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"I - I don't believe you'd be a burglar or a thief, but - - "


"Please don't think I mean to be rude, sir, but you broke the third
commandment a minute ago."

"The third? which is that? for I really don't remember."

"I thought you'd forgotten it," said Herbert.

"It's the one that says, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God
in vain,'" answered Harold, in low reverent tones.

"I own to being completely puzzled," said the captain. "I certainly
haven't been swearing."

"No, not exactly; but you said, 'By George,' and 'By Heaven,' and mamma
says such words are contrary to the spirit of the command, and that no one
who is a thorough gentleman and Christian will ever use them."

"That's a very strict rule," he said, lifting his cap and bowing low to
Violet, who was now close at hand.

She did not seem to notice it, or to see him at all.

"Boys," she said with gentle gravity, "let us go home now."

"What for, Vi? I'm not tired of the beach yet," objected Herbert.

"I have something to tell you; something else to propose. Won't you go
with me?"

"Yes," and with a hasty "good-bye," to the captain, they joined their
sisters, who were already moving slowly toward home.

"What have you to tell us, Vi?" asked Harold.

"That I know grandpa does not approve of that man, and I am quite sure
mamma would not wish you to be with him. The sun is getting hot and there
are Dick and Molly on the veranda; let's go and talk with them for a
while. It's nearly time now for our drive."

"Miss Wi'let," said Ben, coming up behind, "dat fellah's mighty pow'ful
mad; swored a big oath dat you's proud as Luficer."

"Oh, then we won't have anything more to do with him!" exclaimed the boys,
Herbert adding, "but I do wish he was good, for he does tell such famous

They kept their word and were so shy of the captain that he soon gave up
trying to cultivate their acquaintance, or to make that of their sisters.

Mrs. Noyes and he were boarding at the same hotel, and from her he learned
that Mrs. Delaford and the Conlys were expected shortly, having engaged
rooms on the same floor with herself.

The information was agreeable, as, though he did not care particularly for
Virginia, flirting with her would, he thought, be rather an enjoyable way
of passing the time; all the more so that it would be in opposition to Mr.
Dinsmore's wishes; for the captain knew very well why, and at whose
suggestion, Virginia had been summoned away from his society on board the
vessel, and had no love for the man who so highly disapproved of him.

The girl, too, resented her uncle's interference, and on her arrival, with
the perversity of human nature, went farther in her encouragement of the
young man's attentions than she, perhaps, would otherwise have done.

Her mother and aunt looked on with indifference, if not absolute approval.

Isadore was the only one who offered a remonstrance, and she was cut short
with a polite request to "mind her own business."

"I think I am, Virgy," she answered pleasantly, "I'm afraid you're getting
yourself into trouble; and surely I ought to try to save you from that."

"I won't submit to surveillance," returned her sister. "I wouldn't live in
the same house with Uncle Horace for anything. And if mamma and Aunt
Delaford don't find fault, you needn't."

Isadore, seriously concerned for Virginia's welfare, was questioning in
her own mind whether she ought to mention the matter to her uncle, when
her mother set that doubt at rest by forbidding her to do so.

Isa, who was trying to be a consistent Christian, would neither flirt nor
dance, and the foolish, worldly-minded mother was more vexed at her
behavior than at Virginia's.

Isa slipped away to the cottage homes of the Dinsmores and Travillas
whenever she could. She enjoyed the quiet pleasures and the refined and
intellectual society of her relatives and the privileged friends, both
ladies and gentlemen, whom they gathered about them.

Lester Leland, who had taken up his abode temporarily in that vicinity,
was a frequent visitor and sometimes brought a brother artist with him.
Dick's cronies came too, and old friends of the family from far and near.

Elsie sent an early invitation to Lucy Ross to bring her daughters and
spend some weeks at the cottage.

The reply was a hasty note from Lucy saying that she deeply regretted her
inability to accept, but they were extremely busy making preparations to
spend the season at Saratoga, had already engaged their rooms and could
not draw back; beside that Gertrude and Kate had set their hearts on
going. "However," she added, "she would send Phil in her place, he must
have a little vacation and insisted he would rather visit their old
friends the Travillas, than go anywhere else in the world; he would put up
at a hotel (being a young man, he would of course prefer that) but hoped
to spend a good deal of time at the cottage."

