Augusta J. Evans
Part 1 out of 11
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AUGUSTA J. EVANS
Author of "Inez," "St. Elmo," "Infelice," "At the Mercy of
Tiberius," "Vashti," etc.
"With that gloriole
Of ebon hair, on calmed brows."
TO MY AUNT
MRS. SEABORN JONES
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
AS A FEEBLE TRIBUTE OF AFFECTION
A January sun had passed the zenith, and the slanting rays flamed
over the window panes of a large brick building, bearing on its
front in golden letters the inscription "Orphan Asylum." The
structure was commodious, and surrounded by wide galleries, while
the situation offered a silent tribute to the discretion and good
sense of the board of managers who selected the suburbs instead of
the more densely populated portion of the city. The whitewashed
palings inclosed, as a front yard or lawn, rather more than an acre
of ground, sown in grass and studded with trees, among which the
shelled walks meandered gracefully. A long avenue of elms and
poplars extended from the gate to the principal entrance, and
imparted to the Asylum an imposing and venerable aspect. There was
very little shrubbery, but here and there orange boughs bent beneath
their load of golden fruitage, while the glossy foliage, stirred by
the wind, trembled and glistened in the sunshine. Beyond the
inclosure stretched the common, dotted with occasional clumps of
pine and leafless oaks, through which glimpses of the city might be
had. Building and grounds wore a quiet, peaceful, inviting look,
singularly appropriate for the purpose designated by the inscription
"Orphan Asylum," a haven for the desolate and miserable. The front
door was closed, but upon the broad granite steps, where the
sunlight lay warm and tempting, sat a trio of the inmates. In the
foreground was a slight fairy form, "a wee winsome thing," with
coral lips, and large, soft blue eyes, set in a frame of short,
clustering golden curls. She looked about six years old, and was
clad, like her companions, in canary-colored flannel dress and blue-
check apron. Lillian was the pet of the asylum, and now her rosy
cheek rested upon her tiny white palm, as though she wearied of the
picture-book which lay at her feet. The figure beside her was one
whose marvelous beauty riveted the gaze of all who chanced to see
her. The child could have been but a few months older than Lillian,
yet the brilliant black eyes, the peculiar curve of the dimpled
mouth, and long, dark ringlets, gave to the oval face a maturer and
more piquant loveliness. The cast of Claudia's countenance bespoke
her foreign parentage, and told of the warm, fierce Italian blood
that glowed in her cheeks. There was fascinating grace in every
movement, even in the easy indolence of her position, as she bent on
one knee to curl Lillian's locks over her finger. On the upper step,
in the rear of these two, sat a girl whose age could not have been
very accurately guessed from her countenance, and whose features
contrasted strangely with those of her companions. At a first casual
glance, one thought her rather homely, nay, decidedly ugly; yet, to
the curious physiognomist, this face presented greater attractions
than either of the others. Reader, I here paint you the portrait of
that quiet little figure whose history is contained in the following
pages. A pair of large gray eyes set beneath an overhanging
forehead, a boldly projecting forehead, broad and smooth; a rather
large but finely cut mouth, an irreproachable nose, of the order
furthest removed from aquiline, and heavy black eyebrows, which,
instead of arching, stretched straight across and nearly met. There
was not a vestige of color in her cheeks; face, neck, and hands wore
a sickly pallor, and a mass of rippling, jetty hair, drawn smoothly
over the temples, rendered this marble-like whiteness more apparent.
Unlike the younger children, Beulah was busily sewing upon what
seemed the counterpart of their aprons; and the sad expression of
the countenance, the lips firmly compressed, as if to prevent the
utterance of complaint, showed that she had become acquainted with
cares and sorrows, of which they were yet happily ignorant. Her eyes
were bent down on her work, and the long, black lashes nearly
touched her cold cheeks.
"Sister Beulah, ought Claudy to say that?" cried Lillian, turning
round and laying her hand upon the piece of sewing.
"Say what, Lilly? I was not listening to you."
"She said she hoped that largest robin redbreast would get drunk and
tumble down. He would be sure to bump some of his pretty bright
feathers out, if he rolled over the shells two or three times,"
answered Lilly, pointing to a China tree near, where a flock of
robins were eagerly chirping over the feast of berries.
"Why, Claudy! how can you wish the poor little fellow such bad
luck?" The dark, thoughtful eyes, full of deep meaning, rested on
Claudia's radiant face.
"Oh! you need not think I am a bear, or a hawk, ready to swallow the
darling little beauty alive! I would not have him lose a feather for
the world; but I should like the fun of seeing him stagger and wheel
over and over, and tumble off the limb, so that I might run and
catch him in my apron. Do you think I would give him to our matron
to make a pie? No, you might take off my fingers first!" And the
little elf snapped them emphatically in Beulah's face.
"Make a pie of robies, indeed! I would starve before I would eat a
piece of it," chimed in Lilly, with childish horror at the thought.
Claudia laughed with mingled mischief and chagrin. "You say you
would not eat a bit of roby-pie to save your life? Well, you did it
last week, anyhow."
"Oh, Claudy, I didn't!"
"Oh, but you did! Don't you remember Susan picked up a bird last
week that fell out of this very tree, and gave it to our matron?
Well, didn't we have bird-pie for dinner?"
"Yes, but one poor little fellow would not make a pie."
"They had some birds already that came from the market, and I heard
Mrs. Williams tell Susan to put it in with the others. So, you see,
you did eat roby-pie, and I didn't, for I knew what was in it. I saw
its head wrung off!"
"Well, I hope I did not get any of roby. I won't eat any more pie
till they have all gone," was Lilly's consolatory reflection.
Chancing to glance toward the gate, she exclaimed:
"There is a carriage."
"What is to-day? Let me see--Wednesday. Yes, this is the evening for
the ladies to meet here. Lil, is my face right clean? because that
red-headed Miss Dorothy always takes particular pains to look at it.
She rubbed her pocket-handkerchief over it the other day. I do hate
her, don't you?" cried Claudia, springing up and buttoning the band
of her apron sleeve, which had become unfastened.
"Why, Claudy, I am astonished to hear you talk so. Miss Dorothy
helps to buy food and clothes for us, and you ought to be ashamed to
speak of her as you do." As she delivered this reprimand Beulah
snatched up a small volume and hid it in her work-basket.
"I don't believe she gives us much. I do hate her, and I can't help
it; she is so ugly, and cross, and vinegar-faced. I should not like
her to look at my mug of milk. You don't love her either, any more
than I do, only you won't say anything about her. But kiss me, and I
promise I will be good, and not make faces at her in my apron."
Beulah stooped down and warmly kissed the suppliant, then took her
little sister's hand and led her into the house, just as the
carriage reached the door. The children presented a pleasant
spectacle as they entered the long dining room, and ranged
themselves for inspection. Twenty-eight heirs of orphanage, varying
in years, from one crawling infant to well-nigh grown girls, all
neatly clad, and with smiling, contented faces, if we except one
grave countenance, which might have been remarked by the close
The weekly visiting committee consisted of four of the lady
managers, but to-day the number was swelled to six. A glance at the
inspectors sufficed to inform Beulah that something of more than
ordinary interest had convened them on the present occasion, and she
was passing on to her accustomed place when her eyes fell upon a
familiar face, partially concealed by a straw bonnet. It was her
Sabbath-school teacher. A sudden, glad light flashed over the girl's
countenance, and the pale lips disclosed a set of faultlessly
beautiful teeth, as she smiled and hastened to her friend.
"How do you do, Mrs. Mason? I am so glad to see you!"
"Thank you, Beulah; I have been promising myself this pleasure a
great while. I saw Eugene this morning, and told him I was coming
out. He sent you a book and a message. Here is the book. You are to
mark the passages you like particularly, and study them well until
he comes. When did you see him last?"
Mrs. Mason put the volume in her hand as she spoke.
"It has been more than a week since he was here, and I was afraid he
was sick. He is very kind and good to remember the book he promised
me, and I thank you very much, Mrs. Mason, for bringing it." The
face was radiant with newborn joy, but it all died out when Miss
Dorothea White (little Claudia's particular aversion) fixed her pale
blue eyes upon her, and asked, in a sharp, discontented tone:
"What ails that girl, Mrs. Williams? She does not work enough or she
would have some blood in her cheeks. Has she been sick?"
"No, madam, she has not been sick exactly; but somehow she never
looks strong and hearty like the others. She works well enough.
There is not a better or more industrious girl in the asylum; but I
rather think she studies too much. She will sit up and read of
nights, when the others are all sound asleep; and very often, when
Kate and I put out the hall lamp, we find her with her book alone in
the cold. I can't get my consent to forbid her reading, especially
as it never interferes with her regular work, and she is so fond of
it." As the kind-hearted matron uttered these words she glanced at
the child and sighed involuntarily. "You are too indulgent, Mrs.
Williams; we cannot afford to feed and clothe girls of her age, to
wear themselves out reading trash all night. We are very much in
arrears at best, and I think some plan should be adopted to make
these large girls, who have been on hand so long, more useful. What
do you say, ladies?" Miss Dorothea looked around for some
encouragement and support in her move.
"Well, for my part, Miss White, I think that child is not strong
enough to do much hard work; she always has looked delicate and
pale," said Mrs. Taylor, an amiable-looking woman, who had taken one
of the youngest orphans on her knee.
"My dear friend, that is the very reason. She does not exercise
sufficiently to make her robust. Just look at her face and hands, as
bloodless as a turnip."
"Beulah, do ask her to give you some of her beautiful color; she
looks exactly like a cake of tallow, with two glass beads in the
"Hush!" and Beulah's hand was pressed firmly over Claudia's crimson
lips, lest the whisper of the indignant little brunette should reach
ears for which it was not intended.
As no one essayed to answer Miss White, the matron ventured to
suggest a darling scheme of her own.
"I have always hoped the managers would conclude to educate her for
a teacher. She is so studious, I know she would learn very rapidly."
