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hand is, but don’t take it away, for it cools my forehead.”)

The icy hand was not withdrawn, and Mabel continued: “Yes, I think him better suited to you, and when his mother told me that he loved me, and that he would, undoubtedly, one day make me his wife, it was almost too much for me to believe, but it makes me so happy–oh, so happy.”

“And he–he, too, told you that he loved you?” said Nellie, very low, holding her breath for the answer.

“Oh, no–_he_ never told me in _words_. ‘Twas his mother that told me–he only _acted_!”

“And what did he do?” asked Nellie, smiling in spite of herself, at the simplicity of Mabel, who, without any intention of exaggerating, proceeded to tell what John Jr. had said and done, magnifying every attention, until Nellie, blinded as she was by what his mother had said, was convinced that, at all events, he was not true to herself. To be sure, he had never told her he loved her in words; but in actions he had said it many a time, and if he could do the same with Mabel, he must be false either to one or the other. Always frank and open-hearted herself, Nellie despised anything like deception in others, and the high opinion she had once entertained for John Jr., was now greatly changed.

Still, reason as she would, Nellie could not forget so easily, and the hour of midnight found her restless and wakeful. At length, rising up and leaning upon her elbow, she looked down upon the face of Mabel, who lay sleeping sweetly at her side. Many and bitter were her thoughts, and as she looked upon her rival, marking her plain features and sallow skin, an expression of scorn flitted for an instant across her face.

“And _she_ is preferred to me!” said she. “Well, let it be so, and God grant I may not hate her.”

Erelong, better feelings came to her aid, and with her arms wound round Mabel’s neck, as if to ask forgiveness for her unkind thoughts, she fell asleep.

CHAPTER XV.

MRS. LIVINGSTONE’S CALLS AND THEIR RESULT.

After leaving Mr. Douglass’s, Mrs. Livingstone ordered her coachman to drive her around to the house of Mrs. Atkins, where she was frequently in the habit of stopping, partly as a matter of convenience when visiting in town, and partly to learn the latest news of the day, for Mrs. Atkins was an intolerable gossip. Without belonging exactly to the higher circles, she still managed to keep up a show of intimacy with them, possessing herself with their secrets, and kindly intrusting them to the keeping of this and that “dear friend.”

From her, had Mrs. Livingstone learned to a dime the amount of Mr. Douglass’ property, and how he was obliged to economize in various ways, in order to keep up the appearance of style. From her, too, had she learned how often her son was in the habit of calling there, and what rumor said concerning those calls, while Mrs. Atkins had learned, in return, that the ambitious lady had other views for John, and that anything which she, Mrs. Atkins, could do to further the plans of her friend, would be gratefully received. On this occasion she was at home, and of course delighted to meet Mrs. Livingstone.

“It is such an age since I’ve seen you, that I began to fear you were offended at something,” said she, as she led the way into a cozy little sitting-room, where a cheerful wood fire was blazing on the nicely painted hearth. “Do sit down and make yourself as comfortable as you can, on such poor accommodations. I have just finished dinner but will order some for you.”

“No, no,” exclaimed Mrs. Livingstone, “I dined at Mr. Douglass’s–thank you.”

“Ah, indeed,” returned Mrs. Atkins, feeling a good deal relieved, for to tell the truth, her larder, as was often the case, was rather empty. “Dined at Mr. Douglass’s! Of course, then, nothing which I could offer you could be acceptable, after one of his sumptuous meals. I suppose Nellie brought out all her mother’s old silver, and made quite a display. It’s a wonder to me how they hold their heads so high, and folks notice them as they do, for between you and me, I shouldn’t be surprised to hear of his failing any minute.”

“Is it possible?” said Mrs. Livingstone.

“Why, yes,” returned Mrs. Atkins. “There’s nothing to prevent it, they say, except a moneyed marriage on the part of Nellie, who seems to be doing her best.”

“Has she any particular one in view?” asked Mrs. Livingstone, and Mrs. Atkins, aware of Mrs. Livingstone’s aversion to the match, replied, “Why, you know she tried to get your son—-“

“But didn’t succeed,” interrupted Mrs. Livingstone.

“No, didn’t succeed. You are right. Well, now it seems she’s spreading sail for a Mr. Wilbur, of Madison—-“

Mrs. Livingstone’s eyes sparkled eagerly, and, not to lose one word, she drew her chair nearer to her friend, who proceeded; “He’s a rich bachelor–brother to Mary Wilbur, Nellie’s most intimate friend. You’ve heard of her?”

“Yes, yes,” returned Mrs. Livingstone. “Hasn’t Nellie been visiting her?”

“Her or her brother,” answered Mrs. Atkins. “Mary’s health is poor, and you know it’s mighty convenient for Nellie to go there, under pretense of staying with her,”

“Exactly,” answered Mrs. Livingstone, with a satisfied smile, and another hitch of her chair toward Mrs. Atkins, who, after a moment, continued: “The brother came home with Nellie, stayed over Sunday, rode out with her Monday, indorsed ever so many notes for her father, so I reckon, and then went home. If that don’t mean something, then I’m mistaken”–and Mrs. Atkins rang for a glass of wine and a slice of cake.

After an hour’s confidential talk, in which Mrs. Livingstone told of Mabel’s prospects, and Mrs. Atkins told how folks who were at Mr. Graham’s party praised ‘Lena Rivers’ beauty, and predicted a match between her and Mr. Bellmont, the former rose to go; and calling upon one or two others, and by dint of quizzing and hinting, getting them to say “they shouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Wilbur did like Nellie Douglas,” she started for home, exulting to think how everything seemed working together for her good, and how, in the denouement, nothing particular could be laid to her charge.

“I told Nellie no falsehood,” thought she. “I did not say John loved Mabel; I only said she loved him, leaving all else for her to infer. And it has commenced operating, too. I could see it in the spots on her face and neck, when I was talking. Nellie’s a fine girl, though, but too poor for the Livingstones;” and with this conclusion, she told the coachman to drive faster, as she was in a hurry to reach home.

Arrived at Maple Grove, she found the whole family, grandma and all, assembled in the parlor, and with them Durward Bellmont. His arm was thrown carelessly across the back of ‘Lena’s chair, while he occasionally bent forward to look at a book of prints which she was examining. The sight of him determined her to wait a little ere she retailed her precious bit of gossip to her son. He was Nellie’s cousin, and as such, would in all probability repeat to her what he heard. However communicative John Jr. might be in other respects, she knew he would never discuss his heart-troubles with any one, so, upon second thought, she deemed it wiser to wait until they were alone.

Durward and ‘Lena, however, needed watching, and by a little maneuvering, she managed to separate them, greatly to the satisfaction of Carrie, who sat upon the sofa, one foot bent under her, and the other impatiently tapping the carpet. From the moment Durward took his seat by her cousin, she had appeared ill at ease, and as he began to understand her better, he readily guessed that her silent mood was owing chiefly to the attentions he paid to ‘Lena, and not to a nervous headache, as she said, when her grandmother, inquiring the cause of her silence, remarked, that “she’d been chipper enough until Mr. Bellmont came in.”

But he did not care. He admired ‘Lena, and John Jr. like, it made but little difference with him who knew it. Carrie’s freaks, which he plainly saw, rather amused him than otherwise, but of Mrs. Livingstone he had no suspicion whatever. Consequently, when she sent ‘Lena from the room on some trifling errand, herself appropriating the vacated seat, he saw in it no particular design, but in his usual pleasant way commenced talking with Carrie, who brightened up so much that grandma asked “if her headache wasn’t e’en-a’most well!”

When ‘Lena returned to the parlor, Durward was proposing a surprise visit to Nellie Douglass some time during the holidays. “We’ll invite Mr. Everett, and all go down. What do you say, girls?” said he, turning toward Carrie and Anna, but meaning ‘Lena quite as much as either of them.

“Capital,’ answered Anna, visions of a long ride with Malcolm instantly passing before her mind.

“I should like it very much,” said Carrie, visions of a ride with Durward crossing her mind.

“And I too,” said ‘Lena, laying her hand on John Jr.’s shoulder, as if he would of course be her escort.

Carrie’s ill-nature had not all vanished, and now, in a slightly insolent tone, she said, “How do you know you are included?”

‘Lena was about to reply, when Durward, a little provoked at Carrie’s manner, prevented her by saying “Of course I meant Miss Rivers, and I will now do myself the honor of asking her to ride with me, either on horseback or in a carriage, just as she prefers.”

In a very graceful manner ‘Lena accepted the invitation saying that “she always preferred riding on horse back, but as the pony which she usually rode had recently been sold, she would be content to go in any other way.”

“Fleetfoot sold! what’s that for?” asked Anna; and her mother replied, “We’ve about forty horses on our hands now, and as Fleetfoot was seldom used by any one except ‘Lena, your father thought we couldn’t afford to keep him.”

She did not dare tell the truth of the matter, and say that ever since the morning when ‘Lena rode to Woodlawn with Durward, Fleetfoot’s fate had been decreed. Repeatedly had she urged the sale upon her husband, who, wearied with her importunity, at last consented, selling him to a neighboring planter, who had taken him away that very day.

“That’s smart,” said John Jr. looking at his father, who had not spoken. “What is ‘Lena going to ride, I should like to know.”

‘Lena pressed his arm to keep him still, but he would not heed her. “Isn’t there plenty of feed for Fleetfoot?”

“Certainly,” answered his father, compelled now to speak; “plenty of feed, but Fleetfoot was getting old and sometimes stumbled. Perhaps we’ll get ‘Lena a better and younger horse.”

This was said in a half timid way, which brought the tears to ‘Lena’s eyes, for at the bottom of it all she saw her aunt, who sat looking into the glowing grate, apparently oblivious to all that was passing around her.

“That reminds me of Christmas gifts,” said Durward, anxious to change the conversation. “I wonder how many of us will get one?”

Ere there was any chance for an answer a servant appeared at the door, asking Mrs. Livingstone for some medicine for old Aunt Polly, the superannuated negress, who will be remembered as having nursed Mrs. Nichols during her attack of rheumatism, and for whom grandma had conceived a strong affection. For many days she had been very ill, causing Mrs. Livingstone to wonder “what old niggers wanted to live for, bothering everybody to death.”

The large stock of abolitionism which Mrs. Nichols had brought with her from Massachusetts was a little diminished by force of habit, but the root was there still, in all its vigor, and since Aunt Polly’s illness she had been revolving in her mind the momentous question, whether she would not be most guilty if Polly were suffered to die in bondage.

“I promised Nancy Scovandyke,” said she, “that I’d have some on ’em set free, but I’ll be bound if ‘taint harder work than I s’posed ‘twould be.”

