|Chapter Number||XLI (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||The Jewels|
(From English, American, and other Periodicals.)
CHAPTER XLI -- (Continued.)
She arose as if to leave the room, but Adrian ad- vanced a step or two, and said, firmly :
"Not so, madam, you have done my wife alto- gether too much injury, and covered up your iniquity too long to admit of my keeping silence now. You have sneered and tried in my patience beyond endurance to-day with your insinuations concerning a 'clande- stine marriage,' and it is but just and right that she should be exonerated in the presence of Lady Randal from all blame for what you, by your cruelty, drove
her to "
" Good heavens ! Adrian, explain yourself. I am all in a maze! What do you mean by all this talk about complicity, iniquity, and cruelty ?" demanded Lady Randal, looking from one to another in per- plexity.
Mrs. Coolidge saw that the truth would have to come now, and she sank back pale and trembling into her chair, while Isabel burst into nervous weep-
Adrian, in the fewest words possible, told the story of the jewels, and her ladyship knew before he had finished that every word he uttered was truth.
She, too, began to grow pale and nervous, as she realized that his wife was the niece of the woman whom she hid so deeply injured, and conscience stung her sharply as these memories of the past were
" Mrs. Dredmond," said Lord Dunforth, who had scarcely spoken yet, "will you please open that casket, and allow me to look at its contents ?"
Brownie lifted the lid, for the lock had been forced after she had taken the key, and it was only fastened by the spring, and revealed the glittering treasures
Lady Randal uttered a cry, and gasped out :
" I might have known it in the first place. I thought I had seen them before, especially those
" Ah ! you recognize the corals then ? Possibly you remember the first and only time this lady's aunt wore them, years and years ago?"' said his lordship, with bitter irony, while his own face blanched, and great drops of sweat stood upon his forehead.
"Those jewels," he went on, striving for com- posure, "were given to Miss Mehetabel Douglas, the grand-aunt of Mrs. Dredmond, more than forty years ago. I myself presented those corals, also that tiara, with one or two other pieces The others were given her in honor of her approaching marriage with my-
Mrs. Coolidge nearly screamed at this announce- ment. Yes, she saw it all now, the mystery was all explained -- the titled names upon the dancing-card, the faded flowers, and everything which had so puz-
But Brownie, thinking a little more explanation was necessary, lifted the velvet bed, and taking up the dancing-list, passed it to him, and asked him to unlock the secret of it, since it had greatly troubled Mrs. Coolidge and her daughter.
He took it, but his hand shook as with the ague, as he read the names upon it.
" This," he said, turning first to Mrs. Coolidge, then, to Lady Randal, with stern brow, "is the order of dances as they occurred upon a certain occasion at the house of your aunt, Lady Ruxley, more than forty years ago. Do you remember, Helen ?"
" Yes, I remember," her lips articulated, while her eyes seemed fastened, as if by fascination, upon him.
He referred to the card again, and though his face was ghastly from the pain he was suffering, he went
" Do you remember a certain Count de Lussan who was present that evening?"
She bowed her head She could not have spoken at that moment to save her life, so great was the fear in her heart, while all the events of that fatal night rose up before her with a vividness which turned her
sick and faint.
Good heavens ! would she ever forget thot gorgeous room, the brilliant lights, the enchanting music, and the perfume of flowers, which she fancied even now oppressed her ?
Would she ever forget the dark, handsome, though sinister face of Count Lussan, with its mocking smile as he watched that bright, beautiful girl who stood hesitating between love and pride, until her own taunting laugh drove the good angel trom her side and the joy ot two lives was crushed out forever ?
And why should he, Royal Dunforth, come to her now, like an accusing spirit, to recall all these things of the past ?
His next question told her something of his pur-
" Do you know how it happened that a man of his character was present among respectable people?"
" Yes, he came at my brother's invitation, my lord," she said, lifting her head, and speaking defi-
" True, but at your instigation, and to serve a vile purpose of your own. It was through your manoeu- vering that he was introduced to Miss Douglas, and it was your taunts which spurred her on to disgrace herself, and dance with him, in spite of her better judgment and my persuasions. I mistrusted some thing of it when it was all too late, and you, by that last vile act, which I have only recently discovered had separated us forever. "
" And pray what terrible deed have you discovered at this late day?" her ladyship demanded, sarcasti- cally, although she was as colorless as a piece of marble, and her lips twitched nervously.
" This! Do you remember of ever seeing it before?" He took from his pocket a folded paper, yellow and creased with age, and advancing, gave into her
Lady Randal, never for a moment dreaming what it was, took it with a sneer, for she was growing bit-
terly angry at his accusations, opened it, and read it.
For an instant she sat like one stunned, but she was livid even to her lips, and a trembling seized her which shook her like a reed.
" Where did you get this?" she whispered hoarsely, after a moment.
"Accident threw it into my hands -- how, it does not matter now, but it reveals all your vile plot to separate Meta and me, in which you succeeded only
"But how do you know that I had anything to do with this note? I do not see that you have proved what you assert at all," she said, bridling.
"She gave that note to her servant to bring to me; you met her on the stairs, said you would deliver it, and then came and told me that Meta refused to see me then or at any other time; have I proved my point now?" he asked, sternly.
She saw all was discovered, and made no reply, and
he went on:
Mrs. Dredmond, as you already know, is my Meta's grand-niece. At her aunt's death she found herself very unexpectedly reduced to the necessity of earn- ing her own living. She found a place as governess in Mrs. Coolidge's family, and came abroad with them. One day when she was out, she," pointing to Isabel who sat pale and cowing, "entered her room when she discovered this casket of jewels She took them to her mother, and they both came to the con- clusion that a poor governess had no business with such valuables -- that she must have stolen them!
