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   Chapter 4 HUGH.

The Old Stone House By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 37032

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

One bright morning towards the last of June, Bessie and Hugh were together in the studio; Bessie was working at her picture, and her cousin, seated in an old arm-chair, was gazing dreamily out through the open window over the pasture, and grove, and the blue lake beyond. "I think life is very beautiful," he said, after a long pause. "I have no patience with people who are always sighing and complaining, always talking of the cold world, the hard lot of man, and the sufferings of humanity. I always felt sure that they themselves have no taste for beauty, no affection for their friends, or enthusiasm for great deeds, and, judging others by themselves, of course they are always looking for double motives in the kindest actions, and hypocrisy in the most unselfish impulses."

"What has brought these thoughts to the surface, Hugh?"

"The beauty of the sky and the lake. How can any one look at them and not be happy?"

"If you were very poor, Hugh, you might not have time to look at them," said Bessie, taking up the other side.

"Why not? One can work and not be blind! I expect to work all my life, but I am going to be happy too."

"But suppose you should lose all those you love,-suppose they should all die," said Bessie, pursuing the argument.

"Even then I should be happy on such a day and with such a sky. I cannot understand how people who believe God's word can brood over their sorrows in such a gloomy way. Are not the dead with their great Creator? Can we not trust them to Him? Why, when I look up into this blue sky, I can almost see them there. My mother,-how often I think of her; not with sadness, always with pleasure, and a bright anticipation of meeting her again. Bessie, if I should die, you must not mourn for me. Think of me as gone into another world where sooner or later you will come too."

"Why do you say such things, Hugh?" said Bessie, laying down her brush with her eyes full of tears.

"Because they happened to come into my mind, I suppose. Why, you are not crying! Nonsense, Brownie! look at me. Do I look like dying? Am I not a young giant, with every prospect of outliving all my family? I fully expect to live to a hale old age, and you have no idea how full and busy my life is going to be. Go to work again, and I will tell you all my plans; I have never told them to any one before. In the first place, I shall go, of course, to New York, and enter Cousin John's establishment. I shall work with all my might, and, with the aid of my relationship, I shall no doubt be able to obtain a good position there in the course of a few years. Gradually I shall mount higher and higher, I shall make myself indispensable to the firm, and at the end of ten years you will see me a partner; at the end of twenty, a rich man. I shall then retire from active business, and spend part of my time in travelling, although I intend to be very domestic, also. I shall buy beautiful pictures, choice books, and fine statues; I shall give private concerts, and, if possible, have a small orchestra of my own; I shall entertain my friends in the easiest and most charming manner. In addition to my city home, I shall have a yacht for summer cruises, and a pretty cottage on the seashore, and I shall invite pleasant people to visit me; not the rich and the fashionable merely, but others who are shut out from all such luxuries, young authors, poor artists, musicians, and many others who are obliged to work night and day while their intellectual inferiors live in ease. Oh! I shall have a beautiful, happy life, Bessie. Do you not think so?"

"Yes, Hugh. But will it be so easy to get rich?"

"Twenty years of hard labor and earnest application will do it, with the opening I have. I suppose it sounds conceited, but I have unbounded confidence in myself. What man has done man can do, you know; and why am not I the man?"

"I think you can do anything, Hugh."

"Thank you, Miss Flattery. But, really Bessie, there is something stirring within me that makes me feel sure I can take my place in the world, and make my mark among men. I do not, mean that I am wiser or stronger than my fellows, but only, that my courage is indomitable, and that I am determined to succeed. I will succeed!"

"Of course you will," said Bessie, laying down her brush again, and looking at her cousin's kindling eyes and flushed cheeks with sympathetic excitement.

"And then," pursued Hugh, "when I have got my money, I shall not hoard it; I shall make others as well as myself happy with it. I shall use it worthily; I shall not be ashamed to render my account at last. Oh, Bessie, it is a glorious future! Life is so beautiful,-so full of happiness!" Hugh paused, and his eyes wandered over the blue horizon; Bessie went on with her painting, and there was silence in the studio for many minutes. At length Aunt Faith's voice was heard at the foot of the stairs; "Hugh! Hugh!" she called.

