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Taken By Surprise

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"It seoms good, after all - now, don't it, Patty ? - to have the house lighted up agin, though it's made a deal of work and a considerable íuss and trouble for just a day. But folks will have their whims; and it isn't often my folks is whimskul, so I don't compiain, and I know you don't, Patty." " No, Mrs. Dobson," siiá goodnatured Patty; "I'm willin' to work, and I take pride in flxin' up for Miss Dolly; it's her party, you know. And Jacques tells me all the young ladies is to bring their om paidners. There'll be a sleigh-ride to-morrow morning, for they do say there never was such sleighing as tbere be this year; and in the evening the Germán. And what time is the supper to-night, Mrs. Dobon f" "Half-past 10," replied the housekeeper; " and hore it is a qaarter to 9, and the train due at half-past. Well, they'll have a good stipper; not but that we oould have done without that French j cook sent with Jacques, for I don't hold to French cookery, and never shall; it's i my idee that f rogs and crokkits and myniece is del'terious to Americans that was brought up on the Mayflower, and j baked bcans, and good stilf pumpkin pie. And they'll have an appetite for it, ridin' across the cold hills through the drivin' wind in that great straw-ride sledge of Gaffer's - the only thing I that could be pitched upon to hold sixteen; and there's sixteen comin', all j told." "Dear me!" said Patty. "And ij wonder who Miss Dolly's pardner is ? If it's that pretty, curly-headed Mr. Ned Berton, I don't blame her for goin' agin Mrs. Derwent a little. Now what does raake Mrs. Derwent hate Mr. Ned ? - and she do hate him in dead earnest." "I can teil you," said Mrs. Dobson; " 'tis because she has got another husband in her eye for Miss Dolly. But, if she has, what bizness is't of mine? What bizness is't of your's, Patty? You ought to know better than be meddling with the affairs of your betters - a young thimg like you." Whereupon the gossips parted, Mrs. Dobson to go down stairs and watch the salad-dressing - in which even to her satisfaction the French cook played the prescribed third part of "amadmanto stir it up" - and Patty to go up stairs for a last look at Miss Dolly'H room, which was all in order, and "like a baby house," so Patty thought, "for cunnin' things." A real girl's room it was, though Dolly was a young lady grown, 18 her last birthday, and "out" this winter. As Patty flitted around the room, feather duster in hand, and lingered fondly at the " duehesse," as Mrs. Derwent called the lace-draped toilette whose mirror was bestuck with cards and photographs, a card dropped from somowhere and lighted upon the blue pin-cushion. Patty lifted it, somewhat troubled, for she had been ordered not to touch the mirror, and she knew by one transgressiou of that order that if the array came tumbling down like a card house there was no putting it up again to chcat Miss Dolly. She looked at the memento ruefully. It was a large card, with a gray crest in the corner and a few written lines. She turned it over. On that side, too, there was writing, but in oolored ink, and much fincr. Patty could not read handwriting, but she said to herself, " This card is Miss Dolly's ; shall I try to put it back in the mirror, and perhaps push down the others, or perkaps put it in the wrong place, so Miss Dolly will know I havo been touohing it? No ; I'll just stand it up, this way, with the crest sido ontward, right in front of the pin-cushion, and she'll see it anJ know it's her'n." Then Patty took her last look at the pet room, and turned down the lights, and shut the door, and went, with less enthusiasm, through the other guestchambers. And before long the great sledge, with its six horses and its hundred bells and its merry people, came rushing and jingling and singing and shouting up to the door. And supper was ready, and the young people just flew to their rooms to drop their wraps. And then at the last moment it was discovered that there were seventeen guests instead of the sixteen provided for; and Miss Dolly - beautiful Miss Dolly, with her eycs shining as brigiit as stars, and her silken