They accused her of it upon her return, and refused to give up the jewels until she could prove them to
" Why didn't she demand them, and take the law to enforce her rights then?" demanded Lady Randal sharply. "It does not sound like a very probable story to me. How do you know she is Meta Douglas' niece? I believe you've been taken in yourself."
She was determined not to believe anything against her guests if she could help it. Matters had gone so far now, that she could not have the match between Sir Charles and Isabel broken off: the scandal of it would be unbearable, to say nothing of the loss of Isabel's fortune, which she believed to be enormous. They had been expecting Mr. Coolidge for a week, and thought surely he would be there to-day, when the settlements were to be arranged, and there must
be no trouble now."
" We have indisputable proof, Lady Randal, and as for Miss Douglas taking the law to enforce her rights she fully intended to do so when she left Mrs. Coo- lidge's house, but you remember the accident which occurred, and which threw her into your family , and then before she was fully recovered Lady Ruxley brought her down here."
"The day when she so strangely disappeared, she met Miss Coolidge in the upper corridor, as she was going out for her walk. She again demanded her property, and was again refused. Upon returning to the hall, in passing Miss Isabel's room, she saw the casket upon the table, she entered and took it, and was about leaving the room, when Mrs. Coolidge confronted her, demanding that she put down the casket. She refused, when the woman locked the door, put the key in her pocket, saying she could not leave the place until she relinquished it."
" Really, Lady Randal," interrupted Mrs. Coolidge, rising, apparently in great wrath, " I cannot remain to endure further insult. It seems to me we have listened long enough to this harangue, as we have other matters of more importance on hand just now, which demand our attention."
"Please be seated," she returned, "we will hear this whole story now. I must confess it does not sound very plausible to me, but we will hear their side, and then your own."
She little thought how the "whole story" would affect her!
" Go on," she added, to Lord Dunforth , but Adrian now took up the story.
" Miss Douglas utterly refused to give up her property again, and the two had a stormy scene until Mrs. Coolidge finally professed to be willing to temporize with her and pretending to take her into her own room, enticing her into a secret chamber which she had discovered --!"
"What! the treasure chamber!" ejaculated Lady Randal, excitedly, and losing all her colour again.
"I do not know what the place is called," Adrian replied, " but she locked her within it, and kept her there, without food or light, or even a chair to sit upon, until midnight, when she and her daughter sought her again and by stratagem and force com- bined, succeeded in getting possession of the jewels again. Then they brought her food and bedding, telling her she was to remain there until after the wedding, since they could not run the risk of her making them trouble, and interfering with their prospects."
"'Tis false!" shrieked Isabel, nearly beside herself. "Be quiet, my daughter," said Mrs. Coolidge, soothingly. Then turning to Lady Randal, she
"Can you believe such a tissue of falsehoods? No one has seen the girl from the time she parted with my children in the park that day until after her marriage. It is a preposterous story, and only fabri- cated to save the parties most interested from the scandal usually attending a clandestine marriage. Besides, what is all this talk about a secret cham- ber?" she concluded, scornfully.
Lady Randal looked at her in a dazed kind of a way, while a terrible fear was tugging at her heart.
"But how could she know there is a secret cham-
ber, unless she had seen it? -- and it leads from Isa- bel's room. Go on, Adrian, I must hear all now,'' she said, in a low, concentrated tone.
He gave her a look of compassion, and resumed:
"Miss Douglas arranged her bed, striving to make the best of her situation, and being very weary, soon feel into a sound slumber. She was not conscious of how long she had slept, but she was suddenly awak- ened by a feeling that some one was in her room, and upon opening her eyes, saw the strangest being she ever beheld kneeling by her side."
"Oh, heavens!" breathed Ladj Randal, sinking back in her chair and covering her face with her trembling hands --"
"WHERE IS MY BROTHER?"
Isabel and her mother now forgot some of their own fear when they saw Lady Randal so unnerved.
It had been a matter of great mystery to them how their prisoner escaped, and it seemed that it was about to be explained, and Mrs. Coolidge, with her ready wit, began to think that the skeleton of the house was to be revealed also.
"This person," Adrian learned, "proved to be a young man by the name of --"
"Oh, spare me -- in mercy, spare me, Adrian !" cried the guilty woman springing toward him, with out- stretched hands and agonized face.
"Spare you! Have you spared your own flesh and blood?" demanded Adrian, sternly. "Have you ever felt an atom of mercy for your own son, whom, for over twenty years, you have doomed to almost solitary confinement, away from the sunlight and fresh air, depriving him of the simplest rights which a human being craves -- liberty and his own place in the world?
Oh, heartless mother that you are ! it is but just and right that the world should known that Herbert Randal, your third son, because of a deformity with
which God saw fit to inflict upon him, has been loath- ed by the woman who bore him, and that to further the interests of your favorite child, you have kept him secreted for years, hoping that in his feeble state every year would be his last, and your guilty course never become known; but God is merciful, and the time for restitution is at hand, and, be it known to you, it was through him Miss Douglas was released
from her confinement."
He then went on and explained at length how it had transpired; how he had found Brownie, cold and trembling, and exhausted from excitement and ter- ror, in the grove in the rear of the hall, and had persuaded her to give him the right to protect her at
He explained their journey to London, in company with nurse Clum and Milly, and concluded by say- ing:
" We intended returning hither immediately, but unforeseen circumstances prevented; and when at length I was enabled to come, you were gone to the Continent. We should not have intruded upon you to-day had we not deemed it best to secure this
casket before Sir Charles and his wife should leave again."
"Indeed I intended sending the jewels to her just as soon as the wedding was over," sobbed Isa- bel, who was now completely unnerved, and believed
all was over for her.
