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EDNA'S SACRIFICE, AND OTHER STORIES

by

FRANCES HENSHAW BADEN







CONTENTS

EDNA'S SACRIFICE

WHO WAS THE THIEF?

THE GHOST

THE TWO BROTHERS

WHAT HE LEFT




EDNA'S SACRIFICE


It was a cold night in September. For three days the rain had fallen
almost unceasingly. It had been impossible for us to get out; and no
visitors had been in. Everything looked dreary enough, and we felt so,
truly. Of course the stoves were not prepared for use; and this night
we (that is, Nell, Floy, Aunt Edna, and myself) were huddled in the
corners of the sofa and arm-chairs, wrapped in our shawls. We were at
our wits' end for something to while the hours away. We had read
everything that was readable; played until we fancied the piano sent
forth a wail of complaint, and begged for rest; were at the backgammon
board until our arms ached; and I had given imitations of celebrated
actresses, until I was hoarse, and Nell declared I was in danger of
being sued for scandal. What more could we do? To dispel the
drowsiness that was stealing over me, I got up, walked up and down the
floor, and then drew up the blind, and gazed out into the deserted
street. Not a footfall to be heard, neither man's nor beast's; nothing
but patter, patter, patter. At length, after standing fully fifteen
minutes - oh, joyful sound! - a coming footstep, firm and quick. My
first thought was that those steps would stop at our door. But,
directly after, I felt that very improbable, for who was there that
_would_ come such a night? Papa was up north with mamma; Nell and
Floy were visiting Aunt Edna and me, the only ones home, save the
servants. Neither of us had as yet a lover so devoted or so demented
as to come out, if he had anywhere to _stay in_.

On and past went the steps. Turning away, I drew down the blind, and
said: "Some one must be ill, and that was the doctor, surely: for no
one else would go out, only those from direst necessity sent."

A deep sigh escaped Aunt Edna's lips, and although partially shaded by
her hand, I could see the shadow on the beautiful face had deepened.

Why my aunt had never married was a mystery to me, for she was lovable
in every way, and must have been very beautiful in her youth.
Thirty-six she would be next May-day, she had told me. Thirty-six
seemed to me, just sixteen, a very great many years to have lived. But
aunt always was young to us; and the hint of her being an old maid was
always resented, very decidedly, by all her nieces.

"Aunt Edna," I said, "tell us a story - a love-story, please."

"Oh, little one, you have read _so_ many! And what can I tell you
more?" she answered, gently.

"Oh, aunty, I want a _true_ story! Do, darling aunty, tell us your
own. Tell us why you are blessing our home with your presence, instead
of that of some noble man, for noble he must have been to have won
your heart, and - hush-sh! Yes, yes; I know something about somebody,
and I must know all. Do, please!"

I plead on. I always could do more with Aunt Edna than any one else. I
was named for her, and many called me like her - "only not nearly so
pretty" was always added.

At last she consented, saying:

"Dear girls, to only one before have I given my entire confidence,
and that was my mother. I scarce know why I have yielded to your
persuasions, little Edna, save that this night, with its gloom and
rain, carries me back long years, and my heart seems to join its
pleading with yours, yearning to cast forth some of its fulness, and
perchance find relief by pouring into your loving heart its own
sorrows. But, darling, I would not cast my shadow over your fair brow,
even for a brief time."

With her hand still shading her face, Aunt Edna began:

"Just such a night as this, eighteen years ago, dear child, my fate
was decided. The daughter of my mother's dearest friend had been with
us about a year. Dearly we all loved the gentle child, for scarcely
more than child she was - only sixteen. My mother had taken her from
the cold, lifeless form of her mother into her own warm, loving heart,
and she became to me as a sister. So fair and frail she was! We all
watched her with the tenderest care, guarding her from all that could
chill her sensitive nature or wound the already saddened heart. Lilly
was her name. Oh, what a delicate white lily she was when we first
brought her to our home; but after a while she was won from her
sorrow, and grew into a maiden of great beauty. Still, with
child-like, winning ways.

"Great wells of love were in her blue eyes - violet hue _he_ called
them. Often I wondered if any one's gaze would linger on my dark eyes
when hers were near? Her pale golden hair was pushed off her broad
forehead and fell in heavy waves far down below her graceful shoulders
and over her black dress. Small delicately-formed features, a
complexion so fair and clear that it seemed transparent. In her blue
eyes there was always such a sad, wistful look; this, and the gentle
smile that ever hovered about her lips, gave an expression of mingled
sweetness and sorrow that was very touching. You may imagine now how
beautiful she was.

