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Bessie's Fortune - A Novel
by Mary J. Holmes
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"Why don't you kiss me, Neil? You have not since you came."

Daisy and Flossie had gone to dinner, and the nurse was resting a few moments in the adjoining room, while Grey sat by her patient; thus he was alone with Bessie, when she startled him with the question, "Why don't you kiss me, Neil?"

Bending over her, he said:

"Would you like me to kiss you Bessie?"

"Ye-es," she answered, faintly, and then Grey pressed his lips to hers in a long, passionate kiss, with no thought that there was danger and possible death in the hot breath which he felt upon his cheek as he laid it against hers.

He thought of nothing but the sick girl before him, whom he had kissed, and whom he now knew that he loved better than anything it life; ay, whom he had loved since the Christmas-time when he first looked into her blue eyes and played for the knot of ribbon she wore at her throat.

Grey had seen much of the world, and many bright eyes had flashed upon him glances which mean so much, but which had never affected him. Nothing, in fact, had touched him until he saw Bessie McPherson, whom he had remembered always, and sometimes to himself he had said:

"I will see her again. I will know her better, and if—"

He never got farther than that "if," though he was conscious that in all his pictures of a future home there was a face like hers as he had seen it in the old stone house at Stoneleigh. He had not sought her again, but he had found her unsought—sick, helpless, dying perhaps, and he knew how much he loved her, and how dark would be the future if she were snatched from him.

"Oh, Heaven, I can't let her die!" he cried; and, falling on his knees by the bedside, he prayed long and earnestly that she might live for him, who loved her so devotedly.

This was the night before the second day of the carnival, when Grey felt obliged to leave her for a few hours and do duty at his Aunt Lucy's side. Miss Grey had that morning heard rumors of fever in Rome, and with her fears aroused she signified to Grey her wish to leave the city the following Monday.

"You are looking very thin," she said, regarding him anxiously as he bent over her chair, "and I am not feeling very well myself. It is time we were out of Rome I am sure it is not healthy here."

She did look pale, Grey noticed, and, as his first duty was to her, he signified his readiness to leave with her on Monday.

"I shall know the worst by that time," he thought "If she is better, I can go with a good heart; if she is dead, it matters little where I am. All places will be the same to me."

And so it was settled that with his Aunt Lucy he should leave for Florence on the following Monday, and with a heavy heart he said good-by to her when the festivities of the day were over, and went back to his hotel.



CHAPTER II.

FAREWELL.

It was Sunday, and the gay pageant of the carnival was moving through the Via Nazzionale, on which the Hotel du Quirinal stands. This was the grandest, gayest day of all, and the spectacle which the long street presented, as carriage after carriage, and company after company pressed on, had in it nothing of the calm, quiet repose which we are wont to associate with Sunday. It was not Sunday to the throng of masqueraders filling the streets, or the multitude of spectators crowding the balconies and windows of the tall houses on either side of the way. But to the little group of friends gathered in the room where Bessie lay it was the holy Sabbath time, and, save when by the opening of some door across the hall a strain of music or shout of merriment was borne to their ears, they would never have guessed what was passing. The fever had burned itself out on Bessie's cheeks and left them colorless as marble; while in her eyes, so large and heavy with restlessness and pain, there was a look of recognition, and on the pale lips a smile for those around her. She had known them all since the early morning, when, awaking from a heavy sleep, she called her mother by name, and asked where she was and what had happened to her.

The last three weeks had been a blank, and they broke it to her gradually, and told her of Grey Jerrold's presence, and how she had mistaken him for Neil, from whom they had that day heard, and who would be with them on Monday. It was Flossie who told Bessie this last, as she kissed the white forehead, and said through her tears:

"I am so glad to see you better; it nearly broke my heart when I thought that you might die—and Mr. Jerrold, too, I am sure would have died if you had. Oh, Bessie, I never saw this Neil, but he can not be as nice as Mr. Jerrold, who, next to Sir Jack, is the best man in the world."

"Hush, Flossie!" Bessie whispered, for she had not strength to speak aloud, "such things are over with me now. I shall never see Sir Jack again; never see Neil, for when he comes to-morrow I shall not be here."

"Oh, Bessie," Flossie cried, with a great gush of tears; but Bessie motioned her to be silent, and went on:

"Tell Sir Jack that I might have loved him had I seen him first, but it will not matter soon whom I have loved, or who has loved me. Tell Neil, when he comes and stands beside me, and I cannot speak to him, that I loved him to the last, and if I had lived I would have been his wife whenever he wished it; but it is better to die, for perhaps I could not have borne the burden and the care again. I am so tired, and the rest beyond the grave looks very sweet to me. You say Mr. Jerrold is here. I should like to see him and thank him for his kindness."

Grey had not been to the room that morning, but he soon came and was admitted to Bessie's presence. Smiling sweetly upon him as he came in, Bessie said:

"I cannot offer you my hand, for I have no power to move it; the life has all gone from me—see," and she tried in vain to lift one of the thin, transparent hands which lay so helplessly just where Flossie had put them.

"Don't try," Grey said, sitting down beside her, and placing one of his own broad, warm palms upon the little hands, as if he would thus communicate to them some of his own strength and vitality. "I am glad to find you better," he continued; but Bessie shook her head and answered him:

"Sane, but not better. I shall never be that; but I want to thank you for all you have done for us—for mother and me. You were with me when father died I remember all you did for me then, and I prayed God to bless you for it many a time; and now, I am going where father has gone, and shall sleep by him in the little yard at home, for they will take me back; mother has promised—I could not rest here in Rome, lovely as the grave-yard is. Flossie told me you were to leave to-morrow, and I wanted to say good-by, and tell you how much good you have done me, though you do not know it. Neil told me once of your resolve to make somebody happy every day, and I have never forgotten it, and have in my poor way tried to do so, too, in imitation of you, but have failed so miserably; while you—oh, Mr. Jerrold, you are so noble and good. You have made so many happy. God bless you, and give you everything which you desire most."

She was too much exhausted to talk any more, and closing her eyes, she lay as if asleep, while Grey watched her with the bitterest pain in his heart he had ever known. Would she die? Must he give her up? Was there yet no brightness, no happiness in the world for her, whose life had been one of sacrifice and toil? He could not think so, and all his soul went out in one continuous prayer: "Don't let Bessie die."

All day she lay motionless as the dead, scarcely lifting even an eyelid, or showing that she was conscious of what was passing around her, save when her mother's low, moaning cry, "Bessie, oh, Bessie, I cannot give you up," sounded through the room. Then she moved uneasily, and said:

"Don't, mother, please; God knows best. He will care for you—and you—you—will keep your promise?"

"Yes, child; so help me God!" Daisy answered, excitedly. "I promised you to be a better woman, and I will; but oh, my Heavenly Father, don't let Bessie die."

It was the echo of Grey's prayer, and Flossie took it up and made it hers, and so the day wore on and the night stole into the quiet room, and it was time for Grey to say good-by, for he was to leave on the early train, and he had yet much to do in settling bills both for himself and Daisy, and providing for her needs in case Neil did not come.

"If I thought he would not be with you to-morrow I would stay, though to do so would greatly disappoint my Aunt Lucy," he said to Daisy, who was unselfish enough to bid him go, though she knew how she should miss him, and fell intuitively that twenty Neils could not fill his place.

"I cannot ask you to stay longer. May God bless you for all you have been to us," she said, as she took his hand at parting, and then turned away with a feeling of utter desolation in her heart.

Only Flossie was with Bessie, who was sleeping quietly, when Grey entered the room to say farewell to the young girl, whose face looked so small and thin, and white as it rested upon the pillows. When her fever was at its height and her heavy hair seemed to trouble her, her physician had commanded it to be cut off.

"It will all come out anyway if she lives," he said, and so the cruel scissors had severed the long, bright tresses which had been Bessie's crowning glory.

But the hair, which had only been cut short, grew rapidly and lay in little curls all over her head making her look more like a child than a girl of nineteen.

Flossie knew it was Grey's farewell, and guessed that he would rather be alone with Bessie, even though she were sleeping. So she arose, and offering him her chair, stole softly out and closed the door behind her.

For a few moments Grey sat gazing intently upon the beautiful face as if he would stamp its image upon his heart, so that whatever came, whether for weal or woe, he should never forget it; and then he prayed fervently, that, if possible, God would give back the life now ebbing so low, and that he yet might win the prize he longed for so ardently.

"Oh, Bessie, poor, little tired Bessie," he whispered, as he gently touched one of the hands near him; "if I might call you mine, might take you to my home across the sea, how happy I would make you. I cannot let you die just as I know how much I love you, and something tells me you will yet be mine. We should all love you so much, my mother, Aunt Lucy, Aunt Hannah, and all."

And then suddenly, as his mind leaped to the future, Grey seemed to see the old farm-house in the rocky pasture-land far away, and Bessie was there with him, sitting just where he had so often sat when a child, on the little bench in the wood-shed close against the wall, beyond which was that hidden grave whose shadow had, in a way, darkened his whole life. And it fell upon him now with an added blackness as he thought:

"Could I take Bessie and not tell her of that grave? I don't know; but God will help me to do right, and all things will seem possible if He gives Bessie to me."

She was breathing a little more heavily now; she might be waking; he must kiss her good-by before she was conscious of the act, and bending over her he kissed her forehead and lips and cheeks, on which his hot tears fell fast.

"Good-by, my darling," he whispered. "In this world you may never know how much I love you, but in the next, perhaps, I may be permitted to tell you how it broke my heart to see you lying so low and to know that I must leave you. Darling Bessie, good-by;" and with another kiss upon her lips he lifted up his head to meet the wondering gaze of the blue eyes, in which for an instant there was a puzzled, startled expression, then they filled with tears, and Bessie's lips quivered as she said:

"Don't, Mr. Jerrold, such words are not for me. I—don't you know?"

She hesitated a moment, and he said:

"I know nothing except that I love you with my whole heart and soul, and whether you live or die you will be the sweetest memory of my life. Don't talk; it is not necessary," he continued rapidly, as he saw her about to speak. "I am not going to trouble you now; you are too weak for that. I am here to say good-by, for I must leave to-morrow; but in the future, when you are well, as something tells me you will be—"

"Oh, Mr. Jerrold, listen," Bessie began, just as the door opened and Flossie came in.

