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   Chapter 8 RIGHT AT LAST.

The Old Stone House By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 39588

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


"Sibyl," said Aunt Faith, the day after the picnic, "have you completed all your preparations for Saratoga?"

"You speak as though my going was a matter-of-course, Aunt," said

Sibyl slowly.

"Is it not, dear? I supposed your decision was made several weeks ago," said Aunt Faith, thinking of the written paper which Sibyl had given her to read.

"I think I shall go," said Sibyl, after a pause. "Everything is ready but the pearls; I can buy them any time."

"I hope you will enjoy the summer, my dear," said Aunt Faith, taking her niece's hand affectionately.

"Then you approve of my going, Aunt?"

"You must make your own decision, Sibyl. No one can aid you in such a question as this," replied Aunt Faith gravely.

Sibyl sat awhile in silence; then she rose and left the room.

An hour or two afterwards, Bridget came upstairs to tell Aunt Faith that Mr. Leslie wished to see her; she went down, somewhat surprised at so early a call, and found the young clergyman waiting for her in the parlor.

"Mrs. Sheldon," he said, after the first words of greeting, "poor Margaret Brown is in great trouble. You remember our conversation about her yesterday? Calling in to tell her of it this morning, I found two of the children stricken down with fever, seriously ill, the doctor says; and I have come directly to you for aid; to you and Miss Warrington."

"Sibyl has gone out, Mr. Leslie, but I shall be glad to do anything I can. Shall I go there at once, or send a nurse?"

"I hardly know yet; I came to talk the matter over with you. I do not like to ask you to go there, for the fever may be dangerous, and yet Margaret needs sympathy as much as money. Perhaps if they could all be moved into a purer air,-into the country, for instance,-away from that crowded neighborhood, it would be the wisest course."

"But can the sick children bear a journey now?"

"I think they could go a few miles in an easy carriage, but, as they are growing worse every hour, it must be done at once if done at all. Do you know of any farm-house where they could be received for a time?"

"Mr. Green might take them," said Aunt Faith; "he would probably expect ample payment, however. Mr. Leslie, I am sorry I cannot give you carte blanche; but owing to outside circumstances, I have but a small sum at my disposal at present."

"We will put our means together, Mrs. Sheldon. I have something laid by, and perhaps Miss Warrington will assist us."

"Sibyl has other uses for her money, I fear."

"Surely none more worthy than this, Mrs. Sheldon."

Aunt Faith grew somewhat impatient. "Mr. Leslie," she said emphatically, "you do not understand my niece."

"I think I understand Miss Warrington's character, and I think she will help Margaret Brown," replied the young clergyman gravely.

At this moment a step on the gravel-walk was heard, and Sibyl herself crossed the piazza and entered the hall.

"Have you been down town, Sibyl?" asked Aunt Faith.

"Yes, aunt," replied Sibyl, coloring slightly, as she returned Mr.

Leslie's greeting.

"Have you made any purchases?" continued Aunt Faith, glancing at an oblong box in her niece's hand.

Sibyl hesitated; then, as if impelled by a sudden impulse, she took off the wrapping-paper and opened the case. "I have bought my pearls at last, Aunt Faith. Are they not beautiful?" she said.

The fair jewels lay on a velvet bed, white and perfect, and looking from them to Sibyl's blonde beauty, one could not help noticing their adaptation to each other.

"They are very lovely, my dear," said Aunt Faith, passing the case to Mr. Leslie. He took the jewels, looked at them a moment, and retaining the case in his hand, said, "I came here this morning to ask your assistance in a case of distress, Miss Warrington. Margaret Brown is in need of instant aid; two of the children are ill, and I wish to have them removed into the country, if possible, before they grow worse. I rely upon you to help us."

Sibyl sat with downcast eyes a moment. Then she said in a low voice, "I am sorry, Mr. Leslie; but I have just spent all my spare money upon those pearls."

"The jeweller will take them back; I will arrange it for you, if you wish," said the clergyman, looking at her intently.

The color deepened painfully in Sibyl's cheeks, and the tears came into her eyes, but she did not speak. Aunt Faith saw the struggle, and came to her niece's assistance with her usual kindliness. "You must not expect young ladies to give up their pretty ornaments so easily," she said to Mr. Leslie, trying to shield Sibyl's embarrassment.

