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“ Then how in the world have you “ Please, Hester,” he said. managed !” he asked. “I have been "I can't show it to you," said Hesill five weeks, and I know I left only ter. "I do not know where it is twenty dollars in the drawer. That, exactly.”. I feel sure, would go a very little way “Ah, I understand. You went out toward the expenses you have had. this morning. Are you sure this is Come, little wife, put down your work not your music in another form” said and look me in the face. I must have John, pointing to some grapes and a this mystery solved.”
jelly standing near him on the table. Hester threw the socks on the table A crimson flush overspread Hester's and turned her face, bright and glad in face as she said, pleadingly, “I could spite of its pallor, to her husband. not tell how long you might be ill, and
“I wish you would not ask questions, the money was very useful. Don't be John,” she said. “It cannot hurt me angry with me, John.” to bear for a few weeks the burden “ Angry with you, my dear wife ! that has always rested on your shoul- My child, I never loved you as I love ders. It will teach me to be more you now, for I never before knew, lenient toward your shortcomings in though I may have suspected, what the future,” she added, laughing; "and moral courage there was in that little as for a mystery, I have not indulged heart. Your conduct has put me to in one.
Mrs. Ward has been very the blush ; for, had I possessed your kind; she took Amy. for a fortnight simple faith and your determined will when you were first taken ill, and this illness might not have fallen upon and—Well, I suppose you'll worry till me. Hitherto I have loved you, my you find it out. The fact is, I didn't Hester, as every man worthy of his care much for my coral ornaments, so manhood must love a good and true I sold them to her. Coral has come wife; but, as I watched you moving into fashion lately, you know, so I about my room this morning, I saw made a good bargain. There now, how pale and thin your face had grown, perhaps you are satisfied ?"
I think I felt toward you as “Not quite," was the reply. “What stanch Catholic of the olden time may were you writing last night ?" have felt toward his patron saint; and
“Oh dear !—what an inquisitive I shall be more patient, more trustful, man you are,” she replied, smilingly. in the future, if it please God to give “I was copying some music.” me back my health ; for as I lay awake
“For amusement ?" he asked. last night, long after you thought I
“Why, what else should I do it was asleep, and watched your shadow for?” replied Hester, now half crying on the curtain as you sat writing, a with vexation.
feeling of intense thankfulness came “Oh nothing, of course," said her over me that God, in his great mercy, husband; “but I should like to see when He saw fit to try me, spared me
Hester, there is a great “Nonsense! you great tease,” said Light that shows things in all their plain, Hester, “it's not worth looking at.” unvarnished truth, kept burning in the
* valley of the shadow of Death,” to drawer, Hester, dear? and I will find which I have been so very near; and the pieces I mean.” I have learned that the self-dependence, Hester did as she was desired, turnthe distrust of others, upon which I ing over the music for John's inspecprided myself in the days that seem so tion, half fearful that he would tire long ago, the follies that I, in my blind- himself, half pleased to see something ness, called wisdom, were only stum- of the old love of his art lighting up bling-blocks in my path. That is my his face. confession, Hester ; my penance shall “Those are the three I mean, darlast my lifetime," he added smilingly. ling," he said at last.
"I used some“ And now put your hand in mine, times to think it a nuisance that I had sweet wife, and, while I look into your to grind away from morning till night; dear face, let me thank you for the but I shall be glad to be at the old mill lesson your love and trust have taught again,” he added reflectively. me; for I felt to-day, when I heard “Well, what am I to do with these?” you tell Amy that Christmas was asked Hester, taking up the music. drawing near, that I should, through “ Take them to Mr. Dyson,” he you, understand better its language of replied; “I should think the music peace on earth and good-will to men, trade must have looked up by this time, and that the Christmas bells would ring —and tell him he shall have the three out for me the promise of a better life, for one hundred dollars. I hate to send a better hope."
you on such errands; but I cannot help Poor Hester could scarcely under- it in this case." stand her husband's words. He was Hester put the music aside, with an her ideal, her model of all that was inward prayer that she might be able good and true; and her loving eyes to sell it, for the gaunt spectre, Poverty, refused to see any spots in her sun; had come nearer their home than John but John only smiled as she tried to had imagined. Illness is expensive at tell him this, and interrupted her by all times, doubly so in New York, where saying that he had some business to the eggs and milk, and hundred-andtalk to her about, paying no attention one little delicacies that invalids require, to her entreaties that he would keep are almost as unattainable for those of quiet, and leave things to her a little limited means as the rest and quiet the longer.
