Page images

to her father to instantly come home; her mother was dying. That dreadful letter had been, through a mistake, given to her, and the shock to her brain on reading the appalling contents had caused partial paralysis, from which the doctor said she would never recover.

Dr. Beechley returned to Riversdale, nor again quitted it during the brief remainder of his beloved wife's existence. For one month she lingered in a painless, unconscious state; then her gentle spirit winged its flight to those blessed realms where suffering and sorrow are unknown.



THREE years have passed, three long years, and lo, he whom in our hearts we mourned as dead has returned to his home; yea, the poor lost sheep has returned to the fold, the penitent son has wandered back to his father's house. But, alas! there still envelopes him a cloak of mystery, the which he refuses to throw off; and what the deed that made him flee his country, where he went to, how lived, without friends to aid him, without profession, and with scant possession of money, remain as profound a secret to father and me, and to the world in general, as on the first day of his disappearance. Will the light ever be let in on our darkness? Shall we ever know what it all means?

Most strangely changed he is too. Ah me!



all the light and life of youth seem within these three years to have been utterly quenched in his heart and soul. He has become, as it were, a moody, disappointed, world-sick old man. Poor Charles! and not yet five-andtwenty!

People do say he is improved in looks; but I see it not. I agree with sweet Ennis Denzell, the improvement has so much of disagreeable in it that far, far more winsome, to my feelings, was the frank-faced boy of college memory than is the cold, cynical man of today. Sometimes a painful sensation possesses me that not my brother, but a stranger, has come to us to falsely claim home and kindred, knowing the true Charles is dead; a stranger, a second claimant, years older than Charles, albeit in many respects singularly like him. But, oh! no; this is a weak delusion. Alas, I could almost wish it were not, so bitterly distressing to dear father and me is the inexplicable alteration in poor Charles.

Days have passed, and-thanks be to our heavenly Father for the same-Charles is becoming more like his old self, more natural,

more contented, and less restless, less like a man who, condemned to death shortly, moves and looks and speaks numbed by the remembrance, ever present, of impending fate, of the chill, sepulchral thought that, albeit he is still in the world, he is no longer of it; its joys, hopes, ambitions, and pleasures have no further claim upon his caring, no share in his interests. Such Charles has been since his return.

He has at last called upon the Denzells, and seen and, as I was certain he would, admires Ennis-wildly admires her. Who can help it that looks upon her exceedingly comely face and figure? I bethink me, is it possible this admiration has wrought the improvement in him I speak of? If so, is that not a proof love had naught to do with his flight and present sorrow? -a sorrow which I can see does not owe its origin to our beloved mother's death, albeit doubtless thereby greatly increased.

Charles has been absent from home a fortnight. He will not now take upon him Holy Orders, but purposeth becoming a lawyer, and is studying for the Bar. Dear father is grieved —much grieved-albeit he beareth his disap

pointment patiently, as beseemeth his gentle, pious disposition. This morning I, as is often my wont, paid a visit at the Court. I love the Denzells, and I love going there: such a sunny, peaceful calm rests within and around that God-fearing house! How lovely Ennis is! Never have I seen anything so beauteous before. And so sweet and bewitching a manner hath she,—yes, and amiability of mind. Thrown frequently together as she and my poor erring brother are, will they love each other? Alas! I know not how to answer. Ennis is dear to me as a young sister; will he make her happy? I believe (and so does our father) in his declaration of innocence of any crimecrime against the laws of his country; but oh! Charles, Charles, do you consider it no crime against God and your parents, your having acted in the cruelly heartless way you did?— no crime to have shortened the life of our suffering mother, and embittered the remaining years of our father's existence? Oh, it is passing strange! unnatural-bewildering! am lost-utterly lost, what to think or believe. No; as I think over the matter, I do not wish Ennis to be his wife. A man who under any


« PreviousContinue »