"I am not speaking to a young lady; I am speaking to a fellow Christian," said Mr. Leslie, gravely. "Miss Warrington and I have often spoken of the duty of giving. Only last evening we had a very serious conversation on that and kindred subjects. Mrs. Sheldon has said that I do not understand her niece. But I am unwilling to believe myself mistaken. I still think I understand her better even than her own aunt does,-better even than she understands herself."

Still Sibyl did not speak. Aunt Faith looked at her in surprise. Could it be that her worldliness was conquered after all? "Sibyl," she said, gently, "you must decide, dear. Shall Mr. Leslie take back the pearls?"

"No," replied Sibyl, rising and struggling to regain her composure, "I wish the pearls, and there is no justice in asking me to give them up. I shall keep them, and as I have to write to Mrs. Leighton that I will meet her next week as she desired, my time is more than occupied, and I will ask Mr. Leslie to excuse me."

She left the room, taking the pearls with her, and not a word more did

Mr. Leslie say in allusion to her. He turned the conversation back to

Margaret Brown, discussed the various arrangements for removing the

family into the country, and then took his departure.

"I was very sorry about the money, Aunt Faith," said Sibyl, after he had gone, standing at the sitting-room window and watching the tall figure disappearing in the distance.

"Sincerity first of all, my dear," replied Aunt Faith.

"How will he get the money, aunt?"

"He is going to apply to Mrs. Chase, I believe. Although she has never attended the chapel-services, he knows her to be generous and kind-hearted."

"Rich, too, Aunt Faith. It is very easy to be generous when one is rich," said Sibyl, with a shade of bitterness in her tone.

"Riches are comparative, Sibyl. Mrs. Chase is rich, but she has very many depending upon her assistance."

"Mr. Leslie had no right to make such a demand of me," said Sibyl, after a pause.

"Perhaps he thought you had given him the right to guide you," said

Aunt Faith.

"I have never given him any right," said Sibyl, hastily. "I presume he thinks I am a selfish, hard-hearted creature," she added in another tone.

"He thinks more highly of you than your own aunt did, Sibyl; he said so himself. He believes, or has believed, firmly in the purity of your religious faith and firm principle. I have several times been surprised to see how sure he was of you."

"He asked too much," said Sibyl; "he is too severe with me."

"Not more severe than he is with himself, my dear. He has taken all his little savings for Margaret Brown, and I presume those savings represent comforts, not luxuries like pearls."

"Mr. Leslie should not try me by the same test he uses for himself; I cannot stand it."

"That is where he made his mistake, my dear. He thought you could."

Sibyl colored angrily. "Mr. Leslie is an enthusiast," she said; "he expects people to throw down all their treasures at his feet."

"Not at his feet; at the foot of the cross, dear."

"Aunt Faith, do you really believe people can be happy in such a life?" said Sibyl vehemently.

"Mr. Leslie is happy, my child."

"He is a single man with few cares. I am alluding to married people, burdened with responsibility and anxiety."

"If they are so burdened, my dear, so much the more reason why they should seek help from Him who said 'come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'"

"But in every-day life there are so many petty annoyances, aunt."

"Will they be any the less annoying without His aid, dear?"

"They will be less annoying if people are rich, Aunt Faith."

"Some of the most unhappy women I have ever known, have been rich,

Sibyl."

"But I would not be one of those, aunt. I would be rich and happy at the same time."

"If you could, my dear. But wealth brings with it its own troubles; sometimes in the shape of the donor; I trust you would not marry for money?"

"Not for money alone, aunt. But I see no reason why a rich man might not be loved for himself as well as a poor man. It does not follow that because a man is rich he must therefore be selfish or ill-tempered."

"Certainly not, my dear; but we will not discuss it any longer, at present. You are young, and I wish you to understand yourself thoroughly. Take no rash steps, and remember that wealth is as nothing compared to a true heart, and that this world's best treasures are perishable, while religious faith abides with us through life and death into eternity."

In the afternoon Mr. Leslie came again to the old stone house, and inquired for Mrs. Sheldon. "I have come to ask for your horses," he said, as Aunt Faith entered the parlor; I have secured a large carriage that will take all the family, and now, if you will send Jonas down with the horses, we can hope to have Margaret safely established at Mr. Green's before night."

"Certainly, Mr. Leslie. Is there nothing more I can do?"

"Not to-day, thank you. I shall go out with them myself."

"How are the children?"

"Worse, I fear; but I have large faith in country air."

"I shall be anxious to know how they bear the ride."

"I will stop on my way home as I must come back with the carriage," said the young clergyman as he went away.

