Kidnapped at the Altar - or, The Romance of that Saucy Jessie Bain
by Laura Jean Libbey
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After rehearsal was over, Manager Morgan took her back to her hotel, frowning darkly at Celey Dunbar, who made a bold attempt to walk with them.

"Be ready at seven o'clock sharp," he said, as he left her at the door.

Left to herself when dinner was over, Jessie sat quietly down in her lonely little room to think.

She wondered how such people as she had met that day could play the different parts in the beautiful story whose every incident Manager Morgan had explained to her.

"Certainly it isn't very romantic," she thought, "to have the hero lover of the play a married man."

Night came at last, and feeling more frightened than she had ever felt in her life before, Jessie emerged from her dressing-room. Mally Marsh accompanied her to the wing to see that she went on all right when her cue was given.

"There's a big house out in front," whispered Mally. "Ah! there's your cue now."

Out in the center of the stage stood a young man, exclaiming eagerly, as he looked in their direction:

"Ah, here comes the little society belle now!"

"Go on; walk right out on the stage," whispered Mally, giving Jessie a push.

Jessie never knew how she got there.

The glare of the foot-lights blinded her. The words her companion uttered fell upon dazed ears. She tried to speak the words that she had learned so perfectly, but they seemed to die away in her throat; no sound could she utter. A great numbness was clutching at her heart-strings, and she could move neither hand nor foot.

"Aha! our little beauty is stage-frightened," she heard Celey Dunbar whisper from one of the wings of the stage, in a loud, triumphant voice. "I am just glad of it. That's what Manager Morgan gets by bringing in a novice. Ha! ha! ha!"

Those words stung Jessie into action, and quick as a flash the truant lines recurred to her, and to the great chagrin of her rival in the wings, she went on with her part unfalteringly to the very end.

Her beauty, and her fresh, sweet simplicity and naturalness quite took the audience by storm, and the curtain was rung down at length amid the wildest storm of applause that that theater had ever known.

The manager was delighted with Jessie Bain's success. The ladies of the company were furious, and they gathered together in one of the entrances and watched her.

"Stage life is coming to a pretty how-de-do," cried one, furiously, "when women who have been before the foot-lights for ten years—ay, given the best years of their lives to the stage—have to stand aside, for a novice like that!"

"My husband plays altogether too ardent a lover to her!" cried Dovie Davis, jealously. "I won't stand it! Either she leaves this company at the end of a fortnight, or my husband and I do; that's all there is about it!"

This appeared to be the sentiment of every woman in the company, and they did not attempt to conceal their dislike as she passed them by during the evening.

Just before the curtain went down, Manager Morgan received a telegram which called him to Rochester. He had barely time to catch the train, and in his hurry he quite forgot to leave instructions to have some one see Jessie Bain to the hotel.

As Jessie emerged from her dressing-room she looked around for Mr. Morgan. He was nowhere about.

"I thought you'd never come out of your dressing-room, ma'am," said the man who was waiting to turn the lights out. "Every one's gone—you're the last one."

"Has—has Mr. Morgan gone?" echoed Jessie, in great trepidation.

"Every one's gone, I said," was the saucy reply.

And the man turned the light out in her face, and she was obliged to grope her way as best she could along the dark entry. After floundering about the building for almost ten minutes, until the great tears were rolling down her cheeks with fright, she at length called loudly to some one to come to her assistance.

The same man who had turned out the gas on her now came grumblingly to her rescue. At length she found herself out on the street.

Before she had time to turn and ask the man the way to the hotel, he had slammed the door to in her face and turned the key in the lock with a loud, resounding click, and Jessie found herself standing ankle-deep in the snow-drift, with the wind whirling about her and dashing the blinding snow in her face.

Suddenly from out the dark shadows of an adjacent door-way sprung a man in a long ulster.

"Don't be frightened, Miss Bain," he exclaimed. "I have been waiting for you almost an hour, to see you home."

Jessie started back in dismay. At that instant he half turned, and the flickering light from the gas-lamp fell full upon his face, and she recognized him as one of the members of the company—Walter Winans, whom Mally Marsh had said was her beau.

Even had this not been the case, Jessie could never have admired so bold-looking a fellow.

"Excuse me, but I am very sorry that you waited for me, Mr. Winans," said Jessie, coldly. "I can find my way back to the hotel alone."

"Phew! What an independent little piece we are, to be sure!" he cried. "You're not expecting any one else, are you?" he inquired looking hastily around.

"No," said Jessie, simply.

"Come on, then, with me," he said, seizing her arm and fairly dragging her along.

Discretion seemed the better part of valor to Jessie. She thought it would not be wise to offend the young man; and, to tell the truth, she was rather glad to have some one to pilot her along through the terrible snow-drifts.

"Let me tell you something," said Winans, without waiting for her answer. "I have taken quite a liking to you, Jessie Bain—this is between you and me—and I hope very much that the feeling will be reciprocated, little girl. I'll be only too glad to escort you to and from the theater every night, if you like. Don't let any of the girls of this company talk you into the belief that they have any claim on me.

"You must not think it strange that I took an interest in you, little Jessie, from the first moment I saw you," continued Winans, pressing the girl's hand softly, as they pushed on bravely through the terrible snow-drifts. "There was something about you very different from the rest of the girls whom I have met."

"I trust you will not talk so to me, Mr. Winans," said Jessie.

"But I must," he insisted. "I must tell you all that is in my heart. Surely you can not blame a fellow so very much for being unfortunate enough to fall desperately in love with you!"

He had spoken the words eagerly, and it never occurred to him that they had been uttered so loudly that any one passing might have heard them.

Suddenly from out the shadow of an arched door-way sprang a woman, who planted herself directly in the snowy path before them.

"Stop!" she cried. "Don't dare advance a step further!" and quick as a flash she drew a heavy riding-whip from the folds of her cloak. Once, twice, thrice it cut through the snow-laden air, and fell upon Winans' defenseless head.

Smarting with pain, he dropped Jessie's arm and sprang forward, and attempted to wrest the whip from the infuriated young woman's hands.

"Take that! and that! and that!" she cried, again and yet again; and with each word the blows rained down faster and faster upon his face and hands.

There was but one way to escape, and that was in ignominious flight.

"So," cried Mally Marsh, as she turned to Jessie "this is all the heed you paid to my warning, is it? If I gave you your just deserts, I would thrash you within an inch of your life, for attempting to take my lover away from me! Now listen to what I have to say, girl, and take warning: You must leave this company at once. If you do not do so, I will not answer for myself. Do not make it an excuse that you have no money. Here!" and with the word she flung a bill in her face. "The depot is to your right. Go there, and take the first train back to the city whence you came. Go, I say, while yet I can keep my wrath in check."

Jessie stood there for a moment like one stupefied. She tried to explain how it had happened, but her companion would not listen and walked away.

As one lost, Jessie wandered to the depot, where a policeman, noticing her distress, drew her story from her. He said he knew of a most respectable old woman who was looking for a companion and wrote her name and address on a piece of paper for Jessie. The policeman readily consented to allow her to remain in the station until morning. It was a long and weary wait and at eight o'clock Jessie went to the house to which the policeman had directed her.

A pompous footman conducted her to a spacious drawing-room, and placed a seat for her.

After a long and dreary wait which seemed hours to Jessie, though in reality it was not over twenty minutes, she heard the rustle of a woman's dress. An instant later, a little white, shrivelled hand, loaded with jewels pushed aside the satin portieres, and an old lady appeared on the threshold.

Jessie rose hesitatingly from her seat with a little courtesy.

"You came in answer to my advertisement for a companion?" the little old lady began.

"Yes, madame," returned Jessie.

"Where were you in service last?"

"I have never had a position of the kind before," said Jessie, hesitatingly, "but if you would try me, madame, I would do my very best to suit you."

"Speak a little louder," said the old lady, sharply. "I am a trifle hard of hearing. Mind, just a trifle, I can not quite hear you."

Jessie repeated in a louder tone what she had said.

"Your appearance suits me exactly," returned Mrs. Bassett; "but I could not take a person into my household who is an entire stranger, and who has no references to offer to assure me of her respectability."

Jessie's eyes filled with tears.

"I am so sorry," she faltered; "but as I am a stranger in Albany, there is no one here to whom I could apply for a reference."

"I like your face very much indeed," repeated Mrs. Bassett, more to herself than to the girl; then, turning to her suddenly, she asked: "Where are you from—where's your home?"

"A little village on the St. Lawrence River called Fisher's Landing," returned Jessie. "My uncle, Captain Carr, died a week ago, and I was forced to leave my old home, and go out into the world and earn my own living."

"Did you say you lived at Fisher's Landing?" exclaimed the old lady, "and that Captain Carr of that place was your uncle?"

"Yes, madame," returned Jessie.



The old lady stared at Jessie through her spectacles.

"You need no other recommendation. I once met Captain Carr under thrilling circumstances, my child. I was out in a row-boat one day—some ten years ago—when a steamer almost ran down our little skiff. I would have been capsized, and perhaps drowned, had it not been for the bravery of Captain Carr, of Fisher's Landing. I made him a handsome little present, and from that day to this I have never heard from him. Captain Carr dead, and his niece out in the world looking for a situation! You shall come to me, if you like, reference or no reference, my dear.'

"Oh, madam, you are so very, very kind!" sobbed Jessie.

The little old lady touched a silver bell close at hand, and a tidy, elderly maid appeared.