"Coming, aunt," said Hugh, opening the door and going down to the second story; "do you want me?"

"Yes, will you come into my room, dear."

The two went in and the door was closed. Aunt Faith's room was like herself, old-fashioned and pleasant; the sunshine streamed in through the broad windows across the floor, and the perfume of the garden filled the air. Hugh took a seat on the chintz lounge, and Aunt Faith having taken a letter from her desk, sat down in her arm-chair by the table. "I wish to consult you, my dear boy, on a matter of business," she said. "You know the condition of my property and the amount of my income, I am anxious to make some necessary repairs in that little house of mine in Albion, where poor Mrs. Crofts lives, a second cousin of mine, you remember, a widow with very limited means of support. The repairs ought to be made at once, and, just at present, I have not the money on hand; I could borrow it, of course, elsewhere, but I prefer to borrow it of you, the amount that came to you a week or two ago. Sibyl will need hers for her summer wardrobe, but you will have no use for yours at present, and on the first of August, I shall repay you; with interest," added Aunt Faith, smiling; "I am not sure but that I shall pay twenty-five per cent."

A flush rose in Hugh's face; he did not raise his eyes, but trifled with a piece of string.

"Well, my dear?" said Aunt Faith in some surprise at his silence.

"I am very sorry, Aunt," said Hugh in a low tone; "I have not got the money, I have spent it all."

"Spent it?" echoed Aunt Faith in astonishment. "My dear boy, is it possible!"

"Yes, it is all gone," said Hugh, with downcast eyes.

A shade of trouble clouded Mrs. Sheldon's gentle face, and she sighed; the old heart-ache came back, the same pain which had assailed her on the first of June, her birthday, when doubts came thronging into her mind, doubts as to her own fitness for her position with its heavy responsibility of training five young souls in the path of duty and righteousness. "Hugh must have got into some trouble," she thought, "and something, too, which he has not confided to me. I fear it is a debt; perhaps a debt of which he is ashamed. Oh, my poor, poor boy!" Hugh did not speak, and at length his aunt said gently, "I fear you have had some debts, dear; if you had told me, I could have helped you before this."

"I know you are always ready to help me, Aunt Faith."

"Then it was a debt, Hugh?"

"Yes; it was a debt, Aunt Faith," said Hugh gravely.

"Is it all paid now?"

"Yes; every cent. I have the receipt."

"I am glad of that; but have you any other debts?"

"No, not one," said Hugh, raising his eyes at last with a brighter expression. "I cannot tell you about that debt, Aunt Faith, but I can tell you that it was no disgrace to me."

The shadow melted away from Mrs. Sheldon's face, she laid her hand upon her nephew's golden hair, and looked lovingly into his dark blue eyes. "Hugh," she said earnestly, "you are like your father, and he was my favorite brother. I love you very much, more than you know, and I believe you would not willingly grieve me. You are still under twenty-one, and you are soon to leave me to enter the busy life of a great city. I am so anxious for you, Hugh! If I could only know that you had that firm faith which is man's only safeguard in temptation!"

Tears stood in her eyes as she spoke, and Hugh felt that she loved him indeed.

"What is faith?" he said thoughtfully.

"A firm belief in the mercy of God through His son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and a realization of the necessity of a Saviour to atone for our sins," said Aunt Faith reverently.

"I believe in God, Aunt Faith. I believe in Him implicitly. I cannot understand how a reasonable being can deny His personal and omnipotent majesty. The sky alone would be enough to convince me, without counting the wonders of the earth and our every-day life. How can any one look out of the window, at night, and see those myriad lights on high, without bowing in adoration before the incomprehensible greatness of the Creator? What do we know of the stars, after all? How much has the most profound science discovered? Next to nothing! Not but that I read all that has been written by the late astronomers, for the subject is very fascinating; it is the fairy tale of science. But still, the nursery rhyme expresses it best:-

'Twinkle, twinkle, little star!

