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A Doll's Head

A Doll's Head image
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Lotlie Middleton was au ncommonly amiablc and protty young lady. When [ say jiretty, I do not menu thit she jossesscd superlativo beauty - uot iu tho extravagant senso of tho term, at loast. [n fact, there was nothing suporlative about hor - save lier golden-brown hair - and that was rcally wonderful, its vealth of shimmeriug waves shading in shining maases of pufifed and coiffnred mystery her fair whito forehead, and uaking a pair of very limpid expressive )luo oyes a shado moro intenso in their me. She was a patito, shapoly little orson, with nothing peculiar about her, mly with that simple winniiigness which n shch women niakes for itself anaflinity m tho oyes of alinost eveiy susceptible aasouline that crosses its path. In modern aecomplishinents sho was noderately accomplislied, altliough her -ducation had been an expensive one. When Lottie was nineteen tho hand of 'atc deprived he,r of her mother. Her ather, supposed to be wealthy, soon lost all by unfortunatc speoidations, and jottic'3 bright life-dream vanished int o omething like a shado w. Por the íúio ïouso in the city was sold - the carriage nd piano went with it. In less than a month's time, Lottio found herself a jeunilcss orphan, for her fathei', unable ,o bear up against the storm, had sucumbed to his troubles. Thrown upon her own resources, the jirl developed a fortitude, which, porïaps, wonld never otherwise have been eveloped. Nothiiig had been left of ïer poor father's estáte - all had been wept away; all save some Western lainis, which, situated in the far-off vilderness, wcre deemed worthless by lic creditor whose sharo they feil to. " Their titles are no good, to my mind, ither, but I'll tr,ke them," ho had said ,o the legal funotlonary who had done ,he business of sottling up the bankupt's estáte. And he took them. Tliis gentleman was a heavy banker who had loaned money to her father, vhcrewith to pursue his schemes of vealth, and who profossód to have lost ïeavily thereby. He was a widower, mt lived iu stylo, his house being kept jy his sister - a muiden of the spinster ,ype of antiquity, who had been on familiar terms with the Middlctons prior to their )oss of fortune. Perhaps this )erson pitied the girl. At any rate, she lid tho orphan tho kindness to offer her, in a eondescending way, the position of govemess in the banker's family. Lot tie said: " I will cali and give yu my answer to-morrow." She thought it over, mcanwhile. It was tho bost she could do, so it seemod toher; and she must do something. Sho had no one to go to for advice, assistanco or encouragement. So sho accepted the position, and became an inmato of' Mr. Coupons' household, took the roins of his nursery, and exercised what wholosome restraint sho could over the ill-disoiplined spirits of his three wayward little ones. For a timo it was a sore trial to poor, refined, sensitivo littlo Lottie. Miss Mehitable Coupons - the spinster aunt - was a torment in petticoats. She was one of those angular beings, wlioso notions of existence are fashioacd by the square and compasa of horrible exactitude, minus mathematical proportion, aft(ir a mamier Avhich aafly-going people hesitare to contémplate; tho ï-ythm seöined all gone out of her life, at some fresher, though awfully distant period, and only the punctuation marks left. Altogether sho was in odd volume, this Aunt Mehitable Coupons, and it was evident that rebinding would have done hor no good, for the iinger-marks of rigid experionoe had worn ko doej) that the original volluin even coiild not havo been replaoed. Lottie's cxperieneo of 1 1 ( peotüiaritiee of this eocentrio person wan at cmoe oppressive, irritating, discouraging and ludierous. Three things won; self-evident. Miss Mehitable waa a very determined persen. Klus eonaidered heiself tho sol! and omnipotent guardián of the fortunes, present and i'uure, of the wholu Coupons family. And Lottii! must lot her consider horself so, and frot on with hor ik best shc could. Tor a lime Lotfcio'a only consolatioti lay in the ome oí litfcle Besa, a pretty, though somewhat perverse little fairy, foui years oíd. Tho chüd exhibited a fondness for only two persons in her littlo world, so fai - IiOtöe and lier "big brother Bortio," as she nsed to eallhim. Now tho aforosnid "Bertie," was a gtalwaxt young gentleman, past the age of man's estáte; a quiet, ftne-looking, lopg-hcaded, cool-thinking fellow, Etna possessed, liko lii.s father, of more than average force and dotonnination of character. He liad not moved iu society- being jnstí'rom eollego and law school - and Lottie liad not known hini in her bright and gay day of social position. Somehow lie rather liked bim. Thoy met at meáis; the oíd gentleman - oíd Coupons - always said grace ; and tbat was about all he did say. But on tbese tri-urnal festive occasions the swperannuated female saint who guided tho domestic des tiiiies of Mr. Coupons' house was