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the necessity for deceit—a snare
spread around her. She had not revolted so much from the deed which brought
unpremeditated death as she did from these words of her father's. The night
before, in her mad fever of affright, she had fancied that to conceal the body
was all that would be required; she had not looked forward to the long weary
course of small lies, to be done and said, involved in that one mistaken action.
Yet, while her father's words made her soul revolt, his appearance melted her
heart as she caught it, half turned away from her, neither looking straight at
Miss Monro nor at any thing materially visible. His hollow, sunk eye seemed to
Ellinor to have a vision of the dead man before it. His cheek was livid and
worn, and its healthy coloring, gained by years of hearty out-door exercise, was
all gone into the wanness of age. His hair even, to Ellinor, seemed grayer for
the past night of wretchedness. He stooped, and looked dreamily earthward, where
formerly he had stood erect. It needed all the pity called forth by such
observation to quench Ellinor's passionate contempt for the course on which she
and her father were embarked when she heard him repeat his words to the servant
who came with her broth.
"Fletcher, go to Mrs. Jackson's
and inquire if Mr. Dunster is come home yet. I want to speak to him."
"To him!" lying dead where he had
been laid; killed by the man who now asked for his presence. Ellinor shut her
eyes, and lay back in despair. She wished she might die, and be out of this
horrible tangle of events.
Two minutes after she was
conscious of her father and Miss Monro stealing softly out of the room. They
thought that she slept.
She sprang off the sofa and knelt
"O God!" she prayed; "Thou
knowest! Help me! There is none other help but Thee!"
I suppose she fainted. For an
hour or more afterward, Miss Monro, coming in, found her lying insensible by the
side of the sofa.
She was carried to bed. She was
not delirious, she was only in a stupor, which they feared might end in
delirium. To obviate this, her father sent far and wide for skillful physicians,
who tended her, almost at the rate of a guinea the minute.
People said how hard it was upon
Mr. Wilkins, that hardly had that wretch Dunster gone off; with no one knows how
much out of the trusts of the firm, before his only child fell ill. And, to tell
the truth, he himself looked burned and scared with affliction. He had a
startled look, they said, as if he never could tell, after such experience, from
which side the awful proofs of the uncertainty of earth would appear, the
terrible phantoms of unforeseen dread. Both rich and poor, town and country,
sympathized with him. The rich cared not to press their claims, or their
business, at such a time; and only wondered in their superficial talk, after
dinner, how such a good fellow as Wilkins could ever have been deceived by a man
like Dunster. Even Sir Frank Holster and his lady forgot their old quarrel, and
came to inquire after Ellinor, and sent her hot-house fruit by the bushel.
Mr. Corbet behaved as an anxious
lover should do. He wrote daily to Miss Monro to beg for the most minute
bulletins; he procured every thing in town that any doctor even fancied might be
of service. He came down as soon as there was the slightest hint of permission
that Ellinor might see him. He overpowered her with tender words and caresses,
till at last she shrank away from them, as from something too bewildering, and
past all right comprehension.
But one night before this, when
all windows and doors stood open to admit the least breath that stirred the
sultry July air, a servant on velvet tip-toe had stolen up to Ellinor's open
door, and had beckoned out of the chamber of the sleeper the ever watchful
nurse, Miss Monro.
"A gentleman wants you," were all
the words the housemaid dared to say so close to the bed-room. And softly,
softly Miss Monro stepped down the stairs into the drawing-room; and there she
saw Mr. Livingstone. But she did not know him; she had never seen him before.
"I have traveled all day. I heard
she was ill—was dying. May I just have one more look at her? I will not speak; I
will hardly breathe. Only let me see her once again!"
"I beg your pardon, Sir, but I
don't know who you are; and if you mean Miss Wilkins by 'her,' she is very ill,
but we hope not dying. She was very ill, indeed, yesterday; very dangerously
ill, I may say, but she is having a good sleep, in consequence of a soporific
medicine, and we are really beginning to hope—"
But just here Miss Monro's hand
was taken, and, to her infinite surprise, was kissed before she could remember
how improper such behavior was.