yellow hair nuffiing up aronnd her forehead and falling in glit tering streams upon hor fur-lined cloak that she tossed back like white wings, until ghe looked like an angel in a picture, only more so - stood in the passage and said: "Well, thon, Patty, give some one my room, and I will go with Oousin Emily." And Patty, with a natural instinct of attraction for the " pretty curlyheaded Mr. Ned Berton," went straight to him first, and said: "Would you pleasp, sir, take Miss Dolly's rcom? and ['11 show you the way." And Mr. Ned Berton, without uttcring a word, but iooking, as Patty said afterward, "just caught up and fluttered," did as he was bid. Then there was supper; and by the time the dock struok 12 good-nights wero said, and thc guests wero all loeked in thoir chainbers to seek the slumber that ahould make them quite fresh for the delightful morrow. And at midnight Ned Berton, in a sort of awe, stood in Dolly's room, with his hand uon hia hearfc, looking about him, aud say ing, bencath his breath, " This is here, then, and given to me ! I am glad no other fellow has it. I believe I would knock down auy otlur fellow who had this room, who dared to sleep in it, or -who dared to take a loncj look at it. Dolly, my darling angel ! I liardly daré to sleep in it myself , it is so saored - I suppose she fixes her hair there;" he glanced at the blue and white toilet. " And I suppose she kneels down aud says her prayers here;" he not only glnnccd at but kisscd the blue and white coverlet. Dolly was Ned's first love, and he a.lored her. "I don't think I shali sieep to-night, or, if I do, 'twill be to dream of her, like one who looks on Life when he is dying; for I know very well - and surely to-night I have botter reason to know it than ever - my love is hopcless - What is this? My card?" His eye had canght thc crested card set against the pin-oushion. He approaohed and read it without lifting it, recognizing his own handwriting. "Ahl" he sighcd, " I remember the day I gave that to Dolly, moro than a year ago - yes, for it was at Christmas time, and now it is Febiuary. I slipped it ioto hor hand as she passcd through the hall, at the Damois breakfast, with that detestable Eustace Hurd. I saw her blush quickly before she took it. How well she knew I had something for her ! I believe Dolly and I eould make each other understand auything without a word or whisper. 'A word to the wise,' they say, 'is suffieient;' a look is enough to the loviag. And what eyes she bas ! Well, I must forget them; I must leam to forget them. But not tonight - not to-night, Dolly." He took up the card and mechanically turned it over. " N. B. , " and a few linea of handwriting. He paused at "N. B." "Herwriting, and my initials, as she names me - Ned, Ned Berton. It must be for me. She knows that I am here. What else, then, eould the card - my eard - be here for ? ' N. B. ' - to any other eyes, and, in case of accident, simply nota bene ; but to me - ah, I will note well, my angel! 'N. B. - Ask mamma to-night, and if she says no, ask papa ; and if he says no, make him say yes. To-night, without delay. Feb. 10.' " 'Feb. 10.' - that's to-morrow. 'Ask mamma.' Oh, Dolly, can you mean it ? Your command is law ; but Mrs. Derwent will say no. That is a foregone conclusión, sincelhave noprospects - no immediate prospects at least - and here's Eustace Hurd worthhalf a million. There's no hope for me there. ' Then ask papa ; and if he says no, make him say yes.' Can I make him ? What shall I say to make him ? What argninents can I uring to bear upon this intelligent, kindly, butthorough ' man of the world,' in this age of high living, when sentiment rates at so little and money rates at so much, to show myself, a yonng lawyer with an income of barely three thousand a year, a just rival, iu a claim for the hand of Dolly Derwent, of Eustace Hurd, worth half a million? What argumenta can I use ? Or, in default of argument, how shall I expresa myself to reach his heart? - for I suppose tbat under all his jovial worldliness he has a heart. Let me think. " And he thought. Alone there in Dolly's room, with the light lowered to a spark, sitting in the arm-chair, with his head leaning upon bis hand and his eyes downcast, he thought. The