"My dear madam, you do not in the least understand what you are
talking about. It would require at least five years' careful
training to fit her to teach, and our finances do not admit of any
such expenditure. As the best thing for her, I should move to bind
her out to a mantua-maker or milliner, but she could not stand the
confinement. She would go off with consumption in less than a year.
There is the trouble with these delicate children."
"How is the babe that was brought here last week?" asked Mrs.
"Oh, he is doing beautifully. Bring him round the table, Susan," and
the rosy, smiling infant was handed about for closer inspection. A
few general inquiries followed, and then Beulah was not surprised to
hear the order given for the children to retire, as the managers had
some especial business with their matron. The orphan band defiled
into the hall, and dispersed to their various occupations, but
Beulah approached the matron, and whispered something, to which the
"No; if you have finished that other apron, you shall sew no more
to-day. You can pump a fresh bucket of water, and then run out into
the yard for some air."
She performed the duty assigned to her, and then hastened to the
dormitory, whither Lillian and Claudia had preceded her. The latter
was standing on a chair, mimicking Miss Dorothea, and haranguing her
sole auditor, in a nasal twang, which she contrived to force from
her beautiful, curling lips. At sight of Beulah she sprang toward
"You shall be a teacher if you want to, shan't you, Beulah?"
"I am afraid not, Claudy. But don't say any more about her; she is
not as kind as our dear matron, or some of the managers, but she
thinks she is right. Remember, she made these pretty blue curtains
round your and Lilly's bed."
"I don't care if she did. All the ladies were making them, and she
did no more than the rest. Never mind; I shall be a young lady some
of these days,--our matron says I will be beautiful enough to marry
the President,--and then I will see whether Miss Dorothy Red-head
comes meddling and bothering you any more." The brilliant eyes
dilated with pleasure at the thought of the protection which the
future lady-President would afford her protegee.
Beulah smiled, and asked almost gayly:
"Claudy, how much will you pay me a month, to dress you and keep
your hair in order, when you get into the White House at
"Oh, you dear darling! you shall have everything you want, and do
nothing but read." The impulsive child threw her arms around
Beulah's neck, and kissed her repeatedly, while the latter bent down
over her basket.
"Lilly, here are some chinquapins for you and Olaudy. I am going out
into the yard, and you may both go and play hull-gull."
In the debating room of the visiting committee Miss White again had
the floor. She was no less important a personage than vice president
of the board of managers, and felt authorized to investigate closely
and redress all grievances.
"Who did you say sent that book here, Mrs. Mason?"
"Eugene Rutland, who was once a member of Mrs. Williams' orphan
charge in this asylum. Mr. Graham adopted him, and he is now known
as Eugene Graham. He is very much attached to Beulah, though I
believe they are not at all related."
"He left the asylum before I entered the board. What sort of boy is
he? I have seen him several times, and do not particularly fancy
"Oh, madam, he is a noble boy! It was a great trial to me to part
with him three years ago. He is much older than Beulah, and loves
her as well as if she were his sister," said the matron, more
hastily than was her custom, when answering any of the managers.
"I suppose he has put this notion of being a teacher into her head.
Well, she must get it out, that is all. I know of an excellent
situation, where a lady is willing to pay six dollars a month for a
girl of her age to attend to an infant, and I think we must secure
it for her."
"Oh, Miss White! she is not able to carry a heavy child always in
her arms," expostulated Mrs. Williams.
"Yes, she is. I will venture to say she looks all the better for it
at the month's end." The last sentence, fraught with interest to
herself, fell upon Beulah's ear, as she passed through the hall, and
an unerring intuition told her "You are the one." She put her hands
over her ears to shut out Miss Dorothea's sharp tones, and hurried
away, with a dim foreboding of coming evil, which pressed heavily
upon her young heart.
The following day, in obedience to the proclamation of the mayor of
the city, was celebrated as a season of special thanksgiving, and
the inmates of the asylum were taken to church to morning service.
After an early dinner, the matron gave them permission to amuse
themselves the remainder of the day as their various inclinations
prompted. There was an immediate dispersion of the assemblage, and
only Beulah lingered beside the matron's chair.
"Mrs. Williams, may I take Lilly with me, and go out into the woods
at the back of the asylum?"
"I want you at home this evening; but I dislike very much to refuse
"Oh, never mind! if you wish me to do anything," answered the girl
Tears rolled over the matron's face, and, hastily averting her head,
she wiped them away with the corner of her apron.
"Can I do anything to help you? What is the matter?"
"Never mind, Beulah; do you get your bonnet and go to the edge of
the woods--not too far, remember; and if I must have you, why I will
send for you."
"I would rather not go if it will be any trouble."
"No, dear; it's no trouble; I want you to go," answered the matron,
turning hastily away. Beulah felt very strongly inclined to follow,
and inquire what was in store for her; but the weight on her heart
pressed more heavily, and, murmuring to herself, "It will come time
enough, time enough," she passed on.
"May I come with you and Lilly?" entreated little Claudia, running
down the walk at full speed, and putting her curly head through the
palings to make the request.
"Yes, come on. You and Lily can pick up some nice smooth burrs to
make baskets of. But where is your bonnet?" "I forgot it." She ran
up, almost out of breath, and seized Beulah's hand.
"You forgot it, indeed! You little witch, you will burn as black as
"I don't care if I do. I hate bonnets."
"Take care, Claudy; the President won't have you all freckled and
"Won't he?" queried the child, with a saucy sparkle in her black
"That he won't. Here, tie on my hood, and the next time you come
running after me bareheaded, I will make you go back; do you hear?"
"Yes, I hear. I wonder why Miss Dorothy don't bleach off her
freckles; she looks like a--"
"Hush about her, and run on ahead."
"Do, pray, let me get my breath first. Which way are we going?"
"To the piney woods yonder," cried Lilly, clapping her hands in
childish glee; "won't we have fun, rolling and sliding on the
straw?" The two little ones walked on in advance.
The path along which their feet pattered so carelessly led to a
hollow or ravine, and the ground on the opposite side rose into
small hillocks, thickly wooded with pines. Beulah sat down upon a
mound of moss and leaves; while Claudia and Lillian, throwing off
their hoods, commenced the glorious game of sliding. The pine straw
presented an almost glassy surface, and, starting from the top of a
hillock, they slid down, often stumbling and rolling together to the
bottom. Many a peal of laughter rang out, and echoed far back in the
forest, and two blackbirds could not have kept up a more continuous
chatter. Apart from all this sat Beulah; she had remembered the
matron's words, and stopped just at the verge of the woods, whence
she could see the white palings of the asylum. Above her the winter
breeze moaned and roared in the pine tops; it was the sad but dearly
loved forest music that she so often stole out to listen to. Every
breath which sighed through the emerald boughs seemed to sweep a
sympathetic chord in her soul, and she raised her arms toward the
trees as though she longed to clasp the mighty musical box of nature
to her heart. The far-off blue of a cloudless sky looked in upon
her, like a watchful guardian; the sunlight fell slantingly, now
mellowing the brown leaves and knotted trunks, and now seeming to
shun the darker spots and recesses where shadows lurked. For a time
the girl forgot all but the quiet and majestic beauty of the scene.
She loved nature as only those can whose sources of pleasure have
been sadly curtailed, and her heart went out, so to speak, after
birds, and trees, and flowers, sunshine and stars, and the voices of
sweeping winds. An open volume lay on her lap; it was Longfellow's
Poems, the book Eugene had sent her, and leaves were turned down at
"Excelsior" and the "Psalm of Life." The changing countenance
indexed very accurately the emotions which were excited by this
communion with Nature. There was an uplifted look, a brave, glad,
hopeful light in the gray eyes, generally so troubled in their
expression. A sacred song rose on the evening air, a solemn but
beautiful hymn. She sang the words of the great strength-giving
poet, the "Psalm of Life":
"Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream;
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem."
It was wonderful what power and sweetness there was in her voice;
burst after burst of rich melody fell from her trembling lips. Her
soul echoed the sentiments of the immortal bard, and she repeated
again and again the fifth verse:
"In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life;
Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife."
Intuitively she seemed to feel that an hour of great trial was at
hand, and this was a girding for the combat. With the shield of a
warm, hopeful heart, and the sword of a strong, unfaltering will,
she awaited the shock; but as she concluded her song the head bowed
itself upon her arms, the shadow of the unknown, lowering future had
fallen upon her face, and only the Great Shepherd knew what passed
the pale lips of the young orphan. She was startled by the sharp
bark of a dog, and, looking up, saw a gentleman leaning against a
neighboring tree, and regarding her very earnestly. He came forward
as she perceived him, and said with a pleasant smile:
"You need not be afraid of my dog. Like his master, he would not
disturb you till you finished your song. Down, Carlo; be quiet, sir.
My little friend, tell me who taught you to sing."
She had hastily risen, and a slight glow tinged her cheek at his
question. Though naturally reserved and timid, there was a self-
possession about her unusual in children of her age, and she
answered in a low voice, "I have never had a teacher, sir; but I
listen to the choir on Sabbath, and sing our Sunday-school hymns at
"Do you know who wrote those words you sang just now? I was not
aware they had been set to music."
"I found them in this book yesterday, and liked them so much that I
tried to sing them by one of our hymn tunes." She held up the volume
as she spoke.
He glanced at the title, and then looked curiously at her. Beulah
chanced just then to turn toward the asylum, and saw one of the
oldest girls running across the common. The shadow on her face
deepened, and she looked around for Claudia and Lillian. They had
tired of sliding, and were busily engaged picking up pine burrs at
some little distance in the rear.
"Come, Claudy--Lilly--our matron has sent for us; come, make haste."
"Do you belong to the asylum?" asked the gentleman, shaking the
ashes from his cigar.
"Yes, sir," answered she, and, as the children came up, she bowed
and turned homeward.
"Wait a moment. Those are not your sisters, certainly?" His eyes
rested with unfeigned admiration on their beautiful faces.