"God bless you, Madam, for saying
so. But if she sleeps, will you let me see her; it can do no harm, for I will
tread as if on egg-shells; and I have come so far—if I might just look on her
sweet face. Pray, Madam, let me just have one sight of her. I will not ask for
But he did ask for more, after he
had had his wish. He stole up stairs after Miss Monro, who looked round
reproachfully at him if even a nightingale sang, or an owl hooted in the trees
outside the open windows, yet who paused to say herself, outside Mr. Wilkins's
"Her father's room; he has not
been in bed for six nights till to-night; pray do not make a noise to waken
him." And on into the deep stillness of the hushed room, where one clear ray of
hidden lamp-light shot athwart the floor, where a watcher, breathing softly, sat
beside the bed—where Ellinor's dark head lay motionless on the white pillow, her
face almost as white, her form almost as still, you might have heard a pin fall.
After a while he moved to withdraw.
Miss Monro, jealous of every
sound, followed him, with steps all the more heavy because they were taken with
so much care down the stairs, back into the drawing-room. By the bed-candle
flaring in the draught she saw that there was the glittering mark of wet tears
on his cheek; and she felt, as she said afterward, "sorry for the young man."
And yet she urged him to go, for she knew that she might be wanted up stairs. He
took her hand, and wrung it hard.
"Thank you. She looked so
changed—oh! she looked as though she were dead. You will write — Herbert
Livingstone, Langham Vicarage, Yorkshire; you will promise me to write. If I
could do any thing for her, but I can but pray. Oh, my darling! my darling! and
I have no right to be with her."
"Go away, there's a good young
man," said Miss Monro, all the more pressing to hurry him out by the front door,
because she was afraid of his emotion overmastering him, and making him noisy in
his demonstrations. "Yes, I will write; I will write, never fear!" and she
bolted the door behind him, and was thankful.
Two minutes afterward there was a
low tap; she undid the fastenings, and there he stood, pale in the moonlight.
"Please don't tell her I came to
ask about her; she might not like it."
"No, no! not I! Poor creature,
she's not likely to care to hear any thing this long while. She never roused at
Mr. Corbet's name."
"Mr. Corbet's!" said Livingstone,
below his breath, and he turned and went away; this time for good. But Ellinor
recovered. She knew she was recovering, when day after day she felt involuntary
strength and appetite return. Her body seemed stronger than her will; for that
would have induced her to creep into her grave, and shut her eyes forever on
this world, so full of troubles.
She lay, for the most part, with
her eyes closed, very still and quiet; but she thought with the intensity of one
who seeks for lost peace and can not find it. She began to see that if in the
mad impulses of that mad nightmare of horror they had all strengthened each
other, and dared to be frank and open, confessing a great fault, a greater
disaster, a greater love—which in the first instance was hardly a crime—their
future course, though sad and sorrowful, would have been a simple and
straightforward one to tread. But it was not for her to undo what was done, and
to reveal the error and shame of a father. Only she, turning anew to God, in the
solemn and quiet watches of the night, made a covenant, that in her conduct, her
own personal and individual life, she would act loyally and truthfully. And as
for the future, and all the terrible chances involved in it, she would leave it
in His hands—if, indeed (and here came in the Tempter), He would watch over one
whose life hereafter must seem based upon a lie. Her only plea, offered
"standing afar off," was, "the lie is said and done and over—it was not for my
own sake. Can filial piety be so overcome by the rights of justice and truth as
to demand of me that I should reveal my father's guilt?"
Her father's severe, sharp
punishment began. He knew why she suffered, what made her young strength falter
and tremble, what made her life seem nigh about to be quenched in death. Yet he
could not take his sorrow and care in the natural manner. He was obliged to
think how every word and deed would be construed. He fancied that people were
watching him with suspicious eyes, when nothing was further from their thoughts.