Still Aunt Polly’s freedom lay warm at grandma’s heart and now when she was mentioned together with “Christmas gifts,” a bright idea entered her mind,

“John,” said she to her son, when Corinda had gone with the medicine, “John, have you ever made me a Christmas present since I’ve been here?”

“I believe not,” was his answer.

“Wall,” continued grandma, “bein’s the fashion, I want you to give me somethin’ this Christmas, will you?”

“Certainly,” said he, “what is it?”

Grandma replied that she would rather not tell him then–she would wait until Christmas morning, which came the next Tuesday, and here the conversation ended. Soon after, Durward took his leave, telling ‘Lena he should call for her on Thursday.

“That’s a plaguy smart feller,” said grandma, as the door closed upon him; “and I kinder think he’s got a notion after ‘Leny.”

“Ridiculous!” muttered Mrs. Livingstone, while Carrie added, “Just reverse it, and say she has a notion after him!”

“Shut up your head,” growled John Jr. “You are only angry because he asked her to accompany him, instead of yourself. I reckon he knows what he’s about.”

“I reckon he does, too!” said Mrs. Livingstone, with a peculiar smile, which nettled ‘Lena more than any open attack would have done.

With the exception of his mother, John Jr. was the last to leave the parlor, and when all the rest were gone, Mrs. Livingstone seized her opportunity for telling him what she had heard. Taking a light from the table, he was about retiring, when she said, “I learned some news to-day which a little surprised me.”

“Got it from Mother Atkins, I suppose,” answered John, still advancing toward the door.

“Partly from her, and partly from others,” said his mother, adding, as she saw him touch the door-knob, “It’s about Nellie Douglass.”

This was sufficient to arrest his attention, and turning about, he asked, “What of her?”

“Why, nothing of any great consequence, as I know of,” said Mrs. Livingstone, “only people in Frankfort think she’s going to be married.”

“_I_ think so, too,” was John’s mental reply, while his verbal one was, “Married! To whom?”

“Did you ever hear her speak of Mary Wilbur?”

“Yes, she’s been staying with her ever since Mrs. Graham’s party.”

“Well, Mary it seems has a brother, a rich old bachelor, who they say is very attentive to Nellie. He came home with her from Madison, staying at her father’s the rest of the week, and paying her numberless attentions, which—-“

“_I don’t believe it_,” interrupted John Jr., striking his fist upon the table, to which he had returned.

“Neither did I, at first,” said his mother, “but I heard it in so many places that there must be something in it. And I’m sure it’s a good match. He is rich, and willing, they say, to help her father, who is in danger of failing any moment.”

Without knowing it, John Jr. was a little inclined to be jealous, particularly of those whom he loved very much, and now suddenly remembering to have heard Nellie speak in high terms of Robert Wilbur, he began to feel uneasy, lest what his mother had said were true. She saw her advantage, and followed it up until, in a fit of anger, he rushed from the room and repaired to his own apartment, where for a time he walked backward and forward, chafing like a caged lion, and wishing all manner of evil upon Nellie, if she were indeed false to him.

He was very excitable, and at last worked himself up to such a pitch, that he determined upon starting at once for Frankfort, to demand of Nellie if what he had heard were true! Upon cooler reflection, however, he concluded not to make a “perfect fool of himself,” and plunging into bed, he fell asleep, as what man will not be his trouble what it may.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS.

The sunlight of a bright Christmas morning had hardly dawned upon the earth, when from many a planter’s home in the sunny south was heard the joyful cry of “Christmas Gift,” “Christmas Gift,” as the negroes ran over and against each other, hiding ofttimes, until some one came within hailing distance, when their loud “Christmas Gift” would make all echo again. On this occasion, every servant at Maple Grove was remembered, for Anna and ‘Lena had worked both early and late in preparing some little present, and feeling amply compensated for their trouble, when they saw how much happiness it gave. Mabel, too, while she stayed, had lent a helping hand, and many a blessing was that morning invoked upon her head from the hearts made glad by her generous gifts. Carrie, when asked to join them, had turned scornfully away, saying “she’d plenty to do, without working for niggers; who could not appreciate it.”

So all her leisure hours were spent in embroidering a fine cambric handkerchief, intended as a present for Mrs. Graham, and which with a delicate note was, the evening previous, sent to Woodlawn, with instructions to have it placed next morning on Mrs. Graham’s table. Of course Mrs. Graham felt in duty bound to return the compliment, and looking over her old jewelry, she selected a diamond ring which she had formerly worn, but which was now too small for her fat chubby fingers. This was immediately forwarded to Maple Grove, reaching there just as the family were rising from the breakfast-table.

“Oh, isn’t it beautiful–splendid–magnificent!” were Carrie’s exclamations, while she praised Mrs. Graham’s generosity, secretly wondering if “Durward did not have something to do with it.”

On this point she was soon set right, for the young man himself erelong appeared, and after bidding them all a “Merry Christmas,” presented Anna with a package which, on being opened, proved to be a large and complete copy of Shakspeare, elegantly bound, and bearing upon its heavy golden clasp the words “Anna Livingstone, from Durward,”

“This you will please accept from me,” said he. “Mother, I believe, has sent Carrie something, and if ‘Lena will step to the door, she will see her gift from father, who hopes it will give her as much pleasure to accept it, as it does him to present it.”

“What can it be?” thought Carrie, rising languidly from the sofa, and following ‘Lena and her sister to the side door, where stood one of Mr. Graham’s servants, holding a beautiful gray pony, all nicely equipped for riding.

Never dreaming that this was intended for ‘Lena, Carrie looked vacantly around, saying, “Why, where is it? I don’t see anything.”

“Here,” said Durward, taking the bridle from the negro’s hand, and playfully throwing it across ‘Lena’s neck, “Here it is–this pony, which we call Vesta. Vesta, allow me to introduce you and your new mistress, Miss ‘Lena, to each other,” and catching her up, as if she had been a feather, he placed her in the saddle. Then, at a peculiar whistle, the well-trained animal started off upon an easy gallop, bearing its burden lightly around the yard, and back again to the piazza.

“Do you like her ?” he asked of ‘Lena, extending his arms to lift her down.

For a moment ‘Lena could not speak, her heart was so full. But at last, forcing down her emotion, she replied, “Oh, very, very much; but it isn’t for me, I know–there must be some mistake. Mr. Graham never intended it for me.”

“Yes, he did,” answered Durward. “He has intended it ever since the morning when you and I rode to Woodlawn. A remark which your cousin John made at the table, determined him upon him buying and training a pony for you. So here it is, and as I have done my share toward teaching her, you must grant me the favor of riding her to Frankfort day after to-morrow.”

“Thank you, thank you–you and Mr. Graham too–a thousand times,” said ‘Lena, winding her arms around the neck of the docile animal, who did her best to return the caress, rubbing her face against ‘Lena, and evincing her gentleness in various ways.

By this time Mr. Livingstone had joined them, and while he was admiring the pony, Durward said to him, “I am commissioned by my father to tell you that he will defray all the expense of keeping Vesta.”

“Don’t mention such a thing again,” hastily interposed Mr. Livingstone. “I can keep fifty horses, if I choose, and nothing will give me more pleasure than to take care of this one for ‘Lena, who deserves it if any one does.”

“That’s my Christmas gift from you, uncle, isn’t it?” asked ‘Lena, the tears gushing from her shining, brown eyes. “And now please may I return it?”

“Certainly,” said he, and with a nimble spring she caught him around the neck, imprinting upon his lips the first and only kiss she had ever given him; then, amid blushes and tears, which came from a heart full of happiness, she ran away upstairs followed by the envious eyes of Carrie, who repaired to her mother’s room, where she stated all that had transpired–“How Mr. Graham had sent ‘Lena a gray pony–how she had presumed to accept it–and how, just to show off before Mr. Bellmont, she had wound her arms around its neck, and then actually _kissed pa_!”

Mrs. Livingstone was equally indignant with her daughter, wondering if Mr. Graham had lost his reason, and reckoning his wife knew nothing about Vesta! But fret as she would, there was no help for it. Vesta belonged to ‘Lena–Mr. Livingstone had given orders to have it well-cared for–and worse than all the rest, ‘Lena was to accompany Durward to Frankfort. Something must be done to meet the emergency, but what, Mrs. Livingstone didn’t exactly know, and finally concluded to wait until she saw Mrs. Graham.

Meantime grandma had claimed from her son her promised Christmas gift, which was nothing less than “the freedom of old Aunt Polly.”

“You won’t refuse me, John, I know you won’t,” said she, laying her bony hand on his. “Polly’s arnt her freedom forty times over, even s’posin’ you’d a right to her in the fust place which I and Nancy Scovandyke both doubt; so now set down like a man, make out her free papers, and let me carry ’em to her right away.”

Without a word Mr. Livingstone complied with his mother’s request, saying, as he handed her the paper, “It’s not so much the fault of the south as of the north that every black under heaven is not free.”

Grandma looked aghast. Her son, born, brought up, and baptized in a purely orthodox atmosphere, to hold such treasonable opinions in opposition to everything he’d ever been taught in good old Massachusetts! She was greatly shocked, but thinking she could not do the subject justice, she said, “Wall, wall, it’s of no use for you and I to arger the pint, for I don’t know nothin’ what I want to say, but if Nancy Scovandyke was here, she’d convince you quick, for she’s good larnin’ as any of the gals nowadays.”

So saying, she walked away to Polly’s cabin. The old negress was better to-day, and attired in the warm double-gown which Mabel had purchased and ‘Lena had made, she sat up in a large, comfortable rocking-chair which John Jr. had given her at the commencement of her illness, saying it was “his Christmas gift in advance.” Going straight up to her, grandma laid the paper in her lap, bidding her “read it and thank the Lord.”

“Bless missus’ dear old heart,” said Aunt Polly, “I can’t read a word.”

“Sure enough,” answered Mrs. Nichols, and taking up the paper she read it through, managing to make the old creature comprehend its meaning.

“Praise the Lord! praise Master John, and all the other apostles!” exclaimed Aunt Polly, clasping together her black, wrinkled hands, while tears of joy coursed their way down her cheeks. “The breath of liberty is sweet–sweet as sugar,” she continued, drawing long inspirations as if to make up for lost time.

Mrs. Nichols looked on, silently thanking God for having made her an humble instrument in contributing so much to another’s happiness.

“Set down,” said Aunt Polly, motioning toward a wooden bottomed chair; “set down, and let’s us talk over this great meracle, which I’ve prayed and rastled for mighty nigh a hundred times, without havin’ an atom of faith that ‘twould ever be.”

