I was brought up and educated by my
bachelor uncle. He was a reticent, moody man,
and with his aged housekeeper and myself, led a solitary
and unsocial life in the old rambling house which
had been his father’s before him.
I was but a child of six years when
destiny placed me under his charge, and with him I
remained eleven years; a scared, repressed little thing,
revelling in strange fancies in the spidery attic rooms,
and looking down through the dusty cobwebbed windows
upon the life and movement below, unconscious that
I formed a part of that active humanity.
Thus I lived until I entered my seventeenth
year. For the last two years my mind had been
expanding and growing discontented with my lot.
The moroseness of my uncle, the sullenness of his
housekeeper, the gloom and dinginess of the bare rooms
had grown insupportable to me. These alone I
might have endured, but added to them were other sources
of disquiet, not the least of which being hints from
the housekeeper that it was time I began to do something
for myself. Youth, pride, and ambition stirred
within me, and I actively set about looking, for a
I had not long to wait; in one of
the weekly papers, of which my uncle took many, I
one day discovered an advertisement, which to my morbid
fancy seemed sent by fate especially to me.
A young lady was wanted to take charge
of the education of a boy of eleven years. Upon
reading this advertisement, I immediately sat down
and wrote a letter, offering my services.
By return mail I received a note acknowledging
the receipt of mine, and stating that as I was the
only applicant and my testimonials satisfactory, I
I informed my uncle of my good fortune.
He received the news with a gruff approval, adding
that he hoped I would do well, as I could expect no
further pecuniary aid from him than would be sufficient
to carry me there.
My emotions, as I packed my little
trunk on that memorable Saturday, were of a mixed
character; but pleasure predominated. Hope beckoned
me on; and the sadness attendant on breaking loose
from the unfriendly home in which I had lived so long
was but transitory.
Monday morning saw me seated composedly
in the rail-coach on the way to “Bristed Hall,”
my destination. Towards nightfall we stopped at
a station in a desolate, sparsely-inhabited district.
My road diverging here, I hurried out, and the long
train which connected me with my past life sped out
Drawing my veil closely to my face
to hide a few falling tears, I looked around the desolate
waiting-room, to see if any fellow-creature was expecting
me. As I did so a heavy, thumping footstep sounded
upon the platform, and a surly voice inquired:
“Are you Miss Reef?” accompanying
the question by a slight pull at my shawl.
Turning, I beheld a deformed little
man with long arms and a high back, awaiting my answer
to his question. I summoned courage to ask:
“Were you sent for Miss Reef?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I
am Mr. Bristed’s man. He told me to drive
here and fetch home a Miss Reef if you
are that person, miss!” touching his hat with
an effort at politeness.
“I am,” I answered, and
without further ado we proceeded to the carriage,
which he had left waiting at the rear platform.
The evening air was chilly, for it
was quite sunset. Drawing my shawl around me,
I ensconced myself in a corner of the vehicle, and
watched the fading landscape with stolid indifference
to whatever might befall me.
We drove on thus for a good hour and
a half, halting at length before a dark, massy object,
the form of which my dozy eyes could not discern.
However, it proved to be Bristed Hall.
I emerged from the carriage and passed
up the steps to an open door which, at the pausing
of our carriage wheels, had been set ajar. An
old woman, the feminine counterpart of my sulky driver,
stood in the dimly-lighted passage-way to receive
me. She vouchsafed me but a grum welcome, but
I felt already too desolate and weary to experience
any further depression from her humor.
Bidding me follow her, and ordering
the man to carry my luggage, she led me directly through
the hall up the stairway to a chamber evidently prepared
for my use. The apartment was prettily furnished,
and its tidy appearance and the cheerful fire burning
on the hearth quite roused my drooping spirits.
After assisting me to remove my bonnet
and shawl, my conductress left me, returning ere long
with a tray containing refreshments. These she
set before me with silent hospitality; then bade me
goodnight, saying she would call me in the morning
at eight o’clock for breakfast.
My sleep that night was disturbed
by dreams, which though vague filled me with terror.
I imagined that I was walking through
a long corridor, opening into a sumptuous apartment,
its interior partly concealed by rich folds of damask
curtains. I lifted the heavy drapery and essayed
to enter, but a cold hand grasped mine and prevented
me. A woman’s figure, slight and youthful,
with white face, great sad eyes, and long yellow hair,
stood in the arched doorway and pressed me back with
her clammy hand. I started up from my pillow
in alarm to find myself alone; the pale moonbeams
streaming through the looped curtains of the window
and glancing upon my forehead, I thought, probably
accounted for the cold hand of my dream. I slept,
and dreamed again. The scene was changed:
a field of stubble lay before me; through it I must
make my way; the rough ground hurt my feet; I stumbled
and fell; attempting to rise, I saw painted in clear
relief against the horizon the same female figure.
Her pale, golden hair hung long and
loose over her shoulders. As she caught my eye
she lifted her finger as if in warning, and disappeared
From these dreams I awakened in the
morning perplexed, disturbed, and unrefreshed.
After dressing, I was summoned to breakfast by the
person who had received me the previous night.
She led me down the stairway and through the hall
into the breakfast room.
It was a long, narrow apartment, with
wainscots and floor of polished oak. A bright
fire blazed upon the hearth. A small round stand
was set forth, upon which was placed my solitary repast.
I seated myself and partook, with a relish, of the
nice cakes, fragrant coffee, and sweet clover butter.
Having finished my meal, I arose and
walked to one of the deep-set windows which lighted
the apartment. Lifting the curtain, I looked out.
A grassy lawn overhung with trees;
clear gravel paths and well-trimmed shrubbery; beyond,
rocks relieved by a patch of blue sky; a thin line
of light, neutral tinted, winding through the distant
meadows, indicating a streamlet; these constituted
Having spent a full quarter of an
hour in abstractedly gazing at this scene, I was called
to reality by the opening of the room door, and a
strange voice repeating my name. The person presenting
herself appeared to be an upper servant a
tall, thin woman, with dark hair sprinkled with gray,
and an amiable, weak face.
“If you have finished your breakfast,
Miss, I will show you to Mr. Bristed’s room.”
I assured her it was completed, and,
following her. I crossed the hall and entered
a door at the left. A pleasant odor of flowers
met my grateful senses. The room was spacious,
wide and deep, and handsomely carpeted. The walls
were ornamented with paintings and engravings.
An ample arm-chair, which the owner
had evidently just vacated, and a table containing
books and papers, gave a tone of both comfort and
elegance to the room, which was decidedly congenial
to my taste.
Two great glass doors, reflecting
clearly the morning sunbeams, led into a conservatory
from whence issued the fragrance I perceived on entering.
Among the flowers moved a tall, manly
figure. As I entered, the gentleman came forward.
“Miss Reef, Mr. Bristed,”
said my companion, by way of introduction.
So this was my employer. As he
stood before me, I surveyed him; a well-formed gentleman,
above the ordinary height, with pale complexion, set
off by dark, penetrative eyes; a shapely head covered
with long, heavy masses of straight dark hair.
The impression his appearance conveyed to me was that
of a person benevolent but apathetic; unhappy without
the will or power to shake off his burden.
He bade me be seated. “You
are young,” said he, reflectively. “May
I ask your age?”
“Seventeen,” I replied.
“Very young,” he reiterated,
thoughtfully shaking his head; “however, as
you are here, if you wish to remain, Mary will introduce
you to your pupil.”
“I certainly wish to remain,”
said I, impatiently; “I have journeyed quite
a distance for that purpose, and shall be happy to
commence the instruction of my pupil immediately.”
“Very well,” said he.
“Mary, take her to the nursery, and attend to
any of her wants.”
The girl opened a door adjoining that
which we had entered by; a narrow hall and a flight
of stairs led us to the room indicated.
A little solitary figure, breathing
upon the window-glass, and tracing thereon letters
with long, thin fingers, was the first object that
presented itself to my eye,
“Here is your governess, Herbert,” said
The little boy turned and surveyed
me with his large, blue, mournful eyes. They
sent a quiver through my frame from their strange resemblance
to eyes I had seen but the night before in my dream.
He was apparently satisfied with his
inspection, and his thin scarlet lips parted into
I called him to me. He came forward timidly.
Taking his small hand, I asked him
a few questions about his studies. I found him
intelligent, but grave beyond his years; very docile
and obedient, and ere the end of the day we became
I had lived six weeks at Bristed Hall,
and, excepting on my first arrival, had not interchanged
a word with its master. ’Tis true I would
see him at times from the school-room window, walking
through his park, or smoking upon the long piazza,
but he might have been across the ocean for all the
intercourse we had together.
It was early June; roses bloomed on
every hedge. A season of dry weather had succeeded
the showers of spring, the mornings were sparkling,
the air delicious. I arose early one particularly
sunny morn, that I might take a walk, before the studies
of the day commenced, to a natural lake which I had
discovered about a mile from the Hall.
Herbert begged to accompany me, and
I, who loved at times the quiet of my own thoughts,
reluctantly granted his request.
We strolled out of the inclosure,
and were leisurely wending our way over the road,
when our attention was attracted by the sound of wheels
emerging from a cross path. A carriage rolled
briskly in view. The little hand of my companion,
which I held locked in mine, trembled violently.
“Oh, Miss Agnes, Miss Agnes!”
he cried, pointing to the occupant of the carriage,
“there is Uncle Richard.”
As it neared us, the driver reined
in his horses, which snorted impatiently as he paused,
and a musical voice called out:
“Hallo! you young varlet; where
are you going so early in the morning?”
Herbert answered faintly, “I
am going with Miss Reef to the lake.”
The gentleman at this reply waved
his jewelled hand gracefully toward me. “Miss
Reef, I am happy to make your acquaintance. So
you are the young lady who has undertaken to be bored
with my little nephew?”
“He is not a bore,” said
I, smilingly, captivated by the grace and abandon
of the traveller. And truly his handsome countenance
might have captivated a girl more experienced in the
world’s ways than myself. His was a gay,
spirited face, complexion fair and rosy; full red lips,
graced with a curling moustache; golden locks fit
for an Adonis; sunny, dancing eyes, and a figure rather
massive, but well formed. Such was the impression
I received of this “Uncle Richard.”
