« AnteriorContinua »
I am a
The story of her mission to England had lips of Dorcas. There had been
letbecome trite and stale to him by this time, ters for Dorcas during the past week, and she considered—he had been roused to ac- she entered the room with them and other tion by her sudden intrusion on his hard, papers in her hands. It was a quiet evendry world, but it was a galvanic action, not ing, with the house to themselves, the hour a life that had stirred him to his heart's was late, and there were no visitors to interdepths. So much the better ; she had not rupt them. wished for anything else, and she should not “Will you read every one of those, Miss be sorry to get back to America. As for Westbrook ? ” said Dorcas, piling them on the twenty thousand pounds and its ultimate the work-table at which Mabel sat. destination, she scarcely gave one moment's “The Fates forbid !" cried Mabel, lookconsideration to the question. The money ing with amazement at the letters which had never troubled her; it seemed still to belong been heaped suddenly before her. to the Halfdays rather than to her ; she had “ I would rather you did,” said Dorcas. brought it from America to give them, and “My dear child, what good would the all that followed afterwards were parts of a perusal of all those documents do me, when strange dream to her. She had kept her a few words can explain most of them?” promise to her grandfather and had done inquired Mabel. her duty, and there was an end of it-at “A few words ? ” quoted Dorcas scornleast, there would have been an end of it, she fully, " oh, no. Words of mine are always considered, if this tiresome man with the misunderstood, or something escapes me long, black hair would have only let the which I ought to have kept back. matter rest.
bad hand at explanations; please to read There were the law's delays in the matter the letters.” of the proving of Adam Halfday's will, and “For what particular reason, Dorcas ?" Dorcas had, wisely enough for her own in- “ Because Brian thinks I am not to be terests, placed the case in a solicitor's hands. trusted," she replied ; "that I am weak, She would have no more of Brian's inter- and easily led, and false; as if a girl like me ference than she could help, although it was could have his iron nerves and iron will, and Brian who had been appointed executor to see the world as he does, and believe not in the little document which old Adam had any living man or woman in it." one day taken it into his head to concoct, on “Is he so sceptical ?” the strength of the seventy pounds which he “ Yes, unless had scraped together from his fees and per
“Go on." quisites at St. Lazarus. The money did not “Unless it's you,” said Dorcas bluntly ; pass quickly into the hands of Dorcas Half- "he does talk of you as if he had some day, who betrayed more restlessness as time faith at last, and you were a woman he could went on—who even came back, by degrees, believe in. But then you brought money to her old excitable self. That there was a to us, and he thinks too much of money." mystery in Dorcas's life beyond Mabel's "Have you quarrelled with Brian again?" power to penetrate had always been evident, “ Almost. He interferes,” she said ; "he but Mabel had not asked for her confidence, will not give me my own way; he distrusts and was content to wait for it. She had me." gained the love of this girl, and confidence Dorcas sat down by the table, and added would follow in good time, Mabel was as impatientlysured. Meanwhile let her think of her own “ Please read the letters. I am waiting plans, and prepare for a journey across the to take them to my room again. You will sea; England was no longer a home to her, find my whole life there—the whole story in her own thoughts, and she was biding her that I have been keeping from you for a time to go away.
time, but which I wanted you to know, It was in the middle of September that when I thought you had learned to underthe law took decisive action in the case of stand me." the will of Adam Halfday. The time had “Have I learned that, Dorcas ?” come to prove the document ; there had "Hardly, but that's my fault." been an urgent necessity for delay, and the “You are wrong. I trust you implicitly,” explanation came at last from the faltering | said Mabel ; " if you are impulsive, irritable,
unjust at times, I see afterwards that you
CHAPTER XIV. are very sorry for it.” " That's what Brian never could see," she
A LOVE STORY. murmured ; "he never made allowance for my ill-training, bad education, worse tem
ABEL WESTBROOK was not preper, anything. Why, madam, I never had
pared for the announcement with a mother, sister, any woman to ask counsel which Dorcas had startled her. She had of, to stand by me as a friend, and tell me expected to hear of a lover and a lover's which was right and which was wrong. And quarrel, and of Brian as the man who had oh! I wanted woman's help so badly. helped to mar the match ; but that this
Mabel's arm stole round the waist of the weak, impulsive girl, crying and wringing girl, who was weeping bitterly.
her hands before her again, should have “Tell me all, Dorcas, and spare me the taken that great step in life which leads to reading of those tiresome letters. I will be happiness or niisery, and knows no neutral lieve every word you say.”
ground, was beyond her grasp of thought “Brian will tell me presently that I never for the first few moments following the reveshowed them to you-that I never had the lation. courage to tell you the truth.”
