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The toll-gate passed, Johnny, in strict conformity with a notice which had been placed at each end of the bridge, brought his horses down to a walk, and our travellers were thus afforded time to enjoy the splendid view which here meets the eye. Above the bridge, dotting here and there the rapids, could be seen a number of little islands, still green with a growth of grass and reeds, and looking like emeralds in their setting of spray and foam. The trees that fringed the river and the larger of the islands were now dressed in their most beautiful autumn colors, from deepest crimson to brightest shade of orange, intermingled with quiet russet and many-tinted green. The river was as clear as a summer-brook, reflecting as a mirror the amber, purple, and fleecy clouds that were spread as a couch in the western sky, while over all the scene the glorious autumn sun shed a mellow light, its beams glancing from the water in long, wavy golden lines. Ronald and Elise were not alone in their enthusiastic admi. ration, for Miss Bettie had just begged Mrs. Sparks to "look at the beautiful rapids," and Mr. Sparks had called out to Johnny requesting a halt, before Elise found words to express her appreciation of the scene.
“Oh, how lovely! Did you ever see anything half so beautiful, Mr. Irving?"
“I have seen this many times before, Miss Elise, but never when I thought it so complete. Johnny has halted just at the right point, for here we take in all its beauty: the rapids, the islands, the clouds, the sunlight, the shadows, the bridges, vessels in the distance. What a scene for a painter !"
“Could any painter reproduce this - such a mellow light, those soft, wavy clouds, the shińmer of the sunbeams on the water? Oh, Mr. Irving! I never saw any work of art like this ; and man's best efforts are, after all, but feeble attempts to copy nature!”
Ronald enjoyed the enthusiasm of his young companion, whose life among the low sand-hills of Georgia had prepared her to see beauty in every hill and valley through which she had passed since reaching Virginia, and he pointed out each phase of this landscape with a new pleasure now, because it interested one in whom he felt a deep and tender interest. The whole party were reluctant to leave the scene, and watched from the windows its kaleidoscopic changes as the coach slowly moved on; nor were any of them sufficiently alive to the present to realise that their journey had really ended until aroused by Johnny's query: “And where would ye, ladies and gintlemen, be like to stop in the city ?”
"Are we really here, Johnny?" asked Mr. Sparks doubtfully, as he carefully removed from his head a worsted travelling-cap and put on his broad-brimmed beaver-hat instead.
“Sure and we are here, Sir, all safe ; no accidents this time.”
"Well, Johnny, you may drive us to the Columbian Hotel,” the old gentleman continued. “From all accounts there is no better house of entertainment, and I like its quiet respectability."
The Columbian was speedily reached, and to the astonishment of its smiling host, who came quickly to the coach-door, every passenger got out with the exception of Miss Bettie Flinn, who, bidding her
friends adieu for the present, gave Johnny the number of her brother's residence on Marshall street, where she was greeted most heartily by Mrs. Flinn and a veritable troop of little Flinns, who rushed pell-mell into the hall and front porch to see the big trunk brought in.
Miss Bettie's brother, Howard Flinn, was not unlike her appearance, and was one of those large-hearted men who delighted in dispensing hospitality because it afforded him real pleasure, and fortunately his circumstances were so easy as to enable him to entertain with liberality. Few days passed during the year that some friend, or the friend of some friend, did not sit at his table, and there all found abundance without display, and such a welcome as only the truly hospitable can give. Bright and early the next morning Miss Bettie joined her brother and sister in the breakfast-room, and she was scarcely seated before Howard betrayed a large-hearted intention by asking : “ Bettie, don't you wish little wife and I would go down with you after breakfast to call on the folks at the Columbian.”
“Sister is going at any rate, Howard, and we would be delighted if you can only spare time enough to join us. Will
“Oh, certainly. I never lose an opportunity to see a pretty girl, and I have great curiosity to take a peep at young Irving."
“You are a good brother indeed, and I shall take pleasure in introducing you to my new friends."
“No blarney, Bet. Say, little wife, how many vacant rooms have we? I can't bear an empty house."
“We have three chambers, Howard, you know, but Bettie occupies one."
"Exactly. We will put the pretty girl in with Bet, the old folks in the large room, and young what's-his-name in the other. I shall then feel that the house is comfortably full, and we can proceed to the business of entertaining,'
Gracious, Howard ! I believe if you could not entertain otherwise, you would give a stranger your bed, and pillow your own head on a soft brick in the chimney-corner, and expect your wife to do likewise ; but I am thankful we have the room to entertain Bettie's friends, and we will take the carriage down that we may bring them back with us."