How I wonder what you are!'"

"What we know not now, we shall know here-after," said Aunt Faith; "but in addition to your belief in the Creator, do you not also recognize the necessity for a Saviour?"

"There it is, Aunt Faith! Are we all really such miserable sinners? Is there none good? Must we always answer, 'no, not one?' Even in my short life, I have known so many who are good and generous! I never could endure whining, you know. I never could endure a gloomy, tearful religion. If we were put into the world, it surely was intended that we should enjoy its beautiful life, and be happy with our fellow mortals. I believe men should try to be good sons, good husbands, and good citizens, and should try to be happy themselves, as well as to make others happy. I can never believe in the virtue of morbid self-analysis, gloomy depression, and harsh judgment. 'Worms of the dust!' they say. Well, if the worms are created, and put into the dust, that is the state of life to which they are called, and they will be better worms if they fulfil the duties of a worm, no matter how humble, than they would be if they crawled up on a solitary stone, and wilfully starved themselves to death."

"Surely, Hugh, there is nothing in the idea of a merciful Saviour to forbid a reasonable enjoyment of life."

"There ought not to be, Aunt Faith; and if I was not so weary of hypocrisy, I think I could almost throw myself at His feet and give my life into His hands. I want to believe in Him; indeed, I may say I do believe in Him. But I have been kept from coming forward as an 'avowed disciple,' by the contempt I cannot help feeling for some whom I know as 'avowed disciples.' If there is a contemptible fault in the world it is hypocrisy. I will not believe that God loves the rich church-member, who makes long prayers, and puts five cents in the plate, better than the poor outcast who goes half-starved for days in order to help a sick companion."

"But, Hugh, no one asks you to believe anything of the kind. Do you not remember our Saviour's parable of the Good Samaritan who saved the wounded man, while the priest and the Levite, men supposed to be particularly religious, passed by on the other side! The world was the same in our Saviour's day that it is now, and there is no class against which He utters more severe reproaches than these very religious hypocrites."

"But, Aunt Faith, these hypocrites are so often prominent in the churches. That is what offends me."

"It was so then, Hugh. Our Saviour saw it, and repeatedly tore off the masks."

"But if the hypocrites are in the church, is it not better to stay out?"

"By no means, my dear boy. God has commanded us to make an open profession before men, and we must obey with reverent humility. It is not enough to believe; we must also openly avow our belief. Because there are tares in the field we must not, therefore, stay out in the desert. Because there are hypocrites in the church, we must not, therefore, give ourselves up to evil."

"Oh, I don't mean that, aunt! We could be just as good Christians all the time."

"No, Hugh. That is a fatal error. Men are weak, and God mercifully helps them to conquer themselves by sending them the safeguards of religious vows and duties. It is His appointed way, and we must not question His wisdom. The dangers are ten times greater outside the church than within it, and a blessing is given to obedience. God requires obedience. He distinctly says, 'he that is not with me, is against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.' And as regards hypocrisy, Hugh, it is indeed a wretched fault; but, are there not other faults equally bad?"

"No, aunt; not to me. I can never go to church in the winter without a bitter feeling towards old Mr. Braine, who always leaves his poor horse tied outside through the long service, during the severest weather. Then there is Gideon Fish, too. How very, very good he is! When he was a little boy he always took the highest place in school for good conduct, and yet, there was not a meaner boy in town. He copied the other scholars' exercises, peeped into the books, and had a key to his Arithmetic. He never got into trouble at recess, and why? Because he was too cowardly to take his share of the sport. As he grew older, he grew to be more and more of a pattern. He was always talking about his feelings. He always 'felt it to be his duty' to do just what he most wished to do, and he always had some wonderfully self-sacrificing motive for the greatest self-indulgence. He 'felt it to be his duty' to stay at home from church to warn truant boys not to steal the peaches on the Sabbath-day, and how many do you suppose he himself ate that morning?"

