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St. Elmo
by Augusta J. Evans
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Flush and tremor had passed away, the features were locked in rigid whiteness; and the unhappy mother saw that further entreaty would indeed be fruitless.

She rose and paced the floor for some moments. At last Edna said:

"How long will you remain in New York?"

"Two days. Edna, I came here against my son's advice, in opposition to his wishes, to intercede in his behalf and to prevail on you to go home with me. He knew you better it seems than I did; for he predicted the result, and desired to save me from mortification; but I obstinately clung to the belief that you cherish some feeling of affectionate gratitude toward me. You have undeceived me. Mr. Hammond is eagerly expecting you, and it will be a keen disappointment to the old man if I return without you. Is it useless to tell you that you ought to go and see him? You need not hesitate on St. Elmo's account; for unless you wish to meet him, you will certainly not see him. My son is too proud to thrust himself into the presence of any one, much less into yours, Edna Earl."

"I will go with you, Mrs. Murray, and remain at the parsonage—at least for a few weeks."

"I scarcely think Mr. Hammond will live until spring; and it will make him very happy to have you in his home."

Mrs. Murray wrapped her shawl around her and put on her gloves.

"I shall be engaged with Estelle while I am here, and shall not call again; but of course you will come to the hotel to see her, and we will start homeward day after to-morrow evening."

She turned toward the door, but Edna caught her dress.

"Mrs. Murray, kiss me before you go, and tell me you forgive the sorrow I am obliged to cause you to-day. My burden is heavy enough without the weight of your displeasure."

But the proud face did not relax; the mother shook her head, disengaged her dress, and left the room.

An hour after Felix came in, and approaching the sofa where his governess rested, said vehemently:

"Is it true, Edna? Are you going South with Mrs. Murray?"

"Yes; I am going to see a dear friend who is probably dying."

"Oh, Edna! what will become of me?"

"I shall be absent only a few weeks—"

"I have a horrible dread that if you go you will never come back! Don't leave me! Nobody needs you half as much as I do. Edna, you said once you would never forsake me. Remember your promise!"

"My dear little boy, I am not forsaking you; I shall only be separated from you for a month or two; and it is my duty to go to my sick friend. Do not look so wretched! for just so surely as I live, I shall come back to you."

"You think so now; but your old friends will persuade you to stay, and you will forget me, and—and—"

He turned around and hid his face on the back of his chair.

It was in vain that she endeavored, by promises and caresses, to reconcile him to her temporary absence. He would not be comforted; and his tear-stained, woe-begone, sallow face, as she saw it on the evening of her departure, pursued her on her journey South.



CHAPTER XXXII.

The mocking-bird sang as of old in the myrtle-boughs that shaded the study-window, and within the parsonage reigned the peaceful repose which seemed ever to rest like a benediction upon it. A ray of sunshine stealing through the myrtle-leaves made golden ripples on the wall; a bright wood-fire blazed in the wide, deep, old-fashioned chimney; the white cat slept on the rug, with her pink paws turned toward the crackling flames; and blue and white hyacinths hung their fragrant bells over the gilded edge of the vases on the mantelpiece. Huldah sat on one side of the hearth peeling a red apple; and, snugly wrapped in his palm-leaf cashmere dressing-gown, Mr. Hammond rested in his cushioned easy-chair, with his head thrown far back, and his fingers clasping a large bunch of his favorite violets, His snowy hair drifted away from a face thin and pale, but serene and happy, and in his bright blue eyes there was a humorous twinkle, and on his lips a half-smothered smile, as he listened to the witticisms of his Scotch countrymen in "Noctes Ambrosianae."

Close to his chair sat Edna, reading aloud from the quaint and inimitable book he loved so well, and pausing now and then to explain some word which Huldah did not understand, or to watch for symptoms of weariness in the countenance of the invalid.

The three faces contrasted vividly in the ruddy glow of the fire. That of the little girl, round, rosy, red-lipped, dimpled, merry- eyed; the aged pastor's wrinkled cheeks and furrowed brow and streaming silver beard; and the carved-ivory features of the governess, borrowing no color from the soft folds of her rich merino dress. As daylight ebbed, the ripple danced up to the ceiling and vanished, like the pricked bubble of a human hope; the mocking-bird hushed his vesper-hymn; and Edna closed the book and replaced it on the shelf.

Huldah tied on her scarlet-lined hood, kissed her friends good-bye, and went back to Le Bocage; and the old man and the orphan sat looking at the grotesque flicker of the flames on the burnished andirons.

"Edna, are you tired, or can you sing some for me?"

"Reading aloud rarely fatigues me. What shall I sing?"

"That solemn, weird thing in the 'Prophet,' which suits your voice so well."

She sang 'Ah, mon fils!' and then, without waiting for the request which she knew would follow, gave him some of his favorite Scotch songs.

As the last sweet strains of "Mary of Argyle" echoed through the study, the pastor shut his eyes, and memory flew back to the early years when his own wife Mary had sung those words in that room, and his dead darlings clustered eagerly around the piano to listen to their mother's music. Five fair-browed, innocent young faces circling about the idolized wife, and baby Annie nestling in her cradle beside the hearth, playing with her waxen fingers and crowing softly. Death had stolen his household jewels; but recollection robbed the grave, and music's magic touch unsealed "memory's golden urn."

"Oh! death in life, the days that are no more!"

Edna thought he had fallen asleep, he was so still, his face was so placid; and she came softly back to her chair and looked at the ruby temples and towers, the glittering domes and ash-gray ruined arcades built by the oak coals.

A month had elapsed since her arrival at the parsonage, and during that short period Mr. Hammond had rallied and recovered his strength so unexpectedly that hopes were entertained of his entire restoration; and he spoke confidently of being able to reenter his pulpit on Easter Sunday.

The society of his favorite pupil seemed to render him completely happy, and his countenance shone in the blessed light that gladdened his heart. After a long, dark, stormy day, the sun of his life was preparing to set in cloudless peace and glory.

Into all of Edna's literary schemes he entered eagerly. She read to him the MS. of her new book as far as it was written, and was gratified by his perfect satisfaction with the style, plot, and aim.

Mrs. Murray came every day to the parsonage, but Edna had not visited Le Bocage; and though Mr. Murray spent two mornings of each week with Mr. Hammond, he called at stated hours, and she had not yet met him. Twice she had heard his voice in earnest conversation, and several times she had seen his tall figure coming up the walk, but of his features she caught not even a glimpse. St. Elmo's name had never been mentioned in her presence by either his mother or the pastor, but Huldah talked ceaselessly of his kindness to her. Knowing the days on which he came to the parsonage, Edna always absented herself from the invalid's room until the visit was over.

One afternoon she went to the church to play on the organ; and after an hour of mournful enjoyment in the gallery so fraught with precious reminiscences, she left the church and found Tamerlane tied to the iron gate, but his master was not visible. She knew that he was somewhere in the building or yard, and denied herself the pleasure of going there a second time.

Neither glance nor word had been exchanged since they parted at the railroad station, eighteen months before. She longed to know his opinion of her book, for many passages had been written with special reference to his perusal; but she would not ask; and it was a sore trial to sit in one room, hearing the low, indistinct murmur of his voice in the next, and yet never to see him.

Few women could have withstood the temptation; but the orphan dreaded his singular power over her heart, and dared not trust herself in his presence.

This evening, as she sat with the firelight shining on her face, thinking of the past, she could not realize that only two years had elapsed since she came daily to this quiet room to recite her lessons; for during that time she had suffered so keenly in mind and body that it seemed as if weary ages had gone over her young head. Involuntarily she sighed, and passed her hand across her forehead. A low tap at the door diverted her thoughts, and a servant entered and gave her a package of letters from New York. Every mail brought one from Felix; and now opening his first, a tender smile parted her lips as she read his passionate, importunate appeal for her speedy return, and saw that the closing lines were blotted with tears. The remaining eight letters were from persons unknown to her, and contained requests for autographs and photographs, for short sketches for papers in different sections of the country, and also various inquiries concerning the time when her new book would probably be ready for press. All were kind, friendly, gratifying, and one was eloquent with thanks for the good effect produced by a magazine article on a dissipated, irreligious husband and father, who, after its perusal, had resolved to reform, and wished her to know the beneficial influence which she exerted. At the foot of the page was a line penned by the rejoicing wife, invoking heaven's choicest blessings on the author's head.

"Is not the laborer worthy of his hire?" Edna felt that her wages were munificent indeed; that her coffers were filling, and though the "Thank God!" was not audible, the great joy in her uplifted eyes attracted the attention of the pastor, who had been silently watching her, and he laid his hand on hers.

"What is it, my dear?"

"The reward God has given me!"

She read aloud the contents of the letter, and there was a brief silence, broken at last by Mr. Hammond.

"Edna, my child, are you really happy?"

