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madness and to suicide, as a sequel to the fearful vigil that followed the discovery of his real position.
Light came with the morning, and strength for the day. His course was plain-to mitigate the rigours of her fate by such kindly deeds as a brother might perform for the promotion of a sister's welfare ; by abstaining from even such manifestations of affection as are a brother's right. There should be no formal explanation until she had recovered from the fatigue of her journey, and begun to feel at home in her new abode. Thus much he could and would do, and await the result.
“What a pretty, pretty house!" exclaimed Jessie, as the carriage drew up at the gate of a cottage on the southern slope of one of the hills on which the handsome town was built.
She had meant to praise his selection of a residence however ordinary its appearance, but her enthusiastic admiration was genuine.
Roy smiled, but not with the glad gleam she looked to see.
* It is good and kind in you to say so! If you can be satisfied here, I ask nothing better or grander.”
A tidy girl opened the door, whom Jessie recognized with pleased surprise as a former servant in Dr. Baxter's family. “Why, Phæbe ! This is homelike ! How
very generous in Cousin Jane to give you up to me!"
“She said you might find me useful, Miss Jessie ! I beg your pardon, Mrs. Fordham,' replied the girl, dropping a curtsey.
Jessie coloured, Roy thought, painfully, at the as yet unfamiliar name. He interfered to save her further embarrassment in the shape of congratulations.
“ You will show her to her room, if you please, Phæbe. And then let her have a cup of tea ; she has a headache. Your trunks will be sent up in the course of half-an-hour, Jessie; but I would not advise you to wait for them, or take the trouble of changing your travelling-dress. You must begin your life here by doing just as you choose in such matters.”
He met her in the hall when she ran down, ten minutes later, fearful lest she had kept him waiting, and led her into the supper-room, letting her take her place behind the tea-tray without one of the tenderly gallant speeches with which a bridegroom would naturally install his bride in the chair always appropriated by the mistress of heart and home. He was attentive to her wants, and talked as much as usual—perhaps more-in the endeavour to put her at her ease-telling how the flowers upon the tea-table and in her chamber were sent over at noon from Judge Provost's conservatory, that the silver service was a present from the Baxters, the bronze mantel-clock from Fanny Provost, who was very anxious to see her, and resume their old intimacy. Selina Bradley had sent the chased silver butter-bowl, and other Hamilton families had testified their good-will by elegant and suitable gifts.
“I am every day more glad that you spent last winter here," he said. “You do not come as a stranger, have already pleasant associations with our town and its inhabitants, and gained a foothold, I find, in many hearts."
He had unwittingly dealt as direct a blow at the secret panel that hid the skeleton in her heart, as he had at Orrin Wyllys' indurated conscience the previous evening.
Jessie had no words in which to reply, sought to conceal her confusion by steadfastly regarding the pattern on her plate-one of a set of china Roy had purchased in Dresden she discovered presently when she remarked upon its beauty.
“I had no idea you had such exquisite taste!” She made a bold attempt to break through the nameless but powerful constraint that kept down everything like easy or merry converse on her part. “I expect to be in a state of perpetual astonishment on that score for a long time to come. I did not know that learned scholars ever condescended to consider such petty details of domestic life as porcelain and carpets.”
He put back his chair without replying directly to the compliment, at which, to her mortification, he looked rather pained than pleased.
If you have finished your supper, perhaps you would like to go over the house," he said, politely. “Or if you are tired, we will postpone it until to-morrow."
“I should greatly prefer going now," catching at the prospect of some mitigation of the growing stiffness.
The survey was a quiet progress, for the most part, certainly not accomplishing the end she had hoped for. Roy said little, and Jessie felt very awkward, as door after door was opened, and she appreciated the thoughtfulness that had ministered to her comfort from first to last, yet was forbidden by the mysterious spell chaining her tongue to thank him who had wrought it all. But when they reached the sitting-room, where the flames were crackling and curling among the wood on the hearth, and her chair and fire-screen awaited her, the home-restfulness of the scene broke down the ice wall. The feelings that had gathered to oppression upon her heart overflowed her eyes and choked her articulation.
