in short, as is most grateful to the young, and Edith felt its inspiriting influence as she rode along the rather muddy road. Another there was, too, who felt it; and as Edith sauntered slowly up the path, entering this time upon the rear piazza instead of the front, she heard again the soft, low voice which had sounded so mournful and sweet when heard in the still moonlight. Looking up she saw that a window of the Den was open, and through the lattice work a little hand was thrust, as if beckoning her to come. Stepping bank she tried to obtain a view of the person, but failed to do so, though the hand continued beckoning, and from the height there floated down to her the single word, “MIGGIE.” That was all; but it brought her hand to her head as if she had received a sudden blow.

“Miggie–Miggie,” she repeated. “I HAVE heard that name before. It must have belonged to some one in the Asylum.”

A confused murmur as if of expostulation and remonstrance was now heard–the childish hand disappeared and scarcely knowing what she was about, Edith stepped into the hall and advanced into the library, where she sat down to wait for Arthur. It was not long ere he appeared, locking the door as he came in and thus cutting off all communication between that room and the stairway leading to the Den. Matters were, in Edith’s estimation, assuming a serious aspect, and remembering how pleadingly the name “Miggie” had been uttered, she half-resolved to demand of Arthur the immediate release of the helpless creature thus held in durance vile. But he looked so unhappy, so hopelessly wretched that her sympathy was soon enlisted for him rather than his fair captive. Still she would try him a little and when they were fairly at work she said to him jestingly,

“I heard it hinted that you would bring home a wife, but I do not see her. Where is she, pray?”

Arthur uttered no sound save a stifled moan, and when Edith dared to steal a look at him she saw that his brown hair was moist with perspiration, which stood also in drops about his lips.

“Mr. St. Claire,” she said, throwing down her pencil and leaning back in her chair, “I can endure this no longer. What IS the matter? Tell me. You have some great mental sorrow, I know, and I long to share it with you–may I? Who have you up stairs and why this mystery concerning her?”

She laid her hand upon his arm, and looked imploringly into the face, which turned away from her, as if afraid to meet her truthful glance. Once he thought to tell her all, but when he remembered how beautiful she was, how much he loved her, and how dear her society was to him, he refrained, for he vainly fancied that a confession would drive her from him forever. He did not know Edith Hastings; he had not yet fathomed the depths of her womanly nature, and he could not guess how tenderly, even while her own heart was breaking, she would have soothed his grief and been like an angel of mercy to the innocent cause of all his woe.

“I dare not tell you,” he said. “You would hate me if I did, and that I could not endure. It may not be pleasant for you to come here any more, and perhaps you had better not.”

For a moment Edith sat motionless. She had not expected this from Arthur, and it roused within her a feeling of resentment.

“And so you only sent for me to give me my dismissal,” she said, in a cold, icy tone. “Be it as you like. I draw tolerably well, you say. I have no doubt I can get along alone. Send your bill at once to Mr. Harrington. He does not like to be in debt.”

She spoke proudly, haughtily, and her eyes, usually so soft in their expression, had in them a black look of anger, which pierced Arthur’s very soul. He could not part with her THUS, and grasping the hand reached out to take its gauntlet, he held it fast, while he said, “What are we doing, Edith? Quarrelling? It must not be. I suggested your giving up the lessons because I thought the arrangement might be satisfactory to you, and not because _I_ wished it, for I do not; I cannot give up the only source of happiness left to me. Forget what I said. Remain my pupil and I’ll try to be more cheerful in your presence. You shall NOT help to bear my burden as you bear that of Collingwood’s unfortunate inmates.”

Edith never liked to hear her relations to Richard referred to in this manner, and she answered quickly,

“You are mistaken, Mr. St. Claire, in thinking I bear any burden either here or elsewhere. No one ever had a happier home than I, and there’s nothing on earth I would not do for Richard.”

“Would you marry him, Edith?” and Arthur scanned her closely. “Would you be his wife if he demanded it as his right? and I think he will do this sometime.”

Edith trembled from head to foot, as she answered,

“Not if he demanded it as a right, though he might well do that, for I owe him everything. But if he loved me, and I loved him.”

She paused, and in the silence which ensued the tumultuous beating of her heart was plainly audible. No one before had suggested to her the possibility of her being Richard’s wife, and the idea was terrible to her. She loved him, but not as a wife should love her husband. He loved her, too; and now, as she remembered many things in the past, she was half convinced that she to him was dearer than a sister, child, or friend. He had forgotten the Swedish baby’s mother. She knew he had by his always checking her when she attempted to speak of Eloise. Out of the ashes of this early love a later love had sprung, and SHE was possibly its object. The thought was a crushing one, and unmindful of Arthur’s presence she laid her head upon the table and sobbed,

“It cannot be. Richard will never ask me to be his wife. Never, oh never.”

“But if he does, Edith, you will not tell him NO. Promise me that. It’s my only hope of salvation from total ruin!” and Arthur drew so near to her that his arm found its way around her slender waist.

Had he struck her with a glittering dagger he could not have hurt her more than by pleading with her to be another’s wife. But she would not let him know it. He did not love her as she had sometimes foolishly fancied he did; and lifting up her head she answered him proudly,

“Yes, Arthur St. Claire, when Richard Harrington asks me to be his bride I will not tell him no. Are you satisfied?”

“I am,” he said, though his white lips gave the lie to the words he uttered, and his heart smote him cruelly for his selfishness in wishing to save himself by sacrificing Edith; and it would be a sacrifice, he knew–a fearful sacrifice, the giving her to a blind man, old enough to be her sire, noble, generous and good, though he were.

It was a little singular that Arthur’s arm should still linger about the waist of one who had promised to be another’s wife, provided she were asked, but so it was; it staid there, while he persuaded her to come again to Grassy Spring, and not to give up the lessons so pleasant to them both.

He was bending very near to her when a sound upon the stairs caught his ear. It was the same German air Edith had heard in the yard, and she listened breathlessly while it came nearer to the door. Suddenly the singer seemed to change her mind, for the music began slowly to recede and was soon lost to hearing within the four walls of the Den. Not a word was spoken by either Arthur or Edith, until the latter said,

“It is time I was at home,” and she arose to go.

He offered no remonstrance, but accompanying her to the gate, placed her in the saddle, and then stood watching her as she galloped away.

CHAPTER XV.

NINA.

Three or four times Edith went to Grassy Spring, seeing nothing of the mysterious occupant of the Den, hearing nothing of her, and she began to think she might have returned to Worcester. Many times she was on the point of questioning Arthur, but from what had passed, she knew how disagreeable the subject was to him, and she generously forbore.

“I think he might tell me, anyway,” she said to herself, half poutingly, when, one morning near the latter part of April, she rode slowly toward Grassy Spring.

Their quarrel, if quarrel it could be called, had been made up, or, rather, tacitly forgotten, and Arthur more than once had cursed himself for having, in a moment of excitement, asked her to marry Richard Harrington. While praying to be delivered from temptation he was constantly keeping his eyes fixed upon the forbidden fruit, longing for it more and move, and feeling how worthless life would be to him without it. Still, by a mighty effort, he restrained himself from doing or saying aught which could be constrained into expressions of love, and their interviews were much like those which had preceded his last visit to Worcester. People were beginning to talk about him and his beautiful pupil, but leading the isolated life he did, it came not to his ears. Grace indeed, might have enlightened both himself and Edith with regard to the village gossip, but looking upon the latter as her rival, and desiring greatly that she should marry Arthur, she forebore from communicating to either of them anything which would be likely to retard an affair she fancied was progressing famously. Thus without a counsellor or friend was Edith left to follow the bent of her inclinations; and on this April morning, as she rode along, mentally chiding Arthur for not entrusting his secret to her, she wondered how she had ever managed to be happy without him, and if the time would ever come when her visits to Grassy Spring would cease.

Leaving Bedouin at the rear gate she walked slowly to the house, glancing often in the direction of the DEN, the windows of which were open this morning, and as she came near she saw a pair of soft blue eyes peering at her through the lattice, then a little hand was thrust outside, beckoning to her as it did once before.

“Wait, Miggie, while I write,” came next to her ear, in a voice as sweet and plaintive as a broken lute.

