"You will not be willing to relieve a pang of what I am suffering when I disclose to you that portion of my life which concerns you, or rather, those whom you loved in the bygone years."

Laurie started, and looked keenly at the stranger, but he replied kindly:

"Yes; you are suffering and dying, and it is my duty to relieve, if possible to do so, even the worst enemy I have on earth. As a Christian I am taught to forgive those who have injured me. But go on now, I think you will be quiet for awhile, at least." And the young doctor seated himself and waited for the dying man to begin his mysterious story.

"You remember that d—d Yankee who came up missing some years ago?"

Laurie's face turned a shade paler, and he com pressed his lips with grim determination as he listened to the villian's recital.

He went on slowly, for his voice was weak and hoarse: "You remember Lieutenant Barclay, of the New York Seventy-first? Of course, you could never forget him while you live, and neither can I, for 'twas my hand that shed his blod, and in murdering him I killed the beautiful woman whom I loved better than aught else on earth. I was desperate, Montgomery; and a desperate man knows neither reason nor mercy.

"I was an outlaw by my country's laws. A beast, with a price set on my scalp in mine own State. For doing what? For killing a brute who dared to insult me because he was my superior in command. In hot blood I shot him as I would a dog, and thenceforth I

fled, a fugitive from military justice, or rather, injus tice, I should say; for who ever heard of an inferior officer getting any show of right before his superiors when insubordination was the casus belli?"

"I got beyond the army lines and left the State. I traveled by night and secreted myself in the woods through the day and lived chiefly on nuts and wild fruit, of which there was a good crop that year. I man aged to exchange my officer's uniform for a suit of brown jeans. Thus I escaped arrest until I reached Arkansas, where I fell in with two deserters, who were trying to make their way back to Winn Parish, in Louisiana. They seemed delighted to meet me and promised me official position and unlimited freedom amid the wild forests and impenetrable swamps of the Tree State of Winn/ I was not in a condition to choose my lot in life just now, so yielded and cast in my life with the robber band, which I served as captain for more than ten years.

"But I must hasten, for the sands are running very low in my frail hour glass, and memory grows dim as I go bacK over the past. I feel very weak, Doctor, and will thank you very much if you will open that cup board in the corner and pour me out some brandy from that bottle sitting there. I should have offered you a drink when you came in from that drenching rain, but entirely forgot that courtesy, for which I beg you will excuse me," he remarked, as he drank the brandy with feverish avidity.

"Thank you; I never drink anything of the sort,"

A Confession.

replied Laurie, as he resumed his seat by the bedside of the sick man.

"The first time I met Miss Montgomery I was rid ing rapidly, as I always did, on the public road that runs in front of The Magnolias when I turned a bend in the thicket below the house, and met your cousin, who was also riding quite fast. Her horse swerved and broke his girth, throwing Miss Montgomery to_ the ground. She was up before I could reach her, quick as I was, and stood there, blushing, and looking as beauti ful as a goddess. I apologized for my careless riding, taking all the blame to myself for her fall. She lifted her exquisite eyes to mine, and in a voice that sounded like heavenly music to my ears, famishing as they were for the sound of a lady's cultured tones, said that it was all her own fault, as her uncle had warned her of the danger afjiding fast around a bend. As I looked at the lovely creature my heart was torn from my bosom and laid a willing oblation at her feet. I could not, in that extreme moment, pause to consider what it might bring to either of us. I only knew myself to be shaken with a passion that an hour before I would have sworn I was incapable of feeling.

"I mended her saddle girth and placing her on the pony, watched her ride out of my sight. After that I often came by hoping to get even a momentary view of the woman I worshiped as my God. But what was I, to hope that I could win the love of that pure darling? I. an outlaw, whose hands had been stained more than once with the blood of my fellow man. Had I met Mamie Montgomery before I fell on evil times, I would

have been saved, for she could have moulded me to her will, I believe; but it was too late, and the more I realized the impossibility of winning her, the more wildly I loved her, until it became the one consuming passion of my life. In my despair I registered a vow that if I could not win her, no other man should. How sacredly I kept that vow you will soon hear.

"One day, as I was lingering in the hollow where I had first met my darling, and living over again in memory the delicious thrills of happiness that shook my being as my hands touched hers in assisting her to mount her horse, I looked toward the house and saw a horse standing at the lawn gate. I soon saw that it was not standing alone, but the bridle was lightly held over the arm of a Federal officer, and that Mamie Mont gomery was standing near him. So deeply absorbed were they in each other that they had neither ears nor eyes for me, and I stood within a hundred yards of them, unseen and unheard. Perhaps it was dishonor able in me to stand thus, a spy upon the woman I loveo! better far than I did my miserable, ruined life. I cared not for that, but I desired above all things to have revenge on my rival—the Yankee, whose uniform and flag I hated more than words could express.

"I stood as if rooted to the spot, with my brain whirling like a madman's, as he took Mamie in his arms and kissed her tenderly in farewell, then turned to mount his horse; but seeing her handkerchief fall, he returned, picked it up, and kissing it, put it in his pocket, just over his heart.

"I realized from what I had seen that they were

engaged lovers, and my agony knew no bounds. I planned quickly what I would do. I knew a short cut through the bayou and knew that I could intercept him on his route and there settle with him. I did not mean to murder him, for the gentlemanly instinct as serted itself within me. No, I would give him a chance for one shot at me, as man should meet man. That was not the creed of the band of robbers, but this was a different thing. For the sake of the noble woman who loved him, he should have given him one chance for the life that was so sweet to him.