"Time's up," she said, smilingly, as she glanced at Bessie's flushed cheek and Grey's white face, and guessed that something exciting had taken place.

When Jack Trevellian returned from his unsuccessful wooing the previous summer, he had in strict confidence told Flossie why he failed, so that she knew of Bessie's engagement to Neil, but did not feel at liberty to communicate what she knew to Grey, even though she guessed the nature of his feelings for Bessie. And so he was ignorant that he had a rival, and did not in the least suspect the truth, as he once more said farewell and followed Flossie out into the hall.

"Wait a minute, I have something for you," she said to him, and, putting her hand into her pocket, she drew out a piece of soft white paper in which was carefully wrapped one of the curls she had cut from Bessie's head. "I brought this to you, thinking you might like it when you were far away and she was dead," she said, in a choking voice.

"Thank you, Flossie," he said, taking the package from her, "God bless you for all you are to her. Write me at Venice, Hotel New York, and tell me how she is. We shall stay there a day or two before going on to Vienna and Berlin."

He wrung her hands and walked away down the broad flight of stairs, and Flossie saw him no more.



CHAPTER III.

DEAD.

That was what Adolph, a messenger boy from the Quirinal, said to Grey three days later, when the latter accidentally met him in Florence and inquired for the young English girl who was so sick with the fever. Adolph had left the Quirinal for Florence, his home, on the evening of the same day of Grey's departure from Rome. The next afternoon the two met accidentally on one of the bridges which cross the river Arno.

"Dead!" Grey repeated, turning white to his lips and staggering as if he had been smitten with a heavy blow. "How can she be dead? They told me she was better the morning I left. When did she die?"

"A little after twelve," the boy replied, and Grey continued:

"Did her cousin come—a young man from Naples?"

"Yes," the boy answered, "Some gentleman was there—a big swell, who swore awfully at the clerk about the bills; there was no end of a row."

"The bills! What does it mean?" Grey thought, for he had paid them all up to the time of his leaving.

Then, remembering to have heard what exorbitant sums were demanded by the proprietors of hotels when a person died in their house, he concluded that this must be the bill which Neil was disputing so hotly, and bidding good-day to the boy, he walked on across the river, with a feeling that life could never be to him again just what it had been before. On the morning when he left the hotel he had seen the nurse, and inquired after the patient, who, she reported, had slept well and seemed a little better. And now she was dead! the girl he loved so much. Dead, in all her soft beauty, with only the suns of nineteen summers upon her head. Dead in Rome, and he not there with her to take a last look at the fair face which, as he walked rapidly on through street after street, seemed close beside him, sometimes touching his own and making him shiver, it was so cold and dead.

"Dead and gone! Dead and gone!" he kept repeating to himself, as he tried to fancy what was passing in the room where he had spent so many hours and where he had kissed the girl now dead and gone forever.

"If I were only there," he thought. "If I could but kiss her again and hold her hand in mine," and for a moment he felt that he must go back and take the matter away from Neil, who could swear at the expense, however great it was.

He must go back and himself carry Bessie to the old home in Wales and bury her in the nook between the father and the wall—the spot which, when he saw it last, he little dreamed would be her grave, and she so young and fair. But to go back would necessitate his telling his Aunt Lucy of the fever, and to excite in her alarm and anxiety for his safety. So he gave it up, but walked on mile after mile, until the night shades were beginning to fall, and be realized how late it was, and that his aunt must be getting anxious about him. Hailing a carriage, he was driven back to his hotel, and found, as he expected, his aunt alarmed at his protracted absence, and still more alarmed at the whiteness of his face and the strange look in his eyes. He had never told her a word of Bessie, or the fever, and he would not do so now. So he merely said he had walked too far and was tired. He should be all right in the morning, and he asked permission to retire early to his room where he could be alone with his sorrow.

They left Florence the next day, for Miss Grey, who had made a long stop there early in the winter, when on her way to Rome, was anxious to leave Italy as soon as possible, fancying that the climate did not agree with Grey, who had not seemed himself since he came from Egypt and joined her in Rome. Arrived in Venice, Grey's first act was to inquire for letters, but there was nothing from Rome, nothing from Flossie, who had promised him to write. They were too busy with their preparations for taking Bessie home. They must be on their way by this time, he thought, and with a heavy heart he journeyed on from Venice until Vienna was reached, and there, at the Hotel Metropole, he found Jack Trevellian's name registered. It would be a relief to talk to him, Grey thought. He had known Bessie, too; and Grey must speak to some one of the sorrow weighing so heavily upon him, or the burden would break him down.

That night in Jack Trevellian's room two young men sat opposite each other with only a small table between them, and on it a single wax candle, which threw a faint, glimmering light upon the white faces which looked so sadly at each other, as in dumb silence the two sat motionless for a few moments after Grey had told his news.

"What is it, old fellow?" Jack had said, cheerily, as, after expressing his joy and surprise at meeting his friend so unexpectedly, and motioning him to a seat, he noticed the care-worn look upon his face and the set expression upon his mouth. "What makes you look so like a grave-yard? Crossed in love, hey? I thought it would come to that sometime, and knew you would be hard hit when hit at all. Tell me about it, do! Maybe I, too, know how it feels," and Jack laughed a little meaning laugh as he remembered the time when Bessie's blue eyes had looked at him and Bessie's voice had said, "I cannot be your wife."

"Hush, Jack!" and Grey put up his hand deprecatingly. "You don't know how you hurt me. Bessie is dead!"

"Dead! Bessie dead! Oh, Grey!" and Jack nearly leaped from his chair in his first surprise and horror; then he sat down again, and there was silence between the two for a moment, when he said, in a voice Grey would never have known as his: "When did she die? Tell me all about it, please, but tell it very slowly, word by word, or I shall not understand you. I seem to be terribly unstrung, it is so sudden and awful. Bessie dead!" and he stared at Grey with eyes which did not seem to see anything before them, but rather to be looking at something far away in the past.

And Grey, who was regarding him curiously, knew that mere friendship, however strong, never wore such semblance of grief as this, and there flashed upon him the conviction that, like himself, Jack too had loved the beautiful girl now lost forever to them both, while a chill ran through his veins as he thought that possibly Jack was an accepted lover, and that was why Bessie had shrunk from his words of love, as something she must not listen to. She was engaged to Jack Trevellian; nothing could be plainer, and with this conviction, which each moment gathered strength in his mind, he resolved to conceal his own heart-wound from his rival, and talk of the dead girl as if he had only been her friend. Slowly, as Jack had bidden him, he told the story of her sickness, dwelling long on Flossie Meredith's untiring devotion, but saying nothing of the services he had rendered, saying only that he was so glad he was there, as a gentleman friend was necessary at such a time and in such a place, where greed is the rule and not the exception.

"They were expecting Neil from Naples the day I left, or I should have staid," he said, and then into Jack's eyes there crept a strange, hard expression, and he wiped the perspiration from his forehead and lips, as he said:

"Neil; yes. It was his place, not yours, or mine, but, oh, Grey, if I might have seen her; if I could have held her dead hand but for a moment and kissed her dear face—"

Here Jack stopped, for his voice was choked with sobs, and ere he knew what he was doing, Grey said to him:

"Jack, you loved Bessie McPherson!"

"Yes," Jack answered him, unhesitatingly. "I do not mind telling it to you. I think I have loved her since I first saw her, a demure, old-fashioned little thing, in the funniest bonnet and dress you ever saw, sitting with her father, in Hyde Park, and looking at the passers-by. I watched her for some time, wondering who she was, and then, at last, I ventured to speak to her, and standing by her chair told her who the people were, and found out who she was, and called upon her in Abingdon Road, and then she went away, but her face haunted me continually, and even the remembrance of it and of her helped me to a better life than I had lead before. You knew her mother, or rather you knew of her. Not the woman whom you saw in Rome, full of anxiety for her child, but a vain, selfish, intriguing woman, whom no good man could respect, much as he might admire her dazzling beauty. Well, she had me on her string, when I met her daughter, but something Bessie said to me made me strong to resist coils and arts which Satan himself would find it hard to withstand. I used to ride with her, and flirt with her, and bet with her, and play at her side in Monte Carlo, and let her fleece me out of money, just as she did every one with whom she came in contact; but after I knew Bessie, I broke with her mother entirely, and have never played with her or any one since for money. You remember the Christmas we spent together at Stoneleigh. You did not guess, perhaps, how much I loved her then, or that I would have asked her to be my wife if I had not been so poor. Then her father died, and you were there before me, and I was horribly jealous, for I meant she should be mine. There was nothing in the way, I thought. Poor Hal was dead, and had left me his title and estate. I could pour some brightness into her weary life, and two weeks after the funeral I went again to Stoneleigh and asked her to marry me."

Jack paused a moment, and leaning forward eagerly, Grey said:

"Yes, you asked her to marry you, and she consented?"

"No; oh, no" Jack groaned, "If she had, she might not now have been dead; my Bessie, whom I loved so much. She refused me, and worst of all, she told me she was plighted to Neil, her cousin."

"To Neil! Bessie plighted to Neil! That is impossible, for he is to marry Blanche Trevellian, so everybody says," Grey exclaimed, conscious of a keener pang than he had experienced when he thought Jack his rival.

"And everybody is right," Jack replied: "he will marry Blanche, but he was engaged to Bessie under the promise of strictest secrecy until his mother, who had threatened to disinherit him, was reconciled, or he found something which would support him without any effort on his part, Neil McPherson would never exert himself, or deny himself either, even for the woman he loved, and, Grey, I speak the truth when I tell you that I would rather know that Bessie was dead than to see her Neil's wife."

Grey did not answer, but something in the pallor of his face and the expression of his eyes, struck Jack suddenly, and stretching his hand across the table he said, very low and very sadly:

"Jerrold, you loved her, too. I see it in your face."

"Yes," Grey answered him, "I loved her, too, and would have given years of my life to have saved her, though not for Neil. Better far as it is—better for her, I mean, though our lives are wrecked; at least, mine is; but for you there may still be a happy future, and on the ashes of the dead love a new one may arise to bless you."