Instantly Edith stopped, and at last a tiny note came fluttering to her feet. Grasping it eagerly she read, in a pretty, girlish hand:

“DARLING MIGGIE:–Nina has been SO sick this great long while, and her head is so full of pain. Why don’t you come to me, Miggie? I sit and wait and listen till my forehead thumps and thumps, just as a bad nurse thumped it once down in the Asylum.

“Let’s run away–you and I; run back to the magnolias, where it’s always summer, with no asylums full of wicked people.

“I’m so lonely, Miggie. Come up stairs, won’t you? They say I rave and tear my clothes, but I won’t any more if you’ll come. Tell Arthur so. He’s good. He’ll do what you ask him.”

“Poor little Nina,” and Edith’s tears fell fast upon the bit of paper. “I WILL see you to-day. Perhaps I may do you some good. Dear, unfortunate Nina!”

There was a step upon the grass, and thrusting the note into her pocket, Edith turned to meet Arthur, who seemed this morning unusually cheerful and greeted her with something like his olden tenderness. But Edith was too intent upon Nina to think much of him, and after the lesson commenced, she appeared so abstracted that it was Arthur’s turn to ask if she were offended. She had made herself believe she was, for notwithstanding Nina’s assertion that “Arthur was good,” she thought it a sin and a shame for him to keep any thing but a raving lunatic hidden away up stairs; and after a moment’s hesitation she answered, “Yes, I am offended, and I don’t mean to come here any more, unless—“

“Edith,” and the tone of Arthur’s voice was fraught with pain so exquisite that Edith paused and looked into his face, where various emotions were plainly visible. Love, fear, remorse, apprehension, all were blended together in the look he fixed upon her. “You won’t leave me,” he said. “Any thing but that. Tell me my error, and how I can atone.”

Edith was about to speak, when, on the stairs without,–the stairs leading from the den–there was the patter of little feet, and a gentle, timid knock was heard upon the door.

“It’s locked–go back;” and Arthur’s voice had in it a tone of command.

“Mr. St. Claire,” and Edith sprang from her chair, “I can unlock that door, and I will.”

Like a block of marble Arthur stood while Edith opened the oak- paneled door. Another moment and Nina stood before her, as she stands now first before our readers.

Edith knew her in a moment from the resemblance to the daguerreotype seen more than eight years before, and as she now scanned her features it seemed to her they had scarcely changed at all. Arthur had said of her then that she was not quite sixteen, consequently she was now nearly twenty-five, but she did not look as old as Edith, so slight was her form, so delicate her limbs, and so childlike and simple the expression of her face. She was very, very fair, and Edith felt that never before had she looked upon a face so exquisitely beautiful. Her hair was of a reddish- yellow hue, and rippled in short silken rings all over her head, curling softly in her neck, but was not nearly as long as it had been in the picture. Alas, the murderous shears had more than once strayed roughly among those golden locks, to keep the little white, fat hands, now clasped so harmlessly together, from tearing them out with frantic violence. Edith thought of this and sighed, while her heart yearned toward the helpless young creature, who stood regarding her with a scrutinizing glance, as one studies a beautiful picture. The face was very white–indeed, it seemed as if it were long since the blood had visited the cheeks, which, nevertheless, were round and plump, as were the finely moulded arms, displayed to good advantage by the loose sleeves of the crimson cashmere wrapper. The eyes were deeply, darkly blue, and the strangely gleaming light which shone from them, betrayed at once the terrible truth that Nina was crazed.

It was a novel sight, those two young girls watching each other so intently, both so beautiful and yet so unlike–the one, tall, stately, and almost queen-like in her proportions, with dark, brilliant complexion; eyes of midnight blackness, and masses of raven hair, bound around her head in many a heavy braid–the other, fairy-like in size, with golden curls and soft blue eyes, which filled with tears at last as some undefinable emotion swept over her. In the rich, dark beauty of Edith’s face there was a wonderful fascination, which riveted the crazy girl to the spot where she had stopped when first she crossed the threshold, and when at last, sinking upon the sofa, Edith extended her arms, as a mother to her child, poor little Nina went forward, and with a low, gasping sob, fell upon her bosom, weeping passionately, her whole frame trembling and her sobs so violent that Edith became alarmed, and tried by kisses and soft endearing words to soothe her grief and check the tears raining in torrents from her eyes.

“It’s nice to cry. It takes the heavy pain away,” and Nina made a gesture that Edith must not stop her, while Arthur, roused from his apathy, also said,

“She has not wept before in years. It will be a great relief.”

At the sound of HIS voice Nina lifted up her head, and turned toward the corner whence it came, but Edith saw that in the glance there was neither reproach nor fear, nothing save trusting confidence, and her heart insensibly softened toward him.

“Poor Arthur,” Nina murmured, and laying her head again on Edith’s bosom, she said, “Every body is sad where I am, but I can’t help it. Oh, I can’t help it. Nina’s crazy, Miggie, Nina is. Poor Nina,” and the voice which uttered these words was so sadly touching that Edith’s tears mingled with those of the young creature she hugged the closer to her, whispering,

“I know it, darling, and I pity you so much. Maybe you’ll get well, now that you know me.”

“Yea, if you’ll stay here always,” said Nina. “What made you gone so long? I wanted you so much when the nights were dark and lonesome, and little bits of faces bent over me like yours used to be, Miggie–yours in the picture, when you wore the red morocco shoe and I led you on the high verandah.”

“What does she mean?” asked Edith, who had listened to the words as to something not wholly new to her.

“I don’t know,” returned Arthur, “unless she has confounded you with her sister, MARGUERITE, who died many years ago, I have heard that Nina, failing to speak the real name, always called her MIGGIE. Possibly you resemble Miggie’s mother. I think Aunt Phillis said you did.”

Edith, too, remembered Phillis’ saying that she looked like “Master Bernard’s” wife, and Arthur’s explanations seemed highly probable.

“Dear, darling Nina,” she said, kissing the pure white forehead, “I WILL be a sister to you.”

“And stay with me?” persisted Nina. “Sleep with me nights with your arms round my neck, just like yon used to do? I hate to sleep alone, with Soph coiled up on the floor, she scares me so, and won’t answer when I call her. Then, when I’m put in the recess, it’s terrible. DON’T let me go in there again, will you?”

Edith had not like Grace, looked into the large closet adjoining the Den, and she did not know what Nina meant, but at a venture she replied,

“No, darling. You’ll be so good that they will not wish to put you there.”

“I CAN’T,” returned Nina, with the manner of one who distrusted herself. “I try, because it will please Arthur, but I must sing and dance and pull my hair when my head feels so big and heavy, and once, Miggie, when it was big as the house, and I pulled my hair till they shaved it off, I tore my clothes in pieces and threw them into the fire. Then, when Arthur came–Dr. Griswold sent for him, you see–I buried my fingers in HIS hair, so,” and she was about to clutch her own golden locks when Edith shudderingly caught her hands and held them tightly lest they should harm the tresses she thought so beautiful.

“Arthur cried,” continued Nina–“cried so hard that my brain grew cool at once. It’s dreadful to see a man cry, Miggie–a great, strong man like Arthur. Poor Arthur, didn’t you cry and call me your lost Nina?”

A suppressed moan was Arthur’s answer, and Nina, when she heard it, slid from Edith’s arms and crossing over to where she sat, climbed into his lap with all the freedom of a little child, and winding her arms about his neck, said to him softly,

“Don’t be so sorry, Arthur, Nina’ll be good. Nina is good now. He’s crying again. Make him stop, wont you? It hurts Nina so. There, poor boy,” and the little waxen hands wiped away the tears falling so fast over Arthur’s face.

Holding one upon the end of her finger and watching it until it dropped upon the carpet, she said with a smile, “Look, Miggie, MEN’S tears are bigger than girls.”

Oh, how Edith’s heart ached for the strange couple opposite her– the strong man and the crazy young girl who clung to him as confidingly, as if his bosom were her rightful resting place. She pitied them both, but her sympathies were enlisted for Arthur, and coming to his side she laid her hand upon the damp brown locks, which Nina once had torn in her insane fury, and in a voice which spoke volumes of sympathy, whispered, “I am sorry for you.”

