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houses, brown and time-stained, with a bit of garden gay “I have not Paul's complexion," he said ; "mine is with hollyhock, mingled with onions and potatoes ; and warranted. How has he painted you? Is the picture for always in some odd corner, tall and regal-sitting, as it me?”. were, on golden thrones-the once-despised, now royally “He is going to make two-one for Aunt Zeph, if she elect in the realms of art—the sunflower.
likes it. How hateful she is! Do you know what she Flowers of the sun, they welcomed him eagerly ; they said when Paul asked her how she came to call me Suushook out their yellow hair ; they turned their faces long- flower ?" ingly after him, like fond maidens after their lovers ; they “No. Why was it? I thought it was because you seemed to live for him alone, while he, in true masculine liked them so much when you were a little toddler-the fashion, shone for all.
big bright flowers ; or, perhaps, because you have such Under a tall group of these regal yellow flowers, and a long name. Esmeralda is too grand for an everyday holding a great wide-opened one over her head to keep | household word.” off a stray beam of sunshine that struck her brown eyes, “No. Aunt Zeph said it was because I always turned sat a young girl.
toward ease and comfort, and cared for nothing else ; that There was a slight breeze that stirred her long hair I would turn a cold shoulder on my dearest friends if soft, fluffy, yellow hair, half waved, half curled-crown. misfortune's storms overtook them ; that I was a fairing her with a sort of aureole. Her brown dress, of weather friend, seeking the sunshine always-always, like well-worn velveteen, clung so caressingly to her form the sunflower." that it seemed to fit her like the calyx of a flower; and Larry was silent. Dearly as he loved the girl, he recogher face, rosy and white, flower-tinted, only showed more nized the truth in this diagnosis of character. fresh and bright in the searching sunshine.
"But Paul didn't mind. If Aunt Zeph imagined she Her eyes, brown and velvety, and darkly fringed, roved could prejudice me in his eyes, she was mistaken. He here and there from the mountain shadow to the plumy says he likes sunshine as well as I do, and we are alike." pines, and then came back to the face of a young man “ As like as two butterflies," muttered Larry. “And who stood near her.
for whom is the other picture ?” he asked. “Larry, don't be sentimental. I hate it,” she drawled, “Oh, for Paul, of course, when he makes it. Why, he provokingly. “Why didn't you look for one of those gives Aunt Zeph hers just for the pleasure of getting one Bartlett pears? There must be some on the tree yet.” himself."
The young man, a plain-looking, athletic fellow, evi- Larry starts up as if he had been sitting on a hornet's dently country-born and bred, bit his lip to restrain some nest. impatient answer. He had a world of force and will “Sunflower,” he cried, angrily, “ do you care for me expressed in his face ; but he had been this girl's slave at all ?” for years-ever since he had first seen her in short frocks. “Of course I do,” very promptly.
One glance of those brown, velvet eyes could subjugate “Then you will not give your picture to another man.“ him in a moment.
“I like you very much. I shall never forget how “Why don't you ask your fine new friend ?” he mut- good you have been to me when Aunt Zeph was so cross tered, gloomily.
and stingy, and all the cherries you used to bring me, “Oh, he's so busy !" cried the girl, eager to torment and the nuts, and all. But, Larry, I don't think I love him. “He's painting my picture. Of course I don't you—not as you want. I think my feeling for you is want to be eating pears in that. It's too lovely for any.. what I would have for a dear, dear brother." thing ! But Paul says- ".
“Oh, the deuce !" muttered Larry, between his teeth. “Who ?" exclaimed the other, suddenly.
“You know I never promised anything,” the girl said, “Paul. Good gracious, how you startlo me! Your , looking at him frankly with her wide brown eyes. eyes literally shot fire."
He might have read how hopeless was his case in those And the girl held the sunflower between them, as if to unshadowed depths. If he had once seen those eyes cast shield herself from those angry eyes.
down before Paul Malden's swift glances, and the face “It seems to me you have grown familiar on short ac. | suffused in blushes, he would have known. But he clung quaintance,” he said, with a great effort at self-restraint, the very shadow of a hope. He seized the little hand
“Oh, I feel as if I had known him all my life! And and said, softly : do you know, he says that he had a presentiment about “Darling, I will be satisfied with what you can give me! He was not at all surprised when he saw me. He me. I shall make your love warmer, if you will give me had a strange feeling, as if he had expected me-as if I time.” had been waiting for him somewhere in his life !"