wind that had arisen with the sunset died down; its wild sobbing across the hills and in the tree-tops ceased; rain fell, ihen a sharp, fine sleet beat against the panes; that too ceased. The little porcelain clock upon the mantel struck half-paat 4, and still Ned Berxn thought. At last dim daylight glimmered on the walls, and then, woaried to ;he soul, he flung himself upon the sofa and feil asleep. Sonie one awoke him late. He was ;he last one at the breakfast-table, and the sleighs - eight daahing largo cutters, with "just room for two " - were at the door. The eighth had been prooured with some difficulty; but this Ned Berxm was not to know; politeness would not inforin him that he was the odd one of the party, the seventeenth, who had uot been provided for, having been invitcd by Mr. Derwent, on the supposiion that " of course Ned was included" a aupposition which Mr. D. learned emphatically, afterward, had not been 'ounded upon fact. Mrs. Derwent, however, not to be remiss as hostess, made the best of an emoarrassing blunder, and, in apite of her plan that only the young people, seven jouples, should enjoy the sleighing, and, in spite of her antipathy to that diversion, and her unconqucrable fear of iiorses, which even the sober grays of tier park phaeton eould not render calm, lieroically ordered the cutter. She came and rested her plump little cweled hand with matronly oase upon Ned's shoulder, as at the now-deserted breakfast-table he bent over hia plate in abstracted mood, trying to swallow his laot roll and coffee, and said, genially, " So, Ned. I am to go witii you. But only on one condition - that you will promise not to run away with me." Ned withdrew himself from his soul's preoccupatien just sufficiently to jerk clown a last mouthful and say, with rather coníused gallan try, "I cannot promise for myself, Mrs. Derwent; but I will promise that no unappreciative animal, no ' untamed flery steed,' shall run away with you." "Then come," said she, gayly, "for they are all going or gone. Why, Ned, you have eaten nothing. Won't you have another cup of coffee? No? Well, we shall lunch sumptuously at the ' Blue Globe;' they have been two weeks preparing for us. That will be dejeuner for you. Where is Dolly ?" Ah, Dolly ! There she stood on the step by the side of Eustace Hurd, wrapped tight iu her fur cloak, rcady for departuie, and hor sweet, warm face - not hooded enough to hide its golden halo - turned wistfully backward. "Good-by, mamma," she cried; and theu she saw Ned, and the sweet face changed - turned pale for thc instant, Ned thought, if sueh a thing eould happen that a roae-bud should turn pale. Sho gave him just a look, scarcely a smile. He feit his heart's wild beating under her appealing look. Such a morning as that morning was ! - one of those miracles of mormngs when the white mantel of the snow maltes the world like a new-born planet; when nature shows herself in all her artistic renderings a sculptor more thau a painter, exclaiming, for the moment, like the passionate angel of the palette, " Form is every thing; the outline is the picture." The sleet had polished the enow, and the scène was not only molded against the horizon in bold nml chiseled contour, but every dotail of forcground, every stone and fcnoe aucl leaflesa bush, and cvcry aisle of porspective, every farm-house and grove and over-branching forest, was as if cut in crystal or in rnarble, decisive and pure and dclicately hewn in matchless marvel of curvo and tracery. A white new world. To Ned Berton, with one thought in hoart and brain and imagination, this wealth pi' beauty was as naught. And Mrs. Derwent certainly had no expres sion of aclmiration on her countenance as she said, spasmodically, "This is really " - with an alarrned glance at the horse's ears - " the best - isn't it, Ned?" - with a terrifled gasp as the sleigh lurohed and darted forward - "sleighing that we " - and an impetuous movement of her hand out of her muff - "we havo had" - and an unoontrollablo cluteh at Ned'sarm - "in years." "Splendid!" said Ned, gloomily. " Glorious !" said Ned, savagely. " Oh, how I wish," he thought, " that I could get hold of Eustace Hurd's coat collar 1 He mrald be tossed into that snow-bank