So absorbed was he in his newly-recovered treasure, that he did not observe the fiery eye, the glittering teeth, and clenched first of Durward Bellmont, who had returned from his walk, and who, in coming up to his, room, had recognized the tones of his father's voice. Recoiling backward a step or two, he was just in time to see 'Lena as she threw herself into Mr. Graham's, arms—in time to hear the tender words of endearment lavished upon her by his father. Staggering backward, he caught at the banister to keep from falling, while a moan of anguish came from his ashen lips. Alone in his room, he grew calmer, though his heart still quivered with unutterable agony as he strode up and down the room, exclaiming, as he had once done before, "I would far rather see her dead than thus—my lost, lost 'Lena!"
Then, in the deep bitterness of his spirit, he cursed his father, whom he believed to be far more guilty than she. "I cannot meet him," thought he; "there is murder at my heart, and I must away ere he knows of my presence."
Suiting the action to the word, he hastened down the stairs, glancing back once, and seeing 'Lena reclining upon his father's arm, while her eyes were raised to his with a sweet, confiding smile, which told of perfect happiness.
"Thank God that I am unarmed, else he could not live," thought he, hurrying into the bar-room, where he placed in Uncle Timothy's hands double the sum due for himself and 'Lena, and then, without a word of explanation, he walked away.
He was a good pedestrian, and preferring solitude in his present state of feeling, he determined to go on foot to Canandaigua, a distance of little more than a dozen miles. Meantime, Mr. Graham was learning from 'Lena the cause of her being there, and though she, as far as possible, softened the fact of his having been accessory to her misfortunes, he felt it none the less keenly, and would frequently interrupt her with the exclamation that it was the result of his cowardice—his despicable habit of secrecy. When she spoke of the curl which his wife had burned, he seemed deeply affected, groaning aloud as he hid his face in his hands,
"And she found it—she burned it," said he; "and it was all I had left of my Helena. I cut it from her head on the morning of my departure, when she lay sleeping, little dreaming of my cruel desertion. But," he added, "I can bear it better now that I have you, her living image, for what she was when last I saw her, you are now."
Their conversation then turned upon Durward, and with the tact he so well knew how to employ, Mr. Graham drew from his blushing daughter a confession of the love she bore him.
"He is worthy of you," said he, while 'Lena, without seeming to heed the remark, said, "I have not seen him yet, but I am expecting him every moment, for he was to visit me this morning."
At this juncture Mrs. Aldergrass, who had been at one of her neighbors', came in, appearing greatly surprised at the sight of the stranger, whom 'Lena quietly introduced as "her father," while Mr. Graham colored painfully as Mrs. Aldergrass, curtsying very low, hoped Mr. Rivers was well!
"Let it go so," whispered 'Lena, as she saw her father about to speak.
Mr. Graham complied, and then observing how anxiously his daughter's eyes sought the doorway, whenever a footstep was heard, he asked Mrs. Aldergrass for Mr. Bellmont, saying they would like to see him, if he had returned.
Quickly going downstairs, Mrs. Aldergrass soon came back, announcing that "he'd paid his bill and gone off."
"Gone!" said Mr. Graham. "There must be some mistake. I will go down and inquire."
With his hand in his pocket grasping the purse containing the gold, Uncle Timothy told all he knew, adding, that "'twan't noways likely but he'd come back agin, for he'd left things in his room to the vally of five or six dollars."
Upon reflection, Mr. Graham concluded so, too, and returning to 'Lena, he sat by her all day, soothing her with assurances that Durward would surely come back, as there was no possible reason for his leaving them so abruptly. As the day wore away and the night came on he seemed less sure, while even Uncle Timothy began to fidget, and when in the evening a young pettifogger, who had recently hung out his shingle on Laurel Hill, came in, he asked him, in a low tone, "if, under the present governor, they hung folks on circumstantial evidence alone."
"Unquestionably, for that is sometimes the best kind of evidence," answered the sprig of the law, taking out some little ivory tablets and making a charge against Uncle Timothy for professional advice!
"But if one of my boarders, who has lots of money, goes off in broad daylight and is never heard of agin, would that be any sign he was murdered—by the landlord?" continued Uncle Timothy, beginning to think there might be a worse law than the Maine liquor law.
"That depends upon the previous character of the landlord," answered the lawyer, making another entry, while Uncle Timothy, brightening up, exclaimed, "I shall stand the racket, then, for my character is tip-top."
In the morning Mr. Graham announced his intention of going in quest of Durward, and with a magnanimity quite praiseworthy, Uncle Timothy offered his hoss and wagon "for nothin', provided Mr. Graham would leave his watch as a guaranty against his runnin' off!"
Just as Mr. Graham was about to start, a horseman rode up, saying he had come from Canandaigua at the request of a Mr. Bellmont, who wished him to bring letters for Mr. Graham and Miss Rivers.
"And where is Mr. Bellmont?" asked Mr. Graham, to which the man replied, that he took the six o'clock train the night before, saying, further, that his manner was so strange as to induce a suspicion of insanity on the part of those who saw him.
Taking the package, Mr. Graham repaired to 'Lena's room, giving her her letter, and then reading his, which was full of bitterness, denouncing him as a villain and cautioning him, as he valued his life, never again to cross the track of his outraged step-son.
"You have robbed me," he wrote, "of all I hold most dear, and while I do not censure her the less, I blame you the more, for you are older in experience, older in years, and ten-fold older in sin, and I know you must have used every art your foul nature could suggest, ere you won my lost 'Lena from the path of rectitude."
In the utmost astonishment Mr. Graham looked up at 'Lena, who had fainted. It was long ere she returned to consciousness, and then her fainting fit was followed by another more severe, if possible, than the first, while in speechless agony Mr. Graham hung over her.
"I killed the mother, and now I am killing the child," thought he.
But at last 'Lena seemed better, and taking from the pillow the crumpled note, she passed it toward her father, bidding him read it. It was as follows;
"MY LOST 'LENA: By this title it seems appropriate for me to call you, for you are more surely lost to me than you would be were this summer sun shining upon your grave. And, 'Lena, believe me when I say I would rather, far rather, see you dead than the guilty thing you are, for then your memory would be to me as a holy, blessed influence, leading me on to a better world, where I could hope to greet you as my spirit bride. But now, alas! how dark the cloud which shrouds you from my sight.
"Oh, 'Lena, 'Lena, how could you deceive me thus, when I thought you so pure and innocent, when even now, I would willingly lay down my life could that save you from ruin.
"Do you ask what I mean? I have only to refer you to what this morning took place between you and the vile man I once called father, and whom I believed to be the soul of truth and honor. With a heart full of tenderness toward you, I was hastening to your side, when a scene met my view which stilled the beatings of my pulse and curdled the very blood in my veins, I saw you throw your arms around his neck—the husband of my mother. I saw you lay your head upon his bosom. I heard him as he called you dearest, and said you would never be parted again!
"You know all that has passed heretofore, and can you wonder that my worst fears are now confirmed? God knows how I struggled against those doubts, which were nearly removed, when, by the evidence of my own eyesight, uncertainty was made sure.