He did so, and attached himself almost exclusively to the younger Elsie,
with an air of proprietorship which she did not at all relish.

She tried to let him see it without being rude; but the blindness of
egotism and vast self-appreciation was upon him and he thought her only
charmingly coy; probably with the intent to thus conceal her love and

He was egregiously mistaken. She found him, never the most interesting of
companions at times an intolerable bore; and was constantly contrasting
his conversation which ran upon trade and money making, stocks, bonds and
mortgages, to the exclusion of nearly everything else except fulsome
flatteries of herself - with that of Lester Leland, who spoke with
enthusiasm of his art; who was a lover of Nature and Nature's God; whose
thoughts dwelt among lofty themes, while at the same time he was entirely
free from vanity, his manner as simple and unaffected as that of a little

He was a favorite with all the family; his society enjoyed especially by
the ladies.

He devoted himself more particularly to sculpture, but also sketched
finely from nature, as did both Elsie and Violet; the latter was beginning
to show herself a genius in both that and music, Elsie had recently under
Leland's instructions, done some very pretty wood carving and modeling in
clay, and this similarity of tastes made them very congenial.

Philip's stay was happily not lengthened, business calling him back to New

Letters came now and then from Mrs. Ross, Gertrude or Kate, telling of
their gay life at Saratoga.

The girls seemed to have no lack of gentlemen admirers; among whom was a
Mr. Larrabee from St. Louis, who was particularly attentive to Gertrude.

At length it was announced that they were engaged.

It was now the last of August. The wedding was to take place about the
middle of October, and as the intervening six weeks would barely afford
time for the preparation of the trousseau, the ladies hurried home to New

Then Kate came down to spend a week with the Travillas.

She looked fagged and worn, complained of ennui, was already wearied of
the life she had been leading, and had lost all taste for simple

Her faded cheek and languid air, presented a strange contrast to the
fresh, bright beauty and animation of Elsie and Violet, a contrast that
pained the kind, motherly heart of Mrs. Travilla, who would have been glad
to make all the world as happy as she and her children were.

Elsie and Vi felt a lively interest in Gertrude's prospects, and had many
questions to ask about her betrothed; - "Was he young? was he handsome? was
he a good man? But, oh _that_ was of course."

"No, not of course at all," Kate answered, almost with impatience. "She
supposed he was not a bad man; but he wasn't good in their sense of the
word - not in the least religious - and he was neither young nor handsome."

A moment of disappointed silence followed this communication, then Elsie
said, a little doubtfully, "Well, I suppose Gerty loves him, and is happy
in the prospect of becoming his wife?"

"Happy?" returned Kate, with a contemptuous sniff. "Well, I suppose she
ought to be; she is getting what she wanted - plenty of money and a
splendid establishment; but as to loving Mr. Victor Larrabee - I could
about as soon love a - snake; and so could she. He always makes me think of

"Oh, Kate! and will she marry him?" both exclaimed in horror.

"She's promised to and doesn't seem inclined to draw back," replied Kate
with indifference. Then bursting into a laugh, "Girls," she said, "I've
had an offer too, and mamma would have had me accept it, but it didn't
suit my ideas. The man himself is well enough, I don't really dislike him;
but such a name! Hogg! only think of it! I told mamma that I didn't want
to live in a sty, if it was lined with gold."

"No, I don't believe I could feel willing to wear that name," said Violet
laughing. "But if his name suited, would you marry him without loving

"I suppose so; I like riches, and mamma says such wealthy men as Mr. Hogg
and Mr. Larrabee are not to be picked up every day."

"But, oh, it wouldn't be right, Kate! because you have to promise to

"Oh, that's a mere form!" returned Kate with a yawn. "Gerty says she's
marrying for love - not of the man but his money," and Kate laughed as if
it was an excellent joke.

The other two looked grave and distressed, their mother had taught them
that to give the hand without the heart was folly and sin.


"There's many a slip
Twixt the cup and the lip."

The Travillas were all invited to Gertrude's wedding; but as it was to be
a very grand affair, the invitation was declined because of their recent

Mr. Ross had not seen his intended son-in-law, nor did he know how
mercenary were Gertrude's motives. He took it for granted that she would
not, of her own free will, consent to marry a man who was not at least
agreeable to her, though he certainly thought it odd that she should fancy
one over forty years older than herself.

