The Senator's Favorite


No. 5224 Pages10 Cents

The Senator's Favorite

By Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller

Woman's photo

From Copyright Photo by Sarony, N. Y.

Publishers — New York


EAGLE LIBRARY A weekly publication devoted to good literature.
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NO. 5

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The Senator's Favorite.




Author of

"Little Coquette Bonnie," "The Senator's Bride," "Brunette and
," "Rosamond," Etc., Etc.

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1893,
By Street & Smith,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.






"We were two daughters of one race;
She was the fairest in the face;
The wind is sighing in turret and tree.
I hated her with the hate of hell,
Therefore revenge became me well.
Oh, but she was fair to see!"—Tennyson.

"Mamma, darling, you'll take me to the Inauguration Ball, that's a love."

"Oh, my baby, what an absurd idea! And you only sixteen!"

"I'm as tall as you, mamma, and I only look small because my dresses are too short. I wish you would let out the tucks to hide my ankles—there now!"

"But, Precious, you have the prettiest feet and ankles in the world."

"I don't care; I want my dresses long, and my hair put up. I'm tired of being only a schoolgirl! Everybody in Washington will be at the Inauguration Ball. I want to go, too, and shake hands with the new president."

"Nonsense, dear; the next Inauguration Ball will be time enough for you."

"Four years! Why, then I shall be twen-ty. Quite an old maid, mamma, dear, with crows' feet and wrinkles."

Mrs. Winans, the handsome wife of a noted Southern[Pg 8] Senator, threw back her graceful golden head, and laughed softly:

"Oh, what a ridiculous child!"

But her dark-blue eyes lingered tenderly on the lovely upturned face, for Precious was on an ottoman at her mother's feet.

Mrs. Winans was the mother of three children—a son and two daughters. Precious was the youngest—"the baby," they called her—and, like all babies, she was spoiled, and liked to have her own way, always wheedling her parents until she got whatever she wanted.

"Dear mamma, you will let me go," she cried teasingly.

"Go where?" exclaimed a musical voice, as a tall, dark, regal beauty entered the library. "Go where?" she repeated. "And what is the baby teasing for now, mamma?"

Precious Winans lifted her golden head from her mother's knee, and turning her pansy-blue eyes on her queenly sister replied, with the air of a little princess:

"Ethel, I've made up my mind to go to the Inauguration Ball."

"The ball, indeed?" and Ethel shook with laughter in which her mother joined.

Ere the echo of their mirth died away a tall, dark, handsome man entered the room—their father, from whom the elder girl inherited her dusky beauty, while the younger was the image of her lovely blond mother.

"What is the joke about?" he asked genially, and his wife replied:

"Precious has a new notion in her silly little noddle. She wants to attend the Inauguration Ball."

"The idea!" laughed Ethel, gently sarcastic.

But Precious had fled to her father, and was hanging on his neck. As he clasped the lissome form to his heart he asked earnestly:

"Why not?"

"Yes, why not?" echoed his pretty pet.

[Pg 9]

"But, papa, she is too young," cried Ethel, almost angrily.

"Don't listen to her, papa. She doesn't want me to have one bit of fun. But I will go to the ball, for you will say yes, won't you, my darling old love?" and she stroked his rippling black whiskers with her dainty mite of a hand, and gazed into his eyes with innocent confidence.

He hugged the little pleader tight, and looked over the top of her golden head at his wife.

"What say you, Grace, my dear? Isn't she big enough to go to the ball?"

"I'm as tall as mamma. You needn't laugh, Ethel," cried Precious, and waited eagerly for her mother's reply.

The gentle lady said sweetly:

"I'm sorry to disappoint my dear little girl, but she is too young to go into society yet, and she would have to make her début as a young lady before she went to a grand ball."

"I don't care if I'm not a young lady, mamma; I'm determined to go to the ball," cried Precious, with hysterical symptoms, and Mrs. Winans sighed gently.

"Indeed, my darling girl, I'm sorry to refuse you, but—" she began, and paused in dismay, for a sound of petulant weeping filled the room. Precious lay in her father's arms transformed into a Niobe.

"Oh, Precious, pray don't be such a baby," implored Ethel impatiently, but the sobbing only grew louder, and between whiles came the pathetic plaint:

"Nobody cares for me."

Those tears and sobs melted the father's doting heart. He cried out pleadingly.

"Poor little love, her heart is almost broken. Do let her go, mamma."

"Papa is the only friend I have in the world!" wailed the diplomatic little darling, and he pressed her closer to his throbbing heart.

[Pg 10]

"Ah, Gracie, how can you refuse?" he exclaimed, but Ethel cried out pettishly:

"Papa, you have spoiled Precious until she is a perfect baby, and if she cried for the moon I believe you'd try to have a ladder built up to it. You always find it easy enough to refuse me when I ask imprudent things, and I don't think you ought to take sides against mamma in this. Let Precious wait a few years before she comes out."

But dismal sobs were the only answer to this plea, and Precious wept, persuasively:

"Oh, papa, darling papa, do say that I may go, for mamma will do anything you wish."

The senator's pleading dark eyes met the anxious blue ones of his wife, and he said eagerly:

"Dearest, she wants to go so very, very much, and it will break her sweet little heart if you refuse. Besides, this is different from a regular ball, for thousands and thousands of people attend the Inauguration Ball just to see the new president. There will be a great crush as usual, and you will bring the girls home very soon, I know. So for this one time I think we may humor our baby's curiosity. Now dry your eyes, my pet."

"Oh, you darling! you darling!" cried Precious ecstatically, and lifted her face, all lovely and damp like a rain-washed rose. She embraced him rapturously, then flew to her mother.

"Mamma, you shall never repent this, for I'll be as good as gold hereafter."

Ethel had turned away and left the room with a frowning brow and darkly flashing eyes.

"He loves her best," she murmured bitterly. "He would never have yielded like that to my entreaties for anything against dear mamma's wish. Ah, why is it so? Am I not beautiful and good, and his elder daughter? Why should Precious be always first in my noble father's heart?"

That jealous heart-cry strikes the keynote of our story,[Pg 11] dear reader, for had the senator not loved Precious best, this story of Ethel's temptation and her sister's suffering would never have been written.

Ethel Winans was bitterly unhappy.

Unhappy? and why?

Externally she had everything to make her blessed.

Young, beautiful, healthy, the fortunate daughter of a rich and distinguished statesman, this girl had

"But lain in the lilies
And fed on the roses of life."

But Milton has aptly written:

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

Ethel Winans' life stream had been poisoned at its very source by a baleful jealousy.

Those who knew her gifted father best were aware that his early married life had been embittered by the faults of a passionately jealous nature intent on supremacy in everything. This elder daughter had inherited his beauty and his temperament. Every parental influence was working against her happiness.

She went with a weary, listless step to her own apartments, and fell heavily upon a silken divan. Her red lips were trembling, and tears began to rain from her beautiful eyes.

"Why was I ever born?" she cried angrily. "No one cares for poor Ethel! Mamma, in spite of her denials, loves my brother Earle the best, and papa worships Precious. If I were dead they would scarcely miss me."

She began to pace up and down the luxurious room, her rich crimson silk gown trailing soundlessly over the thick velvet carpet, her loosened tresses pouring in a dusky torrent below her waist, her lovely jeweled hands writhing together in agony.

[Pg 12]

"How I love him, my noble, handsome father!" she cried. "But ever since Precious was born, before I was three years old, she has supplanted me in everything. I can remember it all although I was so young. She pushed me from my mother's breast, she crowded me from my father's heart. I was no longer the petted baby. I must give way to Little Blue Eyes, as they call her, and from the first I hated my rival. When I was little I used to strike her, until my mother's gentle teachings made me ashamed, and then I tried to love my little sister for mamma's sake. I do love her. God knows I love her, for who could help it, she is so sweet and lovely? Yet there are times—horrible times—when Satan seems to possess my soul, and I give way to something that is awful—to jealous hate and fury—and then, oh, then, I wish that Precious were dead, or that I had never been born. Once I confessed all to mamma, and she shuddered and wept at my wickedness. But she clasped me in her tender arms, and told me that she loved me—oh, very, very much and that she would pray for me daily! Dear mamma! she is an angel, and I am a wicked, rebellious girl, and frighten every one with my fits of temper and imperious ways. And I forget to pray for myself as mamma bade me do, and when I forget, the Evil One gets possession of my weak soul."

She fell on her knees, she lifted her streaming dark eyes heavenward.

"Oh, Heaven help me, make me a better girl, keep me from hating my dear little sister, and save me from my own evil nature!" she prayed, with desperate fervor.

[Pg 13]



"Sister, since I met thee last,
O'er thy brow a change has passed.
In the softness of thine eyes
Deep and still a shadow lies.
From thy voice there thrills a tone
Never to thy childhood known;
Through thy soul a storm has moved;
Gentle sister, thou hast loved!"—Hemans.

It was the fourth day of March, and Washington was full of strangers drawn thither to witness the Inauguration ceremonies attendant upon the new president taking the oath of office as ruler of the nation.

But nature had frowned on everything that day, and from early dawn till midnight her tears poured in torrents upon the vast throngs that surged ceaselessly through the magnificent broad avenues of the beautiful city. The wind raged wildly, and the rain fell in sheets, as though

"The heart of heaven were breaking
In tears o'er the fallen earth."

Along the route of the procession, from the White House to the Capitol, Pennsylvania avenue was packed with a dense mass of people, upon whose forest of umbrellas the magnificent decorations of flags and bunting overhead dripped red and blue ink as they hung forlornly over the scene. The windows of the houses were filled with curious faces and the grand stands erected here and there for the sightseers were occupied, too, in spite of the weather, for no one seemed to have stayed indoors for fear of the elements.[Pg 14] Hundreds of thousands of people seemed to be packed upon the pavements, jostling each other with their umbrellas, and patronizing the busy fakirs who peddled presidential badges and photographs, while ever and anon rose the plaintive call of the diligent vender of Philadelphia cough drops. Altogether the day was dismal in the extreme. The drenched people looked ridiculous, and the glory of the procession was considerably dampened from the same cause.

But the day with its stormy skies, its surging throngs, and fitful enthusiasm was over now. The new president was installed in the White House, the old president was deposed. "Le roi est mort! Vive le roi!"

Still Nature wept tumultuously, for with nightfall the storm increased in violence. Black, portentous clouds scurried over the face of the sky, and sheets of icy cold rain poured upon the earth.

But all this downpour did not check the ardor of the tens of thousands of people who flocked to the Inauguration Ball in the immense new Pension building. The avenues were thronged with carriages, and they literally blocked the square around the building, while within all was like fairy-land with splendid decorations, brilliant lights, black coats of civilians, gay uniforms of soldiers, brilliant costumes of foreign legations, and lovely women whose magnificent jewels radiated fire, while over all rose the swell of music. The new president was there with his family, and willful Precious Winans had duly made his acquaintance, the honor she had so much coveted.

And beautiful, passionate Ethel, with her flashing eyes and her proud smile?

Since we first met her several weeks ago a change has come over this reckless spirit.

The passion of love has thrown its golden glamour over her heart.

At a brilliant entertainment ten days ago she had met a stranger, an Englishman of rank and wealth, who was just now being lionized by American society.

[Pg 15]

Lord Chester was young, handsome, fascinating, and caused many a flutter in feminine hearts, but he soon singled out the brilliant belle, Miss Winans, as the bright particular star of his worship, and it was soon suspected that the girl, whose conquests had been legion in her two successful seasons, had been touched at last by Cupid's arrows. Society began to prophesy a match.

Ethel was radiant in the bliss of this dawning passion.

She foresaw, in a worshiping love and a brilliant marriage, an escape from the life that her jealous nature made at times unendurable.

"As Lady Chester I should leave my father's house, where Precious has supplanted me in all my rights. In my grand English home I should reign queen of my husband's heart, and in time the wounds of slighted love in my father's home might heal and be forgotten," she thought gladly, and there was triumph in the anticipation of this brilliant match, for she did not believe Precious could ever win a title, in spite of her charms.

"She is lovely, but she is not queenly, as I am. She would not grace a title," she thought proudly.

At the ball that night she wore Lord Chester's flowers, and he hung over her devotedly, but he had not yet seen Precious. Her mother kept her resolutely in the background. The senator's entreaties had forced her to bring her younger daughter, but she was determined that the girl's presence should not be known any more than could be helped. She wanted to keep this lovely pearl secluded from society as long as she could.

So, withdrawn into a flowery alcove with Precious, she scarcely mingled at all with the surging mass of people whose vast numbers made dancing quite an impossibility. The senator remained with them part of the time, but was often called off by friends, and sometimes left them to mingle with the crowd.

Precious, a perfect picture of beauty in a white Empire silk gown, with her golden curls all loose over her shoulders,[Pg 16] remained demurely by her mother's side, the radiant light in her blue eyes and the flush on her cheeks showing how much she enjoyed the brilliant scene.

Suddenly a very distinguished looking man, white-haired, and in the uniform of some foreign service, with glittering orders on his breast, caught sight of Mrs. Winans in her secluded alcove, and hastened to speak to the beautiful lady.

Precious did not care about the old gentleman. She moved back, and looked another way to escape an introduction.

"Ah, Baron Nugent," cried the lady and for ten minutes he lingered beside her, then moved on.

"Precious," she cried, looking around, but there was no answer. Precious had disappeared.

"She is hiding, to tease me," smiled Mrs. Winans, and began to search for her daughter with a smile on her lips.

But Precious was nowhere to be seen, and she presently grew quite alarmed.

"She will be lost in this dense crowd. It was very thoughtless in her to leave my side. I must find her father and send him to search for her," cried the frightened mother.

But for some time she could not see her husband, or any one else that she knew.

Suddenly she came upon Ethel and Lord Chester sitting close to a vine-wreathed pillar, seemingly absorbed in each other. The handsome young nobleman was leaning over Ethel with an air of devotion that seemed only the due of her dark and sparkling beauty.

Mrs. Winans gave a little suppressed sob of joy at finding some one that she knew. She went up to the lovers, and cried tremulously:

"Oh, Ethel, have you seen Precious? She is lost!"

Ethel looked up with a frown at the interruption of her charming conversation, and answered coldly:

"No, mamma; I thought she was with you."

[Pg 17]

"She was, but a little while ago Baron Nugent stopped to speak to me, and when I looked around again Precious had disappeared as completely as if she had sunk through the floor. She must have strayed into the crowd, the thoughtless child, and got lost. Oh, if I could find her father and send him to look for her!"

"I will be very glad to bring him to you, madam," exclaimed Lord Chester, courteously and he hurried away to seek the senator.

Ethel pouted angrily.

"If you had only stayed where you were, mamma, Precious would have come back to you directly. You are making a great fuss over nothing," she declared, and Mrs. Winans trembled at the jealous flash in the large dark eyes.

"My dear, I am very sorry I interrupted you," she said, in her low, gentle voice. "But I was so alarmed over Precious I did not think. Forgive me."

"There is nothing to forgive, but it is just like Precious, raising an excitement, and spoiling every one's pleasure. She should never have come," Ethel replied ungraciously.

At that moment Lord Chester came hurrying back with Senator Winans in tow.

"Oh, Paul, I have lost Precious," his wife cried with a choking sob.

"No, dear, we will find her presently, I'm sure," he said cheerfully, but with an anxious light in his eyes. Then he explained that while she was talking to the baron he had beckoned Precious away in order to present her to a friend of his, a cabinet minister. While they were all talking they had spied the president leaving, and bidding Precious remain where she was until he came back her father hurried forward for a few good-night words with him.

"I am sure I was not absent more than fifteen minutes from her side, but when I returned she was gone. I supposed she had made her way back to you, and was searching for you both when I met Lord Chester."

[Pg 18]

"She never came back. Oh, my darling, where are you? What has become of you?" moaned the anxious mother, and her lovely, delicate face paled with fear.

"Do not be alarmed, Grace. I will soon find her for you," her husband cried, and Lord Chester, eager to be of use, added:

"I will assist you if you will describe your daughter to me."

Senator Winans cried impulsively:

"She is the most beautiful girl you ever saw. Only sixteen, with blue eyes like velvet pansies, golden curls sweeping to her waist, a white silk gown, and pearls on her lovely white neck."

A low, muttered word came from Ethel's lips, but they did not catch its import, and turned away. Only her tearful mother saw the livid pallor that overspread the beautiful face and the flash of anger in the dark eyes.

[Pg 19]



"How does a woman love? Once, no more,
Though life forever its loss deplore;
Deep in sorrow, or want, or sin,
One king reigneth her heart within;
One alone by night and day
Moves her spirit to curse or pray."
Rose Terry Cooke.

An hour's frantic search convinced Senator Winans that his daughter was not in the immense ballroom, and inquiry among the door-keepers brought to light something very startling.

A young man had left the ballroom an hour before, carrying an unconscious girl in his arms.

He had told the doorkeeper that she was his sister, that she had fainted in the crowd, and that he was going to put her in his carriage, and take her home.

When the man described the beauty of the unconscious girl, the soft white silk gown, and the long golden curls, the agonized senator could no longer doubt that his darling had been kidnaped by some villain, and carried off to some terrible unknown fate.

It was terrible to think that such a thing could be in that gala scene among those thousands of joyous people, and in that blaze of light and splendor. It was like a sword in her father's heart.

His face grew ashen, his eyes blazed, and he swore the most terrible revenge on the fiend who had stolen Precious.

[Pg 20]

"Oh, my darling, my darling, this news will break her mother's heart!" he groaned.

"But she has another daughter left to comfort her," ventured the elegant young Englishman.

"Yes, we have Ethel. She is a good daughter, but Precious was our favorite, our darling."

"But why? Miss Winans is very charming," cried Lord Chester, a little jealous for the beautiful girl he admired so much.

"Yes, Ethel is charming, but so was my little Precious. She was charming and winsome, too, my youngest born, my darling, the idol of my heart!" groaned the senator, completely overcome by his trouble.

Lord Chester began to feel an eager curiosity over the missing girl. Was she, indeed, as lovely and winsome as her father declared? She must be if her charms exceeded Ethel's.

He held out a sympathetic hand to the stricken father.

"General, pray command my services in this sad affair to assist you in all possible ways," he exclaimed cordially.

"Thank you, Lord Chester, for we must begin to follow up the clews at once. But my heart bleeds for my wife. I fear this shock will almost kill her. My lord, if you will order my carriage, I will send her home with Ethel, telling her that perhaps Precious has somehow found her way home. Not a word of the truth yet. It must be broken to her later, and very gently. She must think that I am still searching here, while in fact I shall be on the track of the kidnaper. Oh, Heavens every moment is an agony, until I find my child again!"

And later on, when his wife and daughter were gone, and he was rolling in a cab to the office of a great detective, he confided to the young Englishman a brief page from his romantic earlier life.

"My only son, Earle, who is at present in Europe, was[Pg 21] kidnaped by a lunatic when he was an infant, and it was over four years before we recovered him. He was in my care at the time, and I was blamed for his loss. My wife had brain fever, and almost died, and the pensive shade on her face now was left there by that early grief. Think what it would be to her now to lose Precious in the same terrible fashion. She is a noble Christian woman, but I fear that she would curse me and never forgive me if our darling daughter should be lost like that while in my care. Oh, why was I so careless? Why did I not remember that there are always human wolves watching—for prey?"

Mrs. Winans sobbed bitterly all the way home from the ball, but Ethel was too angry to offer one word of comfort.

Her father's praise of Precious rankled like a poisoned arrow in her heart.

"The most beautiful girl he ever saw! How dared he say it? I wonder if Lord Chester would say so, too, if he saw her? Would he like her blue eyes better than my dark ones? Would he think her golden curls prettier than my raven tresses? Woe be to her if he did, for now he is almost my declared lover, and if she won him from me I should be tempted to take a terrible revenge on both," she thought bitterly, forgetting that the deadliest revenge often recoils on the hand that deals the blow.

They passed into the broad hall, where they were met by Mrs. Winans' privileged attendant, Norah, who had nursed all her children.

"Norah! Norah! has Precious come home?" cried her mistress anxiously.

The woman stared in surprise at the question.

"No, madam, she is not here. I thought she was to come back with you! Why, what ails you that you look so pale and wild? Oh, she is fainting! Help! help! we must carry her to her room!"

They bore the limp figure upstairs, and laid it on the bed. Ethel knelt by her, weeping.

[Pg 22]

"Mamma, dear mamma, speak to me! Oh, Norah, why does she lie still so long? Is she dead?"

"No, it's only a swoon. I've brought her safely through many like it, poor dear. But tell me what has happened, Miss Ethel? Where is your father and your sister, my little nursling?"

Ethel told her briefly what had happened, adding:

"Papa sent us home and remained, to search for Precious."

"Heaven have mercy!" sobbed nurse Norah, then she busied herself about her mistress.

Ethel stood idly watching her, with dazed eyes, her head in a whirl. She was not thinking of her lost sister, nor her stricken mother. Her restless thoughts had gone back to her handsome English lover.

She was thinking:

"When mamma came upon us so suddenly he was about to make a declaration of his love. I saw it in his eyes, it was trembling on his lips; but mamma came between with the name of Precious—that name that always comes between me and everything! Was it an evil omen, I wonder, or will he tell me to-morrow that he loves me?"

[Pg 23]



"My hope was still in the shadow,
Hers lay in the sun:
I longed in vain: what she asked for
It straightway was done,
Once I staked all my heart's treasure,
We played—and she won!"
Adelaide Procter.

In the gray dawn of the wild March morning Senator Winans came home alone, looking ten years older, the stamp of despair on his dark, handsome face.

He went at once to his wife, and found her lying awake in a fever of suspense and anxiety.

When she saw him enter alone she started up with a cry of keen despair:

"Precious! Oh, where is Precious?"

Her husband knelt by her side, clasped the feverish little hands, and kissed the woeful white face, all wet with tears, like a rain-drenched lily.

"Be brave, be patient, my dearest, for you must bear this cruel suspense yet a little longer," he sighed.

"Oh, Paul, you have not found her yet? Then she must be dead, our little darling!"

He had decided to tell her the truth. It would be better than the anguish of wretched uncertainty, so he broke it to her gently, the story of the golden-haired girl who had been carried out of the ballroom unconscious.

"It must have been our golden-haired darling. I believe she has been kidnaped for the sake of a ransom; so cheer up, my darling, for the wretches will not harm our pet; they will keep her safe and well to earn the reward[Pg 24] they will expect to be offered in the morning papers. And I have attended to that already, Grace, for my advisers think it will be best to give great publicity to the affair, as in that case it may come to the knowledge of some persons who may be able to give us an unexpected clew. Oh, my wife; do not sob so bitterly. Our darling shall soon be found, I swear it," and for the sake of the anguish she saw in his eyes the poor mother fought with her sorrow, and tried to find a glimmer of light in the Cimmerian darkness.

But it was cruel, cruel, for the horror of the present was only augmented by the memory of the past. Her eldest born, her precious boy, had been stolen in his babyhood, and four years elapsed before he was recovered. It had taken all the strength of youth and hope to endure that cross. Now she was older, frailer, and she knew she could not bear another such agony and live.

But her husband's seeming hopefulness put a gleam of sunshine in her heart, and for his sake, because she loved him very dearly, she would not add to his remorseful grief by one reproachful word.

The morning papers in glaring black headlines chronicled the abduction of the senator's favorite daughter and the princely ransom he had offered for her restoration. Excitement ran high over the terrible sensation, and stories of the girl's wonderful grace and beauty passed from lip to lip. The studio of a famous artist who had but just completed the portrait of Precious for her father was thronged with gazers. He could not deny them, for it was hoped that familiarity with her looks might in some way help the search for the missing girl.

Among the first of the curious visitors to the studio was handsome Lord Chester.

The senator's earnest praises of his favorite child rang continuously in the young man's head.

His eager curiosity drove him to the studio of the famous artist, and when he stood at last before the full-length portrait he could not turn his eyes away; they lingered[Pg 25] in rapture on the pictured loveliness of Precious Winans.

"Sweet face, swift eyes and gleaming
Sun-gifted rippling hair—
Lips like two rosebuds dreaming
In June's fruit-scented air:
Life when her spring days meet her,
Hope when her angels greet her,
Is not more calm—nor sweeter;
And love is not more fair.
"God bless your thoughts, my sweet one,
Whatever they may be!
Youth's life is but a fleet one,
Foam from an ebbing sea.
Time, tide, and fate o'erturn all,
Save one thing ever vernal,
Sweet love that lives eternal,
Life of eternity!"

To the day of his death Arthur, Lord Chester, carried this picture in his memory and his heart—this picture of a girl standing by a magnificent large mastiff with one tiny white hand holding his silver collar. Beneath her fairy feet was daisied grass, and her simple white gown and the broad straw hat she carried on her arm seemed to fit the spring-time that was imaged in the golden lengths of rippling hair. So she stood—"a sight to make an old man young"—Ethel's younger sister, the senator's favorite.

The words of a poet of his own fair land leaped to his lips:

"Sovereign lady in fair field
Myself for such a face had boldly died."

Later in the day he called at the Winans mansion, and Ethel received him alone. Her mamma was too ill and nervous to see any one.

Never had the queenly Ethel looked more charming. No shade of anxiety dimmed the dark radiance of her eyes. She had slept long and late, and when she awoke and heard that Precious was not yet found she laughed and[Pg 26] said that she was sure that her sister had eloped with some handsome young man, and would be coming home in a few days from her bridal tour, with her husband, to ask papa's forgiveness.

And she repeated this to Lord Chester when he expressed solicitude over her sister's fate.

"I am not at all uneasy, my lord," she cried lightly; "I think it very likely that Precious has eloped with one of her tutors. Papa had several young men coming here to teach my sister music, and drawing, and dancing. Of course her French governess was always present. But she scarcely understood a word of English, so it was easy enough for one of them to make love to her if he wished, and Precious was just the kind of pretty, willful simpleton to fall in love with a nobody and marry him."

A keen, inexplicable pain tore the young man's heart at those words, and it seemed to him that Ethel's levity amounted to heartlessness. He looked gravely at her with his dark-gray eyes, and it seemed to him that there was something lacking in her beauty that he had not missed last night, but he did not realize as yet that the change was in himself.

He would have denied it if any one had taxed him with being in love with a girl whom he knew only by her portrait.

Only last night he had adored charming Ethel Winans. It was only her mother's interruption that had prevented him from laying his heart and title at her feet. The words had trembled on his lips while he looked at her with his heart in his eyes.

Why did he not speak to-day?

The opportunity was very favorable, for it was but seldom he could find the brilliant belle alone.

And Ethel's languid air, just touched with the softness of love, was very inviting. It was just the gentle mood in which a girl is likely to accept a proposal.

But he did not propose, although he said to himself that really he ought to, and he was afraid she expected it, after[Pg 27] last night. But really it might not be quite correct to speak just now when the family was crushed with grief over the kidnaping of a beloved daughter. He would postpone the declaration.

In truth last night's zest was lacking. Last night Ethel had seemed to him a peerless goddess. To-day she was only an ordinary mortal—beautiful, but—not as divine as her younger sister.

If he had dreamed of the mad passion of jealousy surging under her calm exterior he would never have uttered his next words:

"I saw your sister's portrait at Valentine's studio to-day. Her beauty merits all her father's praise."

She bit her scarlet lip and tore to pieces a rose in her fingers.

"The portrait is flattered. Precious is not half so beautiful," she answered coldly, and a sudden constraint came between them. Lord Chester, blind to the smoldering fury under the long black lashes, thought her weary of him, and soon took leave.

Ethel, left alone in the splendid room, with the scattered rose petals at her feet, flung out her arms with a gesture of rebellious despair, and moaned bitterly:

"She has won my lover's heart with that fatal, luring, childish beauty! How can I help but hate her now?"

The evening's post brought a mysterious type-written letter to Senator Winans. It ran thus:

"You have made a mistake. I did not steal Precious for a ransom, but for love of her fair face. Do not be uneasy. I shall not harm your beautiful daughter. She is safe in the care of a kind, motherly woman, but she is also my prisoner, and will remain so until she consents to become my bride. After she is married to me you shall see her again, but never before; so you must be patient, for she is a little obdurate now, but in the end I shall win her consent."

The letter had no date or signature, but it was postmarked Washington.

"Didn't I say it was an elopement?" cried Ethel, in[Pg 28] scornful triumph, but her father turned on her a lightning glance of reproof, and cried sternly:

"Never dare, Ethel, to repeat that false word elopement of your innocent sister again. You have just read in this letter that it was an abduction, not an elopement. So do not make another such mistake."

[Pg 29]



"To see her is to love her,
And love but her forever;
For nature made her what she is,
And never made another!"—Burns.

When Senator Winans left Precious standing like a vision of beauty under a garlanded pillar to await his return, he did not dream that the vulture of danger hovered near his blue-eyed darling.

But burning eyes only a little distance away glared on the girl with wolfish eagerness, and minute by minute those small keen eyes grew fiercer with the fire of passion.

Precious, all unconscious of those burning eyes, stood quietly watching the strangers that surrounded her, coming and going in ceaseless ebb and flow like the waves of the sea.

Suddenly those eyes came nearer, nearer, and burned on the lovely face. Then a voice spoke in her ear:

"Good-evening, Miss Winans."

Precious started and looked at the speaker.

She recognized her drawing-master, Lindsey Warwick, a young man she secretly disliked because she had a vague suspicion that he was the writer of several mysterious love-letters she had lately received.

She gave him a haughty nod, but she did not speak, only stared in surprise at his elegant evening suit and the rose in his buttonhole, that transformed him from the poor drawing-master to the elegant man of fashion.

Lindsey Warwick was not at all abashed by her supercilious[Pg 30] air. He seemed to be wildly agitated, his face pale, his firm chin trembling with emotion. Bending close to the girl's ear he whispered:

"Come! your father wishes me to take you to your mother."

Something about him, his awe-struck tone, his agitation frightened the girl. She gasped inquiringly:


And Lindsey Warwick answered unhesitatingly, though his voice was hoarse and strange:

"Yes, poor child, your mother has just dropped dead of heart-disease over yonder. Come," and he held out his arm.

If she had uttered a cry the little scene might have attracted attention from the vast crowd surging about, but had he thrust a sword to the very hilt in her heart Precious could not have fallen more silently or swiftly at his feet. She just dropped down unconscious without moan or cry—that was all.

No one had observed anything strange, only one or two looked around when he exclaimed, "My sister has fainted!"

His ruse had succeeded admirably. Precious lay like a dead girl at his feet, and there was no one to interfere.

The villain lifted the slender white form in his arms and pushed through the crowd, trying to gain the door. People made way when they saw his burden and heard him mutter his formula, "My sister has fainted." But no one displayed any special interest. Half a score of women had fainted that night.

So Lindsey Warwick gained the outer air with his burden, and soon finding a cab took her away.

It was a daring game that he had played, but he had won.

The project had flashed into his mind when he saw her alone and unguarded in the heedless crowd, and in the desperation of a mad and hopeless love he had carried it out. He knew that the chances were terribly against[Pg 31] him, but he resolved to run the risk in hope of the prize.

The cab took him and his captive to the very suburbs of South Washington—to an old tumble-down red brick house of two stories that stood alone in a large neglected lot. There were but a few more houses in the square, and those strictly of the shanty order.

Cabby held out his hand, remarking grumpily:

"Five dollars, you know, is legal fare for Inauguration night."

"I'll make it ten for good luck, and you can go on a big spree to-morrow," laughed Lindsey Warwick, handing him a bill.

Cabby thanked the kind gentleman vociferously, but he did not wait till the next day, but went on his orgies at once, and wound up early next morning in the police court, where he was sent to jail for ten days in default of payment of his fine. He never saw the papers, never knew of the sensation that had followed the simple fact of his driving a young lady and gentleman home from the Inauguration Ball. He did not dream that he had been concerned in an abduction, or that Senator Winans would have made him rich for life if he had given to him the clew he possessed to his lost daughter.

Precious, the petted daughter of wealth and luxury all her life, recovered her consciousness in the smallest, shabbiest, most common-looking bedroom she had ever beheld.

A coarse woman of about fifty years was leaning over her. She looked and smelled like a laundress.

"Who are you, and where am I?" quavered Precious.

A man came forward then, and at sight of him everything came back to her memory. She lifted her head from the coarse pillow with a shriek.

"Mamma! oh, darling mamma!"

"Be quiet. Your mother is all right, my dear," said Warwick. "The story of her death was only a ruse to make you faint, so that I could get you into my power.[Pg 32] I love you, so I brought you away to make you my prisoner until you would consent to be my bride."

Precious sprang to her feet, her blue eyes blazing with anger and scorn.

"You must be crazy! Why, my papa will kill you for this!" she panted indignantly.

Lindsey Warwick laughed mockingly.

"Oh, no, my dear; he will not get the chance. He will never know where you are until you marry me!"

She stamped her little foot with the pride of a queen.

"Senator Winans' daughter marry you—a drawing-master!" she cried, with increased indignation.

"Certainly, my dear. Pride can stoop sometimes. Your mother was only a governess when she became the senator's bride!"

She looked at him in amazement at his knowledge of their family history, and answered proudly:

"My mother belonged to one of the proudest families in the South. It was only the reverse of fortune that placed her for a short time in a dependent position."

With a laugh he answered:

"Granted, but she was only a governess, and the senator's daughter may stoop like her father to wed her tutor."

"I hate you! I would not marry you if you were the last man on earth! Release me at once, and let me go home!" she cried imperiously.

"I will not. I love you to madness, and I have sworn that I will make you my bride. I will keep you imprisoned here until you consent."

"I will kill myself first."

"I am not afraid of that."

She looked at the coarse, frowzy-haired woman whose greasy clothes smelled of soapsuds.

"Are you in this plot?" she asked disdainfully.

"He is my son, and has put you in my charge, and I[Pg 33] have promised to keep you safe; that is all," was the careless answer.

"But my father will search everywhere for me, and he will punish you both when he finds me."

"He will not find you, for there will not be the slightest clew for him to follow. This house is an old ruin, and my mother lives here alone. I board in one of the best neighborhoods in Washington, and I will never come here to see you only late at night."

He made a motion to the old woman, and she immediately retired from the room.

Then the dark, sneering face of the young man softened with love and longing. He knelt at her feet, and cried passionately:

"Forgive me, for I love you wildly, and I knew I could never win you except by force. I have loved you madly for months. I sent you the tenderest love-letters man ever penned, but you did not reply to them. I looked at you often with my heart in my eyes, but you averted your face. Why were you so cold to me?"

"I despised you," answered Precious. "Only yesterday I resolved to tell mamma that you were presuming on your position to try to make love to me. I wish now that I had told her. Then she would have had some suspicion of the truth."

"She will think now that you have eloped with some low-born lover!" he sneered, rising to his feet, for she had drawn back from him in disdain. "But I will leave you to rest now, my beautiful love, and my mother will come and help you to retire. Fear nothing. You will be kindly treated here, but you will never be restored to your home until you consent to marry me—ay, until the knot is tied. So think well of my proposal, for I will make you a good husband. Good-night," and he bowed and withdrew.

If the thought of her captivity had not been so dreadful, Precious could have laughed at the man's presumption.

[Pg 34]

To think that she, the daughter of an illustrious statesman, should have such a lover as this—a drawing-master, the son of a laundress! Well, papa would come to find her very, very soon, and then he would punish the bold villain for his presumption.

[Pg 35]



"I miss you my darling, my darling—
The embers burn low on the hearth,
And still is the air of the household,
And hushed is the voice of mirth.
The rain splashes fast on the terrace,
The winds past the lattices moan;
The midnight chimes out from the minster
And I am alone!"

Lindsey Warwick had not counted on such determined obstinacy as his lovely young captive displayed.

From first to last she refused to taste a morsel of food beneath the roof of her jailer.

The keenness of her thirst made her accept water from the woman, but that was all. Neither cajoleries, threats, nor bribes could induce her to taste the food provided for her, though it was of the best, with fruits and wines, and even bon-bons to tempt her girlish appetite. Although she was starving she pushed them aside with disdain, and lay all day on the couch weeping forlornly, and calling by turns on the names of her father, mother, and sister.

Poor Precious! she had fully believed that her father would find her in less than twenty-four hours, but the long days wore away, and she gave herself up to despair. Prayers, promises, pleadings, were of no avail with the cruel old woman and her enamored son.

But at heart the old woman was uneasy and frightened as the long days waned and the beautiful captive grew paler and weaker day by day.

