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The Elm Tree Tales
by F. Irene Burge Smith
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CHAPTER IX.

Several weeks have passed, and the old woman takes wonderfully to the new place. She begins to feel really glad for the change that was so terrible in the anticipation. It is so green and quiet all about the house—no rude boys shouting in her ear as she steps without the door, or throwing mud-balls into the open windows; no brazen, neglected girls to call her low names, or pin dirty rags upon her gown as she walks about the premises; and then every thing within the walls is so clean and nice—no threatening cracks in the white ceilings; no dilapidated walls to totter, or worn planks to shake at every tread; no half-starved rats, stalking about seeking somewhat to devour; and no odious effluvia from the waste lot, or the stagnant pond, stopping her breath as she looked from door or window. Oh! she could not have believed that any thing that seemed such an evil would prove so great a good. The breeze came into the clean rooms so laden with the breath of flowers, and the cheerful notes of birds were all the time in her ears; and in the quiet evening, she, and the boy, and his father could sit upon the sill of the door and talk to their heart's content, without one noisy interruption from the rude crowd, that used to make it so difficult to have one moment's pleasant intercourse. Archie was more cheerful, too, and took possession of his little chamber with such a manifest delight that his grandmother had nothing more to desire. His window looked out upon the old quarters, and he was thus enabled to contrast the beauty and the quiet with the sad unrest of his former home; and as he noticed the rough group so constantly upon the open space, and remembered how often he had been the butt of their unfeeling jests and cruel sport, he rejoiced at the high wall that prevented their ingress into his patron's territory, and felt as if he had indeed an impregnable fortress to resort to in every emergency.

It was just the spot for meditation, too, and the musty portfolio came forth oftener from its obscurity, and began to grow really bulky, and that not only in size but in matter.

Nobody would have thought him more than a common lad as he bent to weed the vegetables and flowers, or brushed down the white pony, or sauntered about the grounds with bowed head, and hands behind him; but Mrs. Fay had fathomed the secret depths, as from time to time she sought to draw him out from the reserve in which he was enveloped, and Kittie knew by her own pure and blessed instincts, all that there was of light and wisdom in the poor boy, who had attracted her from the very beginning. True, Cousin Willie would take every opportunity to disparage the lad, but what cared she? It is not so easy to bias the mind of a properly-taught child; and her own heart told her what was good in the boy and what was evil in her cousin. As for Willie, he walked about like some evil genius, making the deformity of the body more conspicuous by the deformity of the soul, and casting a huge and ugly shadow over the lovely home that God had so graciously given him. There was a constant antagonism between him and the poor lad; not that Archie ever gave occasion of offense, or encouraged the antipathy that he could perceive in Willie; but his patience, and gentleness, and intelligence, were a constant reproach to his rich young neighbor, who so continually wearied his friends by fretfulness and ill-humor, and who spurned all the efforts of his tutor, never trying to improve the privileges lavished upon him, but deeming it very hard that he should be expected to confine himself to books—"As if it were not punishment enough to carry about a repulsive body!" he would say.

Ah! quite enough. This Archie felt as he applied himself diligently to the task of adorning and embellishing his higher and imperishable nature. And the lady and the child had learned to look at that only, so that they really forgot often the outer man, as the soul-lit eyes sparkled and beamed upon them when they talked together. He did not forget it, and so it served its true purpose, making him humble, and keeping under the majesty of his spirit that might otherwise have grown into a revolting and self-sufficient pride. It is so vain to struggle against these fetters and restraints; God knows what we need, and it may be ever the mightiest souls that are curbed while on earth by some physical infirmity.



CHAPTER X.

Patrick Marsh was a cooper, and lived down close to the water's edge in a shanty of his own construction. He had taken possession of the spot long before there were any signs of human habitation near, and nobody had ever doubted his right of ownership. Yet as he beheld the slow but sure encroaches upon his vicinage he began to tremble even for the meager handful of earth on which his domicil stood, and used often to go up to Archie's to condole with the old lady when her own little resting-place was threatened.

