« AnteriorContinua »
dear girl, that I would come again this morning, and she has been waiting and watching for me, and thinking that I had forgotten. And her last word was to remind me of the oath I took to protect her child-and even that I must break. And she is about me now; I feel it; despising me for my weakness and my falsehood. But she cannot think me more degraded than I think myself.”
Colonel Mordaunt is shocked at the expression; he cannot bear that it should be connected, even wrongfully, with any action of Irene's.
“Degraded! my darling, what can make you use such a term with reference to yourself-you who are everything that is true and noble ?"
“True, to break my promise to the dying -noble, to swear an oath and not fulfil it! O, very true and noble! I wish you could see my conduct as it looks to me."
“If that is really the light in which you view the matter, Irene, I will oppose no further obstacle to the satisfaction of your conscience. You shall keep your promise, and adopt the child."
At that she lifts her tear-stained face and regards him curiously.
"Are you in earnest, Philipp!.
“Quite in earnest! I could hardly jest on such a subject.”
“O thank you! thank you-you have made me feel so happy;" and, regardless of spectators (for though the room is nearly cleared by this time, the laundress and some of ter children still remain in attendance), up comes her sweet mouth to meet his. Colonel Mordaunt is already repaid for his generosity. And then Irene turns to the bed.
“Myra," she says, as naturally as though the poor mother were still alive, “I will be true to my word! I will take your little one and bring him up for you; and when we meet again you will forgive me for this last breach of faith."
At this appeal Mrs. Cray pricks up her ears; she understands it at once, and the idea of getting rid of Tommy is too welcome to be passed over in silence; but, being a cunning woman, she foresees that it will strengthen his claim if she professes to have been made aware beforeband of it.
"Your good lady is talking of taking the poor child, colonel,” she says, wbiving,
“ which I'm sure it will be a blessing to him, and may be he'll be a blessing to her. Ah, you see I knows all about it; I've been a mother to that poor girl as lies there, and who should she tell her troubles and 'opes to, if it wearn't to me? But I kep' her misfortune close, didn't I, mum ?-not a word passed my lips but that all the village inight have heard, which it's proved by not a sonl knowing of it, except ourselves and Joel-and one or two ociglıbors, maybe, and my brother as lives over at Fenton. But now she's gone-poor dearand you've promised to do kindly by the child, I don't care who knows it, for it can't harm no one."
“ Then your niece told you of my wife's offer to look after her little boy ?” says Colonel Mordaunt, falling into the trap.
“O lor! yes sir; a many times; which I've looked forward to her doing so, knowing that no lady could break her promise: and she's always been so fond of Tommy, too; I'm sure he'll take to her jist as though she was his mother. And it's a fine thing for the child; though it'll near break my heart to part with him."
This last assertion is a little too much, even for Colonel Mordaunt's softened mood, and he rises to his feet hastily.
"Come, dearest,” he says to his wife, “it is time we were going."
“And Tommy ?” she replies, inquiringly.
“ You don't want to take him with you now, surely?" is the dubious rejoinder.
“No, I suppose not; but-how will be
“ Lor, mum! I'll bring him up this evening-he shan't be kep' from you, not half an hour more than's needful; but I must reddle him up a bit first, and give him a clean face."
“0, never mind his face,” begins Irene; but her husband cuts her short.
There, there, my love! you hear, the child will be up this evening. Surely, that is all that can be required. Good evening, Mrs. Cray. Come, Irene.” And with one farewell look at Myra's corpse, she follows him from the rooin.
All the way home the husband and wife sit very close to each other, but they do not speak. The scene they have just witnessed has sobered them. Colonel Mordaunt is the first to break the silence, and he does so as the carriage stops before the ball-door of the Court.
“I'm thinking what the d- you'll do “ Irene, my darling!" says the colonel, with it!” he ejaculates, suddenly.
soothingly. “With the child ? 0, a thousand things !'' “Why do they all set upon me, then, she says, joyously.
Philip? What is there so extraordinary in Her voice startles him; he turns and my wishing to befriend a wretched little looks into her face; it is beaming with outcast? I'm sure, I almost begin to wish happiness and a wonderful new light that I had never seen the child at all.” he has never seen there before.
“Let us change the subject,” is her hus“Why, Irene," he exclaims, as he hands band's only answer. her out, “what is this? You look as if you had come into a fortune.”