"Was not that Mr. Leslie?" asked Hugh, coming in from the dining-room a few moments afterward.

"Yes," replied Aunt Faith; "he came to see me on business."

"Didn't he ask for Sibyl?" said Hugh.

"No," replied Aunt Faith, with a warning look at her nephew, as Sibyl came in. But Hugh was not to be warned. "Sibyl," he said, "Mr. Leslie has been here and did not ask for you."

"Is that so very surprising?" said his sister coldly; she had regained all her composure and her face was calm and quiet.

"Of course it is surprising," said Hugh bluntly. "He has been in the habit of coming here to see you for months, and, let me tell you, Sibyl, he is one in a thousand; he is a hero, every inch, and I heartily respect and like him."

"I have said nothing to the contrary, Hugh."

"Don't be a hypocrite, Sibyl," said Hugh with brotherly frankness. "I am not good at splitting hairs, but there is no more comparison between Mr. Leslie and Graham Marr, than there is between an eagle and a sickly chicken."

"I have never thought of comparing them, Hugh. I do not like comparisons, and yours is entirely unjust. But even supposing it was correct, I have no taste for standing on a mountain-peak, in the icy air of unknown heights, and gazing at the sun all day as an eagle does," said Sibyl, as she crossed the hall into the parlor. In a few moments the Spring-Song sounded forth from the piano, and under cover of the music, Hugh said to Aunt Faith, "There is nothing wrong between them I hope?"

"There is nothing between them either right or wrong," replied Aunt

Faith with a sigh. "Sibyl is not suited to Mr. Leslie."

"Then it is her fault," said Hugh warmly. "There is no doubt in my mind that John Leslie is deeply interested in her, and I should be proud and glad to have him for a brother. He is the truest, most honest man I know."

"That is because he is such a sincere, earnest Christian."

"I know it, aunt. He works hard, and he thoroughly believes in his work. He really thinks there is nothing in the city so vitally important as that little chapel, and those workmen."

"He is right, Hugh. To him there should be nothing so important as their welfare."

"Yes, I suppose so; that is, if I could look at it with his eyes. But it is rare to see practice so consistent with theory in every-day life."

"It is, as you say, rare indeed; but he is a rare man, Hugh."

"He is, truly. That is the reason why I feel Sibyl's manner. Can it be possible that she really prefers Graham Marr?"

"I do not know, Hugh. Graham will be rich some day."

"That is the worst of it, aunt. Who would have thought Sibyl could be so mercenary!"

"Do not judge her harshly, dear. She has none of that impulse which you admire, but her heart has always been true,-at least so far," said Aunt Faith gently. Then, after a pause, she continued in a lower tone, "Hugh, if you like and admire Mr. Leslie so much, why are you not willing to follow his example?"

"What! Become a clergyman, Aunt Faith?"

"Not that, unless you feel an inward call towards the blessed vocation," replied Aunt Faith reverently; "but why do you delay to come forward and make your open profession of faith? Is it honest, is it manly, to hang backward?"

"Oh, Aunt Faith, I am not good enough!" said Hugh quickly.

"Goodness is not required of any of us, Hugh; only repentance, and an earnest endeavor to improve. My dear boy, I never see you come and go, without an aching desire to have you enrolled under His banner, to have you a soldier of the Cross, openly, before all men. Have you thought over our last conversation on this subject?"

"Yes, aunt, many times; but I have such a high idea of a professing

Christian. It seems to me that such an one ought to be like Mr.

Leslie, working with all his might for the salvation of souls."

"It is not required that all professing Christians should be ministers of the word, Hugh. There are many other spheres of action, and many qualifications, varied according to our varied temperaments and positions. The Bible makes that point very clear. You read it, I hope?"

"Yes; but I always read the same part, the Gospel of St, John. I like it best of all. There are so many beautiful verses in it which are found nowhere else, so much love and warm faith! For instance; 'Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' And 'I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you.' And, 'woman, behold thy son; behold thy mother;' to me one of the most touching incidents in the Gospel. Then there is the story of Lazarus, and the verse 'Jesus wept.' He sorrowed for the mourners, too! Oh, I cannot understand how true Christians can mourn so bitterly for their dead, when they believe that this loving Saviour cares for them."

"It is not always so much for their lost ones as for themselves, Hugh; their own loneliness, their crushed hopes, and perhaps their remorse that in the lifetime of those they mourn they did not do more for their happiness."

