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Leo, The Adopted

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'Rover! Rover!' It was the voice of a cbild, loud and clear, that echoed through the forest again and again. 'Rover! Rover! Rover!' Then the bushes parted, and a girl sprang into the clearing and looked anxiously round her. She was an odd looking child, not handsome, nor would she be called pretty, hut possessed of an indescribable fascination. The taair was tawny gold, the eyebrows and lashes much darker; and, instead of the blue orbs that usually accompanied fair hair and complexion, were a pair of eyes black and unusually brilliant. The face and bared arms and hands were tanned to a dark hue, but theneck and shoulders, from wliere the loose blouse had accidentally slipped, were dazzlixigly fair. As she stood there in tke golden light, lier face wearing an eager, anxious expression, lier shade hat fallen baek over the shoulders, and one haud filled with wild flowers, she made a picture that sn artist would have aelighted to copy. 'llover! Rover!' she called again, louder and longer than before; but Rover did not answer her cali. She was about to turn away, when she caught sight of a man' figure standing in the shadow of the trees opposite. Bounding across the clearing, she stood near him and surveyed him closely. She saw a tall, well-built figure, a handsome face with proud, patrician features, indolent blue eyes, and a high, white forehead shaded by ing chestnut lian1, lie was wureu ui a. hunter's costume, and carriedtlie nsual amount of trappings. He seemed amused at her close scrutiny, íor a sinile curved his red lips, only half hid beneath a brown mous tache. 'What do y ou think of me?' he said at last. She looked up f earlessly into lus blue eyes: . 'You are very handsome, she replied; 'handsome and grand looking; but I don't like you.' 'Don'tlike me?' he echoed. 'And pray why not 'i' 'You're lazy looking,' she said; 'and I detest lazy 'people; and I think you might be awf ui cross if you wanted to; and- and- I guess you feel pretty big, don't youY' The young man langhed a low, muical laugh; but it brought a flush to the girl's cheeks and a gleam in ner black yes. 'You needn't laugh at me,' she said indignantly. 'If you're going to be rude, I guess 111 go home.' 'Oh, no! stay awhile,' said the hunter, for he was beginning to feel interested in this strange child, with Ver rare, unusual beauty. 'Who are you, little one ?' 'l'm Leo Kussell, and I was eight last spring,' she replied. '2ïow, I'd like to know who you ire. 'My name is Eugene Halton,' he said 'I am visiting my aunt at Eilgemont. Perhaps you have besad of itV' 'Yes, indeed,' replied Leo; 'I saw it once; isn't it lovely V Aud I saw a tall lady there, dressed in mourning, and - ' 'My aunt,' interrupted Eugene. 'Yes, I guess so,' the childcontinued. 'And síie had pretty black hair and mild blue eyes, and looked sweet and lovely and kind. You don't look a bit like her, Mister Eugene.' 'Thanks Miss Leo,' he said, smiling. 'Do you live near here ?' 'Most half a mile away,' Leo replied. Tm an orphan. Grandpa takes care of me; he's a good man, grandpa is, and I can't love him enougli. We were rich once,' she added, growing more lamiliar; 'that was when I was a wee bit of a baby. Grandpa says I can't remember rt; but sometimes, when I shut my eyes, I can see a large room with vel vet furniture in it, and flowers andpic tures and a pianner, and a little lady all dressed in silk, that looks just like my mamma's picture. My papa was very in-ter-lect-able, grandpa says, and maybe 111 be like him ií I study hard. Think so ?' '1 do indeed,' replied the young man. Nowtell me what brought you in líese woods. Aren'tyou tiniid at all i Timid? That means 'iïaid. No, ndeed! I love the woods,' said Leo. What's there to bo afraid of, I'd like o know ? Only flowers and trees and nrds. I can sing just like the birds. ■iow listen!' And, to Eugene's surprise, there ïssued from her slender throat the song of the thrush, the nightingale, the lark, the cry of the quail and cuckoo, folowing each other in rapid succession. 'How wonderful!' he said, wlien she caased. 'Who taught you, Leo ?' 'The birds,' she replied. 'Isn't it just ike? Oh!' she said, as a sudden remembrance came to her, 'I was lookirg 'or Rover; have you seen him'? llovr's mv doar. a curly. black dog, with a spotted breast. llave you seen him V The young man's eyes opened wider, and lie drew a low whistle. 'Was it you're dog?' he asked. 'Then you have seen him ? cried Leo, her face beaming with pleasnre. 'Oh, where ís he? I' ve been looking for him 'most an hour, it seems.' Eugene shifted his riíle from one hand to the other, and looked uneasy. 'Why don't you speak?' demanded his companion. I i didn t know he was your dog, said the other. lie was devounng some of my game, and I - shot him.' 