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The Garies and Their Friends
by Frank J. Webb
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"Who is it?" asked little Birdie, all alive with curiosity; "do say who it is."

"Hush!" whispered Miss Ellstowe, "here he comes, my dear; he is very rich—a great catch; are my curls all right?"

Scarcely had she asked the question, and before an answer could be returned, the servant announced Mr. George Stevens, and the gentleman walked into the room.

Start not, reader, it is not the old man we left bent over the prostrate form of his unconscious daughter, but George Stevens, junior, the son and heir of the old man aforesaid. The heart of Clarence almost ceased to beat at the sound of that well-known name, and had not both the ladies been so engrossed in observing the new-comer, they must have noticed the deep flush that suffused his face, and the deathly pallor that succeeded it.

Mr. Stevens was presented to Miss Bates, and Miss Ellstowe turned to present him to Clarence. "Mr. Garie—Mr. Stevens," said she. Clarence bowed.

"Pardon me, I did not catch the name," said the former, politely.

"Mr. Clarence Garie," she repeated, more distinctly.

George Stevens bowed, and then sitting down opposite Clarence, eyed him for a few moments intently. "I think we have met before," said he at last, in a cold, contemptuous tone, not unmingled with surprise, "have we not?"

Clarence endeavoured to answer, but could not; he was, for a moment, incapable of speech; a slight gurgling noise was heard in his throat, as he bowed affirmatively.

"We were neighbours at one time, I think," added George Stevens.

"We were," faintly ejaculated Clarence.

"It is a great surprise to me to meet you here," pursued George Stevens.

"The surprise is mutual, I assure you, sir," rejoined Clarence, coldly, and with slightly agitated manner.

Hereupon ensued an embarrassing pause in the conversation, during which the ladies could not avoid observing the livid hue of Clarence's face. There was a perfect tumult raging in his breast; he knew that now his long-treasured secret would be brought out; this was to be the end of his struggle to preserve it—to be exposed at last, when on the brink of consummating his happiness. As he sat there, looking at George Stevens, he became a murderer in his heart; and if an invisible dagger could have been placed in his hands, he would have driven it to the hilt in his breast, and stilled for ever the tongue that was destined to betray him.

But it was too late; one glance at the contemptuous, malignant face of the son of his father's murderer, told him his fate was sealed—that it was now too late to avert exposure. He grew faint, dizzy, ill,—and rising, declared hurriedly he must go, staggered towards the door, and fell upon the carpet, with a slight stream of blood spirting from his mouth.

Little Birdie screamed, and ran to raise him; George Stevens and Miss Ellstowe gave their assistance, and by their united efforts he was placed upon the sofa. Little Birdie wiped the bloody foam from his mouth with her tiny lace handkerchief, bathed his head, and held cold water to his lips; but consciousness was long returning, and they thought he was dying.

Poor torn heart! pity it was thy beatings were not stilled then for ever. It was not thy fate; long, long months of grief and despair were yet to come before the end approached and day again broke upon thee.

Just at this crisis Mr. Bates came in, and was greatly shocked and alarmed by Clarence's deathly appearance. As he returned to consciousness he looked wildly about him, and clasping little Birdie's hand in his, gazed at her with a tender imploring countenance: yet it was a despairing look—such a one as a shipwrecked seaman gives when, in sight of land, he slowly relaxes his hold upon the sustaining spar that he has no longer the strength to clutch, and sinks for ever beneath the waters.

A physician was brought in, who declared he had ruptured a minor blood-vessel, and would not let him utter a whisper, and, assisted by Mr. Bates, placed him in his carriage, and the three were driven as swiftly as possible to the hotel where Clarence was staying. Little Birdie retired to her room in great affliction, followed by Miss Ellstowe, and George Stevens was left in the room alone.

"What can the fellow have been doing here?" he soliloquised; "on intimate terms too, apparently; it is very singular; I will wait Miss Ellstowe's return, and ask an explanation."

When Miss Ellstowe re-entered the room, he immediately inquired, "What was that Mr. Garie doing here? He seems on an exceedingly intimate footing, and your friend apparently takes a wonderful interest in him."

"Of course she does; that is her fiance."

"Impossible!" rejoined he, with an air of astonishment.

"Impossible!—why so? I assure you he is. They are to be married in a few weeks. I am here to officiate as bridesmaid."

"Phew!" whistled George Stevens; and then, after pausing a moment, he asked, "Do you know anything about this Mr. Garie—anything, I mean, respecting his family?"

"Why, no—that is, nothing very definite, more than that he is an orphan, and a gentleman of education and independent means."

"Humph!" ejaculated George Stevens, significantly.

"Humph!" repeated Miss Ellstowe, "what do you mean? Do you know anything beyond that? One might suppose you did, from your significant looks and gestures."

"Yes, I do know something about this Mr. Garie," he replied, after a short silence. "But tell me what kind of people are these you are visiting—Abolitionists, or anything of that sort?"

"How absurd, Mr. Stevens, to ask such a question; of course they are not," said she, indignantly; "do you suppose I should be here if they were? But why do you ask—is this Mr. Garie one?"

"No, my friend," answered her visitor; "I wish that was all."

"That was all!—how strangely you talk—you alarm me," continued she, with considerable agitation. "If you know anything that will injure the happiness of my friend—anything respecting Mr. Garie that she or her father should know—make no secret of it, but disclose it to me at once. Anne is my dearest friend, and I, of course, must be interested in anything that concerns her happiness. Tell me, what is it you know?"

"It is nothing, I assure you, that it will give me any pleasure to tell," answered he. "Do speak out, Mr. Stevens. Is there any stain on his character, or that of his family? Did he ever do anything dishonourable?"

"I wish that was all," coolly repeated George Stevens. "I am afraid he is a villain, and has been imposing himself upon this family for what he is not."

"Good Heavens! Mr. Stevens, how is he a villain or impostor?"

"You all suppose him to be a white man, do you not?" he asked.

"Of course we do," she promptly answered.

"Then you are all grievously mistaken, for he is not. Did you not notice how he changed colour, how agitated he became, when I was presented? It was because he knew that his exposure was at hand. I know him well—in fact, he is the illegitimate son of a deceased relative of mine, by a mulatto slave."

"It cannot be possible," exclaimed Miss Ellstowe, with a wild stare of astonishment. "Are you sure of it?"

"Sure of it! of course I am. I should indeed be a rash man to make such a terrible charge unless perfectly able to substantiate it. I have played with him frequently when a child, and my father made a very liberal provision for this young man and his sister, after the death of their father, who lost his life through imprudently living with this woman in Philadelphia, and consequently getting himself mixed up with these detestable Abolitionists."

"Can this be true?" asked Miss Ellstowe, incredulously.

"I assure you it is. We had quite lost sight of them for a few years back, and I little supposed we should meet under such circumstances. I fear I shall be the cause of great discomfort, but I am sure in the end I shall be thanked. I could not, with any sense of honour or propriety, permit such a thing as this marriage to be consummated, without at least warning your friends of the real position of this fellow. I trust, Miss Ellstowe, you will inform them of what I have told you." "How can I? Oh, Mr. Stevens!" said she, in a tone of deep distress, "this will be a terrible blow—it will almost kill Anne. No, no; the task must not devolve on me—I cannot tell them. Poor little thing! it will break her heart, I am afraid."

"Oh, but you must, Miss Ellstowe; it would seem very impertinent in me—a stranger—to meddle in such a matter; and, besides, they may be aware of it, and not thank me for my interference."

"No, I assure you they are not; I am confident they have not the most distant idea of such a thing—they would undoubtedly regard it as an act of kindness on your part. I shall insist upon your remaining until the return of Mr. Bates, when I shall beg you to repeat to him what you have already revealed to me."

"As you insist upon it, I suppose I must," repeated he, after some reflection; "but I must say I do not like the office of informer," concluded he, with assumed reluctance.

"I am sorry to impose it upon you; yet, rest assured, they will thank you. Excuse me for a few moments—I will go and see how Anne is."

Miss Ellstowe returned, after a short interval, with the information that little Birdie was much more composed, and would, no doubt, soon recover from her fright.

"To receive a worse blow," observed George Stevens. "I pity the poor little thing—only to think of the disgrace of being engaged to a nigger. It is fortunate for them that they will make the discovery ere it be too late. Heavens! only think what the consequences might have been had she married this fellow, and his peculiar position became known to them afterwards! She would have been completely 'done for.'"

Thus conversing respecting Clarence, they awaited the return of Mr. Bates. After the lapse of a couple of hours he entered the drawing-room. Mr. Stevens was presented to him by Miss Ellstowe, as a particular friend of herself and family. "I believe you were here when I came in before; I regret I was obliged to leave so abruptly," courteously spoke Mr. Bates, whilst bowing to his new acquaintance; "the sudden and alarming illness of my young friend will, I trust, be a sufficient apology."