But when the dinner is over and the “Because I have such a dear, good old evening draws to a close, Irene begins to husband," she whispers, fondly, as she move restlessly up and down the house. passes him and runs up stairs to dress for She has already taken her maid Phoebe indinner.
to her confidence, and the girl, being coun
try bred and with no absurd notions above Of course the whole conversation at the her station, is almost as delighted at the dinner-table is furnished by the discussion prospect of having the little child to take of Mrs. Mordaunt's strange freak. By the care of as her mistress. And they have artime Irene descends to the dining-room, ranged that he is to sleep in Phæbe's bed, she finds the story is known all over the which is large and airy. And before the house; and the opinions on it are free and housemaid comes up with a broad grin on various. Mrs. Cavendish holds up her her countenance to announce that Mrs. hands at the very idea.
Cray, the laundress, has brought "a little “My dear colonel, you spoil this child. boy for missus," these extravagant young Fancy, letting her adopt the brat of no one women have sliced up half a dozen or more knows who-the trouble it will give you- good articles of wear, in order that the the money it will cost!"
young rascal may have a wardrobe. “O, Irene has promised faithfully I In the midst of their arrangements, Masshall have no trouble in the matter," ter Tommy, clean as to the outside platter, laughs the colonel, who, having once given but smelling very strong, after the manner his consent to the arrangement, will never of the Great Unwashed, even though they betray that it was against his will; "and dwell in villages, is introduced by his guaras for the expense-well, I don't think one dian. Irene cannot talk to Mrs. Cray topoor little mortal will add much to the ex- night, she dismisses the subject of poor penditure of the household."
Myra and her death str gles summarily; “Particularly as I intend to pay for him and thrusting a five-pound note into the out of my pin money," says Irene.
laundress's hand, gets rid of her as soon as “But the nuisance, my dear; no money she decently can. She is longing to have will pay for that. Ah! you wont believe the little child all to herself, and she does me now—but by-and-by-wait a bit-you'll not feel as though he were really her own see !" with mysterious nods and winks, of until the woman who beats him is once which her niece takes no notice.
more outside the door. And then she turns “She'll have to end by turning him into to Phæbe triumphantly. a buttons-boy,” remarks her husband, who “And now, Phæbe, what shall we do is secretly delighted with the pantomime. with him?"
“ I'm sure I shall do nothing of the sort," “I should wash him, ma'am," replies says Irene, quickly, and then calms down Phæbe, following the advice of the great again. “I mean that I shall grow too fond Mr. Dick, with respect to David Copperof the child to make him Into a servant." field.
“You fond of a baby, Irene”, says Mary “Of course, we'll give him a warm bath. Cavendish ; " that is just what puzzles me Run down stairs and get the water, Phæbe. -why I'm sure you always said you hated And is this his nightgown ?” examining the children."
bundle of rags that Mrs. Cray left behind “0, very well, then! keep your own her. “O, what a wretched thing! but, opinion-you know so much more about it luckily, it is clean. He must have new than I do," with a little rising temper. nigbtgowns, Phæbe, at once, and"
“ He must have everything new, ma'am, Mrs. Cray, returning abruptly from havbless his heart”' exclaims Phæbe, enthu- ing just “dropped in ” to a neighbor's to siastically, as she disappears in quest of display her “black” and furnish all funethe water. When she is gone Irene lifts real details, finds him in this position. the child on her knee, and gazes in his face. “Come, lad,” she says, roughly, but not
“ Tommy," she says, gently, “Tommy, unkindly, “it's no use frettin'; it wont will you love me?"
bring her back agin.” “ Iss,” replies Tommy, who has seen her “ There's no call for you to tell me that, often enough to feel familiar with her. mother,” he answers, wearily, as he raises
“ You are going to be my little boy now, lwo hollow eyes from the shelter of his Tommy."
hands; "it's writ too plainly here ”-strik“ Iss," repeats Tommy, as he surveys the ing his breast—" but you might have wonderful fairy-land in which he finds warned me she was goin'.” himself. It must be recorded of Tommy, “Warned you! when all the world could that, with all his faults, he is not shy.
poor creetur has had In another minute Phæbe is back with death marked in her face for the last six the water, and the bath is filled, and the months; and Mrs. Jones has jest bin a two women undress the child together and sayin' it's a wonder as she lasted so long," plunge bin in, and sponge and lather him, replies Mrs. Cray, as she hangs her new kneeling on each side the bath the while, bonnet on a nail in the kitchen wall, and and laughing at their own awkwardness at carefully folds up her shawl. the unaccustomed task. And then Tommy "All the world but me, you mean.