He made some inquiries relative to the man's character and circumstances,
and learning that he was really very wealthy, and bore a respectable
reputation, as the world goes, gave his consent to the match.

The preparations went on; dresses and jewels were ordered from Paris,
invitations issued to several hundred guests, and the reception rooms of
their city residence refurnished for the occasion; money was poured out
without stint to provide the wedding feasts and flowers, rich and rare,
for the adornment of the house, and the persons of the girls.

Gertrude did not seem unhappy, but was in a constant state of excitement,
and would not allow herself a moment to think.

Ten days before that appointed for the ceremony, the bridegroom arrived in
the city, and called upon the family.

Mr. Ross did not like his countenance, and wondered more than ever at his
daughter's choice.

He waited till Mr. Larrabee was gone, then sent for her to come to him in
the library.

She came, looking surprised and annoyed. "What is it, papa?" she said
impatiently. "Please be as brief as you can; because I've a world of
things to attend to."

"So many that you have not a moment to spare for the father you are going
to leave so soon?" he said a little sadly.

"Oh, don't remind me of that!" she cried, a sudden change coming over her
manner. "I can't bear to think of it!" and creeping up to him, she put her
arms around his neck, while a tear trembled in her eye.

"Nor I," he said, caressing her; "not even if I knew you were going to be
very happy so far away from me; and I fear you are not. Gertrude, do you
love that man?"

"Why what a question coming from my practical father!" she said, forcing a
laugh. "I am choosing for myself, marrying of my own free will; is not
that sufficient?"

"I tell you candidly, Gertrude," he answered, "I do not like Mr.
Larrabee's looks. I cannot think it possible that you can love him, and I
beg of you if you do not, to draw back even now at this late hour."

"It is too late, papa," she returned, growing cold and hard; "and I do not
wish it. Is this all you wanted to say to me?"

"Yes," he said, releasing her with a sigh.

She glided from the room and he spent the next half hour in pacing slowly
back and forth with his head bowed upon his breast.

The door bell rang and the servant came in with a card.

Mr. Ross glanced at it, read the name with a look of pleased surprise, and
said, "Show the gentleman in here."

The next moment the two were shaking hands and greeting each other as old
and valued friends.

"I'm very glad to see you, Gordon!" exclaimed Mr. Ross; "but what happy
chance brought you here? Are you not residing somewhere in the West?"

"Yes; in St. Louis; and it is not a happy chance, but a painful duty that
has brought me to you to-night."

He spoke hurriedly, as if to be done with an unpleasant task, and Mr.
Ross's pulses throbbed at the sudden recollection that Larrabee also was
a resident of St. Louis.

He turned a quick, inquiring look upon his friend. "Out with it, man! I'm
in no mood to wait, whether it be good news or ill."

Gordon glanced toward the door.

Mr. Ross stepped to it and turned the key; then coming back, seated
himself close to his friend with the air of one who is ready for anything.

"Phil, my old chum," said Gordon, clapping him affectionately on the
shoulder, "I heard the other day in St. Louis, that Larrabee was about to
marry a daughter of yours, and I took the first eastern bound train and
traveled night and day to get here in time to put a stop to the thing. I
hope I'm not too late."

"What do you know of the man?" asked Mr. Ross steadily and looking Gordon
full in the eye, but with a paling cheek.

"Know of him? that he made all his money by gambling; that he is a

The last word was spoken low and close to the listener's ear.

Mr. Ross started back - horrified - deadly pale.

"Gordon! do you know whereof you affirm?" he asked low and huskily.

"I do; I had the account from one who was an eye-witness of the affair. He
is dead now, and I do not suppose it would be possible to prove the thing
in a court of justice; but nevertheless I assure you it is true.

"It was thirty years ago, on a Mississippi steamer, running between St.
Louis and New Orleans, that the deed was done.

"Larrabee, then a professional black-leg, was aboard, plying his trade. My
informant, a man whose veracity I could not doubt, was one of a group of
bystanders, who saw him (Larrabee) fleece a young man out of several
thousand dollars - all he had in the world - then, enraged by some taunting
words from his victim, pull out a pistol and shoot him through the heart,
just as they sat there on opposite sides of the gaming table; then with
his revolver still in his hand, threatening with terrible oaths and
curses, to shoot down any man who should attempt to stop him, he rushed on
deck, jumped into the river, swam ashore and disappeared in the woods."

