The wooing of Leola

[Pg 1]


Five Cents

F. M. LUPTON, Publisher, 23-37 City Hall Place, New York.

Copyright, 1905 and 1906, by F. M. Lupton.




[Pg 2]




Transcriber’s Notes



“Oh, mamma, I have had a lovely time at Mrs. Van Bibber’s! I would not have missed her reception for the world!”

The blonde beauty threw herself, with a silken frou-frou of rich attire, back into a luxurious chair, clasped her white, jeweled hands, and rolled her large, bluebell eyes heavenward, practising the seraphic expression she found so effective with the men.

She repeated, rapturously:

“I would not have missed it for the world! Everything was on the grandest scale, and went off beautifully. I felt that it was worth all our scheming and planning for my lovely gown;” and she smiled, complacently, at her rich blue silk robe loaded with fine lace trimmings that set off so well her blue eyes and fluffy flaxen hair.

“But, mamma,” she continued, “how sober you look. Is your rheumatism worse, poor dear?”

The faded, elderly woman, with the careworn face and fretful mouth, clasped her thin, white hands nervously over her knee and answered, wearily:

“My rheumatism is bad enough, but what worries me most is that I made such a mistake—pawning my diamonds for that splendid gown when you might have done better remaining at home without it!”

“Mamma, what can you mean?” and Jessie Stirling frowned, impatiently, tearing a white rose to pieces with excited fingers.

“I mean that, after all my sacrifices to get you ready for Mrs. Van Bibber’s reception, hoping you might meet Chester Olyphant there and make up your quarrel, he came here to call on you in your absence.”

“And I missed him like that! Oh, what a shame! But who could have dreamed he would miss the reception? Still, mamma, you should have kept him till I returned. Oh, why did you let him get away?” queried the girl, angrily.

“How could I help it, my dear? You know very well I would have been willing to chain him to his chair to keep him here till you came! I did my best—made talk, and tried to hold him, but after an hour he pleaded an engagement and hurried away.”

“But he will come again. Surely he will! Of course you asked—made him promise?” cried Jessie, wildly.

“Yes, oh yes, but he did not say he would. He only came, he said, to return some negatives you loaned him to make pictures from—the ones you took with your own camera in the mountains last summer.”

“Oh, yes, I remember—Uncle Hermann’s picturesque old stone mansion, and some mountains and river views taken from the bridge at Alderson.”

“Yes, and some pictures, too, of that hoidenish girl, Leola. I wish you had left those out, Jessie.”

“Why, really, mamma, I forgot they were in the negative book, for I didn’t mean to show them to Chester. Not that I could be jealous of a wild thing like Leola Mead, but because I promised her no one should see them. There was that one of her wading in the creek, you know, and another in bloomers sitting astride her white pony Rex, and another in hunting costume, rifle on her shoulder. Really, she wasn’t pretty in any of the negatives, except her white evening gown with the lilies on her shoulder.”

“Yes, he said that was lovely, and the others, too, and he asked no end of questions about her, and where she lived. He pretended to be anxious to see the scenery, but I guess it was Leola more than anything else. Men are so sly!”

“And you, mamma, what did you tell him?” Jessie asked, anxiously.

“Oh, I told him we should be glad to have him visit Wheatlands some time when we were there with my half brother, but I made up my mind he should never go there till you were safely his wife.”

“Good, mamma, though, really, I cannot look upon Leola Mead seriously as a rival. Why, she is only a simple country girl, with no style or good clothes at all.”

“But dangerously pretty, Jessie, don’t[Pg 3] forget that!—and as for style, well, she is graceful and dashing as any girl I ever saw, and there’s no telling what might happen if they met. Anyhow, he just plied me with eager questions about the girl, and I could see he was almost fascinated by her pictures. Of course I did not encourage him any. I said she was my half brother’s ward, and presumably of low origin, as he was reticent about her birth, and said she had not a friend in the world but himself. I enlarged on her rude manners and hoidenish ways, and said she was not nearly as pretty as the pictures.”

“When in reality she is ten times prettier,” laughed Jessie. “So you are right. He must never see Leola Mead until I am his wife. I shall write him a sweet little note pretending he has lost one of the negatives, and ask him to call again.”

“I do not believe he will, for he evaded the question when I urged him to do so. Indeed, I even hinted how sorry you were over the quarrel, and he said, quite amiably, that it was all past now and he hoped you and he might be good friends again.”

“Friends, bah, he shall be my husband yet! I will win him back again; his millions shall not slip through my fingers this time, I promise you, mamma, and woe to any girl that dares try to rival me! But, really, I am not jealous of anybody, for I think I see his little game. He wants to make up, or he would not have come. It was easy enough to return the pictures by mail, now, wasn’t it? But he probably came because he wanted to see me, and that chat about Leola was only to make me uneasy and jealous, don’t you see?”

“I hope so, dear, but really I was quite frightened the way he talked of the lovely pictures he had made from the negatives.”

“Lovely nonsense!” Jessie cried, sharply, with an angry gleam of her blue eyes, and a vicious snap of her white teeth as she added: “I believe I would try to murder Leola if she came between us, for I cannot believe his love for me is dead so soon. If it is, I’ll soon warm over the old coals again. I’ll write him a note right away, saying how sorry I am that I was out this afternoon, and asking him to come this evening or to-morrow.”

“Pray do so,” cried the scheming mother, whose small means were dwindling away so fast in the effort to keep afloat in fashionable society till her daughter’s beauty won a rich husband.

Jessie wrote and dispatched her pleading note before she removed the dainty hat from her fluffy blonde hair, and when evening came she was waiting for him, gowned in dainty white, befitting the warm June weather.

To her amazement and anger there was no reply, and the next morning she read, in the society columns of her favorite daily, that Chester Olyphant had left New York the previous evening on a yachting trip with several other young men, and would be absent two weeks.

“Well, thank Heaven, there are only men in the party, so he will not be exposed to any other girl’s fascinations on the trip, and I’ll be waiting for him when he comes back,” cried Jessie, swallowing her chagrin the best she could.



Leola Mead sprang to the back of her mettlesome pony and almost flew down the mountain road, her great, dark eyes flashing with anger, her cheeks glowing crimson, her wealth of golden locks streaming like a ruddy banner on the breeze. Against the tight bodice of her riding habit her young bosom heaved tumultuously with the angry throbs of her heart, for Leola had just had a bitter quarrel with her guardian, and now gave vent to her excitement by giving free rein to Rex in a breakneck ride.

It was a lovely June morning in the mountains of West Virginia, all Nature at her sweetest and fairest, and Leola had been planning such a happy, happy day; but when she came out from breakfast ready for her morning canter, there stood her saturnine old guardian asking her to step into the library for a moment before she rode away.

Leola obeyed him, pouting, for she hated to lose time indoors this gladsome, golden day.

There was no love lost between her and her grim guardian, anyway, for he was a stern old man, reticent and mysterious, spending most of his time in a horrid laboratory up in the tower chamber of the rough old stone house, where the country folk said he was working either to wrest from Nature the secret of making gold, or the still greater mystery of distilling a magic elixir of life. About the neighborhood he got the sobriquet Wizard Hermann, and looked the character with his lean, stooping form, long black hair floating over his coat collar, strongly marked features and cunning mouth, while his keen, gray eyes, under bushy brows, seemed to pierce one through with their questioning gaze.

His ancestors had been pioneer Indian fighters, and the large house built of rough stone, just as taken from the quarry, dated back to the time when the red man roamed the almost unbroken forest.

In all the years while Leola had lived here with her governess in the lonely old house, she could not remember a caress from the mysterious, self-absorbed[Pg 4] old man, who seemed to have no human interests or passions, and to care for no one but the dwarfish servitor who helped him in his laboratory, the only person he ever admitted within its precincts.

It was no wonder, then, that Leola followed Wizard Hermann unwillingly into the musty-smelling library, with its high walnut wainscot, dingy, green-stenciled walls, and side shelves lined with old leather volumes, while the bare oaken floor on which she trod was worn with the footsteps of successive generations who had passed from earth in the fullness of time and been gathered to their fathers.

In the somber room with its closed shutters Leola stood facing her grim guardian with the impatient air of some beautiful young princess giving audience to a vassal.

As he stood hesitating where to begin, with an unwonted diffidence, she said, coldly:

“Speak; tell me your wish at once, sir, for I must hurry. I have an engagement in town with my dressmaker.”

At those words Wizard Hermann’s gloomy brow cleared as if by magic, and quickly striking his lean, scarred hands together, he retorted, maliciously:

“An engagement with your dressmaker, eh, my proud lady? Very well, while you are there you may give the woman an order for your wedding gown.”

“Sir,” she uttered, in amazement, her cheeks reddening.

Wizard Hermann retorted, with a hoarse, sardonic laugh:

“I said give the woman an order for your wedding gown, Leola Mead, for you are to be married soon.”

Leola stared, speechlessly, a moment, wondering if the old man was losing his mind, and, taking advantage of her silence, he continued, with forced bravado:

“You look surprised, my haughty young lady, so I will explain. I have accepted a desirable proposal for your hand, and as you are plenty old enough to marry—nineteen your last birthday—I have named the wedding for a month from to-day.”

Leola, recovering her speech, cried, indignantly:

“Quite a cool proceeding on your part, sir, I must say, but I wish you to understand that I am not ready to marry yet.”

“That makes no difference to me, for you will have to obey me, Leola Mead, understand that,” he replied, with rising anger. “You are my ward, and in pursuance of my duty to you, I have accepted a man for your husband who worships the ground you walk upon and will spend money on you like water.”

Leola’s dark eyes blazed with indignation.

“You must surely be mad,” she cried, passionately. “The man I would choose for my husband must ask me for my hand, not you, sir. This is free America, you must remember, not France, where marriages are arranged by old people who have forgotten love and youth. I refuse the suitor you have chosen for me without even hearing his name!”

The old man muttered, sullenly.

“Marriage is the destiny of all young girls. You would not wish to grow into a sour old maid?”

“No, I do not intend to be an old maid, sir, but,” with a proud toss of her lovely head, “when I marry I shall choose the man myself, and it shall be for love, not money!”

“Money is the only thing worth having—money and long life,” he muttered, but Leola, with a contemptuous laugh, turned to go.

He sprang between her and the door, putting his back against it.

“I have not done telling you all about this matter yet,” he exclaimed, but Leola stamped her little foot in a fury, replying:

“I will not hear another word, I tell you, and you may as well let me go, and give up your foolish plans!”

“By Heaven, miss, you shall marry the man of my choice—I swear it!” cried the wizard, violently, but she answered, coldly:

“Pray let me hear no more such nonsense, Uncle Hermann. Granted you are my guardian, the law does not give you the power of marrying me to anyone against my will. No, not another word, or I shall think you are going insane, if not so already. Get away from that door, and let me out, or I shall scream for assistance or jump out of the window!”

“You would not dare do either!” he said.

Leola ran like a flash to the window, pushing back the creaking shutters, letting in a flood of June sunshine. The next moment she sprang to the high sill, crying, defiantly:

“Now, get away from that door or I will jump out!”

The old man muttered, incredulously: “You would break your neck!”

Leola answered, recklessly:

“I shall risk that unless you let me out of the door. Come, now, I will count ten. If you do not move before then I am gone,” and drawing her dainty little feet up into the window, and dangling them on the outside, she began counting in a clear, high voice:


Wizard Hermann remained standing with his back toward the door, regarding[Pg 5] her with an incredulous leer, never dreaming she would make the foolhardy leap, for from the window sill it was twenty feet to the ground.

But Leola was as good as her word.

While she counted she kept her flashing dark eyes full upon his stubborn face, and seeing that he did not move as the last word left her lips, she deliberately turned and sprang out upon the ground.

A cry of alarm shrilled over the old man’s lips, and he stood like one rooted to the spot, listening for the cry of pain that must announce the dread result of the perilous leap. Visions of Leola crippled or dead floated before his mind’s eye, and he muttered, savagely:

“Little vixen, if you have broken your neck it is your own fault! But if you live you shall marry the man of my choice one month from to-day, I swear it!”

The sound of her voice floated to him indistinctly—was it a laugh or a groan?

He hurried to the window, shaking with excitement.

There was Leola standing upright on the greensward, brushing her blue skirt, and humming a little song to herself.

“Are you hurt?” he quavered, anxiously, and she looked up, laughing maliciously:

“Hurt? Oh, no, not a bit!” she called back, gayly. “I just let myself go limply, and I came down like a cat on all fours in the grass and clover. I have fallen higher than that from trees many a time without hurting myself. It’s easy enough when you learn to go limp and not stiffen yourself; ha, ha!”

As he glared in amazement she waved her hand, audaciously, adding:

“You ought to try it yourself some time, Uncle Hermann! Well, good-bye, sir, and mind you don’t let me hear any more of this match-making business, unless you go and get married yourself!” and with that parting shot, the merry girl ran across the grass, a vision of youth and health and beauty, to where her pony was waiting, ready saddled, beneath a tree. Vaulting lightly to his back, without even waiting to fasten the loosened tresses of her ruddy hair, the wild young thing was off and away down the mountain road, her young bosom throbbing tumultuously, half with anger, half with mirth, at the rencontre with her guardian.

“The old silly, to think of marrying me off, without so much as by your leave! The idea!” she exclaimed aloud, adding, more soberly, “Not that I’d mind having a rich husband if he was handsome and winning, too, but how often I have heard it said that good looks and riches seldom go together, so if that’s the case I’d marry for love and let money go!”

Her fit of anger dissolving in the sunshine of sweet good nature, she hummed, as she galloped on, a fragment of a tender little love-song, sweet as it was sad:

“Honey flowers for the honey-comb,
And the honey-bees from home.
“A honey-comb and a honey-flower
And the bee shall have his hour.
“A honeyed heart for the honey-comb.
And the humming bee flies home.
“A heavy heart in the honey-flower.
And the bee has had his hour.”

Suddenly the low song died on her lips, changing to a cry of alarm.

At a curve in the road she came suddenly upon a startling sight.

Rex just swerved aside from a runaway horse that was dragging behind it a shattered little runabout, in which stood upright a white-faced man, straining desperately upon the reins, trying to stop the maddened animal’s wild career.

Even in that terrible moment, with the black horse plunging madly forward to the imminent peril of the driver’s life, Leola saw, as by a flash, that the man was young and very, very handsome, and her heart throbbed with wild pain at his danger, for on one side the road sloped, precipitously, downward to a dangerous stream of water, and a plunge over that steep incline meant death in horrible form.

But what could avert the catastrophe, for it seemed as if nothing could restrain the plunging brute or turn aside his maddened course toward the crumbling edge of the yawning precipice that would instantly engulf both in ruin and death!

A cry of agony, “Oh, God, save him!” shrilled over her rosy lips.

Surely the listening angels heard the prayer, for suddenly she saw that there was one chance in a thousand to avert the threatening disaster—one chance, though with deadly peril to herself.

With a high heart of hope, and a courage that defied all the deadly risk, she dared the consequences, spurring Rex forward in front of the black horse with a clarion call on her lips that wrought what seemed like a miracle.

For at her voice, conjoined with a startled whinny from Rex, the terrified animal, plunging and rearing but an instant before, with upraised hoofs nearing the verge of the dangerous precipice, now stopped as if shot, trembling all over, while Leola, throwing out her arms, caught his neck and clung, clung, clung, with the energy of despair.



What subtle influence wrought the miracle, for it could not have been the strength of Leola’s slender hands?

[Pg 6]

But there stood the satanic black animal, its fury abated, its flight arrested, its huge form trembling, shuddering, while the foamy sweat dropped in streams to the ground. As for the driver, he had been hurled violently backward into the road by the impetus of the sudden stop, and now lay there without sound or motion, like a dead man.

Leola, waiting only a moment to pat the black horse gently on his heaving neck, slipped from her saddle and ran to the young man, leaving, oh, wonder of wonders! the excited creature standing stock still, and rubbing noses with Rex quite as if they had been old friends.

“Oh, heaven, he is dead!” the girl moaned in anguish.

Her heart sank like lead to see him lying there so still, with a little stream of blood trickling from his temple, where it had struck against a jagged rock.

“Oh, if I only had some water,” she sighed, and just then the trickle of a little spring by the side of the road caught her ears. She ran and filled her riding cap with the clear fluid, and dashed it in his face.

Oh, joy! he gasped once or twice, and opened on her anxious face a pair of the bonniest dark blue eyes she had ever met—eyes that seemed to go exactly with the glossy curls of thick brown hair.

When his gaze met hers he smiled, faintly, and sighed:

“I—I—where am I? Oh, I remember now. I was in an accident; my horse ran away, and I was thrown out of the runabout. Was I killed? Is this heaven, and are you an angel?”

Leola laughed a happy, rippling laugh, sweet as music to his ears.

“An angel? No, indeed,” she cried; “and this is not heaven, either, only a rough, rocky road, where you fell when you pitched out of your trap. Oh! are you hurt very bad? Does your poor head pain you very much?”

Their faces were very close together, for she had pillowed his head on her tender arm, and he could feel the quick throbs of her excited heart as she waited for his answer.

“I—I—do not feel very bad,” he began, then suddenly lapsed into unconsciousness again, and this time it seemed to her that he was surely gone forever.

Tears started in her eyes and fell in a burning shower upon his pallid, handsome face, mingling with the crimson rain that ran down his cheek.

Again he revived, and, looking up, met that tender, tearful glance of Leola’s lovely eyes, that made the blood leap through his veins with rapture.