All unconscious of this little plot the travellers were making a most sumptuous breakfast at the Columbian, when the servant brought in two cards on a waiter and handed them to Elise. “Oh, it is Miss Bettie !" was her first exclamation. “The dear creature! to think of us and come so soon to see us. And here is another card : Mr. and Mrs. Howard Flinn. Mamma, I will go immediately to the parlor, you and papa can come at your leisure." Ronald making his excuses, joined Elise, and the young people were soon greeting Miss Bettie with unfeigned cordiality, and Mr. and Mrs. Sparks coming in a short time afterwards, found them conversing with Mr. and Mrs. Howard Flinn, after the manner of a friendship fully ripe.
Three days passed swiftly by, and still Ronald lingered in Richmond. He had declined the hospitable invitation of Mr. Flinn, pleading engagements that necessitated his remaining at a hotel ; but every afternoon and evening found him in the bright cozy par
lors on Marshall street, and Miss Bettie took good care that the dear old people should have rest and quiet, while to Elise was given the agreeable task of entertaining her visitor. On this his last afternoon in the city Ronald came to take Elise out for a quiet walk; and as he sat alone in the parlor waiting until she should be ready, he heard the rustle of a dress, a familiar step, and turned from ihe window where he had been standing in time to meet and give an answering smile to Miss Bettie's bright face. “ Alone and waiting: the one a
" a hard thing to be, the other still harder to do, Mr. Irving,” was her first salutation.
“You never said truer words, Miss Bettie."
“Poor fellow! yours is a desperate case of love at first sight. Pray tell me now, how do matters go? Does the little Southern beauty smile or frown upon your wooing?” “ Indeed I cannot tell. It
may be that you can enlighten me, for who but a woman can read the heart of a woman? She always smiles, Miss Bettie, but looks so tender and innocent all the while that I have never yet dared to do more than hint, for fear that I should startle and cause her to avoid me."
“Two precious little chickens! Startled indeed! Now, Mr. Irving, if you love Elise, tell her so; and if you meet with the reception which I hope may be in waiting for you, she will soon recover from her fright. There is nothing like a manly course. Frankness without audacity, with just enough of shyness to give a spicy flavor, is the most winning way to approach a woman, especially an inexperienced one."
“ Bravo, Miss Bettie ! I thought you were a novice in such mat. ters, and lo! I find in you a most sage adviser. I shall follow your advice."
“And what advice has Miss Bettie been giving you, Mr. Irving?” said a soft, gentle voice, so near where he sat as to make him start and change color as he arose to acknowledge her approach.
“Make him tell you, Elise; be sure you do,” said Miss Bettie, as she hurried out of the room as if to meet some pressing engagement, leaving the young couple free to take their ramble or to remain where they were in the full and uninterrupted enjoyment of their last afternoon together for many months.
An awkward pause ensued after Miss Bettie's departure, and Elise thought she had never heard the antique little marble clock on the mantel tick so loudly before. She could almost imagine that it was the tall old-fashioned clock that stood on the landing of the stairway at home; and when with a sudden warning click it began to strike five she almost jumped from her seat, saying as she did so, “I am ready."
“ Five !” exclaimed Ronald, glad of anything to break the stillness. "Did you say you were ready? Then we had better go, for I wish to take you where we can see the last gleam of sunset, and it is a good walk from here."
The sun had gone down behind a bank of dark clouds, and the shadows were gathering thick upon one of the most beautiful of those hills that overlook the river; but our young friends still lingered there and seemed unwilling to turn their steps toward Marshall Street. An observer would have easily perceived too that now all the childish restraint of the afternoon had disappeared, and in its stead there had been a rapid growth of tenderness and confidence. It grew at last so dark that they were brought to realise the lateness of the hour by the ruddy flash and glow from the surnaces on the river bank below, as the toiling laborers like spectres dragged out from the fires the blazing bars, or some chimney emitted a lurid light. “Pardon me, dear Elise,” said Ronald, as he gave her his arm and turned to leave the spot, "for having kept you so long in the cool autumn air. I was too selfish, and I fear your mamma will be seriously displeased. But really I could not help it ; you have made me very, very happy, and I shall try to deserve the treasure you have given me."
“You gave me back my life, Mr. Irving,” was her trembling reply.
