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At The Gate

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It was a briglit day in early November, witli elear skies and i very keen : breeze rnstling the few many-colored j leaves clingiiig to the trees along the streets of the fine old country town. A very quiet, gentecl-looking street, lined with handsome residences, it was ; and from the handsomest of them all a lady carne forth with a slow step, as if her only object was to enjoy as much as possible of the bright sunshine and the clear and healthy air. She was young and quite pretty, with attractive, resolute features, with blue eyes dazzlingly bêautiful. Her fair complexion was in perfect harmony with the rosette of blue velvet on the front of her round hat ; and her walking-dress of gray silk was neatly fitted and stvlish. Tliis lady was Agnes CarI roll, tho; niece and heiress of the [ wealfhy solicitor, Mr. John Carroll, who lived in tho stately mansión she had just Ie ft. She came down the long garden walk slowly and thoughti'ully, and pau sed at the gate, looking over it with an exclamation of surprise. On the foot-path j a man was lying ; his face was turnea I away, and lie was so motionless that Agnes fancied he was dead ; and, hurj riedly unclosing the gate, she hastened to him. Evidently he had fallen headlong; for his elothes were in great disorder, and his hat crushed under the side of his head, which lay against the garden fence. His face was pale and thin ; his j hair and long unkempt board were a I bright brown, and his garments, though much the worse for wear and very illfitting, had once been of the flnest maI terial. His shoes were old and much worn, and Agnes could see tbat he had no socks. As slio gazed at the wretched outcast, a tear trembled in her eye and feil upon the haggard face over which she was ben ding; and thén Agnes walked back to the house and sent some of the servants out to bring him nnder shelter. TJie stable-boy said he was drunk, but Agnes feit quite sure he was mistaken ; the stranger could not be inebriated, she said, and ordered them to earry him in and give him a eomfortable bed. When the doctor tor whom she had sent had arrived, he said Miss Carroll was right. The man was not intoxicatcd, but in the last stages of starvation, and had fallen in the road out of pure inability to take another step. When Mr. Carroll came Agnes told him of the occurrence, and made him promise that the poor man need not leave the house until fully recovered, and that, if he could, he would assist him to some other way of life than that which had brought him to their gate. Having g%ined her uncle's promise, which she knew would be kept, Agnes again dressed and set out for her longdelayed walk. Before she had gone far she was met by a young gentleman, who stopped her when he saw her, and remarked : "I was on my way to cali on you, Miss Carroll," turning and walking along by her side. "How is your mother to-day, Mr. Bell?" asked Agnes as they walked along. "Quite veil, thank you. Wc are expecting my sister home from school, and she is all excitement." "Fanny will be quite an addition to our circle this winter." "Yes. By the way, Miss Carroll, will you lend your assistance in getting up those tableaux for our fancy fair?" "I am sorry, Mr. Bell, but my time is so fully occupied that I cannot undertake to be anything more than a spectator." Mr. Bell was evidently disappointed, and left Agnes at her gate with a parting request that she would cali when she heard of Fanny BelPs arrival. Agnes, wlien she entered the house, inquired after the strange man. He was still in a stupor, she was told, and they were afraid that he would die. Agnes stole up to the room where he lay, above the servants' hall, and her heart gave a great throb of pain and pity as she gazed on the white face and shrunken fingers of the poor fellow. His old garments had been replaced by a clean and comfortable dressinggown, and the room was warm and sunshiny, biat it mattered little to the unconscious waif over whom she bent. Agnes had not always been the rich and petted heiress ; time was when she, too, i had known want, and care, and toil, and had been friendless and forsaken of all ; but God. This was all ended years ago ; ■ but the sight of the stranger carried j her back to her girlhood, and the friends of whom she had lost sight when her uncle fonnd her and bors her away to his stately home. There was one she remembcred most of all, a poor, struggling, la student, half-starved and half-clothed, who supported an invalid mother from the miserable pittance earned as a copyist ; but not all the penury and want which was his daily portion could disguise the fact that he had talent, and would rise in the ! world if the laborious life he was leading 1 did not kill him ; and in Agnes Carroll's eyes he was a hero to be worshiped at a distance. They had been friends - nothing more. The blue eyes and prematurely old face of the young girl had found no entrance to the frozen heart of Harly Morton. He was kind, as he was to all created beings, nothing more. From the misery of hopeless poverty and hopeless love combined he, at least, was i srared. And Agnes Carroll went away to her good fortune with the good wishes and a warm pressure of the stndent's hand, that was all ; she and all women bnt liis mother were as mere shadows on the waU. She went away and. forgot liim, for i she was young, and life offered her j many delights, bnt .she measnred all men by the idol of her girlhood, and though she knew that he had never carod for