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Waiting For An Answer

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My story ? my lif e ? Oh, it has been too uneventful, too simple in its incidents. I could teil you the sorrows of others, but rny own - weil, well ! as you will. You shall hear. The wound has never healed, and if I put my hand above it, the place still throbs, even as it will beat and aohe till kindly nature says to me, "Sleep, poor weary one, and rest." And then peaoefully, trustingly, and with a simple hope of forgiveness, may I sleep that long sleep which they say so flippantly has no waking, but which has a waking, as every lesson which we learn in life persists in teaching us. You wili smile, perhaps, when I tel] you that I was once what people called wetty - that this pale-hned face was nce plump and rosy, these sad eyes bright, and this gray, scant hair golde,nbrown, long, anl flowing. But why should I thiak you would smile ? Do ï not know that you must have seen the gay young plant putting out its tender leaves in spring, growing green and luxriant of foliage in sunimer, ripe and uddy in autumn, and gray, bent, and withered in age? And should I be pitied because I have but followed in the way of nature ? Surely not. It is not for ïat I ask your sympathy, but for the )light that feil upon the young plant and eared and scratched it so that it seemed or months that it would die ; but it ived, as I have liyed to teil you this. Do you know that wondrous feeling ■wliieh comes in the early year, and that strange sense of keen delight, that elasticity of spirit, Then, full of youth and hopo, the very tears of joyous sensibility start to the eyes as you wander amidst the trees and flowers in spring ? I remember how I feit, oh ! so well, even though it is now forty years ago, and I was 20. Jack and I were engaged. It was all such a simple homely, affair. We had known one another for years - the children of neigbboring farmers. Jack - I still cali him by the simple oíd pet name of those days - Jack had been away at a good school, and being bright and shrewd and clever he had won his way on, taking to engineering instead of his father's farm life, and now it had come to this that he had been staving at home for a rnonth previous to going out to a good appointment in Melbourne. That month in spring, how it passed ! We had met again and again, and in his honest, manly way, he had asked me to be his wife. " You know, Grace, that I havealways loved you," he said; "and now I have hopes and prospects, it cannot be wrong to ask yo for your promise." We were walking by the river-side as he said this, and how well I can picture it all - the soft gliding water mirroring the trees on the opposite bank, the young, green buds just breaking from their cases, and, above all, the soft tender blue of the spring sky - the blue, he had told me, that was like my eyes. " Do you want me to promise, Jack?" I said simply, as I looked up in his face. " No, darling ; I am satisfled," he cried, as his strong arms held me to his broad breast, and that was all. No oaths conld have bound me more tightly to him. I feit that I was his wife when he should come to claim me. We were late that evening, and entered the house shyly, for there had been V I p 11 T f T I 1 1 so much to talk of and plan. in a month s me Jack was to sail for Melbourne; ;hen he was to work very hard for three yeai'S, and come and fetch me to be his wife. That month glided by, and the last day had come. It was, as I told you, spring-time - joyous spring-time, with the hawthorn's snowy blossoms, the apple-trees pink and the pear-trees pearly v,ith their pyramids oí flowers. Every meadow I passed was starred with golden butter-cups, and from every spray the birds trilied or jerked forth their merry songs of hope and love. I could not feel sad, even though I was gr ing to meet Jack for the last walk bef ore he went away ; but, as I said, mingled with the feelings of ecstasy there was a strange tearfulness of eye, and my breath would come at times with a sob. He was by the stile, waiting for me - the stile down by the long mead, halfway between the two farms - and, as he took my hands in his, we neither of us spoke, but stood gazing away over woodlawn and meadow, all ciad in their wondrous beauty, and listened to the birds. Now it was the soft tender coo of tho dove from the wood, now the jerked-out song of the linnets ; then, soft and mellow, from the thick hedgerows floated towards us the fluty notes of the blackbird, while on high trillec away the larks, singing one against the other to their mates, sitting in the tal grass of the golden meads. Wo could not talk, our hearts were too full, for Jack was to be off at daybrcak the next morning. Bat there was no need for words. We loved each other in the simple, taught way that lias been since the world began, and we knew that every joyous song around tl) thrilled upnn our ears meant love, ant even in our sorrow we were happy. "Only three years, darling," Jacl whispered to me, " and then " The tears rose to my eyes as I tried to answcr liim, but I oould not speak a word. " And yon ■willlot mo íhid a long letter when I got there ?" ho said tenderly. "Yes, Jack, I pronoise," I said, and tlien it was time to return, for the hours had glided by, how we could not teil. Jack spent the evening with us at home and then he left us hurriedly, for our farewells had been said in the wood, and it was one hearty kiss, given and taken before the old peoplo, and theh good-bye. But I saw him pass soon af ter daybreak and he saw me and wared his hand, for I had sut by the window all night, lest I might let him go by and I asleep. And then time glided on sadly, but pleasantly as well. Mine was a buay life, for soon my father took to his bed, ill - a bed he never left again, forhe gradually sank and died, leaving my poor mother in very indifferent circumstances. It was a hard blow for us both, for