"She will die, Lindsey, for she has never tasted food[Pg 36] since she came here, and that is a long week now. You had better let her go. She will never marry you; she will die first, as she said."

"Then she will be mine in death. I will bury her under the cellar of this house, and no one will ever know the secret of her fate."

"It is a wonder they did not suspect you," she exclaimed.

"I fancy the detectives did at first, but I was clever, and threw them off the scent. In the first place, I went as usual that day to give her her lesson in drawing. When the servants told me she was missing I pretended to be entirely in ignorance. Then I devoted myself to a girl in my own rank, and contrived to make every one think me engaged to her. That cleared me, you see."

"Better marry that girl, Lindsey. She might be happy with you. T'other one wouldn't, even if you got her. You're too poor; she couldn't bear it."

"But her father worships the ground she walks on; he would give her a dowry if she married me."

"Better say he would disinherit her for such a marriage."

"Not if she could be brought to love me. He's a stickler for love matches, I know. He married a governess himself. No, mother, only let me get the little beauty to marry me; and the senator would forgive us, and my fortune would be made."

"Go upstairs and look at that poor girl a-dying, as white as the wall, and not able to walk across the floor, and maybe you'll change your mind," replied she cynically.

"By heaven! she shall eat!" he cried frantically. "I will force her to swallow food at the point of a pistol."

"And drive her insane—yes, that's what you'll do!"

"Mother, you're a fool! Come along and help me, and we'll pour some wine down her throat. She shall not die. I love her too well. Life would be a desert without her."

[Pg 37]

She followed him up the dark, rickety stairway, carrying the lamp, for it was after dark, and presently unlocked the door of the girl's prison.

"What is that?" he cried in horror.

Precious lay face downward on the floor, seemingly lifeless.

"I told you so. She's dead! You've killed her!" the woman muttered.

With a groan he flung himself on his knees and lifted the silent form. The white face with its closed eyes fell inertly across his arm. He bent his ear to her heart.

"No, no, she is not dead. Her heart beats faintly. Quick! some wine in a spoon. Here, put it between her lips. Let it trickle down her throat," and with wild anxiety he held the still, white face up to the light.

Meantime there were suspense and horror unutterable in the senator's splendid mansion.

Since that bold and daring letter that had told them Precious was in the power of a lover whose passion amounted to insanity, no further clew had been found.

The most alert detectives of Washington and New York were completely baffled, though neither time nor money was spared in the quest.

Mrs. Winans had taken to her bed, a weak, nervous, weeping woman, and the physician declared that she would never rise from it again unless her daughter were soon restored. Her husband looked like a man whose mind might go wrong at any moment. Ethel, who had been sullenly indifferent at first, and secretly exultant at her sister's strait, began to get over her first anger, and missing the sunshine from the house prayed God to pardon her mad jealousy and restore her little sister to their yearning hearts.

"And let Lord Chester love her if he will, for if he can turn so easily from one to another he is not worth the winning," she thought with bitter pride.

[Pg 38]

She did not see him much in those days, but she knew that he was often with her father, and that he was eager to join in and forward every plan for finding Precious.

"I am forgotten already; but let him go, he is nothing to me," she said to herself with jealous pride, trying to cheat her own aching heart.

Suddenly her brother, Earle, who had been abroad, came home, and his grief and horror at the fate of Little Blue Eyes, as he had loved to call his younger sister, were most intense.

Ethel could not resist one bitter fling.

"Now that your idol is gone, perhaps you will be able to remember sometimes that you have another sister," she cried bitterly.

Earle, who was dark and handsome and impetuous, like his father, turned on her a glance of displeasure.

"Ethel, how can you speak so? Have I ever forgotten you? Did I not bring you from abroad more costly gifts than I brought Precious?"

"Earle, forgive me; I was only jesting;" she cried quickly. But the pretense did not deceive the brother, who said to himself:

"Ethel is as foolishly jealous as ever. What a pity!"

But he put his arm around her and kissed the rosy cheek.

"You are more beautiful than ever, dear, and I have heard it whispered that you will some day be—Lady Chester," he whispered.

"Do not speak to me of Lord Chester. I hate him!" cried Ethel, and fled, sobbing wildly, to her own room.

She might weep all she would over her false lover now, and they would only think it was grief for her sister. Her maid thought so when she came into the room with tearful eyes and said eagerly:

"Oh, miss, if you'd take my advice you'd go to see a fortune-teller about Miss Precious. I know one in South Washington almost out in the country, and she tells very true."

[Pg 39]

"Nonsense, Hetty; they have no knowledge of the future—no more than we have."

"Oh, but, Miss Ethel, she told me wonderful things, and true as gospel, every word. I do believe as sure as my name's Hetty Wilkins that she could give you a clew to your sister's whereabouts. She's a clairvoyant, and charges a dollar for each person. Them clairvoyants always tells true, they say. Now, if you would like to slip out this afternoon for a walk, I'd go with you, for it's a lonesome neighborhood, and not safe for a lady like you alone."

"What is the address, did you say, Hetty?" inquired Ethel eagerly.

The woman fumbled in her pocketbook and brought out a crumpled bit of paper that she spread before Ethel's eyes.

"Perhaps I'll go with you to-morrow; I've another engagement for this afternoon to go walking with Miss Miller," Ethel said carelessly, and when Hetty saw her going out an hour later in a simple tailor-made suit and thick veil, she thought her young lady was going to keep her engagement, and sighed regretfully at Ethel's lack of faith in the wonderful clairvoyant seeress.

But Ethel knew how to keep her own secrets. She was on her way to the woman now.

She was not afraid, in spite of what Hetty had told her, for she had her sister's magnificent great mastiff along for protection—Kay, his young mistress insisted on calling him, because a beautiful young lady at the White House had one of that name.

It was a dreary March afternoon with a high wind and sunless sky, and Ethel had a long walk before her, but she preferred it to riding. She was an excellent pedestrian.

She reached the lonely old tumble-down brick house, and after knocking several times was admitted by a frowzy looking woman, who said that she was a fortune-teller.

"I have a lover, but I fear I have lost his love. I want[Pg 40] to know if I shall ever marry him," faltered Ethel, putting some money in the outstretched palm.

"I can tell you about him, miss, but you must quiet that dog first. He is running and barking in the hall like a crazy thing, with his nose on the floor. What ails him?" uneasily.

Ethel opened the door and after some difficulty induced Kay to enter.

"He will be quiet now," she said, but Kay belied her words. The beautiful great fellow ran whining about the room, giving every symptom of excitement and interest. Suddenly he dipped his muzzle into a basket of trash in one corner and emitted a prolonged and dismal howl as he trotted back to Ethel.

Turning in surprise she saw in his mouth a long white kid glove, very tiny, and with golden buttons.

"Oh, heaven! my little sister's glove!" she cried.

[Pg 41]



"Man's love is like the restless waves,
Ever at rise and fall;
The only love a woman craves
It must be all in all.
Ask me no more if I regret—
You need not care to know,
A woman's heart does not forget——"

The fortune-teller, who was no other than Mrs. Warwick, the laundress, became terribly agitated at the finding of the glove, and the excited shriek of Ethel.

"Oh, God! my sister's glove!" shrieked the girl, and the woman cowered before her, and turned ashy pale.

The immense mastiff permitted Ethel to take the little white glove from his mouth, but he pressed close to her side with his great fore-paws in her lap, and fixing his big intelligent eyes on her face with an imploring expression, kept on yelping and whining in a dismal strain that was almost terrifying.

Kay had loved his fair young mistress with intense canine devotion, and as soon as he entered the old house his keenness of scent had made him acquainted with her presence there. He was following up the trail with blended joy and perplexity, when Ethel had called him into the room, where he had at once renewed his investigations, with the result that he had found the glove.

It was hers, Kay knew it, and with almost human excitement he carried it to Ethel, while his dismal yelps said as plain as words:

[Pg 42]

"My darling little mistress is somewhere near to us, but I cannot find her. Help me! oh, help me!"

Mrs. Warwick stared at both in horror, for the fatal truth dawned on her mind. This girl was the sister of the captive upstairs, and the faithful dog had penetrated the mystery.

While she was collecting her scattered self-possession Ethel turned to her, exclaiming agitatedly:

"My sister is in this house, a prisoner! Lead me to her at once."

The expression of fear on Mrs. Warwick's face changed to one of cunning, and she cried sullenly:

"Lady, I don't know what you mean! What would your sister be doing in this old house, where nobody lives but me? That glove was left here a week ago by a beautiful young lady that wanted her fortune told. I kept it, a-thinking she'd likely come back for it, but she never did."

"The girl was my sister. Did she come alone?" asked Ethel, fancying that perhaps her maid had told Precious about the fortune-teller, too. It made the woman's story sound plausible.

"That dog makes me nervous. But get him to stop his racket, and I'll tell you all about the girl."

Ethel pressed Kay's head down upon her knee, and soothed him until his sharp, impatient yelps subsided into low, dismal whining, and then the woman said:

"It was Inauguration night, about midnight, I guess, that I was aroused by a couple, a pretty, blue-eyed girl in white, with long yellow curls, and a handsome young man. They told me they had run away from the ball to get married, and the girl was afraid of her father, and wanted me to tell her if he would ever forgive her for doing it. It seemed as how he was a swell, and rich, but her young man was poor, and worked for a living. I read the cards for them, and told them to go ahead, that the old man would come round and take them home to live in the grand mansion. The girl laughed for joy, and the young man[Pg 43] paid me a double fee, then they went away in their carriage, and presently I found the girl's glove on the floor where she had dropped it."

Her story had a plausible sound, but Ethel looked at her suspiciously, and said:

"The girl's description answers to that of my sister, Precious Winans, who was abducted from the Inauguration Ball; but there is something strange about your story, for my sister was not willing to marry the man. I'm certain of that."

"Then it couldn't be the same young lady, for the one I saw here was desperate fond of her young man, I'm sure," returned the woman maliciously, hoping that this falsehood would help her son's cause with the senator.

"It is very strange," said Ethel, with a perplexed air, for she did not believe in her heart that Precious was in love with anybody. She rose abruptly, restraining Kay by a hand on his silver collar. "I will take the glove to papa and tell him what you have told me. Perhaps it may give him a clew."

"Oh, but, miss, I haven't told your fortune yet. Just stay a little longer, and keep that brute quiet, and I'll go into a trance, and tell you all you want to know."

Ethel paused irresolute. She did not really have much faith in the old woman's powers of divination, but she was curious, and—"the woman who hesitates is lost."

The fortune-teller threw herself into a chair, leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and feigned sleep.

Ethel, with her hand on Kay's collar, waited nervously.

Soon the woman began to mutter, like one asleep.

And as she was very angry at Ethel for coming there and getting her into what she foresaw would be a very bad scrape, she determined to give the young lady a very grewsome fortune. She accordingly began:

"You have a rich and handsome lover, and every girl in Washington has envied you, but now they laugh in derision."

[Pg 44]

Ethel started violently, her dark eyes flashing luridly.

"They laugh," continued the pretended clairvoyant, "because another girl has cut you out with your grand lover. He has almost forgotten you already, and worships the blue eyes and golden hair of his new love."

She heard a repressed gasp of agony that assured her that the chance shot had hit the mark, but her malice was not satiated yet, and she continued solemnly and dreamily:

"You will have a bad, black, bitter future. Your jealous hate of your successful rival will cause you to commit a crime. I cannot tell you for certain whether you will be sent to prison or hung for it, for I cannot clearly read the jurors' minds; besides, much will depend on the great influence of your powerful relations, so I don't know exactly how much punishment you will get, but it is written in the book of fate that you will sin and you will suffer."

It was the merest malicious jargon, guess-work, based on Ethel's first statement that she had lost her lover's heart, but it struck home to Ethel's proud, passionate heart with the awful certainty of prophecy. She trembled with terror, and the cold dew of fear started out on her brow, beneath the dark wavy tresses of her rich hair. With an effort she shook the woman's shoulder loathingly.

"Wake up! I don't want to hear any more of your dismal stuff! I'm going," she cried imperiously.

Mrs. Warwick shuddered, gasped, and seemed to come out of a deep sleep. Her guest was already going through the doorway into the hall.

Just then Kay broke from Ethel's grasp, and bounded up the rickety stairs to the narrow passageway above. They heard him, reared up on his hind feet, beating with his fore-paws on a door, and barking furiously.

"Call your dog down, or I will kill him!" shrieked the woman.

"You will not dare to do it. Papa brought him from Europe for my sister, and he cost several hundred dollars,"[Pg 45] answered Ethel quickly, but she stood at the foot of the stairway and called the mastiff repeatedly, first persuasively, then authoritatively.

But one tone had no more effect than the other.

Kay continued his vociferous barking, and the sound of his huge body as he hurled it against the resisting door echoed through the house.

"The brute is devilish! If I had a pistol I'd shoot him, even if he cost ten thousand dollars!" vowed the irate fortune-teller.

"I will go and bring him down," cried Ethel, but the woman pushed her away.

"No, no! you must not go up there! He is only after my big cat! I will go myself, and drive him down!"

"But you must not strike him. Precious never allowed any one to strike him," Ethel called anxiously.

The woman did not answer; she rushed on, and caught up a stick in the hall. Furious with anger she brought it down on Kay's back.

There was a savage howl of pain and fury.

The petted mastiff that had never felt the weight of a blow in his life, turned glaring red eyes on his assailant, and sprang at her ferociously.

In a minute she was down under the huge paws.

Ethel heard the blow, the savage howl of the startled dog, the fall of the woman's body on the floor, borne down by Kay's strong paws, then strangling shrieks:

"Help! Help! He will kill me!"

The girl bounded up the stairs and saw the infuriated Kay at the throat of the prostrate woman.

With a cry of horror Ethel caught his collar in both hands, trying to drag him off.

But Kay resisted all the efforts of her puny strength, and the contest must have ended in a tragedy but for a sudden happening.

From within the closed and locked door where Kay had been struggling to effect an entrance sounded a low, clear, eager voice:

[Pg 46]

"Kay! Kay! come to Precious!"

The woman on the floor was kicking, struggling, shrieking, and the dog, with his paws on her breast had his fangs at her throat, but at that sweet, clear voice everything changed on the instant.

The dog, with his jaws wide open, emitted a howl of savage joy, and leaped upward to the height of a man, then turned from the woman and back to the door. His victim scrambled to her feet, her garments hanging in tatters, her face ashy pale and absolutely fiendish, but before she could utter a word she saw Ethel come up to her with blazing eyes.

The girl cried sternly:

"My sister is in that room. Open the door this instant, I command you."

"I will not obey you!"

"You shall!"

"I will not!"

Ethel's face was corpse-like in its pallor, her black eyes glowed with light.

"Kay!" she called, in a low, menacing voice, and the woman shuddered. At the same time a voice in the locked room called plaintively:

"Ethel! Ethel! darling sister Ethel!"

"That is my sister's voice," cried Ethel wildly. "Woman, your defiance drives me mad! If you do not instantly open that door and release Precious I shall set the mastiff on you. He will tear you limb from limb!"

"I'll murder you first!" growled the woman, edging toward the club on the floor.

"Kay will protect me," the girl answered dauntlessly. "Once more, will you open the door? No? Kay!"

The mastiff, leaping and yelping at the door, turned his head, and the woman's defiance all fled.

"Take him away; let me get at the door, and I'll open it. The key's in my pocket," she growled.

Ethel drew Kay away and talked to him coaxingly while Mrs. Warwick pushed the key in the lock, turned it, and opened the door a little way.

[Pg 47]

"Go in now, you and the dog," she cried. "The girl's bed-rid, and can't come out to you, and you can't leave that devil outside to devour me."

Ethel was so excited that she did not dream of danger or treachery to herself. She and Kay pushed past the woman, and entered the room. That instant the door was banged and locked on the outside.

[Pg 48]



"He to whom I give affection
Must have princely mien and guise;
If devotion lay below me
I would stoop not for the prize.
Bend down to me very gently,
But bend always from above;
I would scorn where I could pity,
I must honor where I love."—Phebe Cary.

Ethel heard the key click in the lock, but in the excitement of finding her sister she attached no significance to the fact.

She turned eagerly to the bed where lay a slender form clothed in a cheap blue wrapper of eider-down, over which swept a torrent of curling hair like sunshine.

But, oh, that face! Could it be Precious, the laughing, dimple-faced darling, with her cheeks like rose-leaves, her ripe red lips, her glorious eyes like blue pansies in the sunshine?

That wan little face on the coarse pillow was all thin and pale, with great shadows under the hollow eyes that were dim and faded from constant weeping. The little white hands were wasted so that the bewitching dimples were gone from the knuckles and the blue veins showed with painful clearness through the transparent skin.

At that piteous sight all the jealous hardness went out of Ethel's heart. She sprang with open arms to Precious, and clasped her to her breast, while Kay hovered over[Pg 49] them in delight, licking the little feeble hands of his darling young mistress.

"Oh, Ethel, why didn't you come sooner? Where is papa? Why didn't he come with you? I shall die, and never see him any more," sobbed Precious plaintively.

"Die! Oh, no, my darling!" soothed Ethel, but she was startled by the words and the weakness and pallor of her sister.

"Precious, what has changed you so? Have you been ill?" she exclaimed anxiously.

"I am starving. I have never tasted food since the night I was kidnaped from the ball," answered Precious, in her faint, weak, hollow voice.

Ethel could scarcely credit the words, for a small stand near the bed was heaped high with edibles, fruits, and wines.

But Precious explained that she had determined to starve herself to death unless she was released from the power of the hated Lindsey Warwick.

"Yesterday I fainted from weakness when I tried to walk across the floor, and those two wretches came in and poured wine down my throat while I was too weak to resist, and again this morning she forced wine between my lips, and made me live a little longer, or else I think I should be dead already," and here Precious paused and gasped, too weak to continue.

"But you must eat and drink now, for I shall want you to go home with me," said Ethel tenderly, and she fed Precious like a little child, the poor girl taking food readily, for the pangs of hunger had been terrible to bear.

She ate and drank with grateful eagerness, and Ethel watched her with moist, dark eyes, and thought:

"Poor child, if I had stayed away a little longer she would have been dead; my little sister, that I have hated and envied in my evil moments, would never have crossed my path again, and I should not lose my lover as I shall surely do when once he sees Precious."

Was she glad or sorry that she had come?

[Pg 50]

She was glad!

It was one of the moments when good triumphed over evil in the complex nature of Ethel Winans.

"It was Heaven that sent me here to rescue Precious," she thought happily, and for awhile Lord Chester was forgotten while the sisters made mutual explanations.

"So it was Lindsey Warwick, after all. The detectives suspected him at first, but he hoodwinked them very cleverly," said Ethel.

"Oh, he is a fiend!" cried Precious shudderingly.

"Then you could never accept him as a lover?" Ethel asked curiously.

"Oh, never, never! He is very repulsive to me, with his keen little eyes, and his thick lips, and his perpetual smirk. If I ever have a lover I must have a grand, handsome one, as noble as papa, or perhaps like your lover, Ethel—I do not know his name, but I saw him at the ball with you, and I thought he was splendid. Well, when I have a real lover he must be like that, Ethel!" cried Precious innocently.

A shadow gleamed over Ethel's dusky beauty, and she thought:

"They are mutually attracted to each other. It is fate."

But she said carelessly:

"You are too young to dream of lovers yet, my dear, and when you get safe home again you must devote yourself to your studies, and not tease about going to balls. It was your willfulness about the Inauguration Ball that brought you into this trouble."

"And papa will put that villain into prison for this, I know," cried Precious, her voice a little stronger from the food and wine she had taken. Then she hugged Kay around his neck and kissed the top of his head.

"Darling old fellow, if it had not been for you Ethel would have come and gone without finding me. Oh, how shall I ever pay you for this? You shall have a golden collar with your name set in rubies—yes, you shall. Papa[Pg 51] will buy it for you, I know, to pay you for saving his pet."

Kay showed as much boisterous delight as if he understood every word, and kept licking her little hands with joy unutterable.

"And now, dear, we must get out of this place, and go home if you think you are ready," smiled Ethel.

"Ready!" cried Precious gayly. "Well, I know I am very weak from my long fast, but joy makes me feel like a new girl. I have nothing to wear home but this blue wrapper over my ball dress, but no matter—let us start at once. If I am too weak to walk I can crawl there, or perhaps Kay will let me ride on his back," patting him tenderly.

Ethel turned the handle of the door, but it resisted her efforts, and she recoiled with a low cry.

"Oh, Heaven, I had forgotten! I heard that old hag lock the door on the outside as I entered. I am a prisoner too. What shall I do?"

The tears rushed into her sister's blue eyes.

"There is no use in screaming, for I cried that day and night until I was hoarse as a raven, but no one ever seemed to hear me. And the only window is nailed down, you see. But, oh, Ethel, they will miss you at home and come here to look for you presently, won't they dear?"

"I did not tell them I was coming here. I felt ashamed of going to see a fortune-teller to find out about you. They would have laughed at me. I let my maid think that I was going to see a friend. Oh, what shall I do? Why did I ever come here?" wept Ethel, wringing her hands in terror, and forgetting that she had told herself just now that God himself had sent her to the aid of Precious.

She shrieked aloud; she tore at the door with frantic hands.

"It will soon be night, and they will wonder what has become of me. This double sorrow will drive our poor mother mad. Oh, what shall I do?" she cried again in agony.

[Pg 52]

"If we could only get that window open," cried Precious eagerly. "But I have tried it every day, and my hands bled, but the nails would not come out. But if we could only open it, Ethel, we could plait a rope of the bedclothes, and get out."

Kay looked from one to the other, whining in unison with their grief.

Ethel turned a flashing glance on the window, then caught up a thick wash pitcher of heavy iron-stone ware. She poured the water out, and rushed at the window, dealing blow after blow on the panes. Joy! the thin glass and slight framework gave way before her furious onslaught. Then she attacked the shutters with the same signal success. They tumbled from their fastenings down to the ground two stories below. The sash was all gone, too, and the fresh outer air rushed into their faces—fresh, but full of the fog and damp of early twilight.

"Quick! now the bedclothes! We will sit at the window while we tear them in strips, and if we see any one passing we will scream to them for help," cried Ethel bravely, though her lovely hands were torn and bleeding from fragments of flying glass. They set to work, but Precious was so weak from her long fast that she could not help much. The little hands were strengthless and nerveless.

"She must have heard you breaking in the window, and she will come up here presently and kill us," she shuddered, with terrified eyes.

"Don't be a coward, Precious. I think the old wretch has very likely run off to tell her son what has happened, and we must get away before they come back, for, of course, he will be very angry, and, as you suggested, he may kill us," answered Ethel, working away in a perfect frenzy of fear and excitement.

But Precious was very weak and nervous; she could not bear the strain of this horrible dread, following on the hope of a few minutes ago. She dropped back quietly in her chair and fainted.

Ethel would not relax her frantic labor to resuscitate[Pg 53] her, but Kay fell to licking the white face with such a rough, energetic tongue that presently Precious sighed and revived, pushing him down with feeble hands.

"Down, sir! down! You must not be so impudent," she sighed faintly.

"Come, Precious, our rope is done. Can you help me to fasten it to the leg of the bed? Then we will throw it from the window. I will slide down first, and you will follow. I will catch you at the bottom if you fall. And Kay can jump out after us. Oh, Heaven, what is that?"

She might well exclaim, for at that moment the wall at the opposite side of the room was suddenly divided by a burst of smoke and flame that lighted up the gloom with a lurid glare.

They had thought it was the wind, the strange, crackling noises they had faintly heard for some time, but now they understood the full horror of their situation.

The old house was in flames—fired doubtless by the fiendish old hag who had thus wreaked her vengeance and fled, leaving them to their fate.

It was a moment of the most sublime horror, the most deadly peril.

The two girls gazed at each other with horror-stricken faces, and the mastiff lifted up his voice in a prolonged and dismal howl like a banshee.

"We are trapped," cried Ethel wildly. "She has fired the house and gone. But we shall escape. Come, dear." She drew Precious to the window, and climbed upon the sill. "I will go first; you follow."

She grasped the rope, and swung outward, her heart beating wildly, her eyes watching the face of Precious as it leaned forward against the awful background of smoke and flame. The small pale face, like a snowdrop, the luminous blue eyes, the aureole of golden hair, made Precious look angelic.

Ethel felt herself rushing through the cold March air, and—suddenly she shot down wildly, and fell on the wet ground where the thick spongy turf broke the severity of the fall. Safe!

[Pg 54]

But an awful cry escaped her lips.

The plaited rope had proved treacherous, and broken off midway, dangling its useless length about a yard below the window sill, above which that beautiful white face looked down in a frenzy of despair.

Ethel staggered to her feet; she flung out her arms, she shrieked:

"Come, darling, climb out upon the rope, and drop. I will catch you—I will break the fall."

But Precious scarcely heard. Her senses had deserted her at sight of the broken rope. Ethel saw the dilated blue eyes close again, saw her sister fall backward into the blinding smoke, heard the frenzied yelp of Kay as he sprang upon the window sill, and felt that no earthly power could save her doomed sister now.

She held out her arms to Kay, and shrieked wildly:

"Come to me, Kay, come!"

But the poor beast gave a desolate howl, and sprang back into the room where Precious lay unconscious. Then a great black volume of smoke poured through the window, and from the front of the house Ethel saw the red glaring flame shoot quickly.

"The front of the house is all in flames. No one can save my sister now," she thought. Then something seemed to say in her heart:

"You are to blame. You should have sent her down the rope first. She was so light and small it would have carried her safely, and both would have been saved."

It made her angry, that still small voice of conscience, for she knew that it was a selfish anxiety over her own safety that made her descend first. Moving away she muttered:

"Why should I run the risk of my life for her? I tried to save her, and if she had not been so cowardly I would have succeeded. She will perish, but it is not my fault."

Why did she not run and spread the alarm? Some man[Pg 55] might be found who would be brave enough to scale the window and bring out the unconscious girl.

But Ethel moved away, going backward, watching with fascinated eyes the burning building, her sister's funeral pyre.

Shrieks began to fill the air from the occupants of the shanties around, just discovering the fire. A crowd began to gather. Why did not the retreating girl pray the people to rescue her sister?

A tempting devil had recalled to her mind her sister's words of admiration for Lord Chester a little while ago—her longing for just such a splendid lover.

"Precious dead he would be yours; living she would win him from you," whispered the tempter, and she turned away muttering, "It is too late. No one could save her now."

[Pg 56]



"I am mad!
The torture of unnumbered hours is o'er,
The strong cord is broken, and my heart
Riots in free delirium! Oh, Heaven!
I struggled with it, but it mastered me!
I fought against it, but it beat me down!
I prayed, I wept, but Heaven was deaf to me,
And every tear rolled backward on my heart,
To blast and poison!"—George Henry Boker.

A crowd soon collected and the fire engines quickly came upon the scene.

Streams of water began to play on the burning house, but to no avail. The fire had made too much headway to be checked now. The old ramshackle building was doomed. In the large crowd that had collected were two very elegant-looking young men—Earle Winans and Lord Chester.

The two young men, although acquainted but a few days, had become fast friends.

It was the nobleman's deep solicitude over the fate of Precious that had first drawn Earle toward him. Lord Chester's services were always ready in any new plan for finding Precious; he was as eager as Earle himself in the search.

The Winans family believed that all this zeal was for the sake of Ethel, whom the nobleman had seemed to admire so much that gossip said he would certainly make her Lady Chester at no distant date.

[Pg 57]

So Earle had taken the handsome young nobleman warmly into his heart and confidence.

They had been walking together that chilly afternoon, several blocks away from the place, when the light of the burning building drew them to follow the crowd to the spot.

They arrived but a few moments after Ethel had turned away from the dreadful scene, hardening her jealous heart against the voice of accusing conscience, and answering to its reproaches: "I tried to save her, and it was through her own cowardice she perished."

When her brother and Lord Chester came on the scene they heard some one saying:

"There is a dog shut up in that house. Hear his frightful baying!"

They could hear it distinctly, the prolonged mournful howls, and it seemed as if the sounds came from an open window.

"The window is open. Why don't the foolish animal come out?" cried Earle Winans, and just then the streams of water playing on the side of the wall cleared away the smoke a little, and the animal was seen a moment dimly, then with another howl he fell back into the room.

"He is bewildered and afraid to jump," cried a fireman, as poor Kay's dismal wails came distinctly to the ears of the crowd.

"Perhaps there is some person in the room, and he is too faithful to desert his post. Dogs are often more faithful than friends. Put up a ladder, and I will go and see," exclaimed Lord Chester suddenly.

"No, no! you must not risk your life for a dog, even a faithful one," cried Earle, trying to hold his friend back, for the situation was very perilous.

"No, no! I must save that poor dog!" Lord Chester cried, breaking loose and ascending the ladder, while the shouts of the tumultuous crowd rang to heaven.

Slowly, carefully, through the blinding smoke and heat and threatening flame he went, and presently his head[Pg 58] rose above the sill of the open window and he peered into the room, which seemed full of black smoke and leaping flames.

He put out his hand and it touched a big tawny head.

"Come, good fellow, come," he cried, and tried to drag him out.

Then he made a startling discovery.

The faithful mastiff had dragged an unconscious human being to the window with his teeth, and was holding her up by a mass of golden hair in a vain effort to get her up to the sill, where she might be seen and rescued by the crowd.

[Pg 59]



"Eyes that loved me once, I pray
Be not crueler than death;
Hide each sharp-edged glance away
Underneath its cruel sheath!
Make me not, sweet eyes, with scorn,
Mourn that I was ever born!"—Alice Cary.

Through the falling twilight of the bleak March day Ethel Winans sped away like a guilty creature, nor paused until she reached her home.

Entering by a private door she gained her own room unobserved and hastened to bathe her face and hands and rearrange her disordered tresses.

Then she summoned Hetty, and the maid stared in surprise at her corpse-like pallor and heavy eyes.

"Oh, Miss Ethel, you look awful! Are you sick?"

"I am tired to death," sighed Ethel. "I have had such a long, weary chase after Kay! Oh, Hetty, I have lost him, but you must never, never tell, for papa would never forgive me if he knew. He ran off with some other dogs in a park, and though I ran and ran I could not get him back."

"You ought not to worry so about the dog, Miss Ethel. Lordy, he'll be sure to find his way back home," declared the maid cheerfully.

Ethel looked on the verge of tears. She half sobbed:

"Do you think so? I hope he will, for Precious loved him so dearly, and papa will be so sorry to find him gone, and he will be so angry with me for taking him out. Please don't say anything about it to any one, Hetty, and you may have that coral bracelet of mine."

[Pg 60]

"Thank you kindly, Miss Ethel, and of course it's not my business to find out that Kay is missing. So now it's time to dress for dinner, if you please. What dress will you wear, Miss Ethel? That new gold-colored silk with the black lace draperies, or something plainer? There's no one to dinner but the two gentlemen of the family. Your mamma is not well enough to dine."

"Poor mamma! But, Hetty, I am too tired to dress and dine to-night. I think I will send down excuses and retire. My head is throbbing with pain. I believe I should like a sedative."

Hetty brought the sedative and helped her to bed, saying as she tucked in the silken coverlet:

"Miss Miller called for you this afternoon, and I told her you had gone to keep an engagement with her. She said there must be some mistake; she hadn't seen you. I thought to myself that maybe you changed your mind and went to the old clairvoyant after all."

"I didn't have time to go anywhere after I lost Kay and had that long chase after him, so I hurried home," Ethel answered evasively. Then she nestled her head in the pillow and closed her eyes.

"Now, Hetty, I don't need you any longer. You can go and tell mamma I was so weary from my long walk that I retired."

Hetty dimmed the light and went out, but she thought sagely:

"Miss Ethel fibbed when she said she hadn't been anywhere. I'll bet a dime she's been to the old fortune-teller, and she told her something she didn't like and she's gone to bed to cry over it."

Ah, Hetty, your young mistress had more to grieve over than you guessed, and the pillow of down might have been full of thorns for all the rest she found that night.

For, shut her eyes as she might, there was one vision always before them—a wan little face like a snowdrop, luminous blue eyes, golden hair like an aureole of light; then it would fade and fall away into a cloud of smoke and[Pg 61] flame, only to reappear again, until Ethel writhed in anguish and sobbed:

"It was not my fault. I could have saved her if she had not fainted. But no one must ever know I was there. They would blame me for her awful death."

She sat up in bed staring with gloomy eyes and writhing hands, trying to put from her the horror of her sister's death and to think what life would be like now when there was no pretty, willful Precious any more to envy for her fatal power of winning hearts.

"They must learn to love me now, papa, mamma, Earle and—Lord Chester, for his heart will turn back to me when there is no witching Precious to distract his thoughts. They loved her too well and fate has punished them by taking their idol away. It is my turn now," she thought with a bitter triumph.

Ah, Ethel, could the straining gaze of those somber eyes have pierced the shadows of the gloomy twilight they would have beheld a sight to blast them with its surprise.

Down the ladder came Lord Chester bearing the unconscious form of golden-haired Precious, whom Ethel had forsaken, and who never would have been saved but for the devotion of the faithful mastiff, noble Kay.

The shouts that rose from the crowd, as Lord Chester came down with the girl in his arms and the brave mastiff leaped from the window might almost have reached Ethel's ears, they were so loud and ringing.

Lord Chester was so blind and dizzy from the heat and smoke that as soon as his burden was drawn from his arms he sank exhausted to the ground.

The next instant the roof of the building fell in, leaving only the outer walls standing. Lord Chester had saved a life that but for his bravery must have perished in the raging flames.

Earle Winans pressed forward to his friend's assistance with a pang of keen remorse as he remembered how he had tried to restrain his friend from that perilous undertaking.

[Pg 62]

"How little I dreamed that a human being was in deadly peril within the house," he thought as he gazed curiously at the girl his friend had rescued from such an awful fate.

His dark eyes noted the golden hair all tossed and tangled in a curly mass, the closed eyes, the waxen fair face in its pallid beauty. Then a loud cry burst from his lips:

"Oh, Heaven! it is my missing sister—little Precious!"

And he reeled and would have fallen but for the restraining arm of a stranger.

Water was poured on his face and he quickly revived from his momentary faintness.

He knelt by the silent form of the unconscious girl, crying in anguish:

"It is Precious! my little sister! Oh, do not tell me she is dead."

A physician pushed through the crowd and made a hasty examination. His face was very grave.

"She is not dead, but her unconsciousness is very deep," he said. "If it is a simple swoon she may revive, but if asphyxiated by the smoke and heat, as I greatly fear, she will very likely soon expire."

Lord Chester, recovering from his momentary exhaustion, heard their words and looked with a bitter heart-pang at the face of Precious. Never before had he gazed at that face, yet there came a swift despair at thought of her death—a swift despair that blotted out all memory of Ethel's sparkling beauty that such a little while ago had charmed him so.

"We must have a carriage and take her home," cried Earle huskily, then wrung his friend's hand and thanked him for the rescue of his sister.

"From this hour you are dear to me as a brother," he cried with deep emotion.

So it happened that while Ethel sat up in bed staring with wild eyes into a possible future that held no lovely sister for a rival, a carriage was pausing at the door that[Pg 63] held Earle Winans, his unconscious sister, and a physician, and presently there came ringing to Ethel's ear the long cry of anguish wrung from a mother's heart while bending over her dead.

Ethel started and listened in terror. What did it mean, that long, low cry of grief in her mother's voice?

Then Hetty Wilkins rushed in, pale and tearful, crying out:

"Oh, Miss Ethel, such dreadful news! They have bought Miss Precious home dead."

But from behind her came Earle Winans, and he exclaimed angrily:

"Hetty, you are a cruel girl to frighten Ethel so. You had no business to come to her with such news. My mother sent me to break it to her gently. Ethel, dear, do not sob so bitterly. We have brought Precious home, but a little life lingers still and we hope she may not die."

Ethel had dropped her face in her hands. When her brother lifted it he was startled at its expression, the ghastly face, the eyes wide and dark with horror.

He scolded Hetty roundly for her rashness in blurting out the news to his sister, and the girl stood aside sulkily at his reproof.

"Never mind Hetty; she meant no harm, Earle; but tell me all about it. Where did you find Precious?" gasped Ethel, clinging to him in wild excitement.

And holding her head against his arm and smoothing the dark waves of her hair with a loving hand Earle told the story as far as he knew it—the story of his young sister's rescue by Arthur, Lord Chester.