He said faintly:

“Do not say you are not an angel, for I shall always think of you as one, sweet girl! Ah, I remember all, now! My runaway horse was going straight over the declivity when you spurred yours between and caught his neck in your arms. It was a magnificent thing to do, but a perilous one, too, to risk your life for an utter stranger!”

Leola smiled brightly, and answered:

“It certainly looked like taking a terrible risk, and would scarcely have succeeded so well but for one fact quite unknown to you.”

“And that?” he queried, eagerly; and she replied:

“You see, I recognized in your satanic steed a favorite of mine—a spirited creature that I loved dearly when it belonged to my guardian, who sold it to the livery stable in town only a week ago. Black Hawk, as we called him, was an elder brother to my pony Rex, and they were fond of each other; so, you see, it was really our acquaintance with Black Hawk that made him so easy to subdue. Just turn your head now, sir, and you will see the pair biting at each other in the most affectionate manner.”

“It is wonderful,” he murmured; “but, all the same, I owe you my life, for you ran a terrible risk trusting to Black Hawk’s possible obedience to you. What if, in his fury of fear and rage—for he had taken desperate fright at a well-digging machine in a field—he had proved unmanageable? You and I must have gone down to death together, all in one tragic moment.”

“It is true, but let us not think of it, since the danger is past,” said Leola, making light of it, and adding:

“What troubles me now is how to get assistance for you. I don’t like to leave you alone, but—Ah! I hear wheels. Some one is coming!”

Sure enough, an old top buggy, drawn by an old gray mare, came clattering around the curve of the road, and in it sat the one person most welcome of any one in the world just now—the village doctor.

“Oh, Doctor Barnes, how glad I am to see you! You see, there’s been an accident,” Leola cried, eagerly, as he drew rein and began to jump nimbly out.

“Yes, my dear girl; I saw the accident from up on the hill, just as I was coming out from a patient’s house, and I got to you as fast as old Dolly would travel. Really, it was a splendid deed of daring!” cried the middle-aged doctor, patting her bright head in a fatherly way as he stooped over the young man.

“Ah, a stranger!” he continued. “Well, how much is he hurt? Cut on the temple, eh? Needs some stitches. Any bones broken, do you think? Wait till I stanch and bind the wound, and then we will see.”

This accomplished, he tendered the use[Pg 7] of his arm, and the young fellow got upon his feet without much difficulty.

“Ah, you’re all right—unless there’s some internal hurt. Come, I will put you into my buggy. Your arm on the other side. Leola and I must take you to the nearest house, which happens to be the Widow Gray’s cottage, below here. There I can sew up your wound and leave you in safe hands till we can find out if there’s any internal injuries. All right. Put your head back against the lap-robe. You will come with us, Leola; I may need your help.”

Stranger as the young man was, they could not have taken him to a better place, for Widow Gray was the dearest old woman in the neighborhood. She lived quite alone in a tidy cottage back among a grove of maples, or a “sugar camp,” as the country people called it; for here in the early spring was always produced that toothsome dainty, maple sugar, so dear to the hearts of school children. The widow had a neat spare room that she often let to a summer boarder, and to this white-hung chamber she quickly led Doctor Barnes with his patient, her round face beaming with good-nature as she promised to do all she could for the unfortunate young stranger.

“He will need your best nursing, I fear,” exclaimed Doctor Barnes; for, on getting his patient down upon the bed, he immediately fainted again, and the swoon was so deep that it was difficult to revive him.

“Oh, he is dead!” sobbed Leola; and the thought carried with it such agony that it changed and darkened the whole world to her young heart, so dear had the handsome stranger grown already.



How glad she was when he opened his eyes again, and faltered:

“I am quite ashamed of myself, fainting away like a weak woman. I will promise not to do so again, doctor.”

Doctor Barnes quickly made him as easy as possible, and left him to the widow’s care, promising to call again that evening to see how he fared, and also to send word to the livery stable about the horse and trap.

Leola felt she had no further excuse for staying, although, somehow, she could not bear to go.

She went into the room to say farewell, and he entreated her to stay, in a weak voice, reinforced by pleading eyes.

She smiled, and shook her head.

“It is better I should go now, for the doctor says you must have absolute rest and quiet to-day, and I am a sad chatterbox, but I will come to-morrow and bring you some flowers,” she promised.

She pressed his hand in mute farewell, and the contact thrilled her with rapturous emotion, for even with his pallor and his bandaged head he appeared to her a king among men—a veritable Prince Charming.

A great change had come to her heart since she rode out so blithely that morning, and the words of her simple song were coming true:

“A honey-comb and a honey-flower.
And the bee shall have his hour.”

She forgot all about her errand to town, and, remounting Rex, went for a long ride, miles away, to a beautiful Blue Sulphur Spring, where she lingered for hours upon the green lawn, dreaming over and over the startling event of the day, and gazing anon into the sparkling depths of the water, as if she might read in its pellucid depths the secret of her future.

And she recalled, with a sudden thrill, the gypsy who had told her fortune last year, saying:

“You will have a handsome, blue-eyed husband, and you will adore each other; but beware of jealousy, or it will part you forever.”

Leola had laughed at the gypsy then, but now she recalled her prophecy with a prophetic thrill.

“A handsome, blue-eyed husband! He has blue eyes!” she said—which showed that her thoughts already reached forward to the unknown future.

“Our feelings and our thoughts
Tend ever on and rest not in the present.”

When she returned home she had temporarily forgotten all about her little tiff with Wizard Hermann that morning, and as she saw him nowhere about, it did not occur to her mind. She avoided every one, which was not hard to do, the household consisting of only five members—her guardian and self, her former governess, who now combined teaching and housekeeping by way of economy, a fat black cook, and a man of all work, a misshapen, dwarfish creature of tremendous strength.

The day and night seemed interminably long to Leola, who lay awake many hours through pure joy of this blissful something that had come so suddenly into the placid current of her young life. Heaven forefend her from ever knowing the wakefulness of sorrow!

Bright and early the next morning she was out in the old-fashioned garden, gathering roses, dewy sweet and lovely, and it was not difficult to coax black Betsy for a bit of early breakfast before the others appeared.

Then, because she did not want to seem too anxious, Leola walked the two miles to Widow Gray’s cottage.

[Pg 8]

When Wizard Hermann asked at breakfast after the truant, Betsy, who was bringing in the toast, answered that “young miss” had gone to carry some flowers to a sick friend.

“Humph!” was his careless rejoinder, little dreaming that the sick friend was a charming young man who had already carried Leola’s heart by storm.

Meanwhile the young girl went blithely on her way, glad at heart with a strange, new emotion, yet not realizing why the world seemed so much sweeter than yesterday, the flowers fairer, the skies brighter, and all nature attuned to a diviner melody. Even her own rare beauty had gained another indefinable charm from the vibrations of love, pulsing joyfully through all her frame. She knew that she was drawn by invisible cords to the handsome stranger, but she imputed it to keen interest in one she had saved from death.

Widow Gray welcomed her with beaming smiles.

“Oh, Miss Mead, such a rapid improvement you never saw in your life! Why, after he had rested all day and night, he was like another man, and the doctor let him dress this morning and lie on the lounge in his room. He says he has no internal trouble at all, and need only stay in a few days till his head gets well. Wasn’t he lucky? for the doctor says the tumble might have killed him, and that it was a miracle it didn’t. But, laws, he’s as right as a trivet, and has taken a poached egg and bit of toast this morning. What sweet, sweet flowers! Come right in, do, and see him; he’s expecting you.”

How his blue eyes beamed as she entered with the flowers! Leola would never forget that look to her dying day.

“You are come at last!” he cried, happily. “I have been hoping and watching for you more than an hour! I should have been in a fever of impatience if you had stayed away much longer!”

“And yet it is quite early. See, the dew is not yet dry on the roses I brought you,” smiled Leola, as she drew a chair close to his side.

“Are you not glad I escaped with so slight injury?” he exclaimed, joyously. “And only to think that I owe my life to you! How can I repay you but by devoting it to your service?”

This was very rapid love-making, indeed. Leola, with her very limited experience that way, felt it was so, yet somehow she could not chide him. Her heart beat very fast, her cheeks flamed crimson, and when she tried to look away from him she could not help his gaze from holding hers in a long look into her soul that was trying to hide from him beneath her dark, curling lashes. In that moment of pure rapture Sir Cupid transfixed both their hearts with his cunning arrow. They were no more strangers; they seemed to have known each other in some past incarnation.

Leola thought, thrillingly:

“Surely this is love that makes my heart beat so fast and my cheeks burn under his glance, that holds my own so that I cannot look away! He is my fate!”

The young stranger was saying to himself, quite as romantically:

“Before I saw this exquisite creature I was madly in love with her shadow, and now that we have met, my heart is in her keeping forever. I owe her my very life, and I will be her true knight—and swear eternal fealty to my liege lady!”

He reached out and caught her hand, saying, deeply and tenderly:

“Forgive me if I seem too hasty, but something urges me on to confess my love before some unknown fate comes between us. Leola, am I too hasty, or may I hope to win your heart?”

The lashes fell against her blushing cheeks as she murmured:

“I—I—how strange that you have learned to love me—like that—since only yesterday!”

“I loved you weeks before I ever met you,” was his startling reply; and as she cried out in wonder over that, he continued, fondly:

“A few weeks ago, in New York, a young lady loaned me some negatives to copy. She had made them with her camera while out in the mountains last summer, she said. Among these negatives were such charming views of a young girl, that I fell in love with the pictures as soon as I made them. I did not rest until I found out where the girl lived, her name, and, in short, all there was to learn about her. Then I took the train for West Virginia, and on arriving at Alderson I started out the same morning to find you, Leola; for, of course, you have guessed it was yourself! Directly my horse took fright; and only fancy my feelings when I saw you coming toward me on your white pony, a perfect vision of youth and joy and beauty, and realized that a horrible death might thrust us apart in another fatal moment. You saved my life, and can you wonder I look upon you as my fate—the fairest fate that ever life gave to a man?”

He paused, pressed the hand he held again ardently, and added, musingly:

“How strangely everything has come about! I thought I should have to get acquainted with you in a very proper way, and go through a ceremonious courtship before I proposed, but fate took it all out of my hands. Now, what have you to say to this, my dear girl? Will you let me hope to win your love?”

“It is yours already,” Leola confessed, with exquisite frankness; then, as he[Pg 9] rapturously kissed her trembling hand, she exclaimed, in wonder at herself:

“Oh, perhaps you think I am too lightly won when I do not even know your name!”

“That can be remedied very soon. Call me Ray Chester, an artist, who wishes he were richer for your sweet sake.”

“Then you are poor?” Leola questioned, gravely.

“Do you regret it?” he asked, sadly.

“I—I—don’t know. Cousin Jessie always advised me never to marry poor. It is Jessie Stirling, I mean. She loaned you the negatives, did she not?”

“Yes; but I am sorry she put such notions in your pretty head. Perhaps you will take back your promise, learning I am poor.”

“Oh, no, no, no! Never! I could not marry any one without love, but Jessie says she would take a fright if he had a million dollars. However, she has ‘hooked,’ so she says, a big fish, rich, and young, and handsome, too, and she wants, when she is married, for me to visit her so she can make a grand match for me.”

“I will save her the trouble,” said Ray Chester. “Love in a cottage will be our portion, my darling, but you are so lovely that I shall paint a picture of you that will perhaps make my fortune!”

Suddenly a shadow clouded her lovely eyes. She had remembered for the first time her guardian’s threat of yesterday.

“You look sad, Leola. Are you repenting your promise already?” her lover cried, anxiously.

“I shall never repent. I believe you are my fate!” the girl exclaimed, earnestly, and to herself she thought:

“I will not tell him of my guardian’s foolish plans for wedding me to a rich man yet, for perhaps he will give it up after my frank refusal to obey him. No; I will not even think of it again; he cannot coerce me, for I will tell him I have already chosen my husband.”



The Widow Gray had a very romantic turn of mind, and she had not forgotten her young days yet, so it was easy enough for her to find out that the two young folks were already deeply in love.

“And no wonder, either,” she said to herself, sagely, “for the two beautiful young things seem to be made for each other.”

Accordingly, she helped out the romance all she could by insisting on the girl’s coming every day to help while away the invalid’s lonely hours, saying, cheerfully:

“For you know that just as soon as Mr. Chester gets well enough to be going about he will be right up at Wheatlands, paying back your visits two to one.”

Thus encouraged, Leola came and went daily, making long visits without exciting any suspicion at home, for she was used to having her own way, and no one interfered with her liberty.

It was quite a week that Ray Chester was detained at the cottage, for although he made light of his injuries, he was very much bruised, and felt stiff and sore, and the little gash on his temple was deep enough to take some time in healing, and even then it would leave a scar under his thick, brown curls that would always remain to remind him of lovely Leola’s bravery in saving his life at the risk of her own.

But that week went away so quickly, so happily, in that golden June weather, that when it was over they could not realize the lapse of days.

“It seemed like one exquisite day,” they said to each other.

The programme of their days had been something like this:

Leola called every morning on Rex, and remained until the midday meal at Wheatlands. After appearing at this hour she slipped away again, returning to the cottage and staying till she had to go home to supper. Her regularity at these meals warded off any suspicion that she spent the intervening hours in the company of a very charming young man, who would render all Wizard Hermann’s schemes to marry her off to her unknown suitor quite null and void.

After supper, then, came the lonely time, for Leola had to remain at home and play to the governess on the piano in the dingy parlor, whose faded hangings had not been renovated for years. As this had been a yearly practice, she could not omit it without exciting wonder on the part of the spinster lady who had acted as her governess and companion since early childhood, and, now that school days were over, looked after the housekeeping, staying on indefinitely, not seeming to have either friends or suitors.

Yet, although she was over forty now, Miss Tuttle had not given over a scarcely-concealed hope of marrying.

As she was very thin and tall, her secret choice had fallen on her exact opposite, a neighboring widower about fifty, who was rather short and very stout, and had recently come into a fortune by selling some valuable coal-lands in Greenbrier county.

Miss Tuttle having been in love with neighbor Bennett when he was in moderate circumstances, only loved him the harder when he became so rich that he did not know how to spend his money.

Some neighborly kindnesses he had certainly shown her, but not as many as she wished, and no amount of scheming[Pg 10] had sufficed to bring him to the point of proposing.

Thus absorbed in her own love-affair, it was no wonder that Miss Tuttle paid small attention to Leola’s comings and goings, regarding her still as a pretty child who had heretofore laughed at love and lovers.

So there were none to molest the lovers and make them afraid, for Wizard Hermann, though he did not give over his scheme, held his peace and went his way in cunning silence, giving Leola time to get over her fright.

Even Doctor Barnes, who had not found it necessary to pay but three visits to his patient, did not know of the romance going on at the cottage, and being very busy with the measles, just then epidemic in Alderson and the country round about, he had no time to gossip about the stranger whose life Leola Mead had saved. As there were none who knew Ray Chester, so there were none to worry over him; and beneath the matronly chaperonage of kind Widow Gray their secret love bloomed into a splendid flower whose strong roots only death could tear away.

“I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn
How much I love you?” “You I love even so,
And so I learn it.” “Sweet, you cannot know
How fair you are.” “If fair enough to earn
Your love, so much is all my hour’s concern.”
“My love grows hourly, sweet!” “Mine, too, doth grow,
Yet love seemed full so many hours ago.”
The lovers speak till kisses claim their turn.

“It cannot surely be a whole week; was it not only yesterday?” cried the doting lover.

But Leola counted off the days to him on her rosy fingers.

“It was Tuesday when first we met—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and now it is Tuesday again! And I have been to see you twice every day, Ray! But to-morrow I cannot come at all, for there is a horrid picnic to which Miss Tuttle insists on taking me, and I cannot refuse lest she find me out.”

“Why, then, I shall go to the picnic, too. I adore picnics!” cried Ray Chester.

“But you are not invited. It’s a Sunday school picnic, you see, Ray, and you are not acquainted with anybody.”

“I’ll invite myself, and get acquainted with everybody there in less than an hour,” he answered, gayly; and calling to Mrs. Gray, who was watering her geraniums in the yard, he said:

“Aren’t you going to the picnic to-morrow?”

“Perhaps so—only I shall have to leave you a cold dinner,” she said, hesitatingly, coming up to the vine-wreathed porch in whose shadow the lovers were sitting.

“I’ll go with you if you let me!” cried Ray; “and you will introduce me to everybody there as your new boarder.”

“And to Miss Tuttle in particular; and mind you show her much attention, Ray, for then she will ask you to Wheatlands,” laughed Leola, falling into the spirit of the thing, for it came to her suddenly that by this means she and Ray could go on courting under her guardian’s very nose without being suspected.

“Miss Tuttle is so vain she will easily think Ray is in love with her,” she thought, merrily, and so they all laid their plans for to-morrow.

The picnic came off in a beautiful grove, and Widow Gray’s new boarder kept his word, and got acquainted with everybody there inside of an hour.

He was specially gracious to the smiling Miss Tuttle, who herself presented him to Leola, saying:

“Miss Mead, the little girl to whom I have been governess over ten years.”

The little girl bowed demurely, and said she was glad to meet Miss Tuttle’s friend, and then she turned carelessly away, and was particular not to interrupt his chat with the spinster until by his assiduity he got the coveted invitation to call.



“Isn’t he perfectly charming, Leola? As handsome as a picture, and the prettiest manners I ever saw—so courteous, so kind, altogether different from some of the country bumpkins about here, who don’t seem to appreciate ladies as they ought. But really, for the life of me, I cannot tell which one of us he is courting, for he is so nice to us both. Sometimes I think it’s you, and then, again, I may be the object of his affection. I cannot deny there may be a little disparity in our years, but I do not believe he would mind that, do you, dear?”