"This one is, sir; that is not." As she spoke she laid her hand on
Lillian's head. Claudia looked shyly at the stranger, and then,
seizing Beulah's dress, exclaimed:
"Oh, Beulah, don't let us go just yet! I left such a nice, splendid
pile of burrs!"
"Yes, we must go; yonder comes Katy for us. Good-evening, sir."
"Good-evening, my little friend. Some of these days I shall come to
the asylum to see you all, and have you sing that song again."
She made no reply, but, catching her sister's hand, walked rapidly
homeward. Katy delivered Mrs. Williams' message, and assured Beulah
she must make haste, for Miss Dorothy was displeased that the
children were absent.
"What! is she there again, the hateful--"
Beulah's hand was over Claudia's mouth, and prevented the remainder
of the sentence. That short walk was painful, and conflicting hopes
and fears chased each other in the sister's heart, as she tightened
her hold on Lilly's hand.
"Oh, what a beautiful carriage!" cried Claudia, as they approached
the door, and descried an elegant carriage, glittering with silver
mountings, and drawn by a pair of spirited black horses.
"Yes, that it is, and there is a lady and gentleman here who must
be very rich, judging from their looks. They brought Miss White."
"What do they want, Katy?" asked Claudia.
"I don't know for certain, though I have my own thoughts," answered
the girl, with a knowing laugh that grated on Beulah's ears.
"Here, Beulah, bring them to the dormitory," said Mrs. Williams,
meeting them at the door and hurrying them upstairs. She hastily
washed Claudia's face and recurled her hair, while the same offices
were performed for Lillian by her sister.
"Don't rub my hand so hard; you hurt," cried out Claudia sharply, as
in perfect silence, and with an anxious countenance, the kind matron
"I only want to get it white and clean, beauty," was the
"Well, I tell you that won't come off, because it's turpentine,"
retorted the self-willed little elf.
"Come, Beulah; bring Lilly along. Miss White is out of patience."
"What does all this mean?" said Beulah, taking her sister's hand.
"Don't ask me, poor child." As she spoke the good woman ushered the
trio into the reception room. None of the other children were
present. Beulah noted this circumstance, and, drawing a long breath,
Miss White was eagerly talking to a richly dressed and very pretty
woman, while a gentleman stood beside them, impatiently twirling his
seal and watch-key.
All looked up, and Miss White exclaimed:
"Here they are! Now my dear Mrs. Grayson, I rather think you can be
suited. Come here, little ones." She drew Claudia to her side, while
Lilly clung closer to her sister.
"Oh, what beauties! Only look at them, Alfred!" Mrs. Grayson glanced
eagerly from one to the other.
"Very pretty children, indeed, my dear. Extremely pretty;
particularly the black-eyed one," answered her husband, with far
"I don't know; I believe I admire the golden-haired one most. She is
a perfect fairy. Come here, my love, and let me talk to you,"
continued she, addressing Lilly. The child clasped her sister's
fingers more firmly, and did not advance an inch.
"Do not hold her, Beulah. Come to the lady, Lillian," said Miss
White. As Beulah gently disengaged her hand, she felt as if the
anchor of hope had been torn from her hold; but, stooping down, she
"Go to the lady, Lilly darling; I will not leave you."
Thus encouraged, the little figure moved slowly forward, and paused
in front of the stranger. Mrs. Grayson took her small, white hands
tenderly, and, pressing a warm kiss on her lips, said in a kind,
"What is your name, my dear?"
"Lillian, ma'am; but sister calls me Lilly."
"Who is 'sister'--little Claudia here?"
"Oh, no; sister Beulah." And the soft blue eyes turned lovingly
toward that gentle sister.
"Good Heavens, Alfred; how totally unlike! This is one of the most
beautiful children I have ever seen, and that girl yonder is ugly,"
said the lady, in an undertone to her husband, who was talking to
Claudia. It was said in a low voice, but Beulah heard every
syllable, and a glow of shame for an instant bathed her brow.
Claudia heard it too, and, springing from Mr. Grayson's knee, she
"She isn't ugly, any such thing; she is the smartest girl in the
asylum, and I love her better than anybody in the world."
"No, Beulah is not pretty, but she is good, and that is far better,"
said the matron, laying her trembling hand on Beulah's shoulder. A
bitter smile curled the girl's lips, but she did not move her eyes
from Lillian's face.
"Fanny, if you select that plain-spoken little one you will have
some temper to curb," suggested Mr. Grayson, somewhat amused by
Claudia's burst of indignation.
"Oh, my dear husband, I must have them both. Only fancy how lovely
they will be, dressed exactly alike. My little Lilly, and you
Claudia, will you come and be my daughters? I shall love you very
much, and that gentleman will be your papa. He is very kind. You
shall have big wax dolls, as high as your heads, and doll-houses,
and tea-sets, and beautiful blue and pink silk dresses, and every
evening I shall take you out to ride in my carriage. Each of you
shall have a white hat, with long, curling feathers. Will you come
and live with me, and let me be your mamma?"
Beulah's face assumed an ashen hue, as she listened to these coaxing
words. She had not thought of separation; the evil had never
presented itself in this form, and, staggering forward, she clutched
the matron's dress, saying hoarsely:
"Oh, don't separate us! Don't let them take Lilly from me! I will do
anything on earth, I will work my hands off. Oh, do anything, but
please, oh, please, don't give Lilly up. My own darling Lilly."
Claudia here interrupted: "I should like to go well enough, if you
will take Beulah too. Lil, are you going?"
"No, no." Lillian broke away from the stranger's clasping arm and
rushed toward her sister; but Miss White sat between them, and,
catching the child, she firmly, though very gently, held her back.
Lilly was very much afraid of her, and, bursting into tears, she
"Oh, sister! take me, take me!"
Beulah sprang to her side, and said, almost fiercely: "Give her to
me; she is mine, and you have no right to part us." She extended her
arms toward the little form struggling to reach her.
"The managers have decided that it is for the child's good that Mrs.
Grayson should adopt her. We dislike very much to separate sisters,
but it cannot be avoided; whole families can't be adopted by one
person, and you must not interfere. She will soon be perfectly
satisfied away from you, and instead of encouraging her to be
rebellious, you ought to coax her to behave and go peaceably,"
replied Miss White, still keeping Beulah at arm's length.
"You let go Lilly, you hateful, ugly, old thing you! She shan't go
if she don't want to? She does belong to Beulah," cried Claudia,
striding up and laying her hand on Lilly's arm.
"You spoiled, insolent little wretch!" muttered Miss White,
crimsoning to the roots of her fiery hair.
"I am afraid they will not consent to go. Fanny, suppose you take
Claudia; the other seems too reluctant," said Mr. Grayson, looking
at his watch.
"But I do so want that little blue-eyed angel. Cannot the matron
influence her?" She turned to her as she spoke. Thus appealed to,
Mrs. Williams took the child in her arms, and caressed her tenderly.
"My dear little Lilly, you must not cry and struggle so. Why will
you not go with this kind lady? She will love you very much."
"Oh, I don't want to!" sobbed she, pressing her wet cheeks against
the matron's shoulder.
"But, Lilly love, you shall have everything you want. Kiss me, like
a sweet girl, and say you will go to my beautiful home. I will give
you a cage full of the prettiest canary birds you ever looked at.
Don't you love to ride? My carriage is waiting at the door. You and
Claudia will have such a nice time." Mrs. Grayson knelt beside her,
and kissed her tenderly; still she clung closer to the matron.
Beulah had covered her face with her hands, and stood trembling like
a weed bowed before the rushing gale. She knew that neither
expostulation nor entreaty would avail now, and she resolved to bear
with fortitude what she could not avert. Lifting her head, she said
"If I must give up my sister, let me do so as quietly as possible.
Give her to me; then perhaps she will go more willingly. Do not
force her away! Oh, do not force her!"
As she uttered these words her lips were white and cold, and the
agonized expression of her face made Mrs. Grayson shiver.
"Lilly, my darling! My own precious darling!" She bent over her
sister, and the little arms clasped her neck tightly, as she lifted
and bore her back to the dormitory.
"You may get their clothes ready, Mrs. Williams. Rest assured, my
dear Mrs. Grayson, they will go now without any further difficulty.
Of course we dislike to separate sisters, but it can't be helped
sometimes. If you like, I will show you over the asylum while the
children are prepared." Miss White led the way to the schoolroom.
"I am very dubious about that little one. Fanny, how will you ever
manage two such dispositions, one all tears and the other all fire
and tow?" said Mr. Grayson.
"A truce to your fears, Alfred. We shall get on charmingly after the
first few days. How proud I shall be with such jewels!" Beulah sat
down on the edge of the blue-curtained bed, and drew her idol close
to her heart. She kissed the beautiful face, and smoothed the golden
curls she had so long and so lovingly arranged, and, as the child
returned her kisses, she felt as if rude hands were tearing her
heart-strings loose. But she knew she must give her up. There was no
effort within her power which could avail to keep her treasure, and
that brave spirit nerved itself. Not a tear dimmed her eye, not a
sob broke from her colorless lips.
"Lilly, my own little sister, you must not cry any more. Let me wash
your face; you will make your head ache if you cry so."
"Oh, Beulah! I don't want to go away from you."
"My darling, I know you don't; but you will have a great many things
to make you happy, and I shall come to see you as often as I can. I
can't bear to have you go, either; but I cannot help it, and I want
you to go quietly, and be so good that the lady will love you."
"But to-night, when I go to bed, you will not be there to hear me
say my prayers. Oh, sister! why can't you go?"
"They do not want me, my dear Lilly; but you can kneel down and say
your prayers, and God will hear you just as well as if you were here
with me, and I will ask Him to love you all the more, and take care
Here a little arm stole round poor Beulah's neck, and Claudia
whispered with a sob:
"Will you ask Him to love me too?"
"Yes, Claudy; I will."