“Allow me to give you a seat in my brougham,”
I thanked him, but refused.
“Bound on some romantic expedition,”
he said, laughing; “I can see it in your beaming
eyes. Well, I suppose I must continue my solitary
drive; but don’t tarry long at the dismal lake;
hasten back, as I shall want a companion to chat with
in the empty Hall.”
I found Herbert unwilling to talk
about his uncle, so I tried to dismiss the new comer
from my thoughts, and engaged with my pupil in gathering
wild flowers and grasses wherewith to form wreaths
and bouquets to adorn our school-room. After
rambling about for an hour, we turned homeward.
I felt quite excited upon reaching
the Hall, and hurried to my room to smooth my hair
preparatory to commencing the labors of the day.
If I stood over my mirror longer than usual, remember
I was young, and had a laudable desire to please.
As I surveyed myself in the glass, I was guilty of
a pleasurable cognizance of the figure and face reflected
there. The walk and unexpected encounter had given
an unwonted brilliancy and vivacity to my countenance.
My cheeks glowed; my eyes sparkled; and from my chestnut
curls depended wild flowers, and wreaths of Herbert’s
twining; altogether a pleasing picture presented itself
to view, which, without vanity, I was thankful to
We had not been long at our lessons
when a voice, gaily singing, approached the door,
and without the ceremony of knocking, the gentleman
whom we had passed in our morning ramble entered the
“I have been looking all over
for you; why are you hiding yourself away up here?”
said he, merrily. “Can you not take another
pupil, Miss Reef?” at the same time drawing
up his chair to the table at which Herbert and myself
“If he is as tractable as Herbert,
I might venture,” I replied, assuming the gay,
mocking tone of my questioner.
I soon saw that he was bent on remaining;
so, taking from my desk a drawing-book and pencil,
I placed them before him.
“There is your task; please
not to interrupt me.” I was determined not
to be beguiled from my duty by this gay cavalier.
He permitted us to pursue our studies uninterruptedly
till he had finished his drawing.
“There,” he exclaimed,
placing it before me. “Will you not reward
me for my industry?”
I looked at the sketch. It was
bold and clear, shaded with a firm hand, spirited
and original. I was truly surprised at the skill
After that day he visited our room
often, calling in during the morning to exchange a
pleasant word, or at the close of the school hours
to loiter over our drawings and chat of books and
music. His visits began to grow too pleasant
to me. Some effort must be made on my side to
render them less attractive.
One afternoon he entered as usual,
and waited patiently till Herbert had recited his
closing lesson. Then he arose, and taking a guitar
from its case, commenced playing and singing a song
in a most bewitching manner.
“Come, Miss Reef,” said
he, when he had finished, “that beautiful hand
is just made to glide over this instrument. Allow
me to give you a lesson.”
Feeling that if I permitted him to
encroach upon my position as governess I would be
lost, I refused. I must give him to understand
that I know my place and will not be trifled with,
I thought; so I arose and rang the bell for Mary.
She soon appeared, apparently surprised at seeing Mr.
Richard Bristed so much at home in the school-room.
“Mary, sit down; I wish you
to hem this handkerchief for Herbert,” said
She seated herself with my work-box
before her, and commenced plying her needle industriously.
The young gentleman looked on my arrangement with a
lurking smile for a few moments, and then uttering
a long, low whistle, arose from his chair and sauntered
out. Passing me, he whispered:
“I will remember you for this,
Miss Reef.” He did seem to remember it,
as several days elapsed without his presenting himself.
Once I met him in the hall, and he
merely bowed. If he had wished to arouse in me
an interest in himself, he could not have pursued a
better plan; for I grew restless and uneasy, regretting
heartily that I had offended him.
After three days had passed thus,
I concluded I would explain to him my motive.
Accordingly, in the afternoon, when my hour of recreation
came, I brushed my hair carefully, changed my dress,
and descended to the piazza on which he generally
lounged in the afternoon with a cigar.
As he was not there, I seated myself
on a rustic chair to watch for him. I had not
sat many minutes when I heard the wheels of a carriage
on the gravel path; then the gay voice of Mr. Richard
met my ear. I turned: he was seated in the
vehicle with a valise beside him, and was apparently
bound on a journey. As he caught sight of me,
he raised his hat, bowed distantly, and drove off.
A dreary sense of loneliness crept
over me. The setting sun filled the west with
its golden splendor. Great yellow bars of sunlight
streamed through the railing, and lit up the floor
of the piazza. Sitting there I was bathed in
its ruddy flood. Happy birds poured forth their
evening song in the bushes near by; but I was miserable
and alone. All nature seemed to rejoice, while
I, her child, was desolate.
“You appear sad, miss,”
said a voice close beside me. I looked up and
beheld the elder Mr. Bristed. He had evidently
observed my emotion, and his dark eye looked a reproof
that his lips did not utter.
Presently, he seated himself near
me, and asked a few questions as to the progress my
pupil was making. Having satisfied him on those
points, he inquired kindly if I was lonely or discontented.
“Oh, no,” I answered,
heartily, hoping to place a barrier to any further
inquiries on that point.
“But you have been weeping,” said he,
in a subdued voice.
“Not because I am lonely,”
said I, resolved to have the truth out; “but
I fear I have wounded the feelings of your brother.”
“My brother!” he repeated.
“Ah! you have become acquainted with him?
He is bright and glittering like the sun; but be careful,
my child, be careful! Young birds should avoid
the glittering steel of the fowler. But youth
will seek its own experience,” he remarked, with
a deep sigh. “No friendly warning will
teach the young to beware of danger. But consider
me your friend, Miss Reef, and let me likewise be your
Without waiting for my reply, he hastily
left me and entered the house.
Four weeks elapsed ere Richard’s
return. During his absence Mr. Bristed showed
his sympathy for my lonely situation by many little
attentions; sending up to the school-room, now and
then, choice fruit from his hot-house, or a bouquet
of conservatory flowers, and, several times in the
early evening, he sent for me to read aloud to him.
I found him to be a quiet, polished
gentleman; and I grew to like him, and to look for
his tokens of kindness after my daily labors with growing
interest, and, if they came not, to feel disappointed
and unhappy. He had travelled much and could
talk well, and under the influence of a sympathetic
listener, his countenance lit up with kindly emotion,
and the sad lines of his face disappeared beneath
a happy smile.
But in the glowing midsummer his truant
brother returned, and my new-born interest vanished
like snow before the harvest sun.
Again Mr. Richard exerted his varied
powers to fascinate and amuse me. Again I listened,
and struggled, as formerly, against his wiles, and
finally bent a too willing ear to his soft words of
praise and admiration. With secret pleasure I
reveled in his ardent language, hugging to my heart
the belief that I was loved.
How that summer sped by on its golden
wings! Time passed on, as in some delicious opium
dream! And when the short clays and long nights
of the Christmas holidays set in, I found myself secretly
engaged in marriage to Richard Bristed.
Of our plans and attachment his brother
was not at present to be informed: this stern
brother who shut himself up apart from his species,
and who, Richard told me, was of too cold a nature
to sympathize with love.
“He will dismiss you, Agnes,
if he hears of it,” he said. “Wait
till I have settled up my affairs, and then he can
do his worst.”
I believed this statement; I forgot
all my former good impressions of Mr. Bristed, and
listened to the tales that were told me of how he had
wronged Richard. I learned to regard him as a
robber, a hypocrite whose statements could not be
relied on; a false, dark, bad man. As for Richard,
he seemed a king in comparison; a noble, magnanimous
being, whom some kind fairy had bestowed upon me.
But that cold, relentless Fate, which
comes to tear off the painted wrappings of life, revealing
the bare and ugly reality beneath, was fast pursuing
At the close of a cold, snowy day,
I had retired early to my room, and having locked
the door that I might be free from interruption, sat
down to look over the dainty articles of dress which
I had been shyly accumulating for my approaching marriage.
It was but a scanty outfit, but to
me it appeared munificent as that of a princess.
I could never weary of looking at these beautiful garments;
I placed them in one light, and then in another; I
folded and unfolded them, and finally ended by trying
them on, and admiring in the mirror their perfect
adaptation to my face and figure. A long time
must have passed in this way, when the hall clock
struck the hour of midnight. Astonished at the
lateness of the night, I threw down the laces and
ribbons which I was combining into some airy article
of dress, and was preparing to remove my bridal attire,
when I was amazed to hear a key turning in the lock
of my door. Fear and surprise nailed me to the
floor. The door glided softly open and in stepped
Mr. Richard Bristed! He seemed surprised to see
“What! up and dressed?”
he exclaimed, in a loud whisper. “O my beauty!
my wife! I have come to claim you to-night.
You shall be mine. No power on earth shall withhold
“How strangely you talk, Richard,”
said I. “You forget it is so late.
We cannot go to church at this hour.”
“Ah, dearest, this is church!
See, I have brought you this ring. We will stand
up before God and our own hearts, and I will marry
you here. We need no other witnesses than ourselves
and this ring!”
Though my youthful heart was blinded
by love and passion, I was not prepared for this.
Excitement and the strangeness of the proposition
overcame me, and I broke forth into sobs.
He endeavored to soothe me, urging
his request with a pleading force which I could scarcely
“I am not prepared, Richard,”
said I, drying my tears; “this is so sudden,
so unlooked for, I must have time for thought.”
But thought only revealed a gaping
abyss, from which I must fly.
He continued to urge his plea; but
seeing I would not yield, his countenance changed.
The sweet, seductive smile vanished. He grew white
as the moonbeam, and, clenching his hand and setting
his teeth, bent over me, whispering huskily:
“Agnes, I shall not step from
this room to-night. I have the key. You
have promised to be mine. You shall keep that
promise. To-night you shall keep that promise!”
If he was pale, I became paler.
A cold chill crept over me. But I took my resolution,
unyielding as death, not to grant his request.
A chasm seemed to yawn before me.