"How is he now?" asked Miss Ellstowe.

"Better—much better," answered he, cheerfully; "but very wild and distracted in his manner—alarmingly so, in fact. He clung to my hand, and wrung it when we parted, and bid me good bye again and again, as if it was for the last time. Poor fellow! he is frightened at that hemorrhage, and is afraid it will be fatal; but there is not any danger, he only requires to be kept quiet—he will soon come round again, no doubt. I shall have to ask you to excuse me again," said he, in conclusion; "I must go and see my daughter."

Mr. Bates was rising to depart, when George Stevens gave Miss Ellstowe a significant look, who said, in a hesitating tone, "Mr. Bates, one moment before you go. My friend, Mr. Stevens, has a communication to make to you respecting Mr. Garie, which will, I fear, cause you, as it already has me, deep distress."

"Indeed!" rejoined Mr. Bates, in a tone of surprise; "What is it? Nothing that reflects upon his character, I hope."

"I do not know how my information will influence your conduct towards him, for I do not know what your sentiments may be respecting such persons. I know society in general do not receive them, and my surprise was very great to find him here."

"I do not understand you; what do you mean?" demanded Mr. Bates, in a tone of perplexity; "has he ever committed any crime?"

"HE IS A COLOURED MAN," answered George Stevens, briefly. Mr. Bates became almost purple, and gasped for breath; then, after staring at his informant for a few seconds incredulously, repeated the words "Coloured man," in a dreamy manner, as if in doubt whether he had really heard them.

"Yes, coloured man," said George Stevens, confidently; "it grieves me to be the medium of such disagreeable intelligence; and I assure you I only undertook the office upon the representation of Miss Ellstowe, that you were not aware of the fact, and would regard my communication as an act of kindness."

"It—it can't be," exclaimed Mr. Bates, with the air of a man determined not to be convinced of a disagreeable truth; "it cannot be possible."

Hereupon George Stevens related to him what he had recently told Miss Ellstowe respecting the parentage and position of Clarence. During the narration, the old man became almost frantic with rage and sorrow, bursting forth once or twice with the most violent exclamations; and when George Stevens concluded, he rose and said, in a husky voice—

"I'll kill him, the infernal hypocrite! Oh! the impostor to come to my house in this nefarious manner, and steal the affections of my daughter—the devilish villain! a bastard! a contemptible black-hearted nigger. Oh, my child—my child! it will break your heart when you know what deep disgrace has come upon you. I'll go to him," added he, his face flushed, and his white hair almost erect with rage; "I'll murder him—there's not a man in the city will blame me for it," and he grasped his cane as though he would go at once, and inflict summary vengeance upon the offender.

"Stop, sir, don't be rash," exclaimed George Stevens; "I would not screen this fellow from the effects of your just and very natural indignation—he is abundantly worthy of the severest punishment you can bestow; but if you go in your present excited state, you might be tempted to do something which would make this whole affair public, and injure, thereby, your daughter's future. You'll pardon me, I trust, and not think me presuming upon my short acquaintance in making the suggestion."

Mr. Bates looked about him bewilderedly for a short time, and then replied, "No, no, you need not apologize, you are right—I thank you; I myself should have known better. But my poor child! what will become of her?" and in an agony of sorrow he resumed his seat, and buried his face in his hands.

George Stevens prepared to take his departure, but Mr. Bates pressed him to remain. "In a little while," said he, "I shall be more composed, and then I wish you to go with me to this worthless scoundrel. I must see him at once, and warn him what the consequences will be should he dare approach my child again. Don't fear me," he added, as he saw George Stevens hesitated to remain; "that whirlwind of passion is over now. I promise you I shall do nothing unworthy of myself or my child."

It was not long before they departed together for the hotel at which Clarence was staying. When they entered his room, they found him in his bed, with the miniature of little Birdie in his hands. When he observed the dark scowl on the face of Mr. Bates, and saw by whom he was accompanied, he knew his secret was discovered; he saw it written on their faces. He trembled like a leaf, and his heart seemed like a lump of ice in his bosom. Mr. Bates was about to speak, when Clarence held up his hand in the attitude of one endeavouring to ward off a blow, and whispered hoarsely—

"Don't tell me—not yet—a little longer! I see you know all. I see my sentence written on your face! Let me dream a little longer ere you speak the words that must for ever part me and little Birdie. I know you have come to separate us—but don't tell me yet; for when you do," said he, in an agonized tone, "it will kill me!"

"I wish to God it would!" rejoined Mr. Bates. "I wish you had died long ago; then you would have never come beneath my roof to destroy its peace for ever. You have acted basely, palming yourself upon us—counterfeit as you were! and taking in exchange her true love and my honest, honourable regard."

Clarence attempted to speak, but Mr. Bates glared at him, and continued—"There are laws to punish thieves and counterfeits—but such as you may go unchastised, except by the abhorrence of all honourable men. Had you been unaware of your origin, and had the revelation of this gentleman been as new to you as to me, you would have deserved sympathy; but you have been acting a lie, claiming a position in society to which you knew you had no right, and deserve execration and contempt. Did I treat you as my feelings dictated, you would understand what is meant by the weight of a father's anger; but I do not wish the world to know that my daughter has been wasting her affections upon a worthless nigger; that is all that protects you! Now, hear me," he added, fiercely,—"if ever you presume to darken my door again, or attempt to approach my daughter, I will shoot you, as sure as you sit there before me!"

"And serve you perfectly right!" observed George Stevens.

"Silence, sir!" rejoined Clarence, sternly. "How dare you interfere? He may say what he likes—reproach me as he pleases—he is her father—I have no other reply; but if you dare again to utter a word, I'll—" and Clarence paused and looked about him as if in search of something with which to enforce silence.

Feeble-looking as he was, there was an air of determination about him which commanded acquiescence, and George Stevens did not venture upon another observation during the interview.

"I want my daughter's letters—every line she ever wrote to you; get them at once—I want them now," said Mr. Bates, imperatively.

"I cannot give them to you immediately, they are not accessible at present. Does she want them?" he asked, feebly—"has she desired to have them back?"

"Never mind that!" said the old man, sternly; "no evasions. Give me the letters!"

"To-morrow I will send them," said Clarence. "I will read them all over once again," thought he.

"I cannot believe you," said Mr. Bates.

"I promise you upon my honour I will send them tomorrow!"

"A nigger's honour!" rejoined Mr. Bates, with a contemptuous sneer. "Yes, sir—a nigger's honour!" repeated Clarence, the colour mounting to his pale cheeks. "A few drops of negro blood in a man's reins do not entirely deprive him of noble sentiments. 'Tis true my past concealment does not argue in my favour.—I concealed that which was no fault of my own, but what the injustice of society has made a crime."

"I am not here for discussion; and I suppose I must trust to your honour," interrupted Mr. Bates, with a sneer. "But remember, if the letters are not forthcoming to-morrow I shall be here again, and then," concluded he in a threatening tone, "my visit will not be as harmless as this has been!"

After they had gone, Clarence rose and walked feebly to his desk, which, with great effort and risk, he removed to the bed-side; then taking from it little Birdie's letters, he began their perusal.

Ay! read them again—and yet again; pore over their contents—dwell on those passages replete with tenderness, until every word is stamped upon thy breaking heart—linger by them as the weary traveller amid Sahara's sand pauses by some sparkling fountain in a shady oasis, tasting of its pure waters ere he launches forth again upon the arid waste beyond. This is the last green spot upon thy way to death; beyond whose grim portals, let us believe, thou and thy "little Birdie" may meet again.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

"Murder will out."

The city clocks had just tolled out the hour of twelve, the last omnibus had rumbled by, and the silence without was broken only at rare intervals when some belated citizen passed by with hurried footsteps towards his home. All was still in the house of Mr. Stevens—so quiet, that the ticking of the large clock in the hall could be distinctly heard at the top of the stairway, breaking the solemn stillness of the night with its monotonous "click, click—click, click!"

In a richly furnished chamber overlooking the street a dim light was burning; so dimly, in fact, that the emaciated form of Mr. Stevens was scarcely discernible amidst the pillows and covering of the bed on which he was lying. Above him a brass head of curious workmanship held in its clenched teeth the canopy that overshadowed the bed; and as the light occasionally flickered and brightened, the curiously carved face seemed to light up with a sort of sardonic grin; and the grating of the curtain-rings, as the sick man tossed from side to side in his bed, would have suggested the idea that the odd supporter of the canopy was gnashing his brazen teeth at him.