"It seems to me, Hugh, that you and Bessie are unreasonably severe upon Gideon's love of eating," said Aunt Faith smiling. "Perhaps some time there will come a revelation to Gideon Fish; perhaps some great affliction or disappointment will open his eyes and cause him to see his selfish propensities as they are. In the meantime, let us not forget the beam in our own eyes while we are talking of the mote in our brother's eye. To go back to our subject; you have acknowledged your belief in God and also, I hope, in His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ?"

"Yes, Aunt Faith; but I cannot acknowledge that the world is a miserable place and life a failure."

"I do not ask you to acknowledge that, Hugh; you are young and it may be that you have not yet been assailed by the terrible temptations which come, sooner or later, to most of us. Perhaps you have not yet learned from sad experience how hard is the struggle against evil inclinations, and how many are the relapses into which the best of men are apt to fall. It was only when worn with the contest and depressed by repeated failures that the good men of all ages have sent up those cries of abasement and gloom which you so much dislike. This time has not yet come to you; you know nothing of its power. I do not ask you to be wise beyond your years; I only wish you to become as a little child and reverently say, 'Lord I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.' The rest will come in due time. There is a blessing given to prompt obedience, and this blessing I want you to gain."

For several minutes there was silence in the pleasant room, and then Hugh rose. "Dear Aunt Faith," he said, "you and I will have many more talks on this subject. Who knows but I shall be a pillar of the church in my old age?"

"I hope so, Hugh. But do not put off till old age a plain duty of the present. Give the best of your life to your Maker; after all, the present is all you can call your own."

"Oh, no, Aunt Faith, the future is mine too. How glorious, how bright it looks! You will be proud of your nephew some day."

"I am proud of him now," said Aunt Faith, with an affectionate smile; "but I want to feel secure as to his safety. Oh, Hugh! if you could only say in perfect sincerity these two sentences: 'Lord I believe; help Thou mine unbelief,' and 'Lord be merciful to me a sinner,' I should rest content."

"Well, Aunt Faith, when I can say them with all my heart, I will tell you first of all."

"God grant that it may be soon," and then Hugh left her.

Bessie was still busy with her painting when she heard a tap at the door. "Is it you, Hugh?" she said; "I am so glad you have come back. I cannot get the exact color of your eyes. Sit down, please, and let me try again." Hugh sat down in the old arm-chair, and for some minutes he said nothing; at last, however, he burst forth, "Bessie, shall we not tell Aunt Faith about the horseback-riding."

"Oh, Hugh! and give up all our fun?"

"I do so hate hypocrisy, Bessie; and here I have been rating away against Gideon Fish without even a thought that all the time I myself was deceiving Aunt Faith."

"I don't call that hypocrisy, Hugh."

"What is hypocrisy, then?"

"A hypocrite is a person who pretends to be very good, and I am sure you never pretended to be good at all."

Hugh laughed; "That is true," he said "but I hate all underhand dealings."

"But you won't tell, Hugh? Please don't."

"Et tu Brute?"

"And don't quote Latin either."

"I only meant that you should help my good intentions instead of thwarting them," said Hugh.

"I am not good myself, Hugh, and never was."

"Oh, yes, you are, Brownie."

"No, I am not. I have been expelled twice."

"I believe it is your nature to be naughty, Bessie."

"I don't know about that, Hugh; but, at any rate, I ought to have some allowances made because I am so homely. It is easy to be good if one happens to be good-looking too. Everybody loves beautiful children, everybody admires beautiful girls; people are predisposed to like them, and make the best of everything they do. Beauty is of little consequence to a boy, but it makes or mars many a girl. I presume, now, if my nose had been Grecian, and my complexion lily fair, I should have been far more amiable."

Hugh laughed merrily at this tirade. "But, Brownie," he said, "I have always thought y

ou pretty."

A shade of color rose in Bessie's dark cheek "Thank you, cousin," she said quickly, "you are kind to say so. But your real taste is for a very different style; a dove-eyed blonde, fair as a lily, and gentle as Griselda."

"Like Edith Chase, I suppose," said Hugh, with a merry twinkle in his eye. "Well, a man might do worse. I venture to say the fair Edith never took a horseback-ride after dark in her life."