he had been one of the kindest and truest of men, but while poor mother pined and waited, I had my hopeful days in view, and froin time to time letters from dear Jack, all so true and honest and full of trust in the future that I feit as if I could not repine even when greater troubles feil upon me. For at the end of two years I was standing by the bed-side where lay poor mother, sinking fast. She had no particular ailment, but had literally pined and wasted away. The Tird had lost its mate of many years, and when at last she kissed me and "said "good-by," it seemed to me to be in a quiet, rest-seeking spirit, andsne spokelike one looking hopefully forward to the meeting with him who had gone before. Eut ehe oouíd tbink of me eren then, and almost the last whispered words were : "Only eleven months, Grace, and then he wiil be back tofetohyou." Poor mother ! she would not have passed so peacefully away if she had known that which I withheld- namely, the news that oame to ïne frorn our lawyer. For, throngh thefailure of the enterprise in which my father'a savings had been invested, and which bronght us a little income of L60 a year, I was left penniless- so poor in fact, that the furniture of the cottage in the little town, to which we had moved when we left the farm, had to be sold to defray the funeral expenses. It was very hard to bear, and for a month I was terribly depressed ; but there was that great hopeful time, ever drawing near - the end of the three years, when Jack would come to fetch me to be his wife. It was now for the flrst time that I remember feeling particular about my personal appearance, ana I studied my glass to see if Jack would find me looking careworn and thin, and my glass told me truly - yes. But I had to be up and doing, and before another month was over, through the kiudness of people whom we had known, I was placed where I could work contentedly for the bread I must earn tiil Jack sliould come to fetch me away. It was at a largo West End dressmaker's,andit was hard work to get used to the hurry and excitement of the place, where there were twelve girls living in the house, and as many more carne every day. There were all kinds of petty pieces of tyranüy to -submit to at flrst, and I supposo some of the foolish girls were jealous of me and my looks, so much so that I found they nicknamod me "The Beauty." Poor girls ! If they Jiad only known how little store I set by my looks they would have behaved at first as thoy did later on. The flrst thing that won them to me was when Mary Sanders was taken ill with a terrible fever. Mme. Grainger was for sending her away at once, on accouut of her business and the infection, but the doctor who was called in, a young, impetuous, but very clever man, told her that it would be at her peril if she did so, for Mary Sanders' lif e was in danger. So tñe poor girl was shut up in her bedroom witüout a soul to go near her except a hired nurse, and after the first night this woman staid away. No one dared go near the poor girl then, so I timidly asked leave to nurse her, for I feit no fear of the infection, and it seemed so hard for her to be left there alone. I obtained leave, and went up-stairs, staying with her till she recovered; and rom that day there was always a kind ook for me and a kiss froni every girl in the place. Oi What was more, oddly enough, perhaps because I was so quiet and restrained, first ono girl and then another canie to make me the confidant of her love secrets and ask my advice. I gave it, such as it was, though heartsore myself, for Jack's letters to me had suddenly ceased. We had corresponded so regularly; but it had struck me that his last two letters had been formal and constrained; tljey were full of "business matter too, and he liad hinted at its being possible that he should not be able to keep time about the three years, in consequence of some contract. I did not think this when I first read these letters, for then X had kissed and cried over them, but wben no reply carne to my last, I re-read them, and the coldness seemed apparent. But 1 waited ana waitea, ana men news came from the country. Jack's father, a widower, had died suddenly; and I said to myself, with throbbing heart, as I longed to be at his side to try and comfort him in his affliction, " Poor Jack, he will come homo now." But he did not come, neither did I get any reply to my last two letters. Another month and the three years would be up; and, as I sat over some work one spring inoniing by tho open window, with a bunch of violets that one of the girls had brought me in a glass, the soft breeze that came floating over the chimney-pots and sooty roofs wafted to me the scent of the humble little blossoms, and my eyes became full of tears, for in an instant the busy work-rooni had passed away, and I was down home by the river-side listenmg to dear Jack, as he asked me to be his wife. Only a month ! only a month ! my pulses seemed to beat; and as it happened we were all busy upon a large wedding order, and I was stitching away at the white satiu skirt inteiided for the bride. I tried so hard to bear it, but I could not; the rush of feeliugs was too great. Another month and he was to have fetched me to bo lus wife, and I had not had an answer to my last two fond and loving letters. As I said, I tried hard to bear it, but I could not, and stifling a sob I hurried out of the workroom to reach my attic, throw myself upon my knees by the bed, and burying my faee in my hands I sobbed as if my heart would break. For a terrible thought would come now, fight against it as I would - " Jack had grown tircd of waiting, and has married another." I fought so hard with the disloyal thought, but it would come, and I was sobbing passionately, when I feit a soft arm steal round my neck, a tender olieek laid to mine, and Í found my poor teardewed face drawn down upon the bosom of Mary Sanders, who had stolen out of the workroom, and come up to try