"Cease your silly crying and wipe your tears,'' commanded her mother, in a whisper.
"Don't you see," she when on, hurriedly, " that we have the game all in our own hands now! It is not a pleasant pickle to be in I admit, but Lady
Randal's situation is much worse. Sir Charles knows nothing of all this, thanks to our getting him out of the room, and if we will consent to overlook his mother's very questionable conduct, of course she will be glad to keep dark about our affairs, and we will have the wedding yet, though I shall not envy you afterward if Sir Charles ever finds this out."
During Adrian's recital, Lady Randal sat cowering in her chair, in a terror-stricken condition.
That all her dark plottings and her wickedness, which she believed were so successfully concealed, should thus be brought to light, and at the very time too when she was most anxious that no shadow should touch her fair fame, was a most crushing
When the young man concluded there was an awk- ward silence for a few moment, except for Mrs. Coolidge's whispering to Isabel, and then lifting her haggard face, Lady Randal asked :
"Well, what are you going to do about it?"
"What are we going to do about it, madam!" ex- claimed Lord Dunforth, in astonished tones. "I should ask, what are you going to do about it? Of course we all expect to see justice done at once."
"You shall," she said, eagerly, adding: "Yes, it is all true. We were travelling that summer when he was born; we were stopping just at the time in a picturesque village in Savoy, and my husband was called away to Paris on business. He was absent a fortnight, during which time Herbert was born.
"I can never tell you," she went on, shuddering "what a frightful object he was. His present appear- ance is nothing to what he was as a baby, and I prayed the nurse to take him from my sight and never let me look upon him again. My husband was detained long beyond the time he had anticipated, so that at the end of three weeks I was well and strong again. Then it came to me that, as he had not been with me, and fully believing that the child could not live long any way -- both the doctor and the nurse affirmed it -- I deemed it would be better to keep all knowledge of its existence from him. I could not travel with it in its feeble state, and it would be exceedingly painful to do so if I could, so I made arrangements with the nurse to care for it as long as it should live, and never let any one know
whose child it was.
" I wrote my husband that my child had been born telling him it was better it should die, since such a poor little cripple could not live long at the most, and said I would join him in Paris in a few days' since it was intolerable for me to remain longer where I had suffered such a severe disappointment. When I met him he seemed grieved and sorrowful yet he never questioned me further, and so I kept my secret until his death.
"After that I concluded to bring the child here since the nurse wrote me that he was getting unman- ageable, and so I fitted up those secret chambers as comfortable as I could, and have kept him there. God knows that I could not wilfully have wronged the child so, but after that first concealment it seemed impossible to confess his existence, and so it has gone on until now. He has always been feeble, and I have thought from year to year that he could not live, and that if he did not, it would be better if his existence was never known."
"Have you never considered the sufferings and feelings of the poor boy?" demanded his lordship, wrathfully.
She shrunk as if he had struck her.
"Oh, yes," she moaned, "but I saw no way out of it without bringing disgrace upon Charles and all of us."
"Do you think he would uphold you in such a
"No, no ! Oh ! how you torture me. But," she said, looking up pitifully, "you will not take any public action against me?"
"Public action!" he repeated, contemptuously; "could any public action restore those twenty years of his lost life to the poor boy ? No; but I want justice now."
" He shall have it. I will strive as far as I can to repair the injury I have done him, just as soon as we are through with the wedding -- that is, if Isabel is willing to go on with it after this," she said, regard- ing the young girl somewhat doubtfully.
Mrs. Coolidge's heart leaped at this; it was just the condition of all others she most desired Lady Randal
to be in.
Rising, she went over to her side, and holding out her hand, said, with an appearance of great magnan- imity:
"I regret exceedingly that anything so very dread- ful should have occurred, but we have all done wrong. I am ready to acknowledge my share re- gnrding Mrs. Dredmond. Shall we then overlook each other's faults, and still allow our children, who are not to blame, to be happy?"
The guilty mother grasped her hand eagerly.
"And you will not betray me to Charles just yet?" she gasped.
"Certainly not ; you must confide in him yourself when you think proper. I think myself it would be wiser not to tell him until after his return from his tour, for it might destroy all his pleasure. When once he is settled at home again, then all these things can be explained," she said, suavely.
Nothing could exceed the expression of scorn visi- ble upon the faces of their three noble guests at this piece of contemplated subterfuge.
Lord Dunforth, towering aloft in his indignation,
advanced and stood before the two women.
"No, madam," he said, firmly, "you may hide what else you choose from him, but Sir Charles must be acquainted this day -- nay, this hour, with the fact that he has a brother."
The attention of all was at this moment attracted by a slight noise at the other end of the drawing
"Another instant and they were thunder-struck to behold Sir Charles himself staggering toward them
like a drunken man.
Hie face was haggard and drawn, as if he had but just recovered from a convulsion -- even his lips were whito and rigid, while his forehead shone with the
clammy moisture which a fierce agony had drawn
Isabel sprang toward him with a sharp cry of pain, but he warded her off by a motion of his hand.
His mother shrieked.
"Oh, Charles! have you heard?" and Mrs. Coolidge shrank back, appalled at this unexpected turn of
" Yes," he said, in a hollow voice, and casting a look of withering contempt upon Isabel, "I see now why you were so anxious to get rid of me, I mistrusted something was not right, and after send- ing Brown to the village to execute your commis- sions, I came in by the lawn widow, as it was nearer. I entered just as Mrs. Dredmond opened the casket of jewels, and instantly a great deal was explained to me. I was so overcome by the discovery, that I dropped upon the divan behind the curtains, where I have remained, a silent witness of all that has occurred in this room."