"And now, my once loved, but erring 'Lena, farewell. I am going away—whither, I know not, care not, so that I never hear your name coupled with disgrace. Another reason why I go, is that the hot blood of the south burns too fiercely in my veins to suffer me to meet your destroyer and not raise my hand against him. When this reaches you, I shall be far away. But what matters it to you? And yet, 'Lena, there will come a time when you'll remember one who, had you remained true to yourself, would have devoted his life to make you happy, for I know I am not indifferent to you. I have lead it in your speaking eye, and in the childlike confidence with which you would yield to me when no one else could control your wild ravings.
"But enough of this. Time hastens, and I must say farewell—farewell forever—my lost, lost 'Lena!
Gradually as Mr. Graham read, he felt a glow of indignation at Durward's hastiness. "Rash boy! he might at least have spoken with me," said he, as he finished the letter, but 'Lena would hear no word of censure against him. She did not blame him. She saw it all, understood it all, and as she recalled the contents of his letter, her own heart sadly echoed, "lost forever."
As well as he was able, Mr. Graham tried to comfort her, but in spite of his endeavors, there was still at her heart the same dull, heavy pain, and most anxiously Mr. Graham watched her, waiting impatiently for the time when she would be able to start for home, as he hoped a change of place and scene would do much toward restoring both her health and spirits. Soon after his arrival at Laurel Hill, Mr. Graham had written to Mr. Livingstone, telling him what he had before told his wife, and adding, "Of course, my daughter's home will in future be with me, at Woodlawn, where I shall be happy to see yourself and family at any time."
This part of the letter he showed to 'Lena, who, after reading it, seemed for a long time absorbed in thought.
"What is it, darling? Of what are you thinking?" Mr. Graham asked, at length, and 'Lena, taking the hand which he had laid gently upon her forehead, replied, "I am thinking of poor grandmother. She is not happy, now, at Maple Grove. She will be more unhappy should I leave her, and if you please, I would rather stay there with her. I can see you every day."
"Do you suppose me cruel enough to separate you from your grandmother?" interrupted Mr. Graham. "No, no, I am not quite so bad as that. Woodlawn is large—there are rooms enough—and grandma shall have her choice, provided it is a reasonable one."
"And your wife—Mrs. Graham? What will she say?" timidly inquired 'Lena, involuntarily shrinking from the very thought of coming in contact with the little lady who had so recently come up before her in the new and formidable aspect of stepmother!
Mr. Graham did not know himself what she would say, neither did he care. The fault of his youth once confessed, he felt himself a new man, able to cope with almost anything, and if in the future his wife objected to what he knew to be right, it would do her no good, for henceforth he was to rule his own house. Some such thoughts passed through his mind, but it would not be proper, he knew, to express himself thus to 'Lena, so he laughingly replied, "Oh, we'll fix that, easily enough."
At the time he wrote to Mr. Livingstone, he had also sent a letter to his wife, announcing his safe return from Europe, and saying that he should be at home as soon as 'Lena's health would admit of her traveling. Not wishing to alarm her unnecessarily, he merely said of Durward, that he had found him at Laurel Hill. To this letter Mrs. Graham replied immediately, and with a far better grace than her husband had expected. Very frankly she confessed the unkind part she had acted toward 'Lena, and while she said she was sorry, she also spoke of the reaction which had taken place in the minds of Lena's friends, who, she said, would gladly welcome her back,
The continued absence of Durward was now the only drawback to 'Lena's happiness, and with a comparatively light heart, she began to anticipate her journey home. Most liberally did Mr. Graham pay for both himself and 'Lena, and Uncle Timothy, as he counted the shining coin, dropping it upon the table to make sure it was not bogus, felt quite reconciled to his recent loss of fifty dollars. Jerry, the driver, was also generously rewarded for his kindness to the stranger-girl, and just before he left, Mr. Graham offered to make him his chief overseer, if he would accompany him to Kentucky.
"You are just the man I want," said he, "and I know you'll like it. What do you say?"
For the sake of occasionally seeing 'Lena, whom he considered as something more than mortal, Jerry would gladly have gone, but he was a staunch abolitionist, dyed in the wool, and scratching his head, he replied, "I'm obleeged to you, but I b'lieve I'd rather drive hosses than niggers!"
"Mebby you could run one on 'em off, and so make a little sumthin'," slyly whispered Uncle Timothy, his eyes always on the main chance, but it was no part of Jerry's creed to make anything, and as 'Lena at that moment appeared, he beat a precipitate retreat, going out behind the church, where he watched the departure of his southern friends, saying afterward, to Mrs. Aldergrass, who chided him for his conduct, that "he never could bid nobody good-bye, he was so darned tender-hearted!"
EXCITEMENT AT MAPLE GROVE.
"'Lena been gone four weeks and father never stirred a peg after her! That is smart, I must say. Why didn't you let me know it before!" exclaimed John Jr., as he one morning unexpectedly made his appearance at Maple grove.
During his absence Carrie had been his only correspondent, and for some reason or other she delayed telling him of 'Lena's flight until quite recently. Instantly forgetting his resolution of not returning for a year, he came home with headlong haste, determining to start immediately after his cousin.
"I reckon if you knew all that has been said about her, you wouldn't feel quite so anxious to get her back," said Carrie. "For my part, I feel quite relieved at her absence."
"Shut up your head," roared John 'Jr. "'Lena is no more guilty than you. By George, I most cried when I heard how nobly she worked to save Anna from old Baldhead. And this is her reward! Gracious Peter! I sometimes wish there wasn't a woman in the world!"
"If they'd all marry you, there wouldn't be long!" retorted Carrie.
"You've said it now, haven't you?" answered John Jr., while his father suggested that they stop quarreling, adding, as an apology for his own neglect, that Durward had gone after 'Lena, who was probably at Mr. Everett's, and that he himself had advertised in all the principal papers.
"Just like Bellmont! He's a fine fellow and deserves 'Lena, if anybody does," exclaimed John Jr., while Carrie chimed in, "Pshaw! I've no idea he's gone for her. Why, they've hardly spoken for several months, and besides that, Mrs. Graham will never suffer him to marry one of so low origin."
"The deary me!" said John Jr., mimicking his sister's manner, "how much lower is her origin than yours?"
Carrie's reply was prevented by the appearance of her grandmother, who, hearing that John Jr. was there, had hobbled in to see him. Perfectly rational on all other subjects, Mrs. Nichols still persisted in saying of 'Lena, that she had killed her, and now, when her first greeting with John Jr. was over, she whispered in his ear, "Have they told you 'Lena was dead? She is—I killed her—it says so here," and she handed him the almost worn-out note which she constantly carried with her. Rough as he seemed at times, there was in John Jr.'s nature many a tender spot, and when he saw the look of childish imbecility on his grandmother's face, he pressed his strong arm around her, and a tear actually dropped upon her gray hair as he told her 'Lena was not dead—he was going to find her and bring her home. At that moment old Caesar, who had been to the post-office, returned, bringing Mr. Graham's letter, which had just arrived.
"That's Mr. Graham's handwriting," said Carrie; glancing at the superscription. "Perhaps he knows something of 'Lena!" and she looked meaningly at her mother, who, with a peculiar twist of her mouth, replied, "Very likely."
"You are right. He does know something of her," said Mr. Livingstone, as he finished reading the letter. "She is with him at a little village called Laurel Hill, somewhere in New York."
"There! I told you so. Poor Mrs. Graham. It will kill her. I must go and see her immediately," exclaimed Mrs. Livingstone, settling herself back quite composedly in her chair, while Carrie, turning to her brother, asked "what he thought of 'Lena now."