"Harriet, I have engaged this young woman as companion," she said. "She came in answer to yesterday's advertisement in the Argus. You will take her to her room at once. She is to occupy the little room directly off mine."

The room into which she ushered Jessie was a small, dingy apartment, with draperies so sombre that they seemed almost black. The curtains were closely drawn, and an unmistakable atmosphere of mustiness pervaded the apartment.

"Have you had breakfast, miss?" asked Harriet, looking sharply into the girl's pale face, and adding before she had time to reply: "Even though you have breakfasted, a cup of hot tea will do you good this cold, crisp morning. My lady will be pleased to have you come down to the table. The bell will ring in about ten minutes. You can easily make your way there. Step down the corridor, and turn into the passage-way at the right; the second door."

Jessie bowed her thanks, and murmured that she would be very grateful for a cup of tea. It was not long before she heard the breakfast-bell. Hastily quitting the room, she made her way down the corridor. In her confusion, the girl made the mistake of turning to the left, instead of the right, as she had been directed.

"The second door," she muttered to herself.

As she reached it she paused abruptly. It was slightly ajar. Glancing in hesitatingly, she saw that it looked more like a young lady's boudoir than an ordinary breakfast-room. Before a mirror at the further end of the apartment sat a young girl in the sun-light. A maid was brushing out the wavy masses of her warm-tinted auburn hair.

While Jessie was hesitating as to whether she should tap on the door and make her presence known or walk on further through the corridor, a conversation which she could not help overhearing, held her spell-bound, fairly rooted to the spot.

"I assure you it is quite true, Janet," the lovely young girl was saying in a very fretful, angry voice. "The old lady has got a companion in the house at last. But she shall not stay long beneath this roof depend upon that, Janet. She is young and very beautiful.

"I would not care so much, if it were not that the handsome grandson is expected to arrive every day."

"Surely, Miss Rosamond, you, with all your beauty, do not fear a rival in the little humble companion."

"Companions have been known to do a great deal of mischief before now, and, as I have said, the girl is remarkably pretty. I saw her from the library window as she was coming up the front steps, and then, when old Mrs. Bassett came down to the library, I was safely ensconced behind the silken draperies of the bay-window, and I heard all that was said. You may be sure that I was angry enough. She shall not stay here long, if I can help it. I will make it so unpleasant for her that she will be glad to go. I detest the girl already, on general principles."

Jessie Bain cowered back, dazed and bewildered, almost doubting her own senses as to what she had just heard.

Smarting with bitter pain, Jessie turned away and hurried swiftly down the corridor in the opposite direction.

She was quickly retracing her steps back to her own room, when she met Harriet again in the corridor.

"I was just coming for you, miss," she said, "thinking that you might not be able to find your way, after all, there are so many twists and turns hereabouts," and without further ado she quickly retraced her steps, nodding to Jessie to follow.

The breakfast-room into which she was ushered was by far the most commodious room in the house.

A great, square apartment with ceilings and panelings of solid oak, massive side-boards, which contained the family silver for fully a century or more, great, high-backed chairs with heavy carvings, done up in leather, and a polished, inlaid floor, with here and there a velvet rug or tiger's skin.

The old lady was seated at the table as Harriet ushered in the young girl. She smiled, and nodded a welcome. Opposite her sat a little old man with large ears, who peered at her sharply from over a pair of double-barreled, gold-rimmed eyeglasses.

"This is the young person whom I have just engaged as my companion," said Mrs. Bassett, shrilly, turning toward her husband.

"H'm!" ejaculated the old gentleman. "What did you say this young woman's name was?"

"Bain," she replied.

"Hey?" he exclaimed, holding his right hand trumpet fashion, to his ear. "Give me the name a little louder."

"Miss Bain— Jessie Bain!" shouted his wife, in an ear-splitting voice that made every nerve in Jessie's body throb and quiver.

"Ah—h'm— Miss Bain," he repeated; adding, as he cleared out his throat: "I am very anxious to have the papers read while we breakfast. You may as well begin by reading this morning's reports," he said, handing her a paper which lay folded beside his plate. "You may turn to the stock reports first, Miss Bain. Third column on the first page, Miss Bain."

She had scarcely finished the first paragraph ere the old gentleman commanded her to stop.

"Can you understand one word that this young woman is reading?" he inquired, turning sharply to his wife.

"No. Miss Bain must read louder," she said. "I do not quite catch it."

The perspiration stood out in great balls on Jessie's pale face. She had raised her voice to almost a shout already, and her throat was beginning to ache terribly, for the strain upon it was very great. How she ever struggled down to the bottom of that column, she never knew. The appearance of the breakfast tray was a welcome relief to her.

"You read very nicely," complimented the old gentleman. "I enjoy listening to you. I shall give you the privilege of reading all my papers aloud every forenoon."

Jessie looked helplessly at him. The strain had been so great that her throat pained her terribly; but she made no demur. How could she?

At that moment the door swung slowly open, and a tall, beautiful girl entered.

Jessie knew her at the first startled glance. It was the lovely girl whom she had heard talking to her maid about her, but a little while before.

She took the seat at the end of the table without so much as deigning to glance at the new-comer.

"My dear, let me present you to Miss Bain— Miss Bain, my husband's protegee, Rosamond Lee," exclaimed Mrs. Bassett.

Jessie bowed wistfully, shyly; Miss Rosamond barely lifted her eyebrows in acknowledgment of the presentation.

The old gentleman and his wife screamed at each other on the main topics of the day, Miss Rosamond looked exceedingly bored, while Jessie had great difficulty in swallowing, her throat ached so severely.



Rosamond Lee completely ignored the lovely young stranger seated at the table opposite her; but Jessie had the uncomfortable feeling that she was watching her.

The conversation had ceased, when suddenly Mr. Bassett announced: "I have just received a letter from my grandson. He will be with us a week from to-day. He will remain with us a month."

During the next few days the household was quite upset, so great were the preparations made for the coming stranger. Most of the forenoons had been spent by Jessie in reading the daily papers to the old couple in the library. One morning Rosamond Lee came to her quite excitedly, just as she was about to begin her duties.

"Miss Bain," she said, arching her eyebrows haughtily, "I do not think my guardian has thought to mention the subject to you, but for the next few weeks you are to exchange places with my maid, Janet; she has hurt her hand, but that will not hinder her from reading the papers and attending to Mrs. Bassett's wants. During that time, while you are performing the services of maid to me, you will remember that your place is not in the library, but in my own suite of rooms. I must also mention to you that you will be excused from joining us at the table."

Jessie flushed and then paled. It was not so much on account of the menial position to which she was assigned, as the manner in which the change had been made known to her.

"You may as well commence your duties at once," said Rosamond, imperiously, "and make the change to my apartments without further delay."

"I have a letter to write for Mrs. Bassett, to her grandson, I believe," said Jessie, in a low voice. "Shall I not remain in the library until after that is done? Mrs. Bassett told me to remind her of it to-day."

"Never mind about it," said Rosamond Lee, hurriedly, "I will attend to it. I always write the letters to her grandson for her. I am amazed that she should call upon you. You must come with me at once to my rooms."

Jessie put down the paper she was reading and followed her.

As Jessie Bain entered Rosamond's room, she was surprised at the array of dresses lying on the sofa, the chair-backs, and every conceivable place.

"I want these all overhauled at once," began the beauty. "They must be finished by the end of the week."

Jessie looked around at the dresses, surprised at the great amount of work which Miss Lee was so confident she could accomplish in so short a time.

Jessie was sure that she saw Rosamond Lee's maid busily stitching away when she had first entered the room, but she rose hastily and went into an inner apartment, and a moment later returned with her hand done up and her arm in a sling.

Rosamond Lee said to herself that it had been a wise stratagem on her part to make her maid exchange places with Jessie Bain until after the handsome young man should come and go.

The tasks that Rosamond Lee laid out for Jessie were cruelly hard. She would say to her each morning, as she laid out this or that bit of work:

"This must be finished by to-morrow morning."

As soon as the clock struck nine, Rosamond would seek her downy couch. Not for anything in the world would she have lost the few hours of beauty-sleep before midnight, so essential to young girl's good looks.

But there must be no beauty-sleep for the tired young girl who plied her needle.

"How dare you!" Rosamond cried. "What do you mean by loitering in this manner?"

Miss Rosamond insisted that while she was performing the duties of maid to her, Jessie must take her meals up in her room, declaring that it really took too much time for her to go and come to the dining-room to her meals.

On the third afternoon of her banishment she heard the sound of carriage-wheels, followed by the servants in the corridor crying out excitedly:

"He has come at last! Now the old gentleman and his wife will be in the seventh heaven!"

It mattered little to Jessie Bain. She cared not who came or went. She knew that some young man was expected; but she had not taken interest enough to listen when the maid, who had come in to do up their rooms that morning, had broached the subject concerning him.

"Miss Rosamond is very much in love with him," commented the girl, in a significant whisper, after taking a swift glance over her shoulder to make sure they were quite alone. "Well, it's no wonder, either, for a handsome-looking gentleman he is—tall, broad-shouldered, and kindly. He will inherit an enormous fortune from old Mr. and Mrs. Bassett, for they just idolize him. His mother was their only child. He always came here once a year, ever since he was a little lad, they say, and all the old servants love him."

The maid had scarcely finished her recital, concerning the coming of the handsome heir, when the door was suddenly flung open, and Rosamond Lee, breathless and flushed with excitement, sprung into the room.

"Where's my pale-blue dress with the black velvet bows? Get it for me, somebody—anybody! I want to put it on at once!" she fairly cried.

