Transcriber's note: After "The Fatal Glove" is a short story titled "Constitutionally Bashful." The author was not identified.
THE FATAL GLOVE
Author of "The Rugg Documents," "Patience Pettigrew's Perplexities," etc.
Arch Trevlyn had had a good day. Business had been brisk. The rain had fallen steadily since daybreak, and the street-crossings in New York were ankle deep in mud. The little street-sweeper's arms ached fearfully, but his pocket was full of pennies, interspersed with an occasional half-dime.
The clouds were breaking in the west, and a gleam of sunshine gilded the tall tower of St. John's. Arch shouldered his broom, and whistled a merry tune as he took his way homeward. His bright dark eyes sparkled as he thought how the sight of his earnings would cheer his feeble mother. She could have tea now, with real milk and some sugar in it, and an orange, too. Only yesterday she was wishing she had an orange.
Arch's way led past a horticultural store, and his eye wandered longingly over the display of flowers in the window. He must have just one wee white rose, because, only the Sabbath before, while he sat at his mother's feet, she had wept in telling him about the sweet roses that used to grow under the window of the little country cottage where her happy youth had been spent.
The white rose would be like bringing back to her ever so little a bit of the happy past. It could not cost much, and Arch felt wealthy as a prince. He stepped into the store and asked the price of a white rose. The clerk answered him roughly:
"Get out of the store, you young rascal! You want to steal something!"
"I am not a thief, sir," said the boy, proudly, his sallow cheeks crimsoning hotly. "I want a rose for my mother. I guess I can pay for it!"
"It's half a dollar, if you want it," said the man, sneeringly. "Show your money, or take yourself off this minute!"
Archie's countenance fell. He had not half a dollar in all. He turned sadly away, his head drooping, his lip quivering. Oh, how very hard it was to be poor, he thought, looking enviously at the costly carriage, with a pair of splendid grays, standing before the door.
"Stop, little boy!" said a sweet voice from somewhere among the roses and heliotropes. "Is your mother sick?"
Arch removed his cap—some inborn spirit of courtesy prompting him to be reverent toward the glorious vision which burst upon him. For a moment he thought he saw an angel, and almost expected that she would unfold her silvery wings, and vanish in a golden cloud from his sight. But after the first glimpse he saw that she was a little girl about his own age—eight or nine years, perhaps—with yellow curls, deep hazel eyes, a mouth like a rosebud, and a blue silk frock. She repeated the question:
"Is your mother sick, little boy?"
"No, she is not sick, for she always sits up, and sews. But she is not strong, and her cheeks never have any color in them, like yours."
"And does she love flowers?"
"Yes, she loves them dearly. She kisses them always, when she has any. And that's not often."
"Does she? That's nice. Just like I do!" said the little girl, in a pleased voice. "Mr. Burns"—to the gruff clerk—"here is a dollar. Give me some real nice roses, and two or three sweet pinks. The lady shall have some flowers. Tell her I sent them."
"Who shall I say sent them?"
"Margie Harrison. Will she know me, think?"
"I guess not. But it's all the same. I shall tell her you are one of the angels, any way. She knows about them, for she's told me ever so much about them."
The little girl laughed, and gave him the flowers.
"Don't soil them with your grimy hands," she said, a little saucily; "and when you get home—let's see, what's your name?"
"Why, what a nice name! Just like names in a storybook. I know some elegant people by the name of Trevlyn. But they live in a big house, and have flowers enough of their own. So they can't be your folks, can they?"
"No, they're not my folks," replied the boy, with a touch of bitterness in his voice.
"Well, Archer when you get home, you wash your face, do! It's so dirty!"
The boy flushed hotly. If one of his companions had said that to him, he would have knocked him down instantly. But he forgave everything this little girl said, because she was so beautiful and so kind.
"I am a street-sweeper, miss."
"Oh, that accounts for it, then. It's very muddy to-day, and you must be tired. Hark! there's Florine calling me. Good-by, Archer."
She vanished, and a moment later the boy saw her disappear within the glittering carriage, which, loaded down with fragrant blossoms, was driven slowly away. He stood a little while looking after it, then, pulling his cap down over his eyes, and grasping the stems of her flowers tightly in his little purple hand, he started for home.
Home! It could hardly be called so, and yet it was home to Archer. His mother was there—the dear mother who was all the world to him. It was in a poor part of the city—an old, tumble-down wooden house, swarming with tenants, teeming with misery, filth, and crime.
Up a crazy flight of steps, and turning to the right, Arch saw that the door of his mother's room was half-way open, and the storm had beaten in on the floor. It was all damp and dismal, and such an indescribable air of desolation over anything! Archer's heart beat a little slower as he went in. His mother sat in an arm-chair by the window, an uncovered box in her lap, and a miniature locket clasped in her hand.
"Oh, mother! mother dearest!" cried Arch, holding up the flowers, "only see what I have got! An angel gave them to me! A very angel, with hair like the sunshine, and a blue frock, all real silk! And I have got my pocket full of pennies, and you shall have an orange, mother, and ever so many nice things besides. See, mother dear!"
He displayed a handful of coin, but she did not notice him. He looked at her through the gloom of the twilight, and a feeling of terrible awe stole over him. He crept to her side, and touched her cheek with his finger. It was cold as ice. A mortal pallor overspread his face; the pennies and the flowers rolled unheeded to the floor.
"Dead! dead! My mother is dead!" he cried.
He did not display any of the passionate grief which is natural to childhood—there were no tears in his feverish eyes. He took her cold hand in his own, and stood there all night long, smoothing back the beautiful hair, and talking to her as one would talk to a sick child.
It was thus that Mat Miller found him the next morning. Mat was a little older than himself—a street-sweeper also. She and Arch had always been good friends; they sympathized with each other when bad luck was on them, and they cheered lustily when fortune smiled.
"Hurrah, Arch!" cried Mat, as she burst into the room; "it rains again, and we shall get a harvest! Good gracious, Arch! is—your—mother—dead?"
"Hush!" said the boy, putting down the cold hand; "I have been trying to warm her all night, but it is no use. Only just feel how like ice my hands are. I wish I was as cold all over, and then they would let me stay with my mother."
"Oh, Arch!" cried the girl, sinking down beside him on the desolate hearth, "it's a hard world to live in! I wonder, if, when folks be dead, they have to sweep crossings, and be kicked and cuffed round by old grandmas when they don't get no pennies? If they don't then I wish I was dead, too, Arch!"
"I suppose it's wicked, Mat. She used to say so. She told me never to get tired of waiting for God's own time—her very words, Mat. Well, now her time has come, and I am all alone—all alone! Oh, mother—mother!" He threw himself down before the dead woman, and his form shook with emotion, but not a tear came to his eyes. Only that hard, stony look of hopeless despair. Mat crept up to him and took his head in her lap, smoothing softly the matted chestnut hair.
"Don't take on so, Arch! don't!" she cried the tears running down over her sunburnt face. "I'll be a mother to ye, Arch! I will indeed! I know I'm a little brat, but I love you, Arch, and some time, when we get bigger, I'll marry you, Arch, and we'll live in the country, where there's birds and flowers, and it's just like the Park all round. Don't feel so—don't!"
Arch pressed the dirty little hands that fluttered about him—for, next to his mother, he loved Mat.
"I will go out now and call somebody," she said; "there Mrs. Hill and Peggy Sullivan, if she ain't drunk. Either of them will come!" And a few moments later the room was filled with the rude neighbors.
They did not think it necessary to call a coroner. She had been ailing for a long time. Heart complaint, the physician said—and she had probably died in one of those spasms to which she was subject. So they robed her for the grave, and when all was done, Arch stole in and laid the pinks and roses on her breast.
"Oh, mother! mother!" he said, bending over her, in agony, "she sent them to you, and you shall have them! I thought they would make you so happy! Well, maybe they will now! Who can tell?"
The funeral was a very poor one. A kind city missionary prayed over the remains, and the hearse was followed to Potter's Field only by Mat and Arch—ragged and tattered, but sincere mourners.
When they came back Mat took Arch's hand and led him into the wretched den she called home.
"You shall stay here, Arch, with Grandma Rugg and me. She said you might if you'd be a good boy, and not plague the cat. Grandma's a rough one, but she ain't kicked me since I tore her cap off. I'm too big to be kicked now. Sit down, Arch; you know you can't stay at home now."
Yes, to be sure he could not stay there any longer. No one knew that any better than Arch. The landlord had warned him out that very morning. A half-quarter's rent was still due, and the meagre furniture would barely suffice to satisfy his claim. Hitherto, Mrs. Trevlyn had managed to pay her expenses, but, now that she was gone, Arch knew that it was more than folly to think of renting a room. But he could not suppress a cry of pain when they came to take away the things; and when they laid their rude hands on the chair in which his mother died, poor Arch could endure no more, but fled out into the street, and wandered about till hunger and weariness forced him back to the old haunt.
He accepted the hospitality of Grandma Rugg, and made his home with her and Mat. The influences which surrounded him were not calculated to develop good principles, and Arch grew rude and boisterous, like the other street boys. He heard the vilest language—oaths were the rule rather than the exception in Grigg Court, as the place was called—and gambling, and drunkenness, and licentiousness abounded. Still, it was singular how much evil Arch shunned.
But there was growing within him a principle of bitter hatred, which one day might embitter his whole existence. Perhaps he had cause for it; he thought he had, and cherished it with jealous care, lest it should be annihilated as the years went on.
From his mother's private papers he had learned much of her history that he had before been ignorant of. She had never spoken to him very freely of the past. She knew how proud and high his temper was, and acted with wisdom in burying the story of her wrongs in her own breast.
His father, Hubert Trevlyn, had come of a proud family. There was no bluer blood in the land than that which ran in the veins of the Trevlyns. Not very far back they had an earl for their ancestor, and, better than that, the whole long lineage had never been tarnished by a breath of dishonor.
Hubert was the sole child of his father, and in him were centred many bright and precious hopes. His father was a kind parent, though a stern one, who would never brook a shade of disobedience in this boy upon whom his fondest hopes and aspirations were fixed.