her, and that at last his memory was indifferent to her, yet, strange' lv, all men feil short of her standard, i and eight years af ter she was 25 and still Agnes Carroll. Two days after, when Mr. Percy Bell came to teil Agnes that his sister FanÍ ny had come, she told him the story of the stranger she had found at the gate, and added that ho was now dangerously ill of a f e ver; told himalsoto begFanny to waive formality and come and see her. There was nothing on the stranger's person to give the slightest clcw to his identity, indeed. Would Percy Bell like to see him ? No, Percy did not care to see him. i Very likely he was some wandering searrm. much beneath the notice of spectable people. Porcy Bell said this in a polite tone, eniphasized by the ; pleasant smile in his light gray e.yes, a]id lie wondered very muck wny Miss Carroll was so haughty immediately j after and never offered him her hand at I parting. He did not know fchat Agncs Carroll had been on tho watch to measure the soul of her admirer, and that again her ideal lifted itself to an i proachable height above him. He did not know, he never knew, that after that speech his star set from the heaven of Agnes Carroll's visión. Unfortunate Percy ! He was handsome, well nected and well-to-do in the world ; but he had never known what it was to go ! supperless to bed- he had never grown thin and hollow-oyed with hard study and unremitting toil - and so, as Agncs bitterly repeated to herself, she could not love him. Perhaps it would be wcll for her to hunt iip some beggar, and bestow her hand and fortune on him. Anything to get rid of her senseless folly about Harly Morton, who had probably never thonght of her once since their paths had so widely diverged; and Agnes strove to put her troublesome thougnts to flight by taking her work to the sick man's room and, sitting down by the window, sewed and read by tnrns, or talked to the nurse who was there; until the shades of night came on and the dinner-bell summoned her down atairs. That night the doctor pronounced his patiënt out of danger, and Agnes went no more to the sick-room, but resumed her oíd round of duties, and in her busy life nearly forgot him, i her unele introdTiced the subject. i "My dear," he said, "I havo been ing to the stranger invalid, and find tbat lie is quite a gentleman. He has studied , law, and I don't know bilt that I shall tako him into the office. Besides, he is from Ashville." "Ashville?" repeated Agnes, with sudden interest. "I should like to know about some of my old friends in Ashville ; I wish you would ask him to dinner, unele, if 'he has anything to wear. Such a wretched-looking object as he was ! I am anxious to see how much a good bed and care and food have done for him. It was certainly a strange plight for a gentleman. Has he told yon his story ?" "No, he only said he carne from Ashville, and was in S3arch of employment. He was robbed on his way here, and says that he should, doubtless, have died had we not found him as we did. I believe I will invite him to dinner." Accordingly, when Ag-nes came to the parlor before dinner she found the stranger there ; her miele was with him, and, as Agnes entered, he said: "My dear, permit me to present Mr. . Upon my word," he exclaimed, "I never asked your name !" "It is Harly Morton. It may be that your niece remembers me." Agnes looked into his face, and laid her cold hand in his. She did remember him, for the long beard and unkeinpt locks were gone, but oh! how changed ! Thin and pale he had always been, but he was ghostly now - a mere shadow of the olden man. Agnes had never, in her wildest imaginations, dreamed that her first love wonld be cast holpless and broken down at her feet; she always had pictiired him as a rising power in the world, as esteemed and honored for his goodness and talent ; and now he stood before her a failure, his life-work yet untouched. She drew her hand away, and coldlykind she sat down to entertain him. She went to dinner in a sort of dream, and listened to the story he told in a dazod way. It was certainly a pitiful tale ; and Mr. Carroll promised to help him, whieh he did by taking him into his office as managing clerk, and letting him sit at his table and converse in his parlor. And Mr. Morton was gentlemanly, and kopt his place, never presuming on his old acquaintance with Agnes- never seeking to build the old friendship between them. Percy Bell and Fanny came to see Agnes often, and Agnes returned their visits. Sho was quito as friendly to Percy Bell now as before the entrance of Harly Morton upon the scène; and that gentleman's hopos were again in the ascendant, and he certainly made an agreeable contrast to the ghostly, holloweyed clerk, whom Agnes rarely recogn'ized. So affairs went on until Harly i Morton had regained all his original good looks, and had made himself indispensable to his employer. üne night Agnes gave a largo party. It was her 26th birthday, and she laughingly told her friends that it was the inaugural ball of her old maidenhood, and she nieant it to be a success. And a success it was. Fanny and Percy Bell were there, and so was Harly Morton. Agnes unbent on the occasion and danced with him once ; then refused to dance any more that evening, and dc voted herself to her guests. Just before supper she came across a gentleman in the shadows of the deserted drawing-room, and, tapping him on the shoulder, she playfully said: "And whom do I find playing the ■wallflower?" She started back ere the words were finished, foi the gentleman turned a face of unutterable agony toward