Kay, the splendid mastiff, came in for a share of praise too, and Hetty, the maid, listened intently to it all and nodded excitedly when Earle said:

"The greatest wonder of all is how Kay came to be there; but of course if Precious revives she can explain all that."

He felt Ethel shuddering against his arm, and Hetty saw how she trembled, and said to herself:

[Pg 64]

"I think Miss Ethel could explain it too, if she would, and if she don't speak I shall begin to think she has some strange secret worth more than the gift of a bracelet."

"I must go back to my mother now, for our father is too wretched himself to comfort her. Ethel, try to come down if you can," he said, as he left the room.

Ethel dragged herself out of bed, moaning:

"You must dress me, Hetty, and let me go to my poor sister."

Hetty brought her slippers and a pretty wrapper, and while she was putting them on she exclaimed:

"What a brave young man Lord Chester must be!"

Ethel's heart gave a fierce throb of mingled pride and pain.

"And," pursued the loquacious maid, "he is the rich lord that they all say you are going to marry, isn't he, Miss Ethel?"

"Yes," answered Ethel carelessly, then added:

"But I don't think I shall accept him."

She turned away from the maid as she spoke and went from her own apartments toward those of Precious, nearer to her mother.

She opened the door very softly and glided in.

They were all there, her father, mother, brother, and the physician.

Precious lay on her bed, white as a lily, but breathing faintly. She had revived from her swoon, but she had not yet spoken. Her half-open blue eyes seemed to know that they were all there, but she was too exhausted to utter a word.

Ethel bent down and pressed her lips on the wasted little hand, and when she met the gaze of the half-conscious blue eyes she whispered, too low for any one to hear:

"Please don't tell any one I was there with you, Precious, until you get well enough for me to explain."

The little hand she was holding gave hers a weak pressure that showed her that Precious understood and would not speak.

The others, looking on at the little by-play, thought[Pg 65] that Ethel was only whispering to Precious of her joy at her return.

A week passed and the sick girl slowly gained strength enough to tell the story of her persecutions at the hands of Lindsey Warwick and his mother, but the pair of plotters had made good their escape and were now beyond the senator's vengeance.

There was one thing that always seemed strange to them, and that was how Kay had found the way to his mistress. The girl always explained it in an embarrassed, halting fashion.

"The old woman just unlocked the door, pushed Kay in, and went away again," she said. "And just a little later the flames burst through the side of the wall. I—I—looked out of the window and saw that I could not escape, then I fainted."

"Lindsey Warwick probably stole Kay and took him there, thinking to please you," said the senator, and his black eyes flashed as he thought of the vengeance he would take on the kidnaper if he ever found him.

They did not dream of the dark secret that lay behind the reluctance of Precious to talk of the mastiff's presence in her prison. They could not guess of the twilight hour when Ethel, sitting alone by her sister for a little while, had knelt down by Precious and begged her not to tell of her presence the day of the fire.

"When I saw you fall back in the smoke, Precious, I thought you were dead, and I ran away in a frenzy of despair and came home, afraid to tell mamma because I believed the awful news would kill her. I thought a merciful silence would be best, so I kept the awful secret. And if you told them now, dear, perhaps they would blame me. They would say I ought to have sent you down the rope first, but you know how that was, dear. I wanted to be at the bottom to catch you if you should fall."

"Yes, I know, dear sister, and I don't think they would blame you if we told them," sighed Precious; but because Ethel insisted on it she gave the promise of silence.

[Pg 66]



"Droop and darken, eyes of blue,
Love hath only tears for you;
Love, begone, and lightly flee,
Since thy smiles are not for me!
Lips of scarlet, quench your fire,
Torches vain of love's desire;
Love, begone, and lightly flee,
Since thy sweets are not for me!"

But Precious improved too slowly to please the careful doctor.

The long fast and the subsequent shock had told severely on her young frame, and it was almost the last of March when she was able to come out of her room. Then she looked too thin, too frail, too lily-like, to please those who loved her best.

"Mrs. Winans, you must take her away from Washington to the country; she needs mountain air," said Doctor Heron.

"Oh, doctor, what an idea! Leave Washington before the season is over! How can you tell mamma that?" pouted Ethel.

The selfish, dark-eyed beauty had resumed all the gayeties of the brilliant Washington season as soon as her sister was declared out of danger, and dragged her gentle, yielding mother day after day from receptions to balls, from dinners to operas. Ethel was a belle, and would not yield her scepter; so Norah nursed the sick girl; and the mother who, because she loved Precious best, indulged[Pg 67] Ethel most, followed with a sad heart into scenes of revelry, leaving her tenderest thoughts at home.

So Ethel was almost indignant when the physician ordered Mrs. Winans to the mountains with her ailing daughter.

At the proud beauty's protest Doctor Heron smiled and answered carelessly:

"You can remain in Washington, Miss Winans."

"But mamma—my chaperon! Of course I couldn't go into society without her. Really, I think that Precious can get on here till May, when we will go away for the summer."

The physician looked disgusted at her selfishness, and turned again to her mother.

"I repeat that Miss Precious should be taken to the mountains before the first of April, or her recovery will be very tedious. It is a case of nervous prostration," he said.

"You can send Norah with her, mamma; that will do very well, don't you think so?" Ethel cried airily; but there was a look of pain on the gentle face of Mrs. Winans, and she did not reply.

Earle, who was present at the conclave, broke in:

"How fortunate that your distant relative in Virginia left you her lovely mountain estate when she died last fall, mother. It is the very place to take Precious, doctor, and not more than a hundred miles from here. The kind spinster who left it to us had it elegantly appointed, and nothing has been changed. I think even the old family servants are yet in charge."

"Yes," assented his mother. "You see, I intended going there for a part of this summer. It is a charming mountain country, doctor. The estate is called Rosemont, and there is a pretty country town of the same name near by. The air is fine and pure."

"The very place for your drooping daughter," cried Doctor Heron. "Send her as soon as you can, Mrs. Winans, and if you can't be spared from Washington just[Pg 68] now, let the good nurse Norah take your place. She will do excellently well."

"And I will go, too, to take care of the little one. I'm tired of the social whirl," cried Earle Winans, and was rewarded by a beaming smile of gratitude from his adoring mother. He did not care for Ethel's sullen brow, and inwardly characterized her as selfish and unloving.

"To keep mother dancing attendance on her here when she looks so pale and worn and needs a change almost as much as Precious does!" the noble young man thought indignantly.

So the plan was carried out. The delicate, drooping girl was sent to Rosemont with her brother and the good nurse Norah, and Ethel drew a long breath of relief when they were gone.

"Two months of relief from their silly worship at least, for I shall not go to Rosemont any sooner if I can possibly avoid it," she cried angrily.

One thing that pleased her well was that Lord Chester and Precious had not yet met, for the young lord had gone away from the city as soon as it was announced that Precious would recover. Washington had lionized him after his heroic act, and in sheer bashfulness he had run away to travel round a few weeks until his fame blew over, he laughingly explained to his friend Earle.

Perhaps there was more in it than he had confessed.

Lord Chester regretted with a bitter pain that he had given Ethel Winans cause to expect an offer of his hand and heart.

From the day that he had first seen the portrait of Precious his heart had turned away from proud, queenly Ethel to her gentle younger sister. The strange chance by which he had saved her sweet young life only drew her closer to his heart.

Yet in all honor his fealty belonged to dark-eyed Ethel.

In desperation he went away to try to forget the blue eyes that were luring him from his honor.

And he remained away until he received a letter from[Pg 69] Earle Winans, telling him of all that had happened since he left Washington.

"We are here at Rosemont—Precious and I; the mater and Ethel are still in the Capitol City. Precious is improving slowly but surely in the fine mountain air, and I—well, I fear I'm losing my heart to a village coquette, the daintiest fairy I ever saw. Rosemont is a very gay little town, with some nice people—old Virginia stock, you know."

Then Lord Chester resolved to go back to Washington and see Ethel again. Perhaps now that Precious was gone his heart might return to its first love.

[Pg 70]



"Laughing eyes, curly hair, dainty robes,
They had crazed his hot, fiery brain, then.
Ah, the silliest maiden can make
A fool of the wisest of men!"
May Agnes Fleming.

"I am seventeen to-day, and I have thirteen lovers!" cried pretty, saucy Ladybird, pirouetting on the velvet greensward in front of her father's house at Rosemont until her short golden-brown locks danced in fluffy rings all over her round, white, babyish forehead.

"Thirteen is always an unlucky number. Thee ought to jilt thy last lover," cried Auntie Prue from the porch.

"Ay, but I won't, for I like the thirteenth best of all," laughed the little beauty.

"You'll rue the day if you marry him," cried Aura Stanley sharply.

She leaned against a rose-wreathed pillar of the porch, a tall girl in pink, with hard black eyes and thick brown hair in a rich braid. She lived next door and was the village lawyer's only daughter.

Before the Conways came here to live, five weeks ago, Aura had been called the prettiest girl in the village, but now the town was divided into two factions over the rival beauties, and among those who had gone over to the enemy was one on whom Aura's passionate heart was set.

"You'll rue the day, Ladybird, if you marry him," repeated Aura angrily, and held up her shapely white hand, on which glittered a splendid diamond ring; but, to her[Pg 71] surprise and horror, the little dancing madcap laughed and answered teasingly:

"Nonsense! I'll be wearing that ring in a week, Aura."

"Never! I'll throw it in the river first," flashed Aura, and Aunt Prue caught the glance of jealous hate in the girl's black eyes.

She exclaimed soothingly:

"Aura, the child is only teasing thee. She does not want thy lover, dear."

Ladybird Conway turned her laughing hazel eyes on the old lady and protested gayly:

"But, Auntie Prue, he's my lover now. Doesn't he call on me three times a week, and send me flowers and books and candy? And hasn't he promised to escort me to the picnic to-morrow?"

"He asked me first, but I refused," cried Aura triumphantly, and added spitefully: "I wouldn't take what another girl refused."

"Neither would I!" flashed Ladybird, with such sarcastic emphasis that Aura flushed burning red at the intimation that she had told a falsehood.

"Girls, girls, don't thee quarrel over nothing!" cried the old Quakeress anxiously, but Aura was furious.

"Ladybird Conway, I'll never speak to you again," she cried, and flew down the graveled path, shutting the front gate with a vicious slam.

Aunt Prue cried out reprovingly:

"Thee has lost thy young friend forever, Ladybird, and thee ought to be ashamed of thyself, taking another girl's lover so audaciously."

"But he isn't hers—so there! I know, because I asked him. I said she claimed him, and if that was so not to come to see me any more. But he denied it. He said he had only known her two weeks when we moved here, and had no idea of being engaged to her. He lent her the ring because she asked him to, and she's only trying to claim him to vex me," and the lovely face, with its dancing[Pg 72] hazel eyes and lilies and roses, looked quite earnest for a moment.

"But, child, thee ain't in love with this Earle Winans? Thee ain't thinking of marrying him, dear?"

Willful Ladybird smiled and blushed, and answered roguishly:

"Why, Auntie Prue, of course I intend to get married some time; I don't want to be an old maid like you; but I mean to marry the man that loves me best."

"The one that loves thee best? But, child, how can thee guess that out of thirteen lovers?"

"Oh, I have a grand plan to test all my lovers—at the picnic to-morrow!" and the fair face dimpled all over with mischievous laughter.

"Are they all going—the thirteen? Thee will not have any peace, child, and the other girls will be jealous."

"I don't care. It's such fun to have so many admirers showing me attention at the same time," laughed the little incarnation of sunny beauty and unconscious cruelty.

"But it's cruel to make the young men suffer so!" hazarded the kind-hearted old lady, and again the girl laughed archly:

"Suffer? Oh, pshaw! they need to have the conceit taken out of them," and Ladybird began to run over the category of the faults and foibles of her admirers, making such sarcastic hits that the old Quakeress shook with silent laughter and gave up her futile lecture on coquetry.

But when the girl paused for breath, all rosy and laughing, Aunt Prue exclaimed:

"Thee hasn't said a word about thy last lover—about Earle Winans."

"My thirteenth lover. Oh, no, I have no fault to find with him. He is simply perfect," cried Ladybird, as innocently as if she had not guessed that Aura Stanley was listening behind her parlor blinds to every word.

Aura was listening, her eyes wrathful, her cheeks burning.

But she heard no more just then.

[Pg 73]

After that saucy parting shot Ladybird sat down on the porch steps like a little child, with her round, dimpled chin in the hollow of her soft little hand, and fell to watching the rosy sunset as the god of day sank to rest behind the purple western hills. Her face wore a pensive cast that made her look positively angelic. And yet she was actually meditating a deed of girlish diablerie on the morrow, the naughty little coquette!

The next day was perfect—a May day, clear and golden, and when the fervid sunbeams began to dry the dew-tears from the eyes of the blue violets in the grass, the gay picnic party assembled in the Rosemont orchard by the river, the scene of the day's festivities.

All the prettiest girls of the village were there, and not one of Ladybird's lovers had stayed away. And how they envied handsome Earle Winans, who was her special companion for the day, while they had to be content with other girls—pretty enough, to be sure—but—"not the rose."

Aura Stanley had come with Clarence Grey, but she knew she was second choice, that he had asked Ladybird first, and she could hardly control her bitter resentment.

Ladybird gave her a saucy nod and smile when they met, but Aura averted her head in jealous anger when she saw how lovely her rival looked in her white flannel suit with the blue silk blouse showing under the open white jacket, and the white sailor hat crowning the little head, with its fluffy rings of golden brown.

"Miss Stanley would not speak to you—why?" Earle Winans asked in surprise.

"Because I teased her yesterday. I—I—told her I'd be wearing that ring of yours within a week," and Ladybird gave him a coquettish side glance from her dazzling eyes that made his heart leap and his cheek burn.

She was playing with fire, this thoughtless girl, for Earle Winans' heart knew how to love with burning passion.

His voice trembled with emotion as he said eagerly:

"Would you like to have the ring, Miss Conway?"

[Pg 74]

"I, Mr. Winans? Why, certainly not. I was only teasing Aura; she seemed to prize it so highly and declared she would throw it in the river before I should have it," asserted Ladybird, gayly.

"I will get the ring for you any minute you say you'll wear it, Ladybird. You know what I mean—as my betrothed," murmured her handsome young lover eagerly.

Ladybird blushed rosy red, then smiled brightly and whispered back:

"I'll give you my answer to-morrow."

And all his pleading would not induce her to shorten his probation.

"To-morrow—you must wait till to-morrow," she repeated, but her drooping eyes and rosy blushes made him almost certain what her answer would be.

Aura Stanley watched the lovers with a jealous pang, for it was a cruel blow to lose Earle, whom she had hoped to captivate, not only because she loved him, but because he was the son of a great man and had a fortune in his own right. She was ambitious and longed to reign a social queen.

By some clever maneuvering she managed to get a tête-à-tête by the river bank with Earle that day, and then she said coldly:

"Ah, really, I must return your ring, Mr. Winans."

She held the glittering circlet toward him on the end of her taper finger, and somehow, just as he was about to accept the ring, it slipped off Aura's finger, flashed like an evil eye in the sunlight, then rolled into the river.

"Oh, I am so sorry—but it was an accident," cried Aura quickly.

The young man's eyes flashed with anger, and he cried with stinging contempt:

"Oh, no, you did it on purpose, because you thought I meant to give it to Miss Conway. But it does not matter; I will buy her a prettier one to-morrow."

Aura sprang to her feet, her eyes blazing, her cheeks crimson, and exclaimed in a loud, angry voice:

"You villain! How dare you insult me like that?"

[Pg 75]



"Proud young head, so lightly lifted,
Crowned with waves of gleaming hair;
Eyes that flash with tell-tale mischief,
Fearless eyes to do and dare;
Cheeks that start to sudden flame,
Willful mouths that none can tame."
Elaine Goodale.

Those angry words to Aura Stanley had barely passed Earle Winans' lips ere he regretted them, although he knew quite well that she had deserved them, and had dropped the ring purposely, as she had told Ladybird she would do.

But he regretted his exhibition of temper, and was about to apologize, when her angry words arrested the speech on his lips.

"You villain! How dare you insult me like that!"

Although they seemed to be alone on the river-bank, there were several young men near by under a tree, and, catching Aura's angry denunciation, they hurried to the spot.

Aura turned quickly toward them, exclaiming maliciously:

"Gentlemen, Earle Winans has insulted me, and if I had a brother to take my part he should knock the coward down!"

All of these young gentlemen admired Ladybird Conway, and envied Earle Winans because she had shown a preference for him. Accordingly they were eager to take Aura's part, just to humiliate their dangerous rival. The[Pg 76] foremost one therefore sprang with fierce agility at Earle just as he was rising from his seat on the grassy bank, and with a stinging blow knocked him backward to the ground.

There was laughter—spiteful from Aura, appreciative from the men—but it did not last long.

Earle Winans scarcely touched the earth ere he rebounded like a ball, and flew directly at Jack Tennant, his adversary, a big, burly fellow, with fists like iron.

Earle was slender, but he was an athlete too, and with a rush he caught his assailant around the waist with both arms, lifted him almost above his head, and hurled him with superb strength far out into the river, firing after him this parting shot:

"There, my lad! a cold bath will cool your temper!" Then he turned a scornful smile on the others. "Are there any more who wish to play the rôle of Miss Stanley's brothers?" he sneered.

"Oh, no; the quarrel is between you and Jack Tennant," they hastily replied, having no desire to be made ridiculous like their hasty friend, who was now swimming ashore, his picnic toggery, sash and flannels, dripping and ruined, but with his rage not yet cooled, for as he clambered up the bank he exclaimed:

"Mr. Earle Winans, I will fight this quarrel out with you now."

Earle's handsome face flushed with anger, but, holding in his temper, he answered with cool scorn:

"Your pardon, but it would not be quite proper to settle it in a lady's presence. I will send a friend to you to-morrow."

"A duel! Oh, Heaven!" cried Aura, in a panic of fear, but no one seemed to notice her as she sank trembling on the grassy bank. Mark Gwinn exclaimed kindly:

"I'll drive you home for your dry clothes, Jack, and we can be back in a jiffy."

They were all turning away, but Earle Winans arrested them with one stern word:

[Pg 77]


They all turned back to him in impatient surprise.

Pale with anger, he pointed to Aura, crouching on the green, flowery bank.

"Miss Stanley, you must now repeat to these gentlemen who defended you the words of my insult."

Flashing on Earle a glance of sullen resentment, she obeyed.

"I dropped his diamond ring into the water—and he said I did it on purpose."

"Was that all?" exclaimed a wondering voice.

"That was all," Aura answered indignantly, and every one turned away and left Aura alone with the bitter consciousness that they despised her, while as for Jack Tennant, he felt decidedly blue at the prospect of a duel with the fiery Earle Winans for the sake of a girl he didn't care two straws for, as he, like all the others, adored the bewitching Miss Conway.

But Aura had carried out her threat to Ladybird. The beautiful ring was in the river, and would never shine on the little white hand of her lovely rival. Her jealous malice was gratified, at least, and she cared very little if Earle fought a duel and lost his life. She would rather see him dead than married to that little coquette Ladybird.

Meanwhile Miss Conway, all unconscious of what had happened at the lower end of the orchard, was sitting on a mossy throne under a wide-spreading apple tree, holding mimic court. Her adoring subjects had woven a wreath of apple blossoms, and crowned her Queen of May.

"Somebody give us a song, please. It's a day for love, and poetry, and song!" she cried gayly.

"Don't you think the birds sing sweetest, dear?" asked a fair girl by her side, one that she called her maid of honor.

But the girl under the next nearest tree—the girl with the guitar—thought differently. She touched her instrument with soft, loving fingers, and her tender voice was so[Pg 78] low and sweet that it seemed to blend with the bird songs, the soft rustle of the leaves, and the ripple of the river.

"Oh, darling, when you love me,
The sky is soft and bright;
Life asks no troubled questions,
The world is safe and right.
I whisper happy secrets
With every flower and tree,
And lark and thrush and linnet
Sing all their songs for me!
"Oh, darling, when you chide me,
The world is dumb and cold;
The mists creep up the valley,
And all the year is old;
The fields are black and sodden,
The shivering woods are sere!
I see no face in heaven,
And death is very near!
"Oh, darling, always love me,
The song-birds look to you;
The skies await your bidding,
To dome the world with blue.
Then keep the rose in glory,
And make the swallow stay,
And hold the year forever
At summer's crowning day!"

While the pretty girl was singing, Earle Winans came up silently and stood by the tree, looking down at Ladybird with the apple-blossom wreath on her shining hair.

Ladybird's arch, pretty face had grown pensive while she listened to the song, and her tiny white hand, with its babyish dimples, played absently with a branch of pink crab-apple blooms that lay in her lap. She was more lovely than any picture ever painted, and Earle's heart swelled with a passionate longing to catch the exquisite young creature in his arms and press all that budding beauty against his ardent breast.

Ladybird knew that he was there, but she would not[Pg 79] turn her head; and when the song came to an end she sighed and murmured softly:

"I wonder what this love is like of which poets sing, and lovers rave, and spring-birds warble. It must be very sweet."

"My darling, let me teach you all its sweetness," murmured Earle's voice in her ear, but though a swift blush burned her face, she shrugged her willful shoulders, and continued in a louder voice, that all around might hear:

"If I ever do fall in love, it will be with a hero, with some man who has done something great, or perhaps risked his life to save mine. I don't believe I could ever love a common, everyday sort of man, like the ones I know, unless he turned out to be a hero. Then I could worship him!"

And just a few hours later those words, spoken in such artless innocence, came back to the heart of every man there—came back with a thrill of love and hope.

She had stolen away from them all a short time before, and just as they were wondering what had become of the little sprite, they heard some one singing blithely on the river.

It was Ladybird in a little blue boat, rowing herself with consummate skill, the water falling in silvery sparkles from the light oars. Her pretty face glowed rosily, and her eyes danced with fun as she trilled a gay little boating song. It was the bonniest sight ever seen on the broad, beautiful river flowing between its banks of spring-time green.

Every one ran down to the bank—every one but Aura Stanley, who sulked beneath a tree.

"Take me in, Ladybird—take me!" called one after another eagerly; but she cried out saucily:

"I will take one of the gentlemen to row me, because my arms are getting tired."

All in a minute followed the terrible accident.

In the middle of the river where she was rowing it was[Pg 80] deep and dangerous, but she seemed to forget that in her joyous excitement; and, turning the boat too quickly toward the shore, it careened over, and Ladybird fell into the water. One long shriek of fear and terror, and the rippling waves of the beautiful river closed sullenly over the little head!

A cry of grief arose from fifty throats, but it was speedily turned to a cheer, for—Splash! splash! splash! came the sounds, too fast to count, and twelve out of Ladybird's thirteen lovers had leaped boldly into the river to save her precious life.

[Pg 81]



"Oh, think when a hero is sighing,
What danger in such an adorer!
What woman would dream of denying
The hand that lays laurels before her?
No heart is so guarded around
But the smile of a victor would take it;
No bosom can slumber so sound
But the trumpet of glory will wake it."

Rosemont was one of the most ideally beautiful summer houses in Fauquier County.

It was a large white mansion, in villa style, surrounded by flower-gardens and pleasure-grounds, with a charming mountain view, and, nearer home, the silvery windings of the Rappahannock River forming the southern boundary of the large estate.

On the afternoon of the picnic Precious Winans swung lazily in a hammock on the long front piazza, while her favorite, Kay, the immense mastiff, lay within touch of the tiny white hand that every little while reached down to caress the tawny head.

At some distance away Mistress Norah, the good-natured nurse, sat cozily in an armchair, knitting lace.

Along the lattice-work that shaded the end of the piazza clambered a great honeysuckle vine loaded with odorous, creamy-white blooms. Here the busy little bees hummed ceaselessly, bright-winged butterflies hovered, and two robins flew in and out of the branches with straws for a nest. The golden sunshine sifting through the leaves in light and shade on the girl's white gown and sunny head[Pg 82] seemed like the spirit of peace spreading its brooding wings over the lovely, quiet scene.

Precious had been reading a book of poems. It lay open now under one white hand, and with half-shut, dreamy eyes, she was recalling the last lines she had read:

"Like Dian's kiss, unasked, unsought,
Love gives itself, but is not bought;
Nor voice, nor sound betrays
Its deep impassioned gaze.
"It comes—the beautiful, the free,
The crown of all humanity,
In silence and alone,
To seek the elected one."

The velvety blue of the young girl's eyes looked very soft and tender under the long-fringed lashes that were so dark by contrast with the sunshine of her hair.

She was wondering when love would come to her, and if she would find it sweet.

"Ethel is in love, and she seems very happy," she thought. "And there is Earle—he seems grave and thoughtful lately; and my wise nurse, Norah, declares it's because he is losing his heart to a lovely girl down in the village, a little creature with hazel eyes like stars, and a dimpled face all lilies and roses. I would like to see this pretty girl, only Norah keeps me almost a prisoner, lest I should be kidnaped again. I asked Earle about her, and he laughed and colored, and said perhaps he would bring her to see me some day."

She lifted her voice, and cried out:

"Norah, I wish we could go down to the picnic. I can catch voices on the breeze—voices and laughter. They seem to be having a lovely time, and it is so poky here! Earle is there, you know. Do let us go, too—you and me and Kay!"

"Oh no, my dear, not for the world! The doctor said you were to be very quiet here."

[Pg 83]

"But I am quite well again. See how plump my cheeks are, and how rosy!"

"But, my Precious, you are very nervous yet. In your dreams you start and cry out about the fire, and the dreadful old woman, and your sister Ethel."

"What about Ethel?" demanded Precious quickly, the delicate color flying from her cheeks.

Nurse Norah answered placidly:

"In your dreams, dearie, it always seems as if Ethel had been with you that day when you were struggling to get out of the fire. Once you cried out, 'Ethel, Ethel, the rope is finished, and you are going down first, then I will follow. And you will catch me if I fall!' Then again you cried: 'The rope has broken. Ethel, are you hurt? No, no, I cannot jump now! I am lost! lost! lost!'"

The beautiful eyes of Precious grew wild and startled.

"Oh, what strange dreams!" she cried tremblingly. "I wish you had not listened, Norah; they were only dreams!"

"Yes, I know, my pet, but they show that you are not quite strong yet, and it is better not to go about into society until you are well again. But I think you ought to have some young girls to visit you, and I will ask your brother to bring that little star-eyed village girl to see you."

"She is here now!" cried Earle's voice, with a ripple of laughter in its low music.

They started and looked, and there he stood with a dripping figure by his side, a girl in white flannel, bareheaded, with wet brown curls all over her little head, and starry hazel eyes alight with laughter.

"Miss Conway has had an accident—fallen into the river, Precious, and I brought her up here for some of your dry clothes, also to make your acquaintance, as I knew you were lonely," explained Earle easily.

"You poor darling!" cried Precious, and her heart went out to the little beauty in a swift rush of tenderness. She took Ladybird's hand. "Come, let us go upstairs. My clothes will fit you, I know!"

[Pg 84]

Earle detained them a moment.

"I am going down to the telegraph office a moment. Please stay here till I come back, Miss Conway. I will take you home in due time."

"I thank you," Ladybird answered with a stiff little courtesy, then she followed Precious and Norah upstairs.

Some dry garments were soon found, and Norah took the wet ones away.

"You shall have them nice and dry directly," she said kindly, but as she took her way kitchenward, she mused: "This pretty girl reminds me very, very much of the lovely Miss Clendenon, Mrs. Winans' girl-friend, that afterward married Mr. Bruce Conway. This one is like her, but it could not be her daughter, for the little one she named for my mistress, Grace Willard, died before it was a year old, and poor Mrs. Conway, sweet little soul, died herself two years after, and I never heard that she left a child, although to be sure we were abroad then, and when we got home all the Conways were dead but Mr. Bruce, and he had disappeared. He always was a rolling stone."

Meanwhile the two young girls, left alone in the beautiful airy room upstairs, proceeded to get acquainted.

"I don't feel any worse from my ducking, dear, but I'll lie on the bed awhile and rest," cried Ladybird, rumpling up her wet curls with taper fingers.

"Do, dear, and tell me all about it. How did you happen to fall in?" asked Precious.

"It's a long story, Miss Winans," laughingly.

"Call me Precious," said the girl sweetly.

"Thank you, I will; but is that your real name? I never heard of any one named Precious."

"My real name is Pearl; but my mamma called me Precious Pearl so much that it became shortened at last to Precious."

"And my name is Lulu, but my dear mamma died soon after I was born, and then papa could not bear to hear that name spoken, because it had been hers. So they[Pg 85] began with Ladybird when I was little, and it has been my name ever since, so I will call you Precious if you will call me Ladybird."

"Very well. And now, Ladybird, you will tell me how you came to fall in the water."

She saw the hazel eyes flash with laughter, and Ladybird cried:

"Oh, Precious, will you keep it secret? Will you never, never tell?"

"Never!" answered Precious promptly, and then her guest said gayly:

"I was in a little row-boat on the river, and I fell into the water. They all thought it was an accident, but—you're never to tell any one, you know—I did it purposely. I fell in for them to jump in and rescue me."

"But why?" queried Precious, with astonished blue eyes.

"I will tell you," answered the little madcap, with a silvery peal of laughter. "I have several lovers, Precious, and I wanted to test their love. I thought the one that loved me best would jump in after me."

"And did he, Ladybird?"

"They all jumped, Precious!"

"All? How many?"

"Twelve," answered Ladybird, with a little moue of actual disgust.

Then the astonishment of the other girl's face moved her to mocking laughter.

"You darling girl! how surprised you look! But I don't blame you. It was very silly for them all to jump in after me! I shall never forget when I lay on the bank after I was rescued, how funny they all looked in their wet clothes, as they crowded around me!" and she laughed ungratefully.

"But—twelve lovers!—I never heard of a girl having so many!" and the younger girl's eyes dilated with wonder.

"Did you never have a lover, Precious?"

[Pg 86]

"No—I am too young—only sixteen," and Precious blushed at the very thought of a lover.

"I am only seventeen, and I have a dozen. I thought I had thirteen, but when I tested them there were but twelve," cried Ladybird, tossing her dainty head with decided pique.

"Did—my—brother—jump in the water after you?" cried Precious quickly.

"No, indeed—he was not a hero like the others," and Ladybird curled a disdainful lip.

"Do you like heroes, Ladybird?"

"I adore them! If I ever marry any one, he must be brave and grand. I couldn't love a coward!"

"I admire heroes too," cried Precious, her cheek glowing with sudden warmth, her violet eyes shining; and then Ladybird cried eagerly:

"You must admire Lord Chester very much, dear, for I read in the papers how he rescued you from a burning house. It was grand, was it not? and I suppose you will be sure to marry him some day, for that is the way it always turns out in novels."

"You must be very romantic," answered Precious, smiling, though the crimson blushes seemed to burn her lovely face. A moment later she added, in a pensive tone: "I have never seen Lord Chester but once. He is very grand and handsome, but he is my sister Ethel's lover."

"Oh! So he saved your life for her sweet sake! She must really adore him for his bravery; but I wish he would fall in love with you now, you beautiful darling!" cried impulsive Ladybird, entirely disregarding Ethel's claim in her love of romantic denouements.

Norah came in just then with Ladybird's clothing nicely dried and pressed, and by the time she was dressed, and the fluffy curls dried, Earle Winans returned to take her home. As it was almost sunset, she took an affectionate leave of her new friend, promising to keep up the pleasant friendship begun to-day, neither of them dreaming of the untoward events that a day was to bring forth.

[Pg 87]



"Like the changeful month of spring
Is my love, my lady-love;
Sunshine beams and glad birds sing,
Then a rain-cloud floats above:
So your moods change with the wind,
April-tempered lady-love;
All the sweeter to my mind,
You're a riddle, lady-love."

As Earle Winans took his seat by Ladybird in his elegant little phaeton, she stole a quick glance at his dark, handsome face, and wondered at the gravity of his thoughtful eyes. She did not know of the scene with Aura that afternoon, or she would have understood his mood.

He did not look at her nor speak to her for several minutes, and suddenly he heard a low, half-suppressed sob.

He turned to her quickly, exclaiming:

"What is the matter, Ladybird? You are not ill from your wetting?"

But a tempest of anger was swelling in the little beauty's breast, and her first words showed him the cause.

"You wouldn't care if I died, you great big coward!" she sobbed, and a pearly tear dropped from her long eyelash and splashed upon her cheek.

"Ladybird!" indignantly.

"Don't call me Ladybird! I'm Miss Conway to you ever[Pg 88] after to-day! You didn't care if I was drowned! You didn't jump in the river to save me like those noble heroes! You just stood on the bank with your arms folded, afraid of getting drowned or spoiling your nice clothes, maybe," with a scornful glance. "Then, when the others had rescued me, and brought me to shore, you came so coolly and made me go up to your house with you for some dry clothes. And—and—before to-day I had thought you were so noble, so brave!" sobbed Ladybird, in passionate earnest, for she had plotted the little romance just to show Aura Stanley her power over Earle, and the failure was a cruel blow.

But Earle did not take her tirade seriously. His dark eyes twinkled and his lips twitched with repressed laughter as he answered significantly:

"Really, Miss Conway, I hope I am always brave enough to rescue any one in real danger, but I don't see any heroism in wetting one's self to rescue a girl from the river who threw herself in for fun, and who can swim as well as anybody!"

"Fun, indeed? How dare you say it, when I was almost drowned?" sobbed the little coquette perversely.

"Not a bit of danger!" laughed the young man, amused at her pretense of anger. "Ah, Ladybird, no man could love you better than I do; but, indeed, you are a vain little darling, and ought to be ashamed of your little joke that caused the ruination of twelve good flannel suits and sashes. Don't you know, you willful little flirt, that they will be shrunk to the size of bathing suits? And all to gratify a whim of yours! Ah, little one, it was cleverly done, but no one but myself guesses it was a ruse. I saw you throw yourself out of the boat. I saw you dive, and I remembered then your little hint about heroes awhile before. It was all make-believe, little Miss Mischief, even your pretense of unconsciousness, when Jack Tennant pulled you out. As you lay on the bank I saw your eyelids twitch and your lips curl with secret amusement. You can't deny it, Ladybird."

[Pg 89]

But Ladybird would not meet the quizzical glance of the laughing dark eyes. Her bosom heaved with wounded pride as she thought how Aura Stanley would triumph over her defeat. Ladybird had been reared in a boarding-school, and had imbibed all sorts of romantic fancies from surreptitious novels. Earle Winans' failure to realize her ideal of a hero had almost broken her tender little heart.

So she would not be laughed or coaxed into a good humor. She pouted charmingly and willfully, and at length she sobbed angrily:

"You may think it very amusing to tease me so, Earle Winans, but I will make you sorry for to-day before the week is out!" and as they drew rein just then at her father's door, she sprang hastily out on the pavement and ran into the house without a word of thanks or good-by.

"Whew! what a tantrum! but the dear little heart will forget and forgive by to-morrow," thought Earle, as he drove back home to tell Norah that he expected a guest in the morning—Lord Chester, who would stay at Rosemont a day or two.

He did not tell her that he had telegraphed for his friend to come, much less that he wanted him to act as his second in a duel. But Jack Tennant's blow was one that Earle's fiery heart would never forgive without an apology. He had determined to challenge him, and he would not ask any of the young men in Rosemont to carry the message. He wanted Lord Chester.

He believed that Ethel held the young nobleman's heart; he did not dream of danger to the fair young sister whose waist he clasped with a loving arm as she stood by him on the piazza while he told Norah to prepare the finest rooms in the house for the coming guest.

And there was no hint of a tragedy or sorrow in the balmy air, nor in the sunset sky where the rosy tints faded to purple, and the full moon rose over the sharp outline of the distant hills and flooded the world with its silver glory.

Precious did not speak one word, but her heart thrilled[Pg 90] with a silent rapture as pure as the moonlight flooding the world with light.

"I shall see him—I can thank him with my own lips for saving my life," she thought happily, and at night she sat alone at her window when Norah believed she was asleep, thinking of the morrow, when Ethel's lover was coming.

She thought of Ladybird too, and her romantic fancies and hero-worship.

"It was a strange fancy that Lord Chester might some day be my lover," she mused, and added, with an unconscious sigh: "Perhaps—he—might—have been—only that he loved Ethel first!"