When Hubert was about twenty-four he went into the country for his health, which was never very robust, and while there he met Helen Crayton. It was a case of love at first sight, but none the less pure and steadfast account. Helen was an orphan—a poor seamstress, but beautiful and intelligent beyond any woman he had ever met. They loved, and they would not be cheated out of their happiness by any worldly opposition. Hubert wrote to his father, informing him of his love for Helen, and asking his consent to their union. Such a letter as he received in return! It bade him give up the girl at once and return home. If he ever spoke to her again he was disowned forever! He might consider himself houseless and homeless.
Hubert had some of the proud Trevlyn blood in his composition, and this letter roused it thoroughly. A week afterward he was the husband of Helen Crayton. He took his young wife to the city, and, having something of a talent for painting, he opened a studio, hoping to receive sufficient patronage from his friends to support his family in comfort.
But he had not rightfully calculated the extent of his father's hatred. He made himself the evil genius of his disobedient son; and, in consequence, nothing Hubert touched prospered. Mr. Trevlyn destroyed the confidence of his friends in him; he circulated scandalous reports of his wife; he made the public to look with suspicious eyes upon the unfortunate pair, and took the honestly earned bread out of their very mouths. From bad to worse it went on, until, broken in health and spirits, Hubert made an appeal to his father. It was a cold, wet night, and he begged for a little food for his wife and child. They were literally starving! Begged of his own father, and was refused with curses. Not only refused, but kicked like a dog from the door of his childhood's home! There was a fearful storm that night, and Hubert did not come back. All night his young wife sat waiting for him, hushing the feeble cries of the weary infant upon her breast. With the dawn, she muffled herself and child in a shawl, and went forth to seek him. Half way from her wretched home to the palatial mansion of Mr. Trevlyn she found her husband, stone dead, and shrouded in the snow—the tender, pitiful snow, that covered him and his wretchedness from sight.
After that, people who knew Mr. Trevlyn said that he grew more fretful and disagreeable. His hair was bleached white as the snow, his hands shook, and his erect frame was bowed and bent like that of a very aged man. His wife, Hubert's mother, pined away to a mere shadow, and before the lapse of a year she was a hopeless idiot.
Helen Trevlyn took up the burden of her life, refusing to despair because of her child. It was a hard struggle for her, and she lived on, until, as we have seen, when Archer was nine years of age, she died.
When all this was known to Archer Trevlyn he was almost beside himself with passion. If he had possessed the power, he would have wiped the whole Trevlyn race out of existence. He shut himself up in his desolate garret with the tell-tale letters and papers which had belonged to his mother, and there, all alone, he took a fearful oath of vengeance. The wrongs of his parents should yet be visited on the head of the man who had been so cruelly unpitying. He did not know what form his revenge might take, but, so sure as he lived, it should fall some time!
* * * * *
Five years passed. Archer was fourteen years of age. He had left the street-sweeping business some time before, at the command of Grandma Rugg, and entered a third-class restaurant as an under-waiter. It was not the best school in the world for good morals. The people who frequented the Garden Rooms, as they were called, were mostly of a low class, and all the interests and associations surrounding Arch were bad. But perhaps he was not one to be influenced very largely by his surroundings. So the Garden Rooms, if they did not make him better, did not make him worse.
In all these years he had kept the memory of Margie Harrison fresh and green, though he had not seen her since the day his mother died. The remembrance of her beauty and purity kept him oftentimes from sin; and when he felt tempted to give utterance to oaths, her soft eyes seemed to come between him and temptation.
One day he was going across the street to make change for a customer, when a stylish carriage came dashing along. The horses shied at some object, and the pole of the carriage struck Arch and knocked him down. The driver drew in the horses with an imprecation.
Arch picked himself up, and stood recovering his scattered senses, leaning against a lamp-post.
"Served ye right!" said the coachman roughly. "You'd no business to be running befront of folkses carriages."
"Stop!" said a clear voice inside the coach. "What has occurred, Peter?"
"Only a ragged boy knocked down; but he's up again all right. Shall I drive on? You will be late to the concert."
"I shall survive it, if I am," said the voice. "Get down and open the door. I must see if the child is hurt."
"It's no child, miss; it is a boy older than yourself," said the man, surlily obeying the command.
Margie Harrison descended to the pavement. From the sweet voice, Arch had almost expected to see her. A flush of grateful admiration lit up his face. She beamed upon him like a star from the depths of the clouds.
"Are you hurt?" she asked, kindly. "It was very careless of Peter to let the carriage strike you. Allow us to take you home."
"Thank you," he said. "I am close to where I work, and I am not hurt. It is only a trifling bruise."
Something familiar about him seemed to strike her; she looked at him with a strangely puzzled face, but he gave her no light.
"Is there nothing we can do for you?" she asked, at length.
A great presumption almost took his breath away. He gave it voice on the moment, afraid if he waited he should lack the courage.
"If you will give me the cluster of bluebells in your belt—"
She looked surprised, hesitated a moment, then laid them in his hand. He bowed, and was lost in the crowd.
That night when he got home he found Mat worse. She had been failing for a long time. She was a large girl now, with great preternaturally bright eyes, and a spot of crimson in each hollow cheek.
It was more than three months since she had been able to do anything, and Grandma Rugg was very harsh and severe with her in consequence. There were black and blue places on her shoulders now where she had been beaten, but Arch did not know it. Mat never spoke to him about her sufferings, because it distressed him so, and made him very angry with the old woman.
He went in and sat down on the straw beside Mat; and almost before he knew it he was telling her about Margie Harrison. He always brought all his joys and sorrows to Mat now, just as he used to carry them to his mother.
The girl listened intently, the spots on her face growing deeper and wider. She looked at the bluebells wistfully, but would not touch them. Arch offered her a spray. She shook her head sadly.
"No," she said, "they are not for me. Keep them, Arch. Some time, I think, you will be rich and happy, and have all the flowers and beautiful things you wish."
"If I ever am, Mat, you shall be my queen, and dress in gold and silver!" answered the boy, warmly; "and never do any more heavy work to make your hands hard."
"You are very good, Arch," she said. "I thank you, but I shall not be there, you know. I think I am going away—going where I shall see my mother, and your mother, too. Arch, and where all the world will be full of flowers! Then I shall think of you, Arch, and wish I could send you some."
"Mat, dear Mat! don't talk so strangely!" said the boy, clasping her hot hands in his. "You must not think of going away! What should I do without you?"
She smiled, and touched her lips to his hand, which had stolen under her head, and lay so near her cheek.
"You would forget me, Arch. I mean after a time, and I should want you to. But I love you better than anything else in all the world! And it is better that I should die. A great deal better! Last night I dreamed it was. Your mother came and told me so. Do you know how jealous I have been of that Margie Harrison? I have watched you closely. I have seen you kiss a dead rose that I knew she gave you. And I longed to see her so much, that I have waited around the splendid house where she lives, and seen her time and again come out to ride, with the beautiful dresses, and the white feather in her hat, and the wild roses on her cheeks. And my heart ached with such a hot, bitter pain! But it's all over now, Arch: I am not jealous now. I love her and you—both of you together. If I do go away, I want you to think kindly of me, and—and—good-night, Arch—dear Arch. I am so tired."
He gathered her head to his bosom, and kissed her lips.
Poor little Mat! In the morning, when Arch came down, she had indeed gone away—drifted out with the tide and with the silent night.
After Mat's death the home at Grandma Rugg's became insupportable to Arch. He could not remain there. The old woman was crosser than ever, and, though he gave her every penny of his earnings, she was not satisfied.
So Arch took lodgings in another part of the city, quite as poor a place, but there no one had the right to grumble at him. Still, because she was some relation to Mat, he gave Grandma Rugg full half of his money, but he never remained inside her doors longer than necessity demanded.
In his new lodgings he became acquainted with a middle-aged man who represented himself as a retired army officer. His name was John Sharp—a sleek, keen-eyed, smooth-tongued individual, who never boasted or blustered, but who gave people the idea that at some time he had been a person of consequence. This man attached himself particularly to Arch Trevlyn. With insidious cunning he wormed himself into the boy's confidence, and gained, to a certain degree, his friendship. Arch did not trust him entirely, though. There was something about him from which he shrank—the touch of his white, jewelled hand made his flesh creep, like the touch of a serpent.
But Mr. Sharp had an object to gain, and set himself resolutely to work to carry his point. He made himself necessary to Arch. He bought him books, and taught him in the evenings, when neither was engaged otherwise. He had been well educated, and in Arch he had an apt scholar. Every spare moment of the boy's life was absorbed in his books.
By-and-bye Sharp learned the whole history of the wrongs, inflicted on Arch's parents by old Mr. Trevlyn. He snapped at the story as a dog snaps at a bone. But he was, cautious and patient, and it was a long time before he showed himself to Arch in his true character. And then, when he did, the revelation had been made so much by degrees, that the boy was hardly shocked to find that his friend was a house-breaker and a highway robber.
Long before he had formed a plan to rob the house of Mr. Trevlyn. It was a field that promised well. Mr. Trevlyn, with the idiosyncrasy of age, had invested most of his fortune in diamonds, and these he kept in a chamber in his house. His chief delight consisted in gloating over these precious stones. Night after night he would sit handling his diamonds, chuckling over his wealth, and threatening imaginary plunderers with destruction.
So, his servants said, and Sharp repeated the story to Arch with sundry variations and alterations suited to the case. He had a persuasive tongue, and it is little wonder that the boy, hating his grandfather as he did, and resolved as he was upon revenging his father's wrongs, should fall into the snare. He wanted Mr. Trevlyn to suffer—he did not care how. If the loss of his diamonds would be to him a severer blow than any other, then let it fall.
Sharp used many specious arguments to induce Arch to become his accomplice in robbing the Trevlyn mansion, but the only one which had any weight was that he could thus revenge his father's wrongs.
"Only assist me, and secure your revenge," said the wily schemer, "and I will share the spoils with you. There will be enough to enrich us both for life!"
Arch drew himself up proudly, a fiery red on his cheek, a dangerous gleam in his dark eye.