"The pale-blue dress is not finished yet," Jessie answered, falteringly. "You know you changed your mind about having it altered the next moment after you had laid it out, and told me not to touch it until you decided fully just how you wanted it done. I have been sewing on the rose-pink cashmere—"

"You horrid creature!" screamed Rosamond Lee. "I can scarcely keep my hands off you! You didn't want to see me looking well in my pale-blue dress, and delayed fixing it on purpose. Oh, you horrid, horrid creature!" and with this she seized Jessie Bain by the shoulders and shook her until the girl's slender form bent like a reed in the storm.

The maid, who watched this proceeding, was fairly speechless with terror. She would have flung herself between Jessie Bain and the infuriated beauty had she dared, but she knew that would mean instant dismissal, and despite her intense indignation, she was obliged to stand there and coolly witness it all.

"There," cried Rosamond Lee, fairly out of breath, "I hope I have taught you that I won't be trifled with. Now help me get on the rose cashmere as quick as you can."

Jessie Bain never knew how she managed to fasten the dress on the irate beauty.

The maid came to her rescue, noting that Jessie Bain was by far too nervous to do the heiress's bidding.

The look of thankfulness she gave her amply repaid her.

A moment later Miss Rosamond flounced out of the room. The door had scarcely closed after her ere Jessie Bain's strength gave way entirely, and she sank to the floor in a swoon.

"Poor thing!" cried the maid, bending over her, "I shall advise her to leave this place at once. But, after all, maybe it is with her as it is with me—she would have no home to go to if she left here, and her next mistress might be as cruel, though she couldn't be any worse."

Her diligent efforts were soon rewarded by seeing Jessie Bain open her eyes.

"You are faint and weak. Come to the window and get a breath of air. A breath of the cool, crisp air will do you a world of good."

Jessie made no attempt to resist her when she took her in her arms and carried her to the window, and threw open the sash. Jessie inhaled a deep breath of the cool morning air. Ah, yes! the air was refreshing.

"Don't lean so far out," cautioned her companion, "Miss Rosamond might see you! She is standing in the bay-window of the library with handsome Mr. Hubert; and to see her smile, so bland and child-like, any one would declare that she had no temper at all, but, instead, the disposition of an angel."

Jessie gave a startled look, intending to get quickly out of sight ere Rosamond Lee should observe her; but that glance fairly froze the blood in her veins. Yes, Rosamond Lee was standing by the window, looking as sweet and bland as a great wax doll.

But it was on the face of her companion that Jessie's eyes were riveted. It seemed to her in that instant that the heart in her bosom fairly stood still, for the face she saw was Hubert Varrick's!

"He has had ever so much trouble," the girl went on. "He has been married, but his young wife died, and he is now a widower, free to marry again if he finds any one whom he can love as he did the one he lost."

With that, the girl left the room, and then Jessie Bain gave vent to the grief that filled her heart to overflowing.

"I must go away from here," she sobbed; "I must not meet him again, for did I not give his mother my written word that I would not speak to him again, nor let him know where I was, and I must keep my solemn pledge."



Hubert Varrick felt excessively bored at the beauty's persistent efforts to amuse him during the afternoon that followed, and he experienced a great relief when he made his escape to his own room.

He had come there to visit his aged relatives and have a few days of quiet and rest from the turmoils and cares of a busy life, not to dance attendance on a capricious society girl. He had been back from Europe only a month. Directly on his return, he went to Fisher's Landing, there to be met with the intelligence that Jessie's uncle had died a fortnight ago, and that she was thrown penniless on the world, and had started out to battle for bread, none knew whither.

The shock of this intelligence nearly killed Hubert Varrick. He almost moved heaven and earth to find her; but every effort was useless; Jessie Bain seemed to have suddenly vanished from the face of the earth.

Hubert had been with his grandparents but a day when he felt strongly tempted to make excuses to get away at once; but before the shadows of that night fell, an event happened which changed the whole current of his life.

It came about in this way:

When he excused himself for leaving the drawing-room late that afternoon, under the plea of smoking a cigar and having letters to write, Rosamond, much incensed, had retired to her own boudoir, for she felt that she had made no headway with the handsome young heir. There was no one else to vent her spite on, save the young girl whom she found bending patiently over her dresses, stitching away as though for dear life.

"Why don't you sew faster?" Rosamond cried at length. "You will never get that done in time for me to wear this evening."

"I promise you, Miss Rosamond, that I will have it finished if the velvet ribbon comes in time."

"Hasn't it come yet?" cried the beauty, aghast. "Why, it's almost dark now. There's nothing else for it but for you to go after it, Jessie Bain; and mind that you get there before the store closes. Start at once."

Jessie laid down her work, walked slowly to the closet, and donned her hat and little jacket. After carefully learning the street and number, Jessie set out on her journey. It was fully two miles. The girl's heart sank as she stepped from the porch, and noted how deep the snow was. She wished that the heiress had given her her fare on the street-car; but such a thought had never entered the selfish head of this pampered creature of luxury.

Half an hour or more had passed. Long since one of the servants had lighted the chandelier, heaped more coal in the glowing grate, and drew the satin draperies over the frosty windows.

"Dear me, I wish I had told her to get a few flowers for me!" Rosamond muttered. Then she sat up straight in her chair. "Gracious me! how forgetful I am," she cried. "That velvet ribbon did come just as I was about to go down to luncheon, and I tossed it on a divan in the corner. It must be there now."

Springing from her seat, she went to the spot indicated. Yes, the little package was there.

"That Jessie Bain must have seen it," she muttered, angrily. "She must have passed it by a dozen times. No one can tell me that she did not open it—those girls are so prying. And now for spite she'll take as much time as she wishes to go and come. She ought to be back by this time. When she does come I shall scold her."

One, two hours passed. The clock on the mantle slowly chimed the hour of seven. Still the girl had not returned. Rosamond Lee was in a towering rage. She had sent for her own maid to help her dress, and she was obliged to wear a dress which was not near so becoming to her as the blue cashmere which she felt sure would fascinate handsome Hubert Varrick.

When the dinner-bell rang she hurried to the dining-room. Only the old gentleman and his wife were at the table.

"Where is Mr. Varrick?" she asked. "Surely, he has not dined yet?"

"Oh, no," said the old lady, complacently sipping her tea. "He went out for a walk some two hours ago, and he has not yet returned."

Rosamond started. Some two hours! Why, that was just about the time that Jessie Bain had left the house.

She wondered if by any chance he had seen her. What if he should have asked the girl where she was going, and learn that she had been sent by her so long a distance, and in the deep snow, on such a trifling errand! The girl might tell it out of pure spite. Laughing lightly, Rosamond shook off this fear.

She had never seen a man whom she liked as well as she liked Hubert Varrick. She always had her own way through life, and now that she had settled it in her mind that she would like to have this same Hubert Varrick for her husband, she no more thought it possible for her will to be thwarted than she deemed it possible for the night to turn suddenly into day. Rosamond was almost beside herself with excitement when that wedding was so summarily broken off.

"It was the hand of Fate!" she cried. "He was intended for me. That is why that marriage did not take place."

She had made numerous little excuses to go to Boston with her maid, and always called at his mother's house, making herself most agreeable to the haughty mother, for the sake of the handsome son.

Rosamond had quite wormed herself into the good graces of Hubert's mother. She had not been there for over six months, however, and consequently had never heard of Jessie Bain.

She had been waiting long and patiently, when suddenly she had read of his marriage to Geralda Northrup, and almost immediately after came the startling intelligence of the disaster in which he had lost his bride. And again Rosamond Lee said that Gerelda was not to have him, that Fate intended him for her; and she timed her visit to her guardian's when she knew he would be there.

Rosamond tried hard to take an interest in the dinner, but everything seemed to go wrong with her. The tea was too weak, the biscuits too cold, and the tarts too sweet.

She did her best to keep up the conversation with her guardian and his chatty old wife, but it was a dismal failure. At every footstep she started. Why did he not come?

It was a relief to her when the meal was over. She walked slowly into the drawing-room, angry enough to find old Mr. Bassett and his wife had preceded her, and that they had settled themselves down there for a long evening. Up and down the length of the long room Rosamond swept to and fro, stopping every now and then to draw the heavy curtains aside, in order to strain her eyes out into the darkness of the night.

Ah, what a terrible storm was raging outside! What a wild night it was! The snow drifted in great white mountains against the window-panes, and as far as her eyes could reach, the great white snow-drifts greeted her sight. The bronze clock on the mantle struck the hour of eight in loud, sonorous strokes. With a guilty thrill of her heart, she thought of Jessie Bain. Hastily excusing herself, she hurried to her room.

Of course the girl would be there—there was no doubt about that. With a nervous hand Rosamond flung open the door, crossed the handsome boudoir with swift step, and looked into the little room beyond. But the slender form which she had expected to see was not there.

"Janet!" she called, sharply, "where is that Jessie Bain? I sent her on an errand—hasn't she returned yet? What in the world do you think is keeping that girl?"

"Look out of that window, ma'am, and that will tell you," returned Janet, laconically. "I tell you, Miss Rosamond, your sending the girl out on such a night as this is the talk of the whole house."

"Did she go round tattling in the servants' hall?" cried the heiress, quivering with rage.

"I'll tell you how it came about," said Janet. "One of the maids, who was at the window, called to her as she was going out. I heard it all from another window.

"'Why, where are you going, Miss Bain?' she called, 'you are mad to step out-of-doors in the face of such a storm as this!'