"We will try to be good. Oh, Beulah--I love you so much, so very
much!" The affectionate child pressed her lips repeatedly to
Beulah's bloodless cheek.
"Claudy, if you love me, you must be kind to my little Lilly. When
you see that she is sad, and crying for me, you must coax her to be
as contented as possible, and always speak gently to her. Will you
do this for Beulah?"
"Yes, that I will! I promise you I will, and, what is more, I will
fight for her! I boxed that spiteful Charley's ears the other day
for vexing her, and I will scratch anybody's eyes out that dares to
scold her. This very morning I pinched Maggie black and blue for
bothering her, and I tell you I shall not let anybody impose on
her." The tears dried in her brilliant eyes, and she clinched her
little fist with an exalted opinion of her protective powers.
"Claudy, I do not ask you to fight for her; I want you to love her.
Oh, love her! always be kind to her," murmured Beulah.
"I do love her better than anything in the world, don't I, Lilly
dear!" She softly kissed one of the child's hands.
At this moment the matron entered, with a large bundle neatly
wrapped. Her eyes were red, and there were traces of tears on her
cheek. Looking tenderly down upon the trio, she said very gently:
"Come, my pets; they will not wait any longer for you. I hope you
will try to be good, and love each other, and Beulah shall come to
see you." She took Claudia's hand and led her down the steps. Beulah
lifted her sister, and carried her in her arms, as she had done from
her birth, and at every step kissed her lips and brow.
Mr. and Mrs. Grayson were standing at the front door; they both
looked pleased, as Lilly had ceased crying, and the carriage door
was opened to admit them.
"Ah, my dears, now for a nice ride; Claudia, jump in," said Mr.
Grayson, extending his hand to assist her. She paused, kissed her
kind matron, and then approached Beulah. She could not bear to leave
her, and, as she threw her arms around her, sobbed out:
"Good-by, dear, good Beulah. I will take care of Lilly. Please love
me, and ask God for me too." She was lifted into the carriage with
tears streaming over her face.
Beulah drew near to Mrs. Grayson, and said in a low but imploring
"Oh, madam, love my sister, and always speak affectionately to her,
then she will be good and obedient. I may come to see her often, may
"Certainly," replied the lady, in a tone which chilled poor Beulah's
heart. She swallowed a groan of agony, and, straining the loved one
to her bosom, pressed her lips to Lilly's.
"God bless my little sister, my darling, my all!" She put the child
in Mr. Grayson's extended arms, and only saw that her sister looked
back appealingly to her. Miss White came up and said something which
she did not hear, and, turning hastily away, she went up to the
dormitory, and seated herself on Lilly's vacant bed. The child knew
not how the hours passed; she sat with her face buried in her hands,
until the light of a candle flashed into the darkened chamber, and
the kind voice of the matron fell on her ear.
"Beulah, will you try to eat some supper? Do, dear."
"No, thank you, I don't want anything."
"Poor child, I would have saved you all this had it been in my
power; but, when once decided by the managers, you know I could not
interfere. They disliked to separate you and Lily, but thought that,
under the circumstances, it was the best arrangement they could
make. Beulah, I want to tell you something, if you will listen to
me." She seated herself on the edge of the bed, and took one of the
girl's hands between both hers.
"The managers think it is best that you should go out and take a
situation. I am sorry I am forced to give you up, very sorry, for
you have always been a good girl, and I love you dearly; but these
things cannot be avoided, and I hope all will turn out for the best.
There is a place engaged for you, and Miss White wishes you to go
to-morrow. I trust you will not have a hard time. You are to take
care of an infant, and they will give you six dollars a month
besides your board and clothes. Try to do your duty, child, and
perhaps something may happen which will enable you to turn teacher."
"Well, I will do the best I can. I do not mind work, but then Lilly-
-" Her head went down on her arms once more.
"Yes, dear, I know it is very hard for you to part with her; but
remember, it is for her good. Mr. Grayson is very wealthy, and of
course Lilly and Claudy will have--"
"And what is money to my--" Again she paused abruptly.
"Ah, child, you do not begin to know! Money is everything in this
world to some people, and more than the next to other poor souls.
Well, well, I hope it will prove for the best as far as you are
concerned. It is early yet, but maybe you had better go to bed, as
you are obliged to leave in the morning."
"I could not sleep."
"God will help you, dear child, if you try to do your duty. All of
us have sorrows, and if yours have begun early, they may not last
long. Poor little thing, I shall always remember you in my prayers."
She kissed her gently, and left her, hoping that solitude would
soothe her spirits. Miss White's words rang in the girl's ears like
a knell. "She will soon be perfectly satisfied away from you."
Would she? Could that idolized sister learn to do without her, and
love her new friends as fondly as the untiring one who had cradled
her in her arms for six long years? A foreboding dread hissed
continually, "Do you suppose the wealthy and fashionable Mrs.
Grayson, who lives in that elegant house on ---- street, will suffer
her adopted daughter to associate intimately with a hired nurse?"
Again the light streamed into the room. She buried her face deeper
in her apron.
"Beulah," said a troubled, anxious voice.
"Oh, Eugene!" She sprang up with a dry sob, and threw herself into
"I know it all, dear Beulah; but come down to Mrs. Williams' room;
there is a bright fire there, and your hands are as cold as ice. You
will make yourself sick sitting here without even a shawl around
you." He led her downstairs to the room occupied by the matron, who
kindly took her work to the dining room, and left them to talk
"Sit down in this rocking-chair and warm your hands."
He seated himself near her, and as the firelight glowed on the faces
of both, they contrasted strangely. One was classical and full of
youthful beauty, the other wan, haggard, and sorrow-stained. He
looked about sixteen, and promised to become a strikingly handsome
man, while the proportions of his polished brow indicated more than
ordinary intellectual endowments. He watched his companion
earnestly, sadly, and, leaning forward, took one of her hands.
"Beulah, I see from your face that you have not shed a single tear.
I wish you would not keep your sorrow so pent up in your heart. It
grieves me to see you look as you do now."
"Oh, I can't help it! If it were not for you I believe I should die,
I am so very miserable. Eugene, if you could have seen our Lilly
cling to me, even to the last moment. It seems to me my heart will
break." She sank her weary head on his shoulder.
"Yes, darling, I know you are suffering very much; but remember that
'all things work together for good to them that love God.' Perhaps
he sees it is best that you should give her up for a while, and if
so, will you not try to bear it cheerfully, instead of making
yourself sick with useless grief?" He gently smoothed the hair from
her brow as he spoke. She did not reply. He did not expect that she
would, and continued in the same kind tone:
"I am much more troubled about your taking this situation. If I had
known it earlier I would have endeavored to prevent it; but I
suppose it cannot be helped now, for a while at least."
"As soon as possible I am determined you shall go to school; and
remember, dear Beulah, I am just as much grieved at your sorrows as
you are. In a few years I shall have a home of my own, and you shall
be the first to come to it. Never mind these dark, stormy days. Do
you remember what our minister said in his sermon last Sunday? 'The
darkest hour is just before daybreak.' Already I begin to see the
'silver lining' of clouds that a few years, or even months ago,
seemed heavy and cheerless. I have heard a great deal about the ills
and trials of this world, but I think a brave, hopeful spirit will
do much toward remedying the evil. For my part, I look forward to
the time when you and I shall have a home of our own, and then Lilly
and Claudy can be with us. I was talking to Mrs. Mason about it
yesterday; she loves you very much. I dare say all will be right; so
cheer up, Beulah, and do look on the bright side."
"Eugene, you are the only bright side I have to look on. Sometimes I
think you will get tired of me, and if you ever do I shall want to
die. Oh, how could I bear to know you did not love me!" She raised
her head and looked earnestly at his noble face.
Eugene laughingly repeated her words.
"Get tired of you, indeed--not I, little sister."
"Oh, I forgot to thank you for your book. I like it better than
anything I ever read. Some parts are so beautiful--so very grand. I
keep it in my basket, and read every moment I can spare."
"I knew you would like it, particularly 'Excelsior.' Beulah, I have
written 'excelsior' on my banner, and I intend, like that noble
youth, to press forward over every obstacle, mounting at every step,
until I, too, stand on the highest pinnacle, and plant my banner
where its glorious motto shall float over the world. That poem stirs
my very soul like martial music, and I feel as if I should like to
see Mr. Longfellow, to tell him how I thank him for having written
it. I want you to mark the passages you like best; and, now I think
of it, here is a pencil I cut for you to-day."
He drew it from his pocket and put it into her hand, while his face
glowed with enthusiasm.
"Thank you, thank you." Grateful tears sprang to her eyes; tears
which acute suffering could not wring from her. He saw the gathering
drops, and said gayly:
"If that is the way you intend to thank me I shall bring you no more
pencils. But you look very pale, and ought to be asleep, for I have
no doubt to-morrow will be a trying day for you. Do exert yourself
to be brave, and bear it all for a little while; I know it will not
be very long, and I shall come and see you just as often as
He rose as he spoke.
"Are you obliged to go so soon? Can't you stay with me a little
longer?" pleaded Beulah.
The boy's eyes filled as he looked at the beseeching, haggard face,
and he answered hastily:
"Not to-night, Beulah; you must go to sleep--you need it sadly."
"You will be cold walking home. Let me get you a shawl."
"No, I left my overcoat in the hall--here it is."
She followed him out to the door, as he drew it on and put on his
cap. The moonlight shone over the threshold, and he thought she
looked ghostly as it fell upon her face. He took her hand, pressed
it gently, and said:
"Good-night, dear Beulah."
"Good-by, Eugene. Do come and see me again, soon."
"Yes, I will. Don't get low-spirited as soon as I am out of sight,
do you hear?"
"Yes, I hear; I will try not to complain. Walk fast and keep warm."
She pressed his hand affectionately, watched his receding form as
long as she could trace its outline, and then went slowly back to
the dormitory. Falling on her knees by the side of Lilly's empty
couch, she besought God, in trembling accents, to bless her "darling
little sister and Claudy," and to give her strength to perform all
her duties contentedly and cheerfully.