Now he was filled with wrath as he passed the heaps of boards, stone, and rubbish, and viewed the preparations for the erection of a large and noble mansion, and he strode hastily on, that he might effervesce in the old woman's presence, for he wished to convince her of his interest and displeasure, and a sober pace would have brought back the habitual placidity to the old man's heart. It was not natural for him to cherish the slightest degree of malice or resentment, and the very consciousness that he was out of his usual way distressed and vexed him, so that when he reached the quiet cottage, it was delightfully soothing to find the grandmother contentedly sitting knitting—work in hand, beside the door in no need of comfort, if one might judge by the cheerful, happy expression.

"Such a blessing, Betty," said he—they were children together—"such a blessing to find you so easy and nateral-like. I begin to believe the Lord's hand is raly in it all, and that He always gives as good as He takes. I used to think there wasn't no place like your old 'un; but it wasn't a touch to this purty spot!" and he gazed about him with evident satisfaction, stroking the hounds that loved to wander from their young master's presence to the sunny room, where there was always a kind word and a gentle pat for them.

"Archie's better, too," said the old woman with an exultant chuckle, as she shuffled to the stairs-door to call her grandson.

Patrick didn't think him better, as he noticed his flushed cheek and trembling, fluttering frame, and he held his hand a long time in his own, now counting the quick pulse, now pressing it warmly and fondly.

"You'll leave the books, my boy, and be more in the garden, won't you?" said he in an earnest, anxious tone. "Depend upon it that's the only thing for you."

Archie did not know what he meant by the "only thing," neither could he tell why Patrick went so suddenly out brushing his sleeve across his eyes, all the way to the gate; but the circumstance weighed with him, and it made him jump from his study so soon as the least symptom of weariness came, and resort to his out-of-door occupations. Kittie had gone off to boarding-school and the boy sadly missed the white figure that he used to watch so fondly for in the walk that led to his cottage. She would not come again for many a year, and there was loneliness and desolation in the very thought; but so it must be, and he strove to find solace in his books, and with his plants; but every thing recalled the past. His books were thrown aside for awhile, because she was not there to question him as to their contents, and the flowers were hueless and scentless, since the eye that loved so to look upon them, and the sense that delighted so in their sweet odor were gone. Willie, too, missed the gentle cousin that bore his caprices so patiently, and he murmured at the decree that banished her from his presence. "She knew enough to please him, and what more could they want?" "That was all such a little mouse as she was good for!"

The "little mouse," though, made a great hole in the house, and there was nothing in all the big world that could fill it acceptably to the lad, and so it remained empty until the school-days should be accomplished, save that her shadow was ever there, palpable—to the vision of the two lads at least. How differently was she cherished!—by the one as a grateful sort of appendage that contributed vastly to his comfort in various ways—to the other as a guardian presence, inciting him to every virtue and grace, and sanctifying and spiritualizing his whole being. Strangest of all mysteries, the transforming power of that wondrous and precious essence!

Thanks be to Him who has so diffused it over this lower world that there is no spot that may not be akin to heaven!



CHAPTER XI.

Mrs. Lincoln's time was wholly taken up in inventing new pleasures for her son, so that she had not one moment for the poor youth at the foot of the garden, who, but for the benevolence and kindness of Kittie's mother, would have led a weary life of it indeed.

Archie's father had, at last, laid down both trowel and pipe, and was taking his long rest beside the dead wife. The boy had purchased a small lot in a secluded and romantic part of the cemetery, and there he had both parents placed, in one wide grave, with the box of treasures between them, and above them a large white cross with a simple inscription. The lot was fenced around with a hawthorn hedge, and here and there a rose bush grew luxuriantly. There was room for himself and for the old grandmother who was now terribly decrepit, so that she was unable to take any care of the house, and Patrick Marsh had consented to let his little shanty and come, with good Molly his wife, to look after the lad's comfort, for they had no child, and Archie was nearer to them than any living being. Good Molly was of rough and ungainly exterior, but within, the very impersonation of tenderness and love, and this happy and blessed temperament had gained for her so flattering an appellation wherever she was known. Little children would gather around her in the street and hold on by her apron or gown, fondling and caressing her hands, and even her feet, as if she were some good angel—and so indeed was she to many a lone and forsaken one, who had found care, and food, and shelter, beneath her lowly but hospitable roof. It wasn't strange then that, with such a heart, Good Molly should consent to leave the home that was endeared to her by a thousand associations in order to watch over the failing and imbecile old woman and her diseased and lonely grandson.