"'I'm going on an errand for Miss Rosamond,' she answered.

"'You will have a hard time getting to the street-car.'

"'I shall not ride,' said Jessie Bain, 'I shall walk!'

"'Walk?' screamed the other. 'Oh, Jessie Bain, don't you do it; you will perish; and all because that Rosamond Lee was too stingy to give you your car-fare. I wish to Heaven that I had the money with me, I'd give it to you in a minute. But hold on, wait a second— I'll go and tell the servants about it, and I reckon that some of them can raise enough money to see you through.'

"With that I slipped down to the servants' hall, to be ahead of her, and to hear what she would say, and, oh! bless my life, what a tongue-lashing they all gave you! It's a wonder your ears didn't burn like fire, miss.

"They said it was a beastly shame. They wished a mob would come in and give you a ducking out in the snow-drift, and see how you would like it. They were not long in making up the money, but when they went to look for Jessie she was nowhere to be seen.

"I am almost certain that Mr. Hubert Varrick must have heard something of what was said, for one of the girls saw him standing in the door-way, listening intently. Before she could utter a word of warning he turned, with something very like a muttered threat on his lips, and strode down the corridor.

"When night fell and Jessie Bain had not returned, the anger of the servants ran high. I attempted to take your part, saying that you didn't know how bad the day really was, when they set upon me with the fury of devils.

"'Don't attempt to shield her!' they cried, brandishing their fists in my face, some of them grazing my very nose.

"'Like mistress, like maid.' We hate you almost as much as we do her. None of us shall close our eyes to-night until Jessie Bain has been found; and if she lies dead under the snow-drifts, we will form a little band that will avenge her! If Jessie Bain has died from exposure to the terrible storm, Rosamond Lee, who caused it all, shall suffer for it! If she is not here by midnight—hark you, Janet! bear this message from us to your mistress, the haughty, heartless heiress—"

But what that message was, Janet whispered in her mistress's ear.



We must return to Jessie Bain.

The girl had scarcely proceeded a block through the blinding snow-drifts ere she began to grow chill and numb.

"I can never make my way to the store!" she moaned. "I— I will perish in this awful cold!"

She grew bewildered as to the direction which had been given her. "It can not be that I am going the right way," she sobbed.

Involuntarily she turned around and took the first cross-street in view. She had scarcely made her way half a dozen blocks when the knowledge was fully forced upon her that she must have lost her way, that each step she took was bringing her toward the suburbs of the city instead of the business portion.

Jessie stopped short. Then she fell. Hubert Varrick, on the other side of the street, saw the slender figure suddenly reel backward, whirl about, and then fall face downward in a huge snow-drift that swallowed her from sight. He plunged quickly forward, muttering to himself: "What a terrible thing it is for a weak woman to be out on such a night as this!"

And he wondered if it could be the poor sewing-girl whom he had just heard the servants discussing. They had said that Rosamond Lee had sent her to one of the stores for a few yards of velvet ribbon, without giving her her car-fare, expecting her to walk all the way in the face of such a storm.

"I declare, it is a thousand pities!" muttered Varrick.

In less time than it takes to tell it he had reached the spot where the girl lay prostrate.

Heavens! how thinly she was clad! And he shivered even from the depths of his fur-lined overcoat at the very thought of it.

Deftly as a woman might have done, he raised her, remembering that there was a drug store across the way to which he could carry her. For one instant his eyes rested on her face in the dim, uncertain, fading daylight; then an awful cry broke from his lips—a cry of horror.

"My God! is it Jessie Bain? Am I mad, or am I dreaming?"

He looked again. Surely there was no mistaking that lovely face, with the curling locks lying over her white forehead.

Do not censure him, that in that instant he forgot the whole world, only remembering that fate had given into his arms the one being in this wide earth his soul longed for. He had found Jessie Bain.

Mad with delight, he clasped her in his arms and covered her face with fervid kisses. He kissed the snowy cheeks and lips, and the cotton-gloved hands. Then the thought suddenly occurred to him that he was losing valuable time. Every moment was precious, her young life might be in jeopardy while he was keeping her out there in the bitter cold.

In a trice he tore off his warm fur coat, wrapped it about her, and hurried over to the drug store, bearing his beautiful burden as though she were but a child.

"This way!" he called out sharply to the clerk in attendance. "Attend quickly to this young lady! She has been overcome with the cold! She is dying!"

The young man behind the counter responded with alacrity, and hurriedly resorted to the restoratives usually applied in those cases, Hubert Varrick standing by, watching every action, his heart in his eyes, his face pale as death.

Every effort of the young man to revive Jessie Bain seemed futile.

"I should not wonder, sir, if this was a case of heart failure," he declared. "Generally they die instantly, though I have known them to linger for several hours. You had better summon an ambulance, sir, and have her taken to the hospital. There is one just around the corner. Shall I ring for it, sir?"

"No; I will carry her there myself. You say it is just around the corner?"

Feeing the man generously, even though he had failed to restore the poor girl, Hubert Varrick caught her in his arms once more, again faced the terrible storm with her, and arrived at the hospital, panting at every step, for he had run the entire distance.

He summoned a doctor. To him he stated his mission, adding that he feared the girl was dying, and that he would give half his fortune if the doctor would but save her life, as it was more precious to him than the whole world beside.

The man of medicine said it was only a question of suspended animation. If pneumonia did not set in, there was no cause for alarm.

Jessie was quickly given in charge of one of the nurses, a gentle, madonna-faced woman. She was quickly put to bed, and everything done for her that skill and experience could suggest. Hubert Varrick begged permission to sit by her couch and watch the progress of their efforts.

"Do your best," he cried, his strong voice quivering with emotion, "and I will make it worth your while. You can name your own price."

The long hours of the night passed; morning broke cold and gray through the eastern sky, making the soft lamp-light that flooded the room look pale and wan in the dim, gray morn. The white face lying against the pillow had never stirred, nor had the blue eyes unclosed. The sun was high in the heavens when it occurred to him, for the first time, that the folks would be greatly worried about him. During the night the girl's white lips had parted, and she murmured, faintly: "I must push on through the terrible storm, though the faintness of death seems creeping over me, for Miss Rosamond is waiting for the velvet ribbon."

Hubert Varrick's strained ears had caught the words as he bent over her, and as he heard them his rage knew no bounds, for it was clear enough to him now that Jessie Bain, the girl he loved, had been the victim of Rosamond Lee's cruelty. The blood fairly boiled in his veins. He felt that he could never look upon Rosamond Lee's face again.

He was so accustomed to terrible surprises that nothing seemed to affect him of late. That Jessie Bain should have found employment under his own grandfather's roof shocked him a little at first.

But as he began to fully realize it, he said to himself that it was the hand of fate that had led her there, that he might find her. It was not until the sun had climbed the horizon, had crossed it, and was sinking down on the other side, that consciousness came back to Jessie Bain. With the first fluttering of the white eyelids, the doctor in attendance motioned Hubert Varrick away.

"She must not see you," he said. "It might give her a set-back. Just now we can not be too careful of her."

This was a great disappointment to Varrick, but he tried to bear it patiently.

For two long and weary weeks Jessie Bain was too ill to leave the shelter of that roof. Hubert Varrick took rooms in a lodging-house opposite, that he might be near her at all times.

Great was Jessie Bain's consternation, when consciousness returned to her, to find herself in a hospital, with a kindly-faced nurse bending over her.

"What has happened?" she cried. "Why am I here? Ah, let me get back to Miss Rosamond!" she cried. "She will be so very angry with me."

Gently the nurse informed her that she had been there a fortnight. She told her how a gentleman had saved her from the terrible storm, bringing her there in his arms, his own coat wrapped about her, and how he had ever since spent his time hanging about the place, feeing with gold those who attended her to do everything in their power for her.

"I did not know that there was any one in this whole wide world that would do so much for me," murmured Jessie, in bewilderment. "Please thank him for me, kind nurse."

"Nay, you must do that yourself, child," said the woman, smilingly. "And let me tell you this: he seems to be greatly in love with you."

"It can not be."

"I assure you that it is quite true. Every one is speaking of how devoted he is to you. If I were you, I'd— Ah! here he comes now. I will leave you alone with him to thank him, my dear."

So saying, the nurse left the room.

"Little Jessie!" Hubert whispered, almost beside himself with joy.

"Mr. Varrick!" she breathed in a low voice of awe.

Then he poured a tale of passionate love into her ears, but before Jessie could answer he had caught the little hands again in his warm clasp, covered them with kisses, and was gone.

Jessie Bain tried to collect her scattered senses. Her head seemed in a whirl. All that had happened within the last few minutes appeared but the coinage of her own brain.

When the nurse came in again she found the girl feverish with excitement.

"Come, come, my dear; this will never do," said the nurse. "You will be sure to have a relapse if you are not very careful. Think how badly that would make the young man feel."

Jessie smiled. Suddenly a low cry broke from her lips, and she started up pale with emotion. She had suddenly recalled poor Margaret and she told the nurse the whole story.

"Give me her address, and I will telegraph there for you," said the nurse. "To be frank with you, the gentleman left a well-filled purse, which he bid us place at your disposal. You are to want for no luxury that money can purchase for you."

Jessie Bain was overcome by the wonderful kindness of Hubert Varrick. Her first thought was that she could never accept another penny, for she was too much indebted to him already. Then came the thought of Margaret—poor Margaret! She begged the nurse to send a telegram in all haste, informing the boarding-house keeper that the money for Margaret Moore's board would be forthcoming.