"Never!" Jack answered, emphatically; then after a moment, as if his thoughts had followed Grey's, he asked:

"Do you know how long Mrs. Meredith intends remaining in Rome, or where she expects to go after leaving there?"

Grey replied that he did not, while a faint smile played round his mouth, as he looked at his friend, who detected the smile, and comprehending its meaning, said, with a heightened color:

"I know you are thinking of Flossie. Bessie thought of her, too, and asked why I did not marry her. But that will never be, though, she is as bright and beautiful an Irish lassie as ever gladdened the eyes of man and the castle is so lonesome without her buzzing about and stirring up things generally, that I have serious thoughts of inviting her grandmother, to take up her abode there, so I can have Flossie back. The servants adore her. But she will never be my wife. She would tire and worry me to death with her restlessness and activity. When I lost Bessie I lost everything, and have nothing left but her memory—not even a flower which she has worn."

Grey hesitated a moment, then taking from his pocket the package which Flossie had given him, he opened it, and holding to view the long silken curl, said to Jack:

"Flossie cut this from Bessie's head when the fever was at its height, and though there is not in the world gold enough to buy it from me, I will divide with you," and parting it carefully he laid one-half of it upon Jack's hand, around which it seemed to cling with a loving tenacity. It was strange how vividly that wavy hair brought Bessie back to the young men who had loved her so much, and who, at sight of it, broke down entirely, and laying their heads upon the table, cried for a moment, as only strong men can cry, for the dear little girl who, they felt sure, was lying in her grave in far off Stoneleigh.



CHAPTER IV.

POOR DAISY.

Four weeks passed away, and Grey, with his Aunt Lucy, was journeying through Russia, bearing with him a sense of loss and pain. The mails were very irregular, and he had never heard a word either from Flossie or Neil, nor had he written to them. He could not yet bring himself to speak of Bessie, even upon paper, though he sometimes felt a little aggrieved that Neil did not write to him and tell him of his loss. And so the weeks went on, and one day, toward the middle of April, when the English skies were at their best and the hyacinths and crocuses were blooming in the yew-shaded garden at Stoneleigh, a little band of mourners went down the broad graveled walk to the inclosure, where in the narrow space between Archie's grave and the wall another grave was made, and there in silence and in tears they buried—not Bessie—but her mother, poor, weak, frivolous Daisy, who had succumbed to the fever and died after a three weeks' illness.

Bessie was not dead, as the messenger boy had reported to Grey in Florence, but the young girl from America, sick on the same floor, had died about noon on the day of Grey's departure, and with his rather limited knowledge of English the boy had mistaken her for Bessie. And as her brother had arrived that morning and had sworn roundly at the frightful bill presented to him, the boy had naturally confounded this party with the one for whom Grey inquired, and thus had been the cause of much needless pain and sorrow to both Jack Trevellian and Grey. Neil had come from Naples on the morning train, very tired and worn with his trip to Egypt, and a good deal out of sorts because of a letter received from his mother in Naples in which she rated him soundly for his extravagance, telling him he must economize, and that the check she sent him—a very small one—must suffice until his return to England, where she confidently expected him to marry Cousin Blanche before the season was over.

"I hear," she wrote in conclusion, "that the widow of Archibald McPherson is in Rome with her daughter, but I trust you will not allow them to entangle you in any way. The mother will fleece you out of every farthing you have, while the daughter—well I do not know her, so will not say what she may do; only keep clear of them both and shun that crafty woman as you would the plague."

With this letter in his pocket and barely enough money to defray his own expenses for a few weeks longer, it is not to be wondered at, if Neil was not in a very jubilant state of mind when he reached the Quirinal, and found matters as they were—Bessie very low with the fever, of which he had a mortal terror and her mother destitute of funds except as Grey Jerrold had supplied them, or as she had borrowed from Mrs. Meredith, to whom she owed twenty pounds, with no possible means of paying. All this and more, she tearfully explained to Neil, who listened to her with a great sinking at his heart and a feeling that he had plunged into something dreadful, from which he could not escape. There was manliness enough in his nature to make him wince a little, when he heard what Grey had done, while at the same time he was conscious of a pang of jealousy as he reflected that only a stronger sentiment than mere friendship for Bessie could have actuated Grey, generous and noble as he knew him to be.

"Oh, if I were rich," he sighed, as with a conviction that he was about the most abused person in the world, he went into the room where Bessie lay, white, and worn, and motionless almost as the dead, for though the fever had left her she was very weak, and could only whisper her welcome, while the great tears rolled down her cheeks.

Neil was awfully afraid of her. There might still be infection in her breath and infection in the room. He fancied he smelled it, and involuntarily put his hands to his mouth and nose, as he drew near the bed. Bessie saw the motion, and interpreted it aright.

"Oh, Neil," she said, with a sob, "you are not afraid of me?"

"No, certainly not; only this fever is a confounded thing when it takes hold of a great hulking fellow like myself, and just now I am very tired," he said; then, heartily ashamed of himself as he saw the look of distress on Bessie's face, he bent and kissed her forehead, and told her how sorry he was to find her so sick, and that he would not leave her till she was strong again.

But all the time he talked he fidgeted in his chair, and kept looking at the door as if anxious to escape into the fresher air.

"Do you think there is any danger?" he said to Flossie, whom he encountered in the adjoining room.

Flossie knew he was afraid, and there was mischief in the merry Irish lassie's heart, as she replied:

"Danger, oh, no, if she is kept quiet and carefully nursed, the doctor says she will soon get well enough to be moved."

"Yes, I know that, of course," Neil stammered. "I mean, is there any danger of my taking it from her—from the room—from the air, you know?

"Are you afraid of it?" Flossie asked him, very demurely, and he replied:

"N—no; yes—I believe I am. Does that make any difference?"

"I should say it did, very decidedly," Flossie answered, with great earnestness and evident concern. "Mr. Jerrold was not one bit afraid, and he was in there all the time;" this, with a saucy twinkle in her black eyes, as she saw the flush in Neil's face and guessed its cause. "You did not kiss her, of course?" she continued, with the utmost gravity.

"Yes, I did," he answered promptly. "Do you think—do you think—"

"Yes I do," she said, decidedly, adding to herself: "I think you are a fool!" To him she continued: "I'll tell you what to do. Grandma is afraid, like you, so I know all the preventives. Let me burn a match or two under your nose so that the fumes will saturate your face; that will counteract any bad effects from the kiss, and to prevent contagion hereafter, get a good sized leek. You can find one at any grocer's: put it in a bit of cloth, with a piece of camphor-gum, and wear it over the pit of your stomach. You may even brave the small-pox with that about your person."

"But won't it smell awfully?" Neil asked, with a shudder, as he thought of wearing about his person an obnoxious leek, whose odor he abominated.

"It will smell some, but what of that? You can endure a great deal in order to feel safe," Flossie replied.

Neil could endure a great deal where his personal safety was concerned, and wholly deceived by Flossie's manner, he submitted to the burnt matches, which nearly strangled him, and brought on so violent a fit of coughing as made him fear lest he should burst a blood-vessel.

"I guess you are all right as far as the kiss is concerned," Flossie said, nearly bursting with merriment. "And now for the leek and camphor. I'll fix it for you."

He found the leek and the camphor and Flossie tied them up for him in a bit of linen and bade him be quite easy in his mind, as with these disinfectants he was impervious to the plague itself.

"What a coward he is, to be sure!" she said, as she watched him hurrying down the hall to his room with his disinfectants. "Sir Jack told me he was a milksop and not half worthy of Bessie, and he was right. I think him an idiot. Leeks, indeed! Won't he smell, though, when the leek gets warmed through and begins to fume! Phew!" and the little nose went up higher than its wont as Flossie returned to the sick-room.

That night Neil wrote to his mother the exact condition of affairs, telling her how he had found his aunt and cousin, whom he could not leave without being stigmatized as a brute; telling her what Grey had done for them; telling her that they owed old Mrs. Meredith twenty pounds, and that unless she wished a subscription paper to be started for them in the hotel, among the English, many of whom were her acquaintances, she must send money to relieve their necessities, and pay their bills. Neil felt almost sure that this last would touch his mother, when nothing else could reach her, and he was right. Neither she nor her husband cared to have their friends contribute to the needs of any one who bore their name, and the letter which Lady Jane sent to her son contained sixty pounds, which she bade him use to the best possible advantage, adding that he was to leave Rome as soon as he could, with any show of decency. This, Neil would gladly have done if he could, but when his mother's letter arrived it found him plunged into a complication of difficulties from which he could not extricate himself. Daisy had suddenly been stricken down with the fever, which developed so rapidly and assumed so violent a form that Neil's strength, and courage, and patience were taxed to the utmost, and he might have succumbed entirely, if it had not been for Flossie, who was equal to any emergency, and who resisted all her grandmother's efforts to get her out of the fever-hole, as she designated the hotel.

Flossie would not go so long as Bessie needed her. She was not afraid, she said, and every morning her eyes were just as saucy and mirthful, and the roses on her cheek just as bright, as if she had not been up half the night, soothing the wildly delirious Daisy, and encouraging Neil, who, as the days went by, rose a little in her estimation. He threw the obnoxious leek from his window, when, as Flossie had predicted, its fumes became intolerable, and he gave up the large, sunny room which he had occupied at first, and took a smaller, less expensive one, and he learned to deny himself many things before that terrible fever had burned itself out. He gave up table d'hote and lunch, and took to the restaurants outside. He gave up driving on the Pincian Hill, or having carriages at all, and patronized the street-cars and omnibuses when he went out for an airing, as Flossie insisted that he should do each day.

"I do believe I could make something of him in time," the energetic little lady thought. "But, dear me! Bessie would humor all his fancies, and be a perfect slave to his caprices; even now she will not let him wait upon her much, for fear of tiring him."