"So happy that I believe the wealth of California could not buy this sheet of paper, which assures me that I have been instrumental in bringing sunshine to a darkened household; in calling the head of a family from haunts of vice and midnight orgies back to his wife and children; back to the shrine of prayer at his own hearthstone! I have not lived in vain, for through my work a human soul has been brought to Jesus, and I thank God that I am accounted worthy to labor in my Lord's vineyard! Oh! I will wear that happy wife's blessing in my inmost heart, and like those old bells in Cambridgeshire, inscribed, 'Pestem fungo! Sabbata pango!' it shall ring a silvery chime, exorcising all gloom, and loneliness, and sorrow."

The old man's eyes filled as he noted the radiance of the woman's lovely face.

"You have indeed cause for gratitude and great joy, as you realize all the good you are destined to accomplish, and I know the rapture of saving souls, for, through God's grace, I believe I have snatched some from the brink of ruin. But, Edna, can the triumph of your genius, the applause of the world, the approval of conscience, even the assurance that you are laboring successfully for the cause of Christ—can all these things satisfy your womanly heart—your loving, tender heart? My child, there is a dreary look sometimes in your eyes, that reveals loneliness, almost weariness of life. I have studied your countenance closely when it was in repose; I read it I think without errors; and as often as I hear your writings praised, I recall those lines, written by one of the noblest of your own sex:

'To have our books Appraised by love, associated with love, While we sit loveless! is it hard, you think? At least, 'tis mournful.'

Edna, are you perfectly contented with your lot?"

A shadow drifted slowly over the marble face, and though it settled on no feature, the whole countenance was changed.

"I can not say that I am perfectly content, and yet I would not exchange places with any woman I know."

"Do you never regret a step which you took one evening, yonder in my church?"

"No, sir, I do not regret it. I often thank God that I was able to obey my conscience and take that step."

"Suppose that in struggling up the steep path of duty one soul needs the encouragement, the cheering companionship which only one other human being can give? Will the latter be guiltless if the aid is obstinately withheld?"

"Suppose the latter feels that in joining hands both would stumble?"

"You would not, oh, Edna! you would lift each other to noble heights! Each life would be perfect, complete. My child, will you let me tell you some things that ought to—"

She threw up her hand, with that old, childish gesture which he remembered so well, and shook her head.

"No, sir; no, sir! Please tell me nothing that will rouse a sorrow I am striving to drug. Spare me, for as St. Chrysostom once said of Olympias the deaconess, I 'live in perpetual fellowship with pain.'"

"My dear little Edna, as I look at you and think of your future, I am troubled about you. I wish I could confidently say to you, what that same St. Chrysostom wrote to Pentadia: 'For I know your great and lofty soul, which can sail as with a fair wind through many tempests, AND IN THE MIDST OF THE WAVES ENJOY A WHITE CALM.'"

She turned and took the minister's hand in hers, while an indescribable peace settled on her countenance, and stilled the trembling of her low, sweet voice:

"Across the gray stormy billows of life, that 'white calm' of eternity is rimming the water-line, coming to meet me. Already the black pilot-boat heaves in sight; I hear the signal, and Death will soon take the helm and steer my little bark safely into the shining rest, into God's 'white calm.'"

She went to the piano and sang, as a solo, "Night's Shade no Longer," from Moses in Egypt.

While the pastor listened, he murmured to himself:

"Sublime is the faith of a lonely soul, In pain and trouble cherished; Sublime is the spirit of hope that lives When earthly hope has perished."

She turned over the sheets of music, hunting for a German hymn of which Mr. Hammond was very fond, but he called her back to the fireplace.

"My dear, do you recollect that beautiful passage in Faber's 'Sights and Thoughts in Foreign Churches'? 'There is seldom a line of glory written upon the earth's face but a line of suffering runs parallel with it; and they that read the lustrous syllables of the one, and stoop not to decipher the spotted and worn inscription of the other, get the least half of the lesson earth has to give.'"

"No, sir; I never read the book. Something in that passage brings to my mind those words of Martin Luther's, which explain so many of the 'spotted inscriptions' of this earth: 'Our Lord God doth like a printer, who setteth the letters backward. We see and feel well His setting, but we shall read the print yonder, in the life to come!' Mr. Hammond, it is said that, in the Alexandrian MS, in the British Museum, there is a word which has been subjected to microscopic examination, to determine whether it is oe, who, or thC—which is the abbreviation of theoz, God Sometimes I think that so ought we to turn the lens of faith on many dim, perplexing inscriptions traced in human history, and perhaps we might oftener find God."

"Yes, I have frequently thought that the MS of every human life was like a Peruvian Quippo, a mass of many colored cords or threads, tied and knotted by unseen, and, possibly, angel hands. Here, my dear, put these violets in water, they are withering. By the way, Edna, I am glad to find that in your writings you attach so much importance to the ministry of flowers, and that you call the attention of your readers to the beautiful arguments which they furnish in favor of the Christian philosophy of a divine design in nature. Truly,

'Your voiceless lips, O flowers' are living preachers, Each cup a pulpit, and each leaf a book, Supplying to my fancy numerous teachers From lowliest nook'"

At this moment the door-bell rang, and soon after the servant brought in a telegraphic dispatch, addressed to Mr. Hammond.

It was from Gordon Leigh, announcing his arrival in New York, and stating that he and Gertrude would reach the parsonage some time during the ensuing week.

Edna went into the kitchen to superintend the preparation of the minister's supper; and when she returned and placed the waiter on the table near his chair, she told him that she must go back to New York immediately after the arrival of Gordon and Gertrude, as her services would no longer be required at the parsonage and her pupils needed her.

Two days passed without any further allusion to a subject which was evidently uppermost in Mr. Hammond's mind.

On the morning of the third, Mrs. Murray said, as she rose to conclude her visit, "You are so much better, sir, that I must claim Edna for a day at least. She has not yet been to Le Bocage; and as she goes away so soon, I want to take her home with me this morning. Clara Inge promised me that she would stay with you until evening. Edna, get your bonnet. I shall be entirely alone to-day, for St. Elmo has carried Huldah to the plantation, and they will not get home until late. So, my dear, we shall have the house all to ourselves."

The orphan could not deny herself the happiness offered she knew that she ought not to go, but for once her strength failed her, she yielded to the temptation.

During the drive Mrs. Murray talked cheerfully of various things, and for the first time laid aside entirely the haughty constraint which had distinguished her manner since they travelled south from New York.

They entered the avenue, and Edna gave herself up to the rushing recollections which were so mournfully sweet. As they went into the house, and the servants hurried forward to welcome her, she could not repress her tears. She felt that this was her home, her heart's home; and as numerous familiar objects met her eyes, Mrs. Murray saw that she was almost overpowered by her emotions.

"I wonder if there is any other place on earth half so beautiful!" murmured the governess several hours later, as they sat looking out over the lawn, where the deer and sheep were browsing.

"Certainly not to our partial eyes. And yet without you, my child, it does not seem like home. It is the only home where you will ever be happy."

"Yes, I know it; but it cannot be mine. Mrs. Murray, I want to see my own little room."

"Certainly; you know the way. I will join you there presently. Nobody has occupied it since you left, for I feel toward your room as I once felt toward the empty cradle of my dead child."

Edna went up-stairs alone and closed the door of the apartment she had so long called hers, and looked with childish pleasure and affection at the rosewood furniture.

Turning to the desk where she had written much that the world now praised and loved, she saw a vase containing a superb bouquet, with a card attached by a strip of ribbon. The hothouse flowers were arranged with exquisite taste, and the orphan's cheeks glowed suddenly as she recognized Mr. Murray's handwriting on the card: "For Edna Earl." When she took up the bouquet a small envelope similarly addressed, dropped out.

For some minutes she stood irresolute, fearing to trust herself with the contents; then she drew a chair to the desk, sat down, and broke the seal:

"My DARLING: Will you not permit me to see you before you leave the parsonage? Knowing the peculiar circumstances that brought you back, I cannot take advantage of them and thrust myself into your presence without your consent. I have left home to-day, because I felt assured that, much as you might desire to see 'Le Bocage,' you would never come here while there was a possibility of meeting me. You, who know something of my wayward, sinful, impatient temper, can perhaps imagine what I suffer, when I am told that your health is wretched, that you are in the next room, and yet, that I must not, shall not see you—my own Edna! Do you wonder that I almost grow desperate at the thought that only a wall—a door—separates me from you, whom I love better than my life? Oh, my darling! Allow me one more interview! Do not make my punishment heavier than I can bear. It is hard—it is bitter enough to know that you can not, or will not trust me; at least let me see your dear face again. Grant me one hour—it may be the last we shall ever spend together in this world. "Your own, ST. ELMO."

"Ah, my God! pity me! Why—oh! why is it that I am tantalized with glimpses of a great joy never to be mine in this life! Why, in struggling to do my duty, am I brought continually to the very gate of the only Eden I am ever to find in this world, and yet can never surprise the watching Angel of Wrath, and have to stand shivering outside, and see my Eden only by the flashing of the sword that bars my entrance?"

Looking at the handwriting so different from any other which she had ever examined, her thoughts were irresistibly carried back to that morning when, at the shop, she saw this handwriting for the first time on the blank leaf of the Dante; and she recalled the shuddering aversion with which her grandfather had glanced at it, and advised her to commit it to the flames of the forge.