This request was carried out at once, and within an hour the answer came back that Jessie Bain's telegram had come too late. No money having come in time for the girl's board, she had been sent to one of the public asylums, and while en route there, by some means she had made her escape, and her whereabouts was then unknown.

Jessie's grief was great upon hearing this. The nurse believed that the bitter sobs which shook Jessie's slender frame would give her a relapse that would keep her there for many a day.

"There is but one thing to do," she said, trying to console Jessie, "and that is to get back your health and strength as soon as you can, and make a search for her. You will find her if you advertise and offer a reward to any one who will tell you of her whereabouts."

Surely, the money which Hubert Varrick had placed at her disposal could not be used for a nobler purpose; and then, if Heaven intended her to get well and strong again, she could soon pay him the amount borrowed. Again the nurse did everything in her power to carry out her patient's wishes. The advertisement duly appeared in the leading New York papers, but as the days passed, all hope that she would be able to find Margaret was abandoned.

In the third day after Hubert Varrick's departure, a long letter came for her.

"What do you think I have for you, Miss Bain?" said the nurse.

"Has the—the letter come that Mr. Varrick said he would write?" she asked, eagerly.

"That's just what it is," was the smiling reply; and the thick, white envelope was placed in her hands.

"I will leave you alone while you read it, Miss Bain," and added smilingly: "A young girl loves best to be alone when she reads such a letter as I imagine this to be. There—there; don't blush and look so embarrassed."

The next moment Jessie was alone with Hubert's letter.



With trembling hands the girl broke the seal, drew forth the missive, and slowly unfolded it. It was long and closely written:

"DEAR LITTLE JESSIE," it began, "I know that the contents of this letter will surprise you, but the thoughts born of longings impossible to suppress, even though I would, fill my brain to overflowing and must find utterance in these pages.

"There are many men who can express their heart-thoughts in burning words, but this boon is not given to me. I can only tell you my hopes and fears and longings in the old, conventional words; but the earnest wish is mine that they may find an echo in your heart, little girl.

"With your woman's quick wit you must have read my secret—which every one else seems to have discerned—and that is, I love you, dear—love you with all the strength of my heart.

"I wonder, Jessie, if you could ever care enough for me to marry me.

"There, the words are written at last. I intended them to seem so impressive, but they read far too coldly on the white paper, to express the world of tenderness in my soul which would make them eloquent if I could but hold your hands clasped tightly in my own at this moment and whisper them to you.

"If you can but care for me, dear Jessie, I will be the happiest man the whole world holds. Your 'yes' or 'no' will mean life or death for me.

"I can not think, after all that I have gone through, that Heaven would be so cruel as to have me hope for your love in vain. When I come to you, Jessie, I shall ask you for my answer. I am an impatient lover; I count the long days and hours that must wing their slow flight by until we meet again.

"I will not take you to the home of my mother, Jessie, dear, for I quite believe you would be happier with me elsewhere. There is a beautiful little cottage in the suburbs of the city, a charming, home-like place. By the time that this letter reaches you I will have purchased it, so confident am I that I can win you, little Jessie.

"I shall set workmen upon it at once, to make a veritable fairy's bower of it ere you behold it, and it will be ready for us by early spring.

"We will spend the intervening time—which will be our honey-moon—either in Florida or abroad, as best pleases you. Your will shall be my law. I will make you so happy, Jessie, that you will never regret the hour in which you gave your heart to me.

"It will take but a day for this letter to reach you, and another must elapse ere I can hear from you. They will be two days hard for me to endure, Jessie. When a man is in love—deeply, desperately in love—it is madness for him to attempt to do any kind of business, as his mind is not on it, he can think of but one object—the girl whom he idolizes. His one hope is to be near her, his one prayer is that her love is his, in return for the mighty affection that sways his whole being, and leads him into the ideal—the soul-world, which throws the halo of memory and anticipation around the image of her whom he loves.

"Yours lovingly, "Hubert Varrick."

Jessie Bain read the letter through, the color coming and going on her face, her heart aglow. Once, twice, thrice she read it through, then, with a little sob, she pressed it closely to her breast.

"Hubert Varrick loves me!" Jessie whispered the words over and over again to herself, wondering if she should not awake presently and find it only an empty dream.

He was waiting for her answer. She smiled at the thought.

"My darling Hubert, my love, my king, as though it could be anything else but yes—yes, a thousand times yes!" she murmured.

But even in this moment of ecstatic joy, the sword of destiny fell swiftly and unerringly upon her hapless golden head.

God pity and help her in her mortal anguish, for in this moment she remembered that she had given Hubert's mother her sacred promise, nay, her vow, that she would never cross her son's path again.

When the nurse returned, after the lapse of perhaps a quarter of an hour, to Jessie's bedside, she found the girl sobbing as though her heart would break, and the letter torn into a thousand pieces, which were fluttering over the counterpane.

"I hope you have not heard any bad news, Miss Bain," she said, earnestly.

Jessie raised her tear-stained face from her hands, and smiled up into her face, the most pitiful smile that ever was seen.

"I have heard music so sweet that it might have opened up heaven to me, if fate had not been against me," she murmured, with quivering lips, the tears starting afresh to her blue eyes.

These words completely puzzled the old nurse. But ere she could utter the words on her lips, Jessie continued:

"I wish I could have some writing materials; I should like to answer this letter which I have received."

"Do you think you feel strong enough to attempt to write it now?" she asked dubiously.

"Yes," said Jessie; adding under her breath: "I must write it quickly, while I have the courage to do it."

The pen which she held trembled in her hand. But at length, after many futile attempts, she penned the following epistle:

"Dear Mr. Varrick,—Your letter has just reached me, and oh! I can not tell you how happy your words made me. But, Mr. Varrick, it can not be; we are destined by a fate most cruel, to be nothing to each other. I may as well tell you the truth— I do love you with all my heart. But there is a barrier between us which can never be bridged over in this world. Your mother knows what it is; she will tell you about it.

"I intend leaving this place to-day, and going out into the coldness and darkness of the world. Please do not attempt to find me, as seeing you again would only be more pitiful for me. But take this assurance with you down to the very grave: I shall always love you while my life lasts. Your image, and yours alone, will forever be enshrined in my heart.

"Good-bye again, dear Hubert, I bless you from the bottom of my heart for the love you have offered me and the honor you have paid me in asking me to be your wife. Think kindly of me some time.

"Yours, with a breaking heart, "Jessie Bain."

When next the nurse made her rounds, to her great amazement she found the girl, weak as she was, already dressed, and putting on her hat. Nurses and doctors were unable to change her determination to leave.

"What of the young gentleman from whom you had the letter?" asked Jessie's nurse.

"The letter that I have written is to him," she said, in a very husky voice. "He will understand. I will leave it in your care to send to him, if you will be so kind."

The nurse took charge of the letter.

"I do not wish you to mail it until to-night," said Jessie, eagerly, "for I— I will not be able to leave ere that time. You have been so kind to me," she added, "Oh, believe me that I do not know how to thank you for all you have done!"

"A little more strength would not have come amiss to you," one of the doctors said gravely. "One thing, however, I insist upon—rest until late in the afternoon, and then leave us if you really must."

With a little sigh Jessie took off her hat again.

Remaining there a few hours longer would not matter much, she told herself; Hubert Varrick would not receive her letter until the following morning. She could leave that night, and be so far away by day-break that he could never find her. But what strange freaks Fate plays upon us to carry out its designs.

When the nurse left Jessie Bain, she took the all-important letter with her, and quite forgetful of the promise which she had made the girl, not to send the letter out until night, she proceeded to stamp it as she saw the letter-carrier stop at the door to take up the mail.

It would be very nice to send it by special delivery, she thought. He will receive it all the sooner; and hastily adding the additional stamp required, she handed it to the postman.

An hour later it was on its way, and a little past noon Jessie's letter reached its destination and was promptly delivered.

Hubert had been summoned to his mother's home from the hotel where he had been stopping. She had been seized with a serious illness, and had hastily sent for him to come to her at once. He had responded with alacrity to his mother's telegram. He had scarcely divested himself of his fur overcoat in the corridor, ere the special messenger arrived with Jessie's letter. He thrust it into his pocket, this sweet missive, to read at his leisure, murmuring as he did so: "This is neither the time nor place to learn the contents of my darling's letter. I must be all alone when I read it."

Thrusting it into his pocket, Varrick hurried quickly to his mother's boudoir. With a great cry of relief she reached out her hand to him. "Thank God, you are here at last."

The trouble about Jessie Bain had been temporarily bridged over when he had married Gerelda; yet, ever since, there had been a constraint between mother and son which she very perceptibly felt.

She had always said to herself that he would never forget Jessie Bain, and when he became a widower the terror was strong within her that he would make an attempt to find her.

"Will the girl keep her promise," she asked herself over and over again, "and never cross his path again?"

It all rested on that. But it weighed heavily on her mind that she had accused the girl wrongfully, and she told herself that God would surely take vengeance upon her if she stood at heaven's gate with that sin on her soul.

In this hour, she must tell Hubert the truth, keeping nothing back. She would not implicate herself, as that would bring horror into his eyes. He must never know that she had concocted that plot in order to ruin the girl.

Hubert greeted his mother with all the old-time boyish, affectionate ardor and she asked herself how she could tell him the truth—that which was weighing so heavily on her mind.

She gave a glad cry as he came up to the velvet divan upon which she reclined, and held out her arms to him.



"Hubert, my boy!" she murmured, tremulously.