'You didwhat?' cried Leo, seizing his sleeve. 'Where is he ?' Eugene pointed toa clump of bushes near by, and Leo darted forward. Then he heard a shrill cry, and the child carne baek and stood before him, with a face fairly white with wrath and indignation, and her black eyes literally ing. 'Ypu' ve killed him'shesaid fiereely; 'killed my llover! Shot him dead with your great ugly gun! How dared you ? He was my only pel, my dear Rover, and just anhoui ago he was racing the flelds with me. Oh you bad, wicked man!' The eyes softened, the Ups quivered, and, throwing herself upon the ground, she cried passionately. Eugene Halton regarded her curiously. 'I didn't know he was your dog,' he saidagain. 'Don't cry, Leo, and I'll buy you another, a better - ' But she sprang to her f eet, and interrupted him with a quick gesture. 'How dare you teil me that ?' she said, stamping her foot, 'I won't hear it! I won't have another one! You're a wicked man! I knew it when I flrst saw you! I shan't ever forgive you! I hate you - hate you! ïhen she turned and sped away. He saw the pink cambñc dress fluttering througli the trees, her tawny hair fioating behind lier; then she was gone. 'Whew!' he said, whata little spitfire! l'm sorry I hurt her feelings, but it was only a dog, and she can get another any day." Yethe was troubled for many days after. He was haunted by visions of her pale, wrathful face, her gleaming, black eyes, the scornful, bitter tones as she had said, - 'Iliate you, hate you!' He buried Rover beneath the sod wherehehad fallen, and placed a flat stone at his head. But his conscience stil troubled hita, and, about two weeks later, he purchased a handsome, intelligent animal, as near like Rover as ible, and took it to the little cottage near the forest. But the "house was, erapty, and, in answer to his inquines lie was told that the old man had died ten days before, and the girl Leo wtis gone, no one knew where. So the handsome new llover was taken back to Edgemout and given to his aunt, to whom he had told the story of the child Leo and her dog Rover. Mrs. Avenworth, mistress of mont, stood by the wmdow ot tlielarge, airy parlor, an open letter in lier hand, and a smile half doubtf ui, half curious, on her placid countenauce. Her nephew, Eugene, reclined in a willow ehair near her, and nis blue eyes rested earnestly on her face, as though he would read her thoughts. He knew by her marnier that the news contained in the missive was sometbing strange ana unusual, and he possessed a deal of curiosity. As slie turned toward him, however, his lids drooped, and the indolent, careless look he usually wore settled on his handsome features. 'So strange - so very strange!' she said, more to heiself than to him. Then she carne forward and stood bsfore him. 'Eugene,' she said, 'this letter is from my sister, your Aunt Della, or rather dictated by her, for when it was written she was already in the Valley of Death. Yes, Eugene, she is dead; died in far Germany, and among strangers. Is it not sad? But as to the principal part of this epistle: You remember that she adopted a child about five years ago, a little girl. She had no other children, and she made this one her heiress. She wishes me to ake care of her until she is of age, and bring lier up as I would my own daughter. She will start f rom many - but stop. She glanceü at tne date of the letter. 'Eugene,' she said, 'this letter has been delayed. To-day is the day upon which the girl expects to arrive in America, and - why Eugene, she must le on lier way to Edgeraont now. And if slw finds no one awaiting her - how (irovokingl' Just then, before her nephew could reply, there carne a sound of wheels on the gravelled walk, and a carriage drove up in front of the mansion. Mrs. Avenworth hastened to the door in time o see a tall, girlish figure attired ín leep mouining ascend the steps of the tiazza. She glanced at her apprehensively, and her heart warmed to her at once. She looked so fair and delicate in her black robes, over which her aright, golden harr feil in a glisteniíig shower. Mrs. Avenworth advanced to iier, and, taking both gloved hands in her own, stooped and kissed her. 'Welcome to Edgemont,' she said; 'henceforth let it be your home." The girl gave her a grateful glance. 'I may cali you aunt, may I notV' she said. 'Jío, no!' replied Mrs. Avenworth. 'Cali me mother; it is a dear name." 'May I, really ?' cried tlie other in delight. 'I wanted to at flnrt, you looked so kind and motherly, but was not sure you would like it.' 'Like It? said the eider lady. 'Yes indeed, dear. Kever but once have heard that dear naine addressed to me and then it was by a lisping baby' tongue. lie lived just long enough t utter the word, and then left me alón and forlorn.' The girl looketl at her sympathetically; then, throwing her arms around her nock, she whispered, - 'I ain so glad, for you remind me so much of Mamma Della. My own mother died, long, long ago.' 