Neither she nor Patrick felt themselves competent to mingle in the youth's higher and holier sympathies; they were conscious that they were of altogether a different mold; but there were bodily wants that none knew better how to meet than the nice housewife, whose skill in such matters few could contest. The dainty bit was ever tempting, and the linen was pure and white, and the neat chamber inviting even to the most fastidious taste, so that there would have been nothing wanting to Archie's comfort or joy were it not for the void that but one could fill. "It was foolish to think of her!" that he so often repeated to himself, yet think of her and dream of her he did, and all the time grew thinner and thinner, and paler and paler, until he seemed some ghostly shadow moving about the grounds. Five years had passed since she came down the green slope and put her little hand in his to bid him a long good-by. It was the summer time, and he remembers that the old elm under which he sat was just in the fullness and glory of its foliage; the hour, too, is distinctly in his memory; the dreary and sad twilight, and the breeze's soft play over the waving grass, and the hum of the insects, and the murmur of the city's noise that came pleasantly from the distance, like the moving of far-off waters. Oh! these things can never die out of his remembrance. How can they! Doesn't he cherish them religiously, coming always at the vesper time to the same spot to live them over and over again?

Even through the dreary winters he but closes his eyes and the verdure is there, and the beauty.

No need of that to-night, however, for the chilly season has again passed away, and the old elm is rich in her emerald robes, and the breath of the soft winds is upon him, and the same murmur in his ear. There is only the small hand and the gentle words wanting to make it all a precious reality. Is it his fancy that at this moment brings them so palpably to him? Is the vision of a graceful figure, and a white dress, and a pure face beaming upon him with the lovely expression only a delusion of his excited mind! Or is it really her own voice that comes to him so earnestly. "Oh! speak, Archie, pray speak! don't you remember Kittie?" It was of no use to call upon him, the shock was too much for his delicate organization, and whiter than the spotless muslin was the brow that the maiden loved, as she supported the drooping head, and strove to recall the fainting breath.

His heart beat more painfully than ever as the warm life-blood flowed evenly again, for that one moment had told him that he loved, and the revelation was as death. To linger upon the earth, to see and hear her continually, and to press back the deep and springing emotions that were ever welling up toward her. How could he do it! it were worse than death itself! And yet he spoke calmly and naturally as she walked with him to the cottage, and quietly watched her as she talked with the old people; but the light in his heart went out as she passed over the threshold into the stilly night—and the struggle was a victorious one.

Kittie was pondering upon it all—the agitation, and the pallor, and the overwhelming joy, and a secret delight filled her soul as she sought again the tree. There was no wavering of purpose as the vow went forth from that same consecrated place to be true to the convictions that she now felt. How long a period had elapsed since she stood there before. She is no more forgetful of it than Archie, and she draws forth from her bosom a tress of raven hair, and looks upon it while it is bathed in the moonlight, wondering, meantime, how she had dared to cut it from his head as he leaned against this same tree so long, long ago. True, he did not know it, it was so slyly done; but nothing could tempt her to a like act again. Not that she is sorry for the deed—ah! no. This little talisman will ever be most precious unto her. But the brow seemed so hallowed now; there was a mystic light upon it, as though a beam from Heaven were shining directly there, and a superstitious awe crept over the heart of the young maiden as she remembered the cold dews that her hand had felt as she stroked back the clustering locks.



CHAPTER XII.

The beauty, and luxury, and lavish tenderness that had continually surrounded Willie during his cousin's absence, brought no corresponding loveliness, and richness, and gratitude within, and Kittie found it more difficult to bear with the querulous, fitful temper than before her long separation from him. Day after day he would require her to sit with him reading aloud some foolish and distasteful thing which was suited to his weak and uncultivated intellect; or she must walk or ride, as he pleased, giving up her own occupations and plans whenever they interfered with his amusement. Time and again the question would recur to her, "Why should I give myself up to the effort to do good, where it is so evident that I can do nothing?" and then her aunt's kindness in giving her mother and herself so welcome a home when they were deprived of their earthly supporter, and the wish to make some return for all the love bestowed upon her in her uncle's house, induced her to strive with renewed diligence to influence her cousin to a holy and consistent life. He had so far been won by her courteous example as to treat Archie with respect, and even with a degree of cordiality, whenever they met; but the low-born, yet noble youth, felt the difference between his patronizing regard and the ingenuous and free sympathy that the cousin manifested, and his dark eyes would flash with a suppressed and hidden fire that nothing could subdue like the gentle glance that so often sought his.