On the wall, immediately opposite the light, hung a portrait of Mrs. Stevens; not the sharp, hard face we once introduced to the reader, but a smoother, softer countenance—yet a worn and melancholy one in its expression. It looked as if the waves of grief had beaten upon it for a long succession of years, until they had tempered down its harsher peculiarities, giving a subdued appearance to the whole countenance.

"There is twelve o'clock—give me my drops again, Lizzie," he remarked, faintly. At the sound of his voice Lizzie emerged from behind the curtains, and essayed to pour into a glass the proper quantity of medicine. She was twice obliged to pour back into the phial what she had just emptied forth, as the trembling of her hands caused her each time to drop too much; at last, having succeeded in getting the exact number of drops, she handed him the glass, the contents of which he eagerly drank.

"There!" said he, "thank you; now, perhaps, I may sleep. I have not slept for two nights—such has been my anxiety about that man; nor you either, my child—I have kept you awake also. You can sleep, though, without drops. To-morrow, when you are prepared to start, wake me, if I am asleep, and let me speak to you before you go. Remember, Lizzie, frighten him if you can! Tell him, I am ill myself—that I can't survive this continued worriment and annoyance. Tell him, moreover, I am not made of gold, and will not be always giving. I don't believe he is sick—dying—do you?" he asked, looking into her face, as though he did not anticipate an affirmative answer.

"No, father, I don't think he is really ill; I imagine it is another subterfuge to extract money. Don't distress yourself unnecessarily; perhaps I may have some influence with him—I had before, you know!"

"Yes, yes, dear, you managed him very well that time—very well," said he, stroking down her hair affectionately. "I—I—my child, I could never have told you of that dreadful secret; but when I found that you knew it all, my heart experienced a sensible relief. It was a selfish pleasure, I know; yet it eased me to share my secret; the burden is not half so heavy now."

"Father, would not your mind be easier still, if you could be persuaded to make restitution to his children? This wealth is valueless to us both. You can never ask forgiveness for the sin whilst you cling thus tenaciously to its fruits."

"Tut, tut—no more of that!" said he, impatiently; "I cannot do it without betraying myself. If I gave it back to them, what would become of you and George, and how am I to stop the clamours of that cormorant? No, no! it is useless to talk of it—I cannot do it!"

"There would be still enough left for George, after restoring them their own, and you might give this man my share of what is left. I would rather work day and night," said she, determinedly, "than ever touch a penny of the money thus accumulated."

"I've thought all that over, long ago, but I dare not do it—it might cause inquiries to be made that might result to my disadvantage. No, I cannot do that; sit down, and let us be quiet now."

Mr. Stevens lay back upon his pillow, and for a moment seemed to doze; then starting up again suddenly, he asked, "Have you told George about it? Have you ever confided anything to him?"

"No, papa," answered she soothingly, "not a breath; I've been secret as the grave."

"That's right!" rejoined he—"that is right! I love George, but not as I do you. He only comes to me when he wants money. He is not like you, darling—you take care of and nurse your poor old father. Has he come in yet?"

"Not yet; he never gets home until almost morning, and is then often fearfully intoxicated."

The old man shook his head, and muttered, "The sins of the fathers shall—what is that? Did you hear that noise?—hush!"

Lizzie stood quietly by him for a short while, and then walked on tiptoe to the door—"It is George," said she, after peering into the gloom of their entry; "he has admitted him self with his night-key."

The shuffling sound of footsteps was now quite audible upon the stairway, and soon the bloated face of Mr. Stevens's hopeful son was seen at the chamber door. In society and places where this young gentleman desired to maintain a respectable character he could be as well behaved, as choice in his language, and as courteous as anybody; but at home, where he was well known, and where he did not care to place himself under any restraint, he was a very different individual.

"Let me in, Liz," said he, in a thick voice; "I want the old man to fork over some money—I'm cleaned out."

"No, no—go to bed, George," she answered, coaxingly, "and talk to him about it in the morning."

"I'm coming in now," said he, determinedly; "and besides, I want to tell you something about that nigger Garie."

"Tell us in the morning," persisted Lizzy.

"No—I'm going to tell you now," rejoined he, forcing his way into the room—"it's too good to keep till morning. Pick up that wick, let a fellow see if you are all alive!"

Lizzie raised the wick of the lamp in accordance with his desire, and then sat down with an expression of annoyance and vexation on her countenance.

George threw himself into an easy chair, and began, "I saw that white nigger Garie to-night, he was in company with a gentleman, at that—the assurance of that fellow is perfectly incomprehensible. He was drinking at the bar of the hotel; and as it is no secret why he and Miss Bates parted, I enlightened the company on the subject of his antecedents. He threatened to challenge me! Ho! ho!—fight with a nigger—that is too good a joke!" And laughing heartily, the young ruffian leant back in his chair. "I want some money to-morrow, dad," continued he. "I say, old gentleman, wasn't it a lucky go that darkey's father was put out of the way so nicely, eh?—We've been living in clover ever since—haven't we?"

"How dare you address me-in that disrespectful manner? Go out of the room, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Stevens, with a disturbed countenance.

"Come, George, go to bed," urged his sister wearily. "Let father sleep—it is after twelve o'clock. I am going to wake the nurse, and then retire myself."

George rose stupidly from his chair, and followed his sister from the room. On the stairway he grasped her arm rudely, and said, "I don't understand how it is that you and the old man are so cursed thick all of a sudden. You are thick as two thieves, always whispering and talking together. Act fair, Liz—don't persuade him to leave you all the money. If you do, we'll quarrel—that's flat. Don't try and cozen him out of my share as well as your own—you hear!"

"Oh, George!" rejoined she reproachfully—"I never had such an idea."

"Then what are you so much together for? Why is there so much whispering and writing, and going off on journeys all alone? What does it all mean, eh?"

"It means nothing at all, George. You are not yourself to-night," said she evasively; "you had better go to bed."

"It is you that are not yourself," he retorted. "What makes you look so pale and worried—and why do you and the old man start if the door cracks, as if the devil was after you? What is the meaning of that?" asked he with a drunken leer. "You had better look out," concluded he; "I'm watching you both, and will find out all your secrets by-and-by."

"Learn all our secrets! Ah, my brother!" thought she, as he disappeared into his room, "you need not desire to have their fearful weight upon you, or you will soon grow as anxious, thin, and pale as I am."

The next day at noon Lizzie started on her journey, after a short conference with her father.

Night had settled upon her native city, when she was driven through its straight and seemingly interminable thoroughfares. The long straight rows of lamps, the snowy steps, the scrupulously clean streets, the signs over the stores, were like the faces of old acquaintances, and at any other time would have caused agreeable recollections; but the object of her visit pre-occupied her mind, to the exclusion of any other and more pleasant associations.

She ordered the coachman to take her to an obscure hotel, and, after having engaged a room, she left her baggage and started in search of the residence of McCloskey.

She drew her veil down over her face very closely, and walked quickly through the familiar streets, until she arrived at the place indicated in his letter. It was a small, mean tenement, in a by street, in which there were but one or two other houses. The shutters were closed from the upper story to the lowest, and the whole place wore an uninhabited appearance. After knocking several times, she was about to give up in despair, when she discovered through the glass above the door the faint glimmer of a light, and shortly after a female voice demanded from the inside, "Who is there?"

"Does Mr. McCloskey live here?" asked Lizzie.

Hearing a voice not more formidable than her own, the person within partially opened the door; and, whilst shading with one hand the candle she held in the other, gazed out upon the speaker.

"Does Mr. McCloskey live here?" repeated Lizzie.

"Yes, he does," answered the woman, in a weak voice; "but he's got the typers."

"Has the what?" inquired Lizzie, who did not exactly understand her.

"Got the typers—got the fever, you know."

"The typhus fever!" said Lizzie, with a start; "then he is really sick."

"Really sick!" repeated the woman—"really sick! Well, I should think he was! Why, he's been a raving and swearing awful for days; he stormed and screamed so loud that the neighbours complained. Law! they had to even shave his head."

"Is he any better?" asked Lizzie, with a sinking heart. "Can I see him?"

"'Praps you can, if you go to the hospital to-morrow; but whether you'll find him living or dead is more than I can say. I couldn't keep him here—I wasn't able to stand him. I've had the fever myself—he took it from me. You must come in," continued the woman, "if you want to talk—I'm afraid of catching cold, and can't stand at the door. Maybe you're afraid of the fever," she further observed, as she saw Lizzie hesitate on the door-step.

"Oh, no, I'm not afraid of that," answered Lizzie quickly—"I am not in the least afraid."

"Come in, then," reiterated the woman, "and I'll tell you all about it."

