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fidence of old friends. Both of my companions gained thereby. Carrie showed an amiable, unselfish nature, sweet and sound to the core; and Rick, more manliness of thought and aspiration than I had given him credit for. Naturally, our talk took a tinge of gravity from the sunset we had just witnessed; deepened by the loud roll of the thunder, the beat of the rain, and the growing duskiness of our retreat.

I mention these incidents that you may understand how inevitably they stimulated the growth of feelings that, otherwise, would scarce have blossomed so soon, that might have perished in their unquickened germs.

At the end of an hour, the flashes of lightning that had lit up our cell from time to time, ceased; and the thunder died away in a faint far-off muttering. But the rain still fell heavily. Taking an observation, Rick gave it as his opinion that the shower had developed into a settled rain, and that we were "regularly in for it."

"And so," he continued, buttoning up his coat, “the next thing is for me to go up to the house, and bring down a lot of outsiders for you and Miss Frost to go home with."

"Outsiders!" laughed Carrie, "what do you mean?" "Outsiders, sweet sis, is a generic name for things to be worn outside, shawls, rubbers, overcoats, etc." And Rick put on his hat, preparatory to launching himself into the rain.

At this moment a faint "Halloo!" penetrated our hiding-place.

66

'By all that's opportune, a rescue!" exclaimed Rick, dashing out, and returning it with a will.

In brief space of time, a nondescript figure appeared at the mouth of the cavern. It had long, gray hair, keen black eyes, slouching garments, and a saturnine face;-in short, it was Mortimer Bryer, the hero of Mrs. Prescott's anecdote, who had not before deigned to show himself to

me. He was heavily laden with "outsiders," which he dispensed, with as few words as possible; then, taking Carrie on his arm, under an umbrella, he marched off at a great pace. Rick hoisted another over me, and we followed as fast as possible, but were inevitably distanced in the race,

Mrs. Thorne met us at the door with profuse regrets and condolences. We had a merry drying by the kitchen fire, and plenty of vivacious talk from Rick afterward. I accepted, perforce, an invitation to spend the night; for all the celestial reservoirs seemed to be emptying themselves, as a preliminary step to a thorough renovation. At a tolerably late hour, Mrs. Thorne conducted me to a large, dusky room, filled with grim, old-fashioned furniture. I slept in a high-post bedstead; over which a heavy canopy and hangings of dark chintz brooded like a cloud. Beside it, stood a tall, high-backed chair, in such a position as to seem intended for the reception of some ghostly watcher. Perhaps it was this that made sleep so unresponsive to my call, and gave me ample time to think how strange it was that Mrs. Thorne should know Paul Venner!

XXVII.

IN THE BOWER.

[graphic]

HE morning was so clear and fair as to give
color to the fancy that nature was trying
to make sweet amends for the storm of the
preceding night. After breakfast, I announced
my
intention of proceeding immediately home-
ward; but Mrs. Thorne managed, somehow, to
set its fulfilment aside, and to substitute a plan

to visit some natural curiosity called "The Bower," in a neighboring bit of woods. This involved the necessity of waiting for the grass to dry, and another hour or two of Bryer and Thorne society, with a considerable. preponderance, I thought, of Rick's. In due time, however, we set forth, Carrie linking her arm in mine, and her brother in advance. Half way across the first meadow we were stopped by Mrs. Thorne's voice.

"Carrie!" she called, with her head out of the window, "I want you, just for a moment or two. I forgot to measure your belt. Go on, Miss Frost, she will overtake you directly."

We went on, of course, but I had a singular feeling, for the moment, that Rick and Carrie and I were only puppets, whereof Mrs. Thorne pulled the wires!

"The Bower" was worth seeing, nevertheless. A luxuriant, wild grapevine had run up and down and across the

boughs and trunks of contiguous trees, and woven a hutlike enclosure, with but a single narrow opening ;-all of green verdure without, all a brown network of vines within, supported by mossy pillars of tree-trunks. Inside was a rustic seat,-not in the best repair.

"Sit down," said Rick, after having tested its strength by a vigorous shake; "Carrie will be here soon. She will consider herself defrauded, no doubt, in not hearing your first exclamation of wonder; she would be doubly disappointed, if we did not wait for her." And Rick folded his arms, leaned against one of the gray pillars, and seemed to lose himself in thought. Some indefinable feeling made me careful not to disturb it. I sat silent, listening for Carrie's step, wondering how long Mrs. Thorne would deem it expedient to keep her, and inwardly resolving that my movements should never again be woven into the intricate web of her designs.

And yet, what possible object could she have in throwing Rick and me together? So utterly fruitless was my investigation in that direction, that I began to think myself needlessly suspicious; and to settle down into the belief that things had taken their natural course, after all, uninfluenced by my bland and easy hostess, except as she was naturally desirous of fit companionship for her daughter.

Then, secure in his intense and prolonged absorption, I suffered my eyes to rest upon my companion, and was newly and vividly impressed with his wondrous personal beauty; a beauty similar in kind, though not at all in expression, to that which old masters give to Our Lord, blended of both masculine and feminine traits. The exquisite mould and outline of his form and countenance had the superadded charm of perfect health,—the richest vitality animating the most symmetrical mechanism. He stood where both face and figure continually caught fresh lights and changeful tints from the flickering play of sunbeams.

falling through the wind-stirred roof of foliage; as if to typify how capable was his inner nature of imbibing pleasant hues and cheerful gleams of light from all points; and making me feel that, as a matter of artistic propriety, he ought always to be so placed as to receive the greatest possible amount of material and metaphorical sunshine. Fate would do him as much wrong in withholding them, I thought, as in denying to ordinary men a sufficiency of air to breathe. His features ought always to reflect the glow of a cheerful and happy spirit ;-the frown of sorrow, of care, or of anger, would be as much out of place among them, as on the careless, open brow of a child. Yet the light veil of thought which now shadowed them, was rather a beautifier than otherwise. Indeed, it did more than shadow; it informed them with a deeper and more delicate intelligence, and subtly suggested (with what amount of truth I know not) some latent, finer temper of being.

Seeing him thus, it occurred to me how easy it would be for a thoughtless, inexperienced girl to lose her heart to him. I could even conceive that it were possible for a woman-gentler, tenderer, more generous, and more disinterested than myself—to lay down her life and love at his feet; content for them to be trodden in the dust, if by that means his way might be made smooth and easy to the hap piness that she could so much better bear to do without. There are women who might fitly be wedded to the horseleech; they are satisfied (for a time, at least) to “givegive," asking little or nothing in return; with them it is enough for happiness to watch the abundant, unobstructed outflow of their own hearts. The motherly instinct is strongest in them. Their supremest delight is to cherish, to nurture, to nourish,-whether with milk of breast, love of heart, toil of hand, or ache of brow; and, till children come to divert the feeling into its more natural channel, it sets strongly toward lover and husband. Such an one

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