The loneliness and friendlessness of my position were
presented to my mind with terrific reality. A
deadly swoon-like feeling ensued. To yield in
this might seal my fate. I paced the floor rapidly,
praying for help.
Help came suddenly. As I passed
the door of my wardrobe, I remembered that the same
key unlocked this and the door of my apartment.
I drew it forth, and in the twinkling of an eye I
The cool air from the outside passage,
and the prospect of liberty, cooled my excited nerves,
and revived me for the work I had to accomplish.
“Richard,” said I, my
hand upon the latch, “you or I must leave.”
He made no reply, but violently rising
from his chair, grasped something that lay near him,
and tearing it to atoms, rushed by me without word
or look, and reaching the stairs, hastened out of
Mechanically I sat down, and with
sad, straining eyes surveyed the wreck before me.
My bridal wreath was shivered into fragments; its white
petals, like fruit blossoms caught in an untimely blast,
sprinkled the floor; my laces were in shreds like
the riven mast of some shipwrecked vessel.
Of course there was no sleep for me
that night. When worn out with thinking and weeping,
I drew a large easy chair up to the door and sat there
as guard, listening, with the hope which moment after
moment grew fainter, that he would return and whisper
in my willing ear a sweet demand for pardon, some
word in extenuation for his unseemly conduct; but
he came not.
Toward daybreak, I was aroused from
the lethargy into which I had fallen from sheer exhaustion
by the sound of excited voices and hurried movements
in the room below. As these subsided and the gray
morning broke, I was startled by the sound of a horse’s
hoofs on the graveled walk.
A fearful foreboding possessed me;
what could it mean? Somebody was riding away;
who was it? Through the gate and down the avenue
I heard the galloping steed.
I dragged my nerveless limbs to the
window and peered forth. Clear against the horizon,
now streaked with pale crimson rays of dawn, rising
in bold relief I beheld the receding figure of Richard
He was leaving me without word or
sign. My head reeled; I grasped the window casement
to steady myself, and sank insensible upon the floor.
I must have remained in this condition
some hours, for the sun was high in the heavens when
I opened my eyes and became conscious. Where was
I? Not in my own room, surely; the fragrance
of exotics did not penetrate my lattice; the simple
honeysuckle that twined around my window breathed
forth a different perfume from this. My heart
gave one glad leap. Oh, it is all a dream!
I thought; Richard’s galloping down the road,
and all the past night’s misery is a dream!
With this reflection a happy tranquillity was stealing
over me, when I heard a well-known voice exclaim:
“Look, Mary, attend her; she
has opened her eyes, thank God.”
It was Mr. Bristed’s voice,
and as he spoke Mary approached me, and bending over,
bathed my head with scented water. “Hope
you feel better, Miss,” said she.
“Have I been ill, Mary? Where am I?”
“In master’s library.”
Surely it was so. I was lying
upon a divan near the conservatory. Alas, I was
not dreaming! I sat up and looked drearily around,
and as I did so Mr. Bristed drew near with a beautiful
lily in his hand, which he offered to me. He
inquired kindly after my health and looked pleased
when I told him I felt quite strong. Indeed I
did feel strong for the moment, and arose determined
to leave the room.
“Sit still where are you going?”
he asked anxiously.
“Going to the school-room going to
see Herbert,” I replied.
“Herbert,” said he, and
his countenance darkened; “you cannot see Herbert,
he is ill.”
Not see Herbert, and he ill?
What could be the matter? He was well but yesterday.
Mr. Bristed’s strange manner,
coupled with Richard’s absence and the fearful
events of the night, seemed likely to turn my brain.
He saw my startled look of inquiry,
and said, “Be quiet awhile; I have something
of importance which I will communicate to you by-and-by,
when you are composed.”
“Mary,” he ordered, “ring
the bell for breakfast to be sent hither; meanwhile,
Miss Reef, while awaiting our coffee, if you will walk
with me in the conservatory I will take pleasure in
showing you my tropical curiosities.”
I followed him languidly with wandering
thoughts. Gradually, however, I grew interested
and listened with increased attention to his animated
description of the homes and haunts of the wonders
by which he was surrounded. He had visited many
climes, and gathered each strange flower and plant
he had seen in its native clime. He became eloquent
and genial as he described the strange habits and
peculiarities of his floral companions, which he seemed
to regard as a species of humanity; to him they were
not inanimate existences creations but
objects endowed with soul and sensation.
While we were thus conversing, Mary
announced that breakfast was ready, and I reluctantly
accompanied him to the library. He almost compelled
me to eat, selecting for me dainty morsels to tempt
Mr. Bristed evidently labored under
some mental disquiet, which he evinced by undue efforts
Breakfast being removed I sought to
withdraw from the room, but he requested me to remain,
and dismissing Mary, seated himself in an easy chair
next the ottoman on which I rested, and warming his
hands over the fire, his eyes bent upon the blaze,
said, with an abruptness that was natural to him:
“I am not accustomed to concern
myself about strangers, Miss Reef, but in you I have
felt a peculiar interest since the day we first met.
You will remember I warned you then that you were
too young for the responsibility which I foresaw awaited
you. I feared at that time that Richard, on seeing
so bright a flower, would endeavor to snatch it from
its stem. My fears have been realized; you see
I am acquainted with what has taken place, and now
the hour has come when you and I must part.”
“Oh no,” cried I gaspingly, “not
yet, not yet.”
“Miss Reef,” he demanded
solemnly, “why will you delay? I understand
what you would say; you desire to see Richard again,
but that can never be; you have looked your last upon
him in this life. I know his magnetic influence
over you; once again under that influence you are lost!”
I did not like what he said.
He overstepped the bounds of courtesy, I thought.
The warning which Richard had given me against him
revived in force and I recoiled from him, saying:
“Sir, your brother is my friend;
I can listen to nothing in his disfavor.”
He sighed, “Ah, Agnes, you are
but a child. The sun just rising above yonder
horizon must soon be darkened; I see the gathering
cloud and would warn you of the approaching storm.
Why will you turn from me when I desire to help you?”
His musical voice was so sympathetic
that it moved me deeply; but I shook my head and answered
passionately, “I cannot trust you. You wrong
him, and would compel me to wrong him too.”
“My child,” said he sadly,
“I had hoped to have saved you from further
anguish, but perhaps it is best that you should know
all. Come with me.”
He opened the door and led me to a
room on the opposite side of the hall. I knew
it to be the room where Herbert slept.
“Let us go in,” he whispered.
We entered softly: the apartment
was darkened, but a dainty crib which occupied the
centre of the floor could be dimly seen. As we
stepped in, his nurse, who was bending over the cot,
moved with hushed footsteps away to give us room.
There he lay, my dear, sick lamb!
I was so glad to be permitted to see him. But
the result of no ordinary sickness met my eye.
Great purple rings had settled around
his closed eyelids, his lips were blue, his sweet
mouth partly opened, he seemed to breathe with difficulty.
I could not speak. Mr. Bristed turned down the
coverlet from the little shoulders.
“Look, Miss Reef,” said
he hoarsely, his voice quivering with agitation, pointing
to some hideous marks on the little sufferer’s
throat “those are his finger
I sickened. What crime was this
that he hinted at so strangely? But the insinuation
was too incredible. The thought that he was working
on my credulity exasperated me.
“If you want me to leave your
house, Mr. Bristed, command me and I will go, but
you cannot force me to believe this horrid inference.”
He must have felt the disdain with
which I spurned him, for he turned upon his heel and
left the room.
I then spoke to Herbert. At the
sound of my voice he moved, and I seated myself by
his side. Quietness seemed desirable, and I was
not inclined to break it. Now and then I moistened
his lips with a little wine and water. Seeing
that I still sat by the crib, the nurse lay down upon
a settee and fell asleep.
Hours thus passed. The days were
short and twilight came on rapidly. Sitting there
in the gathering gloom, I began to hum inadvertently
a little song which Herbert loved me to sing to him.
Hearing my voice chant his favorite ditty, the poor
little creature stirred in his crib, and his pale
lips parted into a smile. Presently, in broken
tones he asked, “Is that Miss Reef?”
“Yes, Herbert, darling, I have
come to sing to you,” said I, mastering my emotions
and chirruping more loudly his beloved song.
The effect seemed truly magical he
endeavored to raise up his little body. “Oh
sing it again,” he cried.
“Would you like to sit upon my knee?”
He nodded assent, and I made an effort
to lift him up, but he was weak and heavy, and I not
sufficiently strong to sustain him. As he fell
back, my eyes caught sight again of those fearful
marks. Some power outside of myself forced me
to ask, “Herbert, what ails your throat; has
any one hurt you?”
At the question, a tremor fearful
to witness passed through his frame, and looking at
me with an expression of preternatural intelligence,
he whispered, “He tried to choke me.”
Stunned with horror at this again
repeated assertion, I sank down and buried my face
in my hands. I could think but one thought, and
that was a wish that I were dead!
But my nature would not permit me
at such a crisis to remain passive long. I must
arouse myself and act. Calling the nurse to take
my place, I went to seek Mr. Bristed. I found
him, as usual, in his library.
“Sir,” said I, “I
am calm now; will you not explain to me this frightful
mystery? I will listen and thank you.”
He placed a chair for me to be seated,
and taking my hand, said gently:
“Miss Reef Agnes,
you are too weak to hear this that you seek to know.”
“No, no,” I exclaimed,
vehemently; “I am not weak; I must know all.”
He arose and paced the floor hurriedly
for a few moments; then muttering, “It is best I
will tell her,” he said:
“You have been surprised, no
doubt, Agnes, at the frankness with which I have expressed
my opinion of Richard’s character let
me inform you that he and I are not brothers.
He is a half-brother, the offspring of my father’s
second marriage; though indeed I doubt if he have a
right to even that relationship. I have heard
dark hints thrown out that my father had been deceived,
and that this child who claimed to be his son should
look in a lower quarter for his father. Richard’s
mother was not a woman of high moral principle, and
he partakes of her nature. My father provided
for him well, but as I was the elder son the bulk of
his large property became mine by inheritance; but
Richard has always made the Hall his home when in
England indeed, he has a legal right during
his lifetime to the use of the room he occupies.