Adrian, with deepest sympathy in his face, went to him and taking his hand, said, with emotion:
"Believe me, Charles, God knows I would have saved you from this if I could. You do not deserve
He groaned aloud at these words of sympathy, then wringing his hand he dropped it, and advancing to his mother demanded, in cold, hard tones:
" Madam, where is my brother?"
" Your brother -- oh, my boy," she began, between
" Yes, my brother. I demand him at your hands, and may God forgive you for your iniquity -- I am afraid I never can."
The shriek which burst from her died suddenly upon her lips, and the look of anguish in her eyes froze into one of terror, as the drawing-room door slowly swung back revealing a strange picture within its frame -- the little bent form of Lady Ruxley, her old and withered face full of a stern resolve, one hand resting upon her cane, the other upon the arm of Herbert Randal!
WOULD HE FORGIVE HER?
Lady Ruxley had arranged with one of the ser- vants that she was to be notified whenever Mr. Dred- mond and his wife should come. Consequently she had received the intelligence of their arrival almost immediately.
She knew that Adrian would make a clean breast of everything, and she reasoned that it would be the best time now for Herbert to be introduced to his brother and their friends, and have his future posi- tion in the family established at once.
She had kept the young man with her until Lady Randal returned from Paris, when he insisted upon returning to his old quarters, until his existence should be made known to his brother; and this meet- ing with Sir Charles had caused him many sleepless nights and much anxious thought. He had hesitated now with an undefinable dread at his heart, about making his appearance, but, after a second thought, he had yielded to Lady Ruxley's command, feeling that it would be better for all parties to have the matter settled for all time. She had learned to love the quiet, gentle young man, during the short time he had been with her; he was so attentive and enter- taining that he made her forget her own bodily ail- ments, while he shamed her by his own patience and submission into repressing her fretfulness and grumbling. She seemed to have grown younger since she had had this new object in life to interest her, and she now entered the room in a brisk, deci- ded manner, her wrinkled face all alive, and her keen eyes on the alert to watch and read every movement and expression.
Herbert was very pale, but quiet, and there was a certain dignity and decision in his manner, which plainly told that he was henceforth resolved to as- sert his rights.
Lady Randal started up wildly as they entered.
"How came you here -- what right have you to come here?" she demanded, almost fiercely.
"The right of a free man, mother," was his quick but firm reply.
" Ha!" exclaimed Lady Ruxley, bitterly, " I sup- pose you did not fill up the measure of your wicked- ness in your youth, Helen, and so you must needs hide this innocent child, denying him all love and care, and his rightful place in his own home."
" Spare me now, aunt -- I suffer enough," groaned the unhappy woman, who had sunk back trembling again at her son's reply.
"Spare you ! Whom have you ever spared, I should like to know, if they happened to obstruct your path ? Look back over your past life, think of your victims, and repent before it is too late. I only re- gret that I did not know of this wrong earlier ; it should have been righted long ago I promise you, Charles," and she turned suddenly upon him, search- ing his face eagerly with her keen gray eyes, "this is your brother !"
He had always been her ideal of manliness and excellence; she deemed him noble, self-sacrificing, chivalrous, but she knew that this was a test which would try his very soul.
Would he be equal to it, and still be the noble man she thought him ?
She dreaded, yet longed for the issue; while every one in the room stood silent, almost breathless awaiting the meeting of the brothers.
The moment the door had opened, and his eyes had fallen upon his crippled brother, Sir Charles had
stood as one transfixed.
The hideous deformity had been the first thing to attract his attention of course. That misplaced head, the misshapen shoulders, the withered, helpless hand, the twisted leg and foot, had struck a terrible feeling to his heart. Then his eyes had sought the sad, pale face with an eager, searching gaze, as if seeking to know something of the soul within that distorted body.
At once he marked the grandly shaped head, with its broad, square forehead, which looked almost ma- jestic beneath the crown of snowy hair. He marked the delicate, refined features, the deep, true, blue eyes, with their dark, sweeping lashes, the sensitive, expressive mouth, and the firm, decided chin.
It was a noble, attractive face, and as he looked, the shock of repulsion which be had at first ex- perienced passed, and in its place came a tender pity, an affection born of sympathy and the knowledge that this was his own kin -- his brother.
At Lady Ruxley's words he went eagerly toward him, and clasping his hand in a strong, protecting clasp, exclaimed :
" My brother! How glad I am for the gift, even thought it comes so late ! Shall we begin to love each other now, Herbert?"
The two men -- one so strong, handsome, and self- reliant in his glorious manhood ; the other so weak and helpless in his deformity -- gazed into each other's eyes with a look which seemed to read their very souls, and the tears started unbidden to each.
Though outwardly so different in appenrance their natures were alike -- grand and pure.
"God bless you, my brother !" murmured Herbert Randal, with quivering lips, while a deep joy, such
as he had never known in all his life before, thrilled him through and through.
He had not been prepared for any such reception is this. From his aunt's description of his brother, he had hoped to be kindly received, and his presence perhaps tolerated; but this hearty gathering into the
arms of his affection moved him deeply.
Isabel Coolidge, looking on and beholding this scene, saw herself in a new light. She was bowed with shame and humiliation at the thought of her own selfish, wasted life, while she realized the grandness of Sir Charles' nature as she had never done before, and knew she was unfit to mate with
She knew also, although he had spoken no word to that effect, that that hour would probably separate
"Charles! Charles! my dear boy!" cried Lady Ruxley, in trembling tones, while tears rained over her wrinkled face; " I hoped you would stand this test of character nobly. I have always been proud of you, but God knows that I love you at this mo- ment with a deeper love than ever before."