"Horrible, horrible!" groaned Mr. Ross, hiding his face in his hands. "And
this murderer, this fiend in human form, would have married my daughter!"
he cried, starting up in strong excitement. "Why was he suffered to
escape? Where is he now?"

"The whole thing passed so quickly, my informant said, that every one
seemed stunned, paralyzed with horror and fright till the scoundrel had
made good his escape; beside there were several others of the same stamp
on board - desperate fellows, probably belonging to the same gang - who
were evidently ready to make common cause with the ruffian.

"That part of our country was, you know, in those days, infested with
desperadoes and outlaws."

"Yes, yes; but what is to be done now? I shall of course send a note to
Larrabee, at his hotel, telling him that all is at an end between him and
Gertrude, forbidding him the house, and intimating that the sooner he
leaves the vicinity the better. But - Gordon, I can never thank you
sufficiently for this kindness; will you add to it by keeping the thing to
yourself for the present? I wouldn't for the world have the story get into
the papers."

"Certainly, Ross!" returned his friend, grasping his hand in adieu. "I
understand how you feel. There is but one person beside ourselves, who
knows my errand here, and I can answer for his silence."

"Who is it?"

"Mr. Hogg, a friend of your wife and daughters."

The news brought by Mr. Gordon sent both Gertrude and her mother into
violent hysterics, and Mr. Ross and an old nurse who had been in the
family for years, had their hands full for the rest of the night. It was a
sore wound to the pride of both mother and daughter.

"The scoundrel! the wretch! the villain!" cried Gertrude. "I can never
hold up my head again; everybody will be talking about me, and those
envious Miss Petitts and their mother will say, 'It's just good enough for
her; serves her right for being so proud of the grand match she was going
to make.' Oh dear, oh dear! why couldn't that Gordon have staid away and
held his tongue!"

"Gertrude!" exclaimed her father, in anger and astonishment, "is this your
gratitude to him for saving you from being the wife of a gambler and
murderer? You might well be thankful to him and to a Higher Power, for
your happy escape."

"Yes, of course," said Lucy. "But what are we to do? the invitations are
all out. Oh dear, dear, was there ever such a wretched piece of business!
Phil, it's real good in you not to reproach me."

"'Twould be useless now," he sighed, "and I think the reproaches of your
own conscience must be sufficient. Not that I would put all the blame on
you, though. A full share of it belongs to me."

By morning both ladies had recovered some degree of calmness, but Gertrude
obstinately refused to leave her room, or to see any one who might call,
even her most intimate friend.

"Tell them I'm sick," she said, "it'll be true enough, for I have an awful

It was to her mother who had been urging her to come down to breakfast,
that she was speaking.

"Well, I shall send up a cup of tea," said Mrs. Ross. "But, what is this?"
as the maid entered with a note. "It's directed to you, Gertrude."

"From him, I presume," Gertrude said, as the girl went out and closed the
door. "Throw it into the fire, mother, or no; I'll send it back unopened."

"It is not his hand," said Mrs. Ross, closely scrutinizing the address.

"Then give it to me, please;" and almost snatching it from her mother's
hand, Gertrude tore it open, and glanced hastily over its contents.

"Yes, I'll see him! he'll be here directly; and I must look my best!" she
exclaimed, jumping up and beginning to take down her crimps.

"See him? Gertrude, are you mad? Your father will never allow it."

"Mr. Hogg, mother."


They exchanged glances and smiles. Mrs. Ross hurried down to breakfast,
not to keep her husband waiting, and Gertrude presently followed in
handsome morning toilet, and in apparently quite gay spirits; a trifle
pale, but only enough so to make her interesting, her mother said.

Mr. Ross and Philip, Jr., had already gone away to their place of
business, Sophie and the younger boys to school, and only Mrs. Ross and
Kate were left, the latter of whom had little to say, but regarded her
sister with a sort of contemptuous pity.

Gertrude had scarcely finished her meal, when the door-bell rang, and she
was summoned to the drawing-room to receive her visitor.

