Augusta J. Evans
Part 10 out of 11
John, the dining-room servant, handed her a small whip, with mother-
of-pearl handle, inlaid with gold.
"It is no such thing!" cried Mrs. Graham, gathering up the folds of
her habit and coloring with vexation.
John shrugged his shoulders and retired, and his mistress sailed out
to the front door, where her horse and her escort awaited her.
"Run and get your hat and cape, Cornelia; I see the buggy coming
round the corner."
Eugene wiped away the teardrops glittering on her rosy cheeks, and
she sprang off to obey him; while, in the interim, he sent for
Flora, and gave her to understand that he would allow no repetition
of the deception he had accidentally discovered. The maid retired,
highly incensed, of course, and resolved to wreak vengeance on both
John and Cornelia; and Eugene took his seat in the buggy in no
particularly amiable mood. They found Beulah in her little flower
gaiden, pruning some luxuriant geraniums. She threw down her knife
and hastened to meet them, and all three sat down on the steps.
Four years had brought sorrow to that cottage home; had hushed the
kind accents of the matron; stilled the true heart that throbbed so
tenderly for her orphan charge, and had seen her laid to rest in a
warm, grassy slope of the cemetery. She died peaceably three months
before the day of which I write; died exhorting Eugene and Beulah so
to pass the season of probation that they might be reunited beyond
the grave. In life she had humbly exemplified the teachings of our
Saviour, and her death was a triumphant attestation of the joy and
hope which only the Christian religion can afford in the final hour.
To Beulah this blow was peculiarly severe, and never had the sense
of her orphanage been more painfully acute than when she returned
from the funeral to her lonely home. But to sorrow her nature was
inured; she had learned to bear grief, and only her mourning dress
and subdued manner told how deeply she felt this trial. Now she took
Cornelia in her arms and kissed her fondly, while the child returned
her caresses with a warmth which proved how sincerely she loved her.
"May I have some flowers, auntie?" cried she, patting Beulah's pale
cheek with her plump, dimpled hands.
"Yes; just as many as you can carry home. Go gather some."
She sprang off, and the two sat watching the flutter of her white
dress among the flower-beds. She piled her little apron as full as
possible, and came back panting and delighted. Beulah looked down at
the beautiful beaming face, and, twining one of the silky curls over
her finger, said musingly:
"Eugene, she always reminds me of Lilly. Do you see the
"Not in her features; in size and gay heedlessness of manner she is
like Lilly as I saw her last."
"Yes; Lilly's eyes were blue, and your child's are dark, like your
own; but she never comes up and puts her arms round my neck without
recalling bygone years. I could shut my eyes and fancy my lost
darling was once more mine. Ah! how carefully memory gathers up the
golden links of childhood and weaves the chain that binds our hearts
to the olden time! Sometimes I think I am only dreaming, and shall
wake to a happy reality. If I could have Lilly back, oh, what a
sunshine it would shed over my heart and life! But this may not be;
and I can only love Cornelia instead."
Her long, black lashes were weighed down with unshed tears, and
there was a touching sadness in her low voice. Cornelia stood by her
side, busily engaged in dressing Beulah's hair with some of the
roses and scarlet geranium she had gathered. She noticed the unusual
melancholy written in the quiet face, and said impatiently:
"With all my flowers you won't look gay! It must be this black
dress. Don't wear such ugly, dark things; I wish you wouldn't. I
want to see you look beautiful, like mother."
"Cornelia, go and break that cluster of yellow berries yonder," said
her father; and when she had left them he turned to his companion
"Beulah, have you reflected on what I said the last time I saw you?"
"With what result?"
"My former decision is only confirmed the more I ponder the
"You have seen nothing of Reginald, then? He was here, on some legal
business, last week."
"No; he has been in the city several times during the last four
years, but never comes here; and, except that one letter, which I
did not answer, I have heard nothing from him. I doubt whether we
ever meet again."
"You are a strange woman! Such devotion as his would have won any
other being. He is as much attached to you now as the day he first
offered you his hand. Upon my word, your obstinacy provokes me. He
is the noblest man I ever knew--everything that I should suppose a
woman of your nature would admire; and yet, year after year, you
remain apparently as indifferent as ever."
"And it were a miserable return for such unmerited love to marry him
merely from gratitude. I do admire him, but cannot marry him. I told
him so four years ago."
"But why did you not at least answer his letter?"
"Because his acceptance was made the condition of an answer; a
negative one was not expected, and I had no other to give."
"Pardon me, Beulah; but why do you not love him?"
"A strange question truly. My heart is not the tool of my will."
"Beulah, do you intend to spend your life solitary and joyless, cut
off, as you are here, from society, and dependent on books and music
for sympathy? Why will you not marry Reginald and make his home
"Eugene, I have told you before that I could not accept him, and
told you why. Let the subject drop; it is an unpleasant one to me. I
am happier here than I could possibly be anywhere else. Think you I
would marry merely for an elegant home and an intellectual
companion? Never! I will live and die here in this little cottage
rather than quit it with such motives. You are mistaken in supposing
that Mr. Lindsay is still attached to me. It has been nearly two
years since he wrote that letter, and from Georgia I hear that the
world believes he is soon to marry a lady residing somewhere near
him. I think it more than probable the report is true, and hope most
sincerely it may be so. Now, Eugene, don't mention the subject
again, will you?"
"It is generally believed that he will be elected to Congress; next
month will decide it. The chances are all in his favor," persisted
"Yes; so I judged from the papers," said she coolly, and then added:
"And one day I hope to see you, or rather hear of you, in Washington
by his side. I believe I shall be gratified; and oh, Eugene, what a
proud moment it will be to me! How I shall rejoice in your merited
Her face kindled as she spoke; but the shadows deepened in his
countenance, as he answered moodily:
"Perhaps I may; but fame and position cannot lighten a loaded heart
or kindle the sacred flame of love in a dreary home. When a man
blindly wrecks his happiness on the threshold of life by a fatal
marriage, no after exertion can atone or rectify the one mistake."
"Hush! she will hear you," said Beulah, pointing to the little girl,
who was slowly approaching them.
A bitter smile parted his lips.
"She is my all; yet precious as she is to my sad heart, I would
gladly lay her in her grave to-morrow sooner than see her live to
marry an uncongenial spirit, or know that her radiant face was
clouded with sorrow, like mine. God grant that her father's wretched
lot may warn her of the quicksands which nearly ingulfed him." He
took the child in his arms, as if to shield her from some impending
danger, and said hurriedly:
"Are you ready to go home?"
"Is it so very late?"
"It is time we were going back, I think."
Beulah tied on the hat and cape, which had been thrown aside, and
saw them ride away.
There, in the golden twilight, she mused on the changes time bore on
its swift chariot. The gorgeous dreamings of her girlhood had faded
like the summer clouds above her to the somber hue of reality. From
the hour when her father (a poor artist, toiling over canvas to feed
his children) had, in dying accents, committed the two to God's
care, she only remembered sorrow up to the time that Dr. Hartwell
took her to his home. Her life there was the one bright oasis in her
desert past. Then she left it a woman, and began the long struggle
with poverty and trials over again. In addition, skepticism threw
its icy shadow over her. She had toiled in the cavernous mines of
metaphysics hopelessly; and finally, returning to the holy religion
of Jesus Christ, her weary spirit found rest. Ah, that rest which
only the exhausted wanderer through the burning wastes of
speculation can truly comprehend and appreciate. She had been
ambitious, and labored to obtain distinction as a writer; and this,
under various fictitious signatures, was hers. She still studied and
wrote, but with another aim, now, than mere desire of literary fame;
wrote to warn others of the snares in which she had so long been
entangled, and to point young seekers after truth to the only sure
fountain. She was very lonely, but not unhappy. Georgia and Helen
were both happily married, and she saw them very rarely; but their
parents were still her counselors and friends. At Mrs. Williams'
death they had urged her to remove to their house; but she preferred
remaining at the little cottage, at least until the expiration of
the year. She still kept her place in the schoolroom; not now as
assistant, but as principal in that department; and the increased
salary rendered rigid economy and music lessons no longer necessary.
Her intense love of beauty, whether found in nature or art, was a
constant source of pleasure; books, music, painting, flowers, all
contributed largely to her happiness. The grim puzzles of philosophy
no longer perplexed her mind; sometimes they thrust themselves
before her, threatening as the sphinx of old; but she knew that here
they were insolvable; that at least her reason was no Oedipus, and a
genuine philosophy induced her to put them aside, and, anchoring
her hopes of God and eternity in the religion of Christ, she drew
from the beautiful world in which she lived much pure enjoyment.
Once she had worshiped the universe; now she looked beyond the
wonderful temple whose architecture, from its lowest foundations of
rock to its starry dome of sky, proclaimed the God of revelation;
and, loving its beauty and grandeur, felt that it was but a home for
a season, where the soul could be fitted for yet more perfect
dwelling-places. Her face reflected the change which a calm reliance
on God had wrought in her feelings. The restless, anxious expression
had given place to quiet. The eyes had lost their strained, troubled
look; the brow was unruffled, the face serene. Serene, reader, but
not happy and sparkling as it might have been. All the shadows "were
not yet banished from her heart; there was one spectral form which
thrust itself continually before her and kept her cheek pale and
rendered her lip at times unsteady. She had struggled bravely
against this one remaining sorrow; but, as time rolled on, its power
and influence only increased. Even now, in this quiet hour, when a
holy hush had fallen on all nature, and twilight wrapped its soft,
purple veil around her, this haunting memory came to stir the depths
of her heart. Charon walked slowly up the steps, and, lying down at
her feet, nestled his head against her. Then fancy painted a dreary
"Seemed all dark and red--a tract of sand,
And someone pacing there alone,
Who paced forever in a glimmering land,
Lit with a low, large moon."
It was the thought of a lonely man, wandering without aim or goal in
far-distant deserts; away from home and friends; joyless, hopeless.