"Certainly not; is she not a pattern?" said Bessie sharply. "And, by the way, Hugh, of course you will give me my ride to-night."

"Oh, Bessie, Bessie, you are incorrigible! Well, if I must, I must!

The musicale is to-night, you know."

"I had forgotten it; but we can go afterwards."

"That is, if you will mend my gloves."

"Do get a new pair, Hugh."

"No; I have only ten dollars left; I shall not have any more until August, and my heart is set upon a little picture at Gurner's. You have no idea how much I want it; I stop to look at it every time I pass the window, and the liking has, grown into a positive longing. I really must have it."

"What is the subject?"

"It is, I suppose, an allegorical design, but what attracted me was the beauty of the coloring and its fidelity to nature. It represents a youth standing in a little shaded valley, looking forward and upward through a vista which gradually rises into a bold mountain peak. The atmosphere is all morning, early morning, with purple hues on the hill-side, mists rising from the river, and a vague remoteness even in the nearest forest; deep shadows lie over the valley, but the rising sun shines on the mountain-peak, lighting it up with a golden radiance, while behind it, there seemed to spread away into distance the atmosphere of another country, a beautiful unseen Paradise. Towards this mountain-peak the youth is looking with ardent eyes; one feels sure that his hopes are there, and that sooner or later he will reach the golden country beyond."

"I remember the picture. Is there not a crown shining in the sunlight over the mountain-top, and the outline of a great cross in the dark shadow over the steep path which leads up to the summit?"

"I believe so; but it was the figure of the youth that attracted me. His face expressed aspiration, that bright confidence in the future which Aunt Faith and I have been discussing this morning."

"So you were in her room all that time, were you?"

"Yes; and that reminds me that I must do a little reading. I am growing shamefully lazy. Good-bye, Queen Bessie. Be sure and make my picture as handsome as you can."

"I shall do my best;"-"but I cannot hope to make it as handsome as the original," she added, after the door closed.

Twilight came and the two cousins were riding in a country lane several miles from the old stone house; they had left the turnpike where they usually rode, and, instead of going at headlong speed, the horses were walking slowly over the grassy path as if the summer evening had influenced their riders with its peaceful quiet.

"I have never been here before," said Bessie; "where does that path lead?"

"To Rocky brook where we used to go a fishing."

"Let us go that way, please. I have not been to Rocky brook for years and years." So the horses were turned, and, after a pleasant ride through the woods, they reached the edge of the ravine; the path, an Indian trail, came to an end, and down below they could hear the rushing sound of the water.

"Oh I must get down, Hugh!" said Bessie eagerly; "I want to go down to the brook."

"It will be hard climbing in that long skirt, Bessie. I will bring you out some other time."

"No, Hugh; I want to go now, this very minute."

"I suppose you must have your way, then," said her cousin, as he lifted her to the ground; "wait until I fasten the horses so that I can help you."

But Bessie had already disappeared, swinging herself from rock to rock by aid of the bushes, as actively as a squirrel; she had reached the bottom of the ravine as Hugh appeared at the top. "Don't go too near the bridge," he shouted; "wait till I come down."

Bessie looked down the ravine, and seeing the plank which served for a bridge high in the air over the foaming water, she was seized with a sudden desire to cross it; Hugh's warning, as usual, only stimulated this desire. If there was any danger, she wanted to be in it immediately. So she clambered over the rocks towards the forbidden locality with a pleasant excitement, not really believing in the danger, but lured on by the spirit of adventure strong within her from childhood.

"Don't go near the bridge!" shouted Hugh again, by this time half way down the bank.