Beulah stood waiting on the steps of the large mansion to which she
had been directed by Miss Dorothea White. Her heart throbbed
painfully, and her hand trembled as she rang the bell. The door was
opened by a negro waiter, who merely glanced at her, and asked
"Well, little miss, what do you want?"
"Is Mrs. Martin at home?"
"Yes, miss; come, walk in. There is but a poor fire in the front
parlor--suppose you sit down in the back room. Mrs. Martin will be
down in a minute."
The first object which arrested Beulah's attention was a center
table covered with books. "Perhaps," thought she, "they will permit
me to read some of them." While she sat looking over the titles the
rustle of silk caused her to glance around, and she saw Mrs. Martin
quite near her.
"Good-morning," said the lady, with a searching look, which made the
little figure tremble.
"You are the girl Miss White promised to send from the asylum, are
"Do you think you can take good care of my baby?"
"Oh, I will try."
"You don't look strong and healthy--have you been sick?"
"No; I am very well, thank you."
"I may want you to sew some, occasionally, when the baby is asleep.
Can you hem and stitch neatly?"
"I believe I sew very well, madam--our matron says so."
"What is your name? Miss White told me, but I have forgotten it."
"Well, Beulah, I think you will suit me very well, if you are only
careful and attend to my directions. I am just going out shopping,
but you can come upstairs and take charge of Johnny. Where are your
"Our matron will send them to-day."
Beulah followed Mrs. Martin up the steps, somewhat reassured by her
kind reception. The room was in utter confusion, the toilet-table
covered with powder, hairpins, bows of different colored ribbon, and
various bits of jewelry; the hearth unswept, the workstand groaning
beneath the superincumbent mass of sewing, finished and unfinished
garments, working materials, and, to crown the whole, the lady's
winter hat. A girl, apparently about thirteen years of age, was
seated by the fire, busily embroidering a lamp-mat; another, some
six years younger, was dressing a doll; while an infant, five or six
months old, crawled about the carpet, eagerly picking up pins,
needles, and every other objectionable article his little purple
fingers could grasp.
"Take him, Beulah," said the mother.
She stooped to comply, and was surprised that the little fellow
testified no fear of her. She raised him in her arms, and kissed his
rosy cheeks, as he looked wonderingly at her.
"Ma, is that Johnny's new nurse? What is her name?" said the
youngest girl, laying down her doll and carefully surveying the
"Yes, Annie; and her name is Beulah," replied the mother, adjusting
"Beulah--it's about as pretty as her face. Yes, just about,"
continued Annie, in an audible whisper to her sister. The latter
gave Beulah a condescending stare, curled her lips disdainfully,
and, with a polite "Mind your own business, Annie," returned to her
"Keep the baby by the fire; and if he frets you must feed him.
Laura, show her where to find his cup of arrowroot, and you and
Annie stay here till I come home."
"No, indeed, ma, I can't; for I must go down and practice my music
lesson," answered the eldest daughter decisively.
"Well, then, Annie, stay in my room."
"I am going to make some sugar-candy, ma. She"--pointing to Beulah--
"can take care of Johnny. I thought that was what you hired her
"You will make no sugar-candy till I come home, Miss Annie; do you
hear that? Now, mind what I said to you."
Mrs. Martin rustled out of the room, leaving Annie to scowl
ominously at the new nurse, and vent her spleen by boxing her doll,
because the inanimate little lady would not keep her blue-bead eyes
open. Beulah loved children, and Johnny forcibly reminded her of
earlier days, when she had carried Lilly about in her arms. For some
time after the departure of Mrs. Martin and Laura, the little fellow
seemed perfectly satisfied, but finally grew fretful, and Beulah
surmised he might be hungry.
"Will you please give me the baby's arrowroot?"
"I don't know anything about it; ask Harrison."
"Who is Harrison?"
"Why, the cook."
Glancing around the room, she found the arrowroot; the boy was fed,
and soon fell asleep. Beulah sat in a low rocking-chair, by the
hearth, holding the infant, and watching the little figure opposite.
Annie was trying to fit a new silk waist to her doll, but it was too
broad one way and too narrow another. She twisted and jerked it
divers ways, but all in vain; and at last, disgusted by the
experiment, she tore it off and aimed it at the fire, with an
"The plagued, bothering, ugly thing! My Lucia never shall wear such
Beulah caught the discarded waist, and said quietly:
"You can very easily make it fit, by taking up this seam and cutting
it out in the neck."
"I don't believe it."
"Then, hand me the doll and the scissors, and I will show you."
"Her name is Miss Lucia-di-Lammermoor. Mr. Green named her. Don't
say 'doll'; call her by her proper name," answered the spoiled
child, handing over the unfortunate waxen representative of a not
less unfortunate heroine.
"Well, then, Miss Lucia-di-Lammermoor," said Beulah, smiling. A few
alterations reduced the dress to proper dimensions, and Annie
arrayed her favorite in it, with no slight degree of satisfaction.
The obliging manner of the new nurse won her heart, and she began to
chat pleasantly enough. About two o'clock Mrs. Martin returned,
inquired after Johnny, and again absented herself to "see about
dinner." Beulah was very weary of the close, disordered room, and as
the babe amused himself with his ivory rattle, she swept the floor,
dusted the furniture, and arranged the chairs. The loud ringing of a
bell startled her, and she conjectured dinner was ready. Some time
elapsed before any of the family returned, and then Laura entered,
looking very sullen. She took charge of the babe, and rather
ungraciously desired the nurse to get her dinner.
"I do not wish any," answered Beulah.
At this stage of the conversation the door opened, and a boy,
seemingly about Eugene's age, entered the room. He looked curiously
at Beulah, inclined his head slightly, and joined his sister at the
"How do you like her, Laura?" he asked, in a distinct undertone.
"Oh, I suppose she will do well enough! but she is horribly ugly,"
replied Laura, in a similar key.
"I don't know, sis. It is what Dr. Patton, the lecturer on
physiognomy, would call a 'striking' face."
"Yes, strikingly ugly, Dick. Her forehead juts over, like the eaves
of the kitchen, and her eyebrows--"
"Hush! she will hear you. Come down and play that new waltz for me,
like a good sister." The two left the room. Beulah had heard every
word; she could not avoid it, and as she recalled Mrs. Grayson's
remark concerning her appearance on the previous day, her
countenance reflected her intense mortification. She pressed her
face against the window-pane and stared vacantly out. The elevated
position commanded a fine view of the town, and on the eastern
horizon the blue waters of the harbor glittered with "silvery
sheen." At any other time, and with different emotions, Beulah's
love of the beautiful would have been particularly gratified by this
extended prospect; but now the whole possessed no charms for her
darkened spirit. For the moment, earth was black-hued to her gaze;
she only saw "horribly ugly" inscribed on sky and water. Her soul
seemed to leap forward and view nearer the myriad motes that floated
in the haze of the future. She leaned over the vast whirring lottery
wheel of life, and saw a blank come up, with her name stamped upon
it. But the grim smile faded from her lips, and brave endurance
looked out from the large, sad eyes, as she murmured,
"Be not like dumb, driven cattle, Be a hero in the strife."
"If I am ugly, God made me so, and I know 'He doeth all things
well.' I will not let it bother me; I will try not to think of it.
But, oh! I am so glad, I thank God that he made my Lilly beautiful.
She will never have to suffer as I do now. My own darling Lilly!"
Large drops glistened in her eyes; she rarely wept; but though the
tears did not fall, they gathered often in the gray depths. The
evening passed very quietly; Mr. Martin was absent in a distant
State, whither, as traveling agent for a mercantile house, he was
often called. After tea, when little Johnny had been put to sleep in
his crib, Mrs. Martin directed Annie to show the nurse her own room.
Taking a candle, the child complied, and her mother ordered one of
the servants to carry up the trunk containing Beulah's clothes. Up,
up two weary, winding flights of steps, the little Annie toiled,
and, pausing at the landing of the second, pointed to a low attic
chamber, lighted by dormer windows on the east and west. The floor
was uncovered; the furniture consisted of a narrow trundle-bed, a
washstand, a cracked looking-glass suspended from a nail, a small
deal table, and a couple of chairs. There were, also, some hooks
driven into the wall, to hang clothes upon.
"You need not be afraid to sleep here, because the boarders occupy
the rooms on the floor below this; and besides, you know robbers
never get up to the garret," said Annie, glancing around the
apartment, and shivering with an undefined dread, rather than with
cold, though her nose and fingers were purple, and this garret
chamber possessed neither stove nor chimney.
"I am not afraid; but this is only one garret room. Are the others
"Yes--by carpets in summer and rats in winter," laughed Annie.
"I suppose I may have a candle?" said Beulah, as the porter
deposited her trunk and withdrew.
"Yes, this one is for you. Ma is always uneasy about fire, so don't
set anything in a blaze to keep yourself warm. Here, hold the light
at the top of the steps till I get down to the next floor, then
there is a hall-lamp. Good-night."
"Good-night." Beulah bolted the door, and surveyed her new
apartment. Certainly it was sufficiently cheerless, but its isolated
position presented to her a redeeming feature. Thought she, "I can
sit up here, and read just as late as I please. Oh! I shall have so
much time to myself these long, long nights." Unpacking her trunk,
she hung her dresses on the hooks, placed the books Mrs. Mason and
Eugene had given her on the table, and, setting the candle beside
them, smiled in anticipation of the many treats in store for her.
She read several chapters in her Bible, and then, as her head ached
and her eyes grew heavy, she sank upon her knees. Ah! what an
earnest, touching petition ascended to the throne of the Father;
prayers, first for Lilly and Claudia, and lastly for herself.