So Mrs. Nichols sat down, and for nearly an hour the old ladies talked, the one of her newly-found freedom, and the other of her happiness in knowing that “’twasn’t for nothin’ she was turned out of her old home and brought away over land and sea to Kentucky.”

CHAPTER XVII.

FRANKFORT.

Thursday morning came, bright, sunshiny and beautiful, and at about ten o’clock ‘Lena, dressed and ready for her ride, came down to the parlor, where she found John Jr. listlessly leaning upon the table with his elbows, and drumming with his fingers.

“Come, cousin,” said she, “why are you not ready?”

“Ready for what?” he answered, without raising his head.

“Why, ready for our visit,” replied Lena, at the same time advancing nearer, to see what ailed him.

“All the visit I make to-day won’t hurt me, I reckon,” said he; pushing his hat a little more to one side and looking up at ‘Lena, who, in some surprise, asked what he meant.

“I mean what I say,” was his ungracious answer; “I’ve no intention whatever of going to Frankfort.”

“Not going?” repeated ‘Lena. “Why not? What will Carrie do?”

“Stick herself in with you and Durward, I suppose,” said John Jr., just as Carrie entered the room, together with Mr. Bellmont, Malcolm, and Anna.

“Not going?–of course then I must stay at home, too,” said Carrie, secretly pleased at her brother’s decision.

“Why of course?” asked Durward, who, in the emergency, felt constrained to offer his services to Carrie though he would greatly have preferred ‘Lena’s company alone. “The road is wide enough for three, and I am fully competent to take charge of two ladies. But why don’t you go?” turning to John Jr.

“Because I don’t wish to. If it was anywhere in creation but there, I’d go,” answered the young man; hastily leaving the room to avoid all further argument.

“He does it just to be hateful and annoy me,” said Carrie, trying to pout, but making a failure, for she had in reality much rather go under Durward’s escort than her brother’s.

The horses were now announced as ready, and in a few moments the little party were on their way, Carrie affecting so much fear of her pony that Durward at last politely offered to lead him a while. This would of course bring him close to her side, and after a little well-feigned hesitation, she replied, “I am sorry to trouble you, but if you would be so kind—-“

‘Lena saw through the ruse, and patting Vesta gently, rode on in advance, greatly to the satisfaction of Carrie, and greatly to the chagrin of Durward, who replied to his loquacious companion only in monosyllables. Once, indeed, when she said something concerning ‘Lena’s evident desire to show off her horsemanship, he answered rather coolly, that “he’d yet to discover in Miss Rivers the least propensity for display of any kind.”

“You’ve never lived with her,” returned Carrie, and here the conversation concerning ‘Lena ceased.

Meantime, Nellie Douglass was engaged in answering a letter that morning received from Mary Wilbur. A few years before, Mary had spent some months in Mr. Douglass’s family, conceiving a strong affection for Nellie, whom she always called her sister, and with whom she kept up a regular correspondence. Mary was an orphan, living with her only brother Robert, who was a bachelor of thirty or thirty-five. Once she had ventured to hope that Nellie would indeed be to her a sister, but fate had decreed it otherwise, and her brother was engaged to a lady whom he found a school-girl in Montreal, and who was now at her own home in England. This was well-known to Nellie, but she did not deem it a matter of sufficient importance to discuss, so it was a secret in Frankfort, where Mr. Wilbur’s polite attentions to herself was a subject of considerable remark. For a long time Mary had been out of health, and the family physician at last said that nothing could save her except a sea voyage, and as her brother was about going to Europe to consummate his marriage, it was decided that she should accompany him. This she was willing to do, provided Nellie Douglass would go too.

“It would be much pleasanter,” she said, “having some female companion besides her attendant, and then, too, Nellie had relatives in England;” so she urged her to accompany them, offering to defray all expenses for the pleasure of her society.

Since Nellie’s earliest recollection, her fondest dreams had been of England, her mother’s birthplace; and now when so favorable an opportunity for visiting it was presented, she felt strongly tempted to say “Yes.” Still, she would give Mary no encouragement until she had seen her father and John Jr., the latter of whom would influence her decision quite as much as the former. But John Jr. no longer loved her–she was sure of that–and with her father’s consent she had half determined to go. Still she was undecided, until a letter came from Mary, urging her to make up her mind without delay, as they were to sail the 15th of January.

“Brother is so sensitive concerning his love affairs,” wrote Mary, “that whether you conclude to join us or not, you will please say nothing about his intended marriage.”

Nellie had seated herself to answer this letter, when a servant came up, saying that “Marster Bellmont, all the Livingstones, and a heap more were downstars, and had sent for her.”

She was just writing, “I will go,” when this announcement came, and quickly suspending her pen, she thought, “He’s come, at last. It may all be a mistake. I’ll wait.” With a beating heart she descended to the parlor, where she politely greeted Mr. Everett and Durward, and then anxiously glanced around for the missing one. Mabel, who felt a similar disappointment, ventured to inquire for him, in a low tone, whereupon Carrie replied, loudly enough for Nellie to hear, “Oh, pray don’t speak of that bear. Why, you don’t know how cross he’s been ever since–let me see–ever since you came away. He doesn’t say a civil word to anybody, and I really wish you’d come back before he kills us all.’

“Did you invite him to come ?” said Nellie.

“To be sure we did,” answered Carrie, “and he said, ‘anywhere in creation but there.'”

Nellie needed no further confirmation, and after conversing awhile with her guests, she begged leave to be excused for a few moments, while she finished a letter of importance, which must go out in the next mail. Alone in her room, she wavered, but the remembrance of the words, “anywhere in creation but there,” decided her, and with a firm hand she wrote to Mary that she would go. When the letter was finished and sent to the office, Nellie returned to her visitors, who began to rally her concerning the important letter which must be answered.

“Now, coz,” said Durward, pulling her down upon the sofa by his side, “now, coz, I claim a right to know something about this letter. Was it one of acceptance or rejection?”

“Acceptance, of course,” answered Nellie, who, knowing no good reason why her intended tour should be kept a secret, proceeded to speak of it, telling how they were to visit Scotland, France, Switzerland, and Italy, and almost forgetting, in her enthusiasm, how wretched the thought of the journey made her.

“And Miss Wilbur’s brother is to be your escort–he is unmarried, I believe?” said Durward, looking steadily upon the carpet.

In a moment Nellie would have told of his engagement, and the object of his going, but she remembered Mary’s request in time, and the blush which the almost committed mistake called to her cheek, was construed by all into a confession that there was something between her and Mr. Wilbur.

“That accounts for John’s sudden churlishness,” thought ‘Lena, wondering how Nellie could have deceived him so.

“Oh, I see it all,” exclaimed Mabel. “I understand now what has made Nellie so absent-minded and restless these many days. She was making up her mind to become Mrs. Wilbur, while I fancied she was offended with me.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” answered Nellie, without smiling in the least. “Mary Wilbur wishes me to accompany her to Europe, and I intend doing so. Her brother is nothing to me, nor ever will be.”

“Quite a probable story,” thought Mr. Everett, without forming his reflections into words.

Toward the middle of the afternoon, a violent ringing of the door-bell, and a heavy tramp in the hall, announced some new arrival, and Nellie was about opening the parlor door, when who should appear but John Jr.! From his room he had watched the departure of the party, one moment wishing he was with them, and the next declaring he’d never go to Frankfort again so long as he lived! At length inclination getting the ascendency of his reason, he mounted Firelock, and rushing furiously down the ‘pike, never once slackened his speed until the city was in sight.

“I dare say she’ll think me a fool,” thought he, “tagging her round, but she needn’t worry. I only want to show her how little her pranks affect me.”

With these thoughts he could not fail to meet Nellie otherwise than coldly, while she received him with equal indifference, calling him Mr. Livingstone, and asking if he were cold, with other questions, such as any polite hostess would ask of her guest. But her accustomed smile and usual frankness of manner were gone, and while John Jr. felt it keenly, he strove under a mask of indifference, to conceal his chagrin. Mabel seemed delighted to see him, and for want of something better to do, he devoted himself to her, calling her Meb, and teasing her about her “Indian locks,” as he called her straight, black hair. Could he have seen the bitter tears which Nellie constantly forced back, as she moved carelessly among her guests, far different would have been his conduct. But he only felt that she had been untrue to him, and in his anger he was hardly conscious of what he was doing.

So when Mabel said to him, “Nellie is going to Europe with Mr. Wilbur and Mary,” he replied, “Glad of it–hope she’ll”–be drowned, he thought–“have a good time,” he said–and Nellie, who heard all, never guessed how heavily the blow had fallen, or that the hand so suddenly placed against his heart, was laid there to still the wild throbbing which he feared she might hear.

When next he spoke, his voice was very calm, as he asked when she was going, and how long she intended to be gone. “What! so soon?” said he, when told that she sailed the 15th of January, and other than that, not a word did he say to Nellie concerning her intended visit, until just before they left for home. Then for a moment he stood alone with her in the recess of a window. There was a film upon his eyes as he looked upon her, and thought it might be for the last time. There was anguish, too, in his heart, but it did not mingle in the tones of his voice, which was natural, and, perhaps, indifferent, as he said, “Why do you go to Europe, Nellie?”

Quickly, and with something of her olden look, she glanced up into his face, but his eyes, which would not meet hers, lest they should betray themselves, were resting upon Mabel, who, on a stool across the room, was petting and caressing a kitten. ‘Twas enough, and carelessly Nellie answered, “Because I want to; what do you suppose?”

Without seeming to hear her answer, the young man walked away to where Mabel sat, and commenced teasing her and her kitten, while Nellie, maddened with herself, with him, with everybody, precipitately left the room, and going to her chamber hastily, and without a thought as to what she was doing, gathered together every little token which John Jr. had given her, together with his notes and letters, written in his own peculiar and scarcely legible hand. Tying them in a bundle, she wrote with unflinching nerve, “Do thou likewise,” and then descending to the hall, laid it upon the hat-stand, managing, as he was leaving, to place it unobserved in his hand. Instinctively he knew what it was, glanced at the three words written thereon, and in a cold, sneering voice, replied, “I will, with pleasure.” And thus they parted.

thought as to what she was doing, gathered together every little token which John Jr. had given her, together with his notes and letters, written in his own peculiar and scarcely legible hand. Tying them in a bundle, she wrote with unflinching nerve, “Do thou likewise,” and then descending to the hall, laid it upon the hat-stand, managing, as he was leaving, to place it unobserved in his hand. Instinctively he knew what it was, glanced at the three words written thereon, and in a cold, sneering voice, replied, “I will, with pleasure.” And thus they parted.