before he knew it; how does he dare to bend his head so close to Dolly? There ! now they have turrred the corner; they will be out of sight." " Whoa, Charlie ! hi, Oharlie !" to the horse, wMch exhibited decided signs of uneasiness, developing preseutly into vicious restiveness, the unruly bcast now leapiug frautically onward, now shying at a shadow, and now with uprearing hind legs bcspattering the occupants of the sleigh with bits of ice and enow-dust. Mrs. Derwent nearlyfainted, and then "carne to;" and Ned Berton nearly swore, as the sleigh in front exasperated him with its silhouette of a tender couple, and then recovered himself with a consideration of pity for his really suft'ering companion, and with - faith in Dolly. 80 they proceeded, having some intervals of smooth going and conversation between long spells of harassing irregularity in the conduct of the horse, and of stinging jealousy to Ned, and of unfeigned terror on the part of Mrs. Derwent, until, after a distressing sleighride of two hours, they came to the "Blue Globe;" and Mrs. Derwent, immediateiy after alighting, rushed to Dolly and said, " My dear, I cannot possibly go back with him. My nerves will be shattered. You will have to, for you are not afraid of anything, my darling. I will go home with Eustace Hurd; you must go with Ned. Only " - with sudden caution - "'youmust promise that you will not speak a word or let him speak a word, beyond comrnonplace." And Dolly, ouly too glad on any terms to return with her dear lover, promised faithfully; whereupon Mrs. Der went 's terror subsided. The young people had a dauce in the rustic ball-room of the "Blue Globe," and then lunch; and by 4 o'clock the sledghs were ordered for home, and Mrs. Derwent went with Eustace Hurd. And Dolly- silent, blissful Dolly - was tucked rapturously into the cuttor with Ned. Oiï and away again! The afternoon was superb. Even Ned, who had been blind all the morning, appreciated the beauty now. The sun shone as it never shone before; the eky was like a sapphire; the icicles melted and dropped in a million diamonds; the shadows of the flr-trees on the burnished snow were blue as the blue of the Grotta Azzurro. The little snow-birds hopped tamely by the roadside, and chirped musically. And the horse - going home - was as géntle as a lamb; Ned was able to drive him with one hand, and so find placo for the other hand under the sleigh-robe close to Dolly 's. Faithful to her promise to keep the talk perfectly commonplace, whenever Ned approached any topic deeply interesting, Dolly interposed with a light remark or laughing jest, until at last Ned became desperate, and cried, " Oh, Dolly, will you not listen to a word that is earnest? May I not speak to you one moment of that?" And then she answered, quite seriously, even sadly: "Not for the world of that, dear Ned. Not to-day. Tomorrow, perhaps ; if there is such a thing as to-morrow for me, when I only wish that to-day - just as it is now, I mean - could last forever ! To-morrow, perhaps, you may speak of that ; not beÈore, as you love me, Ned." "Then you are not hopcful ?" sighed Ned. " Hopcful ? Oh, no, no ; so f ar f rom hopeful ! But, oh, Ned, hush !" He feit, under the sloigh-robe, her little Liand's quick pressure of his. "Lotus just be happy this beautiful day, that seems to rub out everything that is dark and gloomy with its white-gloved liaud. I love these bluo and white winter days. Every ono loves contrast, you know; and, Ned, the colors of my iife are not these light, gentle colors just now." That evening, when Dolly was dressed for the Germán in her delicate gown of pink gauze and her wreath of blushroses, two notes were brought to her almoet simultaneously; one on a sil ver salver by Jacques, who was disraisscd immediately, and the other produced with some perturbation from an apronpocket by Patty, who devoutly lingered. Dolly had just reached the landing of the upper staircase, on her way down to the drawiug-room, when these messages reached her, and she stood in the aroh of the stained-glass window - where Patty hastened to light the bracket-lamp - and read them both. The flrst on lavender-tinted paper, with a monogram tri-colored, was from Eustaco Hurd: Deak Miss Dekwent : At