The wedding came off at the appointed time. There was a change of
bridegrooms, that was all; and few could decide whether the invitations
had been a ruse, so far as he was concerned - or if that were not so, how
the change had been brought about.

In a long letter to Violet Travilla, Kate Ross gave the details of the
whole affair.

A strange, sad story it seemed to Vi and her sister. They could not in the
least understand how Gertrude could feel or act as she had done, and
feared she would find, as Kate expressed it, "even a gold lined sty, but a
hard bed to lie in, with no love to soften it."

"Still," they said to each other, "it was better, a thousand times better,
than marrying that dreadful Mr. Larrabee."

For Kate had assured them Mr. Hogg was "an honest, honorable man, and not
ill-tempered; only an intolerable bore - so stupid and uninteresting."


"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
- GAL. vi. 7.

Elsie and her children returned home healthful and happy, with scarce any
but pleasing recollections of the months that had just passed.

Not so with Mrs. Conly and Virginia. They seemed soured and disappointed;
nothing had gone right with them; their finery was all spoiled, and they
were worn out - with the journey they said, but in reality far more by late
hours and dissipation of one sort and another.

The flirtation with Captain Brice had not ended in anything
serious - except the establishing of a character for coquetry for
Virginia - nor had several others which followed in quick succession.

The girl had much ado to conceal her chagrin; she had started out with
bright hopes of securing a brilliant match, and now, though not yet
twenty, began to be haunted with the terrible, boding fear of old

She confided her trouble to Isadore one day, when a fit of extreme
depression had made her unusually communicative.

Isa could scarce forbear smiling, but checked the inclination.

"It is much too soon to despair, Virgy," she said; "but indeed, I do not
think the prospect of living single need make one wretched."

"Perhaps not you, who are an heiress; but it's another thing for poor,
penniless me."

Isadore acknowledged that that probably did make a difference.

"But," she added, "I hope neither of us will ever be so silly as to marry
for money. I think it must be dreadful to live in such close connection
with a man you do not love, even if he is rolling in wealth; but suppose
he loses his money directly? There you are, tied to him for life without
even riches to compensate you for your loss of liberty."

"Dear me, Isa, how tiresome! Where's the use of supposing he's going to
lose his money?"

"Because it's something not at all unlikely to happen; riches do take
wings and fly away. I do not feel certain that Aunt Delaford's money will
ever come to me, or that, if it does, I may not lose it. So I intend to
prepare to support myself if it should ever become necessary."


"I intend to take up the English branches again, also the higher
mathematics, and make myself thorough in them (which I am far from being
now; they do not teach them thoroughly at the convent), so that I may be
able to command a good position as a teacher.

"And let me advise you to do the same."

"Indeed, I've no fancy for such hard work," sneered Virginia. "I'd rather
trust to luck. I'll be pretty sure to be taken care of somehow."

"I should think if any one might feel justified in doing that it would be
Cousin Elsie," said Isadore; "but Uncle Horace educated her in a way to
make her quite capable of earning her own living, and she is doing the
same by every one of her children."

"Such nonsense!" muttered Virginia.

"Such prudence and forethought, I should say," laughed her sister.

A few days after this Isadore was calling at Ion and in the course of
conversation Mrs. Travilla remarked, with concern, "Virginia looks really
unhappy of late. Is her trouble anything it would be in my power to

"No; unless she would listen to good counsel from you. It is really
nothing serious; and yet I suppose it seems so to her. I'm almost ashamed
to tell you, cousin, but as far as I can learn it is nothing in the world
but the fear of old-maidenhood," Isa answered, half laughing.

Elsie smiled.

"Tell her from me that there is plenty of time yet. She is two or three
years younger than I was when I married, and," she added with a bright,
happy look, "I have never thought I lost anything by waiting."

"I'm sure you didn't, mamma," said Violet, who was present. "But how very
odd of Virgy to trouble about that! I'm glad people don't have to marry,
because I shall never, never be willing to leave my dear home, and my
father and mother. Especially not to live with some stranger."

"I hope it may be some years before you change your mind in regard to
that," her mother responded with a loving look.

Elsie was not bringing up her daughters to consider marriage the chief end
of woman; she had, indeed, said scarcely anything on the subject till her

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 13 of 17)