Did a shadow from the nearing future fall over that young dreaming heart—some prescience of the pathetic truth of the poet's plaint:

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

She sat long by the open window watching the beautiful night with solemn, wide blue eyes, and a strange sadness crept over her spirit, a loneliness never felt before. Tears came at last, tears, and low, soft sobs.

Norah caught the sound in the next room, where she dozed upon her pillow, and hurried in.

"What, darling! sitting up in your nightgown, catching cold at the open window?" and she carried her in her strong arms to the bed and piled the snowy covers over the shivering form. "Did you have dreams that frightened you, pet?" she continued, as she warmed the cold little hands between her own.

Precious, trying to hush her hysteric sobs, murmured faintly:

"I have never been asleep, Norah. I was sitting at the window watching the beautiful stars, and thinking—of many things. Then I grew sad—I do not know why—and—and the tears came. I think I am homesick.[Pg 91] I want papa and mamma. I have been so long away from them."

"I will write to Mrs. Winans to-morrow, and tell her she must come to Rosemont very soon—that you are lonely."

"Yes, I am lonely," sighed Precious, all unconscious that it was the restlessness of an awakening young heart.

She fell asleep presently with the dew of tears still on her lashes—slept, and dreamed fantastic dreams, in which she saw Ladybird married to Lord Chester, and Ethel drowning in the river, and herself and Kay perishing again in the burning house.

[Pg 92]



"Ah, rosebud mouth for kisses made,
And are you not the least afraid?
And do not know, my little one,
What mischief kisses sweet have done,
O'er all the world and through all time,
In every age and every clime?"
D. L. Proudfit.

"I think we shall find her here under her favorite tree," said Earle Winans as he and Lord Chester came down toward the river.

It was the morning after the picnic, and Earle had gone after breakfast to the station to meet his friend, Lord Chester.

Precious and Norah, with the ever faithful Kay, had gone down to the river as soon as the dew was dry on the grass.

Precious sat under an apple tree with her dog at her feet. Norah chose another tree close by and resumed her favorite lace knitting.

It was a scene of the most exquisite beauty, and the spirit of peace seemed brooding over the spot.

The orchard trees were pink with bloom, and the soft green grass was studded with violets, pale yellow cowslips and golden buttercups. Overhead arched a sky as blue as that of Italy, and in the sweet warm sunshine the blithe birds were flitting and singing, while the hum of bees in the may blooms blent in the music of the river rippling along at the young girl's feet.

She had taken along a book to read, but she had not[Pg 93] opened it yet. She was gazing dreamily at the river, now and then throwing flowers on the swift-flowing stream and watching them drift away out of sight.

So the young men came upon her unawares, and when Lord Chester saw her he started with keen delight at the lovely vision. When he had told Ethel how much he admired her sister's portrait she had answered that it was flattered, that Precious was not half so beautiful.

He realized instantly that Ethel had spoken falsely that day.

Precious Winans, in her white gown and with her pearl-fair face, velvet-blue eyes, and cloud of golden ringlets, was the most exquisite beauty he had ever beheld. She looked like a young angel strayed away from paradise, and when she raised to his her liquid eyes, so clear and innocent, he saw mirrored in their depths a pure, true soul.

Then Earle said in his most genial tone:

"Precious, this is Lord Chester. You must be very friendly with him, for some day he will be your brother. He tells me he is engaged to Ethel."

"I am very glad," Precious answered simply.

She rose and put out her hand to him. He clasped it a moment with lingering pressure, and while he held it felt himself grow dizzy with a rapture so keen it was akin to pain.

"From my swift blood that went and came,
A thousand little shafts of flame
Were shivered in my narrow frame."

He murmured something in a low voice, he scarcely knew what; then Earle said carelessly:

"I will leave you two to entertain each other while I go over and tease Norah a little."

He turned away and left the pair together—two young romantic hearts in that romantic spot.

Precious stole a shy glance at her companion, and her girlish heart thrilled with admiration for his manly beauty.

[Pg 94]

How grand and handsome he was! so tall, so graceful, his complexion so clear and pale, his eyes such a splendid dark-gray, his close-clipped hair such a shining chestnut brown, where it lay in careless waves on his broad white brow.

They sat down close together, and Kay, after one or two suspicious sniffs, threw himself on Lord Chester fawningly, recognizing him as his comrade on the eventful occasion when their combined powers had saved Precious from the fire.

"Kay remembers you," said Precious softly. "It was to you and him I owed my life that night. I—I—have wished to thank you so often, but now words fail me. Oh, Lord Chester, I cannot express my gratitude. I was so young to die like that—to leave the beautiful gay world!"

She spoke as if life was a great boon. She was so young and fortunate, she did not dream of all the sorrow the world contained; she had a horror of death, that is so welcome to many.

"Do not thank me for doing my duty. It is reward enough for me to be sitting here looking at you and listening to you," he answered gently, as he caressed the mastiff that fawned at his knee, and his words were simple truth.

It gave him a keen and subtle pleasure to breathe the same air with Precious. The sky was bluer, the air sweeter, the sunshine more golden, the bird songs sweeter, because they two were together there, smiling at each other.

"Tell me about papa and mamma," she said, after a moment's silence.

"They are well. I saw them yesterday. I went to the capitol with your mother and sister. Your father made a great speech on the tariff—the most brilliant and telling effort I ever heard from his lips. He was applauded to the echo. The galleries went wild."

"Dear papa. If I only had been there!" she cried, and her eyes kindled with pride.

"In the afternoon," he continued, "I attended Mrs.[Pg 95] Winans and Ethel to the reception at the White House given by the president to the cabinet ministers, senators and representatives. It was a grand affair, and the banquet was magnificent."

"What did mamma wear? And Ethel?" she queried, with feminine curiosity over silks and laces.

Lord Chester laughed and said:

"Very few men can describe a woman's dress. I'm not an adept at it, but I remember how they looked. Your mamma wore a pale silvery-blue brocade, softened by dainty real lace and pearls and diamonds. She looked very beautiful. Your sister looked like a queen, in a white silk embroidered lavishly with gold. Her hair was arranged in Grecian style with a fillet of gold studded with rubies. She had so many admirers it was difficult for any one to get within speaking distance."

"Dear Ethel, she is so beautiful. She looks like papa, with his splendid eyes and rarely sweet smile! How I wish I had been there with them! But mamma has promised that I shall come out in society next winter. I shall be past seventeen then—too young, mamma and Ethel say, but papa is on my side, and we shall carry the day!" with a sunny, willful smile.

"You are General Winans' favorite, I know," returned the young man, smiling, and he said to himself that he applauded her father's taste. His betrothed was very beautiful and queenly, but her sister was the realization of a man's ideal of everything lovely and lovable.

"I wonder if they thought of me moping here in the country!" continued Precious softly.

"Yes, I am sure they did, for I heard your father saying to his wife that he had been thinking of you all the afternoon, and that he really must get away Saturday and spend Sunday with you at Rosemont."

"Oh, I shall be so glad. I shall beg him to let me go home with him," she cried beamingly. "Didn't they send me any message by you, Lord Chester?"

"They didn't know I was coming. It was after I had[Pg 96] left them that evening I received the telegram from Earle to join him here for a day or two. I didn't have time to leave a note for Ethel; had to hustle to catch my train, you know. I can send her a line to-day."

Earle sauntered back to them, saying:

"I am going to the house now. Have some letters to write. Do you care to come now?"

"Do you need me?"

"Not for two hours yet."

"Then I will stay here with your sister awhile longer, if she will let me. I am lazy to-day, and this dolce far niente suits my mood exactly."

"Stay, then, for you certainly look the perfection of indolence. Precious, you can bring him back when you get ready."

He turned away and then Norah called:

"I must go back, too."

"I am coming presently," Precious answered coaxingly, as she pulled Kay's ears.

Lord Chester picked up her book from the grass.

"You were reading. Perhaps I disturb you?" interrogatively.

"You may read to me, if you will. I should like it very much," she answered, leaning her golden head back against the tree, her eyes half closed and dreamy, a pensive smile on her rosebud lips.

Seen thus she looked adorable. He gazed at her earnestly and felt as if he would give the world to kiss those exquisite crimson lips.

Then he pulled himself together with a pang. He was betrothed to Ethel. What right had he to feel his heart throb faster at the sight of her sister's beauty? Those luscious pouting lips were not for him.

The little blue book opened at random in his hand. His eyes fell on a suggestive line:

"Devils laugh when mortals kiss."

The young man started and trembled. Then he read on:

[Pg 97]

"Alas, and who shall count the cost
Of human souls for love's sake lost?
For peasant's hut and kingly crown,
And rural dell and stately town,
And vineyards ripening in the sun,
And kingdoms by the strong arm won,
And armies marshaled for the fray,
Have been overthrown and swept away,
Betrayed and wrecked and lost for this,
The needless harvest of a kiss!"

He was silent so long that the dreamy, half-shut eyes unclosed and looked at him in wonder.

"Are you not going to read?" she asked in a tone of disappointment.

"I don't think my voice is in tune to-day. I'm hoarse as a raven. I'll read you a verse and then you will cry, 'Hold! enough.'"

She laughed, and Lord Chester began:

"A sweeter, sadder thing,
My life for having known you,
Forever with its sacred kin,
My soul's soul, I must own you
Forever mine, my friend,
From June to life's December—
Not mine to have or hold,
But to pray for and remember."

His voice was discordant with the hoarseness of subtle pain. He let the little book fall on the grass.

"You see?" he said.

"Yes you do not read well," she answered frankly. "But how can I amuse you? Shall I read to you, or talk?"

"Neither," he replied with a forced smile. "Let us sit very, very quiet for awhile and listen to the river. It has a voice, you know, and when we listen thoughtfully it will repeat over and over some one word, according to your fancy. Then you shall tell me what it said to you and I will confess what it said to me."

"What a romantic thought! but I like it," cried Precious,[Pg 98] and for some time both remained silent; listening to the low, monotonous ripple of the river.

She did not know that he wanted to be silent awhile to fight a battle with his own heart, to gain strength to bear a cross of pain.

"Well?" he asked her presently in a gentle voice.

She answered pensively:

"It kept whispering, whispering over and over, one sad word: 'Regret! regret! regret!'"

"Mine was similar," said Lord Chester. "Its burden was, 'Too late! too late! too late!'"

He looked at her, and she lost her pensive air and smiled.

"I felt quite solemn while I was silent," she said. "And it was several minutes before I could make out the river's words. I am sorry they gave us plaintive words."

"I was wondering," he answered dreamily, "whether each would catch the same word."

"Oh, that would have been very amusing," cried Precious.

"Yes," he answered gently, "there was one word—one—that I should have liked it to echo to both our hearts. I should have taken it for a prophecy."

"What word?" asked Precious with innocent curiosity.

In spite of herself she returned his look. Dark-gray eyes met the tender blue ones in one long, lingering, thrilling glance. What did they say to each other?

"How does Love speak?
In the faint flush upon the tell-tale cheek,
By the uneven heart-throbs, and the freak
Of bounding pulses that stand still and ache,
In the tender
And unnamed light that floods the world with splendor,
In the fire
Glance strikes with glance."

With an effort Precious withdrew her eyes from his, the color flaming up into her cheeks, her bosom heaving a low soft sigh, while Lord Chester echoed the sigh and[Pg 99] looked away at the distant hills in a strange silence. Yet he had answered the girl's question without a word!

And after that it was hard to make conversation.

At last Precious grew frightened at her own silence.

She felt so strangely, her cheeks burned, her heart beat heavily in the stillness, her lips seemed glued together.

Suddenly he spoke, but without turning his glance from the mountains:

"Pardon my silence. I must seem very dull to you. I was trying to hear the river say your word 'Regret.'"

And before she could answer he added:

"Do you know Miss Ingelow's poem 'Regret?'"

She answered in a low voice, with a deepening flush:

"Yes, I found it once in a book of mamma's, heavily underlined. It begins like this:

"'Oh, that word Regret!
There have been nights and morns when we have sighed,
Let us alone, Regret.'"

"Ugh! it gives me the dismals!" he groaned, and she paused diffidently.

That strange, throbbing silence fell again, and frightened her. It was like some mesmeric spell.

She cried out quickly:

"Let us go up to the house."

Her broad leghorn sun-hat lay on the grass and she stretched out her arm for it.

A terrible shriek followed.

In the soft green grass beneath the broad brim of the hat a deadly rattlesnake had lain coiled. At her disturbing touch it reared its evil head and struck its fangs into her arm.

Lord Chester saw it all, and with a loud cry sprang forward, setting his heel on the serpent's head ere it could strike the second blow. It writhed hideously for a moment, then lay still in death.

Precious had fallen back, deathly pale and half unconscious,[Pg 100] against the tree. He fell on his knees beside her and cried out tenderly:

"Do not be frightened, my darling. I will suck the poison from the wound."

And he placed his lips on the tiny wound on her slender wrist and with desperate fervor drew forth the fatal venom, spitting it again and again on the ground.

When he felt that the danger was removed, he looked up at her and saw that her eyes wore closed in apparent unconsiousness. With uncontrollable love he clasped her in his arms and kissed the cold white lips, sobbing:

"My love! my darling!"

[Pg 101]



"But cruel fate that shapes our ends,
Dark doom that poet love attends,
The fate unhappy Petrarch sung
In fair Italia's burning tongue;
Such fate as reckless tears apart
The tendrils of the breaking heart,
From every prop where it would twine,
That cruel fate, alas, is mine,
For love of you!"
Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.

Lovers and poets rave of voices so dear and sweet that they can call one back almost from the borders of the grave.

Perhaps there is some little truth in those romantic ravings.

Precious Winans had been lying back as mute and still as some marble image of a dead maiden, but those frenzied caresses, those sobbing whispers, "My love! my darling!" sent the warm blood bounding sweetly through her veins once more and her eyes opened with a dazed expression.

She saw Lord Chester's face bent close to hers with actual tears in the splendid eyes, and her lips seemed to burn with his kisses. Wildly she struggled out of his arms.

"How dare you kiss me?" she half moaned, trying to be angry.

"Forgive me, Precious, I thought you were dead and it almost drove me mad. Do you not remember the dreadful rattler? I sucked the poison from the wound, but I must take you home at once and send for a physician, although I do not believe there can be any danger. Can[Pg 102] you lean on me, dear child—little sister that is to be—and let me lead you to the house?"

His passion had changed to remorseful gentleness, and drawing her arm through his he conducted her to Earle and Norah, who were horrified at learning of the accident. Precious was taken to her room and a physician summoned.

But beyond the shock and fright Precious suffered no ill effects from the rattlesnake's venom. Lord Chester's measures had been quick and effectual, declared the village doctor.

But Precious kept her room all day, with Norah near at hand, and only came down at night when Earle begged her to sit awhile with Lord Chester while he went on an errand to the village.

Lord Chester was sitting on the long piazza, watching the beautiful moonlight as it silvered the landscape with its opal gleams.

He went to meet the girl, and placed her in a chair where the full flood of moonlight shone on her marvelous beauty. But he saw that she shrank and trembled at his nearness.

"You are angry with me," he said humbly, sorrowfully.

"I owe you my life for the second time. For that I must be grateful," she murmured faintly.

"Yet you despise me—because I dared—almost fearing you dead—to press one kiss on your lips."

"You had no right," she faltered, holding her golden head quite proudly; then, almost inaudibly: "You belong to Ethel."

There was ineffable sadness in the subdued voice—sadness and struggling pride. He whispered thrillingly:

"Yes, Precious, I am not forgetting your sister's claim. Before I saw you I loved her, but the moment I gazed on your face—ay, the mere sight of your portrait—turned my heart from her to you. No, let me speak, for I am not disloyal to Ethel. I mean to keep the troth I plighted her[Pg 103] when I realized that my honor stood pledged to her. But to-day I was weak, wicked, if you will, for my heart o'er-leaped control when I met you again. In my love and grief I went mad over you. But will you forgive me? Will you let me keep that kiss as a precious memory in the long years when I shall see you no more? For, dear, I shall marry your sister and try to give her my heart. Our home will be far away, in another clime, and I shall pray Heaven that I never see your face again—the sweet face that lured me from queenly Ethel! But, oh, love, if I had met you first, ere the mournful river sang, 'Too late! too late!'" and turning quickly from her he went out into the shadows of the night.

[Pg 104]



"They warned me that you were a terrible flirt,
And bade me beware of your wiles,
But rashly I thought to escape any hurt
'Neath the charms of your treacherous smiles.
No doubt it is sport honest love to betray—
And I dare say it adds to your fame;
Some day you'll repent and own that to play
With men's hearts is a dangerous game."
J. Ashby Sterry.

While Lord Chester was fighting his hopeless passion alone out in the dusk and dew of the summer night, his friend Earle was undergoing in the village an experience not entirely dissimilar.

Aura Stanley was peeping through the parlor blinds, watching to see if her saucy rival next door had any callers. She murmured curiously:

"Ladybird must be having a party to-night, there are so many people going in—only they all seem to be men."

Curiosity overcame Aura's prudence, and stealing into the Conways' gate she hid herself in the screen of vines over the pretty bay window looking into the parlor.

She peered curiously through the lace curtains, and barely escaped betraying herself by a loud cry.

She beheld in the pretty little parlor thirteen young men—Ladybird's "baker's dozen" of lovers—some sitting, some standing, some conversing, but all with an uneasy air of expectancy.

"What can they want, all together?" she mused curiously.

[Pg 105]

At that moment Ladybird entered and stood smiling among her guests.

Never had the bewitching little fairy looked more charming.

She wore a soft white gown in the empire style, her exquisite neck and arms half-bared and gleaming through ruffles of fine white lace.

At her waist was a bunch of white and purple lilacs, breathing the sweetness and freshness of the spring. Her only ornament was a light gold chain with a small heart-shaped locket.

Aura's jealous gaze, devouring her lovely, piquant rival, saw in the dainty dimpled hand a bundle of letters, at which she glanced smilingly as she spoke:

"How good and sweet of you all to come as my messenger asked you. But I know you're all wondering why I asked you to come at the same time."

A husky murmur came from several throats, and Aura saw that they were all getting secretly uneasy.

Ladybird continued in a demure little voice that trembled with repressed laughter, like the music of an unseen brook in leafy June:

"I am the laziest girl in the world, gentlemen—that is part of the explanation. To-day I received thirteen letters—one from each of you—and each begging for the favor of an immediate reply. Only think of the labor of writing so many answers on a warm spring day! So I thought it would be easier to reply to them personally."

Oh, the tremor of the demure voice, with its ripple of hushed laughter, the childish diablerie of the amber eyes beneath their long curling lashes of golden brown!

But there seemed to be a general uneasiness among her guests as they stood about, listening to the little siren.

She went on calmly, with lowered lids and a rising flush:

"I have here thirteen proposals of marriage—one from each of you. It is most flattering to me, for I esteem you all. You are all heroes except Mr. Winans," with a naughty bow in Earle's direction. "I like you all, but[Pg 106] there is only one Ladybird, so twelve of you must be disappointed."

Aura Stanley, from her ambush, heard twelve distinct sighs, and shook with envious rage.

"The simpletons!" she muttered. "Why don't they go home? Can't they see that she is just turning them into ridicule to please her wicked vanity?"

But surprise and curiosity combined kept Ladybird's lovers standing like statues awaiting the end.

"I wish now that only one of you had jumped in the river to save me yesterday!" cried Ladybird wistfully. "Then I would have accepted the hero's offer. Now there's only one way out of my dilemma."

At their surprised looks the willful girl smiled entrancingly and murmured:

"You shall all draw lots for me. Mr. Gray, your hat, please. See, here are thirteen slips of paper—one with my name, and twelve blank. You may each draw one slip. Marriage is a lottery, I've often heard, so this may turn out as well as any."

It was ridiculous, farcical, but the mischievous elf seemed in such positive earnest that twelve of her adorers entered smilingly into the spirit of the novel lottery.

Not so with Earle Winans. He stood aloof, amazed, insulted, his eyes flashing.

"There remains only one slip," Ladybird said in a tremulous voice, and she looked at him.

Earle had drawn near to the door. He turned his angry eyes on her fair wistful face, and his glance expressed cold contempt.

"I beg your pardon. I decline," he said haughtily.

"As you please," she answered coolly, and turned over the remaining strip.

It bore her own name!

When Earle saw that he started forward as though to retract his rash words and win her yet.

But Ladybird had already turned her back on him, and shrugging her willful shoulders she laughed:

[Pg 107]

"The prize is left in the bottom, like the evils in Pandora's box."

"Ah, but the lottery wasn't fair, since Mr. Winans refused to draw. Let us try it over again!" cried Mark Gwinn eagerly.

"Very well," she answered lightly, but the mirth had gone out of her voice. It was low and tremulous, for Ladybird knew now she was vanquished by those grim sisters, the Fates.

They tried again, and the slip with her name fell to Jack Tennant.

"I am the most fortunate man in the whole world!" cried the winner with beaming eyes.

Ladybird laughed merrily and cried out quickly:

"But there is a condition attached to the prize that I forgot to mention at first. It is that you will have to wait ten years for me!"

"Ten years is an eternity!" he exclaimed remonstratingly.

"You think so?" she cried saucily. "Then I will not hold you bound to marry me."

"But I shall hold your promise, Ladybird, for I would wait twenty years for such a prize!" protested the young man gallantly.

Every one laughed except Earle Winans. He bowed coldly to his hostess and withdrew from the room.

The others followed quickly, and the last sound they heard was Ladybird's gay laughter as she cried out mockingly:

"I invite you all to my wedding with Mr. Tennant ten years hence!"

They were gone, but Aura lingered, waiting to see what the whimsical little madcap would do next; no doubt, though, she would laugh at her victims.

But Ladybird staggered to a sofa and fell upon it with her face hidden on her arm. Then a low grieved sob broke the stillness of the room that had so lately echoed her mocking laughter.

[Pg 108]

She had humiliated Earle Winans, punished him as she had vowed to do in her childish resentment. But was the triumph sweet?

Aura thought not as she saw the white shoulders heaving with a storm of smothered sobs.

"She threw Earle's heart away, and now she is sorry," thought Aura, and fled back to her home somewhat comforted by the thought that all was over between Earle and Miss Conway. She would try to win him now herself while he was angry with the pretty coquette.

Earle was indeed very angry as he walked slowly toward his own home, leaving the twinkling village lights behind him in the distance.

He had received such a cruel shock that he could not tell whether he loved or hated Ladybird most.

With a heart full of love he had written to her that morning, asking leave to call that evening for the answer she had promised when he asked her to wear his ring.

She had answered with one simple little word: "Come."

"And I went for—what?" he growled furiously to himself; "to be made a fool of with a dozen other idiots—puppets that she pulled with a string!" and he gnashed his white teeth in rage.

But he knew that he had had his triumph, too. He had seen her quail momentarily at his proud refusal. He knew that she was wounded.

"She could not bend Earle Winans' proud spirit, and that will be a thorn in her pillow to-night," he laughed harshly.

He sat down inside the Rosemont grounds and bared his feverish brow to the cool, fragrant night. In the stillness a whip-poor-will called from a thicket in its eerie voice, and another replied so near at hand that he started with an uncanny thrill.

"I shall get the dismals if I stay here," rising impatiently. "Heigho! I wish I had never come to Rosemont, never met this romantic little maiden with her silly love-tests and her abominable coquetries! Well, I am done[Pg 109] with her forever. But what would my friends all say if they knew that Earle Winans had been vanquished by a little village beauty? And how am I to keep it from Lord Chester?"

He flushed hotly out there in the dark, for he detested ridicule.

"I must swear Chester to secrecy," he decided. "Ah, how I wish I had never come down to Virginia! I'll leave here to-morrow, and go abroad again in a week. That is," with a start, "if I am alive to-morrow."

For he had suddenly remembered that at sunrise to-morrow he was to fight a duel with pistols with Jack Tennant, who had declined to apologize for his hasty blow at the picnic.

[Pg 110]



"What pulls at my heart so?
What tells me to roam?
What drags me and lures me
From chamber and home?"—Goethe.

Ladybird Conway, our little "April's lady," wept disconsolately some time upon the sofa after Aura Stanley had glided away. Her willful prank had not succeeded as she expected, and her young heart was very heavy.

"Oh, how could Earle treat me so coldly?" she sobbed. "I hate all the others—silly things. And I wouldn't marry Jack Tennant to save his life."

She heard the gate-latch click, then a masculine step on the porch, and started up in a flurry, dashing away her tears.

"It is Earle coming back to beg me not to have anything to do with Jack Tennant. Oh, I thought he would repent! I'll forgive the darling, of course, but—I'll be a little haughty just at first!" she thought, her spirits rising to the point of coquetry.

She stood up expectantly, a pretty dimpling smile on her rosy lips.

In another moment a man stood at the threshold of the open door—a tall handsome man past middle age, with many gray threads in his dark hair.

Ladybird looked at the intruder, then flew to his arms with a cry of delight:

"Dear papa, you have come at last!"

[Pg 111]

"At last, my pet!" and Bruce Conway hugged her with fervor, then drew her to a seat by him on the sofa.

"You have been well, my Ladybird, I see—you are blooming as a rose. And where is good Aunt Prue?"

"Oh, nodding in the dining-room, I expect. She always nods after tea, you know. Well, you have been away almost six weeks, you naughty papa."

"You have not missed me, I'm sure, for I find you sitting alone in the parlor, and as fine as a peacock, like a young lady expecting her beau. Were you?"

He pinched the blushing cheek and laughed mischievously as she affirmed:

"No, indeed!"

"Glad to hear it. I don't want any young fellow to carry you off from me for ages yet."

Miss Prudence Primrose entered presently and Bruce Conway rose with unaffected pleasure to greet this distant relative, a kindly old Quakeress that he had induced to come and live with Ladybird after he brought her home from her Virginia boarding-school.

But the old lady did not quite approve of the wildness of the prankish girl, and when she was alone with Bruce that night she said:

"Ladybird is asleep by now, so I must tell thee that thee art spoiling thy daughter, Bruce. She is too pretty and willful for her own good."

Bruce Conway smiled in a graceful, indolent way he had.

"Oh, nonsense, Aunt Prue; there is no harm in being pretty, and she has always been an obedient child."

"But she is so young, Bruce, and she has lovers by the dozen. They call her the village belle. I don't like it."

"She's only amusing herself, the little wild bird. It's pleasant to be pretty and popular. I don't suppose she has an idea of marrying any of those dozen lovers," laughed Bruce carelessly.

"Yes, there's one—she says she likes him best of all; but I don't know if she means it, she is so teasing. His name is Earle Winans."

[Pg 112]

"Earle Winans!" and the languid, elegant gentleman started up, alert and eager. "Earle Winans!" he repeated.

"Yes, that is his name. His father is a great statesman, and his mother owns Rosemont. He is very rich, this young man, and very much in love with our Ladybird."

"Ah!" and he rose and crossed over to the window with his face averted. She thought him careless of the subject, but he was thinking excitedly:

"So our life-paths cross again after long years in this strange fashion! Her son in love with my daughter!"

He was stirred in a most subtle fashion.

Long years ago, when Mrs. Winans was a fair young girl, Bruce Conway had loved her with all the passion of his young manhood.

His young wife who had died had been Mrs. Winans' dearest friend.

How like a sequel of fate it seemed that their two children should love and wed!

The idea pleased Bruce Conway. It was a recompense for all the sufferings of the past; it was romantic to the last degree.

He did not rest well that night. The revival of the past made him restless and nervous. His sleep was haunted by restless dreams, and at daydawn he was awake after a most unrefreshing night.

Going out for a walk he soon stood by the side of the flowing river, his eyes fixed on the eastern sky now glowing with the rose and gold of dawn. Suddenly a shaft of fiery light pierced the horizon and the glorious orb of day appeared.

At that moment two pistol shots, fired simultaneously at some distance away, rang in his ears. He turned about quickly. At a little distance there was a thick grove of pines. He ran forebodingly to the spot.

Voices came to his ears. One said pityingly: "It is a fatal wound. Tennant, you had better fly."

Then the scene of a duel burst on Conway's sight.

Surgeons and seconds were grouped about in a green[Pg 113] leafy glade. Upon the grass lay Earle Winans, his eyes closed, his face pale, blood spurting from his breast. He had fired into the air, but his adversary had not been so generous.

Within fifteen minutes a telegram went to Washington saying that Earle was very ill and wanted his father.

[Pg 114]



"No, let me alone—'tis better so;
My way and yours are widely far apart.
Why should you stop to grieve about my woe,
And why should I not step across your heart?
A man's heart is a poor thing at the best,
And yours is no whit better than the rest.
Good-by, I say! This is the day's dim close;
Our love is no more worth than last year's rose."

The surgeon had pronounced that life still lingered, although he believed the wound to be a fatal one. But he added that to remove the young man to Rosemont, two miles away, would destroy the last lingering spark of life. He must be carried on a stretcher to the nearest house, then medical skill would do all that was possible.

While he talked he had extracted the bullet from Earle's breast and stanched the flow of blood. He looked up and saw a stranger by his side, a dark, elegant-looking man past middle age.

"Doctor Holdsworth, I am Bruce Conway, an old friend of the Winans family. My home is less than half a mile away, and almost the nearest to this spot. He can be taken there if you please," he said.

"Very well," the surgeon answered briefly, and accordingly Earle was carried gently to the cottage and installed in Bruce Conway's own room. Ladybird was still asleep, or she would have gone wild with the horror of seeing Earle carried into the house on a stretcher, and apparently dead.

She slept on through all the subdued noise and bustle,[Pg 115] for she had been wakeful last night and sobbed herself to sleep at last, poor, willful child, so that when she awoke the sun rode high in the heavens, and Aunt Prue was tiptoeing about with a very important air.

She came to the bed, took Ladybird's little hands in hers and said, seriously and anxiously:

"Ladybird, I have bad news for thee, but thee must not scream out; thee must bear it very bravely and gently. A man lies wounded in thy father's chamber, and his life hangs on the slenderest thread. There was a duel at sunrise this morning between two of thy lovers, Jack Tennant and Earle Winans. One fired into the air, the other at his enemy's breast; one fled, the other your father brought here."

"Earle!" moaned the girl's white lips, and the brown eyes shut heavily, while the rose-tint fled the dimpled cheek. Aunt Prue thought she had fainted, but presently the girlish bosom began to heave beneath its soft white robe, and Ladybird sobbed:

"My heart is broken!"

"Dear, tell me, did thee have aught to do with this sad affair? Was it thy fault?"

"Oh, I don't know. I can't tell. Don't ask me anything, Auntie Prue. Let me lie here and die of remorse as I deserve!" sobbed Ladybird hysterically, for she knew nothing of the cause of the duel and feared that her own coquetry was at the bottom of it all.

No coaxing could prevail on her to rise, so presently Aunt Prue had to leave her there sobbing forlornly on her pillow.

"Perhaps her father can comfort her," thought the distressed old lady, and went in search of him.

But Bruce Conway had already gone on a mission of comfort.

Lord Chester asked him to carry the sad news up to Rosemont.

Conway performed his task as gently as he could, but Precious of course was greatly shocked.

[Pg 116]

When Conway saw her growing a little calmed under his entreaties he took leave and returned to the cottage, praying silently as he went that he might not find Earle dead as the physician foreboded.

He wished, too, to meet the Winans party when they arrived. A delicate plan had been maturing in his mind.

Earle was too low to be removed to Rosemont, and of course his relatives would be anxious to remain with him. Bruce Conway decided to give up the cottage to them and remove his own small family to a hotel.

But Senator Winans quickly vetoed the latter plan.

"We are grateful for your kind thoughtfulness, and will gladly accept your offer, but in return you must accept the hospitality of Rosemont for yourself and family," he said, and Conway knew that he was in grave earnest.

He did not refuse, for he saw that acceptance would be most proper and grateful.

Aunt Prue said that she would remain and help to nurse the invalid. There was plenty of room for Senator Winans, his wife and herself, with their servants. Miss Winans and Lord Chester could go with Bruce and Ladybird up to the great house.

Ethel was given only one glance at Earle's pallid, sleeping face, then they hurried her away with Lord Chester to Rosemont, Mr. Conway to follow later with his daughter. Mrs. Winans sent by Ethel a message for Norah to bring Precious to the cottage, then she turned her pale, grave face on her old friend.

"Lulu left a daughter, and you did not let me know. Was that kind?" she asked, gently reproachful.

He flushed and stammered:

"Mrs. Winans, forgive me. You were abroad when Lulu died and I did not have your exact address. I was very unhappy over the loss of my wife and I neglected my duty. I took the child to my good relative, Aunt Prue, and since then my life has been a restless one. My daughter has spent almost her whole life at boarding-school until now, when we hope to settle quietly here. I[Pg 117] hope you will give Ladybird a little of the love you gave her gentle mother."

His voice trembled, and her tender eyes were dim with tears. She could not speak. But the surgeon had debarred her from Earle's side for awhile, and presently she went to seek Ladybird in her room.

Meanwhile Lord Chester and his betrothed, in the Rosemont carriage, followed by Hetty Wilkins in the wagon with the trunks, were en route for the great house.

Lord Chester had been amazed at the cold hauteur of Ethel when she met him at the station.

She had merely inclined her graceful dark head to him without a word, and kept her slender hand hanging down by her side.

In the carriage she preserved the same distant demeanor. Her pale face and proud eyes were turned away from him toward the window.

Lord Chester regarded her in surprise for several moments, then asked gently:

"Have I in any way offended you, dear Ethel?"

Then she turned her eyes on his face. They were angry and accusing, and her voice trembled with anger as she cried:

"Why did you leave Washington without informing me? Surely it was my right to know!"

"Surely, Ethel, but I hope that no blame can attach to me for not seeing you first, as a telegram summoned me in haste to your brother, and in order to catch the first train here I had to leave without sending you a line. But I wrote you yesterday, and had you not left Washington so soon this morning you would have received it ere this. I trust this explanation will acquit me in your eyes of all dereliction from duty."

His voice was cold, almost contemptuous, and his resentment of anger only stung the haughty beauty to further insolence.

"Your duty to me ranked before your courtesy to Earle," she replied perversely.

[Pg 118]

"When may I hope you will forgive me this time if I promise to wear my chains more slavishly in future?" he asked, with delicate sarcasm that stung deeply.

"You call your betrothal to me a chain! Perhaps you would like to be free of your fetters!" flashed the girl.

[Pg 119]



"I give thee up—a better fate
My warm devotedness was due,
Yet as I strike thee from my heart
A tear shall seal our last adieu....
An idle word—a careless look,
That love can yet too plainly see,
Has quenched the lambent, holy flame,
And all estranged my heart from thee!"

Lord Chester's pride could scarcely brook Ethel's insolent arraignment for what she chose to term his failure in duty. Impatience was one of his faults, and he could scarcely restrain his indignation. His dark gray eyes flashed with temper until they looked as black and brilliant as Ethel's own, and a deep red spot rose to his cheek.

His heart leaped with the impulse to take the haughty beauty at her word, to be free of the fetters he had forged for honor's sake.

"Free!" Oh, what a sweet sound the word had in his ears! Surely Ethel did not dream how sorely she was tempting him with her resentful sneers. Free! Why, then, he might woo dainty Precious with her sweet blue eyes and gentle heart. Oh, what a heaven of happiness opened before him at the thought!

But he bit his lips and held his peace.

His own inner anxiety to take Ethel at her word only made him feel more deeply his lack of love for his betrothed.

"And she loves me, despite her anger. It would not be honorable to take her at her rash offer," he decided with[Pg 120] that keen sense of noblesse oblige inherent in noble natures. Ethel regarded his silence in angry wonder. She chose to consider it an affront, and said coldly:

"I offered you your freedom. Am I not worthy an answer?"

Holding his temper sternly in check Lord Chester answered gravely:

"Ethel, do you understand what you are saying? You are dismissing me on such slight cause that when your anger cools you will be surprised at yourself—surprised, and—perhaps a little sorry," and he looked full into her eyes.

"Sorry!" she cried scornfully, and tossed her head.

He answered quietly:

"Yes, sorry; for you love me a little, I think, do you not? Surely it was not all for gold and rank that you accepted me."

She knew that it was not, that she had given him all her fiery heart, but her pride was in arms. That tender appeal to her love sounded like a taunt.