One who was dearer to her than all on earth beside; who had left her
in anger, and upon whose loved face she might look no more. For
three years no tidings had come of his wanderings; none knew his
fate; and, perhaps, even then his proud head lay low beneath the
palms of the Orient, or was pillowed on the coral crags of distant
seas. This thought was one she was unable to endure; her features
quivered, her hands grasped each other in a paroxysm of dread
apprehension, and, while a deep groan burst from her lips, she bowed
her face on. the head of his last charge, his parting gift. The
consciousness of his unbelief tortured her. Even in eternity they
might meet no more; and this fear cost her hours of agony, such as
no other trial had ever inflicted. From the moment of her return to
the Bible and to prayer this struggle began, and for three years she
had knelt, morning and evening, and entreated Almighty God to shield
and guide the wanderer; to scatter the mists of unbelief which
shrouded his mind. Constantly her prayers went up, mingled with
tears and sobs, and, as weary months wore on, the petitions grew
more impassioned. Her anxiety increased daily, and finally it became
the one intense, absorbing wish of her heart to see her guardian
again. His gloom, his bitterness were all forgotten; she only
remembered his unceasing care and kindness, his noble generosity,
his brilliant smile, which was bestowed only on her. Pressing her
face against Charon's head, she murmured pleadingly:
"Oh, Father, protect him from suffering and death! Guide him safely
home. Give me my guardian back. Oh, Father, give me my wandering
friend once more!"
"Fold that coat for me, my dear; there, give it to me; I believe
there is room in this trunk for it."
Mrs. Asbury took one of her husband's coats from Beulah's hand and
carefully packed it away.
"How long will you be absent, do you suppose?"
"Probably not longer than a month. The doctor thinks a few days at
Saratoga will invigorate him. If you had consented to go, we had
intended spending a week at Niagara. I am sorry you will not go,
Beulah; you would enjoy the trip, and, moreover, the change would
benefit you. Why do you so pertinaciously reject that legacy of
Cornelia's? The money has been in my husband's hands for some years
untouched, and Mr. Graham said, not long since, that you might just
as well accept it, for he would never receive a cent of it in
return. The original sum has been considerably augmented by
judicious investments, and would place you above the necessity of
labor, if you would accept it. Your refusal wounds Mr. Graham; he
told me so last week. It was Cornelia's particular request that you
should have that amount, and he is anxious to see you in possession
of it. I told him of your suggestion that he should add this legacy
to the sum already given to the asylum; but he vowed solemnly he
would have nothing to do with it. If you chose to give it to the
asylum, you could do so, of course; the money was yours. He never
would touch a cent of it. Beulah, if you will not think me
officious, I will say, candidly, that I think you ought to accept
it. That is, use it, for the legacy has been left, whether you
employ it or not."
Beulah looked grave and troubled, but made no reply.
Mrs. Asbury finished packing the trunk, locked it, and, turning
toward the door, said:
"I am going upstairs to see about the furniture in that room which
Georgia calls the 'Pitti Gallery.' Come with me, my dear."
She led the way, and Beulah followed, until they reached a large
apartment in the third story, the door of which Mrs. Asbury
unlocked. As they entered Beulah started on seeing the statuary and
paintings with which she was so familiar in former years; and in one
corner of the room stood the melodeon, carefully covered. A quantity
of tissue paper lay on the floor, and Mrs. Asbury began to cover the
paintings by pinning the sheets together. Beulah took off her gloves
and assisted; there was silence for some time; but, on lifting a
piece of drapery, Mrs. Asbury exposed the face of a portrait which
Beulah recognized, from the peculiarity of the frame, as the one
that had hung over the mantel in her guardian's study. Paper and
pins fell from her fingers, and, drawing a deep breath, she gazed
upon the face she had so long desired to see. She traced a slight
resemblance to Antoinette in the faultless features; the countenance
was surpassingly beautiful. It was a young, girlish face, sparkling
with joyousness, bewitching in its wonderful loveliness. The
eloquent eyes were strangely, almost wildly, brilliant, the full
crimson lips possessed that rare outline one sees in old pictures,
and the cheek, tinted like a sea-shell, rested on one delicate,
dimpled hand. Beulah looked, and grew dizzy. This was his wife; this
the portrait he had kept shrouded so long and so carefully. How he
must have worshiped that radiant young bride!
Mrs. Asbury noticed her emotion, and asked, with some surprise:
"Did you never see this before?"
"No; it was always covered, and hung too high for me to lift the
crape." Beulah's eyes were riveted on the canvas. Mrs. Asbury
watched her a moment, and said:
"It is an undetermined question in my mind whether beauty, such as
this, is not a curse. In this instance assuredly it proved so, for
it wrecked the happiness of both husband and wife. My dear child, do
you know your guardian's history?"
"I know nothing of him, save that he is my best friend."
"When I first saw Guy Hartwell he was one of the noblest men I ever
met, commanding universal admiration and esteem. It was before his
marriage. He was remarkably handsome, as you can readily imagine he
must have been, and his manners possessed a singular fascination for
all who came within the circle of his acquaintance. Even now, after
the lapse of ten years, I remember his musical, ringing laugh; a
laugh I have never heard since. His family were aristocratic and
wealthy, and Guy was his mother's idol. She was a haughty, imperious
woman, and her 'boy,' as she fondly termed him, was her pride. His
only sister (Mrs. Chilton, or, rather, Mrs. Lockhart) was his
senior, and he had a younger brother, Harry, who was extremely wild;
ran away from home and spent most of his time at sea. Guy was
naturally of a happy, genial temperament; fond of study; fond of
art, flowers, poetry, everything that was noble and beautiful, that
could minister to highly cultivated tastes. Mr. Chilton was
unfortunate in his speculations; lost his fortune, and died soon
after Pauline's birth, leaving his wife and child dependent on her
mother and brother. May and the old lady often disagreed, and only
Guy could harmonize their discords. During a visit to New Orleans he
accidentally met the original of this portrait; her family were
almost destitute, but he aided them very liberally. She was very
beautiful, and, in an unlucky hour, he determined to marry her. She
was a mere child, and he placed her for a while at a school, where
she enjoyed every educational advantage. He was completely
fascinated; seemed to think only of Creola, and hastened the
marriage. His mother and sister bitterly opposed the match,
ridiculed his humble and portionless bride; but he persisted, and
brought her here, a beautiful, heedless girl. Guy built that house,
and his mother and sister occupied one near him, which was burnt
before you knew anything about them. Of course his wife went
constantly into society, and, before six months elapsed, poor Guy
discovered that he had made a fatal mistake. She did not love him;
had married him merely for the sake of an elegant home, and money to
lavish as her childish whims dictated. Ah, Beulah! it makes my heart
ache to think of the change this discovery wrought in Guy's nature.
He was a proud man, naturally; but now he became repulsive, cold,
and austere. The revolution in his deportment and appearance was
almost incredible. His wife was recklessly imprudent, and launched
into the wildest excesses which society sanctioned. When he
endeavored to restrain her, she rebelled, and, without his
knowledge, carried on a flirtation with one whom she had known
previous to her marriage. I believe she was innocent in her folly,
and merely thoughtlessly fed her vanity with the adulation excited
by her beauty. Poor child! she might have learned discretion, but,
unfortunately, Mrs. Chilton had always detested her, and now,
watching her movements, she discovered Creola's clandestine meetings
with the gentleman whom her husband had forbidden her to recognize
as an acquaintance. Instead of exerting herself to rectify the
difficulties in her brother's home, she apparently exulted in the
possession of facts which allowed her to taunt him with his wife's
imprudence and indifference. He denied the truth of her assertions;
she dared him to watch her conduct, and obtained a note which
enabled him to return home one day at an unusually early hour and
meet the man he had denounced in his own parlor. Guy ordered him out
of the house, and, without addressing his wife, rode back to see his
patients; but that night he learned from her that before he ever met
her an engagement existed between herself and the man he so
detested. He was poor, and her mother had persuaded her to marry Guy
for his fortune. She seemed to grow frantic, cursed the hour of her
marriage, professed sincere attachment to the other, and, I firmly
believe, became insane from that moment. Then and there they parted.
Creola returned to her mother, but died suddenly a few weeks after
leaving her husband. They had been married but a year. I have always
thought her mind diseased, and it was rumored that her mother died
insane. Doubtless Guy's terrible rage drove her to desperation;
though he certainly had cause to upbraid. I have often feared that
he would meet the object of his hatred, and once, and only once
afterward, that man came to the city. Why, I never knew; but my
husband told me that he saw him at a concert here some years ago.
Poor Guy! how he suffered; yet how silently he bore it; how
completely he sheathed his heart of fire in icy vestments. He never
alluded to the affair in the remotest manner; never saw her after
that night. He was sitting in our library, waiting to see my
husband, when he happened to open the letter announcing her death. I
was the only person present, and noticed that a change passed over
his countenance; I spoke to him, but he did not reply; I touched
him, but he took no notice whatever, and sat for at least an hour
without moving a muscle or uttering a word. Finally George came and
spoke to him appealingly. He looked up and smiled. Oh, what a smile!
May I never see such another; it will haunt me while I live! Without
a word he folded the letter, replaced it in the envelope, and left
us. Soon after his mother died, and he went immediately to Europe.
He was absent two years, and came back so stern, so cynical, so
unlike his former self, I scarcely knew him. Mrs. Chilton took
charge of his house from the hour of his separation from Creola; but
they were not congenial. He was vastly her superior, save in
intellect, which none of the Hartwell family ever lacked. My husband
is very much attached to Guy; thinks he has not an equal, yet mourns
over the blight which fell upon him in the very morn of his glorious
manhood. About a year after his return from Europe he took you to
his house as an adopted child. I wondered at it, for I knew how
imbittered his whole soul had become. But the heart must have an
idol; he was desolate and miserable, and took you home to have
something to love and interest him. You never knew him in the prime
of his being, for, though comparatively young in years, he had grown
prematurely old in feeling before you saw him. Poor Guy! may a
merciful and loving God preserve him wherever he may be, and bring
him to a knowledge of that religion which alone can comfort a nature
like his--so noble, so gifted, yet so injured, so imbittered."
She brushed away the tears that stood on her cheeks, and looked
sorrowfully at the portrait of the unfortunate young wife.
Beulah sat with her face partially averted, and her eyes shaded with
her hand; once or twice her lips moved, and a shiver ran over her.
She looked up, and said abruptly:
"Leave the key of this room with me, will you? I should like to come
"Certainly; come as often as you choose; and here on this bunch is
the key of the melodeon. Take it also; the instrument needs dusting,
I dare say, for it has never been opened since Guy left, nearly five
years ago. There, the clock struck two, and the boat leaves at four;
there, too, is my husband's step. Come, my dear; we must go down.