The woman looked harmless enough, and Lizzie hesitated no longer, but followed her through the entry into a decently furnished room. Setting the candlestick upon the mantelpiece, she offered her visitor a chair, and then continued—

"He came home this last time in an awful state. Before he left some one sent him a load of money, and he did nothing but drink and gamble whilst it lasted. I used to tell him that he ought to take care of his money, and he'd snap his fingers and laugh. He used to say that he owned the goose that laid the golden eggs, and could have money whenever he wanted it. Well, as I was a saying, he went; and when he came back he had an awful attack of delirium tremens, and then he took the typers. Oh, laws mercy!" continued she, holding up her bony hands, "how that critter raved! He talked about killing people."

"He did!" interrupted Lizzie, with a gesture of alarm, and laying her hand upon her heart, which beat fearfully—"did he mention any name?"

The woman did not stop to answer this question, but proceeded as if she had not been interrupted. "He was always going on about two orphans and a will, and he used to curse and swear awfully about being obliged to keep something hid. It was dreadful to listen to—it would almost make your hair stand on end to hear him."

"And he never mentioned names?" said Lizzie inquiringly.

"No, that was so strange; he never mentioned no names—never. He used to rave a great deal about two orphans and a will, and he would ransack the bed, and pull up the sheets, and look under the pillows, as if he thought it was there. Oh, he acted very strange, but never mentioned no names. I used to think he had something in his trunk, he was so very special about it. He was better the day they took him off; and the trunk went with him—he would have it; but since then he's had a dreadful relapse, and there's no knowin' whether he is alive or dead."

"I must go to the hospital," said Lizzie, rising from her seat, and greatly relieved to learn that nothing of importance had fallen from McCloskey during his delirium. "I shall go there as quickly as I can," she observed, walking to the door.

"You'll not see him to-night if you do," rejoined the woman. "Are you a relation?"

"Oh, no," answered Lizzie; "my father is an acquaintance of his. I learned that he was ill, and came to inquire after him."

Had the woman not been very indifferent or unobservant, she would have noticed the striking difference between the manner and appearance of Lizzie Stevens and the class who generally came to see McCloskey. She did not, however, appear to observe it, nor did she manifest any curiosity greater than that evidenced by her inquiring if he was a relative.

Lizzie walked with a lonely feeling through the quiet streets until she arrived at the porter's lodge of the hospital. She pulled the bell with trembling hands, and the door was opened by the little bald-headed man whose loquacity was once (the reader will remember) so painful to Mrs. Ellis. There was no perceptible change in his appearance, and he manifestly took as warm an interest in frightful accidents as ever. "What is it—what is it?" he asked eagerly, as Lizzie's pale face became visible in the bright light that shone from the inner office. "Do you want a stretcher?"

The rapidity with which he asked these questions, and his eager manner, quite startled her, and she was for a moment unable to tell her errand.

"Speak up, girl—speak up! Do you want a stretcher—is it burnt or run over. Can't you speak, eh?"

It now flashed upon Lizzie that the venerable janitor was labouring under the impression that she had come to make application for the admission of a patient, and she quickly answered—

"Oh, no; it is nothing of the kind, I am glad to say."

"Glad to say," muttered the old man, the eager, expectant look disappearing from his face, giving place to one of disappointment—"glad to say; why there hasn't been an accident to-day, and here you've gone and rung the bell, and brought me here to the door for nothing. What do you want then?"

"I wish to inquire after a person who is here."

"What's his number?" gruffly inquired he.

"That I cannot tell," answered she; "his name is McCloskey."

"I don't know anything about him. Couldn't tell who he is unless I go all over the books to-night. We don't know people by their names here; come in the morning—ten o'clock, and don't never ring that bell again," concluded he, sharply, "unless you want a stretcher: ringing the bell, and no accident;" and grumbling at being disturbed for nothing, he abruptly closed the door in Lizzie's face.

Anxious and discomfited, she wandered back to her hotel; and after drinking a weak cup of tea, locked her room-door, and retired to bed. There she lay, tossing from side to side—she could not sleep—her anxiety respecting her father's safety; her fears, lest in the delirium of fever McCloskey should discover their secret, kept her awake far into the night, and the city clocks struck two ere she fell asleep.

When she awoke in the morning the sun was shining brightly into her room; for a few moments she could not realize where she was; but the events of the past night soon came freshly to her; looking at her watch, she remembered that she was to go to the hospital at ten, and it was already half-past nine; her wakefulness the previous night having caused her to sleep much later than her usual hour.

Dressing herself in haste, she hurried down to breakfast; and after having eaten a slight meal, ordered a carriage, and drove to the hospital.

The janitor was in his accustomed seat, and nodded smilingly to her as she entered. He beckoned her to him, and whispered, "I inquired about him. McCloskey, fever-ward, No. 21, died this morning at two o'clock and forty minutes."

"Dead!" echoed Lizzie, with a start of horror.

"Yes, dead," repeated he, with a complacent look; "any relation of yours—want an order for the body?"

Lizzie was so astounded by this intelligence, that she could not reply; and the old man continued mysteriously. "Came to before he died—wish he hadn't—put me to a deal of trouble—sent for a magistrate—then for a minister—had something on his mind—couldn't die without telling it, you know; then there was oaths, depositions—so much trouble. Are you his relation—want an order for the body?"

"Oaths! magistrate!—a confession no doubt," thought Lizzie; her limbs trembled; she was so overcome with terror that she could scarcely stand; clinging to the railing of the desk by which she was standing for support, she asked, hesitatingly, "He had something to confess then?"

The janitor looked at her for a few moments attentively, and seemed to notice for the first time her ladylike appearance and manners; a sort of reserve crept over him at the conclusion of his scrutiny, for he made no answer to her question, but simply asked, with more formality than before, "Are you a relation—do you want an order for the body?"

Ere Lizzie could answer his question, a man, plainly dressed, with keen grey eyes that seemed to look restlessly about in every corner of the room, came and stood beside the janitor. He looked at Lizzie from the bow on the top of her bonnet to the shoes on her feet; it was not a stare, it was more a hasty glance—and yet she could not help feeling that he knew every item of her dress, and could have described her exactly.

"Are you a relative of this person," he asked, in a clear sharp voice, whilst his keen eyes seemed to be piercing her through in search of the truth.

"No, sir," she answered, faintly.

"A friend then, I presume," continued he, respectfully.

"An acquaintance," returned she. The man paused for a few moments, then taking out his watch, looked at the time, and hastened from the office.

This man possessed Lizzie with a singular feeling of dread—why she could not determine; yet, after he was gone, she imagined those cold grey eyes were resting on her, and bidding the old janitor, who had grown reserved so suddenly, good morning, she sprang into her carriage as fast as her trembling limbs could carry her, and ordered the coachman to drive back to the hotel.

"Father must fly!" soliloquized she; "the alarm will, no doubt, lend him energy. I've heard of people who have not been able to leave their rooms for months becoming suddenly strong under the influence of terror. We must be off to some place of concealment until we can learn whether he is compromised by that wretched man's confession."

Lizzie quickly paid her bill, packed her trunk, and started for the station in hopes of catching the mid-day train for New York.

The driver did not spare his horses, but at her request drove them at their utmost speed—but in vain. She arrived there only time enough to see the train move away; and there, standing on the platform, looking at her with a sort of triumphant satisfaction, was the man with the keen grey eyes. "Stop! stop!" cried she.

"Too late, miss," said a bystander, sympathizingly; "just too late—no other train for three hours."

"Three hours!" said Lizzie, despairingly; "three hours! Yet I must be patient—there is no remedy," and she endeavoured to banish her fears and occupy herself in reading the advertisements that were posted up about the station. It was of no avail, that keen-looking man with his piercing grey eyes haunted her; and she could not avoid associating him in her thoughts with her father and McCloskey. What was he doing on the train, and why did he regard her with that look of triumphant satisfaction.

Those were to her the three longest hours of her life. Wearily and impatiently she paced up and down the long saloon, watching the hands of the clock as they appeared to almost creep over the dial-plate. Twenty times during those three hours did she compare the clock with her watch, and found they moved on unvaryingly together.

At last the hour for the departure of the train arrived; and seated in the car, she was soon flying at express speed on the way towards her home. "How much sooner does the other train arrive than we?" she asked of the conductor.

"Two hours and a half, miss," replied he, courteously; "we gain a half-hour upon them."

"A half-hour—that is something gained," thought she; "I may reach my father before that man. Can he be what I suspect?"

On they went—thirty—forty—fifty miles an hour, yet she thought it slow. Dashing by villages, through meadows, over bridges,—rattling, screaming, puffing, on their way to the city of New York. In due time they arrived at the ferry, and after crossing the river were in the city itself. Lizzie took the first carriage that came to hand, and was soon going briskly through the streets towards her father's house. The nearer she approached it, the greater grew her fears; a horrible presentiment that something awful had occurred, grew stronger and stronger as she drew nearer home. She tried to brave it off—resist it—crush it—but it came back upon her each time with redoubled force.