"Just what I always did," he replied. "There's fraud somewhere. Will you let me see that, sir?" advancing toward his father, who, placing the letter in his hand, walked to the window to hide the varied emotions of his face.
Rapidly John Jr. perused it, comprehending the whole then, when it was finished, he seized his hat, and throwing it up in the air, shouted, "Hurrah! Hurrah for Miss 'Lena Rivers Graham, daughter of the Honorable Harry Rivers Graham. I was never so glad in my life. Hurrah!" and again the hat went up, upsetting in its descent a costly vase, the fragments of which followed in the direction of the hat, as the young man capered about the room, perfectly insane with joy.
"Is the boy crazy?" asked Mrs. Livingstone, catching him by the coat as he passed her, while Carrie attempted to snatch the letter from his hand.
"Crazy?—yes," said he. "Who do you think 'Lena's father is? No less a person than Mr. Graham himself. Now taunt her again, Cad, with her low origin, if you like. She isn't coming here to live any more. She's going to Woodlawn. She'll marry Durward, while you'll be a cross, dried-up old maid, eh, Cad?" and he chucked her under the chin, while she began to cry, bidding him let her alone.
"What do you mean?" interposed Mrs. Livingstone, trembling lest it might be true.
"I will read the letter and you can judge for yourself," replied John.
Both Carrie and her mother were too much astonished to utter a syllable, while, in their hearts, each hoped it would prove untrue. Bending forward, grandma had listened eagerly, her dim eye lighting up as she occasionally caught the meaning of what she heard; but she could not understand it at once, and turning to her son, she said, "What is it, John? what does it mean?"
As well as they could, Mr. Livingstone and John Jr. explained it to her, and when at length she comprehended it, in her own peculiar way she exclaimed, "Thank God that 'Leny is a lady, at last—as good as the biggest on 'em. Oh, I wish Helleny had lived to know who her husband was. Poor critter! Mebby he'll give me money to go back and see the old place, once more, afore I die."
"If he don't I will," said Mr. Livingstone, upon which his wife, who had not spoken before, wondered "where he'd get it."
By this time Carrie had comforted herself with the assurance that as 'Lena was now Durward's sister, he would not, of course, marry her, and determining to make the best of it, she replied to her brother, who rallied her on her crestfallen looks, that he was greatly mistaken, for "she was as pleased as any one at 'Lena's good fortune, but it did not follow that she must make a fool of herself, as some others did."
The closing part of this remark was lost on John Jr., who had left the room. In the first excitement, he had thought "how glad Nellie will be," and acting, as he generally did, upon impulse, he now ordered his horse, and dashing off at full speed, as usual, surprised Nellie, first, with his sudden appearance, second, with his announcement of 'Lena's parentage, and third, by an offer of himself!
"It's your destiny," said he, "and it's of no use to resist. What did poor little Meb die for, if it wasn't to make room for you. So you may as well say yes first as last. I'm odd, I know, but you can fix me over. I'll do exactly what you wish me to. Say yes, Nellie, won't you ?"
And Nellie did say yes, wondering, the while, it ever before woman had such wooing. We think not, for never was there another John Jr.
"I have had happiness enough for one day," said he, kissing her blushing cheek and hurrying away.
As if every hitherto neglected duty were now suddenly remembered, he went straight from Mr. Douglass's to the marble factory, where he ordered a costly stone for the little grave on the sunny slope, as yet unmarked save by the tall grass and rank weeds which grew above it.
"What inscription will you have?" asked the engraver. John Jr. thought for a moment, and then replied; "Simply 'Mabel.' Nothing more or less; that tells the whole story," and involuntarily murmuring to himself, "Poor little Meb, I wish she knew how happy I am," he started for home, where he was somewhat surprised to find Mrs. Graham.
She had also received a letter from her husband, and deeming secrecy no longer advisable, had come over to Maple Grove, where, to her great satisfaction, she found that the news had preceded her. Feeling sure that Mrs. Graham must feel greatly annoyed, both Carrie and her mother began, at first, to act the part of consolers, telling her it might not be true, after all, for perhaps it was a ruse of Mr. Graham's to cover some deep-laid, scheme. But for once in her life Mrs. Graham did well, and to their astonishment, replied, "Oh, I hope not, for you do not know how I long for the society of a daughter, and as Mr. Graham's child I shall gladly welcome 'Lena home, trying, if possible, to overlook the vulgarity of her family friends!"
Though wincing terribly, neither Mrs. Livingstone nor her daughter were to be outgeneraled. If Mrs. Graham could so soon change her tactics, so could they, and for the next half hour they lauded 'Lena to the skies. They had always liked her—particularly Mrs. Livingstone—who said, "If allowed to speak my mind, Mrs. Graham, I must say that I have felt a good deal pained by those reports which you put in circulation."
"I put reports in circulation!" retorted Mrs. Graham. "What do you mean? It was yourself, madam, as I can prove by the whole neighborhood!"
The war of words was growing sharper and more personal, when John Jr.'s appearance put an end to it, and the two ladies, thinking they might as well be friends as enemies, introduced another topic of conversation, soon after which Mrs. Graham took her leave. Pausing in the doorway, she said, "Would it afford you any gratification to be at Woodlawn when 'Lena arrives?"
Knowing that, under the circumstances, it would look better, Mrs. Livingstone said "yes," while Carrie, thinking Durward would be there, made a similar reply, saying "she was exceedingly anxious to see her cousin."
"Very well. I will let you know when I expect her," said Mrs. Graham, curtsying herself from the room.
"Spell Toady, Cad," whispered John Jr., and with more than her usual quickness, Carrie replied, by doing as he desired.
"That'll do," said he, as he walked off to the back yard, where he found the younger portion of the blacks engaged in a rather novel employment for them.
The news of 'Lena's good fortune had reached the kitchen, causing much excitement, for she was a favorite there.
"'Clar for't," said Aunt Milly, "we orto have a bonfire. It won't hurt nothin' on the brick pavement."
Accordingly, as it was now dark, the children were set at work gathering blocks, chips, sticks, dried twigs, and leaves, and by the time John Jr. appeared, they had collected quite a pile. Not knowing how he would like it, they all took to their heels, except Thomas Jefferson, who, having some of his mother's spirit, stood his ground, replying, when asked what they were about, that they were "gwine to celebrate Miss 'Lena." Taking in the whole fun at once, John Jr. called out, "Good! come back here, you scapegraces."
Scarcely had he uttered these words, when from behind the lye-leach, the smoke-house and the trees, emerged the little darkies, their eyes and ivories shining with the expected frolic. Taught by John Jr., they hurrahed at the top of their voices when the flames burst up, and one little fellow, not yet able to talk plain, made his bare, shining legs fly like drumsticks as he shouted, "Huyah for Miss 'Leny Yivers Gayum——"
"Bellmont, too, say," whispered John Jr., as he saw Carrie on the back piazza.
"Bellmont, too, say," yelled the youngster, leaping so high as to lose his balance.
Rolling over the green-sward like a ball, he landed at the feet of Carrie, who, spurning him as she would a toad, went back to the parlor, where for more than an hour she cried from pure vexation.
ARRIVAL AT WOODLAWN.