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE DEPARTURE.

“John, how would you like to take a trip to New York–the city, I mean?” said Mr. Livingstone, to his son, one morning about two weeks following the events narrated in the last chapter.

“Well enough–why do you ask?” answered John.

“Because,” said his father, “I have to-day received a letter which makes it necessary for one of us to be there the 15th, and as you are fond of traveling, I had rather you would go. You had better start immediately–say to-morrow.”

John Jr. started from his chair. To-morrow she left her home–the 15th she sailed. He might see her again, though at a distance, for she should never know he followed her! Since that night in Frankfort he had not looked upon her face, but he had kept his promise, returning to her everything–everything except a withered rose-bud, which years before, when but a boy, he had twined among the heavy braids of her hair, and which she had given back to him, playfully fastening it in the button-hole of his roundabout! How well he remembered that day. She was a little romping girl, teasing him unmercifully about his _flat feet_ and _big hands_, chiding him for his _negro slang_, as she termed his favorite expressions, and with whatever else she did, weaving her image into his heart’s best and noblest affections, until he seemed to live only for her, But now ’twas changed–terribly changed. She was no longer “his Nellie,” the Nellie of his boyhood’s love; and with a muttered curse and a tear, large, round, and hot, such as only John Jr. could shed, he sent her back every memento of the past, all save that rose-bud, with which he could not part, it seemed so like his early hopes–withered and dead.

Nellie was alone, preparing for her journey, when the box containing the treasures was handed her. Again and again she examined to see if there were not one farewell word, but there was nothing save, “Here endeth the first lesson!” followed by two exclamation points, which John Jr. had dashed off at random. Every article seemed familiar to her as she looked them over, and everything was there but one–she missed the rose-bud–and she wondered at the omission for she knew he had it in his possession. He had told her so not three months before. Why, then, did he not return it? Was it a lingering affection for her which prompted the detention? Perhaps so, and down in Nellie’s heart was one warm, bright spot, the memory of that bud, which grew green and fresh again, as on the day when first it was torn from its parent stem.

When it was first known at Maple Grove, that Nellie was going to Europe, Mrs. Livingstone, who saw in the future the full consummation of her plans, proposed that Mabel should spend the period of Nellie’s absence with her. But to this Mr. Douglass would not consent.

“He could not part with both his daughters,” he said, and Mabel decided to remain, stipulating that ‘Lena, of whom she was very fond, should pass a portion of the time with her.

“All the time, if she chooses,” said Mr. Douglass, who also liked ‘Lena, while Nellie, who was present, immediately proposed that she should take music lessons of Monsieur Du Pont, who had recently come to the city, and who was said to be a superior teacher. “She is fond of music,” said she, “and has always wanted to learn, but that aunt of hers never seemed willing; and this will be a good opportunity, for she can use my piano all the time if she chooses.”

“Capital!” exclaimed Mabel, generously thinking how she would pay the bills, and how much she would assist ‘Lena, for Mabel was an excellent musician, singing and playing admirably.

When this plan was proposed to ‘Lena, she objected, for two reasons. The first, that she could not leave her grandmother, and second, that much as she desired the lessons, she would not suffer Mabel to pay for them, and she had no means of her own. On the first point she began to waver, when Mrs. Nichols, who was in unusually good health, insisted upon her going.

“It will do you a sight of good,” said she, “and there’s no kind of use why you should stay hived up with me. I’d as lief be left alone as not, and I shall take comfort thinkin’ you’re larnin’ to play the pianner, for I’ve allus wondered ‘Tildy didn’t set you at Car’line’s. So, go,” the old lady continued, whispering in ‘Lena’s ear, “Go, and mebby some day you’ll be a music teacher, and take care of us both.”

Still, ‘Lena hesitated at receiving so much from Mabel, who, after a moment’s thought, exclaimed, “Why, I can teach you myself! I should love to dearly. It will be something to occupy my mind; and my instructors have frequently said that I was capable of teaching advanced pupils, if I chose. You’ll go now, I know”–and Mabel plead her cause so well, that ‘Lena finally consented, saying she should come home once a week to see her grandmother.

“A grand arrangement, I must confess,” said Carrie, when she heard of it. “I should think she sponged enough from her connections, without living on other folks, and poor ones, too, like Mr. Douglass.”

“How ridiculous you talk,” said John Jr., who was present. “You’d be perfectly willing to spend a year at Mr. Graham’s, or Mr. Douglass’s either, if he had a son whom you considered an eligible match. Then as to his being so poor, that’s one of Mother Atkins’ yarns, and she knows everybody’s history, from Noah down to the present day. For ‘Lena’s sake I am glad to have her go, though heaven knows what I shall do without her.”

Mrs. Livingstone, too, was secretly pleased, for she would thus be more out of Durward’s way, and the good lady was again becoming somewhat suspicious. So when her husband objected, saying ‘Lena could take lessons at home if she liked, she quietly overruled him, giving many good reasons why ‘Lena should go, and finally saying that if Mrs. Nichols was very lonely without her, she might spend her evenings in the parlor when there was no company present! So it was decided that ‘Lena should go, and highly pleased with the result of their call, Mr. Douglass and Mabel returned to Frankfort.

At length the morning came when Nellie was to start on her journey. Mr. Wilbur had arrived the night before, together with his sister, whose marble cheek and lusterless eye even then foretold the lonely grave which awaited her far away ‘neath a foreign sky. Durward and Mr. Douglass accompanied them as far as Cincinnati, where they took the cars for Buffalo. Just before it rolled from the depot, a young man closely muffled, who had been watching our party, sprang into a car just in the rear of the one they had chosen, and taking the first vacant seat, abandoned himself to his own thoughts, which must have been very absorbing, as a violent shake was necessary, ere he heeded the call of “Your ticket, sir.”

Onward, onward flew the train, while faster and faster Nellie’s tears were dropping. They had gushed forth when she saw the quivering chin and trembling lips of her gray-haired father, as he bade his only child good-bye, and now that he was gone, she wept on, never heeding her young friend, who strove in vain to call her attention to the fast receding hills of Kentucky, which she–Mary–was leaving forever. Other thoughts than those of her father mingled with Nellie’s tears, for she could not forget John Jr., nor the hope cherished to the last that he would come to say farewell. But he did not. They had parted in coldness, if not in anger, and she might never see him again.

“Come, cheer up, Miss Douglass; I cannot suffer you to be so sad,” said Mr. Wilbur, placing himself by Nellie, and thoughtlessly throwing his arm across the back of the seat, while at the same time he bent playfully forward to peep under her bonnet.

And Nellie did look up, smiling through her tears, but she did not observe the flashing eyes which watched her through the window at the rear of the car. Always restless and impatient of confinement, John Jr. had come out for a moment upon the platform, ostensibly to take the air, but really to see if it were possible to get a glimpse of Nellie. She was sitting not far from the door, and he looked in, just in time to witness Mr. Wilbur’s action, which he of course construed just as his jealousy dictated.

“Confounded fool!” thought he. “_I_ wouldn’t hug Nellie in the cars in good broad daylight, even if I was married to her!”

And returning to his seat; he wondered which was the silliest, “for Nellie to run off with Mr. Wilbur, or for himself to run after her. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, I reckon,” said he; at the same time wrapping himself in his shawl, he feigned sleep at every station, for the sake of retaining his entire seat, and sometimes if the crowd was great, going so far as to snore loudly!

And thus they proceeded onward, Nellie never suspecting the close espionage kept upon her by John Jr., who once in the night, at a crowded depot, passed so closely to her that he felt her warm breath on his cheek. And when, on the morning of the 15th, she sailed, she little thought who it was that followed her down to the water’s edge, standing on the last spot where she had stood, and watching with a swelling heart the vessel which bore her away.

“I’m nothing better than a walking dead man, now,” said he, as he, retraced his steps back to his hotel. “Nellie’s gone, and with her all for which I lived, for she’s the only girl except ‘Lena who isn’t a libel on the sex–or, yes–there’s Anna–does as well as she knows how–and there’s Mabel, a little simpleton, to be sure, but amiable and good-natured, and on the whole, as smart as they’ll average. ‘Twas kind in her, anyway, to offer to pay ‘Lena’s music bills.”

And with these reflections, John Jr. sought out the men whom he had come to see, transacted his business, and then started for home, where he found his mother in unusually good spirits. Matters thus far had succeeded even beyond her most sanguine expectations. Nellie was gone to Europe, and the rest she fancied would be easy. ‘Lena, too, was gone, but the result of this was not what she had hoped. Durward had been at Maple Grove but once since ‘Lena left, while she had heard of his being in Frankfort several times.

“Something must be done”–her favorite expression and in her difficulty she determined to call upon Mrs. Graham, whom she had not seen since Christmas. “It is quite time she knew about the gray pony, as well as other matters,” thought she, and ordering the carriage, she set out one morning for Woodlawn, intending to spend the day if she found its mistress amiably disposed, which was not always the case.

CHAPTER XIX.

THE VISIT.

Mrs. Graham reclined upon a softly-cushioned sofa, her tasteful lace morning-cap half falling from her head, and her rich cashmere gown flowing open, so as to reveal the flounced cambric skirt which her sewing-girl had sat up till midnight to finish. A pair of delicate French slippers pinched rather than graced her fat feet, one of which angrily beat the carpet, as if keeping time to its mistress’ thoughts. Nervous and uncomfortable was the lady of Woodlawn this morning, for she had just passed through a little conjugal scene with her husband, whom she had called a _brute_, lamenting the dispensation of Providence which took from her “her beloved Sir Arthur, who always thought whatever she said was right,” and ending by throwing herself in the most theatrical manner upon the sofa in the parlor, where, with both her blood and temper at a boiling heat, she lay, when her waiting-maid, but recently purchased, announced the approach of a carriage.

“Mercy,” exclaimed the distressed lady, “whose is it? I hope no one will ask for me.”

“Reckon how it’s Marster Livingstone’s carriage, ‘case thar’s Tom on the box,” answered the girl, who had her own private reason for knowing Tom at any distance.

“Mrs. Livingstone, I’ll venture to say,” groaned Mrs. Graham, burying her lace cap and flaxen hair still farther in the silken cushions. “Just because I stopped there a few days last summer, she thinks she must run here every week; and there’s no way of escaping her. Do shut that blind; it lets in so much light. There, would you think I’d been crying?”

“Lor, no,” returned the stupid servant, “Lor, no; I should sooner think your eyes and face were swelled with _pisen_.”