doctors prescribe, apparently forgetting “I must leave it to you, dear,” he what impossible luxuries they are to the replied. “I suppose the copying you majority of their patients. So Hester have done has been for Mr. Dyson ?” had thought sadly that morning, when “Yes,” she replied.
the doctor, after praising her nursing, “Well, there are three manuscript said, “Mr. Carroll needs nothing now pieces in the drawer of the canterbury,” besides quiet, plenty of good living, and continued John. “If I could sell them, perfect mental rest.” we might tide over until I am about Nothing besides !—when those three again; I can't bear to see you doing things comprehended all that was the that copying Will you fetch the most difficult to obtain ; and, knowing this, Hester's heart beat high with wedding day, and thinking sadly that its alternations of hope and fear, as the changed appearance harmonized with next morning she entered the publish- her mood. It was “tidy” enough now, er's office; but, after a few remarks the music was all carefully put away; from Mr. Dyson, the hope died out. no open books, no loose sheets, were “Business was so slack,” he said slowly, scattered about the closed piano-forte. “that he did not care to bring out any. There was no fire in the grate, no slipthing except a little dance-music; and pers on the hearth-rug, no coat hanging really Mr. Carroll's pieces looked rather over the easy chair. The “tidiness dreamy-far-fetched, he might even was there, but the home-like charm was say; why, his shelves were piled with gone; the room was lonely, chill, and compositions of the same character, of desolate. which he had not sold as many copies Hester sat a little time to collect her as would pay for the printing. He thoughts, “I have never deceived him didn't mind hearing what they were yet," she said, half aloud, at last; "and like, though. Perhaps Mrs. Carroll it's hard to begin now; but I cannot could play them ?”
disappoint him. I dare not risk it. He Hester could not do that; so the shall have perfect rest!” and she smiled melodies had no chance of pleading sadly, “at any cost for a little while." their own cause, and with an abundance Hester rose, and taking her husband's of polite apologies they were declined ; manuscripts with her, went up into Hester wondering, as she walked back Amy's little room, where she put them through the shop, how she should have into a drawer, where they were little the heart to go back and tell John of likely to be seen, murmuring as she did his disappointment. Anything would so, "My poor John!" For herself, be better than that, she felt; even a womanlike, she had no thought, no repetition of the ordeal she had just dity; and then, bathing her face and gone through. So, almost in despair, smoothing her hair with the same care she went from one music publisher to for her husband as she had felt six years another, until all she could remember ago for her lover, she went into the inon Broadway and the avenues had valid's room. been visited; but everywhere Mr. “Have you succeeded, my darling ?” Dyson's words were repeated. At one he asked, anxiously. or two places, where, perhaps, the “Yes,” replied Hester, feeling a publisher was touched by the wistful choking sensation as she uttered the young face, she was told that she might falsehood. leave the pieces for consideration ; but And you got the money ?” he conHester shook her head, for things had tinued. altered since John had expressed his “Oh yes,” was the reply. gratitude that they could afford to wait. “ Thank heaten!” said John. “I Fairly tired out, mentally and bodily, can rest now. I should not have had Hester reached home, looking round a moment's peace if I had thought you as she entered, on the old room that had were going through what you have enseemed so bright and cheerful on her dured the last month. But what makes
you look so dull, Hester ?—though I need not ask. I expect you are fairly The evening shadows on Christmas tired out; and what you have done Eve came creeping into the room where this morning is not pleasant work for Hester Carroll sat alone ; came creepa woman. But try and forget it, ing in, filling the recesses with strange, darling; I'll take all the disagreeables weird shapes, distorting everything, on my own shoulders when I get well. and making the piano-forte look like And I won't grumble at old Dyson some ungainly monster. They had it again just yet. I know it must have all to themselves that evening in the gone to his heart to give you one old room, that, on every previous hundred dollars down. He can't bear Christmas Eve of Hester's married life, the ready-money style of business; but had glowed with light, and comfort, and he is a good fellow after all. And you a cheerful woman's presence. Now it can manage now till Christmas, can't looked dark and dreary, whilst Hester, you, Hester! I shall be able to get with bowed head, sat thinking wearily about then, and something may turn of the impossibility of finding a path
out of the misery that surrounded her. “Yes,” replied his wife, “I can How she had struggled through the manage very well ;” but she felt sick last few weeks she scarcely knew. at heart as she wondered how the Her trinkets were gone, and, one by managing was to be done.