"I am no thief, sir! I'd scorn to take a cent from that old man to use for my benefit! I would not touch his diamonds if they lay here at my feet! But if I can make him suffer anything like as my poor father suffered through him, then I am ready to turn robber—yes, pickpocket, if you will!" he added, savagely.
Sharp appointed the night. His plans were craftily laid. Mr. Trevlyn, he had ascertained, would be absent on Thursday night; he had taken a little journey into the country for his health, and only the servants and his ward would sleep in the house.
Thursday night was dark and rainy. At midnight Sharp and Arch stood before the house they were about to plunder. No thought of shame or sin entered Archer Trevlyn's heart; he did not seem to think he was about to disgrace himself for life; he thought only of Mr. Trevlyn's dismay when he should return, to find the bulk of his riches swept away from him at one blow.
"He took all my father had," he said, under his breath; "he would have sullied the fair fame of my mother; and if I could take from him everything but life, I would do it."
Sharp, with a dexterous skill, removed the fastenings of a shutter, and then the window yielded readily to his touch. He stepped inside; Arch followed. All was quiet, save the heavy ticking of the old clock on the hall stairs. Up the thickly carpeted stairway, along the corridor they passed, and Sharp stopped before a closed door.
"We must pass through one room before reaching that where the safe is which contains the treasure," he said, in a whisper. "It is possible that there may be some one sleeping in that room. If so, leave them to me, that is all."
He opened the door with one of a bunch of keys which he carried, and noiselessly entered. The gas was turned down low, but a mellow radiance filled the place. A bed stood in one corner, and Sharp advanced toward it. The noise he had made, slight though it was, aroused the occupant, and, as she started up in affright, Arch met the soft, pleading eyes of Margie Harrison. She spoke to him, not to Sharp.
"Do not let him kill me!"
Sharp laid a rough hand on her shoulder, and put a knife at her throat.
Simultaneously, Arch sprang upon him like a tiger.
"Release that girl!" he hissed. "Dare to touch her with but the tips of your fingers, and by Heaven I will murder you!"
Sharp sprang back with an oath, and at the same moment a pistol-shot rang through the house, and Sharp, bathed in blood, fell to the floor. Old Mr. Trevlyn, travel-stained and wet, strode into the room.
"I've killed him!" he said, in a cracked voice of intense satisfaction. "He didn't catch old Trevlyn napping. I knew well enough they'd be after my diamonds, and I gave up the journey. Margie, child, are the jewels safe?"
She had fallen back on the pillows, pale as death, her white night-dress spattered with the blood of the dead robber.
Arch lifted a tiny glove from the carpet, thrust it into his bosom, and, before old Trevlyn could raise a hand to stop him, he had got clear of the premises.
Such a relief as he felt when the cool, fresh air struck his face. He had been saved from overt criminality. God had not permitted him to thus debase himself. Now that his excitement was gone, he saw the heinousness of the sin he had been about to commit in all its deformity.
Let old Trevlyn go! Let him gloat over his diamonds while yet he had opportunity. He would not despoil him of his treasures, but he could not give up his scheme of vengeance. It should be brought about some other way.
A large reward was offered by Mr. Trevlyn for the apprehension of Sharp's accomplice, but, as no description of his person could be given by any one except Margie, who could not or would not be explicit on that point, he was not secured.
Trevlyn recognized and appreciated her noble generosity in suffering him to go free, for in the one look she had given him on that disgraceful occasion, he had felt that she recognized him. But she pitied him enough to let him go free.
Well, he would show her that her confidence was not misplaced. He would deserve her forbearance. He was resolved upon a new life.
He left the saloon, and after many rebuffs succeeded in getting employment as errand-boy in a large importing house. The salary was a mere pittance, but it kept him in clothes and coarse food, until one day, about a year after his apprenticeship there, he chanced to save the life of Mr. Belgrade, the senior partner. A gas-pipe in the private office of the firm exploded, and the place took fire, and Mr. Belgrade, smothered and helpless, would have perished in the flames, had not Arch, with a bravery few would have expected in a bashful, retiring boy, plunged through the smoke and flame, and borne him to a place of safety.
Mr. Belgrade was a man with a conscience, and, grateful for his life, he rewarded his preserver by a clerkship of importance. The duties of this office he discharged faithfully for three years, when the death of the head clerk left a vacancy, and when Arch was nineteen he received the situation.
Through these three years he had been a close student. Far into the night he pored over his books, and, too proud to go to school, he hired a teacher and was taught privately. At twenty he was quite as well educated as nine-tenths of the young men now turned out by our fashionable colleges.
Rumors of Margie Harrison's triumphs reached him constantly, for Margie was a belle and a beauty now. Her parents were dead, and she had been left to the guardianship of Mr. Trevlyn, at whose house she made her home, and where she reigned a very queen. Old Trevlyn's heart at last found something beside his diamonds to worship, and Margie had it all her own way.
She came into the store of Belgrade and Co. one day, and asked to look at some laces. Trevlyn was the only clerk disengaged, and with a very changeable face he came forward to attend to her. He felt that she would recognize him at once—that she would remember where she had seen him the last time—a house-breaker! She held his reputation in her keeping.
His hand trembled as he took down the laces—she glanced at his face. A start of surprise—a conscious, painful blush swept over her face. He dropped the box, and the rich laces fell over her feet.
"Pardon me," he said hurriedly, and, stooping to pick them up, the little glove he had stolen on that night, and which he wore always in his bosom, fell out, and dropped among the laces.
She picked it up with a little cry.
"The very glove that I lost four years ago! And you are—" she stopped suddenly.
He paled to the lips, but, lifting his head proudly, said: "Go on. Finish the sentence. I can bear it."
"No, I will not go on. Let the memory die, I knew you then, but you were so young, and had to bear so much among temptations! And the other was a villain. No, I am silent. You are safe."
He stooped, and, lifting the border of her shawl, kissed it reverently.
"If I live," he said solemnly, "you will be glad you have been so merciful. Some time I shall hear you say so."
She did not purchase any laces. She went out forgetful of her errand, and Arch was so awkward for the remainder of the day, and committed so many blunders, that his fellow-clerks laughed at him unrebuked, and Mr. Belgrade seriously wondered if Trevlyn had not been taking too much champagne.
* * * * *
Margie Harrison and her guardian sat at breakfast. Mr. Trevlyn showed his years very plainly. He was nearly seventy-five—he looked eighty.
Margie looked very lovely this morning and it was of this the old man was thinking as he glanced at her across the table. She had more than fulfilled the promise of her childhood. The golden hair was chestnut now, and pushed behind her ears in heavy rippling masses of light and shadow. Her eyes had taken a deeper tone—they were like wells whose depth you could not guess at. Her features were delicately irregular, the forehead low, broad and white; her chin was dimpled as an infant's, and her mouth still ripe and red, as a damask rosebud. She wore a pink muslin wrapper, tied with white ribbons, and in her hair drooped a cluster of apple-blossoms.
"Margie dear," said Mr. Trevlyn, pausing in his work of buttering a muffin, "I want you to look your prettiest to-night. I am going to bring home a friend of mine—one who was also your father's friend—Mr. Linmere. He arrived from Europe to-day."
Margie's cheek lost a trifle of its peachy bloom. She toyed with her spoon, but did not reply to his remark.
"Did you understand me, child? Mr. Linmere has returned."
"And is coming here to-night. Remember to take extra pains with yourself, Margie, for he has seen all the European beauties, and I do not want my little American flower to be cast in the shade. Will you remember it?"
"Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Trevlyn."
"You are aware that Mr. Linmere is your affianced husband, are you not?"
"I have been told so."
"And yet in the face of that fact—well, of all things, girls do beat me! Thank heaven, I have none of my own!" he added testily.
"Girls are better let alone, sir. It is very hard to feel one's self bound to fulfil a contract of this kind."
"Hard! Well, now, I should think it easy. Mr. Linmere is all that any reasonable woman could wish. Not too old, nor yet too young; about forty-five, which is just the age for a man to marry; good-looking, intelligent and wealthy—what more could you ask?"
"You forgot that I do not love him—that he does not love me."
"Love! tush! Don't let me hear anything about that. I loath the name. Margie, love ruined my only son! For love he disobeyed me and I disowned him, I have not spoken his name for years! Your father approved of Mr. Linmere, and while you were yet a child you were betrothed. And when your father died, what did you promise him on his deathbed?"
Margie grew white as the ribbons at her throat.
"I promised him that I would try and fulfil his requirements."
"That you would try! Yes. And that was equal to giving an unqualified assent. You know the conditions of the will, I believe?"
"I do. If I marry without your consent under the age of twenty-one, I forfeit my patrimony. And I am nineteen now. And I shall not marry without your consent."
"Margie, you must marry Mr. Linmere. Do not hope to do differently. It is your duty. He has lived single all these years waiting for you. He will be kind to you, and you will be happy. Prepare to receive him with becoming respect."
Mr. Trevlyn considered his duty performed, and went out for his customary walk.
At dinner Mr. Linmere arrived. Margie met him with cold composure. He scanned her fair face and almost faultless form, with the eye of a connoisseur, and congratulated himself on the fortune which was to give him, such a bride without the perplexity of a wooing. She was beautiful and attractive, and he had feared she might be ugly, which would have been a dampener on his satisfaction. True, her wealth would have counter-balanced any degree of personal deformity; but Mr. Paul Linmere admired beauty, and liked to have pretty things around him.
To tell the truth, he was sadly in need of money. It was fortunate that his old friend, Mr. Harrison, Margie's dead father, had taken it into his head to plight his daughter's troth to him while she was yet a child. Mr. Harrison had been an eccentric man; and from the fact that in many points of religious belief he and Mr. Paul Linmere agreed, (for both were miserable skeptics,) he valued him above all other men, and thought his daughter's happiness would be secured by the union he had planned.
Linmere had been abroad several years, and had led a very reckless, dissipated life. Luxurious by nature, lacking in moral rectitude, and having wealth at his command, he indulged himself unrestrained; and when at last he left the gay French capital and returned to America, his whole fortune, with exception of a few thousands, was dissipated. So he needed a rich wife sorely, and was not disposed to defer his happiness.