Take these keys until I return."
She gave them to her, and they descended to the dining room, where
the doctor awaited them.
"Beulah, what are you going to do with yourself next year? You must
not think of living in that cottage alone. Since Mrs. Williams'
death you should abandon the thought of keeping house. It will not
do, child, for you to live there by yourself." So said the doctor a
short time before he bade her adieu.
"I don't know yet what I shall do. I am puzzled about a home."
"You need not be. Come and live in my house, as I begged you to do
long ago. Alice and I will be heartily glad to have you. Child, why
should you hesitate?"
"I prefer a home of my own, if circumstances permitted it. You and
Mrs. Asbury have been very kind in tendering me a home in your
house, and I do most sincerely thank you both for your friendly
interest; but I--"
"Oh, Beulah, I should be so very glad to have you always with me! My
dear child, come."
Mrs. Asbury passed her arm affectionately around the girl's waist.
Beulah looked at her with trembling lips, and said hastily:
"Will you take me as a boarder?"
"I would rather take you as a friend--as a daughter."
"Not a bit of it, Alice. She shall pay the highest possible board.
Don't imagine, Miss Independence, that I expected for a moment to
offer you a home gratis. Pay board? That you shall; always in
advance, and candles, and fires, and the use of my library, and the
benefit of my explanations and conversation charged as 'extras,'"
cried the doctor, shaking his fist at her.
"Then, sir, I engage rooms."
"Will you really come, my child?" asked Mrs. Asbury, kissing the
orphan's pale cheek tenderly.
"Gladly, as a boarder, and very grateful for such a privilege."
"Beulah, on reflection, I think I can possibly take Charon for half-
price; though I must confess to numerous qualms of conscience at the
bare suggestion of receiving such an 'infernal' character into my
"Thank you," said she, and saw them depart for Saratoga, whither
Georgia and Helen had preceded them. Several weeks elapsed without
her receiving any tidings, and then a letter came giving her
information of a severe illness which had attacked the doctor,
immediately after his arrival in New York. He was convalescing
rapidly when his wife wrote, and, in proof thereof, subjoined a
postscript, in his scrawling hand and wonted bantering style. Beulah
laughed over it, refolded the letter, and went into her little
garden to gather a bouquet for one of her pupils who had recently
been quite sick. She wore a white muslin apron over her black dress,
and soon filled it with verbena, roses, and geranium sprigs. Sitting
down on the steps, she began to arrange them, and soon became
absorbed in her occupation. Presently a shadow fell on the step; she
glanced up, and the flowers dropped from her fingers, while an
exclamation of surprise escaped her.
Mr. Lindsay held out his hand.
"After four years of absence, of separation, have you no word of
She gave him both hands, and said eagerly:
"Oh, yes; I am very glad to see you again; very glad that I have an
opportunity of congratulating you on your signal success. I am
heartily glad my friend is soon to enter Congressional halls. Accept
my most sincere congratulations on your election."
A sudden flush rose to his temples, and, clasping her hands tightly,
he exclaimed passionately:
"Oh, Beulah, your congratulations mock me. I come to offer you, once
more, my hand, my heart, my honors, if I have any. I have waited
patiently; no, not patiently, but still I have waited, for some
token of remembrance from you, and could bear my suspense no longer.
Will you share the position which has been accorded me recently?
Will you give me this hand which I desire more intensely than the
united honors of the universe beside? Beulah, has my devoted love
won me your affection? Will you go with me to Washington?"
"I cannot; I cannot!"
"Cannot? Oh, Beulah, I would make you a happy wife, if it cost me my
"No. I could not be happy as your wife. It is utterly impossible.
Mr. Lindsay, I told you long ago you could never be more than a
"And have years wrought no change in your heart?"
"Years have strengthened my esteem, my sincere friendship; but more
than this all time cannot accomplish."
"Your heart is tenacious of its idol," he answered moodily.
"It rebels, sir, now, as formerly, at the thought of linking my
destiny with that of one whom I never loved." Beulah spoke rapidly,
her cheeks burned and her eyes sparkled with displeasure.
He looked at her and sighed deeply; then threw down a letter,
"Ah, Beulah, I understood long ago why you could not love me; but I
hoped years of absence would obliterate the memory that prevented my
winning you. I made unusual exertions to discover some trace of your
wandering guardian; have written constantly to my former banker in
Paris, to find some clew to his whereabouts. Through him I learn
that your friend was last heard of at Canton, and the supposition is
that he is no longer living. I do not wish to pain you, Beulah; but
I would fain show you how frail a hope you cling to. Believe me,
dear Beulah, I am not so selfish as to rejoice at his prolonged
absence. No, no. Love such as mine prizes the happiness of its
object above all other things. Were it in my power I would restore
him to you this moment. I had hoped you would learn to love me; but
I erred in judging your nature. Henceforth I will cast off this
hope, and school myself to regard you as my friend only. I have, at
least, deserved your friendship."
"And it is inalienably yours!" cried she very earnestly.
"In future, when toiling to discharge my duties, I may believe I
have one sincere friend, who will rejoice at my success?"
"Of this you may well rest assured. It seems a poor return, Mr.
Lindsay, for all you have tendered me; but it is the most I can
give, the most an honest heart will allow me to offer. Truly, you
may always claim my friendship and esteem, if it has any worth."
"I prize it far more than your hand unaccompanied by your heart.
Henceforth we will speak of the past no more; only let me be the
friend an orphan may require. You are to live in my uncle's house, I
believe; I am very glad you have decided to do so; this is not a
proper home for you now. How do you contrive to exorcise
"I do not always succeed very well. My flowers are a great resource;
I don't know how I should live without them. My books, too, serve to
occupy my attention." She was making a great effort to seem
cheerful, but he saw that her smile was forced; and, with an
assurance that he would see her again before he went to Washington,
he shook hands cordially, and left her. She tied her bouquet, and
dispatched it to the sick child, with a few lines of kind
remembrance; then took the letter which Mr. Lindsay had thrown on
the steps, and opened it with trembling fingers.
"MR. R. LINDSAY
"Dear Sir: Yours of the 3d came to hand yesterday. As I wrote you
before, I accidentally learned that Dr. Hartwell had been in Canton;
but since that have heard nothing from him, and have been unable to
trace him further. Letters from Calcutta state that he left that
city, more than a year since, for China. Should I obtain any news of
him, rest assured it shall be immediately transmitted to you.
"R. A. FIELDS."
She crumpled the sheet, and threw it from her; and if ever earnest,
heartspoken prayer availed, her sobbing cry to the God of travelers
insured his safety.
One day there came a letter postmarked from an inland town where
Beulah had no correspondent. The direction, however, was instantly
recognized, and she broke the seal hurriedly.
"What has become of you, Beulah? and what can have become of my two
letters which were never answered? Concluding you never received
them, I hazard a third attempt to reach you through the medium of
letters. You will readily perceive that we have removed to a distant
section of the State. Ernest was called to take charge of this
parish, and we are delightfully located here, within a few minutes'
walk of the church. Beulah, the storm which darkened over me, in the
first year of my marriage, has swept by, and it is all sunshine,
glorious sunshine, with me. You know my home was very unhappy for a
time. My husband's family caused misunderstandings between us,
influenced him against me, and made me very, very wretched. I could
not tolerate Lucy's presence with any degree of patience, yet she
would remain in our house. How it would have ended only Heaven
knows, had not my husband been suddenly taken very ill.
"It was on Sabbath morning. He was displeased with me because of
some of my disputes with his sister, and scarcely spoke to me before
he went into the pulpit. Lucy and I sat together in the rector's
pew, hating each other cordially; and when Ernest began the morning
service I noticed he looked pale and weary. Before it was concluded
he sank back exhausted, and was borne into the vestry room, covered
with blood. He had a severe hemorrhage from the throat, his
physician said, but Ernest thinks it was from his lungs. I was sure
he would die; and oh, Beulah, what agony I endured, as I sat beside
him and watched his ghastly face! But his illness was 'the blessing
in disguise'; he forgot all our disgraceful bickerings, and was
never satisfied unless I was with him. Lucy grumbled, and sneered,
and looked sour; but I had my husband's heart again, and determined
to keep it. As soon as he was strong enough I told him how wretched
I had been and how sincerely I desired to make him happy, if Lucy
would only not interfere. He saw that our domestic peace was
dependent upon the change, and from that hour his sister ceased
meddling with my affairs. What he said to her I never knew; but soon
after his recovery she returned to her parents, and I was left in
"I began in sober earnest to be all my husband wished me; read the
books he liked (though it was a terrible bore at first); read to
him; took part in all the societies connected with his church, and,
in short, became quite a demure pastor's wife. Occasionally my old
fondness for fun would break out, to the horror of some of his
antediluvian flock; but Ernest was very good, and bore patiently
with me, and now I am as prim and precise as any old maid of sixty.
At home I do as I like; that is, when Ernest likes it too. I sing,
and play, and romp with the dogs and kittens; but the moment the
door bell rings, lo! a demure matron receives her guests! Ernest's
health is quite restored, and I am as happy as the day is long. You
should see me working in my garden, and sometimes churning before
breakfast, to give Ernest a fresh glass of buttermilk. I would not
change places with an empress, I am so happy. My husband loves me
better than everything else beside, and what more could I desire?
"Do come and see me; we would be so delighted to have you spend some
time in our home. I am such a genuine rustic you would scarcely
recognize me. Just fancy me with an apron on, my sleeves rolled up,
churning as fast as the dasher can fly and singing at the top of my
voice. Mother was perfectly shocked, when she first came to live
with me, and vowed I should not make a 'drudge' of myself. Drudge,
indeed! because I chose to do something with my own hands for my
husband! I told her I would 'drudge,' as she called it, just as long
as Ernest loved such things as I could prepare for him myself; and I
read her those famous remarks of Lady Mary Montagu, in which all
domestic pursuits, even cooking, are dignified as a labor of love;
whereupon Ernest gave me a kiss, and mother declined any further
argumentation on the subject.