On she went, nearer and nearer every moment, until at last she was in the avenue itself. She gazed eagerly from the carriage, and thought she observed one or two persons run across the street opposite her father's house. It could not be!—she looked again—yes, there was a group beneath his window. "Faster! faster!" she cried frantically; "faster if you can." The door was at last reached; she sprang from the carriage and pressed through the little knot of people who were gathered on the pavement. Alas! her presentiments were correct. There, lying on the pavement, was the mangled form of her father, who had desperately sprung from the balcony above, to escape arrest from the man with the keen grey eyes, who, with the warrant in his hand, stood contemplating the lifeless body.

"Father! father!" cried Lizzie, in an anguished voice; "father, speak once!" Too late! too late! the spirit had passed away—the murderer had rushed before a higher tribunal—a mightier Judge—into the presence of One who tempers justice with mercy.



CHAPTER XXXV.

The Wedding.

The night that Lizzie Stevens arrived in Philadelphia was the one decided upon for the marriage of Emily Garie and Charles Ellis; and whilst she was wandering so lonely through the streets of one part of the city, a scene of mirth and gaiety was transpiring in another, some of the actors in which would be made more happy by events that would be productive of great sorrow to her.

Throughout that day bustle and confusion had reigned supreme in the house of Mr. Walters. Caddy, who had been there since the break of day, had taken the domestic reins entirely from the hands of the mistress of the mansion, and usurped command herself. Quiet Esther was well satisfied to yield her full control of the domestic arrangements for the festivities, and Caddy was nothing loath to assume them.

She entered upon the discharge of her self-imposed duties with such ardour as to leave no doubt upon the minds of the parties most interested but that they would be thoroughly performed, and with an alacrity too that positively appalled quiet Esther's easy-going servants.

Great doubts had been expressed as to whether Caddy could successfully sustain the combined characters of chef de cuisine and bridesmaid, and a failure had been prophesied. She therefore felt it incumbent upon her to prove these prognostications unfounded, and demonstrate the practicability of the undertaking. On the whole, she went to work with energy, and seemed determined to establish the fact that her abilities were greatly underrated, and that a woman could accomplish more than one thing at a time when she set about it.

The feelings of all such persons about the establishment of Mr. Walters as were "constitutionally tired" received that day divers serious shocks at the hands of Miss Caddy—who seemed endowed with a singular faculty which enabled her to discover just what people did not want to do, and of setting them at it immediately.

For instance, Jane, the fat girl, hated going upstairs excessively. Caddy employed her in bringing down glass and china from a third-story pantry; and, moreover, only permitted her to bring a small quantity at a time, which rendered a number of trips strictly necessary, to the great aggravation and serious discomfort of the fat girl in question.

On the other hand, Julia, the slim chambermaid, who would have been delighted with such employment, and who would have undoubtedly refreshed herself on each excursion upstairs with a lengthened gaze from the window, was condemned to the polishing of silver and dusting of plates and glass in an obscure back pantry, which contained but one window, and that commanding a prospect of a dead wall.

Miss Caddy felt in duty bound to inspect each cake, look over the wine, and (to the great discomfiture of the waiter) decant it herself, not liking to expose him to any unnecessary temptation. She felt, too, all the more inclined to assume the office of butler from the fact that, at a previous party of her sister's, she had detected this same gentleman with a bottle of the best sherry at his mouth, whilst he held his head thrown back in a most surprising manner, with a view, no doubt, of contemplating the ceiling more effectually from that position.

Before night such was the increasing demand for help in the kitchen that Caddy even kidnapped the nurse, and locked the brown baby and her sister in the bath-room, where there was no window in their reach, nor any other means at hand from which the slightest injury could result to them. Here they were supplied with a tub half filled with water, and spent the time most delightfully in making boats of their shoes, and lading them with small pieces of soap, which they bit off from the cake for the occasion; then, coasting along to the small towns on the borders of the tub, they disposed of their cargoes to imaginary customers to immense advantage.

Walters had declared the house uninhabitable, and had gone out for the day. Esther and Emily busied themselves in arranging the flowers in the drawing-room and hall, and hanging amidst the plants on the balcony little stained glass lamps; all of which Caddy thought very well in its way, but which she was quite confident would be noticed much less by the guests than the supper—in which supposition she was undoubtedly correct.

Kinch also lounged in two or three times during the day, to seek consolation at the hands of Esther and Emily. He was in deep distress of mind—in great perturbation. His tailor had promised to send home a vest the evening previous and had not fulfilled his agreement. After his first visit Kinch entered the house in the most stealthy manner, for fear of being encountered by Caddy; who, having met him in the hall during the morning, posted him off for twenty pounds of sugar, a ball of twine, and a stone jar, despite his declaration of pre-engagements, haste, and limited knowledge of the articles in question.

Whilst Lizzie Stevens was tremblingly ringing the bell at the lodge of the hospital, busy hands were also pulling at that of Mr. Walters's dwelling. Carriage after carriage rolled up, and deposited their loads of gay company, who skipped nimbly over the carpet that was laid down from the door to the curbstone. Through the wide hall and up the stairway, flowers of various kinds mingled their fragrance and loaded the air with their rich perfume; and expressions of delight burst from the lips of the guests as they passed up the brilliantly-lighted stairway and thronged the spacious drawing-rooms. There were but few whites amongst them, and they particular friends. There was Mrs. Bird, who had travelled from Warmouth to be present at the ceremony; Mr. Balch, the friend and legal adviser of the bride's father; Father Banks, who was to tie the happy knot; and there, too, was Mrs. Burrell, and that baby, now grown to a promising lad, and who would come to the wedding because Charlie had sent him a regular invitation written like that sent his parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Ellis were of course there,—the latter arrayed in a rich new silk made up expressly for the occasion—and the former almost hidden in his large easy chair. The poor old gentleman scarcely seemed able to comprehend the affair, and apparently laboured under the impression that it was another mob, and looked a little terrified at times when the laughter or conversation grew louder than usual.

The hour for the ceremony was fast approaching, and Esther left the assembled guests and went up into Emily Garie's room to assist the young ladies in preparing the bride. They all besought her to be calm, not to agitate herself upon any consideration; and then bustled about her, and flurried themselves in the most ridiculous manner, with a view, no doubt, of tranquillizing her feelings more effectually.

"Little Em," soon to be Mrs. Ellis, was busily engaged in dressing; the toilet-table was covered with lighted candles, and all the gas-burners in the room were in full blaze, bringing everything out in bold relief.

"We are having quite an illumination; the glare almost blinds me," said Emily. "Put out some of the candles."

"No, no, my dear," rejoined one of the young ladies engaged in dressing her; "we cannot sacrifice a candle. We don't need them to discern your charms, Em; only to enable us to discover how to deck them to the best advantage. How sweet you look!"

Emily gazed into the mirror; and from the blush that suffused her face and the look of complacency that followed, it was quite evident that she shared her friend's opinion. She did, indeed, look charming. There was a deeper colour than usual on her cheeks, and her eyes were illumined with a soft, tender light. Her wavy brown hair was parted smoothly on the front, and gathered into a cluster of curls at the back. Around her neck glistened a string of pearls, a present from Mr. Winston, who had just returned from South America. The pure white silk fitted to a nicety, and the tiny satin slippers seemed as if they were made upon her feet, and never intended to come off again. Her costume was complete, with the exception of the veil and wreath, and Esther opened the box that she supposed contained them, for the purpose of arranging them on the bride.

"Where have you put the veil, my dear?" she asked, after raising the lid of the box, and discovering that they were not there.

"In the box, are they not?" answered one of the young ladies.

"No, they are not there," continued Esther, as she turned over the various articles with which the tables were strewed. All in vain; the veil and wreath could be nowhere discovered.

"Are you sure it came home?" asked one.

"Of course," replied another; "I had it in my hand an hour ago."

Then a thorough search was commenced, all the drawers ransacked, and everything turned over again and again; and just when they were about to abandon the search in despair, one of the party returned from the adjoining room, dragging along the brown baby, who had the veil wrapped about her chubby shoulders as a scarf, and the wreath ornamenting her round curly head. Even good-natured Esther was a little ruffled at this daring act of baby's, and hastily divested that young lady of her borrowed adornments, amidst the laughter of the group.

Poor baby was quite astonished at the precipitate manner in which she was deprived of her finery, and was for a few moments quite overpowered by her loss; but, perceiving a drawer open in the toilet-table, she dried her eyes, and turned her attention in that direction, and in tossing its contents upon the floor amply solaced herself for the deprivation she had just undergone.