It was a warm September night at Woodlawn. The windows were open, and through the richly-wrought curtains the balmy air of evening was stealing, mingling its delicious perfume of flowers without with the odor of those which drooped from the many costly vases which adorned the handsome parlors. Lamps were burning, casting a mellow light over the gorgeous furniture, while in robes of snowy white the mistress of the mansion flitted from room to room, a little nervous, a little fidgety, and, without meaning to be so, a little cross. For more than two hours she had waited for her husband, delaying the supper, which the cook, quite as anxious as herself, pronounced spoiled by the delay.
According to promise the party from Maple Grove had arrived, with the exception of John Jr., who had generously remained with his grandmother, she having been purposely omitted in the invitation. From the first, Mrs. Graham had decided that Mrs. Nichols should never live at Woodlawn, and she thought it proper to have it understood at once. Accordingly, as she was conducting Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie to 'Lena's room, she casually remarked, "I've made no provision for Mrs. Nichols, except as an occasional visitor, for of course she will remain with her son. She is undoubtedly much attached to your family, and will be happier there!"
"This 'Lena's!" interrupted Carrie, ere her mother had time to reply. "It's the very best chamber in the house—Brussels carpets, marble and rosewood furniture, damask curtains. Why, she'll hardly know how to act," she continued, half unconsciously, as she gazed around the elegant apartment, which, with one of her unaccountable freaks, Mrs. Graham had fitted up with the utmost taste.
"Yes, this is Lena's," said Mrs. Graham, complacently. "Will it compare at all with her chamber at Maple Grove? I do not wish it to seem inferior!"
Carrie bit her lip, while her mother very coolly replied, "Ye-es, on the whole quite as good, perhaps better, as some of the furniture is new!"
"Have I told you," continued Mrs. Graham, bent on tormenting them,—"have I told you that we are to spend the winter in New Orleans, where 'Lena will of course be the reigning belle? You ought to be there, dear," laying her hand on Carrie's shoulder. "It would be so gratifying to you to witness the sensation she will create!"
"Spiteful old thing—she tries to insult us," thought Carrie, her heart swelling with bitterness toward the ever-hated 'Lena, whose future life seemed so bright and joyous.
The sound of wheels was now heard, and the ladies reached the lower hall just as the carriage, which had been sent to the station at Midway, drove up at a side door. Carrie's first thought was for Durward, and shading her eyes with her hand, she looked anxiously out. But only Mr. Graham alighted, gently lifting out his daughter, who was still an invalid.
"Mighty careful of her," thought Mrs. Livingstone, as in his arms he bore her up the marble steps.
Depositing her in their midst, and placing his arm around her, he said, turning to his wife, "Lucy, this is my daughter. Will you receive and love her as such, for my sake?"
In a moment 'Lena's soft, white hand lay in the fat, chubby one of Mrs. Graham, who kissed her pale cheek, calling her "'Lena," and saying "she was welcome to Woodlawn."
Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie now pressed forward, overwhelming her with caresses, telling her how badly they had felt at her absence, chiding her for running away, calling her a naughty puss, and perfectly bewildering her with their new mode of conduct. Mr. Livingstone's turn came next, but he neither kissed nor caressed her, for that was not in keeping with his nature, but very, very tenderly he looked into her eyes, as he said, "You know, 'Lena, that I am glad—most glad for you."
Unostentatious as was this greeting, 'Lena felt that there was more sincerity in it than all that had gone before, and the tears gushed forth involuntarily. Mentally styling her, the one "a baby," and the other "a fool," Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie returned to the parlor, while Mrs. Graham, calling a servant, bade her show 'Lena to her room.
"Hadn't you better go up and assist your cousin," whispered Mrs. Livingstone to Carrie, who forthwith departed, knocking at the door, an act of politeness she had never before thought it necessary to offer 'Lena. But she was an heiress, now, fully, yes, more than equal, and that made a vast difference.
"I came to see if I could render you any service," she said in answer to 'Lena's look of inquiry.
"No I thank you," returned 'Lena, beginning to get an inkling of the truth. "You know I'm accustomed to waiting upon myself, and if I want anything, Drusa can assist me. I've only to change my soiled dress and smooth my hair," she continued, as she shook out her long and now rather rough tresses.
"What handsome hair you've got," said Carrie, taking one of the curls in her hand. "I'd forgotten it was so beautiful. Hasn't it improved during your absence?"
"A course of fever is not usually very beneficial to one's hair, I believe," answered 'Lena, as she proceeded to brush and arrange her wavy locks, which really had lost some of their luster.
Foiled in her attempt at toadyism, Carrie took another tack. Looking 'Lena in the face, she said, ^What is it? I can't make it out, but—but somehow you've changed, you don't look so—so——"
"So well you would say, I suppose," returned 'Lena, laughingly, "I've grown thin, but I hope to improve by and by."
Drusa glanced at the two girls as they stood side by side, and her large eyes sparkled as she thought her young mistress "a heap the best lookin' now."
By this time Carrie had thought to ask for Durward. Instantly 'Lena turned whiter, if possible, than she was before, and in an unsteady voice she replied, that "she did not know."
"Not know!" repeated Carrie, her own countenance brightening visibly. "Haven't you seen him? Wasn't he at that funny, out-of-the-way place, where you were?"
"Yes, but he left before I saw him," returned 'Lena, her manner plainly indicating that there was something wrong.
Carrie's spirits rose. There was a chance for her, and on their way downstairs she laughed and chatted so familiarly, that 'Lena wondered if it could be the same haughty girl who had seldom spoken to her except to repulse or command her. The supper-bell rang just as they reached the parlor, and Mr. Graham, taking 'Lena on his arm, led the way to the dining-room, where the entire silver tea-set had been brought out, in honor of the occasion.
"Hasn't 'Lena changed, mother?" said Carrie, feeling hateful, and knowing no better way of showing it "Hasn't her sickness changed her?"
"It has made her grow old; that's all the difference I perceive," returned Mrs. Livingstone, satisfied that she'd said the thing which she knew would most annoy herself.
"How old are you, dear?" asked Mrs. Graham, leaning across the table.
"Eighteen," was 'Lena's answer, to which Mrs. Graham replied, "I thought so. Three years younger than Carrie, I believe."
"Two, only two," interrupted Mrs. Livingstone, while Carrie exclaimed, "Horrors! How old do you take me to be?"
Adroitly changing the conversation, Mrs. Graham made no reply, and soon after they rose from the table. Scarcely had they returned to the parlor, when John Jr. was announced. "He had," he said, "got his grandmother to sleep and put her to bed, and now he had come to pay his respects to Miss Graham!"
Catching her in his arms, he exclaimed, "Little girl! I'm as much delighted with your good fortune as I should b had it happened to myself. But where is Bellmont?" he continued, looking about the room.
Mr. Graham replied she that was was not there.
"Not here?" repeated John Jr. "What have you done with him, 'Lena?"
Lifting her eyes, full of tears, to her cousin's face, 'Lena said, softly, "Please don't talk about it now."
"There's something wrong," thought John Jr. "I'll bet I'll have to shoot that dog yet."
'Lena longed to pour out her troubles to some one, and knowing she could confide in John Jr., she soon found an opportunity of whispering to him, "Come tomorrow, and I will tell you all about it."
Between ten and eleven the company departed, Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie taking a most affectionate leave of 'Lena, urging her not to fail of coming over the next day, as they should be expecting her. The ludicrous expression of John Jr.'s face was a sufficient interpretation of his thoughts, as whispering aside to 'Lena, he said, "I can't do it justice if I try!"