This was too much for Arthur, and he sobbed aloud, while Edith, forgetting all proprieties in her grief for him, bowed her face upon his head, and he could feel her hot tears dropping on his hair.

For a moment Nina looked from one to the other in silence, then standing upon her feet and bending over both, she said,

“Don’t cry, Miggie, don’t cry, Arthur. Nina ain’t very bad to day. She wont be bad any more. Don’t. It will all come right some time. It surely will. Nina won’t be here always, and there’ll be no need to cry when she is gone.”

She seemed to think the distress was all on her account, and in her childish way she sought to comfort them until hope whispered to both that, as she said, “It would come right sometime.”

Edith was the first to be comforted, for she did not, like Arthur, know what coming right involved. She only thought that possibly Nina’s shattered intellect might be restored, and she longed to ask the history of one, thoughts of whom had in a measure been blended with her whole life, during the last eight years. There was a mystery connected with her, she knew, and she was about to question Arthur, who had dried his tears and was winding Nina’s short curls around his fingers, when Phillis appeared in the library, starting with surprise when she saw the trio assembled there.

“Marster Arthur,” she began, glancing furtively at Edith, “how came Miss Nina here? Let me take her back. Come, honey,” and she reached out her hand to Nina, who, jumping again upon Arthur’s knee, clung to him closely, exclaiming, “No, no, old Phillis; Nina’s good–Nina’ll stay with Miggie!” and as if fancying that Edith would be a surer protector than Arthur, she slid from his lap and running to the sofa where Edith sat, half hid herself behind her, whispering, “Send her off–send her off. Let me stay with you!”

Edith was fearful that Nina’s presence might interfere with the story she meant to hear, but she could not find it in her heart to send away the little girl clinging so fondly to her, and to Phillis she said, “She may stay this once, I am sure. I will answer for her good behavior.”

“‘Taint that–‘taint that,” muttered Phillis, jerking herself from the room, “but how’s the disgrace to be kep’ ef everybody sees her.”

“Disgrace!” and Edith glanced inquiringly at Arthur.

She could not believe that Nina was any disgrace, and she asked what Phillis meant.

Crossing the room Arthur sat down upon the sofa with Nina between himself and Edith, who was pleased to see that he wound his arm around the young girl as if she were dear to him, notwithstanding her disgrace. Like a child Nina played with his watch chain, his coat buttons, and his fingers, apparently oblivious to what was passing about her. She only felt that she was where she wished to be, and knowing that he could say before her what he pleased without the least danger of her comprehending a word, Arthur, much to Edith’s surprise, began:

“You have seen Nina, Miss Hastings. You know what is the mystery at Grassy Spring–the mystery about which the villagers are beginning to gossip, so Phillis says, but now that you have seen, now that you know she is here, I care not for the rest. The keenest pang is over and I am beginning already to feel better. Concealment is not in accordance with my nature, and it has worn on me terribly. Years ago you knew OF Nina; it is due to you now that you know WHO she is, and why her destiny is linked to mine. Listen, then, while I tell you her sad story.”

“But SHE,” interrupted Edith, pointing to Nina, whose blue eyes were turned to Arthur. “Will it not be better to wait? Won’t she understand?”

“Not a word,” he replied. “She’s amusing herself, you see, with my buttons, and when these fail, I’ll give her my drawing pencil, or some one of the numerous playthings I always keep in my pocket for her. She seldom comprehends what we say and never remembers it. This is one of the peculiar phases of her insanity.”

“Poor child,” said Edith, involuntarily caressing Nina, who smiled up in her face, and leaning her head upon her shoulder, continued her play with the buttons.

Meanwhile Arthur sat lost in thought, determining in his own mind how much he should tell Edith of Nina, and how much withhold. He could not tell her all, even though he knew that by keeping back a part, much of his past conduct would seem wholly inexplicable, but he could not help it, and when at last he saw that Edith was waiting for him, he pressed his hands a moment against his heart to stop its violent beating, and drawing a long, long sigh, began the story.

CHAPTER XVI.

ARTHUR’S STORY.

“I must commence at the beginning,” he said, “and tell you first of Nina’s father–Ernest Bernard, of Florida. I was a load of fourteen when I met him in Richmond, Virginia, which you know as my former home. He was spending a few weeks there, and dined one day with my guardian, with whom I was then living. I did not fancy him at all. He seemed even to me, a boy, like a bad, unprincipled man, and I afterward learned that such had been his former character, though at the time I knew him he had reformed in a great measure. He was very kind indeed to me, and as I became better acquainted with him my prejudices gradually wore away, until at last I liked him very much, and used to listen with delight to the stories he told of his Florida home, and of his little, golden-haired Nina, always finishing his remarks concerning he with, ‘But you can’t have her, boy. Nobody can marry Nina. Had little Miggie lived you might, perhaps, have been my son-in-law, but you can’t as ’tis, for Nina will never marry.'”

“No, Nina can never marry;” and the golden curls shook decidedly, as the Nina in question repeated the words, “Miggie can marry Arthur, but not Nina, no–no!”

Edith blushed painfully, and averted her eyes, while Arthur continued:

“During Mr. Bernard’s stay in Richmond he was attacked with that loathsome disease the small pox, and deserted by all his friends, was in a most deplorable condition, when I, who had had the varioloid, begged and obtained permission to nurse him, which I did as well as I was able, staying by him until the danger was over. How far I was instrumental to his recovery I cannot say. He professed to think I saved his life, and was profuse in his protestations of gratitude. He was very impulsive and conceived for me a friendship which ended only with his death. At all events he proved as much by the great trust eventually reposed in me,” and he nodded toward Nina, who having tired of the buttons and the chain, was busy now with the bunch of keys she had purloined from his pocket.

“I was in delicate health,” said Arthur, “and as the cold weather was coming on, he insisted upon taking me home with him, and I accordingly accompanied him to Florida–to Sunny-bank, his country seat. It was a grand old place, shaded by magnolias and surrounded by a profusion of vines and flowering shrubs, but the most beautiful flower of all was NINA, then eleven years age.”

Nina knew that he was praising her–that Edith sanctioned the praise, and with the same feeling the little child experiences when told that it is good, she smiled upon Arthur, who, smoothing her round white check, went on:

“My sweet Florida rose, I called her, and many a romping frolic we had together during the winter months, and many a serious talk, too, we had of her second mother; her own she did not remember, and of her sister Miggie whose grave we often visited, strewing it with flowers and watering it with tears, for Nina’s attention for her lost sister was so touching that I often wept with her over Miggie’s grave.”

“Miggie ISN’T dead,” said Nina. “She’s here, ain’t you Miggie?” and she nestled closer to Edith, who was growing strangely interested in that old house, shaded with magnolias, and in the grave of that little child.

“I came home in the spring,” said Arthur, going on with the story Nina had interrupted, “but I kept up a boyish correspondence with Nina, though my affection for her gradually weakened. After becoming a pupil in Geneva Academy, I was exceedingly ambitious, and to stand first in my class occupied more of my thoughts than Nina Bernard. Still, when immediately after I entered Geneva College as a sophomore, I learned that her father intended sending her to the seminary in that village, I was glad, and when I saw her again all my old affection for her returned with ten-fold vigor, and the ardor of my passion was greatly increased from the fact that other youths of my age worshipped her too, toasting the Florida rose, and quoting her on all occasions. GRISWOLD was one of these. Dr. Griswold. How deep his feelings were, I cannot tell. I only know that he has never married, and he is three years older than myself. We were room-mates in college, and when he saw that Nina’s preference was for me, he acted the part of a noble, disinterested friend. Few know Griswold as he is.”

Arthur paused, and Edith fancied he was living over the past when Nina was not as she was now, but alas, he was thinking what to tell her next. Up to this point he had narrated the facts just as they had occurred, but he could do so no longer. He must leave out now–evade, go round the truth, and it was hard for him to do so.