And so the days went on until two weeks were gone, and then one April morning it was whispered among the few guests remaining in the hotel, that death was again in the house, and more trunks were packed in haste, and more people left, until the fourth floor was almost as silent as the room in which Daisy lay dead, with a strange beauty in her face, to which had returned, as it sometimes does, all the freshness and loveliness of youth, so that she looked like some fair young girl as she lay upon her pillow, with her hands upon her bosom, just as she had folded them, when at the last she said to those around her:

"It is growing late. I think I will retire; good-night;" then, clasping her hands together, she began the prayer of her childhood: "Now I lay me down to sleep," repeating the whole distinctly, while, with the words, "I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take," she went to meet the God who is so pitiful and kind, and who knew all the good that was in her, and knew, too, what thoughts of remorse for the past and prayers for forgiveness had been in her heart during the few lucid intervals which had been given to her. She had been delirious most of the time, and in her delirium had talked of things which made poor Bessie shudder, they revealed to her so much more of her mother's past than she had ever known.

Monte Carlo was the field to which her fancy oftenest took flight, and there, at the gaming-table she sat again, going through the excitement of the olden time, losing and winning—winning and losing—sometimes with Teddy at her side, and sometimes with men of a baser, lower type, with whom she bandied jests, until the scene was too horrible even for the iron-nerved Flossie to endure. Then, there were moments of perfect consciousness, when she knew and spoke rationally to those about her, and tried to comfort Bessie, who insisted upon having a lounge taken into the room so that she might see her mother, if she could not minister to her.

Once, startled by the expression of the faces around her, Daisy said:

"Why do you all look so sorry? Am I very sick? Am I going to die? Oh, am I going to die? I cannot die. I cannot! Don't let me die! Don't; don't."

It was like the cry of a frightened child begging a reprieve from punishment, and that piteous "Don't! don't!" rang in Bessie's ears long after the lips which uttered the words were silent in death.

During their journeyings together, Daisy had shown the best there was in her and had really seemed trying to reform. When, on her return from America, she had suggested that they go abroad, saying she would sell her diamonds to defray the expenses, Bessie had refused at first, and had only consented on condition that her mother abandoned all her old habits of life, and neither played nor bet, nor practiced any of her wiles upon the opposite sex for the purpose of extorting money from them. And all this Daisy promised.

"I'll be as circumspect as a Methodist parson's wife," she said; and she kept her word as well as it was possible for her to do.

She neither played, nor bet, nor coaxed money from her acquaintances by pretty tales of poverty, and if she sometimes bandied familiar jests with her gentlemen friends, Bessie did not know it, and there was springing up in her heart a strong feeling of respect for her mother who, just as the new life was beginning, was to be taken from her.

"Oh, mamma," she sobbed, putting her poor, pale, face close to that of the dying woman, for Neil had taken her in his arms and laid her beside her mother "oh, mamma, how can I give you up." Then, as the greater fear for her mother's future overmastered every other feeling, she said: "Speak to me, mother; tell me you are not afraid; tell me you are sorry; tell me, oh, my Heavenly Father, if mother must die, forgive her all the past and take her to Thyself."

"Yes," Daisy murmured, moving a little uneasily, "Forgive me all the past—and there is so much to forgive. I am sorry, and most of all for Archie and Bessie, whom I neglected so long. Oh, how pleasant the old home at Stoneleigh looks to me now. Bury me by Archie in the grass, it is so quiet there; and now it is getting late. I think I will retire. Good-night!"

And then, folding her hands together, she said the "Now I lay me," and Flossie, who was bending over her, knew that she was dead, and motioning to Neil, bade him take Bessie away.

Neil was very tender and very kind and loving to the poor little girl quivering with pain, but uttering no sound and shedding no tear as she lay passive in his arms, but he felt that he was badly abused, and that the burden laid upon him was heavier than he could bear. Could he have had his way, Daisy would have been buried in the Protestant cemetery, in Rome. This would have been far less expensive and have saved him no end of trouble. But when he suggested it to Bessie, she said "No" so decidedly that he gave it up and nerved himself to meet what he never could have met but for Flossie, who, as far as she could, managed everything, even to battling fiercely with the proprietor, whose bill she compelled him to lessen by several hundred francs, and when he demanded payment for four dozen towels which he said had been ruined, she insisted upon taking the towels, which she said were hers, if she paid for them. Never had portier or clerk encountered such a tempest as she proved to be, and they finally surrendered the field and let her have her own way, shrugging their shoulders significantly, as they called her "la petite diable Irelandaise."

It was old Mrs. Meredith who furnished the necessary funds, for there was no time to send to England. Neil telegraphed to his father, asking him to go down to Stoneleigh and meet them on their arrival with the body. But the Hon. John was suffering with the gout, and only Anthony and Dorothy were there, when Neil and Flossie and Bessie came, the latter utterly exhausted and unable to sit up a moment after entering the house. So they took her to her old room, which Dorothy had made as comfortable and pleasant as she could; and there Bessie lay, weak as a little child, while the kind neighbors came again and stood in the yew-shaded cemetery where Daisy was buried and where there was room for no more of the McPhersons.

"Now what?" Flossie said to Neil, when the burial was over and they sat alone in the parlor; "now what are you going to do?" and when he answered, gloomily, "I am sure I don't know," she flashed her black eyes upon him and replied: "You don't know? Then let me tell you; marry Bessie at once. What else can you do? Surely you will not leave her here alone?"

"I know I ought not to leave her here," Neil said, despondingly. "But I cannot marry her now."

"Why not?" Flossie asked him sharply, and he replied:

"I cannot marry her and starve, as we surely should do. I have no means of my own, and mother would turn me from her door if I brought her Bessie as my wife. As it is, I dread going to her with all these heavy bills. It was a foolish thing to bring Mrs. McPherson home, and I said so at the time. That woman has been a curse to every one with whom she ever came in contact."

"Oh, mamma, poor mamma, I wish I, too, were dead, as you are," moaned, or rather gasped a little white-faced girl who was standing just outside the door, and had heard all Neil was saying.

Bessie had remained upstairs as long as she could endure it, and when she heard voices in the parlor and knew that Neil and Flossie were there, she arose, and, putting on a dressing-gown and shawl, crept down stairs to go to them. But Flossie's question arrested her steps, and leaning against the side of the door, she heard all their conversation, and knew the bitterness there was in Neil's heart toward her mother, less by what he said, than by the tone of his voice as he said it, for there was in it a cold, hard ring which made her shiver and sent her back to the bed she had quitted, where she lay for hours, until she had thought it out and knew what she meant to do. But she said nothing of her decision either to Neil or Flossie, the latter of whom left her the next day to join her grandmother, in London.

Neil waited a few days longer, loath to leave Bessie and dreading to go home and meet what he knew he must meet when he told his mother the amount of her indebtedness to Mrs. Meredith, who had signified her wish to be paid as soon as possible.

Naturally dull of perception as he was, Neil was vaguely conscious of a change in Bessie's manner, but he attributed it to grief for the loss of her mother, wondering a little that she could mourn so deeply, a death, which, to him, seemed a relief, for Daisy was not a person whom he would care to acknowledge as his mother-in-law.

Bessie could not forget the words she had overheard, and though they might be true, she knew Neil ought not to have spoken them to a comparative stranger, and she began to realize, as she never had before, that in Neil's nature there was much which did not accord with hers. Many and many a time thoughts of Grey Jerrold filled her mind, and in her half-waking hours at night, she heard again his voice, so full of sympathy, and felt an inexpressible longing to see him again, and hear him speak to her. Still, she meant to be loyal to Neil, and on the morning of his departure, when he was deploring his inability to marry her at once, she lifted her sad eyes to him and said:

"Is there nothing you can do to help yourself? I will do my part gladly, and it cannot cost us much to live—just us two."

The next moment her face was crimson, as she reflected that what she had said, seemed like begging Neil to marry her, and his answer was not very reassuring.

"There is nothing for me to do; absolutely nothing."

"Don't other men find employment if they want it?" Bessie asked, and he replied:

"Yes, if they want it; but I do not. You know as well as I the prejudice among people of my rank against clerkships, and trade, and the like. As a rule the McPhersons do not work."

"But I am not ashamed to work, and I am as much a McPherson as you," Bessie answered him, emboldened for once to say what she thought.

"Yes," he answered, slowly, "and I am sorry for it. You told me at one time you thought of going out as governess. Never harbor that idea again, if you care for me. I cannot have people pointing out my wife as one who had taught their children."

Bessie bowed her head silently as if in acquiescence, and Neil never suspected what was passing in her mind, nor dreamed that a tide was set in motion which would take Bessie away from him forever.



CHAPTER V.

BESSIE'S DECISION.

"And so you have determined to go to America?" Neil said to Bessie about four weeks later, when he came to Stoneleigh in obedience to a letter from Bessie telling him she wished to see him on a matter of importance.

"Yes," she replied, "I am going to America. My passage is engaged, and I sail in two weeks, in company with a Mrs. Goodnough, of Bangor, a nice old lady, who will take good care of me."

"Well," and Neil stroked his mustache thoughtfully, "I am not sure but that it is a good idea to beard the old woman in her den. You will be likely to succeed where others would fail, and when you are sure of her fortune send for me."

There was a levity in his manner which Bessie resented, and she said to him, quickly:

"If by the 'old woman' you mean my Aunt Betsey, I would rather you did not speak of her thus. She has been kind to father and me—very kind. But it is not her fortune I am going after. It is my own! I have always thought I had one somewhere, and as it does not seem to be here, it may be in America. But, jesting aside. I am going to find something to do. It is no disgrace to work there, and your friends will never know."

"I am not sure of that," Neil said. "But what do you mean to do?"

"Anything I can find," Bessie answered, decidedly.

Neil only smiled and thought how sure it was that once with her aunt she would become a favorite, and eventually, an heiress to the fortune he so greatly coveted.

He should miss her, he knew, and still it would be a relief not to have her on his mind, as she would be, if left alone at Stoneleigh. So, on the whole, she had done wisely when she planned to go to America, and he did not oppose her, but said he would be in Liverpool the 25th, to see her off. He did not ask if she had the necessary funds for the voyage; he had trouble enough on that score, and was not likely soon to forget the scene, or rather succession of scenes, enacted at Trevellian House, when Mrs. Meredith's bills were presented to his mother, who, but for shame's sake, would have repudiated them at once as something she was not lawfully obliged to pay.