"How some of my fashionable city friends would elevate their
fastidious noses at seeing me, with my check aprons, picking
strawberries or arranging curds for tea! Come and see me; do,
Beulah; I am the very happiest woman extant; that is, I would be, if
I could only know something of Uncle Guy. It is almost five years
since he left home, and for a long, long time we have heard nothing
from him. This is the only sorrow I have. Sometimes I fear he must
have died in some distant land, yet will not believe it. I want to
see him very much; my heart aches when I think about him. Dear Uncle
Guy! next to my husband, I believe I love him best. Can't you tell
me something of him? or do you know as little as his relatives?
Ernest says he will walk into our house some day without any
intimation of his coming. Oh, I hope so! I endeavor to believe so!
Do write to me. I often think of you, in your loneliness, and wish
you were as happy as your friend,
Beulah laid the letter beside one received the previous day from
Clara, and mused for some moments. They were both happily married,
and she sincerely rejoiced over their fortunate lots; but Clara had
onced loved her guardian; how could she possibly forget him so
entirely? Was love a mere whim of the hour, fostered by fortuitously
favorable circumstances, but chilled and vanquished by absence or
obstacles? Could the heart demolish the idol it had once enshrined,
and set up another image for worship? Was Time the conquering
iconoclast? Why, then, did she suffer more acutely as each year
rolled on? She had little leisure, however, for these reflections;
the Asburys had returned, and the cottage had been rented by a
family who were anxious to take possession immediately. Such
articles of furniture as were no longer needed had been sent to an
auction room, and she sat down in the empty dining room to see the
last load removed. To-day she bade adieu to the cottage, and
commenced boarding once more. Her heart was heavy, but her eyes were
undimmed, and her grave, composed face betokened little of the
sorrow which oppressed her. Here she had spent five years in
peaceful seclusion; here she had toiled and earned reputation as a
writer; and here many hours of happiness had been passed among her
flowers. The place was very dear to her; it was the only spot on the
face of the wide world she had ever felt was her home. Home! if it
consists of but a sanded floor and unplastered walls, what a halo is
shed upon its humble hearth! A palatial mansion, or sequestered
cottage among wild forests, were alike sanctified by the name. Home!
the heart's home! who shall compute its value? But Beulah must
relinquish her retreat, and find refuge in the home of others. Would
this content her? Was she to be always homeless? True, she was to
reside with loved and tried friends, yet she would be a homeless
orphan still, without claims upon one living being. The grave had
closed over the kind matron who had so warmly loved her, and she was
without ties in the world. These thoughts passed through her mind as
she saw the last chair deposited on a furniture cart and borne away.
Charon looked up at her mournfully, as if to ask:
"Are we homeless? Where shall we wander?" She stroked his head, and
went into the flower garden to gather a last bouquet from plants she
had so carefully tended. An early frost had nipped the buds, but the
chrysanthemums were in all their glory--crimson, white, and orange.
She broke some of the beautiful clusters, and, with a long,
lingering look, turned away. The black mourning veil was thrown back
from a pale, calm face: and as she walked on, reflecting upon the
future, which stretched dimly before her, she exclaimed:
"Why should I wish it otherwise? The arms of a merciful God will
shield me, under all circumstances. My life was not given for a mere
holiday. So I but do my duty faithfully, all will be well. Ah,
truly, I can say:"
"'Let me, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor, and to wait!'"
"Yes, learn to labor and to wait. The heart cries out fiercely for
its recompense; is loath to wait. But I can conquer even this. I
will be patient and hopeful. Duty is its own recompense."
Mrs. Asbury spared no exertion to make the orphan happy in her
house. She treated her with the gentle frankness which characterized
her deportment toward her daughters; and to identify her with her
own family, often requested her to assist in her household plans.
She thoroughly understood and appreciated Beulah's nature, and
perfect confidence existed between them. It was no sooner known that
Beulah was an inmate of the house than many persons, curious to see
one of whom rumor spoke so flatteringly, availed themselves of the
circumstance to make her acquaintance. Almost unconsciously, she
soon found herself the center of a circle of literary people whom
she had often heard of, but had never known previously. Gradually
her reserve melted away, and her fine colloquial powers developed
themselves; but she wearied of the visitors--wearied even of the
themes discussed, and, having passed her life in seclusion, found in
solitude a degree of enjoyment which society could not confer. Helen
had married a planter, and resided at some distance from the city,
but Georgia and her husband remained at home. Thus, imperceptibly,
time wore on. Eugene often came and spent an hour with Beulah; and,
still more frequently, Cornelia was sent to while away an evening
with her merry prattle. Very steadily Eugene advanced in his
profession; the applause of the world cheered him on, and an
enviable reputation was his at last. Grasping ambition lured him,
step by step; and it was evident that he aimed at a seat beside
Reginald Lindsay. Rejoiced at his entire reformation, and proud of
his success, Beulah constantly encouraged his aspirations.
Antoinette was as gay and indifferent as ever, and Eugene divided
his heart between his child and his ambition.
By a system of rigid economy in the disposal of her time, Beulah not
only attended to her school duties, her music, and her books, but
found leisure, after writing her magazine articles, to spend some
time each day with the family under whose roof she resided. Dr.
Asbury's health was rather feeble, and of late his eyes had grown so
dim as to prevent his reading or writing. This misfortune was to a
great extent counterbalanced by his wife's devoted attention, and
often Beulah shared the duties of the library. One bright Sunday
afternoon she walked out to the cemetery, which she visited
frequently. In one corner of a small lot, inclosed by a costly iron
railing, stood a beautiful marble monument, erected by Mr. Grayson
over Lilly's grave. It represented two angels bearing the child up
to its God. Just opposite, in the next lot, was a splendid mausoleum
of the finest white marble, bearing in gilt letters the name
"Cornelia Graham, aged twenty-three." It was in the form of a
temple, with slender fluted columns supporting the portico; and on
the ornate capitals was inscribed in corresponding gilt characters,
"Silentio! silentio!" At the entrance stood two winged forms,
crowned with wreaths of poppies; and a pair of beautiful vases held
withered flowers. Beulah sat on the marble steps. Before her
stretched aisles of tombstones; the sunshine sparkled on their
polished surfaces, and was reflected as from countless mirrors.
Myrtle and laurel trees waved gently in the icy north wind, and
stately, solemn cedars kept guard in every inclosure. All was silent
and still, save those funereal evergreen boughs which stirred softly
as if fearful of disturbing the pale sleepers around them. Human
nature shrinks appalled from death and all that accompanies it; but
in the deep repose, the sacred hush, which reigned over the silent
city, there was for Beulah something inexpressibly soothing. In a
neighboring lot she could see a simple white slab Eugene had erected
over the remains of the friend of their childhood. Her labors ended,
the matron slept near the forms of Lilly and Cornelia. Here winter
rains fell unheeded, and here the balmy breath of summer brought
bright blossoms and luxuriant verdure. Mocking-birds sang cheerfully
in the sentinel cedars, and friends wandered slowly over the shelled
walks, recalling the past. Here there was no gloom to affright the
timid soul; all was serene and inviting. Why should the living
shrink from a resting-place so hallowed and peaceful? And why should
death be invested with fictitious horrors? A procession entered one
of the gates, and wound along the carriage road to a remote corner
of the burying-ground. The slow, measured tread of the horses, the
crush of wheels on the rocky track, and the smothered sobs of the
mourners, all came in subdued tones to Beulah's ears. Then the train
disappeared, and she was again in solitude. Looking up, her eyes
rested on the words above her: "Silentio! silentio!" They were
appropriate, indeed, upon the monument of her who had gone down into
the tomb so hopelessly, so shudderingly. Years had passed since the
only child had been laid here; yet the hour of release was as fresh
in Beulah's memory as though she had seen the convulsed features but
yesterday; and the words repeated that night seemed now to issue
from the marble lips of the statues beside her: "For here we have no
continuing city, but seek one to come." With her cheek on her hand,
the orphan sat pondering the awful mystery which darkened the last
hour of the young sleeper; and, looking back over her own life,
during the season when she "was without God and without hope," she
saw that only unbelief had clothed death with terror. Once she stood
on this same spot, and with trembling horror saw the coffin lowered.
Had death touched her then, she would have shrunk appalled from the
summons; but now it was otherwise.
"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and
whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."
She believed; and, while a beautiful world linked her to life, and
duty called to constant and cheerful labor, death lost its hideous
aspect. With a firm faith in the Gospel of Christ, she felt that
earth with all its loveliness was but a probationary dwelling-place;
and that death was an angel of God, summoning the laborers to their
harvest home. She had often asked what is the aim and end of life?
One set of philosophers told her it was to be happy. Another
exclaimed it was to learn to endure with fortitude all ills. But
neither satisfied her; one promised too much, the other too little,
and only in revelation was an answer found. Yet how few pause to
ponder its significance! With the majority, life is the all: the
springtime, the holiday; and death the hated close of enjoyment.
They forget that
"Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act that each to-morrow
Find us further than to-day."
The path of Christianity is neither all sunshine nor all shadow,
checkered certainly, but leading to a final abode of unimaginable
bliss; and, with the Bible to guide her, the orphan walked
fearlessly on, discharging her duties, and looking unto God and his
Christ to aid her. She sat on the steps of the sepulcher, watching
the last rays of the setting sun gild the monumental shafts that
pointed to heaven. Her grave face might have told the scrutinizing
observer of years of grief and struggle; but it also betokened an
earnest soul calmly trusting the wisdom and mercy of the All-Father.
She sighed as she thought of the gifted but unhappy woman who slept
near her, and, rising, walked on to Lilly's tomb. Ten years had
rolled their waves over her since that little form was placed here.
She looked down at the simple epitaph: "He taketh his young lambs
home." The cherub face seemed to beam upon her once more, and the
sweet, birdlike tones of her childish voice still lingered in the
secret cells of memory. She extended her arms, as if to clasp the
form borne up by the angels, and said tremulously:
"Lilly, my sister, my white-robed darling, but a little while and we
shall meet where orphanage is unknown! 'He doeth all things well!'
Ah, little sleeper, I can wait patiently for our reunion."
As she turned her steps homeward a shadowy smile stole over her
features, and the lines about her mouth resumed their wonted
"Beulah, father has been asking for you," said Georgia, who met her
on the staircase.
"I will go down to him immediately," was the cheerful answer, and,
putting away her bonnet and shawl, she went at once to the library.