He met Margie with empressement, and bowed his tall head to kiss the white hand she extended to him. She drew it away coldly—something about the man made her shrink from him.
"I am so happy to meet you again. Margie, and after ten years of separation! I have thought so much and so often of you."
"Thank you, Mr. Linmere."
"Will you not call me Paul?" he asked, in a subdued voice, letting his dangerous eyes, full of light and softness, rest on her.
An expression of haughty surprise swept her face. She drew back a pace.
"I am not accustomed to address gentlemen—mere acquaintances—by their Christian names, sir."
"But in this case, Margie? Surely the relations existing between us will admit of such a familiarity," he said, seating himself, while she remained standing coldly near.
"There are no relations existing between us at present, Mr. Linmere," she answered, haughtily; "and if, in obedience to the wishes of the dead, we should ever become connected in name, I beg leave to assure you in the beginning that you will always be Mr. Linmere to me."
A flush of anger mounted to his cheek; he set his teeth, but outwardly he was calm and subdued. Anger, just at present, was impolitic.
"I hope to win your love, Margie; I trust I shall," he answered, sadly enough to have aroused almost any woman's pity; but some subtle instinct told Margie he was false to the core.
But all through the evening he was affable and complaisant and forbearing. She made no attempt to conceal her dislike of him. Concealments were not familiar to Margie's nature. She was frank and open as the day.
Mr. Linmere's fascinations were many and varied. He had a great deal of adaptation, and made himself agreeable to every one. He had traveled extensively, was a close observer, and had a retentive memory. Mr. Trevlyn was charmed with him. So was Alexandrine Lee, a friend of Margie's, a rival belle, who accidentally (?) dropped in to spend the evening.
Mr. Linmere played and sang with exquisite taste and skill—he was a complete master of the art, and, in spite of herself, Margie listened to him with a delight that was almost fascination, but which subsided the moment the melody ceased.
He judged her by the majority of women he had met, and finding her indifferent, he sought to rouse her jealousy by flirting with Miss Lee, who was by no means adverse to his attentions. But Margie hailed the transfer with a relief which was so evident, that Mr. Linmere, piqued and irritated, took up his hat to leave, in the midst of one of Miss Lee's most brilliant descriptions of what she had seen in Italy, from whence she had just returned. He went over to the sofa where Margie was sitting.
"I hope to please you better next time," he said, lifting her hand. "Good-night, Margie dear." And before she was aware, he touched his lips to her forehead. She tore her hand away from him, and a flush of anger sprang to her cheek. He surveyed her with admiration. He liked a little spirit in a woman, especially as he intended to be able to subdue it when it pleased him. Her anger made her a thousand times more beautiful. He stood looking at her a moment, then turned and withdrew.
Margie struck her forehead with her hand, as if she would wipe out the touch he had left there.
Alexandrine came and put her arm around Margie's waist.
"I almost envy you, Margie," she said, in that singularly purring voice of hers. "Ah, Linmere is magnificent! Such eyes, and hair, and such a voice! Well, Margie, you are a fortunate girl."
And Miss Lee sighed, and shook out the heavy folds of her violet silk, with the air of one who has been injured, but is determined to show a proper spirit of resignation.
Mr. Paul Linmere hurried along through an unfrequented street to his suite of rooms at the St. Nicholas. He was very angry with everybody; he felt like an ill-treated individual. He had expected Margie to fall at his feet at once. A man of his attractions to be snubbed as he had been, by a mere chit of a girl, too!
"I will find means to tame her, when once she is mine," he muttered. "By heaven! but it will be rare sport to break that fiery spirit! It will make me young again!"
Something white and shadowy bound his path. A spectral hand was laid on his arm, chilling like ice, even through his clothing. The ghastly face of a woman—a face framed in jet black hair, and lit up by great black eyes bright as stars, gleamed through the mirk of the night.
The man gazed into the weird face, and shook like a leaf in the blast. His arm sank nerveless to his side, palsied by that frozen touch; his voice was so unnatural that he started at the sound.
"My God! Arabel Vere! Do the dead come back?"
The great unnaturally brilliant eyes seemed to burn into his brain. The cold hand tightened on his arm. A breath like wind freighted with snow crossed his face.
"Speak for heaven's sake!" he cried. "Am I dreaming?"
"Remember the banks of the Seine!" said a singularly sweet voice, which sounded to Mr. Paul Linmere as if it came from leagues and leagues away. "When you sit by the side of the living love, remember the dead! Think of the dark rolling river, and of what its waters covered!"
He started from the strange presence, and caught at a post for support. His self-possession was gone; he trembled like the most abject coward. Only for a moment—and then, when he looked again, the apparition had vanished.
"Good God!" he cried, putting his hand to his forehead. "Do the dead indeed come back! I saw them take her from the river—O heaven! I saw her when she sank beneath the terrible waters! Is there a hereafter, and does a man sell his soul to damnation who commits what the world calls murder?"
He stopped under a lamp and drew out his pocket-book, taking therefrom a soiled scrap of paper.
"Yes, I have it here. 'Found drowned, the body of a woman. Her linen was marked with the name of Arabel Vere. Another unfortunate—' No, I will not read the rest. I have read it too often, now, for my peace of mind. Yes, she is dead. There is no doubt. I have been dreaming to-night. Old Trevlyn's wine was too strong for me. Arabel Vere, indeed! Pshaw! Paul Linmere, are you an idiot?"
Not daring to cast a look behind him, he hurried home, and up to his spacious parlor on the second floor.
Linmere turned up the gas into a flare, and, throwing off his coat, flung himself into an arm-chair, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead. He looked about the room with half-frightened, searching eyes. He dreaded solitude, and he feared company, yet felt the necessity of speaking to something. His eyes lighted on the greyhound dozing on the hearth-rug.
"Leo, Leo," he called, "come here, sir!"
The dog opened his eyes, but gave no responsive wag of his tail. You saw at once that though Leo was Mr. Paul Linmere's property, and lived with him, he did not have any attachment for him.
"Come here, sir!" said Linmere, authoritatively.
Still the animal did not stir. Linmere was nervous enough to be excited to anger by the variest trifle, and the dog's disobedience aroused his rage.
"Curse the brute!" he cried; and putting his foot against him, he sent him spinning across the room. Leo did not growl, or cry out, but his eyes gleamed like coals, and he showed his white teeth with savage but impotent hatred. It was easy to see that if he had been a bulldog instead of a greyhound, he would have torn Mr. Paul Linmere limb from limb.
Linmere went back to his chair, and sat down with a sullen face; but he could not rest there. He rose, and going into an inner room, brought out an ebony box, which he opened, and from which he took a miniature in a golden case. He hesitated a moment before touching the spring, and when he did so the unclosing revealed the face of a young girl—a fair young girl in her early youth—not more than eighteen summers could have scattered their roses over her, when that beautiful impression was taken. A ripe southern face, with masses of jet-black hair, and dark brilliant eyes. There was a dewy crimson on her lips, and her cheeks were red as damask roses. A bright, happy face, upon which no blight had fallen.
"She was beautiful—beautiful as an houri!" said Mr. Paul Linmere, speaking slowly, half unconsciously, it seemed, his thoughts aloud. "And when I first knew her she was sweet and innocent. I made her sin. I led her into the temptation she was too weak to resist. Women are soft and silly when they are in love, and because of that, men have to bear all the blame. She was willing to trust me—she ought to have been more cautious. Who blames me, if I tired of her? A man does not always want a moping complaining woman hanging about him; and she had a deuced unpleasant way of forcing herself upon me when it was particularly disagreeable to have her do so. Well—but there is no use in retrospection. She was drowned—she and her unborn child, and the dead can never come back—no, never!"
He sprang up and rang the bell sharply. Directly his valet, Pietro, a sleepy-looking and swarthy Italian, appeared.
"Bring me a glass of brandy, Pietro; and look you, sir, you may sleep to-night on the lounge in my room. I am not feeling quite well, and may have need of you before morning."
The man looked surprised, but made no comment. He brought the stimulant, his master drank it off, and then threw himself, dressed as he was, on the bed.
Upper Tendom was ringing with the approaching nuptials of Miss Harrison and Mr. Linmere. The bride was so beautiful and wealthy, and so insensible to her good fortune in securing the most eligible man in her set. Half the ladies in the city were in love with Mr. Linmere. He was so distingue, carried himself so loftily, and yet was so gallantly condescending, and so inimitably fascinating. He knew Europe like a book, sang like a professor, and knew just how to hand a lady her fan, adjust her shawl, and take her from a carriage. Accomplishments which make men popular, always.
Early in July Mr. Trevlyn and Margie, accompanied by a gay party, went down to Cape May. Mr. Trevlyn had long ago forsworn everything of the kind; but since Margie Harrison had come to reside with him he had given up his hermit habits, and been quite like other nice gouty old gentleman.
The party went down on Thursday—Mr. Paul Linmere followed on Saturday. Margie, had hoped he would not come; in his absence she could have enjoyed the sojourn, but his presence destroyed for her all the charms of sea and sky. She grew frightened, sometimes, when she thought how intensely she hated him. And in October she was to become his wife.
Some way, Margie felt strangely at ease on the subject. She knew that the arrangements were all made, that her wedding trousseau was being gotten up by a fashionable modiste, that Delmonico had received orders for the feast, and that the oranges were budded, which, when burst into flowers, were to adorn her forehead on her bridal day. She despised Linmere with her whole soul, she dreaded him inexpressibly, yet she scarcely gave her approaching marriage with him a single thought. She wondered that she did not; when she thought of it all, she was shocked to find herself so impassive.
Her party had been a week at Cape May, when Archer Trevlyn came down, with the wife of his employer, Mr. Belgrade. The lady was in delicate health, and had been advised to try sea air and surf-bathing. Mr. Belgrade's business would not allow of his absence at just that time, and he had shown his confidence in his head clerk by selecting him as his wife's escort.