'What is your name, dear?' asked Mrs. Avenworth, at they entered the hall arm in arm. 'Leo,' was the reply; 'and Mamma Della's name, Vanee. Leo Vanee. 'And your age 't' 'Fourteen last April.' As they entered the parlor, Eugene arose f rom his seat and caine forwatd to meet tliem. 'Mynephew, Eugene Ilalton, Leo,' said Mrs. Avenworth. Eugene extended his hand with a winning smile, but to his surprise Leo toolc no notice of it, and, with a haughty inclination of her head.turned away. His aunt glanced f rom one to the other in surprise. 'Are you acquainted ?' she asked. 'I have never met this young girl before, to my knowledge," replied Eugene, as astonished as his aunt. 'I have met you,' said Leo. 'My memory is better than yours, Mr. Halton.' Eugene glanced at her searclungly for an instant; then he remembered. He saw once inore the green, shadowy woods, the little girl in her loose pink frock, her yellow liair streaming over her round slioulders, her black eyes sparkling like stars; andagain heheard the flerce, angry words, 'I hate you- hate you!' Kefore he had time to speak, Leo turned to Mrs. Avenwortli, and said- 'Mother, I am very tired. May I go to my room.' 'Certainly.' was the reply. They went out together. 'My dear,' said she lady, when they stood together in Leo's cool, airy chamber, 'why did you treatEugene so coldly?' 'I ain sorry if I displeased you,' said Leo; 'but almost six years ago he committed an act for which I have never forgiven him. Perhaps he told you the story of the little girl he met in the woods, Leo Bussel, and the interview he had with her. I was that girl, mother. By a cruel act he caused a childish heart deep pain, deeper, perhaps, than he imagined. I have never forgiven it; I never can. Mrs. Avenworth looked bewildered. ']5ut Leo,' she said, 'it was but a trine. He was thoughtless and careless, like most young lads, and it is wrong to hoard up little things against a nerson.' 'Perhaps it was a trille to all but myself,' saicl Leo; 'it was a deep sorrow to me, because I was lonely then, and had naught in this world to love and care for me but Grandpa and Rover.' In her heart she made a vow to try to forget and forgive Eugene Ilalton's cruel, thoughtless deed, and she succeeded so well that, when supper was over, and they sat together in the parlor, she grew "quite talkative, and told him of her travels and sang for him. A week later, Eugene Ilalton departed for his home in the city. Three years passed away before Eugene Halton visited Edgemont again, and when he did so he was betrothed. He showed Leo his flance's photorraph, one day, and she sa w at a glance that she was a pretty, shallow, frivolous -vvoman, and wondered at his choice. When Eugene told Mrs. Avenworth how happy he expected to be, and dwelt upon the virtues of his betrothed, she smiled beneignly, and said, - 'AVell, well, Eugene, I am satisfiedif you are. Kow I.eo is rather lonely here, I know; wouldn't Miss Derrington like to pay iis a visit?' Eugene thought she would, and a week later, Ada Derrington arrived at Edgemont. Before another week had passed Leo knew that her criticism was correct; she was vain and shallow and frivolous, and, although love is blind, Eugene's did notblind him entirely.and day by day lie realized the worldliness of the woman he sought to make hls bride. And now the question arose before him, did he love her? No, he told himself, it was but a passing fancy that her pretty face and artless, innocent manner, had inspired. Bid he love any oneV No.he was about to renlv once more, when there carne before hira the remembrnnce oí' a brilliant, sparkling face with lustrous black eyes and waving yellow hair, and ieluctantly, it is true, lie acknowledged that he did. lleluctantly because he was bound to Ada Derrington.because his sense of honor was too great.because he believed that his affections were not reciprocated. ïhis last surprised and piquetl him not a little. He was so used to being flattered and admired by the fair sex, so sure of his own irresistible power; and when Leo Vanee received his homage indifferently, laughecl at his compliments, ridiculed his dainty speeches, he realized that there was one woman not susceptible to his facinations. When he was attentive she waspert; when he was vexed she was charming; but, through it all, she maintained the womanly diguity and hateur that warned Eugene that trifling or iamiliarity would be dangerous. While strolling in the garden, he carne upon Leo, reclining in a rustic chair, a'dainty bit of needle-work lying on her lap. A few commonplace remarks passed between them, then there was a long silence. 'Leo,' said Eugene at last, bending ver her, 'wliy are you so indifferent? )on't you know I love you?' 