How many such notes as this had been penned to Annie and Gertrude, and to that wretched woman shut up in an Italian convent, and to others of whose names she was ignorant?

Mrs. Murray opened the door, looked in, and said:

"Come, I want to show you something really beautiful."

Edna put the note in her pocket, took the bouquet, and followed her friend down-stairs, through the rotunda, to the door of Mr. Murray's sitting-room.

"My son locked this door and carried the key with him; but after some search, I have found another that will open it. Come in, Edna. Now look at that large painting hanging over the sarcophagus. It is a copy of Titian's 'Christ Crowned with Thorns,' the original of which is in a Milan church, I believe. While St. Elmo was last abroad, he was in Genoa one afternoon when a boat was capsized. Being a fine swimmer, he sprang into the water where several persons were struggling, and saved the lives of two little children of an English gentleman, who had his hands quite full in rescuing his wife. Two of the party were drowned, but the father was so grateful to my son that he has written him several letters, and last year he sent him this picture, which, though of course much smaller than the original, is considered a very fine copy. I begged to have it hung in the parlor, but fearing, I suppose, that its history might possibly be discovered (you know how he despises anything like a parade of good deeds), St. Elmo insisted on bringing it here to this Egyptian Museum, where, unfortunately, people can not see it."

For some time they stood admiring it, and then Edna's eyes wandered away to the Taj Mahal, to the cabinets and book-cases. Her lip began to quiver as every article of furniture babbled of the By-Gone—of the happy evenings spent here—of that hour when the idea of authorship first seized her mind and determined her future.

Mrs. Murray walked up to the arch, over which the curtains fell touching the floor, and laying her hand on the folds of silk, said hesitatingly:

"I am going to show you something that my son would not easily forgive me for betraying; for it is a secret he guards most jealously—"

"No, I would rather not see it. I wish to learn nothing which Mr. Murray is not willing that I should know."

"You will scarcely betray me to my son when you see what it is; and beside, I am determined you shall have no room to doubt the truth of some things he has told you. There is no reason why you should not look at it. Do you recognize that face yonder, over the mantelpiece?"

She held the curtains back, and despite her reluctance to glancing into the inner room, Edna raised her eyes timidly, and saw, in a richly-carved oval frame, hanging on the opposite wall, a life-size portrait of herself.

"We learned from the newspapers that some fine photographs had been taken in New York, and I sent on and bought two. St. Elmo took one of them to an artist in Charleston, and superintended the painting of that portrait. When he returned, just before I went North, he brought the picture with him, and with his own hands hung it yonder. I have noticed that since that day he always keeps the curtains down over the arch, and never leaves the house without locking his rooms."

Edna had dropped her crimsoned face in her hands, but Mrs. Murray raised it forcibly and kissed her.

"I want you to know how well he loves you—how necessary you are to his happiness. Now I must leave you, for I see Mrs. Montgomery's carriage at the door. You have a note to answer; there are writing materials on the table yonder."

She went out, closing the door softly, and Edna was alone with surroundings that pleaded piteously for the absent master. Oxalis and heliotrope peeped at her over the top of the lotos vases; one of a pair of gauntlets had fallen on the carpet near the cameo cabinet; two or three newspapers and a meerschaum lay upon a chair; several theological works were scattered on the sofa, and the air was heavy with lingering cigar-smoke.

Just in front of the Taj Mahal was a handsome copy of Edna's novel, and a beautiful morocco-bound volume containing a collection of all her magazine sketches.

She sat down in the crimson-cushioned armchair that was drawn close to the circular table, where pen and paper told that the owner had recently been writing, and near the ink-stand was a handkerchief with German initials, S. E. M.

Upon a mass of loose papers stood a quaint bronze paper-weight, representing Cartaphilds, the Wandering Jew; and on the base was inscribed Mr. Murray's favorite Arabian maxim: "Ed dunya djifetun ve talibeha kilabi": "THE WORLD IS AN ABOMINATION, AND THOSE WHO TOIL ABOUT IT ARE DOGS."

There, too, was her own little Bible; and as she took it up it opened at the fourteenth chapter of St. John, where she found, as a book-mark, the photograph of herself from which the portrait had been painted. An unwithered geranium sprig lying among the leaves whispered that the pages had been read that morning.

Out on the lawn birds swung in the elm-twigs, singing cheerily, lambs bleated and ran races, and the little silver bell on Huldah's pet fawn, "Edna," tinkled ceaselessly.

"Help me, O my God! in this the last hour of my trial."

The prayer went up meaningly, and Edna took a pen and turned to write. Her arm struck a portfolio lying on the edge of the table, and in falling loose sheets of paper fluttered out on the carpet. One caught her eye; she picked it up and found a sketch of the ivied ruins of Phyle. Underneath the drawing, and dated fifteen years before, were traced, in St. Elmo's writing, those lines which Henry Soame is said to have penned on the blank leaf of a copy of the "Pleasures of Memory":

"Memory makes her influence known By sighs, and tears, and grief alone. I greet her as the fiend, to whom belong The vulture's ravening beak, the raven's funereal song! She tells of time misspent, of comfort lost, Of fair occasions gone forever by; Of hopes too fondly nursed, too rudely crossed, Of many a cause to wish, yet fear to die; For what, except the instinctive fear Lest she survive, detains me here, When all the 'Life of Life' is fled?"

The lonely woman looked upward, appealingly, and there upon the wall she met—not as formerly, the gleaming, augurous, inexorable eyes of the Cimbrian Prophetess—but the pitying God's gaze of Titian's Jesus.

When Mrs. Murray returned to the room, Edna sat as still as one of the mummies in the sarcophagus, with her head thrown back, and the long, black eyelashes sweeping her colorless cheeks.

One hand was pressed over her heart, the other held a note directed to St. Elmo Murray; and the cold, fixed features were so like those of an Angel of Death sometimes sculptured on cenotaphs, that Mrs. Murray uttered a cry of alarm.

As she bent over her, Edna opened her arms and said in a feeble, spent tone:

"Take me back to the parsonage. I ought not to have come here; I might have known I was not strong enough."

"You have had one of those attacks. Why did you not call me? I will bring you some wine."

"No; only let me go away as soon as possible. Oh! I am ashamed of my weakness."

She rose, and her pale lips writhed as her sad eyes wandered in a farewell glance around the room.

She put the unsealed note in Mrs. Murray's hand, and turned toward the door.

"Edna! My daughter! you have not refused St. Elmo's request?"

"My mother! Pity me! I could not grant it."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

"They have come. I hear Gertrude's birdish voice."

The words had scarcely passed Mr. Hammond's lips ere his niece bounded into the room, followed by her husband.

Edna was sitting on the chintz-covered lounge, mending a basketful of the old man's clothes that needed numerous stitches and buttons, and, throwing aside her sewing materials, she rose to meet the travellers.

At sight of her Gordon Leigh stopped suddenly and his face grew instantly as bloodless as her own.

"Edna! Oh! how changed! What a wreck!"

He grasped her outstretched hand, folded it in his, which trembled violently, and a look of anguish mastered his features, as his eyes searched her calm countenance.

"I did not think it would come so soon. Passing away in the early morning of your life! Oh, my pure, broken lily!"

He did not seem to heed his wife's presence, until she threw her arms around Edna, exclaiming:

"Get away, Gordon! I want her all to myself. Why, you pale darling! What a starved ghost you are! Not half as substantial as my shadow, is she, Gordon? Oh, Edna! how I have longed to see you, to tell you how I enjoyed your dear, delightful, grand, noble book! To tell you what a great woman I think you are; and how proud of you I am. A gentleman who came over in the steamer with us, asked me how much you paid me per annum to puff you. He was a miserable old cynic of a bachelor, ridiculed all women unmercifully, and at last I told him I would bet both my ears that the reason he was so bearish and hateful, was because some pretty girl had flirted with him outrageously. He turned up his ugly nose especially at 'blue stockings'; said all literary women were 'hopeless pedants and slatterns,' and quoted that abominable Horace Walpole's account of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's 'dirt and vivacity.' I really thought Gordon would throw him overboard. I wonder what he would say if he could see you darning Uncle Allan's socks. Oh, Edna, dearie! I am sorry to find you looking so pale."

All this was uttered interjectionally between vigorous hugs and warm, tender kisses, and as Gertrude threw her bonnet and wrappings on the lounge, she continued:

"I wished for you just exactly ten thousand times while I was abroad, there were so many things that you could have described so beautifully. Gordon, don't Edna's eyes remind you very much of that divine picture of the Madonna at Dresden?"

She looked round for an answer, but her husband had left the room, and, recollecting a parcel that had been stowed away in the pocket of the carriage, she ran out to get it.

Presently she reappeared at the door, with a goblet in her hand.

"Uncle Allan, who carries the keys now?"

"Edna. What will you have, my dear?"

"I want some brandy. Gordon looks very pale, and complains of not feeling well, so I intend to make him a mint-julep. Ah, Edna! These husbands are such troublesome creatures."

She left the room jingling the bunch of keys, and a few moments after they heard her humming an air from "Rigoletto," as she bent over the mint-bed, under the study window.