Introduced into society by so well established an aristocrat as Mrs. Belgrade, Arch might at once have taken a prominent place among the fashionables; for his singularly handsome face and highbred manners made him an acquisition to any company. But he never forgot that he had been a street-sweeper, and he would not submit to be patronized by the very people who had once, perhaps, grudged him the pennies they had thrown to him as they would have thrown bread to a starving dog. So he avoided society, and attended only on Mrs. Belgrade. But from Alexandrine Lee he could not escape. She fastened upon him at once. She had a habit of singling out gentlemen, and giving them the distinction of her attentions, and no one thought of noticing it now. Arch was ill at ease beneath the infliction, but he was a thorough gentleman, and could not repulse her rudely.
A few days after the arrival of Mrs. Belgrade, Arch took her down to the beach to bathe. The beach was alive with the gorgeous grotesque figures of the bathers. The air was bracing, the surf splendid.
Mr. Trevlyn's carriage drove down soon after Mrs. Belgrade had finished her morning's "dip;" and Margie and Mr. Linmere, accompanied by Alexandrine Lee, alighted. They were in bathing costume, and Miss Lee, espying Arch, fastened upon him without ceremony.
"Oh, Mr. Trevlyn," she said, animatedly, "I am glad to have come across you. I was just telling Mr. Linmere that two ladies were hardly safe with only one gentleman in such a surf as there is this morning. I shall have to depend on you to take care of me. Shall I?"
Of course, Arch could not refuse, and apologizing to Mrs. Belgrade, who good-naturedly urged him forward, he took charge of Miss Lee.
Linmere offered Margie his hand to lead her in, but she declined. He kept close beside her, and when they stood waist deep in the water, and a huge breaker was approaching, he put his arm around her shoulders. With an impatient gesture she tore herself away. He made an effort to retain her, and in the struggle Margie lost her footing, and the receding wave bore her out to sea.
Linmere grew pale as death. He knew if Margie was drowned, he was a ruined man. His pictures and statuary would have to go under the hammer—his creditors were only kept from striking by his prospect of getting a rich wife to pay his debts. He cast an imploring eye on the swimmers around him, but he was too great a coward to risk his life among the swirling breakers.
Only one man struck boldly out to the rescue. Arch Trevlyn threw off the clinging hand of Miss Lee, and with a strong arm pressed his way through the white-capped billows. He came near to Margie, and saw the chestnut gleam of her hair on the bright treacherous water, and in an instant it was swept under a long line of snowy foam. She rose again at a little distance, and her eyes met his pleadingly. Her lips syllabled the words, "save me!"
He heard them, above all the deafening roar of the waters. They nerved him on to fresh exertions. Another stroke, and he caught her arm, drew her to him, held her closely to his breast, and touched her wet hair with his lips. Then he controlled himself, and spoke coolly:
"Take my hand, Miss Harrison, and I think I can tow you safely to the shore. Do not be afraid."
"I am not afraid," she said, quietly.
How his heart leaped at the sound of her voice! How happy he was that she was not afraid—that she trusted her life to him! Of how little value he would have reckoned his own existence, if he had purchased hers by its loss!
A hundred pairs of hands were outstretched to receive Margie, when Arch brought her to the shore. Her dear devoted friends crowded around her, and in their joy at her escape, Arch retreated for his lodgings. But Miss Lee had been watching him, and seized his arm the moment he was clear of the crowd.
"Oh, Mr. Trevlyn, it is just like a novel!" she exclaimed, enthusiastically. "Only you cannot marry the heroine, for she is engaged to Mr. Linmere; and she perfectly dotes on him."
She flitted away, and Trevlyn went up to his chamber.
That evening there was a "hop" at the hotel, but Arch did not go down. He knew if he did the inevitable Miss Lee would anchor herself on his arm for the evening; and his politeness was not equal to the task of entertaining her.
The strains of music reached him, softened and made sweet by the distance. He stole down on the piazza, and sat under the shadows of a flowering vine, looking at the sky, with its myriads of glittering stars. There was a light step at his side, and glancing up, he saw Margie Harrison.
She was in evening dress, her white arms and shoulders bare, and glistening with snowy pearls. Her soft unbound hair fell over her neck in a flood of light, and a subtle perfume, like the breath of blooming water-lilies, floated around her.
"I want to make you my captive for a little while, Mr. Trevlyn," she said, gayly. "Will you wear the chains?"
"Like a garland of roses," he responded. "Yes, to the world's end, Miss Harrison!"
The unconscious fervor of his voice brought a crimson flush to her face. She dropped her eyes, and toyed with the bracelet on her arm.
"I did not know you dealt in compliments, Mr. Trevlyn," she said, a little reproachfully. "I thought you were always sincere."
"And so I am, Miss Harrison."
"I take you at your word then," she said, recovering her playful air. "You will not blame me, if I lead you into difficulty?"
"Certainly not. I give myself into your keeping."
She put her hand within his arm, and led him up the stairs, to a private parlor on the second floor. Under the jet of light sat old Mr. Trevlyn. Archer's heart throbbed fiercely, and his lips grew set and motionless, as he stood there before the man he hated—the man against whom he had made a vow of undying vengeance. Margie was looking at her guardian, and did not observe the startling change which had come over Arch. She spoke softly, addressing the old man.
"Dear guardian, this is the man who this morning so gallantly rescued me from a watery grave. I want you to help me thank him."
Mr. Trevlyn arose, came forward, and extended his hand. Arch stood erect, his arms folded on his breast. He did not move, nor offer to take the proffered hand. Mr. Trevlyn gave a start of surprise, and seizing a lamp from the table, held it up to the face of the young man. Arch did not flinch; he bore the insulting scrutiny with stony calmness.
The old man dashed down the lamp, and put his hand to his forehead. His face was livid with passion, his voice choked so as to be scarcely audible.
"Margie, Margie Harrison!" he exclaimed, "what is this person's name?"
"Archer Trevlyn, sir," answered the girl, amazed at the strange behavior of the two men.
"Just as I thought! Hubert's son!"
"Yes," said Arch, speaking with painful calmness, "I am Hubert's son; the son of the man your wicked cruelty murdered."
Mr. Trevlyn seized his cane and rushed upon his grandson; but Margie sprang forward and threw her arm across the breast of Arch.
"Strike him, if you dare!" she said, "but you shall strike a woman!"
Mr. Trevlyn looked at her, and the weapon dropped to the floor.
"Margaret Harrison," he said, sternly, "leave this room. This is no place for you. Obey me!"
"I am subject to no man's authority," she said, boldly; "and I will not leave the room. You shall not insult a gentleman to whom I owe my life, and who is here as my invited guest!"
"I shall defend myself! There is murder in that fellow's eye, if I ever saw it in that of any human being!"
"I am answerable for his conduct," she said with proud dignity. "He will do nothing of which a lady needs stand in fear. I brought him here, ignorant of the relationship existing between you and him, and unconscious of the truth that I should be called upon to defend him from the causeless rage of his own grandfather."
Again the cane was uplifted, but Margie laid her hand resolutely upon it.
"Give it to me. Will you—you, who pride yourself upon your high and delicate sense of honor—will you be such an abject coward as to strike a defenceless man?"
He yielded her the weapon, and she threw it from the window.
"You may take away my defence, Margaret," said the old man, resolutely, "but you shall not prevent me from cursing him! A curse be upon him—"
"Hold, sir? Remember that your head is white with the snows of time? It will not be long before you go to the God who sees you every moment, who will judge you for every sin you commit."
"You may preach that stuff to the dogs! There is no God! I defy him and you! Archer Trevlyn, my curse be upon you and yours, now and forever! Child of a disobedient son! child of a mother who was a harlot!"
Arch sprang upon him with a savage cry. His hand was on his throat—God knows what crime he would have done, fired by the insult offered to the memory of his mother, had not Margie caught his hands, and drawn them away.
"Oh, Archer, Archer Trevlyn!" she cried, imploringly, "grant me this one favor—the very first I ever asked of you! For my sake, come away. He is an old man. Leave him to God, and his own conscience. You are young and strong; you would not disgrace your manhood by laying violent hands on the weakness of old age!"
"Did you hear what he called my mother, the purest woman the world ever saw? No man shall repeat that foul slander in my presence, and live!"
"He will not repeat it. Forgive him. He is fretful, and he thinks the world has gone hard with him. He has sinned, and those who sin suffer always. It has been a long and terrible feud between him and yours. I brought you here—let me take you away."
Her soft hands were on his—her beautiful tear-wet eyes lifted to his face. He could not withstand that look. He would have given up the plans of a lifetime, if she had asked him with those imploring eyes.
"I yield to you, Miss Harrison—only to you," he replied. "If John Trevlyn lives, he owes his life to you. He judged rightly—there was murder in my soul, and he saw it in my eyes. Years ago, after they laid my poor heart-broken mother out of my sight, I swore a terrible vow of vengeance on the old man whose cruelty had hurried her into the grave. But for you, I should have kept the vow this moment. But I will obey you. Take me wherever you will."
She led him down the stairs, across the lawn, and out on the lonely beach, where the quiet moon and the passionless stars dropped down their crystal rain. The sweet south wind blew up cool from the sea, and afar off the tinkle of a sheep-bell stirred the silence of the night. The lamp in the distant lighthouse gleamed like a spark of fire, and at their feet broke the tireless billows, white as the snow-drifts of December.
There was something inexpressibly soothing in the serenity of the night. Arch felt its influence. The hot color died out of his cheek, his pulse beat slower, he lifted his eyes to the purple arch of the summer sky.
"All God's universe is at rest," said Margie, her voice breaking upon his ear like a strain of music. "Oh, Arthur Trevlyn, be at peace with all mankind!"
"I am—with all but him."
"And with him, also. The heart which bears malice cannot be a happy heart. There has been a great wrong done—I have heard the sad story—but it is divine to forgive. The man who can pardon the enemy who has wrought him evil, rises to a height where nothing of these earthly temptations can harm him more. He stands on a level with the angels of God. If you have been injured, let it pass. If your parents were hurried out of the world by his cruelty, think how much sooner they tasted the bliss of heaven! Every wrong will in due time be avenged. Justice will be done, for the Infinite One has promised it. Leave it in His hands. Archer, before I leave you, promise to forgive Mr. Trevlyn."