“The Lord help me,” exclaimed Mrs. Graham, “you don’t begin to know as much as poor Charlotte did. She was a jewel, and I don’t see anything what she wanted to die for, just as I had got her well trained; but that’s all the thanks I ever get for my goodness. Now go quick, and tell her I’ve got an excruciating headache.”

“If you please, miss,” said the girl, trying in vain to master the big word, “if you please, give me somethin’ shorter, ‘case I done forgit that ar, sartin’.”

“Fool! Idiot!” exclaimed Mrs. Graham, hurling, for want of something better, one of her satin slippers at the woolly head, which dodged out of the door in time to avoid it.

“Is your mistress at home?” asked Mrs. Livingstone, and Martha, uncertain what answer she was to make, replied, “Yes–no–I dun know, ‘case she done driv me out afore I know’d whether she was at home or not.”

“Martha, show the lady this way,” called out Mrs. Graham, who was listening. “Ah, Mrs. Livingstone, is it you. I’m glad to see you,” said she, half rising and shading her swollen eyes with her hand, as if the least effort were painful. “You must excuse my dishabille, for I am suffering from a bad headache, and when Martha said some one had come, I thought at first I could not see them, but you are always welcome. How have you been this long time, and why have you neglected me so, when you know how I must feel the change from Louisville, where I was constantly in society, to this dreary neighborhood?” and the lady lay back upon the sofa, exhausted with and astonished at her own eloquence.

Mrs. Livingstone was quite delighted with her friend’s unusual cordiality, and seating herself in the large easy-chair, began to make herself very agreeable, offering to bathe Mrs. Graham’s aching head, which kind offer the lady declined, bethinking herself of sundry gray hairs, which a close inspection would single out from among her flaxen tresses.

“Are your family all well?” she asked; to which Mrs. Livingstone replied that they were, at the same time speaking of her extreme loneliness since Mabel left them.

“Ah, you mean the little dark-eyed brunette, whom I saw with you at my party. She was a nice-looking girl–showed that she came of a good family. I think everything of that. I believe I’d rather Durward would marry a poor aristocrat, than a wealthy plebeian–one whose family were low and obscure.”

Mrs. Livingstone wondered what she thought of her family, the Livingstones. The Richards’ blood she knew was good, but the Nichols’ was rather doubtful. Still, she would for once make the best of it, so she hastened to say that few American ladies were so fortunate as Mrs. Graham had been in marrying a noble man. “In this country we have no nobility, you know,” said she, “and any one who gets rich and into good society, is classed with the first.”

“Yes, I know,” returned Mrs. Graham, “but in my mind there’s a great difference. Now, Mr. Graham’s ancestors boast of the best blood of South Carolina, while my family, everybody knows, was one of the first in Virginia, so if Durward had been Mr. Graham’s son instead of Sir Arthur’s, I should be just as proud of him, just as particular whom he married.”

“Certainly,” answered Mrs. Livingstone, a little piqued, for there was something in Mrs. Graham’s manner which annoyed her–“certainly–I understand you. I neither married a nobleman, nor one of the best bloods of South Carolina, and still I should not be willing for my son to marry–let me see–well, say ‘Lena Rivers.”

“‘Lena Rivers !” repeated Mrs. Graham–“why, I would not suffer Durward to look at her, if I could help it. She’s of a horridly low family on both sides, as I am told.”

This was a home thrust which Mrs. Livingstone could not endure quietly, and as she had no wish to defend the royalty of a family which she herself despised, she determined to avenge the insult by making her companion as uncomfortable as possible. So she said, “Perhaps you are not aware that your son’s attentions to this same ‘Lena Rivers, are becoming somewhat marked.”

“No, I was not aware of it,” and the greenish-gray eyes fastened inquiringly upon Mrs. Livingstone, who continued: “It is nevertheless true, and as I can appreciate your feelings, I thought it might not be out of place for me to warn you.”

“Thank you,” returned Mrs. Graham, now raising herself upon her elbow, “Thank you—but do you know anything positive? What has Durward done?”

“‘Lena is in Frankfort now, at Mr. Douglass’s,” answered Mrs. Livingstone, “and your son is in the constant habit of visiting there; besides that, he invited her to ride with him when they all went to Frankfort–‘Lena upon the gray pony which your husband gave her as a Christmas present.”

Mrs. Livingstone had touched the right spot. ‘Twas the first intimation of Vesta which Mrs. Graham had received, and now sitting bolt upright, she demanded what Mrs. Livingstone meant. “My husband give ‘Lena Rivers a pony! Harry Graham do such a thing! It can’t be possible. There must be some mistake.”

“I think not,” returned Mrs. Livingstone. “Your son came over with it, saying ‘it was a present from his father, who sent it, together with his compliments.'”

Back among her cushions tumbled Mrs. Graham, moaning, groaning, and pronouncing herself wholly heart-broken. “I knew he was bad,” said she, “but I never dreamed it had come to this. And I might have known it, too, for from the moment he first saw that girl, he has acted like a crazy creature. Talks about her in his sleep–wants me to adopt her–keeps his eyes on her every minute when he’s where she is; and to crown all, without consulting me, his lawful wife, he has made her a present, which must have cost more than a hundred dollars! And she accepted it–the vixen!”

“That’s the worst feature in the case,” said Mrs. Livingstone. “I have always been suspicious of ‘Lena, knowing what her mother was, but I must confess I did not think her quite so presumptuous as to accept so costly a present from a gentleman, and a married one, too. But she has a peculiar way of making them think what she does is right, and neither my husband nor John Jr. can see any impropriety in her keeping Vesta. Carrie wouldn’t have done such a thing.”

“Indeed she wouldn’t. She is too well-bred for that,” said Mrs. Graham, who had been completely won by Carrie’s soft speeches and fawning manner.

This compliment to her daughter pleased Mrs. Livingstone, who straightway proceeded to build Carrie up still higher, by pulling ‘Lena down. Accordingly, every little thing which she could remember, and many which she could not, were told in an aggravated manner, until quite a case was made out, and ‘Lena would never have recognized herself in the artful, designing creature which her aunt kindly pictured her to be.

“Of course,” said she, “if you ever repeat this, you will not use my name, for as she is my husband’s niece it will not look well in me to be proclaiming her vices, except in cases where I think it my duty.”

Mrs. Graham was too much absorbed in her own reflections to make a reply, and as Mrs. Livingstone saw that her company was hardly desired, she soon arose to go, asking Mrs. Graham “why she did not oftener visit Maple Grove.”

When Mrs. Graham felt uncomfortable, she liked to make others so, too, and to her friend’s question she answered, “I may as well be plain as not, and to tell you the truth, I should enjoy visiting you very much, were it not for one thing. That mother of yours—-“

“Of my husband’s,” interrupted Mrs. Livingstone and Mrs. Graham continued just where she left off.

“Annoys me exceedingly, by eternally tracing in me a resemblance to some down-east creature or other–what is her name–Sco–Sco–Scovandyke; yes, that’s it–Scovandyke. Of course it’s not pleasant for me to be told every time I meet your mother—-“

“Mr. Livingstone’s mother,” again interrupted the lady.

“That I look like some of her acquaintances, for I contend that families of high birth bear with them marks which cannot be mistaken.”

“Certainly, certainly,” said Mrs. Livingstone, adding, that “she was herself continually annoyed by Mrs. Nichols’s vulgarity, but her husband insisted that she should come to the table, so what could she do?”

And mutually troubled, the one about her husband, and the other about her husband’s mother, the two amiable ladies parted.

Scarcely was Mrs. Livingstone gone when Mr. Graham entered the room, finding his wife, who had heard his footsteps, in violent hysterics. He had seen her so too often to be alarmed, and was about to pull the bellrope, when she found voice to bid him desist, saying it was himself who was killing her by inches, and that the sooner she was dead, the better she supposed he would like it. “But, for my sake,” she added, in a kind of howl, between crying and scolding, “do try to behave yourself during the short time I have to live, and not go to giving away ponies, and mercy knows what.”

Now, Mr. Graham was not conscious of having looked at a lady, except through the window, for many days, and when his wife first attacked him, he was at a great loss to understand; but as she proceeded it all became plain, and on the whole, he felt glad that the worst was over. He would not acknowledge, even to himself, that he was afraid of his wife, still he had a little rather she would not always know what he did. He supposed, as a matter of course, that she would, earlier or later, hear of his present to ‘Lena, and he well knew that such an event would surely be followed by a storm, but after what had taken place between them that morning, he did not expect so much feeling, for he had thought her wrath nearly expended. But Mrs. Graham was capable of great things–as she proved on this occasion, taunting her husband with his preference for ‘Lena, accusing him of loving her better than he did herself, and asking him plainly, if it were not so.

“Say,” she continued, stamping her foot (the one without a slipper), “say–I will be answered. Don’t you like ‘Lena better than you do me?”

Mr. Graham was provoked beyond endurance, and to the twice repeated question, he at length replied, “God knows I’ve far more reason to love her than I have you.” At the same moment he left the room, in time to avoid a sight of the collapsed state into which his horrified wife who did not expect such an answer, had fallen.

“Can I tell her? oh, dare I tell her?” he thought, as he wiped the drops of perspiration from his brow, and groaned in the bitterness of his spirit. Terribly was he expiating his fault, but at last he grew calmer, and cowardice (for he was cowardly, else he had never been what he was) whispered, “Wait yet awhile. Anything for domestic peace.”

So the secret was buried still deeper in his bosom, he never thinking how his conduct would in the end injure the young girl, dearer to him far than his own life. While he sat thus alone in his room, and as his wife lay upon her sofa, Durward entered the parlor and began good-humoredly to rally his mother upon her wobegone face, asking what was the matter now.

“Oh, you poor boy, you,” she sobbed, “you’ll soon have no mother to go to, but you must attribute my death wholly to your stepfather, who alone will be to blame for making you an orphan!”

Durward knew his mother well, and he thought he knew his father too, and while he respected him, he blamed her for the unreasonable whims of which he was becoming weary. He knew there had been a jar in the morning, but he had supposed that settled, and now, when he found his mother ten times worse than ever, he felt half vexed, and said, “Do be a woman mother, and not give way to such fancies. I really wonder father shows as much patience with you as he does, for you make our home very unpleasant; and really,” he continued, in a laughing tone, “if this goes on much longer, I shall, in self-defense, get me a wife and horns of my own.”

“And if report is true, that wife will be ‘Lena Rivers,” said Mrs. Graham, in order to try him.

“Very likely–I can’t tell what may be,” was his answer; to which Mrs. Graham replied, “that it would be extremely pleasant to marry a bride with whom one’s father was in love.”

“How ridiculous!” Durward exclaimed. “As though my father cared aught for ‘Lena, except to admire her for her beauty and agreeable manners.”

