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Mrs. Manchester's House

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For how ■!, g a time Mrs. Manchester had been ny friend! I was younger than ske, And altogether different, l'or she was Á-e of those born to rule the race, and I was utterly devoid of any courage of self-assertion. Perhaps our very difference explained our friendship. It often seemed to me that only the great women of history were quite her equals, and I oiten thought of the part she could have played had circutnstances thrown her into ay heroic situation, instead of making her merely a rich woman of good family. As for me, I was alvvays an applaudmg audience, an adiniring worstiipper, delighted at lier beauty, hei race, her ease, delighted that anything so good sl.'ould be a woman; I watchei' her, I iistered to her, I loved her. - My own delicate health wouldMiave hindered m making acquaintances, or entering into gayeties, if nothing else liad do ie so; and when we came, Harold and I, to live in the splendid city where she made her winter home, her hoase was the only place where I, at least, had any view of the great world. Ilarold, of course, had many more oppoitunities, for he was a strong and brilliant man, full of wit and charm ard daring, only, as such men often are, ' unforturute in everything he touclied relating to money. We were "bsolutely alone in the world, and we sustained toward each other a very tender relation, for I had been given a baby into his mother's arms when my own mother died, and we had been brother and sister, in all but blood, since that hour. Ilarold represented the wliole of mankind to me, who had never had a lover; and I used to think he cared for me all the more because his untoward fate kept him apart from tl' e girl he had loved so long- so long, for she had seen but twenty-two summers now, and she had promised herself to him six years ago. She had promised; but her father - who knew the advantagos of money, its eomf orts and blessings, and liad no idea of sacriflcing the thing he loved best in the world to want and care - he had enforced another promise, this promise from Harold, and to the effect that he would not claim her hand till he could give her as line a home as that from WlilCXl lic liUUa ilcl. And so we lived on, lie alvvays hopLng to seize Fortune for Amy McNeil's sake, Fortune always eluding his grasp, and 1 waiting and watching, hoping and pniying, for Iris sake, to have the litUe sunbeam come and brighten my life by brightening Harold's - lovelier than the ürst wild rose, fresh as the violet, happy as a bird upon the bough, the sweetest little morsel of beautif ui flesh and blood, I thoughc then, that ever trod the earth, and loving me, alQiost before she knew Harold, with one of the passions vvhich young girls sornetimes feel for stout-hearted old maids, and loved by me first on her own account, and aftsrward on Harold's. Every year we hoped for the good luck to erown llarold's enterprises that should entitle him to bring her home, that should give him a home to bring her to, and every year luck feil short. ÍTow they had discovered oil on his waste land in Pennsylvania - there were millions in it: the oil took lire and burned the región out. Now he bent every energy toward procuiing the running of a railway through his Michigan wood lots, whose cutting would furnish a lif e-long income: the railway ran miles to the south of it. Now he plunged into stocks, relying on sources of inf ormation that afïected the raarket: his broker made a fortune,and not only stripped him of every penny, but left him in debt to a point that, with his fine strong sense of honor, was a perpetual nightmare. At last he had settled down to the practice of his profession, with its slow returns, economizing in every way, in order that he tnight pay each quarter some installment on the indebtedness which galled him so, and which now seemed to make 3uch an impassable barrier between him and his happiness, unless the great windfall of success that never came should come at last. Once in a while he went and visited the McNeils for a day and a night; onco in a while he sent me; he limited himself to a weekly letter, both because Amy was not a writer, and because he thought it the wiser way; and of late Amy had been a little reproachf ui that he should tliink more of honor than of love, and should be spending on his indebteduess what might be amassed into a home, spurred on, I suw on the occasion of my last visit, by her father's talk about the Quixotic folly of llarold's refusmg to take the poor debtor's oatl and so get rid oí' his cares, and i begin life anew. And Harold sat I evening after evening at his desk, not writing leaders or reviews, I knew.but pouring over that little ivory miniature - that thing of beauty which was all there was to represent to him wife, home, and future. It used tomakemy heart aclie for him, and sometimes I feit as il', were he only relieved of the burden of taking care of me, with my doctor's bilis and invalid wants, he would do rnueh better; and once I hinted as much. But he wheeled about angrily, as I ought to have known he would. 