"Help me, O Lord! not to be troubled and angry when I hear that I am
so ugly; and make me remember that I am your child." Such was her
final request, and she soon slept soundly, regardless of the fact
that she was now thrown upon the wide, though not altogether cold or
Day after day passed monotonously, and, except a visit from Eugene,
there was no link added to the chain which bound Beulah to the past.
That brief visit encouraged and cheered the lonely heart, yearning
for affectionate sympathy, yet striving to hush the hungry cry and
grow contented with its lot. During the second week of her stay
little Johnny was taken sick, and he had become so fond of his new
attendant that no one else was permitted to hold him. Often she
paced the chamber floor for hours, lulling the fretful babe with
softly sung tunes of other days, and the close observer, who could
have peered at such times into the downcast eyes, might have easily
traced in the misty depths memories that nestled in her heart's
sanctuary. The infant soon recovered, and one warm, sunny afternoon,
when Mrs. Martin directed Beulah to draw him in his wicker carriage
up and down the pavement before the door, she could no longer
repress the request which had trembled on her lips more than once,
and asked permission to take her little charge to Mrs. Grayson's. A
rather reluctant assent was given, and soon the carriage was drawn
in the direction of Mr. Grayson's elegant city residence. A
marvelous change came over the wan face of the nurse as she paused
at the marble steps, guarded on either side by sculptured lions. "To
see Lilly." The blood sprang to her cheeks, and an eager look of
delight crept into the eyes. The door was partially opened by an
insolent-looking footman, whose hasty glance led him to suppose her
one of the numerous supplicants for charity, who generally left that
princely mansion as empty-handed as they came. He was about to close
the door; but, undaunted by this reception, she hastily asked to see
Mrs. Grayson and Lillian Benton.
"Mrs. Grayson is engaged, and there is no such person here as
Lillian Benton. Miss Lilly Grayson is my young mistress' name; but I
can tell you, her mamma don't suffer her to see the like of you; so
"Lilly is my sister, and I must see her. Tell Mrs. Grayson Beulah
Benton wishes to see her sister; and ask her also if Claudia may not
She dropped the tongue of the carriage, and the thin hands clutched
each other in an agony of dread, lest her petition should be
refused. The succeeding five minutes seemed an eternity to her, and,
as the door opened again, she leaned forward and held her breath,
like one whose fate was in the balance. Costly silk and dazzling
diamonds met her gaze. The settled lines of Mrs. Grayson's pretty
mouth indicated that she had a disagreeable duty to perform, yet had
resolved to do it at once, and set the matter forever at rest.
"You are Mrs. Martin's nurse, I believe, and the girl I saw at the
asylum?" said she frigidly.
"Yes, madam; I am Lilly's sister; you said I might come and see her.
Oh, if you only knew how miserable I have been since we were parted,
you would not look so coldly at me! Do, please, let me see her. Oh,
don't deny me!"
These words were uttered in a tone of imploring agony.
"I am very sorry you happen to be her sister, and I assure you,
child, it pains me to refuse you; but, when you remember the
circumstances, you ought not to expect to associate with her as you
used to do. She will be educated to move in a circle very far above
you; and you ought to be more than willing to give her up, when you
know how lucky she has been in securing a home of wealth. Besides,
she is getting over the separation very nicely indeed, and if she
were to see you even once it would make matters almost as bad as
ever. I dare say you are a good girl, and will not trouble me any
further. My husband and I are unwilling that you should see Lilly
again; and though I am very sorry I am forced to disappoint you, I
feel that I am doing right."
The petitioner fell on her knees, and, extending her arms, said
"Oh, madam! are we to be parted forever? I pray you, in the name of
God, let me see her! let me see her!"
Mrs. Grayson was not a cruel woman, far from it, but she was
strangely weak and worldly. The idea of a hired nurse associating
familiarly with her adopted daughter was repulsive to her
aristocratic pride, and therefore she hushed the tones of true
womanly sympathy, and answered resolutely:
"It pains me to refuse you; but I have given good reasons, and
cannot think of changing my determination. I hope you will not annoy
me by any future efforts to enter my house. There is a present for
She tossed a five-dollar gold piece toward the kneeling figure, and,
closing the door, locked it on the inside. The money rolled
ringingly down the steps, and the grating sound of the key, as it
was hurriedly turned, seemed typical of the unyielding lock which
now forever barred the child's hopes. The look of utter despair gave
place to an expression of indescribable bitterness. Springing from
her suppliant posture, she muttered with terrible emphasis:
"A curse on that woman and her husband! May God answer their prayers
as she has answered mine!"
Picking up the coin which lay glittering on the sidewalk, she threw
it forcibly against the door, and, as it rebounded into the street,
took the carriage tongue, and slowly retraced her steps. It was not
surprising that passers-by gazed curiously at the stony face, with
its large eyes, brimful of burning hate, as the injured orphan
walked mechanically on, unconscious that her lips were crushed till
purple drops oozed over them. The setting sun flashed his ruddy
beams caressingly over her brow, and whispering winds lifted
tenderly the clustering folds of jetty hair; but nature's pure-
hearted darling had stood over the noxious tarn, whence the
poisonous breath of a corrupt humanity rolled upward, and the once
sinless child inhaled the vapor until her soul was a great boiling
Marah. Ah, truly
"There are swift hours in life--strong, rushing hours--That do the
work of tempests in their might!"
Peaceful valleys, green and flowery, sleeping in loveliness, have
been unheaved, and piled in somber, jagged masses, against the sky,
by the fingering of an earthquake; and gentle, loving, trusting
hearts, over whose altars brooded the white-winged messengers of
God's peace, have been as suddenly transformed by a manifestation of
selfishness and injustice, into gloomy haunts of misanthropy. Had
Mrs. Grayson been arraigned for cruelty, or hard-heartedness, before
a tribunal of her equals (i. e., fashionable friends), the charge
would have been scornfully repelled, and unanimous would have been
her acquittal. "Hard-hearted! oh, no! she was only prudent and
wise." Who could expect her to suffer her pampered, inert darling to
meet and acknowledge as an equal the far less daintily fed and
elegantly clad sister, whom God called to labor for her frugal
meals? Ah, this fine-ladyism, this ignoring of labor, to which, in
accordance with the divine decree, all should be subjected: this
false-effeminacy, and miserable affectation of refinement, which
characterizes the age, is the unyielding lock on the wheels of
social reform and advancement.
Beulah took her charge home, and when dusk came on rocked him to
sleep, and snugly folded the covering of his crib over the little
throbbing heart, whose hours of trial were yet veiled by the
impenetrable curtain of futurity. Mrs. Martin and her elder children
had gone to a concert, and, of course, the nurse was to remain with
Johnny until his mother's return. Standing beside the crib, and
gazing down at the rosy cheeks and curling locks, nestled against
the pillow, Beulah's thoughts winged along the tear-stained past, to
the hour when Lilly had been placed in her arms, by emaciated hands
stiffening in death. For six years she had held, and hushed, and
caressed her dying father's last charge, and now strange, ruthless
fingers had torn the clinging heart-strings from the idol. There
were no sobs, nor groans, to voice the anguish of the desolate
orphan. The glittering eyes were tearless, but the brow was darkly
furrowed, the ashy lips writhed, and the folded hands were purple
from compression. Turning from the crib, she threw up the sash, and
seated herself on the window-sill. Below lay the city, with its
countless lamps gleaming in every direction, and stretching away on
the principal streets, like long processions; in the distance the
dark waters of the river, over which steamboat lights flashed now
and then like ignesfatui; and above her arched the dome of sky, with
its fiery fretwork. Never before had she looked up at the starry
groups without an emotion of exulting joy, of awful adoration. To
her worshiping gaze they had seemed glimpses of the spirit's home;
nay, loving eyes shining down upon her thorny pathway. But now, the
twinkling rays fell unheeded, impotent to pierce the sable clouds of
grief. She sat looking out into the night, with strained eyes that
seemed fastened upon a corpse. An hour passed thus, and, as the
clang of the town clock died away the shrill voice of the watchman
rang through the air:
"Nine o'clock; and all's well!"
Beulah lifted her head, and listened. "All's well!" The mockery
maddened her, and she muttered audibly:
"That is the sort of sympathy I shall have through life. I am to
hear that 'all is well' when my heart is dying, nay, dead within me!
Oh, if I could only die! What a calm, calm time I should have in my
coffin! Nobody to taunt me with my poverty and ugliness! Oh, what
did God make me for? The few years of my life have been full of
misery; I cannot remember one single day of pure happiness, for
there was always something to spoil what little joy I ever knew.
When I was born, why did not I die at once? And why did not God take
me instead of my dear, dear father? He should have been left with
Lilly, for people love the beautiful, but nobody will ever care for
me. I am of no use to anything, and so ugly that I hate myself. O
Lord, I don't want to live another day! I am sick of my life--take
me, take me!" But a feeble ray of comfort stole into her shivering
heart, as she bowed her head upon her hands; Eugene Graham loved
her; and the bleeding tendrils of affection henceforth clasped him
as their only support. She was aroused from her painful reverie by a
movement in the crib, and, hastening to her charge, was startled by
the appearance of the babe. The soft blue eyes were rolled up and
set, the face of a purplish hue, and the delicate limbs convulsed.
During her residence at the asylum she had more than once assisted
the matron in nursing children similarly affected; and now, calling
instantly for a tub of water, she soon immersed the rigid limbs in a
warm bath, while one of the waiters was dispatched for the family
physician. When Dr. Hartwell entered he found her standing with the
infant clasped in her arms, and, as his eyes rested curiously upon
her face, she forgot that he was a stranger, and, springing to meet
"Oh, sir; will he die?"
With his fingers on the bounding pulse, he answered:
"He is very ill. Where is his mother? Who are you?"
"His mother is at a concert, and I am his nurse."
The spasms had ceased, but the twitching limbs told that they might
return any moment, and the physician immediately administered a
"How long will Mrs. Martin be absent?"
"It is uncertain. When shall I give the medicine again?"
"I shall remain until she comes home."