He has not, however, often availed himself of this
right since I have had his son Herbert under my protection.”
“His son Herbert?” I repeated, mechanically.
“Yes, poor child, his son; though
the boy has always been taught to call him uncle.
Neither Richard nor myself desire the relationship
to be known, and it is only in hope of serving you
that I reveal it.”
“Richard married?” I said, falteringly.
“Ah, Agnes, there are many women
whom he should never have seen, as he could not marry
them,” said he, with the slow determination of
a man resolved on uttering a repulsive truth.
Herbert’s mother was a beautiful but penniless
orphan of good family, who visited this house some
years since in the capacity of companion to our great-aunt.
“During that visit I became
enamoured with her, and we were secretly engaged in
marriage. It was before the death of my father,
and I was not my own master; but I loved her truly,
and meant well by her, only desiring her to wait till
I should be free to please myself. But Richard
stepped in between me and my happiness. He stole
this girl’s heart from me; gained her love as
he has endeavored to obtain yours, by flattery and
dissimulation you see I am not wily and smooth enough
to please women but also he destroyed her
peace under promise of marriage; leaving her soon
after and going abroad without acquainting her with
“I was temporarily from home
when this occurred. On returning in the course
of a month, Richard fled, as I have stated; but I was
ignorant then of the cause, and it was not till in
the agony of shame she came to me for help with her
secret, that I became aware of his perfidy.
“I need not tell you that I
gave her all the aid in my power; her child Herbert
was born and secretly cared for. When he was about
two years old, the great-aunt of whom I have spoken
died, leaving a large proportion of her property to
Alice, of whose misfortune she had never dreamed.
“Wealth came to the unfortunate
girl too late. The shock she had received from
Richard’s deceit had preyed upon her health,
and she was failing rapidly, when he, hearing of her
good fortune, returned home.
“With his specious address he
might have regained his old ascendancy over her had
I not interfered. You know well, Agnes, his peculiar
gift of fascination. I believe he could by some
unexplainable psychological process make any great
wrong appear right to a woman. But I induced her
to bequeath her wealth to Herbert, and secure it, for
a time at least, beyond Richard’s control and
he owes me a grudge for it.
“Herbert, she left under my
care, unless, of his own free will, he chose to reside
with Richard, who in that case was to become his guardian;
and in the event of Herbert’s death before reaching
his majority, the whole property was to revert to
Richard Bristed. You see she loved him still.
Unjust but womanlike, her love was stronger than her
“Well,” said he, after
eyeing me thoughtfully, “you listen as if you
did not rightly comprehend what I have been saying!”
I was indeed stunned by his communication.
Could it be, I thought, with suppressed fear, that
the shadowy figure which had haunted my bed-chamber
and had visited me in dreams was the same wronged Alice?
Had she arisen from her grave beneath the granite
of the church-yard to warn me? Or are the dead
jealous of their rights? Do they cling to their
earthly love? I queried. But when he spoke
I shook off these thoughts that were rising like mist
to obscure my judgment, and answered, “I
am. I am listening; proceed.”
“Agnes, through your influence
Richard has hoped to obtain possession of Herbert
and control over his fortune. He has thought to
entrap you as he did Alice, and through his power
over you has calculated to carry out the project of
his prolific brain.”
Till this moment I had listened silently
to his strange recital, but I could not brook this
insinuation. The story, to my mind, did not appear
clear. How could Richard expect to obtain, through
my agency, possession of a son whom he had never acknowledged?
Tis true I remembered him to have said that he feared
I would miss my pupil very much. He had asked
playfully what would Herbert do without me, but he
had not suggested taking the child away with us, and
therefore Mr. Bristed’s charge appeared to my
mind unfounded, and I told him so.
“Ah, my child!” he replied,
“you know not the devising power of this man.
He has an agent here in this place, in the shape of
old Crisp, the hunchback. It has been his plan,
under promise of marriage, to decoy you from this
house; he would probably have left his child to Crisp’s
good agency, with orders to join you. Herbert
loves you, and would have gone willingly in your company,
but alone with Richard he would not have moved one
step. Once out of my reach in some distant city,
he would have had the reins in his own hand.
It was by an unexpected, but I hope fortunate chance,
that I overheard a conversation to this effect between
him and the deformed servant. I could not ascertain
the day set for this adventure, but I surmised that
it was at no remote date, and I have kept alert.
You have avoided me, Miss Reef, and I have been obliged
to watch your movements distantly. Not from suspicion
of you, for I know you to be pure and honorable, but
because you are under my protection, and because” he
hesitated I wondered what was coming next.
I had a presentiment that he was about to make an
avowal which I ought to shun, but before I could evade
him he turned suddenly toward me, his face white with
emotion, and continued “I love you,
Agnes, though it is no time now to speak of my passion,
and have watched over you as a father, a brother,
a lover would watch.”
This announcement affected me more
than I care to confess, considering I did not return
his love, but it was the allusion to his sheltering
care that moved me.
“Yes, I have watched over you;
orphan that you are, you need some guardian care.
I knew by your frequent journeys to the village, by
your cloistering in your own apartment, and more than
all, by your speaking countenance, that you were preparing
for some great event in your life.
“Last night I could not sleep;
I laid my head upon my pillow, but finding it impossible
to close my eyes I arose and dressed. Sitting
by my window I thought I heard a commotion in your
room. I listened until my surmises grew into
certainty. The hour was midnight, and your door,
which at that season is usually closed like a cloister-gate,
swung on its hinges.
“This alarmed me; I unlocked
my door and looked out. Soon a hasty step retreating
from your chamber met my ear. Descending the stairs,
this untimely visitor entered the room where Herbert
lay sleeping. A strange suspicion came over me.
Can the intruder be Richard? I thought. If
so, what was he doing at that hour of the night?
I seized a lighted candle and rushed to the boy’s
apartment, and there I found Richard, maddened, and
beside himself with liquor and frenzy. I was just
in time to save Herbert’s life from his insane
“I know not what had occurred
between you and him, Agnes, but this I know, he had
failed in some diabolical plot he had contemplated.
Chance or a friendly Providence had thwarted his purpose.
I had him in my power, and compelled him to leave
the house, not to return until you have been removed
where he will never find you.
“I cannot leave my beautiful
bird, my pet dove, where the charms of this wily serpent
may ensnare her.”
He ceased. My eyes were dry,
my heart turned to stone. I arose, and mechanically
moved toward the door.
“Where are you going, Agnes?
Tell me of your plans; regard me as your friend, I
“Take me away take
me away,” I cried hysterically; “I must
go! Oh, oh, oh!” I should have fallen,
but he caught me in his arms.
On reviving came the dread feeling
that I must go. Go whither? I had no home.
I could not return to my uncle who had cast me adrift.
The inquisitive glance of his grim housekeeper would
annihilate me. But go I must, and that speedily.
With weary head and aching heart I
commenced packing my little wardrobe. My bridal
attire I hastily covered from sight that it might remain
until time and mildew should obliterate it. My
dream of love was past. I felt that my youth
and beauty were buried in that crushed pile of broken
flowers, pale silk, and dishevelled lace.
I had concluded my work, and was tying
my bonnet-strings, when a knock at the door announced
Mr. Bristed. He appeared surprised at seeing me
arranged for my journey.
“So soon, Agnes?” said
he. “You are not yet able to leave.”
But as I expressed very emphatically
my ability and determination to start immediately,
he saw expostulation would be useless.
“Well,” said he, “let
me hear where you contemplate going.”
I told him I should take the railway
or coach to some point, I cared not where; any distant
city or village from whence I could advertise for
another situation. I was too hopeless then to
care whither I went.
“And do you think I would permit
you to leave me thus at random, going, you know not
where, without any preconceived plans? Oh my poor,
poor child, to be thrown thus upon the world!”
He walked the floor several times,
apparently in great agitation; then, suddenly pausing,
said abruptly, almost violently, “It must not
be! Agnes, don’t go,” lowering his
voice, and placing his hand gently on my shoulder;
“stay with me become my wife.
I love you and will cherish you. No rude blast
that my arm can shield you from shall assail you.
My life has been one of gloom, you can render it one
of sunshine. Stay, dear one, oh, stay!”
and in his transport he seized my hands.
“What do you mean, Mr. Bristed?”
said I, recoiling from him. “Surely, you
must forget yourself and the circumstances which have
so recently occurred; you have accused me of loving
your brother, how, then, can I transfer my affections
to you? Oh, you are cruel, cruel!”
“Forgive me,” said he,
penitently; “I will do anything for you, Agnes take
you away, if you wish; only let me go with you and
see that you are properly cared for.”
I shook my head.
“Richard may seek to find you;
you may fall again into his evil hands if you insist
on going thus alone.”
“Mr. Bristed,” said I,
“thus far I have acted as you directed.
I will depart at your solicitation; but further than
this, I must be free. If Richard seeks me out,
and I can aid him, I will do so. Degraded and
fallen though he be, my love will not shrink from him.
I will help him to rise.”
“You are a noble woman, Agnes,”
he said with a sad smile, “God protect you!”
and he left me.
As he went out, I heard him order
the carriage. The serving-man came for my luggage,
and I summoned courage to pay a farewell visit to Herbert.
The poor little invalid became very
much excited at seeing me, and clung so tightly about
my neck that it was with effort I could leave.
I did not then inform him of my intended departure,
and with an aching heart and forced smile I parted
from the dear sufferer.
I met Mary in the hall; she told me
Mr. Bristed had ordered her to accompany me on my
I did not want her company, my mind
craved solitude; I would not have her. I sought
her master, and told him so. “At a time
like this I must be alone,” said I, excitedly;
“I want no spy upon my actions. I will go
wherever you wish me to go, but let me proceed alone.”
“Well,” said he, musingly,
“I desire but to serve you. Go to the town
of M., present this letter according to its directions.
You refuse my further aid, but if ever you need a
friend, send for me; otherwise, I will never trouble
I answered that I would do as he requested,
and with a heavy heart entered his carriage, which
was waiting to drive me to the railway station.