last I have the permisaion of your mother to say to you a few words that I have loug wislied to say, and that have only been puppressod, in considoration for your youth aad inexperience, until this hour. Will you grant me the indulgent favor to come into the hbrary for a momont before the danee V Your devoted Edstace Hord. The othei noto - on papa's business paper - was irorn Ned Berton. My Daklino Angel : I have done exactly &s you toid me - at least in regard to your father. A tuousaud bletísings on that iuspiring little cue), which I hive worn upon my heart atl day. Oh, Dolly ! but for your divine courage I should have yieldei to despair. Your father has giveu rao permission to addres8 you. Meet me ono momont, dcareat, before the dance in the library, just to let mo look at you and kiss your hand. I promiso not to say a word of that till to-morrow. Yoar own Ned. ' ' Miss Dolly just turned white aud red, like a 4-o'clock posy," said Patty, describing the scène afterward. "And theu when she thought I didn't seo, she kissed Mr. Ned's note, and she said to herself like, 'But what can he mean aboutthe card - the inspiring little card? I don't understand this.' And then I said, ' Oii, Miss Dolly, do send some answer quiek to Mr. Ned, for he's walking p and down the piazza this freezing night without an overooat.' And she says, 'Go teil uitn I will.' And I ran mighty quick -tor Mr, Ned may thauk rte that he did not catch his dcath of cold - and told him what she said, and he cried out, ' Blees you, Patty ! you are a good girl, Patty.' And be gave me- bnt I didn'fc do it for tliat. And my ! am't lio a hoarty young gentleman ? and jnst üic one for Miss Dolly !" " What can lie mean about the card?" thought Dolly again, as, so absorbed in Nod's surprising note tliat she quito forgot the other, sho went muiaingly down stairs. For in fact the card was a simple memorandum mado a year ago. But not until months after the present pregnant February 10, to which it provcd such an exciting precipitator, did Ned Berton know that the writing had been mado upon the white surfaco, oblivious of the other side of the crested card, by his iaipulsive little lady-lovo ono day when, with her most intímate girl-friend as witness, and with her own written terms to serve for solemnity, liko a sworn signature, she determined to ask her mother, and, in case of denial there, to coax her indulgen t father, for "a blaek silk gown with train, and trimmed with Chantilly, like Miss Austen's" - a stylo of costume already pronouneed " too oíd " for a school -girl. Could it be possible that fate in caprice destined this girlish demand to be answercd not by "a black silk," but by a white woddinggown ? Time alone could teil. Pluslied and radiant, and with but ono thought in her heart, Dolly glided down the stairs and entered the library. But she recoiled with astonishment when Mr. Hurd, alert with expectation, stepped briskly forward, and, lifting her hand to his lips, kissed the iinger-tips devotionally. Ned Berton, at this instant entering the door behind Dolly, saw the complacent face of his riva), and his assurance in the little act of gallantry. Springing forward, he laid his hand authoritatively and possessively upon Dolly's shouldor. Mr. Hurd drew himself erect, and his inquiring stare changed to undisgnised. animosity as he encountered Ncd's blazing eyes. "Wliat does this mean, sir?" he demanded. " It means that Miss Der went camo here to soe me," said Ned. "You are mistaken, sir," answered Eustace Hurd, haughtily. " Miss Derwent carne here in response to my solicitation." The men's voices were loud and angry. Mrs. Derwent, who in an adjoining room awaited with fluttering anxiety the result of the interview which she believed would consummate the " brilliant match" long held in contemplation, and for which she had used all her motherly influence to insijire Dolly with a sense of its advantages, could not possibly restrain her impatience and her indignant concern at this violent interruption. She came into the library, and caught Dolly's hand to withdraw her from the hold of her youthful lover. " Mr. Berton," sho said, angrily, " how daré yon infringe upon the rights of hospital ity so f ar as to annoy my daughter?" As