'Pauline!' he ci'ied, 'do you dare to say such a thing to me? Do you think life would be worlh a farthing to me,' he went on, more softly, 'or to Amy either, without my sister I'olly in the house ?' 'You would not miss me, Harold dear, so much, after you have that little sunbeam in the house,' I faltered. 'She is a sunbeam,' he said. 'God bless her! But you are the light in the window, the fire on the hearth, Polly. Don't let me hear any mor such stuff. I've trouble enough now God knows, without feeling that yo are turning over such thoughts a that.' I could not help thinking what mistake Judge MoNeil was u :ing il refusing hischild to such ;. ma;, as this simply because he had noi ts much money as hiniself - a noble, inanly low, upriglit as the Judges of Israel strong as Samson, and handsome as Saul, fit in himself to make ariy gooc woman happier than all the gold o ïarshish could. Time fled, and Ilai'old still ploddec on. Sometimes, when I was wel enongh - and I had been gaining lately - he dictated an articie to me; some times I tyent to the librarles and gath ered him data for his work, that brought him much praise and little pay We lived in our three rooms; we studied Spanish together for the sake of some Spanish records of use to him; we found a certain quiet and healthy pleasure in every day. My only dissipation in this time wasmy evenings with Mis. Manchester, seldom going on those of her grand receptions, but on the off nights, when some cluster of distinguished people dropped in, or whenshe had music of a rare sort; and if theie were only herself and inyself, then enjoying the time all the more, for the hours that I spent with her alone gave me glimpses into her nature that were like travelling in unknown regions. She knew my cireumstances, but of course she eould offer us no such indignity as to urge upon us any other assistance than her friendship, although she did more than once beg us to give up our little rooms and come and share her ionely splendor. But that would have been Harold's surrender of independence, and was out of the question. 'Well,' she said at one time, 'it is absuixi. It deprives you of comforts and enjtyments, and gives you no pleasure but Uve gratiflcation of your pride. Stift, I like your pride; it is healthy. A a reste, j shall be of use to you where you little 4-eAxn ït; And she sat thinking moodily a w hile, and waving to and fro her feathered fan like the dark wing of .some dream. Orten, then, when she sent me home in her sumptuous carriage, I half wished that Harold were not so healthy in this matter of pride, for house and equipage were all exactly to my taste, that loved surroundings of state and beauty. I was going down to the McKeils to spend the day, when I bade Mrs. Manchester good-by one morning. "Take me with you," said she, impulsively. "I should like to see little IIop-o'-my-Thumb again," which was one of the naines she had given Amy, varied of late with Her High Flightiness and Miss Hoity Toity. When we came back that night, Mrs. Manchester broug-ht Ainy wtih her for a visit. And such a visit as it was! Mrs. Manchester seemed resolved that the child should have all the gayety she could take, and there was no doubt that the little beauty could take a good deal. It was all new to her, just f rom her country town. At first it dazzled then it delighted her. She had the world at her feet, for she was fresh as a dewy wild llower where one tires of wilted exotics. At (irst, too, she would have none of it without Harold and myself ; but at last one person or another, it seemed to make little odds. Perhaps this was somewhat lue to Harold's openly expressing to her waltzing repeatedly in one evening with young Peixotto, who seemed to clasp her more closely as they v'irlerl by Harold, standing near, and u rlance with a sort of insolent triti npn ,tt the lover with his love in anoth ., anus; and to her morning rides with Mr. J)e Maury through the woods beyond the city; and to her appointment to meet Captain Merram in the gallery, and all the rest of it. Then Amy would accuse him of trying to prevent her pleasures, and would pout a little, anci perhaps cry a little, and then laugh a little, and end by dancing away to get ready for an afternoon stroll and a cali at Mrs. General Vance's with somebody ebe. "Great heavens!" Harold said to mi!, on coming home one night - for I did not go to the routs after a little - "how this business rubs the bloom off a girl! What did Mrs. Manchester mean by asking Amy into this inferno?" But I knew f uil soon what she meant. She meant that Harold should see how little ittakes to strip the wings of a butterfly. 