Графични страници
PDF файл
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

I was spending a few months at one of our fashionable watering-places with Aunt Carrie when I first met Barton Wight. It was through little Minnie that we first became acquainted. She was the strangest child I ever saw, but one whose winning ways, rare beauty, and l right intellect attracted love, while her violent temper and capricious moods puzzled and even repelled her friends. I found her one day on the beach, lying upon her face on the white sand, sobbing violently and angrily, while lier nurse tried in vain to comfort her. “Go away—I hate you ! I want papa s” cried the child, not lifting her face. “Your papa will be back again on Saturday,” said the nurse. “Come, Minnie ; it is getting hot here, and you will be all tanned with the sun.” “I don't care 1" screamed the child—“I don't care if I am burnt black.” “But your papa will not want to kiss you then,” said the nurse. In an instant the child was on her feet, and had slipped her little hand into the woman's. The sight of her little tear-stained face was very pitiful, and I spoke to her. “I have a cage full of little birds in my room,” I said ; “would you like to come and see them, my girl 7” “Yes,” was the quick reply. “I like you. I heard you singing to the lame lady.” “That is my aunt,” I said. much.” *Would she love me?” “I think so. Shall we go and ask her?” “No,” said this oddity. “I sha'n't ask her. want to love me they can, but I sha’n’t ask them.” Telling the nurse where she would find the child, I took her to my room, and for three days she only left me at night. With her impetuous disposition she became warmly attached to Aunt Carrie, whose quiet gentleness seemed to soothe all her troubles. The great grief was her father's absence for those three days. “Mamma,” she told us, “was dead—drowned in the river. Aunt Lizzie, who took care of her after mamma died, was dead, too, and she herself had been very sick, so the doctor sent her to Newport to get well ; and now papa had gone home for three days, and she should die, she was sure, before he came back again. She was seven years old, and her name was Minnie Wight.” I never saw such beauty as this child's. Large brown eyes, and a wealth of rich brown curls, attracted the first admiration, and day after day new beauties were developed —the beautiful form, the delicate features, small, expressive mouth, and the grace of every movement, made her wonderfully lovely. Saturday came, and by daylight we heard Minnie's voice in the hall, as she passed our door on the way to the landing to wait for the boat that was to bring papa. Aunt Carrie was ill all day, and I could not leave her until late in the afternoon, when she fell asleep, and I went to walk on the beach. I was strolling slowly along when Minnie came rushing after me. “Miss Arnold ! Miss Arnold I please wait for me!” " I turned toward her, and saw Barton Wight. He was following his little girl, and raising his hat, said, courteously : “Will you allow me to introduce myself, and thank you for your kindness to my little girl "

“She loves little girls very

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I scarcely know how I replied, but we walked together, Minnie holding a hand of each, and as we walked, we talked of the weather, the sea, the many everyday topics that break the ice of a first meeting. Before we parted, he had asked, and I had granted, permission to call upon Aunt Carrie. I went to my room, and found my aunt still sleeping. I was free to think—to think of a pair of sad dark eyes looking into mine—of a deep, rich voice speaking to me— of a tall, manly figure bending toward me. I cannot write of that Summer as I would. I cannot think of Barton Wight as a mere watering-place acquaintance, when he seemed part of my very life, my heart, my love. At first my womanly pity was roused by his deep-settled melancholy, the heavy heart-sorrow that was printed upon his face, and shadowed his large black eyes. Then I became interested in his conversation, the varied reading that had expanded his rare intellect, the travel from which he had drawn such rich experiences, and the winning deference and courtesy that a plain little woman feels to be such delicate flattery from such a man. Later, I found myself happy in the consciousness of having the power to awaken a smile on his lips, a look of peace in his eyes; and half afraid, wholly loving, Ilearned that he loved me. He loved me ! I was a little woman, pale in face, without any brilliancy of beauty or accomplishment, entirely dependent upon Aunt Carrie for my support. He was a prominent lawyer in New York, talented, wealthy—a man of stainless reputation, both in his social and professional life—a man whose love would have been considered an honor by any of the brilliant belles around us. And he really loved me. It seemed impossible at first that such bewildering happiness could be mine. I had passed my childhood and my girlhood in a sort of gray life, tending an invalid mother, and humoring the caprices of a very aged father. I was twenty-four when they died, and Aunt Carrie sent for me to share her lonely life. That was my first gleam of happiness. Money sufficient to gratify all my love of fine arts, music, literature, rest from the wearing anxieties of nursing, and the calculation how to make one dollar do the work of two. Aunt Carrie was an invalid, it is true, but she had a house full of servants at home, and one who always traveled with us. She was very kind to me. For two years we were quietly happy; then we went to Newport and Boston. Barton Wight loved me. He had made my life golden-hued, when, one evening, we were sitting on the porch, talking, and we spoke of Minnie. “Darling,” he said, “that is the only drawback to my happiness—the fear that Minnie will prove too much of a burden for you. She is so impetuous—inherits so much of her mother's peculiar temperament—that I tremble for her future. My strongest hope for her is in the influence you have over her—the power of your gentle, quiet temperament over her wayward moods. Poor little Minnie l’” “She is like her mother?” I questioned. “You have never told me of her, Barton. Is it long since she died ?” “Four years. I will tell you the story of my married life, that you may understand fully how precious to me is your love, your tender gentleness, my soft-eyed darling. My true life is only now commencing, Alice.” I had longed for this confidence, and was only too glad to have it offered to me.

