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A Bit Of Lace

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" It s a perfectly exquisite piece of ace, papa." "I dare say, Flor." " But I -want you to ook at ÏV " I shouldn't know any more about it ïf I did." " Well, then, I want you to brtv it." "Buy it! Whatfor?" " Wliy, for me." ' ' Pay five liundred dollars for a handrerchief for you ?" " Yes, indeed. All other girls have ihera, altkough certainly this' is a little, he least little, nicer thantheirs. I doirt uxow why Lncy should have a handsomer handkerchief than I, just because he'3 marricd. Anybody else vould say t was enough to be married, and so let me have the handkerchief. Married women have everything - love, and lace, and diamonds. Now, papa, just take out you pocket-book. " It was a coaxing voice. "Do you suppose I carry $500 bilis in roy pocket-book?" " It makes na odds. Your check-book, ihen. I have set my iieart on it, it'ssuch a beauty. If you only look at it - look at the wreath of flowers, all so delicately haded; here the close work in the light, you si e, there the open work in the hade, so perfect you can quite fancy he colors; and all done in this one .hread. See, papa, there's a dewdrop, .hat round hole in the mesh." "Nonsense, Flor; I can't see any thing of the kind there." ' ' That's because your eye isn't educaed, sir. Mine is; for I have studied other people's laces till I could almost work them. That's a good man ! I knew you would, You always do. One, two, hree I" And then there was a shower : of kissos and tinkling laughter. And ; bat was the conversation of a millionaire and his daughter that Lucían Malvin heard over the transom of the noxt i oom to his in the hotel where he staid over night a year or two ago, seeing neither people nor handkerchief, and aghast at the thought of a handkerchief costing the awful price of $500, which : was onc-third of the mortgage on his ittle place that he was trying to pay off, leart and soul - a conversation tb at now ecurred to him in a moment of real gony, as the housemaid stood before ïim holding a little limp rag in her hand ;hat she had just snatched out of the washtub. and that last night was a bit of ;ainty lace that Miss Bofe Mcrcier had ïailed her handkerchief, and had given ïim to hold during the gallop. Good ïeavenp, how was he ever going to retoreit He was a yomig 'awyer, just entering upon what in time wonld probably bo Ine practice, but which was now rathcr empirical. Ho had started in the race or wealth and honor with good legal ability, good name, and good moráis, and with no other impediments than a ittle patrimony in the shape of a modest dweiling in the suburbs, which he had )een obl.'ged to mortgage for the means o got a part of his education and his jrofession, which mortgage he was strivng to pay off, that he might begin the uture clear of the world. He was n ïandsome fellow, this Lucian Malvin, an ambitious one, too, in somo degree, and very nearly as proud as Lucifer. Se used to feel many a pang in the assoeiation with those so much wealthier than himself to which certain circumstances had subjected him. He had had an important case accidently thrown into lis hands, and had acquitted himself so well that the wealthy cliënt took him up and would not let him down; and when Lucian remonstrated that it was out of lis power to keep up such asscciation, and was mortifying to his pride beside, ;he ciiont had assured him it was not oride, but vanity, that was mortifled, md that the way to be wealthy as those iie met was to keep their company and get their cases; and he had thought, on hè whole, that perhaps his friend was right, and that, if he began to yield with an ignoble motive, be had nevertheless become very fond of the wayfi of people to whom wealth had givon every cpportunity of culture and grace, and who know how to treat life like a work of art. Moroover, it was not a little that ho was petted by rarious of these good people. Certain motherly ladies made him at home with them, and won his confidence akd affection, notably Mrs. Barnctta. Parents with good rent rol Js of their own, as Mrs. Barnetta used to teil him, were not so inconsistent in the matter of rent-rolls as of virtuo and talent in their daughters' husbands; and he was invited here and invited there., and given to understand a great deal moretlianhc chosei to understand. Proud as Lucifer, ss it was previously stated, he was going to marry 110 hoiress of them all and bo the thrall of hor monoy ; he would not marry a rioh woman - he" cmüd. not marry a poor ono. When lie maiïicd he was going to give, not take, and at present he had nothing tb give. JPerhaps he HfflÜd havo been a noblcr person if he had not been quite so stremious in this matter of obligation; but theD, as Mrs. Bwnetta said, hc would not have been imcian.Malvin, and Lucian Malvin was a very gooil fellow, after all and thora are few of us but have our faults. It was among these people that lie happencd to meet Rosa Mercier. She had come froni a distant place, and was visiting his pleasantest acquaintanec; and certainly the house was pleasanter still after her sunsbiny little presence dawned upon it. It seemed as if, ;or ir.stanee, there never had been any flowrs in (he house before, aithough it had alwftys been overflowing; it seemed as if there had been no mnsic there, no light, or color or cheer; and now the place was too dangerously delightful for a youug man who did not want to morry to frequent. She was such a lovely little tliing; not exactly beautiful, that is, bug would not havo been beantiful in a picture, bnt in flesh and blood, and in Lucian Malvin's eycs, she was exceedingly beautiful, with lier soft color, her clear dark gaze and her bright hair that broke into a cloud of aunny rings aboafc her sweet face; snch a gentle gaiety went with her wherever ehe did; such a tender grace of manner, too, in the intervals of her buoyant spirits; her voice was much a warbling voice, her ways such winsome ways. Lucian Malvin feit that lie mnst forswear her presence unless he wanted to make life a burden to himself, and he ceased going to Mrs. Barnetta's where she was staying, almost as suddenly as the day forsakes the horizon in that dreary season when twilights are not. But if he could sluit himself out froni the Barnettas, he could not shut Miss Eosa out from general society ; and go where he would, ho met her almost nightiy, latighing gayly, singing sweetly, dancing lightty, till he declared to himself that, if this was going to last, he must indeed cease going out at all. But that was a little too much ; he did not know how positively to deny himself the more sight of her. Yet things were gro win g very precarious when he could not take a book but he saw that biushing, gold-enringed face slide in between the pages; when he could not make out a writ without being in danger of slipping her name into the blanks; when he heavd the delicious voice murmuriag in his ears when he waked, and walked all night with the little spirit when he slept. He made a compromise with himseli - it was all he couid - and declared that at any rate he would not dance with her again. It was an idle effort. He might almost as well have danced with her as have stood looking at her, quite unconscioM of his general air. and all the lover in his glance. Mrs. Barnetta beckoned him to her side; he stood there just as Rosa carne up from her promenade and left the arm of one cavalier to bc carried off by anpther. "Youarenot dancing, Mr. Malvin?" she said.. "Oh, would you hold my fan and handkerchief ?" He followed them with his eyo ag.iin as the music crashod into a dashing galop. What right had that other man with his clasp about this darling ? Why did he suffer it ? What decency was there in the society that commanded such sacriflee ? In his embrace - whirling wildly to this wild music ! " You do hate him, don't you V eaid Mrs. Barnetta in his ear. "If looks could slay - " he started. "Was he carrying hi? heart upon his sleeve for daws topeck at? "Oh, I don't pity you a bit," laughod Mrs. Barnetta, lowtoned. And, putting out her hand, she took Bosa's fan and opened it as she talked. "Anybody," said she, "with such a power of making misery, ought to enjoy it." " 1 - I bog your pardon, Mrs. Barnetta, but if youread me riddles, I must ask you also to be their Sphinx." " Oh no ; it was the function of the Sphinx to propound the riddles, not to solve them." And Mrs. Barnetta laughod her low, pleasant laugh. "You do not come to na any more," she paid. "And, as I uscd to 'be in your cor.