“You married, child—you married !" she “I will answer for you that he is in
could only say.
She was sorry, too, and the tears came “Well, well—let me think.”
rushing to her eyes at the thought of all that Dorcas pressed her fingers to her eyes, as the marriage implied, She was sure already if to press the tears back, and then looked that trouble had come to Dorcas, possibly long and steadily at our heroine.
repentance for a rash act which there was “I was going to leave this tale to Brian. no undoing, although the cares and griefs It had entered my poor, weak head that it of existence were only just beginning. It would be the wisest step for me to keep had been a wild wooing, and the bitter silent, and to disappear like a ghost. But fruit was to be gathered by her who had then Brian would have said such bitter cast an eternal shadow on her own young things.”
life. “Why disappeared from me?"
But Dorcas was not thinking of herself “ Because I am drawn away to a new life,
just then. where my trust and duty and love take me, “So, you see, the money is his, not and you will be the last to ask me to keep mine,” she said ; “ he comes into its possesaway from it.”
sion by a husband's right--the sum not "Indeed !” said Mabel thoughtfully ; being settled on myself in any way. Adam
“ “then the one friend I have in England is Halfday did not know that he was leaving to pass away?"
me a fortune--did not know I was married
-and it depends now upon Michael, and “For ever?"
what he will do. And I think, Miss West“I hope not. I shall pray night and day brook, he is to be trusted. Oh, yes, I am we may meet soon, and that I may do you sure of it, if you will only give him time to the service on which my life is set. For oh! do what is fair and honest. Like me," she madam, as God's my judge,” she cried pas- added with a short laugh," he has not had sionately, “I do not want this money. It much chance at present. may be a curse to me—it can never be a “Never mind the money, Tell me of blessing—for I have robbed you of it.” yourself. Who is your husband ? what is
“Yes, you are hard to understand, Dor-he? where is he? Why does he keep away cas," said Mabel ; now will you tell me from you all this time?". what it all means ?”
“ He will come for me to-morrow," an“ Three words will tell that,” said Dorcas swered Dorcas. “He will be released tomournfully.
morrow.' “Well, let me hear them.”
“ Released ?" “I am married," answered Dorcas Half- “Yes-- from prison." day.
Mabel drew a quick breath of surprise.
“What has he done, then ?" she inquired. already been working for—free to show that
“Nothing-much,” she added quaintly, he is as brave, and honourable, and unselfish after a moment's pause, “ he was a soldier as those who have looked down upon him when he first came to St. Lazarus. His all his life." uncle was one of the pensioners, and he Meaning your brother again. used to call and see him, and so we met. Dorcas, you are too hard upon your broWhen grandfather found out that we loved ther." each other, he was angry and told Brian—and “ Michael will be free,” said Dorcas, Brian did his best to separate us. It was “and we only ask your confidence for a the first thing my brother had ever failed in, few short weeks. Will you give it both of and it made him hate us both.” “No, no—don't say that, Dorcas."
"I do not know your husband, Dorcas,” “We married without grandfather's know- was the answer, “ but you have my confi. ledge—but Brian found it out, of course. dence already."
—, . He finds out everything."
“ Have confidence in him, then, for my “And he was angry at your want of con- sake. Take my word for once that the fidence—at your own rashness,” said Mabel, money “I am not surprised."
“Hush, hush-have we not agreed to let “I said it was hate, not anger," replied the money question rest ?" Dorcas ; "he set himself to find out every- “ But you are poor—and we are rich by thing about poor Michael, as if it was his your means. You business rather than my own—as if I am not “ Dorcas, I will hear no more of this." content to be my Michael's wife. But he “ You will have faith in him," Dorcas could not let us be ; he discovered that urged again, “say—Yes ?” Michael had once deserted from his regi- "For your sake-yes." ment, as if that mattered now! My hus- “And you will not leave England for band had been treated badly by the com- some weeks. Say eight weeks more? manding officer, and he ran away, as hun- "I will make no further promises," said dreds have done before him.”