Mr. Hammond, who had observed all that passed, and saw the earnest distress clouding the orphan's brow, said gravely:

"She has not changed an iota; she never will be anything more than a beautiful, merry child, and is a mere pretty pet, not a companion in the true sense of the word. She is not quick-witted, or she would discern a melancholy truth that might overshadow all her life. Unless Gordon learns more self-control, he will ere long betray himself. I expostulated with him before his marriage, but for once he threw my warning to the winds. I am an old man, and have seen many phases of human nature, and watched the development of many characters; and I have found that these pique marriages are always mournful—always disastrous. In such instances I would with more pleasure officiate at the grave than at the altar. Once Estelle and Agnes persuaded me that St. Elmo was about to wreck himself on this rock of ruin, and even his mother's manner led me to believe that he would marry his cousin; but, thank God! he was wiser than I feared."

"Mr. Hammond, are you sure that Gertrude loves Mr. Leigh?"

"Oh! yes, my dear! Of that fact there can be no doubt. Why do you question it?"

"She told me once that Mr. Murray had won her heart."

It was the first time Edna had mentioned his name since her return, and it brought a faint flush to her cheeks.

"That was a childish whim which she has utterly forgotten. A woman of her temperament never remains attached to a man from whom she is long separated. I do not suppose that she remembered St. Elmo a month after she ceased to meet him. I feel assured that she loves Gordon as well as she can love any one. She is a remarkably sweet- tempered, unselfish, gladsome woman, but is not capable of very deep, lasting feeling."

"I will go away at once. This is Saturday, and I will start to New York early Monday morning. Mr. Leigh is weaker than I ever imagined he could be."

The outline of her mouth hardened, and into her eyes crept an expression of scorn, that very rarely found a harbor there.

"Yes, my dear; although it grieves me to part with you, I know it is best that you should not be here, at least for the present. Agnes is visiting friends at the North and when she returns, Gordon and Gertrude will remove to their new house. Then, Edna, if I feel that I need you, if I write for you, will you not come back to me? Dear child, I want your face to be the last I look upon in this world."

She drew the pastor's shrunken hand to her lips, and shook her head.

"Do not ask me to do that which my strength will not permit. There are many reasons why I ought not to come here again; and, moreover, my work calls me hence, to a distant field. My physical strength seems to be ebbing fast, and my vines are not all purple with mellow fruit. Some clusters, thank God! are fragrant, ripe, and ready for the wine-press, when the Angel of the Vintage comes to gather them in; but my work is only half done. Not until my fingers clasp white flowers under a pall, shall it be said of me, 'Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.' In coelo quies! The German idea of death is to me peculiarly comforting and touching, 'Heimgang'—GOING HOME. Ah, sir! humanity ought to be homesick; and in thinking of that mansion beyond the star-paved pathway of the sky, whither Jesus has gone to prepare our places, we children of earth should, like the Swiss, never lose our home- sickness. Our bodies are of the dust—dusty, and bend dustward; but our souls floated down from the sardonyx walls of the Everlasting City, and brought with them a yearning maladie du pays, which should help them to struggle back. Sometimes I am tempted to believe that the joys of this world are the true lotos, devouring which, mankind glory in exile, and forget the Heimgang. Oh! indeed, 'here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.' Heimgang! Thank God! going home for ever!"

The splendor of the large eyes seemed almost unearthly as she looked out over the fields, where in summers past the shout of the merry reapers rose like the songs of Greek harvesters to Demeter! Nay, nay, as a hymn of gratitude and praise to Him who "feedeth the fowls of the air," and maketh the universe a vast Sarepta, in which the cruse never faileth the prophets of God. Edna sat silent for some time, with her slender hands folded on her lap, and the pastor heard her softly repeating, as if to her own soul, those lines on "Life":

"A cry between the silences, A shadow-birth of clouds at strife With sunshine on the hills of life; Between the cradle and the shroud, A meteor's flight from cloud to cloud!"

Several hours later, when Mr. Leigh returned to the study, he found Edna singing some of the minister's favorite Scotch ballads; while Gertrude rested on the lounge, half propped on her elbow, and leaning forward to dangle the cord and tassel of her robe de chambre within reach of an energetic little blue-eyed kitten, which, with its paws in the air, rolled on the carpet, catching at the silken toy. The governess left the piano, and resumed her mending of the contents of the clothes-basket.

In answer to some inquiries of Mr. Hammond, Mr. Leigh gave a brief account of his travels in Southern Europe; but his manner was constrained, his thoughts evidently preoccupied. Once his eyes wandered to the round, rosy, dimpling face of his beautiful child- wife, and he frowned, bit his lip, and sighed; while his gaze, earnest and mournfully anxious, returned and dwelt upon the weary but serene countenance of the orphan.

In the conversation, which had turned accidentally upon philology and the MSS. of the Vatican, Gertrude took no part; now and then glancing up at the speakers, she continued her romp with the kitten. At length, tired of her frolicsome pet, she rose with a half- suppressed yawn, and sauntered up to her husband's chair. Softly and lovingly her pretty little pink palms were passed over her husband's darkened brow, and her fingers drew his hair now on one side, now on the other, while she peeped over his shoulder to watch the effect of the arrangement.

The caresses were inopportune, her touch annoyed him. He shook it off, and, stretching out his arm, put her gently but firmly away, saying, coldly:

"There is a chair, Gertrude."

Edna's eyes looked steadily into his, with an expression of grave, sorrowful reproof—of expostulation; and the flush deepened on his face as his eyes fell before her rebuking gaze.

Perhaps the young wife had become accustomed to such rebuffs; at all events she evinced neither mortification nor surprise, but twirled her silk tassel vigorously around her finger, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Gordon! have you not forgotten to give Edna that letter, written by the gentleman we met at Palermo? Edna, he paid your book some splendid compliments. I fairly clapped my hands at his praises- -didn't I, Gordon?"

Mr. Leigh drew a letter from the inside pocket of his coat, and, as he gave it to the orphan, said with a touch of bitterness in his tone:

"Pardon my negligence; probably you will find little news in it, as he is one of your old victims, and you can guess its contents."

The letter was from Sir Roger; and while he expressed great grief at hearing, through Mr. Manning's notes, that her health was seriously impaired, he renewed the offer of his hand, and asked permission to come and plead his suit in person.

As Edna hurriedly glanced over the pages, and put them in her pocket, Gertrude said gayly, "Shame on you, Gordon! Do you mean to say, or, rather to insinuate, that all who read Edna's book are victimized?"

He looked at her from under thickening eyebrows, and replied with undisguised impatience:

"No; your common sense ought to teach you that such was not my meaning or intention. Edna places no such interpretation on my words."

"Common sense! Oh, Gordon, dearie! how unreasonable you are! Why, you have told me a thousand times that I had not a particle of common sense, except on the subject of juleps; and how, then, in the name of wonder, can you expect me to show any? I never pretended to be a great shining genius like Edna, whose writings all the world is talking about. I only want to be wise enough to understand you, dearie, and make you happy. Gordon, don't you feel any better? What makes your face so red?"

She went back to his chair, and leaned her lovely head close to his, while an anxious expression filled her large blue eyes.

Gordon Leigh realized that his marriage was a terrible mistake, which only death could rectify; but even in his wretchedness he was just, blaming only himself—exonerating his wife. Had he not wooed the love of which, already, he was weary? Having deceived her at the altar, was there justification for his dropping the mask at the hearthstone? Nay, the skeleton must be no rattling of skull and crossbones to freeze the blood in the sweet laughing face of the trusting bird.

Now her clinging tenderness, her affectionate humility, upbraided him as no harsh words could possibly have done. With a smothered sigh he passed his arm around her, and drew her closer to his side.

"At least my little wife is wise enough to teach her husband to be ashamed of his petulance."

"And quite wise enough, dear Gertrude, to make him very proud and happy; for you ought to be able to say with the sweetest singer in all merry England:

'But I look up and he looks down, And thus our married eyes can meet; Unclouded his, and clear of frown, And gravely sweet.'"

As Edna glanced at the young wife and uttered these words, a mist gathered in her own eyes, and collecting her sewing utensils she went to her room to pack her trunk.

During her stay at the parsonage she had not attended service in the church, because Mr. Hammond was lonely, and her Sabbaths were spent in reading to him. But her old associates in the choir insisted that, before she returned to New York, she should sing with them once more.

Thus far she had declined all invitations; but on the morning of the last day of her visit, the organist called to say that a distinguished divine, from a distant State, would fill Mr. Hammond's pulpit; and as the best and leading soprano in the choir was disabled by severe cold, and could not be present, he begged that Edna would take her place, and sing a certain solo in the music which he had selected for an opening piece. Mr. Hammond, who was pardonably proud of his choir, was anxious that the stranger should be greeted and inspired by fine music, and urged Edna's compliance with the request.

Reluctantly she consented, and for the first time Duty and Love seemed to signal a truce, to shake hands over the preliminaries of a treaty for peace.

As she passed through the churchyard and walked up the steps, where a group of Sabbath-school children sat talking, her eyes involuntarily sought the dull brown spot on the marble.