"You have lost many dear ones, Aunt Faith," said Hugh thoughtfully.

"Yes; my husband, my parents, and among my intimate friends, all my generation."

"Do you often think of them, aunt?"

"Yes, Hugh, very often. At first with tears and sadness, but gradually with hope, and a certain looking forward instead of backward. At first I kept all my anniversaries sacred, the many days hallowed by associations with my dear ones; but gradually I tried to break up the habit, and now I only think of their heavenly birthdays,-the days when they left the earth,-and even these have come to be pleasant. I have always been fond of autumn. There is something that charms me in the hazy air and colored foliage. It is not sadness,-it is not joy,-but a sweet peace. Then, my dead always seem near to me. If you like, I will give you something I once wrote on the subject, expressing this feeling."

"Do, aunt!" said Hugh, earnestly: for so seldom did Aunt Faith allude to her past life and its sorrows, that all the cousins held it in reverent respect, and although they often spoke of it among themselves, they never broke through the bounds of Aunt Faith's silence. In her own room hung the portrait of her husband, Lester Sheldon, a young man's face, with blue eyes, and thick golden hair, tossed carelessly back from the white forehead, while below, the firm mouth told of decision and self-control beyond his years. Once, when Bessie was a child, she sat looking at this portrait for some time in silence. Then she said, "Aunt Faith, if that is your husband, what makes him so young when you are so old?"

"He died when he was a young man, little Bessie."

"But he won't know you when you go to heaven, I'm afraid," continued the child, looking anxiously at her aunt's gray hair.

"Oh, I shall be young then, too, Bessie. Here is a picture of me when I was eighteen," said Aunt Faith, taking a box from her drawer, and drawing out a miniature. It was one of those lovely, old-fashioned ivory pictures, showing a fresh young face with dimples, and a sunny smile.

"Oh, auntie, that isn't you!" Bessie had exclaimed, and the other children having come into the room, the picture was shown to them also. Since that day they had never seen it, but Hugh retained a vivid remembrance of the picture, and, as Aunt Faith looked through her desk to find the paper, something in her face recalled it to his mind, and there came across him, like a revelation, a vision of what she was at eighteen. Faith Warrington at eighteen! Faith Warrington, who had long been Mrs. Sheldon with her gray hair and pale face. Going up to his room, Hugh seated himself by the window, and opening the paper, read the following lines:-

"Far back within the cycles of the past,

A train of centuries rolls,

From out whose cloudy borders came the day

Of memory for all souls.

How long it seems, a thousand years ago!

How dark and weary, if we did not know

A thousand years are but as yesterday within His

sight,

Seeing that it is past like one brief watch within the

night!

Could they have known, those men of childlike faith,

Half ignorant, half sublime,

The fitness of the souls' memorial day

Falling within the time

Of Nature's holy calm, her blest repose,-

When all the land with loving fervor glows,

And from the naked woods, the empty fields, through

the soft haze,

Her work well done, her garners full, she offers up

her praise.

A stillness fills the consecrated air,-

The blustering winds that swept

The red and yellow leaves in giddy rounds,

By mighty hands are kept

In their four corners, while the liquid gold

And purple tints over the earth unrolled,

And full of mystery and heavenly peace, as though

the skies

Had opened, and let out the atmosphere of Paradise.

Departed souls! Their memory may come

With grief in Spring's soft hours,-

With weary, lonely sadness when our hands

Are gathering summer flowers,-

With wild despair in winter: when the graves

Are white with drifted snow, and wildly raves

The wind among the stones and monuments, in

accents dread,

Calling in vain the sculptured names of our beloved

dead.

But in this golden dream-time of the year,

Our bitter murmurs cease;-

We seem to feel the presence of the dead,

Their shadowy touch of peace;

We seem to see their faces as we gaze

Longingly forth into the purple haze,

And hear the distant chorus of the happy souls at

rest,-

And catch the well-known accents of the voice we

loved the best."

All Souls' Day, November 2nd.

In the evening, as Aunt Faith was sitting on the piazza with Bessie, Mr. Leslie came up the walk; Sibyl was in the parlor playing soft chords on the piano

, but she could hear his words as he spoke. Mr. Leslie's voice was deep, but clear, and his pronunciation perfectly distinct without any apparent effort. He did not obtrude the alphabet unpleasantly upon his hearers; he was not so anxious to show his correct pronunciation of "Been" as to force it to rhyme with "Seen;" he was not so much concerned with "Institute," as to te-u-ute the last syllable into undue importance; neither did he bombard his hearers with the arrogance of rolling rr's. Although his voice was not loud, any one occupying even the last seat in the chapel could not only hear him, but was absolutely invited to listen by the pleasant distinctness of the words.