This was two weeks later than the picnic, from which it may be inferred that Ray Chester’s courtship was progressing finely, without let or hindrance from Wizard Hermann.

Fortune had favored our daring hero, for Leola’s guardian had been absent from home nearly two weeks, and on returning he had resumed his laboratory work with such zeal that he remained quite in ignorance of the fact that a handsome young man, a stranger from the city, was a daily and welcome caller on the ladies of his family.

His first news of the fact came from[Pg 11] Mr. Bennett, his rich and rotund neighbor, who, perhaps growing jealous over Miss Tuttle, desired to know if Mr. Hermann had any knowledge of the stranger’s intentions.

“In a word, sir, is the fellow sparking Miss Tuttle or Leola?” he said, brusquely.

Mr. Hermann, startled, denied any knowledge of the young man.

“I’ve been up to New York for some precious chemicals I required, and I was nearly ten days absent. Since I returned I’ve been almost too busy to take time to eat or sleep, and I have not seen or heard of any young man,” he declared.

The sleek Bennett soon made him acquainted with the facts as he knew them himself.

“The fellow’s from the city, somewhere away off, good-looking and dandyfied, an artist, he claims to be. He’s boarding down to Widow Gray’s, and showed himself first at a picnic, where he came with her and got introduced to the whole country-side. I’m not saying he isn’t as pleasant a young chap as I ever met, but I don’t like it, seeing him in and out at Wheatlands all the time without knowing for sure who he’s after, Hermann,” he concluded, uneasily.

“I’ll look into the matter this very day and find out what’s in the wind,” was the reassuring reply.

Bennett’s little ferret eyes looked sharply at him, and he muttered:

“I won’t have any fooling over this here bargain. The mortgage falls due pretty soon now, and if you fail to keep your word, I’ll foreclose at once, I swear.”

“I’ll keep it to the letter: don’t you be uneasy,” soothed Wizard Hermann, adding:

“Have you done anything to help along your own cause, eh?”

“I’ve called several times and fetched the geerls presents of fruit and candy, and took ’em riding in my fine new turnout, but that dad-blame dandy was always along, and I couldn’t hardly get in a word edgeways to the geerl, and Miss Tuttle, she done all the talking to me, so’s I hadn’t any show at all with Leola,” Bennett muttered, morosely.

“Let’s see; suppose you write a letter and propose formally for her hand. Tell her how rich you are, and that you’ll give her anything her heart craves. If she refuses, then I shall have to use my influence,” Wizard Hermann said, consolingly, wishing he were well out of all this bother and back in his laboratory at work with his beloved chemicals.

His house and lands were all mortgaged to his rich neighbor, and he had not a dollar to pay him to prevent foreclosure. It seemed like a providence when the rich widower cast his covetous eyes on lovely Leola, and offered, if Hermann could get her to marry him, to release the debt.

It was fifteen thousand dollars, but Wheatlands, with its wide-spreading acres, was worth twice as much, and it was terrible to thus sacrifice the home of his forefathers; so Hermann, who had burned up all that money in his foolish and mysterious experiments, decided that Leola must be sacrificed to pay the debt, since there was no other way.

But how to obtain her consent he did not know, and, since the morning when she had so angrily repulsed him, the subject had tacitly dropped between them, Hermann realizing that his end could only be gained by force and cunning.

Bennett’s story about a possible rival put a new element of trouble into the affair, so he set himself to investigate matters by calling the governess to account.

When he summoned her to the library she thought he only wanted to go over some housekeeping accounts with her, or possibly to pay some arrears of her salary long overdue.

Visions of a new gown and bonnet floated joyfully before her mind’s eye, but she was soon undeceived.

“Who and what of this young dandy who is making so free of my house these two weeks?” he demanded.

Miss Tuttle bridled, and tried to blush like an eighteen-year-old girl.

“Oh, Mr. Hermann, the most charming young man—he’s a boarder at Widow Gray’s, and is most attentive,” she simpered.

“So I have heard, but who is he after—Leola?” he demanded.

“Oh, sir, no, indeed—that is, I cannot really be sure of his intentions toward either; he’s so very charming to both of us we cannot decide between us which he prefers yet—but he does not seem like a flirt!”

“Amanda Tuttle, don’t be an old fool! How do you suppose any young man could hesitate between an old woman like you and pretty Leola?” he replied, brusquely.

“Sir!” Miss Tuttle bridled, and tears came into her eyes.

“Well, well, I spoke roughly, but you should not be so silly,” returned her employer. “Remember you were not very pretty when you first came here, and fifteen years has changed you into a faded old maid.”

“I—I—hate you!” she sobbed, pitifully.

“Hard words break no bones,” he said, carelessly.

“If you will pay me my salary I’ll leave Wheatlands forever!” she sobbed, bitterly, in her humiliation; but he went on, coolly:

[Pg 12]

“No, I don’t want you to leave; I really need your services, Miss Tuttle. But as to whether you ever get that money I owe you depends on your own exertions. I’ve lost everything, and unless Leola makes a rich marriage I’ve planned for her, I will not have a roof over my head this day month.”

Miss Tuttle mopped her wet eyes with a little lace-edged handkerchief, and straightened up, full of breathless curiosity.

“Oh, who is he?” she exclaimed; and thereupon he suddenly confided his difficulties freely to her, hopeful of her ready co-operation, but, being totally unversed in the intricacies of a woman’s heart, he made the mistake of his life.

On learning that the rotund widower, Bennett, whom she secretly loved, was a suitor for Leola’s hand, the spinster promptly went into hysterics that she could not have helped to save her life.

She shrieked furiously:

“Oh, the fat villain, the vile deceiver! After all his attentions to me since his poor wife died, to turn around and fall in love with a chit of a girl like Leola! Oh, I could tear him limb from limb, the wretch! And as to marrying him, she shall not—never, never!”

“Oh, really, really!” soothed her employer, but all to no purpose, for, her heart being touched, she could not restrain her excitable feelings, but raved on angrily and tearfully for some time, until her emotion spent itself, the old man having bided his time to this end.

He now observed, sarcastically:

“If you have done making a fool of yourself now, Amanda Tuttle, perhaps you will tell me what you are going to do about it. You cannot marry Bennett if he will not have you.”

“No,” she moaned, tearfully; and he continued, coolly:

“Perhaps you will bring suit for breach of promise.”

Miss Tuttle fairly tore her hair in her humiliation.

“Will you, now?” he repeated.

“No,” she sobbed, suddenly realizing that she really had no grounds to base a legal action upon. She had built her hopes on a baseless fabric of neighborly politeness, nothing more, and her house of cards had tumbled to the ground.

The revulsion from long hope to sudden despair was so bitter that it awakened an intense and jealous hatred for Leola, superseding the devotion of years.

Hermann realized that he had made a mistake in taking her into his confidence, and made a masterly retreat, exclaiming:

“Oh, well, well, don’t take it so hard, Amanda Tuttle; you’re too old to behave like a love-sick chit! It isn’t likely that Leola will want to marry him, anyhow, and if she refuses, of course I must let old Bennett take the house and everything, and we can all go to the almshouse together!”



It was the bitterest hour of her life to poor Miss Tuttle.

While she was talking to old Hermann she heard merry voices out of doors, and knew that Ray Chester had arrived and was sitting out in the rose arbor laughing and talking with beautiful Leola, who had turned out to be her rival when she thought her only a merry-hearted young girl.

She wondered if it could be true, as her employer said, that no one would look at her twice when his lovely ward was by, and now she sadly remembered several little things that made her sure that his words were true.

Sometimes, when the three went for long walks together, the younger pair would quite tire her out, but they would insist on going still further, leaving her waiting under some shady tree with a novel for an hour sometimes, while they hunted wild flowers or bird’s nests, and their happy laughter would come ringing back as if they did not miss her in the least, as now she suddenly realized they did not; they only wanted her for an elderly chaperon.

But somehow this did not hurt her as much as the seeming perfidy of Widower Bennett, whom she loved with all her warm heart and at whom she had been making tender eyes ever since his wife died a year or so ago. She had persuaded herself she would be the most proper wife he could find anywhere, and to find Leola preferred before herself was like the bitterness of death.

She could not help envying and hating the lovely girl with the weakness of a shallow nature suddenly roused to bitter jealousy, and when she hurried away from Wizard Hermann’s presence to her own room, she was half resolved to pack her trunk and go away forever to hide her humiliation and grief.

But while she bathed her stained face and smoothed her rather pretty brown hair, she reflected that she had nowhere to go, for all her relatives were dead, and she had no friends of any consequence.

Poor soul, how she longed for a home and husband of her own! But the realization of her dream seemed further off than ever now, and as she stood at her window gulping down her piteous sobs, she heard again, from the rose arbor, the gay laughter of the lovers, and curiosity made her descend to them, wondering what had caused their mirth.

Leola, as pretty as a flower in her white gown, had a letter in her hand,[Pg 13] and she and Ray, with their heads very close, were laughing over it together.

“Oh, Miss Tuttle, this is so ridiculous I have laughed till I cried,” said Leola. “Only think, I have a lover, and he has made me a proposal of marriage.”

“And,” added Ray, laughingly, “it is such a brilliant and desirable match that she is almost sorry she had promised to marry me before she received it!”

“So you two are engaged?” cried Miss Tuttle, feeling the ground sink beneath her feet.

“Oh, yes, Miss Tuttle, and I know you are not surprised. Won’t you congratulate us?” cried Leola’s handsome lover.

“But please, please, don’t tell Uncle Hermann, for I think I begin to see through his plans now, and he will never consent for me to marry a poor artist when I could marry his rich neighbor, old Mr. Bennett,” laughed Leola.

Poor Miss Tuttle gasped for breath, and sank helplessly on a garden chair, wishing she were dead and buried, so keen was her pain and humiliation.

“You may read the old man’s letter if you like,” added the girl, thrusting it into her hand.

The sorrowful spinster, who would have given all she possessed for such a letter, was forced to read the gushing and awkward love letter of the rich old widower to the merry girl, who laughed over it with her handsome young lover, and gayly passed around the fine box of bonbons that accompanied the epistle.

“The dear old silly! I thought he looked on me still as a little girl,” she cried. “Now if he had only been sensible and asked you, Miss Tuttle, it would have been a charming arrangement in point of age and all that, you know.”

Miss Tuttle winced at the innocent thrust of the happy girl, but she was so miserable that her pride fell from her like a garment, and she frankly assented, saying:

“Yes, for I always admired Mr. Bennett, and if he had asked me I would have accepted him.”

The young people instantly felt very sorry and sympathetic, and Leola proposed that when she gave him her answer she should give him a hint that he would be more successful with the governess than with the pupil.

Miss Tuttle was so moved by this offer that she felt all her anger and jealousy give way, and took Leola into her heart again.

“Oh, if you could only manage it I would be grateful forever,” she exclaimed. “You know I cannot stay on at Wheatlands when you are gone, Leola, for people would talk, and besides the fact that he is in arrears for my salary, we have had a bitter quarrel this morning,” and then, between tears and sobs, she blurted out all Wizard Hermann’s plans to the astonished lovers.

Then Leola recalled the morning, three weeks ago, when her guardian had bidden her prepare to be married in a month to the man of his choice.

“So this is my rich suitor—old Bennett!” she burst out, laughing, for she could not regard it seriously at all, not realizing Wizard Hermann’s grim determination.

“Why do you call him old? He is only about fifty or so, and a fine, handsome man!” complained the tearful governess.

She could hardly understand why the volatile Leola burst into spasms of the merriest laughter, in which Ray Chester could not help joining. Alas, they were so gay and happy, they were full of joy and laughter, little dreaming of the tragic moment near at hand when tears would come more readily than smiles, and the dull ache at the heart would be like a piercing thorn.

“If I were you, Leola, I would not feel so gay, for your guardian swears he will enforce his authority and have you marry Mr. Bennett, willy-nilly!” reproved Miss Tuttle, anxiously.

The girl looked gayly at her lover, and he caught her little hand in his, saying, tenderly:

“We aren’t afraid of him, are we, my precious Leola? And if the worst comes to the worst, we will elope to Washington and get married before old Bennett knows what we are up to.”

“If you were only rich there needn’t be any trouble. You could pay off the mortgage for Mr. Hermann, and then he would be willing enough for you to have Leola!” suggested Miss Tuttle, inquiringly.

Ray’s dark blue eyes looked questioningly into those of his bonny sweetheart.

“Are you sorry I’m not rich? Would you rather have your old suitor?” he asked, gently.

“Nonsense; I’d take you without a coat to your back before I would have that old Falstaff, with all his money,” she answered, laughingly, and they dismissed the thought of danger, for how could anyone force a girl to marry against her will?

“But perhaps, after all, I had better see your guardian, and ask him for his consent to our marriage?” questioned Ray.

The governess shook her head.

“No, do not anger him now, for he is really in such a rage he might set the dogs on you, who knows?”

“Oh, very well, we need not hurry. It will all blow over by-and-by,” cried Leola, in her happy-go-lucky way, and presently, when Ray had taken leave, she went up to her room and penned an amiable but decided refusal of Mr. Bennett’s offer, saying she would prefer to[Pg 14] marry a younger man, and frankly advising him to turn his attention to Miss Tuttle, who admired him immensely, and would make him the best wife in the world.

When she showed this effort to the governess, that lady promptly hugged and kissed her, and declared she was the dearest girl on earth.

A special messenger carried the missive over to the Bennett place, and Leola congratulated herself that the episode was closed.

But who can tell what a day may bring forth?

Leola’s whole life had been carelessly happy, for she was blessed with one of those sweet, sunshiny natures that always look on the bright side, and find pleasure in the simple joys of even a quiet life. She made her own sunshine as she went.

For more than three weeks now she had been blissfully happy—so happy that in all her future she will look back in wonder that such perfect happiness could be, for, alas, this was the end of those golden days of love’s sweet dream.

That night, at supper, Wizard Hermann said, casually, as if it were a matter of small moment:

“Mrs. Stirling and Jessie will arrive on the early train to-morrow.”



When Miss Tuttle and Leola were alone together they talked over the news, and neither one was very well pleased, the girl, since their coming would break up her happy days with Ray, and the governess, because the Stirlings were always supercilious with her, and naturally made more work for the household.

“I do not see why I should put myself out to wait on pretentious fine ladies this warm weather, especially when my employer has not paid a dollar of my salary for five months,” she complained, and Leola added:

“There will be no more good times with Ray, for like as not they will join hands with Uncle Hermann in persecuting him, and try to have me marry old Bennett because he is rich. Oh, dear! I’m sorry Ray isn’t coming back to-night, so I could tell him not to come to-morrow.”

“You might send word to him in the morning before they come,” suggested Miss Tuttle, and Leola agreed to the plan, which would have worked itself out all right had not fate decreed that Leola’s little black messenger should lose the note and Widower Bennett find it.

He was riding briskly toward Wheatlands when his fine bay mare shied, wildly, at a square white envelope blowing about in the dusty road, and an impulse of curiosity made him dismount and pick it up.

When he saw Leola’s familiar writing on the sealed envelope, he was seized with such poignant wrath and jealousy that no scruple of honor prevailed to prevent his becoming master of the contents.

“To Ray Chester, the young dandy—wonder if she’s giving him the mitten as she did me yesterday!” he muttered, wrathfully, and broke the pretty seal of blue wax with a ruthless hand.

The blood bounded hotly through his veins as he read:

“My Own Darling Ray:

“You must not come in the morning as usual, because the Stirlings are coming, Uncle Hermann says, and I do not want them to know of our engagement yet, for they both are very mercenary, and would take sides against you, and want me to marry old Bennett, because he is rich, while you are poor! As if I would have that dumpy old fright on any terms—no, not even if he were President of the United States! Oh, why didn’t the old silly lose his heart to dear Miss Tuttle instead of me, when she loves the very ground he walks on, and would make him such a suitable wife? Fate seems to play at cross purposes with us, my darling Ray, but we will outwit our enemies and be happy yet.

“You had better not come to Wheatlands to-day, but if you will stay in all afternoon, I will try to make an errand to Widow Gray’s, and we can talk things over and make plans for the future.

“Oh, isn’t it just hateful the way things seem to work against our happiness? Just think, if only Jessie Stirling hadn’t got engaged to a fortune already, we might get my rotund suitor in love with her, and she could have all the money she craves.

“Be sure to stay in until I come this afternoon.

Your own loving

Widower Bennett stamped upon the ground in a fury, hissing out the epithets she had used in writing of him in the bitterest voice ever heard:

“‘Old Bennett!’ ‘Dumpy old fright!’ ‘Old silly!’ ‘My rotund suitor!’ She would not marry me if I were President of the United States! Why, now, I swear I will marry the little spitfire if it costs me my fortune!”

In this rage he remounted his mare and galloped on to Wheatlands, between whose master and himself there ensued an excited interview.

Leola’s letter refusing Bennett’s hand was exhibited in furious anger by the slighted recipient.

“She would prefer to marry a younger man than me, and she recommends me to take Miss Tuttle—that skinny, homely old maid, almost as old as I am!” he blustered, wrathfully, adding:

“You promised faithfully she should marry me, Hermann, but instead of watching her as you ought, you go poking among your old chemicals, as blind as a bat, and let her get engaged to a pretty-faced young jackanapes from the city—a pauper without a dollar to support his wife on, sir, and yet it lacks only a few days of the time set for my marriage to that saucy girl, and, mind you, if the ceremony is not pulled off in due time, I’ll lose not a day, I swear, in foreclosing the mortgage.”