"Mother!" he answered, embracing her; then, flinging himself on a low hassock by her side, he caught both of her hands in his and kissed them.

"I am so glad you are come, my son," she breathed—"I am so ill!"

He tried to cheer her with his brave, bright words; but she only smiled at him faintly, wistfully.

She brought round the subject uppermost in her mind.

"I wonder what has became of Jessie Bain?" she asked, abruptly.

"Why do you ask me, mother?" he replied, evasively, flushing to the roots of his curling hair—and that blush betrayed to her keen eyes that he had not as yet lost interest in the girl.

"I want you to promise me, Hubert," she whispered, "that if anything should ever happen to me, you will not think of even searching for Jessie Bain, in order to marry her."

He dropped the white, jeweled hands he held, and looked at her in grave apprehension, a troubled look in his earnest eyes.

"I wish I could promise what you ask, mother," he said; "but unfortunately, I— I can not; it is too late! I have already searched for Jessie Bain, and found her, and have offered her my heart and hand."

A low cry from his mother arrested the words on his lips.

"I knew it— I feared it!" cried Mrs. Varrick, beating the air distressedly with her jeweled hands. "But it must not be, Hubert."

"It is too late for interference now, mother; the fiat has gone forth."

Still she looked at him with dilated eyes.

"Would you marry her against my will?" she gasped, looking at him with a gaze which he never liked to remember in the years that followed.

"Do not force me to answer at such a time, mother," he said, distressedly. "I could not tell you a falsehood, and the truth might be unpleasant for you to hear."

"She will not marry you!" cried Mrs. Varrick. "I know a very good reason why she will not."

A smile curved the corners of her son's mobile lips, and he drew from his pocket the precious missive and held it up before her.

"I do not know of any reason why I should keep anything from you, mother," he said. "This letter is Jessie's acceptance."

A grayish pallor stole over Mrs. Varrick's face.

Even in death—for she supposed herself to be dying—the ruling passion that had taken possession of her life, was still strong within her.

Her idolized son must never make such a mes-alliance as to marry Jessie Bain—a girl so far beneath him.

"I have not as yet read its contents," continued Hubert. "If you like, mother, I will read it aloud to you, and upon reflection, when you see how well we love each other, you will realize how cruel it would be to attempt to tear our lives asunder. I am pledged to her, mother, by the most solemn vows a man can make; and though I love you dearly, mother, not even for your sake will I give her up. Only a craven lover would stoop to that. A man's deepest and truest love is given to the woman whom he would make his wife. His affection for his mother comes next."

Mrs. Varrick was too overcome for speech by the angry tempest that raged in her soul.

By this time Hubert Varrick had broken the seal, drawn forth the letter, and commenced reading its contents aloud. He had scarcely reached the second page ere he stopped short, dumfounded; for there the words confronted him which made the blood turn to ice in his veins, and his heart to almost stop beating.

He sprung to his feet and looked at his mother.

"Mother," he cried, hoarsely, "what can this mean? Jessie refuses me, and she says you know the reason why she must do so. What is that reason, mother? I beg you to tell me."

"She has given me her solemn promise not to marry you. That much I may tell you, nothing more," returned Mrs. Varrick, huskily.

"But it is my right to know, mother," he cried, sharply. "You must not keep it from me. I tell you that my whole life lies in the issue."

"Step to my desk in the corner—the key is in it—and you will find in the right-hand drawer a folded paper; bring it to me. This will tell you what you want to know," she said, unsteadily, as he placed the paper in her hand. "Open it, and read it for yourself."

This he did with trembling hands; but when his eye had traversed half the page, he flung the note from him as though it were a viper that had stung and mortally wounded him.

"You see it is a confession from Jessie Bain that she stole my bracelet; it is her written acknowledgment, with her name affixed. That is the reason why she feels there is a barrier between you. Our ancestors, Hubert, have always been noted for being proud, high-bred men and women. No stain has ever darkened their fair names. If you wedded this girl, you would be the first to bring shame upon the name of Varrick."

"Not so, mother," he cried. "Despite the evidence of my own eyes, I can not, I will not believe my darling guilty. There is some terrible mistake—something which I do not understand. I will make it the work of my life to clear up this mystery, and to prove to you, despite all the evidence against my darling, that she is innocent."

"Will you make a vow to me that you will never marry her until her innocence is proven?" she cried, seizing Hubert's hand and pressing it spasmodically in both of hers. "Remember that I, as your mother, have a right to demand this—you owe it to me."

For a moment Hubert Varrick hesitated.

"If you are so sure of her innocence, surely you need have no hesitation," his mother whispered.

Hubert Varrick did not speak for an instant; a thousand tumultuous thoughts surged through his brain.

Slowly, solemnly, he turned toward his mother.

"So sure am I that I can prove her innocence, that I will accede to your request, mother dear," he answered, in a clear, firm voice, his eyes meeting her own.

"I am content," murmured Mrs. Varrick, sinking back upon her pillow.

She said to herself that if he followed that condition he would never wed Jessie Bain.

Hubert rose quickly to his feet.

"I will take you at your word, mother," he declared promptly, rising suddenly to his feet. "You shall hear from me in regard to this within three days' time. I am going direct to Jessie. If your symptoms should change for the worse, telegraph me."

Kissing his mother hurriedly, and before she could make any protest to this arrangement, Hubert hurried out of the room and out of the house.

He was barely in time to catch the train for Albany, and arrived there just as the dusk was creeping up and the golden-hearted stars were coming out.

He made his way with all haste to the place where he had left Jessie. He must see her, and have a talk with her. He would not take "no" for an answer.

The neat little maid who opened the door for him recognized the gentleman at once.

He had placed a bill in her hand at parting, and she was not likely to forget the handsome young man.

He was shown into the visitors' sitting-room.

"I should like to be permitted to see Miss Bain," he said. "Will you kindly take that message for me to the matron in charge?"

The girl looked at him with something very like astonishment in her face.

"Did you not know, sir—" she asked, somewhat curiously, as she hesitated on the threshold.

"Know what?" he demanded, brusquely. "What is there to know, my good girl?"

"Miss Bain has gone, sir," she replied. "She left the place for good quite an hour ago!"

Varrick was completely astounded. He could scarcely believe the evidence of his own senses; his ears must have deceived him.

At this juncture the matron entered. She corroborated the maid's statement— Miss Bain had left the place quite an hour before.

"Could you tell me where she went?" he asked.

"She intended taking the train for New York. She was very weak, by no means able to leave here, sir. We tried to keep her; but it was of no use; she had certainly made up her mind to go, and go she did!"

It seemed to Hubert Varrick that life was leaving his body.

How he made his way out of the place, he never afterward remembered.

There was but one other course to pursue, and that was, to go to New York by the first outgoing train, and try to find her.

Hailing a passing cab, he sprang into it, remembering just in time that the New York express left the depot at seven o'clock. If the man drove sharp he might make it, but it would be as much as he could do.

He gave the man a double fare, who, whipping up his horses, fairly whirled down the snow-packed road in the direction of the depot.

"I am afraid that I can not make the train, sir," called the driver, hoarsely, as Hubert Varrick leaned out of the window, crying excitedly that he would quadruple his fare if he would make the horses go faster.

Again he plied his whip to the flanks of the horses, but they could not increase their speed, for they were doing their very best at that moment.

Nearer and nearer sounded the shrieking whistle of the far-off train. They reached the depot just as the train swept round the bend of the road.

"Thank God, I am in time!" cried Hubert Varrick, as he rushed along the platform. "If I had missed this train, I should have had to wait until to-morrow morning. I shall have little enough time to purchase my ticket. I—"

The rest of the sentence was never uttered. He stopped short. Standing on the platform, watching with wistful eyes the incoming train, was Jessie Bain!

A great cry broke from his lips. In an instant he was standing beside her, her hands in his, crying excitedly:

"Oh! Jessie, Jessie. Thank Heaven I am in time!"

"Mr. Varrick!" she gasped, faintly. At that instant the train stopped at the station.

"You must not go on board!" he cried, excitedly. "Jessie, you must listen to what I have to say to you," he commanded. "You must not go to New York."

There was a sternness in his voice that held her spell-bound for an instant.

"Come into the waiting-room," he said. "I must speak with you."

Drawing her hand within his arm, he fairly compelled her to obey him; and as they crossed the threshold the train thundered on again.

The room was crowded. This certainly was not the time or place to utter the burning words that were on his lips. An idea occurred to him. He would get a coach, drive about the city, through the park, and as they rode, he could talk with her entirely free from interruption.

Hailing a coach that stood by the curbstone, he proceeded to assist his companion into it. She was too overcome by emotion to exert any will of her own.

He took his seat by her side, and a moment later they were bowling slowly down the wide avenue through which he had driven so furiously but a little while before.

"Now, Jessie," he began, tremulously; "listen to me, I pray you. I have traveled all the way back to Boston for your dear sake, to see you, to hold your hands, to speak with you, and to tell you I do not consider the little tear-blotted note you sent me, a fitting answer to my letter. I can not take 'no,' for an answer, Jessie, dear. You could not mean it. When I read what you wrote me, in answer to my burning words of love, it nearly unmanned me. You said, in that little note, that you did care for me; you acknowledged it. Now, I ask you, why, if this be true, would you doom me, as well as yourself, to a life of misery. You say there is a mystery, deep and fathomless, which separates us from each other for all time to come? This I must refuse to believe. You say it is something which my mother knows? Will you confess to me, Jessie, my darling, my precious one, just what you mean? Remember that the happiness of two lives hangs upon your answer."