“Time !" echoed the girl, with a mocking laugh. “Good-by !” cried Larry, turning away with a sup-“Why, you've been seven years already !" pressed oath.
| Larry winced. The laugh sounded heartless. He could not bear it. He felt as if he were on the “But I will serve seven more for such a wife !" he rack, and this smiling girl, with her fresh, sweet face, cried, with that imbecile infatuation common to lovers. were turning the screws. The girl started up.
I “Sunflower !" sounded a sharp voice from the door of “Good gracious ! don't go. It's so horribly hot, and the little brown house, and a tall, gaunt woman, in a I haven't a thing to amuse me.” .
gingham sunbonnet, with a tin pail in her hand, appeared. “Thank you. I don't care to serve for your amuse “Where be you? I must hev some flour this blessed ment."
minute, and just you hunt abeout for an egg or so. “Oh, come, Larry, don't be disagreeable. Come and Them air flannel-cakes never riz, and I must lighten 'em sit down by me. You'll be sunstruck if you go out in up someheow.” this. You'll be sunburnt.”
The girl started up with alacrity, and Larry wondered Larry could not help laughing. His face was so brown that no frown marred her pretty face. and tanned already that the idea was ridiculous. But he “You shall not go," he said, eagerly. “I will do it could not resist the shapely little band held out to him. for you !" He took it and kissed it, and then held it fast.
| The girl smiled up in his face-such an innocent, ra
diant smile-when, half an hour afterward, he returned | hand, staring dully before her. Her face, always colorwith a flushed face.
less and thin, looked very wan and drawn in that blaze “How good you are !" she cried. “I am so glad you of sunlight. got the things, for Paul is coming to tea.”
Before Larry could speak she had welcomed him with Larry dropped the basket, at the imminent danger of a look, but did not seem able to speak. There was an breaking the eggs, and turned away without another word. unutterable grief in ber poor old face, and the hand that Not even the sound of his name, pronounced by the held the note trembled so that it made a rustling like a woman he loved, brought him back. He strode down dead leaf. Larry had only one thought. the dust-white path, on-on to where the trees closed “Is she sick ?" he asked. over it, where the mountain-ways began leading him "Ob, worse, worse !" knee-deep in ferns and lichens and wild flowers. The “Dead ?” he gasped. golden-rod blazed everywhere—that lavish gold of the “Worse than that! Here, I ain't got the heart. I'm Autumn days.
too upset by it all to tell ye ; but read-read !” And she He threw himself down upon the ground, ruthlessly | held out the note, which was crushed and torn. crushing a myriad spikes of its bloom. He knew by the But Larry could read it. It was very short, yet it took crimson leaves that dropped upon him that the Summer | him a long time, for he could not believe the words lie was nearly over, and he felt as if a pall had suddenly read, and he went over them twice : been let down upon its glory and its warmth.
“ DEAR AUNT : I am going away with the man I love. He has What was there left to him now, if this girl had given to go in a hurry, and there was no time to make arrangements. her lieart to another ? What would he do with his life if But he cannot live without me, he says, nor can I live without she were snatched out of it? She had been the life of him. We are to be married in the city. I feel provoked that I am his life so long! She had liked him ; she would have not to have a regular wedding, with flowers and white satin, but
he says that will come afterward. You will be angry, I know; loved him but for the newcomer— this Paul Maulden,
but I love him. He is the light of my life-my sun-and you know with his silky mustache, his melancholy eyes, his style I am only a poor little sunflower." and manner, his faultless clothes, and all the nameless power of fascination that belongs to the man of the | “When did she go ?” he asked, hoarsely. world.
“Last night, I s'pose. I found that at bedtime. I Larry looked at his own coarse, red hands and thick went to her room by chance to get some toothache-drops, boots, and groaned.
and there I saw no signs of her. Oh, how could she ?“A woman's heart is a riddle,” he said. “I could de- | how could she ? I've slaved for her and loved her, and fend her from an enemy with these, but she would like but, lor'! it was her natur' to do jest what she'd a mind Paul's slim white hands much better. Well, well, we will ter-she always did.” see whose hands she will choose to place hers in for life. I “And you have not done anything ?" must put it to the test. I cannot go on in this way, or I “Lor', no! What could be done? She's of ageshall go mad."
eighteen last week. The minx knew what she was about ! So, having decided that any certainty was better than I ain't got a might of authority now." suspense, Larry waited a few days to give his treasure Larry groaned. time to reflect, and then took his way to the little brown There was, indeed, nothing to be de done. He could cottage.