It was in vain that Wizard Hermann tried to pacify him, saying that he would certainly keep his promise, and that he was sure that there was some mistake about Leola’s engagement to young Chester, who was almost a stranger.

But at this point Bennett produced his proof in the shape of Leola’s letter to Ray.

[Pg 15]

“This is worse than I thought, but it does not alter the fact that the girl shall be your wife, Bennett, for I have sworn to keep my promise, and I will not fail you, by Heaven!” vowed Hermann, continuing:

“As for neglecting to get matters into shape, that is false, for I have been quietly working to the promised end all these weeks, but, having encountered such determined opposition from the girl, I thought it expedient not to press her too hard, but to depend on force and cunning, since fair means failed. In fact, one of my objects in going to New York was to enlist the aid of my clever half-sister, Mrs. Stirling, in accomplishing the end in view. She will arrive with her daughter this morning, and although I admit that the case looks unpromising now, I believe we will soon wind a web around Leola from which she cannot escape. Go home, Bennett, and rest easy in the thought that before the end of a week she will be your charming bride.”

The prospective bridegroom beamed with joy and assured Hermann that he was ready to co-operate in any plan proposed for Leola’s subjugation.

“I will go to any length now to punish her for her contempt, and for advising me to marry a skinny old maid like Amanda Tuttle when I’m rich enough to buy a lovely young girl for a bride!” he vowed, coarsely, and took leave with renewed hope.

In the hall, as he was going out, he encountered Miss Tuttle, and fancied she might have been eavesdropping from her air of confusion, but he stalked past her with a curt nod that cut to her tender heart like a knife.

“Oh, what has come over him when he used to be so friendly? Can it be that he is angry at Leola’s suggestion that he should court me?” sighed the poor thing, deprecatingly.

It would have been well indeed if she had been listening, as Bennett suspected, for then she might have been able to inform Leola of the perils that threatened her in the joining of forces of Wizard Hermann and his worldly-wise sister, but she had only been loitering about the hall in hopes of a little interview when he came out, and tears of disappointment brimmed over in her kind gray eyes, when he passed her with so indifferent a greeting.

As she followed to the door and watched him galloping away toward home, she saw the carriage coming with the Stirlings, and ran to tell Leola the news.



By-and-by, when Jessie removed the dust of travel, and freshened herself up with a dainty blue gown that just matched her sky-blue eyes, the two girls strolled out upon the lawn, and presently found seats in the favorite rose-arbor, where the robins, nesting overhead, made a mighty twittering in vain protest against their unwelcome intrusion.

“It is because you are a stranger, Jessie,” laughed Leola. “It is quite different when Ray and I come here together—they treat us quite as if we belonged to the Robin family.”

“Who is Ray?” asked Jessie, curiously.

Leola could not help blushing furiously, but she said, as carelessly as she could:

“Oh, only one of our neighbors!”

She was inwardly furious with herself at this slip of the tongue that was destined to lead her into self-betrayal. Ah, how true it is that a name that is close to the heart must often rise to the lips.

To distract Jessie’s attention she asked, all in a breath:

“When are you going to marry your grand, rich lover, Jessie?”

“My wedding will be in October,” fibbed Miss Stirling, who had no mind to confess that she had lost the prize, and she continued:

“Mr. Olyphant has gone on a yachting tour with some friends now, and I do not know exactly when they will return. It was expected they would only be gone two weeks, but they extended the trip. I miss him very much, and I shall be quite frantic if he stays much longer!”

“Then you love him very much?” queried Leola, with shining eyes.

“Love him! I should say so!” cried Jessie, eagerly. “Why, Leola, he is as handsome as a picture, tall, with an elegant figure, fine features, brown, curly hair, and beautiful, laughing blue eyes!”

“So has Ray!” cried Leola, then bit her lips in confusion, sighing to herself:

“What a lovesick little goose I am, giving away my dangerous secret in spite of myself!”

“Ray again!” cried Jessie, suspiciously. “Come, now, tell me all about him, Leola. A neighbor, you said, but I knew no one of that name about here last summer. You say he has laughing blue eyes like Chester Olyphant, so you must be fond of him, this neighbor! Confess now, is he your lover?”

“Oh, nonsense, Jessie, we were talking of your lover!” cried Leola. “Go on, please, tell me more of him, and of your love for each other.”

“We are perfectly devoted to each other,” declared Jessie, unblushingly. “How could I help loving him—with all that money!”

“But, Jessie, if Mr. Olyphant were poor, would you not love him just the same?”

Jessie had a red rose in her hand, and she tore it to pieces with absent-minded fingers as she replied, bluntly:

“Bah. I wouldn’t permit myself to love a poor man if he were a perfect Adonis!”

But artless Leola, with rosy cheeks and glowing eyes, retorted:

“Then you do not know how to love, Jessie—not even the meaning of that sacred word, for I would adore Ray Chester if he had not a second coat to his back!”

“Ray Chester! There you go again!” cried Miss Stirling, with a violent start. “Oh, come now, you are madly in love with some man, Leola, and you have got to tell me all about it this minute!”

“Oh, you are mistaken!” cried poor Leola, trying to flounder out of her difficulty.

“I am not mistaken! Oh, no! I know all the signs of love, and you cannot even keep his name off your lips!” cried Miss Stirling, triumphantly:

It was true: Leola realized it, and felt how impossible it was to keep hidden the happy secret of her love. Indeed, she fairly ached to tell it to some sweet, sympathetic girl friend, and why not Jessie, whom she had known from childhood, and who had always been fairly friendly? True; the young lady was twenty-three, four years older than herself, but as each was[Pg 16] madly in love with a splendid young man, there was a bond of sympathy between their hearts that might bring good results if they fairly understood each other.

She suddenly made up her artless mind to confide in beautiful, blue-eyed Jessie, and beg her to intercede with her guardian to consent to her happiness, but because tears were very close to her own dark eyes, she put Ray aside for a moment to recover herself, saying, laughingly:

“Only think, Jessie, I have a rich lover, too. Our neighbor, Giles Bennett, who has gotten rich by coal since his wife died, wants to marry me, the little girl he used to dandle on his knee! Now, what do you think of that?”

“A splendid match for you, Leola, and I hope you will accept him,” declared Jessie, frankly.

“Oh, no, no, no!” Leola cried out, quickly, and Jessie retorted:

“More fool you, then, to let such a chance slip through your fingers! If I weren’t going to marry Chester Olyphant I’d take old Fatty off your hands myself. But it seems, from what you let slip just now, that there’s a poor young man in the case—Ray Chester, you said, and if you do not tell me the whole story instantly I shall die of curiosity!”

Leola, with her beautiful face glowing like a rose, exclaimed:

“I don’t want you to die, Jessie, so I am going to ‘’fess,’ as the children say, and, after all, I think I ought to confide in you, for it is through you all this happiness has come to me.”

“Through me,” gasped Jessie, and her lips went white, while a cold hand seemed to press all the life from her heart with a swift, horrible suspicion that centered around that name “Chester,” breathed so sweetly just now from Leola’s lovely lips.

But Leola did not observe these signs of emotion. She was looking down, bashfully, and playing with a bunch of red roses in the belt of her simple white gown. Her beauty was glorified by the love that thrilled at her heart.

“I will begin at the beginning first of all, and tell you how I saved Ray Chester’s life,” she said, softly, and, as before, her voice seemed to linger over that name like a caress.

Miss Stirling did not answer a word. She sat still and pale, listening, with a horrible presentiment of what was coming, and a hatred for innocent Leola, a jealous hatred that was more bitter than death.

Leola, still playing with her roses, in bashful confusion, looked down with the curly lashes sweeping her rosy cheeks, and told her story briefly, sweetly, and with the simplicity of strong emotion, dwelling but lightly on her own heroism in saving Ray Chester’s life, and touching, reservedly, on their love-story, but bringing into prominence his confession that he had fallen so desperately in love with her pictures that he had come to seek her and offer his love.

She concluded, gently:

“And although Ray has never once mentioned your name, he did not deny it when I said that I was sure it was you from whom he got the pictures; and, Jessie, dear, I am so glad you took those little snap-shots of me, for through them has come the happiness of my life, and I shall always be glad Ray saw them and loved me!”

The musical voice ceased speaking, but as Jessie made no answer, Leola added, ardently:

“He is only a poor artist, my darling Ray, but I am glad, after all, that he is poor, for he knows I love him for himself alone, for ‘his own true worth,’ as the poem says, you know, Jessie.”

She gave a violent start when Miss Stirling answered, in a hoarse, concentrated voice of hatred and bitterness:

“You are a silly little fool, Leola Mead!”

“Oh, Jessie!” and Leola’s voice trembled with wounded feeling.

She looked up and saw that her companion was deadly pale and trembling.

“Oh, what is the matter? Are you ill, Jessie? Have I wearied you with my story?”

Miss Stirling was very cunning, or very brave. She had got a heart wound, but she would not cry out against the hand that struck the blow; after that one passionate outburst she struggled for calmness.

With a hollow laugh, she answered:

“I am very, very tired, after my long journey from New York, and the sun is very hot, but—I shall be better presently.”

“Shall I go and bring you a little sip of wine?” urged Leola, and Jessie assented.

She was glad to be alone for one moment, to cry out aloud at the fate that had parted her from the man she loved.

“Mamma was right, and I was wrong. He was in love with her, after all, and he came here, instead of going yachting, as he intended—came here to woo this simple rustic, won by her wondrous beauty, that was more dangerous than I dreamed! But he shall never marry Leola Mead—never! Why, I think I would murder her first! And what will he say when he finds me here? Above all, why is he masquerading under a false name, and pretending to be a poor artist? Ah, I have it! He means to deceive the silly girl; his intentions are dishonorable, but I will unmask him, I will break up the affair, I swear it!” clenching her white hands desperately.

Leola came back with the wine and a biscuit, and Jessie accepted, eagerly.

“Wine always clears my brain, somehow, and I have got a lot of scheming and planning to do,” she thought, as she drained the last drop and munched the sweet biscuit.

“Ah, you look better now. I am afraid it quite unnerved you, hearing all about that accident to Ray,” exclaimed Leola, tenderly.

“Yes, yes, it was dreadful; it made my flesh creep. Besides, I was very tired, you know, and that made it worse; but I am ever so much better now, thanks to the wine! Really, Leola, you were quite a heroine, and I cannot wonder that my artist friend fell in love with you, though I cannot, for the life of me, remember any man by that name, Ray Chester. I know I loaned your pictures to my lover, Chester Olyphant, but it cannot be that he came here to deceive a poor innocent country girl because of her pretty face—oh no! I cannot believe that of my lover. It is a good thing I came in time to thwart his evil designs, if he really is my Chester, but—ah!” She looked up, wildly, for a man’s step crunched on the ground, and the next moment he stepped into the arbor—Ray Chester, or Ray Olyphant, cool,[Pg 17] handsome, smiling, like the villain in the play.

Miss Stirling sprang to her feet with a thrilling cry. The next moment she flung herself on his broad breast, her arms about his neck, crying joyously:

“Chester Olyphant, my own darling, naughty, runaway boy!”



Had an earthquake rent the solid ground beneath Leola’s feet she could not have been more terribly shocked.

She had listened in horror, with a wildly palpitating heart, to the words that slipped from Miss Stirling’s cruel lips—listened, with the blood leaping like fire through her veins, to the suspicions suggested so coolly; but at the sudden and startling finale, when her rival sprang joyously to the breast of her lover—at this shocking finale, Leola’s blood, from coursing like liquid fire through her veins, swiftly congealed to ice, her face went white as snow, her heart stopped its wild pulsations, and she sank upon the ground, limply, like one dead.

And overhead the sun shone on in the clear blue sky, and the merry robins sang among the roses as if love and life had not seemingly come to an end together for stricken Leola.

But if that terrible swoon had not overtaken her at that crucial moment, Leola would have seen her lover recoil in anger from Jessie’s embrace, and push her gently but decisively away, saying, rebukingly:

“Miss Stirling, pray remember that our brief engagement ended long ago, and that this advance on your part is in the worst possible taste.”

If she had been conscious, instead of lying like a dead girl on the ground amid the ruins of her happiness, she would have seen Jessie Stirling sink down and clasp Chester’s knees, and with burning tears beseech him to love her again because she could not endure life without him.

She would have heard these passionate prayers repulsed; she would have heard Chester Olyphant saying, coldly:

“Words are useless, Miss Stirling, for, after all, I never really loved you, and you entrapped me somehow into an engagement that my heart never sanctioned. The glamour of passion quickly faded, and when your own folly gave me an excuse to gain an honorable release from fetters that began to gall, I was glad to retreat with honor. I have to tell you things thus frankly, because it is the only way out of your efforts at a reconciliation that can never be effected, since my whole heart is given to another.”

All the while he was unconscious of Leola, lying there like a dead girl on the ground, and he continued, impatiently:

“Pray get up, Miss Stirling; it is embarrassing to have you kneel to me. Be seated, I beg you, and calm yourself. This is certainly a very unexpected rencontre. I did not know you were at Wheatlands. Has not Leola, then, told you she is my promised wife?”

Sinking, sullenly, to the arbor bench as he raised her to her feet, she hissed, furiously:

“The silly little rustic told me she was in love with a man named Ray Chester, but how was I to guess that her poor artist lover was the millionaire society man, Chester Olyphant, masquerading under a false name and guise, perhaps to deceive a pretty, ignorant country girl, with more beauty than brains?”

He recoiled in horror from her bold accusation, his handsome face went white, his blue eyes flashed lightning.

“How dare you?” he thundered, clenching his fist; then it fell helplessly to his side. “You are a woman; I cannot strike you. I can only reason and explain.”

“Yes, explain, if you can, for your conduct certainly appears very suspicious,” Jessie Stirling answered, with a bitter, taunting laugh that nearly drove him wild.

And yet, in all his anger, he knew she was right; it did look bad, this masquerade; and, although he despised the girl, he knew he must explain for Leola’s sake.

Still unconscious that his bonny sweetheart lay upon the ground, so close that if he stepped backward he must stumble over her senseless form, he glanced out of the arbor to see if she were coming, and then turned back to Jessie, saying, hoarsely:

“It looks suspicious, I grant you, but when a man is cursed with immense wealth, and knows himself constantly the prey of designing women wanting to marry him for his money, is it not excusable that, by a little harmless deception, he may win a girl’s heart by love alone, and thus ensure his future happiness?”

“Bah! a slim excuse!” she sneered; but, restraining his resentment, he continued, earnestly:

“This, I swear to you, Miss Stirling, was my only reason for the little deception I practised on Leola, and my plan succeeded well. I have won for my own the sweetest, truest heart that ever beat, and I had decided last night to come here to-day to confess all to Leola and her guardian, and to press for an immediate marriage, in order to save her from the persecutions of a rich old man, who has Mr. Hermann in his power, by reason of a mortgage on his property. It was my design to relieve his embarrassment by advancing the amount myself to pay off the mortgage. I hope you will accept this truthful explanation, and forego the gratification of your unwise spite by any persecution of my dear little love, Leola, whom I must now seek.”

“You will not have far to seek. Look behind you on the ground!” Miss Stirling answered, with a bitter laugh.

Then for the first time he became aware of Leola’s presence—Leola lying like a dead girl on the ground at his feet.

In the one moment that he stood gazing down like a statue of despair, Miss Stirling cried, with triumphant malice:

“Just before you came in Leola and I had had a very satisfactory explanation, for I recognized you in her description, and I soon made her understand your villainy. Yes, I told her you were betrothed to me, and that you were deceiving her. She believed me, and despised you, and just at the moment of her outcry against you, when you entered and I sprang to your breast, claiming you for my own, she dropped like one with a bullet in her heart, and there she has been lying ever since, and more than likely the poor, deceived girl is really dead of the shock.”

“Fiend!” he hurled at her, bitterly, and sank on his knees by Leola, frantically searching for signs of life, kissing her cold, white face, calling on her in love’s[Pg 18] holy name to waken for his sake, and speak to him again.

Jessie Stirling, listening with outward cold indifference, prayed that Leola would never answer those vows of love, never open her sweet dark eyes again, prayed that death might indeed claim her for his own.

And she smiled when all his efforts and all caresses proved vain to bring life back to the stricken girl—smiled even when he turned to her with accusing eyes and cried in bitter agony:

“Your false words have broken my little love’s heart, and slain her as surely as if you had struck a dagger into her breast! You have murdered an innocent girl who never wronged you, Jessie Stirling, yet you sit there and smile like the fiend you are! Do you think you can ever know any happiness after this? No, for my hate will follow you through life, and my curse will darken your days and make sleepless your nights till you pray for death’s release!”

He ceased and turned back to Leola, kissing her cold face and hands with burning lips, then lifting the inert form in his arms, he bore her toward the house, Jessie Stirling following in a sort of awe, mixed with rage and revolt against the curse he had pronounced against her, wondering if there could be any fateful occult power to cause its fulfillment.

With a heart as heavy as lead, Chester Olyphant bore his burden up the steps to the hall, where Miss Tuttle met him, shrieking:

“Oh, Heaven have mercy, what has happened to Leola?”

She was appalled when he groaned in anguish:

“Alas, I found her dead in the arbor. Lead the way to her room.”

“Not dead, oh, no, it cannot be! Surely it is only a faint! Come this way,” sobbed the governess, and in a few moments Leola was placed on her little white bed among the dainty pillows, no whiter than her face.

Miss Tuttle felt for her heart, but there was no faintest throb to give hope of life.