"I am pleased to be able to tell you that Margaret and the children are safe in the farm-house, Mrs. Sheldon," he said, taking a seat on the piazza. "Poor girl, how glad she was to get there! She sent her grateful thanks to you."

"How did the children bear the ride?" asked Aunt Faith.

"Better than I expected. Indeed, the novelty, and perhaps the pleasant country air, seemed to revive them, and lessen the fever. They even walked about the garden when we arrived there, and began to make bouquets of flowers, but before I left, the reaction had come and they looked very tired."

"You look tired, also, Mr. Leslie," said Aunt Faith; the light from the hall-lamp shone on the young clergyman's face and showed its pale weariness.

"I am tired," he replied, "but a night's rest is all I need." Then he leaned back in his chair and sat talking pleasantly with Bessie and Aunt Faith. "This is a charming old house," he said, "it must have been built a long time ago."

"Yes," replied Aunt Faith; "for a western town it is quite venerable. The main portion was built in 1822, and the wings were added as the family increased, without much regard for architectural regularity. The stairs were originally out-doors on the back piazza, but father finally had them enclosed. You may have noticed that the west side has only two windows, and that those are singularly placed. It is amusing to think that so implicit was grandfather's belief in the growth of Westerton, then hardly more than a pioneer village, that he built up that side without any windows so as not to interfere with the blocks of dwellings which he was sure would press up against this house as the town grew into a city. It was only after many years that father was allowed to pierce the thick wall and with great difficulty insert those two windows."

"That is something like my old home, a little village in the interior of New York," said Mr. Leslie. "One old man was so impressed by the growth of the town, that meeting my father he shook him by the hand and exclaimed, 'how it do grow, Judge! Please heaven, we'll make a seaport of it yet!'"

They all laughed at this story. Then Aunt Faith said, "I should like to think that some of the children would occupy this old house after I am gone. But in America, and especially in the Western States that is hardly possible."

"I will live here, if I can, Aunt Faith," said Bessie warmly. "I love every stone in the old house, and every old flower in the old garden."

"Are flowers ever old, Miss Darrell?" said Mr. Leslie, smiling.

"Oh, yes. Flowers grow old-fashioned and out of date just like people. We have a genuine old-fashioned garden here, and all the neighbors laugh at it in comparison with their smooth lawns and choice plants. We have bachelor's-buttons, lady-slippers, tiger-lilies, flower-de-luce, hollyhocks, and pinks, besides bushes of lilac and matrimony; then we have old cedars clipped into shape, and ever so many little paths and garden-beds edged with box. Oh, we are entirely behind the times! But for all that, I love the old garden better than the smoothest trimmed lawn, and I can pick you a bunch of violets which you cannot match in Westerton; real violets, too, not flaring pansies."

"I too am fond of old-fashioned gardens, Miss Darrell," said Mr. Leslie. "My mother had one, not so large as this, but resembling it in general arrangement. I remember we had a little patch of trailing arbutus; it grew wild, and I can distinctly recall its perfume as the snow melted. I have never seen it in the West."

"No, it does not grow here," replied Aunt Faith; "our climate is too warm for it."

"There is a great difference between the climate of the lake country and that of New England," said Mr. Leslie; "there is so little snow here."

"Snow!" exclaimed Bessie. "I scarcely know what snow is; and as for stories of drifts over the fences, and tunnels cut through them, I can scarcely believe anything of the kind. They are as much like legends to me as the fairy tale of little Kay and the Robber Maiden. Once at Featherton Hall the eastern girls were talking about sleigh-riding, and I told them that snow was so scarce in Westerton that when a few snow-flakes actually fell, they were immediately fenced in and guarded by the police, and then the whole population assembled in sleighs, cutters, and pungs, to ride over them in alphabetical order. Of course, as aunt's name began with S, there was not much left of the snow-flakes when our turn came."

"You ridiculous child!" said Aunt Faith, laughing, "how can you invent such exaggerations?"

"Oh, Bessie can invent anything!" said Hugh, coming out from the sitting-room; "if she had charge of even the Patent-Office Reports, she would gild them into veritable romances."

Later in the evening, Graham Marr came up the garden walk.