The girl was crying as though her heart would break, her lovely face buried in her hands.

He sat by her side very gravely, waiting until the storm of tears should have subsided.

He well knew that it was better that such grief, which seemed to rend her very soul, should waste itself in tears. At length, when her sobs grew fainter and she became calmer, he ventured to speak once more.

"I beg you to tell me, Jessie," he went on, "just what it is that holds our two lives asunder."

He longed with all his soul to take her in his arms, pillow the golden head on his breast, and let her weep her grief out there. But he must not; he must control the longing that was eating his heart away.

"Be candid with me, Jessie," he said, his voice trembling and husky. "Do not conceal anything from me. The hour has come when nothing but frankness will answer, and I must know all, from beginning to end. What is it, I ask again, that my mother knows which you alluded to in your note, saying that it had the power to part us? Dear little Jessie, sweet one, confide in me! I repeat, keep nothing from me."

Through the tears which lay trembling on her long lashes, Jessie raised her lovely blue eyes and looked at him, her lips quivering piteously.

For an instant she could not speak, so great was her emotion; then by a mighty effort she controlled herself, and answered in a broken voice:

"I— I made a solemn pledge to your mother, the day I left your house, that I would never cross your path again, that I— I should do my best to avoid you and steal quietly away out of your life. I— I signed the paper and left it in your mother's hands. That, and that alone, satisfied her. Then I went away out of your life, though it almost broke my heart to do so. I— I have kept my promise to her. I meant to go away and to never look upon your face, even though I knew that Heaven had answered my prayer and given me your love—which I prize more than life itself—when everything else in this world was taken from me."

As Varrick listened, a terrible whiteness had overspread his face.

"Answer me this, Jessie," he asked; in the greatest agitation: "Why did you sign the other paper which you left with my mother that day? Answer me, Jessie—you must!"

"I signed no other paper than that which contained the promise I have just spoken to you about," the girl returned earnestly, puzzled as to what he could mean.

For answer, he drew forth the note which he had taken from his mother's writing-desk and placed in his breast pocket, and put it in Jessie's hand.

"This note has been written by my mother," he said, "and this is your signature, which I would know anywhere in the world, my darling," he went on, huskily. "Oh, my love, my love! explain it to me!"

She had taken the paper from his hands, and run her eyes rapidly over the written words. They seemed to stand out in letters of fire. Her brain whirled around; her very senses seemed leaving her.

"Oh, Hubert! Hubert! listen to me!" she cried, forgetful of her surroundings, as she flung herself on her knees at his feet. "This is not the paper I signed, although the signature is so startlingly like my own that I am bewildered. I signed a paper which said that I would never cross your path again; but not this one—oh, not this one! I— I never saw this paper before. Oh, Hubert— Mr. Varrick— I plead with you not to believe that I could ever have signed a paper acknowledging that I took your mother's diamond bracelet! I have never taken anything which did not belong to me in all my life. I would have died first—starved on the street!"

Words can not describe what the thoughts were that coursed through Hubert Varrick's brain as he slowly raised her.

"Tell me, Jessie," he cried, "did you read over the paper which you signed?"

"No," she sobbed; "I did not read it. Your mother wrote it, telling me what was in it—that I was never to cross your path again, because she wished it so, and I signed it without reading it. Indeed, I could not have read a line to have saved my life, my eyes were so blinded with tears, just as they are now."

A grayish pallor spread over his face; a startling revelation had come to him: his mother had written the terrible document, every line of which she knew to be false, relying upon the girl's agitation not to discover its contents ere she signed it!

Yes, that was the solution of the mystery; he saw through the whole contemptible affair.

Only his mother's illness prevented him from stopping at the first telegraph office and sending a dispatch to her to let her know that he had discovered all.

"You do not believe it—you will not believe that I took the bracelet?" Jessie was sobbing out. "Speak to me, oh, I implore you, and tell me that you believe me innocent!"

He turned suddenly and took her in his arms.

"Believe in your innocence, my darling?" he answered, suddenly. "Yes, before Heaven I do! You are innocent—innocent as a little child. I intend to take you directly to my mother, and this mystery shall then be unraveled."

Despite the girl's protestations, he insisted that it must be so, and the first outgoing train bore them on their way back to Boston.

It so happened that he found a lady acquaintance on board, an old friend of his mother, who willingly took charge of Jessie on the journey.

"Keep up a brave heart, little Jessie," whispered Hubert, as he bid the ladies good-night. "All will come out well. Nothing on earth shall take you from me again."



When the train reached Boston, Varrick took a cab at once for his home, Jessie and his mother's friend accompanying him. They had barely reached the entrance gate, ere they saw, through the dense foliage of trees that surrounded the old mansion, that lights were moving quickly in the east wing of the house that was occupied by his mother.

His sharp ring had scarcely died away when the footman came hurriedly to the door.

"Now that I have seen you safely home, with Miss Bain beneath your mother's roof, I shall have to hurry on," declared his mother's friend. "I know your mother will forgive me, Hubert, for not stopping a few days, or at least a few hours, when you explain to her that it is a necessity for me to resume my journey. You must see me back to the carriage."

Persuasion was of no avail. Leaving Jessie in the vestibule for a few moments, Hubert complied with her request. When he returned a moment later, he found her in earnest conversation with the servant.

"Oh, Mr. Varrick— Hubert!" Jessie cried excitedly. "You must go to your mother at once. I hear she is very, very ill, and that all of the servants, for some reason, have fled from the house. Even the nurse, for some reason, refused to remain. Oh, Mr. Varrick!" she repeated, eagerly, "let me go to her bedside and nurse her. She is out of her head, and will never know."

Tears rushed to Varrick's eyes.

"You are an angel, Jessie!" he cried, kissing her hand warmly. "It shall be as you wish. Follow me!"

They entered noiselessly. Mrs. Varrick was tossing restlessly to and fro on a bed of pain. The family doctor was bending over her, with a look of alarm in his face. Hubert stole softly to the bedside, Jessie following.

All in an instant, before the doctor could spring forward to prevent them, both had suddenly bent down and kissed the sufferer repeatedly.

"Great God!" gasped the doctor, "the mischief has been done! I did not have an instant's time to warn you. Your mother is alarmingly ill with that dread disease, small-pox! I am forced to say to you that after what has occurred—your contact with my patient, I shall be obliged to quarantine you both."

"Great God!" Hubert cried, turning pale as death as he looked at Jessie.

"Do not fear for me, Mr. Varrick," she said, "I am not afraid."

"For myself I do not care, for I passed through such a siege when I was a child, and came out of it unscathed. But you, Jessie? Oh, it must not be—it shall not be—that you, too, must suffer this dread contagion!"

"It is too late now for useless reflection. It would be better to face the consequences than seek to avoid them. If it is destined that either one of you should succumb to this disease, you could not avoid it, believe me, though you flew to the other end of the world. Take it very calmly, and hope for the best. Forget your danger, now that you are face to face with it, and let us do our utmost to relieve my suffering patient."

"He is right," said Jessie.

In this Hubert Varrick was forced to concur.

"Heaven bless you for your kindness!" he murmured.

The touch of those cool, soft hands on Mrs. Varrick's burning brow had a most marvelous effect in soothing her. During the fortnight that followed she would have no one else by her bedside but Jessie; she would take medicine from no one else. She called for her incessantly while she was out of her sight.

"If she recovers, it will all be due to you, Miss Bain," the doctor said one day.

There came a day when the ravages of the terrible disease had worn themselves out, and Mrs. Varrick opened her eyes to consciousness. Her life had been spared; but, ah! never again in this world would any one look with anything save horror upon her. Her son dreaded the hour when she should look in the mirror and see the poor scarred face reflected there.

When she realized that she owed her very life to the girl who had watched over her so ceaselessly and that that girl was Jessie Bain, her emotion was great. She buried her poor face in her hands, and they heard her murmur brokenly:

"God is surely heaping coals of fire upon my head."

On the very day that she was able to leave her couch for the first time, and to lean on that strong brave young arm that helped her into the sunny drawing-room, Jessie herself was stricken down.

In those days that had dragged their slow flight by, Mrs. Varrick had experienced a great change of heart. She had learned to love Jessie a thousand times more than she ever hated her. And now when this calamity came upon the girl, her grief knew no bounds.

What if the girl should die, and Hubert should still believe her guilty of the theft of the diamonds. God would never forgive her for her sin. There was but one way to atone for it, and that was to make a full confession.

It was the hardest task of her life when her son, whom she had sent for, stood before her. When she attempted to utter the words, to lead to the subject uppermost in her mind, her heart grew faint, her lips faltered.

"Come and sit beside me, Hubert; I have something to tell you," she said.

He did as she requested, attempting to take her thin, white hands down from her poor disfigured face.

"Promise, beforehand, that you will not hate me."

"I could not hate you, mother," he said, gently.

Burying her face still deeper in the folds of her handkerchief, while her form swayed to and fro, she told him all in broken words. At length she had finished, and a silence like death fell between them. Raising her head slowly from the folds of her handkerchief, she cast her eyes fearfully in his direction. To her intense amazement, she saw him leaning back comfortably in his seat.

"Hubert!" she gasped, "are you not bitterly angry with me? Speak!"

"I was very angry, I confess, mother, when this was first known to me; but I have had time since to think the matter over calmly. You acted under the pressure of intense excitement, I concluded, and pride, which was always your besetting sin, mother; and that gained the ascendency over you to the extent that you would rather have seen Jessie in a prison cell, though she was innocent, than see her my wife!"

