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Alive Or Dead?

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PART I. lt was a very liot day ; hot to opprcssiveuess. The sky was one blaze of yollaw sunshine ; there was not a breath of air, not a rustle in a leut', not a sound save the inonotonous hum of the bees raiisacking the blossoms. A dead stillness reigned without tlie manor of Brocklehurst, althoiigh within there were both noise and excitement, for the raorrow was the wedding-day of Hester Kyrle, the sole cliild of Johu Kyrle, millionaire, aud the heiress of Broriklehurst estates. But there were two rooms within the house that noise and excitement did not reach. They were appaxently sacred from intrusión; and even the mothor of the bride-elect did not venture to invade their precincts. One of them was the study of Johu Kyrle, and the othcr the chamber of his daugliter. Mr. Kyrle sat in his study in a deep rêverie. He was a tall, lean man, with hawk-like eyes, that rested wièli a curious iutensity on tlie grate, while a huge pile of letters, pushed carefully into a heap, lay unheeded by his side. He was exclusively that whioh is understood by the term a man of the world, thoroughly mundane to the backbone. He slept and he ate and drank under the connubial roof, and with a sterotyped ioy sniile paid the household bilis without a question or a commeut ever crossmg his thin lips. But, as far as any of the ordiuary feeling or influenoe that the magical word "home" is supposed to exercise over man, he might have been a eelibate. A very long time ago he had discovered that his marriage had been a fatal mistako. Both he and his wife were of the world; but with this one fact the bond of sympathy botween them ceased entirely. John Kyrle was cynieal, clever and deeperately ambitious. Mrs. Kyrle was i'oolish, frfvolous and dreadfully uiiderbred. At the present time there was as little unisón of sentiment as usual between the ill-matched pair, for Mr. Kyrle's sharpcut physioguomy boro upon it a marked contrast to the complacent round face of his better-half. In lieu of a beatific smile of content, such as she wore on the eve of her daughter's marriage with Mervyn Tyrrell - a man after her own heart- Mr. Kyrle's lips were tightly compressed, while an ominous shadow bestrided his light-gray eyes and hifi high brow. There had been an appeal made to him on the preceding night, an appeal most passionate and most eloquent, with that powerf ui eloquence that truth and feeling can give even to the most trivial words, while the voice that uttered it was the oiie that was dearest to his ears. He had faithfully pledgcd himself to consider the subject, forced on his attention by the plaintive, sobbing tones, and he had passed several hours simt up in his study to carry out the promisc he had made. But for once his keen intellect seemed entirely at fault; the difïiculty he desired to solve remained still unsolved, and he was sorely perplexed. A timid knock arouseu him; he hesitatcd an instant before bidding the visitor enter, and he feit almost like a culprit and a craven when at last a light footfall crossed the floor and paused close to his side. Then ho niustered courage and turned to look up with a sternness that was feigned in his glance, and a. resolution that was a mock on his mouth. The girl who stood beside him was slender, almost fragile, in appearancc, wanting slightly in physique, perhaps, but yet willowy and graceful in figure, and with a face fair as the morning. Her clear cheeks reddened and paled alternately, and her soft lips quivered like a child's, while her eyes, meek blue eyes, were fixed eageriy on his own. Before he could address her, she was down in a white heap on the floor, with her clasped hands resting on his knee. ' ' You will not make me marry him, father; you will have mercy upon me, and send him away I" The wailmg cry reached even the heart that had grown somewhat hard and insensible by contact with the world. " Hoster, listen to me;" and Mr. Kyrle leaned f orward and took her trembïing ñngers in his own fina grasp. "You aro going to be cruel, father," she gasped, with her color all flown and her face showing up an ashy white. " Do not excite yourself like this," he said, quietly, still holding her hands.; but she dragged them away hastily, and began wringing them in her excessive agitation. ' ' Teil me, will you or will you not save me from worse tlian death ?" she askcd, with passion in her voice. "I willtoll you nothing, Hester, uutil you choose to be calm. " She drew hei'Seli' togelher, as it were, with a visible shiver passing over her wliole frame. "I am calm now," sho said, in