"Caddy is a famous chief bridesmaid—hasn't been here to give the least assistance," observed Esther; "she is not even dressed herself. I will ring, and ask where she can be—in the kitchen or supper-room I've no doubt. Where is Miss Ellis?" she asked of the servant who came in answer her summons.

"Downstairs, mem—the boy that brought the ice-cream kicked over a candy ornament, and Miss Ellis was very busy a shaking of him when I came up."

"Do beg her to stop," rejoined Esther, with a laugh, "and tell her I say she can shake him in the morning—we are waiting for her to dress now; and also tell Mr. De Younge to come here to the door—I want him."

Kinch soon made his appearance, in accordance with Esther's request, and fairly dazzled her with his costume. His blue coat was brazen with buttons, and his white cravat tied with choking exactness; spotless vest, black pants, and such patent leathers as you could have seen your face in with ease.

"How fine you look, Kinch," said Esther admiringly.

"Yes," he answered; "the new vest came home—how do you like it?"

"Oh, admirable! But, Kinch, can't you go down, and implore Caddy to come up and dress—time is slipping away very fast?"

"Oh, I daren't," answered Kinch, with a look of alarm—"I don't dare to go down now that I'm dressed. She'll want me to carry something up to the supper-room if I do—a pile of dishes, or something of the kind. I'd like to oblige you, Mrs. Walters, but it's worth my new suit to do it."

Under these circumstances, Kinch was excused; and a deputation, headed by Mr. Walters, was sent into the lower regions to wait upon Caddy, who prevailed upon her to come up and dress, which she did, being all the while very red in the face, and highly indignant at being sent for so often.

"Good gracious!" she exclaimed, "what a pucker you are all in!"

"Why, Caddy, it's time to be," replied Esther—"it wants eight minutes of the hour."

"And that is just three minutes more than I should want for dressing if I was going to be married myself," rejoined she; and hastening away, she returned in an incredibly short time, all prepared for the ceremony.

Charlie was very handsomely got up for the occasion. Emily, Esther, Caddy—in fact, all of them—agreed that he never looked better in his life. "That is owing to me—all my doings," said Kinch exultingly. "He wanted to order his suit of old Forbes, who hasn't looked at a fashion-plate for the last ten years, and I wouldn't let him. I took him to my man, and see what he has made of him—turned him out looking like a bridegroom, instead of an old man of fifty! It's all owing to me," said the delighted Kinch, who skipped about the entry until he upset a vase of flowers that stood on a bracket behind him; whereupon Caddy ran and brought a towel, and made him take off his white gloves and wipe up the water, in spite of his protestations that the shape of his pantaloons would not bear the strain of stooping.

At last the hour arrived, and the bridal party descended to the drawing-room in appropriate order, and stood up before Father Banks. The ceremony was soon over, and Emily was clasped in Mrs. Ellis's arms, who called her "daughter," and kissed her cheek with such warm affection that she no longer felt herself an orphan, and paid back with tears and embraces the endearments that were lavished upon her by her new relatives.

Father Banks took an early opportunity to give them each some good advice, and managed to draw them apart for that purpose. He told them how imperfect and faulty were all mankind—that married life was not all couleur de rose—that the trials and cares incident to matrimony fully equalled its pleasures; and besought them to bear with each other patiently, to be charitable to each other's faults—and a reasonable share of earthly happiness must be the result.

Then came the supper. Oh! such a supper!—such quantities of nice things as money and skill alone can bring together. There were turkeys innocent of a bone, into which you might plunge your knife to the very hilt without coming in contact with a splinter—turkeys from which cunning cooks had extracted every bone leaving the meat alone behind, with the skin not perceptibly broken. How brown and tempting they looked, their capacious bosoms giving rich promise of high-seasoned dressing within, and looking larger by comparison with the tiny reed-birds beside them, which lay cosily on the golden toast, looking as much as to say, "If you want something to remember for ever, come and give me a bite!"

Then there were dishes of stewed terrapin, into which the initiated dipped at once, and to which they for some time gave their undivided attention, oblivious, apparently, of the fact that there was a dish of chicken-salad close beside them.

Then there were oysters in every variety—silver dishes containing them stewed, their fragrant macey odour wafting itself upward, and causing watery sensations about the mouth. Waiters were constantly rushing into the room, bringing dishes of them fried so richly brown, so smoking hot, that no man with a heart in his bosom could possibly refuse them. Then there were glass dishes of them pickled, with little black spots of allspice floating on the pearly liquid that contained them. And lastly, oysters broiled, whose delicious flavour exceeds my powers of description—these, with ham and tongue, were the solid comforts. There were other things, however, to which one could turn when the appetite grew more dainty; there were jellies, blancmange, chocolate cream, biscuit glace, peach ice, vanilla ice, orange-water ice, brandy peaches, preserved strawberries and pines; not to say a word of towers of candy, bonbons, kisses, champagne, Rhine wine, sparkling Catawba, liquors, and a man in the corner making sherry cobblers of wondrous flavour, under the especial supervision of Kinch; on the whole, it was an American supper, got up regardless of expense—and whoever has been to such an entertainment knows very well what an American supper is.

What a merry happy party it was—how they all seemed to enjoy themselves—and how they all laughed, when the bride essayed to cut the cake, and could not get the knife through the icing—and how the young girls put pieces away privately, that they might place them under their pillows to dream upon! What a happy time they had!

Father Banks enjoyed himself amazingly; he eat quantities of stewed terrapin, and declared it the best he ever tasted. He talked gravely to the old people—cheerfully and amusingly to the young; and was, in fact, having a most delightful time—when a servant whispered to him that there was a person in the entry who wished to see him immediately.

"Oh dear!" he exclaimed to Mr. Balch, "I was just congratulating myself that I should have one uninterrupted evening, and you see the result—called off at this late hour."

Father Banks followed the servant from the room, and inquired of the messenger what was wanted.

"You must come to the hospital immediately, sir; the man with the typhus-fever—you saw him yesterday—he's dying; he says he must see you—that he has something important to confess. I'm to go for a magistrate as well."

"Ah!" said Father Banks, "you need go no further, Alderman Balch is here—he is quite competent to receive his depositions."

"I'm heartily glad of it," replied the man, "it will save me another hunt. I had a hard time finding you. I've been to your house and two or three other places, and was at last sent here. I'll go back and report that you are coming and will bring a magistrate with you."

"Very good," rejoined Father Banks, "do so. I will be there immediately." Hastening back to the supper room, he discovered Mr. Balch in the act of helping himself to a brandy peach, and apprised him of the demand for his services.

"Now, Banks," said he, good-humouredly, "that is outrageous. Why did you not let him go for some one else? It is too bad to drag me away just when the fun is about to commence." There was no alternative, however, and Mr. Balch prepared to follow the minister to the bedside of McCloskey.

When they arrived at the hospital, they found him fast sinking—the livid colour of his face, the sunken glassy eyes, the white lips, and the blue tint that surrounded the eyes and mouth told at once the fearful story. Death had come. He was in full possession of his faculties, and told them all. How Stevens had saved him from the gallows—and how he agreed to murder Mr. Garie—of his failure when the time of action arrived, and how, in consequence, Stevens had committed the deed, and how he had paid him time after time to keep his secret.

"In my trunk there," said he, in a dying whisper,—"in my trunk is the will. I found it that night amongst his papers. I kept it to get money out of his children with when old Stevens was gone. Here," continued he, handing his key from beneath the pillow, "open my trunk and get it."

Mr. Balch eagerly unlocked the trunk, and there, sure enough, lay the long-sought-for and important document.

"I knew it would be found at last. I always told Walters so; and now," said he, exultingly, "see my predictions are verified."

McCloskey seemed anxious to atone for the past by making an ample confession. He told them all he knew of Mr. Stevens's present circumstances—how his property was situated, and every detail necessary for their guidance. Then his confession was sworn to and witnessed; and the dying man addressed himself to the affairs of the next world, and endeavoured to banish entirely from his mind all thoughts of this.

After a life passed in the exercise of every Christian virtue—after a lengthened journey over its narrow stony pathway, whereon temptations have been met and triumphed over—where we have struggled with difficulties, and borne afflictions without murmur or complaint, cheering on the weary we have found sinking by the wayside, comforting and assisting the fallen, endeavouring humbly and faithfully to do our duty to God and humanity—even after a life thus passed, when we at last lie down to die the most faithful and best may well shrink and tremble when they approach the gloomy portals of death. At such an hour memory, more active than every other faculty, drags all the good and evil from the past and sets them in distinct array before us. Then we discover how greatly the latter exceeds the former in our lives, and how little of our Father's work we have accomplished after all our toils and struggles. 'Tis then the most devoted servant of our common Master feels compelled to cry, "Mercy! O my Father!—for justice I dare not ask."