“We were engaged,” he began at last. “I was eighteen, she fifteen. But she looked quite as old as she does now. Indeed, she was almost as far in advance of her years as she is now behind them. Still we had no idea of marriage until I had been graduated, although Nina’s confidential friend, who was quite romantic, suggested that we should run away. But from this I shrank as a most foolish act, which, if divulged, would result in my being expelled, and this disgrace I could not endure. In order, however, to make the matter sure, I wrote to her father, asking for his daughter when I became of age. Very impatiently I waited for his answer, which, when it came, was a positive refusal, yet couched in language so kind that none save a fool would have been angry.

“‘Nina could not marry,’ he said, ‘and I must break the engagement at once. Sometime he would tell me why, but not then–not till I was older.'”

Accompanying this was a note to Nina, in which he used rather severer terms, forbidding her to think of marriage, and telling her he was coming immediately to take her to Europe, whither he had long contemplated going.

There was another pause, and a long blank was made in the story, which Arthur at last resumed, as follows:

“He came for her sooner than we anticipated, following close upon the receipt of his letter, and in spite of Nina’s tears took her with him to New York, from whence early in May they started for Europe. That was nine years ago next month, and during the vacation following I came to Shannondale and saw you, Edith, while you saw Nina’s picture.”

Nina was apparently listening now, and turning to him she said, “Tell her about the night when I stepped on your back and so got out of the window.”

Arthur’s face was crimson, but he answered laughingly “I fear Miggie will not think us very dignified, if I tell her of all our stolen interviews and the means used to procure them.”

Taking a new toy from his pocket he gave it to Nina, who, while examining it, forgot THAT NIGHT, and he went on.

“I come now to the saddest part of my story. Nina and I continued to write, for her father did not forbid that, stipulating, however, that he should see the letters which passed between us. He had placed her in a school at Paris, where she remained until after I was graduated and of age. Edith,” and Arthur’s voice trembled, “I was too much a boy to know the nature of my feelings toward Nina when we were engaged, and as the time wore on my love began to wane.”

Edith’s heart beat more naturally now than it had before since the narrative commenced, but she could not forbear from saying to him, reproachfully, “Oh, Arthur.”

“It was wrong, I know,” he replied, “and I struggled against it with all my strength, particularly when I heard that she was coming home. Griswold knew everything, and he suggested that a sight of her might awaken the olden feeling, and with a feverish anxiety I waited in Boston for the steamer which I supposed was to bring her home. After many delays she came in a sailing vessel, but came alone. Her father had died upon the voyage and been buried in the sea, leaving her with no friend save a Mr. Hudson, whose acquaintance they had made in Paris.”

At the mention of Mr. Hudson the toy dropped from Nina’s fingers and the blue eyes flashed up into Edith’s face with a more rational expression than she had heretofore observed in them.

“What is it, darling?” she asked, as she saw there was something Nina would say.

The lip quivered like that of a grieved child, while Nina answered softly, “I did love Charlie better than Arthur, and it was so wicked.”

“Yes,” rejoined Arthur quickly, “Nina’s love for me had died away, and centered itself upon another. Charlie Hudson had sought her for his wife, and while confessing her love for him she insisted that she could not be his, because she was bound to me. This, however, did not prevent his seeking an interview with her father, who told him frankly the terrible impediment to Nina’s marriage with any one. It was a crushing blow to young Hudson, but he still clung to her with all a brother’s devotion, soothing her grief upon the sea, and caring for her tenderly until Boston was reached, and he placed her in my hands, together with a letter, which her father wrote a few days before he died.”

“He’s married now,” interrupted Nina, “Charlie’s married, but he came to see me once, down at the old Asylum, and I saw him through the grates, for I was shut up in a TANTRUM. He cried, Miggie, just as Arthur does sometimes, and called me POOR LOST NINA. He held an angel in his arms with blue eyes like mine, and he said she was his child and Margaret’s! Her name was Nina, too. Wasn’t it nice?” And she smiled upon Edith, who involuntarily groaned as she thought how dreadful it must have been for Mr. Hudson to gaze through iron bars upon the wreck of his early love.

“Poor man,” she sighed, turning to Arthur. “Is he happy with his Margaret!”

“He seems to be,” said Arthur, “People can outlive their first affection, you know. He resides in New York now, and is to all appearance a prosperous, happy man. The curse has fallen alone on me, who alone deserve it.”

He spoke bitterly, and for a moment sat apparently thinking; then, resuming his story, said,

“I did not open Mr. Bernard’s letter until we reached the Revere House, and I was alone in my room. Then I broke the seal and read, while my blood curdled within my veins and every hair pricked at its roots. The old man knew he was about to die, and confessed to me in part his manifold transgressions, particularly his inhuman treatment of his last wife, the mother of little Miggie, but as this cannot, of course, be interesting to you, I will not repeat it.”

“Oh, do,” exclaimed Edith, feeling somehow that anything concerning the mother of Miggie Bernard would interest her.

“Well, then,” returned Arthur, “he did not tell me all the circumstances of his marriage. I only know that she was a foreigner and very beautiful–a governess, too, I think in some German family, and that he married her under an assumed name.”

“An assumed name!” Edith cried. “Why was that, pray?”

“I hardly know,” returned Arthur, “but believe he became in some way implicated in a fight or gambling brawl in Paris, and being threatened with arrest took another name than his own, and fled to Germany or Switzerland, where he found his wife. They were married privately, and after two or three years he brought her to his Florida home, where his proud mother and maiden sister affected to despise her because of her poverty. He was at that time given to drinking, and almost every day became beastly intoxicated, abusing his young wife so shamefully that her life became intolerable, and at last when he was once absent from home for a few weeks, he resolved upon going back to Europe, and leaving him forever. This plan she confided to a maid servant who had accompanied her from England, a resolute, determined woman, who arranged the whole so skillfully that no one suspected their designs until they were far on their way to New York. The old mother, who was then living, would not suffer them to be pursued, and more than a week went by ere Mr. Bernard learned what had occurred. He followed them of course. He was man enough for that, but falling in with some of his boon companions, almost as soon as he reached the city, he drank so deeply that for several days he was unable to search for them, and in that time both his wife and Miggie died.”

“Oh, Mr. St. Claire,” and Edith’s eyes filled with tears.

“Yes, both of them died,” he continued. “Mrs. Bernard’s health was greatly undermined by sorrow, and when a prevailing epidemic fastened itself upon her, it found an easy prey. The waiting-maid wrote immediately to Florida, and her letter was sent back to Mr. Bernard, who, having become sobered, hastened at once to find her place of abode. She was a very intelligent woman for one of her class, and had taken the precaution to have the remains of her late mistress and child deposited in such a manner that they could easily be removed if Mr. Bernard should so desire it. He did desire it, and the bodies were taken undisturbed to Florida, where they now rest quietly, side by side with the proud mother and sister, since deceased. After this Mr. Bernard became a changed and better man, weeping often over the fate of his young girl-wife and his infant daughter, whom he greatly loved. Other troubles he had, too, secret troubles which he confided to me in the letter brought by Mr. Hudson. After assuring me of his esteem and telling me how much he should prefer me for his son-in-law to Charlie Hudson, he added that in justice to us both he must now speak of the horrible cloud hanging over his beautiful Nina, and which was sure at last to envelop her in darkness. You can guess it, Edith. You have guessed it already–hereditary insanity–reaching far back into the past, and with each successive generation developing itself earlier and in a more violent form. He knew nothing of it when he married Nina’s mother, a famous New Orleans belle, for her father purposely kept it from him, hoping thus to get her off his hands ere the malady manifested itself.

“In her case it came on with the birth of Nina, and from that day to her death she was a raving, disgusting maniac, as her mother and grandmother had been before her. This was exceedingly mortifying to the proud Bernards, negroes and all, and the utmost care was taken of Nina, who, nevertheless, was too much like her mother to hope for escape. There was the same peculiar look in the eye–the same restless, nervous motions, and from her babyhood up he knew his child was doomed to chains, straight jackets and narrow cells, while the man who married her was domed to a still more horrible fate. These were his very words, and my heart stopped its beating as I read, while I involuntarily thanked Heaven, who had changed her feelings towards me. She told me with many tears that she had ceased to love me, and asked to be released for the fulfillment of her vow. I knew then she would one day be just what she is, and did not think it my duty to insist. But I did not forsake her, though my affection for her then was more like a brother’s than a lover’s. In his will, which was duly made and witnessed, Mr. Bernard appointed me the guardian of his child, empowering me to do for her as if she were my sister, and bidding me when the calamity should overtake her, care for her to the last.