'But,' 1 saidto myself, 'it is useless, for there are none so blind as those who won't see.' One night Harold had it out with Amy, after a fashion. We had gone up to dine with Mrs. Manchester and a small company, and I fancied that Harold hoped for a quiet liour or two with Amy afterward. How lovely she was! JudgeMcNeil had given the pretty spendthrift a check-book, and bade her use what she wMitwt ; amd his money was never spent oo"betfcer advantage, inappropriately splendid as some of her attire was. That night in lier close-ütting, long-trained robe of purple velvet, with one yellow rose in the knots of creamy lace at her open throat, with her yellow hair, her appleblossom face, she was so beautif ui that one looked again to make sure. But it was no quiet hour or two that she wanted that night. 'Why, what nonsense, Ilarold!' she laughed, at something he whispered as they stepped into the conservatory together. 'As if we shouldn't have all our lives together, for you to be grudging me this lirst and last outingl' 'You seem to enjoy the outing.' 'Of course I Jo. This is the world 'Bnt Amy, it is no world for you. I can never give youanythinglike this. Our life must be very different froin tliis festal life.' 'Then I don't want it,' she cried, passionately. 'Amy!' '1 mean - Oh, Harold, I shouldn'c think you needed to interfere with this one little bit of pleasure. And I'm going to Mrs. Colonel Torance's in an hour, and my eyes will be red. 1 never saw anything so hatef ui and seifish as men are. There! kiss me and let me go.' And that was the end of it, she thought. But not so. 'I will kiss you, Amy, and I will let you go.' said Harold, gravely; 'but I am going to teil you that I think a longer term of this pleasant life will put an everiasting barrier between you and me. If you do not want that, you will bid Mrs. Manchester good-by, and go home to-morrow. It is not only ruining you, but me. I can not endure to see you again in Peixotto's arms; I can not endure to know - ' 'You can not endure, and you can not endure!' cried Amy, in a sudden temper; and she flung herself away from him, and lie saw her no more. Uut the nexfc morning she went home to her father, having left Ilarold a penitent little note, in which slie said nothing about me, liowever, except to remark that if it were not for good-ior-nothing prudes there would never have been any trouble between them, Hot having quite gotten over a word or two I had ventured to say to my little sunbeam in all genileness and desire for hers and for Harold's happiress. And Harold went down to spend the night at the Judge's, and it was all serene again. 'A star might as well marry a willo'-the-wisp,' said Mrs. Manchester to me. 'How strange that men should be so blind ! My dear, do you think he will marry her 21 'Oh, it would break his heart if he didn't.' 'I don't think it would do anything of the sort,' she said. One evening Mrs. Manchester handed me a linen envelope. 'I want you o take care of this for me,' she said. It will be worth your while. It is a memorandum of something I wish to do for you. Only the half of what I wish to do, though - remember that. Wlien you have opened this envelope, which you will not do while I live,you are to make personal use of that to which it relates, and exactly as I do, and only on that promise is it yours. And when you have done that, you will find in it the ineans to obey my wish. I shall leave you nothing in my will, for those grasping Manchesters vould be sure to break it if I did.' 'Why do you talk so?' I exclaimed. 'As if there were any chance of my surviving you!' 'liut supposing there were a chance,' she eontinued. 'You have been more o me, with your guileless admiration and faith, than you ever dreamed. I ove you, Pauline, and because I love you I wish you to have your share of ül that I have enjoyed.' 'I hope - oh, I hope,' I cried, 'that I shall die flrst!' ' 'I shall die first, whispered Hope to ,he Rose,' ' she sang. 'And it looks as f you would, doesn't it r" she said, drawing up her stately figure to its 'uil height, as she waved her fan of jlack feathers, and surveying the f uil superb outlines and the dark rich jeauty of the face in the mirror, and hen turning with her sweetest, rarest mile to me. 'Well, well, Pauline,' she aid, 'I have luid all that this life can ;ve me, and I am ready to try the ïext. And who knows what a day may bring fortli - or a night either, for ;he matter of that!' Who knew, indeed! One week from ,hat time I looked on Mrs Manchester n her coflin. She had died of an incrutable heart-disease, ot which only he and her physiciau knew. What an ineffable loneliness beset methen! I had Harold at his desk, to )e sure; but Harold's thoughts, I saw, were miles away from me; and Mrs. "Manchester - she knew me tbrough and hrough. It had beea enough for me ;o breathe, and she answered my houghts; a thousand things 1 could ay to her that I should never dream of saying to Harold- for I was willing, ossibly, that she know me as I was, rat wanted Harold to know me better han I was. Oh, I did miss lier inexressibly. 