Neither did he inquire who Mrs. Goodnough was, and did not know that she was a poor woman who had worked in the fields, and was going out to New York, not as first-class passenger nor even second, but as steerage, and Bessie's ticket was of the same nature. She had but little money, and when she heard from Mrs. Goodnough, who was a friend of Dorothy's, and who had once been in America, that a steerage passage was oftentimes very comfortable, and that many respectable people took it because of its cheapness, she put aside all feelings of pride, and said to Mrs. Goodnough:

"I will go steerage with you," and from this plan she never swerved.

But she would not tell Neil then; time enough at the last when he came to see her off, and must, of course, know the truth.

She knew he would be very angry, and probably insist upon paying the difference, but she could take no more money from him, and her blood was hot whenever she reflected what she had heard him say to Flossie of the bills incurred in Rome, and which she meant to pay to the uttermost farthing, if her life was spared and she found something to do in the new world, where to work was not degrading. But she must know the amount, and she timidly asked Neil to tell her how much it was.

"Enough! I assure you. Those Italians are rascals and cheats—the whole of them; but it need not trouble you, the debt is paid," he said, a little bitterly. But Bessie insisted upon knowing, and finally wrung from him that two hundred and fifty pounds would probably cover the whole indebtedness.

"Bringing mother home and all?" Bessie asked, and he replied:

"Yes, bringing her home and all; that was a useless expense."

He spoke before he thought, and when he saw how quickly the tears came to Bessie's eyes, he repented the act, and stooping down to kiss her, said:

"Forgive me, Bessie, I did not mean to wound you; but mother did fret so about the bills. You know she did not like your mother."

"Tell her I shall pay them all," Bessie answered, as she withdrew herself from the arm he had thrown round her. "My mother was my own, and with all her faults I loved her, and I believe she was a good woman at the last. I should die if I did not."

"Yes, oh yes, of course," Neil said, feeling very awkward and uncertain what to say next.

At last he asked, rather abruptly, if Bessie knew where Jack Trevellian and Grey Jerrold were, saying he had never heard from either of them since he was in Rome.

Bessie replied that Flossie had written that Sir Jack was somewhere in the Bavarian Alps leading a kind of Bohemian life, and that he had written to his steward at Trevellian Castle that he should not be home until he had seen the Passion Play, then in process of presentation at Oberammergau.

"He never writes Flossie," Bessie said; "neither does she know where Mr. Jerrold is. She wrote to him at Venice, but he did net answer her letter. Perhaps he has gone home."

Neil said it was possible, adding, that she would probably see him in America, as his Aunt Lucy lived in Allington.

"But you are not to fall in love with him," he continued, laughingly. "You are mine, and I shall come to claim you as soon as you write me you have found that fortune you are going after. Do your best, little Bess, and if you cannot untie the old maid's purse strings nobody can."

Bessie made no reply, but in her heart there was a feeling which boded no good to Neil, who left her the next day, promising to come down to Liverpool and see her off.



CHAPTER VI.

IN LIVERPOOL.

It was a steady down-pour, and the streets of Liverpool, always black and dirty, looked dirtier and blacker than ever on the day when Neil McPherson walked restlessly up and down the entrance hall of the North-western Hotel, now scanning the piles of baggage waiting to be taken to the Germanic, and then looking ruefully out upon the rain falling so steadily.

"It is a dreary day for her to start, poor little girl. I wish I had money of my own, and I would never let her go," he said to himself, as he began to realize what it would be to have Bessie separated from him the breadth of the great ocean.

Selfish and weak as we have shown Neil to be, he loved Bessie better than he loved anything except himself, and there was a load on his heart and a lump in his throat every time he thought of her. She was to sail that afternoon at three, and he had come from London on the night express to meet her and say good-by. His father, and mother, and Blanche were staying at a gentleman's house, a few miles from the city, and he was to join them there in the evening, and make one of a large dinner-party given in honor of Lady Jane. He had told his mother that Bessie was going to America, and in her delight at the good news she did not oppose his going to see her off, and actually handed him a five-pound note, which he was to give to Bessie with her best wishes for a pleasant voyage and happiness in the new world.

Thus armed and equipped, Neil waited until a whiz and a shriek outside told him the train from Chester was in, and, going out, he stood at the gate when Bessie came through, accompanied by Mrs. Goodnough, who carried her bag and waterproof, and who courtesied very low to Neil. Never had the latter seen Bessie look as lovely, as she did to him then in her simple traveling-dress of black, which brought out so clearly the dazzling purity of her complexion, and seemed to intensify the deep blue of her large, sad eyes.

"Oh, Bessie!" he exclaimed, taking her hand and putting it under his arm, "how can I let you go? Where is Mrs. Goodnough? and who is this woman bobbing up and down and staring so at me?"

Neil had a great contempt for people like Mrs. Goodnough, and when Bessie said to him, in a low tone, "It is my compagnon du voyage. She is rough-looking, but kind and good. I wish you would speak to her," he answered, quickly:

"That woman! You going out with her! Why, she looks like a fish-woman! She is only fit to be a steerage passenger!"

"She is a steerage passenger, and I am steerage, too," Bessie said, very quietly, while Neil dropped her hand as if it had burned him.

"Bessie, what do you mean?" he exclaimed, glancing down upon her and stopping suddenly.

"Let us go inside. Do not make a scene here, please," Bessie answered him, in a low, firm voice, while her cheek grew a shade paler and something shone in her eyes which Neil had never seen there before.

"A private parlor, please; a small one will answer," he said to the clerk at the bureau; and in a few moments he was sitting with Bessie at his side, asking her to tell him what she meant by saying she was steerage, too.

"It means," she began, unfalteringly, "that I have no money for a first class ticket, which costs more than three times as much as steerage. Many respectable people go out that way, and it is very comfortable. The Germanic is a new boat, and all the apartments are clean and nice, I am not ashamed of it. I am ashamed of nothing, except the debt I owe your mother, and that I had to borrow five pounds of Anthony, who insisted upon giving it to me but I would not take it. Why do you look at me so strangely, Neil? Do you think I have committed the unpardonable sin?"

"Bessie," Neil began, huskily, and in a voice choked with passion, "this is the drop too much. I knew you had some low instincts, but never dreamed you could stoop to this degradation, which affects me as much as it does you. But it is not too late to change, and you must do it."

"No, Neil, I cannot. I have barely enough to get there as it is," she replied, and he continued:

"Mother sent you five pounds with her compliments. Will that do? Here it is," and he offered her the note, which she put aside quickly, as she said:

"I cannot take that from your mother. Give it back to her, and, if you think she meant it well, thank her for me, and tell her I shall pay the whole some day when I earn it."

She emphasized the last words, and, more angry than before, Neil exclaimed:

"Earn it! Why will you persist in such nonsense, as if you were a common char-woman? You know as well as I that you are going to Aunt Betsey with the hope to get some of her money, as you unquestionably will."

"Neil, I am not," Bessie answered, firmly. "I am going to America, because there I can work and be respected, too, while here, according to your code, I cannot."

"Then, for Heaven's sake, go decently, and not herd with a lot of cattle, for emigrants are little better; and do not make yourself a spectacle for the other passengers to gaze upon and wonder about, as they will be sure to do. If you have no pride for yourself, you have no right to disgrace me. How do you think it will sound, some day, that Neil McPherson's wife went out as steerage? Have you no feeling about it?"

"Not in that way—no," Bessie replied. "It seems to me I have been in the steerage all my life, and this can be no worse. Lady Bothwaite went thus to Australia to see how it fared with the passengers."

"Yes, and got herself well laughed at as a lunatic," Neil rejoined. Then, after a pause, he continued, excitedly: "But to come to the point—you must either give up this crazy plan or me. I can have no share in this disgrace, which the world would never forget, and which mother would never forgive. My wife must not come from the steerage."

He spoke with great decision, for he was very angry, and for a moment there was perfect silence between them, while Bessie regarded him fixedly, with an expression on her face which made him uneasy, for he did not quite mean all he had said to her, and there was a strong clinging of his heart to this fragile little girl, who said at last, very softly and low:

"You mean it, Neil?—mean what you say?"

"Yes," he answered her. "You must choose steerage or me!"

"Then, Neil," she continued, taking off her engagement-ring and putting it into his hand, "I am afraid it must be steerage. There is your ring; it is all ended between us. And it is better that it is so. I have thought for some time that we could not be happy together with our dissimilar tastes. I should always be doing something you did not like, and which I could not think was wrong. Besides this, we need not deceive ourselves longer with the hope that your mother will ever give her consent to our marriage, for she will not, and as we cannot marry without it, I think it better that we should part; not in anger, Neil," and she laid her hand caressingly upon his arm. "We have loved each other too well for that. We will be friends always, as we are cousins, but never man and wife. We are free, both of us;" and as she spoke there kept coming over her a most delicious sense of relief, as if some burden were being rolled from her, and the expression of her face was not that of a young girl who has just broken with the man she loved.

And Neil felt the change in her, and rebelled against it, saying that he would not give her up though she went steerage a hundred times, and in his excitement he offered to marry her that day, if she were willing, and take her at once to his mother, who would not shut the door against them, when she knew the deed was done.

But Bessie was resolute, and Neil was obliged to abide with her decision, but his face was very gloomy, and there was a sense of pain and loss in his heart when at last he entered the carriage which was to take Bessie to the wharf.

Mrs. Goodnough was to attend to the luggage and see that it was on board, consequently Neil was spared all trouble, as Bessie meant he should be. The rain was still falling, and there were many cabs and hansoms crowding the dock when Neil and Bessie reached it.

"Where will you go? With the steerage gang? If so, for Heaven's sake keep your veil over your face. I should not like to have any friend of mine, who might chance to be here, see you," Neil said, impatiently, and Bessie replied:

"I shall stay by Mrs. Goodnough till the tug takes us out. There she is now, in the distance, I can make my way to her very well alone, and as it is raining hard, we had better say good-by here in the carriage. You cannot help me any, and—" she hesitated an instant, and then added: "You might be recognized."