The hot blood rushed to her cheeks, and her great eyes flashed with almost insane anger. She cried contemptuously:

"I fancied I loved you once, but a nature like mine cannot bear neglect and harshness. Your words to me just now were ill-chosen, and I cannot forgive them. From this moment I hate you. Take back your freedom and your ring," and she pressed the costly jewel into his reluctant hand.

"So I am jilted," laughed the young man harshly.

Not another word was spoken, for the carriage was rolling up the driveway, to the house. They saw Precious on the long piazza waiting.

At sight of that beautiful young figure Ethel frowned heavily, and a qualm of pain shook her proud heart.

"What if he turns to her? But he shall not!" she thought bitterly.

She just touched his hand in springing from the carriage, then found Precious clinging about her neck.

[Pg 121]

"Oh, I'm so glad to see you, darling!" she cooed, but Ethel soon shook her off.

"Don't you see I'm tired to death? Let me go in and rest. Norah, how are you? By the way, send the housekeeper to me. We are to have guests—Lord Chester, Mr. Conway, and his daughter. Are the guest rooms ready?"

Lord Chester stepped forward, and said in a low voice:

"It will not be convenient for me to remain at Rosemont, Miss Winans. I shall go to the village hotel until my friend Earle is better, then I am going away."

He saw the beautiful dark face turn ashy pale at his words, but she did not answer, and with a low bow that included all he walked away.

Ethel's lips half opened as if to call him back, then they closed again, and Precious cried in dismay:

"Oh, what have you done to Lord Chester? He is offended."

"I have broken my engagement," answered her proud sister coldly.

"Oh, you cruel girl!" cried Precious indignantly, but Ethel gave her a scathing glance.

"It is no quarrel of yours," she said icily, then to Norah: "My mother wishes you and Precious to come to her in the carriage for a short time at Mr. Conway's. Come, Hetty, I will go to my room," and she swept away like a queen.

Hetty lingered just long enough to whisper to Norah, "She's been in a tantrum all day," and followed her mistress.

"Come, Norah, let us get in the carriage and go at once to mamma," cried Precious eagerly, and as the carriage rolled along the village street they passed Lord Chester striding along very fast toward the hotel. He lifted his hat to Precious with a glance that made her pulses beat faster, remembering yesterday and last night.

A quick thought pulsed through her throbbing heart:

"Ethel has broken her engagement. She no longer loves him. He is free—free—to—love—me."

[Pg 122]

She did not say to herself that it was not wrong now for her to think of him. Love was a shy newcomer in her heart, too timid yet to own his presence there.

The carriage rolled past and left him, then the young girl's thoughts turned back to Earle, and the quick tears sprang to her eyes. When they stopped at the cottage gate she was sobbing convulsively, against Norah's shoulder.

Aunt Prue came out to meet them with a very sober face, and led them upstairs to Ladybird's room. Mrs. Winans rose with a cry of joy, and clasped her darling in her arms.

Ladybird, who sat at the window looking very pale and pretty in a blue morning gown, turned aside with a repressed sob. Oh, how she envied Precious her sweet and loving mother, for her own young mother had died when her little one was born, and her child had never known the sweetness of maternal love.

Perhaps Mrs. Winans thought of this, too, for when she had kissed and cried over Precious a little she led her forward to the window, saying tenderly:

"I have found in Ladybird the daughter of the dearest girl friend I ever had, and we must both love her, Precious, for her mother's sake."

"I love her already for her own," cried Precious, kissing Ladybird's white cheek fondly, and a sob rose in the little coquette's throat as she wondered if they would love her still if they ever found out how she had treated Earle, whom they loved so dearly. Alas, she loved him too—she realized it more fully now that he lay wounded, perhaps dying—and how she hated Jack Tennant, the man who held the promise of her hand. Why, she would die before she would marry such a wretch!

[Pg 123]



"The child is a woman, the books may close over,
For all the lessons are said."—Jean Ingelow.

The summer night had fallen softly at Rosemont, and all were asleep save the beautiful sisters in whose hearts burned the restless fire of love.

Precious was alone in her airy white room, with the fragrant breeze straying into her windows with the moonlight—the moonlight so clear and white that Precious could read by its silvery rays the letter Bruce Conway had given her clandestinely to-day.

It was from Lord Chester, and Precious had read it a dozen times before she retired and placed it beneath her pillow.

She lay there all lovely and restless in the moonlight, her whole being flooded with a shy, ecstatic rapture over her first love-letter. At last she lifted the golden head and slipped the little white hand under the pillow, and drew it out to read again.

"She took it in her trembling hands
That poorly served her will,
The wave of life on golden sands
Stood for a moment still!"

Lord Chester had written impulsively:

"My darling little Precious, you remember that day, that night! I feared you hated me for my boldness, and I have not dared to venture near you since! But my heart urges me to write, for I am free now—Ethel has jilted me—and my irrepressible love for you is no longer a wrong to your sister. Ah, Precious, will you let me[Pg 124] love you—will you love me in return? My heart is thrilling with a mad hope of success, for something tells me you will be mine! To-morrow evening I shall call on you to know my fate. Ah, love; love, love, be kind to me, for unless I win you for my worshiped bride the world will be a great dreary blank to me, and life not worth the living. Ah, Precious, the kiss I took that day when you lay senseless in my arms burns on my lips still. You were angry, and I could not blame you. Perhaps it only made it worse when I confessed that evening all my hopeless love for you. But I meant no wrong; I was leaving you forever! Ah, how changed is everything! I am glad Ethel found out she did not love me and broke our bonds of her own free will. Now she will not care for our love, now you will forgive me, now you will promise to be mine, will you not, my little darling?


The happy blue eyes wandered lovingly over the tender words, and then Precious kissed the letter and placed it again beneath the pillow. Then she started, as a shadow fell across the bed.

It was Ethel, tall and white and spirit-like, hovering over her in the flood of white moonlight.

"Sister!" cried Precious in surprise, then with a swift fear: "Oh, what has happened? Earle?"

"There is no bad news of Earle. Do not be frightened, dear," and Ethel knelt down by the white bed, crying shudderingly: "Oh, Precious, I am so unhappy I shall die unless I find some comfort!"

Her face was convulsed with pain. Some burning tears fell on the younger girl's cheek as Ethel leaned above her, sobbing wildly, her pallid face half-hidden by the long veil of dark, flowing tresses.

She felt white arms reach out and draw her close; warm lips kissed the burning tears from her cheeks.

"Ah, Ethel, I know, I understand, for I heard to-day," whispered Precious fondly. "You think he loves me best—papa, I mean. But, Ethel, no, it is not that. I will tell you how it is. He loves me because I have mamma's face—mamma whom he worships so tenderly. Ethel, do not let it grieve you. He loves you well, and I——"

"Hush, child, you madden me!" cried Ethel hoarsely. She was silent a moment, then resumed passionately:

[Pg 125]

"Precious, you pretend to love me, and now I will prove your love. All your life you have robbed me with those sunny blue eyes of the love that should have been mine. Do you wish to atone, to press all this jealous anger from my breast and make me happy again? Then I will tell you how. You know that I have lost my lover, that I discarded him rashly, unjustly, in pride and anger. He is too proud to sue for a reconciliation, yet I cannot live without him. It was jealous madness that made me throw him over, and now I repent my folly, I yearn to be reconciled to my darling."

Her burning hand clasped her sister's icy fingers.

"He loves me, I know he loves me, but he is too proud to come back to me unless I send for him. And I—oh, I am proud, too; I would fain be forgiven without the asking! Oh, what shall I do?"

There was no answer. Precious sat upright with her elbow on the pillow. It seemed to her that she could hear beneath it her lover's letter rustling like a live thing under her touch, like a human heart. Words failed her, she was speechless with a hovering despair.

Ethel flung back the heavy masses of her rich black hair from her pale, convulsed face, crying wildly:

"Don't let me frighten you, Precious, but I must confide in you or my heart will break. Oh, what a night of anguish I have spent! Not a moment have I slept, and all the while suffering anguish inconceivable in my bitter jealousy of another girl."

She saw the wild start that Precious gave, and continued:

"They tell me Arthur is calling on another girl—a dark-eyed beauty down in the village. It is only in pique, I know; but what if this Aura Stanley wins him from me? Hearts are often caught in the rebound, they say. Oh, Precious, how I should hate any girl that won Arthur's heart from me! I should hate her, and in my despair and jealousy I would be certain to commit suicide."

"Oh, sister, sister!" cried Precious, horrified; but Ethel persisted wildly:

[Pg 126]

"I should be sure to do it, for I could not lose my love and live. But I will not give him up. He is mine, mine, and he must forgive me and come back to me."

Precious saw the great dark eyes flash luridly, and shuddered with the consciousness of the love-letter under her pillow.

"You can help me, Precious," cried Ethel coaxingly. "You can send for Lord Chester to come to you. You are such a child still that it will not seem strange for you to plead your sister's cause with him. You can tell him all I have confessed to you—my love, my jealousy, my repentance. You can beg him to return to me and save my heart from breaking. Will you do this for me, my little sister? Then we shall be at peace with each other."

[Pg 127]



"Your trembling tones were low and deep;
We smiled, we laughed, lest we should weep;
Then parted for dear Honor's sake,
For Honor's sake—for Honor's sake—
That spot is dear for Honor's sake,
'Twas there our hearts began to break."
Carlotta Perry.

Lord Chester had come up to Rosemont with Bruce Conway, and finding Precious waiting for him, had asked her to walk with him by the river.

He had a romantic longing to plight his vows of love beneath the silent stars, beside the whispering waters, where he had first kissed Precious, his heart's darling.

He drew the trembling little hand fondly within his arm, and they walked along several minutes in that silence so dear to lovers, each heart thrilling with the nearness of the beloved one. The moon silvered the graveled path they were walking, and the soft breeze blew to his senses the fragrance of the knot of violets Precious wore at her white throat.

The walk to the river seemed very short and perilously sweet. They paused in the shadow of a tree and suddenly, ere Precious realized his intention, Lord Chester clasped her in his arms, and kissed her lips.

"My own Precious, my beautiful darling!" he murmured, holding her close, and kissing again and again the lovely face, not realizing at first that she was shrinking from him, trying to struggle out of his arms.

He was not a vain man, but somehow he had been very[Pg 128] sure that Precious returned his love; it had seemed to him that they were made for each other.

"God made two souls in Paradise
Of air and fire and dew,
Then oped the morning's crystal gates,
And let them wander through."

It seemed to the young lover that God had created himself and Precious twin souls. They belonged to each other, and neither could desire to escape so sweet a fate.

He had quite forgotten the beautiful belle for whom he had cherished a fleeting fancy. The passion of a lifetime had swept across his soul like a wave upon the shore, obliterating all other things, and as he clasped and kissed the girl beneath the watching stars it seemed to him that the whole universe contained only God, Precious, and himself.

It was a moment of the purest rapture, the most ecstatic bliss; it was so exquisite it touched the border line of pain.

That girlish, budding form in the circle of his tender arms, that golden head on his shoulder, that lovely face beneath his lips, her warm breath and the odor of the violets at her throat blending together, it was intoxicating, divine.

"My little bride that is to be," he whispered; but a frightened sob replied to him; she writhed herself out of his clasping arms.

"Have I startled you, my Precious? Ah, forgive me, little angel," he cried eagerly, and added: "You received my letter, Precious? You know how much I love you! Do you love me a little in return? May I speak to your father to-morrow, and tell him that it is Precious, not Ethel, who is to be my bonny bride?"

Ah, Heaven, the sweetness of that wooing voice, the glorious beauty of that face smiling down on her, the heaven of love in those eager, extended arms! Her tender heart went out to him with passionate yearning to grant his prayer:

[Pg 129]

"To grow, live, die, looking on his face,
Die, dying, clasped in his embrace!"

For a moment she could not speak. She leaned back dizzily against the tree with her half-shut eyes upon his face—leaned there silently, and heard the night breeze sighing over her head, the river lapsing at her feet, whispering over and over to her heart, "Regret! Regret! Regret!"

He would have taken her hand, but she waved him back.

"Precious, speak to me," he urged. "Why are you so strange? Has my impulsiveness offended you? I pray you forgive me."

She answered, in a low and hollow voice:

"Listen to the river. It is saying again and again those words you heard that day, 'Too late! Too late!'"

"Ah, no, my love, they are different now. Listen how clear and distinct the words, 'Love! Love! Love!'"

But she did not smile; he saw her shudder and draw back as he advanced to her side.

A sudden dreadful thought came over him like an icy chill. He faltered:

"Can it be I have been over-confident? Am I mistaken in believing——"

"Yes, oh, yes—a great mistake!" she breathed faintly, just loud enough for him to catch the words.

He stood like one stunned, the hope and joy fading from his eyes, his heart sinking with despair.

Then he found his voice, and cried hoarsely:

"I must be going mad. I was as sure of your love, as sure of my happiness, as I am that God reigns in heaven. Do you mean that you do not love me, that you cannot marry me?"

"Never! never!"

"Child, child, you cannot be so cruel! Ah, give me a little hope to live on! Say you will try to love me. Let me teach you love's sweet lesson. Let me plead to you!"

"Ah, no, no, no! Let me plead to you, Arthur—nay,[Pg 130] Lord Chester!" and suddenly she was on her knees, at his feet, her white face uplifted in the moonlight, the burning tears upon her cheeks. Wild words came from the pale, writhing lips—startling words full of Ethel's repentance and Ethel's prayer for pardon.

"You are not free, you dare not love another lest Ethel's despair blight your happiness. Go back to her, forgive her, and the old love will return," she sobbed.

He had listened in terrified silence to every word. Now he took her hands and lifted her gently to her feet.

"Do not kneel to me, little saint," he said sadly, and looked into her eyes.

They could not meet his. The long lashes drooped and shadowed her cheek. Then he asked gently:

"Would you build Ethel's happiness on the wreck of yours and mine, my darling?"

"You must not call me your darling, you must not think of me. I am only a child, she says, too young to know what love is like. So," wearily, "you see there is no question of me. It is only you and Ethel—two lovers who have quarreled, and must make it up again."

"Never! never!" he cried angrily. "She released me of her own free will—flung me off in scorn."

"She repents! She prays you to return! Oh, Arthur, go!"

"You can send me back to her! Ah, then, indeed, I dreamed a vain dream. You never loved me, never!"

"Go then, for pity's sake, return to unhappy Ethel, and save her heart from breaking!" she sobbed miserably.

"And sacrifice my own!" he muttered, in the hoarse tones of despair.

She saw him stoop down a moment. A sob shook her frame as he gathered the violets that had fallen from her throat, and placed them in his breast. Then he looked at her, saying:

"You can do this horrible thing—send me from you with this tortured heart to another? Then, indeed, you[Pg 131] must be a child as she says. You cannot know the strength and the madness of love!"

"Go back to Ethel! It is my one prayer to you, Lord Chester," she faltered imploringly.

"Then I will go. May God forgive you, Precious," and he hurried away.

[Pg 132]



"The roses that his hands have plucked
Are sweet to me, are death to me;
Between them, as through living flowers,
I pass, I clutch, I crush them, see!
The bloom for her, the thorn for me!"

Ethel had seen them go. At last, unable to restrain her impatience, she followed them halfway to the river. She met Lord Chester returning alone.

Ethel stood still, looking at Arthur with her whole soul in her dark, passionate eyes.

He struggled with his feelings for a moment, then the pain and imploring in her face won his pity. He took her hand, whispering gently:

"Dear Ethel!"

"Oh, Arthur, you forgive me!" she panted, and leaned her regal head against his shoulder.

The humility of the proud girl won for her more than all her pride could have done—his pitying regard. He put his arm tenderly about her, and held her close for a moment, and he could never tell why she lifted her head so suddenly and drew back in silent pain.

As she leaned against him the odor of crushed violets came to her with sickening sweetness—violets, her sister's favorite flowers. She had seen Precious wearing them awhile ago, and she guessed that now they were hidden on Lord Chester's breast. She would hate them now all her life, those purple-blue globes of elusive sweetness.

[Pg 133]

But she dared not give voice to her jealous pain. She could only smile up in his face and murmur:

"You forgive me, dear? You will love me again?"

"Everything shall be as it was before," he answered, and kissed her lips—not such kisses as he had given Precious just now, but a light caress, one that she knew was a duty kiss.

A bitter sigh burst from her lips, and she felt for a moment as if she would like to fall down dead at his feet in her shame and humiliation over the poor victory she had won.

But he was speaking again, gravely, quietly:

"Let me take you to the house, Ethel, for I must leave you very soon. I must go back to Washington to-night."

"But why so soon?" she pouted, and he answered:

"I had letters from England to-day, calling me home at once. There is something gravely wrong, but neither the lawyer nor my father, the earl, gave me any particulars, only they said I must come as soon as possible."

He paused, touched by the gasping sob on her lips.

"Do not take it so hard, Ethel, dear. I will write often, and return long before the date of our marriage this winter. Meanwhile I will be making soft my English nest for my beautiful bride. But I am very curious over the matter that has called me home, and I shall be in New York to-morrow, and sail on the first ship."

[Pg 134]



"Of all that life can teach us,
There's naught so true as this:
The winds of Fate blow ever,
But ever blow amiss!"

The days fled fast, and brought the balm of hope to aching hearts.

Contrary to the surgeon's verdict, and in spite of a very dangerous wound, Earle Winans was on the road to recovery.

Youth, health, and a superb constitution had triumphed over the circumstances that threatened the close of his young, promising life.

But it was quite three weeks, and far into the middle of June, before he was able to be removed from the Conway cottage up to Rosemont.

In the meantime something had happened that caused Ladybird's exile from the scene of her mischievous triumphs and coquetries.

The story of her novel lottery the night after the picnic had become public property in the village and shared usual notoriety with the duel.

Nothing was talked of but the rivalry between Aura and Ladybird that had been the primary cause of the duel. It became the sensation of the hour. The gaping of the villagers when either of the rival beauties appeared on the streets was so unendurable that even the bold-eyed Aura shrank with dismay, and was fain to remain indoors, although the giving up of her designs on Earle Winans[Pg 135] was succeeded by the vaulting ambition to become Lady Chester.

Arthur did indeed call once on the lawyer's daughter, but she made no impression on the heart that already held a fairer image. But he was curious to know the girl who had been the cause of the duel. When he had satisfied his curiosity and laughed in his sleeve over her wasted airs and graces, he retreated from the field, and none of her efforts could inveigle him inside her doors again.

The story of Ladybird's flirtations was well known to everybody else before it reached her father and the Winans family.

Bruce Conway was one of the proudest of men, and although he had been an accomplished flirt in his own day he could not tolerate it in his daughter. The truth horrified him.

If it had been any other girl than Ladybird, his own lovely daughter, he would have laughed in his idle, graceful way at her novel method of doing justice to her lovers, the "heroes," as she termed them—but this came home too nearly.

He recalled with a groan his pleasant hopes and fancies built on his daughter's preference for Earle Winans. Then he muttered:

"Engaged to a fellow I never saw! A village lawyer's clerk! That Jack Tennant! Won in a lottery—my daughter! Good heavens! how careless and thoughtless I have been, taking my own way and letting Ladybird take hers. Otherwise this never could have happened."

For the most of his life Bruce Conway had taken things easily, and life had gone easy with him, but here was something that shook him up, as it were.

He had a long talk with Miss Prudence Primrose, during which she said so often, "I told thee so, Bruce, I told thee so," that it almost drove him mad.

"But what can I do with her? How restrain her in the future, even if she ever lives down the notoriety of this ridiculous prank?" he groaned.

[Pg 136]

Miss Prue sighed helplessly, then a bright thought came to her, and she suggested:

"Why not consult my good friend, Mrs. Winans? She has raised up two gentle daughters very properly."

"No, Prue, I cannot consult Mrs. Winans. You forget how shamefully Ladybird has treated her son. If it comes to her ears, as it must, she will resent the indignity to her son, who inherits all his father's pride and nobility. The affection she cherishes for Ladybird now will perhaps change into disgust. I cannot tell what to do with the little madcap, but I can tell you, Aunt Prue, a widower with a coquettish daughter on his hands is an object to be pitied."

Miss Prue did not pity him much. She thought he had neglected his pretty, motherless child all along, and valued his own ease too highly. Now he was reaping the fit reward for his carelessness.

"I will send her to a convent school till she's twenty, that's what I'll do," he declared irritably.

But suddenly Ladybird took the matter into her own hands.

The little beauty had been secretly very unhappy ever since the night when her willful prank had so deeply offended Earle's proud heart and reared that wall of ice between them.

Up at Rosemont every one believed her perfectly happy, and none dreamed of her love and sorrow over Earle, who might die and never forgive her for the wrong she had done him.

Everyone loved and petted her, from the stately senator and his lovely daughters down to the lowest menial on the grand estate. As for gentle Mrs. Winans, she had a deep and silent love, maternal in its strength, for the winsome child of her dear dead friend, bonny Lulu.

Ladybird knew well how they loved her, and her heart thrilled with love for them, but always there was the haunting thought that when Earle should tell them of her coquettish wiles they would despise her ever after.

[Pg 137]

"And that would break my heart," she sighed tearfully.

So when Earle was declared out of danger she began to shrink at the very thought of meeting him again. The memory of his last proud look of resentful scorn remained always in her thoughts.

"I should like to run away. I can never meet him again, cold and altered, loving me no longer," she sobbed on her pillow that night.

And as if in answer to her longing wish a letter came next morning.

It was the next day after her father had declared to Miss Prue that he would place her in a convent school for three years.

She went to him with a smile, her heart beating with hope, and placed the letter in his hand.

"What is it, Ladybird?"

"A letter, papa, from my old schoolmistress, Madame Hartman. She and her husband are going abroad in a week for a summer tour, and they take with them our whole graduated class of last year—ten girls, you know, counting me. She has written to ask if you will permit me to join her party. Will you, papa, dearest?" clinging fondly round his neck. "She chaperoned ten girls abroad last year, and they had such a lovely time—lovely! And if I go I must join madame in Richmond this week."

"You take my breath away, Ladybird, this is so sudden."

"But you will let me go. My heart is quite set on it, papa."

"But, my dear, I had hoped to have you for my guest this summer," said Mrs. Winans, who happened to be present.

"I thank you, but—I would not like to disappoint Madame Hartman," Ladybird murmured, with a break in her voice.

"Then you must be my guest in Washington this winter. I should like to present you to Washington society at the[Pg 138] time that Precious comes out. Will you consent, Mr. Conway?"

"Gladly," he answered, and Ladybird went over to kiss the lovely, gentle face, and left a tear on Mrs. Winans' cheek. She did not guess it was for her son's sake.

Bruce Conway was too much pleased with Madame Hartman's opportune offer to decline it, so it was accepted by telegraph, and her father took her to Richmond next day to join her kind teacher. The Winans family saw her go, with loving regrets and confident hopes of a meeting next fall, forgetting how adversely the winds of fate too often blow.

[Pg 139]



"Love is as bitter as the dregs of sin,
As sweet as clover honey in its cell;
Love is the password whereby souls get in
To heaven—the gate that leads sometimes to hell.
Dear God above
Pity the hearts that know—or know not—Love!"
Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

In due time Ethel received a letter from Lord Chester, announcing his safe arrival in England.

But to her surprise and chagrin the young man made no mention of the mysterious matter that had called him away.

"Can it be that Arthur deceived me? That he invented an excuse to get away from me? What if he means to break his troth?" she thought, with instant, angry suspicion.

But when she noticed how pale her sister's young cheek had grown while she read her letter, she smoothed the frown from her brow and cried out gayly:

"Ah, Precious, I wish you had an adoring lover like mine! It would thrill your heart to read some of the tender passages in dear Arthur's letter."

She read aloud, blushingly, some tender words and phrases, but the blush was for her own falsehood, for Arthur's letter held nothing like what she read. It was brief and almost indifferent, and the poor fellow had tried to excuse its coldness by pleading haste.

If Precious was surprised at those ardent words of love[Pg 140] to her sister, she was also glad in her tender, unselfish heart that Arthur had returned to his first love. She crushed down her own bitter pangs and answered sweetly:

"I am glad that he loves you so dearly, Ethel!"

In the quiet months at Rosemont, Precious had recovered from the nervous prostration that had followed upon the horror of her kidnaping by Lindsey Warwick, and the subsequent escape from the haunted house. The failure to apprehend the villain had made every one believe he was a fugitive far away. So the careful guard over the young girl had relaxed its vigilance, and she wandered at her own sweet will about the pretty ornamental grounds surrounding the house.

One evening she wandered at twilight down to the river bank toward the spot where she had parted with Lord Chester that fateful night. She stood beneath the wide-spreading oak with the first faint rays of the moon on her face, and the river murmuring at her feet.

The true and tender little heart was very heavy, despite all her efforts to be brave and strong; and although she had sent Arthur back to Ethel so nobly she could not banish him yet from her sorrowful thoughts.

With half-shut eyes and two burning tears on her pale cheeks, Precious stood still, living over in fancy the thrilling moment when Arthur had clasped and kissed her, and claimed her for his own.

Precious loved the young hero who had saved her life with all the passion of her soul, and her fond heart was breaking for his loss.

"But he can never be mine—never!" she sobbed faintly, and the river's voice echoed the plaintive words:

"Never! Never!"

Absorbed in her own sad thoughts, Precious did not catch the faint sound of footsteps creeping nearer and nearer, did not dream that this was the opportunity long waited and desired by a sinister intruder. Her downcast gaze did not see the tall form gliding round the tree, nor the burning eyes whose gaze seemed to scorch her face!

[Pg 141]

But suddenly a shawl was thrown over her head, stifling her shriek of surprise and horror, two strong arms closed around her form, and in another moment Precious would have been borne away a helpless captive to a dreadful fate; but at that moment Earle Winans, who had followed Precious, came opportunely upon the scene.

He beheld with horror the attempted outrage, and lifting a cane he carried struck the wretch a blow that made him reel and drop the girl's inanimate form on the ground.

There was an oath from the foiled villain, but Earle's hands were about his throat, forcing him to his knees.

"You hound! How dare you touch my sister?" thundered Earle, and the wretch whined as well as he could for the clutch on his throat:

"Your sister, sir? Oh, a thousand pardons! I thought it was my sweetheart, Hetty Wilkins, the maid of Miss Winans. We were courting here under the tree, and she sent me up to the servants' entrance to bring her shawl. In play only I threw it over her head, to give her a fright! It was a mistake. I beg your and the lady's pardon, and if you will let me go I'll never intrude on the grounds again!"

The story was so plausible, the wretch's abject terror so pitiable, that Earle permitted him to sneak away, little dreaming that it was the veritable Lindsey Warwick he had held in his grasp—the detestable villain who, under the guise of Hetty's lover, was still pursuing the mad purpose of winning the senator's beautiful daughter, who was as far above him as the stars from the earth.

He slunk away, and Earle knelt down by Precious, drawing the shawl from her white, unconscious face.

"Darling, speak to me!" he cried anxiously.

She shuddered, and opened her eyes.

"Oh, brother, is it you?" clinging to him distractedly. One fearful glance around her, and she moaned:

"Where is Lindsey Warwick? He came upon me suddenly[Pg 142] and as I shrieked and turned to fly he threw a shawl over my head and——"

"Lindsey Warwick! Is it possible? and I have let the wretch escape! Come, darling, to the house, that I may pursue the villain!" Earle cried in bitter anger and chagrin that he had been so easily duped.

But though Senator Winans, with his son and a dozen other men, followed the trail all night, the search was hopeless, for Lindsey Warwick cleverly eluded capture.

And through the long night hours the mother watched by the bedside of the nervous girl, who tossed restlessly upon her pillow, starting in alarm at every sound, and begging piteously to be taken away from Rosemont.

"We will go to-morrow, dear," Mrs. Winans promised tenderly.

Hetty Wilkins wept and protested when she was told the story of the man who claimed to be her lover.

"There is some mistake," she cried. "My young man's name is Watson Hunter. And he wasn't here to-night at all."

But Mrs. Winans insisted on dismissing Hetty next day, with a month's wages in lieu of a warning. This plan seemed best to them all.

[Pg 143]



"The music of thy voice I heard
Nor wish while it enslaved me;
I saw thine eyes, but nothing feared,
Till fears no more had saved me.
The unwary sailor thus aghast,
The wheeling torrent viewing,
'Mid circling horrors sinks at last,
In overwhelming ruin!"—Burns.

Hetty Wilkins was bitterly grieved at her dismissal from the service of Mrs. Winans, and her vanity was wounded by the suggestion that Lindsey Warwick had been courting her simply to keep up with the movements of the Winans family and further his own designs.

"Oh, no, madam, he cannot be the same man, I'm sure," she declared stubbornly.

"But, Hetty, there can be no mistake. My daughter recognized him, and he declared to my son that he was your lover. Now, my good girl, there is a reward of ten thousand dollars offered by Senator Winans for Lindsey Warwick's apprehension. Suppose you earn it by delivering this wretch up to justice," suggested Mrs. Winans, very much in earnest over the matter.

So Hetty departed, angry at her dismissal, and firm in the belief that her lover was innocent of the charges brought against him.

But when Watson Hunter came no more, and her letters to him elicited no reply, her loving confidence grew faint, and suspicion awakened in her mind.

"I will find him if I have to employ a detective," she vowed spitefully.

[Pg 144]

But for Hetty's strong faith in fortune-tellers, it is likely that her absconding lover might have eluded her forever, but when a month had passed in futile efforts she suddenly bethought herself of invoking the aid of a clairvoyant in her search for the truant.

She had returned to Washington several weeks before, and it was now the middle of August. On consulting the papers she selected from the advertisements one in a very obscure locality, and made her way thither without delay. The mind-reader and clairvoyant, as she called herself, was located on a dirty little street in a villainous-looking tobacco shop. When Hetty entered, the slovenly-looking old woman was serving a customer with cigars, and the maid was startled to find in her the same woman to whom she had once advised Ethel to apply.

"I want my fortune told," she said in an undertone to the woman.

"Come into the back room, then, and I'll send my son to wait on the shop."

With her pretty nose in the air, at the vile odors of the place, the smart maid followed into the back room, where a slovenly man with long hair and full whiskers was making some drawings at a little table.

"You must wait on the shop while I tell the young lady's fortune," the woman said to him, and he rose with a muttered word of impatience.

Hetty was not the least interested in the gruff man, and she scarcely knew why she cast a searching glance upon him.

But when she looked at him she met a glance of startled recognition that made her foolish heart leap with wild excitement. The next moment she clutched his arm, crying sobbingly:

"Oh, Watson, Watson, so I've found you at last!"

"The devil!" cried Lindsey Warwick, trying to shake her off, for his first impulse was to snatch his hat and run.

But Hetty clasped his neck with both arms, and clung to him like a wild-cat, despite his struggles.

[Pg 145]

"Let me go! let me go! I don't know you! I'm a stranger to you—that isn't my name!" he vociferated wildly. "Mother, take her off and hold her, won't you?"

Thus adjured, the old woman come to his relief, and soon had the pretty maid a prisoner in her own strong arms.

"What's the matter with you, you little crazy wild-cat?" she demanded roughly, but Hetty was gazing malignantly at Warwick, who regarded her with an injured air.

"Young woman, you've made a mistake. I don't know you!" he was saying.

"Oh, don't I, Mr. Lindsey Warwick?" cried Hetty, taking revenge for her slighted love. "Maybe that ain't your name, neither! Maybe I don't intend to scream for the police, and give you up to them, and claim the reward, you villain!"

She was opening her mouth for a prolonged shriek, when a hand was clapped over it, and Lindsey Warwick cried out laughingly:

"You silly darling, can't you take a joke? Of course my name isn't Warwick, but Watson Hunter, and I was only teasing you a little to pay you back for running off from Rosemont and leaving me in the lurch."

Hetty gasped in his clutch and he loosened it gently, seeing that his falsehoods had begun to bewilder and soften her angry mood.

"Why didn't you write to me when you left Rosemont?" continued the arch deceiver. "I was down there a day or two after the family packed up to leave, and I thought you had gone away with them and given me the jilt. But you won't get away from me again, for we'll go to the preacher this very day, won't we, dearie?"

[Pg 146]



"Thou didst set thy foot on the ship, and sail
To the ice-fields and the snow;
Thou wert sad, for thy love did naught avail,
And the end we could not know....
Oh, I spoke once and I grieved thee sore;
I remember all that I said—
And now thou wilt hear me no more, no more
Till the sea gives up its dead."—Jean Ingelow.

The golden summer days fled fast, and the Winans family remained at Rosemont until they were to go to their Washington home to make ready for Ethel's marriage early in December.

Lord Chester had not yet returned to America, as the lawsuit was not decided yet, but the date of the marriage remained unaltered, for Ethel had indignantly disclaimed any desire to break her engagement because of the altered prospects of her betrothed.

So while they rested at Rosemont they had much to look forward to in the near future, only they talked of it but little, for each had secret sorrows that weighed heavily on their hearts. Precious had one in the inability to tear from her mind the thought of the man so soon to become her sister's husband, and Earle had one of the same character in his stifled love for willful Ladybird, who had used him so cruelly. Senator Winans was pained because he was so soon to lose his elder daughter, and his wife, while she shared this sorrow, had another grief very near her gentle heart.

In the forty years of life that had passed over her golden[Pg 147] head in mingled sunshine and shadow the senator's lovely, graceful wife had never been known to turn traitor to a friendship, or to shirk a duty, however hard. In her noble nature all the elements of constancy and self-sacrifice were exquisitely blended to form a model woman, whether in prosperity or adversity.

So it was not strange that her peculiar interest in Ladybird Conway had drawn her maternal instincts strongly toward the capricious but adorable little beauty.

Her interest in the young girl dated back to her parents.

Bruce Conway had been Grace's first lover, and it is said that a woman's heart always retains a slight tenderness for the lover who was first to worship at her shrine.

On the other hand the girl Bruce Conway had married claimed Mrs. Winans as her dearest friend, and it was through her that little Earle, when kidnaped by a poor mother crazed by the loss of her own child, had been restored to his parents. Now, when gentle, brown-eyed Lulu had been dead for years, her memory was still green in the heart of this true friend, and for her beloved sake Mrs. Winans yearned over Ladybird with inexpressible tenderness.

With her husband's full concurrence in her plans she had come to Rosemont hoping to find pretty Ladybird and adopt her as her own.

For the shadow of orphanage and sorrow had fallen darkly over the little curly, brown head with its will-o'-the-wisp fancies.

In June Bruce Conway had sailed from New York on the Mamaroneck, and all the world knew now that some awful mysterious fate had overtaken the steamer, for she had never reached port nor been sighted during the voyage; and after she had been fully a month overdue her lifeboats had been seen drifting empty on the ocean. It was certain then that the Mamaroneck had been wrecked, but at first it was hoped that the passengers had been rescued from the lifeboats by some other steamer. Alas![Pg 148] weary months had come and gone, and still no tidings of the fifty souls, passengers and crew, of the Mamaroneck. Hope died out in every heart. They were given up for lost. The sea had claimed them for her victims.

To the Winans family the news of the probable death of Bruce Conway came with a shock of pain, and their sympathies turned to the orphaned girl left lonely in the wide world.

Ladybird had kept up at first an occasional correspondence with Precious, but at last it had closed abruptly, and, as the traveling party were always on the wing, her whereabouts were quite unknown to them. But they hoped to find her with her aunt at the pretty cottage home at Rosemont.

But cruel disappointment awaited their inquiries.

Ladybird had indeed returned home in September, but, crushed by the news of her father's death, had drooped and paled like a broken flower.

Meanwhile Lawyer Stanley, who had been Mr. Conway's legal adviser, had declared his belief in his client's death, and produced papers by which he was chosen Ladybird's guardian. He asserted that Mr. Conway had died bankrupt through unfortunate speculations, and that his daughter was penniless. But professing sincere friendship for the dead, he accepted the charge of Ladybird as a sacred trust. Miss Prudence Primrose had been sent to California, to a half-brother there, and then Mr. Stanley had moved away to New York with his family, consisting of an invalid wife and Aura, to which was now added the charge of a helpless orphan girl whom Aura hated so bitterly that it seemed strange to think that the father could feel so deep an interest in her welfare.

"We must find the little girl, and take her home with us. She will be a pleasant companion for Precious when our dear Ethel is married and gone," said the senator kindly, and his wife added:

"Yes, we must find her, for I know she is not happy with that coarse-grained Aura Stanley. She must come[Pg 149] to us and be our daughter, for she has more claim on us than on her father's lawyer."