"Dear aunt, surely you did not expect I should reject my brother !" he said, in surprise; then added, as he saw how affected she was :
"Come, let me take you to a seat."
He led her to a comfortable chair, and then, while Lord Dunforth and his party exchanged greetings with his brother, he went and stood once more before his mother.
He was very grave and sorrowful, and the bright- ness and animation which had lighted up his face for a few moments, had given place to a painful pallor again.
" Mother," he began, in low but firm tones, " I will not upbraid you for this cruel wrong, for I know that your own conscience will reprove you more sharply than I have the heart to do; but I wish it to be distinctly understood that Herbert and I are henceforth to live upon terms of equality. What- ever I have of this world's goods that he can share, he shall share, and I bespeak for him in the future your tenderest love and care, and the respect and consideration of the entire household."
Lady Randal could only reply by cries and sobs ; she was utterly unnerved. The plottings of a life- time had been brought to nought in an hour.
He then turned his attention to Mrs. Coolidge, who was sitting, sullen and crest-fallen, near by.
"Madam," he said, haughtily, "the carriage will be at your disposal at any hour you may see fit to name. I will see," and a spasm of pain crossed his face, " that our friends are all notified that their presence here on Wednesday will not be acceptable, since, after, the cruelties and deceptions brought to light to-day, I must decline the honor of your daugh- ter's hand and an alliance with your family."
"And oh! Isabel," he said, suddenly facing the nearly fainting girl, and almost unnerved himself, "may God forgive you for your part in this matter.
I deemed you so good and true that I had built my strongest hopes upon spending a happy and useful life with you, The veil has been rudely torn from my eyes, but it is better now than later."
She cowered beneath his words, as if every one had been a cruel blow struck upon her naked heart.
"Forgive me, oh forgive me!" she cried, with an agonized look; "the loss of your love and respect is more than I can bear."
"I feel less of anger than of sorrow," he returned: but there are others whose forgiveness you should seek also," and he glanced at Mrs. Dredmond.
She looked up at him, eagerly searching his sad
Would be forgive her, and open his arms to her again, if she should be repentant and humble?
But no; there was no answering eagerness in his eye, and she saw that the discovery of her falsehood
and cruelty had parted them hopelessly, and she could not be his wife; her falsehood, cruelty, and deceit had built an impassable barrier between them, and, filled with bitter agony, she felt at that moment as if she would rather have had her tongue torn out by the roots than humble herself to Adrian Dred- mond's wife.
Sir Charles saw her face harden and darken with passion; and while he sighed over the wickedness of her heart, he yet wondered how he ever could have been so blinded and deceived by her.
" Shall I take you to Mrs. Dredmond ?" he pleaded, longing, for her own sake, to have her acknowledge her wrong-doing, and hating to lose all respect for
"No, I thank you, Sir Charles. Do you think, after this day's doings, that I could ever bow down to her?" she sneered, trying to brave it out, though her face looked drawn and pinched from the torture she was suffering.
He half turned from her in disgust, and saw that Brownie herself was approaching them.
She held out her hand to him, and he clasped it warmly -- every spark of the resentment which he had cherished snce they met in London gone from his heart,
She then turned to Mrs. Coolidge and Isabel, say- ing, in sweet, low tones :
"I wish to tell you, before we go, thnt I harbor no unkind feelings toward either of you, I sincerely regret that our visit to day should have occasioned you so much pain, and I wish you to feel that it was no spirit of revenge which prompted it. I thought perhaps it might be a comfort to you to know, before we part forever," she went on, the tears starting to her beautitul eyes, "that I wish you well."
" Yes, I suppose, now you're at the top of the heap, you think you have a right to crow over us," snapped Mrs. Coolidge, coarsely.
Sir Charles' face flushed un angry red at this insult and he made a motion of disguct, inwardly giving thanks that his eyes had been opened bofore it was too late, although so rudely.
The delicate color in Brownie's cheek deepened a trifle, but she answered, kindly :
" I am sorry you think that I have the least feeling of triumph, for I have not, and I believe there will come a time in the future when you will both feel differently toward me. Now I would like to tell you something, which I once refused tod o. Those ini- tials, E.H., which you discovered marked upon so many articles in my room, stand for Elinor Hunger- ford, which was my mother's maiden name."
"Strange that we did not think of that," ejaculated Isabel, in astonishment, "But it seemed out of place to find such elegant things in your possession."
"I know," Brownie said, gently, with a compas- sionate look in her face, aud then addressing Mrs. Coolidge again, she said :
"And now, if you will not consider me presuming, I wish to ask a little favor of you."
Sir Charles listened in amazement.
This injured, insulted girl, forgetting all past abuse and suffering, and giving them the comfort of grant- ing her a favor !
Surely this was that "charity which suffereth long, and is kind; which vaunteth not itself, seeketh not her own, and is not easily provoked!"
Even Mrs. Coolidge herself could not understand this, for looking up astonished, she ejaculated:
" You ask a favor of me after --"
" Yes, please," interrupted the young wife, hastily, "I wish to see Viola and Alma just for a few mo- ments, to bid them good-by and give them a little token of my love if you do not object. I probably shall not have another opportunity of seeing them.
The tears sprang to Brownie's eyes as she said this. She had grown to love the warm-hearted, impul- sive girls very dearly during the short time she had
been with them.
Mrs. Coolidge did not reply for a moment. She was looking very sober, and seemed almost at a loss how to receive this request.
"Shall I ring for them to be sent here?" asked Sir Charles, coming forward.
" If you please, unless Mrs. Coolidge objects," an- swered Brownie, waiting for her assent.
" I do not object," she said, briefly, and Sir Charles sent the message.