her, I and she saw that it was Harly Morton. " Miss Carroll," he cried, " I love a ! lady yrhó is as far above me as yon cold moon is above me now, and my heart is breaking." " Why do you teil me this?" she said, 1 retreating haughtily, as he sought to take her hand. "Aggie, Aggie," cried Fanny Bell at the door. " Will you show Percy those engravings you told me about?" And Agnes hurried off, and Harly Morton turned to his silent cóntemplation of the cold heavens at the long window. " To-morrow," he said, "Ileavethis house forever." It was 3 o'clock bef ore the last gnest had departed and the house was still. Mr. Carroll had gone to his room long ago, but Harly Morton still stood at the window and watched the stars. By and by the drawing-room door unclpsed ond he saw Agnes come and throw herself upon the sofa, and, putting the cushion under her head, begin to weep violently. There was no light in the room save that which came from an open grate, but he could see that Agnes had not removed her evening dress, and wonderedwhat could be the matter. He was about to make his presence known, when he was conscious of a stealthy step in the hall. In a moment the door unclosed and a man entered. Morton could see that he was muffled to his eyes, and carried a dark lantern, and then, as Agnes became aware of the mtruiler s presence, sno starteü up witn a tcrrific shriek and ruslied into the rnusic room and cowered in the shadows. The man with the lantern stood in thought a moment and immcdiately followed her. "Come, girl," he said, grasping her shoulder, "hand over them rings and bracelets, and you're all right. I locked the old gentleman' door and the door from the servants' hall, and how in the name of wonder you found out what was under your bed I don't know. You might screech all night and gain nothing but a sore throat." Agnes by this time was scnseless, and tho robber proceeded to remove the jewcls from his unresisting victim, when he found himself caught in a powerful grasp, overpowered and bound beforo he could recover his wits. Harly Morton did his work quickly and well, and pinioned the burglar with the heavy oord of the lace curtains, which ho was carelessly drawing between his fingers when Agnes entored the draw1 ing-room. By this time Mr. Carroll had forced open his door, and hurried to the scène of action. Thé burglar had lef t a coarse : sack in the hall, containing the most valuable of the silver plate he had found in the dining-room, and, had he been 1 satisfied with that, he might have göt off safely. But he was tempted to enter Agnes' room, and had just time to se! crete himself when Agnes, who had remained in the parlor a long time after her other gxiests, came into her room I and sat down before her dressing glass, i and, leaning her head upon her hands, was buried deep in thought, when, at the íoot 0Í hor bed, whicli was just sido of her glass, she saw a strangelooking sack, and beside it a man's boot protruding from beneath tlio bed. It was in the glass she saw them, and, with a thrill of terror, shè rose up and stole down to the parlor ; and, remembering the presence of Harly in the miisic room, was about to seek him when she was overeóme by her excitement and terror, and threw herself upon the sofa, hoping he would come out and speak to her. All this she told afterward, bitt, when the pólice arrived with the messenger whom Mr. Carroll had sent for, then the robber knew that all was over, and his night's work undone by Agnes' opportune disnvery. At his trial he eonfessed that he had stolen into the house during _tho bustle of the entertainment, and, aftor the supper-table was deserted, he helped himself to every article he fancied. His gack was well laden, and doubtless he would have escaped had he been satisfied with its contents. Harly Morton lef t the house as he had resolved. To all Mr. Carroll's entreaties and Agnes' proffered thanks he said : "I only did my duty as yon did yours when you found me at the gate, homeless and starving. It's only Heaven's mercy that I was saved from the burning. BehoUling heaven, yet feeling heil, I have been during my stay in this house, and I feel that duty and self-respect alike connnand my departtire." He went, but not to stay long, for one day there carne to him a note which read as follows : Mk.-Moeton: Will you come to mo and finish th3 story you vore telling mo whon Fanny Bell intcmiptocl us the nightof the party? Agnes Cabeoll. Harly Morton went, and the story, no doubt, was long and interesting, for Mr. Carroll had to take his tea alone, and Agnes astonished him by walking into the library where he was dozing over his papers and saying : "Uncle, permit me to inform you that this gentleman, who styles himselve'a brand from the,'' is, from henceforth, my exclusive property." Mr. Carroll was quite satisfied, and made Harly Morton his partner ; and he and Agnes were married quietly, and the first intimation their dear 500 friends received of the turn affairs had taken was the marriage notice - no cards - in the local paper. And Percy Bell said to Fanny: "I suppose she would have married me if I had been found tipsy at her gate and eaptllred a lmrglar." " To be sure, Percy. If you ever take a faney to a woman like Agnes again, you niust starve yourself till you are jale, and then break your neck, if you can do so without kiñing yourself." "Hl remeniber your advice," said Percy, dryly; and the subject was dropped, and neither of them ever knew that Agnes had married the man whom she had loved for ten years - her first, last and only ideal.


Old News
Michigan Argus