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ten I put on my shawl to walk home, when Charles drove up to the gate.

"Say," said Ben Somers, in a low voice, "that you will walk with me."

"I am not too late, Cassandra?" called Charles, coming up the steps,
bowing to all. "I am glad you are ready; Nell is impatient."

"My dear," asked Mrs. Bancroft, "how dare you trust to the mercy of
such vicious beasts as Mr. Morgeson loves to drive?"

"Come," he said, touching my arm.

"Wont you walk?" said Mr. Somers aloud.

"Walk?" echoed Charles. "No."

"I followed him. Nell had already bitten off a paling; and as he
untied her he boxed her ears. She did not jump, for she knew the hand
that struck her. We rushed swiftly away through the long shadows of
the moonlight.

"Charles, what did Ben Somers do at Harvard?"

"He was in a night-fight, and he sometimes got drunk; it is a family
habit."

"Pray, why did you inquire about him?"

"From the interest I feel in him."

"You like him, then?"

"I detest him; do you too?"

"I like him."

He bent down and looked into my face.

"You are telling me a lie."

I made no reply.

"I should beg your pardon, but I will not. I am going away to-morrow.
Give me your hand, and say farewell."

"Farewell then. Is Alice up? I see a light moving in her chamber."

"If you do, she is not waiting for me."

"I have been making coffee for you," she said, as soon as we entered,
"in my French biggin. I have packed your valise too, Charles, and have
ordered your breakfast. Cassy, we will breakfast after he has gone."

"I have to sit up to write, Alice. See that the horses are exercised.
Ask Parker to drive them. The men will be here to-morrow to enlarge
the conservatory."

"Yes."

"I shall get a better stock while I am away."

I sipped my coffee; Alice yawned fearfully, with her hand on the
coffee-pot, ready to pour again. "Why, Charles," she exclaimed, "there
is no cream in your coffee."

"No, there isn't," looking into his cup; "nor sugar."

She threw a lump at him, which he caught, laughing one of his abrupt
laughs.

"How extraordinarily affectionate," I thought, but somehow it pleased
me.

"Why do you tempt me, Alice?" I said. "Doctor White says I must not
drink coffee."

"Tempted!" Charles exclaimed. "Cassandra is never tempted. What she
does, she does because she will. Don't worry yourself, Alice, about
her."

"Because I will," I repeated.

A nervous foreboding possessed me, the moment I entered my room. Was
it the coffee? Twice in the night I lighted my candle, looked at the
little French clock on the mantel, and under the bed. At last I fell
asleep, but starting violently from its oblivious dark, to become
aware that the darkness of the room was sentient. A breath passed over
my face; but I caught no sound, though I held my breath to listen for
one. I moved my hands before me then, but they came in contact with
nothing. My forebodings passed away, and I slept till Alice sent for
me. I sat up in bed philosophizing, and examining the position of
the chairs, the tops of the tables and the door. No change had taken
place. But my eyes happened to fall on my handkerchief, which had
dropped by the bedside. I picked it up; there was a dusty footprint
upon it. The bell rang, and, throwing it under the bed, I dressed and
ran down. Alice was taking breakfast, tired of waiting. She said the
baby had cried till after midnight, and that Charles never came to bed
at all.

"Do eat this hot toast; it has just come in."

"I shall stay at home to-day, Alice, I feel chilly; is it cold?"

"You must have a fire in your room."

"Let me have one to day; I should like to sit there."

She gave orders for the fire, and went herself to see that it burned.
Soon I was sitting before it, my feet on a stool, and a poker in my
hand with which I smashed the smoky lumps of coal which smoldered in
the grate.

I stayed there all day, looking out of the window when I heard the
horses tramp in the stable or a step on the piazza. It was a dull
November day; the atmosphere was glutinous with a pale mist, which
made the leaves stick together in bunches, helplessly cumbering the
ground. The boughs dropped silent tears over them, under the gray,
pitiless sky. I read Byron, which was the only book in the house,
I believe; for neither Charles nor Alice read anything except the
newspapers. I looked over my small stores also, and my papers, which
consisted of father's letters. As I was sorting them the thought
struck me of writing to Veronica, and I arranged my portfolio, pulled
the table nearer the fire, and began, "Dear Veronica." After writing
this a few times I gave it up, cut off the "Dear Veronicas," and made
lamplighters of the paper.