Mabel, “only to say that I will not run " Well?"
away to America without fair notice to you “He was caught and sentenced," con- and your brother.” tinued Dorcas. “It was his first offence, and “Very well,” said Dorcas, with a sigh, “I the court-martial was not hard on him. But think that will be enough to promise me after we were married he ran away again. just now.” For he had been treated badly again, you She was silent, until a movement of Mamust understand.”
bel's roused her from her reverie. “And he was caught again ? " said Mabel. “ You have not forgotten that there are “ Yes, because Brian would not help him seventy pounds of my grandfather's money -because he could have concealed him in towards the expenses which we have to the Museum, till the morning; and he shut meet ? ” said Dorcas, “but it is a sum that the door against him in the streets where will not go very far, and there are heavy he was captured, poor fellow, that very legacy duties and probate duties, and so on, night. There,” cried Dorcas, with fresh ex- which Brian will make good in time out of citement evidencing itself, " that is the his own pocket. He told me that himself.” brother you wonder I don't love.
“ Poor Brian ! as if I would rob him of his what a life of misery and suspense he has savings. created for me."
" And what was your husband's second “ But I will not for ever talk about this sentence?" asked Mabel, without comment money," said Mabel, with a petulant stamp upon Dorcas's last remark.
of her little foot, “ there will be time enough “Six months' imprisonment in the cells of presently for you and me to consider what Penton Barracks. And they expire to-day is just and right to both of us.” ma -this very day," cried Dorcas, clapping her “Very well,” said Dorcas, submissively. hands together, “and he will be free to- “Now tell me of your courtship and mar morrow. Free to claim his money, to pur- riage. That will be a love story in which chase his discharge-which the lawyers have I am sure to be interested."
“You are very good to say
Yes, Dorcas was very weak, thought Ma“ Does your father know of this marriage?" bel, but very trusting, and thus, altogether,
“I do not know my father yet," she womanly. Very sanguine too, and knowing, answered, so mournfully that Mabel has- after all, so little of real life and human natened to change the subject.
ture, that the elder girl could only shudder .“ And this soldier husband of yours. at the intensity and pathos of her rhapsody. How old is he?"
“I hope he will be always good to you,” “ He was twenty-one last August.” said Mabel, “ for you deserve it for your
“So young,” exclaimed Mabel ; why, you faith in him.” were boy and girl when you were married.” “He has faith in me too,” said Dorcas.
“Almost,” said Dorcas, blushing ; "but He loves me very much." we understood each other's hearts, and did “I am glad to hear it.” not marry in haste. It was a long court- “I was a wild uncared-for girl when he ship for us."
took a fancy to me--I was not worth a " Indeed. Now tell me all about it." penny in the world, so he did not come
Dorcas was not loth to respond. She running after my money,” said Dorcas. had found a sympathetic listener in Mabel “It is pleasant to be sought for one's Westbrook, who was anxious to read the self," replied Mabel, musingly. new love story for herself. It was the first • Ohi I know of whom you are thinking," time in Dorcas Halfday's life that she could cried Dorcas. tell the whole truth of her strong love—it “ Of whom?" was the first man or woman who had ever “Mr. Angelo Salmon, and the night when cared to hear her. There was an outburst he came here. You are beginning to wonof confidence at once—the first, natural, der where he is, and why he has not been unrestrained confidence of girlhood, which to see you since. Oh! Miss Westbrook, if had in Dorcas been ever checked by the you don't mind my saying so, I am sure you grave matter-of-fact minds about her. love him," said Dorcas, timidly, and as if
It was a common-place love story, with expectant of a tender revelation in return which we have no occasion to trouble the for her own. reader in detail, but Dorcas spoke of it as “Hush, hush, Dorcas ; I was not thinka strange romance, and painted her love ing of Mr. Salmon. I am never likely to in those glowing colours which love ever fall in love with him-I respect him too gives to the fancy-picture it reveres. much," she added, almost satirically.
A chance meeting leading on to appoint- “ You would not love anybody you did ments, to affection, and then discovery pre not ---" began Dorcas, in a wondering cipitating a crisis, that, with more tact and tone, before she broke into a merry laugh, consideration, might have been avoided. and said, “ah! you are jesting with me. I
, ! A foolish and a secret marriage-a husband am so pleased to see your smiles again.” soldier--a deserter--a story that might have " Have I not been smiling lately?" ended miserably, even tragically, and the "Not in the old bright way, I fancy."
