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“ And of course Robert has gone with her ?” I said. At the same moment Gertrude entered, looking worried and sad.
“What is that about Robert ? " she asked eagerly.
Then she had to be told what we knew. What we feared I did not say, for although I saw she was tortured by fears she would not admit, she professed to see only her father's grief; but the white lips and trembling hands told me what she suffered.
“My poor father!” she said, over and over again, and sinking on the sofa, she buried her head in its cushions. I strove to comfort her, but what could I do or say? I was at my wit's end, when I heard a rapid, well-known tread ascending the steps, and starting up with a low hysterical cry, Gertrude fell fainting in the outstretched arms of Robert.
"My poor Gertrude! my darling girl! What has been the matter?” he asked, turning to me and Sophy.
Of course joy never kills, so I need not say that Gertrude was soon able to hear something that Robert had to tell us, after he had had an interview with my cousin.
He told us he had known Mina three years before at Annapolis. A friend of his, a student at the Academy there, had been violently in love with her; but, although her father had been a gentleman, she had made herself so notorious by her coquetry that his family objected to a marriage between them ; but notwithstanding Robert's effort to restrain his friend, in whose confidence he was, they eloped together. But the father had information in time, and met the couple as they were getting out of the train at Baltimore, where they were to have been married. In addition to this little history, other facts had come to Robert's knowledge afterwards that made him rejoice in his friend's escape, as she was quite unworthy any man's love.
Robert had felt all a man's reluctance to injure a woman, or use the knowledge he possessed to her disadvantage ; but when he had to choose between the happiness and honor of Gertrude and her father and an unworthy woman, he could not hesitate to use his influence to make her depart without further disturbing the peace of his friends. She well knew if he related what he knew of her past, a man so strict in his ideas of woman's conduct would never make her his wife ; but that she had ardently desired to be, and had used all her blandishments to win Robert to silence.
Partly by appeals to her better feeling, and to her pride in case of exposure, he induced her to take her departure as we have seen. How she had so far imposed on Sophy it does not need me to explain ; sustice it that we heard of her no more.
Ralph felt the blow keenly, but I believe has lived to wonder at his infatuation.
Gertrude is revelling in the joy of recent maternity, and I find my happiness in witnessing hers.
HELEN ALICE NITSCH.
PART I.-- Goldie.
HE moonlight filled Briarley valley, touching all beauty with
softening light, and veiling all unloveliness with tender shadow. It shone on the dark rich mantle of ivy sheltering the little church, and glorified the slender cross on the summit of the tapering spire. It went softly into the churchyard and lingered about the graves. The last snow had drifted deep into a lonesome corner, and still covered softly and purely the unsightliness of a new-made grave: a little grave, waiting for the spring to beautify it with violets as blue as the eyes of the boy asleep there. Elsewhere the snow lingered very faintly in fairy wreaths, but here it was still pure and deep, and the moonlight lingered there a little.
Far away over the upland fields went straying the moonlight again. It came among the tall trees of a wide park to Glengoldy. The house was built after a quaint old style, with towers and gables, and all of dark gray stone. The moonlight, passing softly through a window, lay on the narrow space between the sash and the full sweep of the heavy crimson curtain, resting lightly on the carpet, and glancing into the room unheeded.
There was only one person there, sitting at a writing-table, his nervous shapely hand passing rapidly over the paper as he wrote. He had a bronzed manly face, with an expression stern, perhaps by habit; but as he was writing and busily thinking there was a light in his eyes and the beauty of a quiet smile upon his lips; for he was writing pleasantly to the woman by him best loved on earth — his sister; to his sister, Mrs. Goldsboro', the wife of Glengoldy's owner, the petted and beautiful wife of a man much her senior, one wealthy as pride could wish and not ungenerous. For the sake of his wife, her younger brother had been dear to him ; and it was not until Caryl Erle had honorably finished his medical course and travelled two years in Europe, not until his coming home to take charge of Glengoldy during the absence abroad of his sister and her husband, that he learned that it had been for his sake she had sold her beauty to the best advantage; and that now, queen wherever she moved, adored by her husband, in the pride and prime of her three-and-thirty years, that she sometimes found her fetters “heavy and hard to bear."