Beulah was pacing up and down the floor, with Johnny in her arms;
Dr. Hartwell stood on the hearth, leaning his elbow on the
mantelpiece, and watching the slight form as it stole softly to and
fro. Gradually the child became quiet, but his nurse kept up her
walk. Dr. Hartwell said abruptly:
"Sit down, girl! you will walk yourself into a shadow."
She lifted her head, shook it in reply, and resumed her measured
"What is your name?"
"Beulah!" repeated the doctor, while a smile flitted over his
mustached lip. She observed it, and exclaimed, with bitter emphasis:
"You need not tell me it is unsuitable; I know it; I feel it.
Beulah! Beulah! Oh, my father! I have neither sunshine nor flowers,
nor hear the singing of birds, nor the voice of the turtle. You
ought to have called me Marah."
"You have read the 'Pilgrim's Progress' then?" said he, with a
Either she did not hear him, or was too entirely engrossed by
painful reflection to frame an answer. The despairing expression
settled upon her face, and the broken threads of memory wove on
"Beulah, how came you here in the capacity of nurse?"
"I was driven here by necessity."
"Where are your parents and friends?"
"I have none. I am alone in the world."
"How long have you been so dependent?"
She raised her hand deprecatingly, nay commandingly, as though she
"No more. You have not the right to question, nor I the will to
He marked the look of unconquerable grief, and, understanding her
gesture, made no more inquiries.
Soon after, Mrs. Martin returned, and, having briefly stated what
had occurred, and given directions for the child's treatment, he
withdrew. His low "good-night," gently spoken to the nurse, was only
acknowledged by a slight inclination of the head as he passed her.
Little Johnny was restless, and constantly threatened with a return
of the convulsions. His mother held him on her knee, and telling
Beulah she "had been a good, sensible girl to bathe him so
promptly," gave her permission to retire.
"I am not at all sleepy, and would rather stay here and nurse him.
He does not moan so much when I walk with him. Give him back to me."
"But you will be tired out."
"I shall not mind it." Stooping down, she lifted the restless boy,
and, wrapping his cloak about him, commenced the same noiseless
tread. Thus the night waned; occasionally Mrs. Martin rose and felt
her babe's pulse, and assisted in giving the hourly potions, then
reseated herself, and allowed the hireling to walk on. Once she
offered to relieve her, but the arms refused to yield their burden.
A little after four the mother slept soundly in her chair. Gradually
the stars grew dim, and the long, undulating chain of clouds that
girded the eastern horizon kindled into a pale orange that
transformed them into mountains of topaz. Pausing by the window, and
gazing vacantly out, Beulah's eyes were suddenly riveted on the
gorgeous pageant, which untiring nature daily renews, and she stood
watching the masses of vapor painted by coming sunlight, and
floating slowly before the wind, until the "King of Day" flashed up
and dazzled her. Mrs. Martin was awakened by the entrance of a
servant, and starting up, exclaimed:
"Bless me! I have been asleep. Beulah, how is Johnny? You must be
tired to death."
"He is sleeping now very quietly; I think he is better; his fever is
not so high. I will take care of him, and you had better take
another nap before breakfast."
Mrs. Martin obeyed the nurse's injunction, and it was two hours
later when she took her child and directed Beulah to get her
breakfast. But the weary girl felt no desire for the meal, and,
retiring to her attic room, bathed her eyes and replaited her hair.
Kneeling beside her bed, she tried to pray, but the words died on
her lips; and, too miserable to frame a petition, she returned to
the chamber where, in sad vigils, she had spent the night. Dr.
Hartwell bowed as she entered, but the head was bent down, and,
without glancing at him, she took the fretful, suffering child and
walked to the window. While she stood there her eyes fell upon the
loved face of her best friend. Eugene Graham was crossing the
street. For an instant the burning blood surged over her wan, sickly
cheeks, and the pale lips parted in a smile of delight, as she
leaned forward to see whether he was coming in. The door bell rang,
and she sprang from the window, unconscious of the piercing eyes
fastened upon her. Hastily laying little Johnny on his mother's lap,
she merely said, "I will be back soon," and, darting down the steps,
met Eugene at the entrance, throwing her arms around his neck and
hiding her face on his shoulder.
"What is the matter, Beulah? Do tell me," said he anxiously.
Briefly she related her fruitless attempt to see Lilly, and pointed
out the nature of the barrier which must forever separate them.
Eugene listened with flashing eyes, and several times the word
"brutal" escaped his lips. He endeavored to comfort her by holding
out hopes of brighter days, but her eyes were fixed on shadows, and
his cheering words failed to call up a smile. They stood in the hall
near the front door, and here Dr. Hartwell found them when he left
the sickroom. Eugene looked up as he approached them, and stepped
forward with a smile of recognition to shake the extended hand.
Beulah's countenance became instantly repellent, and she was turning
away when the doctor addressed her:
"You must feel very much fatigued from being up all night. I know
from your looks that you did not close your eyes."
"I am no worse looking than usual, thank you," she replied icily,
drawing back as she spoke, behind Eugene. The doctor left them, and,
as his buggy rolled from the door, Beulah seemed to breathe freely
again. Poor child; her sensitive nature had so often been deeply
wounded by the thoughtless remarks of strangers, that she began to
shrink from all observation, as the surest mode of escaping pain.
Eugene noticed her manner, and, biting his lips with vexation, said
"Beulah, you were very rude to Dr. Hartwell. Politeness costs
nothing, and you might at least have answered his question with
Her eyelids drooped, and a tremor passed over her mouth, as she
"I did not intend to be rude; but I dread to have people look at or
speak to me."
"Because I am so ugly, and they are sure to show me that they see
He drew his arm protectingly around her, and said gently: "Poor
child; it is cruel to make you suffer so. But rest assured Dr.
Hartwell will never wound your feelings. I have heard that he was a
very stern and eccentric man, though a remarkably learned one, yet I
confess there is something in his manner which fascinates me, and if
you will only be like yourself he will always speak kindly to you.
But I am staying too long. Don't look so forlorn and ghostly.
Positively I hate to come to see you, for somehow your wretched face
haunts me. Here is a book I have just finished; perhaps it will
serve to divert your mind." He put a copy of Irving's "Sketch Book"
in her hand, and drew on his gloves.
"Oh, Eugene, can't you stay a little longer--just a little longer?
It seems such a great while since you were here." She looked up
wistfully into the handsome, boyish face.
Drawing out an elegant new watch, he held it before her eyes, and
"See there; it is ten o'clock, and I am behind my appointment at the
lecture room. Good-by; try to be cheerful. 'What can't be cured must
be endured,' you know, so do not despond, dear Beulah." Shaking her
hand cordially, he ran down the steps. The orphan pressed her hands
tightly over her brow, as if to stay some sudden, painful thought,
and slowly remounted the stairs.
Little Johnny's illness proved long and serious, and for many days
and nights he seemed on the verge of the tomb. His wailings were
never hushed except in Beulah's arms, and, as might be supposed,
constant watching soon converted her into a mere shadow of her
former self. Dr. Hartwell often advised rest and fresh air for her,
but the silent shake of her head proved how reckless she was of her
own welfare. Thus several weeks elapsed, and gradually the sick
child grew stronger. One afternoon Beulah sat holding him on her
knee: he had fallen asleep, with one tiny hand clasping hers, and
while he slept she read. Absorbed in the volume Eugene had given
her, her thoughts wandered on with the author, amid the moldering
monuments of Westminster Abbey, and finally the sketch was concluded
by that solemn paragraph: "Thus man passes away; his name perishes
from record and recollection; his history is as a tale that is told,
and his very monument becomes a ruin." Again she read this sad
comment on the vanity of earth and its ephemeral hosts, and her mind
was filled with weird images, that looked out from her earnest eyes.
Dr. Hartwell entered unperceived, and stood for some moments at the
back of her chair, glancing over her shoulder at the last page. At
length she closed the book, and, passing her hand wearily over her
eyes, said audibly:
"Ah! if we could only have sat down together in that gloomy garret,
and had a long talk! It would have helped us both. Poor Chatterton!
I know just how you felt, when you locked your door and lay down on
your truckle-bed, and swallowed your last draught!"
"There is not a word about Chatterton in that sketch," said the
She started, looked up, and answered slowly:
"No, not a word, not a word. He was buried among paupers, you know."
"What made you think of him?"
"I thought that instead of resting in the Abbey, under sculptured
marble, his bones were scattered, nobody knows where. I often think
"Because he was so miserable and uncared-for; because sometimes I
feel exactly as he did." As she uttered these words she compressed
her lips in a manner which plainly said, "There, I have no more to
say, so do not question me."
He had learned to read her countenance, and as he felt the infant's
pulse, pointed to the crib, saying:
"You must lay him down now; he seems fast asleep."
"No, I may as well hold him."
"Girl, will you follow my directions?" said he sharply.
Beulah looked up at him for a moment, then rose and placed the boy
in his crib, while a sort of grim smile distorted her features. The
doctor mixed some medicine, and, setting the glass on the table, put
both hands in his pockets and walked up to the nurse. Her head was
"Beulah, will you be good enough to look at me?" She fixed her eyes
proudly on his, and her beautiful teeth gleamed through the parted
"Do you know that Eugene is going away very soon, to be absent at
least five years?"
An incredulous smile flitted over her face, but the ashen hue of
death settled there.
"I am in earnest. He leaves for Europe next week, to be gone a long
She extended her hands pleadingly, and said in a hoarse whisper:
"Are you sure?"
"Quite sure; his passage is already engaged in a packet that will
sail early next week. What will become of you in his absence?"
The strained eyes met his, vacantly; the icy hands dropped, and she
fell forward against him.
Guy Hartwell placed the slight, attenuated form on the sofa, and
stood with folded arms looking down at the colorless face. His high
white brow clouded, and a fierce light kindled in his piercing dark
eyes, as through closed teeth came the rather indistinct words:
"It is madness to indulge the thought; I was a fool to dream of it.