“This is too much!” she exclaimed, catching Roy's hand in hers, and gazing tearfully into his face. “Oh! what am I—"
She could say no more.
“ The mistress of this room and this house!" responded Roy, in kindly seriousness. “One who has a right to expect every attention I can bestow. This is your sanctum ; nobody shall enter it without your permission."
Jessie tried to smile playfully.
“When you want me, I shall come," was the evasire reply.
'Surely you will not wait."
The remonstrance was cut short by a tap at the door, signalling Mrs. Baxter's impetuous entrance.
"! My dearest lamb!" she cried, with a strangled sob, clasping her cousin in her embrace.
“The doctor would come the instant he had swallowed his tea,” she tried to cover Jessie's emotion and her own by saying, when she could speak clearly, “I told him it was barbarously unfeeling and unromantic, that, according to all rules of etiquette and sentiment, you should pass this evening without the intrusion of company. But he was obstinate. I don't believe you two have the remotest conception of his favouritism of you!”
Meantime, the doctor had, in his odd fashion, slipped his hand under the young wife's chin, and raised to the light a strangely agitated face-eyes swimming in tears, forehead slightly puckered with the effort after selfcontrol, and little eddies of smiles breaking up around the mouth. Roy saw in it the whole history of the shipwreck of her heart and life, and her womanly determination to keep the knowledge of the disaster to herself. Would the physiognomist's keenly solemn gaze detect as much?
Neither of the lately wedded pair was prepared for the remark with which he released the blushing Jessie.
“I wanted to see if the heart of her husband could safely trust in her. My daughter, do you know what a good man you have married ? "
“Do not raise her expectations to an unreasonable height, my dear sir," interposed Roy, in time to forestall her reply. “And let me thank you, in her name and in mine, for the honour you have done us in this early visit.”
The doctor accepted the compliment, and the chair that the host wheeled forward, in profound silence. The conversation had been carried on by the others for several minutes before he again joined in. He was aroused then by his wife's laudations of Orrin's generosity as displayed in his bridal present.
“I don't see how you can take it so quietly," she said to the recipient. “One would suppose pianos were given away every day. And you should value the instrument the more highly because it is the gift of your great admirer and true friend, Mr. Wyllys. I assure you, Mr. Fordham, nothing could exceed his care of and devotion to her-for your sake and in your name, of course—while you were over the seas and far away.”
“True friend!" echoed the doctor's dryest, most rasping tones. “Humph!”
“Now, my love, I do implore that you will not drag forward that most unjust and unreasonable prejudice in the present company!” cried his wife, in a nervous futter from her bonnet-crown to her boots. “If I have failed to convince you that it is groundless and absurd, oblige me by withholding the expression of it, here and now !”
“My good Jane!” returned the imperturbable spouse -“ Where else could the truth be so fitly spoken as in the hearing of judicious friends ? I am sorry to say, Mr Fordham, that my excellent wife and myself do not agree respecting Mr. Wyllys' character and actions."
“Doctor! doctor!" ejaculated the frantic woman, plunging forward, at an angle of forty-five degrees, to pluck his sleeve. “You forget that you are addressing Mr. Wyllys' cousin ! ”
“A candid man, and a fair judge of human nature and motives, nevertheless,” her lord went on to say, with a stiff little bow in the direction of the person named. “The only safe rule among friends is candour. It is seldom I attribute sinister purposes to one whom I do not know certainly to be malevolent or hypocritical, but when I declare it to be my firm conviction that Orrin Wyllys- of whom the best thing I know is that he has descended physically from the same stock that produced your husband, my child!"- (this to Jessie) “when I. affirm that I believe him to be a wolf who ravens safely and reputably under the cowardly cover of sheep's clothing, I am not, as my dear Jane here would persuade herself and you, the victim of causeless prejudice.”
Dearest, I entreat!” broke in the wife, at her last gasp of distress.
His discourse moved on majestically. There were four knots in his handkerchief already.