only offer to serve the poor old woman in any way posAs he neared it, the strong man felt a strange trembling sible, and then he left her alone with her grief. His own pass over him. Now that he was near her, now that he was so much heavier, madder, fiercer. felt that for him all would be settled in a few moments, Poor Aunt Zeph never questioned the good faith of the the pulses of life seemed to stand still.
man for whom Sunflower had forsaken her ; but Larry After all, perhaps, doubt was better than a verdict that knew more of human nature than the old-maid recluse. wonlů take away all the light and warmth and bloom of | A thought rankled in his heart and worked like madness his life. He leaned a moment on the little gate.
in his brain. There were the sunflowers standing up grandly, hold- He knew an honorable man would never have acted in ing up their golden crowns in the sunshine--yellow chal| such a way, and he feared every thing. ices, brimful, as it were, with aurient wine-but the girl He could not rest. A fever fired his heart and burned was not stretched beneath them to-day.
in every vein. He must know the worst. No glimpse of the dunbrown velvet dress and floating Weeks passed, then months, without a clow. He left yellow hair was to be seen. The house-door was closed, his home and found some work in a neighboring city, to a strange thing on such a Summer day ; even the win which he at last traced them. dows above were tigbt. The house was not awake-at Then, one night-a cold night of sleet and storm-he least, it had not opened its eyes ; yet it was high noon. traced her who had so long been lost in the dark depths
A strange chill crept over Larry as he looked about of a great town. She was alone-deserted-and trying him. He felt a subtle change in the atmosphere. Some- to find work. thing had lappened. Horrible visions of some tragedy Deserted ! Larry's heart beat high at the word. flashed into his mind.
| No, not deserted, for he was there, as ready to do battle His blood seemed to congeal to ice, and he hastened for her as was ever knight of old for the stainless lady of his steps and knocked hurriedly at the closed door-a | his love ; for his love was of that rare kind that the fire knock that seemed to shudder through the silence of anguish could not burn it, nor the great flood-tides of
However, he did not wait long. A well-known voice, guilt wash it away. with a sharp edge to it, called out “ Come !" and he felt! He found the house-a tenement house in a squalid his heart beat once more.
neighborhood. It was evening, but the narrow staircase “ Still, there must be something the matter ; the room was not lighted. He heard a drunken man stumbling up looked strangely in order. There was no preparation for before him. A blood-curdling oath sounded through the dinner.
darkness. Aunt Zeph sat in one corner, a bit of a note in her! He found the door, as directed. No voice answered
his knock. He opened it at last, and stood for a moment as if turned into stone. The room was almost bare. There was no carpet on the dingy floor, no curtain at the smeared window.
On the table stood a cup of untasted tea and a crust, and near it sat a young girl.
Oh, not her! Oh, for God's sake! not Sunflower—that wan, haggard, disheyeled creature, with the yellow hair tangled on her neck, the white, colorless face, the livid lips, the wild brown eyes, the clutched hands, the feet that beat a restless tattoo on the bare floor.
Yes; she has lifted her eyes to liis, with a strange
horror in their depths. She is not mad; she knows him. She speaks :
“What do you want ?"
Larry's heart beats horribly. A glastly sickness comes over him, but he manages to answer :
“I want you."
She stands up then with a hot spark in her eye and a flush on her cheek.
"Do you come to insult me ?"
“No; in God's name, I swear I am here to help you !"
She cast down her eyes.
"You do not know. You cannot know !"
"I know all!" Larry hastened to answer. “Yes, I know, but it does not change my
love-nothing can change that, dear. You do not under- , I need you, darling, to make me bappy. Do you know stand."
that in making me happy you may find your own happi"What !” she said, a slow comprehension coming into ness?" her face. “ You love me spite of this—this shame-| A gleam of light came into the brown, velvety eyes ; spite of what I am ?"
some of the old beauty hovered about the girlish face. “Yes ; I want you. You are down; I will lift you up. Her hair was no longer neglected, and she wore a knot You shall be my wife, if you will—if you care for me." of lace at her throat.
“Care for you! I ought to drop down on the floor to | Larry took this as a good sigu. kiss the dust from your shoes. To think-to think I had “If I was sure I could make you happy," she said, the love of such a man, and threw it away! Oh, the pity half-wistfully, “what better could I do with my life? of it—the pity of it !"