one, the little prettinesses of her home With the little time Hester had to had gone too; but the money thus obdevote to it, music copying could only tained had been barely enough to satbring her in a few dollars weekly. isfy immediate wants; and so, on The trinkets she had were of little Christmas Eve, Hester found herself value, and she possessed no friends or possessed of scarcely a dollar ; whilst, relations of whom she could borrow as she ran over the list of her belongmoney, even if she had been willing to ings, she could think of nothing that she adopt a measure to which both her could, without John's knowledge, conhusband and herself were so opposed : vert into money. She knew he must whilst if, as she once or twice felt learn the truth soon; but on Christmas tempted to do, she were to tell John Day, the day on which he was to come the truth, the anxiety would be sure to down stairs for the first time since his retard his recovery; and until he was illness, she had hoped he might be hapwell he would be powerless to help her. py; and the only way in which she So she persisted in the deception that could ward off discovery for a day later an angel might have hesitated to call made her heart ache as she thought of a sin, working, planning, scheming, it. Whilst she hesitated the door denying herself the commonest neces- opened, and Amy came in. saries for the sake of her husband and “Are you all in the dark, mamma?” child. And John remembered, after he she asked, as she looked round. "Pahad learned the truth, how, through it pa's awake now, and he wants his tea; all, she had always had a bright smile but he says he'll wait if you're making or a gentle word for him and Amy. the puddings."
“Shut the door, my darling, and “Oh no, mamma, I never use it," come here,” said her mother. “I said Amy, "you may have it to keep.” want to speak to you.”
“God bless you, darling,” said her Amy obeyed, rather awed by the mother, “I hope you will have it back tone in which the words were spoken. before long. Pray God you may never “I am in sad trouble," continued Hes- know such agony as it has been to ask ter, “and my little daughter is the you this, Amy; I would not have done only one who can help me. You know it had there been anything left of my to-morrow is Christmas Day, Amy, the own. And now go back to papa, my day on which, above all others, we dear little pet, and tell him tea will should try to make every one happy; soon be ready; but, remember, that and you and I would like to make poor you must not say anything to him of papa happy, should we not, dear ?" what I have told you. That, for a
“But isn't he happy, mamma?” she little time, must be a secret between asked.
you and me. Papa is to be happy to“He will not be when he knows some- morrow, is he not ?” thing I have to tell him, darling," re- For a few moments after Amy had plied her mother; « but that need not left her, Hester sat huddled up in the be till to-morrow, if you will help me. corner of the couch, weeping hot, bitter Listen to me, Amy. I am talking to tears, that would be shed, however she you as if you were much older than might struggle to keep them back by you are; and you will understand me telling herself that she ought to be very better by and by. My trouble is that thankful that John was spared to her I have no money, not enough to buy and not sit crying there on Christmas our dinner for to-morrow; and I have Eve. However, at last she scolded not even anything for which I could herself into calmness, and then, drying get money. There is something of her eyes, she began the preparations yours, darling, if you would lend it to (such poor little preparations as they me; you shall have it back as soon as had gradually grown to be) for tea; and, ever I can get it. Oh, Amy, my little her task completed, she carried the one, forgive me!”
tray upstairs. Up there everything “Oh, mamma," said the child, in was
cosy; there great distress; “ please don't cry, bright fire, and John, seated by it in mamma. I will give you everything his easy chair, with Amy standing, I have — only - only — not Peepy, with her kitten in her arms, beside please,” she added, looking half in- him, looked up with a glad smile as clined to cry at the thought of her Hester entered. little black kitten being given in ex- “Why, little wife," he cried, “how change for anything, even a plum- pale and pinched you look !—and you pudding
are as cold as ice! What in the world “It's not Peepy, darling," said her have you been doing? Is there no fire mother. “Do you think you would down stairs ? Is that why you brought mind lending me your silver mug, Amy, the kettle up here !” till papa is quite well and busy again ?” Hester thought sadly of the impossi