“From the moment I heard Mr. Wyllys caution Mrs. Baxter not to allude, in her letter of invitation to our Jessie, to information he had supplied relative to her person, residence, and education, I distrusted the singleness of his desire for the resumption of Mrs. Baxter's intercourse with the family of her early friend. When the invited guests arrived, and I learned that the terms of their previous intercourse entitled him to become her cavalier on all occasions; her preceptor and referee in doubtful cases of conscience and conduct ;--when I con pared this circumstance with his careless and apparently accidental mention of her to Mrs. Baxter, and his pretended indifference to her coming, I made up my mind that he was particularly interested in her for some reason he did not care to divulge. I believe still that this was the case. I believe that, knowing her to be betrothed to his cousin, he strove, consciously and systematically, to win her from her allegiance. I thank God that he did not succeed; that she has given herself and her happiness into the keeping of a true and honourable gentleman!"
“I am grateful to you, doctor, for your staunch friendship for myself, and your paternal guardianship of my wife!”
Roy Fordham's full, pleasant tones reached Jessie's ears like an angelic benediction through the seething chaos that was swallowing her up.
“I am glad, moreover, that you have, in the present company, introduced the subject of your misgivings regarding my cousin's behaviour while I was away. I appointed him my proxy before I left my betrothed and my native land. The attentions that misled you into doubt of his right dealing were paid in that character. I cannot have you undervalue the true and honourable gentleman' I know Orrin Wyllys to be. friend!"
He is my
The doctor tugged at his cravat-bow and stared into the chandelier. Mrs. Baxter gulped down all the solicitude she could swallow, and threw all the rest into the deprecating look she cast upon Roy. He stood before his zealous old superior-courteous, kind, but earnest in defence of his absent friend—the model of gallant manliness, thought the abject creature, cowering in the shadow of Mrs. Baxter's chair, half dead with remorse and the dread of additional questioning,
The love of this man she had trodden under foot ! forgotten affection and duty to him in the mad, wicked delirium wrought by the wiles of one whom Roy, in the simplicity of his integrity, still accounted honest and faithful. A cheat and a coward Jessie had written Orrin down since that early September day when he confided to her the fact of his engagement, and shrank visibly at the suggestion of Roy's anger at his shameless breach of faith. She stigmatized him now, in the council of her thoughts, as a liar from the beginning. He had maneuvred, then, to procure Mrs. Baxter's invitation for herself, while he denied to her that she had ever been named between them until after this was sent; had inveigled her away from the shelter of her father's roof and the guard of her sister's care, 'that he might establish his fell influence over her. Would not Roy, with all his generous trust in his cousin's honour and friendship, compare the doctor's mal-apropos statement with her confession of the change in herself, and arrive at a tolerably correct perception of the truth that would blast her for ever in his sight, as not merely weak and fickle, but forward and unmaidenly ?
When the throbbing of her heart would let her listen intelligently to what was going on, the doctor had been beguiled into a dissertation upon Druidistic history, by Roy's exhibition of a paper-weight in the form of an altar, encircled by a wreath of mistletoe, graven out of a bit of stone he had picked up at Stonehenge. His considerate spouse carried him off before one-third of the knots in bis bandkerchief were untied. Her valedictory, like her salutatory, was a diffuse apology for their intrusion upon the sacredness of the installation-eve.
“But the doctor-dear, blundering man! is amenable to no laws of conventionality," she subjoined, with an indulgent shrug and sigh.
It is questionable whether either of the persons addressed regretted the breach of etiquette. The time had gone by more swiftly, and comfortably than if they bad been left to themselves. As it was, an embarrassing silence followed the visitors' departure. Roy stood on the rog, facing the fire, motionless and thoughtful. Jessie, trembling in a nervous chill that changed her fingers into shaking .icicles, durst not attempt to speak.
Fordham finally came out of his reverie with a start, and turned toward her apologetically.
“ You are sadly tired! Our good friends were very welcome, but they have kept you up beyond your strength. May I take you to your room ?”