Ben Somers called at noon, to inquire the reason of my absence from
school, and left a book for me. It was the poems he had spoken of.
I lighted on "Fatima," read it and copied it. In the afternoon Alice
came up with the baby.

"Let me braid your hair," she said, "in a different fashion."

I assented; the baby was bestowed on a rug, and a chair was put before
the glass, that I might witness the operation.

"What magnificent hair!" she said, as she unrolled it. "It is a yard
long."

"It is a regular mane, isn't it?"

She began combing it; the baby crawled under the bed, and coming out
with the handkerchief in its hand, crept up to her, trying to make her
take it. She had combed my hair over my face, but I saw it.

"Do I hurt you, Cass?"

"No, do I ever hurt you, Alice?" And I divided the long bands over my
eyes, and looked up at her.

"Were any of your family ever cracked? I have long suspected you of a
disposition that way."

"The child is choking itself with that handkerchief."

She took it, and, tossing it on the bed, gave Byron to the child to
play with, and went on with the hair-dressing.

"There, now," she said, "is not this a masterpiece of barber's craft?
Look at the back of your head, and then come down."

"Yes, I will, for I feel better."

When I returned to my room again it was like meeting a confidential
friend.

A few days after, father came to Rosville. I invited Ben Somers and
Helen to spend with us the only evening he stayed. After they were
gone, we sat in my room and talked over many matters. His spirits were
not as buoyant as usual, and I felt an undefinable anxiety which I did
not mention. When he said that mother was more abstracted than
ever, he sighed. I asked him how many years he thought I must waste;
eighteen had already gone for nothing.

"You must go in the way ordained, waste or no waste. I have tried to
make your life differ from mine at the same age, for you are like me,
and I wanted to see the result."

"We shall see."

"Veronica has been let alone - is master of herself, except when in a
rage. She is an extraordinary girl; independent of kith and kin, and
everything else. I assure you, Miss Cassy, she is very good."

"Does she ever ask for me?"

"I never heard her mention your name but once. She asked one day what
your teachers were. You do not love each other, I suppose. What hatred
there is between near relations! Bitter, bitter," he said calmly, as
if he thought of some object incapable of the hatred he spoke of.

"That's Grandfather John Morgeson you think of. I do not hate
Veronica. I think I love her; at least she interests me."

"The same creeping in the blood of us all, Cassy. I did not like my
father; but thank God I behaved decently toward him. It must be late."

As he kissed me, and we stood face to face, I recognized my likeness
to him. "He has had experiences that I shall never know," I thought.
"Why should I tell him mine?" But an overpowering impulse seized me
to speak to him of Charles. "Father," and I put my hands on his
shoulders. He set his candle back on the table.

"You look hungry-eyed, eager. What is it? Are you well?"

"No."

"You are faded a little. Your face has lost its firmness."

My impulse died a sudden death. I buried it with a swallow.

"Do you think so?"

"You are all alike. Let me tell you something; don't get sick. If you
are, hide it as much as possible. Men do not like sick women."

"I'll end this fading business as soon as possible. It _is_ late.
Good-night, dad."

I examined my face as soon as he closed the door. There _was_ a
change. Not the change from health to disease, but an expression
lurking there - a reflection of some unrevealed secret.

The next morning was passed with Alice and the children. He was
pleased with her prettiness and sprightliness, and his gentle manner
and disposition pleased her. She asked him to let me spend another
year in Rosville; but he said that I must return to Surrey, and that
he never would allow me to leave home again.

"She will marry."

"Not early."

"Never, I believe," I said.

"It will be as well."

"Yes," she replied; "if you leave her a fortune, or teach her some
trade, that will give her some importance in the world."

Her wisdom astonished me.

He was sorry, he said, that Morgeson was not at home. When he
mentioned him I looked out of the window, and saw Ben Somers coming
into the yard. As he entered, Alice gave him a meaning look, which was
not lost upon me, and which induced him to observe Ben closely.

"The train is nearly due, Mr. Morgeson; shall I walk to the station
with you?"

"Certainly; come, Cassy."

On the way he touched me, making a sign toward Ben. I shook my head,
which appeared satisfactory. The rest of the time was consumed in the
discussion of the relationship, which ended in an invitation, as I
expected, to Surrey.

"The governor is not worried, is he?" asked Ben, on our way back.

"No more than I am."

"What a pity Morgeson was not at home!"

"Why a pity?"

"I should like to see them together, they are such antipodal men. Does
your father know him well?"

"Does any one know him well?"