Was it only compassion for his terrible infirmity that tinged the maiden's cheek and gave fervor to her every tone, as she met him about the garden walks, or in the humble cottage? Was it only the loving and earnest nature, that could not help its warm and gushing impulses, that caused the tear to suffuse her eye at every wound occasioned his sensitive heart by the thoughtless Willie? Was it naught but a generous interest that led her every day to his humble home, with her books or drawings, to ask aid of her uncle's protegee? Or was he inflicting upon himself a needless suffering, besides quenching the brightness of that young spirit which he would fain die to save from sorrow? Could it be that by one spoken word his life and health might flow back upon him with new and refreshing vigor? The risk was too great. It might banish forever from his sight the only object that made that life endurable; and so it remained unsaid, preying upon the vitals and pressing him onward to the blessed haven of rest—rest from all doubts, rest from all infirmities and sufferings, rest from all painful labor, both physical and mental, glorious, perfect, enduring rest!

He felt the change that was drawing him from earth, and rejoiced in it. It were better that she should think of him as a spirit, divested of the covering that made him a loathsome mortal! Even if he could know that her every affection clung to him, he would pray to go hence before her eyes could be so cleared of the mists of love as to see the hideousness of his imperfections. He had seen her shudder as her cousin's arm was placed around her; and was he not more repulsive still? Oh, how could he ever dream of allying himself to an angel?

The very thought of his "vanity" and forgetfulness was humiliating, and Archibald Mackie shut himself up in his chamber, and suffered, and prayed, and struggled alone; and came forth with a radiant brow, and a cheerful, peaceful heart. He had done with the things of this life. The dearest and best he had dropped from his grasp, and now it was so easy to part with the rest. The dreams of his youth had made his pathway green, and kept his mind off the real evils. What if they were but transient and fading visions? They had been of sufficient duration and brightness to cheer him in many an otherwise dreary walk; and they had not been without their influence upon the inner soul that perchance would have sunk into an utter despondency and gloom but for these incentives to energy and action.

No more dreaming now; but a constant looking forward to the end of life's journey, and a steady and unwearied preparation for the final summons.



CHAPTER XIII.

The summer was unspeakably beautiful to the dying youth. To sit in his easy-chair beside the low window of his loved chamber, and let his eyes wander over the greenness and glory of nature, while his thoughts went upward to the Paradise of immortal joys, or to rove languidly about the grounds of his patron, supported by the kind old man whose tenderness and care were ever ready, or to recline upon a couch beside the door while Kittie Fay talked to him in her pleasant sympathetic way, or read to him in a low soft tone—these things made up the sum of his waning life, and imparted a quiet sort of rapture to every moment. Mahan Doughty—now grown a large and bashful girl—came again with some simple flowers, that recalled to him the distant years, and Sally Bunt stood often beside him, not as of old with the newly-laid egg; but with nice broth from some favorite chicken, whose head was as nothing, when the word came to the old playmate that Archie was fading away. A great gulf had separated them since he lived on the plain, for none of his former associates had dared venture an intimacy after his removal within the precincts of the "great house;" but an undying sympathy made a bridge over the wide gulf, and they crossed and recrossed fearlessly, to minister to their friend.

The imbecile old grandmother played with the thin fingers of her idol boy, and laughed with an idiotic chuckle as she looked upon the white face, calling him her "gentleman," and wondering "how he came to have such a delicate skin, when his father was brown and tawny."

Patrick and Molly discussed the case of the sick youth as often as they were left alone, with disconsolate and saddened hearts; and all that could cheer him with the words of a comfort which they were far from feeling in their own spirits, were the mother and daughter, who had learned to look away from themselves in every grief and sorrow, that they might be a blessing to others. The day had been terribly oppressive, and both had been watching the youth as he lay fainting and exhausted upon his couch. Not one moment had they ceased fanning him gently lest the weak breath would take its flight; but now a refreshing breeze was stirring the locks upon his temples, and imparting to him a little strength, so that Kittie could leave for a few moments to attend to her cousin Willie, whose demands were more importunate upon her than ever, since her time was required in the sick presence.