She murmured a disclaimer of the imputation of excessive fatigue, but took his proffered arm, and they mounted the stairs together.
A bright fire burned in the large front chamber, flashed gaily back from the gilt fleur-de-lis of the delicately tinted wall paper and the frames of the few pictures. A cosey armchair stood ready for Jessie, with a foot-cushion below it, and the marble slabs of bureau and mantle bore fragile wealth of Bohemian and frosted glass and Parian ornaments.
“ Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable ?" inquired Roy, not offering to sit down. “Wouldn't a glass of wine do your head good ?"
“I think not. I need nothing, thank you !" without raising her eyes from the carpet.
"I hope you will be quite rested by morning,'' he continued, with the same ceremonious gentleness. “I may as well explain to you that, foreseeing how frequently I shall be obliged to sit up late at my studies, I have had the chamber opposite prepared for myself. So I will bid you good-night now."
He held out his hand. She placed hers within it, silently, eyes still averted.
“Good-night, and pleasant dreams!" he repeated, with a kindly pressure of the chill fingers.
An impulse she could not control or define drew her to her feet. “Won't you kiss me, Roy?" she asked, in sorrowful humility.
She did not see how bloodless were the lips that obeyed. The salute was, to her apprehension, cold and reluctant, and, without another syllable, he passed on to the outer door. There he stopped-hesitated, with a backward glance at the drooping figure, standing where he had left her—and returned.
"I had not intended to say it yet," he said, agitatedly. " There have been times when I questioned the propriety of any attempt at self-justification. But I would not have you think worse of me than I deserve for my selfish recklessness in hurrying on our marriage. I received this letter"-giving it to her--"last night. It furnishes the clue to much that I now see ought to have checked my unseemly impatience to claim the right I believed was still mine. This was the communication to which you referred when you pleaded that the contents of your last letter should have hindered my proposal. I supposed, in the haste and excitement of the moment, that you meant the false rumour of your mother's insanity which had been treated of in a former communication, the receipt of which, let me say here, hastened my return. Not that I dreaded insanity for you, but because I gathered from your letter that you were unhappy and a prey to morbid fancies, and I hoped to be able to do you good by diverting these. If this last letter' which you hold had reached me in season, your request should have been granted."
He paused to master his own emotion, or to give her opportunity for reply. He may have hoped yet, in the face of the evidence to the contrary, he had had, that she
would retract her declaration. “I love you no longer" the house had “picked up German ways," while abroad might represent that she was possessed by “morbid fan- did not fully account. They had distinctly separate cies " when it was penned; that under the sharp tutelage apartments, carrying the rule of division so far that of sorrow, her affections had regained their balance. Mr. Fordham never entered his wife's sitting-room with
She only sat still, her face hidden in her hands. There out knocking at the door, and if she invaded the library was a crouch in her attitude that suggested an unpleasant . when he was in, she not only asked admittance in the idea to the observer. It was that she feared him-his same way, but apologized for interrupting his studies. wrath and the results of this explanation. He forgot “ They are too polite by half !” Phæbe estimated, his sufferings in the desire to remove this apprehension if judging them by her not very extensive observation and it existed.
experience. “There's Mrs. Baxter will make more fuss "My only hope now is, that since I know what I over her dried-up atomy of a man in one day, than should have perceived from the beginning, I may spare you Mrs. Fordham does about her fine figure of a husband annoyance, if not misery, by consulting your wishes and in a year.” respecting your repugnances. If I could set you free, I She had never seen Mr. Fordham kiss or otherwise would. My heaviest burden is the consciousness that caress his bride, or indulge in any of the romping fondling this is impracticable. But it is my desire that, from this which the lately wedded are prone to forget may be less time, you should cease to regard me as your husband, and interesting to spectators than themselves. Yet, she was try to think of me as your friend. For we may still be ready to affirm stoutly that, in her parlance, “they that to each other—may we not, dear Jessie?"
thought the world and all of one another;” that Mr. She was moaning as in mortal pain.