"Good-evening, Mrs. Sheldon!" he said; "is Miss Warrington at home?"

"Yes; she is in the parlor," said Aunt Faith. "Will you go in, Mr.

Marr?"

"Thank you, yes. I came especially to see her," replied Graham, taking off his straw hat, and passing through the group on the piazza.

"Excuse me, Miss Darrell. Is that you, Hugh? Ah!-Mr. Leslie, I believe. I did not observe you in the darkness. I hope you experienced no ill feeling after your exposure yesterday?"

"None at all, Mr. Marr. And you?"

"I took cold, as I expected; but, so far, my head has given me no severe pain," said Graham, passing on into the parlor.

"Is Mr. Marr subject to pain in his head?" inquired Mr. Leslie, as

Graham disappeared.

"Chronic inflammation of the brain, produced by intense study and seething, poetical thoughts," said Hugh, in a dramatic whisper.

Soon afterwards, Mr. Leslie rose to take leave. "I feel very tired, so I will say good-night," he said. "I will let you know the condition of the children some time to-morrow, Mrs. Sheldon."

"Thank you. If it is quite convenient I shall be glad to know," replied Aunt Faith.

Graham Marr stayed until a late hour, so late that Bessie and Hugh had gone upstairs when he took leave, and Sibyl, coming in to the sitting-room, found Aunt Faith alone.

"You look tired, my dear," said the elder lady kindly.

"I am tired, aunt. Graham talked a long time. He had something to tell me. His uncle is dead, and he has come into the fortune."

"Ah!-" said Aunt Faith. She made no other comment, but waited for her niece to speak.

"Graham is going to Saratoga next week," continued Sibyl slowly. "He thinks of removing to New York for a permanent home; he likes city life, you know."

"Yes," said Aunt Faith again; but she said no more.

Sibyl closed the windows, replaced the chairs, and fastened the front-door; then, as she carelessly turned the leaves of a book on the table, she said at last, "Mr. Leslie was here, I believe?"

"Yes: he came to tell me that Margaret Brown and the children were safely established in the farm-house."

"Did he ask for me?" said Sibyl, as she extinguished the hall lamps.

"No, my dear," answered Aunt Faith, and Sibyl went to her room without another word.

Two days came and went, and Mr. Leslie did not appear.

"I say, you people!" said Tom, bursting into the dining-room at tea-time. "Did you know that Mr. Leslie was sick? Dangerously sick, Jim Morse says; not expected to live, I believe."

"Thomas!" said Aunt Faith with unusual severity, "what do you mean?

Tell the truth."

"Well, he's sick, any way; and Jim heard his mother say it was a dangerous fever. Hallo, Sibyl! what's the matter? How pale you are!"

"No more pale than the rest of us," interrupted Bessie, with a quick glance at Sibyl; "we all like Mr. Leslie, don't we?"

"Of course we do. He's the best man in the world," said Gem fervently.

"I shall go and see him immediately," said Hugh, rising.

"Oh, Hugh, it is probably the same fever the Brown children have!" said Aunt Faith anxiously. "You must not expose yourself needlessly."

"In this call I consider it necessary, Aunt Faith," said Hugh. "Mr. Leslie has no near relatives, and although he is loved by his congregation, dread of the fever will keep most of them away; besides, they cannot leave their work. He will be left to hired nurses and you know what Westerton nurses are!"

"Go, then, my boy, and may God be with you," said Aunt Faith, with tears in her eyes.

The tea-table was soon deserted. Sibyl went to her room, Tom and Gem took refuge in the back garden with the three dogs to bear them company, but Aunt Faith and Bessie sat on the piazza waiting for Hugh's return.

"After all," said Bessie, "we need not feel so anxious. The report has passed through several mouths; no doubt it is exaggerated."

"I hope so," replied Aunt Faith; "and still I have a strong presentiment that Mr. Leslie is very ill. His face looked strangely worn and pallid as he sat there that last evening, and when fever attacks a man as strong and full of life as he is, the contest is far more severe than with a more feeble patient."

Eight o'clock struck, but still Hugh did not return. A step sounded up the walk in the dusky twilight, but it was not his; Graham Marr appeared, and again asked for Miss Warrington.

"Go and tell Sibyl, my dear," said Aunt Faith to Bessie with an inward sigh. Then, as Bessie went into the house, she said, "Have you heard of Mr. Leslie's illness, Mr. Marr?"