"Her mother had passed from earth during the absence of Lilly's
father. Across the ocean the sorrowful tidings were born to him. He
was a naval officer. Lilly was counting the days ere she should see
him. The good news had come, that soon he would be with her. At last
the day arrived, but oh! what a terrible sorrow it brought. When her
heart was almost bursting with joy, expecting every moment to be
clasped in those dear arms - a telegraphic despatch was handed in.
Eagerly she caught it, tore it open, read - and fell lifeless to the
floor.

"Oh! the fearful, crushing words. We read, not of his coming to Lilly,
but of his going to her, his wife, in heaven. Yes, truly an orphan the
poor girl was then.

"In vain proved all efforts to restore her to consciousness. Several
times, when she had before fainted, mother was the only physician
needed. But that night she shook her head and said:

"'We must have a doctor, and quickly.'

"It was a terrible night. Our doctor was very remote. Your father
suggested another, near by.

"Dr. - - , well, never mind his name. Your father said he had lately
known him, and liked him much.

"Through the storm he came, and by his skilful treatment Lilly was
soon restored to consciousness, but not to health. A low nervous fever
set in, and many days we watched with fearful hearts. Ah! during those
days I learned to look too eagerly for the doctor's coming. Indeed, he
made his way into the hearts of all in our home. After the dreaded
crisis had passed, and we knew that Lilly would be spared to us, the
doctor told mother he should have to prescribe for me. I had grown
pale, from confinement in the sick-room, and he must take me for a
drive, that the fresh air should bring the roses back to my cheeks.
Willingly mother consented. After that I often went. When Lilly was
able to come down-stairs, this greatest pleasure of my life then was
divided with her. One afternoon I stood on the porch with her, waiting
while the doctor arranged something about the harness.

"'Oh! _how_ I wish it was my time to go!' she whispered.

"'Well, darling, it shall be your time. I can go to-morrow. Run, get
your hat and wraps,' I said, really glad to give any additional
pleasure to this child of many sorrows.

"'No, no, that would not be fair. And, Edna, don't you know that
_to-morrow_ I would be so sorry if I went to-day? I do not mean to be
selfish, but, oh, indeed I cannot help it! I am wishing _every time_
to go. Not that I care for a ride - ' She hesitated, flushed, and
whispered: 'I like to be with my doctor. Don't you, Edna? Oh! I wish
he was my father, or brother, or cousin - just to be with us all the
time, you know.'

"Just then the doctor came for me, and I had to leave her. As we drove
off I looked back and kissed my hand to her, saying:

"'Dear little thing! I wish she was going with us.'

"'I do not,' the doctor surprised me by saying.

"I raised my eyes inquiringly to his. In those beautiful, earnest eyes
I saw something that made me profoundly happy. I could not speak.
After a moment he added:

"'She is a beautiful, winning child, and I enjoy her company. But when
with her, I feel as if it was my duty to devote myself entirely to
her - in a word, to take care of her, or, I should say, to care for
_her_ only. And this afternoon, of all others, I do not feel like
having Lilly with us.'

"That afternoon was one of the happiest of my life. Although not a
word of love passed his lips. I knew it filled his heart, and was for
me. He told me of his home, his relatives, his past life. Of his
mother he said:

"'When you know her, you will love her dearly.'

"He seemed to be sure that I should know her. And then - ah, well, I
thought so too, then.

"Lilly was waiting for us when we returned. He chided her for being
out so late. It was quite dark. Tears filled her eyes as she raised
them to his and said:

"'Don't be angry. I could not help watching. Oh, why did you stay _so_
long? I thought you would never come back. I was afraid something had
happened - that the horse had run away, or - '

"'Angry I could not be with you, little one. But I don't want you to
get sick again. Come, now, smile away your tears and fears! Your
friend is safe and with you again,' the doctor answered.

"Taking her hand, he led her into the parlor.

"He had not understood the cause of her tears. Only for him she
watched and wept.

"'_Do_ stay,' she plead, when her doctor was going.

"He told her he could not, then; there was another call he must make,
but would return after a while.

"She counted the minutes, until she should see him again. Never
concealing from any of us how dearly she loved him. She was truly as
guileless as a child of six years.

"From the first of her acquaintance with him, she had declared 'her
doctor' was like her father. Mother, too, admitted the resemblance was
very decided.