The next morning Mr. Graham got out his carriage to carry 'Lena to Maple Grove, asking his wife to accompany them. But she excused herself, on the plea of a headache, and they set off without her. The meeting between 'Lena and her grandmother was affecting, and Carrie, in order to sustain the character she had assumed, walked to the window, to hide her emotions, probably—at least John Jr. thought so, for with the utmost gravity he passed her his silk pocket handkerchief! When the first transports of her interview with 'Lena were over, Mrs. Nichols fastened herself upon Mr. Graham, while John Jr. invited 'Lena to the garden, where he claimed from her the promised story, which she told him unreservedly.
"Oh, that's nothing, compared with my experience," said John Jr., plucking at the rich, purple grapes which hung in heavy clusters above his head. "That's easily settled. I'll go after Durward myself, and bring him back, either dead or alive—the latter if possible, the former if necessary. So cheer up. I've faith to believe that you and Durward will be married about the same time that Nellie and I are. We are engaged—did I tell you?"
Involuntarily 'Lena's eyes wandered in the direction of the sunny slope and the little grave, as yet but nine months made.
"I know what you think," said John Jr. rather testily, "but hang me if I can help it. Meb was never intended for me, except by mother. I suppose there is in the world somebody for whom she was made, but it wasn't I, and that's the reason she died. I am sorry as anybody, and every night in my life I think of poor Meb, who loved me so well, and who met with so poor a return. I've bought her some gravestones, though," he continued, as if that were an ample atonement for the past.
While they were thus occupied, Mr. Graham was discussing with Mrs. Nichols the propriety of her removing to Woodlawn.
"I shan't live long to trouble anybody," said she when asked if she would like to go, "and I'm nothin' without 'Leny."
So it was arranged that she should go with him, and when 'Lena returned to the house, she found her grandmother in her chamber, packing up, preparatory to her departure.
"We'll have to come agin," said she, "for I've as much as two loads."
"Don't take them," interposed 'Lena. "You won't need them, and nothing will harm them here."
After a little, grandma was persuaded, and her last charge to Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie was, "that they keep the dum niggers from her things."
Habit with Mrs. Nichols was everything. She had lived at Maple Grove for years, and every niche and corner of her room she understood. She knew the blacks and they knew her, and ere she was half-way to Woodlawn, she began to wish she had not started. Politely, but coldly, Mrs. Graham received her, saying "I thought, perhaps, you would return with them to spend the day!" laying great emphasis on the last words, as if that, of course, was to be the limit of her visit Grandma understood it, and it strengthened her resolution of not remaining long.
"Miss Graham don't want to be pestered with me," said she to 'Lena, the first time they were alone, "and I don't mean that she shall be. 'Tilda is used to me, and she don't mind it now, so I shall go back afore long. You can come to see me every day, and once in a while I'll come here."
That afternoon a heavy rain came on, and Mrs. Graham remarked to Mrs. Nichols that "she hoped she was not homesick, as there was every probability of her being obliged to stay over night!" adding, by way of comfort, that "she was going to Frankfort the next day to make purchases for 'Lena, and would take her home."
Accordingly, the next morning Mrs. Livingstone was not very agreeably surprised by the return of her mother-in-law, who, Mrs. Graham said, "was so home-sick they couldn't keep her."
That night when Mrs. Graham, who was naturally generous, returned from the city, she left at Maple Grove a large bundle for grandma, consisting of dresses, aprons, caps, and the like, which she had purchased as a sort or peace-offering, or reward, rather, for her having decamped so quietly from Woodlawn. But the poor old lady did not live to wear them. Both her mind and body were greatly impaired, and for two or three years she had been failing gradually. There was no particular disease, but a general breaking up of the springs of life, and a few weeks after 'Lena's arrival at Woodlawn,, they made another grave on the sunny slope, and Mabel no longer slept alone.
From place to place and from scene to scene Durward had hurried, caring nothing except to forget, if possible, the past, and knowing not where he was going, until he at last found himself in Richmond, Virginia. This was his mother's birthplace, and as several of her more distant relatives were still living here, he determined to stop for awhile, hoping that new objects and new scenes would have some power to rouse him from the lethargy into which he had fallen. Constantly in terror lest he should hear of 'Lena's disgrace, which he felt sure would be published to the world, he had, since his departure from Laurel Hill, resolutely refrained from looking in a newspaper, until one morning some weeks after his arrival at Richmond.
Entering a reading-room, he caught up the Cincinnati Gazette, and after assuring himself by a hasty glance that it did not contain what he so much dreaded to see, he sat down to read it, paying no attention to the date, which was three or four weeks back. Accidentally he cast his eye over the list of arrivals at the Burnet House, seeing among them the names of "Mr. H. R. Graham, and Miss L. R. Graham, Woodford county, Kentucky!"
"Audacious! How dare they be so bold!" he exclaimed, springing to his feet and tearing the paper in fragments, which he scattered upon the floor.
"Considerable kind of uppish, 'pears to me," said a strange voice, having in its tone the nasal twang peculiar to a certain class of Yankees.
Looking up, Durward saw before him a young man in whose style of dress and freckled face we at once recognize Joel Slocum. Wearying of Cincinnati, as he had before done with Lexington, he had traveled at last to Virginia. Remembering to have heard that his grandmother's aunt had married, died, and left a daughter in Richmond, he determined, if possible, to find some trace of her. Accordingly, he had come on to that city, making it the theater of his daguerrean operations. These alone not being sufficient to support him, he had latterly turned his attention to literary pursuits, being at present engaged in manufacturing a book after the Sam Slick order, which, to use his own expression, "he expected would have a thunderin' sale."
In order to sustain the new character which he had assumed, he came every day to the reading-room, tumbling over books and papers, generally carrying one of the former in his hand, affecting an utter disregard of his personal appearance, daubing his fingers with ink, wiping them on the pocket of his coat, and doing numerous other things which he fancied would stamp him a distinguished person.
On the morning of which we have spoken, Joel's attention was attracted toward Durward, whose daguerreotype he had seen at Maple Grove, and though he did not recognize the original, he fancied he might have met him before, and was about making his acquaintance, when Durward's action drew from him the remark we have mentioned. Thinking him to be some impertinent fellow, Durward paid him no attention, and was about leaving, when, hitching his chair a little nearer, Joel said, "Be you from Virginny?"
"From York state?"
"Mebby, then, you are from Kentucky?"
"Be you from Kentucky?"
"Do you know Mr. Graham's folks?"
"Yes," said Durward, trembling lest the next should be something concerning his stepfather—but it was not.
Settling himself a little further back in the chair, Joel continued: "Wall, I calkerlate that I'm some relation to Miss Graham. Be you 'quainted with her?"
Durward knew that a relationship with Mrs. Graham also implied a relationship with himself, and feeling a little curious as well as somewhat amused, he replied, "Related to Mrs. Graham! Pray how?"
"Why, you see," said Joel, "that my grandmarm's aunt—she was younger than grandmarm, and was her aunt tew. Wall, she went off to Virginia to teach music, and so married a nabob—know what that is, I s'pose; she had one gal and died, and this gal was never heard from until I took it into my head to look her up, and I've found out that she was Lucy Temple. She married an Englishman, first—then a man from South Carolina, who is now livin' in Kentucky, between Versailles and Frankfort."