It gets the soap into his eyes, and roars, would have come a bit easier if I had seen which cheerful sound attracting Colonel it, perhaps. Why, 'twas only the other Yordaunt's attention as he mounts the day I was begging of her to be my wife, stairs, causes him to peep into the open and now, to think I've just come from bedroom door unseen. And there he burying her! O good Lord !” And down watches his young wife and her maid first sinks the poor fellow's head again, whilst kiss the naked cupid to console him, and the the tears trickle through his earththen return to the soaping and splashing, stained fingers. until they have made him smile again. Mrs. Cray loves her son after her own And when the washing is completed, and fashion. It is, in a great measure, her Phoebe stretches out her arms to take the love for him and synıpathy with his disapchild and dry him, Colonel Mordaunt sees pointment that have made her hard upon with astonishment that her mistress will Myra and Myra's child; and she desires to not allow it.
give him comfort in his present trouble. “No, no, Phæbe! give him to me," she So she draws a chair close beside him, and says, authoritatively, as she prepares her sits down deliberately to tear open all his lap to receive the dripping infant; and worst wounds. But it is not entirely her then, as the servant laughingly obeys her want of education that begets this pecuorders, and carries the bath into the next liarity, for the example has been set her, room, he watches Irene's lips pressed on ever since the world began, by people as the boy's undried face.
well-meaning, and far less iguorant than “My little Tommy!" she says, as she herself. does so.
“Now, where's the good of thinkin' of He sees and hears it, turns away with a that, lad ?" she says, as soothingly as her sigh, and a heart heavy, he knows not harsh voice will permit. “ She'd never wherefore, and goes down stairs as he as- have bin yours had she lived ever so long; cended them, unnoticed.
and all the better, too, for no woman can
make a good wife when her fancy's fixed A week has passed. Poor Myra's form upon another man." has just been left to rest beneath a rough "And if hers were, you needn't remind a hillock of clay in the churchyard, and Joel feller of it," he replies, uneasily. Cray is seated in the sanded kitchen of his “O, but I says it for your good. Not mother's cottage, bis arms cast over the that I wants to speak a word against the deal table, and his head bent down de- poor thing as is gone; for when a fellowspairingly upon them.
creetur's under the ground, let his faults be buried atop of him, say I; that's my “But how are you ever to find the genmaxiin, and I keeps to it. Still, there's no tleman, Joel?!! denying poor Myra were very fighty, and a “I'know his name was "'Amilton,' and deal of trouble to us all. I'm sure I thought I'll track that name through the world till this afternoon, when I see the handsome I light on him. And I saw him once, grave Simmons bad dug for her, and all the mother. 'Twas only for a few minutes, village looking on at the burial, and Tom- but I marked him well-a tall upstanding my brought down from the Court by the feller, with dark hair and biue eyes. The colonel's lady herself, in a bran new suit of child's the very moral of him, curse him! black, and with a crape bow and a feather And I'll search till I come acrost that face in his hat, that no one would have thought again; and when I comes acrost it, we'll as seed it that we was only burying a~" have our reckoning, or I'm much mis
“Mother, what are you going to say?" taken." demands Joel, as, with clenched hand and “And how shall you live mean while ?"'* glowing eyes, he springs to his feet.
“As I always have lived, by my hands. “ Lor, you needn't fly out so! I wasn't And now, mother, put up my bundle, and going to say nothing but the truth."
let me be going.” " The truth! But is it the truth? Who “ To-night, lad ? O, you can't be in earknows that it's the truth ?"
nest!" “Why, you wouldn't be after saying as Yes, to-night. I tell you there's someshe was an bonest woman, Joel?”
thing in the air of this place that stops my “I don't know. I'd rather be saying breathing. I could no more lie down and nothin' of her at all. My poor girl, trod- sleep in my bed here, while she lies out den down and spit on! 'And she, who was yonder with the lumps of clay upon her the bonniest lass for miles round Priest- tender breast, than I could eat wbile she ley! Mother, I must leave this place !" was starvin'. Let me go, mother. If you
" Leave! when you've just got such a don't want to see me mad, let me go where fine situation under Farmer Green! Have I can still fancy she's a living here with you lost your senses, lad ?''
you, and that coffin and that shroud is all “I don't know, and I don't care. I don't a horrid dream." seem to have nothin' now; but I can't And so, regardless of bis mother's enbide bere any longer; there's somethin'in treaties or his own well-doing, Joel Cray in the air that chokes me."
goes forth from Priestley. Whilst the “But where would you be going ?” neighbors are preparing to retire to their
“I can't tell that, either. Jest where couches, and the dead woman's child, alike chance may take me. Only, be sure of unconscious of his motherless condition one thing, mother-I don't come back to and the stigma resting on his birth, is lying, Priestley till I've cleared her nanje or flushed and rosy, in his first sleep in Phækilled the man who ruined her."