The doctor was leaning very far back in his favorite chair, and she
saw at a glance he had fallen asleep.
Mrs. Asbury sat at a table, weighing out some medicine he had
directed sent to a patient. She looked up as Beulah entered, smiled,
and said in an undertone:
"My liege lord is indulging in a nap. Come to the fire, dear; you
She left the room with the medicine, and Beulah stood before the
bright wood fire and watched the ruddy light flashing grotesquely
over the pictures on the wall. The gas had not yet been lighted; she
crossed the room, and sat down before the window. A red glow still
lingered in the west, and, one by one, the stars came swiftly out.
She took up a book she had been reading that morning; but it was too
dim to see the letters, and she contented herself with looking out
at the stars, brightening as the night deepened. "So should it be
with faith," thought she, "and yet, as troubles come thick and fast,
we are apt to despair." Mrs. Asbury came back and lighted the gas,
but Beulah was too much absorbed to notice it. The doctor waked, and
began to talk about the severity of the winter further north and the
suffering it produced among the poor. Presently he said:
"What has become of that child Beulah--do you know, Alice?"
"Yes; there she is by the window. You were asleep when she came in."
He looked round and called to her.
"What are you thinking about, Beulah? You look as cold as an
iceberg. Come to the fire. Warm hands and feet will aid your
"I am not philosophizing, sir," she replied, without rising.
"I will wager my elegant new edition of Coleridge against your old
one that you are! Now, out with your cogitations, you incorrigible
"I have won your Coleridge. I was only thinking of that Talmudish
tradition regarding Sandalphon, the angel of prayer."
"What of him?"
"Why, that he stands at the gate of heaven, listens to the sounds
that ascend from earth, and, gathering all the prayers and
entreaties, as they are wafted from sorrowing humanity, they change
to flowers in his hands, and the perfume is borne into the celestial
city to God. Yesterday I read Longfellow's lines on this legend, and
suppose my looking up at the stars recalled it to my mind. But
Georgia told me you asked for me. Can I do anything for you, sir?
Are there any prescriptions you wish written off?" She came and
stood by his chair.
"No, thank you, child; but I should like to hear more of that book
you were reading to me last night--that is, if it will not weary
you, my child."
"Certainly not--here it is. I was waiting for you to ask me for more
of it. Shall I begin now, or defer it till after tea?"
"Now, if you please."
Mrs. Asbury seated herself on an ottoman at her husband's feet, and
threw her arm up over his knee; and, opening Butler's "Analogy,"
Beulah began to read where she left off the previous day, in the
chapter on "a future life."
With his hand resting on his wife's head, Dr. Asbury listened
attentively. At the conclusion of the chapter, she turned to the
dissertation on "personal identity," so nearly related to it, and
read it slowly and impressively.
"It is remarkably clear and convincing," said the doctor, when she
"Yes; his argument that death, instead of being an abnormal event,
is as much a law of our nature as birth (because necessary to future
development), and that, as at maturity, we have perfections of which
we never dreamed in infancy, so death may put us in possession of
new powers, by releasing us from the chrysalis state, is one which
has peculiar significance to my mind. Had Cornelia Graham studied
it, she would never have been tortured by the thought of that
annihilation which she fancied awaited her. From childhood this
question of 'personal identity' has puzzled me; but, it seems to me,
this brief treatise of Butler is quite satisfactory. It should be a
text-book in all educational institutions; should be scattered far
and wide through the land."
Here the solemn tones of the church bells told that the hour of
evening service drew near. The doctor started, and said abruptly:
"Bless me! Alice, are we to have no tea to-night?"
"Yes; the tea bell rang some minutes ago; but Beulah had not quite
finished her chapter, and I would not interrupt."
As they walked on to the dining room he said:
"You two are going to church, I suppose?"
"No; I shall remain with you," answered his wife gently.
"You need not, my dear. I will go with you, if you prefer it."
Beulah did not look up, but she knew that true-hearted wife was
unspeakably happy; and understood why, during tea, she was so quiet,
so unwontedly silent.
"I wish Hartwell would come home and attend to his business,"
muttered Dr. Asbury, some weeks later; and, as he spoke, he threw
his feet impatiently over the fender of the grate, looking
"He will come, sir; he will come," answered Beulah, who sat near
"How do you know that so well, child? Why do you suppose he will
come?" asked the doctor, knitting his bushy gray eyebrows.
"Perhaps, because I wish it so very much; and hope and faith are
nearly allied, you know; and perhaps more than this--because I have
prayed so long for his return."
She sat with her hands folded, looking quietly into the glowing
grate. The old man watched her a moment, as the firelight glared
over her grave, composed face, and tears came suddenly into his
"When Harry Hartwell died (about eighteen months since) he left his
share of the estate to Guy. It is one of the finest plantations in
the State, and for the last three years the crops have been
remarkably good. The cotton has been sold regularly, and the bulk of
the money is still in the hands of the factor. Yesterday I happened
to pass the old house, and rode in to see how things looked;
positively, child, you would scarcely recognize the place. You know
the Farleys only occupied it a few months; since that time it has
been rented. Just now it is vacant, and such a deserted-looking
tenement I have not seen for many days. As far as I am concerned--"
Here a servant entered to inform the doctor that he was wanted
immediately to see one of his patients. He kicked off his slippers,
and got up, grumbling:
"A plague on Guy's peregrinating proclivities! I am getting too old
to jump up every three seconds, to keep somebody's baby from jerking
itself into a spasm or suffocating with the croup. Hartwell ought to
be here to take all this practice off my hands."
He put on his overcoat and went out.
Beulah sat quite still for some minutes after his departure; then,
glancing at the clock, she started up suddenly.
"Where are you going, my dear?" said Mrs. Asbury, looking up from a
letter she was writing to Helen.
"But Mr. Leonard is coming here this afternoon to see you; he
requested me to tell you so."
"I don't want to see him."
"But, my dear, he has already called several times recently without
"And if he had any penetration he might perceive that the avoidance
was intended. I am tired of his frequent visits and endless
harangues, and he might see it if he chose." She looked rather
Mrs. Asbury had sealed her letter, and, approaching the rug where
Beulah stood, she laid her soft hand on her shoulder, and said
"My dear child, do not think me officious, or prompted by mere idle
curiosity, if I ask, Do you intend to reject him?"
"Why, ma'am, I have rejected him once, and still he forces his
society upon me. As to staying at home to see him, I won't do it."
Mrs. Asbury seemed surprised, and said smilingly:
"Upon my word, Beulah, you seem fastidious, indeed. What possible
objection could you find to Hugh Leonard? Why, my dear, he is the
best match in the city."
"I would about as soon think of marrying the doctor's armchair,
Beulah went to her own room and put on her bonnet and cloak. Charon
very rarely attended her in her rambles; he had grown old, and was
easily fatigued; but this afternoon she called to him, and they set
out. It was a mild, sunny evening for winter, and she took the
street leading to her guardian's old residence. A quick walk soon
brought her into the suburbs, and ere long she stood before the
entrance. The great central gate was chained, but the little side
gate was completely broken from its hinges, and lay on the ground.
Alas! this was but the beginning. As she entered she saw, with
dismay, that the yard was full of stray cattle. Cows, sheep, goats
browsed about undisturbed among the shrubbery which her guardian had
tended so carefully. She had not been here since he sold it; but
even Charon saw that something was strangely amiss. He bounded off,
and soon cleared the inclosure of the herd which had become
accustomed to grazing here. Beulah walked slowly up the avenue; the
aged cedars whispered hoarsely above her as she passed, and the
towering poplars, whose ceaseless silvery rustle had an
indescribable charm for her in summers past, now tossed their bare
boughs toward her in mute complaining of the desolation which
surrounded them. The reckless indifference of tenants has deservedly
grown into a proverb, and here Beulah beheld an exemplification of
its truth. Of all the choice shrubbery which it had been the labor
of years to collect and foster; not a particle remained. Hoses,
creepers, bulbs--all were destroyed, and only the trees and hedges
were spared. The very outline of the beds was effaced in many
places, and, walking round the paved circle in front of the door,
she paused abruptly at the desolation which greeted her. Here was
the marble basin of the fountain half filled with rubbish, as though
it had been converted into a receptacle for trash, and over the
whole front of the house the dark glossy leaves of the creeping ivy
clung in thick masses. She looked around on all sides, but only ruin
and neglect confronted her. She remembered the last time she came
here, and recalled the beautiful Sunday morning when she saw her
guardian standing by the fountain, feeding his pigeons. Ah, how
sadly changed! She burst into tears, and sat down on the steps.
Charon ran about the yard for some time; then came back, looked up
at the somber house, howled, and lay down at her feet. Where was the
old master? Wandering among Eastern pagodas, while his home became a
retreat for owls.
"He has forgotten us, Charon! He has forgotten his two best friends-
-you and I--who love him so well! Oh, Charon, he has forgotten us!"
cried she, almost despairingly. Charon gave a melancholy groan of
assent, and nestled closer to her. Five years had gone since he left
his native land, and, for once, her faith was faint and wavering.
But, after some moments, she looked up at the calm sky arching above
her, and, wiping away her tears, added resignedly:
"But he will come! God will bring him home when he sees fit! I can
wait! I can wait!"
Charon's great, gleaming black eyes met hers wistfully; he seemed
dubious of his master's return. Beulah rose, and he obeyed the
"Come, Charon, it is getting late; but we will come back some day,
and live here."
It was dusk when she entered the library and found Mrs. Asbury
discussing the political questions of the day with her husband. She
had just finished reading aloud one of Reginald's Congressional
speeches, and advocated it warmly, while the doctor reprobated some
portion of his course.
"You have had a long walk," said Mrs. Asbury, looking up as the
"And look, for the universe, as if you had been ghost-seeing," cried
the doctor, wiping his spectacles.
"I would rather meet an army of ghosts than see what I have seen!"
"Good Heavens! In the name of wonder, what have you seen, child? A
rattlesnake or a screech-owl?"
He put his broad palms on his knees, and looked mockingly curious
"I have been out to see the old place, sir; found the gate broken
down, the front yard full of cows, and everything going to
destruction, except the trees and hedges. Sir, it makes me feel very
sad. I can't bear to have things go on this way any longer. It must
"Bless my soul, that is easier said than done! The place is a
perfect owl-roost, there is no denying that; but it is no business
of ours. If Farley or his agent suffers the property to go to ruin,
it is his loss."