Fordham studied his wife's inclinations, anticipated her “This kindness kills me! I had rather you should wishes, and ministered to her comfort more than any say that you hated me!"
other gentleman she knew ; while “Mr. Fordham likes "But that would not be true," said the gentle voice. this,” or," he is not fond of that,” were decisive phrases ** And henceforward we will be very frank and just in in Jessie's mouth in the conduct of her domestic affairs, our dealings with one another. We will try, moreover, and her many devices to make his home-coming at noon to put vain regrets out of sight, and to do the duty of the and evening an ever-new pleasure, called forth the conday; to serve our fellows and honour Him who has some tinual admiration of the handmaiden. merciful intent in leading us through these dark waters. It was a puzzle past her finding out; but here was a Now, my child, this subject need never be renewed. Our test that could hardly fail. The wife should, according Father knows our sorrows. To Him we will look for to Phæbe's creed, fly on the wings of love and anxiety to strength. He knows, too, the sincerity of my sad heart the bedside of her sick lord, become his nurse and servitor when I say how deeply it afflicts me to feel how much until he recovered. more grievous is your trial than mine."
To the girl's grieved disappointment-fyr she was Folding in his the hands she extended in a speechless sincerely attached to the whilome “Miss Jessie," and passion of tears-her lips trying vainly to form a petition wanted to think well of her in all things-Mrs. Fordham for pardon-he prayed the God of all consolation to said, composedly, if not coolly, “Very well, Phæbe! have her in His holy keeping; to give her joy for weep- bring in breakfast !” and turned again to the window at ing, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, which she was standing, when the news was brought to Then, bidding her again “Be comforted and sleep,” he
her of her husband's sad case. went out.
“ I'm right down sorry-that I am!" grumbled the servant over the kitchen range. “I did hope she'd show some feeling for him when he's maybe took for dipthery
or quincy, or something else awful ; and he such a good CHAPTER XXII.
provider and well-spoken gentleman, and never so much
as raising his voice in a temper with her, but treating "I KNOCKED at Mr. Fordham's door, ma'am, as you bid, her like a queen! I've a mind to slip up myself, and and he said that he wasn't well enough to leave his ask what he'll have to eat. These are the beautifullest room, and would you be pleased to eat breakfast without muffins ever I see ! She is a master hand at the like; him. And he said, ma’am, that you needn't be uneasy and I know she made these, as she does all sorts of nice the leastest bit in the world, for it's only a cold and sore things, because he likes 'em. Queer she never lets on throat he's got ; and, indeed, if I may make so bold as to but what I get up the dishes he praises. Mistresses say it, he's that hoarse I could scarcely hear him at all." mostly is glad enough to pocket the compliments as
Phæbe eyed her mistress slyly and keenly when she belongs to their girls. She's a genuwine lady, and no had delivered her message. Although not particularly mistake; but it cuts me to see her so cold-hearted to given to prying and gossip, her curiosity was excited by him. I suppose they're what folks call a 'fashionable certain peculiarities in the home life of Mr. and Mrs. couple.'” Fordham for which the supposition that the master of While this soliloquy was going on, the subject of it
stood still at the window, gazing into the street. It was a bleak December day. There had been rain in the night; then the thermometer sank abruptly, and by morning the sidewalks were glazed with ice. The earth was black and grim; the clouds, greyly sullen, seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops; and while Jessie looked it began to snow, gently for a while, then so fast that a wavering sheet soon shut out her view of distant objects. The cottage was on a corner, and this being a sidewindow, looked upon the college grounds on one hand, Judge Provost's house, garden, and lawn on the other. By changing her position never so slightly, the lady could have beheld the balconied front and imposing cupola of the Wyllys' residence, of which the happy pair had taken formal possession ten days before, postponing their bridal tour until spring. “For," as the bride eagerly explained to everybody, “ both of us have been everywhere on this side of the water, and winter travelling is an awful bore. To be sure, we've been abroad too, and seen everything that is worth seeing. So we are beating our brains to devise something recherché" (pronounced rechurchy) "in the way of a wedding trip. And it is so sweet and romantic to come to our own home, right away! Indeed, as I told Orrin, it isn't safe to leave such carpets and furniture as ours unprotected.”