"How is Archie, to-night, Kittie?" asked he, as his cousin stepped lightly over the threshold, and seated herself on the sofa beside him.

"He seems to revive a little," said she; "Doctor Fincke thinks he may yet linger for a few days, but I am fearful it can not be—to me he seems very weak and low."

"I am quite impatient for the end, Kittie," said Willie, in a light and careless tone, "for I have a great deal to say to you, and you are so taken up with this young man that I really have not one moment of your time, lately. It seems as if there might be a proper nurse found, without your acting in that capacity."

"It is my pleasure, cousin Willie," said Kittie, in a gentle and subdued voice. "Nothing could induce me to lose the few last words of this dying saint. He seems already to reflect the glory of the upper land, so that every one around is blessed by its influence. Oh! Willie, if you would only learn from so pure an example to make this life but the stepping-stone to a better and higher being, instead of taking it for the only good, and giving up every thought to it, it would be such a gain to yourself, and such a joy to us all!"

"Wouldn't you like to go with me to see Archie?" continued she, a moment after, as her cousin had taken no notice of her appeal. "He often speaks very kindly of you, and I'm sure it would give him pleasure to know that you are truly his friend."

"But Kittie, what's the use! You know I don't care any thing about the young man, and that it will be quite a relief to me when he is no longer there to keep you from me. I have never been to the cottage since he occupied it, and I don't mean to annoy myself with the sight of him now. It would give me the horrors to see him die!"

Kittie did not urge the matter, but she felt how little there was in the calm of that Christian soul to excite any gloom or terror in the beholder, and so soon as she could get away from her cousin she resumed her seat beside the sick bed. She had a right to be there now—not a word had been spoken to tell her so; but the gentle heart revealed itself to her in a silent, yet none the less intelligible way, and her own responded warmly and heartily.



CHAPTER XIV.

"Molly, I dreamed of Kittie Fay last night," said old Patrick, as he drew his chair up to his wife. "It seemed as if she was weeping over a green grave, and as she stood by it she was dressed all in white, like an angel, and all about her was nothing but a barren waste. It made me sad like to see her there, wife, and I went over the dark space that lay between me and her to try to get her away, but no, she wouldn't stir a step, and kept stooping to water the grass and flowers, and then she pointed down to the grave, and then up to heaven, and then laid her white hand upon her heart. I woke up after that, Molly; but that dream won't leave me, I keep thinking on't, and I'm most of a mind that these young folks haven't been so long together for nothing. I believe, Molly, that there's a reason for our boy's fading away from us so all of a sudden, and for the pale face that Miss Kittie carries with her."

"No, no, Patrick, you mustn't be so full of your whims," replied the good wife, in a whisper, as she pointed to the half-open door, through which they could see the young maiden bending over the couch to minister to Archie. "You've forgot the station, man, you've forgot the station; it is kind and natural for her to interest her dear heart in the sick lad; but depend upon it there's nothing deeper—greater would be the sorrow if there was, Pat! Besides," she added, after a moment's silence, "there's her cousin Willie, they say, as much as engaged to her!"

"Fudge!" returned the old man, getting really excited; "a jackass of a fellow as ain't fit to hold a candle to our Archie? Never you fear, Molly, there'll nothing come of that; I'd sooner see her in her coffin first!"

"But you take it hard, man," answered his wife. "Don't you know that they've been children together, and it isn't as if she could see him with your eyes; besides, he's got a power o' money, Patrick, and that covers up many a blemish."

"I tell ye, Molly, a mint of gold wouldn't make any difference to the feelings o' that girl. Her heart's with the dying lad, and, mark my words, she'll never marry that simple cousin; but she'll cherish the green grave just as she did in the dream, and her thoughts'll be up in heaven with the absent spirit."

"It will be desput lonesome here when he's gone, Patrick," sighed the old woman; "but I s'pose it's our duty to take care of the grandmother as long as she lives!"