Neil hated himself cordially, and called himself a sneak and a coward, but he followed Bessie's advice, and drawing up the window of the carriage, clasped her to his bosom as he said farewell, telling her it was not forever, that she was his still, and he should come for her some day, and claim her promise to him.

Bessie did not contradict him. She knew he was suffering greatly, and she pitied him, while all the time there was in her heart a little song of gladness that she was free. Taking his face between her hand, she kissed it tenderly, and said:

"Good-by, Neil, and may God bless you and make you a good and noble man. I know you will never forget me. Too much has passed between us for that; but you will learn to be very happy without me. Good-by."

She touched his lips again; then, opening the door herself, she sprang to the ground before he could stop her.

"Don't get out; good-by," she said, waving him back as he was about to alight, and opening her umbrella and pulling the hood of her waterproof over her head, she started in the direction of Mrs. Goodnough, leaving Neil with such a tumult of thought crowding his brain as nearly drove him wild.

If he had not fancied that he saw one of his London acquaintances in the distance, he might have followed Bessie, but he could not be seen, for fear that the reason for his being there should come out, and it become known that a McPherson was allowed to go to America as a steerage passenger; so he sat a moment and watched the little figure with the waterproof hood over its head making its way to where a rough-looking woman was standing, with an immense cotton umbrella over her sun-bonnet and evidently waiting for some one. And so Bessie vanished from Neil's sight, and he saw her no more.

"Back to the hotel," he said to the cabman, who obeyed willingly, while Neil, always on the alert, closed the windows lest he should he seen and recognized.

But the air was close and hot, and when he thought himself out of danger he drew the window down and looked out just in time to meet the eyes of Grey Jerrold who was driving in an opposite direction. There was an exclamation from Grey, a call for both cabmen to stop, and before Neil could collect his senses the two carriages were drawn up side by side and he was shaking hands with Grey through the window.

"So glad I happened to meet you," Grey said. "I wanted to say good-by, for I am off for America."

"America!" Neil repeated, and his lower jaw dropped suddenly, as if he had been seized with paralysis.

"Yes," Grey rejoined. "I sail in the Germanic with my Aunt Lucy. She came down to Liverpool yesterday with some friends. I shall find her at the wharf. I have just arrived in the train from Chester. I was only in London for a day, but I called at your house to see you, and learned that you were out of town, so I left a little note for you. Neil"—and Grey spoke very low, as we do when we speak of the dead—"I have been in Prussia, Austria, and Russia since I left Italy, but I know I ought to have written and told you how sorry I was for—for what happened in Rome. If it had not been for my aunt, I believe I should have gone back and helped you. I—"

Here Grey stopped, for since his interview with Jack Trevellian he had never mentioned Bessie's name to any one, and he could not do so now even to Neil, who, having no idea of the mistake under which Grey was laboring, and supposing he, of course, was referring to Daisy, replied with an indifference which made Grey's flesh creep:

"Yes, thanks; they told me how kind you were, and I ought to have written you, but I had so much to see to. I trust I may never go through the like again. Those landlords are perfect swindlers, the whole of them, and ought to be indicted."

He spoke excitedly, and Grey gazed at him in blank astonishment. Was he perfectly heartless that he could speak thus of an event, the mere remembrance of which made Grey's heart throb with anguish? Had he really no abiding love for Bessie, that he could speak thus of the trouble and expense her death had caused him? Grey could not tell, but he was never as near hating Neil McPherson, as he was that moment, and he felt a greater desire to thrash him than he had done at Melrose when the star-spangled banner was insulted.

He could not pursue the subject further, and he changed the conversation by speaking of Jack Trevellian, from whom he had not heard since he left him in Vienna, weeks before.

"I have written to him," he said, "but have received no answer. I have also written to Miss Meredith, with a like result, and conclude I have no friends this side the water, so I am going home."

"You can count on me for a friend always," Neil said, with a sudden gush of warmth, as he extended his hand, adding hurriedly: "And now I must say good-by, as I have an engagement. Au revoir and bon voyage."

"Good-by," Grey answered, a little coldly, and the carriages moved on, greatly to the relief of Neil, who had been in a tremor of fear lest Bessie should be inquired for and he be obliged to tell where she was.

During his interview with Grey his conscience and his pride had been waging a fierce battle the latter bidding him say nothing of Bessie, who possibly might not be seen during the voyage, as she had promised to keep strictly out of the sight of the saloon passengers, and, unless necessary, not to tell any one except her aunt that she had crossed as steerage. Thus the disgrace might never be known. But his conscience bade him tell Grey the truth, and ask him to find Bessie on shipboard, and do what he could to lighten the dreariness of her situation. Why he did not do this Neil could not tell, and when the opportunity was passed he cursed himself for a miserable coward, and actually put his head from the window to bid the cabman turn back and overtake the carriage they had met.

"Ten chances to one if I find him now. I'll write and confess the whole thing," he finally decided, and so went back to the hotel, where he passed a miserable three hours, until it was time to dress for the dinner at the house where his mother was visiting.

It was quite a large dinner-party, consisting mostly of matrons and elderly men, so that Neil's presence was hailed with delight, and he was the center of attraction for at least four young ladies, among whom Blanche was conspicuous. But Neil had no heart for anything, and seemed so silent and absent-minded that his mother whispered to him in an aside:

"What ails you, Neil? Surely you are not fretting after that girl?"

She knew Bessie was to sail that afternoon, and that Neil was to see her off, but she was not prepared for the white face which he turned to her, or the bitter tones in which he said:

"Yes, I am fretting for that girl, as you call her. And I would give half my life to be with her this minute. But she is gone. She is lost to me forever, and I wish I were dead."

To this outburst Lady Jane made no reply, but, as she looked into her son's face, there flashed upon her a doubt as to the result of her opposition to Bessie, and the question as to whether it would not be better to withdraw it and let him have his way. The girl was well enough, or would be if she had money, and this she would unquestionably get from the old-maid aunt. She would wait and see, and meantime she would give Neil a grain of comfort, so she said to him:

"I had no idea you loved her so much. Perhaps that aunt may make her rich, and then she would not be so bad a match. You must marry money."

Yes, Neil must marry money if possible, but he must marry Bessie, too; and as he looked upon the broken engagement as something which could easily be taken up again, he felt greatly consoled by his mother's words, and for the remainder of the evening was as gay and agreeable as Lady Jane could wish. But still there was always in his mind the picture of a forlorn little girl, wrapped in a blue waterproof, with the hood over her head, disappearing from his sight through the rain, and he was constantly wondering what she was doing, and if Grey Jerrold would find her.



CHAPTER VII.

ON THE SHIP.

Never in her life had Bessie felt so utterly desolate and friendless as when she said good-by to Neil and threaded her way through the crowd of drays, and cabs, and express-wagons to where Mrs. Goodnough was waiting for her. All her former life, with the dear old home, lay behind her, while before her was the broad ocean and the uncertainty as to what she should find in far-off America. Added to this there was a clinging in her heart to Neil, whom she had loved too long to forget at once, and although she felt it was far better to be free, she was conscious of a sense of loss, and loneliness, and inexpressible homesickness when she at last took her seat in the tug which was to take her and her fellow-companions to the steamer moored in the river.

Oh, how damp and close it was on the boat, especially in the dark corner where Bessie crouched as if to hide herself from view! She had promised Neil to avoid observation as much as possible, and, keeping her hood over her head, she tied over it a dark blue vail, which hid her face from sight, and hid, too, the tears, which fell like rain, as she sat with clasped hands leaning her aching head against Mrs. Goodnough, who, though a rough, uncultivated woman, had a kind, motherly heart, and pitied the young girl, who, she knew, was so sadly out of place.

There were not many cabin passengers on the ship, and these were too much absorbed in finding their state-rooms and settling their luggage to pay any attention to, or even to think of, the few German and English emigrants, who went to their own quarters on the middle deck. And so no one noticed the girl, who clung so timidly to the Welsh woman, and who shook with cold and nervousness as she sat down upon the berth allotted to her and glanced furtively around at the people and the appointments of the place. Everything was scrupulously clean, but of the plainest kind, and "steerage" seemed written everywhere. There was nothing aristocratic in Bessie's nature, and, if necessary, she would have broken stone upon the highway, and still Neil himself could not have rebelled more hotly against her surroundings than she did for a few moments, feeling as if she could not endure it, and that if she staid there she must throw herself into the sea.

"Oh, I cannot bear it—I cannot. Why did I come?" she said, as she felt the trembling of the vessel and knew they were in motion. "Oh, can't I go back? Won't they stop and let me off?" she cried convulsively, clutching the arm of Mrs. Goodnough, who tried to comfort her.

"There! there, darling! Don't take it so hard," she said, tenderly caressing the fair head lying in her lap. "They'll not stop now till we are off Queenstown, when there will be a chance to go back if you like, but I don't think you will. America is better than Wales. You will be happy there."

Bessie did not think she should ever be happy again, but with her usual sweet unselfishness, and thoughtfulness for others, she tried to dry her tears, so as not to distress her companion, and when the latter suggested that she go out and look at the docks of Liverpool and the shores as they passed, she pulled up her hood and tied on her vail, and with her back to anyone who might see her from the upper deck, where the first-class passengers were congregated, she stood gazing at the land she was leaving, until a chilly sensation in her bones and the violent pain in her head sent her to her berth, which she did not leave again for three days and more.

She knew when they stopped at Queenstown, and was glad for a little respite from the rolling motion, which nearly drove her wild and made her so deadly sick. But she did not see the tug when it came out laden with Irish emigrants, of whom there was a large number. Of these the young girls and single women were sent to the rear of the ship, where Bessie lay, half unconscious of what was passing around her, until she heard the sound of suppressed weeping, so close to her that it seemed almost in her ear.

Opening her eyes, she saw a young girl sitting on the floor, with her head upon the berth next to her own, sobbing convulsively and whispering to herself:

"Oh, me father, me father; me heart is breaking for you. What'll ye do without yer Jennie, when the nights are dark and long. Oh, me poor old father, I wish I had niver come. We might have starved together."

"Poor girl," Bessie said, pityingly, as she stretched out her hand and touched the bowed head, "I am so sorry for you. Is your father old, and why did you leave him?"