'Have you oponed the envelope that Mrs. Manchester left in your charge ?' isked Ilarold, glancing up from the ing of light caso by his lamp to where sat in the shadow of the open window, looking out, at the Hight. 'I will get it now,' I said. 'If I had ïot quite forgotten it, I have half dreaded it.' I went and brought it down. and pened it, and took out a legalooking paper and handed it to iarold. It was the deed of the land ïul the house wheie Mrs. Manchester had lived, and of all that it contained, moreover - the house that she had reuilt and furnished herself, and in whichjWe had so long known her. The whole thing was properly executed and ecorded long before,as we subsequently 'ound. 'Oh, Harold,' I gasped, 'see how she jlesses us from the grave! She gave me so much pleasure, and now she gives me this. See! It is the home to which 'ou can bring Amy.' 'The home!' exclaimed Ilarold. 'What ave we to entitle us to such a home s that ï' - 'Why, that is the condition she made, o make personal uso of it exactly as jc did herself. Don '■ you rememer?' 'Yes. You have to live in it, I sup)ose, if you would keep your bond. It was the condition.' 'The condition on which it is ours - ' 'Ours?' he said, in a bitter tone. 'Why, Haroldl Harold! you don't mean, when yours has been mine so ong, that you wouldn't take - And Vmy need never know- ' Oh, Polly! Polly! And there Harld's liead feil forward on his arms, nd, to my amazement, he had burst nto tears. He was tired, and nervous, and worn ut, I said. I could not teil what ailed me, but I OUld 110 more B-otn him then nnrl talro I hia head on my shoulder and soothe him, as once I could have done, tlian ! conld lly. 'Ilarold dear.' I said, presently, 'we can as well live tliere as here. What í'eeds us here will feed us tliere.' 'What 1 can earn, Poliy,' lie said, after some further words of mine, 'would not keep that house in repair - would not pay tor the servants to keep it in order. J3ut you are so resolved, that we can flo up and see. We any rate, oarap out in two or three of the great rooms with our one servant; and if we can't keep it, we can surrender it.' And so, after some slight difficulties with the Manchester heirs, as Mrs. Manchester had apprehended, we did move up; and for a week or so I enjoyed the occupancy of the great rooms and enjoyed wandering through thern with the sense of possession strong upon me. At least i should have enjoyed it immensely, it was so entirely to my mind, the rest, the luxury, the lovlt ness, the space of it all; but every day I grew more and more lonely, the ïooms were so vast if they were so beautiful, and Ilarold sat now by himself so much. I seemed to hear Mrs. Manchester' step on the stairs, the sweep of her train on the .carpets; for all the ricli furnishing óf satin draperies and Axminsters and paintings and cloisonnes and carvings had staid vith the house. I turned twenty times a day, expectiner to see thal jestic figure, with its dark sweeping silken robes about it.with the diamond arrow in the hair, move up the room, waving the old fan of black feathers. We had been in the house a month when I ventured once more to open the subject to Harold, and say to him that here was a home as good as- nay, far better than - her own home for Amy. 'It is entirely beyond reason,'said he. 'To live in this house requires dress, equipage, and style that are utterly out of my power.' 'And do you mean that even you and I, Harold, ought not to stay here ?' 'Yes, to teil the plain truth. If we could sell the house, that would be another thing; but as we can't, I think it will be cheaper for us in the end to surrender it to the heirs. It is a white elephant.' 'That would be violating Mrs. Manchester's wish just as much as if we sold or rented it,'. I urged. 'I wonder - I do wonder what she meant when she bade me remember that this was only the half of what she meant to do for me. Well, Harold dear, we will do exactly as you think best, of conrse. But it is too bad, too bad - so beautiful, so charming a home, and so fllled with Mrs. Manchester's presence as it is. And how periectly Amy would fit it all. 'With her lovo of pleasure, it would be Amy's ruin,' said Harold, hoarseA few nights af ter that I was sitiing alone in the grey drawing-room - a vast and lofty room hung with grey satin. Ilere and there a marble gleamed f rom a dim recess; here and there the ray of a street lamp fiashed up, and played a second on fresco or portrait, or glinted in the mirrors between the long open windows, through whieh occasionally there drew a breatk of welcome air, for it was an intensely hot suinmer night; too hot, it seemed to me, as I sat not far from the windows, for the stars to shine. As I opened my fan I thougJit if 1 was so warm in these spacious rooms, what were people enduring dowa in hovels and shanties, and I thought with a pang of regretof the r.ecessity of surrendering it, and 1 studied again and again the meaning of Mrs. Manchester's woi ds, 'only the half of wliat I wish to do- remember that.' I could not help a sensation of meanness, a feeling that I was sordid, although I knew it was without thought or hope of anything of the soit that I had loved Mrs. Manchester; but I repeated and repeated the words, wishing bitterly that if the gift of the house was but half she meant to do, she had had time to fulfill her intentions, not for my sake, but for Harold's. And then my mind dwelt on the rest of the sentencê, 'and when you have done that, you will find in it the means to obey my wish.' What liad that implied'? Harold had Imnted the house over, but we had found nothing to give us a clew to lier meaning. 