"To be sure, to be sure, Molly! We'll do well what we've undertaken, but I long to be back in the old shanty by the water, I kinder miss the old ways. Nothing but the lad would ever have brought me here, and he's fast going; it won't be many mornings that we can sit and look in even upon his sick-bed, Molly."

They couldn't talk about it any more, but they watched the old grandmother as she clutched at the shadows that the waving foliage made upon her white gown as she sat in the outer door, and they wondered why it could not be that she should go first, and the lad be spared them. It wasn't any good that she could do upon the earth, it wasn't any joy that she could ever again give! Truly, God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts! Patrick and Molly could trust Him, even though the dark cloud was spreading itself over their way, and the sunshine was soon to be wholly removed from their dwelling.



CHAPTER XV.

The little room was darkened, and the still form was freed from all its pains—no more fear of the ridicule of an unfeeling world—no more struggling upward toward a tottering eminence—no more sighings after a higher sympathy than a narrow sphere can insure—no more tremblings and palpitations lest the desired good vanish from the sight—no more sinning nor sorrowing; but the quiet figure lay peaceful and still beneath the pure covering, with the bright flowers above and loving hearts around. There are no outbursts of anguish in the presence of the hallowed dead, but a calmness that speaks of the hope of a resurrection. The mother and her daughter are alone with the departed, and, as they look upon his placid features, Kittie recalls the time when she met him, years ago, in the scorching noontide heat, and contrasted his forlorn and pitiable condition with the pampered and luxurious state of her cousin Willie, and, as her mother's words recur to her, "Perhaps not a pity that he has not Willie's blessings, dear Kittie." She echoes in her own heart, "not a pity, not not a pity!"

Oh! no; the pity now is all for the high-born lad, whose privileges are all wasted and perverted, and could she choose for herself one of these two lives, she would not hesitate to take the lowly cottage on the plain, with all its sad inconveniences and distasteful accompaniments, with the exalted Christian mind, rather than the glory, and beauty, and ease of the great house, with the weakened intellect and the brutish soul.

There is a small trunk in Archie's chamber, with a card nailed upon the top, and the inscription, "Miss Kitty Fay;" and Patrick lifts it reverently, with no vain curiosity, and carries it to the "great house." He knows that it contains many a manuscript that helped to dry up the fount of life. They are all dedicated to Kittie, who inspired them; and it is a great comfort to be reading them over while he is lying there as if asleep and unable to speak. They make every thing plain to her concerning the past, and they confirm her in the vow that was made beneath the old elm, long ago. It is such a treasure, that precious legacy; so filled with beautiful thoughts, and so free from earthly dross. Besides, it is all her own, sacred from the world. No other eye has ever seen it, and nobody else can ever know the secret workings of the great mind that is no longer clogged by the crippled body.

The old leather portfolio has come to a blessed use—the comforting and supporting the afflicted. Much need is there, too, of comfort where the wound is so deeply hidden. Nobody knows Kittie's secret; not even her fond mother discerns more than a natural solemnity at the presence of death. It is so hard to go about the house with a cheerful face and an apparent indifference, when the full heart would fain express itself freely. But harder still was it for Kittie to be subjected to her cousin's importunities at a time when she had scarcely room for a common sympathy for him.

She had walked out alone, and had sought the old elm; it was so soothing to be there, with no eye to observe her emotion. Why should Willie seek her then of all times in the world? and for such a purpose!

"It can not be, Willie—you know it can not be," said she, in firm and decided accents.

"But I have set my heart upon it, Kittie," replied her cousin. "You see, we have been much together, and I am used to your ways, and I don't think I could easily find any body else that would exactly suit me, so I've concluded it is best to have the matter arranged immediately. There is nothing in the way but this funeral, and that will be over to-morrow, and what do you say to Monday week, Kittie? Will that be soon enough, my birdie?" and the too confident youth drew near and reached out his arm to encircle her waist, but she was no longer there.