"But I love the place. I want to save it. Won't you buy it, Dr.
"Won't I buy it? Why, what on earth do you suppose I should do with
it? I don't want to live in it; and, as for any more investments in
real estate, why, just excuse me, if you please! Insurance and
repairs eat up all the profits, and I am plagued to death with
petitions in the bargain."
"Then I must buy it myself!" said Beulah resolutely.
"In the name of common sense, tell me what you will do with it?"
"I don't know yet; keep it, I suppose, until he comes home again.
How much do you suppose the Farleys ask for it?"
"I really cannot conjecture. But, child, you must not think of this.
I will see the agent about it, and perhaps I may purchase it, to
oblige you. I will not hear of your buying it. Guy certainly cannot
contemplate heathenating much longer. There is that eternal door-
bell again! Somebody that believes I am constructed of wire and
gutta-percha, I dare say."
He leaned back, and watched the door very uneasily. A servant looked
"Mr. Leonard, to see Miss Beulah."
"Thank Heaven, it is nobody to see me!" The doctor settled himself
comfortably, and laughed at the perturbed expression of Beulah's
"Ask him to excuse me this evening," said she, without rising.
"Nay, my dear; he was here this afternoon, and you had gone to walk.
It would be rude not to see him. Go into the parlor; do, my dear;
perhaps he will not detain you long," remonstrated Mrs. Asbury.
Beulah said nothing; she set her lips firmly, rose, and went to the
"I will wager my head he won't stay fifteen minutes, after he gets a
glimpse of her face. Hugh ought to have sense enough to see that she
does not fancy him," said the doctor, laughing.
"I should very much like to see the man she would fancy," answered
his wife, knitting away busily on a purse for some sewing society.
"Oh, Alice! do you wonder she does not like Hugh Leonard? He is a
'catch,' as far as position, and money, and a certain sort of
talent, and is very clever, and upright, I know; but he does not
suit Beulah. If she would not marry Reginald, of course she won't
Jangle! went the door bell once more, and this time the doctor was
forced to leave his chair and slippers.
The winter had been very gay, and, without doubt, the belle of the
season was Claudia Grayson. She had grown up a brilliant, imperious
beauty. Petted most injudiciously by Mr. and Mrs. Grayson, the best
elements of her character, instead of being fostered and developed,
were smothered beneath vanity and arrogance; and soon selfishness
became the dominant characteristic. To those whom she considered her
inferiors she was supercilious and overbearing; while, even in her
adopted home, she tyrannized over both servants and parents.
Flattered and sought after in society, she was never happy unless
the center of a gay circle. Ere long she discovered the
heartlessness of her admirers; learned the malice and envy of the
very people she visited most intimately; and once acquainted with
their natures and habits, she found her greatest amusement in
ridiculing those who did precisely the same thing the moment she
left them. Beulah had never been able to conquer her feelings
sufficiently to enter Mrs. Grayson's house; but she had met Claudia
several times. The latter, when accompanied by any of her
fashionable acquaintances, always shrank from recognizing her; and
finally, thinking any allusion to former years, and the asylum, a
personal insult, she passed her without even a bow. The first time
this occurred Beulah was deeply wounded; she had loved Claudia very
warmly, and her superciliousness was hard to bear. But the slight
was repeated several times, and she learned to pity her weakness
"Ah!" thought she, "how much better it was that Lilly should die
than live to grow up a heartless flirt like Claudy! Much better,
little sister! Much better!"
It was the morning after her walk to the old home of her guardian
that Dr. Asbury threw down the paper on the breakfast table with an
exclamation of horror.
"What is the matter, George?" cried his wife, while Beulah grew
deadly pale, and clutched the paper; her mind, like "Hinda's,"
"Still singling ONE from all mankind."
"Matter! Why, poor Grayson has committed suicide--shot himself last
night, poor wretch! He has been speculating too freely and lost
every cent; and, worse than that, used money to do it that was not
his. He made desperate throws and lost all; and the end of it was
that, when his operations were discovered, he shot himself, leaving
his family utterly destitute. I heard yesterday that they would not
have a cent; but never dreamed of his being so weak as to kill
himself. Miserable mistake!"
"What will become of Mrs. Grayson and Claudia?" asked Beulah
"I don't know, really. Mrs. Grayson has a brother living somewhere
up the country; I suppose he will offer them a home, such as he has.
I pity her. She is a weak creature,--weak, mind and body,--and this
reverse will come very near killing her."
For some days nothing was discussed but the "Grayson tragedy." It
was well the unhappy man could not listen to the fierce maledictions
of disappointed creditors and the slanders which were now heaped
upon his name. Whatever his motives might have been, the world
called his offenses by the darkest names, and angry creditors vowed
every knife, fork, and spoon should come under the hammer. The
elegant house was sold--the furniture with it; and Mrs. Grayson and
Claudia removed temporarily to a boarding house. Not one of their
fashionable intimates approached them--no, not one. When Claudia
went one day to her mantuamaker to have her mourning fitted, she met
a couple of ladies who had formerly been constant visitors at the
house and regular attendants at her parties. Unsuspectingly she
hastened to meet them, but, to her astonishment, instead of greeting
her in their usual fawning manner, they received her with a very
cold bow, just touched the tips of her fingers, and, gathering up
their robes, swept majestically from the room. Rage and
mortification forced the tears into her eyes.
Mrs. Asbury had never admired Mrs. Grayson's character; she visited
her formally about twice a year; but now, in this misfortune, she
alone called to see her. When Claudia returned from the
mantuamaker's she found Mrs. Asbury with her mother, and received
from her hand a kind, friendly note from the girl she had so grossly
insulted. Beulah was no flatterer; she wrote candidly and plainly;
said she would have called at once had she supposed her company
would be acceptable. She would gladly come and see Claudia whenever
she desired to see her, and hoped that the memory of other years
would teach her the sincerity of her friendship. Claudia wept
bitterly as she read it, and vainly regretted the superciliousness
which had alienated one she knew to be noble and trustworthy. She
was naturally an impulsive creature, and, without a moment's
hesitation, dashed off an answer, all blurred with tears, begging
Beulah to overlook her "foolishness" and come to see her.
Accordingly, after school, Beulah went to the house where they were
boarding. Claudia met her rather awkwardly, but Beulah kissed her as
if nothing had ever occurred to mar their intercourse; and, after
some desultory conversation, asked her what they expected to do.
"Heaven only knows! starve, I suppose." She spoke gloomily, and
folded her soft white hands over each other, as if the idea of work
was something altogether foreign to her mind.
"But, Claudia, I reckon you hardly expect to starve," answered
Beulah, who could not forbear smiling.
"Dear knows what is to become of us--I am sure I don't! Mamma has a
brother living in some out-of-the-way place up the country. But he
does not like me--thinks some of his own children ought to have been
adopted in my place. Heaven knows I have made nothing by the
operation but a great disappointment; he need not be uneasy about
the amount I am to get. But you see they don't want me, having an
old spite at me, and mamma dislikes to ask them to take me; besides,
I would almost as soon be buried at once as go to that farm, or
plantation, or whatever it is. They have written to mamma to come,
and she does not know what to do."
"You are a good musician, are you not?"
"No, not particularly. I never could endure to practice."
"Don't you draw and paint finely? I have heard that you did."
"Yes; but what good will it do me now, I should like to know?" She
twirled her little plump, jeweled fingers indolently.
"It might do you a great deal of good, if you chose. You might
support yourself by giving lessons," said Beulah decisively.
She drew up her shoulders, frowned, and pouted without making any
"Claudy, you do not wish to be dependent on a man who dislikes you?"
"Not if I can help myself!"
"And you certainly do not wish to be the means of preventing Mrs.
Grayson from having a comfortable home with her brother?"
Claudia burst into tears. She did not love her mother, did not even
respect her, she was so very weak and childish; yet the young orphan
felt very desolate, and knew not what to do. Beulah took her hand,
and said kindly:
"If you are willing to help yourself, dear Claudy, I will gladly do
all I can to assist you. I think I can secure you a situation as
teacher of drawing, and, until you can make something at it, I will
pay your board; and you shall stay with me, if you like. You can
think about it, and let me know as soon as you decide." Claudia
thanked her cordially, and, returning home, Beulah immediately
imparted the plan to her friends. They thought it would scarcely
succeed, Claudia had been so petted and spoiled. Beulah sat gazing
into the fire for a while; then, looking at the doctor, said
"There is that Graham money, sir, doing nobody any good."
"That is just what I have been telling you for the last six years. I
have invested it carefully, until it has almost doubled itself."
"It would make them very comfortable," continued she thoughtfully.
"Make them very comfortable!" repeated the doctor, throwing his
cigar into the grate, and turning suddenly toward her.
"Yes--Claudia and Mrs. Grayson."
"Beulah Benton! are you going insane, I should like to know? Here
you are, working hard every day of your life, and do you suppose I
shall suffer you to give that legacy (nearly nine thousand dollars!)
to support two broken-down fashionables in idleness? Who ever heard
of such a piece of business since the world began? I will not
consent to it! I tell you now, the money shall not leave my hands
for any such purpose."
"I don't want it myself. I never shall touch a dollar of it for my
own use," said she resolutely.
"All very fine now. But wait till you get superannuated, or such a
cripple with rheumatism that you can't hobble to that schoolhouse,
which you seem to love better than your own soul. Wait till then, I
say, and see whether some of this money will not be very
"That time will never come, sir; never!" answered Beulah, laughing.
"Beulah Benton, you are a simpleton!" said he, looking
affectionately at her from beneath his shaggy brows.
"I want that money, sir."
"You shall not have one cent of it. The idea of your playing Lady
Bountiful to the Graysons! Pshaw! not a picayune shall you have."
"Oh, sir, it would make me so very happy to aid them. You cannot
conceive how much pleasure it would afford me."
"Look here, child; all that sort of angelic disinterestedness sounds
very well done up in a novel, but the reality is quite another
matter. Mrs. Grayson treated you like a brute; and it is not to be
expected that you will have any extraordinary degree of affection
for her. Human nature is spiteful and unforgiving; and as for your
piling coals of fire on her head to the amount of nine thousand
dollars, that is being entirely too magnanimous!"