'Ah, my friend!' 1 thought, throwing myself back in my chair in the dimly lighted room, 'you meant to give me pleasure, and you have only eaused me sulïering, since it is harder to give up the prospect of this home for Harold and his happiness than never to have had it.' Perhaps I closetl my eyes a moment; perhaps there were tears in thein- I don't know. All I do know is that the iext moment they were wide open, for I could have afiinned that I hemd the trail of a garment over the carpet. I started and half turned, and my eyes were caught by something like the sparkle of a diamond iii the long mirror, and there, as distiuctly as ever I saw her in my life, was Mrs. Manchester, sweeping down the suite of parlors in her dark robes, and waving her fan of black feathers, and as she glanced over her shoulder at me, there was the diamond arrow in her hair. I was spell-bound. I dared not move; I hardly breathed. It was all in a halfdozen heart-beats, but she had moved slowly up the parlors, 'turned to the rnantel-shelf that carried its splendid old colonial wood-carving to the ceiling, and rested before the armoire of Florentine mosaic in one of the niches at its sjde. Then she had taken the diamond arrow from her hair, inserted it in some invisible crack of the work, displaced with it a leaf and blossom of the marbles, taken from the interstice a bundie of papers, run her thumb over the edge, put tliem back, and replaced the stone spray of leaf and blossom, put the arrow in her hair again, and with her eyes on me, coolly waving her fan of black feathers, had moved down the room again- and suddenly there was empty air in the mirror where she was. I don't know what time had passed when Harold came into the room with an open letter in his hand. In all the heat I was icy cold. "You have been dreaming," said he, when I had stammered out my story, "or you saw the darkness and the street lamps in the glass." "Maybe so," 1 murmured. Only light the gas and let me see." I gathered my strength, and ran, as I he obeyed me, and with my own plain liair-pins dislodged the mosaic spray in the front of the armoire, and took from the interstice a bundie of papers. 'This is it, Harold,' I almost scream ed. 'She has come back írom lieaven itself to teil me what she had no time to teil me here. This is what she nieant by her words about ünding the ineans to obey her wish.' I ran m; thumb too over the edges of the parce as she had done. A little cloud o: dust ilew out, but not enough to hinder my seeing Treasury notes and gold certilicates to an amount that put wam forever behind us. lloiind the parce was a little strap, and on thestrap was written Ilarold's name. 'Oh, look Harold!' 1 cried; 'it is yours. She gives it to you. Now there is no tronóle; heie is your fortune; you are richer than we ever wished. And we Deed not go away, and Amy can come now to a home far surpassing her i'ather's.' 'Amy will never come into this home, Pauline,' lie said, tossing the nevv-found wealth on the table; aud he gave me the letter in lus hand. ïruly, she never would. She had been married to young Peixotte the day bef ore. 'Hush!' he said, don't pity me. I should have married her all the same, aut from the time of her visit here it bas hung over me like a cloud, for all m y love of her burned out in the üre of the puin sbe gave me here.' 'Harold!' 'That is so. Great Iïeaven! it is the lifting of a load from my heart.Can you imagine what it is to marry one way and to love another? For, Polly, Polly, do you suppose lama bat and mole thus to live with your goodness, your angelic goodness, and not to see it? Do you suppose that after my eyes were open I could do anything but love you, Polly ?' And he stretched out his arms to me, and held me in them as if he never meant to let me go again. And So we still live in Mrs. Manchester's house. I think she hid the money with some idea of the want of it and the trouble for it bringing us together. But she has never walked up the gray parlor waving lier fan of black feathers again, and Harold says she nevej did, but that excited and unconscious cprebration worked on some dimiy remernbered hint, with gas-lights and wind and starbeams to make a ghost for me. 'And a fortune for you,' I say. 'The best of all fortunes,' he answers, 'would have been mine without it, 'or that letter set me free to seek it - to marry youPauline.'


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