The girls were delighted, and clung to their old governess in a way to show that she had won their hearts completely; and when she quietly slipped a lovely diamond ring upon the hand of each, their joy was a pleasure to behold.
"My dears," said Brownie, almost weeping as she thought she might never see them again, "I know you will not forget me -- that you will remember me whenever you look upon this ring, but I want to ask you to remember something else also."
"What is it, Miss Douglas -- I mean Mrs. Dred- mond? We will do anything in the world that you ask," they cried.
" Do you remember what I used to tell you about beautiful lives ?" she asked, fondly.
" Oh, yes," said gay Alma, becoming suddenly grave. "You said if we would always keep our hearts pure, our lives would be beautiful."
" I think your heart must be very pure, for you are very beautiful, and everybody seems to love you," said Viola, with a look of earnest affection.
"My dear, we all make mistakes, and I am not above reproach, but whenever you look at these stones, which are so pure and clear, let them teach you purity. We may never meet each other here again, but when we meet in the great future, I pray I may find you unspotted from the world," Brownie replied, with deep emotion.
She then kissed them tenderly, and they left the room, weeping, while Sir Charles turned away to hide his own tears, and marveled at the beautiful spirit which his cousin's wife displayed.
A half-hour later, Lord Dunforth, Adrian, and his wife left Vallingham Hall with Lady Ruxley, who insisted that they should spend the day and dine
Lady Randal went to her own room and to bed, too ill and heart-broken to sit up. And for the first time in her life the proud Helen Capel was humbled
in the dust.
Surely Miss Mehetabel Douglas was avenged of her wrongs at last!
As Mrs. Coolidge and Isabel left the drawing-room to seek their own, Sir Charles said to the former:
" At what hour shall I order the carriage for you,
" Really, you are extremely hospitable, it seems to me. You appear to be very anxious to get rid of us," she retorted, sharply.
"Madam, I think it will be the kindest arrange- ment for all of us for you to go as soon as possible," he replied, sadly but firmly.
At four o'clock that afternoon they were all en route for London, where they purposed remaining until Mr Coolidge should return from America, when they hoped to leave for the Continent and join Wil- bur on his travels. But he did not return to them !
Instead, they shortly received a telegram bidding them come home immediately, as he had found his affairs in such a confused state upon reaching New York, that a failure seemed inevitable.
Accordingly, the 1st of July fouud them a sadder but wiser family, once more domiciled in their own home in New York city.
Six months later, we find a cheerful group gathered in the breakfast-room of Lord Dunforth's house in London.
Brownie is conspicuous among them, and is her own bright, sweet self, seeming more like the happy girl she was on that fifth day of September when Adrian first beheld her in the art gallery at Philadel- phia, than when we last saw her. Every day she is twining herself closer and closer about the hearts of Lord and Lady Dunforth, who are continually sound- ing her praises, and think there never was such a wife as Adrian has, while the look of deepening ten- derness in the fond husband's eyes whenever they rest upon her tells of a wealth of love found only in the truest and purest hearts.
They are at breakfast.
Brownie has taken the head of the table lately, as Lady Dunforth says she is getting too old to have the responsibility of it, but in reality she loves to sit and watch the lovely face beaming over the silver urns, and the dainty little hands as they flutter like white doves about the rich and glittering service.
And truly the beautiful young wife, although she makes a lovely picture, yet she presides with a gentle dignity all her own. Lord Dumorth has also resigned his place to Adrian, and he and his wire now sit side by «sde.
He seems to grow more tender of his gentle com- panion of late, as if he experienced a sort of remorse for the secret barrier which has stood between them
all these long years , and thus their lives are being filled with a blessed content, as, with their faces turned toward the setting sun, they calmly await the
They have several guests this morning at their table, and one has a very familiar, as well as a deci- dedly American, appearance.
It is Mr. Conrad, who has lately arrived in England to return a portion of that property which was in- trusted to his care so many years ago.
The other guests are his wife, and ward -- Miss Emily Elliott.
Brownie was delighted to receive a visit from them -- it seemed almost to link her to the old life once more, for she still had a tender regard for her native land, although she never expected to make it her home again.
She exerted her utmost powers to give them pleas- ure, and to make the old lawyer "forget the one mis- take of his life, and she has so far succeeded that he seems like the genial friend of former days, and is indeed almost gay at times.
Adrian had been giving him a dramatic account of his so-called run-away marriage, and they had just concluded a hearty laugh at his expense, when the butler entered with the mail-bag.
" Now for the letters!" said the young man, and he unlocked the bag, and began distributing them.
"Aha!" he said, with a mischievous glance across the table, as he took up a heavy missive, directed, in a round, bold hand, to his wife. "May I inquire, madam, what gentleman correspondent you have in
"When you get through inspecting the envelope, I will inspect the contents, and then, perhaps, I'll tell you," replied Brownie, saucily.
" You see, Mr Conrad," said Adrian, turning to the lawyer with mock seriousness, " that although my wife is getting quite English in some respects, yet the Ameritan independence will crop out occasion- ally. I despair of ever eradicating that !" he added, with a fond look at the bright face bent so earnestly over the closely-written pages she had unfolded.
Suddenly she looked up, with a little exclamation of delight and surprise,
" Oh, Adrian !" she said, " I have such news for you! Aspasia is going to be married -- and to whom,
do you think?"
" Get Mr Conrad to guess -- he knows more con- cerning your acquaintances than I," Adrian replied.
" But it is no one whom Mr. Conrad knows at all, and you are well acquainted with him. Besides, he
is a New Yorker."
" I am sure I know of no one in New York who is marriageable, unless it be --"
" Well, whom ?" Brownie asked with shining eyes,
as he hesitated.