Over it little Herbert Inge had spread his white handkerchief, and piled thereon his Testament and catechism, laying on the last one of those gilt-bordered and handsome pictorial cards, containing a verse from the Scriptures, which are frequently distributed by Sabbath- school teachers.

Edna stooped and looked at the picture covering the blood-stain. It represented our Saviour on the Mount, delivering the sermon, and in golden letters were printed his words:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

The eyes of the Divine Preacher seemed to look into hers, and the outstretched hand to point directly at her.

She trembled, and hastily kissing the sweet red lips which little Herbert held up to her, she went in, and up to the gallery.

The congregation assembled slowly, and as almost all the faces were familiar to Edna, each arrival revived something of the past. Here the flashing silk flounces of a young belle brushed the straight black folds of widow's weeds; on the back of one seat was stretched the rough brown hand of a poor laboring man; on the next lay the dainty fingers of a matron of wealth and fashion, who had entirely forgotten to draw a glove over her sparkling diamonds.

In all the splendor of velvet, feathers, and sea-green moire, Mrs. Montgomery sailed proudly into her pew, convoying her daughter Maud, who was smiling and whispering to her escort; and just behind them came a plainly-clad but happy young mechanic, a carpenter, clasping to his warm, honest heart the arm of his sweet-faced, gentle wife, and holding the hand of his rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed, three-year old boy, who toddled along, staring at the brilliant pictures on the windows.

When Mr. Leigh and Gertrude entered there was a general stir, a lifting of heads and twisting of necks, in order to ascertain what new styles of bonnet, lace, and mantle prevailed in Paris.

A moment after Mrs. Murray walked slowly down the aisle, and Edna's heart seemed to stand still as she saw Mr. Murray's powerful form. He stepped forward, and while he opened the door of the pew, and waited for his mother to seat herself, his face was visible; then he sat down, closing the door.

The minister entered, and, as he ascended the pulpit, the organ began to breathe its solemn welcome. When the choir rose and commenced their chorus, Edna stood silent, with her book in her hand, and her eyes fixed on the Murrays' pew.

The strains of triumph ceased, the organ only sobbed its sympathy to the thorn-crowned Christ, struggling along the Via Dolorosa, and the orphan's quivering lips parted, and she sang her solo.

As her magnificent voice rose and rolled to the arched roof, people forgot propriety, and turned to look at the singer. She saw Mrs. Murray start and glance eagerly up at her, and for an instant the grand, pure voice faltered slightly, as Edna noticed that the mother whispered something to the son. But he did not turn his proud head, he only leaned his elbow on the side of the pew next to the aisle, and rested his temple on his hand.

When the preliminary services ended, and the minister stood up in the shining pulpit and commenced his discourse, Edna felt that St. Elmo had at last enlisted angels in his behalf; for the text was contained in the warning, whose gilded letters hid the blood-spot, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

As far as two among his auditory were concerned, the preacher might as well have addressed his sermon to the mossy slabs, visible through the windows. Both listened to the text, and neither heard any more. Edna sat looking down at Mr. Murray's massive, finely- poised head, and she could see the profile contour of features, regular and dark, as if carved and bronzed.

During the next half-hour her vivid imagination sketched and painted a vision of enchantment—of what might have been, if that motionless man below, there in the crimson-cushioned pew, had only kept his soul from grievous sins. A vision of a happy, proud, young wife reigning at Le Bocage, shedding the warm, rosy light of her love over the lonely life of its master; adding to his strong, clear intellect and ripe experience, the silver flame of her genius; borrowing from him broader and more profound views of her race, on which to base her ideal aesthetic structures; softening, refining his nature, strengthening her own; helping him to help humanity; loving all good, being good, doing good; serving and worshipping God together; walking hand and hand with her husband through earth's wide valley of Baca, with peaceful faces full of faith, looking heavenward.

"God pity them both! and pity us all, Who vainly the dreams of youth recall. For of all sad words of tongue or pen The saddest are these, 'It might have been!'"

At last, with a faint moan, which reached no ear but that of Him who never slumbers, Edna withdrew her eyes from the spot where Mr. Murray sat, and raised them toward the pale Christ, whose wan lips seemed to murmur:

"Be of good cheer! He that overcometh shall inherit all things. What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter."

The minister, standing beneath the picture of the Master whom he served, closed the Bible and ended his discourse by hurling his text as a thunderbolt at those whose upturned faces watched him:

"Finally, brethren, remember under all circumstances the awful admonition of Jesus, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged!'"

The organ peals and the doxology were concluded; the benediction fell like God's dew, alike on sinner and on saint, and amid the solemn moaning of the gilded pipes, the congregation turned to quit the church.

With both hands pressed over her heart, Edna leaned heavily against the railing.

"To-morrow I go away for ever. I shall never see his face again in this world. Oh! I want to look at it once more."

As he stepped into the aisle, Mr. Murray threw his head back slightly, and his eyes swept up to the gallery and met hers. It was a long, eager, heart-searching gaze. She saw a countenance more fascinating than of old; for the sardonic glare had gone, the bitterness, "the dare-man, dare-brute, dare-devil" expression had given place to a stern mournfulness, and the softening shadow of deep contrition and manly sorrow hovered over features where scoffing cynicism had so long scowled.

The magnetism of St. Elmo's eyes was never more marvellous than when they rested on the beautiful white face of the woman he loved so well, whose calm, holy eyes shone like those of an angel, as they looked sadly down at his. In the mystic violet light with which the rich stained glass flooded the church, that pallid, suffering face, sublime in its meekness and resignation, hung above him like one of Perugino's saints over kneeling mediaeval worshippers. As the moving congregation bore him nearer to the door, she leaned farther over the mahogany balustrade, and a snowy crocus which she wore at her throat, snapped its brittle stem and floated down till it touched his shoulder. He laid one hand over it, holding it there, and while a prayer burned in his splendid eyes, hers smiled a melancholy farewell. The crowd swept the tall form forward, under the arches, beyond the fluted columns of the gallery, and the long gaze ended.

"Ah! well for us all some sweet hope lies Deeply buried from human eyes; And in the hereafter, angels may Roll the stone from its grave away."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

"I am truly thankful that you have returned! I am quite worn out trying to humor Felix's whims, and take your place. He has actually lost ten pounds; and if you had staid away a month longer I think it would have finished my poor boy, who has set you up as an idol in his heart. He almost had a spasm last week, when his father told him he had better reconcile himself to your absence, as he believed that you would never come back to the drudgery of the schoolroom. I am very anxious about him; his health is more feeble than it has been since he was five years old. My dear, you have no idea how you have been missed! Your admirers call by scores to ascertain when you may be expected home; and I do not exaggerate in the least when I say that there is a champagne basketful of periodicals and letters upstairs, that have arrived recently. You will find them piled on the table and desk in your room."

"Where are the children?" asked Edna, glancing around the sitting- room into which Mrs. Andrews had drawn her.

"Hattie is spending the day with Lila Manning, who is just recovering from a severe attack of scarlet fever, and Felix is in the library trying to sleep. He has one of his nervous headaches to- day. Poor fellow! he tries so hard to overcome his irritable temper and to grow patient, that I am growing fonder of him every day. How travel-spent and ghastly you are! Sit down, and I will order some refreshments. Take this wine, my dear, and presently you shall have a cup of chocolate."

"Thank you, not any wine. I only want to see Felix."

She went to the library, cautiously opened the door, and crept softly across the floor to the end of the sofa.

The boy lay looking through the window, and up beyond the walls and chimneys, at the sapphire pavement, where rolled the sun. Casual observers thought the cripple's face ugly and disagreeable; but the tender, loving smile that lighted the countenance of the governess as she leaned forward, told that some charm lingered in the sharpened features overcast with sickly sallowness. In his large, deep-set eyes, over which the heavy brows arched like a roof, she saw now a strange expression that frightened her. Was it the awful shadow of the Three Singing Spinners, whom Catullus painted at the wedding of Peleus? As the child looked into the blue sky, did he catch a glimpse of their trailing white robes, purple-edged—of their floating rose-colored veils? Above all, did he hear the unearthly chorus which they chanted as they spun?

"Currite ducentes, subteinina currite fusi!"

The governess was seized by a vague apprehension as she watched her pupil, and bending down, she said, fondly:

"Felix, my darling, I have come back! Never again while I live will I leave you."

The almost bewildering joy that flashed into his countenance mutely but eloquently welcomed her, as kneeling beside the sofa she wound her arms around him, and drew his head to her shoulder.

"Edna, is Mr. Hammond dead?"

"No, he is almost well again, and needs me no more."

"I need you more than anybody else ever did. Oh, Edna! I thought sometimes you would stay at the South that you love so well, and I should see you no more; and then all the light seemed to die out of the world, and the flowers were not sweet, and the stars were not bright, and oh! I was glad I had not long to live."

"Hush! you must not talk so. How do you know that you may not live as long as Ahasuerus, the 'Everlasting Jew'? My dear little boy, in all this wide earth, you are the only one whom I have to love and cling to, and we will be happy together. Darling, your head aches to-day?"

She pressed her lips twice to his hot forehead.