"This it was, I think, that first made him so dear to her.

"Several times, after the doctor returned that evening, I saw he
sought opportunity to speak to me, unheard by others. But Lilly was
always near.

"Ah! it was better so. Better that from his _own_ lips I heard not
those words he would have spoken. Doubly hard would have been the
trial. Oh, that night when he said, 'good-by!' He slipped in my hand a
little roll of paper. As Lilly still stood at the window, watching as
long as she could see him, I stole away to open the paper. Then, for a
while, I forgot Lilly, aye, forgot everything, in my great happiness.
He loved me! On my finger sparkled the beautiful diamond - my
engagement ring - to be worn on the morrow, 'if I could return his
love,' he said.

"Quickly I hid my treasures away, his note, and the ring - Lilly was
coming.

"She was not yet strong, and soon tired. I helped her to get off her
clothes, and as she kissed me good-night, she said:

"'I wish we had a picture of him - don't you?'

"'Who, dear?' I asked.

"'My doctor! Who else? You tease. You _knew_ well enough,' she
answered, as she nestled her pretty head closer to mine.

"Soon she was sleeping and dreaming of him. Sweet dreams at first I
knew they were; for soft smiles flitted over her face.

"I could not sleep. A great fear stole in upon my happiness. Did not
Lilly love him too? How would she receive the news which soon must
reach her? Was her love such as mine? Such as is given to but one
alone? Or only as a brother did she love him? I must _know_ how it
was. Heaven grant that joy for one would not bring sorrow to the
other, I prayed. I had not long to wait. Her dreams became troubled.
Her lips quivered and trembled, and then with a cry of agony she
started up.

"'Gone, gone, gone!' she sobbed.

"It was many minutes ere I succeeded in calming and making her
understand 'twas but a dream.

"'Oh! but _so_ real, so _dreadfully_ real. I thought he did not care
for me. That he had gone and left me, and they told me he was
married!'

"Telling this, she began to sob again.

"'Lilly, dear, tell me truly - tell your sister, your very best
friend - how it is you love your doctor?' I asked.

"'How?' she returned. 'Oh, Edna, more than all the world! He is all
that I have lost and more; and if he should die, or I should lose him,
I would not wish to live. I _could_ not live. He loves me a little,
does he not, Edna?'

"I could not reply. Just then there was a terrible struggle going on
in my heart. _That_ must be ended, the victory won ere I could speak.
She waited for my answer and then said, eagerly:

"'Oh, speak, _do!_ What _are_ you thinking about?'

"Pressing back the sigh - back and far down into the poor heart - I gave
her the sweet, and kept the bitter part, when I could answer.

"'Yes, dear, I _do_ think he loves you a little now, and will,
by-and-by, love you dearly. God grant he may!'

"'Oh, you darling Edna! You have made me so happy!' she cried, kissing
me; and still caressing me she fell asleep.

"Next morning I enclosed the ring, with only these words:

"'Forgive if I cause you sorrow, and believe me your true
friend. I return the ring that I am not _free_ to accept.'

"I intended that my reply should mislead him, when I wrote that I was
not free, and thus to crush any hope that might linger in his heart.
While at breakfast that morning, we received a telegram that grandma
was extremely ill, and wanted me. Thus, fate seemed to forward my
plans. I had thought to go away for a while, I told mother all. How
her dear heart ached for me! Yet she dared not say aught against my
decision. She took charge of the note for the doctor, and by noon I
was on my journey. Two years passed ere I returned home. Mother wrote
me but little news of either Lilly or her doctor after the first
letter, telling that my note was a severe shock and great
disappointment. Three or four months elapsed before grandma was strong
enough for me to leave her. An opportunity at that time presented for
my going to Europe. I wanted such an entire change, and gladly
accepted. Frequently came letters from Lilly. For many months they
were filled with doubts and anxiety; but after a while came happier
and shorter ones. Ah, she had only time to be with him, and to think
in his absence of his coming again.

"When I was beginning to tire of all the wonders and grandeur of the
old world, and nothing would still the longing for home, the tidings
came they were married, Lilly and her doctor, and gone to his Western
home to take charge of the patients of his uncle, who had retired from
practice. Then I hastened back, and ever since, dear girls, I have
been contented, finding much happiness in trying to contribute to that
of those so dear. Now, little Edna, you have my only love-story, its
beginning and ending."