"Hugh is too despotic," thought his cousin, as she climbed up on the wet stones. "I shall certainly do as I please. If he wants implicit obedience, he must go to Edith Chase." In another instant she was on the plank, and balancing herself, walked forward over the torrent, holding her long skirt over her arm; her head was steady, she did not know what fear was; many a time she had crossed deeper chasms in safety, and she laughed to herself as she heard Hugh crashing through the bushes down the bank behind her. "He will like me all the better for my courage," she thought, somewhat surprised at his silence, for she had expected to hear further remonstrance. Suddenly, when she had reached the middle of the bridge, the plank cracked, gave way entirely, and in an instant she was in the foaming torrent below. She sank, and for one moment, one dreadful moment, she was under water, suffocating and terror-stricken, while all the events of her life seemed to rush before her like an instantaneous panorama. Then she felt the air again, and opening her eyes, found herself in Hugh's arms, as he strode out of the water and laid her down on the bank. "Oh, Hugh!" she gasped, "it was dreadful!"

"Are you hurt, dear? Did your head strike the rocks?" asked her cousin anxiously.

"No, I think not; but I feel rather dizzy," said Bessie, closing her eyes.

"Can you stay here for a moment alone, while I run back to the farm-house? Fortunately the weather is so warm there is not much danger of your taking cold."

"Oh, yes," said Bessie, smiling, as her cousin chafed her hands with anxiety that belied his words. He sprang up the bank, and after some delay reappeared carrying shawls and wrappings. "Do you feel better? Are you faint?" he asked, as he enveloped her in the shawls.

"I feel quite well now," said Bessie, trying to rise.

"Stop; I am going to carry you," said Hugh.

"You shall do nothing of the kind, Hugh. I am able to walk, and the bank is steep."

"I shall take you round by the path, so don't make any objection, for it will be useless. The farmer will have his carriage waiting for us, and we shall drive home as rapidly as possible."

"Oh, Hugh, I am so heavy! You will never be able to do it," said

Bessie, as Hugh lifted her slight form muffled in shawls.

"Very heavy! Really, quite elephantine! A matter of ninety pounds, I should say!"

"Nonsense, sir! I weigh one hundred and ten."

"And what is that to a man of muscle? Don't you know that I pride myself upon my strength! The old proverb says that cleanliness is next to godliness; if that is so, I give the third place to strength. What a pity we cannot say 'muscleness,' to keep up the rhythm! Do you know, Bessie, if ministers had more muscle, I should like them better."

"Mr. Leslie has muscle, Hugh."

"Yes; he has got a good strong fist of his own. I like him, too, in every way. He is so manly in his goodness, and so frank in his religion! He is one of those fine, large-hearted men who give their very best to the cause. He did not take to the ministry because he was not fitted for anything else; he has the capabilities and qualifications for a first-rate business man, civil engineer, or soldier. But it is evident that the whole world was as nothing to him compared to the great work of salvation. I honor him. He is a man to be envied, for he is living up to his ideal."

"Why, Hugh! I had no idea you admired him so much! Are you thinking of following his example?"

"Don't joke, Bessie. The subject is too serious."

"I am not joking," said Bessie, in a low voice.

"I am no hero," said Hugh, with a half sigh, as they reached the lane; "I could never do as Mr. Leslie has done. I can only hope to make others happy in my small way by-"

"By helping ill-behaved cousins out of their troubles," interrupted Bessie, "paying their debts, saving their lives, and so forth and so forth."

The ride home was pleasant, in spite of wet clothes. Hugh drove the farmer's horse in an old carryall, and the farmer himself rode Hugh's horse, leading the other alongside. When they reached the back-pasture it was quite dark. Hugh lifted Bessie out, threw the shawls back into the carryall, and farmer Brown, after fastening the saddle-horses behind, drove away towards the town, where he was to leave them at the livery-stable according to agreement.

"Now, Bessie, take up that skirt, and let us have a run across the garden," said Hugh. "I am so afraid you will take cold."

But Bessie's long, wet skirt proved such an obstacle, that in spite of her objection, Hugh lifted her up again, and carried her across the pasture, through the garden, and up the terrace into the house.

"Shall you go to the musicale?" he whispered, as he put her down in the dark hall.

"No," said Bessie; "I wish you would make it all right with Aunt

Faith. I have a headache; the fright, I suppose."