"Yes, I know him. I do not like him. He is a savage, living by his
instincts, with one element of civilization - he loves Beauty - beauty
like yours." He turned pale when he said this, but went on. "He has
never seen a woman like you; who has? Forgive me, but I watch you
both."

"I have perceived it."

"I suppose so, and it makes you more willful."

"You said you were but a boy."

"Yes, but I have had one or two manly wickednesses. I have done with
them, I hope."

"So that you have leisure to pry into those of others."

"You do not forgive me."

"I like you; but what can I do?"

"Keep up your sophistry to the last."






CHAPTER XIX.


Alice and I were preparing for the first ball, when Charles came home,
having been absent several weeks. The conservatory was finished, and
looked well, jutting from the garden-room, which we used often, since
the weather had been cold. The flowers and plants it was filled with
were more fragrant and beautiful than rare. I never saw him look so
genial as when he inspected it with us. Alice was in good-humor, also,
for he had brought her a set of jewels.

"Is it not her birthday," he said, when he gave her the jewel case,
"or something, that I can give Cassandra this?" taking a little box
from his pocket.

"Oh yes," said Alice; "show it to us."

"Will you have it?" he asked me.

I held out my hand, and he put on my third finger a diamond ring,
which was like a star.

"How well it looks on your long hand!" said Alice.

"What unsuspected tastes I find I have!" I answered. "I am
passionately fond of rings; this delights me."

His swarthy face flushed with pleasure at my words; but, according to
his wont, he said nothing.

A few days after his return, a man came into the yard, leading a
powerful horse chafing in his halter, which he took to the
stable. Charles asked me to look at a new purchase he had made in
Pennsylvania. The strange man was lounging about the stalls when we
went in, inspecting the horses with a knowing air.

"I declare, sir," said Jesse, "I am afeared to tackle this ere animal;
he's a reglar brute, and no mistake."

"He'll be tame enough; he is but four years old."

"He's never been in a carriage," said the man.

"Lead him out, will you?"

The man obeyed. The horse was a fine creature, black, and thick-maned;
but the whites of his eyes were not clear; they were streaked with
red, and he attempted continually to turn his nostrils inside out.
Altogether, I thought him diabolical.

"What's the matter with his eyes?" Charles asked.

"I think, sir," the man replied, "as how they got inflamed like, in
the boat coming from New York. It's nothing perticalar, I believe."

Alice declared it was too bad, when she heard there was another horse
in the stable. She would not look at him, and said she would never
ride with Charles when he drove him.

I had been taking lessons of Professor Simpson, and was ready for
the ball. All the girls from the Academy were going in white, except
Helen, who was to wear pink silk. It was to be a military ball, and
strangers were expected. Ben Somers, and our Rosville beaux, were
of course to be there, all in uniform, except Ben, who preferred the
dress of a gentleman, he said, - silk stockings, pumps, and a white
cravat.

We were dressed by nine o'clock, Alice in black velvet, with a wreath
of flowers in her black hair - I in a light blue velvet bodice, and
white silk skirt. We were waiting for the ball hack to come for us, as
that was the custom, for no one owned a close coach in Rosville, when
Charles brought in some splendid scarlet flowers which he gave to
Alice.

"Where are Cassandra's?"

"She does not care for flowers; besides, she would throw them away on
her first partner."

He put us in the coach, and went back. I was glad he did not come with
us, and gave myself up to the excitement of my first ball. Alice was
surrounded by her acquaintances at once, and I was asked to dance a
quadrille by Mr. Parker, whose gloves were much too large, and whose
white trowsers were much too long.

"I kept the flowers you gave me," he said in a breathless way.

"Oh yes, I remember; mustn't we forward now?"

"Mr. Morgeson's very fond of flowers."

"So he is. How de do, Miss Ryder."

Miss Ryder, my vis-à-vis, bowed, looking scornfully at my partner, who
was only a clerk, while hers was a law student. I immediately turned
to Mr. Parker with affable smiles, and went into a kind of dumb-show
of conversation, which made him warm and uncomfortable. Mrs. Judge
Ryder sailed by on Ben Somers's arm.

"Put your shoulders down," she whispered to her daughter, who had
poked one very much out of her dress. "My love," she spoke aloud, "you
mustn't dance _every_ set."