"What was your grandmother's aunt's name?" asked Durward.
"Susan Howard," returned Joel. "The Howards were a stuck-up set, grandmarm and all—not a bit like t'other side of the family. My mother's name was Scovandyke——"
"And yours?" interrupted Durward.
"Is Joel Slocum, of Slocumville, Massachusetts, at your service," said the young man, rising up and going through a most wonderful bow, which he always used on great occasions.
In a moment Durward knew who he was, and greatly amused, he said, "Can you tell me, Mr. Slocum, what relation this Lucy Temple, your great-great-aunt's daughter, would be to you?"
"My third cousin, of course," answered Joel. "I figgered that out with a slate and pencil."
"And her son, if she had one?"
"Would be my fourth cousin; no great connection, to be sure—but enough to brag on, if they happened to be smart!"
"Supposing I tell you what I am Lucy Temple's son?" said Durward, to which Joel, not the least suspicious, replied, "Wall, s'posin' you du, 'twon't make it so."
"But I am, really and truly," continued Durward. "Her first husband was a Bellmont, and I am Durward Bellmont, your fourth cousin, it seems."
"Jehosiphat! If this ain't curis," exclaimed Joel, grasping Durward's hand. "How do you du, and how is your marm. And do you know Helleny Rivers?"
Durward's brow darkened as he replied in the affirmative, while Joel continued: "We are from the same town, and used to think a sight of each other, but when I seen her in Kentucky, I thought she'd got to be mighty toppin'. Mebby, though, 'twas only my notion."
Durward did not answer, and after a little his companion said, "I suppose you know I sometimes take pictures for a livin'. I'm goin' to my office now, and if you'll come with me I'll take yourn for nothin', bein' you're related."
Mechanically, and because he had nothing else to do, Durward followed the young man to his "office," which was a dingy, cheerless apartment in the fourth story of a crazy old building. On the table in the center of the room were several likenesses, which he carelessly examined. Coming at last to a larger and richer case, he opened it, but instantly it dropped from his hand, while an exclamation of surprise escaped his lips.
"What's the row, old feller," asked Joel, coming forward and picking up the picture which Durward had recognized as 'Lena Rivers.
"How came you by it?" said Durward eagerly, and with a knowing wink, Joel replied, "I know, and that's enough."
"But I must know, too. It is of the utmost importance that I know," said Durward, and after a moment's reflection, Joel answered "Wall, I don't s'pose it'll do any hurt if I tell you. When I was a boy I had a hankerin' for 'Leny, and I didn't get over it after I was grown, either, so a year or two ago I thought I'd go to Kentuck and see her. Knowin' how tickled she and Mrs. Nichols would be with a picter of their old home in the mountains, I took it for 'em and started. In Albany I went to see a family that used to live in Slocumville. The woman was a gal with 'Leny's mother, and thought a sight of her. Wall, in the chamber where they put me to sleep, was an old portrait, which looked so much like 'Leny that in the mornin' I asked whose it was, and if you b'lieve me, 'twas 'Leny's mother! You know she married, or thought she married, a southern rascal, who got her portrait taken and then run off, and the picter, which in its day was an expensive one, was sold to pay up. A few years afterward, Miss Rice, the woman I was tellin' you about, came acrost it, and bought it for a little or nothin' to remember Helleny Nichols by. Thinks to me, nothin' can please 'Leny better than a daguerreotype of her mother, so I out with my apparatus and took it. But when I come to see that they were as nigh alike as two peas, I hated to give it up, for I thought it would be almost as good as lookin' at 'Leny. So I kept it myself, but I don't want her to know it, for she'd be mad."
"Did you ever take a copy of this for any one?" asked Durward, a faint light beginning to dawn upon him.
"What a feller to hang on," answered Joel, "but bein' I've started, I'll go it and tell the hull. One morning when I was in Lexington, a gentleman came in, calling himself Mr. Graham, and saying he wanted a copy of an old mountain house which he had seen at Mr. Livingstone's. Whilst I was gettin' it ready, he happened to come acrost this one, and what is the queerest of all, he like to fainted away. I had to throw water in his face and everything. Bimeby he cum to, and says he, 'Where did you get that?' I told him all about it, and then, layin' his head on the table, he groaned orfully, wipin' off the thumpinest great drops of sweat and kissin' the picter as if he was crazy.
"'Mebby you knew Helleny Nichols?' says I.
"'Knew her, yes,' says he, jumpin' up and walkin' the room as fast.
"All to once he grew calm, just as though nothin' had happened, and says he, 'I must have that or one jest like it.'
"At first I hesitated, for I felt kinder mean always about keepin' it, and I didn't want 'Leny to know I'd got it. I told him so, and he said nobody but himself should ever see it. So I took a smaller one, leavin' off the lower part of the body, as the dress is old-fashioned, you see. He was as tickled as a boy with a new top, and actually forgot to take the other one of the mountain house. Some months after, I came across him in Cincinnati. His wife was with him, and I thought then that she looked like Aunt Nancy. Wall, he went with me to my office, and said he wanted another daguerreotype, as he'd lost the first one. Now I'm, pretty good at figgerin', and I've thought that matter over until I've come to this conclusion—that man—was—'Lena's father—the husband or something of Helleny Nichols! But what ails you? Are you faintin', too," he exclaimed, as he saw the death-like whiteness which had settled upon Durward's face and around his mouth.
"Tell me more, everything you know," gasped Durward.
"I have told you all I know for certain," said Joel. "The rest is only guess-work, but it looks plaguy reasonable. 'Leny's father, I've heard was from South Car'lina——"
"So was Mr. Graham," said Durward, more to himself than to Joel, who continued, "And he's your step-father, ain't he—the husband of Lucy Temple, my cousin?"
Durward nodded, and as a customer just then came in, he arose to go, telling Joel he would see him again. Alone in his room, he sat down to think of the strange story he had heard. Gradually as he thought, his mind went back to the time when Mr. Graham first came home from Springfield. He was a little boy, then, five or six years of age, but he now remembered many things calculated to prove what he scarcely yet dared to hope. He recalled Mr. Graham's preparations to return, when he was taken suddenly ill. He knew that immediately atter his recovery he had gone northward. He remembered how sad he had seemed after his return, neglecting to play with him as had been his wont, and when to this he added Joel's story, together with the singularity of his father's conduct towards 'Lena, he could not fail to be convinced.
"She is innocent, thank heaven! I see it all now. Fool that I was to be so hasty," he exclaimed, his whole being seemed to undergo a sudden change as the joyous conviction flashed upon him.
In his excitement he forgot his promise of again seeing Joel Slocum, and ere the sun-setting he was far on his road home. Occasionally he felt a lingering doubt, as he wondered what possible motive his father could have had for concealment, but these wore away as the distance between himself and Kentucky diminished. As the train paused at one of the stations, he was greatly surprised at seeing John Jr. among the crowd gathered at the depot.
"Livingstone, Livingstone, how came you here?" shouted Durward, leaning from the open window.
The cars were already in motion, but at the risk of his life John Jr. bounded upon the platform, and was soon seated by the side of Durward.
"You are a great one, ain't you?" said he. "Here I've been looking for you all over Christendom, to tell you the news. You've got a new sister. Did you know it?"