Hugh went off to his room, and in an incredibly short time he was down-stairs again, in evening dress. Aunt Faith came in a few moments afterwards, dressed in gray silk with delicate white lace around her throat and wrists; "Is it not time to go?" she said. "Where is Sibyl?"

"Here, Aunt," said Sibyl from the parlor; "I have been ready some time."

"Come in, child, and let us see you"

Sibyl crossed the hall and stood in the door-way. Her dress of soft blue harmonized with her fair beauty, and brought out the tints of her hair and complexion; she wore no ornaments, and the flowing drapery floated around her devoid of any kind of trimming. "Her dress was nothing; just a plain, blue tarleton," said one of her companions the next day to a mutual friend. "But Sibyl herself looked lovely." This was Sibyl's art; her dress was always subordinate to herself.

"You look like the evening star, sister," said Hugh.

"Thank you, brother. A compliment from you is precious, because rare," said Sibyl, smiling; "and as for you, you look like the Apollo in Guido's Aurora."

"Bravo! That's a compliment worth having," said Hugh, tossing back his golden locks. "And now that we are both gorged with compliments, let us start for the halls of Euterpe."

"Where is Bessie?" said Aunt Faith, as Hugh rose.

"She is not going. She has a headache," answered Hugh.

"Poor child! I will run up and see her before I go."

"That is not necessary, Aunt. I think she would rather not be disturbed," said Hugh. "Let us start; it is late."

The musicale was held at the residence of Mrs. Arlington, on the opposite side of the avenue, but a short distance from the old stone house, and Bessie, after taking off her wet clothes, dressed herself in a wrapper, and took her seat at the open hall-window in the second story, where she could see the lights through the trees, and even hear an occasional strain of the music on the night breeze. She felt depressed; her head ached, and her conscience likewise. "I am always doing something wrong," she thought ruefully; "I let Hugh pay that debt; then I teased him out of his idea of telling Aunt Faith, and made him take me riding again, and when he was kind enough to give in to my wish, I deliberately went out on that plank when he told me not to go, and the result was I came near being drowned, and poor Hugh must have had a struggle to get me out in that current. I suppose he is over there now talking with Edith Chase! she is an affected, silly girl, but I suppose Hugh does not understand her as well as I do. However, perhaps she is better than I am! I am dreadful, I know; and so homely, too! I look just like an Indian. Edith is considered pretty. To be sure I think she looks just like a white cat; but then, some people think white cats are pretty. Well, her looks are nothing to me. I don't care anything about it!" And in truth of this assertion, Bessie crouched down among the cushions of the lounge, and had what girls call "a good cry."

About an hour afterwards she heard a step on the gravel walk in front of the house, and the sound of a latch-key in the front-door; in another minute Hugh came up the stairs on the way to his room. "Hugh! Hugh!" called out a voice in the darkness.

"Is that you, Bessie? What are you doing here?" said her cousin, lighting a burner in the chandelier. "Why, you have been crying! Does your head ache? Do you feel faint?"

"My head is better, Hugh; but I am wicked," murmured Bessie from the heap of cushions.

"Wicked! What do you mean, Brownie?"

"Just what I say. I am always in trouble myself and drawing you in too. You would be a great deal better without me, Hugh. I shall be glad when you go to New York."

"Glad, Bessie!"

"I mean it will be better for you," murmured Bessie.

"And how about yourself?"

"Oh, I shall never be good at all; I shall stay at home and be wicked, I suppose," said Bessie, with the sound of tears in her voice. Hugh did not reply, but he put out his hand and stroked the dark curls gently. After a moment or two Bessie suddenly recovered her spirits. "How was Miss Chase?" she asked gayly.

"Lovely as a lily," said Hugh, laughing; "I told her so, too."

"Was Graham Marr there?"

"Yes; I left him with Sibyl."

"Did he quote poetry?"

"I presume so, in the intervals of the music, Gid was there, too."

"At the door of the supper-room, I suppose?"

"Yes, he was looking at the salad when I came away."

"That reminds me; why did you leave so early, Hugh?"

"I believe, after all, I am a little tired; I strained my wrist slightly in the brook."