“But, he’s acknowledged it. He’s just told me, ‘God knew he loved her better than he did me.’ What do you think of that?”

“Did Mr. Graham say that?” asked Durward, looking his mother directly in her face.

“Yes he did, not fifteen minutes before you came in, and it’s not a secret either. Others know it and talk about it. Think of his giving her that pony.”

Durward was taken by surprise. Knowing none of the circumstances, he felt deeply pained at his father’s remark. He had always supposed he liked ‘Lena, and he was glad of it, too, but to love her more than his own wife, was a different thing, and for the first time in his life Durward distrusted his father. Still, ‘Lena was not to blame; there was comfort in that, and that very afternoon found him again at her side, admiring her more and more, and learning each time he saw her to love her better. And she–she dared not confess to herself how dear he was to her–she dared not hope her affection was returned. She could not think of the disappointment the future might bring, so she lived on the present, waiting anxiously for his coming, and striving hard to do the things which she thought would please him best.

True to her promise, Mabel had commenced giving her instructions upon the piano, and they were in the midst of their first lesson, when who should walk in, but Monsieur Du Pont, bowing, and saying “he had been hired by von nice gentleman, to give Mademoiselle Rivers lessons in musique.”

‘Lena immediately thought of her uncle, who had once proposed her sharing in the instructions of her cousin, but who, as usual, was overruled by his wife.

“‘Twas my uncle, was it not?” she asked of Du Pont, who replied, “I promised not to tell. He say, though, he connected with mademoiselle.”

And ‘Lena, thinking it was of course Mr. Livingstone, who, on his wife’s account, wished it a secret, readily consented to receive Du Pont as a teacher in place of Mabel, who still expressed her willingness to assist her whenever it was necessary. Naturally fond of music, ‘Lena’s improvement was rapid, and when she found how gratified Durward appeared, she redoubled her exertions, practicing always five, and sometimes six hours a day.

CHAPTER XX.

A FATHER’S LOVE.

When it was known at Maple Grove that ‘Lena was taking lessons of Du Pont, it was naturally supposed that Mabel, as she had first proposed, paid the bills.

“Mighty kind in her, and no mistake,” said John Jr., throwing aside the stump of a cigar which he had been smoking, and thinking to himself that “Mabel was a nice girl, after all.”

The next day, finding the time hang heavily upon his hands, he suddenly wondered why he had never thought to call upon ‘Lena. “To be sure, I’ll feel awfully to go where Nellie used to be, and know she is not there, but it’s lonesomer than a graveyard here, and I’m bound to do something.”

So saying, he mounted Firelock and started off, followed by no regrets from his mother or sisters, for since Nellie went away he had been intolerably cross and fault-finding. He found a servant in the door, so he was saved the trouble of ringing, and entering unannounced, walked noiselessly to the parlor-door, which was ajar. ‘Lena, as usual, sat at the piano, wholly absorbed, while over her bent Mabel, who was assisting her in the lesson, speaking encouragingly, and patiently helping her through all the difficult places. Mabel’s health was improved since first we saw her, and though she was still plain–ugly, many would say–there was something pleasing in her face, and in the expression of her black, eyes, which looked down so kindly upon ‘Lena. John Jr. noticed it, and never before had Mabel appeared to so good advantage to him as she did at that moment, as he watched her through the open door.

At last the lesson was finished, and rising up, ‘Lena said, “I know I should never learn if it were not for you,” at the same time winding her arm about Mabel’s neck and kissing her glowing cheek.

“Let me have a share of that,” exclaimed John Jr., stepping forward and clasping both the girls in his arms ere they were aware of his presence.

With a gay laugh they shook him off, and ‘Lena, leading him to the sofa, sat down beside him, asking numerous questions about home and her grandmother. John answered them all, and then, oh how he longed to ask if there had come any tidings of the absent one; but he would not–she had left him of her own accord, and he had sworn never to inquire for her. So he sat gazing dreamily upon her piano, the chair she used to occupy and the books she used to read, until ‘Lena, either divining his thoughts, or fancying he would wish to know, said, “We’ve not heard from Nellie since she left us.”

“You didn’t expect to, so soon, I suppose,” was John’s indifferent reply.

“Why, no, not unless they chanced to speak a ship. I wish they’d taken a steamer instead of a sailing vessel,” said ‘Lena.

“I suppose Mr. Wilbur had an eye upon the long, cosy chats he could have with Nellie, looking out upon the sea,” was John’s answer, while Mabel quickly rejoined, that “he had chosen a sailing vessel solely on Mary’s account.”

In the midst of their conversation, the door-bell rang; and a moment after, Durward was ushered into the parlor. “He was in town on business,” he said, “and thought he would call.”

Scarcely had he taken his seat, when again the door opened, this time admitting Mr. Graham, who was returning from Louisville, and had also found it convenient to call. Involuntarily Durward glanced toward ‘Lena, but her face was as calm and unruffled as if the visitor had been her uncle.

“All right there,” thought he, and withdrawing his eyes from her, he fixed them upon his father, who he fancied seemed somewhat disconcerted when he saw him there. Mentally blaming himself for the distrust which he felt rising within him, he still determined to watch, and judge for himself how far his mother’s suspicions were correct. Taking up a book which lay near, he pretended to be reading, while all the time his thoughts were elsewhere. It was ‘Lena’s lesson-day, and erelong Du Pont came in, appearing both pleased and surprised when he saw Mr. Graham.

“I hope you don’t expect me to expose my ignorance before all these people,” said ‘Lena, as Du Pont motioned her to the stool.

“Suppose we adjourn to another room,” said Mabel, leading the way and followed by John Jr. only.

Durward at first thought of leaving also, and arose to do so, but on observing that his father showed no intention of going, he resumed his seat and book, poring over the latter as intently as if it had not been wrong side up!

“Does monsieur incline to stay,” asked Du Pont, as Mr. Graham took his station at the end of the piano.

“Certainly,” answered Mr. Graham, “unless Miss Rivers insists upon my leaving, which I am sure she would not do if she knew how much interest I take in her progress.”

So, during the entire lesson, Mr. Graham stood there, his eyes fixed upon ‘Lena with a look which puzzled Durward, who from behind his book was watching him. Admiration, affection, pity and remorse, all seemed mingled in the expression of his face, and as Durward watched, he felt that there was a something which he could not fathom.

“I never knew he was so fond of music,” thought he–“I mean to put him to the test.”

Accordingly, when Du Pont was gone, he asked Mabel, who he knew was an excellent pianist, to favor him with one of her very best pieces–“something lively and new which will wake us up,” said he.

Mabel would greatly have preferred remaining with John Jr., but she was habitually polite, always playing when invited, and now taking her seat at the piano, she brought out sounds far different from those of a new performer. But Mr. Graham, if he heard it, did not heed it, his eyes and ears being alone for ‘Lena. Seating himself near her, he commenced talking to her in an undertone, apparently oblivious to everything else around him, and it was not until Durward twice asked how he liked Mabel’s playing, that he heard a note. Then, starting up and going toward the instrument, he said, “Ah, yes, that was a fine march, (’twas the ‘Rainbow Schottish,’ then new,) please repeat it, or something just like it!”

Durward bit his lip, while Mabel, in perfect good humor, dashed off into a spirited quickstep, receiving but little attention from Mr. Graham, who seemed in a strange mood to-day, scribbling upon a piece of white paper which lay upon the piano, and of which Durward managed to get possession, finding thereon the name, “Helena Nichols,” to which was added that of “Rivers,” the Nichols being crossed out. It would seem as if both father and son were determined each to outstay the other, for hour after hour went by and neither spoke of leaving, although John Jr. had been gone some time. At last, as the sun was setting, Durward arose to go, asking if his father contemplated spending the night; “and if so,” said he, with a meaning in his manner, “where shall I tell my mother I left you?”

This roused Mr. Graham, who said he was only waiting for his son to start, adding, that “he could not find it in his heart to tear him away from two so agreeable ladies, for he well remembered the weakness of his own youth.”

“In your second youth, now, I fancy,” thought Durward, watching him as he bade ‘Lena and Mabel goodbye, and not failing to see how much longer he held the hand of the former than he did of the latter.

“Does she see as I do, or not?” thought he, as he took the hand his father dropped, and looked earnestly into the clear, brown eyes, which returned his inquiring glance with one open and innocent as a little child.

“All right here,” again thought Durward, slightly pressing the soft, warm hand he held in his own, and smiling down upon her when he saw how quickly that pressure brought the tell-tale blood to her cheek.

* * * * *

“Durward,” said Mr. Graham, after they were out of the city, “I have a request to make of you.”

“Well.”

The answer was very short and it was several minutes ere Mr. Graham again spoke.

“You know your mother as well as I do—-“

“Well.”

Another silence, and Mr. Graham continued; “You know how groundlessly jealous she is of me–and it may be just as well for her not to know that—-“

Here he paused, and Durward finished the sentence for him.

“Just as well for her not to know that you’ve spent the afternoon with ‘Lena Rivers; is that it?”

“That’s it–yes–yes”–answered Mr. Graham, adding, ere Durward had time to utter the angry words which he felt rising within him, “I wish you’d marry ‘Lena.”

This was so sudden–so different from anything which Durward had expected, that he was taken quite by surprise, and it was some little time ere he answered,

“Perhaps I shall.”

“I wish you would,” continued Mr. Graham, “I’d willingly give every dollar I’m worth for the privilege of calling her my daughter.”

Durward was confounded, and knew not what to think. If his father had an undue regard for ‘Lena, why should he wish to see her the wife of another, and that other his son? Was it his better and nobler nature struggling to save her from evil, which prompted the wish? Durward hoped so–he believed so; and the confidence which had so recently been shaken was fully restored, when, by the light of the hall lamp at home, he saw how white and almost ghostly was the face which, ere they entered the drawing-room, turned imploringly upon him, asking him “to be careful.”

Mrs. Graham had been in a fit of the sulks ever since the morning of Mrs. Livingstone’s call, and now, though she had not seen her husband for several days, she merely held out her hand, turning her head, meantime, and replying to his questions in a low, quiet kind of a much-injured-woman way, as provoking as it was uncalled for.

* * * * *

“Father’s suggestion was a good one,” thought Durward, when he had retired to rest. “‘Lena is too beautiful to be alone in the world. I will propose to her at once, and she will thus be out of danger.”

But what should he do with her? Should he bring her there to Woodlawn, where scarcely a day passed without some domestic storm? No, his home should be full of sunlight, of music and flowers, where no angry word or darkening frown could ever find entrance; and thus dreaming of a blissful future, when ‘Lena should be his bride, he fell asleep.