"No, ma," and she passed on, Ben giving a faint cough, for my benefit.
We could not find Alice after the dance was over. A brass band
alternated with the quadrille band, and it played so loudly that we
had to talk at the top of our voices to be heard. Mine soon gave out,
and I begged Mr. Parker to bring Helen, for I had not yet seen her.
She was with Dr. White, who had dropped in to see the miserable
spectacle. The air, he said, shaking his finger at me, was already
miasmal; it would be infernal by midnight Christians ought not to be
there. "Go home early, Miss. Your mother never went to a ball, I'll
warrant."

"We are wiser than our mothers."

"And wickeder; you will send for me to-morrow."

"Your Valenciennes lace excruciates the Ryders," said Helen. "I was
standing near Mrs. Judge Ryder and the girls just now. 'Did you ever
see such an upstart?' And, 'What an extravagant dress she has on - it
is ridiculous,' Josephine Ryder said. When Ben Somers heard this
attack on you, he told them that your lace was an heirloom. Here he
is." Mr. Parker took her away, and Ben Somers went in pursuit of a
seat. The quadrille was over, I was engaged for the next, and he had
not come back. I saw nothing of him till the country dance before
supper. He was at the foot of the long line, opposite a pretty girl
in blue, looking very solemn and stately. I took off the glove from my
hand which wore the new diamond, and held it up, expecting him to look
my way soon. Its flash caught his eyes, as they roamed up and down,
and, as I expected, he left his place and came up behind me.

"Where did you get that ring?" wiping his face with his handkerchief.

"Ask Alice."

"You are politic."

"Handsome, isn't it?"

"And valuable; it cost as much as the new horse."

"Have you made a memorandum of it?"

"Destiny has brilliant spokes in her wheel, hasn't she?"

"Is that from the Greek tragedies?"

"To your places, gentlemen," the floor-manager called, and the band
struck up the Fisher's Hornpipe. At supper, I saw Ben Somers, still
with the pretty girl in blue; but he came to my chair and asked me if
I did not think she was a pretty toy for a man to play with.

"How much wine have you drunk? Enough to do justice to the family
annals?"

"Really, you have been well informed. No, I have _not_ drunk enough
for that; but Mrs. Ryder has sent her virgins home with me. I am
afraid their lamps are upset again. I drink nothing after to-night.
You shall not ask again, 'How much?'"

My fire was out when I reached home. My head was burning and aching.
I was too tired to untwist my hair, and I pulled and dragged at my
dress, which seemed to have a hundred fastenings. Creeping into bed,
I perceived the odor of flowers, and looking at my table discovered a
bunch of white roses.

"Roses are nonsense, and life is nonsense," I thought.

When I opened my eyes, Alice was standing by the bed, with a glass of
roses in her hand.

"Charles put these roses here, hey?"

"I suppose so; throw them out of the window, and me too; my head is
splitting."

"To make amends for not giving you any last night," she went on; "he
is quite childish."

"Can't you unbraid my hair, it hurts my head so?"

She felt my hands. I was in a fever, she said, and ran down for
Charles. "Cass is sick, in spite of your white roses."

"The devil take the roses. Can't you get up, Cassandra?"

"Not now. Go away, will you?"

He left the room abruptly. Alice loosened my hair, bound my head, and
poured cologne-water over me, lamenting all the while that she had not
brought me home; and then went down for some tea, presently returning
to say that Charles had been for Dr. White, who said he would not
come. But he was there shortly afterward. By night I was well again.

Dr. Price gave us a lecture on late hours that week, requesting us, if
we had any interest in our education, or expected him to have any, to
abstain from balls.

Ben Somers disappeared; no one knew where he had gone. The Ryders were
in consternation, for he was an intimate of the family, since he
had gone into Judge Ryder's office, six weeks before. He returned,
however, with a new overcoat trimmed with fur, the same as that with
which my new cloak was trimmed. A great snowstorm began the day of his
return, and blocked us indoors for several days, and we had permanent
sleighing afterward.

In January it was proposed that we should go to the Swan Tavern, ten
miles out of Rosville.

I had made good resolutions since the ball, and declined going to the
second, which came off three weeks afterward. The truth was, I did not
enjoy the first; but I preferred to give my decision a virtuous tinge.
I also determined to leave the Academy when the spring came, for I
felt no longer a schoolgirl. But for Helen, I could not have remained
as I did. She stayed for pastime now, she confessed, it was so dull at
home; her father was wrapped in his studies, and she had a stepmother.
I resolved again that I would study more, and was translating, in view
of this resolve, "Corinne," with Miss Prior, and singing sedulously
with Mrs. Lane, and had begun a course of reading with Dr. Price.