“‘They don’t usually survive ling,’ he wrote, and he made me his next heir after Nina’s death. It was a great charge for one just twenty-two, a young, helpless girly and an immense fortune to look after; but Griswold, my tied friend, came to my aid, and pointed out means by which a large portion of the Bernard estate could be turned into money, and thus save me much trouble. I followed his advice, and then old homestead is all the landed property there is for me to attend to now, and as this is under the supervision of a competent overseer, it give me no uneasiness. I suggested to Nina that she should accompany me to Florida soon after her arrival in Boston, but she preferred remaining for a time in some boarding school, and I made arrangements for her to be received as a boarder in Charlestown Seminary, leaving her there while I went South to transact business incumbent upon me as her guardian.

“How it happened I never knew, but by some accident her father’s letter to me became mixed up with her papers, and while I was gone she read it, learning for the first time what the mystery was which hung over her mother’s fate, and also of the doom awaiting her. She fainted, it was said, and during the illness which followed raved in frantic fury, suffering no one to approach her save Griswold, who, being at that time a physician in the Lunatic Asylum at Worcester, hastened to her side, acquiring over her a singular power. It is strange that in her fits of violence she never speaks of me, nor yet of Charlie Hudson. Indeed, the past seems all a blank to her, save as she refers to it incidentally as she has to-day.”

“But did she stay crazy?” asked Edith.

“Not wholly so,” returned Arthur, “but from that time her reason began to fail, until now she is hopelessly insane, and has not known a rational moment for more than three years.”

“Nor been home in all that time?” said Edith, while Arthur replied,

“She would not go. She seemed to shrink from meeting her former friends; and at last, acting upon Griswold’s advice, I placed her in the Asylum, going myself hither and thither like a feather tossed about by the gale. Griswold was my ballast, my polar star, and when he said to me, buy a house and have a home, I answered that I would; and when he told me of Grassy Spring, bidding me purchase it, I did so, although I dreaded coming to this neighborhood of all others. I had carefully kept everything from Grace, who, while hearing that I was in some way interested in a Florida estate, knew none of the particulars, and I became morbidly jealous lest she or anyone else should hear of Nina’s misfortune, or what she was to me.

“It was a favorite idea of Griswold’s that Nina might be benefited by a change of place, and when I first came here I knew that she, too, would follow me in due time. She has hitherto been subject to violent attacks of frenzy, during which nothing within her reach was safe; and, knowing this, Griswold advised me to prepare a room, where, at such times, she could be kept by herself, for the sight of people always made her worse. The Den, with the large closet adjoining, was the result of this suggestion, and as I have a great dread of neighborhood gossip, I resolved to say nothing of her until compelled to do so by her presence in the house. I fancied that Mrs. Johnson was a discreet woman, and my purpose was to tell her of Nina as soon as I was fairly settled; but she abused her trust by letting Grace into the room. You refused to enter, and my respect for you from that moment was unbounded.”

She looked at him in much surprise, and he added,

“You wonder, I suppose, how I know this. I was here at the time, was in the next room when you came into the library to wait for Grace. I watched you through the glass door, wondering who you were, until my cousin appeared and I overheard the whole.”

“And that is why you chose me instead of Grace to take charge of your keys,” interrupted Edith, beginning to comprehend what had heretofore been strange to her. “But, Mr. St. Claire, I don’t understand it at all–don’t see why there was any need for so much secrecy. Supposing you did dread neighborhood gossip, you could not help being chosen Nina’s guardian. She could not help being crazy. Why not have told at once that there was such a person under your charge? Wouldn’t it have been better? It was no disgrace to you that you have kept the father’s trust, and cared for his poor child,” and she glanced lovingly at the pretty face nestled against her arm, for Nina had fallen asleep.

Arthur did not answer immediately, and when he did, his voice trembled with emotion.

“It would have been better,” he said; “but when she first became insane, I shrank from having it generally known, and the longer I hugged the secret the harder I found it to divulge the whole. It would look queerly, I thought, for a young man like me to be tramelled with a crazy girl. Nobody would believe she was my ward, and nothing more, and I became a sort of monomaniac upon the subject. Had I never loved her–” he paused, and leaned his head upon his hands, while Edith, bending upon him a most searching look, startled him with the words, “Mr. St. Claire, you have not told me all. There is something behind, something mightier than pride or a dread of gossip.”

“Yes, Edith, there is something behind, but I can’t tell YOU what it is, you of all others.”

He was pacing the floor hurriedly now, but stopped suddenly, and standing before Edith, said: “Edith Hastings, you are somewhat to blame in this matter. Before I knew you I only shrank from having people talk of my matters sooner than was absolutely necessary. But after you became my pupil, the desire that you should never see Nina as she is, grew into a species of madness, and I have bent every energy to keeping you apart. I did not listen to reason, which told me you must know of it sooner or later, but plunged deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of attempted concealment. When I found it necessary to dismiss Mrs. Johnson, if I would keep my affairs to myself, I thought of the old family servants at Sunnybank. I knew they loved and pitied Nina, and were very sensitive with regard to her misfortune. It touches Phillis’ pride to think her young mistress is crazy, and as hers is the ruling mind, she keeps the others in subjection, though old Judy came near disclosing the whole to you at one time, I believe. You know her sad story now, but you do not know how like an iron weight it hangs upon me, crushing me to the earth, wearing my life away, and making me old before my time. See here,” and lifting his brown locks, he showed her many a line of silver. “If I loved Nina Bernard, my burden would be easier to bear.”

“Oh, Mr. St. Claire,” interrupted Edith, “You surely do love her. You cannot help loving her, and she so beautiful, so innocent.”

“Yes,” he answered, “as a brother loves an unfortunate sister. I feel towards her, I think, as a mother does towards a helpless child, a tender pity which prompts me to bear with her even when she tries me almost beyond endurance. She is not always as mild as you see her now, though her frenzied moods do not occur as frequently as they did. She loves me, I think, as an infant loves its mother, and is better when I am with her. At all events, since coming to Grassy Spring, she has been unusually quiet, until within the last two weeks, when a nervous fever has confined her to her room and made her somewhat unmanagable. Griswold said she would be better here, and though I had not much faith in the experiment, I see now that he was right. Griswold is always right, and had I followed his advice years ago, much of my trouble might have been averted. Edith, never conceal a single act, if you wish to be happy. A little fault, if covered up, grows into a mountain; and the longer it is hidden, the harder it is to be confessed. This is my experience. There was a false step at first, and it lies too far back in the past to be remedied now. No one knows of it but myself, Griswold, Nina, and my God. Yes, there IS one more whose memory might be refreshed, but I now have no fear of him.”

Edith did not ask who this other was, neither did she dream that Richard Harrington was in any way connected with the mystery. She thought of him, however, wondering if she might tell him of Nina, and asking if she could.

Arthur’s face was very white, as he replied, “Tell him if you like, or any one else. It is needless to keep it longer, but, Edith, you’ll come again, won’t you? come to see Nina if nothing more. I am glad you have seen her, provided you do not desert me wholly.”

“Of course I shall not,” she said, as she laid the golden head of the sleeping girl upon the cushion of the sofa, preparatory to leaving, “I’ll come again, and forgive you, too, for anything you may have done, except a wrong to her,” and she carefully kissed the poor, crazy Nina.

Then, offering her hand to Arthur she tried to bid him good-bye as of old, but he missed something in her manner, and with feelings sadly depressed he watched her from the window, as, assisted by Ike, she mounted her pony and galloped swiftly away.

“She’s lost to me forever, and there’s nothing worth living for now,” he said, just as a little hand pressed his arm, and a sweet childish voice murmured, “Yes, there is, Arthur. Live for Nina, poor Nina,” and the snowy fingers, which, for a moment, had rested lightly on his arm, began to play with the buttons of his coat, while the soft blue eyes looted pleadingly into his.

“Yes, darling; he said, caressing her flowing curls, and pushing them back from her forehead, “I will live for you, hereafter. I will love no one else.”