'Stop!' she exclainied, and li r bright black eve3 flashed up hito. liis. 'How [are you addreas such remarles to me? You forget yourself.' 'No,' he replied, 'I do not forgec; I wisb I could. Leo, you are cruel, cruel. Yes, I love you; inspite of your indifference, in spite of my promise to Ada Derrington, I love you.' She looked up into his palé face ant saw an expression he had never worn before, a wistfwl, despairing look that touched her tender lieart. Her eyes sof tened, and her voice was very kind as she said, - 'I am sorry, Mr. Halton, for your sake and for Ada's.' Her raanner encouraged hitn. 'Leo,' he whispered, 'teil me you lov me ; teil me you would be mine were free.' An indignant retort arose to lier lips but with that pale, sad face before he she could not utter it. I 'tío,' she said, 'I do not love you; I never can. Forget me and remata true to your promise. Ada will make you a - loving wife.' She could not say a good wife; she felt a doubt even as she said loving, and, understanding Ada üerrington's nature so wel!, she pitied the iuan before her. 'Then this is your answer?" asked Eugene, and Leo bowed her head. She could not speak;something aróse in her throat and seemed to choke her. She a verted her head to hide the tears, and when slie looked around once more Eugene was gone. Leo hastened to her own room, and, locking the door, sank into -a widearmed chair, and leaned her head on one hand. 'Cruel f ate!' she murmujea. 'Yes, despite my heart-struggles and battles, I love him yet. It is there and refuses to becrushed. Oh, Eugene, Eugene, if you are more miserable than myself I pity you!" Leo's love was deep and strong, but her will was strong also; and knowing that Eugene Halten was bound to another, she resolved to hide her love. She knew she could never forget it, never cast it from her forever; but she could secrete it from the eyes of men, so that none but herself would know of its existenee. A few days later Ada Derrington returned to her home, and Eugene went with her. When she said good-by to Leo she whispered, - 'I wish yon would be bridesmaid at my wedding; it will be quite a grand atïuir, and my dress will be lovely. 'I shall be obliged to decline the honor,' replied Leo; "it- ' 'What!' interrupted Ada; 'not be bridesmaid at a great wedding, and wear a lovely satin dress, and have all the people staring at you ? Why it is almost as delightful as being bride!' Eugene then advanced to bid farewell. Then lie lingered, and looked sit Leo wistfully, as though he wished to say more. 'Leo,' he whispered, 'is it yet no ?' 'It can never be otherwise,' she replied. 'And you would have me marry ;i woman I do not love ?' he asked. 'I would havei you remain true to your promise,' she said. 'Eugene,' called Ada, 'do come! If you talk to Miss Vanee much longer I shall be jealous. You're not a bit polite!' A frown of impatience erossed Eugene's face as he turned away and followed his betrothed to the carriage. Then they were driven away, and Leo, watching thetn, wondered when they would meet again. Not for many years, perhaps; and. for her sake and Eugene's, she half wished it might be never. 'Leo,' said Mrs. Avcnworth, a few days later, 'you are looking pale and worn; you need a change. What do you say to a tour through the old World T 'It would be delightful,' answered Leo. 'Will you really go'i' 'Yes,' replied the other. 'We will visit Scotland and England and France and the countries by the sea, and, above all, Germany, where Della's grave is. I have always longed to see the spot where she was laid.' 'It is a beautiful place,' said Leo; yet I would rather have it herc in our own country.' Preparaüons for the trip began at once, and f. bout a nionth later Mrs. Avenworth and Leo staited on their travels. Every where she went the 'chaiming American" was a favorite with all. Once she had longed for this gay life, for admiration and homage, but it failed to interest her now. During her travels she met Mr. Lowry, a wealthy American gentleman many years lier' senior. Leo was not a coquette, but she could not help being bright and fascinating, and.before they had been long acquainted.Arthur Lowry realized that he loved her. It was not the mad, impetuous love of youth, but a love deeper and more lasting. In bis calm, dignified way, he confessed to her one day, and asked her tobeliïs wiie. She respected him, and knew how good and noble he wus.and what a fond husband he would be. 'What matters it?' she thought. 'I shall never love igain. Mr. Lowry is a good man; why not make him happy'? If I eannot be happy, I can at least be content V' 'Mr. Lowry,' she replied, 'let me not deceive you. I do not love you, but I like and respect you. If , knowing this you are willing to make ine your wife, I consent.' 