" Wilbur Coolidge," he replied, with a peculiar ex-
"And why not?" she demanded, mischievously,
and he laughed outright.
He had always been a trifle sensitive over that little episode in her life. He could not bear the thought that another should even have presumed to
" Let me read you what she says," Brownie went on " Mr. Conrad knows all about her, and of course you are all interested in my friends, and then As- pasia was so kind to me when auntie died."
The sweet voice always softened tenderly when speaking of auntie.
" She begins her news by saying," she continued, referring to the letter :
"And now, darling, I have some wonderful things to tell you. In the first place I have aban- doned, as I promised you, my trains (except for evening wear), and I trust I have lengthened my charities, and received much personal benefit thereby. I thought I would try short dresses before the Paris Exposition, and get a little accustomed to them, for another such experience as I went through with the 5th of last September would finish me en- tirely. Speaking of the Paris Exposition brings me to another important point. I am making extensive preparations for a European tour, and if nothing happens I intend to run over to England, and take a look at my Brownie before I return. Now the cream of my letter lies in the fact that my contem- plated tour is to be prefaced by a brief ceremony, which will change Aspasia Huntington to As- pasia Coolidge! Yes, dear, I am going to marry Wilbur Coolidge. He has told me all about his liking for you, and I could not blame the dear boy in the least, for I know if I had been a man I should have wanted to marry you myself. I met Mr. Coolidge while in New York some five months ago, and was at once attracted toward him on account of his manly independence. His father has met with business reverses, which have reduced the family from their former magnificence to almost a state of poverty. Wilbur has proved himself a man in the emergency, putting his shoulder to the wheel, devoting himself to his profession -- that of the law -- and has done much toward the support of his mother and sisters; consequently I am very proud
"'Now, I want to tell you a little about Isabel and the rest of the family, but particularly about her, for I know all that you have suffered from her unkindness in the past, although you have never written me a word about it.
"'Mrs. Coolidge is a confirmed invalid, entirely broken down by dsappointment and their reduced circumstances, but Isabel, instead of being the weak-minded, vain, and selfish being every one thought her to be, has, like Wilbur, risen nobly above their calamities, takes the whole charge of the house- hold affairs and of her mother, with whom she is as patient as an angel. But she is the saddest creature I ever saw, and I believe the girl's heart is really broken, for her brother tells me she did truly love and esteem Sir Charles Randal, notwithstanding her inordinate desire to obtain a high position in the world. She never speaks of herself or her sorrow, but devotes herself to others. Whatever her past errors may have been, she is atoning nobly for them, and I believe will come out of this furnace a pure, good woman.
"The other girls, Viola and Alma, are charming, and they can never say enough in praise of Lady Dredmond, as they persist in calling you. They told me about your gift of the rings, and I think they are really striving for that purity of character which you
"'Now, dearest, you may expect to see me about the first of February, and don't I long to clasp you once again in my arms, my Brownie! for, dear, it is to you I feel I owe the higher and better views which I now have of life.
" Ever your loving friend,
' ' ASPASIA HUNGINGTON. ' "
Thia letter was like a gleam of the brightest sun- shine to Brownie. She longed to see the friend of her youth, and she was delighted to know that she was to marry Wilbur Coolidge. She knew she would make him a good wife, and she felt that he was worthy of her, she had always respected him for his manliness and good principles, notwithstanding he was sometimes led into error by the influence of his
mother and sister.
She had not seen him since they parted that day, when she left his fathers house in London in such trouble, but she was sincerely glad that there was a prospect of meeting him again, and she rejoiced that he was to be made happy by the love of a good, true
Her tears fell as she thought of Viola and Alma striving so earnestly to reach her standard of excel- lence, while her deepest sympathies were stirred for the misguided Isabel, who was being tried in such a fiery furnace, and bade fair to come forth purified.
" I shall show this letter to Sir Charles,' she said, when she was alone with Adrian, and had read it a second time. "But what have you there'" she added, as she saw him examining another letter with a puzzled expression.
"I am trying to make out whether this epistle is directed to you or to me. The Mr or Mrs., which ever it is, is very indistinct,' he replied.
" I think it must be for me," Brownie said, smil- ing. " It is in a lady's hand, and the Mrs. looks as if a tear had dropped upon it. "
"At all events you shall have the privilege of opening it," said Adrian, giving it to her.
She did so, and all doubt was removed as she
" ' MY DEAR MRS. DREDMOND:-- If you will al- low me to address you thus, after all the trying events of the past. Since misfortune has come upon us, and I now occupy an humbler position than even you did when you were with us, my eyes have been opened, and I now see my wickedness in all its enormity. I cannot rest until I tell you how sin- cerely I repent of my unkindness to you, and ask you to forgive me if you can. Your lovely spirit and example on that last dreadful day at Valling- ham Hall, shamed while it maddened me, but the memory of it has since conquered me. I grieve con- tinually over my treatment of you, and the sinful- ness which has ruined my owe life and wronged others; yet I can truthfully say that I rejoice that the right triumphed, and that you are now happy.
"I do wrong perhaps to say that my life is ruined, for although much of it has been wasted, and the crowning joy of womanhood denied me, yet I can, God helping me, improve the future, by making myself useful to others; and in so far as I am able, atone for the past. A word from you will greatly
" Very truly yours, ISABEL COOLIDGE. '"New York, Dec. 15, 1877.'"
" Poor child ! she was good at heart after all, only it was so covered up by ambition and pride, that no one was conscious of it," Brownie said, her tears
" It is a very earnest, humble letter, and I honor her more to day than I did when she stood so high in society," Adrian replied, heartily.