I refused two invitations to join the sleighing party, and on the
night it was to be had prepared to pass the evening in my own room
with Oswald and Corinne. Before the fire, with lighted candles, I
heard a ringing of bells in the yard and a stamping of feet on the
piazza. Alice sent up for me. I found Ben Somers with her, who begged
me to take a seat in his sleigh. Helen was there, and Amelia Bancroft.
Alice applauded me for refusing him; but when he whispered in my ear
that he had been to Surrey I changed my mind. She assisted me with
cheerful alacrity to put on a merino dress, its color was purple; - a
color I hate now, and never wear - and wrapped me warmly. Charles
appeared before we started. "Are you really going?" he asked, in a
tone of displeasure.

"She is really going," Ben answered for me. "Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft are
going," Helen said. "Why not drive out with Mrs. Morgeson?"

"The night is splendid," Ben remarked.

"Wont you come?" I asked.

"If Alice wishes it. Will you go?" he asked her.

"Would you?" she inquired of all, and all replied, "Yes."

We started in advance. Helen and Amelia were packed on the back seat,
in a buffalo robe, while Ben and I sat in the shelter of the driver's
box, wrapped in another. It was moonlight, and as we passed the
sleighs of the rest of the party, exchanging greetings, we grew very
merry. Ben, voluble and airy, enlivened us by his high spirits.

We were drinking mulled wine round the long pine dinner-table of the
Swan, when Charles and Alice arrived. There were about thirty in the
room, which was lighted by tallow candles. When he entered, it seemed
as if the candles suddenly required snuffing, and we ceased to laugh.
All spoke to him with respect, but with an inflection of the voice
which denoted that he was not one of us. As he carelessly passed round
the table all made a movement as he approached, scraping their chairs
on the bare floor, moving their glass of mulled wine, or altering the
position of their arms or legs. An indescribable appreciation of the
impression which he made upon others filled my heart. His isolation
from the sympathy of every person there gave me a pain and a pity, and
for the first time I felt a pang of tenderness, and a throe of pride
for him. But Alice, upon whom he never made any impression, saw
nothing of this; her gayety soon removed the stiffness and silence he
created. The party grew noisy again, except Ben, who had not broken
the silence into which he fell as soon as he saw Charles. The mulled
wine stood before him untouched. I moved to the corner of the table
to allow room for the chair which Charles was turning toward me. Ben
ordered more wine, and sent a glass full to him. Taking it from
the boy who brought it, I gave it to him. "Drink," I said. My voice
sounded strangely. Barely tasting it, he set the glass down, and
leaning his arm on the table, turned his face to me, shielding it with
his hand from the gaze of those about us. I pushed away a candle that
flared in our faces.

"You never drink wine?"

"No, Cassandra."

"How was the ride down?"

"Delightful."

"What about the new horse?"

"He is an awful brute."

"When shall we have a ride with him?"

"When you please."

The boy came in to say would we please go to the parlor; our room was
wanted for supper. An immediate rush, with loud laughing, took place,
for the parlor fire; but Charles and I did not move. I was busy
remaking the bow of my purple silk cravat.

"'I drink the cup of a costly death,'" Ben hummed, as he sauntered
along by us, hands in his pockets - the last in the room, except us
two.

"Indeed, Somers; perhaps you would like this too." And Charles offered
him his glass of wine.

Ben took it, and with his thumb and finger snapped it off at the stem,
tipping the wine over Charles's hand.

I saw it staining his wristband, like blood. He did not stir, but a
slight smile traveled swiftly over his face.

"I know Veronica," said Ben, looking at me. "Has this man seen _her_?"

His voice crushed me. What a barrier his expression of contempt made
between her and me!

Withal, I felt a humiliating sense of defeat.

Charles read me.

As he folded his wristband under his sleeve, carefully and slowly, his
slender fingers did not tremble with the desire that possessed him,
which I saw in his terrible eyes as plainly as if he had spoken, "I
would kill him."

They looked at my hands, for I was wringing them, and a groan burst
from me.

"Somers," said Charles, rising and touching his shoulder, "behave like
a man, and let us alone; I love this girl."

His pale face changed, his eyes softened, and mine filled with tears.

"Cassandra," urged Ben, in a gentle voice, "come with me; come away."

"Fool," I answered; "leave _me_ alone, and go."

He hesitated, moved toward the door, and again urged me to come.


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