It had dimmed the brightness of his life for him. His love deepened with the depth and tenderness of pity ; but he had lost an illusion ; and we love our illusions so! - to many of us the sweetness of life. With the fading of that fairest and sweetest illusion, his belief in his sister, and, through her, in womankind, many illusions that had made life beautiful to him began to fade also. Henceforward, those he had — every man will have some, of one sort or another -- were of a less lovely and more saddening kind. People
began to say Dr. Erle was a woman-hater; yet when thrown into society there were a brightness and easiness about him that bore no trace of an affected singularity. He lived alone at Glengoldy, for its owner was still abroad; his work was almost wholly among the poor, and he seldom went where there were many people, save to church.
He was something of a poet in his way; and once in a while something really good, a poem with a dash of color in it, a quaintness and sweetness of style, or a chime of music struck through the words of simple English, went straight to a high place in some well ranked magazine. And to-night this Dr. Erle was writing a letter which was one of the few things that gave a genuine throb of pleasure to a worldweary woman on the other side of the globe.
The moonlight faded from the narrow space behind the curtains. It passed away presently, and fell broadly in through the square window of a miserable cottage, lying upon the bare floor all pale and
There was no other light there, save the flicker from a little fire upon the hearth. By this fire a woman was sitting: a poor faded woman of the working-class. Perhaps she was thinking of the little grave in the lonesome corner of the churchyard ; perhaps thinking of days when she was a trim little village maiden, lingering by her father's gate in the summer twilight, hearing the chirp of the katydid, and waiting for the lad she loved: a rough, uncouth lad, but having, she had believed, a very true and tender heart. Perhaps she was thinking how changed was this sodden coarse man beside her; perhaps of the faint voice of her mother lying at point of death, “I fear he'll bring ye to no good, my child ; take care, take care!" At all events, whatever the woman was thinking of, it was with so heartbreaking a face that it went to Jem's heart. He was more sober than usual to-night, and he put his hand on hers, half roughly, half timidly, and said in a gruff voice that yet had the ring of sympathy, “ Don't take things so hard, Katy; don't look so, woman. What is't I can do for ye? I'm sorry about the boy.” A flash of surprise came over the woman's face, the tears rushed to her eyes, and Jem seemed for the moment like the sweetheart of old days. She covered her face with her hands, knelt down and put her head on his arm ; and the moonlight lingered, for it was a reconciliation after much hard and bitter speaking for many and many weeks.
In at the window of the parsonage the moonlight drifted, falling on the golden hair of a child standing there. It was a tall, slender boy of some nine years, with blue eyes of such mild intelligence, a broad forehead so white and pure, and such a soft cloud of slightly curling golden hair, that his gentle, delicate beauty seemed almost angelic. The door of the room opened presently, and a stout old serving-woman entered. She went first to the fire and began to break up the soft lumps of coal, while the flames sparkled everywhere ; turning her head once or twice to look at the child, and at last calling him by name:
“No, not yet," he said without turning. “Do you think they'll surely come?"
“The parson mostly keeps his word, and he said so. Only maybe she might not be ready; you needn't count on women-folks much," said Martha, rising. Martha always spoke of women as if she had no part nor lot in the sex. “P'raps your cousin 'll be some sort of company for you,”
," she continued. “She was a right merry little child." “But she is sick now, isn't she, Martha ?”
“She's been. She'll get well here, I guess ; I'll nurse her up. I always liked her Ma.”
“ 'Tell me all about her mother, Martha. Why was she poor?”
“I don't know much about her mother, child. She married displeasing to her family. She was a pretty lady, tall and beautiful, and wilful and proud at times, but sweet-tempered to everybody, poor or beneath her. There was these two sisters, Miss Lily Goldsboro'Mrs. Ashe — and Miss Laura – Mrs. Garnett - and the two brothers, Philip, the one in Europe with his wife, and your Grandpa Henry, our parson. So they were all very angry when your Aunt Lily — your great-aunt - married Mr. Ashe. Why, I don't know, though he did bad afterwards ; but she stuck to him, and taught music and all that, They say she loved him to the last, and wouldn't have help after his death. She wouldn't have let her brother Philip's wife take Lily to Europe if Lily hadn't a-wished it. And the other, your cousin, she didn't wish it, though your Uncle Philip wanted her most. So she stayed with her mother till she died.”
