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“Goldie," he said, gravely, taking her two hands in his, and looking honestly down in her eyes, "you know I cannot let you stay here ; it is impossible. I must tell you this — people will say these awful words, it is not proper.
“I am not afraid of that,” she said, steadily, looking up to him with those good and true eyes. “Martha thinks I am with Marian tonight: Marian thinks I am at home; she does not know that Uncle Henry and Horace are gone. I will go home early and tell Martha the biessed truth — she will think I did just right. I am not afraid of her; I am afraid of nothing but that dark, dreadful road, or of leaving you here when I know you will be murdered : you will not take care.
Oh let me stay!” “I cannot, Goldie. I am sorry, but —” “Listen. It
You do not dare to think it is wrong? Why, what is wrong in my staying at Glengoldy one night?”
“ It is wrong because it is the appearance of evil. My wilful child, it is very hard for me to argue this thing with you. I would oppose any woman's placing herself under criticism for my sake, much more your doing so. The rain is over; only the wind is blowing. Come; we must go.”
She followed him a few steps, her face growing whiter and whiter at every step. A gust of wind came around the corner of the house and shook at the windows. Goldie dropped quietly down in a dead faint.
It was useless now to argue or to plead; Goldie was too ill to stand the severity of being taken away. Dr. Erle therefore acquiesced in the decision of fate.
“I will rouse Mrs. Hopkins, and have her take you into her room,” he said with a sigh. “I can do no more.”
“I will not," said Goldie, with a shiver of disgust and dislike. “ It is none of her affairs ; she has nothing to do with it. Take me where I can see and hear if any one goes near your room.”
" And do you suppose you can guard me, child ?” he asked, smiling, as he knelt by the couch in the library.
“I can scream !” she said, with a flash of merriment in her eyes. “I am not brave, Uncle Caryl ; but I can watch.”
“But you must sleep.”
But she had her way.
He closed the house, he loaded his pistols before her eyes; he even brought out a smaller pair for her, and loaded them heavily, saying with a low laugh that she would be sure to shoot herself or the stuffed birds; and then lighted the gas in a room adjoining his, locking the connecting door with the key on her side; and stood for a moment lingeringly at her bedside as she lay where he put her, looking as if he did not want to say “Good-night.”
After he had gone, after she had turned the light down to a mere spark, and put the pistols, so useless to her, she felt, in any case, on a table close by her bed; after the slight sound of his movements in the next room had ceased, and she knew that he slept soundly after a wearisome day, the silence of that long night began, the hateful,
awful silence. The wind came sometimes wailing, and she heard the sound of the noise made by its shadowy hands seeking entrance. She did not lose consciousness once that dreary night through ; at last with unutterable joy she heard four o'clock strike from the library clock, and knew that the terrible night was going.
And yet, and yet, softly enough and far away, down the hall beyond Caryl's room door, so cautiously that never a sound could have been heard save by ears quick from intense fear, and in the great silence, there was surely the sound of feet and a breathless whispering
One moment more a hand was laid on the knob of Caryl's door; she heard the fingers close firmly and strongly around it to prevent its slipping with the slightest noise as the door opened — then a sudden wonder was wrought.
For a door in Caryl's room sprung open, and in the flood of sudden light stood “the vision of a lady,” a white avenging angel, confronting the two men ; and her voice sounding strangely clear, cried out with the word of command that first entered her head :
Darkly the men paused a moment. Her hands grasped each a revolver, and she spoke, white and calm :
“Go back, or I fire!”
One of them, near the bed, held a sharp, heavy hatchet in his hand; her right hand pistol was menacing him, and held him in check. Then he spoke to the dark muffled man in the doorway:
“Take care o' the woman, Ben; shoot her — don't you see she'll shoot me !"
There was a deathful silence; then the figure next the bed sprang forward. Caryl had just turned, sleepily, and the hatchet struck the pillow, warm where he had lain. Simultaneously three sharp pistolshots rang through the room ; the terrified women-servants started from their sleep; Dr. Erle suddenly aroused, sprang to his feet, and there across the threshold of his door lay a white figure with a struggling stream of blood flowing softly down her dress; and dark and still, most suddenly and marvellously sent to his account, with a bullet sent to his brain by the inexperienced hand of a girl, lay Jem Burton, stark as death ; his comrade fled.
There was the sound above of opening doors, shrieks and hasty feet: Mrs. Hopkins and her regiment to the relief in a body. Dr. Erle, in a dark wrapper, was kneeling by Goldie, who lay in deathlike swoon; and the bullet which had just missed her heart had entered her left arm ; and the white, fair arm, with the blood flowing from the wound, was broken.
How life lingered on after that, Goldie took nor count nor note. She knew naught of the gray dawn that came, or the twilight that returned, as days went by. Of one thing she was never conscious: of how she had repelled Mrs. Hopkins and cried for Martha. Life was an indistinct dream. There was noise in the next room once, men's voices, and trampling feet; but she --- what had she to do with juries and coroners? Faces came around the bed ; Martha's - good old kind Martha, muttering, though Goldie never heard, “Just like
women-folks ; just in their natur to throw theirselves away for men.” Her uncle, too: very grave and stern, it seemed, but afterwards tender and compassionate. Sometimes, not often, and oftener, though still that was seldom, near, but not in sight, came another face; a graver face, a sadder face than any other's; this was Dr. Erle.