"Yes; but the heartache was much the hardest to bear until you came. Mamma has been very good and kind, and staid at home and read to me; but I wanted you, Edna. I do not believe I have been wicked since you left; for I prayed all the while that God would bring you back to me. I have tried hard to be patient."

With her cheek nestled against his, Edna told him many things that had occurred during their separation, and noticed that his eyes brightened suddenly and strangely.

"Edna, I have a secret to tell you; something that even mamma is not to know just now. You must not laugh at me. While you were gone I wrote a little MS., and it is dedicated to you! and some day I hope it will be printed. Are you glad, Edna? My beautiful, pale Edna!"

"Felix, I am very glad you love me sufficiently to dedicate your little MS. to me; but, my dear boy, I must see it before I can say I am glad you wrote it."

"If you had been here, it would not have been written, because then I should merely have talked out all the ideas to you; but you were far away, and so I talked to my paper. After all, it was only a dream. One night I was feverish, and mamma read aloud those passages that you marked in that great book, Maury's Physical Geography of the Sea, that you admire and quote so often; and of which I remember you said once, in talking to Mr. Manning, that 'it rolled its warm, beautiful, sparkling waves of thought across the cold, gray sea of science, just like the Gulf Stream it treated of.' Two of the descriptions which mamma read were so splendid that they rang in my ears like the music of the Swiss Bell-Ringers. One was the account of the atmosphere, by Dr. Buist of Bombay, and the other was the description of the Indian Ocean, which was quoted from Schleiden's Lecture. My fever was high, and when at last I went to sleep, I had a queer dream about madrepores and medusae, and I wrote it down as well as I could, and called it 'Algae Adventures, in a Voyage Round the World.' Edna, I have stolen something from you, and as you will be sure to find it out when you read my little story, where there is a long, hard word missing in the MS., I will tell you about it now. Do you recollect talking to me one evening, when we were walking on the beach at The Willows, about some shell-clad animalcula, which you said were so very small that Professor Schultze, of Bonn, found no less than a million and a half of their minute shells in an ounce of pulverized quartz, from the shore of Mo la di Gaeta? Well, I put all you told me in my little MS.; but, for my life, I could not think of the name of the class to which they belong. Do you recollect it?"

"Let me think a moment. Was it not Foraminifera?"

"That's the identical word—'Foraminifera!' No wonder I could not think of it! Six syllables tied up in a scientific knot. Phew! it makes my head ache worse to try to recollect it. How stoop- shouldered your memory must be from carrying such heavy loads! It is a regular camel."

"Yes; it is a meek, faithful beast of burden, and will very willingly bear the weight of that scientific name until you want to use it; so do not tax your mind now. You said you stole it from me, but my dear, ambitious authorling, my little round-jacket scribbler, I wish you to understand distinctly that I do not consider that I have been robbed. The fact was discovered by Professor Schultze, and bequeathed by him to the world. From that instant it became universal, common property, which any man, woman, or child may use at pleasure, provided a tribute of gratitude is paid to the donor. Every individual is in some sort an intellectual bank, issuing bills of ideas (very often specious, but not always convertible into gold or silver); and now, my precious little boy, recollect that just as long as I have any capital left, you can borrow; and some day I will turn Shylock, and make you pay me with usury."

"Edna, I should like above all things to write a book of stories for poor, sick children; little tales that would make them forget their suffering and deformity. If I could even reconcile one lame boy to being shut up indoors, while others are shouting and skating in the sunshine, I should not feel as if I were so altogether useless in the world. Edna, do you think that I shall ever be able to do so?"

"Perhaps so, dear Felix; certainly, if God wills it. When you are stronger we will study and write together, but to-day you must compose yourself and be silent. Your fever is rising."

"The doctor left some medicine yonder in that goblet, but mamma has forgotten to give it to me. I will take a spoonful now, if you please."

His face was much flushed; and as she kissed him and turned away, he exclaimed:

"Oh! where are you going?"

"To my room, to take off my hat."

"Do not be gone long. I am so happy now that you are here again. But I don't want you to get out of my sight. Come back soon, and bathe my head."

On the following day, when Mr. Manning called to welcome her home, he displayed an earnestness and depth of feeling which surprised the governess. Putting his hand on her arm, he said in a tone that had lost its metallic ring:

"How fearfully changed since I saw you last! I knew you were not strong enough to endure the trial; and if I had had a right to interfere, you should never have gone."

"Mr. Manning, I do not quite understand your meaning."

"Edna, to see you dying by inches is bitter indeed! I believed that you would marry Murray—at least I knew any other woman would—and I felt that to refuse his affection would be a terrible trial, through which you could not pass with impunity. Why you rejected him I have no right to inquire, but I have a right to ask you to let me save your life. I am well aware that you do not love me, but at least you can esteem and entirely trust me; and once more I hold out my hand to you and say, give me the wreck of your life! oh! give me the ruins of your heart! I will guard you tenderly; we will go to Europe—to the East; and rest of mind, and easy travelling, and change of scene will restore you. I never realized, never dreamed how much my happiness depended upon you, until you left the city. I have always relied so entirely upon myself, feeling the need of no other human being; but now, separated from you I am restless, am conscious of a vague discontent. If you spend the next year as you have spent the last, you will not survive it. I have conferred with your physician. He reluctantly told me your alarming condition, and I have come to plead with you for the last time not to continue your suicidal course, not to destroy the life which, if worthless to you, is inexpressibly precious to a man who prays to be allowed to take care of it. A man who realizes that it is necessary to the usefulness and peace of his own lonely life; who wishes no other reward on earth but the privilege of looking into your approving eyes, when his daily work is ended, and he sits down at his fireside. Edna! I do not ask for your love, but I beg for your hand, your confidence, your society—for the right to save you from toil. Will you go to the Old World with me?"

Looking suddenly up at him, she was astonished to find tears in his searching and usually cold eyes.

Scandinavian tradition reports that seven parishes were once overwhelmed, and still lie buried under snow and ice, and yet occasionally those church-bells are heard ringing clearly under the glaciers of the Folge Fond.

So, in the frozen, crystal depths of this man's nature, his long silent, smothered affections began to chime.

A proud smile trembled over Edna's face, as she saw how entirely she possessed the heart of one, whom above all other men she most admired.

"Mr. Manning, the assertion that you regard your life as imperfect, incomplete, without the feeble complement of mine—that you find your greatest happiness in my society, is the most flattering, the most gratifying tribute which ever has been, or ever can be paid to my intellect. It is a triumph indeed; and, because unsought, surely it is a pardonable pride that makes my heart throb. This assurance of your high regard is the brightest earthly crown I shall ever wear. But, sir, you err egregiously in supposing that you would be happy wedded to a woman who did not love you. You think now that if we were only married, my constant presence in your home, my implicit confidence in your character, would fully content you; but here you fail to understand your own heart, and I know that the consciousness that my affection was not yours would make you wretched. No, no! my dear, noble friend! God never intended us for each other. I can not go to the Old World with you. I know how peculiarly precarious is my tenure of life, and how apparently limited is my time for work in this world, but I am content. I try to labor faithfully, listening for the summons of Him who notices even the death of sparrows. God will not call me hence, so long as He has any work for me to do on earth; and when I become useless, and can no longer serve Him here, I do not wish to live. Through Christ I am told, 'Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' Mr. Manning, I am not ignorant of, nor indifferent to, my physical condition; but, thank God! I can say truly, I am not troubled, neither am I afraid, and my faith is—

'All as God wills, who wisely heeds, To give or to withhold, And knoweth more of all my needs Than all my prayers have told.'"

The editor took off his glasses and wiped them, but the dimness was in his eyes; and after a minute, during which he recovered his old calmness, and hushed the holy chime, muffling the Folge Fond Bells, he said gayly and quietly:

"Edna, one favor, at least, you will grant me. The death of a relative in Louisiana has placed me in possession of an ample fortune, and I wish you to take my little Lila and travel for several years. You are the only woman I ever knew to whom I would entrust her and her education, and it would gratify me beyond expression to feel that I had afforded you the pleasure which can not fail to result from such a tour. Do not be too proud to accept a little happiness from my hands."

"Thank you, my generous, noble friend! I gratefully accept a great deal of happiness at this instant, but your kind offer I must decline. I can not leave Felix."

He sighed, took his hat, and his eyes ran over the face and figure of the governess.

"Edna Earl, your stubborn will makes you nearly akin to those gigantic fuci which are said to grow and flourish as submarine forests in the stormy channel of Terra del Fuego, where they shake their heads defiantly, always trembling, always triumphing, in the fierce lashing of waves that wear away rocks. You belong to a very rare order of human algae, rocked and reared in the midst of tempests that would either bow down, or snap asunder, or beat out most natures. As you will not grant my petition, try to forget it; we will bury the subject. Good-bye! I shall call to-morrow afternoon to take you to drive."

With renewed zest Edna devoted every moment stolen from Felix, to the completion of her new book. Her first had been a "bounteous promise"—at least so said criticdom—and she felt that the second would determine her literary position, would either place her reputation as an author beyond all cavil, or utterly crush her ambition.