I will pass over my journey, and the
lonely, miserable days which succeeded my arrival
in M. I made fruitless effort to obtain service, and
waited and watched for an application in my dreary
lodgings until my small hoard of wages was nigh exhausted.
I had been in the city a fortnight,
broken in spirit and dejected by want of success,
when I happened to bethink me of the letter Mr. Bristed
had given me.
I took it from its undisturbed nook
in my trunk, and having read the superscription, set
about to find the party to whom it was addressed.
The direction led me to a large manufacturing establishment.
The gentleman to whom it was written
appeared to be a foreigner. Having presented
the epistle to him, he perused it hastily, then taking
my hand with great eagerness, he exclaimed:
“O Mees! I am greatly honored.
Mons. Bristeed is my very good friend; I well
acquaint with him in Paris. I congratulate you
on having one so grand a gentleman for your acquaintance.
He tell me you look for a school.”
“Yes, sir,” said I, glad
to find my tastes had been studied; “I do desire
“I will assist with pleasure,
Mees. Be seated; in a few moments I will accompany
I sat down, wondering whither the
gay, loquacious gentleman would lead me.
He soon rejoined me, hat in hand.
“Will you accept my escort,
Mees; the place is near by,” said he, reading
the note. “N B ,
street. Will you walk, or shall I call a cab?”
“I will walk,” I answered,
scarcely knowing what reply was expected. As
we turned the corner of the street I ventured to ask:
“Is it to some school you are guiding me?”
“Ah, Mees,” said he, rubbing
his hands together and laughing, “it is some
great secret. Mons. Bristeed would surprise
you. Have a leetle patience, and all will be
We walked rapidly for a space and
then paused before a handsome building.
Entering the courtyard, we rang the
silver bell. A servant answered our summons and
invited us in. Seated in the drawing-room, I heard
the buzz of many voices.
“Is it an academy?” I
whispered to Monsieur Pilot, my conductor. He
“This is a young ladies’ seminary, Mees.”
Before I could question further, the
room door opened, and a lady of tall, imposing figure
Monsieur Pilot commenced a vehement
conversation with her in French. She responded
in the same tongue. The dialogue ended, he turned
to me and said:
“Mees Reef, permit me to introduce
you to Madame Fontenelle.”
Madame smiled very graciously upon
me, and then recommenced the gesticulation and babble
of the two. At length she appeared satisfied
with the understanding at which they arrived.
I was growing uneasy at their prolonged volubility,
when Monsieur Pilot pirouetted up to me, and said:
“Mees Reef, I beg to congratulate
you. Madame consents to transfer this mansion
into your hands, She accepts our recommendation and
that of your own intelligent countenance. Mons.
Bristeed was not mistaken in the impression you would
make. I wish you joy in having become the proprietress
of this splendid institution.”
“How,” I cried in astonishment;
“I proprietor? I do not understand.
Madame looked blandly on; my remarks
were evidently unintelligible to her.
“It is a very onerous and responsible
position, Mademoiselle” shrugging
her shoulders “I should not like to
advise you. Do you comprehend the extent of the
undertaking? I should not be willing to trust
my pupils in timid hands.”
Her remarks stung me, and gave, I
presume, the favorable turn to my destiny, for I felt
the power to undertake a task which I would before
have shrunk from.
“I will do my duty in all cases
to the best of my ability, madame!” was
my brief reply.
“Ah, you do not comprehend,
Madame,” said Monsieur Pilot, coming briskly
to the rescue. “This is a surprise to Mees
Reef. My very good friend Monsieur Bristeed has
not apprised the young lady of his bounty. I have
his commission to purchase for her this establishment,
which he is aware you desire to dispose of, Madame.
His recommendation of the young lady is surely sufficient.”
“The whole establishment?”
I asked, with an effort at composure.
“Yes,” replied Madame.
“I am obliged to start for the West Indies, and
must dispose of all. The present instructors are
thoroughly competent for their various positions;
they merely need a supervisor. You appear young,
but I presume experience has fitted you for the office.”
“Eminently so, eminently,”
answered Monsieur Pilot promptly, as if he had been
guardian of my reputation for years. “We
will consider the arrangements as complete, my clear
Madame. I will call tomorrow and close the transaction.
Bon jour, Madame.”
And with rapid strides he hurried me away.
The school became mine. By vigilance
and perseverance, I not only retained the pupils Madame
had transmitted to my care, but added many thereto.
Monsieur Pilot, lively and friendly,
visited me frequently. I liked the little Frenchman;
his gaiety served to divert my mind from reflections
on the past, which like spectres would sometimes stalk
grimly before me when unoccupied, I sought the quiet
of my own chamber.
With my increasing success, my pupils’
interest fully occupied every moment of my time.
Meantime, not a line or word reached me from Bristed
Hall. Upon my installment as proprietor of Madame’s
seminary, I had written to Mr. Bristed, thanking him
for his kindness, and informing him that I should
take measures to repay the expenditures he had incurred
in my behalf, by placing quarterly in the hands of
Monsieur Pilot a sum such as I could spare from my
income, by means of which I hoped in time to repay
my external indebtedness.
The only reply I received to this
letter was a peremptory refusal, sent through Monsieur
Pilot, to accept any return.
I had been more than a year in my
new home. Constant employment had developed my
mind, and I flattered myself on having acquired a wisdom
and sedateness such as ten years of quiet experience
could not have given me. But of this I was lamentably
Of my silly yielding to circumstances
which follow, the reader must not judge too harshly.
I was still but an immature woman, not yet twenty;
the glamour of youth still hung over me. I craved
human love, and took the first that presented itself,
just as any other ardent, imaginative girl in my place
would have done.
One night late in autumn, when the
sharp winds were already giving signals of the coming
winter, of leafless trees and frozen ground, feeling
the usual sadness which accompanies this season of
the year, I walked out upon the piazza in front of
the house, looking down upon the street. I thought
the keen air would put my blood in more active circulation,
and thus dispel from my mind the brown and yellow fancies
that filled it as the dying leaves of October strewed
My pupils had all retired to their
rooms, and relieved of my charge, my thoughts were
free to recreate. I walked quickly back and forth,
drawing in long draughts of the invigorating air,
and reviewing the morning’s duties. While
thus engaged, my attention was arrested by the appearance
of a tall man on the opposite side of the street, standing
still and watching me. As he caught my startled
gaze he lifted his hat and bowed, and before I had
time to reflect on his strange proceedings, had crossed
the street and was standing on the pavement below.
My God, he called me by name!
My blood became like ice. Shaking from head to
foot I covered my eyes with my hands, and would have
run in, but the whistling wind brought the cry again:
“Agnes! Let me speak with you.”
Quick as the words were uttered the
dark figure mounted the stone steps, only the little
iron railing of the balcony dividing us.
I knew then who it was.
“Will you open the door, or
shall I?” said a voice which I remembered too
I saw no alternative, without disturbing
the neighborhood and betraying myself; so, like a
criminal, I stepped softly to the hall and unlocked
the door. He came in with a light, free step,
and seated himself upon a couch with the ease of an
old friend and accomplished gentleman. It was
I will not detail what passed at this
interview. But I fell again under his fascination;
his magnetic presence lulled my faculties, and, alas,
I must relate that this nocturnal intrusion was followed
quickly by others!
He assumed his old ascendancy over
me. The past became like an unpleasant dream
in my mind, dimly remembered, but never distinctly
Occasionally, however, a sharp doubt
obtruded itself, and roused me for an instant.
One evening I ventured to ask:
“Richard, why are your visits
so brief, and made only in the night?”
“Why?” he repeated, as
if startled by the suddenness of the question, then
adding carelessly: “Because you always have
that deuced old fellow, Monsieur Pilot, running here.
I am not very jealous, yet it would torment me to
meet one who dares raise his thoughts to my Agnes.
He wants to marry you. Do dismiss him!”
This conjecture proved true, and I
was obliged to give a cold rebuff to the man who had
befriended me. It is possible Richard Bristed
did not care to be recognized by his brother’s
agent, but I did not think of this at that time.
After this affair happened Richard
visited me more openly, and my pupils, when by chance
they met him, were charmed with the stranger.
He was only known as “Mr. Richard.”
“Call me that, Agnes, I hate the name of Bristed.
Introduce me to your friends as Mr. Richard,”
he said, and I had done so.
About this time he explained satisfactorily,
to my credulous mind, the cause of his sudden retreat
from Bristed Hall, and gave me reason to believe that
the statements his brother had made concerning him
were untrue and evil in design.
“My brother, as you have surely
discovered, Agnes, is a cold, proud man, and as I
was not his equal in wealth or position he selected
an heiress, both old and disagreeable, whom he designed
me to marry. Your youth and beauty he intended
to appropriate to himself. I feared if I made
him acquainted with my purpose to unite myself to
you he would frustrate all my wishes, and when I discovered
that he knew of my plans, I determined to forestall
him by making you my wife that very night. I intended
to have gone through the form of marriage, which the
next day could have been legalized, for I feared the
influence of his wealth and position upon your unsophisticated
“However, you refused to trust
me, and I left your room maddened by anger and the
fear of losing you.
“I met my brother in the hall-way;
he said Herbert was ill, and I accused him of trying
to injure the boy that he might defraud me. Sharp
words passed between us. I left him, and in blind
haste mounted my horse, thinking I would ride over
to N., a distance of some twenty miles, to get the
clergyman of the parish, an intimate friend of mine,
to drive with me to the Hall and perform the important
“The ride I accomplished in
a few hours, but I found my friend absent from home.
The excitement and disappointment, added to the severe
cold to which I was exposed, broke me down, and I
was taken suddenly ill. When I recovered, I returned
to Bristed Hall only to find my priceless bird flown,
and no clue to be had to her whereabouts.
“As to the tale about Herbert,
that is all a ruse; he is not my son, and only
distantly connected with either of us. He is heir
to a considerable estate, and Mr. Bristed is managing
so that upon Herbert’s decease (and poor child,
he cannot live long) the inheritance will fall to
Such was his version of the story,
and as I loved him I believed it willingly.