CHAPTER XXI.

JOEL SLOCUM.

In this chapter it may not be out of place to introduce an individual who, though not a very important personage, is still in some degree connected with our story. On the night when Durward and his father were riding home from Frankfort, the family at Maple Grove, with the exception of grandma, were as usual assembled in the parlor. John Jr. had returned, and purposely telling his mother and Carrie whom he had left with ‘Lena, had succeeded in putting them both into an uncomfortable humor, the latter secretly lamenting the mistake which she had committed in suffering ‘Lena to stay with Mabel. But it could not be remedied now. There was no good reason for calling her home, and the lady broke at least three cambric-needles in her vigorous jerks at the handkerchief she was hemming.

A heavy tread upon the piazza, a loud ring of the bell, and Carrie straightened up, thinking it might possibly be Durward, who had called on his way home, but the voice was strange, and rather impatiently she waited.

“Does Mr. John Livingstone live here?” asked the stranger of the negro who answered the summons.

“Yes, sir,” answered the servant, eyeing the new comer askance.

“And is old Miss Nichols and Helleny to hum?”

The negro grinned, answering in the affirmative, and asking the young man to walk in.

“Wall, guess I will,” said he, advancing a few steps toward the parlor door. Then suddenly halting, he added, more to himself than to the negro, “Darned if I don’t go the hull figger, and send in my card as they do to Boston.”

So saying, he drew from his pocket an embossed card, and bending his knee for a table, he wrote with sundry nourishes, “Mr. Joel Slocum, Esq., Slocumville, Massachusetts.”

“There, hand that to your _boss_,” said he, “and tell him I’m out in the entry.” At the same time he stepped before the hat-stand, rubbing up his oily hair, and thinking “Mr. Joel Slocum would make an impression anywhere.”

“Who is it, Ben ?” whispered Carrie.

“Dunno, miss,” said the negro, passing the card to his master, and waiting in silence for his orders.

“Mr. Joel Slocum, Esq., Slocumville, Massachusetts,” slowly read Mr. Livingstone, wondering where he had heard that name before.

“Who?” simultaneously asked Carrie and Anna, while their mother looked wonderingly up.

Instantly John Jr. remembered ‘Lena’s love-letter, and anticipating fun, exclaimed, “Show him in, Ben–show him in.”

While Ben is showing him in, we will introduce him more fully to our readers, promising that the picture is not overdrawn, but such as we saw it in our native state. Joel belonged to that extreme class of Yankees with which we sometimes, though not often meet. Brought up among the New England mountains, he was almost wholly ignorant of what really belonged to good manners, fancying that he knew everything, and sneering at those of his acquaintance who, being of a more quiet turn of mind, were content to settle down in the home of their fathers, caring little or nothing for the world without. But as for him, “he was bound,” he said, “to see the elephant, and if his brothers were green enough to stay tied to their mother’s apron strings, they might do it, but he wouldn’t. No, _sir_! he was going to make something of himself.”

To effect this, about two years before the time of which we are speaking, he went to Boston to learn the art of daguerreotype-taking, in which he really did seem to excel, returning home with some money, a great deal of vanity, and a strong propensity to boast of what he had seen. Recollections of ‘Lena, his early, and, as he sentimentally expressed it, “his undying, all-enduring” love, still haunted him, and at last he determined upon a tour to Kentucky, purchasing for the occasion a rather fantastic suit, consisting of greenish pants, blue coat, red vest, and yellow neck-handkerchief. These he laid carefully by in his trunk until he reached Lexington, where he intended stopping for a time, hanging out a naming sign, which announced his presence and capabilities.

After spending a few days in the city, endeavoring to impress its inhabitants with a sense of his consequence, and mentally styling them all “Know Nothings,” be-cause they did not seem to be more affected, he one afternoon donned his best suit, and started for Mr. Livingstone’s, thinking he should create a sensation there, for wasn’t he as good as anybody? Didn’t he learn his trade in Boston, the very center and source of all the _isms_ of the day, and ought not Mr. Livingstone to feel proud of such a guest, and wouldn’t ‘Lena stare when she saw him so much improved from what he was when they picked _checkerberries_ together?

With this comfortable opinion of himself, it is not at all probable that he felt any misgivings when Ben ushered him at once into the presence of Mr. Livingstone’s family, who stared at him in unfeigned astonishment. Nothing daunted, he went through with the five changes of a bow, which he had learned at a dancing-school, bringing himself up finally in front of Mr. Livingstone, and exclaiming,

“How-dy-do?–Mr. Livingstone, I ‘s’pose, it comes more natural to say cousin John, I’ve heard Miss Nichols and Aunt Nancy talk of you since I was knee high, and seems as how you must be related. How is the old lady, and Helleny, too? I don’t see ’em here, though I thought, at fust, this might be her,” nodding to Anna.

Mr. Livingstone was confounded, while his wife had strong intentions of ordering the intruder from the room, but John Jr. had no such idea. He liked the fun, and now coming forward, said, “Mr. Slocum, as your card indicates, allow me the pleasure of presenting you to my mother–and sisters,” at the same time ringing the bell, he ordered a servant to go for his grandmother.

“Ah, ladies, how-dy-do? Hope you are well till we are better acquainted,” said Joel, bowing low, and shaking out the folds of his red silk handkerchief, strongly perfumed with peppermint.

Mrs. Livingstone did not even nod, Carrie but slightly, while Anna said, “Good-evening, Mr. Slocum.”

Quickly observing Mrs. Livingstone’s silence, Joel turned to John Jr., saying, “Don’t believe she heard you–deaf, mebby?”

John Jr. nodded, and at that moment grandma appeared, in a great flurry to know who wanted to see her.

Instantly seizing her hand, Joel exclaimed, “Now Aunt Martha, if this ain’t good for sore eyes. How _do_ you do ?”

“Pretty well, pretty well,” she returned, “but you’ve got the better of me, for I don’t know more’n the dead who you be.”

“Now how you talk,” said Joel. “If this don’t beat all my fust wife’s relations. Why, I should have known you if I’d met you in a porridge-pot. But then, I s’pose I’ve altered for the better since I see you. Don’t you remember Joel Slocum, that used to have kind of a snickerin’ notion after Helleny?”

“Why-ee, I guess I do,” answered grandma, again seizing his hand. “Where did you come from, and why didn’t your Aunt Nancy come with you?

“‘Tilda, this is Nancy Scovandyke’s sister’s boy. Caroline and Anny, this is Joel; you’ve heard tell of him.”

“I’ve been introduced, thank you,” said Joel, taking a seat near Carrie, who haughtily gathered up the ample folds of her dress, lest it should be polluted.

“Bashful critter, but she’ll get over it by the time she’s seen as much of the world as I have,” soliloquized Joel; at the same time thinking to make some advances, he hitched a little nearer, and taking hold of a strip of embroidery on which she was engaged, he said, “Now, du tell, if they’ve got to workin’ with floss way down here. Waste of time, I tell ’em, this makin’ holes for the sake of sewin’ ’em up. But law!” he added, as he saw the deepening scowl on Carrie’s face, “wimmin may jest as well by putterin’ about that as anything else, for their time ain’t nothin’ moren’ an old settin’ hen’s.”

This speech called forth the first loud roar in which John Jr. had indulged since Nellie went away, and now settling back in his chair, he gave vent to his feelings in peals of laughter, in which Joel also joined, thinking he’d said something smart. When at last he’d finished laughing, he thought again of ‘Lena, and turning to Mrs. Livingstone, asked where she was, raising his voice to a high key on account of her supposed deafness.

“Did you speak to me?” asked the lady, with a look which she meant should annihilate him, and in a still louder tone Joel repeated his question, asking Anna, aside, if her mother had ever tried “McAllister’s All-Healing Ointment,” for her deafness, saying it had “nighly cured his grandmother when she was several years older than Mrs. Livingstone.”

“Much obliged for your prescription, which, fortunately, I do not need,” said Mrs. Livingstone, angrily, while Joel thought, “how strange it was that deaf people would always hear in the wrong time!”

“Mother don’t seem inclined to answer your question concerning ‘Lena,” said John Jr., “so I will do it for her. She is in Frankfort, taking music lessons. You used to know her, I believe.”

“Lud, yes! I chased her once with a streaked snake, and if she didn’t put ‘er through, then I’m no ‘Judge. Takin’ music lessons, is she? I’d give a fo’ pence to hear her play.”

“Are you fond of music?” asked John Jr., in hopes of what followed.

“Wall, I wouldn’t wonder much if I was,” answered Joel, taking a tuning-fork from his pocket and striking it upon the table. “I’ve kep’ singin’ school one term, besides leadin’ the Methodis’ choir in Slocumville: so I orto know a little somethin’ about it.”

“Perhaps you play, and if so, we’d like to hear you,” continued John Jr., in spite of the deprecating glance cast upon him by Carrie.

“Not such a dreadful sight,” answered Joel, sauntering toward the piano and drumming a part of “Auld Lang Syne.” “Not such a dreadful sight, but I guess these girls do. Come, girls, play us a jig, won’t you?”

“Go, Cad, it won’t hurt you,” whispered John, but Carrie was immovable, and at last, Anna, who entered more into her brother’s spirit, took her seat at the instrument, asking what he would have.

“Oh, give us ‘Money Musk,’ ‘Hail Columby,’ ‘Old Zip Coon,’ or anything to raise a feller’s ideas.”

Fortunately, Anna’s forte lay in playing old music, which she preferred to more modern pieces, and, Joel was soon beating time to the lively strains of “Money Musk.”

“Wall, I declare,” said he, when it was ended, “I don’t see but what you Kentucky gals play most as well as they do to hum. I didn’t s’pose many on you ever seen a pianner. Come,” turning to Carrie, “less see what you can do. Mebby you’ll beat her all holler,” and he offered his hand to Carrie, who rather petulantly said she “must be excused.”

“Oh, get out,” he continued. “You needn’t feel so bashful, for I shan’t criticise you very hard. I know how to feel fer new beginners.”

“Have you been to supper, Mr. Slocum ?” asked Mr. Livingstone, pitying Carrie, and wishing to put an end to the performance.

“No, I hain’t, and I’m hungrier than a bear,” answered Joel, whereupon Mrs. Nichols, thinking he was her guest, arose, saying she would see that he had some.

When both were gone to the dining-room, Mrs. Livingstone’s wrath boiled over.

“That’s what comes of harboring your relatives,” said she, looking indignantly upon her husband, and adding that she hoped “the insolent fellow did not intend staying all night, for if he did he couldn’t.”

“Do you propose turning him into the street?” asked Mr. Livingstone, looking up from his paper.