'ïhen you are mine,' lie said, and he pressed the kiss of betrothal on her rosy lips. So they were betrothed, and wlien Mrs. Avenworth heard of it she nodded slowly and replied, - 'Wel!, Leo, I am very glad. Since you and Eugene could not love each other, 1 would rather that Mr. Lowry should be your husband tlian any one else I know.' It was tken September, and in the following spring Leo intended to return to America. She wished to be married f rom Edgemont.she said, and her lover humored her whim. One e veiling Li o, white descending ,he stairs in the hotel, saw a familiar :orm approaching her.and Eugene Helton stood before her. She grew very pale, and would have fallen liad he not stepped forwaid and caught her. He drew her to the darkened reception room, where they found themselves alone. 'This is such a surprise,' said Leo smiling faintly. "I not kaow you ïad left America.' 'You did not?' he cried. I wroteyou n my letter.' 'Your letter T repeated Leo, in bewilderment, 'Mr. Halton, I received no letter trom you.' Eugene paced the apartment excitedly. 'Is it possible!' he said 'Leo.I wrote you a letter about three months ago, apprising you of my coming, and - why then, do you not know that Ada is dead!' 'Ada Derrington?' said Leo, 'your wife?' 'ÍTo,' Eugene answered; 'not my wife. She was taken ill one week before the day appointed forthe wedding, and died soon af ter. Leo,' and lus voice was very tender, 'in that letter 1 repeated the request made over a year ago at Edgemont. I thought you wouhl iinderstand. Teil me now, is it yes or 110 ? Say yes, Leo.' He outstretehed his anus as though to fold lier ia their clasp; but she drew Vack, and lier brilliant lace grew hard and cold. 'It is still no,' she replied, 'Mr, Halton, I am engaged. We, Mr. Lowry and I, will be married next spring.' Eug-ene stood with folded arms and regarded her saBy. llu is agood man,' continued Leo; 'and loves me-' 'Not as I love you, Leo.' Leo tluslied and her eyes drooped. It was growing dark very f ast, but there was still light enough in the room for her coinpanion to detect the emotions depicted upon her countenance. Leo,' he pleaded, 'at least teil me 11 you love me.' 'Whyshould I tell you thatV' slie demanded, almost flercely. 'What good eould it possibly do us now ?' Then, aware slie had made a confession by those few words. she turnea abiuptly and walked to the curtained window. Eugene followed her. 'Leo, it is not too late,' he said. Slie laughed hysterically. 'Yes it is,' she replied. 'Mr. Ilalton, honor bound you once; it holds me now. Leave me, I b'eseech you. Your aunt is up stairs; go to her, anywhere, but leave me.' 'I will go.' said Eugene; "but not to my aunt. She does not know of iny arrival; let her remain in ignorance. She would attempt to detain me, and I do not care to stay. Leo, is this your final answer?' 'It is,' she said impatiently. 'Go! go!' He turned and left the apartment. On the threshold he paused and looked back. Leo stood withher head bowed and her hands clasped despairingly. He hesitated an instant, then, with a last look, turned and hastened out into the darkness. So for the second time Leo Vanee sent the only man she loved from her. The following spring: Mr. Lowry, Mrs. Avenworth and Leo, returned to Edgemont, and, a few weeks later, the intended marriage took place. Six years passed by, and when for the sixth time since Leo's marriage the June roses bloomed, Leo came down to Edgemont to her old home once more. Her deep black robes and pale face told the sad tale; she was a widow. During those few years Arthur Lowry had been devoted and kind to her, and she grieved deeply when grim Death claisaed him. She was tired of city life, tired of living among strangers; so a few months after his death she went back to Edgemont and Mrs, Avenworth, who welcomed her warmly. A short time after her arrival, Eugene Halton paid a visit to his aunt. He believed that Leo was abroad with her husband, and when he carne upon her in the garden that June dar he started back, and drew his hand across his eyes. 'It is I,' she said, smiling. 'Did you thmk you had met a phantom V' 'It was so sudden,' he replied, covering himself . 'I did not know you were here.' He glanced at her dress of deep mourning, and he knew the story before she said - 'My husband diedlast February, Mr. Ilalton, and I carne back to the old home.' i, He did not ntter a word oï compassionor sympathy.butboth were expressed in the gentle pressure he gave her, hand, in the kindly glasee trom his blue eyes. Then they walked slowly to the'house, vrhere Mrs. Avenworth awaited them. Eugene longed to renew the subject uppermost in his mind, but refrained f rom doing so until the folio wing f alland, when he did, Leo did not reply as she had done previously. And when the June flowers next filled the gardens of Edgeraont with fragrance Leo Lowry became the bride of the man who had waited for her eight


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