[ocr errors]

“My wife,” Barton said, “was a West Indian, of Spanish descent, and with wonderful beauty and powers of attraction. Minnie resembles her in every particular. I loved her, Alice, with a strong, fierce love, such as a woman like her will awaken in a young, untried heart, and she returned my love. “For four years we lived together, but I can never describe to you my life. Zoe was jealous of everything— jealous of my profession, because it took me from her side—jealous of her own child, if I caressed her too warmly. Her temper was ungovernable, and the slightest opposition to her wishes would rouse a perfect storm of fury. Then would follow fits of penitence, as wild and unreasonable as her first anger, when she would reproach herself in bitterest terms, caress me, and plead for pardon as if she actually feared I would visit some horrible vengeance upon her. “Slowly my mind awoke to the appalling truth that there was positive insanity in her blood; slowly came to my horror-stricken heart the conviction that the woman I loved, had married, the mother of my little child, must become to me only a care and burden, to be tenderly humored, and made happy as far as it lay in my power to make her so, but never my true wife, my other self, the chosen companion of every thought of my heart. “I tried to bear my cross patiently; my sister Lizzie same to me, and took upon her young shoulders all household cares, and I engaged a woman for Zoe's constant attendance. In all her fierce moods, her most violent attacks of insanity, her love for me never wavered. It was touching to see how she would come to me, exhausted with raving, put her beautiful arms around me, lay her weary head upon my shoulder, and sink to sleep while I soothed and caressed her. “My heart was hers in her affliction, as it had been in her health and strength. My physician at first gave me hope of her recovery; but during the fourth Winter of our marriage, her physical strength began to give way, and he advised me to try travel and change of scene. I assented the more willingly as he said the physical weakness might be a token of renewed mental power. “We left little Minnie with Lizzie, and made an extended Southern trip. The change was certainly beneficial. Zoe gained in health, and was much more quiet. It may be that my constant presence was some restraint upon her; but it is certain that she slowly regained a more even temper, and the violent spells of raving became less and less frequent. “We had been in New Orleans when I was summoned home by important professional engagements, and took passage on one of the Mississippi steamers for St. Louis.” “My home 1” I said. “Your home ! I had every hope then of Zoe's perfect recovery, but God willed that I should lose her. We were nearly at our journey's end when the steamer took fire in the night. We were asleep in the stateroom when the cry awoke us, and hurrying on our clothes, we went on deck. It was a scene of indescribable confusion, and every one was struggling for self-preservation. “You may imagine my horror, Alice, when Zoe broke in the worst paroxysm of raving that had ever afflicted her. In vain. I tried to calm her; she was wild with terror, and would not let me touch her. Every moment our situation became more critical, and the danger of delay greater. Already the lifeboats were loaded with their living freight, and lowered to the water. The fire was gaining in force and fury. In despair I caught Zoe in my arms, and tried to make her understand that we must get to the lifeboats. she wrested herself from my grasp, ran swiftly across the