She would prove heartless, like all of her sex, and repay me with
black ingratitude. Let her fight the battle of life unaided."
He sprinkled a handful of water on the upturned face, and in a few
minutes saw the eyelids tremble, and knew from the look of suffering
that with returning consciousness came the keen pangs of grief. She
covered her face with her hands, and, after a little while, asked:
"Shall I ever see him again?"
"He will come here to-night to tell you about his trip. But what
will become of you in his absence?--answer me that!"
"God only knows!"
Dr. Hartwell wrote the directions for Johnny's medicine, and,
placing the slip of paper on the glass, took his hat and left the
room. Beulah sat with her head pressed against the foot of the crib-
-stunned, taking no note of the lapse of time.
Had in her sober livery all things clad."
The room had grown dark, save where a mellow ray stole through the
western window. Beulah rose mechanically, lighted the lamp, and
shaded it so as to shield the eyes of the sleeping boy. The door was
open, and, glancing up, she saw Eugene on the threshold. Her arms
were thrown around him, with a low cry of mingled joy and grief.
"Oh, Eugene! please don't leave me! Whom have I in the world but
"Beulah, dear, I must go. Only think of the privilege of being at a
German university! I never dreamed of such a piece of good luck.
Don't cry so; I shall come back some of these days, such an erudite,
such an elegant young man, you will hardly know me. Only five years.
I am almost seventeen now; time passes very quickly, and you will
scarcely miss me before I shall be at home again."
He lifted up her face, and laughed gayly as he spoke.
"When are you to go?"
"The vessel sails Wednesday--three days from now. I shall be very
busy until then. Beulah, what glorious letters I shall write you
from the Old World! I am to see all Europe before I return; that is,
my father says I shall. He is coming on, in two or three years, with
Cornelia, and we are all to travel together. Won't it be glorious?"
"Yes, for you. But, Eugene, my heart seems to die when I think of
those coming five years. How shall I live without you? Oh, what
shall I do?"
"There, Beulah! do not look so wretched. You will have a thousand
things to divert your mind. My father says he will see that you are
sent to the public school. You know the tuition is free, and he
thinks he can find some good, kind family, where you will be taken
care of till your education is finished. Your studies will occupy
you closely, and you will have quite enough to think of, without
troubling yourself about my absence. Of course you will write to me
constantly, and each letter will be like having a nice, quiet chat
together. Oh. dear! can't you get up a smile, and look less forlorn?
You never would look on the bright side."
"Because I never had any to look on, except you and Lilly; and when
you are gone, everything will be dark--dark!" she groaned, and
covered her face with her hands.
"Not unless you determine to make it so. If I did not know that my
father would attend to your education, I should not be so delighted
to go. Certainly, Beulah, in improving yourself, you will have very
little leisure to sit down and repine that your lot is not among the
brightest. Do try to hope that things may change for the better. If
they do not, why, I shall not spend eternity in Europe; and when I
come home, of course I shall take care of you myself." She stood
with one hand resting on his arm, and while he talked on,
carelessly, of her future, she fixed her eyes on his countenance,
thinking of the desolate hours in store for her, when the mighty
Atlantic billows surged between her and the noble, classic face she
loved so devotedly. A shadowy panorama of coming years glided before
her, and trailing clouds seemed gathered about the path her little
feet must tread. A vague foreboding discovered to her the
cheerlessness, and she shivered in anticipating the dreariness that
awaited her. But there was time enough for the raging of the storm;
why rush so eagerly to meet it? She closed her eyes to shut out the
grim vision, and listened resolutely to the plans suggested for her
approval. When Eugene rose to say "good-night," it was touching to
note the efforts she made to appear hopeful; the sob swallowed, lest
it should displease him; the trembling lips forced into a smile, and
the heavy eyelids lifted bravely to meet his glance. When the door
closed after his retreating form, the hands were clasped
convulsively, and the white, tearless face, mutely revealed the
desolation which that loving heart locked in its darkened chambers.
Several tedious weeks had rolled away since Eugene Graham left his
sunny Southern home to seek learning in the venerable universities
of the Old World. Blue-eyed May, the carnival month of the year, had
clothed the earth with verdure, and enameled it with flowers of
every hue, scattering her treasures before the rushing car of
summer. During the winter scarlet fever had hovered threateningly
over the city, but, as the spring advanced, hopes were entertained
that all danger had passed. Consequently, when it was announced that
the disease had made its appearance in a very malignant form, in the
house adjoining Mrs. Martin's, she determined to send her children
immediately out of town. A relative living at some distance up the
river happened to be visiting her at the time, and, as she intended
returning home the following day, kindly offered to take charge of
the children until all traces of the disease had vanished. To this
plan Beulah made no resistance, though the memory of her little
sister haunted her hourly. What could she do? Make one last attempt
to see her, and if again refused then it mattered not whither she
went. When the preparations for their journey had been completed,
and Johnny slept soundly in his crib, Beulah put on her old straw
bonnet, and set out for Mr. Grayson's residence. The sun was low in
the sky, and the evening breeze, rippling the waters of the bay,
stirred the luxuriant foliage of the ancient China trees that
bordered the pavements. The orphan's heart was heavy with undefined
dread; such a dread as had oppressed her the day of her separation
from her sister.
"Coming events cast their shadows before,"
and she was conscious that the sunset glow could not dispel the
spectral gloom which enveloped her. She walked on, with her head
bowed, like one stooping from an impending blow, and when at last
the crouching lions confronted her she felt as if her heart had
suddenly frozen. There stood the doctor's buggy. She sprang up the
steps, and stretched out her hand for the bolt of the door. Long
streamers of crape floated through her fingers. She stood still a
moment, then threw open the door and rushed in. The hall floor was
covered to muffle the tread; not a sound reached her save the
stirring of the China trees outside. Her hand was on the balustrade
to ascend the steps, but her eyes fell upon a piece of crape
fastened to the parlor door, and, pushing it ajar, she looked in.
The furniture was draped; even the mirrors and pictures; and on a
small oblong table in the center of the room lay a shrouded form. An
over-powering perfume of crushed flowers filled the air, and Beulah
stood on the threshold, with her hands extended, and her eyes fixed
upon the table. There were two children; Lilly might yet live, and
an unvoiced prayer went up to God that the dead might be Claudia.
Then like scathing lightning came the recollection of her curse:
"May God answer their prayers as they answered mine." With rigid
limbs she tottered to the table, and laid her hand on the velvet
pall; with closed eyes she drew it down, then held her breath and
looked. There lay her idol, in the marble arms of death. Ah! how
matchlessly beautiful, wrapped in her last sleep! The bright golden
curls glittered around the snowy brow, and floated like wandering
sunlight over the arms and shoulders. The tiny waxen fingers clasped
each other as in life, and the delicately chiseled lips were just
parted, as though the sleeper whispered. Beulah's gaze dwelt upon
this mocking loveliness, then the arms were thrown wildly up, and,
with a long, wailing cry, her head sank heavily on the velvet
cushion, beside the cold face of her dead darling. How long it
rested there she never knew. Earth seemed to pass away; darkness
closed over her, and for a time she had no pain, no sorrow; she and
Lilly were together. All was black, and she had no feeling. Then she
was lifted, and the motion aroused her torpid faculties; she moaned
and opened her eyes. Dr. Hartwell was placing her on a sofa, and
Mrs. Grayson stood by the table with a handkerchief over her eyes.
With returning consciousness came a raving despair; Beulah sprang
from the strong arm that strove to detain her, and, laying one
clinched hand on the folded fingers of the dead, raised the other
fiercely toward Mrs. Grayson, and exclaimed almost frantically:
"You have murdered her! I knew it would be so, when you took my
darling from my arms, and refused my prayer! Aye, my prayer! I knelt
and prayed you, in the name of God, to let me see her once more; to
let me hold her to my heart, and kiss her lips, and forehead, and
little slender hands. You scorned a poor girl's prayer; you taunted
me with my poverty, and locked me from my darling, my Lilly, my all!
Oh, woman! you drove me wild, and I cursed you and your husband. Ha!
Has your wealth and splendor saved her? God have mercy upon me, I
feel as if I could curse you eternally. Could you not have sent for
me before she died? Oh, if I could only have taken her in my arms,
and seen her soft angel eyes looking up to me, and felt her little
arms around my neck, and heard her say 'sister' for the last time!
Would it have taken a dime from your purse, or made you less
fashionable, to have sent for me before she died? 'Such measure as
ye mete, shall be meted to you again.' May you live to have your
heart trampled and crushed, even as you have trampled mine!"
Her arm sank to her side, and once more the blazing eyes were
fastened on the young sleeper; while Mrs. Grayson, cowering like a
frightened child, left the room. Beulah fell on her knees, and,
crossing her arms on the table, bowed her head; now and then broken,
wailing tones passed the white lips. Dr. Hartwell stood in a recess
of the window, with folded arms and tightly compressed mouth,
watching the young mourner. Once he moved toward her, then drew
back, and a derisive smile distorted his features, as though he
scorned himself for the momentary weakness. He turned suddenly away,
and reached the door, but paused to look back. The old straw bonnet,
with its faded pink ribbon, had fallen off, and heavy folds of black
hair veiled the bowed face. He noted the slight, quivering form, and
the thin hands, and a look of remorseful agony swept over his
countenance. A deadly pallor settled on cheek and brow, as, with an
expression of iron resolve, he retraced his steps, and, putting his
hand on the orphan's shoulder, said gently:
"Beulah, this is no place for you. Come with me, child."
She shrank from his touch, and put up one hand, waving him off.
"Your sister died with the scarlet fever, and Claudia is now very
ill with it. If you stay here you will certainly take it yourself."
"I hope I shall take it."
He laid his fingers on the pale, high brow, and, softly drawing back
the thick hair, said earnestly: "Beulah, come home with me. Be my
child; my daughter."
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