accents that were comparatively steady. "If you had told me a month - nay, even a week - agothatinpledgingyourself to marry Mervyn Tyrrell you were acting under coerción, I conld have and should have stoppcd the matter at once. To me it seems a most iniquitous marriage when a woman swears to love her husVjand and deliberately perjures herself. But I understood that you accopted him volnntarily, and that his attentions were agreeable to you. " "I was a miserable eoward, father, as I told you last night. He and I were thrown so mueh together that it seemed impossible for me to refuso when be ftlmost demamlol me to marry him. And then my motlier said that my rei'usal would break her hearfc." " Her h,eart!" broke in John Kyrle, witli au ill-suppressed cynicism in his voice, "And I have tried, tried hard, to reconcilo mysclf ; but, tlio more I eco of him, tlic more I dislike, uny, bato liim. ] BhaJl go mad if I have to marry thai man !" "And what can le doneto prevent it at the cleventli hour - on the very eve of the bridal ? Hester, I have thonght over it, as I promised you, and I iiud it must be. I can do notliing." " Nothingl" the almost shriekod, rising from her knees, and herslight iigure Wiiying. Mr. Kyrle caught her in his anus and with one hand turned up lier face toward him so tliat he might seiutinize it. "öiild. do you love some other man?" lie questioned gravely, witti a keen glanee. But her eyes looked back at him with frankness in Sheir limpid depthB. " I wiah I did !'' she replied earneStly; " foï I would appeal to hiltt to save me from this fate, sinoe you rei'use to do so. No;itis ohly thrtt I hate - loatlic - this IMervynryrrell !" "But why? He ie not one I should have picked oitt for your hüsband; but he is -well-looking; and I suppose true and honest in the love he professes for you. " " What matters if he be true and est, or ït Ik; loves me or not, smoe 1 abhor him with my whole heart and soul ? Father" - and sbc clasped lus nrm with botli lier hands, and gazed piteously at him - " do you really niean that there is no escape for me - that I must become kis wife ?' " Hester, a child of mine must not be oalled a jilt and dishonorable by the world, and it would be dishonor on your jart to draw back now." Mr. Kyrle mswered poinpously, ín a hard voice " Then, God help me, since you won't ! Oh, that 1 ïnight die beforo toniorrow !" ske nitlrmuïed, with a heart'clt pathos. 'Hestor!" For onco the "father" shone out of lie steely gray eyes, and a misty look carne over them. The sight totxehed her at once. " Forgive me for worrying you," he pleaded. ' ' I suppose you are ight, and that everything should We acrificed to honor. I will try and reigu myself ;" and. she turned quietly to go away. Mr. Kyrle stooped and presised a kies on her forehead. He Was not a demonstrative man, and the caresa was so are that the girl looked up at hirn wist'nlly and in astonishment. " My poor child I" he faltel'ed. " Are you sorry for me, father? It is t any rate a comfort to know that you )ity me, if you cannot help me," she aid, with a faint effort at a smile that nded in a sob. "When she was gone Johli Kyrle went laok to his chair, and bent over an open )ook ; but the muscies round his mouth .witched nervously, and lie bmshed way with a shaky hand a drop thatglit;ered on the pago before him. PAIÏT II. "Hestor, you are late," Mrs. Kyrle emarked, in a pctularit voice, as sho wept into her daughter's room on tlie morning nf the wedding. "Hestor" did not seem to be concious if she was late. She leant listessly against the casenient in a loóse wrapper ; lier long golden hair was tinxnind, and hor face was very pale and van. But it was her eyes that were trauge ; they wore a scared look, and eep luster s'hades underlined them. " Am I?" was all she answered, withut moving from her posifcion ; and the ione of her voice struck paiiit'ully on her mother's ear. Mrs. Kyrle - foolish, frivolous and unerbrcd Mrs. Kyrle - had plumed iierelf on having achievcd a stroke of dijlomacy ; and the serious tone of her aughter's voioc depressed her exultaion to an unpleasant degree. She had naneuvered and managed with that wonerfiil skill that especially belongs to unning and unscrupulous feminiiie naure to forcé Plester into a marriage to vhicli her inclinations were violontly opjosed. And she had Micitated herself mmensely on the sucoess of her schemo. iet there were sparts of maternal feelng lying at the bottoin of her heart, allough they were incrusted in a mass of worldliness' and selfishness. The suiferng that had been legibly writtcn on ïester's face during the latter days had jrought a few qualms to her conscience ow and