It would be better, perhaps, than- But no! How The trouble and sin had wakened the deeper nature in would you bear it when your wife would be scorned, the frivolous girl. How different she was from the bright when her past would be raked up and a story of shame creature who had jeered at his love and mocked all senti-whispered about ? Would it not stab you with sharper ment!
pangs than you feel now ? No, Larry, I cannot believe But in a moment the fire and light faded from her face, that you could endure that unmoved." and left it pale and haggard as before.
“I can endure anything but to lose you!" he cried. “It is too late—too late !" she moaned. “Leave me. The girl looked at him wonderingly. I am going to die—I have begun to die. Don't you see “Ah !" she cried, with a bitter wail of untold anguish, death in my face? Women like me ought to die. There “this is love. How different— " is nothing else-- "
She broke off suddenly with a sob, and Larry knew "No! no! no !" cried Larry, seizing her hand, she was thinking of the selfish passion that had worked "you must live! I will help you to live! You are so her woe. Rousing herself a moment after, she said : young, my poor darling! You were so innocent! You “You are right. I must give you some answer. You have many a fair new leaf to turn open in the book of deserve it. I must not keep you longer in suspense. life."
Come to-morrow, and I will tell you." . “Do you not think I would not always be turning back Larry's heart bounded joyously. He touched her to that one, all blotted and stained as it is ? Larry, I am hand reverently with his lips, and saw a hot tide of blood not the girl you have known. I am something you do sweep up over her pale face. not know-something hard, bitter, defiant-ready to Could it be that his devotion had touched her heart at curse God and die.”
la-t ? that, bruised and crushed as it had been, there was How changed she was! What deptlıs of desolate dark- / yet a pulse beating for the old days for him ? ness in the brown eyes! what tears of pain and penitence “My happiness is in your hand," he whispered ; and had washed those cheeks and taken away their bloom ! then he did not trust himself to say more. what spasms of anguish contracted the sweetly curved He went home in a tumult of feeling, half fear, half lips, once like a ripe cherry ! what vigils had wasted the liope. face and taken its light and bloom away!
The night brought only troubled dreams; the day, a Poor Sunflower! So fond of warmth and love, how thousand fears. He heard the sounds of the work-day changed she was, now that she knew what storm and ter- world as in a dream. How busy people were while life ror and darkness meant !
was standing still with him-while the pulses of life Yet Larry looked at lier with new tenderness.
waited for the answer ! It was in this man's nature that, the more desolate and At last the slow, sad hours ebbed away, and he stood forsaken, the more utterly the fair places in her life were once more on the threshold of her door. He had a boulaid waste, the more fond and pitying became his love. quet in his hand-fair, white flowers of purity and fragHe longed to shelter and protect her. She would be rance. When she told him what he hoped, he would lay doubly his own.
it in her hands. But Sunflower had sunk back, exhausted by her brief There is no sound in return to his knock. He waits passion. Her face grew fixed again in its blank despair. and listens, his own heart-beating ælling the ominous She scarcely listened to his pleading words.
silence. Not a stir, or a sigh, or the faintest rustle of Her eyes seemed to stare dumbly at some unseen her dress. thing, as if nothing in this world could rouse her to in- A nameless horror seizes him. He dashes open the terest again.
door suddenly. There is a dull light. Ah, she is lying Larry went there again and again. He took her books on the hard bed-sick, faint, in a swoon! What is it? and flowers and bonbons. She did not look at them. He staggers forward. Her eyes are closed. The yellow
She sometimes roused, when a word touched on her hair has fallen upon the pillow. old life, as if something had suddenly stung her ; when He seizes the candle and holds it close. A hand seems he talked about the future she looked at him with clutching at his heart-tighter, closer, till he ceases to wonder.
breathe. Once she roused herself from her lethargy to say : He holds the candle nearer, till the light strikes the
" There is no one like you, Larry ; there is not such white, stiff face, and falls upon the hairanother true, unselfish nature in the world. Do not love
“The light upon the yellow hair, but not within the eyes ; me-do not waste your time with me. I care enough for
The light still there upon the hair, and death within the eyes !" you to beg you to leave me.”
“I shall never leave you-never go till you promise to Yes, it was death. Never more to her could sorrow go with me," Larry said, his heart suddenly beating hard. come--or shame. The short, bitter story was ended for “Dear, won't you let me comfort you-make up to you ever. for all the past ? I know what I am doing. I am not a Larry dropped on his knees before the bed. A sudden silly boy carried away by a fancy. Whatever you are, darkness came over him. He grew weak as a little you are all to me. No other woman can fill your place. | child.