"Let me get some arnica for you; do, Hugh."

"Oh, no! the strain is very slight. It will be all over in a day or two."

"Was there really any danger, Hugh?"

"Yes; I think it right that you should know it, because you may be tempted to do the same thing again. The water was deep there, and the brook swollen by the last rains; the current was very strong, and there is a fall just below. But your greatest danger was from the sharp jagged rocks; when I plunged after you I cannot express how alarmed I was!"

Bessie covered her face with her hands. "It was all owing to my obstinate wilfulness," she said in a low tone, "Oh, Hugh! can you forgive me?"

"Do not think of it any more." said her cousin, "but come down and give me some music."

"What! In this old wrapper, Hugh?"

"There speaks feminine vanity. As though I knew a wrapper from a dress?"

So Bessie went down to the sitting-room, and, taking the cover off her harp, sat down in her old wrapper to play for Hugh. When she was in the mood she brought very spirited music out of the silver strings, but to-night she played soft airs, and minor chords, weaving in among them Hugh's favorite plaintive melodies, with her now wild improvisations between. At last she rose and replaced the harp-cover. "It is late; I must go," she said. "They will be coming home before long, Of course you won't say anything about our ride, Hugh. It would only frighten Aunt Faith. But I have decided not to go again; what happened to-night seems like a warning."

"Superstitious, Bessie?"

"No; I am only trying to stop before I drag you into any more danger. Think how much trouble I have given you, too! And, oh, Hugh! you had to pay that farmer," added Bessie, as the idea came to her for the first time.

"Run upstairs, Brownie; it is late."

"I shall not run, Hugh. I know very well you had to pay him that ten dollars, and I have robbed you of your last cent," said Bessie tragically.

"Oh, what a dismal face! Run, before Aunt Faith comes."

"And the picture you were going to buy," said Bessie, with tearful eyes.

"Foolish child! as if I cared for the picture; when I am rich I shall buy a whole gallery. Now run; I positively hear their voices at the gate."

As Bessie went away with a full heart, Aunt Faith, Sibyl, and Graham Marr came up the garden-walk and entered the house. "You came away early, Hugh," said Aunt Faith; "do you feel well?"

"I am tired, aunt; that is all."

"It was a pleasant party," continued Aunt Faith; "did you not think so, Sibyl?"

"I enjoyed it!" said Sibyl quietly.

"It was a rare feast," said Graham; "one seldom meets such a combination of aesthetic talent in Westerton."

"Mr. Leslie was not there, however," said Hugh.

"Ah,-no. But ministers are not generally cultivated musicians," said Graham, in his slow way. "They have not the time to,-ah,-to muse upon the mystery of harmony."

"Mr. Leslie is a fine musician," said Hugh bluntly; "I have seldom heard so fine a baritone,-so rich and manly."

Now Graham sang tenor,-a very delicate tenor, and naturally he could not sympathize with Hugh's fancy for a rich baritone. As he rose to take leave, Sibyl said, "I wish you would bring over your music, Mr. Marr, and sing for us. We were all charmed with that little German song you sung this evening; it was so full of pathos."

"Pathos!" whispered Hugh to Aunt Faith, as Sibyl accompanied the poet into the hall. "How can Sibyl endure that calf!"

"As Pete Trone said, 'de gustibus' and so forth, Hugh," said Sibyl's voice from the hall as she closed the door behind Graham.

"Well, Sibyl; I did not intend you to hear the epithet, but I cannot with sincerity take it back," said Hugh.

"I like calves," said Sibyl, "they have beautiful eyes! Good-night!"

"I never can make Sibyl out!" said Hugh, as his sister disappeared. "She never loses her temper, and truth always comes out with the temper, you know. Well, Aunt Faith, I have been a very bad boy all day. Will you pardon all my misdeeds?"

"If you are penitent," said Aunt Faith, smiling. Then, more seriously,

"You will not forget what I said to you this morning, Hugh?"

"No, aunt; I shall not forget. Your words sank deeper than you knew," said Hugh gravely.

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