Page images

think safe, since the gentleman, though only an employé in a public office, yet carried the air and indulged in the expenses of a man of fortune. After this followed a silence of unusual length.

Come we now to a cold evening in May, the west yet red with the last sun-gleam, while the north and east were heavy with clouds driven on by a bleak and damp wind. A storm was evidently in prospect, yet Mr. Hay, well wrapped, mounted Hourglass for a ride to the post-office, three miles distant. Many times had he done the same, hoping for a letter from Caroline, now the theme of many an anxious thought, and as he went, he resolved, should he be as unsuccessful now as before, he would write requesting her immediate return, so strong a hold had the idea of impending ill taken of his mind.

But this evening, so soon as he could succeed in approaching the counter at the post-office, a counter that served as well for the dispensation of "bitters" and tobacco as of letters, he received a letter in the hand-writing of his sister. It was closely written and carefully crossed, yet there stood Mr. Hay, - elbowed and shoved, amid all the din of spelling out newspapers, higgling about postage, and anxious but ineffectual efforts to get letters without paying for them-until he had read it quite through, by the dim rays of the one. greasy lamp which shed its oil and a modicum of light from a beam over his head.

This done, he mounted Hourglass again, and striking off at a brisk trot in the teeth of a sleety shower, he stinted not nor staid till he drew bridle at his own door. It is not difficult to guess the purport of Mrs. Tennett's letter. She was about to return her fair charge to her father, with some fears that the invitation so kindly intended had not been productive of unmixed good.

"Any news from Caroline, father?" said several voices.

"Yes, a letter from your aunt," said Mr. Hay, less cheerily than usual.

"What is the matter, father?

Isn't she well?" "Oh yes! quite well; she is coming home." Much joy was expressed by the young folks, and Mrs. Hay, though she shared her husband's anxiety, could think of nothing now but the happiness of once more embracing the long absent object of so much care. Seymour, who, though no longer an inmate, was a frequent guest at Mr. Hay's, and who now sat by Mrs. Hay's work-table helping one of the little girls on a "hard" sum she had brought home from school, began to ask himself seriously whether he felt pleased or otherwise at the expected return of a young lady who had shown him so little favor in his chrysalis state, and who was now, probably,

Grown ten times perter than before.

Before he had time even to debate the ques

[ocr errors]

tion, much less to decide it, a carriage drove up to the door, there was a slight bustle in the hall, and the object of the thoughts of all present entered the room, radiant in beauty, all smiles and tears, and almost overcome with the joy of seeing once more the beloved home and its circle of happy faces. She was followed by a Quaker lady and gentleman whom she introduced as friends of her aunt, who had placed her under their care;- Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Caroline called them; they would have given themselves out in plainer style.

The warm greetings were said, and Miss Hay's fashionable courtesy to Mr. Bullitt accomplished, with scarce a suspicion on her part that the welllooking young man before her could be the yawning hero of the snapping-turtle. The Friends (exceedingly polite and well-bred people, by the by) received due welcome on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Hay, and were much urged to remain for the night.

"We must decline your kindness," said Mr. Thurston, with but little of the formality supposed by those, who do not know them, to belong to the members of his society; "my wife has set her heart on seeing her sister to-night if it may be. I think Joseph Ellingham's is but a few miles beyond this?"

"Ellingham's! Ellingham's!" repeated more than one voice, as if unconsciously, while each looked to each as if in perplexity.

Mr. Thurston noticed at once the changed expression of countenance on all around him.

"You have heard evil of Joseph or his family, 1 fear," said he, hesitatingly, and with some emotion. "The road is very bad," said Mr. Hay, "and the night stormy;-wouldn't it be better to wait till morning?"

"If it be only the road and the storm," said Mr. Thurston, "our driver is well acquainted with your roads, and if there is no other difficulty—but I fear from thy aspect, friend Hay, that there may be

"There is," said Mr. Hay, kindly, taking Mr. Thurston's hand, "there is, my good friend. Our neighbor Mr. Ellingham has met with a great loss the greatest he is a lonely man.'

"My sister!" said or rather sighed Mrs. Thurston, as she sank back, covering her face with her hands and weeping abundantly, but in silence, while her husband's sympathies, though evidently much excited, were repressed as by a powerful effort.

"And when was this?" said Mr. Thurston, after a long pause, during which nothing was heard but the stifled sobbing of his wife.

"Three weeks since," was the reply.

"And how? Thou hast heard of course."

"By a dreadful accident by fire," said Mr.

Hay, in a whisper.

[ocr errors]

"By fire! alas! alas!" said the poor lady, whose watchful grief had caught the sound; and now no longer able to exercise the strict control at which she had aimed, she fell on her knees on the floor, mingling her heart-wrung sobs with prayers and incoherent and bitter lamentations.

"Lydia!" said her husband, "my dear Lydia, recollect thyself;" and as he bent over her, his tears dropped fast upon her smooth cap; "our Heavenly Father doeth all things well! we are allowed to mourn, but we must not murmur."


And when the mourner accepted his offered assistance, and meekly suffered herself to be raised from the floor and placed on the sofa, she wept in silence, and seemed to suppress forcibly the passionate grief into which she had at first been surprised. she might have observed that of the circle whose smiling faces had brightened the fireside, none remained to witness her distress except Mr. and Mrs. Hay and Caroline, the rest having, with a delicacy not unknown in the woods, retired silently to another room.

Few words were required to tell the particulars of a casualty but too common where the country is thinly inhabited, and the dwellings built with little precaution against fire. The result is not often so fatal, but when a fire occurs during the night, children may perish by families without a possibility of rescue.

Some two or three broad stones for the hearth,

« PreviousContinue »