"But, aunty, do tell me his name," I said. "Indeed, it is not merely
idle curiosity. I just feel as if I must know it - that it is for
something very important. Now you need not smile. I'm very earnest,
and I shall not sleep until I know. I really felt a presentiment that
if I knew his name it might in some way effect the conclusion of the
story."

"Well, my child, I may as well tell you. Dr. Graham it was - Percy
Graham," Aunt Edna answered, low.

"Ah! did I not tell you? It was not curiosity. Listen, aunty mine.
While you were away last winter, papa received a paper from St. Louis;
he handed it to me, pointing to an announcement. But I will run get
it. He told me to show it to you, and I forgot. I did not dream of all
this."

From my scrap-book I brought the slip, and Aunt Edna read:

"DIED. - Suddenly, of heart disease, on the morning of the
15th, Lilly, wife of Doctor Percy Graham, in the 34th year
of her age."

Aunt Edna remained holding the paper, without speaking, for some
minutes; then, handing it back to me, she said, softly, as if talking
to her friend:

"_Dear_ Lilly! Thank heaven, I gave to _you_ the _best_ I had to give,
and caused you nought but happiness. God is merciful! Had _he_ been
taken, and you left, how _could_ we have comforted you?" And then,
turning to me, she said: "Nearly a year it is since Lilly went to
heaven. 'Tis strange I have not heard of this."

"'Tis strange from him you have not heard," I thought; "and stranger
still 'twill be if he comes not when the year is over. For surely he
_must_ know that you are free - " But I kept my thoughts, and soon
after kissed aunty good-night.

One month passed, and the year was out. And somebody was in our
parlor, making arrangements to carry away Aunt Edna. I knew it was he,
when he met me at the hall door, and said:

"Edna - Miss Linden! _can_ it be?"

"Yes and no, sir - both - Edna Linden; but, Doctor Graham, not _your_
Edna. You will find her in the parlor," I answered, saucily, glad and
sorry, both, at his coming.

Ah, she welcomed him with profound joy, I know. He knew all; papa had
told him. And if he loved the beautiful girl, he then worshipped that
noble woman.

"Thank God! Mine at last!" I heard him say, with fervent joy, as I
passed the door, an hour after.

How beautiful she was, when, a few weeks after, she became his very
own. I stood beside her and drew off her glove. How happy he looked as
he placed the heavy gold circlet on her finger! How proudly he bore
her down the crowded church aisle!

Ah, little Lilly was no doubt his dear and cherished wife. But _this_
one, 'twas plain to see was the one love of his life.




WHO WAS THE THIEF?


Fred Loring's toilet was at length completed, and turning from the
glass, he said:

"Well, I'm off now, Nellie. Good-by."

"At last! Excuse me, Fred, but just now quietness is more desirable
than your society. It is impossible to get baby to sleep while you are
flying about the room. She sees you, and wants to get to you,"
answered Nellie.

"All right. I'll get out of the way. By-by, baby."

And kissing the little one, Fred hurried out.

Ten or fifteen minutes passed. Baby was quiet at last, almost asleep,
when the door opened, and in rushed Fred again. And up started baby,
with a shout of welcome. An impatient look came into Nellie's eyes,
and the tone to her words:

"Oh, Fred, I had almost gotten her to sleep. And now see! And I am so
tired. What has brought you back so soon?

"Well, well, I'm sorry. But I left my revolver behind. I guess she'll
soon be quiet again," Fred said, unlocking the drawer and taking out
his revolver.

"Fred, I declare I never _did_ see such a man. You cannot leave the
house without being armed. Do you forget there is a law against
carrying concealed weapons?"

"I _remember_ to be on my guard, and prepared to defend myself if it
be necessary. Every day we read accounts of persons being robbed,
knocked down, and such like. I tell you, Nellie, _sensible_ persons go
armed always."

"Perhaps, Fred. But I think the nervous and suspicious persons are
more likely to. Indeed, I never like to see you carrying off your
revolver. I'm in constant fear of something dreadful happening."

"But never in dread of any one murdering and robbing me. Of course
not!" Fred snapped forth.

"Oh, Fred! You are so quick and suspicious of every one, that my great
fear is you'll hurt the wrong person some time!" said Nellie, with a
really anxious look on her pretty face.

"Indeed I am not aware of ever having gotten hold of the wrong person.
I think you are calling on your imagination for facts, Mrs. Loring!"
Fred said angrily.