"I cannot! I cannot!" he cried, hoarsely. "Oh, Margie, Miss Harrison, ask of me anything but that, even to the sacrifice of my life, and I will willingly oblige you, but not that! not that!"
"That is all I ask. It is for your good and my peace of mind that I demand it. You have no right to make me unhappy, as your persistence in this dreadful course will do. Promise me, Archer Trevlyn!"
She put her hand on his shoulder; he turned his head and pressed his lips upon it. She did not draw it away, but stood, melting his hard heart with her wonderfully sweet gaze. He yielded all at once—she knew she had conquered. He sank down on one knee before her, and bowed his face upon his hands. She stooped over him, her hair swept his shoulders, the brown mingling with the deeper chestnut of his curling locks.
"You will promise me, Mr. Trevlyn?"
He looked up suddenly.
"What will you give me, if I promise?"
"Ask for it."
He lifted a curl of shining hair.
"Yes," she said. "Promise me what I ask, and I will give it to you."
He took his pocket-knife and severed the tress.
"I promise you. I break my vow; I seek no revenge. I forgive John Trevlyn, and may God forgive him also. He is safe from me. I submit to have my parents sleep on unavenged. I leave him and his sins to the God whom he denies; and all because you have asked it of me."
Slowly and silently they went up to the house. At the door he said no good-night—he only held her hand a moment, closely, and then turned away.
Paul Linmere's wedding-day drew near. Between him and Margie there was no semblance of affection. Her coldness never varied, and after a few fruitless attempts to excite in her some manifestation of interest, he took his cue from her, and was as coldly indifferent as herself.
A few days before the tenth of October, which was the day appointed for the bridal, Dick Turner, one of Paul's friends, gave a supper at the Bachelors' Club. A supper in honor of Paul, or to testify the sorrow of the Club at the loss of one of its members. It was a very hilarious occasion, and the toasting and wine-drinking extended far into the small hours.
In a somewhat elevated frame of mind, Mr. Paul Linmere left the rooms of the Club at about three o'clock in the morning, to return home. His way lay along the most deserted part of the city—a place where there were few dwellings, and the buildings were mostly stores and warehouses.
Suddenly a touch on his arm stopped him. The same cold, deathly touch he had felt once before. He had drank just enough to feel remarkably brave, and turning, he encountered the strangely gleaming eyes that had frozen his blood that night in early summer. All his bravado left him. He felt weak and helpless as a child.
"What is it? what do you want?" he asked brokenly.
"Justice!" said the mysterious presence.
"Justice? For whom?"
"Arabel Vere! Curse her!" he cried, savagely.
The figure lifted a spectral white hand.
"Paul Linmere—beware! The vengeance of the dead reaches sometimes unto the living! There is not water enough in the Seine to drown a woman's hatred! Death itself cannot annihilate it! Beware!"
He struck savagely at the uplifted hand, but his arm met no resistance. He beat only against the impalpable air. His spectral visitor had flown, and left nothing behind her to tell of her presence.
With unsteady steps Mr. Paul Linmere hurried home, entered his room, and double-locked the door behind him.
* * * * *
Mr. Trevlyn had decided that the marriage of his ward should take place at Harrison Park, the old country seat of the Harrisons, on the Hudson. Here Margie's parents had lived always in the summer; here they had died within a week of each other, and here in the cypress grove by the river, they were buried. There would be no more fitting place for the marriage of their daughter to be solemnized. Margie neither opposed nor approved the plan. She did not oppose anything. She was passive, almost apathetic.
The admiring dressmakers and milliners came and went, fitting, and measuring, and trying on their tasteful creations, but without eliciting any signs of interest or pleasure from Margie Harrison. She gave no orders, found no fault; expressed no admiration nor its opposite. It was all the same to her.
The bridal dress came home a few days before the appointed day. It was a superb affair, and Margie looked like a queen in it. It was of white satin, with a point lace overskirt, looped up at intervals with tiny bouquets of orange blossoms. The corsage was cut low, leaving the beautiful shoulders bare, the open sleeves displaying the perfectly rounded arms in all their perfection. The veil was point lace, and must have cost a little fortune. Mr. Trevlyn had determined that everything should be on a magnificent scale, and had given the whole arrangement of the affair to Mrs. Colonel Weldon, the most fashionable woman in her set.
Mr. Trevlyn had the diamonds which were the wonder of the city, richly set, and Margie was to wear them on her bridal night, as a special mark of the old man's favor. For, next to the diamonds, the sordid man loved Margie Harrison.
Linmere's gift to his bride was very simple, but in exquisite taste, Mrs. Weldon decided. A set of turquoise, with his initial and hers interwoven. Only when they were received, did Margie come out of her cold composure. She snapped together the lid of the casket containing them with something very like angry impatience, and gave the box to her maid.
"Take them away, Florine, instantly, and put them where I shall never see them again!"
The woman looked surprised, but she was a discreet piece, and strongly attached to her mistress, and she put the ornaments away without comment.
The tenth of October arrived. A wet, lowering day, with alternate snatches of rain and sunshine, settling down toward sunset into a steady, uncomfortable drizzle. A dismal enough wedding-day.
The ceremony was to take place at nine o'clock in the evening, and the invited guests were numerous. Harrison Park would accommodate them all royally.
Mr. Linmere was expected out from the city in the six o'clock train, and as the stopping place was not more than five minutes' walk from the Park, he had left orders that no carriage need be sent. He would walk up. He thought he should need the stimulus of the fresh air to carry him through the fiery ordeal, he said, laughingly.
The long day wore slowly away. The preparations were complete. Mrs. Weldon in her violet moire-antique and family diamonds, went through the stately parlors once more to assure herself that everything was au fait.
At five o'clock the task of dressing the bride began. The bridesmaids were in ecstacies over the finery, and they took almost as much pains in dressing Margie as they would in dressing themselves for a like occasion.
Margie's cheeks were as white as the robes they put upon her. One of the girls suggested rouge, but Alexandrine demurred.
"A bride should always be pale," she said. "It looks so interesting, and gives everyone the idea that she realizes the responsibility she is taking upon herself—doesn't that veil fall sweetly?"
And then followed a shower of feminine expressions of admiration from the four charming bridesmaids.
"Is everything ready?" asked Margie, wearily, when at last they paused in their efforts.
"Yes, everything is as perfect as one could desire," said Alexandrine. "How do you feel, Margie, dear?"
"Very well, thank you."
"You are so self-possessed! Now, I should be all of a tremble! Dear me! I wonder people can be so cold on the eve of such a great change! But then we are so different. Will you not take a glass of wine, Margie?"
"Thank you, no. I do not take wine, you know."
"I know, but on this occasion. Hush! that was the whistle of the train. Mr. Linmere will be here in a few minutes! Shall I bring him up to see you? It is not etiquette for the groom to see the bride on the day of their marriage, until they meet at the altar; but you look so charming, dear! I would like him to admire you. He has such exquisite taste."
Margie's uplifted eyes had a half-frightened look, which Alexandrine did not understand.
"No, no!" she said, hurriedly; "do not bring him here! We will follow etiquette for this time, if you please, Miss Lee."
"O well, just as you please, my dear."
"And now, my friends, be kind enough to leave me alone," said Margie. "I want the last hours of my free life to myself. I will ring when I desire your attendance."
Margie's manner forbade any objection on the part of the attendants, and they somewhat reluctantly withdrew. She turned the key upon them, and went to the window. The rain had ceased falling, but the air was damp and dense.
Her room was on the first floor, and the windows, furnished with balconies, opened to the floor. She stood looking out into the night for a moment, then gathering up her flowing drapery, and covering herself with a heavy cloak, stepped from the window. The damp earth struck a chill to her delicately-shod feet, but she did not notice it. The mist and fog dampened her hair, unheeded. She went swiftly down the shaded path, the dead leaves of the linden trees rustling mournfully as she swept through them. Past the garden and its deserted summer-house, and the grapery, where the purple fruit was lavishing its sweets on the air, and climbing a stile, she stood beside a group of shading cypress trees. Just before her was a square enclosure, fenced by a hedge of arbor vitae, from the midst of which, towering white and spectral up into the silent night, rose a marble shaft, surmounted by the figure of an angel, with drooping head and folded wings.
Margie passed within the inclosure, and stood beside the graves of her parents. She stood a moment silent, motionless; then, forgetful of her bridal garment, she flung herself down on the turf.
"Oh, my father! my father!" she cried, "why did you doom me to such a fate? Why did you ask me to give that fatal promise? Oh, look down from heaven and pity your child!"
The wind sighed mournfully in the cypresses, the belated crickets and katydids droned in the hedge, but no sweet voice of sympathy soothed Margie's strained ear. For, wrought up as she was, she almost listened to hear some response from the lips which death had made mute forever.
The village clock struck half-past eight, warning Margie that it was almost time for the ceremony to take place. She started up, drew her cloak around her, and turned to leave the place. As she did so, she felt a touch on her hand—the hand she laid for a moment on the gate—as she stood giving a last sad look at the mound of earth she was leaving, a touch light and soft as a breath, but which thrilled her through every nerve.
She turned her head quickly, but saw nothing. Something the sound of receding footsteps met her ear, nothing more, but she was convinced there had been a human presence near her. Where? Her heart beat strangely; her blood, a moment before so chilled and stagnant, leaped through her veins like fire. From whence arose the change?
She reached her chamber without meeting any one, and unlocking the door, rang for her attendants. The house was in a strange confusion. Groups were gathered in the corridors, whispering together, and some unexplained trouble seemed to have fallen upon the whole place.
After a little while, Alexandrine came in, pale and haggard. Margie saw her white dress was damp, and her hair uncurled, as if by the weather.
"Where have you been, Alexandrine?" she asked; "and what is the matter?"
The girl turned from white to crimson.
"I have been in my room," she replied.
"But your clothes are damp, and your hair uncurled—"
"The air is wet, and this great house is as moist as an ice-shed," returned the girl, hurriedly. "It is no wonder if my hair is uncurled. Margie, the—the—Mr. Linmere has not arrived."
"Not arrived! It must be nine o'clock."