I sequel of which was still difficult to guess at. "Perhaps not," said Mabel, in reply.
This latter thought crossed Mabel West-“But I did not know you were keeping a brook's mind, not that of the girl by her careful watch over me. However, Dorcas, side, with her soul in her confession. To Dor- I am not grieving for the absence of any cas this was the end of all trials and tempta- | man. tions, and the beginning of the bliss to “ But you miss Mr. Salmon, a little-do which she had looked forward and won- you not ?" asked the pertinacious girl. dered when it would come about, and in “I should miss any friend a little," anwhat guise. Here was the romance which swered Mabel, “even though I recomher brother would have marred, and it was mended him to go away for a while." ending pleasantly and brightly, and with “Yes, as you did Mr. Salmon. Buta happy-ever-afterwards denouement. There “And we will talk no more of this, Dorwere no doubts to cross her, and the faith cas," said Mabel, interrupting her. she had had in the boy-lover remained with hour is late, and you have business of importhe young husband whom she was to meet tance to transact to-morrow. Where do you again to-morrow.
meet your brother? At the Museum ?-or,"
she added after a little pause, “will he call She was glad to think for herself, and of for you here?”
herself; and it was only when Dorcas was “At the Museum," answered Dorcas. on the point of departure that the old confi
Mabel asked no further questions, and dence was shown. Dorcas Halfday was as Dorcas gathered her letters together pre- white as a ghost then. paratory to departure. When she was “I am going,” she said, very slowly, and ready, she dropped suddenly on her knees in a low voice. Have
you anything more before her mistress, and said,
to say to me?" “I have not been so bad a girl, have I ?" “No, Dorcas. Except," Mabel added “No, child, no."
suddenly, “that I would be calm and “A little wilful-perhaps a deal too much patient in your place to-day.” so; but never meaning any harm; and only “ It is hardly possible.” loving my Michael too well.”
“I hope you will not return to me and " He and you will love each other too say you have exchanged hard words with well, I hope, to the end of your lives," said your brother,” Mabel said. Mabel. "There, good night.” Www “
“I will put up with all his reproaches, if “ Good night.
And—you will trust me you wish it," answered Dorcas, submissively. and him ?”
"I wish it. But why should he reproach “ Yes.”
" Whatever Brian may say presently--to “He will reproach all of us,” replied trust us,” said Dorcas, “and think the best | Dorcas, “the lawyer, Michael, and myself. of us. God bless you, Miss Mabel, and He will tell us we are all that is bad; but I make you as happy as myself
. For all past will not say a word in reply. I have prokindness, interest in me, love for me let mised you. me say love !—I give you the thanks of my She put both her hands in Mabel's, and heart.”
looked wistfully at her again. “That sounds like a farewell, Dorcas.” “ You remember all that I said last night,
“No, no-not yet,” answered Dorcas, as Miss Mabel ?” she rose from her knees, and, after a sudden “Yes." kiss on Mabel's cheek, went quickly from “And all you have promised, too ?” the room.
“Yes,” said Mabel, for the second time,
“ Thank you,” she answered, with strange
humility. CHAPTER XV.
Mabel regarded her curiously, and Dorcas looked away from her, as if afraid to meet her gaze. “ Have you anything more to say to me?"
“Is there lurking behind next morning to keep her appoint- all this complication, the shadow of another ment with her brother. There was to mystery ?” be a preliminary conference in Brian's “Why should you think that?" room at the Museum-a last ordeal for Dor- “ You look disturbed." cas, perhaps-before they met the solicitor “Heaven only knows what is lurking in at the district registry at Penton, and a cer- the background; but I have said that I have tain Michael Sewell stepped from his sol- faith in its being happiness. Pray believe dier's cell into the foreground, and took his as I do," she cried, with all her old impulrich young wife to his arms. She did not siveness. go away in high spirits ; only two deep red “Very well, Dorcas, I will try.” spots on her cheeks were evidence of the “Good-bye."
Another at . suppress. She scarcely spoke to Mabel
. May I kiss you, as I did last night ?" Strangely enough, with the morning follow- she said, “ as a friend." ing her confession there seemed to have “To be sure," was the reply.
" Have arisen an embarrassing reserve. A few you not been always my friend? Did not words from Mabel would have broken your careful nursing of me at Datchet Bridge through this, but Mabel did not speak them. make you my friend for life?"
BRIAN BRINGS THE NEWS.