At the sound of the sweet voice, so full of sympathy, the girl started quickly, and turning to Bessie, looked at her wonderingly; then, as if by some subtle intuition she recognized the difference there was between herself and the stranger whose beautiful face fascinated her so strongly, she said:

"Oh, lady—an' sure you be a lady, even if you are here with the likes of me—I had to lave me father, we was so poor and the taxes is so high, and the rint so big intirely, and the landlord a-threatenin' of us to set us in the road any foine mornin'; and so I'm goin' to Ameriky to take a place; me cousin left to be married, and if I does well—an' sure I'll try me best—I gets two pounds a month, and ivery penny I'll save to bring the old father over. But you cannot be going out to work, and have you left your father?"

"My father is dead, and mother, too," Bessie answered, with a sob. "I have left them both in their graves. I am going out to work, but I have no place waiting for me like you, and I do not know of a friend in the world who can help me."

"An' faith, then, you can just count on me, Jennie Mahoney," the impulsive Irish girl exclaimed, stretching out her hand to Bessie. "You spoke kind like to me when me heart was fit to break, and it's meself will stand by you and take care of ye, too, as if ye was the greatest lady in the land, as ye might be, for I knows very well that the likes of ye has nought to do with the likes of me; an' if them spalpeens dares to come round a speerin' at ye, it's meself will shovel out their eyes with me nails. I know 'em. They are on every ship, and they are on this. I heard one of 'em say when I come aboard, 'By Jove, Hank, that's a neat Biddy, I think I'll cultivate her.' Cultivate me, indade! I'll Hank him. Let him come anigh you or me, the bla'guard!"

Bessie had no definite idea what the girl meant by spalpeens and bla'guards, whose eyes she was to shovel out, but she remembered what Neil had said about her attracting the notice of the upper deck passengers, and resolved more fully than ever to keep herself from sight as much as possible. She had a friend in Jennie, to whom she put numberless questions as to where she was going, and so forth. But Jennie could not remember the name of the lady or place. Her cousin, who had married lately, and lived in New York, was to tell her everything on her arrival.

"It is a good place," she said, "and if it's companion or the like of that ye are wishin' to be, I'll spake a good word to the lady, who, me cousin says, is mighty quare, but very good and kind when she takes a fancy."

Bessie smiled as she thought of an offer of help coming from this poor girl, but she did not resent the offer. On the contrary, she felt comforted because of it, and because of Jennie, whose faithfulness and devotion knew no stint or cessation during the next twenty-four hours, when it seemed to Bessie that she must die, both from the terrible sea-sickness and the close atmosphere of the cabin, where so many were congregated.

The fourth day out Mrs. Goodnough said Bessie must be taken into the fresh air, as nothing else would avail to help her, and a stool was placed for her on the deck, and then Jennie took her in her strong arms, and carrying her out put her down as gently as if she had been a baby.

"An', faith ye must be covered," she said, as, faint and sick, Bessie leaned back against the door, thus fully disclosing to view her white, beautiful face, which made such a striking picture among the steerage passengers, and began to attract attention from the upper deck.

It had already been rumored through the ship that there was a young lady in the steerage, and as it takes but little to interest a ship's company, much curiosity was felt concerning her, and when it was known that she had come out from the cabin, quite a little group gathered in the part of the boat nearest to her, and stood looking down at her.

"Och, me honeys," Jennie said, frowning savagely at them, "I'll spile yer fun for you, an' it's not her blessed face ye shall stare at, though the sight of it might do ye good," and rushing to her berth she brought out Mrs. Goodnough's big sun-bonnet, which she tied on Bessie's head, thus effectually hiding her features from sight. "There!" Jennie continued, as she contemplated the disfiguring head-gear with great satisfaction, "them spalpeens can't see ye now, and if they heave you down anything it's meself will heave it back, for what business have they to be takin' things from the table without the captain's lave, and throwin' 'em to us as if we was a lot of pigs. It's just stalin', and nothin' else."

The fresh air and change did Bessie good, and, protected by the sun-bonnet and Jennie, she sat outside until sunset, and was then carried to her berth. That night the wind changed, causing the ship to roll in a most unsatisfactory manner; and Bessie, who was exceedingly sensitive to every motion, was not able to go outside again, but lay on her bed, whiter a great deal than the pillow under her head, and with a look of suffering on her face which touched the kind-hearted Jennie to the quick.

"An' sure she'll be throwin' up ivery blessed thing she'll ate for the next year," she said. "If I could only right side up her stomach. I wonder if an orange would do it;" and counting her little stock of money—six shillings in all—she took a few pennies, and going to the stewardess, bade her buy two of the finest and swatest oranges in the butler's pantry."

"Here, honey! Here's what will turn that nasty, creepin' sickness, an' make ye feet like the top of the mornin'," she said to Bessie, as she sat down beside her and held a piece of the juicy fruit to her lips.

And Bessie was trying to take it when a voice outside said to Mrs. Goodnough:

"I heard there was some one very sick, and have come to see if I can do anything for her."

The next moment a middle-aged lady, with grayish hair and a sweet, sad face, came in, and going up to Jennie, said:

"Is this the sick girl?"

For a moment Bessie's face was scarlet, and there was a frightened look in her blue eyes as she regarded her visitor, who continued, very gently:

"I am sorry to find you suffering so much. My nephew Grey has been sick all the voyage, or I should have been down here before. What can I do for you?"

"Her nephew Grey!" Bessie repeated the words to herself, us she stared in bewilderment at the face bending over her, recognizing in it, or fancying that she did, a resemblance to the face which had looked so pityingly at her by her dead father's bedside, and which, whether waking or sleeping, haunted her continually. Was this woman Grey's Aunt Lucy, of whom she had heard so much? and was he there on the ship with her, and would he know by and by that she was there and come to see her? Then she remembered Neil, and her promise to let no one know who she was, lest he should be disgraced. So when Miss Grey sat down beside her, and taking the hot hands in hers, said to her, "Please tell me what I can do for you, and pardon me if I ask your name," she sobbed piteously:

"No, no—oh, no! I promised never to let it be known that I was here, I am not ashamed, but he is, and I can tell only this—I am very poor and am going to America to earn my living. I had no money for a first-class ticket, and so I came in here. They are very kind to me, Jennie and Mrs. Goodnough. I am going out with her. Are you an American?"

"Yes; I am Miss Grey, from Allington, I will help you if I can," was the reply, and then Bessie's tears fell faster, as she cried:

"Thank you, no. You must not talk to me. You must not come again. Please go away, or I shall break my promise to Neil."

The name dropped from her lips unwittingly, and Miss Grey repeated it to herself, trying to remember why it seemed so familiar to her, and as she thought and looked wonderingly at the tear-stained face, the impulsive Jennie broke in:

"An' plaze yer ladyship, if you'll go away now and lave Miss Bessie to be aisy for a little, I'm sure she'll see you again."

"Bessie! Neil!" Miss Grey repeated aloud, and then she thought of Grey's friend, Neil McPherson, and remembered there was a cousin Bessie of whom she, too, had heard. Could this be she? Impossible; and yet so strong an impression had been made upon her that as she passed out and met Mrs. Goodnough, who, she knew, had the young lady in charge, she said to her:

"I hope you will let me know if I can do anything for Miss McPherson."

"Did she tell you her name?" Mrs. Goodnough asked, in surprise, for Bessie had confided to her the fact that, as far as possible, she wished to be strictly incognito on the ship.

Miss Lucy was sure now, and with her thoughts in a tumult of perplexity and wonder, she hurried away to the state-room of her nephew.



CHAPTER VIII.

GREY AND HIS AUNT.

Grey had been very sick the entire voyage. Since the day when he heard that Bessie was dead he had lost all interest in everything, and though he went wherever his aunt wished to go, it was only to please her, and not because he cared in the least for anything he saw. From Flossie he had never heard, for her letter did not reach him, and he had no thought that Bessie was alive, and everywhere he went he saw always the dear face, white and still, as he knew it must have looked when it lay in the coffin. Sometimes the pain in his heart was so hard to bear that he was half tempted to tell his aunt of his sorrow and crave her sympathy. But this he had not done, and Bessie's name had never passed his lips since he heard she was dead.

At last, alarmed by the pallor of his face, and the tired, listless manner, so unlike himself, Lucy suggested that they go home, and to this Grey readily assented. But first he must see Bessie's grave, and at London he left his aunt in charge of some friends who were going home in the same ship and would see her to Liverpool. He was going to Wales on business, he said, and as she knew he had been there two or three times before, Lucy asked no questions, and had no suspicion of the nature of the business which took him first to Carnarvon, where a last fruitless search was made for Elizabeth Rogers or some of her kin, and then to Stoneleigh, which he reached on an early morning train, the same which took Bessie to Liverpool! Thus near do the wheels of fate oftentimes come to each other.

In her hurry to secure a compartment, Bessie did not see the young man alighting from a carriage only the fourth from the one she was entering, and as both Anthony and Dorothy, who were at the station with her, went across the bridge to do some errands before returning home, no one observed Grey as he hurried along the road to Stoneleigh, and entering the grounds, stood at last by the new grave in the corner close to the fence, where he believed Bessie was lying.

Bearing his head to the falling rain, which seemed to cool his burning brow, he said aloud:

"Darling Bessie, can you see me now? Do you know that I am here, standing by your grave, and do you know how much I love you? Surely it is no wrong to Neil for me to whisper to your dead ears the story of my love. Oh, Bessie, I have come to say good-by, and my heart is breaking as I say it. If you could only answer me—could give me some token that you know, it would be some comfort to me when I am far away, for I am going home, Bessie, to the home over the sea, where I once hoped I might take you as my wife, before I knew of Neil's prior claim, but so long as life lasts I shall remember the dear little girl who was so much to me; and here I pledge my word that no other love shall ever come between us. I have loved you; I have lost you; but thank God, I have not lost your memory. Good-by, darling; good-by."

He stooped and kissed the rain-wet sod above the grave, then walked swiftly away in the direction of Bangor, and took the first through train to Liverpool. On arriving at the hotel he learned that his aunt had already gone to the wharf with her friends, and taking a cab, he, too, was driven there, meeting with Neil, who confounded and disgusted him with his apparent indifferences and heartlessness.