"Soon enough!" What! to be wedded to a compound of the most hideous deformity! "Soon enough!" To blot out the memory of the pure and immortal one, and to link herself to a revolting and miserable object! It were better to be lying peacefully beneath the green earth than to walk about a living corpse, with but the semblance of animation. What mockery it seemed to her as she stood by the silent dead! The pet name, too, was almost an insult to the pure and loving heart that had smothered its springing affections, until the life also was crushed and gone. Oh! that she could tear out the remembrance of her cousin's weakness and folly so that she need abate nothing of her accustomed kindness and attention. Henceforth she must withhold from him even the natural sympathy which his infirmities demand, and perhaps be forced to add another tinge to the bitterness of his fate, by a constant coldness and indifference toward him.

Poor child! the ills of life come seldom singly, yet how much greater is the might that can rise above and conquer a complication of sorrows. There was strength for Kittie in the contemplation of the serene face that was before her—so free from every shadow that had darkened it when animate. There were exhortations to patience in its hallowed expression, and lessons upon the nothingness of our temporary trials, and inspiring promises of the end—that glorious end that will compensate for all our sad beginnings. No wonder Kittie Fay was more than ever tranquil as she stepped again within the circle of her home; and no wonder the wound that lay deeply hidden was unsuspected there.



CHAPTER XVI.

"Come, come Archie, my son, don't be fooling with your old grandmother. What does it all mean? Is it a wedding, boy? Ah, yes, I mind me now; it was just so when your father was married, this day forty years ago—posies all about, on the dresser, on the bed—roses and pansies, and 'bundance o' green stuff every where," and the unconscious idiot touched the cold hands, and put her arms around the stiff neck, laying her wrinkled face to the youth's cheek, and then she would dress his hair with the flowers, weaving fantastic garlands, and twining them in and out, amid the damp locks. It was thus they found her—old Patrick and Molly—as they entered the silent room on the morning of Archie's funeral. "Is the bride ready?" asked she, unwinding her arms from the lad, and smoothing down her dress, as if to make herself presentable, "because," she continued, advancing toward Molly, and pointing to the couch, "he's waiting for her. 'Tis a beautiful home they'll have, I never dreamed of any thing so pretty; but he whispered it to me—golden streets, and pearls, and rivers of water, and trees with all manner of fruit—'tis worth while to be his bride! I never thought our Archie'd come to all this good!"

Molly put the flowers back in their places, and composed the limbs once more, and then gently led the old woman to her arm-chair in the outer room, where she relapsed into her quiet dosing way until all was over. Once only she looked up as they bore the remains from the dwelling, and asked in a deprecating voice, "why Archie didn't take her with him;" but his name did not escape her after that. The rest of her days were a blank.

Close beside his mother in a green grave they placed the crippled form, that was to come forth in the resurrection, perchance the more glorified for its earthly trial. Groups of ragged urchins from the common were there, respectful and solemn. Old playmates that were now men and women gathered around the coffin and wept as they remembered the past. Sally Bunt and Mahan Doughty were among them, but the sincerest mourners—save one—were Patrick and Molly, who had watched the young man from his infancy up, and had placed all their hopes upon him. Bowed and broken, the old man returned to the desolate cottage to minister to the doting grandmother, whose only claims upon him were that she was allied to the dead. Day after day would he and Molly ascend to the little chamber to spend all their weary leisure. There were his books, just as he had left them, with one opened and turned down upon the table. There were his clothes, hung by his own hand upon the wall, and there were the pictures with which his native talent had adorned the room.

Oh! was not the deep affection of the two simple hearts that beat so fondly to his memory, a worthy tribute? Is there more value in mines of gold and silver, or in the adoration of a fickle multitude, than in the unobtrusive homage of those loving and true, though humble ones.

Every effort of his untaught genius was to them as wondrous and beautiful as if from the pencil of a Raphael or Titian. Every object of his pleasure or regard was treasured as a sacred thing. Even the withered flowers that had bedecked his death-couch were preserved with pious care, and no unloving hand could touch a single article that had once felt the impress of the now palsied fingers. There was still one solace for the bereaved old couple, and that was the frequent visits of Kittie, who seemed to them linked in a mysterious manner with the departed.

There was a real pleasure to the three, to speak together of the absent one whose exalted merit they only knew; and the maiden grew more calm and resigned from the intercourse. Yet the grave in the beautiful cemetery was none the less green in her memory, and the white hand pointed none the less often from it to her heart, and thence upward to heaven.

THE END.

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