"'Lena! Is it true? Is it 'Lena?" said Durward, and John replied by relating the particulars as far as he knew them, and ending by asking Durward if "he didn't think he was sold!"
"Don't talk," answered Durward. "I want to think, for I was never so happy in my life."
"Nor I either," returned John Jr. "So if you please you needn't speak to me, as I wish to think, too."
But John Jr. could not long keep still, he must tell his companion of his engagement with Nellie—and he did, falling asleep soon after, and leaving Durward to his own reflections.
We hope the reader does not expect us to describe the meeting between Durward and 'Lena, for we have not the least, or, at the most, only a faint idea of what took place. We only know that it occurred in the summer-house at the foot of the garden, whither 'Lena had fled at the first intimation of his arrival, and that on her return to the house, after an interview of two whole hours, there were on her cheeks traces of tears, which the expression of her face said were not tears of grief.
"How do you like my daughter?" asked Mr. Graham, mischievously, at the same time laying his arm proudly about her neck.
"So well that I have asked her to become my wife, and she has promised to do so, provided we obtain your consent," answered Durward, himself throwing an arm around the blushing girl, who tried to escape, but he would not let her, holding her fast until his father's answer was given.
Then turning to Mrs. Graham, he said, "Now, mother, we will hear you."
Kind and affectionate as she tried to be toward 'Lena, Mrs. Graham had not yet fully conquered her olden prejudice, and had the matter been left wholly with herself, she would, perhaps, have chosen for her son a bride in whose veins no plebeian blood was flowing; but she well knew that her objections would have no weight, and she answered, that "she should not oppose him."
"Then it is settled," said he, "and four weeks from to-night I shall claim 'Lena for my own."
"No, not so soon after grandma's death," 'Lena said, and Durward replied:
"If grandma could speak, she would tell you not to wait!" but 'Lena was decided, and the most she would promise was, that in the spring she would think about it!
"Six months," said Durward, "I'll never wait so long!" but he forbore pressing her further on the subject, knowing that he should have her in the house with him, which would in a great measure relieve the tedium of waiting.
During the autumn, his devotion to 'Lena furnished Carrie with a subject for many ill-natured remarks concerning newly-engaged people.
"I declare," said she, one evening after the departure of Durward, 'Lena, and Nellie, who had been spending the day at Maple Grove, "I'm perfectly disgusted, and if this is a specimen, I hope I shall never be engaged."
"Don't give yourself a moment's uneasiness," retorted John Jr., "I've not the least idea that such a calamity will ever befall you, and years hence my grandchildren will read on some gravestone, 'Sacred to the memory of Miss Caroline Livingstone, aged 70. In single blessedness she lived—and in the same did die!'"
"You think you are cunning, don't you," returned Carrie, more angry than she was willing to admit.
She had received the news of Durward's engagement much better than could have been expected, and after a little she took to quoting and cousining 'Lena, while John Jr. seldom let an opportunity pass of hinting at the very recent date Of her admiration for Miss Graham.
Almost every day for several weeks after Durward's return, he looked for a visit from Joel Slocum, who did not make his appearance until some time toward the last of November. Then he came, claiming, and proving, his relationship with Mrs. Graham, who was terribly annoyed, and who, it was rumored, hired him to leave!
During the winter, nothing of importance occurred, if we except the fact that a part of Mabel's fortune, which was supposed to have been lost, was found to be good, and that John Jr. one day unexpectedly found himself to be the lawful heir of fifty thousand dollars. Upon Mrs. Livingstone this circumstance produced a rather novel effect, renewing, in its original force, all her old affection for Mabel, who was now "our dear little Meb." Many were the comparisons drawn between Mrs. John Jr. No. 1, and Mrs. John Jr. No. 2, that was to be, the former being pronounced far more lady-like and accomplished than the latter, who, during her frequent visits at Maple Grove, continually startled her mother-in-law elect by her loud, ringing laugh, for Nellie was very happy. Her influence, too, over John Jr. became ere long, perceptible in his quiet, gentle manner, and his abstinence from the rude speeches which heretofore had seemed a part of his nature.
Mrs. Graham had proposed spending the winter in New Orleans, but to this Durward objected. He wanted 'Lena all to himself, he said, and as she seemed perfectly satisfied to remain where she was, the project was given up, Mrs. Graham contenting herself with anticipating the splendid entertainment she would give at the wedding, which was to take place about the last of March. Toward the first of January the preparations began, and if Carrie had never before felt a pang of envy, she did now, when she saw the elegant trousseau which Mr. Graham ordered for his daughter. But all such feelings must be concealed, and almost every day she rode over to Woodlawn, admiring this, going into ecstasies over that, and patronizingly giving her advice on all subjects, while all the time her heart was swelling with bitter disappointment. Having always felt so sure of securing Durward, she had invariably treated other gentlemen with such cool indifference that she was a favorite with but few, and as she considered these few her inferiors, she had more than once feared lest John Jr.'s prediction concerning the lettering on her tombstone should prove true!
"Anything but that," said she, dashing away her tears, as she thought how 'Lena had supplanted her in the affections of the only person she could ever love,
"Old Marster Atherton done want to see you in the parlor," said Corinda, putting her head in at the door.
Since his unfortunate affair with Anna, the captain had avoided Maple Grove, but feeling lonely at Sunnyside, he had come over this morning to call. Finding Mrs. Livingstone absent, he had asked for Carrie, who was so unusually gracious that he wondered he had never before discovered how greatly superior to her sister she was! All his favorite pieces were sung to him, and then, with the patience of a martyr, the young lady seated herself at the backgammon board, playing game after game, until she could scarcely tell her men from his. On his way home the captain fell into a curious train of reflections, while Carrie, when asked by Corinda, if "old marster was done gone," sharply reprimanded the girl, telling her "it was very impolite to call anybody old, particularly one so young as Captain Atherton!"
The next day the captain came again, and the next, and the next, until at last his former intimacy at Maple Grove seemed to be re-established. And all this time no one had an inkling of the true state of things, not even John Jr., who never dreamed it possible for his haughty sister, to grace Sunnyside as its mistress. "But stranger things than that had happened and were happening every day," Carrie reasoned, as she sat alone in her room, revolving the propriety of answering "Yes" to a note which the captain had that morning placed in her hand at parting. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her face was very fair, and as yet untouched by a single mark or line. She thought of him, bald, wrinkled, fat and forty-six!
"I'll never do it," she exclaimed. "Better live single all my days."
At this moment, the carriage of Mrs. Graham drew up, and from it alighted 'Lena, richly clad. The sight of her produced a reaction, and Carrie thought again. Captain Atherton was generous to a fault. He was able and willing to grant her slightest wish, and as his wife, she could compete with, if not outdo, 'Lena in the splendor of her surroundings. The pen was resumed, and Carrie wrote the words which sealed her destiny for life. This done, nothing could move her, and though her father entreated, her mother scolded, and John Jr. swore, it made no difference. "She was old enough to choose for herself," she said, "and she had done so."