"No," replied Graham, as he stood in the doorway carelessly twirling his hat in his hand; "is he very ill?"

"We do not know; we have heard only a rumor. Hugh has gone to find out the exact truth."

"Ah-yes. If it is fever, no doubt he caught it in that unpleasant locality where his chapel stands," said Graham. "I have often wondered how he could endure the life he leads, but I suppose he is not fastidious. His nature is not so finely wrought, or his nerves so delicately strung as those of some other organizations."

"His nature is strong and manly," replied Aunt Faith, with a shade of indignation in her voice.

"Ah, yes, exactly. A man in his position has need of strength," said Graham loftily. Then, after a pause, "You have heard of my good fortune, Mrs. Sheldon?"

"I have heard that your uncle was dead, Mr. Marr."

"Ah-yes. Poor old gentleman! I never knew him well; we were not at all sympathetic. My grandfather's singular will has now been fulfilled, and the estate, which has rolled up to double its original value, will now be divided between my two Southern cousins and myself."

"I congratulate you, Mr. Marr."

"Thank you. I think I shall not discredit my fortune; I have long endeavored to cultivate the tastes which belong to wealth," said Graham with languid pride.

At this moment Bessie returned. "Sibyl is in the parlor, Mr. Marr," she said; "will you walk in?"

"Thanks, kind messenger," said Graham, bowing gracefully as he passed her; "Hebe could not be fairer!"

"How ridiculous he is, Aunt Faith," she said, as the young man disappeared. "How can Sibyl like him? I do not really think she does like him, but I cannot make her out. When I went to her room she was as pale as a ghost, but while she was smoothing her hair, the color rose, and she began to laugh and talk as gayly as possible. Listen, now; hear her laugh. How can she be so heartless!"

"Do not be too severe, Bessie. I suspect Sibyl is putting a great strain on herself to-night. She has so many good traits," said Aunt Faith with a sigh. "She has so much energy! She only needs to have the right direction given to it and she will accomplish a wonderful amount of good work if her life is spared."

"But that right direction, Aunt Faith; is Graham Marr to give it?" asked Bessie with a tinge of scorn in her voice.

"I do not know, dear. But Sibyl has a true heart at bottom."

"I do believe you are made of charity, aunt. Your name ought to be

Faith, Hope, and Charity, instead of Faith alone," said Bessie warmly.

"I have learned one lesson by the experience of a long life," replied

Aunt Faith, smiling; "the lesson of patience."

"How else could you have brought up such a troublesome set of nephews and nieces?" exclaimed Bessie. "We must have tried your patience severely, Aunt Faith. But we do love you dearly, every one of us." And the impulsive girl threw her arms around her aunt and kissed her affectionately.

About half-past nine they heard the sound of the gate, and recognized

Hugh's step on the gravel walk.

"How is he, Hugh?" said Bessie, before he came in sight.

"He is a very sick man," replied Hugh gravely, as he came up the steps. "The doctors are perplexed, for the case is not like ordinary fever. They think he will either be much better or much worse before morning."

"Oh, Hugh; you do not mean that he is in any danger?"

"Yes; so the doctors say. There is trouble with the brain, threatenings of congestion, I believe. As I said before, he will probably be out of danger before morning, or,-or, gone where he is fully prepared to go," said Hugh with emotion.

"Then I shall go to see him now,-directly," said a strange, muffled voice behind them.

"Sibyl!" exclaimed Aunt Faith.

"Yes, aunt," said Sibyl, stepping forward and speaking in the same muffled voice. "I heard what Hugh said, and I wish to go directly to see Mr. Leslie; you must go with me."

They all looked at her as she stood in the lighted hall; her face was deadly pale, and her eyes had a far-off look as though she saw something terrible in the distance. Behind her was Graham Marr looking perplexed and angry; he did not know what to do or say, and his usual graceful manner had given place to confused irritation. As Sibyl spoke he made an effort to regain his composure.

"Ah!" he said, with studied carelessness, "so Leslie is sick, is he? I must really send a nurse to take care of him. I will do what I can for him, poor fellow!"

"I shall be his nurse," said Sibyl, in the same strange, still voice.

"You are joking, Miss Warrington. Of course you would not expose yourself so foolishly," said Graham angrily.

"I shall be his nurse. I shall go to-night," repeated Sibyl, without changing her attitude.