Sometimes as she bent over her MS., and paused to reread some passage just penned, which she had laboriously composed, and thought particularly good as an illustration of the idea she was striving to embody perspicuously, a smile would flit across her countenance while she asked herself:

"Will my readers see it as I see it? Will they thank me for my high opinion of their culture, in assuming that it will be quite as plain to them as to me? If there should accidentally be an allusion to classical or scientific literature, which they do not understand at the first hasty, careless, novel-reading glance, will they inform themselves, and then appreciate my reason for employing it, and thank me for the hint; or will they attempt to ridicule my pedantry? When will they begin to suspect that what they may imagine sounds 'learned' in my writings, merely appears so to them because they have not climbed high enough to see how vast, how infinite is the sphere of human learning? No, no, dear reader, shivering with learning-phobia, I am not learned. You are only a little, a very little more ignorant. Doubtless you know many things which I should be glad to learn; come, let us barter. Let us all study the life of Giovanni Pico Mirandola, and then we shall begin to understand the meaning of the word 'learned.'"

Edna unintentionally and continually judged her readers according to her own standard, and so eager, so unquenchable was her thirst for knowledge, that she could not understand how the utterance of some new fact, or the redressing and presentation of some forgotten idea, could possibly be regarded as an insult by the person thus benefited. Her first book taught her what was termed her "surplus paraded erudition," had wounded the amour propre of the public; but she was conscientiously experimenting on public taste, and though some of her indolent, luxurious readers, who wished even their thinking done by proxy, shuddered at the "spring-water pumped upon their nerves," she good-naturedly overlooked their grimances and groans, and continued the hydropathic treatment even in her second book, hoping some good effects from the shock. Of one intensely gratifying fact she could not fail to be thoroughly informed, by the avalanche of letters which almost daily covered her desk; she had at least ensconced herself securely in a citadel, whence she could smilingly defy all assaults—in the warm hearts of her noble countrywomen. Safely sheltered in their sincere and devoted love, she cared little for the shafts that rattled and broke against the rocky ramparts, and, recoiling, dropped out of sight in the moat below.

So with many misgivings, and much hope, and great patience, she worked on assiduously, and early in summer her book was finished and placed in the publisher's hands.

In the midst of her anxiety concerning its reception, a new and terrible apprehension took possession of her, for it became painfully evident that Felix, whose health had never been good, was slowly but steadily declining.

Mrs. Andrews and Edna took him to Sharon, to Saratoga, and to various other favorite resorts for invalids, but with no visible results that were at all encouraging, and at last they came home almost disheartened. Dr. Howell finally prescribed a sea-voyage, and a sojourn of some weeks at Eaux Bonne in the Pyrennes, as those waters had effected some remarkable cures.

As the doctor quitted the parlor, where he held a conference with Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, the latter turned to her husband, saying:

"It is useless to start anywhere with Felix unless Miss Earl can go with us; for he would fret himself to death in a week. Really, Louis, it is astonishing to see how devoted they are to each other. Feeble as that woman is, she will always sit up whenever there is any medicine to be given during the night; and while he was ill at Sharon, she did not close her eyes for a week. I can't help feeling jealous of his affection for her, and I spoke to her about it. He was asleep at the time, with his hand grasping one of hers; and when I told her how trying it was for a mother to see her child's whole heart given to a stranger, to hear morning, noon, and night, 'Edna,' always 'Edna,' never once 'mamma,' I wish you could have seen the strange, suffering expression that came into her pale face. Her lips trembled so that she could scarcely speak, but she said meekly, 'Oh! forgive me if I have won your child's heart; but I love him. You have your husband and daughter, your brother and sister; but I—oh! I have only Felix! I have nothing else to cling to in all this world!' Then she kissed his poor little fingers, and wept as if her heart would break, and wrung her hands, and begged me again and again to forgive her if he loved her best. She is the strangest woman I ever knew; sometimes, when she is sitting by me in church, I watch her calm, cold, white face, and she makes me think of a snow statue; but if Felix says anything to arouse her feelings and call out her affection, she is a volcano. It is very rarely that one finds a beautiful woman, distinguished by her genius, admired and courted by the reading public, devoting herself as she does to our dear little crippled darling. While I confess I am jealous of her, her kindness to my child makes me love her more than I can express. Louis, she must go with us. Poor thing! she seems to be failing almost as fast as Felix; and I verily believe if he should die, it would kill her. Did you notice how she paced the floor while the doctors were consulting in Felix's room? She loves nothing but my precious lame boy."

"Certainly, Kate, she must go with you. I quite agree with you, my dear, that Felix is dependent upon her, and would not derive half the benefit from the trip if she remained at home. I confess she has cured me to a great extent of my horror of literary characters. She is the only one I ever saw who was really lovable, and not a walking parody on her own writings. You would be surprised at the questions constantly asked me about her habits and temper. People seem so curious to learn all the routine of her daily life. Last week a member of our club quoted something from her writings, and said that she was one of the few authors of the day whose books, without having first examined, he would put into the hands of his daughters. He remarked: 'I can trust my girls' characters to her training, for she is a true woman; and if she errs at all in any direction, it is the right one, only a little too rigidly followed.' I am frequently asked how she is related to me, for people can not believe that she is merely the governess of our children. Kate, will you tell her that it is my desire that she should accompany you? Speak to her at once, that I may know how many staterooms I shall engage on the steamer."

"Come with me, Louis, and speak to her yourself."

They went upstairs together, and paused on the threshold of Felix's room to observe what was passing within.

The boy was propped by pillows into an upright position on the sofa, and was looking curiously into a small basket which Edna held on her lap.

She was reading to him a touching little letter just received from an invalid child, who had never walked, who was confined always to the house, and wrote to thank her, in sweet, childish style, for a story which she had read in the Magazine, and which made her very happy.

The invalid stated that her chief amusement consisted in tending a few flowers that grew in pots in her windows; and in token of her gratitude, she had made a nosegay of mignonette, pansies, and geranium leaves, which she sent with her scrawling letter.

In conclusion, the child asked that the woman whom, without having seen, she yet loved, would be so kind as to give her a list of such books as a little girl ought to study, and to write her "just a few lines" that she could keep under her pillow, to look at now and then. As Edna finished reading the note, Felix took it, to examine the small, indistinct characters, and said:

"Dear little thing! Don't you wish we knew her? 'Louie Lawrence.' Of course, you will answer it, Edna?"

"Yes, immediately, and tell her how grateful I am for her generosity in sparing me a portion of her pet flowers. Each word in her sweet little letter is as precious as a pearl, for it came from the very depths of her pure heart."

"Oh! what a blessed thing it is to feel that you are doing some good in the world! That little Louie says she prays for you every night before she goes to sleep! What a comfort such letters must be to you! Edna, how happy you look! But there are tears shining in your eyes, they always come when you are glad. What books will you tell her to study?"

"I will think about the subject, and let you read my answer. Give me the 'notelet'; I want to put it away securely among my treasures. How deliciously fragrant the flowers are! Only smell them, Felix! Here, my darling, I will give them to you, and write to the little Louie how happy she made two people."

She lifted the delicate bouquet so daintily fashioned by fairy child-fingers, inhaled the perfume, and, as she put it in the thin fingers of the cripple, she bent forward and kissed his fever- parched lips. At this instant Felix saw his parents standing at the door, and held up the flowers triumphantly.

"Oh, mamma! come smell this mignonette. Why can't we grow some in boxes in our window?"

Mr. Andrews leaned over his son's pillows, softly put his hand on the boy's forehead, and said:

"My son, Miss Earl professes to love you very much, but I doubt whether she really means all she says; and I am determined to satisfy myself fully. Just now I can not leave my business, but mamma, intends to take you to Europe next week, and I want to know whether Miss Earl will leave all her admirers here, and go with you and help mamma to nurse you. Do you think she will?"

Mrs. Andrews stood with her hand resting on the shoulder of the governess, watching the varying expression of her child's countenance.

"I think, papa—I hope she will; I believe she—"

He paused, and, struggling up from his pillows, he stretched out his poor little arms, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Edna! you will go with me? You promised you would never forsake me! Tell papa you will go."

His head was on her shoulder, his arms were clasped tightly around her neck. She laid her face on his, and was silent.

Mr. Andrews placed his hand on the orphan's bowed head.

"Miss Earl, you must let me tell you that I look upon you as a member of my family; that my wife and I love you almost as well as if you were one of our children; and I hope you will not refuse to accompany Kate on the tour she contemplates. Let me take your own father's place; and I shall regard it as a great favor to me and mine if you will consent to go, and allow me to treat you always as I do my Hattie. I have no doubt you will derive as much benefit from travelling, as I certainly hope for Felix."

"Thank you, Mr. Andrews, I appreciate your generosity, and I prize the affection and confidence which you and your wife have shown me. I came, an utter stranger, into your house, and you kindly made me one of the family circle. I am alone in the world, and have become strongly attached to your children. Felix is not merely my dear pupil, he is my brother, my companion, my little darling! I can not be separated from him. Next to his mother he belongs to me. Oh! I will travel with him anywhere that you and Mrs. Andrews think it best he should go. I will never, never leave him."