Her mother died ? ” interpolated Horace. “* And — yes, her mother ; two years ago. Now that her Uncle Philip has adopted her, they are coming home so soon that she is to stay here till they come.”
“I think she was very good to stay with her mother, don't you, Martha?”
“She was always her mother's comfort and pet. Then she wasn'ı near as old as Lily ; Lily was sixteen, and this one was only thirteen.”
"I think I would go to Europe if anybody asked me," said Horace, reflectingly. He had turned away from the window, and stood with his back to it, his hands clasped behind him. So in the shining moonlight, unnoticed, the travellers passed up the walk, and Henry Goldsboro’ brought home his sister's daughter. The sound of the latch brought the tête-à-tête in the parsonage to a close ; and the lamp burning dimly on the table, there in the moonlight stood Goldie Ashe.
Horace looked up and thought, “ A tall, beautiful lady ;” and then Goldie stooped down and kissed the boy, her face cool with the night air, and a very faint color flickering in the wan face ; and the gracious smile and greeting she had for Martha were like her mother's self.
The old rector caught up his grandson in his arms. He was a hale, white-haired old gentleman, with a face full of the mixture Martha had described : wilfulness, pride, and sweet temper. His little grandson loved him dearly, and kissed him over many times.
So the moonlight drifted away, and the lamp was turned up and burning brightly.
Good afternoon, Doctor." "Mr. Meredith, good afternoon, Sir.”
The gentlemen met before the door of Julian Meredith's home, and he was drawing on his driving-gloves. He immediately pulled off one of them and shook hands.
“ "Going over to the rectory?" said Julian. "Have you been there? I suppose not.”
"No," said Dr. Erle. " I don't know. I think I shall call."
“No, just one. A flying trip to see Horace. Being a far-away cousin of mine, I generally make myself useful when she comes, and drive her about a little." “Oh, you mean Mrs. Gleason. Is she here?
Is she here? I thought she only came in summer."
“Horace has been croupy ; she was scared and had to come. She generally takes a rest here in summer to get herself up for the season. Her husband is a good fellow; works like a dog all the time, and arrays her in all the purple and fine linen of the day. She's lucky.”
Have you seen her cousin ?" asked Dr. Erle after a pause. “Yes, once or twice. A handsome girl if she were not so pale, Yet she is quite brilliant when she chooses to be. I imagine she snubs me.”
"Indeed! Well, I am detaining you. Good evening!” The doctor walked on, and Julian sprang lightly to a seat in his buggy and whirled away with his fast horses.
Fifteen minutes later another equipage stood before the rectory, and Dr. Erle in the parlor awaited Goldie. He scarcely heard her coming; the soft sweep of a woman's dress and the light sounding of her footfall were so unlike the coming of the child he had known of old. He turned as she entered.
“Ah, Goldie - is this Goldie?"
“ The thing for me to ask. My brother-in-law wrote me some time ago that you had been very ill; he told me I must attend you when you came here. Are you recovering?"
“Yes. I am going to get well after a while, I imagine, after my slow fashion."
"You have quite a new fashion, creeping about in that ghostly way,” he said, a shadow of concern on his face. “Here, sit here by the fire. Your face is positively ghostly. You tried very hard to die, didn't you?"
“No! You must have had a strong hold of life to carry you through such an attack. Why didn't you die?” he said whimsically. “Because you didn't want to, I suppose.”
He stood leaning against the mantel all the time, laughing a little as he talked to her. She, in her black dress, sitting in the firelight, her soft brown hair rippling a dusky relief to her white face, lifted her dark eyes gravely.
“Perhaps I did want to. I don't know why I didn't do it. It was