üde noe bofore you desertod me, I can imagine tho reason. I do not that it is very shabby treatmeut of an old friend. Of courso I can npt say that i.t is rude. But if you do not dance with-Miss Mercier this evening I. shall be fearfully offended. I am not going to have my little treasure made unhappy for tho sake of tho safety of tho prinoe of all good fellows himself." Lucian changed color so suddenly that Mrs. Barnetta put out her hand in affright, half expecting to sec him fall; but ín a moment ho was himself again. " Do you Is Miss Mercïer " he began, and paúseá half way. " As if I should say another woi'd, and had not already said altogother too ! nrach!" said Mrs. Barnetta. "There, she has left dancing and gone for an ice. What do you think of round dances, on tho whole ?" And thcy were to all appearances, deep in discussion of the subject when Rosa roturned and swept her late partner a courtesy, and took shelter on the other sido of Mrs. Barnetta. Perhaps she had secn the way Lucian's eyes had followed her, and it had given hor a certain illumination that made her shrink. Just then the band began one of the Hungarian waltzes, a sweet and rapturous measure that set the blood itself to dancing in one's veins. Why not ? One last dance, ono last moment ecstasy, ere ha went out forever into loneliness. Directly he crumpled the bit of lace into his pocket, and was bending beiore the little Rosa, who seemed suddenly to havo lost all her light gaiety, and who put out her hand to him with" a consuious burning blush upon her face that hw heart reflected in" a nielting glow. And then thero was no thought oí pride, or of negation, or forgetting; the music was swinging them at its will; thoy circled in each other's arms to its delicious and deiirious mövement - eternity would haïdly have any bliss for lovers beyonu the bliss of this moment. Yet, only a moment was it, a few moments, a brief sweet space of half-conscious time; and then a i'aint recognition crept throngh its spell 'and warned Lucian of tho poison in this honey. He was in the act of surrender; he was about to seal his fate and thut of his dear girl; to take her away from her father's weaith and her.luxuiious ease and condemn her to the oarking cares of poverty. All his nature rebolled; he chose not to bo swayed by this melody of horns and strings ; he would have no passion, neither music nor love, so master his soul as to beoome the element in which it swam, an exclusión of thought and fear, of sight and sound, and all other emotion; and, with his imperious ■ termination, ho chose (o break the enchantment; the real world crept back upon his senses; he heard the tune, beyond tbis clouel that wrapped túem, broakïiig ognin into its distinctivo measure, and, exerting his -wil!, lie controlled their steps, and paused at last besido Mrs. Barnetta, and with a low bow, and without a word, gave líos back iuto tliat lady's care, and passed iuto the crowd and out of the place, and homo to bis lonely rooms. It was daybreak before he sought ropose, walking the floors till then, hardly knowing whathe did or what he thougbt, but intent upon conquraing himself. He would give tho world for liosa Mercier's lovo, but he would not give his pride. To him that pride meant -selfrespect; to marry her, the child of opulance, meant either to sell himself for a prico or to reduce her to trouble and wcariness in which her love mi glit soon wear out. He did not doubt that love now; without n syllable's speech he feit suro of it. While it thrilled him wildly and decpiy, it oast a sudden shauow of regret; lio only hoped, and cursed hia fate that forced him to hope such a thing that preseutly the love would pass, and sorne ono wiio would make her happier would claim her. At length, with malodi.'-tious ín the act, he empticd his pockets of the gloves, handkercuiefs, and trilles there, and went to bed, with the sun coming througgthecnrtaiü, and, worn out in body and mind, slept, to the I blessed and thorough oblivion of all the ' world. When he awoke it was late in the day. All his trouble rushed over him, but in a moment all his will to repel it rose too. He dressíid himself Jeisurely ; he meant to cali that night on Miss Mereier, restore lier handkercMef that he had forgotten to give back after the dance, and in Rome indirect way let her know that he inteaded never to marry, and so seal liis doom bevond hope. He went into the next room when he had coinpleted his toilet, and aftcr attending to one or two other affairs, looked for the handkerchief that he remembered to baye taken f rom his pocket and to have tessed upon the table there. It was not on the table ; it was nowhere in the room. In a panic he rung the bell, and when it was answered, inctituted an inquiry coicerning the thing. Yes, indeed, Susan had seén it, and thought it was so yellow and soiled she would take it down and wash it. "Loí-s, sir, it was the dirtiest little rag," she said.