If thus the Christian passes away—what terror must fill the breast of one whose whole life has been a constant warfare upon the laws of God and man? How approaches he the bar of that awful Judge, whose commands he has set at nought, and whose power he has so often contemned? With a fainting heart, and tongue powerless to crave the mercy his crimes cannot deserve!

McCloskey struggled long with death—died fearfully hard. The phantoms of his victims seemed to haunt him in his dying hour, interposing between him and God; and with distorted face, clenched hands, and gnashing teeth, he passed away to his long account.

From the bedside of the corpse Mr. Balch went—late as it was—to the office of the chief of police. There he learned, to his great satisfaction, that the governor was in town; and at an early hour the next morning he procured a requisition for the arrest of Mr. Stevens, which he put into the hands of the man with the keen grey eyes for the purpose of securing the criminal; and with the result of his efforts the reader is already acquainted.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

And the last.

With such celerity did Mr. Balch work in behalf of his wards, that he soon had everything in train for the recovery of the property.

At first George Stevens was inclined to oppose the execution of the will, but he was finally prevailed upon by his advisers to make no difficulty respecting it, and quietly resign what he must inevitably sooner or later relinquish. Lizzie Stevens, on the contrary, seemed rather glad that an opportunity was afforded to do justice to her old playmates, and won the good opinion of all parties by her gentleness and evident anxiety to atone for the wrong done them by her father. Even after the demands of the executors of Mr. Garie were fully satisfied, such had been the thrift of her father that there still remained a comfortable support for her and her brother.

To poor Clarence this accession of fortune brought no new pleasure; he already had sufficient for his modest wants; and now that his greatest hope in life had been blighted, this addition of wealth became to him rather a burden than a pleasure.

He was now completely excluded from the society in which he had so long been accustomed to move; the secret of his birth had become widely known, and he was avoided by his former friends and sneered at as a "nigger." His large fortune kept some two or three whites about him, but he knew they were leeches seeking to bleed his purse, and he wisely avoided their society.

He was very wretched and lonely: he felt ashamed to seek the society of coloured men now that the whites despised and rejected him, so he lived apart from both classes of society, and grew moody and misanthropic.

Mr. Balch endeavoured to persuade him to go abroad—to visit Europe: he would not. He did not confess it, but the truth was, he could not tear himself away from the city where little Birdie dwelt, where he now and then could catch a glimpse of her to solace him in his loneliness. He was growing paler and more fragile-looking each day, and the doctor at last frankly told him that, if he desired to live, he must seek some warmer climate for the winter.

Reluctantly Clarence obeyed; in the fall he left New York, and during the cold months wandered through the West India islands. For a while his health improved, but when the novelty produced by change of scene began to decline he grew worse again, and brooded more deeply than ever over his bitter disappointment, and consequently derived but little benefit from the change; the spirit was too much broken for the body to mend—his heart was too sore to beat healthily or happily.

He wrote often now to Emily and her husband, and seemed desirous to atone for his past neglect. Emily had written to him first; she had learned of his disappointment, and gave him a sister's sympathy in his loneliness and sorrow.

The chilly month of March had scarcely passed away when they received a letter from him informing them of his intention to return. He wrote, "I am no better, and my physician says that a longer residence here will not benefit me in the least—that I came too late. I cough, cough, cough, incessantly, and each day become more feeble. I am coming home, Emmy; coming home, I fear, to die. I am but a ghost of my former self. I write you this that you may not be alarmed when you see me. It is too late now to repine, but, oh! Em, if my lot had only been cast with yours—had we never been separated—I might have been to-day as happy as you are."

It was a clear bright morning when Charlie stepped into a boat to be conveyed to the ship in which Clarence had returned to New York: she had arrived the evening previous, and had not yet come up to the dock. The air came up the bay fresh and invigorating from the sea beyond, and the water sparkled as it dripped from the oars, which, with monotonous regularity, broke the almost unruffled surface of the bay. Some of the ship's sails were shaken out to dry in the morning sun, and the cordage hung loosely and carelessly from the masts and yards. A few sailors lounged idly about the deck, and leaned over the side to watch the boat as it approached. With their aid it was soon secured alongside, and Charlie clambered up the ladder, and stood upon the deck of the vessel. On inquiring for Clarence, he was shown into the cabin, where he found him extended on a sofa.

He raised himself as he saw Charlie approach, and, extending his hand, exclaimed,—"How kind! I did not expect you until we reached the shore."

For a moment, Charlie could not speak. The shock caused by Clarence's altered appearance was too great,—the change was terrible. When he had last seen him, he was vigorous-looking, erect, and healthful; now he was bent and emaciated to a frightful extent. The veins on his temples were clearly discernible; the muscles of his throat seemed like great cords; his cheeks were hollow, his sunken eyes were glassy bright and surrounded with a dark rim, and his breathing was short and evidently painful. Charlie held his thin fleshless hand in his own, and gazed in his face with an anguished expression.

"I look badly,—don't I Charlie?" said he, with assumed indifference; "worse than you expected, eh?"

Charlie hesitated a little, and then answered,—"Rather bad; but it is owing to your sea-sickness, I suppose; that has probably reduced you considerably; then this close cabin must be most unfavourable to your health. Ah, wait until we get you home, we shall soon have you better."

"Home!" repeated Clarence,—"home! How delightful that word sounds! I feel it is going home to go to you and Em." And he leant back and repeated the word "home," and paused afterward, as one touches some favourite note upon an instrument, and then silently listens to its vibrations. "How is Em?" he asked at length.

"Oh, well—very well," replied Charlie. "She has been busy as a bee ever since she received your last letter; such a charming room as she has prepared for you!"

"Ah, Charlie," rejoined Clarence, mournfully, "I shall not live long to enjoy it, I fear."

"Nonsense!" interrupted Charlie, hopefully; "don't be so desponding, Clary: here is spring again,—everything is thriving and bursting into new life. You, too, will catch the spirit of the season, and grow in health and strength again. Why, my dear fellow," continued he, cheerfully, "you can't help getting better when we once get hold of you. Mother's gruels, Doctor Burdett's prescriptions, and Em's nursing, would lift a man out of his coffin. Come, now, don't let us hear anything more about dying."

Clarence pressed his hand and looked at him affectionately, as though he appreciated his efforts to cheer him and felt thankful for them; but he only shook his head and smiled mournfully.

"Let me help your man to get you up. When once you get ashore you'll feel better, I've no doubt. We are not going to an hotel, but to the house of a friend who has kindly offered to make you comfortable until you are able to travel."

With the assistance of Charlie and the servant, Clarence was gradually prepared to go ashore. He was exceedingly weak, could scarcely totter across the deck; and it was with some difficulty that they at last succeeded in placing him safely in the boat. After they landed, a carriage was soon procured, and in a short time thereafter Clarence was comfortably established in the house of Charlie's friend.

Their hostess, a dear old motherly creature, declared that she knew exactly what Clarence needed; and concocted such delicious broths, made such strengthening gruels, that Clarence could not avoid eating, and in a day or two he declared himself better than he had been for a month, and felt quite equal to the journey to Philadelphia.

The last night of their stay in New York was unusually warm; and Clarence informed Charlie he wished to go out for a walk. "I wish to go a long distance,—don't think me foolish when I tell you where. I want to look at the house where little Birdie lives. It may be for the last time. I have a presentiment that I shall see her if I go,—I am sure I shall," added he, positively, as though he felt a conviction that his desire would be accomplished.

"I would not, Clary," remonstrated Charlie. "Your health won't permit the exertion; it is a long distance, too, you say; and, moreover, don't you think, my dear fellow, that it is far more prudent to endeavour, if possible, to banish her from your mind entirely. Don't permit yourself to think about her, if you can help it. You know she is unattainable by you, and you should make an effort to conquer your attachment."

"It is too late—too late now, Charlie," he replied, mournfully. "I shall continue to love her as I do now until I draw my last breath. I know it is hopeless—I know she can never be more to me than she already is; but I cannot help loving her. Let us go; I may see her once again. Ah, Charlie, you cannot even dream what inexpressible pleasure the merest glimpse of her affords me! Come, let us go."

Charlie would not permit him to attempt to walk; and they procured a carriage, in which they rode to within a short distance of the house. The mansion of Mr. Bates appeared quite gloomy as they approached it. The blinds were down, and no lights visible in any part of the house.

"I am afraid they are out of town," remarked Charlie, when Clarence pointed out the house; "everything looks so dull about it. Let us cross over to the other pavement." And they walked over to the other side of the street, and gazed upward at the house.