As Ronald rang the door-bell he heard Miss Bettie's quick step in the hall, and they were greeted by her uplifted finger as she exclaimed, " Weil, runaways, have you been to Manchester, Rocketis, or Screamersville? I was just about to dispatch a servant to have the alarmbells rung, and I really feared Mrs. Sparks would have a nervous spell. You are a naughty fellow, Mr. Irving, to keep Elise out so late."
"I plead guilty, Miss Bettie, and beg that you make peace for me with Mrs. Sparks. Miss Elise does not look the worse for her walk, and "- with a mischievous glance —“I am quite sure she has more roses now than when she went out."
Ronald now paused an instant, listened intently, then motioning with his head toward the parlor, asked, “What familiar voice is that, Miss Bettie ?"
“Whose do you think?"
“'Tis the Doctor!” said Elise, gleefully. “Oh, Miss Bettie, I told you so. Mr. Irving, we will be decidedly de trop to-night."
“It is the Doctor, you foolish children, and he is making himself as agreeable as possible to Papa and Mamma Sparks. It seems that he is an old friend of brother Howard's, and this is not his first visit.”
“Nor will it be his last," whispered Ronald.
“You provoking fellow! Come in and speak to the Doctor while I go and put the cook in a good humor by ordering tea; it has been ready this half-hour, and all has been kept waiting for you. Be civil, Sir, or I will not forgive you."
“Consider me under bond ; the Doctor shall not exceed me in dignity, and when we tell you what beguiled us into so long a walk, you will doubtless be equally confidential; and then - a truce to teasing.”
Ronald entered upon his labors at the university with a zeal stimulated by a new inspiration and a heart buoyed up by bright hopes for the future. Having made known to Mr. Sparks his attachment to Elise, he found the old gentleman quite ready to assent to the understanding that existed, after he had prudently consulted Ronald's friends to whom he had referred in the city; and at their parting most cordially did he extend to him the hospitalities of his far-off home in Savannah, and bid him God-speed in his work of preparation for the duties and honors that awaited him in life.
HAMPDEN SPARKS AT LAST APPEARS. His STRANGE STORY. With slow step, examining each number as he passed that he might be sure of getting the right one, an officer in colonel's uniform was seen walking along Tottingham Court Road. His manner indicated that he was either a stranger in London or had been so long away as to have forgotten localities that might have been once familiar. At last pausing before a handsome residence with a broad fight of steps leading up from the street, he consulted by the light of a street lamp a card which he held in his hand, and said audibly, “I have it; this is the number, and I shall soon see face to face my father's old friend." With the measured stride of a soldier he ascended the fight of steps, rang the bell, and stood tapping time with his cane and whistling a lively air as he awaited the answering step of the servant. The door was opened, and the officer was greeted with an obsequious bow.
Does Captain Harvie Gwynn reside here?” was the first query. “Yes, sir; will you be pleased to walk in?”
“Take him my card, and say that Colonel Sparks would be pleased to have a private interview with him at the earliest moment that he is disengaged.” And following the servant, the Colonel was ushered into the drawing-room and there awaited the convenience of the master of the house.
Captain Gwynn our readers will recognise as an enlarged edition of the gallant young captain in the Scot's Greys. The sandy sidewhiskers are now frosted at the tips, the clean-shaven chin has grown double, the once lithe and graceful figure rotund; but the same good humor beams forth from every feature in his genial face, and it is a pleasure to watch him as in dressing-gown and slippers he now sits in his easy-chair in the library, reading an evening paper and smoking a most fragrant Havana. He was quite in the mood for visitors, and looked up with an air of satisfaction as Thomas announced his approach by a knock, and then thrust his plethoric frame inside the room through the narrowest opening he could possibly make use of, murmuring to himself, " the master hates draughts.”
“ A visitor, Thomas?" and the Captain reached forth his hand and took the card from the receiver on which it had been brought.
“Yes, sir ; a Colonel Sparks sends his compliments and asks a private interview.”'
"Colonel Sparks!" and Captain Gwynn arose hastily from his seat as he pronounced the name. ** How does he look, Thomas, young or old ?"
“Rather youngish, sir ; forty or thereabout, and very handsome."
“Show the gentleman up here, Thomas, and excuse me to all other visitors so long as he remains.”
By the same squeezing process, Thomas made his exit, and was not long in obeying his master's command, only varying the mode of ingress on his return by opening the library door sufficiently wide to accord with his idea of the social dignity of the visitor he had shown up.