As she spoke, the sonorous strokes of the clock proclaiming the hour, vibrated through the house.
"We have been distracted about him for more than two hours! he should surely have been here by half-past six! Mr. Trevlyn has sent messengers to the depot, to make inquiries, and the officekeeper thinks Mr. Linmere arrived in the six o'clock train, but is not quite positive. Mr. Weldon went, himself, to meet the seven-thirty train, thinking perhaps he might have got detained, and would come on in the succeeding train, but he did not arrive. And there are no more trains to-night! Oh, Margie, isn't it dreadful?"
Alexandrine's manner was strangely flurried and ill at ease, and the hand she laid on Margie's was cold as ice. Margie scrutinized her curiously, wondering the while at her own heartless apathy.
Something had occurred to stir the composure of this usually cool, and self-possessed woman fearfully. But what it was Margie could not guess.
Mr. Trevlyn burst into the room, pale and exhausted.
"It is no use!" he said, throwing himself into a chair, "no use to try to disguise the truth! There will be no wedding to-night, Margie! The bridegroom has failed to come! The scoundrel! If I were ten years younger, I would call him out for this insult!"
Margie laid her hand on his arm, a strange, new feeling of vague relief pervading her. It was as if some great weight, under which her slender strength had wearied and sank, were rolled off from her.
"Compose yourself, dear guardian, he may have been unavoidably detained. Some business—"
"Business on his wedding-day! No, Margie! there is something wrong somewhere. He is either playing us false—confound him!—or he has met with some accident! By George! who knows but he has been waylaid and murdered! The road from here to the depot, though short, is a lonely one, with woods on either side! And Mr. Linmere carries always about his person enough valuables to tempt a desperate character."
"I beg you not to suppose such a dreadful thing!" exclaimed Margie, shuddering; "he will come in the morning, and—"
"But Hays was positive that he saw him leave the six o'clock train. He described him accurately, even to the saying that he had a bouquet of white camelias in his hand. Margie, what flowers was he to bring?"
She shook her head.
"Mrs. Weldon knows. I do not."
"White camelias. I heard Mrs. Weldon ask him to fetch them."
Mr. Trevlyn started up.
"I will have out the whole household, at once, and search, the whole estate! For I feel as if some terrible crime may have been done upon our very threshold. Margie, dear, take heart, he may be alive and well!"
He went out to alarm the already excited guests, and in half an hour the place was alive with lanterns, carried by those who sought for the missing bridegroom.
Pale and silent, the women gathered themselves together in the chamber of the bride, and waited. Margie sat among them in her white robes, mute and motionless as a statue.
"It must be terrible to fall by the hand of an assassin!" said Mrs. Weldon, with a shudder. "Good heavens! what a dreadful thing it would be if Mr. Linmere has been murdered!"
"An assassin! My God!" cried Margie, a terrible thought stealing across her mind. Who had touched her in the cypress grove? What hand had woke in her a thrill that changed her from ice to fire! What if it were the hand of her betrothed husband's murderer?
Alexandrine started forward at Margie's exclamation. Her cheek was white as marble, her breath came quick and struggling.
"Margie! Margie Harrison!" she cried, "what do you mean?"
"Nothing," answered Margie, recovering herself, and relapsing into her usual self-composure.
They searched all that night, and found nothing. Absolutely nothing. With the early train, both Mr. Trevlyn and Mr. Weldon went to the city. They hurried to Mr. Linmere's room, only to have their worst fears confirmed. Pietro informed them that his master had left there on the six o'clock train; he had seen him to the depot, and into the car, receiving some orders from him relative to his rooms, after he had taken his seat.
There could be no longer any doubt but that there had been foul play somewhere. The proper authorities were notified, and the search began afresh. Harrison Park and its environs were thoroughly ransacked; the river was searched, the pond at the foot of the garden drained, but nothing was discovered. There was no clue by which the fate of the missing man could be guessed at, ever so vaguely.
Every person about the place was examined and cross-examined, but no one knew anything, and the night shut down, and left the matter in mystery. Pietro, at length, suggested Leo, Mr. Linmere's gray-hound.
"Him no love his master," said the Italian, "but him scent keen. It will do no hurt to try him."
Accordingly, the next morning, Pietro brought the dog up to the Park. The animal was sullen, and would accept of attentions from no one save Margie, to whom he seemed to take at first sight. And after she had spoken to him kindly, and patted his head, he refused all persuasions and commands to leave her.
Mr. Darby, the detective, whose services had been engaged in the affair, exerted all his powers of entreaty on the dog, but the animal clung to Margie, and would not even look in the direction of the almost frantic detective.
"It's no use, Miss Harrison," said Darby, "the cur wont stir an inch. You will have to come with him! Sorry to ask ye, but this thing must be seen into."
"Very well, I will accompany you," said Margie, rising, and throwing on a shawl, she went out with them, followed by Mrs. Weldon, Alexandrine, and two or three other ladies.
Leo kept close to Margie, trotting along beside her, uttering every now and then a low whine indicative of anticipation and pleasure.
Darby produced a handkerchief which had belonged to Mr. Paul Linmere, and which he had found in his rooms, lying on his dressing-table. He showed this to the dog; Leo snuffed at it, and gave a sharp grunt of displeasure.
"We want you to find him, Leo, good dog," said the Italian, stroking the silky ears of the dog; "find your master."
Leo understood, but he looked around in evident perplexity.
"Take him to the depot!" said Mr. Trevlyn, "he may find the trail there."
They went to the station; the dog sniffed hurriedly at the platform, and in a moment more dashed off into the highway leading to Harrison Park.
"Him got him!" cried Pietro; "him find my master!"
The whole company joined in following the dog. He went straight ahead, his nose to the ground, his fleet limbs bearing him along with a rapidity that the anxious followers found it hard to emulate.
At a brook which crossed the road he stopped, seemed a little confused, crossed it finally on stepping stones, paused a moment by the side of a bare nut tree, leaped the fence, and dashed off through a grass field. Keeping steadily on, he made for the grounds of the Park, passed the drained pond, and the frost-ruined garden, and pausing before the inclosure where slept the Harrison dead, he lifted his head and gave utterance to a howl so wild, so savagely unearthly, that it chilled the blood in the veins of those who heard. An instant he paused, and then dashing through the hedge, was lost to view.
"He is found! My master is found!" said Pietro, solemnly, removing his cap, and wiping a tear from his eye. For the man was attached to Mr. Paul Linmere, in his rough way, and the tear was one of genuine sorrow.
His companions looked at each other. Alexandrine grasped the arm of Margie, and leaned heavily upon her.
"Let us go to the house—" she faltered, "I cannot bear it."
"I will know the worst," said Margie, hoarsely, and they went on together.
It was so singular, but no one had thought to look within the graveyard enclosure; perhaps if they had thought of it, they judged it impossible that a murderer should select such a locality for the commission of his crime.
Mr. Darby opened the gate, entered the yard, and stopped. So did the others. All saw at once that the search was ended. Across the path leading to the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, lay Paul Linmere. He was white and ghastly; his forehead bare, and his sightless eyes wide open, looking up to the sun of noon-day. His right hand lay on his breast, his left still tightly grasped the turf upon which it had fixed its hold in the cruel death-agony. His garments were stiff with his own blood, and the dirk knife, still buried to the hilt in his heart, told the story of his death.
Leo crouched a little way off, his eyes jubilant, his tail beating the ground, evincing the greatest satisfaction. All present knew that the dog rejoiced at the death of his master.
Alexandrine took a step toward the dead man, her back to the horror-stricken group by the gate. She stopped suddenly, and lifted something from the ground.
Darby, alert and watchful, was by her side in a moment.
"What have you there?" he demanded.
"My glove which I dropped," she answered, quietly, holding up the dainty bit of embroidered kid.
The detective turned away satisfied; but Margie saw the girl's hand shake, and her lips grow pale as marble, the moment Darby's keen eye was removed from her face.
The discovery of the remains was followed by a long and tedious investigation. There was an inquest, and a rigid examination of every person who could by any possibility be imagined capable of throwing any light on the murder, and after all was over, the mystery was just as dark as it was at first.
Nothing was found to furnish the slightest clue to the assassin, except a white cambric handkerchief just inside the graveyard, marked with the single initial "A" in one corner. This handkerchief might have belonged to the murderer, and it might have belonged to Mr. Linmere,—that could not be determined. The article was given into the keeping of Mr. Darby; and after three days lying in state at Harrison Park, the body of Mr. Linmere was taken to Albany, where his relatives were buried, and laid away for its last sleep.
Mr. Trevlyn offered a large reward for the apprehension of the murderer, or for information which would lead to his apprehension; and the town authorities offered an equal sum. Mr. Darby was retained to work upon the case, and there it rested.
Margie uttered no word in the matter. She was stunned by the suddenness of the blow, and she could not help being painfully conscious that she felt relieved by the death of this unfortunate man. God had taken her case into his hands in a manner too solemnly fearful for her to question.
* * * * *
Three months after the death of Paul Linmere, Margie met Archer Trevlyn at the house of Alexandrine Lee. He was quite a constant visitor there, Mrs. Lee told her, with a little conscious pride, for young Trevlyn was being spoken of in business circles as a rising young man. He was to be admitted to partnership in the firm of Belgrade and Co., in the spring. And this once effected, his fortune was made.
There was a little whist party at Mrs. Lee's that evening, and Margie was persuaded to remain. After a while the company asked for music. Whist, the books of engravings, and the bijoux of the centre-table were exhausted, and small talk flagged. Margie was reluctantly prevailed upon to play.
She was not a wonderful performer, but she had a fine ear, and played with finish and accuracy. But she sang divinely. To oblige her friends, she sang a few new things and then pausing, was about to rise from the instrument, when Mr. Trevlyn came to her side.
"Will you play something for me?" he asked, stooping over her. His dark, passionate eyes brought the blood to her face—made her restless and nervous in spite of herself.
"What would you like?" she managed to ask.
"This!" He selected an old German ballad, long ago a favorite in the highest musical circles, but now cast aside for something newer and more brilliant. A simple, touching little song of love and sorrow.
She was about to decline singing it, but something told her to beware of false modesty, and she sang it through.