"I want to make Mrs. Grayson amends, sir. Once, when I was maddened
by sorrow and pain, I said something which I always repented
bitterly." As Beulah spoke, a cloud swept across her face.
"What was it, child? what did you say?"
"I cursed her! besought God to punish her severely for her
unkindness to me. I hardly knew what I was saying; but even then it
shocked me, and I prayed God to forgive my passion. I shudder when I
remember it. I have forgiven her heartlessness long ago; and now,
sir, I want you to give me that money. If it is mine at all, it is
mine to employ as I choose."
"Cornelia did not leave the legacy to the Graysons."
"Were she living, she would commend the use I am about to make of
it. Will you give me five thousand dollars of it?"
"Oh, Beulah, you are a queer compound! a strange being!"
"Will you give me five thousand dollars of that money tomorrow?"
persisted Beulah, looking steadily at him.
"Yes, child; if you will have it so." His voice trembled, and he
looked at the orphan with moist eyes.
Mrs. Asbury had taken no part in the conversation, but her earnest
face attested her interest. Passing her arm around Beulah's waist,
she hastily kissed her brow, and only said:
"God bless you, my dear, noble Beulah!"
"I do not see that I am at all magnanimous in giving away other
people's money. If I had earned it by hard labor, and then given it
to Claudy, there would have been some more show of generosity. Here
come Georgia and her husband; you do not need me to read this
evening, and I have work to do." She extricated herself from Mrs.
Asbury's clasping arm and retired to her own room. The following day
Claudia came to say that, as she knew not what else to do, she would
gladly accept the position mentioned as teacher of drawing and
painting. Mrs. Grayson's brother had come to take her home, but she
was unwilling to be separated from Claudia. Beulah no longer
hesitated, and the sum of five thousand dollars seemed to poor
Claudia a fortune indeed. She could not understand how the girl whom
she and her mother had insulted could possibly have the means of
making them so comparatively comfortable. Beulah briefly explained
the circumstances which had enabled her to assist them. The bulk of
the money remained in Dr. Asbury's hands, and Claudia was to apply
to him whenever she needed it. She and her mamma found a cheaper
boarding house, and Claudia's duties began at once. Mrs. Grayson was
overwhelmed with shame when the particulars were made known to her,
and tears of bitter mortification could not obliterate the memory of
the hour when she cruelly denied the prayer of the poor orphan to
whom she now owed the shelter above her head. Beulah did not see her
for many weeks subsequent; she knew how painful such a meeting would
be to the humbled woman, and, while she constantly cheered and
encouraged Claudia in her work, she studiously avoided Mrs.
Thus the winter passed; and once more the glories of a Southern
spring were scattered over the land. To the Asburys Beulah was
warmly attached, and her residence with them was as pleasant as any
home could possibly have been which was not her own. They were all
that friends could be to an orphan; still, she regretted her little
cottage, and missed the home-feeling she had prized so highly. True,
she had constant access to the greenhouse, and was rarely without
her bouquet of choice flowers; but these could not compensate her
for the loss of her own little garden. She struggled bravely with
discontent; tried to look only on the sunshine in her path and to be
always cheerful. In this she partially succeeded. No matter how
lonely and sad she felt, she hid it carefully, and the evenings in
the library were never marred by words of repining or looks of
sorrow. To the close observer there were traces of grief in her
countenance; and sometimes when she sat sewing while Mrs. Asbury
read aloud, it was easy to see that her thoughts had wandered far
from that little room. Time had changed her singularly since the old
asylum days. She was now a finely formed, remarkably graceful woman,
with a complexion of dazzling transparency. She was always pale, but
the blue veins might be traced anywhere on her brow and temples; and
the dark, gray eyes, with their long, jetty, curling lashes,
possessed an indescribable charm, even for strangers. She had been
an ugly child, but certainly she was a noble-looking, if not
handsome, woman. To all but the family with whom she resided she was
rather reserved; and while the world admired and eulogized her
talents as a writer, she felt that, except Eugene, she had no
friends beyond the threshold of the house she lived in. As weeks and
months elapsed, and no news of her wandering guardian came, her hope
began to pale. For weary years it had burned brightly; but constant
disappointment was pressing heavily on her heart and crushing out
the holy spark. The heartstrings will bear rude shocks and sudden
rough handling, but the gradual tightening, the unremitted tension
of long, tediously rolling years, will in time accomplish what
fierce assaults cannot. Continually she prayed for his return; but,
despite her efforts, her faith grew fainter as each month crept by
and her smile became more constrained and joyless. She never spoke
of her anxiety, never alluded to him; but pressed her hands over her
aching heart and did her work silently--nay, cheerfully.
The day was dull, misty, and gusty. All the morning there had been a
driving southeasterly rain; but toward noon there was a lull. The
afternoon was heavy and threatening, while armies of dense clouds
drifted before the wind. Dr. Asbury had not yet returned from his
round of evening visits; Mrs. Asbury had gone to the asylum to see a
sick child, and Georgia was dining with her husband's mother. Beulah
came home from school more than usually fatigued; one of the
assistant teachers was indisposed, and she had done double work to
relieve her. She sat before her desk, writing industriously on an
article she had promised to complete before the end of the week. Her
head ached; the lines grew dim, and she laid aside her manuscript
and leaned her face on her palms. The beautiful lashes lay against
her brow, for the eyes were raised to the portrait above her desk,
and she gazed up at the faultless features with an expression of sad
hopelessness. Years had not filled the void in her heart with other
treasures. At this hour it ached with its own desolation, and,
extending her arms imploringly toward the picture, she exclaimed
"O my God, how long must I wait? Oh, how long!"
She opened the desk, and, taking out a key, left her room and slowly
ascended to the third story. Charon crept up the steps after her.
She unlocked the apartment which Mrs. Asbury had given into her
charge some time before, and, raising one of the windows, looped
back the heavy blue curtains which gave a somber hue to all within.
From this elevated position she could see the stormy, sullen waters
of the bay breaking against the wharves, and hear their hoarse
muttering as they rocked themselves to rest after the scourging of
the tempest. Gray clouds hung low, and scudded northward: everything
looked dull and gloomy. She turned from the window and glanced
around the room. It was at all times a painful pleasure to come
here, and now, particularly, the interior impressed her sadly. Here
were the paintings and statues she had long been so familiar with,
and here, too, the melodeon which at rare intervals she opened. The
house was very quiet; not a sound came up from below; she raised the
lid of the instrument, and played a plaintive prelude. Echoes seven
or eight years old suddenly fell on her ears; she had not heard one
note of this air since she left Dr. Hartwell's roof. It was a
favorite song of his; a German hymn he had taught her, and now after
seven years she sang it. It was a melancholy air, and, as her
trembling voice rolled through the house, she seemed to live the old
days over again. But the words died away on her lips; she had
overestimated her strength; she could not sing it. The marble images
around her, like ghosts of the past, looked mutely down at her
grief. She could not weep; her eyes were dry, and there was an
intolerable weight on her heart. Just before her stood the Niobe,
rigid and woeful; she put her hands over her eyes, and drooped her
face on the melodeon. Gloom and despair crouched at her side, their
gaunt hands tugging at the anchor of hope. The wind rose and howled
round the corners of the house; how fierce it might be on trackless
seas, driving lonely barks down to ruin and strewing the main with
ghastly upturned faces! She shuddered and groaned. It was a dark
hour of trial, and she struggled desperately with the phantoms that
clustered about her. Then there came other sounds: Charon's shrill,
frantic bark and whine of delight. For years she had not heard that
peculiar bark, and started up in wonder. On the threshold stood a
tall form, with a straw hat drawn down over the features; but
Charon's paws were on the shoulders and his whine of delight ceased
not. He fell down at his master's feet and caressed them. Beulah
looked an instant, and sprang into the doorway, holding out her
arms, with a wild, joyful cry.
"Come at last! Oh, thank God! Come at last!" Her face was radiant,
her eyes burned, her glowing lips parted.
Leaning against the door, with his arms crossed over his broad
chest, Dr. Hartwell stood, silently regarding her. She came close to
him, and her extended arms trembled; still he did not move, did not
"Oh, I knew you would come; and, thank God, now you are here. Come
home at last!"
She looked up at him so eagerly; but he said nothing. She stood an
instant irresolute, then threw her arms around his neck and laid her
head on his bosom, clinging closely to him. He did not return the
embrace, but looked down at the beaming face and sighed; then he put
his hand softly on her head, and smoothed the rippling hair. A
brilliant smile broke over her features, as she felt the remembered
touch of his fingers on her forehead, and she repeated in the low
tones of deep gladness:
"I knew you would come; oh, sir, I knew you would come back to me!"
"How did you know it, child?" he said, for the first time.
Her heart leaped wildly at the sound of the loved voice she had so
longed to hear, and she answered tremblingly:
"Because for weary years I have prayed for your return. Oh, only God
knows how fervently I prayed! and he has heard me."
She felt his strong frame quiver; he folded his arms about her,
clasped her to his heart with a force that almost suffocated her,
and, bending his head, kissed her passionately. Suddenly his arms
relaxed their clasp; holding her off, he looked at her keenly, and
"Beulah Benton, do you belong to the tyrant Ambition, or do you
belong to that tyrant Guy Hartwell? Quick, child; decide!"
"I have decided," said she. Her cheeks burned; her lashes drooped.
"Well, if I am to have a tyrant, I believe I prefer belonging to
He frowned. She smiled and looked up at him.
"Beulah, I don't want a grateful wife. Do you understand me?"
Just then his eyes rested on the portrait of Creola, which hung
opposite. He drew back a step, and she saw the blood leave his lips,
as he gazed upon it. Lifting his hand, he said sternly:
"Ah, what pale specters that face calls up from the grim, gray ruins
of memory! Doubtless you know my miserable history. I married her,
thinking I had won her love. She soon undeceived me. We separated. I
once asked you to be my wife, and you told me you would rather die.
Child, years have not dealt lightly with me since then. I am no
longer a young man. Look here!" He threw off his hat, and, passing
his fingers through his curling hair, she saw, here and there,
streaks of silver. He watched her as she noted it. She saw, too, how
haggard he looked, now that the light fell full on his pale face.