“Oh, bring a doctor, do bring a doctor, Mr. Chester! I cannot surely believe she is dead. Once I saw her lie like this half an hour when she had fallen from a horse, and she may revive this time, too. Oh, please, please bring Doctor Barnes at once!” she exclaimed, excitedly, and, as he flew to do her bidding, she fell to undressing the girl, tenderly, but swiftly, saying to Jessie, who stood near, looking on, stupidly:

“Run, run to the kitchen and tell Betsy I must have some warm water for a bath for Leola. She may be in a sort of spasm.”

Jessie Stirling ran out of the room, but she did not carry the message to the kitchen.

Instead she sought her uncle, to whom she said, with an injured air:

“Oh, Uncle Hermann. I’m so glad I came this morning, for I have detected a villain in a plot to ruin poor Leola! You remember how I told you I was betrothed to Chester Olyphant, a millionaire of New York, and that he was gone on a yachting tour for a few weeks. Well, this morning I found that, instead of going yachting, as he pretended, the unprincipled villain, who knew of Leola from me, had come down here masquerading as Ray Chester, an artist, making love to poor, innocent Leola. This morning he came upon us in the arbor, and when I exposed him to the girl, she fell in a swoon so deep that it looks like death.”

A bitter oath shrilled over Wizard Hermann’s lips, and he cried:

“Where is he, the villain? Let me get my hands on his throat!”

“He is gone to bring Doctor Barnes, uncle, but he will be back with him presently, and were I you, dear uncle, I should wreak vengeance on the wretch for his double treachery—to me, his betrothed, and to poor, innocent Leola, whom he has deceived with his false protestations of love. You need not fear to anger me, for I will never marry him now; I hate him for his treachery,” raged the artful girl, and her uncle responded:

“I’ll throw him down the steps and break every bone in his body, if he ventures back here. But Leola is lying unconscious, you say. Have they brought her into the house?”

“Yes, she is in her room, and her governess with her. I daresay she will revive presently, and as I cannot do anything more for her I’ll go help mamma to unpack our trunks, while you watch for the doctor and that wretch, Chester Olyphant.”

And hoping in the bottom of her heart that not a bone would be left unbroken in the young man’s body, hating him because he knew her for what she was, and because she could never win him back again, she flew to her mother to relate all that had occurred.

“I told you so. I knew that day that Chester Olyphant was struck with the girl, and wanted to find her out, but you would not listen to me, and now you have lost him forever,” was her comment.

“Oh, I knew you’d have to go over all that, but even if I had known it, how could I have helped it?” was the ungracious reply.

“Then, what do you want me to do?” asked the querulous mother, and she quailed when Jessie whispered in her ear:

“I want you to go and help Miss Tuttle to revive Leola—that is, to pretend to, but really to see that she stays dead, for it would be joy to me to see Chester Olyphant bereaved of his love.”

“Jessie, you are mad, girl! I cannot aid you in such a nefarious design,” cried the poor, nervous mother, trembling as with a chill.

“Then I will manage it myself!” Jessie hissed, rushing madly from the room to Leola’s bedside.

But Miss Tuttle gently barred her from the door.

“Doctor Barnes is here, and he will not permit anyone in the room but myself, not even her betrothed,” she said, curtly, shutting the door calmly in Jessie’s very face.



Wizard Hermann turned about, half-stunned from his interview with Jessie Stirling, and went back to his laboratory, where he had been reading a new treatise on one of his favorite hobbies—the transmutation of the baser metals into gold. The man had no more heart or conscience than a clam, and his interest in chemistry was greater than his love for humanity.

The greatest aim he had in life was to prosecute to a successful issue the two[Pg 19] hobbies that had been the ruling passion of his life, to invent a magic elixir of life, and to create fabulous riches to sustain a life so lengthened in luxury.

He was mad for gold wherewith to purchase the smallest specimen of a newly discovered mineral called radium, to which was ascribed the most remarkable properties ever heard of, but the price of this treasure was fabulous to a man in his situation, impoverished by a lifetime spent in this costly and vain pursuit of the unattainable.

His great plan and hope had been to pay off the mortgage on the place, and to immediately place another upon it, so as to invest a portion in the new mineral, from which so much was hoped and predicted in the scientific world.

His rage at the failure of his plan was deep and bitter. With Leola dead, all his plans would come to naught. Old Bennett would foreclose the mortgage and ruin him. In his old age he must go forth a beggar into the world, friendless, and without a place to lay his head.

Through this terrible trick of fate all his plans and aspirations must be wrecked, and science lose, perhaps, the magnificent discoveries to which he had devoted his life.

No wonder he was filled with a blind fury against Chester Olyphant, through whose treachery Leola’s death had come to pass, thus thwarting all his plans for future gain.

He shut the treatise, whose reading had been so fatefully interrupted, and went out to watch for Chester Olyphant with murder in his heart.

But while he had been talking with Jessie, and putting away his precious treatise, time had slipped faster than he knew. Olyphant, who had met the doctor close by in the road, had quickly returned with him, and he had gone up to Leola’s room.

The young man, himself a prey to the bitterest anxiety, with hope and fear commingled, was waiting in the wide, sunny hall for news, when he came face to face with the grim master of the house, like a ravening lion seeking for prey.

He forced a smile upon his pallid lips, and exclaimed, eagerly:

“Ah. Mr. Hermann, I have been wishing to see you, sir. I”—

He got no further, for Wizard Hermann, temporarily mad with baffled hope and bitter resentment, suddenly raised his hand, in whose clenched fingers gleamed a heavy iron instrument, and in an access of fury struck unerringly at the brown, curly head bent courteously before him.

It was a blow that might have felled an ox.

Chester Olyphant, taken off guard, ignorant of the fact that he was in the presence of one temporarily or morally insane, received the blow full, and went down before it without a struggle, yielding up life in one short, choking gasp, that was like a thunder-clap in the ears of his foe.

For, all in a moment, there came over the frenzied murderer a wild realization of his deadly crime, and bending down to peer at the still, white face of the fallen man, he groaned in horror of his sin and its consequences:

“Dead! dead! Why, I did not mean to strike so hard! I—I—never thought one blow could kill! What shall I do? No one must find me here. I must fly”—

At this incoherent moment, while he was rising from the body of his victim, there came slouching through the wide, sunny hall the figure of his man of all work, Joslyn, a strange, hideous, taciturn man, yet devoted to his master’s service through many thankless years.

Joslyn stopped and stared in bewilderment, glaring at the uncanny scene.

Wizard Hermann, peering up at him in consternation, whimpered like a beaten hound:

“I didn’t mean to hit so hard. He—he—was too easy to kill! If they find me here they’ll hang me for murder! Save me! save me! Joslyn!”

The hideous servitor, conscious of but one thing—his master’s peril—was quick to hear and heed.

At any moment some one might come in at the open door, and one glance meant detection of the hideous crime his master had wrought.

Joslyn looked stupid, but his master knew it was only in looks. His brain was keen and alert, as he had proved many a time before.

Just one moment he paused, hesitated; then his dull eyes gleamed beneath the bushy brows, and he was prepared for action.

They were just in front of the library door, and, swooping down like an eagle on his prey, he caught up Chester Olyphant’s limp body in his long, wiry arms, and dragged him inside the room. Hermann staggered after him with quaking limbs and a ghastly face; then Joslyn softly shut and locked the door.

The two old men, who had grown gray in each other’s confidence and service—grim old men, who had outgrown pity or interest in youth and love and all that was sweetest in the world, now stood face to face, and between them, on the floor, that limp body that, now cold and senseless, had been but a little while ago a picture of manly strength and splendor, with a heart throbbing fast with the passion of youth.

“Who saw you do it?” Joslyn demanded, gruffly.

“Not a soul!” whimpered the craven wretch. “You see, I did it in a passion before I thought, because he”—

But Joslyn’s coarse, hairy hand, upraised, commanded silence.

“Don’t waste time now to tell why ’twas done. The thing is that you did it, and that you must hide it or swing for it,” he said, with rough emphasis that made his master cower again like a beaten hound.

The servant knelt down and examined the silent victim.

“Dead as a door-nail, an’ gittin’ cold a’ready! You hit him a turrible whack, sir, on his head! Must have fractured his skull, the way it feels.”

“I didn’t know I had such strength. I hit harder than I meant. I—I”—began Hermann, weakly, but the man shut him off.

“No use cryin’ over spilt milk. What’s done is done, an’ now we got to hide the corp, an’ let it go as one of the myster’ous disappearances we read about every week in the newspapers!”

“Joslyn, how clever you are! Oh, if we can only manage it! But I cannot think clearly. My brain’s on fire ever since Jessie came with her terrible story, and[Pg 20] tempted me to kill him because of the hearts he had broken—hers and Leola’s, too, so that she wanted vengeance on him for their wrongs. So I seized that iron wedge and went to watch for him, and the minute he spoke to me I struck, and he fell. He’s dead, and he deserved it. I am not sorry, only I don’t want to be found out,” Hermann mumbled on, unheeded by the other, who stood with his brows wrinkled in profound thought.

He chuckled, suddenly, and Hermann muttered:

“You have a thought, clever Joslyn; you will save me!”

“Perhaps so, sir, if I can work out my plan.”

“Yes, yes?”

“You know what’s under this floor, sir?”

“The underground passage where my ancestors used to hide from the Indians—yes, yes. Can we drop him through?”

“Sure, if I can get the tools in here to rip up some flooring and put it back. Will you stay here, locked in, while I push them into the window, for I daren’t bring them into the hall.”

“Yes, go, quickly,” and he let him out and closed and locked the door again, waiting, with a chill of horror at his heart, of that white and silent thing lying at his feet.

Presently there was a noise outside the window, and he went and took in the tools that Joslyn reached up to him. Then he admitted him, and they went at their grewsome work of hiding the mute witness of that terrible crime.

In the midst of their task came a light rap on the door.

“Uncle Hermann, I want you!” Jessie said, excitedly.

“I am engaged—excuse me,” he bawled, hoarsely, through the keyhole.

“All right,” she answered, after a moment’s hesitation; “I only wanted to tell you about Leola. Doctor Barnes says she is not dead, after all, and he is bringing her around; do you hear?”

“Yes, I hear, Jessie. Now go away, like a good girl; I cannot be disturbed,” he assured her, turning back to Joslyn in time to see him lift Chester Olyphant’s body and let it fall through the opening in the floor.



“Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.”

Leola sat up in bed among the white covers, scarcely whiter than her face, and smiled wanly into Miss Tuttle’s anxious eyes.

“I am sorry that I am better. I wish I had died,” she said, bitterly.

For twenty-four hours she had been threatened with brain fever, but now the crisis had passed, and she was improving.

Doctor Barnes, who had been very uneasy all this time, had said just now she would soon be well—that her youth and fine constitution had tided her safely over the danger point.

These two days Miss Tuttle had nursed her most carefully, admitting, by the doctor’s orders, no one but himself.

In vain Jessie Stirling pleaded to come in and help nurse the patient; Miss Tuttle sent her ruthlessly away.

“Doctor Barnes exacts perfect quiet, and trusts her only to me,” she said, proudly.

Jessie retired, baffled and angry, to cogitate over the mystery of Chester Olyphant’s disappearance.

For since he had gone to bring the doctor to Leola, no one had seen his face.

Jessie had by no means expected him to retreat from the field of battle. Instead, she had looked for him to march off with victory on his banners, the battle gained, the prize won. She knew that if Chester could get an opportunity to tell her uncle that he was rich and would pay off the mortgage on Wheatlands, he could easily gain his ends and marry Leola.

It was in dread of this that she had incited him to anger against Chester, hoping to prevent their coming to an understanding.

But Chester’s unexplained disappearance had startled and surprised everyone, for only this morning Mrs. Gray, the widow at whose cottage home he boarded, had come to Wheatlands to seek him, saying he had not been back for two days.

Diligent inquiry revealed the fact that Doctor Barnes was the last person who had seen him at all, having left him alone in the hall the day he had brought him to see Leola.

Widow Gray was quite alarmed, and did not know what to think.

“He certainly expected to return, for he did not take his trunk away,” she said, but Mr. Hermann made light of the matter.

“Go home, and don’t worry—he has perhaps been called away by a telegram, and will be back in due time,” he said.

“Indeed, I hope so, sir. He was a very fine young man, and I hope he has come to no harm,” she protested.

And again the wizard laughed:

“How could he come to harm in broad daylight in my house?”

“That’s so, sir; I don’t see how he could indeed, but I hope I shall hear from him soon, for I had bad dreams last night, and my mind misgives me,” she sighed.

Then she asked if she might see the sick girl, but was told she was too ill. Thereupon she went away, sighing, with a very long face, saying to herself:

“If I had told that horrid old man he would not have believed me, but last night I heard spirit voices sobbing in the pine tree outside my window, and whenever I hear that, it’s a sure sign of trouble.”

While she went slowly out of the gate Miss Tuttle was watching her from the window, and she said to the pale girl sitting back among the pillows:

“There goes Mrs. Gray. I suppose she has been to inquire about you.”

Leola’s wistful eyes looked at her with a mute question, and she answered, gently:

“You’re thinking of Mr. Chester Olyphant, I know, dearie, and I had better tell you and get it off your mind. He has gone away.”

“Gone away!” Leola repeated, trembling, her lips white, her eyes somber with misery.

“Yes, gone away, and a good riddance, I say, for how could he face you again after all that has happened? He has nearly broken Miss Stirling’s heart as well as yours, and she vows she will never speak to him again for your sake! Only think of the great monster, engaged to her, and[Pg 21] coming off down here to make love to you, because you were so pretty and so innocent. There was not a word he could say in his own defence, nothing but to sneak away like a hound beaten for stealing! Yes, he is gone, and I hope that is the last of him!”

Leola’s white, trembling hands hid her face, but presently she spoke wearily through her fingers:

“I have just one favor to ask you, dear Miss Tuttle. Never mention his name to me again, so that I may find it easier to forget.”

Alas, would she find oblivion of pain so easily?

“When vain desire at last and vain regret
Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
And teach the unforgetful to forget?”

To her own heart the unhappy girl was saying:

“Oh, why did I not die when I found that he was false, and my dream of love over? Why linger on when the charm is gone from life, and I must live on, shamed, humiliated, by the thought that Jessie Stirling’s proud, rich lover stooped from the height where he should dwell to pluck a wayside flower, then trample it beneath his feet? Oh, it is torture to think he held me so lightly!”



She wondered that she did not die of her shame and despair, so keen was her pain and humiliation, but the day wore to sunset and she was still alive, although the face of the whole world had changed to her in twenty-four hours, so that the blue of the sky and the gold of the sun no longer seemed fair, and the birdsongs in the trees outside had changed to notes of sadness that fell coldly on her heart.

There came to her a sharp memory of the little song she had once loved, the one that had lingered on her lips the day she rode so blithely away on Rex to meet her fate in the beautiful dark blue eyes that had been so false and fair:

“Honey-flowers to the honey-comb,
And the honey-bees from home.
“A honey-comb and a honey-flower
And the bee shall have his hour.
“A honeyed heart for the honey-comb
And the honey-bee flies home.
“A heavy heart in the honey-flower
And the bee has had his hour.”

“I am going to let you sit in this easy-chair by the window to watch the beautiful July sunset, and Mr. Hermann wants to come in and see you,” Miss Tuttle said, placing the chair ready and dressing her patient in a soft white wrapper.

But it was Jessie Stirling who pushed open the door and tripped in, first taking advantage of its being unlocked.

“Poor dear, how changed you look, how pale, how ill! It was a terrible shock to you to find out how Chester Olyphant had deceived you, was it not?” she twittered, loquaciously, coolly taking a chair in front of Leola, and adding:

“You may well fancy it was a shock to me, too, to find him down here flirting with you when I thought him safe on a yacht thousands of miles away. Did Miss Tuttle tell you he has gone away in a huff at being found out, and without leaving any word for me? Yes, he has gone, and at first I vowed I never would forgive him his flirtation with you, but—well, when I go back to New York perhaps I will relent, after he has coaxed long enough. We really are very fond of each other, you know, though Chester cannot help flirting any more than he can help breathing. I shall never let him know how hard you took it, for that would flatter his vanity too much!”

His vanity, dear heaven! and she had believed he loved her, thought Leola, with silent shame and despair.

She could not bear to look at Jessie, his jubilant betrothed, sitting there in her pretty fashionable gown and fluffy flaxen locks in a wavy aureole over her white brow. She wished secretly that the girl would go away and leave her alone with her wounded heart.

But Jessie went on, eagerly:

“When I consent to forgive him for this I shall scold him roundly, you may be sure, Leola, and I shall pretend to him that after that little fainting fit you came around all right, and despised him for his duplicity, and vowed you would never see him again. He shall not think, the vain creature, that you wore the willow an hour for his sake. I will pretend you had other lovers to take his place. That will be true, for there is Mr. Bennett, who adores you, although you have flouted him so badly. As for me, if I were in your place I’d marry Bennett out of hand, to show Chester Olyphant how little I cared about him! That would take the conceit out of him quicker than anything you could do!”

So she twittered on artfully until Leola’s lovely face grew crimson with shame at her own weakness in caring so much for one so unworthy.

Without saying one word, her somber eyes turned to the setting sun; she writhed with secret shame that Jessie could think she cared so much for her frivolous lover. Oh, if she could only tear this pain from her heart; only smile again as before this cruel blow that had nearly struck her dead with its agony.

As Jessie chattered on, she began to feel a passionate contempt for the man as the pretty blonde depicted him, shallow, vain, unscrupulous.

“Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a mouldering string:
I am shamed through all my nature to have loved so slight a thing!”

With sudden angry passion, her dark eyes flashing, she turned upon the artful girl:

“Please speak no more to me on that subject, Jessie. You weary me. I despise the man. I wish never to hear his name again!” she cried, bitterly, and her weakness seemed to fall from her, in passionate contempt.

“Poor Leola, I cannot blame you,” cried the triumphant blonde, cheerfully, just as the door opened again, and Wizard Hermann glided softly into the room.

“Ah, Leola, you are better. I am very glad,” he said, in a smooth, oily voice, taking the chair Jessie vacated, saying she must go to mamma.

She nodded, wearily, without speaking,[Pg 22] wishing they would all leave her alone, for every human face seemed hateful to her now.

She would not meet his eyes, or she would have seen that he looked ill and nervous, too, and that his always furtive, unpleasant manner had grown more marked and repellent still.

“Miss Tuttle,” he added, “you may leave the room. I have private affairs to talk of with my ward.”

When they were quite alone he turned back to her, saying, earnestly:

“I have come, Leola, to explain my private affairs to you, and to make one more appeal to you to help me out of my trouble.”

She listened without replying, the deep somber eyes fixed on the fading sunset beyond the distant hills, and Wizard Hermann continued:

“For years I have been heavily in debt, and had to borrow money from my rich neighbor, Mr. Bennett, to meet my living expenses and take care of you, Leola, in proper style for a pretty young girl. You have had your governess, your horse, your clothing, without a care on your young mind, but I, in order to meet your expenses, and keep this roof over your head, have been obliged to place a mortgage of fifteen thousand dollars on Wheatlands, and to-morrow the mortgage falls due. If Bennett forecloses, as he swears he will, we shall all be turned out homeless.”

It was on her lips to say that she did not care, that nothing really mattered to her now, but she bit her lips and held back the words, waiting silently to the end.

“I have no means of paying my debt; I cannot possibly raise the money, but neighbor Bennett has been very generous; he has offered to forego his pay, to destroy the mortgage, on one condition. Are you listening, Leola?”

She nodded, without turning her gaze from the sunset hills, and he continued, eagerly:

“I think you know what is coming, Leola. Bennett has fallen madly in love with you, and wants you for his wife. If you consent he will settle a hundred thousand dollars on you, and forego the debt I owe. As for the rest, when you are once his wife, you can wind the foolish old man around your fingers like a ribbon, and have your own way in everything. If you refuse he swears he will turn us all out of doors in twenty-four hours.”

He paused and waited, but she did not speak, and realizing how futile would be the attempted exercise of authority, he fell to pleading:

“Can you let this terrible calamity befall us, Leola—me in my old age, you in your youth and beauty? Why, we would not have whereon to lay our heads if we anger Giles Bennett.”

The somber dark eyes turned to him, questioningly:

“I—I—have always supposed that you held money in trust for me, sir. I did not dream that I was an expense to you, as you say,” exclaimed Leola. “Have I then no friends who can help us in our need?”

“Not one, Leola, for I know nothing of your relations. To be plain, I took you, a pauper child, from the almshouse, for pity’s sake, and have reared you as well as though you had been my own daughter. The secret of your birth I kept, and it shall never pass my lips. But in the hour of my misfortune I appeal to you to pay the debt of gratitude you owe me—a debt that you can only pay by marrying Giles Bennett to-morrow.”

An icy shudder shook her weak frame; she felt that death were sweeter than such a fate.

But the man who had befriended her young life was waiting with haggard eyes for her answer—waiting for her to save him from despair.

And she, the pauper, nameless, homeless, save for Wizard Hermann’s charity—would it not be monstrous ingratitude to refuse his prayer?

She faltered, recklessly:

“I will marry the man!”



When the rash words had passed Leola’s lips a great trembling seized upon her, a horror of life she had never felt before, and she longed to scream out aloud to him that she must take back her promise—that she could not bind her beautiful, throbbing young life to oily, unctuous Giles Bennett, the man more than twice her age, and who in no way could be her fitting mate, not if he paid a million dollars instead of what he offered.

But when she saw Wizard Hermann’s radiant face, she dared not utter her passionate protest against being sold in the market like a beautiful Circassian slave to the highest bidder. She feared a fit of violence, or that he might fall down dead at her feet of the revulsion of feeling from relief to disappointment.

She restrained the words that ached in her throat, and leaned back, helplessly, in her chair, her eyes half shut, her face death-white, her senses reeling, and heard, half-consciously only, the profuse thanks he was pouring out, and the dazzling picture he was painting of her future as a rich man’s wife, even adding, consolingly, that the fat old man might drop off any day from apoplexy, and leave her a rich and happy young widow.

“Go, leave me,” she sighed, faintly, and he hurried out, nothing loath, to spread the good news.

The next thing Leola knew she was in bed again, and Miss Tuttle was reviving her with cold water on her face mixed with hot tears that fell from her own eyes.

“Oh, Miss Tuttle, what are you crying about?” she sighed, curiously. “Is it true, then, that he made me—promise to—to”—

“To marry Giles Bennett; is that what you mean? Yes, he says you promised to marry that wretch to-morrow. Oh, oh, oh, this will break my heart!” and poor Miss Tuttle and Leola, clasped in each other’s arms, mixed their tears together.

When they grew a little calmer Leola explained how the promise had been extorted from her by appeals to her gratitude.

“Oh, do you think it can be true? Am I only a pauper, taken from the almshouse, for charity’s sake—perhaps nameless, too?” she sobbed, bitterly.

Miss Tuttle could give her no comfort, for although she had been Leola’s governess from the age of three, she had never fathomed the mystery about her charge. But she tried to reassure her, saying:

“Do not brood over it, dear girl, it is possibly one of old Hermann’s false tales to[Pg 23] coerce you into obedience. I should sooner believe that he has appropriated to his own use money that belonged to you, and thinks he can make it up to you this way.”

“To live with Giles Bennett as his wife—that old Falstaff of a man!—I loathe the prospect!” sobbed Leola.

“While I envy you with all my heart!” exclaimed the governess. “Oh, Leola, how strangely fate plays at cross purposes with human beings! How gladly I would change places with you and become his wife!”

“Oh, that you could, dear soul!” Leola answered, and neither one slept that night for the tumult of their thoughts—Leola’s all grief and repugnance, Miss Tuttle’s all envy and wounded love—and when the sunshine of the July morning peeped into the windows their faces were haggard and pain-drawn, and both felt as if the day of execution had dawned, for Hermann had told the governess to prepare Leola to be married at sundown that evening, when the carriage would be waiting to convey her at once to her new home.

With heavy eyes they looked into each other’s faces, wondering how they could escape their doom, and Leola cried, desperately:

“There is one chance left, and I shall take it. When I have paid my debt of gratitude to my guardian by marrying Giles Bennett, I—I—shall not be among the living to-morrow!”

“Do you mean it, Leola?”

“I swear it,” answered the girl, recklessly, and Miss Tuttle knew, by the somber gaze of the beautiful dark eyes, that it was true. Life, that had flowed along like a silvery rippling stream between flower-fringed banks, had suddenly become a muddy torrent rushing onward to destruction, and naught could stay its onward course. Desperate, reckless, she was ready to rush unbidden into the Great Beyond, daring the unknown future in terror of the awful present.

“Oh, Leola, you must not! It would be a terrible sin! Promise me you will not!” cried the poor soul, timorously.

But Leola’s shut lips kept a deadly silence, and Miss Tuttle continued, conciliatory:

“If you could escape this marriage, Leola, would you then be willing to live?”

The sudden gleam of hope in the dark eyes assured her that Leola might yet find something to live for in her shadowed life, and she continued:

“Dearie, I have a plan that might help you. I’ve been turning it over and over in my mind, but I never should have broached it had it not been for your dreadful threat.”

“Tell it to me,” implored the girl, and glancing cautiously around, that none might overhear, Miss Tuttle bent and whispered some rapid words into Leola’s ear.

A light began to dance in the dark eyes, the pale lips smiled a little, and Leola cried:

“It will be a terrible risk to run, but if you can manage it and are not afraid, I will help all I can, for I long to punish Giles Bennett for his meanness!”

“I’ll take all the responsibility for everything,” smiled Miss Tuttle, glowing with eagerness. “Don’t you worry one bit, Leola; it will all come right in the end. But, oh, dear, I’ve got to put in a busy day getting the bride ready.”

“Make her as pretty as you can, and let the veil be very thick,” laughed Leola, with renewed good humor. “And, by-the-way, Miss Tuttle, you are to tell my guardian that before the ceremony begins Giles Bennett must destroy the mortgage in my presence, or I will not marry him at all.”

So the busy day began, for the whole household was in a state of excitement over the sudden wedding.

Mrs. Stirling and her daughter entered heartily into the spirit of the affair, and set the servants to work transforming the dingy parlor into a floral bower, with wildflowers and evergreens.

The scheming pair were delighted to think of getting rid of Leola so easily, hoping that some fortunate turn of fortune’s fickle wheel might yet bring back Chester Olyphant into Jessie’s power.

While they worked downstairs on the parlor, Miss Tuttle reported herself as very busy upstairs, getting ready the simple outfit of the bride, and packing her trunk for the flitting. Leola would not admit anybody else inside the door. She said she was too busy and too nervous.

Inside that locked door there were strange doings, to be sure.

You would have thought them a pair of amateur actresses, from the way they went on.

The governess had dragged down from the garret a little old trunk containing some stage properties that had once upon a time belonged to an actress who had died while on a visit to Wizard Hermann’s mother. Her relatives had never taken away the box, and many a time Leola had amused herself looking over the queer things on rainy days when she could not go out.

She and Miss Tuttle were amusing themselves again, brushing and combing over the old wigs, Leola trying on the sedate brown front, and Miss Tuttle the curly golden one, that certainly took fifteen years off her age, after Leola made up her sallow face with rouge and powder.

Then Miss Tuttle tried on Leola’s best gown, the dark brown cloth with the silk waist and loose jacket. The pretty brown toque was not unbecoming, with the double veil of white dotted malines, and Leola, who had never expected to smile again, had to giggle like a little school girl at the tout ensemble.

“Oh, Miss Tuttle, you will make a lovely bride! I am sorry I shall not have a handsome gift for you!” she cried.

“You will have given me the desire of my heart!” cried the governess, so seriously and gratefully that Leola laughed harder than ever, thinking she was certainly very easy to please, since portly Giles Bennett could fill the measure of her happiness. It made her think of the old adage Betsy, the cook, had repeated to her the other day: “Ever’buddy to deir taste, missie, as de ole ’oman said when she kissed de cow.”

However, it was very lucky for Leola that Miss Tuttle was so infatuated with the rotund widower that she was willing to win him by hook or crook, so her laughter grew more and more joyous as she added, merrily:

“Be sure that you put a little water in all the kerosene lamps about the house, so that they will flicker and grow dim.”

[Pg 24]



Very dimly, indeed, burned the lamps among the floral decorations as the family at Wheatlands gathered in the parlor for the wedding ceremony, Jessie and her mother in full evening dress, though Leola had sent word down that she would be married simply in her traveling dress.

Outside the gates waited the brand new carriage, with prancing white horses, that had brought Giles Bennett and the Methodist preacher who was to perform the ceremony, and in the parlor the bridegroom waited, spick and span in his new black suit, for his bonny bride. Jessie Stirling, at the piano, had already begun the first low notes of the wedding march, and to that sound came Leola slowly down the stairs on the arm of Miss Tuttle, having peremptorily declined her guardian’s escort.

Mrs. Stirling thought it rather ridiculous, as they came in sight, that that silly old maid, Miss Tuttle, had chosen to wear a hat and veil like the bride at the ceremony, but she did not give the poor, drab-faced creature a second look, she was so intent on watching the proceedings.

Wizard Hermann met the pair at the door, and taking the golden-haired girl by the arm, led her to the rotund bridegroom waiting nervously for his happiness.

The minister cleared his throat ready to proceed, but the bride stood still for a moment, facing Giles Bennett, and her low voice said, distinctly:

“The mortgage on Wheatlands—the prize for which I am sold, sir—have you brought it as agreed upon?”

He produced a folded paper, and she beckoned to her guardian.

“Examine this paper. Is it bona fide?”

He answered, huskily:


She looked at Giles Bennett.

“You are willing that I destroy this paper, on condition that I marry you immediately afterward?”

“I agree to your conditions,” he said, and directly the fragments of the mortgage fluttered, like a miniature snowstorm, from the bride’s white-gloved hands to the floor.

Then she took his arm, and they moved across to the waiting minister, who began to pray.

In the excitement no one noticed a rapping on the open hall door, nor that poor Miss Tuttle, instead of attending the bride as maid of honor, had sunk into a low seat near the door with her handkerchief hiding her veiled face.

The music played on softly, like a sigh, the dim lights flickered forlornly among the fragrant flowers, and the short marriage ceremony of the Methodist Church in less than ten minutes made Leola Mead the bride of Giles Bennett, who had bought her for her beauty like a slave in the Circassian market.

And just as he pronounced the pair man and wife the man who had been knocking unheard at the hall door strode impatiently to the parlor and looked within at the unexpected sight of a wedding party.

He was a middle-aged man of distinguished appearance, with dark eyes, grizzled auburn hair and a face bronzed as from travel. No one saw him as he waited at the door, while the witnesses crowded forward with eager congratulations to the smirking bridegroom and the veiled bride.

Last of all came the one who had been sitting yonder sobbing in her little lace handkerchief, and taking first the hand of Giles Bennett, she exclaimed, earnestly:

“I congratulate you, sir, on winning this rare prize. She will make you very happy, I know.”

Then, with a soft laugh that startled everyone, she threw her arms about the bride, half-sobbing:

“Dear, dear governess, I hate to give you up, even to our kind neighbor, Mr. Bennett, for you have loved him so well, I know it is for your best happiness to leave me!”

With a dexterous movement of her hand she flung off her veil, hat and wig in one gesture, and stood revealed, beautiful, golden-haired Leola, masquerading in Miss Tuttle’s worn and threadbare black silk gown, a skimpy thing, too short and too tight, and likely to burst with the peal of laughter that shrilled over her rosy lips at their amazed looks.

They all began talking wildly at once, and staring in wonder at the veiled bride, who suddenly followed Leola’s example, and threw off hat, veil and golden wig together, showing Miss Tuttle’s pretty brown waves of hair, and her pale, rather frightened face that turned piteously to her new made husband as she faltered, weakly:

“I planned this deception to save my dear Leola, because she vowed that rather than live with you, after she had paid her guardian’s debt, she would kill herself this very night. I couldn’t let her do that, the poor girl, who hasn’t a friend on earth but me, and whom I love as if she were my own child, so, to save her, I carried out this trick, and I am your wife, sir, whether you own me or not. But though I am not as young and pretty as Leola, I will be a better companion for you, Giles, than she would ever be, for she fears and hates you, while I have always respected you highly ever since I knew you, and will try to make you a good wife if you will overlook the little ruse by which I won you.”

They were all so dazed that no one had tried to interrupt her, but now Giles Bennett, turning furiously on Hermann, cried:

“You hound, you let me be tricked into this fraud, but it shall avail you nothing! I repudiate this marriage and the whole transaction. The destruction of that paper shall not prevent me from getting back my money from you. The law will protect me in my rights.”

“I protest I had no hand in this deception. I meant honestly by you, and to prove my word I will have nothing more to do with those women, who have united in this effort to make you a laughing stock, and to get me into trouble. They shall both leave my roof to-night and forever, Giles, but I beg you will be patient with me and grant me a little more time before you bring suit to recover your money,” began Hermann, abjectly, when a ringing voice cried, “Hold!” and the unobserved stranger at the door strode, uninvited, into the room, adding:

“Ah, Henry Hermann, you know me. I have come at last for my daughter, Leola, and it seems I have unearthed some villainy on your part. Will some one tell me the meaning of all this excitement?”

Leola flew to him with a cry of joy.

[Pg 25]

“My father, oh, my father! You have come at last!”

The bronzed stranger clasped her to his heart and kissed her beautiful lips again and again, exclaiming:

“Sweet image of your lovely mother, now an angel in heaven, we shall never be parted again! But now tell me the meaning of this strange scene.”

Clinging fondly to his arm the girl answered, spiritedly:

“That old Falstaff there held a mortgage on my guardian’s estate for fifteen thousand dollars, and offered to cancel it if I would become his wife. So I was persecuted into giving him my promise, and to save me from despair and suicide my dear governess planned to deceive them and put herself in my place.”

“But it won’t do any good,” blustered the angry Bennett, “I won’t take the old girl on any terms, and I’ll have my money out of Hermann all right, and that soon!”

He recoiled in surprise at the stranger’s contemptuous laugh.

“Your mortgage is not worth the paper it was written on, for I hold a prior one that Hermann executed to me over thirty years ago, for thirty thousand dollars, as much as the full value of his estate. This money he had from me before my Leola was born, because I admired his scientific attainment and wished to make him independent, so that he could prosecute his experiments in chemistry. At my dear wife’s death I went abroad with an exploring party to drown my grief. As Hermann’s mother was a kinswoman of mine, I left Leola with him, giving him ten thousand dollars for taking care of her, but it seems that he has betrayed his trust, and but for this noble governess here my poor girl would have been betrayed into a wretched marriage. I have no more use for so unworthy a guardian, but I shall not take revenge by foreclosing my mortgage on his home. I shall leave him in peaceable possession the term of his life; then Wheatlands will revert to my daughter, Leola. For the rest, as soon as Leola can pack up to leave I shall take my dear girl away with me to New York, and if Mr. Bennett repudiates his pretty bride, she may accompany us. I am rich, and for her love and care of Leola she shall be well repaid.”