“No one but Miggie. You MAY love her. You must love her, Arthur. She’s so beautiful, so grand, why has she gone from Nina, I want her here, want her all the time;” and Nina’s mood began to change.

Tears filled her eyes, and burying her face in Arthur’s bosom she begged him to go after Miggie, to bring her. back and keep her there always, threatening that if he did’nt “Nina would be bad.”

Tenderly, but firmly, as a parent soothes a refractory child, did Arthur soothe the excitable Nina, telling her Miggie should come again, or if she did not, they’d go up and see her.

CHAPTER XVII.

NINA AND MIGGIE.

It would be impossible to describe Edith’s feelings as she rode toward home. She knew Arthur had not told her the whole, and that the part omitted was the most important of all. What could it be? She thought of a thousand different things, but dismissed them one after another from her mind as too preposterous to be cherished for a moment. The terrible reality never once occurred to her, else her heart had not beaten as lightly as it did, in spite of the strange story she had heard. She was glad that she had met with Nina–glad that every obstacle to their future intercourse was removed–and while she censured Arthur much she pitied him the more and scolded herself heartily for feeling so comfortable and satisfied because he had ceased to love the unfortunate Nina.

“I can’t blame him for not wishing to be talked about,” she said. “Shannondale IS a horribly gossipping place, and people would have surmised everything; but the sooner they know it now the sooner it will die away. Let me think. Who will be likely to spread the news most industriously?”

Suddenly remembering Mrs. Eliakim Rogers, the busiest gossip in town, she turned Bedouin in the direction of the low brown house, standing at a little distance from the road, and was soon seated in Mrs. Eliakim’s kitchen, her ostensible errand being to inquire about some plain sewing the good lady was doing for her, while her real object was to communicate as much of Arthur’s story as she thought proper. Incidentally she spoke of Mr. St. Claire, and when the widow asked “What under the sun possessed him to live as he did,” she replied by telling of NINA, his ward, who, she said, had recently come to Grassy Spring from the Asylum, adding a few items as to how Arthur chanced to be her guardian, talking as if she had known of it all the time, and saying she did not wonder that a young man like him should shrink from having it generally understood that he had a crazy girl upon his hands. He was very kind to her indeed, and no brother could treat his sister more tenderly than he treated Nina.

To every thing she said, Mrs. Eliakim smilingly assented, drawing her own conclusions the while and feeling vastly relieved when, at last, her visitor departed, leaving her at liberty to don her green calash and start for the neighbors with this precious morsel of gossip. Turning back, Edith saw her hurrying across the fields, and knew it would not be long ere all Shannondale were talking of Arthur’s ward.

Arrived at home she found the dinner waiting for her, and when asked by Richard what had kept her she replied by repeating to him in substance what she had already told Mrs. Eliakim Rogers. There was this difference however, between the two stories–the one told to Richard was longer and contained more of the particulars. She did not, however, tell him of Arthur’s love for Nina, or of the neglected wife, the mother of little Miggie, though why she withheld that part of the story she could not tell. She felt a strange interest in that young mother dying alone in the noisome city, and in the little child buried upon her bosom, but she had far rather talk of Nina and her marvellous beauty, feeling sure that she had at least one interested auditor, Victor, who was perfectly delighted to have the mystery of Grassy Spring unravelled, though he felt a little disappointed that it should amount to nothing more than a crazy girl, to whom Mr. St. Claire was guardian.

This feeling of Victor was in a great measure shared by the villagers, and, indeed, after a day or two of talking and wondering, the general opinion seemed to be that Arthur had magnified the evil and been altogether too much afraid of Madam Rumor, who was inclined to be rather lenient toward him, particularly as Edith Hastings took pains to tell how kind he was to Nina, who gave him oftentimes so much trouble. The tide of popular feeling was in his favor, and the sympathy which many openly expressed for him was like a dagger to the young man, who knew he did not deserve it. Still he was relieved of a great burden, and was far happier than he had been before, and even signified to Grace his willingness to mingle in society and see company at his own house. The consequence of this was throngs of visitors at Grassy Spring, said visitors always asking for Mr. St. Claire, but caring really to see Nina, who shrank from their advances, and hiding herself in her room refused at last to go down unless Miggie were there.

MIGGIE had purposely absented herself from Grassy Spring more than two whole weeks, and when Richard asked the cause of it she answered that she did not know, and, indeed, she could not to herself define the reason of her staying so long from a place where she wished so much to be, unless it were that she had not quite recovered from the shock it gave her to know that Arthur had once been engaged, even though he had wearied of the engagement. It seemed to her that he had built between them a barrier which she determined he should be the first to cross. So she studiously avoided him, and thus unconsciously plunged him deeper and deeper into the mire, where he was already foundering. Her apparent indifference only increased the ardor of his affection, and though he struggled against it as against a deadly sin, he could not overcome it, and at last urged on by Nina, who begged so hard for Miggie, he resolved upon going to Collingwood and taking Nina with him.

It was a warm, pleasant afternoon in May, and Nina had never looked more beautiful than when seated in the open carriage, and on her way to Collingwood, talking incessantly of Miggie, whom she espied long before they reached the house. It was a most joyful meeting between the two young girls, Nina clinging to Edith as if fearful of losing her again, if by chance she should release her hold.

Arthur did not tell Edith how much he had missed her, but Nina did, and when she saw the color deepen on Edith’s cheeks she added, “You love him, don’t you, Miggie?”

“I love every body, I hope,” returned the blushing Edith, as she led her guests into the room where Richard was sitting.

At sight of the blind man Nina started, and clasping her hands together, stood regarding him fixedly, while a look of perplexity deepened upon her face.

“Speak to her, Edith,” whispered Arthur, but ere Edith could comply with his request, Nina’s lips parted and she said, “YOU DID DO IT, DIDN’T YOU?”

“Whose voice was that?” and Richard started forward.

It’s Nina, Mr. Harrington; pretty Nina Bernard; and Edith came to the rescue.

“She has a sweet, familiar voice,” said Richard, “Come to me, little one, will you?”

He evidently thought her a child, for in her statement Edith had not mentioned her age, and Richard had somehow received the impression that she was very young. It suited Nina to be thus addressed, and she went readily to Richard, who pressed her soft, warm hands, and then telling her playfully that he wished to know how she looked, passed his own hand slowly over her face and hair, caressing the latter and twining one of the curls around his fingers; then, winding his arm about her slender waist, he asked how old she was.

“FIFTEEN YEARS AND A HALF,” was her prompt reply.’

Richard never thought of doubting her word. She was very slight indeed. “A little morsel,” he called her, and as neither Arthur nor Edith corrected the mistake, he was suffered to think of Nina Bernard as one, who, were she rational, would be a mere school- girl yet.

She puzzled him greatly, and more than once he started at some peculiar intonation of her voice.

“Little Snowdrop,” he said, at last, “it seems to me I have known you all my life. Look at me, and say if we have met before?”

Edith was too intent upon Nina’s answer to notice Arthur, and she failed to see the spasm of pain and fear which passed over his face, leaving it paler than its wont. Bending over Nina he waited like Edith while she scanned Richard curiously, and then replied, “Never, UNLESS YOU ARE THE ONE THAT DID IT–are you?”

“Did what?” asked Richard, and while Nina hesitated, Arthur replied, “She has a fancy that somebody made her crazy.”

“Not I, oh, no, not I, poor little dove. I did not do it, sure,” and Richard smoothed the yellow curls resting on his knee.

“Who was it, then?” persisted Nina. “He was tall, like you, and dark and handsome, wasn’t he Arthur? You know–you were there?” and she turned appealingly to the young man, whose heart beat so loudly as to be plainly audible to himself.

“It was Charlie Hudson, perhaps,” suggested Edith, and Arthur mentally blessed her for a remark which turned the channel of Nina’s thoughts, and set her to telling Richard how Charlie cried when he saw her through the iron bars, wearing that queer-looking gown.

