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A Widow's Love

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It was "steamer day" at Sitka, and aiaid all the joyous stir and exciteinent that the monthly boat brought was one forloru, unhappy man. Torn Douglas watclied his frieiids as tbey eagerly opened tlieir letters and listened with aesumed interest to the bits of news they were anxious to share, for at Sitka the population throngs to the wharf when the steamer's whistle is heard andwaits the coming of the ship and thedistribution of the mails. The people crowd into the tiny postoffice on the doek and watch impatiently for the longed for horae letters. Bnt Tom's home letter was not a comfort to him. "Well, she is really coming," he thought, "a month f rom today, if the steamer is on time. I will be a raarried man ; worse luck. How can I ever teil Natalia, dear little girl ! I wouldn't willingly hurt her tender feelings for $1,000,000, as hard tip as I am. " And Torn whistled ruefully. Torn Douglas was a naval offleer and before being stationed at Sitka he had been on duty a winter in Washington, where he plnnged into society with that gay abandon that only a sailor knows, for after three years at sea a young fellow is quite ready for the rush and whirl of the gay capital. All houses were open to the handsome lieutenant, but there was one where he was especially welcome. The hostess was a pretty widow of some 20 or 27 years of age. Her husband, who had died suon after their marriaf?e, seemed not to have had a very stroug hold on her affections, for after mourning him decorously for a year she blossomed into the gayest of the gay, and her house becarne a center for the yonng officers who had been the friends of her husband. It was there that Torn spent most of his time. He dropped in during the morning and disenssed the newest gossip or the latest magazines and came in for a cup of tea in the af ternoon and remained till her cozy parlor was empty save for himself and her. "Aro yoti going to the assembly touight?" he would ask. "Will be there, Tom?"Mrs. Deering had such a good fellowship way of using her friends' flrst names. "Yes, I presume so. " "Well, thon, I am going," the little widow would reply. And that was the way the winter passed, Torn running in at all hours, privileged to smoke or reud, to talk or listen, the most indulged of all her callers. When his orders came for his immediate removal to Alaska, he put the document in his pocket and went as usual to the cheery home of Mrs. Deering. He told her the news and was really surprised aud flattered by her recep tion of it. She took both his hands in hers, and the tears gathered in her bright eyes. "Oh, Torn," fchesaid, "Ihate to have you go." Now, it never occurred to Lieutenant Douglas before, but at this moment the idea did coiné to him that he was in love with the widow. He drew her to him and kissed away her tears, and before he knew it he was engaged to Alice Deering. He left soon after arranging to have Alice join him later in the sximmer, bnt owing to the loss of a distant relative, the heirof whose modest estáte she was, her coming had been greatly delayed. It was now more than a year since Tom and she had parted in Washington. In the nieantimeTom hadwhiled away his leisure hours in the somewhat narrow circle of Sitka society, but in that narrow boi.yn.l he hart fouijd a fair Ríi5Í2y ñWer that ne knew bioomed for him. Thongh Tom had not made love to Natalia - he was too honorable for that - they had been together eonstautly, and each knew instinctively wliat was in the other's heart. "I believe I'll go and teil Natalia all," Tom continued to muse, "right now, for of course as a gentleman and offleer I am bound to keep my word, and my word is given to marry Alice - hang it ! I wish I had never been born. She, too, poor girl, may discover that my love has somewhat cooled. If it ever was love, it uevcr was the same feeling I have for dear little Natalia, bless her loving heart. ' ' So Tom went to Natalia and told her 'that he was engaged, and that another month would see him married. Her delicate face whitened, but controlling herself she said : "I congratúlate you, Mr. Douglas." Then, bursting into tears, she turned away. The sight of her tears was too rnuch for Tom. Embracing her tenderly, he said: "I love but yon, Natalia, darling. Oh, that I had met you flrst ! My fondness for Alice was but a fleetng thing, and my love for you will kist f orever. ' ' Pressing warm kisses on her hps, he held her close. "Leave me, Tom. It is right for you to keep your word, bnt you should have told me of your engagement before. We had best part now. Goodby. " "But can 't I come to see yon, Natalia, as usual:" "Why, certainly not, Mr. Douglas ! It would only be painful, for we can never, froca this time forward, be j thing but the most formal of friends. " Torn was touched by the simple dignity of the yotmg Russian girl, whose quiet life had been spent by the i shore uuder the shadow of the I taius, far from the uoise of city or j town, so he bowed to her wilL Their parting was a heartbreaking one to j both. "Natalia, I can 't bear to leave yon. I must have you, dearest. " "There, go now. This is only foolish." "Well, then, let me kiss you for the last time, darling, " pleaded Torn. Natalia put tip her little tear stained face, and Toin silently kissed her and went away. That month passed only too quickly for poor ïom, who looked with dread I toward the coming of the steamer. He ■ stndiously avoided Natalia, denyiug himself the regalar aftemoon walk to the Iiidian river, which is the event of l the day to all the white people at Sitka. ! He kept close to his rooms when not ou board ship, cursing the mistako of his life which was so soon to ruake an unwilling bridegrooni of him. To Natalia, whose soft, brown eyes were red with weeping, life seemed a dreary blank now that the daily visits of Tom had ceased. There appeared in her mental horizon nothing for which to live. She wondered how she had existed before he carne to Sitka. But then she had beeu busy with her lessons, and now, in the idea of her old fashioned father, her simple education was complete, and it was time for her to marry one of the Russian lads who sought her hand. The nest "steamer day" Toni Douglas was seen rushing madly to Natalia's home. The neighbors, who of course had noted his long absence, were greatly surpriscd. "Natalia, Natalia," he cried as soon as she came into tho quaint drawing room to receive him. "I've come to ask you to be my wife. Dearest, say yes at once. " "Why, Tom, are youcrazy? What has becorne of Alice?" "Well, by Qeorge, Natalia, she is married ! Just think of it - married ! And I arn tho happiest man on earth. A purdoned convict's feelings of relief are not to be compared to rnine. Yon see, soon stftei she left Washington she met an old sweotheart whom she had cast off to marry Mr. Deering, whose positionand prospects seemed better. In the ïneantirne this fellow had made a fortune, and as he was on his way to Alaska for a pleasure trip they decided tomakeit alsoti wedding trip and break the news to me in person. Rather awkward, you ruight think, but I congratulatedthem with all myheart and thanked my stars for my freedom. Come, little girl, put on your bat, and I'll take you down to the steamer to see the bride, and I'll introduce to her my nancee, because you say, 'Yes,' don 't you, dearT'" "I suppose so, Tom, but it's all so suddeu. Shall I wear ïny leghorn hat?"


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