The bride and groom looked at each other, she pitifully humble and entreating, he angry and resentful, yet on a sudden inclined to make the best of what seemed to him a bad bargain, so that he muttered, ungraciously: “You may come home with me, Amanda.”



The tender-hearted Mrs. Gray returned to her cottage after her repulse at Wheatlands in a very sad state of mind over Chester Olyphant’s strange disappearance.

In the month that he had boarded with her she had grown to appreciate him very highly for his true manliness and noble character, and, on his part, her esteem had been returned by a frank, out-spoken regard.

Toward the last he had made her his confidant, telling her his true name and position, and explaining why he had wooed Leola under a mask for the sake of romance, wishing to be loved for himself alone.

“My life has been sad in many ways in spite of great wealth,” he said. “My parents died in my early childhood, and I was brought up by an uncle and aunt who are all now dead, so that I have really no near relatives, having been an only child. But now I shall arrange to marry Leola very soon, and my beautiful home on the Hudson, Bonnie View, will have a fitting mistress in my lovely bride. As for you, my dear friend, in return for all your kindness, I want you to come to us when we are married and make your home at Bonnie View as Leola’s companion.”

He was disappointed when she declined, gently but decidedly, to accept his offer, and when he pressed for a reason the good woman said, simply:

“I cannot leave the little cottage where I came a bride, for the sweetest memories of life cluster around this humble spot. Here my two sweet children, my boy and girl, were born, and here they and my husband passed away from me to the Better Land. Here they return in spirit to brood over my lonely life in love and sympathy, and if I went away perhaps they could not find me easily, or perhaps they would not be as well pleased as here, where we were all so happy together. When my earthly life is ended they will come to soothe my last hours and bear me company to my heavenly home, so I must wait for them here, where they watch over me daily, and I am happier so than anywhere else.”

Her words sounded strange to Chester Olyphant in the glow of his love and youth, loving the world and its gay companionship, but he read on her placid features a peace and resignation he could not understand, and ceased to urge her to change her home, only stipulating that he and Leola should at least have a long visit from her at Bonnie View, to which she cheerfully assented.

So now, at his strange absence, her heart sank with dread, for last night at her window the wind in the pine tree had sobbed like ghastly voices, and she remembered that it had sounded just so before each calamity that had darkened her life, vaguely foretelling sorrow.

“Something bad has surely happened to the poor young man, for he would never have gone away like this with no explanation,” she sighed, as she went, restlessly, about her household duties, with a heart as heavy as lead.

On the next afternoon she took her knitting out on the front porch watching, eagerly, up and down the road, for a sight of the absentee, but all in vain.

Suddenly she heard childish voices, and saw four little lads coming in at her front gate—little fair-haired, blue-eyed boys, “stairsteps,” she called them—their ages ranging from eight to twelve.

Widow Gray knew all these neighbor boys very well, and had often entertained them on her front door-step with apples and ginger-bread cookies, for they were adventurous little fellows, brothers and cousins, who often stole away from their homes to explore little caves roundabout, leaving their doting mammas in wild panics over their absence.

The good woman knew that another expedition was on foot, for each boy carried a new tallow candle in hand, and wore his[Pg 26] worst clothes, as if on purpose, while their pretty faces looked up at her, engagingly, as George, the youngest and boldest, acting as spokesman, asked:

“Mis’ Gray, please, ma’am, may we explore the cave that opens from the hill in your back lot?”

Smiling cheerily at them, she answered, kindly:

“Bless your little hearts, there ain’t no cave there, children. My husband always told me ’twas the end of an underground passage from Wheatlands, where the Hermanns used to hide in Indian raids.”

“We’d like to see it, all the same, ma’am, please,” said the blue-eyed boy with the little pug nose, in that sweet coaxing voice that always won its way with every one.

At that she frankly gave consent, since she could see no possible danger in the adventure, but as she handed them out some currant buns for lunch she shook her head at them slyly, saying:

“I wonder if your mas know you are out on this raid?”

“Oh, they don’t care!” fibbed Willie, with a jaunty air, and then they all went around the house, disappearing presently in the hole under the hill, with their lighted candles, the four dearest and happiest little chaps in Christendom.

“Bless their little hearts,” she sighed, wiping the quick tears from her eyes as she thought of her own two darlings at rest in the little green mounds over in the Presbyterian graveyard, under the grass and flowers, and as she knit and rocked the summer wind seemed like tender childish fingers playing with the locks of white hair on her wrinkled brow.

So time slipped away for an hour or so, as she sat there in the summer stillness, lulled by the hum of bees and the song of birds, and the low breeze sighing in the pine trees, and then she started up at the sound of excited voices coming around the house.

The four cave-hunters were returning helter-skelter, their faces pale, their eyes like saucers, all shouting at once:

“Oh, Mis’ Gray, we have found a dead man!”

“A dead man!”

“A dead man!”

“If you don’t believe us, come on, and we will show you!”

It was no boyish joke, she could see from their pale, earnest little faces, so she said:

“Oh, my, how dreadful! Some Indian bones, perhaps, my dears?”

The boys, who had got in a close group together, now began to talk in loud whispers, one saying. “Oh, tell her!” another, “Oh, don’t,” while the something unexplainable in their faces made her tremble with a strange dread.

She said as calmly as she could for the wild beating of her heart:

“Out with it, boys; tell me all you know at once!”

Thereupon Georgie shouted, glibly:

“We went about five miles in the cave with our candles, an’ then we found”—

She held up a remonstrating hand, saying:

“Not five miles, oh, no; I have often heard that the underground road isn’t more than a mile.”

“Well, a mile, then,” continued George, unabashed, “an’ then we thought we heard an nawful grunt, an’ we all jumped so that our candles most went out, an’ the skin creeped on our bones, ’cause we thought it might be an Indian ghost, you see, an’ we might get tommy-hawked, an’ our mammas wouldn’t never know where we was, ’cause we sneaked away,” he broke down, with a stifled whimper, and nudged the next boy to go on.

Alex took up the story, adding:

“The little boys was scared, but we wasn’t, an’ we marched right on, an’ d’reckly we come on a dead man—not Indian bones, no, but a white man with his head all bloody, an’—an’—then we thought we better come back for you, ’cause you know him.”

With a groan she cried:

“You don’t mean my boarder—Mr. Chester!”

Perhaps the little fellows had already decided to break the news to her gently, for they nudged each other, and the oldest one said, sorrowfully:

“It looked like him, but maybe ’tain’t. Please come with us and see!”

“I will come,” she said, “but wait; you said he groaned.”

“Before we got to him it sounded like groans, but when we found him he was dead.”

“Dead as a door nail!” sobbed little Laurie, awesomely, while the eyes of the smallest one brimmed over with tears.

It needed no more to make the excited woman follow their guidance back to the cave, as they persisted in calling it, taking with her some water and a bottle of wine.

She soon found that the little boys had told her the truth.

The body of Chester Olyphant lay seemingly lifeless on the ground, the brown curls matted with blood from a wound on the side of the head.

“Oh, who has done this awful murder?” she moaned, as she listened at his heart for a throb of life.

It seemed to her there was a faint, irregular beat, and she hastened to apply her restoratives, eliciting a low sound like a gasp or sigh.

“Oh, boys, we’ll have to carry him out to the air,” she exclaimed, and by their valiant efforts they got him out of the passage just as twilight darkened the world.



While the wedding was going on at Wheatlands that evening, Doctor Barnes, hastily summoned to the cottage, was sewing up a ghastly cut on Chester Olyphant’s head, and explaining to Widow Gray that it had barely escaped being a fracture of the skull. Even now he could not tell what the outcome would be, for, though life still lingered, there was no return to consciousness.

He made the four little heroes very proud and happy by telling them that God himself must have prompted their expedition that day in order to save the young man’s life, and they scampered off home in great excitement, to spread the news of their wonderful adventure.

Meanwhile the doctor sent for the best nurse in town, and installed her at the cottage to aid Mrs. Gray in caring for the patient.

But when Leola Mead and her father were driven down to the station that night, to take the midnight train for New York, no hint of the truth reached them, and Leola’s heartache over her lover’s falsity was destined to last long, for from that hour, when she had fallen like one dead in the arbor, no news of him transpired for many months. Too proud to confess her heart wound to her father, she never called that once loved name in his hearing; she only sought refuge from her pain in change of scene, saying to him eagerly:

[Pg 27]

“Papa, darling, I have been buried in the country so long that I am wild to see the world. If you are able to gratify my desires, I prefer travel to anything else on earth.”

“I live only to gratify your wishes now, my precious daughter,” answered Alston Mead, eager to atone for having neglected her so long in his passionate grief over the loss of his lovely young wife.

He had planned to come back and settle down in a quiet home with his lovely daughter, but he found it no hardship to gratify her desire for travel, since wandering had become a second nature with him.

So in their leisurely wanderings through the United States, and afterward abroad, the past became almost like a dream to Leola, who told herself, bitterly, that doubtless Jessie Stirling and Olyphant were married long ago, and that she did not care, for she hated him now as much as she had once loved him.

Alston Mead, in all ignorance of the tragic love story of his fair daughter, wondered a little that she remained so indifferent to the suitors she attracted wherever she went, for to him it seemed very natural for a young girl to fall in love; still he rejoiced that she did not appear to be susceptible, saying to himself that he could keep her all the longer to himself.

But all the time Leola was thinking with bitter pique and pain of Jessie and Chester reconciled and happy, perhaps long ago wedded, his love affair of that golden summer an almost forgotten episode.

It was bitter, for Leola knew in her heart that she had given the best and truest love of her life, and that she could never know again the bliss of those fleeting days, when she had loved and trusted as she never could again, because her tenderness had been betrayed, her heart trampled on like a withered flower thrown into the dust.

“Like the wild hyacinth flower, which on the hills is found,
Which the passing feet of the triflers forever tear and wound,
Until the purple blossom is trodden in the ground.”

So strangely and completely had Leola’s life changed that sometimes she felt as if she had died and come to life again in some new world—a kaleidoscopic world of change, in which every face and scene was new—if only, she said to herself, bitterly, she had not brought with her into this new life the cruel memories of the past, that seemed always crying aloud to her heart:

“Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.
Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell.
Cast up thy Life’s foam-fretted feet between;
Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
Which had Life’s form and Love, but by my spell
Is now a shaken shadow intolerable.”

But “time does not stop for tears,” and the days and months rolled away and brought round golden June again, so that it was a year since Leola had ridden out so joyfully on Rex to meet her fate in Chester Olyphant’s dark blue eyes.

They were in Paris now, and everyone knows how charming Paris is in June, but somehow Leola’s thoughts turned backward to the West Virginia hills that she had vowed she never cared to see again—turned back with a strange homesickness to the wild and picturesque scenes where her joyous youth had been nurtured, to the old faces, the old pleasures, and she thought that she should like to get on Rex’s back again for a breezy canter into the country town, or on to the old Blue Sulphur Spring for a draught of its cold, clear, sparkling water.

She could close her eyes and see just how it was looking, after the long, cold winter, in its new summer gown of green, trimmed with violets, blue and white—that dear old hillside back of the house; and the orchard would be decked in pink and white, and the birds would be singing like mad in the branches, and the sky would be blue and sunny, and the sweet air seem like an elixir of life.

She opened her eyes, and she was in Paris again, and she had in her hand a memorandum for the shopping she was going to do that week—gowns and laces and jewels, to deck that wonderful beauty, to set off, like a splendid frame, the peerless form, the flowerlike face, with its somber dark eyes and thick waves of ruddy golden hair—the Titian shade artists raved over.

Her father had had her portrait painted—full length, and all in white—and all Paris had raved over it when the artist had it on exhibition those few days before it was boxed to be shipped to America. She had made many friends, been entertained at the homes of the rich and great, had refused dazzling offers to the wonder of all, and here she was, all at once, with a fit of nostalgia for the simple home and kindly faces that were gone out of her life forever—or so she thought.

She had often thought of the new Mrs. Bennett, wondering if her simple devotion had ever won her rotund husband’s heart, but she had never written her a line in her eagerness to forget the grief over those last days, and put them behind her forever.

Now she thought, tenderly, of the good woman, murmuring:

“How strange it seems I have never heard one word from all I left behind! Some of them may be dead, some married—Jessie and Chester, of course, long ago—but there are few I care for save my dear old governess and Mrs. Gray!”

Putting all these thoughts behind her with a passing wonder why they had come like ghosts from a dead past to disturb her present peace, she rang for her maid and got ready for her shopping tour.

An hour later she knew why those subtle memories had overwhelmed her this morning. It was the influence of telepathy.

Turning over some rare silks at the Arcade, her heart leaped, and her blood turned cold in her veins at the sound of a familiar voice:

“Leola Mead, am I dreaming, or is it really you? What a charming surprise! Why, only this morning I was thinking of you, wondering where you were; and to find you here so soon, it’s like a dream!”

“My foe undreamed of by my side
Stood suddenly like fate—
To those who love, the world is wide,
But not to those who hate!”

Leola felt a small, gloved hand pressing hers very hard, looked into bluebell eyes under flaxen waves of hair, and turned cold with dislike and repulsion, dreading every moment to see over the blonde’s shoulder her husband’s face, handsome and winning, with the laughing blue eyes that had smiled her heart away.

With a strong effort she pulled herself together, calling her passionate pride to her aid. They should not see her wince; she would show them she had forgotten him. She said, coldly:

“So it is you, Jessie Stirling? How long have you been over?”

“Oh, since early spring shopping for my trousseau, you know,” twittered Jessie, gayly.

“Then you are not married yet?” Leola cried, eagerly.

“No; but I shall be soon—in late July. Chester was ill so long, you know,” she twittered on; then, at the startled look in Leola’s dark eyes, “Oh, I forgot you went away so abruptly that night before everything happened—the explosion and all! Tell me, haven’t you ever heard from home? from any of them? Not a word, you say? How very strange! Leola, is your carriage waiting? Yes? Then I will go for a drive with you, and tell you everything. We can come back for our shopping later”—dragging her out.



The two fair young girls stepped into the elegant equipage, and as it rolled down the glittering[Pg 28] boulevard in the glorious sunshine, they were the cynosure of all eyes.

Jessie Stirling began excitedly:

“And so you have never heard a word from West Virginia since the night you left so suddenly! Then I have much to tell you. But first, have you not heard from Chester Olyphant in all this time?”

There was an anxious tone in her voice, but Leola did not heed it, she answered so spiritedly:

“That is a strange question, Jessie. I have not heard, or ever wished to hear, from him.”

Jessie’s little tinkling laugh rang out in shallow ripples on the air, as she exclaimed:

“Still angry! But, poor dear, I do not blame you. It was hard for me to forgive him for trifling with your tender heart. It was his illness and suffering that melted my heart.”

Leola listened in blank silence. She would not have asked one word about Chester Olyphant if Jessie had said that he was dead.

“You care nothing for him now—that is plain to be seen. I am glad you have gotten so bravely over it,” said Jessie, smiling at the fair, proud face, with the somber dark eyes gazing straight ahead, though seeing nothing of the gay streets with throngs of happy people going up and down as they drove on behind the liveried coachmen.

Then she added:

“You remember, we thought that Chester Olyphant had run away after I betrayed him? That was wrong.”

She knew that Leola was listening, though she did not answer a word.

“To tell the truth, I may have been a little to blame, Leola, for, in anger at Chester’s duplicity, I ran to Uncle Hermann with my story, and he was angry—fearfully angry—at the wrong done to me and to you. At first he swore he would horse-whip him, but mamma begged him not to create a public sensation, for she said it was best to let it blow over. Uncle Hermann did not say yea or nay, and we thought he was pacified.”

She drew a long breath, and continued:

“Well, you remember how everything happened that night—the wedding, your father’s return to take you away, and everything? When the Bennetts were gone, also you and your father, Uncle Hermann was desperate. We sat up late talking over matters, holding, as it were, a council of war; for, though your father had mercifully permitted him a life-time use of Wheatlands, he was so involved in debt that he could not see a dollar in sight anywhere.”

Leola made no comment, and the speaker went on:

“Uncle Hermann wanted to borrow of mamma, saying he was prosecuting an experiment that must, if it succeeded, make him fabulously rich, and revolutionize the whole world. But chemical ingredients were costly, and he could not go on a week longer without money. He had borrowed, begged, got all he could, and was desperate for more funds. He said he could almost steal, if he knew where to lay his hands on the money, for the sake of his great experiment. He even went on his knees to mamma, but alas! it was ‘like going to the goat’s house for wool.’ Mamma had pawned her diamonds long before to keep afloat in society, and was desperate for means herself. So she could not help him at all, and she said she would go home next day so as not to bother him any longer in his trouble. We retired, and at breakfast next morning he said he and Joslyn would be busy in the laboratory until afternoon; that he had a few chemicals to work on yet; and that, before we left, we might have to congratulate him on the success of his experiment.”

Leola began to look more interested. She could not help being sorry for Wizard Hermann and the failure of his pet hobbies—the ambitions of a toilsome lifetime.

Jessie Stirling continued:

“Mamma and I went upstairs and packed our trunks, and telephoned to town for a man to take them down to the station. When they were gone we walked out to the arbor, waiting for luncheon, and to bid good-bye to my uncle, when—oh, Leola, with a shock!—suddenly there was the sound of a terrific explosion from the tower, and we fell back almost stunned in our seats. It almost seemed as if the world were coming to an end, for one loud report followed another, and the tower was blown away, with all of the chimneys. Then suddenly all grew still, and fire shot out of the windows and doors, caused by an explosion of gasoline Uncle Hermann had been using in his experiments.”