“I danced for him with all my might,” she said, “and sang so loud, for I thought it would make him laugh as it did the folks around me, but he only cried the harder. What made him?” and she looked up wistfully in Richard’s face. “YOU are crying, too!” she exclaimed. “Everybody cries where I am. Why do they? I wish they wouldn’t. I’m good to-day–there, please don’t, Mr. Big-man, THAT DID DO IT,”? and raising her waxen hand she brushed away the tear trembling on Richard’s long eyelashes.

Edith now sought to divert her by asking if she were fond of music, and would like to hear her play,

“Nina’ll play,” returned the little maiden, and going to the piano she dashed off a wild, impassioned, mixed-up impromptu, resembling now the soft notes of the lute or the plaintive sob of the winter wind, and then swelling into a full, rich, harmonious melody, which made the blood chill in Edith’s veins, and caused both Richard and Arthur to hold their breath.

This music ceased, and rising from the stool Nina expressed a desire to go home, insisting that Edith should go with her and stay all night.

“I want to sleep with my arms around your neck just like you used to do,” she said; and when Arthur, too, joined in the request, Edith answered that she would if Richard were willing.

“And sleep with a lunatic,–is it quite safe?” he asked.

“Perfectly so,” returned Arthur, adding that the house was large enough, and Edith could act her own pleasure with regard to sleeping apartments.

“Then it’s settled that I may go,” chimed in Edith, quite as much delighted at the prospect of a long evening with Arthur, as with the idea of seeing more of Nina.

She knew she was leaving Richard very lonely, but she promised to be home early on the morrow, and bidding good-bye, followed Arthur and Nina to the carriage.

Nina was delighted to have Edith with her, and after their arrival at Grassy Spring, danced and skipped about the house like a gay butterfly, pausing every few moments to wind her arms around the neck of her guest, whom she kissed repeatedly, calling her always MIGGIE, and telling her how much she loved her.

“Don’t you want to see YOU as you used to be?” she asked suddenly. “If you do, come up,–come to my room. She may?” and she turned toward Arthur, who answered, “certainly, I will go myself,” and the three soon stood at the door of the DEN.

It was Edith’s first visit there, and a feeling of awe came over her as she crossed the threshold of the mysterious room. Then a cry of joyful surprise burst from her lips as she saw how pleasant it was in there, and how tastefully the chamber was fitted up. Not another apartment in the house could compare with it, and Edith felt that she could be happy there all her life, were it not for the iron lattice, which gave it somewhat the appearance of a prison.

“Here you are,” cried Nina, dragging her across the floor to the portrait of the little child which had so interested her during Arthur’s absence. “This is she–this is you,–this is Miggie,” and Nina jumped up and down, while Edith gazed again upon the sweet baby face she had once seen in the drawing-room.

“There is a slight resemblance between you,” said Arthur, glancing from one to the other, “Had she lived, her eyes must have been like yours; but look, this was Nina’s father.”

Edith did not answer him. Indeed, she scarcely knew what he was saying, for a nameless fascination chained her to the spot, a feeling as if she were beholding her other self, as if she had leaped backward many years, and was seated again upon the nursery floor like the child before her. Like gleams of lightning, confused memories of the past came rushing over her only to pass away, leaving her in deeper darkness. One thought, however, like a blinding flash caused her brain to reel, while she grasped Arthur’s arm, exclaiming, “Are you sure the baby died–sure she was buried with her mother?”

“Yes, perfectly sure,” was Arthur’s reply, and with the sensation of disappointment, Edith turned at last from Miggie to the contemplation of the father; the Mr. Bernard whom she was not greatly disposed to like.

He was a portly, handsome man, but his face showed traces of early debauchery and later dissipation. Still, Edith was far more interested in him than in the portrait of Nina’s mother, the light-haired, blue-eyed woman, so much like the daughter that the one could easily be recognized from it a resemblance to the other.

“Where is the second Mrs. Bernard’s picture?” she asked, and Arthur answered, “It was never taken, but Phillis declares YOU are like her, and this accounts for Nina’s pertinacity in calling you Miggie.”

The pictures were by this time duly examined, and then Nina, still playing the part of hostess, showed to Edith every thing of the least interest until she came to the door, leading into the large square closet.

“Open it, please,” she whispered to Arthur. “Let Miggie see where Nina stays when she tears.”

Arthur unlocked the door, and Edith stepped with a shudder into the solitary cell which had witnessed more than one wild revel, and echoed to more than one delirious shriek.

“Is it necessary?” she asked, and Arthur replied: “We think so; otherwise she would demolish every thing within her reach, and throw herself from the window it may be.”

“THAT’S SO,” said Nina, nodding approvingly. “When I’m bad, I have to tear. It cures my head, and I’m so strong then, that it takes Phillis and Arthur both to put that gown on me. I can’t tear that,” and she pointed to a loose sacque-like garment, made of the heaviest possible material, and hanging upon a nail near the door of the cell.

“Have you been shut up since you came here?” Edith inquired, and Nina rejoined. “Once; didn’t you hear me scream?” Phillis tried to make me quit, but I told her I wouldn’t unless they’d let you come. I saw you on the walk, you know. I’m better with you, Miggie; a heap better since you made me cry. It took a world of hardness and pain away, and my head has not ached a single time since then. I’m most well; ain’t I, Arthur.”

“Miss Hastings certainly has a wonderful influence over you,” returned Arthur, and as the evening wore away, Edith began to think so, too.

Even the servants commented upon the change in Nina, who appeared so natural and lady-like, that once there darted across Arthur’s mind the question, “what if her reason SHOULD be restored! I will do right, Heaven helping me,” he moaned mentally, for well he knew that Nina sane would require of him far different treatment from what Nina crazy did. It was late that night when they parted, he to his lonely room where for hours he paced the floor with feverish disquiet, while Edith went from choice with Nina to the DEN, determined to share her single bed, and smiling at her own foolishness when once a shadow of fear crept into her heart. How could she be afraid of the gentle creature, who, in her snowy night dress, with her golden hair falling about her face and neck, looked like some beautiful angel flitting about the room, pretending to arrange this and that, casting half bashful glances at Edith, who was longer in disrobing and at last, as if summoning all her courage for the act, stepping behind the thin lace window curtains, which she drew around her, saying softly, “don’t look at me, Miggie, will you, ’cause I’m going to pray.”

Instantly the brush which Edith held was stayed amid her raven hair, and the hot tears rained over her face as she listened to that prayer, that God would keep Nina from TEARING any more, and not let Arthur cry, but make it all come right some time with him and Miggie, too. Then followed that simple petition, “now I lay me down to sleep,” learned at the mother’s knee by so many thousand children whose graves like hillocks in the church-yard lie, and when she arose and came from behind the gauzy screen where she fancied she had been hidden from view, Edith was not wrong in thinking that something like the glory of Heaven shone upon her pure white brow. All dread of her was gone, and when Sophy came in, offering to sleep upon the floor as was her usual custom, she promptly declined, for she would rather be alone with Nina.

Edith had never been intimate with any girl of her own age, and to her it was a happiness entirely new, she nestling down in the narrow bed with a loved companion whose arms wound themselves caressingly around her neck, and whose lips touched hers many times, whispering, “Bless you, Miggie, bless you, precious sister, you can’t begin to guess how much I love you. Neither can I tell you. Why, it would take me till morning.”

It became rather tiresome after a time being kept awake, and fearing lest she WOULD talk till morning, Edith said to her,

“I shall go home if you are not more quiet.”

There was something in Edith’s voice which prompted the crazy girl to obey, and with one more assurance of love she turned to her pillow, and Edith knew by her soft, regular breathing, that her troubles were forgotten.

“I hardly think you’ll care to repeat the experiment again,” Arthur said to Edith next morning, when he met her at the table, and saw that she looked rather weary. “Nina, I fear, was troublesome, as Sophy tells me she often is.”