then, and not all the specious rguments that egotism ñnds to justii'y iself to its worshipers conld quite mother the reproach of the still, smal] oico that would assert itself. "I am actingforhergood, and she will :iank me for it hereafter," was the steretyied phrase by which she sought to alve the whispers of conscience. "Turn, Hestor, and let me sec if you re looking your best, as you are in clnty )ouiid to do to-day. " There was no answer. The girl did ïot hoed or even appoar to hear the words, but stood gazing vacantly up into iie blue sky, where some feathery clouds were floating slowly by. "It is time tliat you were dressing," Vlrs. Kyrle went on, in accents that had Town sharper through He.ster's silence. "Yes," answered the voice; but the igure never stirred. "Lcave her to me, Mrs. Kyrle ;" and girl in bridesmaid's gear came forward rom the other end of the room. " Trust ,o me that Hester shall be ready by the me the clock strikes eleven." ' ' Thank you, Mande. I will leave you o your task ; and it soems to me that 'ou will ñndit a difticult one ;" and Mrs. Cyrle rustled angrily out of the room. '" Hester, you must dress !" and Maude Wymer tlirew her arm roimd the girl ind tried to draw her round. "Very well ;" and this time the figure did move. Hester walked firmly across ,he room, and delivered herself into the maid's and Maude's hands ; and in a ittle wliilo she stood arrayed in her satin Iress, with a coronet of orange flowers orowning her brow. "You look lovoly, Hester; justashade too white, perhtfps, beautiful asa dream. Does sho not, Aune?" ciied Maude, enthusiastically. " Miss Kyrle looks lovely, but ehe is a great deal too white; she looks like a bride of death." "Oh, husli, Aune! Hester, you had better sit hore uutil it is timo to go down." "I should like to go to the window," was Die quiet nnswer. "PleaHe rüise it, Mande; I feel stiiled." '' It is a deiicious day; the air is so f uil of i'ragrance, and the sun sliiiies so bright. It is a happy bride that the sun shines on, you know," Maude said, pushing the sns'h-up; then she drew forward ui armehair, iuto which Hester sank. " You are erushing your dross ! And il' you lean back like that you will gpoil your Howits a.nd veil !" The bride -elect looked up at the remonstrance, and gave a little wistful smile. " You eau put me to righta to-morrow. Mande; I am so tired to-day !" and she wearily closed her eyes-. Maitde Wymer gazed at lier in disniay and surprise. Then she went and sat down a little way off. A thousand trifles, liglit as air at the time, seemed to her now as conflrmation strong of doubts regarding this marriage that had occasionally ariseii in inind. She was an intelligent girl, and in a few minutes she had realized Hester's pitiable position. Hester was going mad at her fato, was the thought that flashcd through her mind as she watelied her sitting or sleeping so strangely then. Suddenly a throng of girls appeaïed at the door. They Were Maude'ë sister-bridesmaids; and, after exchanging a word with her, they walked toward the window. " Hester is asleep," whispered one of them in astonishment, and the othors moved softly and spoke in hushed tones as they gathered round the ohair. " How dreadfully white she looks !" " She Will have more color when she wakes, pel'haps." Then a sort of curious awe, almost a dread, crept over them, and they were silent Hester Was so still. There was not the slightest flicker of a golden lash; white and rigid as a nial'ble image, with her pale hands folded loosely and meekly together, Hester Kyrle sat bef ore them. At this moment the maid approached the panic-sti-Rck group. Surprised at the startled expression of the different faces, she presscd hurriedly forward ; and, as if with an instinct of what was to come, she seized one hand ; the touch oí' it was sufficient. The woman feil on her knees before the motionless figure that was ciad in all the mockery of bridal array, and she gave a piercing shriek that resonnded through the house, and feil on the ears of the mrrriage guests - a shriek which in the contagious panic of horror was taken up by each of the assembled bridesmaids. The clook chimed eleven loud strokes, but Mervyn Tyrrell waited in vain f or his bride to come to him. Then John Kyrle stood and gazed at his daughter, and he knew that the Heaven she had invoked to save her from Mervyn Tyrrell's arms liad listened to her prayers, for Hester Kyrle was dead. tart na. All the sunshine had gone from tho earth, and the sky was of somber gray, with gathering clouds, on tlie day that Hester Kyrle was to be carried to her last resting-place. Mrs. Kyrle's grief was so violent that her reason seomed