and comfort me. ". Pray, pray, don't fret, my darling, " she whispered. "Madame will be so cross. Those wedding things must be in by to-night, and they want you to help try theni on." I don't know how I got through that day and night, but I believe I did such duties as were expected from me mechanically, or as if I had been in a dream, and at night I lay wakeful and weary, with aching eyes and heart, thinking of that dreadfulidea that was trying to f orce itself upon me. I waited till the three years had expired, and then, with what anguish of heart no words can teil, I wroto to Jack again- my fourth letter - begging him, imploring him, to answer me, if but to teil me he was weary of his promise and wished to be set free ; and then, making a superhuman effort over myself, I waited, waited, month by month, for an answer, though I knew that it must be at least six months before one could come. I had given up expecting one in the interim, and I was too proud to send to his relatives- distant ones,whom I had never seen, and who had probably never heard of me. The thought had taken root now and grown to a feeling of certainty, but I waited for my answer. Three months - six months - nine months passed away, and hope was dead within my heart. They said I had grown much older and more carewom. Madame said I worked too hard, and the sharp business woman became quite motherly in her attentions to me. But I would not take any change, for work was like balm to me ; it blunted my thoughts ; and, knowing that I was daily growing pale and thin, I still waited. I knew the girls used to whisper together about me and think me strange, but no one knew my secret - not even Madame, who had more than once sought my confidence ; and so twelve months passed away- four years since Jack had left me. It was not to a day, but veiy nearly to the time when he had parted from me, and it was almost two years since I had heard from him. I was trying hard to grow patiënt and contented with my lot, for Mme. Grainger had gradually taken to me, and trusted me, making me more and more her right hand, when one : glorious spring morning, as I was coming out of the breakf ast-room to go upstairs to work, she called me into her ( little snuggery, where she sat as a rule and attended to her customers' letters, for she had an extensive clientèle, and carried on business in a large private mansion in Welbeck street. " Grace, my dear," she said, taking me in her aims and kissing me, " it worries ; me to see you look su ill. Now, wliat do you say to a fortnight in the country?" A fortnight in the country! and at her busiest time, with the London season coming on. I thought of that, and then, as I glanced round at the flowers and inhaled their scents, the bright flelds near Templemore Grange floated before my dimming eyes, a feeling of suffocation carne upon me, and the room seemed to swing round. I believe that for the flrst time in my life I should have fainted, so painful were tho memories evoked by her words, when a sharp knock and ring at the door echoed through the house, following instantly upon the dull fall of a letter and the sharp click of the letter box. It was like an electric shock to me, and without a word I darted into the hall, panting with the excitement and my hand at my throat to tear away the stifling sensation. But it was a letter. I could see it through the glass in the letter-box, and I seized it with trembling hands, inspired, as it were, by some strange power. " Jack 1 dear Jack at last !" I gasped as I tumed it over and saw it was a strange, blue, official-looking letter, formally directed to me. Even that did not surprise me. It was from Jack, I knew, and I tore open the blue envelope. Yes, I knew it ! The inner ' envelope was covered with Australian post-marks, and, ignorant as I might te with its contents, I was raising it to my lips to cover it with passionate kisses when I saw it was open. Then a mist came over my mental visiou for a moment, but only to clear away as, half stupefled, I turned the missive over and over, held it straight for a moment, and then, with a sigh of misery and despair, I stood mute and as if turned to stone. " Grace, my child ! In mercy's name teil me " It was Madame, who passed her arm round me and looked horror-stricken at my white face and lips. The next moment I dimly remember she had caught the letter - his letter - my letter - from my hand, and read it aloud: "Mr. John Braywood, Markboro, R. Oounty Melbourne," and then, iu her excitement, the great official sentence-like brand upon it, "Dead ! " That was the beginning of my first and only illness, during which Madame tended me like a mother, even to giviug up her business afterwards, and retiring to live with me here in this quiet street, where she died, and left me well-to-do, as yon seo. I have grown old since then, but I am not unhappy, great as was the trial, and it has led me into what I hope has been a useful life. And, besides, why should I sorrow, knowing as I do that which came to me years and yeara after - that Jack died with my name upon his lips - died truo to her he loved ? and I am but waiting till we shall meet again. - Oeo. Manville Fcrn in Cassell's Magazine. Virginia City is proud of ifcs athletes. Bognier, the French wrestler, Tent thero, made a matcli for $500, and was easiïy thrown by a minor. Fred Bussey, a i)rizo-flghtor from Chicago, was whipped twice in bar-rooma whilo talking about a regular fight in a ring. John Paddook, a Boston pedestrian, was readily beaten in a walk of a hundrod miles. ïhe Chroniole says, also, that men should not come there expecting to win anything at poker. The Fronch Chambers of Commerco are planning for a grand canal between Havre and Marseilles. One of the plans is for a ship canal ten feet deep, 100 feet wide, across the Isthmus of Guicnne and Languodoc, shortcning the soa route by 800 miles.


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Michigan Argus