Jessie had heard all this fanfaronade, and much more from Mrs. Baxter, but she was not thinking of it now. Nor did she move so as to bring the “new and superb mansion of our popular fellow-citizen, Orrin Wyllys, Esq.," within the range of her vision; only seemed to watch the falling snow, and the few passers-by who dotted the whitening streets at this early hour. In reality, she was speculating upon the meaning of the stillness in the chamber overhead. Was Roy, then, too ill to get up? Was his room comfortable ? What attention from nurse or physician did he need ? How was she to learn and supply his wants? It would be barbarous unkindness, if he were very sick, to stand aloof and leave the charge of him to hirelings. Yet her personal attendance would be awkward for both. She was not sure that he would approve of it, so fastidious had been his care to excuse her from such offices. He had spoken, in an off-hand way, overnight, of feeling chilly, and apologized for not offering to read the new number of a magazine to her by saying that his throat was sore. Without consulting him, she had made a jug of hot lemonade, and insisted upon his drinking it after he went to his room. He had thanked her with the invariable courtesy that met her every effort to serve him, and “ was sure it was all he needed. A most agreeable prescription too!” he added, as he bore off the lemonade. It was a shock, after this pleasant parting, to hear that he was sick in bed. What if he were to be seriously ill ? Her heart gave a great bound, then ceased moving for a moment. He was so robust, so full of life and energy, that this could not be.
What if he were to die! She too thought of
diphtheria. There had been several fatal cases of it in Hamilton recently. She was pale and faint; her limbs giving way under her as she admitted the frightful supposition. What would she be—what would she do if the strong staff of his protection, the solace of his companionship, were reft from her ?
For she knew that, little cause as she had given him it the circumstances attending their marriage, to cherish her as all men should—as some men do the women who love them fervently and constantly, there was hardly a wife in the land who was surrounded by the atmosphere of chivalrous devotion which encompassed her in the secluded life she led as the nominal mistress of Roy Fordham's home. Her deep mourning was a sufficient excuse for declining to enter the gay circle in which Mrs. Wyllys fluttered and her diamonds and husband shone. But Roy saw to it that she was not lonely. The Basters, Provosts, and others of his friends were often with them during the day, and he spent his evenings, as a rule, at home.
“Willy favour me with your company in the library, or shall I come to your sitting-room?" he would ask, when supper was over.
They wrote and studied together as two friends of the same sex might; talked freely upon all subjects suggested by either,-each watchful that no chance touch should wound the other; make him or her swerve quickly aside lest the next step should be upon the fresh grave that lay ever between them. In all their intercourse, Roy's apparent ease far surpassed his wife's. Cheerful, cordial, always kind and more than kind in manner and language, he yet comported himself as if there were nothing abnormal in this sort of association; as if passion and regret were alike things of the Past, to which he had said they need never again recur. No warmer love-name thas “Jessie, dear,” ever passed his lips, and after the night of the home bringing, he had never offered to kiss or embrace her. A hand-clasp, night and morning; a smiling bow and lively phrase, when he came in to dinner and tea, were the most affectionate courtesies exchanged. But no distraught lover, at the height of his lunacy, ever studied his mistress's fantasies, sought to penetrate and fulfil her will, as did this quiet and courtly husband that of the woman who had confessed that her heart was none of his when he married her. Flowers, fruits, birds, and books were lavished upon her; passed into her bands through other than his, but were always procured by him in response to some expressed liking on her part, or in accordance with what he imagined were her wishes or needs. Nor was unobtrusive attention to her health less constant. In the same friendly style, he regulated exercise, diet, and work; saw that her habits were not too sedentary, and that she did not expose herself imprudently to cold, damp, or fatigue.
Her review of all this was rapid and circumstantial.
“He deserves all I can do for him. False delicacy nor pride shall keep me back from ministering to the