“I don’t propose anything, except that he won’t stay in my house, and you needn’t ask him.”

“I hardly think an invitation is necessary, for I presume he expects to stay,” returned Mr. Livingstone; while John Jr. rejoined, “Of course he does, and if mother doesn’t find him a room, I shall take him in with me, besides going to Frankfort with him to-morrow.”

This was enough, for Mrs. Livingstone would do almost anything rather than have her son seen in the city with that specimen. Accordingly, when the hour for retiring arrived, she ordered Corinda to show him into the “east chamber,” a room used for her common kind of visitors, but which Joel pronounced “as neat as a fiddle.”

The next morning he announced his intention of visiting Frankfort, proposing to grandma that she should accompany him, and she was about making up her mind to do so, when ‘Lena and Mabel both appeared in the yard. They had come out for a ride, they said, and finding the morning so fine, had extended their excursion as far as Maple Grove, sending their servant back to tell where they were going. With his usual assurance, Joel advanced toward ‘Lena, greeting her tenderly, and whispering in her ear that “he found she was greatly improved as well as himself,” while ‘Lena wondered in what the improvement consisted. She had formerly known him as a great, overgrown, good-natured boy, and now she saw him a “conceited gawky.” Still, her manner was friendly toward him, for he had come from her old home, had breathed the air of her native hills, and she well remembered how, years ago, he had with her planted and watered the flowers which he told her were still growing at her mother’s grave.

And yet there was something about her which puzzled Joel, who felt that the difference between them was great. He was disappointed, and the declaration which he had fully intended making was left until another time, when, as he thought, “he shouldn’t be so confounded shy of her.” His quarters, too, at Maple Grove were not the most pleasant, for no one noticed him except grandma and John Jr., and with the conviction that “the Kentuckians didn’t know what politeness meant,” he ordered his horse after dinner, and started back to Lexington, inviting all the family to call and “set for their picters,” saying that “seein’ ’twas them, he’d take ’em for half price.”

As he was leaving the piazza, he turned back, and drawing a large, square case from his pocket, passed it to ‘Lena, saying it was a daguerreotype of her mountain home, which he had taken on purpose for her, forgetting to give it to her until that minute. The look of joy which lighted up ‘Lena’s face made Joel almost repent of not having said to her what he intended to, but thinking he would wait till next time, he started off, his heart considerably lightened by her warm thanks for his thoughtfulness.

CHAPTER XXII.

THE DAGUERREOTYPE.

“Look, grandmother!–a picture of our old home. Isn’t it natural?” exclaimed Lena, as she ran back to the parlor.

Yes, it was natural, and the old lady’s tears gushed forth the moment she looked upon it. There was the well, the garden, the gate partially open, the barn in the rear, now half fallen down, the curtain of the west window rolled up as it was wont to be, while on the doorstep, basking in the warm sunshine, lay a cat, which Mrs. Nichols’ declared was hers.

“John ought to see this,” said she, wiping the tears from her eyes, and turning towards the door, which at that moment opened, admitting her son, together with Mr. Graham, who had accidentally called. “Look here, John,” said she, calling him to her side–“Do you remember this?”

The deep flush which mounted to John’s brow, showed that he did, and his mother, passing it toward Mr. Graham, continued: “It is our old home in Massachusetts. There’s the room where John and Helleny both were born, and where Helleny and her father died. Oh, it seems but yesterday since she died, and they carried her out of this door, and down the road, there–do you see?”

This question, was addressed to Mr. Graham, who, whether he saw or not, made no answer, but walked to the window and looked out, upon the prospect beyond, which for him had no attractions then. The sight of that daguerreotype had stirred up many bitter memories, and for some time he stood gazing vacantly through the window, and thinking–who shall say of what? It would seem that the daguerreotype possessed a strong fascination for him, for after it had been duly examined and laid down, he took it in his hand, inspecting it minutely, asking where it was taken, and if it would be possible to procure a similar one.

“I have a fancy for such scenes,” said he, “and would like to have just such a picture. Mr. Slocum is stopping in Lexington, you say. He can take one from this, I suppose. I mean to see him;” and with his usual good-morning, he departed.

Two weeks from this time Durward again went down to Frankfort, determining, if a favorable opportunity presented itself, to offer ‘Lena his heart and fortune.

He found her alone, Mabel having gone out to spend the day. For a time they conversed together on indifferent topics, each one of which was entirely foreign from that which lay nearest Durward’s heart. At last the conversation turned upon Joel Slocum, of whose visit Durward had heard.

“I really think, ‘Lena,” said he, laughingly, “that you ought to patronize the poor fellow, who has come all this distance for the sake of seeing you. Suppose you have your daguerreotype taken for me, will you?”

Durward was in earnest, but with a playful shake of her brown curls, ‘Lena answered lightly, “Oh, no, no. I have never had my picture taken in my life, and I shan’t begin with Joel.”

“Never had it taken!” repeated Durward, in some surprise.

“No, never,” said ‘Lena, and Durward continued drawing her nearer to him, “It is time you had, then. So have it taken for me. I mean what I say,” he continued, as he met the glance of her merry eyes. “There is nothing I should prize more than your miniature, except, indeed the original, which you will not refuse me, when I ask it, will you?”

‘Lena’s mirth was all gone–she knew he was in earnest now. She felt it in the pressure of his arm, which encircled her waist; she saw it in his eye, and heard it in the tones of his voice. But what should she say? Closer he drew her to his side; she felt his breath upon her cheek; and an inaudible answer trembled on her lips, when noiselessly through the door came _Mr. Graham_, starting when he saw their position, and offering to withdraw if he was intruding. ‘Lena was surprised and excited, and springing up, she laid her hand upon his arm as he was about to leave the room, bidding him stay and saying he was always welcome there.

So he stayed, and with the first frown upon his brow which ‘Lena had ever seen, Durward left–left without receiving an answer to his question, or even referring to it again, though ‘Lena accompanied him to the door, half dreading, yet hoping, he would repeat it. But he did not, and wishing her much pleasure in his father’s company, he walked away, writing in his heart bitter things against _him_, not her. On his way home he fell in with Du Pont, who, Frenchman-like, had taken a little too much wine, and was very talkative.

“Vous just come from Mademoiselle Rivers,” said he. “She be von fine girl. What relation be she to Monsieur Graham?”

“None whatever. Why do you ask?”

“Because he pay her musique lessons and—-“

Here Du Pont suddenly remembered his promise, so he kept back Mr. Graham’s assertion that he was a near relative, adding in its place, that “he thought probable he related; but you no tell,” said he, “for Monsieur bid me keep secret and I forgot.”

Here, having reached a cross-road, they parted, and again Durward wrote down bitter things against his father, for what could be his object in wishing it kept a secret that he was paying for ‘Lena’s lessons, or why did he pay for them at all–and did ‘Lena know it? He thought not, and for a time longer was she blameless in his eyes.

On reaching home he found both the parlor and drawing-room deserted, and upon inquiry learned that his mother was in her own room. Something, he could hardly tell what, prompted him to knock for admission, which being granted, he entered, finding her unusually pale, with the trace of tears still upon her cheek. This of itself was so common an occurrence, that he would hardly have observed it had not there been about her a look of unfeigned distress which he had seldom seen before.

“What’s the matter, mother?” said he, advancing toward her; “What has happened to trouble you?”

Without any reply, Mrs. Graham placed in his hand a richly-cased daguerreotype, and laying her head upon the table, sobbed aloud. A moment Durward stood transfixed to the spot, for on opening the case, the fair, beautiful face of ‘Lena Rivers looked smilingly out upon him!

“Where did you get this, mother?–how came you by it?” he asked, and she answered, that in looking through her husband’s private drawer, the key of which she had accidentally found in his vest pocket, she had come upon it, together with a curl of soft chestnut-brown hair which she threw across Durward’s finger, and from which he recoiled as from a viper’s touch.

For several minutes not a word was spoken by either, and then Mrs. Graham, looking him in the face, said, “You recognize that countenance, of course?”

“I do,” he replied, in a voice husky with emotion, for Durward was terribly moved.

Twice had ‘Lena asserted that never in her life had her daguerreotype been taken, and yet he held it in his hands; there was no mistaking it–the same broad, open brow–the same full, red lips–the same smile–and more than all, the same clustering ringlets, though arranged a little differently from what she usually wore them, the hair on the picture being combed smoothly over the forehead, while ‘Lena’s was generally brushed up after the style of the prevailing fashion. Had Durward examined minutely, he might have found other points of difference, but he did not think of that. A look had convinced him that ’twas ‘Lena–his ‘Lena, he had fondly hoped to call her. But that was over now–she had deceived him–told him a deliberate falsehood–refused him her daguerreotype and given it to his father, whose secrecy concerning it indicated something wrong. His faith was shaken, and yet for the sake of what she had been to him, he would spare her good name. He could not bear to hear the world breathe aught against her, for possibly she might be innocent; but no, there was no mistaking the falsehood, and Durward groaned in bitterness as he handed the picture to his mother, bidding her return it where she found it. Mrs. Graham had never seen her son thus moved, and obeying him, she placed her hand upon his arm, asking, “why he was so affected–what she was to him?”

“Everything, everything,” said he, laying his face upon the table. “‘Lena Rivers was all the world to me. I loved her as I shall never love again.”

And then, without withholding a thing, Durward told his mother all–how he had that very morning gone to Frankfort with the intention of offering ‘Lena his hand–how he had partially done so, when they were interrupted by the entrance of a visitor, he did not say whom.

“Thank heaven for your escape. I can bear your father’s conduct, if it is the means of saving you from her,” exclaimed Mrs. Graham, while her son continued: “And now, mother, I have a request to make of you–a request which you must grant. I have loved ‘Lena too well to cease from loving her so soon. And though I can never again think to make her my wife, I will not hear her name lightly spoken by the world, who must never know what we do. Promise me, mother, to keep secret whatever you may know against her.”

“Do you think me bereft of my senses,” asked Mrs. Graham petulantly, “that I should wish to proclaim my affairs to every one?”

“No, no, mother,” he answered, “but you are easily excited, and say things you had better not. Mrs. Livingstone bears ‘Lena no good will, you know, and sometimes when she is speaking disparagingly of her, you may be thrown off your guard, and tell what you know. But this must not be. Promise me, mother, will you?”

Durward was very pale, and the drops of sweat stood thickly about his mouth as he asked this of his mother who, mentally congratulating herself upon her son’s escape, promised what he asked, at the same time repeating to him all that she heard from Mrs. Livingstone concerning ‘Lena, until Durward interrupted her with, “Stop, stop,