"Let us sit down here," suggested Clarence,—"here, on this broad stone; it is quite dark now, and no one will observe us."

"No, no!" remonstrated Charlie; "the stone is too damp and cold."

"Is it?" said Clarence vacantly. And taking out his handkerchief, he spread it out, and, in spite of Charlie's dissuasions, sat down upon it.

"Charlie," said he, after gazing at the house a long time in silence, "I have often come here and remained half the night looking at her windows. People have passed by and stared at me as though they thought me crazy; I was half crazy then, I think. One night I remember I came and sat here for hours; far in the night I saw her come to the window, throw up the casement, and look out. That was in the summer, before I went away, you know. There she stood in the moonlight, gazing upward at the sky, so pale, so calm and holy-looking, in her pure white dress, that I should not have thought it strange if the heavens had opened, and angels descended and borne her away with them on their wings." And Clarence closed his eyes as he concluded, to call back upon the mirror of his mind the image of little Birdie as she appeared that night.

They waited a long while, during which there was no evidence exhibited that there was any one in the house. At last, just as they were about to move away, they descried the glimmer of a light in the room which Clarence declared to be her room. His frame trembled with expectation, and he walked to and fro opposite the house with an apparent strength that surprised his companion. At length the light disappeared again, and with it Clarence's hopes.

"Now then we must go," said Charlie, "it is useless for you to expose yourself in this manner. I insist upon your coming home."

Reluctantly Clarence permitted himself to be led across the street again. As they were leaving the pavement, he turned to look back again, and, uttering a cry of surprise and joy, he startled Charlie by clutching his arm. "Look! look!" he cried, "there she is—my little Birdie." Charlie looked up at the window almost immediately above them, and observed a slight pale girl, who was gazing up the street in an opposite direction.

"Little Birdie—little Birdie," whispered Clarence, tenderly. She did not look toward them, but after standing there a few seconds, moved from between the curtains and disappeared.

"Thank God for that!" exclaimed Clarence, passionately, "I knew—I knew I should see her. I knew it," repeated he, exultingly; and then, overcome with joy, he bowed his head upon Charlie's shoulder and wept like a child. "Don't think me foolish, Charlie," apologized he, "I cannot help it. I will go home now. Oh, brother, I feel so much happier." And with a step less faint and trembling, he walked back to the carriage.

The following evening he was at home, but so enfeebled with the exertions of the last two days, as to be obliged to take to his bed immediately after his arrival. His sister greeted him affectionately, threw her arms about his neck and kissed him tenderly; years of coldness and estrangement were forgotten in that moment, and they were once more to each other as they were before they parted.

Emily tried to appear as though she did not notice the great change in his appearance, and talked cheerfully and encouragingly in his presence; but she wept bitterly, when alone, over the final separation which she foresaw was not far distant.

The nest day Doctor Burdett called, and his grave manner and apparent disinclination to encourage any hope, confirmed the hopeless impression they already entertained.

Aunt Ada came from Sudbury at Emily's request; she knew her presence would give pleasure to Clarence, she accordingly wrote her to come, and she and Emily nursed by turns the failing sufferer.

Esther and her husband, Mrs. Ellis and Caddy, and even Kinch, were unremitting in their attentions, and did all in their power to amuse and comfort him. Day by day he faded perceptibly, grew more and more feeble, until at last Doctor Burdett began to number days instead of weeks as his term of life. Clarence anticipated death with calmness—did not repine or murmur. Father Banks was often with him cheering him with hopes of a happier future beyond the grave.

One day he sent for his sister and desired her to write a letter for him. "Em," said he, "I am failing fast; these fiery spots on my cheek, this scorching in my palms, these hard-drawn, difficult breaths, warn me that the time is very near. Don't weep, Em!" continued he, kissing her—"there, don't weep—I shall be better off—happier—I am sure! Don't weep now—I want you to write to little Birdie for me. I have tried, but my hand trembles so that I cannot write legibly—I gave it up. Sit down beside me here, and write; here is the pen." Emily dried her eyes, and mechanically sat down to write as he desired. Motioning to him that she was ready, he dictated—

"My Dear Little Birdie,—I once resolved never to write to you again, and partially promised your father that I would not; then I did not dream that I should be so soon compelled to break my resolution. Little Birdie, I am dying! My physician informs me that I have but a few more days to live. I have been trying to break away from earth's affairs and fix my thoughts on other and better things. I have given up all but you, and feel that I cannot relinquish you until I see you once again. Do not refuse me, little Birdie! Show this to your father—he must consent to a request made by one on the brink of the grave."

"There, that will do; let me read it over," said he, extending his hand for the note. "Yes, I will sign it now—then do you add our address. Send it now, Emily—send it in time for to-night's mail."

"Clary, do you think she will come?" inquired his sister.

"Yes," replied he, confidently; "I am sure she will if the note reaches her." Emily said no more, but sealed and directed the note, which she immediately despatched to the post-office; and on the following day it reached little Birdie.

From the time when the secret of Clarence's birth had been discovered, until the day she had received his note, she never mentioned his name. At the demand of her father she produced his letters, miniature, and even the little presents he had given her from time to time, and laid them down before him without a murmur; after this, even when he cursed and denounced him, she only left the room, never uttering a word in his defence. She moved about like one who had received a stunning blow—she was dull, cold, apathetic. She would smile vacantly when her father smoothed her hair or kissed her cheek; but she never laughed, or sang and played, as in days gone by; she would recline for hours on the sofa in her room gazing vacantly in the air, and taking apparently no interest in anything about her. She bent her head when she walked, complained of coldness about her temples, and kept her hand constantly upon her heart.

Doctors were at last consulted; they pronounced her physically well, and thought that time would restore her wonted animation; but month after month she grew more dull and silent, until her father feared she would become idiotic, and grew hopeless and unhappy about her. For a week before the receipt of the note from Clarence, she had been particularly apathetic and indifferent, but it seemed to rouse her into life again. She started up after reading it, and rushed wildly through the hall into her father's library.

"See here!" exclaimed she, grasping his arm—"see there—I knew it! I've felt day after day that it was coming to that! You separated us, and now he is dying—dying!" cried she. "Read it—read it!"

Her father took the note, and after perusing it laid it on the table, and said coldly, "Well—"

"Well!" repeated she, with agitation—"Oh, father, it is not well! Father!" said she, hurriedly, "you bid me give him up—told me he was unworthy—pointed out to me fully and clearly why we could not marry: I was convinced we could not, for I knew you would never let it be. Yet I have never ceased to love him. I cannot control my heart, but I could my voice, and never since that day have I spoken his name. I gave him up—not that I would not have gladly married, knowing what he was—because you desired it—because I saw either your heart must break or mine. I let mine go to please you, and have suffered uncomplainingly, and will so suffer until the end; but I must see him once again. It will be a pleasure to him to see me once again in his dying hour, and I must go. If you love me," continued she, pleadingly, as her father made a gesture of dissent, "let us go. You see he is dying—begs you from the brink of the grave. Let me go, only to say good bye to him, and then, perhaps," concluded she, pressing her hand upon her heart, "I shall be better here."

Her father had not the heart to make any objection, and the next day they started for Philadelphia. They despatched a note to Clarence, saying they had arrived, which Emily received, and after opening it, went to gently break its contents to her brother.

"You must prepare yourself for visitors, Clary," said she, "no doubt some of our friends will call to-day, the weather is so very delightful."

"Do you know who is coming?" he inquired.

"Yes, dear," she answered, seating herself beside him, "I have received a note stating that a particular friend will call to-day—one that you desire to see."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "it is little Birdie, is it not?"

"Yes," she replied, "they have arrived in town, and will be here to-day."

"Did not I tell you so?" said he, triumphantly. "I knew she would come. I knew it," continued he, joyfully. "Let me get up—I am strong enough—she is come—O! she has come."

Clarence insisted on being dressed with extraordinary care. His long fierce-looking beard was trimmed carefully, and he looked much better than he had done for weeks; he was wonderfully stronger, walked across the room, and chatted over his breakfast with unusual animation.

At noon they came, and were shown into the drawing-room, where Emily received them. Mr. Bates bowed politely, and expressed a hope that Mr. Garie was better. Emily held out her hand to little Birdie, who clasped it in both her own, and said, inquiringly: "You are his sister?"

"Yes," answered Emily. "You, I should have known from Clarence's description—you are his little Birdie?"

She did not reply—her lip quivered, and she pressed Emily's hand and kissed her. "He is impatient to see you," resumed Emily, "and if you are so disposed, we will go up immediately."

"I will remain here," observed Mr. Bates, "unless Mr. Garie particularly desires to see me. My daughter will accompany you."

THE END

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