In his gay society the winter passed
quickly. With the opening spring he departed on
business, as he said. I felt his loss, but as
it was a busy time with me it did not affect me as
it otherwise would have done. Many changes were
being made in my seminary. I was obliged to employ
workmen to add new dormitories to the great house,
for pupils were crowding in from every point.
The reputation of the school was growing;
I was immersed in business. Some months elapsed;
I ceased to hear from Richard, almost to think of
him, amid the activity of the spring term.
say, “are the Devil,” and I almost believe
that saying. While employed I was happy, my mind
well balanced and energetic; but unfortunately for
me, summer vacation drew near. It came finally;
a sultry sun, parched earth, and scorched verdure
made life in the city undesirable. My pupils
fled to the country and to their homes until the fall
session, and I was left alone. Even my servants
were absent, all save one.
Shut up in the empty mansion alone
with my own thoughts, I was growing morbidly lonesome.
It was at this unpropitious moment
that Richard Bristed returned.
He arranged quiet strolls to the country little
excursions here and there with himself as my sole
companion and many sweet happy days of
unsullied pleasure I passed in his society.
One sultry morning, to my delight,
he came in an open carriage, saying that the atmosphere
was so heated he would drive me out of town to a charming
little village with which he was familiar.
The prospect of such a jaunt was to
me indeed agreeable; and as he liked to see me in
becoming dress, I arrayed myself in white, placed a
fillet of pale blue ribbon round my hair and a bouquet
of blue forget-me-nots in the bosom of my dress, and
thus adorned set forth, sitting by Richard’s
I was as happy as a young queen; all
the black suspicions which had darkened my horizon
were absorbed in the fierce heat of that summer morning.
His beauty, his fascinating smile, his lively conversation,
filled me with rapture.
Arrived at the village, we stopped
at a small but pretty tavern and alighted. While
I entered the dwelling Richard drove his horses under
shelter. He soon joined me, looking much disconcerted.
“Agnes, my darling, what shall
we do? We cannot ride back to-night; the carriage
is out of order, and I fear the horse is injured by
the heat and rapid driving.”
“O Richard, I must return home
to-night!” I answered decidedly.
“Well, I will see what can be
done, but we will rest awhile and take some refreshments.”
A delightful half hour passed while
we were regaling ourselves with country fare and looking
at the strange place from the window of the little
inn. Then Richard proposed that we should walk
out while waiting for repairs to our vehicle.
Together we strolled through the quiet lanes and open
commons till we came upon a pretty, unpretending church,
half hidden in ivy and creeping vines. The door
stood open. “Come,” said he, “let
us go in.” I followed him in. To my
surprise I discovered a clergyman in his robes at
the altar. Richard whispered in my ear some words
which I could not understand and their import I could
only guess at, but his tender manner brought the hot
blood to my face.
“Agnes,” he continued,
speaking with quiet determination; “you must
be mine; everything is in readiness. We cannot
return to-night; Fate ordains it!”
It did appear to me that Fate, as
he said, ordained the events which followed that country
drive. All the love and sentiment of my nature
was aroused; but reason told my intoxicated senses
that I must not act without forethought, so I shook
my head to his passionate urgency and endeavored to
withdraw. But my companion pressed me gently back
into an open pew, and hastened past me up the aisle.
A rapid conversation then took place
between himself and the clergyman, who, after casting
his eyes in my direction, went to his desk and took
up his prayer-book.
Richard returned with quick steps to where I was sitting.
“Come,” said he, smiling; “he is
Startled and trembling, I made no
answer save an effort to reach the door.
“For heaven’s sake, Agnes,
do not make a scene! Recover your usual good
sense. Do you not see that it is best?”
whispered Richard, with earnestness almost fierce.
And so hurried, flushed and doubting,
overcome with heat and excitement, I permitted myself
to be led to the altar.
The ceremony soon ended. As the
clerk shut his book and we turned to depart, I could
not realize that this abrupt, informal marriage was
a reality. As I passed down the aisle, a white,
fluttering, impalpable, and yet clearly-defined form
arose from one of the empty seats, and unobstructed
by carved wood or heavy upholstery, passed out through
frame and plaster! The slight figure, the golden
hair, I remembered too well it was that
of the ghost of Bristed Hall!
I clenched Richard’s arm so
that he muttered an oath, and said sharply, “My
God, Agnes, what are you doing?”
“Did you not see that figure?
It passed straight through the wall,” I whispered
“Move on none of
your d d nonsense, Agnes,” said Richard,
scowling; then hastily adding, “Excuse me, love,
you confuse me. My happiness makes me forget
My mind surged with conflicting emotions.
I felt a secret joy in the knowledge that I was united
to the man I loved. This romantic, half run-away
match pleased the romance of my nature, and yet I was
unable to resist the feeling that I had done wrong.
A strange foreboding of evil intruded upon my joy.
Richard that evening was gay almost
to wildness. “O Agnes! Agnes! we have
outwitted them, the fools! They thought they had
conquered me, but you are mine, and I have won!”
He talked so disconnectedly, I thought
he had taken too much wine. Indeed, to this he
“I could drink flask after flask
of it, I am so happy!” he exclaimed.
We were happy that night and drove
home in the cool of the morning.
It was arranged that our marriage
should for the present be kept private, as Richard
thought if it were known it might disorganize my school.
We had been wedded but two weeks when
one morning Richard asked me to show him my deed of
“How strange,” said he,
as he looked it over. “Do you know, Agnes,
before I wedded you I might have married many a woman
of wealth, but I would not unite myself with a lady
who would not honor me by giving me sole control of
all her possessions.”
“Well, Richard,” answered
I, laughing, “you can control mine if you like.
It matters little to me who holds the deed, so long
as my dominion over the young ladies is not invaded.”
“That is what I expected of
your, loving nature, Agnes, and yet I suppose you
would hesitate to convey your property to me.”
“No; why should I?” I
exclaimed. “I will go with you to an attorney
this moment, if you desire it.”
“Well, come, we shall see; get
your bonnet,” said he gaily.
I tied on my bonnet, and accompanied
him down the street into a little dingy office in
a narrow thoroughfare.
At the door, laying his hand upon
my shoulder, he said jokingly:
“Agnes, go back, I was only
trying you; I wanted to see if you meant what you
“Of course I meant it, and I
will not go back till it is done.”
“Well, well, you must have your
own way, I see!” and with a gay, exulting smile
he led me into the office.
I signed the paper giving to him the
house and lands, and was glad when it was done, for
I felt that it might atone for any suspicion or doubt
of his goodness which had crossed my mind, for he
had made me very happy since our marriage.
I returned to my school and its duties.
In the interval between the recitations, I had time
to reflect. I had acted impulsively, and perhaps
unfairly. What right had I to give away a property
given to me for an especial purpose?
Had I done right? That was the
question which annoyed me the question
which constantly thrust itself before me during the
live-long day. My sleep that night was disturbed.
The form of the elder Mr. Bristed appeared in my dreams.
He seemed to reproach me by his looks, and when I
endeavored to speak to him, vanished from my sight.
Richard had left me after my signing
the paper. He told me he was obliged to leave
town on business, and I had no one to council with.
My own thoughts startled me; I became nervous, and
finally quite ill.
At length, after two days of unrest
and self-condemnation, I quieted myself with the assurance
that I would go to the Hall and see Mr. Bristed; then
also I could see dear Herbert, to whom my heart went
often out with longing. His name was never mentioned
between Richard and myself. I avoided the subject;
a dread which I could not overcome forbade me to speak
of it. But now a strange, irrepressible desire
to see the child filled my mind.
Yielding to this intense feeling,
I arranged my affairs, and taking a coach, set off
early in the morning for the train which would convey
me to Bristed Hall. To my astonishment I met
Richard at the depot. Overwhelmed with surprise
at the encounter, and ashamed to confess my intended
journey, I made some petty excuse for being there,
and returned home again. Richard handed me into
the cab, but excused himself from accompanying me
as he had a friend awaiting him.
That day, after luncheon, taking me
aside he informed me that a noble lord had placed
in his charge a lad who was partially idiotic and sole
heir to an immense estate; that it was necessary he
should have at his disposal a room in the upper part
of the building in which he could keep him from observation,
as it had been discovered the sight of strangers increased
the boy’s malady, and perfect seclusion would
be the only means of restoring him to reason.
I immediately directed a servant to
put in order one of the rooms in a remote portion
of the dwelling; this was done, and towards dusk Richard,
who had left the house, returned in a handsome coach
with the poor, helpless, deranged boy. From the
window I saw them alight. A slight, tall figure,
wrapped in a cloak, descended from the coach.
This undoubtedly was the afflicted youth. He
walked so feebly I should have hastened to his assistance,
but Richard’s command that I should not permit
him to see strange faces withheld me.
However, I stood in the partly opened
door, hoping I should be called. As the muffled
figure passed me on the way up the staircase I vainly
sought to catch a glimpse of the youth’s face,
but he turned neither to the right nor left.
Richard, however, saw me and shook
his head, indicating with an angry, peremptory gesture,
that I should withdraw.
For days I felt a strange curiosity
about this youth, but as Richard gave my inquisitiveness
no food, and conducted his attentions to his charge
in an orderly, business-like manner, I dismissed the
subject from my mind.
Nothing new transpired the remainder
of those autumn days. November was now close
upon us. About this time I remarked a sudden falling
off of my hitherto prosperous school. Determined
to know the cause, I inquired of one of my assistants,
in whom I confided, if she was aware of the cause
of this decline. She hesitated to reply to my
question, but when pressed for her opinion she informed
me that my pupils were dissatisfied with my relations
with Mr. Richard, and also with his conduct respecting
the youth who had been imprisoned on the upper floor.
They asserted they had heard groans proceeding from
the room he occupied, and feared to remain in a house
where mystery and secrecy were rife.
I was astonished and alarmed at this
information. You, reader, will be surprised to
learn that I was at that time more ignorant of events
that transpired around me than my own pupils.
But I was not of a suspicious nature, and happy in
my new life of love, the few weeks that had elapsed
since my marriage passed as in a delicious dream.
But now I was thoroughly aroused and
ready to return to duty. I thanked the teacher
for her information and then dismissed her, as I wished
to be alone.