Ethel and Precious both agreed that Ladybird was a darling, and that it would make them very happy to have her for a sister; but Earle Winans never bore any part in these discussions, although he listened to them in silent eagerness, wondering if it would ever happen, as they were planning, that Ladybird should come to them as a sister. He knew by the feverish throb of his passionate heart that he loved her still, despite the pride and anger that strove for mastery in his haughty breast.

"I deemed that time, I deemed that pride
Had quenched at last my boyish flame,
Nor knew till seated by thy side
My heart in all save hope the same."

One day when he was seated at a desk in the library, with his dark, curly head bent dejectedly on his hand, a light footstep crossed the floor, and a tender arm stole around his neck. He looked up into his mother's tender face, that was quite young and lovely still, in spite of her forty years.

"My dear, you are sad. Why is it?" she asked lovingly.

"It is only your fancy, dearest," he replied, summoning a smile.

"Earle, I have something to ask you. Will you go to New York on a little mission for me?" she asked softly, threading his dark curls with her slender, jeweled fingers.

"You can command me, dearest mother, to go to the ends of the earth for you," he replied smilingly, but with real affection.

"Good boy! But I will not impose on you like that. It is only to take a little run up to New York, find these Stanleys and persuade Ladybird to come here to us with you."

He made a vehement ejaculation, and she saw the crimson mount to his temples.

[Pg 150]

"You will do this for me, my son?" she cooed, in that soft, caressing voice he had loved ever since it had soothed him to his infant slumbers.

But he rose to his feet impatiently.

"You do not know what you ask—you do not understand—" he began hotly.

The sweetest, most knowing little smile dawned on Mrs. Winans' exquisitely curved red lips.

"Ah, my boy, I know more than you suspect," she smiled. "Do you think I did not know, last summer, that you and Ladybird had been lovers? It was a silly madcap prank, that little affair of hers, but she was so young, so thoughtless, it can easily be forgiven. And she loved you through it all, I am sure."

"She promised to marry another man," he said stiffly.

"Only fun. She did not mean it, poor little madcap," smiled his mother; then more seriously she added: "I am sure the little girl loves you, Earle, and I want you to forgive her and bring her back to us. Promise me."

"I cannot forgive," he murmured unsteadily, and she looked at him in gentle wonder, and answered:

"Then, my son, your love was not worth much if it lacks the quality of forgiveness that is inherent in all true affection. And Ladybird, poor child, has been punished enough for her willful prank. Remember she went away without seeing you when you were wounded, although I have seen her wistful eyes turned often toward your door with a silent yearning that almost melted my heart. But we let her go without a sign that we understood her proud and silent grief. It was her punishment, and she bore it without murmuring. But now the heavy hand of orphanage and sorrow is upon her, and it is cruel to harbor resentment."

"Ah, mother, I wish I could be good, like you," he breathed huskily.

With a gentle sigh she answered:

"The good that is in us, Earle, has to be perfected by years of experience. As the ardor of our youthful passions[Pg 151] fades we become more reasonable and more ready to condone the faults of others. I can see in your proud, impulsive nature the traits of your parents reflected, so I cannot blame you too severely for your unrelenting disposition toward your willful sweetheart; but, dear Earle, I can also assure you, out of the wisdom of suffering and experience, that forgiveness is one of the noblest attributes of human nature, and brings with it an exquisite peace and happiness that is its own best reward."

The violet eyes were soft with unshed tears, and the low voice was as sweet as music. Earle Winans' moody anger dissolved like mists of dawn before her sweet influence.

He put his arms lovingly about her, and as he kissed the calm, white brow he whispered:

"Angel-mother, you make me ashamed of my harshness. I will not cherish my resentment any longer. It shall be as you say. I will seek Ladybird and bring her home to you."

"Heaven speed your mission," she cried between tears and smiles, and before many hours he was on his way to New York, with a lighter heart than he had borne for months.

But four days later a brief note came to his mother:

"I have found the Stanleys, but Miss Conway is not with them. She married Jack Tennant two weeks ago, and went to California on her wedding tour.


[Pg 152]



"As roses when the warm west blows
Break to full flower and sweeten spring,
My soul would break to a glorious rose,
In such wise at his whispering;
In vain I listen; well away!
My love says nothing any day!"—Swinburne.

Although Congress was not to convene until the usual time in December, the Winans family went to Washington in October's last bright days ere the golden autumn haze was dimmed by the gray mists and fogs of November.

Among the series of fashionable entertainments with which the gay world opened the social season the coming out of Precious Winans marked a brilliant event.

Since her mother's first appearance in Washington society years ago as the senator's bride no such wonderful beauty had carried society by storm.

Society raved over the girl, to whose wondrous charms was added the sensation of last March, when, after her kidnaping at the Inauguration Ball, she had been so romantically rescued by Lord Chester. Her admirers were legion. She had a social triumph so splendid that it might have turned any young girl's head.

But Precious did not enjoy it as she would have done last winter, when all her artless heart had been set on long dresses and social pleasures.

The beautiful girl was strangely changed from six months ago.

Her pretty childishness had dropped from her like a garment, and in its place was a new, sweet dignity almost[Pg 153] womanly. Much of her willfulness had left her, and instead of opposing Ethel as she had done in the old days Precious yielded passively to her sister's wishes, often saying, with a pensive shade on her brow:

"We must let Ethel have her own way about everything, because we are going to lose her so soon."

Ethel was radiant in those days. She did not envy her sister's social triumphs, she rejoiced in her success, and was always watching closely to see if any lover ever touched the girl's heart.

And surely, she thought, there were so many to choose from that Precious must yield her heart to one.

In the list of conquests were numbered a millionaire senator, middle-aged but handsome; a member of the French Legation, a German baron with his breast covered with jeweled orders of honor, two Southern colonels, a noted Northern general, and several score of "gilded" youths. No girl in her senses could reject all these brilliant opportunities.

But Precious had the same cheerful smile, the same kindly word for all, and if twitted in the domestic circle about her adorers she always cried out that she never intended to marry any one. She loved papa and mamma so well that she would never go away and leave them. Earle and Ethel would marry, of course—but as for her, no indeed, never!

And then she would nestle in her father's clasp, and stroke his dark whiskers with her dimpled white hands, and smile up at him with those dazzling dark-blue eyes in fondest affection, while he would answer that he wanted her to stay with him always, always, that it would break his heart if she ever married and went away.

"You needn't be afraid, papa, for I will always love you best," she laughed, but Ethel heard these promises with secret pain. They made her feel sure that Precious still loved Lord Chester with a hopeless passion that would make her go unwedded to her grave.

So the days fled fast, and very soon Lord Chester would[Pg 154] arrive to bear away his dark-eyed bride. They would not await the conclusion of the lawsuit that still dragged wearily through the English courts. Ethel was anxious to prove the disinterestedness of her love. And in any case she would not be poor. Her father had promised her a magnificent dowry.

The trousseau had arrived from Paris, and was all that a woman's heart could crave. Ethel thrilled with delight over the beautiful creations, fancying how fair they would make her appear in Arthur's eyes. Ah, surely, surely, she would win back his truant heart that for a little while had strayed from its allegiance. And Precious was so young, so much admired, she would soon forget, and console herself with another lover.

These thoughts ran through her mind as she stood alone in her dressing-room, admiring the bridal veil as it lay upon a table for inspection.

"She is so young she will soon forget," she repeated again, and just then some one entered the room and stood by her side.

"Oh, Miss Ethel, how do you do? Norah said I might come right up and see you. She knew you wouldn't mind."

It was Hetty Wilkins, the deposed maid; but the girl was a mere wreck of her former blooming self, her cheeks all wan, her eyes heavy as if with unshed tears, her clothing sloven.

"Oh, Hetty, what have you been doing to yourself? You look ill, my poor girl."

"Oh, Miss Ethel, I am ill—heart-sick, too. Oh, please forgive me for coming, but you said if I ever needed help—and so I came."

"And quite right, Hetty," cried Ethel, dragging out her purse. She selected a ten-dollar gold piece, and held it out, saying generously:

"I have more if that is not enough, Hetty."

Hetty looked at the gold piece, but she did not offer to take it, and when Ethel doubled it with another piece she shook her head and whimpered reproachfully:

[Pg 155]

"It is too little; you must pay me more than that for keeping your dangerous secret! You were with your sister, miss, at the fortune-teller's when the fire broke out in the house. How was it you escaped and left her there? Why have you and she always kept the secret of your presence there—tell me that?"

The Parthian shaft told on Ethel. She recoiled with a gasp of terror from her accuser, and before she could speak Hetty followed up the advantage by adding:

"I think you'll own that a secret like that is worth more than a twenty-dollar gold piece, Miss Ethel, won't you? And I'm poor, and so is my young man. We want money to get married and start in life. A thousand dollars ain't much to you, with such a rich pa, but it'll be a mint of money to me."

"A thousand dollars!" gasped Ethel, then she whispered:

"Hetty, who has been telling you these falsehoods about me?"

"'Tain't false, Miss Ethel, it's God's own truth, no matter how I found it out. And unless you want me to out with it all to your pa and ma you must fork over a thousand dollars by to-morrow. I know you can do it. Mr. Winans will give you the money for your wedding fixings if you say the word. And I will come back to-morrow afternoon and get it."

The girl paused and looked at Ethel with a pleading air strangely at variance with her defiant tone, and in truth there was something of abject shame in her eyes as she waited cringingly for Ethel's answer.

"What if I refuse?" at length asked the young girl proudly.

"Oh, Miss Ethel, please don't," and Hetty's voice was almost a sob. "I—I—am almost ashamed of myself, but look, how poor I am, and these shabby clothes, too; I've not been in service since I left you, and I'm out of money, and I've gone hungry many a time. Oh, please, please, give me a thousand dollars," and Hetty suddenly fell on[Pg 156] her knees and plucked piteously at Ethel's gown, adding: "It looks ungrateful in me I know, but I love you, and I never would have come only they made me—No, no, I don't mean that—my poor head is dazed. It was the dreadful poverty made me come."

"A hundred dollars would relieve your poverty, Hetty," the young girl said, coldly and suspiciously.

"Oh, no, Miss Ethel, not a cent less than one thousand. It's the price of your safety. Only give me that, and no one shall bother you afterward. You needn't fear the secret any more after that price is paid."

"But, Hetty, there's nothing to fear in that secret," cried Ethel, frantically explaining how the rope had broken. "I was half crazed with grief at first, and after my sister was saved we agreed between us that nothing need be said. I was ashamed of having gone to the old fortune-teller," she said, remembering with a keen pang the old hag's prediction: "You will sin and you will suffer."

But Hetty remained sullenly unconvinced, and answered boldly:

"You were certainly afraid of something, Miss Ethel, or you would not be keeping it so dark. And, anyway, you wouldn't like to be exposed after all these months, would you?"

"No, no," admitted Ethel miserably, and in the end she agreed to pay the price demanded for the keeping of her secret.

[Pg 157]



"Jar one chord, the harp is silent; move one stone, the arch is shattered;
One small clarion cry of sorrow bids an armed host awake;
One dark cloud can hide the sunlight; loose one string, the pearls are scattered;
Think one thought, a soul may perish; speak one word, a heart may break!"—Adelaide Proctor.

It seemed strange and embarrassing that when Lord Chester arrived in the last week of November he should find no one at home but Precious.

They knew that he had sailed for America, but his steamer had made such rapid time that he arrived in Washington before they knew that he had landed.

Ethel had gone with her mother on a little shopping tour that morning, and Precious remained at home to rest from the fatigue of a ball she had attended the previous evening.

She had risen late and breakfasted in her own room. Then she came down to the drawing-room in a simple morning dress of soft pale blue with silver embroidery, and cords of blue and silver holding in the full loose folds at the waist. Her golden locks, half-loose, half-curled, fell carelessly about her shoulders, framing the exquisite face, with its deep-blue eyes and pink, dimpled cheeks.

She was all alone but for Kay, who lay curled up lazily at her feet on a splendid fur rug, now and then snapping crossly at the tiger-head with open jaws that seemed threatening his destruction.

[Pg 158]

She was not thinking of visitors that morning, and lay back at ease in a great armchair with her arms over her head in a pretty, careless pose, when suddenly, without warning, the portieres at the door were swept aside by a white hand, and a man entered the room. His step made no sound on the thick carpet, but perhaps her instinct told her the truth, for she turned her head, and their eyes met.


"Lord Chester!"

It was their first meeting since that night by the river, when she had torn herself from the fond arms that claimed her for his own and sent him back to renew his troth with her unhappy sister.

The memory of that moment rushed over both. They grew pale with emotion, and their voices faltered.

Precious had started to her feet, and was looking at him with dilated blue eyes. With an effort he returned to the present.

"I'm afraid I startled you entering so suddenly, but James told me to come in and wait, that he thought all the family were in."

"No, papa is at the capitol, and mamma and Ethel are out shopping. I expect them in at any moment. You will sit down and wait?"

She was not very cordial. She had not offered him her hand, but he sat down in a chair close to her, and Kay went over and fawned upon him in delight.

"My old friend is glad to see me again," he said, caressing the mastiff's great head with tender hands, and she smiled pensively and continued:

"I—that is we—were not expecting you so soon."

"The Paris made a quick trip—almost broke the record. She was not really due until to-morrow. I came immediately to Washington, hoping," reproachfully, "for a warmer welcome."

Something in his voice and eyes went to her heart. She colored painfully, and stammered:

"They will be here directly, and Ethel will be delighted to find you here."

[Pg 159]

"But—you, Precious—what a cold welcome you have given me, not even a touch of your little hand."

He saw her young bosom heave with secret emotion. The color came and went like the rosy dawn light on her cheek.

"I—I—beg pardon. I did not think," she faltered, with what seemed to him frosty courtesy. He burst forth bitterly:

"Perhaps my altered prospects have changed your esteem for me. Between the heir of an earldom and a poor man there is a vast difference. It can even alter friendship."

Precious looked at him in surprise and indignation, and answered quickly:

"Not friendship, only its imitation. Nothing can change true friendship, mamma says; but she has also told me that nothing is so rare in the world as imperishable friendship. But between true friends no change of fortune can make any difference."

Her earnest blue eyes were raised to his with sudden frankness as she confessed: "I did not offer you my hand because—I was not sure you felt any friendship for me. You—you parted from me in anger."

"I was mad with pain. Forgive me for my anger," he answered sadly, and added: "Permit me to refer to the past just once, and no more forever."

She bowed with drooping lashes, and he continued in a voice that was freighted with deep emotion:

"At that time, Precious, I was mad for your love, and friendship seemed so poor and tame beside it that I would have counted it as of little worth. But how times change!"

He drew a long, quivering breath, and continued:

"We have put the past behind us. You, they tell me, are to be another man's wife. I am to be your sister's husband. You will be my sister, and something within me yearns for your friendship. Next to love it is the sweetest, purest emotion of life. Like the edelweiss[Pg 160] growing on the high, pure altitudes of the Alps, the rare white flower of friendship can only bloom in imperishable beauty in the congenial soil of a noble nature. Will you grant me this great boon, Precious—your life-long friendship?"

The eager, dark-gray eyes looked at her pleadingly, but their light was almost holy as he prayed for this place in her heart and life, to be remembered as a faithful friend rather than a disappointed lover.

"A place in thy memory, dearest,
Is all that I claim;
To pause and look back when thou hearest
The sound of my name.
Another may woo thee nearer,
Another may win and wear;
Although he may be the dearer,
Let me be remembered there!
"Remember me not as a lover
Whose hopes have been crossed,
Whose bosom may never recover
The light it hath lost.
As a young bride remembers the mother
She loves, but may never more see,
As a sister remembers a brother,
Oh, dearest, remember me!
"Could I be thy true lover, dearest,
Couldst thou smile on me,
I would be the fondest and dearest
That ever loved thee!
But a cloud on my pathway is glooming
That never must burst upon thine;
And Heaven that made thee all blooming
Ne'er made thee to wither on mine!"

Something like these beautiful, holy thoughts beamed in Lord Chester's eyes and thrilled in his voice as he spoke to Precious, and melted her heart to responsiveness. Deeply moved she held out her little hand to him, and he clasped it warmly in his own.

At that moment the portieres of the door again parted[Pg 161] noiselessly, and Ethel stood like a picture framed between them.

"Arthur!" Ethel almost shrieked, and the clasped hands fell apart quickly, and the young pair sprang to their feet, each one crying confusedly:


At the same moment they moved toward her and Precious glided instantly from the room, believing the meeting of the betrothed lovers too sacred to be intruded on even by a sister.

Was there a silent, unacknowledged pain also at the bottom of her young, noble heart?

If there was she would not have owned it even to her own heart. She went to the library, took a new book and tried to lose herself in its fascinating pages.

Meanwhile Arthur, with a pang like death at his heart, went forward and took Ethel's hand while he stooped and kissed her crimson lips with a feigned warmth, inquiring gently:

"Are you surprised?"

"Very much so," she replied with a sarcastic intonation.

"At my early arrival, I mean?" he went on with a flush rising to his brow. Leading her gently to a seat he continued:

"The Paris made a very fast trip and I am here before you expected me. Are you glad, Ethel?"

He looked anxiously into her dark eyes. They were flashing angrily and her slender foot tapped the carpet vehemently. Not a word came from her crimson lips.

"Are you glad?" he repeated gently, but she bit her lips without reply.

Lord Chester waited impatiently several minutes, but Ethel preserved the same scornful mien.

Then he rose indignantly.

"Perhaps I am unwelcome. You have repented your decision in my favor. I had better go," he said with hauteur.

Then she lifted her dainty gloved hand with a gesture for him to resume his seat.

[Pg 162]

"Do not go," she said icily, "until you have explained the tableau I witnessed when I entered just now."

"The tableau!"

She answered curtly:

"You and Precious sat close together with clasped hands like lovers. Am I to understand that my sister has deceitfully stolen my place in your heart, and that it would be best for me to resign my claim on your hand in her favor also?"

They were daring words, and if she had not known that Lord Chester was the soul of honor she would not have risked them. There was many a man who would have metaphorically "jumped at the chance" to be free of fetters that chafed so cruelly.

But Lord Chester, standing before her with arms folded on his broad chest, his dark-gray eyes ablaze with feeling, answered low and reproachfully:

"It grieves me, Ethel, to have you display a causeless jealousy for your noble and innocent young sister."

Ethel's red lips had curled at Arthur's tribute of praise to her sister, and she cried out quickly:

"It is plain that you admire my sister very much."

"I do," he replied quietly. "Do you object, Ethel?"

She sighed bitterly as she answered:

"Forgive me, dearest Arthur; but I love you so dearly that I would fain have you find no woman fair or admirable but myself."

He kissed her hand loyally.

"My first thoughts must be for you always, my liege lady," he replied, gallantly, then added: "But you must permit me to admire always your lovely mother and sister. Indeed, just before you entered I had begged Precious for the promise of her friendship. She was so shy and cold when I first came in she would not let me clasp her little hand. But I teased her so much, ascribing her coldness to my altered fortunes, that she was compelled to disclaim such cruelty, and gave me her hand in token of unaltered[Pg 163] friendship. Will you believe that this was all, Ethel—that in neither word nor deed were we disloyal to you?"

She could not doubt the truth in the dear, earnest eyes, and in another moment she was sobbing against his shoulder.

"Oh, Arthur, I was wrong; but my jealous nature often goads me almost to madness. Forgive me, and love me, dearest, or my heart will break."

The anguished cry went to his heart, and he put his arm about her and soothed her as well as he could, presently winning her to calmness again.

But his own heart was very heavy.

Ethel's confession of her jealousy pained him and aroused fears for the future, for he had an innate horror of a jealous woman.

In two more weeks she would be his wife, and all his happiness would rest in her keeping. Would she torture him always by unreasonable jealousy?

The prospect was not pleasant, and he quailed in secret before it, but it seemed to him there was no retreat from this marriage, whose fetters would soon hold him in bondage. It was a point of honor.

With a stifled sigh he gave himself up to the task of entertaining his betrothed with an account of his summer, and his trip across, and so well did he succeed that soon the moody shadow faded from her brow and smiles dimpled the crimson lips.

[Pg 164]



"Let your summer friends go by,
With the summer weather;
Hearts there are that will not fly,
Though the storm should gather.
"Flowers of feeling pure and warm,
Hearts that cannot wither,
These for thee shall bide the storm
As the sunny weather."
Frances Sargent Osgood.

It was not long after this that Mrs. Winans made the discovery that Mr. Stanley had come in as an office-holder under the new administration and that therefore he and his family were living in Washington. So with a definite purpose she called very soon on Miss Stanley, taking with her Ethel and Precious. The latter she had instructed to ask casually for Ladybird's address.

Precious was so eager over the matter that she soon asked the question in a thoroughly natural manner, for she loved Ladybird very dearly.

"Miss Stanley, I wish very much to have the address of my old friend, Miss Conway."

Aura's red cheeks turned a deeper shade, and she said hesitatingly:

"She is married now, you know!"

"Yes, I have heard so, and I wish very much to write to her, as we were so fond of each other last summer," answered Precious, with such a loving light in her deep blue eyes for her old friend that Aura hated Ladybird more than ever.

[Pg 165]

Tossing her dark head with a careless grace she exclaimed:

"Indeed, I'm very sorry, Miss Precious, that I can't give you her address; but, really, I have not the faintest idea where she is at present. She was such an ungrateful girl that she has never written us a line since she married Jack Tennant and went away."

"Oh, I am so sorry, for we all loved Ladybird dearly, and I wished to invite her to my wedding," murmured Ethel, suddenly taking part in the conversation.

"Perhaps your father knows her address," Mrs. Winans said, looking suspiciously at the changing color of the crafty girl.

"Oh, dear, no, papa hasn't the slightest idea where—" began Aura hastily, but just then she was interrupted.

The curtains at the door had been twitching nervously several moments, and now they suddenly parted, and a slender little figure rushed into the room. It was all in black, and the pretty face was pale and sad, but they knew it in a minute by the mass of dancing golden-brown curls for Ladybird!

"Aura Stanley, you wicked girl, how dare you tell my friends such falsehoods about me? You know very well I am not married, and that I have lived under your father's roof ever since the day I came from Europe!" she cried angrily, her hazel eyes flashing like stars, and her pale cheeks beginning to glow with resentment.

It was certainly a very trying moment for Aura, for now she knew that her last chance of ingratiating herself with the Winans family and winning Earle was over. They would be sure to cut her acquaintance after this terrible exposé.

Her first impulse was to fly from the scene of her discomfiture, but the next moment a clever thought came to her, and she stood her ground boldly.

Coolly facing angry little Ladybird, she exclaimed:

"You need not call ugly names, nor look so angry, Ladybird, for it is not my fault that you have been reported[Pg 166] married. Papa had his own reasons, I suppose, for telling it, and for instructing me to say so. Of course he did not expect that any one would come to inquire after you, as your father left you a pauper on our hands."

No one was paying any attention to her words, for the hapless orphan girl had been in turn kissed and caressed by Mrs. Winans and her daughters while she was speaking.

"Oh, Ladybird, you must come home with us, and be my dear sister!" cried Precious tenderly.

"And my dear daughter," added her mother.

The burning tears rushed to Ladybird's eyes as she cried gratefully:

"Oh, how happy I shall be to go with you, for I am tired of being Mrs. Stanley's waiting-maid, with my dependence thrown up to me every hour."

Aura's face crimsoned with anger as she retorted:

"You could not expect papa to support you like a fine lady. You have no claim on him!"

The calm, refined Mrs. Winans turned to her and said courteously:

"What you have said is quite true, Miss Stanley. Ladybird has no claim on your father's care, but you will no doubt be glad to hear that she has claims on others. Her mother was my dearest friend, and as such I feel a maternal interest in her orphan daughter. Ladybird need not remain dependent on Mr. Stanley a moment longer. She shall return with me to my home at once, and take her place as my adopted daughter."

It seemed to Aura a wonder that she did not fall down dead of pure anger and chagrin at those tender words from the beautiful Mrs. Winans.

She gasped for breath and stood silent for a moment, furious with rage so wild that she would have liked to have struck pretty, triumphant Ladybird, nestling so close to the gentle lady who had been her mother's dear friend, and was now taking the daughter's part in this noble fashion.

[Pg 167]

What could she say, what could she do to circumvent their plans for her defeat?

She remained so quiet that Mrs. Winans added:

"We have already outstayed the limit of a first call, so get ready at once, dear, and come home with us."

Then Aura found voice:

"I beg your pardon, madam; but are you not overstepping the bounds of your authority? Miss Conway is my father's ward until she comes of age, and I do not believe he will permit any high-handed measures such as you propose in taking her from his guardianship. At present I represent my father in forbidding Ladybird to leave the house!"

She looked belligerent enough to defy them if necessary, and after a moment's thought Mrs. Winans quietly conceded her present authority. Kissing Ladybird tenderly she bade her be of good cheer, as she would send her husband at once to arrange matters with Mr. Stanley. Taking a frigid leave of Aura she withdrew with her daughters.

Senator Winans was quickly apprised of the startling denouement of the call on Miss Stanley.

"So our little Ladybird is not married at all! I always half-doubted that story, but there is something very strange in this prevarication and concealment," he said thoughtfully.

"Then, dearest, you will go at once to see Mr. Stanley, for I cannot rest until I have that poor, unhappy child under my protection," cried his wife, the tears breaking forth at memory of Ladybird's black dress and pathetic face.

"I shall go at once," he replied, and when he had kissed her and hurried away she sat down to write a letter to Earle, who was lingering in the South with a party of friends.

She knew intuitively that her boy's heart was very sore over the supposed marriage of Ladybird, and would not delay the glad tidings that his capricious little sweetheart was still free. What joy it would carry to him, and perhaps hasten his return!

[Pg 168]

But when the senator returned Mrs. Winans saw at once that his efforts had been in vain.

"I have failed," he said sadly.

"Failed! Oh, Paul!"

"Mr. Stanley refuses to give up Ladybird. By her father's will, he is her guardian until she marries or reaches the age of twenty. He has the law on his side, and we seem powerless. But do not sob so bitterly, my darling, for we will try to find some way to rescue our imprisoned bird."

[Pg 169]



"Is it true that many hands
Find that rosary a chain?
True that 'neath those snowy bands
Throbs full oft a restless brain?
True that simple robe of gray
Covers oft a troubled breast?
True that pain and passion's sway
Enters even in this rest?"
Mary Lowe Dickinson.

Mrs. Winans hoped great things from her letter to Earle.

She believed that his love for Ladybird would solve the problem of all difficulties that hedged the young girl's future.

Lawyer Stanley had told Senator Winans that his authority over his ward would cease at her marriage, or on her attaining the age of twenty. In the former clause there appeared the one possibility of escape from the clutches of her unkind guardian.

"If she and Earle could only make up their quarrel all might end well," she thought, with all the complacency of a match-making mamma.

Three days after her call on the Stanleys the post brought her a letter from Ladybird that she welcomed with delight, because she foresaw that it would make her plans easier in every way.

Ladybird had written in a burst of tenderness and penitence:

"They will not let me come to you, nor write to you, my kind, kind friend; but I have bribed a servant to mail this letter to you.

[Pg 170]

"You are too good and kind to me, dear Mrs. Winans, for you surely cannot know how dreadfully I behaved to your son, or you would not wish me to live under the same roof with him. You would despise me as much as he does if you knew how silly I am, and that I threw his love away just to show my power over a dozen grinning idiots that I disliked in my heart. I was a wicked little flirt, so happy and careless that I did not know how badly I was behaving until Earle's scorn stung me into a realization of the truth. Now I repent, but it is too late. I know he can never forgive me, so how could I dare become an inmate of your home? I know that the sight of me would be hateful to him, perhaps drive him from his home.

"I have thought it all over and decided that it is best to stay where I am, although these people are harsh and unloving. But, after all the past, it would not be right for me to come to you. Though I adore you all, I am rightly punished for my faults by being forced to remain here. So leave me to my fate, and trouble yourself no more over the misfortunes of unhappy


Perhaps it was treason to her impulsive young correspondent, but when Earle arrived the next day Mamma Winans lost no time in showing him the letter.

When she saw the glow of joy in his dark eyes she knew that her boy's love was still faithful to his willful little sweetheart, who had suffered so much for her girl's romance.

"You will forgive her, Earle?" she cried anxiously, and his smile answered her without word.

"Darling, I knew you would!" she cried joyously, running her slender fingers through his crown of dark curls and bending his head back against her arm to kiss the noble white brow. Then they talked together over the possibility of seeing Ladybird. They agreed that it must be done by strategy. There would be no use to write to her, for the jealous Aura would be sure to intercept the letter.

Earle was boyishly happy and hopeful.

"So you would advise me to marry Ladybird, as her only means of escape from her wicked guardian?" he laughed. "Very well, little mamma, we will see what we can do to deliver the princess from prison! Leave it all[Pg 171] to me. I will take Lord Chester into my confidence, and between us we will try to outwit the Stanleys in their game of revenge!"

The week succeeding Lord Chester's return passed in a whirl of receptions, cotillions, and opera parties, and at each one he saw Precious the center of attraction, her smiles eagerly competed for, her words listened to as though each one was a jewel dropped from her lovely lips. He did not wonder that they almost fought for the prize of that fair little hand. It seemed to him, in the madness of his hopeless, silent love, that he would have been willing to lay down his life for the pleasure of calling her his own even one short hour. In his heart was all the passion of the poet's plaint:

"To know for an hour you were mine completely,
Mine in body and soul, my own—
I would bear unending tortures sweetly,
With not a murmur and not a moan!"

If he had seen that Precious had a favored lover it would have been the cruelest torture; but he was spared that agony. She was the same to all—bright, sweet, spirited, yet without a shadow of coquetry. To her father's old friends, the gray-haired statesmen and diplomats, she was as cordial and courteous as to the young butterflies of fashion and wealth that hovered around her; but in her sweet graciousness to all Lord Chester saw no sign of that preference for one at which Ethel had hinted in more than one letter. Bitterly, jealously, he watched for his happy rival, and at last he reminded Ethel of her letter, and asked the name of her sister's lover.

The warm color flamed into Ethel's olive cheeks, and she knit her dark, slender brows in momentary perplexity.

"Why, I have forgotten," she exclaimed, then added: "Oh, yes, it was at Narragansett Pier, was it not, Arthur? I remember it now, but I have forgotten the young man's name, it is so long ago, and one meets so many strangers[Pg 172] in a summer! But the affair never came to anything after all. Precious loved him, I know, but he was a wretched flirt and went away without asking her to marry him. You notice how sad she looks at times. I think she still grieves in secret over her disappointment."

In his heart he doubted Ethel's story. There was no man on earth who would have flung away the jewel of Precious' love if he could have had it for his own. He believed that Ethel, in her jealousy of her sweet sister, had uttered an untruth.

And he quailed at the thought of spending all his life with one who could stoop to so cruel a falsehood.

He was the soul of white-handed honor, this handsome young scion of a noble house, and he held with the poet:


"I hold it the duty of one who is gifted,
And specially dowered in all men's sight,
To know no rest till his life is lifted
Fully up to his gift's great height.
"He must mold the man into rare completeness,
For gems are set only in gold refined;
He must fashion his thoughts into perfect sweetness
And cast out folly and pride from his mind."

It gave Ethel a cruel pleasure to wound Lord Chester by such stories of her sister. When she saw his handsome face blanch and his proud eyes darken with pain, she felt that she was taking a fair revenge for his heart's perfidy to her who should have reigned in it supreme.

And at times like this the old, jealous pain and envy of the innocent young sister who had come so fatally between her and happiness ached in her heart almost to frenzy, although she had learned cunning in its expression. Many a time she shut her crimson lips tight over the burning words of passion, but the close-kept fire only smoldered more hotly in her heart, waiting for the slightest breath to stir it into destructive flame.

[Pg 173]

And suddenly the day and the hour came when, maddened by jealous love, she was ready to palter with temptation as terrible as that which had once before breathed its poison breath upon her soul.

It was at a masquerade ball given by the wife of a cabinet official that Ethel's hovering fate found her out.

A strange freak of fancy had made the beautiful brunette choose the garb of a nun for the gay pageant of the night.

Precious had chosen quite a different costume, but she had concealed from all but her mother and Ethel the character she chose to personate. She had all the debutante's curiosity to find if any one would detect her identity behind her mask.

Within an hour after they reached the ball Ethel saw Lord Chester in his character of King Arthur of Ye Table Round in close converse with a masked princess whom she knew as Precious. The pair were sitting a little apart from the crowd in a secluded flowery alcove, and the thought instantly rushed over Ethel that her sister had played her false, and confided to her lover the secret of her mask. "It is a cunning trick to enjoy each other's society," she muttered angrily, and her heart leaped to suffocation under the plain gray serge gown with its long, straight folds, and the rosary hanging down by her side.

She was standing alone for a moment in the conservatory door, and the low, muttered words reached the ears of a knight just behind her who had hovered unobserved for some time in her vicinity. At her angry heart-cry and the heavy sigh that breathed over her lips, the knight's eyes flashed beneath his mask, while his lips curled in a diabolical smile. Moving close to her ear he whispered gallantly:

"Clouds often hide the stars, but the white cap of the nun cannot obscure the brilliancy of Miss Winans, the star of Lord Chester's heart."

Was there a sneer in the low voice? Ethel looked around with a start, and there was the knight at her elbow, with a form and voice that seemed entirely strange. Yet he had recognized her instantly, so he must be one of her friends.

[Pg 174]

But before she could speak he continued:

"Yet your choice of a costume surprises me. Miss Winans is not one to wear a penitential mood or garb. She is of the earth earthy, and must feel her heart thrill with jealous rage beneath even the sacred garb of the nun."

"Who are you that can know Miss Winans so well?" she asked, with blended anger and surprise, and his low-breathed answer was startling:

"I am one on whose fiat hangs the future of Miss Winans for good or ill!"

Ethel felt a strange thrill of repulsion run over her frame, and cresting her head with a haughty movement unbefitting her convent garb she exclaimed sternly:

"Your jest is ill-timed, sir!"

A low laugh answered her—low and menacing. Somehow the blood ran coldly through her veins at the sound. Shuddering, she was turning away when his hand fell lightly on her arm, staying her steps.

"Let me speak to you a moment in the conservatory, Miss Winans. I come to you from Hetty Wilkins," he said coolly.

She dared not hesitate. Trembling with fear she followed him to a quiet place, where there could not possibly be any listeners. They sat down side by side, and he whispered:

"When Hetty Wilkins came to you for a thousand dollars, I sent her. I hold the secret of your presence in the burning house, and the secret of your cruel abandonment of your sister to a terrible fate."

"It is not true. It was an accident," she muttered hoarsely; then with a searching glance: "Perhaps you are Lindsey Warwick."

"No matter what my name is, I am one who will betray your guilty secret unless you pay my price for keeping it. You have paid Hetty, now you must pay me. I do not believe you will shrink from the price of your safety, for it is only that you will betray into my hands to-morrow the beautiful sister that you hate!"

[Pg 175]



"All those who journey, soon or late,
Must pass within the garden's gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there,
And battle with some fierce despair.
All paths that have been, or shall be,
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane."
Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Mrs. Winans went with her husband to the capitol next morning, leaving her two daughters preparing for a trip to the dressmaker.

But when the iron-gray horses were champing their bits impatiently in the street, and the coachman waiting on the box, Ethel sent her new maid Laura to ask Precious to come to her dressing-room.

She found her sister lying languidly on a silken divan, scarcely able to speak, and the maid explained:

"Miss Winans had a fainting spell when she was dressing."

"I shall be better after awhile. It is only the over-fatigue of last night. But I could not endure the ordeal of Madame La Mode this morning. You will have to go alone, Precious," murmured Ethel faintly, and she did indeed look ill and weak. Perhaps the treachery she was planning did not come easy.

"Perhaps we can postpone it till to-morrow," Precious answered.

"No, for madame is so very busy, and would be seriously put out if we do not go to her this morning. Besides, she can finish that waist of yours to-day. If you are afraid to go alone in the carriage, take Norah."

[Pg 176]

"Norah is quite sick this morning, Ethel, but I am not afraid of anything. I can go alone."

"That is right, for—oh, Precious, I want a little favor from you!"

The maid had retired and closed the door. Ethel beckoned her sister nearer.

"Have you any pin-money left?" she asked eagerly.

"Oh, yes; do you want some?" bringing out a little silk net purse with gold coins gleaming through its violet meshes.