When Mrs. Livingstone became convinced that her daughter was in earnest, she gave up the contest, taking sides with her. Like Durward, Captain Atherton was in a hurry, and it was decided that the wedding should take place a week before the time appointed for that of her cousin. Determining not to be outdone by Mrs. Graham, Mrs. Livingstone launched forth on a large scale, and there commenced between the two houses a species of rivalry extremely amusing to a looker on. Did Mrs. Graham purchase for 'Lena a costly silk, Mrs. Livingstone forthwith secured a piece of similar quality, but different pattern, for Carrie. Did Mrs. Graham order forty dollars' worth of confectionery, Mrs. Livingstone immediately increased her order to fifty dollars. And when it was known that Mrs. Graham had engaged a Louisville French cook at two dollars per day, Mrs. Livingstone sent to Cincinnati, offering three for one!
Carrie had decided upon a tour to Europe, and the captain had given his consent, when it was reported that Durward and 'Lena were also intending to sail for Liverpool. In this dilemma there was no alternative save a trip to California or the Sandwich Islands! The former was chosen, Captain Atherton offering to defray Mrs. Livingstone's expenses if she would accompany them. This plan Carrie warmly seconded, for she knew her mother's presence would greatly relieve her from the society of her husband, which was not as agreeable to her as it ought to have been. But Mr. Livingstone refused to let his wife go, unless Anna came home and stayed with him while she was gone.
He accordingly wrote to Anna, inviting her and Malcolm to be present at Carrie's wedding, purposely omitting the name of the bridegroom; and three days before the appointed time they came. It was dark when they arrived, and as they were not expected that night, they entered the house before any one was aware of their presence. John Jr. chanced to be in the hall, and the moment he saw Anna, he caught her in his arms, shouting so uproariously that his father and mother at once hastened to the spot.
"Will you forgive me, father ?" Anna said, and Mr. Livingstone replied by clasping her to his bosom, while he extended his hand to Malcolm.
"Where's Carrie?" Anna said, and John Jr. replied, "In the parlor, with her future spouse. Shall I introduce you?"
So saying, he dragged her into the parlor, where she then recoiled in terror as she saw Captain Atherton.
"Oh, Carrie!" she exclaimed. "It cannot be——that I see you again!" she added, as she met her sister's warning look.
Another moment and they were in each other's arms weeping bitterly, the one that her sister should thus throw herself away, and the other, because she was wretched. It was but for an instant, however, and then Carrie was herself again. Playfully presenting Anna to the Captain, she said, "Ain't I good to take up with what you left!"
But no one smiled at this joke—the captain, least of all, and as Carrie glanced from him to Malcolm, she felt that her sister had made a happy choice. The next day 'Lena came, overjoyed to meet Anna, who more than any one else, rejoiced in her good fortune.
"You deserve it all," she said, when they were alone, "and if Carrie had one tithe of your happiness in store I should be satisfied."
But Carrie asked for no sympathy. "It was no one's business whom she married," she said; and so one pleasant night in the early spring, they decked her in her bridal robes, and then, white, cold, and feelingless as a marble statue, she laid her hand in Captain Atherton's, and took upon her the vows which made her his forever. A few days after the ceremony, Carrie began to urge their immediate departure for California.
"There was no need of further delay," she said. "No one cared to see 'Lena married. Weddings were stupid things, anyway, and her mother could just as well go one time as another."
At first Mrs. Livingstone hesitated, but when Carrie burst into a passionate fit of weeping, declaring "she'd kill herself if she had to stay much longer at Sunnyside and be petted by that old fool," she consented, and one week from the day of the marriage they started. In Carrie's eyes there was already a look of weary sadness, which said that the bitter tears were constantly welling up, while on her brow a shadow was resting, as if Sunnyside were a greater burden than she could bear. Alas, for a union without love! It seldom fails to end in misery, and thus poor Carrie found it. Her husband was proud of her, and, had she permitted, would have loved her after his fashion, but his affectionate advances were invariably repulsed, until at last he treated her with a cold politeness, far more endurable than his fawning attentions had been. She was welcome to go her own way, and he went his, each having in San Francisco their own suite of rooms, and setting up, as it were, a separate establishment. In this way they got on quite comfortably for a few weeks, at the end of which time Carrie took it into her capricious head to return to Maple Grove. She would never go back to Sunnyside, she said. And without a word of opposition the captain paid his bills, and started for Kentucky, where he left his wife at Maple Grove, she giving as a reason that "ma could not spare her yet."
Far different from this were the future prospects of Durward and 'Lena, who with perfect love in their hearts were married, a week after the departure of Captain Atherton for California. Very proudly Durward looked down upon her as he placed the first husband's kiss on her brow, and in the soft brown eyes, brimming with tears, which she raised to his face, there was a world of tenderness, telling that theirs was a union of hearts as well as hands.
The next night a small party assembled at the house of Mr. Douglass, in Frankfort, where Nellie was transformed into Nellie Livingstone. Perhaps it was the remembrance of the young girl to whom his vows had once before been plighted, that made John Jr. appear for a time as if he were in a dream. But the moment they rallied him upon the strangeness of his manner, he brightened up, saying that he was trying to get used to thinking that Nellie was really his. It had been decided that he should accompany Durward and 'Lena to Europe, and a day or two after his marriage he asked Mr. Everett to go too. Anna's eyes fairly danced with joy, as she awaited Malcolm's reply. But much as he would like to go, he could not afford it, and so he frankly said, kissing away the big tear which rolled down Anna's cheek.
With a smile John Jr. placed a sealed package in his sister's hand, saying to Malcolm, "I have anticipated this and provided for it. I suppose you are aware that Mabel willed me all her property, which contrary to our expectations, has proved to be considerable. I know I do not deserve a cent of it, but as she had no nearer relative than Mr. Douglass, I have concluded to use it for the comfort of his daughter and for the good of others. I want you and Anna to join us, and I've given her such a sum as will bear your expenses, and leave you more than you can earn dickering at law for three or four years. So, puss," turning to Anna, "it's all settled. Now hurrah for the sunny skies of France and Italy, I've talked with father about it, and he's willing to stay alone for the sake of having you go. Oh, don't thank me," he continued, as he saw them about to speak. "It's poor little Meb to whom you are indebted. She loved Anna, and would willingly have her money used for this purpose."
After a little reflection Malcolm concluded to accept John's offer, and a happier party never stepped on board a steamer than that which, on the 15th of April, sailed for Europe, which they reached in safety, being at the last accounts in Paris, where they were enjoying themselves immensely.
A few words more, and our story is told. Just as Mr. Livingstone was getting tolerably well suited with his bachelor life, he was one morning surprised by the return of his wife and daughter, the latter of whom, as we have before stated, took up her abode at Maple Grove. Almost every day the old captain rides over to see her, but he generally carries back a longer face than he brings. The bald spot on his head is growing larger, and to her dismay Carrie has discovered a "crow track" in the corner of her eye. Frequently, after a war of words with her mother, she announces her intention of returning to Sunnyside, but a sight of the captain is sufficient to banish all such thoughts. And thus she lives, that most wretched of all beings, an unloving and unloved wife.
During the absence of their children, Mr. and Mrs. Graham remain at Woodlawn, which, as it is the property of Durward, will be his own and 'Lena's home.
Jerry Langley has changed his occupation of driver for that of a brakeman on the railroad between Canandaigua and Niagara Falls.
In conclusion we will say of our old friend, Uncle Timothy, that he joined "the Hindews" as proposed, was nominated for constable, and, sure of success, bought an old gig for the better transportation of himself over the town. But alas for human hopes—if funded upon politics—the whole American ticket was defeated at Laurel Hill, since which time he has gone over to the Republicans, to whom he has sworn eternal allegiance.