The splendid, dark eyes were unaltered, and, as they looked down
into hers, tears gathered on her lashes, her lips trembled, and,
throwing her arms again round his neck, she laid her face on his
"Beulah, do you cling to me because you love me? or because you pity
me? or because you are grateful to me for past love and kindness?
Answer me, Beulah."
"Because you are my all."
"How long have I been your all?"
"Oh, longer than I knew myself!" was the evasive reply.
He tried to look at her, but she pressed her face close to his
shoulder and would not suffer it.
"Oh, don't 'sir' me, child! I want to know the truth, and you will
not satisfy me."
"I have told you the truth."
"Have you learned that fame is an icy shadow? that gratified
ambition cannot make you happy? Do you love me?"
"Better than teaching school and writing learned articles?"
"Rather better, I believe, sir."
"You have changed in many things since we parted, nearly six years
"Yes; I thank God, I am changed. My infidelity was a source of many
sorrows; but the clouds have passed from my mind; I have found the
truth in Holy Writ." Now she raised her head, and looked at him very
"Child, does your faith make you happy?"
"Yes; the universe could not purchase it," she answered solemnly.
There was a brief silence. He put both hands on her shoulders, and,
stooping down, kissed her brow.
"And you prayed for me, Beulah?"
"Yes; evening and morning. Prayed that you might be shielded from
all dangers and brought safely home. And there was one other thing
which I prayed for not less fervently than for your return: that God
would melt your hard, bitter heart, and give you a knowledge of the
truth of the Christian religion. Oh, sir, I thought sometimes that
possibly you might die in a far-off land, and then I should see you
no more, in time or eternity! and oh, the thought nearly drove me
wild! My guardian, my all, let me not have prayed in vain." She
clasped his hand in hers, and looked up pleadingly into the loved
face; and, for the first time in her life, she saw tears glistening
in the burning eyes. He said nothing, however; took her face in his
hands, and scanned it earnestly, as if reading all that had passed
during his long absence. Presently he asked:
"So you would not marry Lindsay and go to Congress. Why not?"
"Who told you anything about him?"
"No matter. Why did not you marry him?"
"Because I did not love him."
"He is a noble-hearted, generous man."
"Yes, very; I do not know his superior."
"I mean what I say," said she firmly.
He smiled, one of his genial, irresistible smiles; and she smiled
also, despite herself. "Give me your hand, Beulah?"
She did so very quietly.
"There--is it mine?"
"Yes, sir; if you want it."
"And may I claim it as soon as I choose?"
She had never seen him look as he did then. His face kindled, as if
in a broad flash of light; the eyes dazzled her, and she turned her
face away, as he drew her once more to his bosom, and exclaimed:
"At last, then, after years of sorrow, and pain, and bitterness, I
shall be happy in my own home; shall have a wife, a companion, who
loves me for myself alone. Ah, Beulah, my idol; I will make you
The rain fell heavily, and it grew dark, for the night came rapidly
down. There was a furious ringing of the library bell; the doctor
had come home, and, as usual, wanted half a dozen things at once.
"Have you seen Dr. Asbury?"
"No. I came directly to the house; saw no one as I entered; and,
hearing the melodeon, followed the sound."
"What a joyful surprise it will be to him!" said Beulah, closing the
window and locking the melodeon. She led the way down the steps,
followed by her guardian and Charon. "Suppose you wait a while in
the music room? It adjoins the library, and you can see and hear
without being seen." suggested she, with her hand on the bolt of the
door. He assented, and stood near the threshold which connected the
rooms, while Beulah went into the library. The gas burned brightly,
and the doctor sat leaning far back in his armchair, with his feet
on an ottoman. His wife stood near him, stroking the gray hair from
his furrowed brow.
"Alice, I wish, dear, you would get me an iced lemonade, will you?"
"Let me make it for you," said Beulah, coming forward.
"Not you! At your peril, you touch it. You are overfond of the sour,
miss. Alice knows exactly how to suit me."
"So you have turned homeopathist? take acids to--"
"None of your observations, if you please. Just be good enough to
open the shutters, will you? It is as hot in this room as if the
equator ran between my feet and the wall. Charming weather, eh? And
still more charming prospect, that I shall have to go out into it
again before bedtime. One of my delectable patients has taken it
into his head to treat his wife and children to a rare show, in the
shape of a fit of mania-a-potu; and, ten to one, I shall have to
play spectator all night." He yawned as he spoke.
"You have an arduous time indeed," began Beulah; but he hastily put
"Oh, of all poor devils, we pill-box gentry do have the hardest
times! I am sick of patients, sick of physic, sick of the very sound
of my own name."
"If my guardian were only here to relieve--"
"Confound your guardian! Don't mention him in my presence. He is a
simpleton. He is what the 'Ettrick Shepherd' calls a 'Sumph.' You
have no guardian, I can tell you that. Before this he has gone
through all the transmigrations of 'Indur,' and the final
metempsychosis, gave him to the world a Celestial. Yes, child; a
Celestial. I fancy him at this instant, with two long plaits of hair
trailing behind him, as, with all the sublime complacency of
Celestials, he stalks majestically along, picking tea leaves.
Confound your guardian. Mention his name to me again, at the peril
of having your board raised."
"George, what is the matter with you?" asked his wife, smiling as
she handed him the lemonade he had desired.
"This prating young woman is, as usual, trying to discourse of--
Alice, this is just right. Thank you, my dear." He drained the glass
and handed it back. Beulah stood so that the light shone full on her
face. He looked at her a moment, and exclaimed:
"Come here, child. What ails you? Why, bless my soul, Beulah, what
is the matter? I never saw the blood in your face before; and your
great, solemn eyes seem to be dancing a jig. What ails you, child?"
He grasped her hands eagerly.
"Nothing ails me; I am well--"
"I know better! Has Charon gone mad and bit you? Oho! by all the
dead gods of Greece, Guy has come home. Where is he? Where is he?"
He sprang up, nearly knocking his wife down, and looked around the
room. Dr. Hartwell emerged from the music room and advanced to meet
"Oh, Guy! You heathen! you Philistine! you prodigal!"
He bounded over a chair and locked his arms round the tall form,
while his gray head dropped on his friend's shoulder. Beulah stole
out quickly, and, in the solitude of her own room, fell on her knees
and returned thanks to the God who hears and answers prayer.
It was a sparkling August morning--one of those rare days when all
nature seems jubilant. The waters of the bay glittered like a sheet
of molten silver; the soft Southern breeze sang through the
treetops, and the cloudless sky wore that deep shade of pure blue
which is nowhere so beautiful as in our sunny South. Clad in a dress
of spotless white, with her luxuriant hair braided and twined with
white flowers, Beulah stood beside her window, looking out into the
street below. Her hands were clasped tightly over her heart, and on
one slender finger blazed a costly diamond, the seal of her
betrothal. She was very pale; now and then her lips quivered, and
her lashes were wet with tears. Yet this was her marriage day. She
had just risen from her knees, and her countenance told of a
troubled heart. She loved her guardian above everything else; knew
that, separated from him, life would be a dreary blank to her; yet,
much as she loved him, she could not divest herself of a species of
fear, of dread. The thought of being his wife filled her with vague
apprehension. He had hastened the marriage; the old place had been
thoroughly repaired and refurnished, and this morning she would go
home a wife. She clasped her hands over her eyes; the future looked
fearful. She knew the passionate, exacting nature of the man with
whose destiny she was about to link her own, and she shrank back, as
the image of Creola rose before her. The door opened, and Mrs.
Asbury entered, accompanied by Dr. Hartwell. The orphan looked up,
and leaned heavily against the window. Mrs. Asbury broke the
"They are waiting for you, my dear. The minister came some moments
ago. The clock has struck ten."
She handed her a pair of gloves from the table, and stood in the
door, waiting for her. Beulah drew them on, and then, with a long
breath, glanced at Dr. Hartwell. He looked restless, and, she
thought, sterner, than she had seen him since his return. He was
very pale and his lips were compressed firmly.
"You look frightened, Beulah. You tremble," said he, drawing her arm
through his and fixing his eyes searchingly on her face. "Yes. Oh,
yes. I believe I am frightened," she answered, with a constrained
She saw his brow darken and his cheek flush; but he said no more,
and led her down to the parlor, where the members of the family were
assembled. Claudia and Eugene were also present. The minister met
them in the center of the room; and there, in the solemn hush, a few
questions were answered, a plain band of gold encircled her finger,
and the deep tones of the clergyman pronounced her Guy Hartwell's
wife. Eugene took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly,
"God bless you, dear sister and friend! I sincerely hope that your
married life will prove happier than mine."
Their congratulations wearied her, and she was glad when the
carriage came to bear her away. Bidding adieu to her friends, she
was handed into the carriage, and Dr. Hartwell took the seat beside
her. The ride was short; neither spoke, and when the door was
opened, and she entered the well-remembered house, she would gladly
have retreated to the greenhouse and sought solitude to collect her
thoughts; but a hand caught hers, and she soon found herself seated
on a sofa in the study. She felt that a pair of eyes were riveted on
her face, and suddenly the blood surged into her white cheeks. Her
hand lay clasped in his, and her head drooped lower, to avoid his
"Oh, Beulah! my wife! why are you afraid of me?"
The low, musical tones caused her heart to thrill strangely; she
made a great effort, and lifted her head. She saw the expression of
sorrow that clouded his face; saw his white brow wrinkle; and, as
her eyes fell on the silver threads scattered through his brown
hair, there came an instant revolution of feeling. Fear vanished;
love reigned supreme. She threw her arms up about his neck, and
"I am not afraid of you now. May God bless my guardian! my husband!"
Reader, marriage is not the end of life; it is but the beginning of
a new course of duties; but I cannot now follow Beulah. Henceforth
her history is bound up with another's. To save her husband from his
unbelief is the labor of future years. She had learned to suffer and
to bear patiently; and though her path looks sunny, and her heart
throbs with happy hopes, this one shadow lurks over her home and
dims her joys. Weeks and months glided swiftly on. Dr. Hartwell's
face lost its stern rigidity, and his smile became constantly
genial. His wife was his idol; day by day his love for her seemed
more completely to revolutionize his nature. His cynicism melted
insensibly away; his lips forgot their iron compression; now and
then, his long-forgotten laugh rang through the house. Beulah was
conscious of the power she wielded, and trembled lest she failed to
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