she spoke sho feit a strong, commanding hand laid upQn her shoulder; she turned, and saw her'Tiusband. Mr. Derwent, who had been paoing up and down tóe hall in an unusual disturbance of mental equanimity, had also heard the angry voice, and hastened into the library. " My dear," he said to his wife, "Ned is authorized to do so." "Authorized! By whom?" asked Mrs. Derwent. "Surely, sir," interposed Mr. Hurd, ' ' you do not mean to repudíate your wife's responsibility iu this matter ? I presumed that you were one - presumed so not only from the admirable harmony of your lives, but from the very nature of the case. I presume that your united judgment bas, of course " " What do you mean, sir?" said Mr. Dervrent. "What do you mean, father dear?" asked Mrs. Derwent, recovering herself, and pushing Dolly away, who hadrushed to her father and clung conñdingly to his arm. " What is the meaning of this ur happy contretemps, my love f " Simply this," answered Mr. Derwent. "A young man, a dear boy whom I havo known since he was a baby, a worthy, true-hearted fellow, I siucerely believe, the son of my college clium and my friend of a life-timo, carne to me an hour ago, and pleadod his case liko a rising young lawyer as ho is, and a rousing warm-hearted youngster - pleaded his claims to be allowed to win Dolly. That was your expression, wasn't it, Ned ? - to win Dolly ?" "Yes, sir," said Dolly's lover, who stood apart, with his arms foldod, his head erect, and his fine cyes blazing like "live coals from the altar" - perfectly majestic. So poor little Dolly, shrinking and trcmbling, and venturing but ono glancc, thought to her heart's core - tñought that moment and forever. "Very well, then," continued Mr. Derwent, "I gave my consent to Ned to go in and win her. " " And I - I - " faltered Mrs. Derwent. "This is excecdingiy strange, exeeedingly unfortunate. I have just given my consent to Mr. Hurd, whom I esteem so highly - whom wo both esteom so highly - to address my daughter." Some comical sido of the aiïair must have touched Mr. Dorwent, for he laugbed at this; not his bright, wholesouled laugh exactly, but just a laugh to clear his throat sufflciently to say, kindly: " Ah, well ! So I pereeive we are all in trouble. Dolly, my dear, I don't see bow anyone but your own self can get us out of this trouble. Here are two gentlemen, both exceedingly estimable, one already approved by your mother, and one - one somewhat rather leniently regarded. The truth is, Dolly, I courted your mother when I was hardly more tban a boy- a penniless boy, too - and I have never repented of my rashness; it has been my happiness and my fortune - yes, my fortune, young men ! Two suitors, Dolly; one, I say, rather leniently - for sympathy perhaps, or for ' auld lang syne' maybe, for his father was my college chum - rather leniently regarded by yonr father. Both lovers of yours, my child; and I don't wonder at that, little Doll; both honorably offering you heart and band. I see nothing now to be done except tbat you should ebooso betweeu theni." Then cvery ono in the room - Eustace Hurd, Mrs. Derwent, Mr. Derwent and Ned - majestic Ned - looked straight at Dolly. Dolly, having been pusbed away from her father's sustaining arm by her mother, bad dropped, wretched and hall' fainting, upon the sofa. But sae arose now, niul stood for a moment with her little bands clasped against her girlish bosom- beating, indeed, now with a : womanish impetuosity - and her littlo i f eet jnisgivinK her, so tbat f pit h( solf tottcring, and lier face paling, paling, and lier eyos downoftit. And then suddenly, with a flasli to check and lip of vital carmine, and .1 thrill to her fiuger-tips, so strong that it extended her hands cordially, and an iastinct of faith that nerved her to composuio aud dignity and quccnlinoss, sof ar aa it was possible for an angél-like, child-likc ërcature like Dolly to show queonlinesB, she advanced a step or two, and raisod htr eyes, and said, with a charming directness, in voice low-toned but so penetratiug with the intonsity of a youthful life-tinio and the earnestncsii of an eternal proniise that it hauuted evermore thosc who heard it, " Ned - vou have taken me - by surprise." -


Old News
Michigan Argus