"Not for myself, Precious, though I spent all mine the day after papa gave it to me. But it was for charity, and you know mamma likes us to be kind to the poor."

"I would like to help, too, Ethel. Tell me how to spend this."

"You remember my old maid, Hetty Wilkins, that mamma dismissed so suddenly at Rosemont? Well, her lover deserted her, and she sank into ill-health, and is dying of a broken heart. She is very poor, and lives with an old grandmother that keeps a tobacco shop. She came to see me once since we returned here, and I gave her some money. In fact, I have been to see her twice, and all my pin-money goes on poor Hetty, for I do not like to see her suffer for the necessaries of life after the way she was turned out of her place on an unjust suspicion," and Ethel sighed deeply over poor Hetty's fate.

"And you want me to give the poor girl some money? Oh, I will do it gladly. Tell me her address, and I will send it to her this morning," cried Precious, her sweet blue eyes glowing with sympathy.

"Would you mind taking it to her yourself, Precious? Yesterday she sent me a little note begging me to come to her this morning—that she was so ill she could not live much longer. I promised to go, and would have gone only for this strange fainting spell. But if you would take my place——"

"Oh, I will, I will! Poor, poor Hetty! I think mamma would be very sorry to know she had wronged her.[Pg 177] Oh, Ethel, wouldn't it please Hetty for mamma to go with me?"

"Oh, no, no! not for the world! The poor girl would not like it at all. And mamma is peculiar about some things. She would be angry if she knew I had befriended my poor maid; so, if you do this favor for me, it must be in secret."

"But, Ethel, is it right to deceive our dear mamma?"

"Have you never kept any secret from mamma?" demanded Ethel, with her keen eyes searching the lovely young face.

Precious grew pale, then crimson, for though she had always made a confidante of her mother she knew that one page was folded down in her heart on which was written the story of a beautiful, hopeless love that no one must ever read.

"Ah, your blush betrays you!" cried Ethel exultantly, and after a moment Precious answered:

"There is one secret, Ethel, that you bade me keep, you know!"

"Hush!" cried Ethel fearfully, and grew pale as death.

"I did not mean to mention it, Ethel; but now tell me what you wish me to do. You are older than I, and you would not surely bid me do anything wrong!"

"No, dear, only a little deed of charity; only to slip out from madame's and go on foot to this address, see Hetty a few minutes, give her some money, and explain why I failed to come, then return on foot as you went, for it would not do to take the carriage into such a shabby place. The coachman would talk about it, then mamma would find out. After I'm married and gone you can confess it all to her if it lies uneasy on your conscience, little saint," added Ethel, pressing a little note from Hetty into her sister's tiny gloved hand.

"I'll manage it," Precious promised, and stooping, pressed a light and tender kiss on Ethel's Judas lips. "Poor dear, you do look very sick. I'll send Laura back to sit by you while I'm gone. By-by," and Precious glided[Pg 178] out, the soft frou-frou of her silk carriage gown sounding in Ethel's ears like a thunder-peal of reproach.

She half-lifted herself on the divan, her face ghastly, her white jeweled hand pressed hard against her heart, that was beating to suffocation.

"Oh, Heaven, what have I done? But it was the price of my safety, the price of my happiness!" she moaned faintly, and when the maid came in presently she found Ethel weeping like one distraught.

"Oh, what is it, dear Miss Winans? Are you worse?" exclaimed the maid anxiously.

"N-n-no, but I'm so sorry I could not go with Precious this morning. Give me a sedative, Laura, for I'm so nervous I shall be in hysterics presently."

"Must I send for the doctor, miss?"

"Oh, no, no! I'll be better presently if I take that medicine. There, that will do. Leave me alone now, and I'll try to sleep."

She shut her eyes and tried to lie still, but now and then she brushed her hand across her pale lips.

"She kissed me good-by, and it burns my lips, it is like fire!" she muttered, almost deliriously. "Ah, Precious, Little Blue Eyes, will it always burn like this, or will Arthur's cold kiss cool the fire of remorse? Will I ever forget last night and to-day?"

She lay still as death a little while, her face death-white, her eyes closed, but all alive within with wild emotion. She felt like a murderess.

The sedative took no effect. She could not sleep. Time passed on and she lay with her brain on fire till the low chime of a French clock striking noon startled her like a clarion tone.

Ethel sprang wildly from the couch and sought her writing-desk. With a shaking hand she wrote a few lines, enveloped and sealed the note, then wrote on the back her sister's name.

Laura entered in answer to the tinkle of the little bell.

"You are better, Miss Winans?"

[Pg 179]

"Oh, yes, and I want the carriage to come back for me. Go, my good girl, as fast as you can to Madame La Mode's with this note for my sister. Give it into her own hands, and the faster you do my errand, Laura, the richer shall be your reward."

"I'll run every step of the way, miss," promised the girl, taking the letter, and darting out.

Ethel had written only this:

"Dear Precious:—Do not by any means go to Hetty. I have just received a message that she is dead. You can do her no good now. Come back immediately in carriage with Laura. I want you at once.


When the messenger had gone Ethel fell on her knees beside a chair sobbing wildly:

"Would my mother's God listen if I tried to pray? Dare one so wicked as I am pray that her own cruel plans may miscarry, and that not one hair of that little golden head be harmed by the fiend who tempted me to evil?"

Her bosom rose and fell with choking sobs, the tears poured down her white cheeks, her slender hands clasped each other in convulsive writhings.

"Dear God, have pity on me, a sinner!" she moaned. "Save Precious, save me, from the consequences of my guilty act! Oh! I repent, I repent! have mercy, Heaven!"

Her whole soul was shaken with remorse and grief at thought of the fate to which she had doomed her innocent, loving sister.

"Betrayed into the hands of a fiend who will murder her unless she becomes his unwilling bride! What a horrible fate for that gentle heart that sacrificed its dearest hopes for me!" she thought, and bowed her face on her shaking hands.

And ever on her lips burned like fire that parting kiss, and in her ears rang the loving farewell words. Their memory would not down.

"If she had not kissed me, if only she had not kissed me, I should not have repented; I would have saved[Pg 180] myself at her expense; but now, now, let the blow fall on me, and I—and I can die, for there is nothing left in this world but misery and disgrace for poor Ethel!" was her bitter cry.

Suddenly the door opened and Laura flew in with the unopened letter.

"Miss Precious was not there!" she panted. "Madame said she had gone out to match some ribbons, but the carriage was there waiting, and I told John to watch for her and bring her back as soon as she returned. Oh, Miss Ethel, dear, you're ill again!" for with a shriek that rang to heaven Ethel flung out her arms and sank senseless on the floor.

[Pg 181]



"And like Communists, as mad, as disloyal,
My fierce emotions roam out of their lair;
They hate King Reason for being loyal,
They would fire his castle and burn him there.
O, Love, they would clasp you, and crush you, and kill you,
In the insurrection of control....
And there is no fear, and hell has no terror
To change or alter a love like mine."—E. W. W.

Precious hastened to the nearest milliner's from Madame La Mode's, and having matched the ribbons desired, sent them by messenger to the modiste. Her plausible errand thus dispatched, she covered her lovely face and hair with a thick black lace veil, and hastened to the address Ethel had given her, eager to dispatch her mission of kindness, and to get away as soon as possible from the poverty-stricken and unfamiliar neighborhood. She was as dainty as a princess, our pretty Precious, and could not help finding poverty repulsive.

So her aristocratic little nose was quite high in the air as she stepped across the threshold of the vile-smelling tobacco shop, and approaching a parchment-faced, bewigged old woman, much bent with age, queried timorously:

"Does Hetty Wilkins live here?"

The old shopwoman eyed her closely through immense goggle glasses, then answered gruffly:

"Certainly she lives here; but you beant the young gal she wore expectin'. She had black eyes and hair."

"I am her sister. She sent me, because she was sick[Pg 182] and could not come herself. May I see Hetty at once, please?" asked Precious in a depressed voice, for the squalor of the place lowered her girlish spirits unconsciously.

"In course you may see her; but she's very bad to-day, and I don't think she'll live long," was the curt reply, as the woman closed the shop door, placed a bar across it, and then turned to explain:

"I have to shut the door when I go upstairs to Hetty, because the bad boys will come in and steal everything."

She led the way through a back room up a dark, narrow stairway with a door at the foot of it, to a small, close-smelling bedroom as squalid as the rest of the place. There, on a hard bed, among soiled pillows, lay the once pretty, coquettish Hetty, who had been so anxious to marry above her station.

Poor Hetty! there was no mistake in her claim that she was dying of a broken heart, for anguish was stamped on the wan, haggard features and gleamed out of the sunken eyes beneath the tangled locks of hair that strayed neglected over her ashen brow.

"There's Hetty, lady, and I hope you'll stay a long time and talk to her, she's so lonesome a-layin' here all day by herself," croaked the grandmother, pushing a chair to the bedside. Then she lumbered heavily downstairs again, coolly locking the door at the foot.

Then she closed up the shop for the day, after putting a sign in the window to that effect. The next move was to ascend to another room, where her worthy son was shaving off his beard and arraying his very good figure in purple and fine linen, hoping to propitiate his expected guest.

"She's here!" she chuckled significantly, and he gave a cry of joy.

"Good! She shall not escape me again."

"She's in Hetty's room. You better hurry! That girl will tell tales."

"No matter what she tells, it cannot alter my lady's[Pg 183] fate. My bride or the bride of death, she shall be ere tomorrow's dawn! I am desperate with suspense and thwarted love. Life without that girl can no longer be borne. We must live together or die together, as she wills to-day!"

His eyes gleamed with something almost like madness, but the woman did not try to dissuade him from the terrible purpose he had expressed. She knew from the experience of long months how futile she would find such an effort.

When beautiful Precious, in her rustling silks and laces, bent over the sick girl with compassionate eyes, Hetty started in surprise and horror, muttering feebly:

"Is that you, Miss Precious, or am I dreaming? This morphine they give me makes me have strange dreams sometimes."

"Poor Hetty!" and the soft little hand brushed the straggling locks from the fevered brow. "Yes, it is Precious. My sister was ill, and could not come to see you, as she promised, so she sent me to bring you some money for wine and dainties," and Precious poured the little shower of golden coin out upon the thin counterpane.

Hetty's big hollow eyes dilated wildly, and she gasped:

"There's some mistake. Miss Ethel didn't promise to come here. I haven't seen or heard of her since the time I went to her and she gave me money. Oh, Miss Precious, everything ain't right about this! You've been fooled into coming here, you sweet lamb, and Lindsey Warwick must be at the bottom of it. Oh, the fiend! How dare he do it? You're in deadly peril, poor child, and you must go away at once, if you can. There! run down the steps, get away from this vile place as fast as you can!"

Precious flew to do her bidding, but she found the door locked against her.

Ghastly pale and trembling, she sank into the chair beside Hetty.

"You are right. I'm trapped, for the door is already[Pg 184] locked!" she gasped; then exclaimed: "Oh, Hetty, Hetty, is it true? Is Lindsey Warwick here?"

"Yes, poor child, it is true. Oh, Lord, spare me breath to tell her all the truth! Oh, Miss Precious, you know how foolish I was about my beau that was courting me when your mother sent me off? She was right. He was Lindsey Warwick, but I believed in him. I thought he was Watson Hunter, as he said he was. When I came to Washington I found him out. He was living here, and I taxed him with being the drawing-master, but he denied it. He swore he loved me, and brought a preacher here and married me. At least I thought he was a preacher, Miss Precious, and believed myself an honest wife. Oh, my Lord! my Lord! how my life has been ruined by that devil!" groaning. "Oh, my dearie, my innocent dove, he led me a dog's life, but I stuck to him all the while with devotion, doing everything he bade me, even to blackmailing poor Miss Ethel and stripping her of money for his sake! At last, when I refused to go back again, he beat me cruelly and told me I wasn't his wife. It was a sham, that marriage. He only courted me to find out things about you to get you into his power again, and he would have you soon, for he'd make your sister help him. Then I fell down, dead, I hoped, but after awhile I came to, lying on this bed, ill, and too weak ever to rise from it again, dying by inches of neglect, privation, and despair. And now, my poor, innocent little one, he has got you in his power, and whatever is to become of you I cannot tell."

The door opened softly and a mocking voice replied:

"I can tell you the end, Hetty. We will get married and live happy ever after."

"Lindsey Warwick!" shrieked Precious wildly.

[Pg 185]



"Granted the odds are against us, granted we enter the field
When Fate has fought and conquered, broken our sword and shield;
What then? Shall we ask for quarter or say that our work is done?
Nay, rather a greater glory is ours if the field be won!"

Lindsey Warwick only smiled at the frantic cry of Precious, and sitting down coolly in a seat quite close to her he said insolently:

"So we meet again, my beautiful, obdurate love."

Her beautiful blue eyes flashed on him with such supreme scorn that the craven might have quailed before them, but neither her anger nor the hollow, accusing eyes of poor Hetty moved him in the least. He maintained a front of the most insolent composure.

"I demand that you release me at once or you will suffer dearly for this outrage!" Precious exclaimed in a choking voice.

He smiled, and his insolent eyes seemed to gloat on her pearl-fair beauty.

"You amuse me, but you do not frighten me at all," he replied, laughing.

"And yet you have need to be frightened," Precious answered in a solemn voice, growing very pale as she spoke.

He did not notice the peculiar significance of her voice, but throwing himself back in his chair with an expression of arrogance observed:

"I am sorry you object so much to have me for your husband, for I have sworn to make you my wife or to kill you!"

[Pg 186]

The beautiful girl sitting close to poor, gasping Hetty, answered him with a look of silent scorn.

"It is true," he continued, "I love you madly, and I have sworn to win you. I know the distance seems great to you between the poor drawing-master and the petted daughter of Senator Winans, but love has often bridged gulfs as deep. Once we are married your parents will forgive you, and your father can easily give me a lucrative Government position that will place me on a high social footing. You see how easy it all is, as I told your sister at the masquerade ball last night."

A startled cry came from her pale lips, and he laughed:

"Yes, I was there, and often near you, for, like your sister, I was jealous of the attentions of handsome King Arthur, who hovered so often near the princess. Do you remember the knight who tried to make love to you, and on whom you turned a cold shoulder? Your sister was not so unkind to me. We had a long talk in the conservatory, and she helped me plan this little scheme that placed you in my power."

Oh, the cry of agony that came from those lovely lips at his words! They pierced poor Hetty's heart with their doubt and pain!

"You speak falsely! My sister Ethel would not be so cruel!"

"Your sister Ethel had no choice. I held the secret of her desertion of you in the burning house that day—the secret you kept at her bidding! She dare not let it be known, for she knew that she was guilty of desiring your death, because she was jealous of you."

Hetty moaned feebly:

"Don't you believe him, Miss Precious. Miss Ethel would not be so wicked. It was the old woman, his mother, that set fire to the house and ran away, hoping you would both be burned up."

"Hold your tongue!" Lindsey Warwick said, glaring fiercely at the invalid. "What my mother did does not excuse the sin of Ethel Winans. She escaped from the[Pg 187] fire and ran away, giving no alarm to let any one know that Precious was left to an awful fate. She is afraid to let the world know it, and when I threatened to betray her she paid the price of my silence by sacrificing her sister."

Everything rushed over Precious. She could not doubt that her proud, jealous sister hated her with an envious rage. It was like a sword in her tender heart.

"Oh, Heaven! I would sooner have died than heard this hideous truth!" she moaned, and the fair golden head sank until it rested on Hetty's coarse pillow, while the white lids drooped heavily over the violet eyes.

Lindsey Warwick sprang eagerly forward, but Hetty motioned him sternly back.

"You sha'n't touch her, you fiend, unless by her own consent, and I know you'll never get that! So go out and leave her to herself."

He laughed arrogantly in his consciousness of power and answered:

"Very well, I'll leave her alone a few moments to get used to her position; but no plotting for her escape, remember, for there are bolts and bars on every door and window; and none of the neighbors could hear her scream, if she tried it all day. You know that by your own experience. So you had just as well do me a good turn by persuading her to marry me without more trouble. You didn't find it hard to love me, so why should she?"

The look of scornful reproach she gave him might have shamed a fiend, but he only laughed and went out, shutting the door behind him.

"Miss Precious, look up, darling—he's gone now; look up, and don't grieve. Maybe something will happen, maybe Miss Ethel will repent and send your father to take you from Lindsey Warwick. Oh, I wish I had a good revolver; I'd shoot him like a dog, and let you go free! My life's going out fast, anyway, and I'd not mind paying off my score against him!"

Precious lifted up a pale, haggard face, murmuring:

"Oh, no, no, Hetty; you must not die with the sin of[Pg 188] murder on your soul. Listen, while I whisper in your ear: I have a splendid little revolver in my pocket. Papa gave it to me after—that night last summer, you know. He taught me to use it, and told me to always carry it when I went out alone, and to defend myself with it, if necessary. So don't worry over me, Hetty; I will kill him if there is no other way of escape!"

But she shuddered, and grew so pale that Hetty muttered:

"Let me have it, dearie, and I'll do the deed for you quick enough!"

"No," Precious answered; and just then the door opened and the old woman came in, leering hideously at the hapless prisoner.

Precious rose from her chair, and catching the old woman's arm, suddenly asked imploringly:

"Won't you be good enough to open those doors, and let me go home to my mother?"

"Couldn't do it for nothing. My son's orders is to keep his pretty bird close!" was the chuckling reply.

Hetty half-raised herself in bed, and gazed curiously at the pair. Something in the white, resolute face of Precious prepared her for a startling denouement.

She saw the girl's hand slide into the folds of her dress and out again. The next moment Hetty's eyes were dazed by the gleam of a small silver-mounted revolver, whose muzzle pressed the old woman's temple.

"Open the doors and let me go free, or I will kill you! Not a word, or I fire!" breathed the desperate girl, low and distinctly.

The old woman was a coward at heart. She almost fainted from fear, and, forgetting her son's interests in her own deadly fears, put her shaking hand in her pocket and withdrew the key without one word, as she was bidden.

Precious and the eager, watching Hetty began to think that victory would be easy.

"Now open the doors, and I will follow you until I reach the street. Do not speak, or I shall certainly shoot you," continued Precious sternly, still covering the bent, cowering form with the lifted weapon.

[Pg 189]

Scarcely daring to breathe, the foiled hag pushed the key in the lock, turned it sharply and opened the door.

"Go on down the steps while I follow," commanded Precious hoarsely, and still keeping her weapon close to the bewigged head, while she wondered at her own desperate bravery and silently prayed Heaven to keep Lindsey Warwick away until she gained her freedom.

But it was not to be. The villain rushed upon his own fate.

Just as his mother placed her foot on the first step to descend, he entered by an opposite door.

That suggestive tableau, his mother on the step, Precious in the open doorway above, covering her descent with a revolver, flashed upon his sight. He instantly comprehended the truth. His prisoner, with an undreamed of bravery, was fighting her way to freedom, and the cowed old woman was permitting herself to be driven to submission.

With the howl of a baffled wild beast, the startled villain rushed forward and struck back the little hand that held the weapon, perhaps with some faint impulse of filial alarm for the old mother who seemed in such deadly peril.

But his aim was misdirected or rash. The weapon dropped indeed from the little hand that grasped it, but as he bent forward it fell upon the step and exploded, and the bullet, whistling as it ascended, struck him beneath the chin, crashing upward to his burning brain. He sprang convulsively erect, then toppled backward in a lifeless heap, dead as suddenly as though by a lightning stroke.

At the same instant the old woman, jarred from her position on the steps by his sudden onslaught, lost her balance and fell, rolling over and over the steep narrow stairs until her body bounded against the locked door at the foot with a terrible velocity that broke her neck.

Thus two wicked wretches were hurled at a breath into the presence of an offended God, to be judged and condemned for the deeds done while they dwelt on earth.

[Pg 190]



"Some there must be who must bear the burden and the loss;
Some there must be who must wear the thorny crown and cross.
"Some there must be who must lay their hopes the altar on;
Some there must be who must say, 'Thy will, not mine, be done!'"
Susie M. Best.

A desperate courage upheld Precious through that tragic scene, but at its fatal denouement she rushed back to Hetty, falling on her knees by the bed, and bursting into convulsive sobs.

And for a moment no other sound filled the room, for the sick girl, struck dumb by the suddenness of it all, could not utter a word, only lie still among her pillows breathing in great strangling gasps, like one dying. For those other two, they lay still and voiceless, stricken down in the fullness of their evil career, just as victory in their evil designs seemed assured. But she, the innocent victim of their persecution, sobbed on, distressfully, in the revulsion of feeling from fear and desperation, to relief mixed with shuddering horror at the fate of her enemies.

Suddenly Hetty began to recover her dazed senses, and moving a trembling hand touched Precious gently.

"My dear, my dear, don't sob so hard. Try to collect yourself and listen to me," she breathed faintly, and the nervous girl lifted her head, murmuring:

"Oh, Hetty, Hetty, can't we get out of this horrid place? I'm stifling, dying almost of fear and horror."

"Yes, we will get away as soon as possible," and Hetty with sudden strength crawled out of bed and dragged on her clothes.

[Pg 191]

"Now, my dear young lady, I have a plan for you," she panted. "You must not be known at all in this dreadful affair, for it would make a dreadful sensation very unpleasant to your folks. Here is my plan: There is a side entrance on an alleyway to this place, and I'll creep down and let you out of it. Then you must go away quietly back to your home, and say nothing, unless you choose to confide in your parents. I'll stay indoors awhile, then I'll creep out in the street and give the alarm that my husband and his mother have killed themselves scuffling over a handsome revolver. No one need ever know anything more, for they cannot doubt my story. The neighbors all believe that I was Warwick's wife, as I should have been. So go now, dear, and Heaven bless you, poor child."

Her poor face was already beaded with death-dew, and she staggered so that she had to cling to Precious as they made their way down to the alley, just inside the door that she was to go out by. Precious paused and looked anxiously into the ghastly face with its glassy eyes.

"Oh, Hetty, you do look so ill! I can't bear to leave you like this. I shall tell mamma, and we will have you cared for kindly."

"Thank you, thank you, dear Miss Precious, but don't worry over me. I'll soon be all right. Now go, for every moment you stay is perilous."

"Bless you, Hetty, for your goodness to me. I shall tell mamma about it. She will be so grateful, and we will do everything for you. Now good-by, and God keep you till we meet again."

She pressed the cold, damp hand fervently, and hurried away, little dreaming that it was a dying woman she left, and that her fervent "God keep you till we meet again," meant for all eternity.

With the thick veil over her face, she darted unobserved out of the noisome alley, gained the street, and turned the very first corner into a side street. Ten minutes of rapid walking brought her back to Madame La Mode's, where[Pg 192] the carriage still waited, although she had been gone almost two hours. The obsequious footman helped her in, and she sank half-fainting among the cushions.

"Saved! Saved!" she thought, with silent gratitude to Heaven as the carriage rolled homeward, and she wondered bitterly what Ethel would say on her return and escape from the fate at which she had connived.

"Ah! my sister, to whose happiness I sacrificed my own, how could you be so cruel?" she wept convulsively.

Meanwhile the dying Hetty, too weak to walk, crawled through the narrow alleyway out to the street, a most pitiable object with her wasted form, ghastly face, and glassy eyes already dim with approaching death. Very soon a crowd collected about her, to whom she told an incoherent story that her husband and his mother, while struggling over a revolver, had both come to their deaths. Then having exhausted her feeble strength in explaining the tragedy, the poor creature's head drooped heavily, and with one or two convulsive gasps her spirit fled from its earthly tenement.

The evening papers, in glaring head-lines, told the story of the tragedy enacted in the humble tobacco shop, and did not fail to add that the man had been discovered to be the notorious Lindsey Warwick, who had abducted Senator Winans' youngest daughter from the Inauguration Ball, and for whose apprehension the statesman had offered ten thousand dollars. It was added that he had afterward married a girl in his own rank, and had beaten her so cruelly that she had never been able to leave her bed since, and had now died of her injuries.

Some relatives of poor unfortunate Hetty came forward, claimed her body, and buried her decently. Lindsey Warwick and his mother were interred at public expense, and when those three died there was but one living soul that held the secret that lay so darkly on Ethel's conscience—the secret that twice she had betrayed her innocent sister to a terrible fate from which the mercy of Heaven had delivered her safely. At last Precious knew all her[Pg 193] sister's guilt. Would she take revenge for her wrongs by denouncing Ethel?

She reached home with a prayer of thanksgiving on her lips, so glad of its peace and security again after the perils of the last few hours; but as soon as she crossed the threshold she saw that there was an unwonted commotion and excitement about the house.

"Have they missed me already? Have they found out anything?" she thought in alarm; but directly she heard the servants confiding to each other that Miss Winans had been taken dangerously ill, and that the wedding now so very near at hand would have to be postponed, they feared.

Then Norah came to meet her pet.

"Oh, my dear, how ill and pale you look! What has happened to you?" she demanded anxiously.

"Oh, Norah, they are saying that Ethel is very ill!" faltered Precious, and when she reached her own room she sank tremblingly upon a sofa.

"Miss Ethel has an attack of hysteria," explained Norah. "She had a long swoon, and when she revived went into wild hysterics. The doctor and your mother are with her now, and when I came out awhile ago she was shrieking for you as though she thought you were in the greatest danger somewhere. I think if you will go in and see her that the sight of you will do her good."

"I will go at once!" cried Precious eagerly, and glided pale as death into the sick-room, her heart beating with great strangling throbs of emotion.

She crossed the floor to the bed, and saw Ethel writhing among the pillows like one distraught, her dark eyes glaring wildly on the anxious faces around her, while from her ashen lips came over and over one yearning cry:

"Precious! Oh, bring Precious home!"

When Precious heard that entreating cry she felt that Ethel had repented of her sin, that she was not as wicked as she had tried to be. The knowledge brought keenest joy to her heart.

[Pg 194]

"Oh, Ethel, dear sister, I am here!" she cried in a voice of heavenly forgiveness.

Until that moment Ethel had seemed not to recognize any one, had called no one but her sister, but as that sweet voice came to her ears she looked up with a wild cry and clasped Precious in her arms.

"Oh, my darling, you are safe! You have come back to me!" she cried, and fainted for the third time that morning.

"She has had some strange hallucination about her sister, but she will be better now," said the physician, and he was right, for when she recovered she was calmer, the light of reason shone in her dark eyes.

"I am better now. You may all go away but Precious. I want her to stay by me a little while," she murmured faintly.

They all withdrew but Precious, to whom she clung with eager hands.

When they were alone they looked eagerly into each other's eyes, and Ethel saw that Precious knew all. A deep and heavy sigh breathed over her lips, and she murmured:

"You have escaped your enemies, thank Heaven! Nothing else matters now, but tell me how it all happened."

And the trembling Precious, in low, agitated whispers, told her all that had transpired except Hetty's death, of which she did not yet know.

Ethel listened in silent joy. She rejoiced in the death of her enemies, and she realized that her guilty secret belonged to no one now but Precious. In those small, white hands rested her fate.

Her dark, anguished eyes searched the pale, lovely face with eager inquiry, and she faltered:

"You know all my sins against you now, Precious—all my envious hate and jealousy. Are you glad that revenge lies in your hands?"

"Revenge!" exclaimed Precious, and Ethel answered:

[Pg 195]

"You will betray me now to Arthur, to papa and mamma, to the whole world!"

Precious looked searchingly into the dark eyes, circled with heavy purplish rings since morning.

"My sister, do you repent?" she asked solemnly.

"Repent! Ah, Heaven, I should have died or gone mad if harm had come to that little golden head!" breathed Ethel huskily.

"And you will never hate me any more?" sighed Precious.

"Never! never!"

"Then let us speak no more of that wicked thing—revenge. Try to be good after this, dear sister; try to be worthy of Arthur, and I will forgive you everything," noble little Precious answered, sealing the promise of forgiveness with a gentle kiss.

"You are an angel!" sighed Ethel from her overburdened heart, and drew from under her pillow the sealed letter she had sent to Madame La Mode's by the maid.

"Read this and you will see how soon I repented of my sin!" she said eagerly, and when Precious had read it through her blue eyes filled with tears and she cried:

"I am glad you repented so soon, and if I had not left the modiste's in such a hurry to perform a charitable deed I would have received your message in time to have been prevented from going."

They talked earnestly together some time longer, and it was decided to keep to themselves the story of that morning's adventure. Poor Ethel, she still clung to Arthur and the hope of becoming his wife, and in the safety insured by Lindsey Warwick's death and her sister's forgiveness, she thought that no further obstacle could come between her and happiness. Although sincerely repentant for her cruelty to Precious, the leaven of selfishness still worked in her nature, and she could not resign the joy within her reach—the joy of becoming Arthur's wife, and trying to win back his heart.

[Pg 196]



"My fair lady's a dear, dear lady;
I walked by her side to woo,
In a garden alley so sweet and shady;
She answered, 'I love not you;
Pray now, pray now, go your way now, do!'"

"Yet my fair lady's my own, own lady,
For I passed another day;
While making her moan she sat all alone,
Do now, do now, once more woo now, do!"
Jean Ingelow.

Earle Winans, acting on his mother's hints, had wasted no time in the prosecution of his love-affair and he did not lack a friend in Lord Chester.

Consequently a strategic movement had brought about a communication between the estranged lovers, and Earle's tender letter, avowing his renewed love for Ladybird, brought a repentant one from his darling that placed everything on a very desirable footing, except that it was impossible for them to meet. Mr. Stanley's ward was guarded as jealously as any prisoner, and but for a servant in the house, who was open to bribery, the letters of the young lovers would never have reached them.

However, in spite of the opposing fates, Earle and Arthur had planned a coup de main which, with Ladybird's consent, was successfully carried out.

Aura Stanley was still too much in love with Earle Winans to reject the dainty basket of roses that arrived one morning by messenger with a note asking leave to call[Pg 197] that evening, and signed duly by Lord Chester and Earle.

"They think they will see Ladybird, but I will outwit them," she thought angrily, and replied by giving them permission to call.

Mrs. Stanley was charged not to let her weary little slave escape from her couch that evening.

"Make her read aloud to you, mamma, or bathe your forehead with camphor—anything, so that she does not get a moment downstairs," Aura said imperiously, before going down in her magnificent crimson silk gown, in which she hoped to capture Earle's admiration if not his heart.

And she thought she was succeeding when she saw how his eyes lingered on her, and noted his smiles when she adroitly referred to "last summer, when they had been such friends, before that little misunderstanding."

He smiled and he said yes, but in a noncommittal way that was rather puzzling. However, she thought they were really getting on nicely, and was proud of the sociability of her visitors, building high hopes for the future, when suddenly a startling peal on the door-bell was followed by the information that Mr. Winans was wanted at once on important business, by some person unknown.

With profuse apologies to Aura for the interruption to their call, the young gentlemen took their leave and went out to their waiting carriage, leaving Aura alone in the parlor, to dream rosy dreams of the future, evoked by the smiles of that arch-deceiver, Earle Winans.

But in the midst of her rosy vision a servant appeared at the door with the startling announcement:

"Miss Conway's compliments to you, miss, and she has gone away to marry Mr. Winans."

"What do you mean?" Aura wildly gasped; and the man, evidently in the secret, smiled broadly and replied:

"Just as I was letting the callers out at the door Miss Conway came flying down the stairs in her hat and jacket, and Mr. Winans took her hand and drew it in his arm.[Pg 198] Then she laughed and gave me that message for you, and all three went away in the carriage together."

"Go! find my father! Bring him home instantly!" shrieked Aura, white with fury. Then she flew upstairs to her mother and blurted out the shocking news.

"Ladybird has gone away with Earle Winans to marry him—eloped!—and I told you not to let her out of your sight!" she raved, wringing her jeweled hands in angry despair.

Mrs. Stanley sat up in bed, the picture of dismay.

"Oh, Aura, I couldn't help it. All was going on well, and she was bathing my head—she had said she was too nervous to read—when suddenly that loud noise at the door made her drop the camphor bottle and spill every drop. She jumped up, and saying: 'Oh, excuse me, but I must see what that noise is about,' ran out, and that was the last I saw of the deceitful little jade!"

"Oh, if papa were only here, he could bring her back—couldn't he, mamma?"

"No, Aura, for of course they would be married in about ten minutes after they left here. You know Washington is the easiest place in the world to get married in! All the young runaway lovers come here to get married. Of course those deceitful wretches had everything planned for this escape. They must have exchanged letters somehow. You may depend on it, Aura, that Ladybird is Mrs. Winans by now. She has outwitted us, in spite of all our care!"

It was true, as Mrs. Stanley said, Ladybird was Earle's bride now, for every arrangement had been made for the marriage, and they drove straight to the rectory of their favorite minister and were made one, with his sympathetic family and smiling Lord Chester for witnesses. Ten minutes afterward the little bridal party walked into the Winans' drawing-room where the family were entertaining a few friends.

"Mamma, kiss your new daughter," Earle said gayly, as he led Ladybird to his mother.

[Pg 199]

"It was an elopement, and I was best man at the marriage," explained Lord Chester to the company in general.

No lovely, blushing bride ever received a more joyous welcome into her husband's family than did our charming Ladybird. They received her literally with open arms.

The story of the elopement having been gone over, the bride was carried off to exchange her dark silk and sealskin sacque for a soft white gown belonging to Precious. The maid brought pearls for her neck and white flowers for her corsage and hair.

"Now you look more like a bride," declared her delighted sister-in-law, "Mamma shall buy you a trousseau to-morrow, for of course those dreadful people will keep all your nice things for spite. But never mind, they're welcome to them, for Earle is rich in his own right, you know, darling."

"I shouldn't care if he was poor as a churchmouse, I love him so dearly!" cried the radiant little bride, and she laughed gayly out of her happy heart at Aura's terrible discomfiture, and fancied how she must be scolding her sick mother for letting the captive escape.

"Now let us go back to the company," said Precious, and they returned arm in arm, both so beautiful in their white robes that every eye turned on them in delight.

But they were scarcely seated before Lord Chester looked around and said gravely:

"I have another surprise for you all."

And as they listened to him in amazement he continued:

"I received a cablegram from my father to-day, and he announces that the claimant has gained the suit, while he and I have lost wealth and title, and remain only loyal British subjects."

Murmurs of surprise and sympathy arose all around him, but he looked only at Ethel's pale, startled face and in a moment he said to her lightly but with underlying earnestness:

"You have only three days left, Ethel, in which to decide whether it was the man or the title you wished to marry."

She only smiled in reply.

[Pg 200]



"If he had known that when her hand lay still,
Pulseless, so near his own,
It was because pain's bitter, bitter chill
Changed her to very stone.
"If he had known that she had borne so much
For sake of the sweet past,
That mere despair said, 'This cold look and tone
Must be the cruel last.'"
Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The news of Lord Chester's loss of title and wealth spread very quickly, and in the shallow circles of society, where money and position rate higher than brains and worth, much commiseration was felt for brilliant Ethel Winans, who had hoped so soon to be Lady Chester. There were sneers, too, for of course envious people were delighted at Ethel's disappointment.

But the cards for the marriage were out, the arrangements made for a grand reception, after which the bridal pair were to leave for Europe. The plans remained unchanged still, and nobody was to be disappointed in the grand show to which they looked forward with such eager interest. The Winans family monopolized public interest now, for in addition to Ethel's affair there was Earle's elopement with that lovely fairy, Ladybird Conway. Some pretty society belles were bitterly disappointed over his marriage, as well as Aura Stanley, but they had to smile and bear it. And when they saw the lovely bride they could not blame him for his choice. She was the[Pg 201] most piquant little beauty that ever wiled a man's heart away.

But a cruel pang came to the young bride's heart on the very day after her marriage, for the uncertainty that hung like a dark cloud over her father's fate became at last absolute conviction of his death.

On that day there came to Mrs. Winans from the captain of a newly arrived steamer in New York a letter and a package.

The package contained a thick glass bottle and within it was a closely written letter addressed to Senator Winans and his wife. The sea-captain's letter informed Mrs. Winans that the bottle had been picked up at sea during his voyage. It had been securely sealed and on opening, was found to contain a letter from the missing Mamaroneck, and gave tidings of her almost certain fate.

With a shaking hand Mrs. Winans held the letter whose writing was so familiar, and read above Bruce Conway's signature the words he had penned to his dearest friends on earth, as he fondly called them.