For once let the "public" of any place be possessed by an idea, it is more
difficult to dislodge it than any one imagines who has not tried. If Mr. Wilkins
had gone into Hamley market-place, and proclaimed himself guilty of the
manslaughter of Mr. Dunster—nay, if he had detailed all the circumstances—the
people would have exclaimed, "Poor man, he is crazed by this discovery of the
unworthiness of the man he trusted so; and no wonder—it was such a thing to have
done—to have defrauded his partner to such an extent, and then have made off to
For many small circumstances,
which I do not stop to detail here, went far to prove this, as we know,
unfounded supposition; and Mr. Wilkins, who was known, from his handsome
boyhood, through his comely manhood, up to the present time, to all the people
in Hamley, was an object of sympathy and respect to every one who saw him, as he
passed by, old and lorn and haggard before his time, all through the evil
conduct of one, London-bred, who was as a hard unlovely stranger to the popular
mind of this little country town.
Mr. Wilkins's own servants liked
him. The workings of his temptations were such as they could understand. If he
had been hot-tempered, he had also been generous, or I should rather say
careless and lavish with his money. And now that he was cheated and impoverished
by his partner's delinquency, they thought it no wonder that he drank long and
deep in the solitary evenings which he passed at home. It was not that he was
without invitations. Every one came forward to testify their respect to him by
asking him to their houses. He had probably never been so universally popular
since his father's death. But, as he said, he did not care to go into society
while his daughter was so ill—he had no spirits for company.
But if any one had cared to
observe his conduct at home, and to draw conclusions from it, they could have
noticed that, anxious as he was about Ellinor, he rather avoided than sought her
presence, now that her consciousness and memory were restored. Nor did she ask
for, or wish for him. The presence of each was a burden to the other. Oh, sad
and woeful night of May—overshadowing the coming summer months with gloom and
RUTH HOLLIDAY'S VALENTINE.
HARK! was that eldritch sound
only the wail of the November wind upon the snow-covered hill-side? or was it
something more than human? Ruth Holliday shivered involuntarily as she sat all
alone in front of her bright hearth-stone knitting with mechanical rapidity.
"I must be getting nervous," she
murmured to herself. But she rose, nevertheless, to close the window-shutters—as
if that could exclude the melancholy moan of the autumn blasts—and to replace
the blazing fore-stick which had fallen from the bright brass fire-dogs and lay
among smouldering sparks and ashes upon the red brick hearth.
All alone, we said, for she was
one of that much contemned class of society—old maids! You might have discovered
that for yourself with one glance round the neat little room, where the boards
of the floor couldn't have been whiter if they had been carpeted with white
satin, and the fringe to the window-curtains looked like netted snow! And there
was a kitchen, too, where the black-leaded stove actually winked at you with
brightness, and the fat copper tea-kettle sat side by side with a stew-pan full
of simmering apples, and the overflowing tin pail of "batter" which was to
resolve itself the next morning into golden-brown buckwheat cakes. For if any
body said Ruth Holliday wasn't a good housekeeper it was pretty plain they
didn't know what they were talking about.
She was not uncomely, either, old
maid though she was, as she sat there in the light of the one candle on the
round wooden stand at her elbow. The thirty years of her life-pilgrimage had not
dimmed the gloss upon her chestnut hair, nor extinguished the fire in her bright
brown eye, although her skin had lost its youthful elasticity and bloom, and
"crows-feet" lurked under her eyes, and at the corners of her mouth. Ruth
Holliday might have been almost pretty even now were it not for the sad, almost
bitter expression that characterized her whole face.
For to-night, while the
melancholy wind sighed in the hollows, and gusts of sleet tinkled eves and anon
against the window-panes, something had set her to thinking of old times—of the
St. Valentine's eves when she was a rosy girl, and Walter Gray used to sit
beside this self-same hearth and hold the ball of yarn while she knit as she was
knitting now—of her first Valentine, slipped under the window, while the sunrise
was just reddening above the forests, and Walter Gray lingered
"—at the casement waiting
To be her Valentine!"