When left to the quiet of my own thoughts
I reflected how best to proceed in the matter.
Richard was not at home, I could not question him,
and he had the key of his ward’s room with him.
I finally concluded I would go to
the door of this private room and listen if I could
detect any unusual noise from within.
With trepidation I ascended the back
staircase leading to the secluded apartment.
Near the door I paused against the
alcove of the great window that lighted the hall,
and looked out. The sky was dull and leaden; a
scanty snow was falling, and the wind, blowing furiously,
drove it hither and yon. I stood for some moments
looking out upon the gloomy prospect so in accordance
with my state of mind. Suddenly I caught a glimpse
of Richard crossing the street. I started when
I saw him and was about to retreat, when a thought
arrested me. Why should I hurry away? Was
I afraid of Richard? Was he not the proper person
to consult in my dilemma? I would let him know
that I desired to enter the room!
So thinking, I approached the door
and tried it. It was locked, but at the sound
of the turning knob a sad, dreary moan arose from within a
cry of mingled fear and weakness. The sound of
that moaning voice seemed familiar to my ear.
What could it mean?
As I stood thus in suspense, listening
for further development of the mystery, I heard a
step close beside me. I turned, and discovered
Richard. His fair, handsome face scowled at me
fiendishly; his countenance seemed transformed; his
eyes gleamed like those of a panther.
“What are you doing here?”
said he, laying a heavy hand upon me and speaking
through his set teeth. “Go down stairs!”
and he pushed me from him violently.
I suppose his physical power and angry
mood awed me, for I forgot my determination to solve
the mystery forgot my own rights, and hurried
precipitately down the stairs.
With my mind filled with dreadful
forebodings, I reached my own private chamber, entered
it, and bolted the door, that I might consider, undisturbed,
the best course of action to pursue under these fearful
suspicions that haunted me. Hour after hour passed
as I sat thus absorbed in thought which seemed to
turn my very hair gray from its intensity.
I heard Richard descend the stairs
and go out into the street. Not long; after this
the door-bell rang violently and the servant knocked
at my door to say that a gentleman in the drawing-room
wished to see me. Smoothing my hair and arranging
my toilet, I obeyed the summons, but started back
on discovering the stranger to be no other than Mr.
Bristed. He pressed my hands and said:
“Agnes, can I converse with
you in private here a few moments?”
My first surprise over, I answered,
“Come with me; we will not be disturbed here.”
Withdrawing to a small room adjoining, he drew forward
an ottoman and seating himself beside me, said:
“Agnes, Herbert is missing;
can you tell me where I can find him?”
“Herbert missing!” said I with a shudder.
“Yes,” said he, “I
have heard, Agnes, that a gentleman visits you whom
I surmise to be my brother, and, if so, I thought
perhaps you would know through him of Herbert’s
place of hiding.”
“Has Herbert left you?”
said I. “Tell me what do you
mean, Mr. Bristed?”
“Yes,” said he; “some
few weeks since, I left the Hall to visit an old friend.
I expected to be absent a fortnight. While I was
gone Herbert disappeared, the servants knew not how
nor where. At first, hoping to discover that
he had strayed off of his own accord and would soon
be found, they searched the country in every direction,
but in vain. They were at last obliged to send
me word of his disappearance. You can imagine
my sensations on arriving at the Hall and finding the
dear child’s room vacant. I made inquiries
in every quarter, sent couriers out in all parts of
the neighboring country, but no trace of him could
“I at length thought of you,
that you might have seen or heard of my brother.
He is the one person likely to be concerned in the
singular disappearance of Herbert.”
I trembled from head to foot.
What could I say? Evidently he was not aware
of my marriage with his brother. How should I
act? Richard might come in at any moment and
discover himself. I recollected him to have incidentally
mentioned that the following day he had an engagement
at the race-course with a friend; I therefore said
“Mr. Bristed, I have seen Richard
recently, but tonight can tell you nothing further.
If you will call to-morrow morning at eleven, I will
tell you all I know.”
He seized my hand, exclaiming, “Tell
me to-night, Agnes, and set my mind at ease.”
My head seemed on fire I groaned audibly.
“I can tell you nothing of a
certainty. It is all surmise, and my brain is
distracted to-night. Give me till to-morrow.”
“I will, Agnes; I feel that I can confide in
“Now go,” I replied.
“My position is such that your presence here
will only destroy the purpose of your visit.”
He clasped my hand in his and left me.
The next morning before leaving for
the racecourse, while adjusting his neck-tie, Richard
“I fear we shall lose our imbecile
pupil up-stairs, Ag. I brought a doctor in to
see him last night, and he says he cannot live long.”
I could not see his face, for he looked
“If he is ill, I must see him,
Richard,” I managed to reply.
“Oh, no!” said he; “I
thought you were foolishly scared to hear him groan
yesterday, but if he does not get better I will send
him home to his friends.” This he said
carelessly, as he walked out of the room humming a
How coolly he talks about the lad!
thought I, half ashamed of my suspicions. Perhaps
I have wronged him. I have been too impetuous
in my surmises.
The time drew near for his brother’s
arrival. He was prompt to the hour.
“Well, Agnes,” said he,
“I have passed a sleepless night. I hope
you will relieve my mind of its anxiety.”
“Mr. Bristed,” said I,
covering my eyes with my hand, for I could not endure
his eager gaze, “I must first tell you I am married
to your brother Richard.”
“Married to Richard!”
he exclaimed, starting up violently agitated; and
seizing my shoulder with nervous gripe he set me off
from him at arm’s length “You
married to Richard! why, Agnes, that cannot be; has
he not a wife now living in France? But be calm,
child,” said he, “be calm,” patting
me gently on the head; “perhaps I am misinformed;
we will talk of this hereafter. Now about Herbert.
Tell me what you know.”
This question recalled me. I
then informed him of the idiotic pupil who had been
received in the house about a fortnight since, and
how my suspicions as to his identity had been aroused
the day previous.
He could scarcely wait till I had
finished my account. “Come, quick! come!
show me the way to the room!”
I led him up the stairs in the direction
of the suspected chamber. As we neared the door
a low moan could be heard distinctly.
“O my God, it is Herbert!”
he exclaimed. “Quick, where is the key?”
“I have no key you
must pry the lock open.” No sooner said
than done he burst open the door and entered.
I followed. Alas! our surmises proved too true!
There upon the couch lay the wasted form of poor Herbert.
As he recognized us his wan face lighted
up with an angelic smile, and he endeavored to raise
himself at our coming, but he was too weak, and his
head sank nerveless back upon the pillow.
Silently and hushed, as in the chamber
of death, we stepped to his bedside. He held
out his thin hand to his uncle, who clasped it between
his own, and, kneeling by his couch, bowed his head
and sobbed aloud. His first moments of bitter
grief subsiding, he said to me, “Send for some
wine.” Then, stroking the child’s
fair forehead, he groaned, “O Herbert, Herbert,
have I found you at last, sick and alone!”
Herbert attempted to reply, but his
voice was weak and faint; we could not distinguish
his words. A servant brought the wine, and I moistened
his colorless lips with it. How I felt, it is
useless to describe. Words would fail to express
The rich, warm juice of the grape
and the application of stimulants seemed to restore
him to life. His first effort on recovering was
to call me by name. I answered by bending over
him and bathing his pale forehead. At this he
smiled, pleased and happy.
“Now, Herbert, my poor boy,”
said Mr. Bristed, “if it will not fatigue you
too much to talk, tell us how you came here. Who
brought you? Why did you leave Bristed Hall?”
“Uncle Richard brought me,”
said he, heaving a melancholy sigh. “He
came after you had gone, uncle, and told me that Agnes
Reef was sick and going to die, and wanted to see
me and you, and that if you were home you would let
me go, because you loved her; and I thought so too.
He gave me this ring which Agnes sent so I would know
it was her.” And, saying this, he held
up a thin, transparent hand, and there, indeed, upon
it gleamed one of my rings, so loose that the wasted
fingers could scarce retain it.
“My ring! So Richard gave
you that,” said I, with scorn I could not conceal,
even in the sick chamber.
“Yes,” he murmured, “and
he told me he would bring me straight back before
uncle got home, and he brought me here into this room,
but Agnes was not here. I could not find her.
Then he locked the door and would not let me out,
and I have been hungry and cold. And when I cried,
he would kick me, and that made me sick, I think.
Do take me home, uncle, before he comes, and I will
never go away again!”
During this recital Mr. Bristed and
I exchanged glances of horror. We could not speak.
When it was finished, he said:
“Agnes, order the coach.
I must take him away from this place.”
I felt that the boy was too feeble
to move, but I dared not suggest it. I too wanted
him removed from the baneful influences of the house.
We proposed to carry him down on the pallet, and thus
convey him to the carriage. One hour or more
elapsed before everything was in readiness. While
we were moving him Richard appeared, unannounced.
A wild, unearthly scream from Herbert first gave notice
of his arrival.
“O uncle! Miss Reef! save me! He will
beat me to death!”
His uncle endeavored to calm him with
his assurance of protection, and, turning to Richard,
in a voice husky with emotion said:
“Look, this, is your work!
If there is a God ruling the universe, your punishment,
though tardy, must be sure.”
“I see nothing strange about
it,” said Richard, with an assumption of indifference
which made his handsome face look to me at that moment
like that of a Judas. “If he is my child,
as you say, why should he not be here? Who has
a better right to him than I? The little imp professes
to dislike me, but that is some of your teaching,
and I will soon cure him of it.”
“You cannot have him, Richard. He must
go with me.”
“I know my rights, and I will
use them,” he replied, excitedly. “Move
that boy at your peril;” and he clapped his hand
upon his silver-mounted pocket-pistol. He had
evidently been drinking. His day at the race-course
had maddened him. He was in a dangerous mood to
oppose. This Mr. Bristed evidently saw, as I
did, for he beckoned me to go out for assistance.
As I was moving toward the door for that purpose,
Richard’s eye lit upon me.