"On Board the Mamaroneck, }
July 20th, 189—. }

"My Dearest Friends:—On the eve of a calamity that means nothing less than death, I write to you and commend to your care my beloved daughter Lulu.

"In my will, made some time ago, I left the remainder of a much depleted fortune to my daughter, and made my lawyer, Mr. Stanley, of Rosemont, her guardian. But latterly I have questioned the wisdom of my action in this matter. I am not certain of the man's probity. What if he prove unjust to my daughter, faithless to my charge? In the light of these doubts and fears I revoke that will, and hereby declare this my last will and testament.

"To you, Paul Winans, whom I admire as the soul of honor and rectitude, and to your wife, the noblest of living women, I leave in trust my daughter and her fortune, the former a priceless jewel, the latter less than it should be, for I have lost heavily in speculations; but there still remains the splendid estate at Ocean View, inherited from my aunt, my wife's jewels, worth twenty thousand dollars, and some United States bonds to the value of fifteen thousand dollars. All these are unincumbered by any debts, and are in the Rosemont Bank, unless removed ere this by Mr. Stanley, who, in case he has[Pg 202] done so, will place them in your charge for my daughter. Until she marries let her home be with you, and let her share, I pray you, in the tender love you lavish on your own dear children. Once I dreamed that the attachment between her and Earle might culminate in a union that would bring both of them great happiness. Ladybird's own folly wrecked my hopes. Tell Earle to forgive her. She was but a willful child then, but she had a heart of gold.

"But time presses, for danger looms immediately before the doomed passengers of the Mamaroneck. For two weeks we have been sailing among a floe of icebergs, fifty in number, and our destruction is inevitable. It is a ghastly fleet of death. We have no chance of escape, for the berg nearest to us now will prove our destruction. It is estimated at fifteen miles in length and seven hundred feet in height. We have resigned ourselves to death with brave hearts.

"I shall commit this letter to the sea in a sealed bottle, praying Heaven that it may reach your hands. To all your lovely family, and to my beloved daughter, I leave all my heart, and hope to meet you all hereafter in that better land where I shall rest after being hurled violently from earth-life by the approaching horror.

"Bruce Conway."

To the letter were appended as witnesses the names of the Mamaroneck's captain and several passengers, well-known New Yorkers. There could be no doubt of its authenticity, and all hope was at an end. Since the writing of that letter months had elapsed, and there remained no longer a doubt of Ladybird's orphanage.

Lawyer Stanley, who was preparing to make a great bluster over the abduction of his ward, was speedily cowed when confronted with this unexpected testimony from the dead. He was only too glad to make terms with Senator Winans for silence as to his villainy by making restitution of the fortune he had stolen from Ladybird, including the jewels in which Aura had strutted her little day on the social stage. The schemer was foiled and had to turn her attention to other plans for making a rich marriage.

And what of Ethel?—beautiful Ethel, who had dreamed of wearing a coronet on her haughty brow, but who after all would only be the bride of an English gentleman of small fortune and high birth!

Only God and Ethel knew of the night in which she did[Pg 203] battle with her own heart, going over and over in her mind Arthur's words, half-gay, half-earnest:

"You have only three days in which to decide whether it was the man or the title you wished to marry."

The words rang in her ears all night, and his look was always before her eyes.

It did not take three days for her to decide. Twelve hours were long enough.

When he came for his usual morning call next day, Ethel met him alone in a pretty little room where they often sat together.

She had never looked more beautiful, but she was very, very pale, so much so that as he touched her slender hand he exclaimed anxiously:

"How pale you look, Ethel, and your dear hand is icy-cold. Are you ill, dear?"

"I did not rest well last night," she replied evasively.

He stood still, with her hand still carelessly clasped in his, studying her face with anxious eyes, and with a half-sigh, he exclaimed:

"You were grieving perhaps over my loss of rank and fortune!"

"Yes," she replied frankly, and drew her hand away so gently that he scarcely noticed it.

Ethel's dark head drooped a little as if in shame, and she murmured hoarsely:

"Arthur, you will despise me when you learn the truth. I—I—am very ambitious. I valued your rank and fortune highly. I had set my heart on having a title. But I loved you, too, or—thought I did. But now I find——"

She paused, unable to continue for a moment, and Arthur, looking steadily at her, began to comprehend her drift.

He began to despise her, but he would not help her out by one poor word.

He saw the white hands writhing in and out of each other, saw her look at him quickly, then drop her eyes again, but he did not dream what was in that swift look, the momentary hope, the succeeding despair.

[Pg 204]

She found her voice and continued:

"All is altered now, and I—oh, Arthur, forgive me, but—I cannot marry you now!"

It was a frightened gasp, and she grew pale as her snowy morning gown, as she stole another glance at his face.

It was cold, proud, angry. She had given his self-esteem a cruel blow, and stricken down his faith in her at one fell stroke.

"You despise me!" she faltered, and he answered icily:

"Do you not deserve it?"

"Yes," she murmured deeply. "My love was a poor thing, Arthur. It could not stand the test of your loss of rank and fortune. But you will not grieve for me. It was a lucky escape to lose a bride who lived only for ambition as I do. But—there is another with a truer heart than mine. Go to her, Arthur—to Precious—you can win her love, and she will make you happy."

He turned from her with scorn.

"Take your freedom, Miss Winans—you are welcome to it," he said bitterly, and hurried from the room; his heart swelling with wounded pride. He had never really loved her, but he had admired and respected her so much that he recoiled in pain from the knowledge that she had never really loved him at all and that she was at heart cold, scheming, and ambitious—a woman to throw aside a lover like a worn-out glove!

[Pg 205]



"To hear, to heed, to wed,
And with thy lord depart
In tears that he as soon as shed,
Will let no longer smart.
Thy mother's lot, my dear,
She doth in naught accuse;
Her lot to bear, to nurse, to rear,
To love—and then to lose!"
Jean Ingelow.

Arthur sought Senator Winans in the library, where he was discussing Bruce Conway's letter with his wife, and as calmly as he could he told them of Ethel's decision.

They were startled, dismayed. The great statesman paled with shame and anger. While his wife wept he raved in impotent fury.

"That a daughter of mine could have been willing to sell herself for a coronet, and to shirk the bargain like this in the eyes of all the world!—it is infamous, detestable! I will not permit it; she shall marry you! Wait here, Arthur, until I bring her to reason!" he exclaimed, starting to the door.

"No, no," and two white hands clasped his arm and held him back. "No, Paul, you must not go to Ethel. Arthur does not want an unwilling bride!"

"No, never!" cried the young man proudly. "Remain, senator, for I am quite satisfied. My pride is wounded more than my heart. I shall soon get over the blow."

"I will never forgive Ethel!" cried the angry senator. "She has shamed her mother and me before the whole world. People will point the finger of scorn at her and at us. She[Pg 206] has always been proud and strange, this girl; but I did not dream she was so ignoble at heart. Henceforth, she can be a daughter only in name to me, for she has forfeited both love and respect. Oh, how different it would have been had you loved my favorite daughter instead of heartless Ethel! Precious would only have loved you the better for your misfortunes!"

Arthur held up his hand suddenly with an entreating gesture.

"Senator—and you, Mrs. Winans—will you permit me to make a confession to you?" he asked humbly, eagerly, and all in a breath he confessed the love for Precious that he had been struggling against for weary months because his troth belonged to queenly Ethel.

Senator Winans was confused, amazed. His wife sobbed quietly without looking up, and then Arthur said pleadingly:

"So all has happened for the best, and I bear no grudge against Miss Winans. I would have made her a good husband, but at heart I should have felt myself a traitor. Ah, senator, will you give me your permission to speak to Precious?"

"We cannot give Precious to any one," faltered the senator's wife.

"Hush, darling, or Arthur will think we are mercenary, like Ethel. Arthur shall have his chance with the rest, for we cannot hope to keep our darling from loving some one and making him happy as you did me, dear Gracie; so he may woo and win Precious if he can."

"I shall speak to her at once," cried the young lover in a tremor of joy, and turning to the door saw Precious standing on the threshold just entering.

Ethel had told her the truth with a careless smile; and full of indignation over her sister's cruelty, she had come to seek her parents.

But when she saw Arthur she drew back embarrassed.

"I—I—thought you were gone!" she murmured blushingly.

[Pg 207]

"No," he answered, and took her hand and drew her forward, saying: "Precious, I have been making a confidant of your parents. They know that Ethel has jilted me, and they have been told also how my heart strayed from her to you. I love you still, and they have given me leave to tell you so. Ah, Precious, there is no barrier between us now, and your heart may speak. Can you learn to love me now, or are you ambitious, like Ethel?"

At the name of Ethel the blue eyes flashed, and Precious held out her hand impulsively, exclaiming:

"Ethel has treated you wickedly, cruelly; so why should I deny that I love you, Arthur? I will never forgive her for being so heartless, and I love you the better for all your misfortunes!"

Senator Winans and his wife kindly turned their heads aside just then, for they could not blame Arthur for kissing their charming daughter.

Then he led her to her mother, who embraced her and sighed:

"This is so sudden it cannot be real. Are you sure you love Arthur, my darling?"

"I have loved him ever since he saved my life, mamma; but he belonged to Ethel, and so I tried to overcome my heart. But I am very glad Ethel did not care for him any more, for now I may love him without shame."

"And you can marry me on Thursday instead of Ethel!" exclaimed the happy lover in a burst of hopeful confidence.

"Oh, Arthur, you take one's breath away with your hasty plans!" laughed Precious, while her mother clasped her tighter, as though this bold lover were going to kidnap Precious at that very moment.

But Arthur persisted:

"My passage and Ethel's are taken on the steamer for Thursday, and my father expects me. He is old and weak, and I do not like to disappoint him. Precious and I are very much in love with each other, and we have still two days to court in, so why should we not carry out the original[Pg 208] programme, with the one exception of changed brides? It would make me very happy."

Mrs. Winans and Precious offered quick demurrers, but to their surprise Senator Winans joined forces with Arthur, and declared that the plan would please him, as it would show the world that one of his daughters had a true, womanly heart, although the other's was incased in a steel armor of pride, vanity and ambition.

Senator Winans usually carried his point, and his wife and daughter soon came round to his opinion. Finally the parents sent the young people off to bill and coo, while they talked matters over and decided how best to smooth over the whole affair to the world.

They had to bring in Earle, too, and intrust him with the task of breaking to his bonny bride the news of the letter from the sea with the certainty of her father's fate.

But the news of Bruce Conway's loss at sea scarcely surprised Earle so much as that of Ethel's strange conduct. Like his father, he was very angry.

"I can scarcely realize it," he exclaimed; "I could have sworn that her love was as strong as her life. Why, she seemed to worship Arthur!"

"It was only his title she worshiped," Ethel's father replied angrily, and Earle rejoiced with him that Precious would make up to Arthur for Ethel's defection.

"I have an idea," Earle said presently. "Ladybird will have to go into mourning for her father, so she cannot enter society this winter. We will go abroad with Arthur and Precious, and make it a double bridal tour."

They agreed with him that it was a good idea, and then he went, with the letter from the sea, to his bride.

"I must go now to Ethel, but you need not come with me, Paul, for you would only scold her, and of course the poor child feels badly enough now," said Mrs. Winans; but all that she could urge did not prevent the irate father from reprimanding his elder daughter in very strong terms for her heartless conduct, that he assured her had brought a disgrace on the family that could only be wiped out by the nobility Precious had displayed.

[Pg 209]

Ethel did not have one word to say in her own defense. She received her father's reprimand in cold, proud silence more irritating than any retort, then turned away. But to Precious and all the others Ethel was kind and gracious in spite of a certain coldness that every one but her mother displayed toward her. How could they help it when she had acted so abominably?

Ethel did not resent their anger. She endured it humbly, and even took an interest in the bustle of preparations that followed on the change of brides. There was so much to do to get Precious ready for the rôle of bride instead of bridesmaid that every one was busy. The bridal gown was altered to fit the slender form of Precious, the bridal veil was given to her with a smile.

Every one wondered at Ethel's humility, and they began to forgive her in their hearts in spite of themselves, for she even offered to be the maid of honor.

"I want to do everything to make you happy, dear," she said, with a light caress on the golden head, "and by and by you'll be glad, Precious, that my selfishness left Arthur free for you. He will love you better than he could have loved me. Every one does, you know."

There was a tear and a sigh behind the smile, but Precious did not notice it. She was very, very happy, our little heroine, and life lay before her all bright and joyous with the sunshine of love and the flowers of hope on her life-path.

Ethel's story leaked out to the world as such stories will, and society declared it was not at all surprised. Her pride and ambition and heartlessness were well known to the world, declared the knowing ones.

But surely she would not have the hardihood to attend the wedding, said everybody. It would be a sensation if she did that, certainly.

But Ethel gave them the sensation. She went to church with the bride, as maid of honor, she smiled at the bridegroom when the ceremony was over; but while people were saying it was a wonder she went to the church she knew in her heart that she would rather have gone to the stake.

[Pg 210]

How slowly the time went, how wearisome the reception, how could they all seem so smiling and happy, she thought again and again until it was all over, and Precious had put off her bridal white for her traveling gown and was saying her farewells.

Kay was going too, Precious could not leave him, she declared; and indeed her pet would have been inconsolable. So the beautiful lion-like fellow went into the carriage with his mistress, who sobbed bitterly as her father leaned in at the door for a second farewell.

"Half my life seems going with you, darling," he sighed.

"I shall bring her back to you in the summer for a visit," promised happy Arthur Chester.

"And we will stay at dear old Rosemont," declared Precious; and the last glimpse they had of the fair young face was wreathed in smiles, though the eyes were violets drowned in tears.

The carriages rolled away with Arthur and Precious, Earle and Ladybird, and there was only Ethel left now—Ethel standing by her mother's side, tall and queenly in her bridesmaid's gown, but pale, and with tears in her burning eyes. Mrs. Winans had been sobbing on her husband's shoulder, but now she went to the solitary figure and clasped her in her arms.

"We have only you left, dear one; we will have to love you more than ever; will we not, Paul?" she murmured, but with a stifled exclamation he left the room. In his heart there was no forgiveness for his heartless daughter.

"You look tired, my dear. This excitement has wearied you. Go now to your room," Mrs. Winans said, kissing her a tender good-night. "You must rest and sleep."

"I am very tired," Ethel answered listlessly, as she turned away, crushing between her teeth some words that sounded like, "I should like to sleep—forever!"

[Pg 211]



"The fairest hope is the one which faded,
The brightest leaf is the leaf that fell;
The song that leaped from the lips of sirens
Dies away in an old sea-shell.
Clear and pure is the west wind's murmur
That croons in the branches all day long;
But the songs unsung are the sweetest music,
And the dreams that die are the soul of song."
Ernest McGaffey.

The family slept late next morning after the fatigues and griefs of last night, and Ethel did not join her parents at breakfast. But an hour later her maid came to the library with a message. Would her parents see her in her boudoir for a few minutes?

An angry frown came to Senator Winans' brow.

"I am obliged to go down to the capitol; I have no time for Ethel," he said curtly.

But the beautiful wife he worshiped so tenderly drew her arm through his, whispering fondly, "Come," and he could not gainsay her imperial will.

Ethel was lying back wearily in a large armchair in her luxurious boudoir, with its furnishings of rose and gold. Her attire was peculiar.

She wore a long, straight black gown, very simple and severe in style, and a long black lace scarf was wound turban fashion about her regal brow, concealing every thread of her rich dark hair. As the door closed she motioned them to seats, and said abruptly:

"I have sent for you to ask your leave to enter a convent—to become a nun!"

[Pg 212]



The cry came first from the mother's lips, and was echoed by the father. Shocked surprise was in both voices.

She stood up tall and stately confronting them, her face corpse-white by contrast with her black attire and somber dark eyes. In an anguished voice she cried:

"I have sinned deeply, I am not worthy of your love, mamma, papa! I wish to retire into a convent and spend my life in expiating my sin!"

"I will never consent," Senator Winans exclaimed sternly. "You have behaved badly, shamefully, but you can repent at home as well as within convent walls."

She flung herself on her knees at his feet, a tragic despair on the dusky beauty of her dark face.

"Papa, I kneel to you, because I have a terrible confession to make to you and mamma," she cried hoarsely. "It must be told to you; because in the dark of last night I repented my sins, and I bury the dark secret in my heart no longer. I must tell you all, and then you will despise me so much you will be glad and willing for me to hide my unhappy life in convent walls!"

They were so amazed and startled they could not move or speak to interrupt their daughter; and there, upon her knees, her face colorless, her eyes like black stars, Ethel poured forth her wretched story—the envy and jealousy that made her hate her little sister and wish her dead.

Nothing was kept back; nothing glossed over. Ethel painted her sins as black as her worst enemy could have done.

"When I came away and left my sister in the burning house I was a murderess at heart," she said. "When I stole her love letter from under her pillow and then made her give Arthur to me I was a fiend, and then I betrayed her into the power of a devil. And, papa, but for the[Pg 213] little revolver you gave her, he might have murdered my little sister!"

They could only look and listen, they were speechless with surprise and horror. Ethel's self-arraignment was tragic in its intensity.

She went on wildly:

"Yet Precious forgave me—kept my hideous secrets, loved me, and forgave me. Can you fancy anything so angelic? Can you fancy how even my wicked heart was touched, how at last I began to repent, and to long to atone for my evil deeds? Alas! there was but one way! I began to wonder how I could give Arthur back to her, for I knew she was too noble to take him away, believing that I loved him! Suddenly the way opened clearly before me. Do you understand, papa?"

A startled cry came from the senator's lips, and Ethel continued in that anguished voice:

"You blamed me, upbraided me, papa, for jilting Arthur, yet it was the noblest act of my wayward life, my atonement to Precious for all my sins."

With a sudden movement of her hand she pushed from her brows the black lace turban. It fell at his feet, and Ethel's wealth of hair swept unbound about her shoulders like a stream of silver.

In the sleepless agony of one long night all those raven tresses had faded to beautiful silvery white!

"Look at the work of one night's agony," sobbed Ethel. "Do you think now I did not love him more than wealth and title? Do you think I could not have been happy with Arthur on a crust and in a hovel? Yes, but he belonged to her by the God-given right of their mutual love. So I gave him up for her sake! But last night!—oh, last night, what suffering, what cruel jealousy of what I had lost! And with morning's dawn all this!" She flung back her whitened locks with a restless hand, and[Pg 214] continued: "But, dear ones, this is our secret. Arthur and Precious must never know that I loved him so madly it almost killed me to give up my poor claim on him. When I am dead, perhaps, you may tell them the truth, but not till then, for I would not make her unhappy!"

They looked at the beautiful guilty creature, and their hearts yearned over her, her repentance and atonement were so beautiful and perfect. Good had triumphed over evil in her complex nature, and the victory was complete.

"You have heard all now. You will not wish me near you, you will not oppose my wish to enter a convent," she said pleadingly.

But the strong nature of Senator Winans had been stirred to its very depths by the story he had heard. He rose and drew his daughter to his breast.

"Ethel, I have wronged you," he said tenderly and humbly. "It was from me you inherited your jealous nature, and I have blamed you instead of shielding you and guarding you against your inherited nature. I should have loved you more and blamed you less. It was hard for you to be good, while it was easy for Precious, with all her mother's gentle traits. Dear, we cannot let you go from us to expiate your sins. Stay with us, and we will love you more, and help you to be true to your better nature."

She clung to him like a tired child.

"And you will forgive me all, papa?—as Precious did, sweet angel!"

"I will forgive you all, and you must forgive me, dear. I have been to blame for all. Now promise me you will try to be happy again."

"If you will try to love me again, dear papa! You know how I have always worshiped you."

She felt his tears on her brow—a strong man's tears—and knew she had won a warmer place than ever before in his noble heart.

From that hour a new life began for Ethel. She was[Pg 215] none the less beautiful because of that crown of snow-white tresses, but she did not care for admiration now. It was not likely she would ever marry.

And she rejoiced as much as any one when in the summer that letter came from Earle telling them that the new Earl of Fairfield, a vulgar boor, had broken his neck on the hunting field, and that Arthur had come into his rights again.

"Little Blue Eyes will be a countess some day, and Ladybird declares that a coronet will become her royally," wrote Earle, in his pride over his favorite sister; but no thrill of jealousy stirred Ethel's tranquil heart. She had conquered herself in a hard-fought battle, and in all the world there was to her no dearer name than Precious.


Chesapeake & Ohio Ry.


The Famous Limited



Via Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Vestibuled, Steam Heated, and Electric Lighted Throughout.




The most interesting historic associations and the most striking and beautiful scenery in the United States are linked together by the C. & O. System, which traverses Virginia, the first foothold of English settlers in America, where the Revolutionary War was begun and ended, and where the great battles of the Civil War were fought; crosses the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains and the famous Shenandoah Valley, reaches the celebrated Springs region of the Virginias, and lies through the canons of New River, where the scenery is grand beyond description. It follows the banks of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, and penetrates the famous Blue Grass region of Kentucky, noted for producing the greatest race-horses of the world.

For maps, folders, descriptive pamphlets, etc., apply to Pennsylvania Railroad ticket offices in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, the principal ticket offices throughout the country, or any of the following C. & O. agencies:

NEW YORK—362 and 1323 Broadway.
WASHINGTON—513 and 1421 Pennsylvania avenue.
CINCINNATI—Corner Fifth and Walnut streets.
LOUISVILLE—253 Fourth avenue.
ST. LOUIS—Corner Broadway and Chestnut street.
CHICAGO—234 Clark street.

C. B. RYAN, Assistant General Passenger Agent, Cincinnati, O.

H. W. FULLER, General Passenger Agent, Washington, D. C.








For further information call on or address your nearest Ticket Agent, or


St. Louis, Mo.

There is little need of emphasizing the FACT that the

Maine Central

Has been the developer of Bar Harbor, and has made this incomparable summer home the

Crown of the Atlantic Coast.


The Natural Wonders of the White Mountains,
The Wierd Grandeur of the Dixville Notch,
The Quaint Ways and Scenes of Quebec,
The Multifarious Attractions of Montreal,
The Elegance of Poland Springs,
The Inexhaustable Fishing of Rangeley,
The Unique Scenery of Moosehead,
The Remarkable Healthfulness of St. Andrews,

Are all within contact of the ever-lengthening arms of the Maine Central Railroad.

The Renowned Vacation Line.

Or, to those who enjoy Ocean Sailing, the statement is made that the pioneer line along the coast of Maine, making numerous landings at picturesque points, almost encircling the Island of Mt. Desert is the

Portland, Mt. Desert and
Machias Steamboat Co.

The New, Large and Luxurious Steamer, "Frank Jones," makes, during the summer season, three round trips per week between Rockland, Bar Harbor and Machiasport.

Illustrated outlines, details of transportation, and other information upon application to

G. P. and T. Agt.
Vice-Pres't and Gen. Mgr.

Portland, Me.



Ft. Wayne, Cincinnati, and Louisville Railroad.

"Natural Gas Route."      The Popular Short Line


Peoria, Bloomington, Chicago, St. Louis, Springfield, Lafayette,
Frankfort, Muncie, Portland, Lima, Findlay, Fostoria,
Fremont, Sandusky, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Peru,
Rochester, Plymouth, LaPorte, Michigan
City, Ft. Wayne, Hartford, Bluffton,
Connorsville, and Cincinnati, making

Direct Connections for all Points East, West, North and South.



Of Ohio and Indiana, giving the patrons of this Popular Route an opportunity to witness the grand sight from the train as they pass through. Great fields covered with tanks, in which are stored millions of gallons of oil, Natural Gas wells shooting their flames high in the air, and the most beautiful cities, fairly alive with glass and all kinds of factories.

We furnish our patrons with Elegant Reclining Chair Car Seats Free, on day trains, and L. E. & W. Palace Sleeping and Parlor Cars, on night trains, at very reasonable rates.

Direct connections to and from Cleveland, Buffalo, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburg, Washington, Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, Portland, San Francisco, and all points in the United States and Canada.

This is the popular route with the ladies, on account of its courteous and accommodating train officials, and with the commercial traveler and general public for its comforts, quick time and sure connections.

For any further particulars call on or address any Ticket Agent.

Traffic Manager,
Gen'l Pass. & Tkt. Agt.

"The D&H"




Lake George, Lake Champlain, Ausable Chasm, the Adirondack
Mountains, Saratoga, Round Lake, Sharon Springs,
Cooperstown, Howe's Cave, and the Celebrated
Gravity Railroad between Carbondale
and Honesdale, Pa., present the

Greatest Combination of Health and Pleasure Resorts in America.

The Direct Line to the Superb Summer Hotel
of the North


(Three Miles South of Pittsburgh, on Lake Champlain.)


In Connection with the Erie Railway, the most Picturesque
and Interesting Route between Chicago and Boston.
The only through Pullman Line.

Inclose Six Cents in Stamps for Illustrated Guide to

2d Vice-President.
Gen'l Pass. Agent, Albany, N. Y.

The New England


Travelers Between


Should always ask for tickets via the

"Air Line" Limited Train,

Leaving either city 1.00 P. M., week
days only, due destination, 6.00 P. M.


Trains Arrive at and Leave from
Park Square Station, Boston.

Ticket Offices{3 3 Old State House, Park Square Station, Boston
Grand Central Station, New York

The Norwich Line,


Steamers Leave Pier 40. North River, New York, 5.30 P. M. week days
only. Connecting at New London with Steamboat Express.
Train due Worcester, 8.00 A. M., Boston, 10.00 A. M.


Trains leave Boston 7.02 P. M., Worcester 8.00 P. M., week days only.
Connecting at New London with Steamers of the
Line due New York 7.00 A. M.

Norwich Line trains leave and arrive Kneeland St. Station (Plymouth Div.
N. Y., N. H. & H. Rd.), Boston.

Tickets, Staterooms on Steamers, and full information at offices,

Pier 40, North River,NEW YORK.
3 Old State House,
Kneeland St. Station (Plymouth
Div N. Y., N. H. & H. Rd.)

W. R. BABCOCK, General Passenger Agent, Boston.

October 17, 1896.












The Intercolonial Railway




Starting at QUEBEC it skirts for TWO HUNDRED MILES the MAJESTIC ST. LAWRENCE RIVER, thence through the FAMOUS LAKE, MOUNTAIN and VALLEY region of the


and on to the WORLD-RENOWNED BRAS D'OR LAKES in Cape Breton.

Connecting at Point du Chene, N. B., and Picton, N. S., for PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, "THE GARDEN OF THE GULF."

No other railway in America presents to PLEASURE SEEKERS, INVALIDS and SPORTSMEN so many unrivalled attractions.


GEO. W. ROBINSON,  .   .   .   .  Eastern Freight and Passenger Agent,
128 St. James Street, (opp. St. Lawrence Hall), Montreal.

N. WEATHERSTON,  .   .   .   .   .  Western Freight and Passenger Agent,
93 York Street, Rossin House Block, Toronto.

Maps, Time Tables and Guide Books free on application.

General Manager.
General Pass. Agent.



A Romance of the Cloak and Sword


An Original Translation from the French, and for the First Time Done into English.


"'Belle-Rose' is the tinted title of a 'Romance of the Cloak and Sword.' It is brisk in style, crisp in dialogue, and intensely colorful. ... 'Belle-Rose' will be belle-read if a good, quick story has any charms for the fair."—Philadelphia Call.

"Emile Faguet speaks of the 'Belle-Rose' of Amédée Achard as superior to 'Le Capitaine Fracasse,' by Théophile Gautier. The purest love of woman, the fidelity of man, the sacredness of friendship, intrigues of the court, jealousies and revenge, a delightful touch of humor or pathos coming to the relief at some tragic climax, give to the story a fascination for the reader."—Brooklyn Eagle.

"The charm that is always to be found in the works of the best French writers—quick, terse description, bright dialogue, rapidly shifting scenes and incidents, leading up to intense climaxes—is well sustained in the story of 'Belle-Rose.'"—Boston Times.

"'Belle-Rose' is a romance of love and war in the middle of the 17th Century. It is true to the life of those troublous times, when the soldier was such from youth to old age, resting only between battles to make love. The translation is very good, indeed."—Post-Intelligencer.

"The story is full of love and passion, jealousy and revenge, the buffets and rewards of war, with flashes of humor, and just those touches of nature that make the whole world kin."—Nashville American.

"Among the works of fiction there are few which partake of the character of an historical romance, and when one is found that does it is appreciated. Such an one is 'Belle-Rose,' by Amédée Achard. The author has the knack of giving the details of a scene, or describing a character in so few words that they might be likened unto pen sketches, and he carries the reader along with something of the impetuous dash and fiery ardor that his hero is so full of. The translation is very good."—St. Louis Star.

"Amédée Achard's romance of old France, 'Belle-Rose,' is a story of incessant movement, warfare, intrigue, and all the elements which go to the composition of an ingenious tale of love and adventure. The translation is admirable."—Buffalo Courier.

"This story, the scenes of which are laid near Paris during the latter part of the 17th Century, is one of those romances about the life of a soldier during that bloody age, which seems to prove a great attraction to all classes of readers. Fierce fighting, hair-breadth escapes, court intrigues, are all blended with love-making, rescuing beauty in distress, and description of the customs of the people in that age."—Baltimore American.

"'Belle-Rose' is a brilliant story, by Amédée Achard, one of the most effective of French romance writers. It is a story of love and war, introducing famous historical characters of the period, and will be read with deep interest."—Minneapolis Journal.

BELLE-ROSE is No. 9 of "Paris Series," for sale by all Booksellers or Newsdealers, or sent postpaid to any address on receipt of price, 25 cents, by the publishers, STREET & SMITH, 25-31 Rose Street, New York.




"'Richard Forrest, Bachelor,' by Clement R. Marley, is a bright and pleasing story. The love story of the old bachelor, whose heart was so long steeled to woman's charms, but who succumbs at last to the girl who attempts to take the life of his best friend because she imagines he wronged her young and beautiful sister, is prettily told."—Boston Times.

"'Richard Forrest, Bachelor,' is a story whose narration is simple and direct, but it has also a freshness and vivacity which add greatly to its charms. The characters are well drawn."—Newark Advertiser.

"An entertaining story, telling of the capture of the heart of an old bachelor."—New York Press.

"A story of most unconventional type. The theme is good, and it is well told. It is all very natural and true to life, and when all is said and done it lingers in the mind as a pleasant memory."—Nashville American.

"'Richard Forrest, Bachelor,' is a very pleasing love story, most entertainingly told."—Fort Worth Gazette.

"The author tells a very unconventional story in 'Richard Forrest, Bachelor,' and it is very entertaining."—Brooklyn Eagle.

"In 'Richard Forrest, Bachelor,' the author gives a very pretty story. There are strong religious sentiments, and the author puts forth some well-defined ideas on the social relations of men and women."—Philadelphia Call.

"A novel of more than usual interest is 'Richard Forrest, Bachelor.' It describes scenes and incidents that may be seen and experienced by any one in similar circumstances. There is much that is strange and stirring in the story, yet nature is not departed from either in the incidents or characters introduced."—Brooklyn Citizen.

"A well-told tale of sustained interest and dramatic character."—Sacramento Record-Union.

"The author tells the story of an old bachelor's love. He gets well along in life invulnerable to Cupid's dart, and then he detects the woman of his heart's choice in an attempt upon the life of his bosom friend, to avenge an imaginary wrong. It is very true to life."—Atlanta Journal.

"'Richard Forrest, Bachelor,' is after the style of 'Mr. Barnes of New York,' but is rather better written."—Hartford Times.

RICHARD FORREST, BACHELOR, is No. 16 of "Criterion Series" for sale by all Booksellers or Newsdealers, or sent postpaid to any address on receipt of price, 50 cents, by the publishers.

STREET & SMITH, 25-31 Rose St., New York





Brooklyn Eagle: A fresh love story.

Boston Journal: A thrilling narrative founded on Pickett's last charge at Gettysburg.

New York Recorder: A tale of the most dramatic event of the war. Well worth reading.

Saturday Mail: A fascinating story.

Brooklyn Standard-Union: A stirring novel.

Indianapolis Sentinel: Pleasant reading to those interested in the events of war times, which are faithfully depicted.

Bookseller, Stationer, and Newsdealer: "A Daughter of Maryland" is a story to quicken the blood and awaken the pity of all who read it. It vividly portrays the distress in families, some of whom espoused the cause of the North and some the South.

American Volunteer: Very interesting. A realistic narrative.

Sioux City Journal: "A Daughter of Maryland," illustrated, is entertaining reading.

New York World: "A Daughter of Maryland" is a war novel crowded with incident and adventure, and the outlines historically accurate.

"A Daughter of Maryland" is a charming love story, telling as it does with a thrilling interest and at times a tender pathos, a tale of true love whose rough and rugged course was so often turned by the vicissitudes of war, and "moving accidents by flood and field." The reader will move in sympathy with the participants of this romantic tale, through all their trials, and gladly share the sorrows and the joys of the heroes, both men and women, whose love was tried by the fire of war.

A DAUGHTER OF MARYLAND is No. 68 of "Clover Series," for sale by all Booksellers and Newsdealers, or sent, post paid, to any address, on receipt of price, 25 cents, by the publishers,

STREET & SMITH. 25-31 Rose Street, New York.

The Model Series.

Price, Paper Edition, 25 Cents.

This series will consist of the best works of noted authors, and in all cases the books will be complete and unabridged.

The list so far embraces the following books:

1—The Deemster. By Hall Caine.
2—The Bondman. By Hall Caine.
3—The Shadow of a Crime. By Hall Caine.
4—A Son of Hagar. By Hall Caine.
5—She's All the World to Me. By Hall Caine.
6—A Study in Scarlet. By A. Conan Doyle.
7—The Sign of the Four. By A. Conan Doyle.
8—Beyond the City. By A. Conan Doyle.
9—Micah Clarke. By A. Conan Doyle.
10—The Firm of Girdlestone. By A. Conan Doyle.
11—The White Company. By A. Conan Doyle.
12—Little Mrs. Murray. By F. C. Philips.
13—Her Lord and Master. By Florence Marryat.
14—Kidnapped. By Robert Louis Stevenson.
15—Only the Governess. By Rosa Nouchette Carey.

These books excel in appearance any other paper-covered novels, the paper, printing and binding being first-class in every respect. No such expensive covers (beautiful effects in color) have ever before been placed on twenty-five cent books. The illustrations are taken from scenes in the books and are original and strikingly effective.

For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent postage free on receipt of price, by the publishers.




Ayer's Cure-book.

A story of cures told by the cured. Sent free. J. C. Ayer Cc., Lowell,

Good health will not shake hands with bad blood. Bad blood brands
the body with blotches, blisters it with boils, eats into it with
eruptions. Beauty begins in the blood, because there's no beauty
without healthy and no health without pure blood. You'll find a perfect
blood purifier in Ayer's Sarsaparilla. The medal marks its merit.

Transcriber's Notes:

Images may be clicked to view larger versions.

Some inconsistent hyphenation (e.g. headlines vs. head-lines) retained from original.

Page 9, added missing quote after "determined to go to the ball."

Page 13, corrected "though hast loved" to "thou hast loved."

Page 19, changed ! to ? in "How does a woman love?"

Page 23, corrected typo "lilly" in "rain-drenched lily."

Page 84, corrected "has" to "had" in "because it had been hers."

Page 107, corrected typo "exlaimed" in "he exclaimed remonstratingly."

Page 121, corrected typo "throbing" in "her throbbing heart."

Page 122, corrected typo "while" in "Ladybird's white cheek."

Page 144, added missing "you" to "found you at last."

Page 164, corrected typo "intructed" in "latter she had instructed."

Page 169, changed comma to period after "I have bribed a servant to mail this letter to you."

Page 181, added missing quote after "alter a love like mine."

Page 183, corrected typo "Precioas" in "Is that you, Miss Precious."

Page 193, removed unnecessary quote before "Then Norah came to meet her pet."

Page 196, added missing single quote after "Pray now, pray now, go your way now, do!"

Page 198, corrected typo "noice" in "suddenly that loud noise."

Page 204, added missing quote after "she will make you happy." Removed duplicate "to" from "Go to her, Arthur."

Page 209, corrected typo "Preecious" in "get Precious ready."

Belle-Rose ad, added missing quote before "Among the works of fiction."

Richard Forrest ad, added missing quotes after "The characters are well drawn," after "incidents or characters introduced," and after "It is very true to life." Changed double to single quotes around "Mr. Barnes of New York."