likely to give way; remorse, added to sorrow, was making hor burden too heavy to bear, and the cold, worldly woman gave way to bursts of passionate despair that evoked surprise in its hearers. " But it is no wonder that Mrs. Kyrle suffers remorse," Mande Wymer said to lier brother, as he took her to the house Eor a last look at the friend of her childliood, before the sweet face should bc shut away from mortal oyes. ' ' Mrs. Kyrle is as much a murderess as though she had cut Hester's throat with a knife." Then she recounted to him all her ideas on the subject of the marriage, the prospect of which had killed Hester. " O, Mark, ifpyou had seen the angel's smile, so sad, so wistful, and so meek that she gave a few minutes before she died." She paused, her voice choked by tears. "And she died of aneurism of the heart?" questioned Mark Wymer. He was a medical student, and so a sudden death excited hie interest. " Of course it was; the doctor said so. At first they tried restoratives, fancying it was a fit of some sort; but I knew'better. I knew the instant I looked at her that Hester was dead; I knew that she had reached peace. She was just as cold and as rigid a few moments before she died as she is now. I should like you to see her, Mark; sbc was so beautiful in life." "And she is beautiful in death," was Mark's first thought, as his eyes rested on the dead girl, wlio, to gratify the half-crazy mother's wish had habited herself in wedding-garb. Mark had been studying medicine in the Loiidon hospitals, and, like too many in his profession, he had come to regard the human body, practically and simply, as a curious piece of mcchanism animated by vital principie. But he could not somehow look at the form before him in the same cold, abstract manner. He could only gaze on it as a visión of beauty such as he had never looked on before. There was not the faintest shade of death's livid hue on the pure white face ; there was neither slinrpening or sinking of the classical features ; there was none of that peculiar expression round the pretty lips, and in tho fall of the eyelids upon the check, which is tho signet that the conqueror Death sets upon his victims ; and yet it did not look life-like either. In the facie and hands there was a marble ngidness, and the tints were iransparent lüe pjcrian. Hester Kyrle was borne to her grave, and Mark Wymar rcturncd home ; but, when the day had gone by and dusk was gatliering in, he wended his way to a friend's house, and tlmt friend wás a surgoon ói high standing in his profession. "Barker, do you know a sane man when you see him?" he asked. The snrgeon opened bis eyes in surprise. "Just put your finger on my pulse, and look at me. Am I all right?" " I should think you are gone mad." "I liave come on an errand whicli I fear you will think insane; and I -want you to assurc yourself that I am compos mentís bef ore I speak it." "Well, say tliat I am convinecd of your sanity." " There was a young girl buried today, and I believe slie lias been buried alive. I have come to beg of you to help me to discover the true case." "What!" Mark reiterated his words Enough that persuasions prevailed. The sexton was heavily bribed, and they then descended into the vault. When the coffin "was unclosed, Hester lay in it witii no change in her appearance. The surgeon touched the brow and the hands, then he held a small pocket-mirror before her mouth. The glass was undimmed. He shook his head; the case was hope1M "One moment," cried Mark. "Put your hand under the arm and sec if there is the same chili there as on the brow." With difficulty the direction was carried out. The same ehilliness was not there ; to decide tlie point the silken bodice was cut away in order to feel the heart. There was no pulsation. ' : Try under the arm ngtrín," plemloil Mark ewaiasÜy. The siirgeon pushed his hand slowly aloug ; then he paused, and visibly startlod, exclaiming eagerly : "There is warmth here ! By Heavens, he ís not deal !" "Now, see here," said Mark. He lifted her right hand, straiglitenmg the elbow, and pointing the fiugers in the opposite direction. After which he withdrew his hold of the arm, and it remained precisely in the same position. "Hurrah, Mark! It's nothing, after all, but a cataleptic flt. Let us takc lier home at once." Hester Kyrle recovered consciousness after a deal of suffering ; but the utmost skill and devotion were requisite to cure her. When at last her cheek bloomed again with the roses of health, and strength 'carne to her frame, she gave lier life right willingly into the keeping of its preserver, and Mark Wymer won his bride from the very jaws of death.


Old News
Michigan Argus