She dreamed it away, this long time. The world might wag the head and shoot out the lip, but she knew it not. Not how the cruel slander had begun from the old housekeeper and was creeping about; nor how Katy Burton, mad with grief, with the old unreasoning love revived where the remembrance of wrong must be forgotten, - over the dead — over him whose soul was passed into the outer darkness, and from whom she was parted forevermore, beyond hope of retrieving -- had cursed her, her fair young mistress, with an evil name, and wildly covered her with shame and reproach.
"Julian," cried Marian, on that first day, when the wonder was blowing about the streets, and the scandal beginning, “what is this of Goldie's killing a man? How was she at Glengoldy? What did the man go into her room for?"
"Ask me no questions,” said Julian, shortly, turning a pale, haggard face to her. “Don't come to me to explain gossip. Don't dare to tell me anything that is said."
They all began to stare ; Aurelia in surprise, and Marian contritely wondering if she had appeared to speak against Goldie. Phil and Gay were talking in a corner; Phil also looked up, but Gay said something to attract his attention again, and did not join in the gaze herself. Charlie was not in the room.
Marian went out to look for him presently. He had only heard strange rumors like herself, and could not tell her the truth.
The truth, as near as it could be expected to be — which is to say, very unlike it - with all evil garnishes thrown in, came out at last. The story blew on, and the wind carried it, and Goldie's little village popularity, away.
When she became conscious, to recognise her friends, when she began slowly to mend, Marian desired to go to see her. She and Julian only were true to her now, and they knew it — they and Gay, who was true in her fashion. Aurelia was gone, now, and Phil, and Charlie and Mrs. West; but to return later that fall, and take Marian away with them. Gay, still lingering, still talking of flight, was with May still. These three did what was possible.
Julian met Dr. Erle one day in mid Briarley, and insisted on holding his hand and talking with him a long time — not that he particularly liked his rival, but that this brave, good, patient man, with his unstained reputation, was now included with Goldie in blame.
Marian, in spite of the protest of her adorers in the village society, went to see Goldie often, and Gay and Julian sat before the door with Mrs. Meredith in the well-known equipage. But the fight was hard.
That hardest, blackest, bitterest trial of life, the shadow of shame, the breath across her fair fame, was come to Goldie in her early, bright, impatient youth. The “red-letter days ” were over, the darkness was fallen -- the shadows she had dreaded when her sunlight was so bright.
And her good name was gone ; and love was gone. For in his misery, full of self-accusation, Dr. Erle kept away from Goldie ; he called himself her curse, a selfish, blighting influence over her life. She could not win him from his coldness and gloom. As he watched her, in a wrapper of some soft white stu move slowly about, the arm in a sling, and some of the earliest crimsoned autumn leaves in her hair, her face so lovely, so pure, her whole childish bearing so much more fair and womanly, he felt the old mad love throb in his heart. But he vowed to leave her free until her uncle came; ay, he vowed, if heaven gave him strength, to put her behind him utterly, and let her marry some rich and good man.
Goldie learned that fall to fight her own battles out herself, and hard they were to fight. First she had to combat the restless love and longing for Caryl Erle most, utterly alone. Then the battle for her good name. Marian tried to help her there ; yet on the first Sunday she went to church she would not let her enter with her, but chose rather to come in with her little cousin as of old, and walk the length of the aisle in her old way. All eyes turned on her, looking for shame, embarrassment, or bold effrontery; but her graceful, noble carriage, her sweet and quiet air, and her marvellously lovely face, with the pathos of recent illness upon it, disarmed many.
She came out, and Julian Meredith stepped hastily forward to escort her home. She passed slowly and serenely through the crowd of young men that always linger around the doors of country churches until the ladies have passed, and every man among it who had the slightest acquaintance with her took off his hat.
Ah, beautiful Goldie! It was not likely for it to be hard for her to make peace with men while she had that face.
There was another battle to fight, beside her impatience, pride, and despondency. The horror haunted her of having, however innocently, killed her enemy. There was a cry in her heart against God who sent her this grief and shadow; a nervous, new dread of darkness and loneliness, and a strong fear of the supernatural, that when overcome made her tenfold a braver woman, as her other griefs, conquered, gave her strength and glory; yet, now it sore beset her; she stood looking on her white hanus and saying, like that wicked, brave lady in the play:
"All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
One strong and tender and abiding love came out of all: Horace, her cousin, could never be else than unutterably dear to her after this autumn, for he was her unfailing comfort.
And patience, like violets, began sweetly to grow in the shadow, and perfume the dark places of Goldie's life.
The autumn went. Marian and Charles were married and gone ; Gay, too, was gone: Goldie half suspected, with a pain in her merry heart and a sigh in her breath, for Julian's sake.
The trees were bare, and spring, summer, and autumn had given Goldie a long lesson; and now December would be here in one week, and Lily would be in New York in three.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
THE LITTLE STRAW HAT.
E all of us have our secret hoard
Of things that we cherish and tenderly prize-
Or for which any one else would care,
I hai one treasure among my store
You will smile it may hap with unbelief,
Unless you have had the self-same grief ;
Would you know what it is, so dear to my eyes,
For it brings to mind the dear little head
That so long has slept with the loved ones dead. 'Tis nothing - this thing that I so much prize But a little straw hat with a ragged brim.
I often unlock the closet door
The ribbon is faded, 'tis torn and old,
But no one could buy it with gold untold;
I love it as only a mother can love
I prize it as only a mother can prize
The things so worthless in other eyes, For it symbols the crown that I know above Covers the little one's head.
With streaming eyes I can often see
Looking forth from the ragged brim,
With the saucy glance so sweet in him, When he used to romp in the grass with me In the summers so long ago.