% " Just straw-color. And I thought I wo'uld give it a run through ' the tab and blueing r.nd make it fit to be seen." "Good heavens!" he cried, with a horriüed flash of remembranco of having somewhere heard that the yellower lace was the more precious it was, and thatit never was washed on any account except by people who did nothing else. "Let me have it at once. " And in ñve minutes afterward Susan stood beforo him holding up a little limp rag, and with a pang as frorn the blow of something unknown and dreadful, the conversation that he had heard a year or two ago, swept back upon his recollection. Five rumdred dollars ! And gone to grief in a moment I And he could no more replace it than he could fly, without what was the same to him as absolute ruin. Of course, iie must replace it ; he could not be indebted, through the stupidity of hia servant, or through nny other means, to Miss Mercier in that sum. Without any doubt she valued such a bit of lace ; and if anything were needed ío demónstrate to him the wisdom of the course. he had decided on, apd the uttter absurdity of having dared, for a singlo moment, to look with love on ono of these tlarlings of fortune, it was the fact that her handkerchiefs done were items of $500. What a shame! what wickedness! what a preposterous folly ! How could a yonng man marry ? He burned with indignation then. But to replaco it ; one-third of tho sum he was saving to rcdeein his little property froin mortgage - all the money [ie really had in tho world beyond that for his daily expenses ! It was the ruin :f his hopes, his ambitions, his prido, that scorned so to bo anybody's debtor ; it threw him back in tlie race how long! But it must be done. He had a trine sver $500 in the National Solvency bank. He drew his check for tho necassary sum, and foldcd it away in liis pocket-book, and then went about liis business till nightfall, vhen he carne back to his dreary rooms and made him3elf ready to cali at Mrs. Barnetta's. The night had never seemed so beautiful, the stars so large and keen and far ïbove the earth, so romoto and cold - they typified ali tho dear and happy fchings of life forever removed from liim. His hcart was chilled and his faco was white when hu stood at last in Mrs. Barnotta's drawing-room, and she floatbu forward to meet him. Ho had not isked for Miss Mercier. " It is a delicate errand, Miss j ta," said he, with a dreary attempt at smiling. "But the truth is that my maid, in her officious kindness,' has dono 8uch damage to a bit of Miss Mercier's property that I must replace it. Aud I have come to beg you, out of your friendship for me, to tauisact the affair if such an artielo can be replaced hcre. I believe these little trüles are rather costly, and, if you will procuro one" - and lie laid tho check he had dr&wa that morning and the little limp rag in Mrs. Barnetta's hand - "as liko tho original as possible, I" "MydearMr. Malvin, what in the world are you talking of V' cried Mrs. Barnetta. "Have you money to throw abomt in this way ? Five hundred dollars - what is it for?" " To replace Miss Mercier's handkerchief, if you will be so good as to mako thepurchase." " Like this ?" said Mrs. Barnetta, holding up the limp rag by ono corner. "Likethat," said Lucian. " Oh, that is too goodl" cried Mrs. Barnetta, with a peal of laughter. "It is too good, it is too absurd ! What creatures men are ! Did you imagine that this bit of finery was worth all that - this little strip of grass-cloth and German lace ? No wonder tho young men don't marry then ! My dear Mr. Malvin, this miserable handkerchief cost oxactly $2.50, and was noarly worn out nt that. I)id you imagine, too, that my poor little llosa could wear $500 handkerchlefs, without a cent to her namo ?" " Without a 'icnt to her name ?" cried Lucian, springing to his feet. "Exactly. Aha! Is tüat the trouble? Now why didn't you come and talk it all over with me ín the way you used to do, and save youi'self this vexation, audsavo my little Eosa too ? What an absurd boy you are ! Another would have waited to hear that she was an heiress; you wait to hear that she is penniless. Well, sho is, if that satisfies you, except for what I shall leavo my little god-daughter when I dio - which will not be at present, D. V. And there she is in tho next room now. But, bloss me ■" Lucian had not waited for the rest of the invoeation. Ho was alroaely in the next room, and Eosa was alroutly in his arms. - Har per' s Bactr,


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Michigan Argus