“Oh, how terrible!” cried Leola, finding voice at last.

“Yes, was it not?” cried Jessie, growing excited at the memory, and adding: “For not only was the house burned to the ground, but Joslyn, uncle’s servant, was killed; while as for himself, he fought his way bravely from the burning building, saving his life at the expense of all that made it worth living—his eyesight destroyed, his arms burned off to the elbows.”

“Oh, how horrible! how horrible!” groaned Leola, and her lovely face went deathly white with the shock of the story.

“I knew you would be shocked,” exclaimed Jessie. “Oh, wasn’t it fortunate for us that we had gotten out of the house just before! And saved our trunks, too! The cook was out in the garden getting peas for dinner, luckily for her! Joslyn was burned in the house; and as for Uncle Hermann, we thought he must die, too. Indeed, he thought so himself, for he was in horrible agony, so he sent for a priest—he was a Catholic, you know—and confessed his sins.”

“And he lived, after all? What became of him? Who took care of the poor man?” cried Leola, with tears in her eyes, forgetting her own wrongs in exquisite sympathy.

“Why, the Bennetts took him to their house and cared for him till he recovered; and he lives there yet, having a man attend to him all the time. I must say Mrs. Bennett acted beautifully to Uncle Hermann, and has befriended him all this time in spite of the fact that he hadn’t been as good as he might to her when she was a lone old maid.”

“It was just like dear Miss Tuttle to return good for evil! She had a noble heart!” cried Leola. “Dear soul, she was too good for Giles Bennett!”

“Mamma says she has made a better man of him, and he has become really fond of the kind soul. You see, mamma made a trip there this spring as Mrs. Bennett’s guest, while I came over to Europe with a friend,” added Jessie, who would have bitten her tongue off before she would have owned to Leola that, having exhausted all their means and failed to catch a rich husband, she had been forced to become the paid companion of a rich woman, while her mother eked out an existence “visiting around.”

She would fool Leola, and keep her and Chester Olyphant apart as long as she could; but she had an unerring conviction that Fate in the long run would bring them together.

After a moment’s hesitation she began again:

“I told you that Uncle Hermann confessed his sins the day he thought he was going to die, but you do not seem curious over it, so I’ll tell you all about it anyway. Uncle Hermann was so furious over Chester Olyphant’s trifling with you and me that on the day when you lay unconscious upstairs he met Chester in the hall and struck him on the head with a blunt iron instrument, so that he fell like one dead.”

“Dead!” cried Leola, and she shook with emotion.

“Uncle Hermann did not mean to kill him, but he and Joslyn, who happened along at the moment, both thought he was dead, and, to hide the crime, they dragged him into the library, took up the flooring, and dropped him down into an underground passage the family had used in Indian times. So on his disappearance we naturally concluded he had run away to avoid my reproaches, don’t you see?”

Leola could only gasp, without speaking, so great was her emotion; and Jessie, enjoying the sensation she was creating, again took up the thread of her story:

“So that was what Uncle Hermann had to confess when he thought he was dying. It was the only really wicked thing he ever did, and he wanted to get God’s forgiveness before he died;[Pg 29] likewise, he wanted Chester Olyphant to have a Christian burial. Poor Leola, you are faint! All this has been too much for you.”

Leola faltered, through stiff, white lips:

“No, no; go on, if there is any more to tell.”

Jessie laughed, and resumed:

“I have kept the best for the last. Just as the men were going to hunt for Chester’s body in the underground passage, Doctor Barnes came along and told them that some little boys had found him alive in the cave, as they called it, and they had taken him to Mrs. Gray’s cottage. Well, to make a long story short, Chester had an awful wound on his head, and a piece of the skull pressed on the brain, and he never recovered health or consciousness till he was taken North for an operation that made him all right again. Mrs. Gray was like a mother to him through it all, and, next to mamma and me, I suppose he considers her his dearest friend. Now, as to our love affair, we made it all up some time ago, and are to be married in July; but I suppose there’s no use asking you to be my bridesmaid, dear Leola?”

“No,” the girl answered, curtly, adding:

“Jessie, I promised papa to meet him at luncheon, and I shall hardly get back in time if we do not return now. May I invite you to join us?”

“Not to-day, thank you, Leola, but I will call on you soon, for I am anxious to see you again, and also to meet your papa. Now if you will be so kind as to drive by Lady De Vere’s, where I am staying with my New York friend, I will be very grateful.”

Leola assented, and presently Jessie was set down at the place she wished, and blew Leola a deceitful kiss from her finger tips as she went in, muttering to herself as she watched her drive away:

“It was a gratuitous fib I told her about marrying Chester Olyphant, but I couldn’t resist stabbing her once more to see the light grow dim in the beautiful eyes that stole his heart from me. All my maneuvering has failed to win him back, and her turn will soon come, for he is here in Paris, although she does not know it, and at any minute they may meet, and everything be explained. Oh, how I wish hate could kill!”



At the luncheon, which was served in their private dining-room, Leola could scarcely touch a morsel, she was so eager to tell her father all that she had heard that morning, barring, of course, the facts about Chester Olyphant, whose name she vowed should never pass her lips.

But she had scarcely begun her story when he smiled and interrupted:

“It seems quite a coincidence that we have both met people from the United States this morning—ghosts, as it were, out of your past life.”

“Why, papa?”

“Yes, people from West Virginia, dear—old neighbors of yours—and from them I have heard already all you were going to tell me.”

“Neighbors of mine! Why, papa, dear, you cannot mean—the Bennetts?”

“Why not, my dear?”

“Why not, indeed? They are rich enough to travel, and I remember now that my governess used to hanker after foreign travel. So she is here? You have seen her? Dear soul, I must call at once.”

“She will be here herself by-and-by, so you have only to wait and rest till she comes.”

“I shall be very impatient,” declared Leola, and then she laughed:

“I suppose Giles Bennett has forgiven me the trick I played him by now?”

“Oh, yes, he said so with very hearty emphasis, and I believed him. Indeed, the man appeared proud of his wife, who seems to dote on him. They have been touring the continent for several months, and I met them in an art gallery this morning. I confess I should hardly have known them again, they were both so improved since that night, but Mrs. Bennett recognized my face, and ran joyfully to me to ask about you. So we talked for an hour, and I invited them to call at our hotel this afternoon.”

“I can hardly wait for them to come, I am so anxious,” declared the girl, joyfully. “Are you sure that you have told me everything, papa?”

“Did I mention that Wizard Hermann was dead?”

“No, papa.”

“Well, that is one of the things they told me. It happened quite suddenly, the cause being heart failure, so after that they decided on this tour. They have with them also some one else that you know—a Mrs. Gray, who had a present made her of this tour by a gentleman whom she had nursed through an illness. How strange you look, Leola! You have grown pale, and you tremble. Are you ill?”

“Oh, no, papa—perhaps just a little nervous. Go on, papa, have you anything more to tell?”

“Not just now, my dear daughter—not till you take your luncheon. No? A drop of this wine, perhaps, to set you up. There, the color is coming back to your cheeks. Shall I ring to have the things taken away?”

She nodded, and they adjourned to their private parlor.

Then Alston Mead said, gently:

“My dear daughter, I have been hearing surprising things about you to-day. While I have been wondering at your indifference to men, it seems you already had a lover.”

Her cheeks paled, then flamed.

“Who has dared betray that unhappy episode of my past? Who has called his despicable name?” she half-sobbed.

Alston Mead put his arm about her tenderly, like a woman, with a soothing caress.

“Gently, dear; perhaps he does not deserve your scorn,” he said.

“Then you do not know all the story, papa.”

“Perhaps I know it better than you do, my darling girl, and, strange to say, Chester Olyphant has been known to me for years. His father and mother were dear friends of mine, and I knew their boy when he was a little curly-headed chap in kilts. Naturally, I lost sight of him afterward in my exile.”

Leola cried, bitterly:

“You lost sight of him, so you did not know he grew up to be an unworthy scion of a good family—a heartless trifler with women’s hearts.”

“Grave charges, my daughter!”

“You said that you knew all, dear papa.”

“Yes, I have heard both sides of the story, and you know only one, Leola.”


“You know only one,” he repeated.

Leola cried, passionately:

“That was all there was to know! And I am sorry, I am indignant, that my friends, in mistaken kindness, have betrayed this to you. I—I—was forgetting it in this new life with you—only it came back bitterly this morning when Jessie told me—that—she—will be married to him—in July!”

“And you, Leola, did you hear that news without a pang? Has your heart grown callous?”

“Spare me, papa!” and the golden head was buried on his breast, while heaving sobs shook his daughter’s form from head to feet—sobs that seemed to burst her very heart in twain.

Had her heart grown callous? Oh, no, the pity of it, that she could not deny she had given her love, irrevocably, to another woman’s lover—to one unworthy her lightest thought.

“A honeyed heart for the honeycomb,
And the humming bee flies home.
“A heavy heart in the honey-flower,
And the bee has had his hour.”

Alston Mead let her head rest in his arms until the storm of tears spent itself naturally; then, as she began to grow calmer, he exclaimed, angrily:

“Curses on the woman whose malice has culminated in this past year of sorrow; whose memory must always darken your life, even when the shadow shall be removed.”

[Pg 30]

“Removed, papa? Alas, alas!” moaned the girl, who could see in the future no surcease of sorrow.

She started when her father laughed aloud:

“My dearest, how little faith you had in your lover, to believe all that little cat told you out of spite!”

“Oh, papa, you do not understand. Indeed, he was her lover. Jessie spoke the truth. He—only—sought—to amuse himself with me. I—I—know that it is true, for—I—saw—her—in—his arms!”

He could hardly bear the anguish in the great, dark eyes, the shame, the self-pity in the quivering voice: he must tell her the truth; he could not see her suffer any more, poor, proud Leola!

So he answered, quickly:

“You saw her spring to his arms, my dear; and if you had not fainted at the sight, you would have seen her the next moment repulsed with scorn by the man who despised the shallow little deceiver.”

A wild cry of incredulous hope shrilled over her lips, and his words came like a star in the night of her despair.

He continued, tenderly:

“You were tricked and deceived, my poor Leola, by two designing women. Granted that Chester Olyphant had once been engaged to marry Jessie Stirling, he had found her out and broken with her before he came to the mountains to seek you. The girl lied to you, deceived you wickedly, scheming to separate you and win him back herself. You fainted, and then Fate stepped in and aided Miss Stirling to keep you deceived for a whole year, but that was all, for he continued to repulse all her efforts to get him back. His only fault toward you, darling, was his hiding his name and position, in the natural, romantic desire to be loved for himself alone!”



Alston Mead had never fully recognized before all the rare beauty of Leola, for until now it had been shadowed by her secret sorrow—the thorn that was always piercing her heart.

When the girl looked up at him now her eyes were like stars, sudden roses had bloomed on her cheeks, and her lips were trembling with smiles of joy.

“Oh, it is like some sweet dream!” she cried, half fearfully, her white hands clasped above her wildly throbbing heart.

“It is no dream, my darling; it is a blissful reality,” her father cried. “Your lover has always been true and noble, and worthy of your deepest devotion. For months he has been seeking for you everywhere, and our fortunate rencontre this morning has filled his heart with joy.”

“Oh, papa! you have then seen Ray—Chester, I mean!” she began, in wild agitation, but he interrupted her, smilingly:

“Call him Ray if you choose, dear—his name is Raphael Chester Olyphant, you see. Yes, your true lover is in Paris to-day. He crossed with your friends to seek for you. He will be here by-and-by to see you, but I promised to tell you everything first, for he does not know whether you will forgive him for deceiving you under the guise of the poor artist.”

She cried, radiantly:

“I am glad of it now, for he knows I loved him for himself alone, and he can never doubt my devotion. Oh, I can scarcely realize my happiness! It seems like some beautiful dream.”

They were interrupted by the entrance of the Bennetts with Mrs. Gray, and such happy greetings were never seen before.

Mrs. Bennett, grown matronly and stylish, hugged and kissed her dear pupil until she was quite out of breath.

Mrs. Gray followed suit when she got a chance, and Giles Bennett squeezed her little hand until her fingers ached.

Then every one told Leola she was lovelier than ever, and it was easy for her to return the compliment, for prosperity and happiness had worked a vast improvement in all three.

A great chattering ensued, all trying to talk at once; for, said Mrs. Bennett, roguishly:

“We must talk as fast as we can, for some one else is coming presently, and he warned us that when he appeared he wanted to have the field all to himself.”

How Leola’s heart beat! how her cheeks burned! She stole a glance at herself in the long, gilded mirror, wondering if he would think her as pretty, in her costly silk gown and fine laces, as in the simple cotton gown of the rustic maiden. The mirror assured her she was even more charming now, for it is not to be disputed that “fine feathers make fine birds.”

They told her all over again the story Jessie had related that morning, adding some that she had preferred not to tell.

The Stirlings had done their best to lure Chester Olyphant back, but all in vain; and losing their last dollar, the girl had found employment as companion to a rich old woman going abroad, and the mother eked out existence visiting around among friends of her better days. Jessie had sent a last appeal to Chester the day before, and he had answered it with silent scorn.

Suddenly their talk was interrupted by the entrance of a servant carrying a card to Mr. Mead.

He glanced at it, and then passed it, with a smile, to his daughter.

The visitors took the hint, and rose precipitately.

“We must all try to meet again to-morrow,” Mrs. Bennett said, as they all filed out, escorted by Mr. Mead, leaving a clear field for Leola’s lover.

The happy girl sank back in her chair, feeling as if her heart would burst with its wild throbbing.

People had died from shock of joy as well as of grief. Could she survive it?

Her face went pale for a moment—pale as a snowdrift, and she closed her lovely eyes with a gasp.

There was a quick step in the room, a hurried breath, and some one knelt at her feet, and caught her two hands in a rapturous clasp that sent the warm blood bounding through her heart again, crimsoning her cheeks and lighting her eyes like stars as she opened them to meet those dark-blue orbs that in the long ago had lured the girlish heart from her breast, and taught her the most exquisite lesson of life, with its blended joy and pain.

“And all the wondrous things of love
That sing so sweet in song
Were in the look that met in their eyes,
And the look was deep and long.”

For a long time that mute yet speaking gaze was enough without words, but at last Chester rose and drew her to his heart.

“Sweetheart!” he cried, and their lips met after that long year of silence and sorrow and pain—Jessie Stirling’s year of revenge for all she had lost by her own unworthiness.

“I could die now!” Leola murmured, faintly, as she clung to his breast.

“No, you must live for me, my bonny bride!” he answered, and presently they were seated, hand in hand, going over the past.

When she told him of her meeting with Jessie that morning, and of all she had said, Chester turned coaxingly to his lovely sweetheart.

“So she will have me married in July, willy-nilly!” he said. “Well, then, why disappoint her plans, my darling? We can be married just as well as not in July, if you will only consent.”

“Why, July is only two weeks off, Ray!”

“Well, we can make it the last of July, you know, dear—it is so easy to get a trousseau here in Paris, don’t you know? Say yes, Leola, do,” he pleaded.

“We must ask papa first, you know,” she said.

“Papa will never stand in the way of our happiness,” he cried, eagerly.

“But, Ray, he will be so lonely.”

“No, dear, for he must come to Bonnie View and live with us, so he will only gain a son instead of losing a daughter.”

[Pg 31]

Alston Mead was easily brought to take Chester’s view of the case, the more easily because he had in his heart a secret he would never confide to any.

In the last few years an incurable disease of the heart had fastened upon him, and the most eminent physicians had told him he had not much longer to live, even if he settled down to quiet days for the rest of his life.

It had pained him to think of leaving beautiful Leola alone in the world, heiress to his wealth, perhaps to become the prey of designing fortune-hunters.

Now all that tangle would be straightened out by her speedy marriage.

He gave consent gladly to all that Chester Olyphant proposed, and he said to himself:

“Now, whether I die in a few months or live long enough to name my first grandchild, I shall pass away in peace, knowing that Leola’s heart can rest safely in her husband’s love.”

So Chester had his way, to the delight of all, and the invitations went out soon for the wedding at the grand cathedral, for Chester wanted all the world to see his peerless bride.

Most especially did he wish Jessie Stirling to be present, so in the invitation that went to her was a note from the happy groom-to-be:

“My Dear Miss Stirling: As you saved me the trouble of setting my wedding day by naming it for July, Leola and I will insure your reputation as a prophet by accepting the date.”

When Jessie read that note, with Chester Olyphant’s name signed to it, she tore it to tatters in her fury, but that did not prevent her from showing the elegant invitation to her employer, and saying, hesitatingly:

“I was once engaged to young Olyphant myself, but his love grew cold when my fortunes failed, and I willingly released him.”

Lady De Vere only smiled, for she had heard from one of Jessie’s former friends the story of Jessie’s engagement, broken through her own fault long before she was reduced to poverty, so she only thought: “That girl is the most consummate liar I ever knew.”

A bitter curiosity carried Jessie to the wedding, but she wore a thick veil, for she did not want to be recognized. When she wrote to her mother afterward about it, she confessed that Chester and Leola made the handsomest bridal couple she ever saw, but that in her humiliation she had one comfort left—though she could not win him back, she had succeeded in separating him from his sweetheart for one terrible year, whose pain and anguish neither could ever forget.


Transcriber’s Notes:

The Table of Contents was created by the transcriber and placed in the public domain.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have been corrected.