"I thank you!" he said, earnestly, when she had finished. "It has done me good. My mother used to sing that song, and I have never wanted to hear it from any other lips—until now."
Alexandrine glided along, as radiant as a humming-bird, her cheeks flushed, her black eyes sparkling, her voice sweet as a siren's.
"Sentimentalizing, I declare!" she exclaimed, gayly; "and singing that dreadful song, too! Ugh! it gives me the cold shudders to listen to it! How can you sing it, Margie, dear?"
"Miss Harrison sang it at my request, Miss Lee," said Trevlyn, gravely, "it is an old favorite of mine. Shall I not listen to you now?"
Alexandrine took the seat Margie had vacated, and glanced up at the two faces so near her.
"Why, Margie!" she said, "a moment ago I thought you were a rose, and now you are a lily! What is the matter?"
"Nothing, thank you," returned Margie, coldly. "I am weary, and will go home soon, I think."
Trevlyn looked at her with tender anxiety, evidently forgetful that he had requested Miss Lee to play.
"You are wearied," he said. "Shall I call your carriage?"
"If you please, yes. Miss Lee I am sure will excuse me."
"I shall be obliged to, I suppose."
Trevlyn put Margie's shawl around her, and led her to the carriage. After he had assisted her in, he touched lightly the hand he had just released, and said "Good-night," his very accent a blessing.
In February Mr. Trevlyn received a severe shock. His aged wife had been an inmate of an insane asylum almost ever since the death of her son Hubert; and Mr. Trevlyn, though he had loved her with his whole soul, had never seen her face in all those weary years.
Suddenly, without any premonitory symptoms, her reason returned to her, and save that she was unmindful of the time that had elapsed during her insanity, she was the same Caroline Trevlyn of old.
They told her cautiously of her husband's old age, for the unfortunate woman could not realize that nearly twenty years had passed since the loss of her mind. The first desire she expressed was to see "John," and Mr. Trevlyn was sent for.
He came, and went into the presence of the wife from whom he had been so long divided, alone. No one knew what passed between them. The interview was a lengthy one, and Mr. Trevlyn came forth from it, animated by a new-born hope. The wife of his youth was to be restored to him!
He made arrangements to take her home, but alas! they were never destined to be carried into effect. The secret fears of the physician were realized even sooner than he had expected. The approach of dissolution had dissolved the clouds so long hanging over the mind of Caroline Trevlyn. She lived only two days after the coming of her husband, and died in his arms, happy in the belief that she was going to her son.
Mr. Trevlyn returned home, a changed being. All his asperity of temper was gone; he was as gentle as a child. Whole days he would sit in the chair where his wife used to sit in the happy days of her young wifehood, speaking to no one, smiling sometimes to himself, as though he heard some inner whisperings which pleased him.
One day he roused himself seemingly, and sent for Mr. Speedwell, his attorney, and Dr. Drake, his family physician. With these gentlemen he was closeted the entire forenoon; and from that time forward, his hold on the world and its things seemed to relax.
One morning, when Margie went to take his gruel up to him—a duty she always performed herself—she found him sitting in his arm-chair, wide awake, but incapable of speech or motion.
The physician, hastily summoned, confirmed her worst fears. Mr. Trevlyn had been smitten with paralysis. He was in no immediate danger, perhaps; he might live for years, but was liable to drop away at any moment. It was simply a question of time.
Toward the close of the second day after his attack, the power of speech returned to Mr. Trevlyn.
"Margie!" he said, feebly, "Margie, come here." She flew to his side.
"I want you to send for Archer Trevlyn," he said with great difficulty.
She made a gesture of surprise.
"You think I am not quite right in my mind, Margie, that I should make that request. But I was never more sane than at this moment. My mind was never clearer, my mental sight never more correct. I want to see my grandson."
Margie despatched a servant with a brief note to Archer, informing him of his grandfather's desire, and then sat down to wait his coming.
It was a wild, stormy night in March; the boisterous wind beat against the old mansion, and like a suffering human thing, shrieked down the wide, old-fashioned chimneys.
In a lull of the storm there was a tap at the chamber door. Margie opened it, and stood face to face with Archer Trevlyn.
"Come in," she whispered, "he is asleep."
"No, I am not asleep," said the sick man; "has my grandson come?"
"He is here," said Margie. "I will leave him with you, dear guardian. Let him ring for me when you want me."
"Remain here, Margaret. I want you to be a witness to what passes between us. I have no secrets from you, dear child, none whatever. Archer, come hither."
Trevlyn advanced, his face pale, his eyes moist with tears. For, having forgiven his grandparent, he had been growing to feel for the desolate old man a sort of filial tenderness, and strong in his fresh young manhood, it seemed terrible to him to see John Trevlyn lying there in his helplessness and feebleness, waiting for death.
"Come hither, Archer," said the tremulous voice, "and put your hand on mine. I cannot lift a finger to you, but I want to feel once more the touch of kindred flesh and blood. I have annoyed you and yours sadly my poor boy, but death sweeps away all enmities, and all shadows. I see so clearly now. O, if I had only seen before!"
Arch knelt by the side of his bed, holding the old man's withered hands in his. Margie stood a little apart, regarding the pair with moist eyes.
"Call me grandfather once, my son; I have never heard the name from the lips of my kindred."
"Grandfather! O grandfather!" cried the young man, "now that you will let me call you so, you must not die! You must live for me!"
"The decree has gone forth. There is from it no appeal. I am to die. I have felt the certainty a long time. O, for one year of existence, to right the wrongs I have done! But they could not be righted. Alas! if I had centuries of time at my command, I could not bring back to life the dear son my cruelty hurried out of the world, or his poor wife, whose fair name I could, in my revenge for her love of my son, have taken from her! O Hubert! Hubert! O my darling! dearer to me than my heart's blood—but so foully wronged!"
His frame shook with emotion, but no tears came to his eyes. His remorse was too deep and bitter for the surface sorrow of tears to relieve.
"Put it out of your mind, grandfather," said Arch, pressing his hand. "Do not think of it, to let it trouble you more. They are all, I trust, in heaven. Let them rest."
"And you will tell me this, Archer? You, who hated me so! You, who swore a solemn oath to be revenged on me! Well, I do not blame you. I only wonder that your forbearance was so long-suffering. Once you would have rejoiced to see me suffer as I do now."
"I should, I say it to my shame. God forgive me for my wickedness! But for her"—looking at Margie—"I might have kept the sinful vow I made. She saved me."
"Come here, Margie, and kiss me," said the old man, tenderly. "My dear children! my precious children, both of you! I bless you both—both of you together, do you hear? Once I cursed you, Archer—now I bless you! If there is a God, and I do at last believe there is, he will forgive me that curse; for I have begged it of Him on my bended knees."
"He is merciful, dear guardian," said Margie, gently. "He never refuses the earnest petition of the suffering soul."
"Archer, your grandmother died a little while ago. My cruelty to your father made her, for twenty long years, a maniac. But before her death, all delusion was swept away, and she bade me love and forgive our grandson—that she might tell your father and mother, when she met them in heaven, that at last all was well here below. I promised her, and since then my soul has been in peace. But I have longed to go to her—longed inexpressibly. She had been all around me, but so impalpable that when I put out my hands to touch her, they grasped only the air. The hands of mortality may not reach after the hands which have put on immortality."
He lay quiet a moment, and then went on, brokenly.
"Archer, I wronged your parents bitterly, but I have repented it in dust and ashes. Repented it long ago, only I was too proud and stubborn to acknowledge it. Forgive me again, Archer, and kiss me before I die."
"I do forgive you, grandfather; I do forgive you with my whole heart." He stooped, and left a kiss on the withered forehead.
"Margie," said the feeble voice, "pray for me, that peace may come."
She looked at Archer, hesitated a moment, then knelt by the bedside. He stood silent, and then, urged by some uncontrollable impulse, he knelt by her side.
The girlish voice, broken, but sweet as music, went up to Heaven in a petition so fervent, so simple, that God heard and answered. The peace she asked for the dying man came.
Her pleading ceased. Mr. Trevlyn lay quiet, his countenance serene and hopeful. His lips moved, they bent over him, and caught the name of "Caroline."
Trevlyn's hand sought Margie's and she did not repulse him. They stood together silently, looking at the white face on the pillows.
"He is dead!" Archie said, softly: "God rest him!"
* * * * *
After the funeral of John Trevlyn, his last will and testament was read. It created a great deal of surprise when it was known that all the vast possessions of the old man were bequeathed to his grandson—his sole relative—whom he had despised and denied almost to the day of his death. In fact, not a half-dozen persons in the city were aware of the fact that there existed any tie of relationship between John Trevlyn, the miser, and Archer Trevlyn, the head clerk of Belgrade and Company.
Arch's good fortune did not change him a particle. He gave less time to business, it is true, but he spent it in hard study. His early education had been defective, and he was doing his best to remedy the lack.
Early in the autumn following the death of his grandfather, he went to Europe, and after the lapse of a year, returned again to New York. The second day after his arrival, he went out to Harrison Park. Margie had passed the summer there, with an old friend of her mother for company, he was told, and would not come back to the city before December.
It was a cold, stormy night in September, when he knocked at the door of Miss Harrison's residence; but a cheery light shone from the window, and streamed out of the door which the servant held open.
He inquired for Miss Harrison, and was shown at once into her presence. She sat in a low chair, her dress of sombre black relieved by a white ribbon at the throat, and by the chestnut light of the shining hair that swept in unbound luxuriance over her shoulders. She rose to meet her guest, scarcely recognizing Archer Trevlyn in the bronzed, bearded man before her.
"Miss Harrison," he said, gently, "it is a cold night; will you not give a warm welcome to an old friend?"
She knew his voice instantly. A bright color leaped to her cheek, an embarrassment which made her a thousand times dearer and more charming to Arch Trevlyn, possessed her. But she held out her hands, and said a few shy words of welcome.
Arch sat down beside her, and the conversation drifted into recollections of their own individual history. They spoke to each other with the freedom of very old friends, forgetful of the fact that this was almost the very first conversation they had ever had together.