Absorbed in his own sad refection, Grey had no thought for any of his fellow passengers, whether steerage or cabin, and disguised by her hood and vail, Bessie might have brushed against him without recognition.

So he had no idea how near she was to him, and as the motion of the ship soon began to affect him, he went to his state-room, which he scarcely left again for several days. Once, when the doctor was visiting him, his aunt, who was present, asked if there were many sick among the steerage passengers, and if they were comfortable?

There was but one who was very sick, the doctor replied, and her case puzzled him, she seemed so superior to her class, and so reticent with regard to herself.

"I will go and see her," Lucy said, and that afternoon she made her visit to Bessie, with the result we have seen.

Puzzled and curious, she went next to her nephew, whom she found dressed and in his sea-chair, which had been brought into his state-room. He was better, and was going on deck as soon as the steward could come and help him. Sitting down beside him, Lucy began rather abruptly:

"I have heard you talk a great deal of Neil McPherson, whose father is brother to Miss Betsey McPherson, of Allington, and I have heard you speak of a Bessie McPherson. Do you know where she is?"

Grey's face was white as marble, while a spasm of pain passed over his features as he said: "Oh, Aunt Lucy, you do not know how you hurt me Why did you speak of her?"

"Because I have a suspicion that she is on the ship," Lucy replied; but Grey shook his head mournfully as he said to her:

"That is impossible; Bessie is dead. She died in Rome last spring. She was sick with the fever all the time we were there, and I was with her every day, but did not tell you, as I knew you would be so anxious for me. And when she died I could not talk of her to any one. Poor little Bessie! She was so young, and sweet, and pure. You would have loved her so much."

"Yes," Lucy said, taking one of Grey's hands, and holding it caressingly, for she guessed what was in his heart. "Tell me about her if you can. You say she is dead, and you are sure?"

"Yes, sure," he answered. "I did not see her die, it is true, but I know she is dead, and I have stood by her grave at Stoneleigh. When I left you in London I went to her grave, and I believe I left all my life and soul there with her. I never thought I could talk to any one of her, but it seems to me now it would be a relief to tell you about her. Shall I?"

"Yes, tell me," Lucy said, and closing his eyes, and leaning back wearily in his chair, Grey told her everything he knew with regard to Bessie McPherson, who had died in Rome, and whose grave he had stood beside in the yard at Stoneleigh; told her, too, of Bessie's engagement to Neil, of which he had heard from Jack Trevellian, and of Neil's apparent heartlessness and indifference when he met him in the streets of Liverpool.

"Poor little Bessie," he said in conclusion. "You don't know what a weary life she led, or how bravely she bore it; but she is dead, and perhaps it is better so than if she were the wife of Neil."

"Poor boy," Lucy said, very gently, when he had finished his story, "you loved Bessie very much."

"Yes, I loved her so much that just to have her mine for one brief month I believe I would give twenty years of my life," Grey replied, and every word was a sob, for he was moved as he had never before been moved, even when he first heard that Bessie was dead.

All thoughts of going on deck were given up for that day, and when the steward came to help him up the stairs, he helped him instead to his berth, where he lay with his eyes closed, though Lucy, who sat beside him, knew he was not asleep, for occasionally a tear gathered on his long lashes and dropped upon his cheek.

Late in the afternoon Lucy made her way again to the steerage quarters, for thoughts of the sick girl had haunted her continually, though she did not now believe her to be the Bessie whom Grey had loved and lost. But who was she, and who was the Neil of whom she had inadvertently spoken? and why was she so like the Bessie, Grey had described?

"Blue eyed, golden-haired, with a face like an angel," she repeated to herself, as she descended the stairs to the lower deck and walked to the door, around which several women were gathered with anxious concern upon their faces.



CHAPTER IX.

BESSIE IS PROMOTED.

"She is took very bad, mum," one of the women said to Lucy, as she stood aside to let her pass into the close, hot cabin, where Bessie was talking wildly and incessantly of her father and mother, and of Grey, while Mrs. Goodnough and Jennie tried in vain to quiet her.

"What is it? How long has she been this way?" Lucy asked, and the voluble Jennie replied:

"An' sure, mum, just afther ye left it sthruck to her head, and she wint out of herself intirely, and goes on awful about her father and mother, who died in Rome with the faver and is buried in some stonehape or the likes of it, and of Grey Jerry, who, she says, is on the ship and won't come to her. An' sure, would ye be so kind as to try yerself what ye can do?"

"Talking of Grey!" Lucy repeated, ten times more perplexed than she had been before. "How does she know my nephew, and who is she?" Then, turning to Mrs. Goodnough, she continued: "There is some mystery here which I must solve, I fancied this morning that she might be Bessie McPherson, of Stoneleigh Park, Bangor, but my nephew tells me that she died in Rome—and if so, who is this young girl?"

"Oh, madam," Mrs. Goodnough began, "there can be no harm in telling you now, though she didn't want anybody to know; not for herself—she ain't a bit ashamed, but some of her high friends is, and made her promise to keep to herself who she was; but you are bound to know, and she is Miss Bessie McPherson, of Stoneleigh, and she is not dead at all, and never has been. She had the fever in Rome, but she got well, and it was her mother who died there; this is the truth, and may God forgive me if I have done harm by my tattling."

"You have done no harm," Lucy replied, "but on the contrary a great good to Miss McPherson, whom I shall at once have removed to my state-room. Fortunately I am alone, and can share it with her as well as not."

What Lucy Grey willed to do she went about at once, and in less than an hour she had interviewed the captain, the purser, and the doctor, and, while the passengers were at dinner, Bessie was lifted carefully in Jennie's strong arms and taken to Miss Grey's state-room, where she was laid upon the lounge under the window, as the place where she would have more room and better air. The change seemed to revive her at once, and when, after her dinner, Miss Grey returned to her state room, she found Bessie sleeping quietly, with the faithful Jennie keeping watch beside her. The next morning she was still better, and Jennie, who had insisted upon sitting beside her during the night, was delighted to find her fever gone and her reason restored.

Very wonderingly Bessie looked around her when she first awoke from a sleep which had lasted several hours, and then, as her eyes fell upon Jennie, she asked:

"What is it, Jennie? What has happened? This is not the steerage! Where am I?"

"And indade ye are in heaven, an' that's the angel who brought you here," Jennie replied, nodding toward Miss Grey, who came at once to Bessie's couch.

Bending over her, and kissing her gently, she said:

"I am glad you are better."

"Yes," Bessie answered, falteringly; "but what is it? How came I here?"

In as few words as possible Lucy explained to her that she had discovered her identity, and could not allow her to remain where she was.

"It was not right for me to have this large room all to myself, and leave you in that cramped, crowded place," she said, and Bessie answered her:

"Yes, it was kind in you, but I am sorry you found me out, I promised no one should know me. Neil will be so angry and disgraced."

"Drat that Neil, whoever he is!" Jennie exclaimed, energetically. "Disgraced, indade, I only wish I had him by the scruff of his neck, if he thinks anything can disgrace you, or make you less a lady. Them smells, and they are awful sometimes, when half the folks is sick, can't do it."

At this speech Bessie laughed aloud, the first real laugh since her mother died, but it did her good; and when Jennie had washed her face and brushed her hair and given her her breakfast she declared herself able to get up. But this Lucy would not allow.

"You must be quiet to-day, and to-morrow you can go on deck," she said; and then, as Jennie had gone out, she sat down by Bessie's side, and taking one of her hands, continued: "Do you think you are strong enough to see an old friend by and by?"

Bessie knew she meant Grey, and the hot blood surged into her face as she answered, eagerly:

"Yes, oh, yes. He will bring Stoneleigh back to me; he was so kind when father died, and in Rome, and everywhere. Can I see him now?"

"Not just yet," Miss Grey said, smiling at the young girl's eagerness, which showed itself in every feature. "I doubt if Grey is yet up. He has been sick all the voyage, and is very weak, and I must prepare him first. He thinks you are dead."

"Dead!" Bessie repeated. "How can he think so? I do not understand."

As briefly as possible Miss Grey explained all she knew of the mistake which the messenger boy must have made when he told Grey, in Florence, that Bessie had died the very day he left Rome.

"Oh, yes, I see," Bessie rejoined. "It was the American girl on the same floor with me. Flossie told me of her, and I heard them taking her away that night. Oh, it was so sad; and Mr. Jerrold thought it was I! Was he sorry, Miss Grey?"

She asked the question timidly, and into her eyes there came a look of great gladness when her friend replied:

"Yes, very, very sorry."

"Will you tell him I am not dead? It was poor mamma who died. Tell him I am here," Bessie continued; and Miss Grey looked curiously at the girl, who, being, as she supposed, engaged to Neil, could be so glad that Grey was sorry, and so eager to see him.

"Yes, I will tell him and bring him to you after a little; but you must be quiet, and not excite yourself too much. I must have you well when we reach New York, and we have only three days more," Miss Grey replied, and then, with a kiss, she went away to Grey's state-room at the other end of the ship.

But he was not there, and upon inquiry she learned that he had gone up on deck, where she found him in his chair, sitting by himself, and gazing out upon the sea, with that sad, troubled look on his face, which had of late become habitual, and of which she now knew the reason.

"Grey," she said, drawing an unoccupied chair close to him, and speaking very low, "you are better this morning. Do you think you can bear some very good news?"

"Yes," he answered her. "What is it? Are we nearer New York than we supposed?"

"No; it has nothing to do with New York, or the ship, but somebody in it. Grey"—and Lucy spoke hurriedly now—"did it never occur to you that possibly you were mistaken with regard to Bessie's death—that it might be some one else who died in Rome and was buried at Stoneleigh—her mother, perhaps?"

"What!" and Grey drew a long, gasping breath, as he stared wonderingly at her. "Go on," he added: "tell me what you mean."

"I mean," his aunt replied, "that Bessie is not dead. I have seen her. I have spoken with her. She is on the ship. She is in my state-room, waiting for you. She is the sick girl I told you about."

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