" How submissively yet hopelessly she speaks of
her love for Sir Charles. "
" Yes, poor fellow, this trouble has been a severe blow to him also," said her husband.
" I think I shall drive over to Lady Randal's to- day, and, Adrian, do you think there would be any harm in my showing him both these letters ?" the young wife asked, with a wistful look in her dark
' What a forgiving little -- or great heart you have, my darling !" he said, as he read her thought.
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," Brownie repeated, with great earnestness.
Her husband stooped and kissed her.
" Do as you like, my own, I believe wherever you go you always carry light and joy with you," he
said, almost reverently.
Accordingly, while Lord Dunforth took his guests to visit several points of interest which he could best explain to them, Adrian drove his wife over to call on Lady Ruxley, who, since she had lost ber charming companion, had taken a deep interest in her crippled nephew, and now resided all the time
with the family.
Brownie's visits were always like gleams of sun- shine to her, for Lady Randal, since the developments which had resulted in such mortification to her, and in the destruction of so many hopes, had been very melancholy, and kept her own room nearly all the time, seldom seeing visitors, and scarcely ever going
Her sons were both very kind to her, and exerted themselves to cheer and comfort her, but her spirit had been crushed, and she could not rally from the
As for the young men themselves they were con-
genial spirits -- two noble sons of a noble father! The tenderest ties of affection had united them from the moment of their first meeting, their hopes, and aspirations, and sympathies were the same, and wherever they went their aim was to do good.
Sir Charles had opened his heart at once to his brother, and now felt that it would be difficult to live without him. He consulted him regarding every matter of business, upon every alteration and im- provement upon the estate, and found his suggestions
and advice invaluable.
As soon as he felt he could do so, without offend- ing Herbert, he had proposed taking him to a noted surgeon in Paris to see if anything could be done to remedy the deformity which was so wearisome to himself and so unsightly to others.
The result had been beyond their expectations, although the operation had involved infinite pain and patience. The twisted foot and leg had been straightened, and that bowed head lifted, until the young man could walk erect like others. But the withered hand of course could not be restored, though the great surgeon had said much more could
have been done for him had he been treated in his early youth. This intelligence the brothers did not impart to their mother, willing to save her an added pang, while she was suffering so much.
The cripple's health had improved greatly since he had been able to have plenty of outdoor exercise and his face lost much of that deep sadness which had so touched Brownie's tender heart when she first saw him, but there was always a wistful look about his eyes which told of a life that had but little of joy m it.
Adrian's wife Herbert Randal considered the essence of perfection, and he spent many hours at her charming home, and often accompanied her upon her errands of mercy among the poor, while she valued him among her choicest friends.
Sir Charles also had the most profound respect for her, and to day, as she drove up to their elegant residence, he sprang to assist her to alight, a most cordial welcome on his lips and shining in his eyes.
She lingered a moment in the hall with him, and putting her two letters in his hands, said
" Go away by yourself and read these carefully, while I make my call upon your mother and Lady Ruxley, and then come and tell me if you can forgive
as I do."
He looked at her a moment in astonishment, then at the address upon the back of each letter. In an instant the color flamed in his face as he recognized the handwriting upon one; he lifted his head haugh- tily, his lip curled just a trifle in scorn, then, turning without a word, he conducted her to Lady Ruxley's apartments, despatched a servant to tell his mother that Mrs. Dredmond had called, and quickly with- drew, with a strange quickening of his heart pulses.
Herbert had already taken Adrian off to inspect a new conservatory which was being built.
An hour passed, which Brownie made bright and cheerful for Lady Ruxley, Lady Randal having sent regrets that she was not able to see the visitor this morning. Then the gentlemen all came in together.
Sir Charles appeared very thoughtful, but there was a brighter and more hopeful gleam in his eye than there had been for many a day.
He drew Mrs. Dredmond on one side as soon as he could do so without attracting too much notice.
" Thank you," he said, as he gave back her letters " They have comforted me greatly, for I had felt, as she says, as if the crowning joy of life was to be de-
nied me for ever.
" And now?," Brownie asked, eagerly.
" What! can you wish her happiness?" he deman- ded, more in reply to her eager look than her words
"Ah, yes, poor child! her suffering has been worse than mine. We do not any of us know our own weakness until we have teen tempted. You and I might fall even lower than Isabel did under some peculiar temptation, and shall we presume to judge one who has trusted in her own weak strength, and who, now sorrowing, has found, if I am not mistaken, a stronger arm to lean upon ?"
" What a peace-maker you are, Mrs. Dredmond, -- you conquer us all. You take a very sweet way to be revenged upon your enemies," Sir Charles ex- claimed, with a suspicious moisture in his fine eyes.
" I do not believe in that element at all," she re- plied, gently, "but if I could win Isabel's love, and see you both happy, I should ask for no greater tri-
" What greater triumph could any one have than make a friend of an enemy!" the young man asked, smiling, then he added gravely, " I think by another year I may visit the United States -- it is always best to let patience have its perfect work, you know; then, if it shall have accomplished its mission, there may be happiness for two more human beings in this
Brownie's face fairly shone at his words, then see- ing her husband approaching, she shook him heartily by the hand, and bidding the others good morning, went away, leaving the house the brighter for her
The young husband and wife rode m silence for
Then Adrian suddenly bending forward, scanned the fair, beautiful face eagerly.
" What is it, dear ?" she asked, with a fond bright
He bent and touched her forehead with his lips,
"God bless you, my own wife," was his reverent
He had caught Sir Charles' last words, and knew that Brownie had accomplished her mission.
And with him we also say, "God bless her," and all other pure, true women who carry out in their daily lives the song of the angel host on Bethlehem's plains, "Peace on earth, good will toward men.