Graham looked at her a moment as if about to continue the argument, but something in the set expression of her face convinced him of the hopelessness of the attempt. Curbing his annoyance under an appearance of amusement, he smiled and turned to Aunt Faith. "There is no use in combating a young lady, I suppose, Mrs. Sheldon. Really,-I had no idea it was so late. I must go. I will bid you good-night, ladies, and at the same time good-bye, as I shall soon leave Westerton for the summer." Then he turned again to Sibyl; "I shall meet you in Saratoga next week, I trust, Miss Warrington?"

"No," said Sibyl, with the same far-off look in her eyes. "Aunt Faith, are you ready to go with me?"

"Ah!" said Graham lightly; "you ladies change your minds so rapidly that it is difficult to follow you. But it is your privilege, I know, Farewell, then, Miss Warrington. Life is long,-we may meet again."

"Good-bye, Mr. Marr," said Sibyl, hardly noticing his departure.

As the young man disappeared, Aunt Faith spoke; "Are you in earnest,

Sibyl? Do you really wish to visit Mr. Leslie to-night?"

"I am in earnest, and I must go, Aunt Faith. Do not try to prevent it."

"But there may be danger for you, dear."

"Hugh has seen him, and am I to be kept back?" cried Sibyl passionately. "I must go! I will go! Aunt Faith, do not desert me now!"

"I am not deserting you, poor child," said Aunt Faith, rising and putting her arms around her niece with motherly affection. "If you wish to see Mr. Leslie to-night, I will go with you. You approve of your sister's wish, Hugh?"

"Yes," said Hugh decidedly. "Sibyl, you are right at last."

They found Mr. Leslie unconscious and breathing heavily; two physicians were in attendance, and a nurse sat by the bedside.

"He does not know me," whispered Sibyl, clinging convulsively to Aunt

Faith, as the sufferer opened his eyes and looked blankly at them.

"No, dear, he is unconscious," replied Aunt Faith, herself much moved at the sight of one whom she had so lately seen full of young life, stricken down almost to death.

The doctors were watching their patient closely; they expected a crisis before morning.

"I shall stay," said Sibyl, quietly taking off her hat and sitting down on the sofa.

Aunt Faith spoke a few words of objection, but the mute appeal of Sibyl's eyes silenced her; she said no more, but sitting down by her niece, took her cold hand and held it in both her own. She had felt sorrow herself, and she could feel for others; she knew that in Sibyl's heart the depths were broken up.

Hugh went back to the old stone house and returned about midnight; from that time on, there was silence in the sick-chamber, and anxious eyes watched the unconscious face with painful interest. The night seemed endless; only those who have watched by a sick bed can know how minutes can lengthen themselves! As the gray twilight of dawn came into the room the sick man moved restlessly upon his pillow and moaned. Sibyl's heart throbbed; any change seemed for the better. But one of the physicians after bending over the patient, shook his head gravely.

"Let us pray," said Aunt Faith in a low tone, and, falling upon her knees, she bowed her head in silent prayer. Sibyl knelt beside her, and, after a moment, Hugh too joined them, and throwing his arm around his sister, drew her to his side.

"Oh, Hugh, I cannot bear it!" she murmured; "he will die,-he will never know,-and I-" here her voice was broken by stifled sobs and low moans of anguish, strangely touching in the proud, self-reliant Sibyl.

Hugh held his sister in his arms, and soothed her as one would soothe a child. From that hour Sibyl's coldness left her never to return.

As the first sunbeams brightened the sky, Mr. Leslie again opened his eyes, the doctors bent over him, and it seemed to Aunt Faith as if she could hear all the hearts in the room throbbing aloud in the intense anxiety of the moment.

"The worst is over," whispered Doctor Gregory, stepping back and shaking hands with Aunt Faith; "we shall bring him through, now, I think."

Sibyl sat with her head hidden on Hugh's shoulder; she heard the doctor's words, but a sudden timidity had come over her. "Let us go," she whispered, turning towards the door.

But Hugh had been watching the sick man.

"He is conscious; he knows us!" he said suddenly, and leading his sister forward, he left her at the bedside, pale and trembling with joyful emotion.

"Sibyl," said Mr. Leslie in a faint voice, "is it you? Have you come to me at last, dear?"

"Yes, John," said Sibyl, bending over him with tears in her eyes. "I have brought myself and my life to you,-if you care for them."

"If?" said Mr. Leslie, with the ghost of a smile on his pale face; "as if there was any doubt-" but here the doctors interfered, and the rest of the sentence was postponed.

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