Edith denied Nina’s having troubled her much. Still she felt that she preferred her own cozy bed-chamber to Nina’s larger, handsomer room, and would not promise to spend another night at Grassy Spring, although she expressed her willingness to resume her drawing lessons, and suggested that Nina, too, should become a pupil. Arthur would much rather have had Edith all to himself, for he knew that Nina’s presence would be a restraint upon him, but it was right, and he consented as the only means of having Edith back again in her old place, fancying that when he had her there it would be the same as before. But he was mistaken, for when the lessons were resumed, he found there was something between them,– something which absorbed Edith’s mind, and was to him a constant warning and rebuke. Did he bend so near Edith at her task, that his brown locks touched her blacker braids, a shower of golden curls was sure to mingle with the twain, as Nina also bent her down to see what he was looking at. Did the hand which sometimes guided Edith’s pencil ever retain the fingers longer than necessary, a pair of deep blue eyes looked into his, not reproachfully, for Nina could not fathom the meaning of what she saw, but with an expression of childlike trust and confidence far more potent than frowns and jealous tears would have been. Nina was in Arthur’s way, but not in Edith’s, and half the pleasure she experienced now in going to Grassy Spring, was derived from the fact that she thus saw more of Nina than she would otherwise have done. It was a rare and beautiful sight, the perfect love existing between these two young girls, Edith seeming the elder, inasmuch as she was the taller and more self-reliant of the two. As a mother watches over and loves her maimed infant, so did Edith guard and cherish Nina, possessing over her so much power that a single look from her black eyes was sufficient to quiet at once the little lady, who, under the daily influence of her society visibly improved both in health and spirits.

CHAPTER XVIII.

DR. GRISWOLD.

Still Nina’s mind was enshrouded in as deep a gloom as ever, and Dr. Griswold, who, toward the latter part of June, came to see her, said it would be so always. There was no hope of her recovery, and with his olden tenderness of manner he caressed his former patient, sighing as he thought of the weary life before her. For two days Dr. Griswold remained at Grassy Spring, learning in that time much how matters stood. He saw Edith Hastings,– scanned with his clear, far-reaching eye every action of Arthur St. Claire, and when at last his visit was ended, and Arthur was walking with him to the depot, he said abruptly, “I am sorry for you, St. Claire; more sorry than I ever was before, but you know the path of duty and you must walk in it, letting your eyes stray to neither side, lest they fall upon forbidden fruit.”

Arthur made no reply save to kick the gnarled roots of the tree under which they had stopped for a few moments.

“Edith Hastings is very beautiful!” Dr. Griswold remarked suddenly, and as if SHE had just entered his mind. “Does she come often to Grassy Spring?”

“Every day,” and Arthur tried to look his friend fully in the face, but could not, and his brown eyes fell as he added hastily, “she comes to see Nina; they are greatly attached.”

“She HAS a wonderful power over her, I think,” returned Dr. Griswold; “and I am not surprised that you esteem her highly on that account, but how will it be hereafter when other duties, other relations claim her attention. Will she not cease to visit you and so Nina made worse?”

“What new duties? What relations do you mean,” Arthur asked quickly, trembling in every joint as he anticipated the answer.

“I have a fancy that Miss Hastings will reward that blind man for all his kindness with her heart and hand.”

“Her hand it may be, but her heart, NEVER,” interrupted Arthur, betraying by his agitation what Dr. Griswold had already guessed.

“Poor Arthur,” he said, “I know what is in your mind and pity you so much, but you can resist temptation and you MUST. There’s no alternative. You chose your destiny years ago–abide by it, then. Hope and pray, as I do, that Edith Hastings will be the blind man’s bride.”

“Oh, Griswold,” and Arthur groaned aloud, “you cannot wish to sacrifice her thus!”

“I can–I do–it will save you both from ruin.”

“Then you think–you DO think she loves me,” and Arthur looked eagerly at his friend, who answered, “I think nothing, save that she will marry Mr. Harrington. Your cousin told me there was a rumor to that effect. She is often at Collingwood, and ought to be posted.”

“Griswold, I wish I were dead,” exclaimed Arthur. “Yes, I wish I were dead, and were it not that I dread the hereafter, I would end my existence at once in yonder river,” and he pointed to the Chicopee, winding its slow way to the westward.

Dr. Griswold gazed at him a moment in silence, and then replied somewhat sternly, “Rather be a man and wait patiently for the future.”

“I would, but for the fear that Edith will be lost to me forever,” Arthur answered faintly, and Dr. Griswold replied, “Better so than lost herself. Why not be candid with her; tell her everything; go over the entire past, and if she truly loves you, she will wait, years and years if need be. She’s young yet, too young to be a wife. Will you tell her?”

“I can’t, I can’t,” and Arthur shook his head despairingly. “I have hidden the secret too long to tell it now. It might have been easy at first, but now–it’s too late. Oh, Griswold, you do not understand what I suffer, for you never knew what it was to love as I love Edith Hastings.” For a moment Dr. Griswold looked at him in silence. He knew how fierce a storm had gathered round him, and how bravely he had met it. He knew, too, how impetuous and ardent was his disposition, how much one of his temperament must love Edith Hastings, and he longed to speak to him a word of comfort. Smoothing the brown hair of the bowed head, and sighing to see how many threads of silver were woven in it, he said,

“I pity you so much, and can feel for you more than you suspect. You say I know not what it is to love. Oh, Arthur, Arthur. You little guessed what it cost me, years ago, to give up NINA BERNARD. It almost broke my heart, and the wound is bleeding yet! Could the past be undone; could we stand where we did that night which both remember so well, I would hold you back; and Nina, crazy as she is, should this moment be mine–mine to love, to cherish, to care for and weep over when she is dead. Poor little unfortunate Nina–my darling–my idol–my clipped-wing bird!”

It was Dr. Griswold’s voice which trembled now, and Arthur’s which essayed to comfort him.

“I never dreamed of this,” he said. “I knew you, with others, had a liking for her, but you relinquished her so willingly, I could not guess you loved her so well,” and in his efforts to soothe his friend, Arthur forgot his own sorrow in part.

It was time now for the Dr. to go, as the smoke of the coming train was visible over the hills. “You need not accompany me further,” he said, offering his hand to Arthur, who pressed it in silence, and then walked slowly back to Grassy Spring.

Those were terrible days which followed the visit of Dr. Griswold, for to see Edith Hastings often was a danger he dared not incur, while to avoid her altogether was utterly impossible, and at last resolving upon a change of scene as his only hope, he one morning astonished Grace with the announcement that he was going South, and it might be many weeks ere he returned.

Since coming to that neighborhood, Arthur had been a puzzle to Grace, and she watched him now in amazement, as he paced the floor, giving her sundry directions with regard to Nina, and telling her where a letter would find him in case she should be sick, and require his personal attention. It was in vain that Grace expostulated with him upon what seemed to her a foolish and uncalled-for journey. He was resolved, and saying he should not probably see Edith ere his departure, he left his farewell with her.

Once he thought of bidding her encourage Edith to marry the blind man, but he could not quite bring himself to this. Edith was dearer to him now than when she promised him that if Richard sought her hand she would not tell him no, and he felt that he would rather she should die than be thus sacrificed. Anxiously Grace looked after him as he walked rapidly away, thinking within herself that long association with Nina had impaired his reason. And Arthur was more than half insane. Not until now had he been wholly roused to the reality of his position. Dr. Griswold had rent asunder the flimsy veil, showing him how hopeless was his love for Edith, and so, because he could not have her, he must go away. It was a wise decision, and he was strengthened to keep it in spite of Nina’s tears that he should stay.

“Nina’ll die, or somebody’ll die, I know,” and the little girl clung sobbing to his neck, when the hour of parting came.

Very gently he unclasped her clinging arms; very tenderly he kissed her lips, bidding her give one to Miggie, and then he left her, turning back ere he reached the gate, as a new idea struck him. Would NINA go with him; go to her Florida home, if so he would defer his journey a day or so. He wondered he had not thought of this before. It would save him effectually, and he anxiously waited her answer.

“If Miggie goes I will, but not without.”

This was Nina’s reply, and Arthur turned a second time away.

In much surprise, Edith, who came that afternoon, heard of Arthur’s departure.

“Why did he go without bidding me good-bye?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but he left a kiss for you right on my lips,” said Nina, putting up her rosebud mouth for Edith to take what was unquestionably her own.

While they were thus talking together, the door bell rang, and Soph, who answered the ring, admitted Dr. Griswold.

“Dr. Griswold here again so soon!” exclaimed Edith, a suspicion crossing her mind that Arthur had arranged for him to take charge