"Now, Fred, to defend myself I shall have to point to facts. Do you
forget catching hold of poor old Uncle Tom, and choking him so he
could not explain he was carrying the clothes to his wife to wash,
instead of being a thief, as you supposed? And - "

"And will I ever forget your handing me over to a policeman, for
having attempted to pick your pocket in the streetcar?" exclaimed a
bright, merry-looking girl, who entered the room during Nellie's
attempt to defend herself from Fred's accusation.

"Oh, Fan, don't, for mercy's sake, I cry quarter. Two at a time is
more than I can stand. And besides, I had hoped that you would not
have exposed that miserable mistake!" Fred said, with a reproachful
look.

"I intended to keep the secret. But really, Fred, I've been almost
dying to have a good laugh with Nellie over it. And to-night the
opportunity was too tempting to resist."

"Mercy, Fan! If you tell Nellie, I'll never hear the last of it."

"Oh, I must. It is too late to recede. Nellie will imagine it worse,
if possible, than it really is. But I'll not prolong your agony. I'll
be as brief as possible," said Fannie.

And amidst the cries of "Don't! don't!" and "Yes, do, do!" Fannie
began.

"The day I reached here, just as I came out of the depot, I spied my
beloved and respected cousin Fred entering the street car. I hurried
up, and got in immediately after him. Even if my veil had been raised
I could hardly have expected him to know me, as I have changed much in
five years. As it was, my face was completely hidden. The car was much
crowded, many standing - I next behind Fred. I was well laden with lots
of little packages, so the idea struck me to drop a few into Fred's
overcoat pockets. Without discovery I put what I washed into one, and
was about slipping my porte-monnaie into the other, when my hand was
caught with such a grip that I screamed right out. At the same time
Fred exclaimed, 'Here is a pickpocket!' And of course there was a
policeman there, as none was needed. I was too frightened to speak for
an instant. At length I found voice enough to say to the officer, who
was making his way toward me, 'The gentleman will find he is mistaken
in a moment.'

"After the first fright, I was really amused, notwithstanding the
mortifying situation. By that time Fred had drawn forth my
porte-monnaie. Nodding to the policeman, he said:

"'An old dodge. Putting into my pocket what she has taken from some
one else. Has any one here lost this?' he asked, holding up my
porte-monnaie.

"No one claimed it. I managed to get off my veil then, that I had
been tugging at. I had gotten a lady in the depot to tie it tightly
behind, as it was blowing a perfect gale when I arrived. All eyes were
on me then, of course. And the officer, not recognizing an old
offender, and not a very guilty-looking young one, hesitated. I looked
eagerly at Fred, to see if he would not recognize me, but he did not.
There was a very embarrassing pause then, that had to be ended; so I
said, not trying to restrain my smiles:

"'If you will open that porte-monnaie, Mr. Loring, you will see my
card. I thought my acquaintance would justify my loading you with some
of my bundles. If you will notice, your other pocket is full.'

"Every one waited eagerly the result. Quickly Fred did my bidding. You
may imagine his look, when he exclaimed:

"'Fannie Loring! Bless my soul, coz, can you ever forgive me? But how
could I know you? I've not seen you since you were a child.'

"There was a shout of laughter heard then, in which Fred and I joined.
But Fred's was not a very hearty laugh; and I think he was glad to get
out of that car, for he made me walk at least three times as far as
ever you and I walk when we leave the car."

Nellie was almost convulsed with laughter, which baby seemed to enjoy
very much. And Fred exclaimed:

"It was not half as bad as you have made it out, Fan. And just for a
punishment for your laughing so, Nellie, I hope baby will not go to
sleep for hours. I'm off now."

Merry rippling laughter followed him. And Fred ran down the stairs,
and out of the house, almost hoping somebody might attempt to rob, or
murder him even, so that his revolver might prove of great avail, and
thus silence Nellie, who was ever talking about what she called his
suspicious nature, when it was only necessary caution, he thought.

Soon baby was sleeping soundly, notwithstanding Fred's wish to the
contrary. And Nellie, putting her into the crib, went to the bureau to
arrange her hair.

"Why, Fred has gone without his watch!" she exclaimed. "I don't think
he ever did that in his life before. I wonder he has not been back
again before this!"

The hours passed swiftly by. Fannie, with her merry heart, fully
compensating Nellie for Fred's absence. Eleven o'clock came before
they imagined it near so late. And just then they heard the hall door
close, and a moment after Fred entered the room, and in an excited


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Online LibraryFrances Henshaw BadenEdna's Sacrifice and Other Stories → online text (page 1 of 3)