"You knew it before I told you?" she exclaimed. "But how did you find out?"

"That must be my secret, for the time being, mother," he returned. "Be thankful that no harm came from your nefarious scheme. If Jessie had been thrown into a prison cell and persecuted unjustly, I admit that I should never have forgiven you while life lasted. Now, every thought is swallowed up in the fear that her illness may terminate as yours did, mother. But this I say to you: if she were the most-scarred creature on the face of the earth, I should still love her and wish to marry her."

"I should not oppose it, my son," said his mother.

The terrible calamity which Mrs. Varrick had so long dreaded had not happened—her son had not turned against her.

We will pass over the fortnight that followed. Heaven had been merciful. Despite the fact that she had nursed Mrs. Varrick day and night, she herself had suffered but a slight attack of the dread contagion, and there were tears in both Hubert's and his mother's eyes when the doctor informed them that there would be no trace of the dread disease on the girl's fair face.

The road back to health and strength was but a short one, for Jessie had youth to help her in the great struggle. When she found that Mrs. Varrick had become reconciled to her, and had even consented to her marriage with her idolized son, and was laying plans for it, her joy knew no bounds.

It was the happiest household ever seen that gathered around Jessie Bain when she was able to sit up. All the old servants were so glad to see Jessie her bright, merry self once more, and to have their young master Hubert and pretty Jessie reunited. They talked of their coming wedding as the greatest event that would ever take place there, and they made the greatest preparations for the coming marriage.

Again cards were sent out, and the first person who received one was Rosamond Lee.

Her amazement and rage knew no bounds. She had never heard from Jessie Bain since the hour she was sent out in that terrible storm. Nor had she ever seen Hubert Varrick since, nor heard from him. Somehow it had run in her mind that he might have met the girl, and she had told him all that had happened; and she decided that, under existing circumstances, she had better remain away from the wedding.

"There is no use in my remaining in this house, with this fussy old man and woman," she said flinging down the invitation, which she had been reading aloud to her maid. "I only came to this lonely place with the hope of winning handsome Hubert Varrick, and I have fooled away my time here all in vain, it seems. We had better get away at once."

Despite the protestations of old Mr. and Mrs. Bassett, Rosamond Lee and her maid left the house that very day.

The servants of the place were indeed glad to get rid of them; and as they were being driven away in the Bassett carriage, the maid, looking back by chance, saw every one of them standing at an upper window, making wild grimaces at them, which Rosamond Lee's maid venomously returned, saying to herself that she should never see them again.

Rosamond Lee's home was in New York City, and it was not until she got on the train bound for the metropolis that she gave full vent to her feelings and railed bitterly against the unkindness of fate in giving a grand man like Hubert Varrick to such a little nobody as that miserable, white-faced Jessie Bain.

"I hope she will never be happy with him!" she added, in a burst of bitterness.

When they reached the city, they drove directly to the boarding-house where they were accustomed to stop. As strange fate would have it, it was the very boarding-house beneath whose roof Jessie Bain and Margaret had found shelter when Jessie had come to New York in search of work. The landlady was very glad to welcome back Miss Rosamond Lee and her maid.

"You came back quite unexpectedly, Miss Lee," said the landlady. "We can get your room ready, however, without delay. There is a young girl in the little hall bedroom that your maid has always had. Still, as she doesn't pay anything, she can be moved. By the way, I want you to take notice of her when you see her. She's as pretty as a picture but she's not quite right in her head.

"She was brought here by a young girl who took pity on her, and while the young girl was off securing work, she suddenly became so unmanageable that we thought the best thing to do was to send her to an asylum. But on her way there she made her escape from the vehicle. The driver never missed her until he had reached his destination.

"Search was made for her, and for many weeks we attempted to trace her, but it was all of no avail. Only last night, by the merest chance, we came face to face with her at a flower-stand, where they had taken her for her pretty face, to make sales for them. I brought her home at once, for there had been a good reward offered to any one who would find her.

"Here another difficulty presented itself.

"The young girl who caused the reward to be offered is now missing—at least, I can not find her."

"Why don't you insert a 'personal' in the paper?" drawled Rosamond Lee.

"That would be a capital idea. Gracious! I wonder that I did not think of it before," said the landlady. "But, dear me! I'm not a good hand at composing anything of that kind for the paper."

"I'll write it out for you, if you like," said Rosamond, indolently.

The landlady took her at her word.

"The name of the young girl whom I wish to find is Jessie Bain," she began.

A great cry broke from Rosamond Lee's lips, and her face grew ashen.

"Did I hear you say Jessie Bain?" she asked.

"Yes; that was the name," returned the landlady, wonderingly. "Do you know her?"

"Yes— I don't know. Describe her. It must be one and the same person," she added under her breath.

"I shouldn't be at all surprised," continued the woman, "for she went to Albany, the very place you have just come from."

"It's the same one," cried Rosamond Lee. "Tell me the story of this demented girl over again in all its details. I was not paying attention before. I did not half listen to all you said."

The landlady went over the story a second time for Rosamond's benefit.

Miss Lee meanwhile paced the room excitedly up and down.

"I'll tell you what I think," she cried excitedly. "Those two girls are surely adventuresses of the worst type. You say at first that she called the demented girl her sister, and then afterward admitted that she was not. You see, there was something wrong from the start. Now let me tell you an intensely interesting sequel to your story: The girl Jessie Bain has, since the few short weeks that she left your place, captured in the matrimonial noose one of the wealthiest young men in Boston."

"Well, well what a marvelous story!" declared the landlady; and her opinion of Jessie Bain went up forthwith instead of being lowered, as Rosamond calculated it would be.

"The idea of an adventuress daring to attempt to capture Hubert Varrick!" the girl cried. "That is the point I want you to see. I have a great plan," continued Rosamond. "I will write to Hubert Varrick at once, that he may save himself from the snare which is being laid for his unwary feet by that cunning creature, or I will go to his mother and tell her all about it. I will make it a point to have a talk with this Margaret Moore at once. Do send her in to me."

The landlady could not very well refuse the request so eagerly made. When Margaret Moore came into the room, a few minutes later, and Rosamond's eyes fell upon her, she gave a sudden start, mentally ejaculating:

"Great goodness! where have I seen that girl before? Her face is certainly familiar!"



Rosamond Lee stared hard at the lovely girl as she advanced toward where she sat.

"Where have I seen that face before?" she asked herself, in wonder. "Come and sit down beside me," she said, with a winning smile, as she made room for her on the divan. "I would like so much to talk with you.

"I have heard all of your story," she continued, "and I feel so sorry for you! I sent for you to tell you if there is any way that I can aid you in searching for your sister, I shall be only too happy to do so."

"The young girl you speak of is not my sister," corrected Margaret; "but I love her quite as dearly as though she were."

"Not your sister?" repeated Rosamond.

"No," was the answer; "but I love her quite as much as though she were."

"Tell me about her."

Margaret leaned forward, thoughtful for a moment, looking with dreamy eyes into the fire.

"I have very little to tell," she said. "I have not known the young girl as long as people imagine. Her uncle saved me from a wrecked steamboat, and she nursed me back to health and strength. Who I am or what I was before that accident, I can not remember; everything seems a blank to me. There are whole days even now when the darkness of death creeps over my mind, and I do not realize what is taking place about me. This sweet, young girl has been my faithful friend, even after her uncle died, sharing her every penny with me. Now she is lost to me forever. She went away, and I can not trace her. There is another feeling which sometimes steals over me," murmured Margaret, "a thought which is cruel, and which I can not shake off, that sometimes impresses me strangely, that somehow we have met in some other world, and that she was my enemy."

"What a strange notion!" said Rosamond.

"Oh, that thought has grieved me so!" continued Margaret, in a low, sad voice.

"I hear that she left you to go on the stage," said Rosamond.

"Yes; that is quite true," was the reply. "She went with a manager who was stopping at this house."

"Supposing that I should put you on the track of your friend, would you—"

"Do you know where she is?"

"I think I do," was Rosamond's guarded answer. "But what I was going to say is, if I take you to a gentleman who knows her whereabouts, will you tell him, as you have told me, that she went off with a strange man to be an actress?"

"Yes, indeed; why not?" returned Margaret.

"We will take the afternoon train," suggested Rosamond.

The landlady made no objection to this, and the first act in the great tragedy was begun as the Boston express moved slowly out of the depot, bearing with it Rosamond Lee and her companion.

On their journey Rosamond talked incessantly of Jessie Bain, plying the girl beside her with every conceivable question concerning her, until at last Margaret grew quite restless under the ceaseless cross-examination. All unconsciously, her manner grew haughty, and Rosamond noticed it.

At a way-station, some twenty miles this side of Boston, a tall, dark-bearded man boarded the train. The only seat vacant was the one across the aisle from the two girls. This he took, and was soon immersed in the columns of the paper which he had taken from his pocket.

"Are we almost there?" exclaimed Margaret.

The stranger across the aisle started violently and looked around.

"That voice!" he muttered.

There was but one being in this world with accents like it, and that was Gerelda Northrup, who lay in her watery grave somewhere in the St. Lawrence River.

Captain Frazier—for it was he—gave another quick glance at the two girls opposite him, and bent forward in his seat, that he might catch a better view of the one nearest him, whose face was averted.

Again she spoke, and this time the accents were more startlingly familiar than ever. Frazier sprang to his feet, walked down to the end of the car, then turned and slowly retraced his steps, watching the girl intently the while.

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