ever gorrulous. And as a rctailerand disseminator of social iutelligence, sbo va quite a marvel, while at the samo time sbe iras a walkiug edition of notos and moráis, a perfect index of dates and iïgures in every matter, trivial or otherwise, pcrtaining to other people. Consequently, the time was not wastod, and the conversation bctween the young people remained for somo time quite limited in its extent. Gradually, however, the two seemed to grow to understand each otber. Tbey instinctively adopted modes of expression more subtle than words - a look, a sigh, a side glanco, a sweep of the eye-lashes - seemed to convoy a meaning. And it was strange what a sudden affinity Mr. Bertrand Coupons seemed to have acqnired for the nursery ! To bc sure, littlo Bess had always been bis pet. But now, she was his constant companion wtaen he was indoors. And he generalij managod to entrap Bess in the nursery. He generally found Lottie there, too, on these occasions. And so things went on. Lottie began to find lifo quite endurablo - she bardly knew why. But all tliis did not escapo tho keen eye of Miss Mehitable Coupons. At first she simjily expressed her disapiirobation by short, but emphatic ahems. Preaentiy, as matters to lier keen visión began to thicken, Bert imdliottie generally found themselves intruded upon after a lapse of five minutes' privacy in the nursery, by Miss Mehitable, who would oroak forth some melodious demand for Lottie's services. At last, deeming reticenco upon au affaii of sucb impropriety of no further virtue, she one day coniided tho secret of her awful snspicion, as guardián of the destinies of the house of Coupons, to the head of the houso of Coupons. " Tho long and short of it is, he's getting in love witb her, and it's my opinión tho gal's dravving him ou," sho concluded, with a lengthy and wordy harangue, desoriptive of the tender affairs she deeined brewing between the youug people. Then she heaved a kind of witherod sigh and peercd into the banker's face till the wrinklos iu her yellow one seemed to straighten out in cagerness to hear the coming fiat. Oíd Coupons never moved a mnscie, nor blinked an oye, only his lips seemod to compresa a abade flrmer. " Talk to 'cm, Hitty. Lecturo them out oí it. You ouglit to bo ablü to do it." Aud tliis was all the answor the maulen guardián oí the house of Coupons got. He returned to his neuspaper, raid .slie turned away to fulüll her conimission. Tho "lecturc " she read fpr tlie benefit of these two aforesaid, nood not bo delivcred ior tho bcneflt of the reader. It was the beginuing of a course, and it would be nuf air and impartial to give ois and not all, and - woll, thoy would be tedious - as they wcre to Bert and Lottio. But it did no good. " Lottio is a goodgirl," said Bertraad. And that was all tho satisfaction his soh'citous aunt got out of him. Poor Lottie ! Sho soon found herself in a most cmbarrassing position. ïo put it mildly, the " lecturos " were ex tremely distastefnl to her. Bat Bert often consoled hor. She more than onco determined to leavo her position, Bert boggod her not to, and she kopt it for his sake. Bert was hor good angel - ho and little Boss. Miss Mehitable roported progresa to the head of tho family. Old Coupons invited his first-bom to an interview, and oponed tho ba-U by peremptorily ordering his son nover again to speak to tho pretty governess, save in his, tho scnior's presenoo, under pain of disownment. Old Coupons demanded a promise. Bertrand moodily walked the floor- and promised; fora week tho son kept his own counsel. Lottio seemed to understand why he did not come to the niu sery, and only spoke to her at meal times. His eyes told her something more. One day Bertrand sat in tho library, whither of late it had been his wout to betako himself. Bess carne rompiug in. He smiled, kissed the child, and gave her some pictures to look at. ïhen he sat moodily thinking foï a whilo. Lottio had not appeared at meals that day - had sent word that she was feeling unwell. All at onco he scratehed a few lines on a piece of paper, picked np Bessie's wax doll, lying on the floor, where the child had dropped it carelessly, and tucked the paper into the doll's hollow neck. Then ho put on hat and overcoat and went out. At tea tim", Lottio appeared, aud he managed to articúlate, so thnt she alone heard him. " Examine the doll's head !" Not without some little wonder and perplexity did Lottie fullil his directions, and till she drew tho paper from ite curious hiding-place, she did not fully comprohond the signiiioanco of his injunction. Sho gavo a little cry of joy and intelligence and poruscd the lines. The y ran: " Lottie, Daiujno: I liave found out I lore you - tbat yon beion to me and 1 mut have you. I know yon aro a bravo and truo littlo woinan. Ik vuur anaivcr yes ? Keply through tho doll'H hoad. "Bebtkamd." Next day in tho library, lïess oame to him. He told hor a story, and played with hor doll 1lu' whilo. Preaently he Btopped in what aeemed to hor a vory interesting part of the narrativo. That young person looked up at him. " Whflt you dot? " she said. " Only a piecc of paper, pussy," ho said. It read: "Diaheht Bekitiand: Ido lovc yon. and I will writo y8. But vour father :vmi -aunt! Oli, Bertraud, wliat will happen when Hiey know f it ? " Bertrand looked at Bess. Bhe wae asleep. He studied a minuto umi the linen ilion mili is fine jiidiilli grew inoro compreBSöd. He wrote on Üw, back of the paper hivrriedly, tnoked it back in Ilic doll's.hollo'w head, and í.