How vividly they all came back to
her! the days when he was her sweet-heart at singing-school and apple bee, and
the neighboring girls used to tease her about the lithe young sailor, until her
cheeks were redder than the red-hearted shells he used to bring her from those
long, long cruises!
Well, it was over now. They had
quarreled on some slight pretext—Walter had married Anne Moss, and she—she was
an old maid! Yet when the news had come—come with the May breezes and
sunshine—of his death amidst the shot and shell of that fatal repulse on the
James River, Ruth felt as if she too were bereaved as well as the pale, indolent
Anne, whom she hated so fiercely in her heart. Ruth had said long ago, that she
never would forgive either Walter or Anne—and she had kept her word.
Hush! some hand was plying the
rusty iron knocker without, and Ruth rose to undo the latch.
"Why, Mrs. Elbury, is it you?"
"Yes, it's me!" croaked the widow
Elbury, emerging from under the shadow of her green hood and scarlet blanket
shawl, shriveled and wrinkled, as one might imagine the Witch of Endor to look.
"Awful evenin', ain't it?
Thank'ee, I will set a bit nearer to the fire—can't stay but a minute though.
Pretty smart, eh? S'pose you've heerd the news?"
"News? no—what news is there?"
said Ruth, rather languidly, for she felt but little interest in such village
gossip as the widow Elbury was wont to retail.
"Why, do tell! You hain't heerd,
then? Widder Gray's dead—she 't was Anne Moss, you know —Walter Gray's widder!"
"I know whom you mean," said
Ruth, mechanically biting her lip till the blood came.
"Yes, poor creetur—she's gone at
last. She always was a shiftless consarn—and that boy o' hem will have to go to
the poor-house, for there ain't a cent o' money left. Anne was ailin' quite a
spell, and doctors' bills do mount up so. He's a pretty boy enough—eight year
old last June, jest the picter o' what Walter used to be. You remember what a
chirky feller he was? Folks used to say one while he was courtin' you!"
The widow looked sharply at Ruth
to see how she took this home-thrust; but Ruth quietly seamed away at the heel
of her blue worsted stocking, and the widow was out-generaled.
"Ain't that Steve Rogers's
lumber-wagon I hear comin' down the hill? 'Tis, sure enough! Well, Ruth, I'm
sorry I can't set a spell longer, but I calculated on gettin' a ride over to my
sister Almiry's with Steve. Good-evenin'. Do come over and spend a day with our
Ruth came in from seeing her
talkative guest safe into the wagon of the hapless "Steve Rogers," and stood a
moment before the fire, listening to the wild wind.
"Walter Gray's child cast upon
the tender mercies of the Poor-House!" she thought, again and again. "I prayed
years ago that I might live to see myself revenged: the prayer is fulfilled; and
Ah, Ruth, in the fulfillment of
such prayers there is but the bitterness of Marah!
"It can not—must not be!" she
exclaimed, hysterically, a moment afterward. "I loved Walter once: I can not see
his child suffer."
Ruth tied on her little brown
bonnet, wrapped the worsted shawl with trembling fingers around her, and went
out into the rain and sleet of that dreary, dreary night.
Up through the desolate wail of
the tempest rose the feeble treble of a child's voice, crying out,
"Must I go to the poor-house? Oh,
mother! mother! why did you die and leave me all alone?" There was a touch on
his shoulder; he shrank back, sobbing and shuddering.
"Oh, not yet! I can not go to the
"My boy," said Ruth, softly, "you
shall not go at all. Hereafter you shall share my home with me, and be my
Little Walter, looking up through
his father's eyes, clung fondly round the old maid's neck; to him she was as
beautiful as an angel at that moment.
He ate his supper that night at
Ruth Holliday's hearth-stone—white milk, new bread, and Ruth's choicest
strawberry jam—and she watched him with the light of a new smile illuminating
her face. The old maid had found something to live for.
So the old year died out in white
drifts of snow stained with the crimson fire of many sunsets. Ruth made a
pilgrimage with little Walter one clear January evening to the church-yard on
the hill; but none of the neighbors ever guessed who hung the wreath of golden
immortelle over the rude stone that marked Anne Moss's neglected grave.