be's bed, the uncouth figure shambles “You are going in search of him, Joel ?” slowly from the laundress's cottage, and
"It's bin growing on me over since that takes the high road to Fenton, which is on evening I came home and found her dead.
the way to the nearest town. But before I wont believe that Myra was the girl to he quits the village he passes, a little give herself over to destruction; but if she shamefacedly, even though the dusk of the were-well, then, the man who destroyed summer's eve las fallen and he is quite her must answer for it to me."
alone, through the wooden wicket that “But what'll I do without you ?” com- guards God's acre, and finds bis way up to mences Mrs. Cray, as her apron goes up to the newmade grave. receive the maternal droppings of despair. But it looks so desolate and mournful,
“You'li do well enough, mother. If I covered in with its hillock of damp red didn't feel that, I wouldn't go. And the earth, that he cannot stand the sight, and cbild (if it wasn't for her, I could say, as he gazes at it, his honest breast begins • Curse bim !' but I wont. No, Myra, never to heave. you fear; he'll allays have a friend in me), “I can't abear it,"' lie whispers, hoarsely, he's off your hands, and well provided for. “to leave her here-the thought of it will So you've nothin' but your own little ones haunt me night and day." to look after. And you'll have friends at And then be stoops and gathers up a the Court, too. You wont miss me."
morsel of the uninviting marl studded with rough stones.
"And to think you should be lying under this--you whose head should be resting on my bosom-0 my darlin', my darlin'! my heart'll break!”
And for a few moments the poor wretch finds relief in a gush of tears.
“ I'm glad no one saw 'em," he ponders, quaintly, as the last of the low sobs breaks from his laboring bosom; "but I feels all
the better. And I swear by 'em-by these here tears which the thought of you has drawed from me, Myra, that I don't look upon your grave again until I've had satisfaction for the wrong he's done you. O my lost darlin', I shall never love another woinan! Good-by, till we meets in a happier world than this has been for both of us !"
And when the morning breaks he is miles away from Priestley.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
UNDER THE ROSE.
BY ELIZABETH BIGELOW.
“KATHARINE! Katharine! Where has amazingly good-natured as to dance with the child vanished? You really must ex- every one of her brother Tom's friends who cuse her, Mr. Waldron. She is so thought- asked her, whorn she usually treated with less and wayward !
ineffable contempt as “small boys.” And And Katharine, a white heap, crouched now to be back again, to be in her stepin the corner of the piazza, could hear the mother's place, what would she not have little soft sigh that came from her step- given! Yet the keen jealous pain in hier mother's pretty lips to give emphasis to her heart which had drawn her away was as words.
strong-stronger than ever. No! she did Just then a provoking breeze stirred the not want to be there; to have him looking leaves of the tall orange tree that concealer down into her face in that tender way she her, and she lost Mr. Waldron's reply. knew so well, and which only meant-now How much she would have given to hear she knew it-that he thought of her as a it! And yet it was probably only some po- child, “ a rather pretty child," who would lite commonplace, if he had condescended be pleased with a little petting. How did to speak about her at all.
he look at her stepmother? she wondered. They had gone back to the drawing room; She was not a child; she was a beautiful she heard her stepmother's soft purring woman-how beautiful she had never realtones just outside the window; then the ized until to-night, thought Katharine. music crashed out again and drowned She had just blossomed out of her widow's everything.
weeds, and she looked so fresh and bright! Katharine stole softly to the window, There! he was stooping to fasten her and pulled the drapery aside, just enough
bracelet now. Was not his manner as for one little peep.
tender as it had ever been to her? Poor Yes, it was as she had thought. Mr. Katharine! her "one little peep” was too Waldron was dancing with her stepmother. inuch for her. She let the curtain fall, and She could see her blonde ringlets fluttering rushed away, she scarcely knew or cared against his shoulder, and the arch smile where. with which she glanced up into his face. Out into the moonlighted, rose-scented He would be abundantly consoled for her garden, away down one of the long paths, desertion! thought Katharine, bitterly. anywhere, to be away from the glaring
She had promised to dance this dance lights, and the gay music that jarred upon with him, and she had run away. Run
her so, to be away from those two, so hapaway from what she had been looking long- py in each other's presence that they had ingly forward to all the evening, the pros
already forgotten her existence. pect of which had enabled her to bear pa
She sat down on the steps of a little artiently Dick Bentley's unceasing chatter of
bor over whose sides, formed of interlaced his college boat races, and his open
boughs, a rosevine, now a mass of bloom, "spooning” of herself (as she had heard one of his friends call it), had made her so
The scent of the roses was lieavy, sicken