(iU tlií chilil tuto her aiint's boudoir mid liiid lier gently mi the bod. Beiss woko iiji, of ooui'se uoted hor ilrmiivc relativo sitting in theaportmi n!, Uien, in the pensive mood, whicli in childhood usually suoceeds a uan, begaá ! working at her dolL Whftt prompted bei to explore tile hulden tnytttori litshead we oannot teil. Bome wicked l'-.iivy, perhaps, Somothing dropped out "f the doll's head. Besa pioked it off the eon'iterpaiie iuid examined it. . " O iy ! liow ftinny. I spec Bevtie hid dat in doro 'o pmpose to plague me ! " alio said. The ovil genius of ouriosity, oommon to her sex, oaused the elderiy matrem to examine the pieoe of papoi aJso, as sho camo nt the ohild's solicitation, soon after, to liít her down off tho bed. Her appearance it would be diffioult to describe, as she perused the afl'air. The j reader knows what one sido euntained. On the other it read, - "Be ready to-niorrow niglit. Come out of tho f rout door at ten. I wilí be tliere. "Bkktkíbd." This almost stunnod the lady. A marriage between the penniless governess and lier nophew was not down in the bilis. And a runaway marriage, too!" ' ' 111 servo theni a triok - wo'll see - wc '11 see ! " shemuttered, asshe clhichod the paper in her hand. " Tho audaeious hussy. I'll discharge her at once ! - no, that won't do at all - it would thwart raj plans. Well, I'll see about this - I won't say nothing to nobody, but I'll see about it I " Bertrand, after leaving tho house, walked down to tho bank. "Well - do you want anything - I'm just starting for Worccster ; am in haste. " "Nothiug in particular. Ah, yes, now I think of it. there was something I was going to mention to you. You know thoso titles to Iowa claims, i dleton left. Wiil you sell them to me 1" " I'll give theta to yon - here they aro - and a fine little present it is, my boy. The titles, I have sineo found out, uro perfectly goud. I was a little in doubt of theia at iirst. Guess they'll prove a fat thing," aaid the bankci-, goiug to his desk and briugiug forth a lot of papers. " Will you givo me a conveyance of them ? " "Yes - but haven't tho time now. Go to Mr. ]!lackstone - he'll ftx it up for you. I wal looking at them to-day. I was thinking oi doing this very tbiug." Bertrand liad tho little matters aeranged by the lawyer. Tlicn he complcted other ■preparationA Tho foUowing night, lie stood in the dim glimmer of the street lamp in front of hifi father's dwelling. As his watch pointod ton, the door oponed, and a dosely muflled figure camo out. He said no word, but led the liguro a few steps lip the street, put it into a carriego in -vaiting and took a seat beside it. Once hc attempted to bestow a kiss upon the face of the figuro but it would not raiso its veil. Just hen, however, a glaro of ttie stroet lamp struck full upon the veil. If Bertrand had not been in the sbidow, tho figuro would have sèen him stiirt. In a moment they stopped at á railway station. They were almost behind time. Bertrand hurriod the figure aboard the train without waiting to ptirohase tickets, and took i seat beside it. Tho train bogan to move. There was a crowd in the aislo of the car, and a general cram and eommotion. Bertrand Blipped out of the seat, made his way to the door aud jumped off the train at tlio risk of his neck und tho no small detriment of Jiis nether drapery. His first movement on reachmg a strcot corner was to cali a passing onrriago. Driviug homo lie went into the house. ' ' Now, Lottie, I have como íor you. Put on your things quick. I've left my aunt half way to Providenco. Guesa sho'll sec sho's mitwitted before the express gets Üiere ! " And he explained matters while tho trembling girl got herself in mndimwi They drove to a clergyman's and were married. Bortrand gave the gentleman an ampio fee. -Li an houi the happy pair were on thcir way West, on the wings of stcam. The Iowa claims proved valuable. Bertrand sold the poorest. Towns and cities were springing up rapidly in the now country. The rest of Ihe land would in a few years amount to a eolossal fortune. They returned East. The marriago had been publishcd in the nest morning's papers. Old Coupons had raved with fury on returning and hearing the news. Miss Mehitable had torn her bair. But the bridal pair completed their honeymoon by a trip to Europe. By this time the elders wore reconciled. Bess is a handsome young lady now, but her mint is no more. The shock killed hor. Old Coupons and tho prominent young lawyer, live happily in the old house, and Mrs. Coupons jr., rules its alïairs.


Old News
Michigan Argus