St. Valentine's Eve—a night of
keen wind and driving snow—and the strange pair were sitting together at the
cozy hearth, keeping silence and talking by turns.
"Aunt Ruth," said the boy—thus
she had learned him to call her—" do you hear the wind? It sounds like some one
crying out for help."
"We are warm and snug here,
Walter," said Ruth.
"I was thinking," resumed the
child, "what a dreadful gale this must be at sea. Aunt Ruth, when I'm a big man,
I want to be a sailor, like my father."
Ruth did not answer; she only
pressed Walter's hand closer in hers, and he felt the soft palm tremble.
Suddenly there was a step on the
floor beside them: some one had entered unheard in the groanings of the storm.
Ruth uttered a shriek, as she saw the tall sun-burnt man standing in their
midst, then sprang wildly to her feet.
"Walter—it is Walter!"
"Yes, Ruth, it is Walter, and he
has heard it all —how you have been a mother to his motherless boy. Ruth, I
never thought to have stood beside you alive again. I have passed through the
Valley of the Shadow of Death; yet I could have borne it all cheerfully—ay, even
gladly—had I looked forward to this."
What a troubled, joyous evening
that was!—troubled through its very excess of gladness; and when at length
little Walter's heavy eyelids drooped, and he slept in his chair at the
fireside, Gray rose, reluctantly, to depart.
"Ruth," he said, clasping her
hand, as they stood together on the threshold, "my first love, will you be
Walter's mother in reality, as well as in tenderness? Will you be my wife, dear
Ruth? We both have passed through many trials since I was your boy-Valentine,
but I love you more dearly than ever, for I have learned your worth. Will you
marry me, Ruth?"
When Ruth came back to rouse
little Walter and put him to bed he opened his sleepy eyes wide at the lovely
color upon her face.
"Why, Aunt Ruth, your cheeks are
like that monthly rose in the window. What is the matter?"
But Aunt Ruth, perverse for once
in her life, would not answer.
Verily, the ancient prophecy
concerning such things had been fulfilled, and it happened that Ruth Holliday's
first Valentine was her last.
ATTACK ON FORT HINDMAN.
WE are indebted to Mr. Stellwagen,
of the Bureau of Ordnance at Washington, for the drawings of the ATTACK ON FORT HINDMAN, at Arkansas Post, which we reproduce on
page 124. We gave, together
with a picture of the Fort, in our number before last, a full description of the
work and of our attack upon it, and do not deem it necessary to repeat them
THE ATTACK ON FORT McALLISTER.
page 125 we publish an
illustration of the attack of the iron-clad
gun-boat Montauk on Fort McAllister,
in the Ogeechee River, on the 28th January. Our picture is from a sketch by an
officer of the Dawn. The Montauk was not disabled, as reported by the rebels.
She received seventeen shots in her side and twelve on her turret, without
receiving any injury whatever, although engaged for five hours. She returned to
her anchorage for want of shells. It being foggy next morning she did not return
to the attack.
The Herald correspondent thus
describes Fort McAllister:
Fort McAllister is casemated, and
is a strong-built, iron-plated fort, mounting thirteen guns. Shells from the
Montauk could easily be seen bursting inside, and the enemy flying into the
casemates. It appeared to be very strongly manned. A brigade from Savannah is
reported to have reinforced the garrison on Thursday, and the whole country
around is alive with cavalry and infantry.
Of the performance of the Montauk
It is said that the Montauk fired
in all seventy-six shots, and was struck forty-five times, forty striking the
turret, making no further impression than an indentation in the iron from
three-eighths to five-eighths of an inch deep, and shaped like a saucer. The
enemy's shells were filled with sand to render them more effective, and, when
they struck, burst like a percussion carp, scattering the iron and sand around.
It is said that one shell entered the smoke-stack of the Montauk, shattering it
to pieces. No further injury to the fort was done than the dismounting of one or
The attack would be renewed as
soon as the obstructions in the river were removed.