deck of the steamer, and sprang into the water. I followed her. I could swim ashore, if I could only find her. Alice, my search was fruitless. “I swam here and there, when suddenly I was struck by some wood from the burning vessel, and remembered no more for two weeks. I awoke to consciousness then, to find myself an inmate of a hospital in St. Louis. I had been very ill, delirious from the blow upon my head, and to this hour I do not know how or by whom I was rescued. Zoe was lost. When I was sufficiently recovered I tried to find some clew to her fate, hoping that she had been amongst the rescued passengers. There can be no doubt that she sank in that mad, terrified leap from the burning steamer. Now, you can understand why I am so anxious about Minnie. The strange, wayward moods, the hot temper, the passionate love and capricious temperament are all so like poor Zoe's. While Lizzie lived Minnie had loving care from a loving woman, but my dear sister died six months ago. Minnie's grief was so violent it threatened her life, and I brought her here to win her mind from her sorrow. To you she has given the same absorbing affection she gave to her aunt. Can you undertake such a heavy care as my poor child must be, Alice 7" “I will give her the most loving care, Barton, if you will trust her to me.” As I spoke I made a vow in my heart to give to Barton the peaceful home, the loving, gentle devotion that would best compensate him for the past sorrow and trial. I was sure his love for me was true and enduring, and that he anticipated the true happiness of married life in this, second love. Our Summer of happiness was over, and Barton re-, turned to New York, while Aunt Carrie and I went to our St. Louis home, with Minnie for our guest. In November Barton was to come for me, and we were to return to New York together. Aunt Carrie made most generous preparations for our wedding, and the weeks flew by rapidly. Early in November Barton came to St. Louis, and the wedding-day was fixed. On the twenty-second I was to become a bride. In the meantime my friends seemed determined to make my few days of maidenhood as gay as possible, and parties were made for me, to which Barton was always invited. * On one lovely day, when June seemed to have visited us for a few hours, we made a riding-party, and started for the outskirts of the city. We were passing a handsome building, when one of the party said : “Who would like to stop and go into the lunatic asylum ? The doctor is a warm personal friend of mine.” I glanced nervously at Barton. He was very pale, but said, courteously : “Shall we not intrude 7” “Oh, no, indeed I This is an asylum where they are not afraid of visitors. Shall we go?” The whole party assenting, we dismounted, and were soon in the building. The doctor was most polite, and he soon discovered that Barton took a painful interest in his conversation. “I have one patient,” he told him, “whose case interests me deeply. It is a lady who was placed bere by Mrs. Weldon. Probably you have heard of Mrs. Weldon ?” “I am almost a stranger in St. Louis,” Barton replied. “She is a lady of large wealth, who spends her life and fortune in deeds of charity. The unfortunate patient of whom I speak was rescued from a burning steamboat, and with some others was taken to Mrs. Weldon's, her house being near the scene of the disaster, seven miles below the city. The others recovered, and left her, but the shock of

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

the night of horror turned this poor creature's brain. never meant to break your heart. I have not willingly deceived We have tried in vain to discover even her name ; but she you. Can you forgive and forget me? The doctor thinks I had talks of a child at times, and calls often for her husband.

better tako my wife home as soon as possible, and I leave here

to-morrow. May heaven bless you, Alice, and grant you in time “How long ago was she found ?" asked Barton,

a happier love.

BABTON." .“ Four years ago.' "Can I see her ?"

I was not ill—I did not die. After some days the keen “I do not often allow visitors to see her. The sight of anguish became a dull, ever-present pain, and my constant a stranger excites her.”

struggle was to crush down the love that was now a sin. “Let us see her,” I said to the doctor. "I think we Forgetting was impossible, and what had I to forgive ? can tell you where to find her friends.'

Two long, weary years passed away, and I was becoming “If you think so, come, by all means,” he said, opening reconciled to my surrow. Aunt Carrie was always my a door near to us. I came to Barton's side, nerving comfort, and I knew I was her greatest treasure on earth. myself as best I could.

Once only I had heard from Barton, when he sent for "Hush !" he whispered, hoarsely. “Do not speak now. Minnie the day he left St. Louis. I cannot bear it."

Sorrow was to come to me once more. Aunt Carrie The doctor led us through a long corridor, and opened died, and I was alone, heiress to her wealth, desolate in the door of a small, neatly-furnished room. Seated there, her loss. It was just after the funeral when my maid in a listless attitude, her hands lying in her lap, her eyes brought me a letter, and I recognized Barton's hand. bent on the ground, was a pale, beautiful woman. She did not stir as we entered, not even lifting her eyes. 1 year of her sorrowful life was happy; she became a gentlo, harm

“ALICE,” he wrote, “one year ago Zoe died. I think the last glanced at Barton, and read the death-warrant of my love | less child in my care, never quite rational, but never violent, and in his face. With rigid

always loving and subfeatures, pallid cheeks

missive. She died in my and lips, and a resolute

arms, never knowing that look in his eyes, he

for one hour my heart had

strayed from her. I am went from my side to

waiting to know if I may his wife's.

come to you. There is “Zoe!” he said, in a

now no sin in my love for low tone.

you, and it is yours un.

changed, unalterable. May Never have I heard

I see you ? BARTON." such a cry of rapture as sprang from the poor

My story is told. We maniac's lips.

had a quiet wedding, “Barton! I knew

and I came to New you would come, Bar

York, happy, as his love ton! My love - my

has made my life now husband !"

for five long years. I went softly from the

What could be more room, from the house,

perfect joy on earth and walked home, How

than is mine as Barton's I reached my room I

wife? never knew. How the long night passed I cannot write.

ECONOMY in our affairs The next day a litle

has the same effect upon note reached me :

our fortunes that good“ALICE," Barton wrote,

bleeding has on our « God is my witness I HOW THE BBBR S BARRBLED,


« ПредишнаНапред »