She disengaged the boy's arms, laid him back on his pillows, and went to her own room.

In the midst of prompt preparations for departure Edna's new novel appeared. She had christened it "SHINING THORNS ON THE HEARTH," and dedicated it "To my countrywomen, the Queens who reign thereon."

The aim of the book was to discover the only true and allowable and womanly sphere of feminine work, and, though the theme was threadbare, she fearlessly picked up the frayed woof and rewove it.

The tendency of the age was to equality and communism, and this, she contended, was undermining the golden thrones shining in the blessed and hallowed light of the hearth, whence every true woman ruled the realm of her own family. Regarding every pseudo "reform" which struck down the social and political distinction of the sexes, as a blow that crushed one of the pillars of woman's throne, she earnestly warned the Crowned Heads of the danger to be apprehended from the unfortunate and deluded female malcontents, who, dethroned in their own realm, and despised by their quondam subjects, roamed as pitiable, royal exiles, threatening to usurp man's kingdom; and to proud, happy mothers, guarded by Praetorian bands of children, she reiterated the assurance that

"Those who rock the cradle rule the world."

Most carefully she sifted the records of history, tracing in every epoch the sovereigns of the hearth-throne who had reigned wisely and contentedly, ennobling and refining humanity; and she proved by illustrious examples that the borders of the feminine realm could not be enlarged, without rendering the throne unsteady, and subverting God's law of order. Woman reigned by divine right only at home. If married, in the hearts of husband and children, and not in the gilded, bedizened palace of fashion, where thinly veiled vice and frivolity hold carnival, and social upas and social asps wave and trail. If single, in the affections of brothers and sisters and friends, as the golden sceptre in the hands of parents. If orphaned, she should find sympathy and gratitude and usefulness among the poor and the afflicted.

Consulting the statistics of single women, and familiarizing herself with the arguments advanced by the advocates of that "progress," which would indiscriminately throw open all professions to women, she entreated the poor of her own sex, if ambitious, to become sculptors, painters, writers, teachers in schools or families; or else to remain mantau-makers, milliners, spinners, dairymaids; but on the peril of all womanhood not to meddle with scalpel or red tape, and to shun rostra of all description, remembering St. Paul's injunction, that "IT IS NOT PERMITTED UNTO WOMEN TO SPEAK"; and even that "IT IS A SHAME FOR WOMEN TO SPEAK IN THE CHURCH."

To married women who thirsted for a draught of the turbid waters of politics, she said: "If you really desire to serve the government under which you live, recollect that it was neither the speeches thundered from the forum, nor the prayers of priests and augurs, nor the iron tramp of glittering legions, but the ever triumphant, maternal influence, the potent, the pleading 'My son!' of Volumnia, the mother of Coriolanus, that saved Rome."

To discontented spinsters, who travelled like Pandora over the land, haranguing audiences that secretly laughed at and despised them, to these unfortunate women, clamoring for power and influence in the national councils, she pointed out that quiet, happy home at "Barley Wood," whence immortal Hannah More sent forth those writings which did more to tranquilize England, and bar the hearts of its yeomanry against the temptations of red republicanism than all the eloquence of Burke, and the cautious measures of Parliament.

Some errors of style, which had been pointed out by critics as marring her earlier writings, Edna had endeavored to avoid in this book, which she humbly offered to her countrywomen as the best of which she was capable.

From the day of its appearance it was a success; and she had the gratification of hearing that some of the seed she had sown broadcast in the land fell upon good ground, and promised an abundant harvest.

Many who called to bid her good-bye on the day before the steamer sailed, found it impossible to disguise their apprehensions that she would never return; and some who looked tearfully into her face and whispered "God-speed!" thought they saw the dread signet of death set on her white brow.

To Edna it was inexpressibly painful to cross the Atlantic while Mr. Hammond's health was so feeble; and over the long farewell letter which she sent him, with a copy of her new book, the old man wept. Mrs. Murray had seemed entirely estranged since that last day spent at Le Bocage, and had not written a line since the orphan's return to New York. But when she received the new novel, and the affectionate, mournful, meek note that accompanied it, Mrs. Murray laid her head on her son's bosom and sobbed aloud.

Dr. Howell and Mr. Manning went with Edna aboard the steamer, and both laughed heartily at her efforts to disengage herself from a pertinacious young book-vender, who, with his arms full of copies of her own book, stopped her on deck, and volubly extolled its merits, insisting that she should buy one to while away the tedium of the voyage.

Dr. Howell gave final directions concerning the treatment of Felix, and then came to speak to the governess.

"Even now, sadly as you have abused your constitution, I shall have some hope of seeing gray hairs about your temples, if you will give yourself unreservedly to relaxation of mind. You have already accomplished so much that you can certainly afford to rest for some months at least. Read nothing, write nothing (except long letters to me), study nothing but the aspects of nature in European scenery, and you will come back improved to the country that is so justly proud of you. Disobey my injunctions, and I shall soon be called to mourn over the announcement that you have found an early grave, far from your native land, and among total strangers. God bless you, dear child! and bring you safely back to us."

As he turned away, Mr. Manning took her hand and said:

"I hope to meet you in Rome early in February; but something might occur to veto my programme. If I should never see you again in this world, is there anything that you wish to say to me now?"

"Yes, Mr. Manning. If I should die in Europe, have my body brought back to America and carried to the South—my own dear South, that I love so well—and bury me close to Grandpa, where I can sleep quietly in the cool shadow of old Lookout; and be sure, please be sure, to have my name carved just below Grandpa's, on his monument. I want that one marble to stand for us both."

"I will. Is there nothing else?"

"Thank you, my dear, good, kind friend. Nothing else."

"Edna, promise me that you will take care of your precious life."

"I will try, Mr. Manning."

He looked down into her worn, weary face and sighed, then for the first time he took both her hands, kissed them and left her.

Swiftly the steamer took its way seaward; through the Narrows, past the lighthouse; and the wind sang through the rigging, and the purple hills of Jersey faded from view, proving Neversink a misnomer.

One by one the passengers went below and Edna and Felix were left on deck, with stars burning above, and blue waves bounding beneath them.

As the cripple sat looking over the solemn, moaning ocean, awed by its brooding gloom, did he catch in the silvery starlight a second glimpse of the rose-colored veils, and snowy vittae, and purple- edged robes of the Parcae, spinning and singing as they followed the ship across the sobbing sea? He shivered, and clasping tightly the hand of his governess, said:

"Edna, we shall never see the Neversink again."

"God only knows, dear Felix. His will be done."

"How silvery the echoes run— Thy will be done—Thy will be done."



CHAPTER XXXV.

"Worthy? No, no! Unworthy! most unworthy! But was Thomas worthy to tend the wandering sheep of Him, whom face to face he doubted? Was Peter worthy to preach the Gospel of Him, whom he had thrice indignantly denied? Was Paul worthy to become the Apostle of the Gentiles, teaching the doctrine of Him whose disciples he had persecuted and slaughtered? If the repentance of Peter and Paul availed to purify their hands and hearts, and sanctify them to the service of Christ, ah! God knows my contrition has been bitter and lasting enough to fit me for future usefulness. Eight months ago, when the desire to become a minister seized me so tenaciously, I wrestled with it, tried to crush it; arguing that the knowledge of my past life of sinfulness would prevent the world from trusting my professions. But those who even slightly understand my character, must know that I have always been too utterly indifferent to, too unfortunately contemptuous of public opinion, to stoop to any deception in order to conciliate it. Moreover, the world will realize that in a mere worldly point of view, I can possibly hope to gain nothing by this step. If I were poor, I might be accused of wanting the loaves and fishes of the profession; if unknown and ambitious, of seeking eminence and popularity. But when a man of my wealth and social position, after spending half of his life in luxurious ease and sinful indulgence, voluntarily subjects himself to the rigid abstemiousness and self-sacrificing requirements of a ministerial career, he can not be suspected of hypocrisy. After all, sir, I care not for the discussion, of nine days' gossip and wonder, the gibes and comments my course may occasion. I am hearkening to the counsel of my conscience; I am obeying the dictates of my heart. Feeling that my God accepts me, it matters little that men may reject me. My remorse, my repentance, has been inexpressibly bitter; but the darkness has passed away, and to-day, thank God! I can pray with all the fervor and faith of my boyhood, when I knew that I was at peace with my Maker. Oblivion of the past I do not expect, and perhaps should not desire. I shall always wear my melancholy memories of sin, as Musselmen wear their turban or pall—as a continual memento of death. Because I have proved so fully the inadequacy of earthly enjoyments to satisfy the demands of a soul; because I tried the alluring pleasures of sin, and was satiated, ah! utterly sickened, I turned with panting eagerness to the cool, quiet peace which reigns over the life of a true Christian pastor. I want neither fame nor popularity, but peace! peace I must have! I have hunted the world over and over; I have sought it everywhere else, and now, thank God! I feel that it is descending slowly, slowly, but surely, upon my lonely, long-tortured heart. Thank God! I have found peace after much strife and great weariness—"

Mr. Murray could no longer control his voice; and as he stood leaning against the mantelpiece at the parsonage, he dropped his head on his hand.

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