“Ah, ha!” shouted he,
coming toward me. “So you are the one who
has been prying into my affairs. It is you I
must thank for this interference. Out of this
room directly! Get you gone!”
I should have obeyed, but a sound
from Herbert’s bed arrested me a sound
that awed me more than the angry voice of Richard!
I hurried to the bedside. Mr. Bristed was there
before me. I looked at the sinking boy. A
stronger hand than his father’s grasped him now.
That hand was Death’s!
No need now to remove the little sufferer
from his couch to the carriage in waiting. He
would be borne soon by the white-robed angels from
the reach of us all!
Even Richard, whose cruel grasp he
had eluded, seemed awed as the little spirit burst
from its tenement, and a transcendent smile settled
on the thin, waxen face, and the white hands folded
themselves across the breast with an air of unutterable
Early the next morning Mr. Bristed
accompanied the lifeless body of little Herbert to
Bristed Hall. He begged me to go with him, but
I refused his solicitations. I had other duties
before me, which I must perform. I should have
been glad to have rid myself from every one, but that
could not be. Richard did not return, and I was
alone; the days dragged heavily away. I felt
that I stood on the brink of a yawning chasm from
which I could turn neither to the right nor the left.
The thought of remaining with Richard was abhorrent,
and the prospect of leaving him and commencing life
anew was also a dreadful alternative.
What shall I do? I reflected,
as I went my weary way through the classes. Richard
solved that question for me when he returned after
an absence of three days.
My pupils had just retired when a
message came that he had returned and desired to see
me in the library. With a heavy heart I went to
meet him. He was not alone. A tall, passionate-looking
woman, with dark hair and restless eyes, sat beside
him. She was richly appareled, and gazed at me
with a haughty stare as I entered.
Richard nodded to me a bare recognition
and said, “I have sent for you, as I wish you
to inform your pupils that they must leave in the morning.
I have other uses for this building.”
At this cool announcement I staggered.
Good God! would he undo me? What plan had he
now in view? “Remove my pupils!” I
“Yes; do I not speak clearly?
And as you have been plotting and scheming for some
time against me, I would advise you to leave, also.
Bristed Hall,” said he sneeringly, “is
likely to prove an agreeable shelter to you.”
“I leave!” said
I, now fairly awake to the danger. “What
do you mean, sir?”
“I mean,” he replied with
diabolical blandness, “that this lady is my
wife, and will from this time take charge of this establishment.”
“Richard Bristed, you cannot,
dare not make that assertion! I am your wife,
though I acknowledge it with shame and sorrow.
He has misled you, madam,” said I, turning to
the lady. “You are mistaken if you suppose
I shall abandon my rights.”
“Ha, ha!” he laughed,
“she knows all about you. You cannot
enlighten her, so you had better hasten and pack your
“I shall not leave, sir; I shall
defend my position here. I am a woman, and you
shall not sully my fair name,” said I, maddened
by his manner. “Your brother will help
me the law will aid me. Here I remain!”
“You will?” said he; “we
will see. This house is mine,” and he drew
out his pistol with which to frighten me.
“Richard,” said I, hoping
to restore him to calmness, “put up that pistol.
You cannot, dare not use it.”
“Dare not!” he exclaimed,
coming up to me, his hot breath smelling of wine;
“I will show you if I dare not!”
I was alarmed as he suddenly cocked
the weapon. What might he not do in his drunken
“She is a coward, Dick,”
said the lady. “Don’t trouble yourself
about her,” and then turning to me and stamping
her foot, “How dare you say you are his wife!”
she exclaimed. “Go out from here!”
I shook from head to foot, but did not leave.
“Come, Dick, give me the pistol,”
said the lady; “You don’t know what you
might do with it.”
“Don’t meddle with me,”
said he, as she attempted to wrest it from his grasp.
“Why does that girl stand glowering at me?”
“O Richard,” I sobbed,
“my heart is ready to burst! Don’t
act so; remember Herbert!”
“Remember Herbert!” he
muttered; “I do remember him. You killed
him with your pranks, and now you would accuse me.
Go, leave my house, or I will compel you.”
I believe he would have fired upon
me at that moment, but the lady sprang forward and
caught his arm. A slight struggle ensued, then
followed a sharp report, and the pistol fell to the
ground; a fearful shriek rent the air, and Richard
fell heavily to the floor, covered with blood.
I rushed to help him. He raised his glassy eyes
to mine, and faintly murmuring “My God!
I am lost!” expired.
The shock was too much for me.
I was seized with fearful dizziness. The objects
in the room became black before my eyes, and I fell
to the floor beside the bleeding corpse, insensible.
Convulsions, I was afterwards told,
followed this swoon. A raging fever attacked
me, and for weeks my life was despaired of. At
length the crisis passed; my youthful constitution
conquered the disease, and I was again restored to
the world in which I had experienced so much joy and
so much misery.
One morning the delicious feeling
of returning consciousness revived me. Where
was I? The room looked familiar, yet strange.
Surely I had seen that silken coverlet before!
The carved footboard of the bed on which I was lying
was not new to my sight. My weak brain was busy
with conjectures, when a woman approached, carrying
a glass and spoon. It was Mary, the housekeeper
of Bristed Hall.
“Why, Mary, are you here?” I asked in
“Yes, Miss, but you must not
talk. Take these drops. I am heartily glad
you are better, Miss.”
A sense of rest and peace stole over
me, followed by a few hours of natural sleep.
On opening my eyes from this refreshing
slumber, I found Mary still sitting near me.
“Mary,” said I, “you
must tell me where I am; everything here looks so
natural, and yet as if I were in a dream.”
“You are not dreaming, Miss.
You are in your own chamber in Bristed Hall.”
Bristed Hall! A warm gush of
gratitude pervaded my being. So I was not friendless!
I was cared for.
“Where is Mr. Bristed?” I asked after
“We have persuaded him to drive
out, miss, as the doctor said you were out of danger.
Anxiety for you and grief for Herbert’s death
have quite taken his strength away.”
“I must get up, Mary. You must help me
“Oh no, miss!” she replied; “you
are not strong enough yet.”
“I am quite strong. Besides,
it will revive me; I am weary of the bed, and need
She acquiesced in my wish, dressed me neatly, and
smoothed my hair.
“Now, take me down,” I requested.
“I wish to surprise Mr. Bristed.”
Of course she remonstrated, said I
would bring on the fever again, and all that; but
as I persisted in my determination, she led me down
the stairs. The fresh air invigorated me; I felt
every minute increased power. At my request,
she took me to Mr. Bristed’s conservatory.
The bright flowers, the singing birds in their ornamented
cages, and the adjoining study with its well-filled
shelves, all reminded me of the past. Tears came
to my eyes as I recalled the bitter changes I had seen
since leaving that sunny home!
I had not been long in the conservatory
when I heard the wheels of a carriage. Mr. Bristed
had returned. He ascended the steps: I heard
his voice in the hall. His first words were an
inquiry after my welfare. He was told that I
was better. Passing through his apartments, he
entered the study. I could see him plainly from
the windows of the conservatory. He looked, I
thought, thin and sad; his hair had become sprinkled
with gray since the time when I resided in his mansion.
Turning to Mary, who was waiting there for me, he
said: “I feel faint; bring me a cup of tea.”
Mary left the room on her mission,
and I stole from my hiding place.
“Mr. Bristed,” whispered
I, coming softly up behind his chair.
He started. “Whose voice is that?
Agnes, where are you?”
“Here, sir,” I answered, as I touched
He turned toward me, his face flushed with pleasure,
his eyes expectant.
“You, Agnes you,
verily? How came you here? I thought you
were ill off your pillow. What pleasant trick
is this you have been playing me?” Then taking
both my hands in his and surveying me, his eyes the
while beaming with soft pleasure, he said:
“Oh, I am so happy that you
are better. But you are wrong to come here; you
will make yourself ill again.”
I told him how I had awakened, and
of my glad surprise in finding myself in my old chamber
again, and how I had insisted on coming down to thank
him for his kindness in bringing me hither.
“Don’t thank me, Agnes;
for you I could do anything. This place shall
always be your home. Some day, Agnes, you may
learn to appreciate the worth of a heart that truly
I fell upon my knees before him.
“O Mr. Bristed, I do appreciate!” I cried.
“I do know that you love me. Let me live
for you. Let me by a life of devotion atone for
the mistakes of the past!”
He lifted me up, and folded me to his breast.
A few weeks of balmy spring air and
soft sunshine completely restored me to health.
One day when strolling in company
with Mr. Bristed through a path blooming with early
hyacinths and crocuses, I ventured to ask him about
“It is entirely broken up, Agnes.
After the fearful tragedy that transpired within its
walls, your pupils scattered like dust in the wind.
I arrived the next morning after the death of Richard,
unconscious of what had occurred in my absence, but
intending to take you home with me. I found you,
as I then thought, on your death-bed. I settled
with your separate teachers, and closed the school.
With the French woman who claimed to be Richard’s
wife, and with whom he had probably gone through the
form of marriage, as with you, I made an arrangement
satisfactory to her to sell the property and give
her an equivalent for its value.”
“But what motive,” I asked
hesitatingly, “could Richard have had for his
“Motive? The same that
had actuated him through life. With you, Agnes,
he would have lived probably as he did with others,
until his versatile heart demanded a change.
Then, with your little estate in his hands and Herbert’s
property in his power, he would have deserted you for
some new beauty.
“But let the grave cover his
mistakes and evils. I believe that a good God
will not punish him too severely for propensities which
Once more I yielded to the charms
of companionship and love. Severe trials had
proved Mr. Bristed’s worth, and when he again
asked me to make the remnant of his life happy by
my care and love to become his wife, and
share his home, and reign queen of his heart I
consented. When the June roses blossomed, we
were married. The balmy air and opening buds
spoke of a new life. They typified my new life,
truly. The glitter and gloss which had deceived
me in youth would never beguile me more. I had
learned that it was not the external man, but the internal
that was worthy of love.
The shadowy form of Alice never troubled
me again, I believe reparation can be made beyond
the tomb, and that in some far-off world the new-born
spirit of Richard atones to Alice and Herbert for the
wrong he did them in this.