"I went by my headquarters and took my trusty valet, as I usied, facetiously, to call that vagabond Jack, and riding fast arrived at the Yankee Spring, as you know it is named to this day, in time to secrete myself securely ere my rival came into view. I was not wrong in supposing that he would choose this route, for in about an hour I heard the steady tramp of a horse, and soon Lieutenant Barclay, for I learned afterward that it was he, came into view. My pulses beat fast with hate and desire for summary revenge as the young officer rode out to the spring and, dismounting, took out his handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his fair forehead. Then he drew the little lace trimmed amulet from its hiding place and kissed it fervently and smiled, as he seemed to remember the sweeter kiss which he had had from her own lovely red lips. His picture is deeply engraved on my memory as he stood thus, with that smile on his face. Every effort I have made to efface it from my mind has been in vain. It has haunted my sleepless hours and driven me to deeds

of desperation. I think when we meet in hell I will surely recognize him, if he does not me," and the man paused, and covered his face with his thin hands, as Laurie replied gently:

"You will not meet him there, for he was a soldier of Jesus Christ, even as he was an officer of the army of his country."

When he took his hands away from his face it was so ghastly that Laurie thought the poor murderer's last moment had come, but he mastered himself by a great effort and resumed his narrative.

"When I remembered that kiss, for one of which I would have willingly served a thousand years in hell, my blood seemed set on fire by the devil.

"I rose to my feet and controlled myself to say dis tinctly: 'Defend yourself, sir, for a foe is before you,' as I leveled my gun and prepared to shoot.

"He was as prompt as I could desire, and had his revolver on me before I could think he was half ready. I do not know who got the first shot, but I saw him fall heavily to the ground ere I could command my thoughts sufficiently to realize that I had received a ball in the breast which was likely to prove quite troublesome. However, I did not stop to consider my own wounds just then, but went over to where he lay and felt for his heart. The blood was gushing through a hole just above it. I had made a beautiful shot. I had never held a steadier hand.

"As I looked at him lying there I thought him a worthy foe for any antagonist. The smile, kindled by

the deathless love of a beautiful woman, still lingered on the dead face.

"We had now to dispose of the body of Lieutenant Barclay, and a troublesome job it proved to be. The pain from my wound was excessive, and the loss of blood made me so weak that I could not render much assistance to Jack. But you know he is a giant, and to him I left most of the work, while I lay on the grass and gave directions. We fastened the soldier to his horse and leading the fine animal into the deepest pool in the bayou, I shot him with my Winchester rifle. After a few convulsive efforts to swim he sank to rise no more.

"As soon as I found that Lieutenant Barclay was dead, I took the little handkerchief which he had hastily thrust into its hiding place when called on to defend himself, and with it came a letter subscribed with the name we both had loved so well. I took them and, dipping them in the blood which was flowing from the heart of the dead man, I wrapped them in a piece of paper and put them in my pocket. Jack, in en deavoring to save a memento of the gruesome work, cut off a button from the officer's coat and then lost it, for which piece of carelessness he got a most unmerciful flogging that night.

"That wound in my chest is the cause of my death. The bullet has never been extracted and has been the source of a great deal of pain to me every day of my life since then.

"Here is the ring that Jack took from the finger of the dead man/' and he handed Laurie the peculiar ring

which he had noticed on the Lieutenant's finger that last day he had dined with him.

"I was undecided what to do with the watch. It was such an infernal bother to me that I could not endure it long. I used to hang it on the wall beside my own, and I could distinctly tell its peculiar beat, as of the quickened pulsations of a man's heart. One day, as I was riding by a great log heap that looked like a fur nace, I threw the watch into the midst of the red hot coals, and cursing it, I bade it burn, as I expected to be burned some day in the furnaces of hell.

"After we had disposed of the dead man and his effects, I mounted my horse and rode over to your house, which I reached just as the day began to break, and placing the bloody letter and handkerchief on the gate-post of the flower garden, I rode away the most miserable man God Almighty ever created. But I never dreamed, even most remotely, that it would prove the death of the pure, angelic woman whom I loved so tenderly, so passionately. When, a few weeks later, I heard of her death, I would have speedily have ended my worthless life with a pistol shot had it not been for that conscience which makes cowards of the bravest men. I know that the devil and his angels are heating the furnaces of hell seven times seven for my soul, for since Mamie Montgomery's death I have thrown my self into every conceivable sin. I have cared for neither God nor man, nor anything on earth. I feel the cold fingers of grim Death clutching at my throat," he ex claimed, as he looked wildly, imploringly at the doctor. A violent fit of coughing came on, in which a blood

vessel was broken, and quick strangulation ensued. He lay before Laurie Montgomery a dead man.

As Laurie left the cabin he murmured softly, Venge ance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."

CHAPTEE XIV.

ESTRANGEMENT.

"Wherever sorrow is, relief would be: If you do sorrow at my grief in love,

By giving love, your sorrow and my grief were both ex-termined."—"As You Like It."

FULL of conflicting emotions, Laurie Montgomery left the hut of the murderer. The rain had ceased and the air felt cool and refreshing after the stifling atmos phere of the cabin. He went to the shed where Jack had sheltered the horses, and, waking the stupid fellow, ordered him to go for help to bury the dead man. He then caught his horse and hurried away from the miser able house and its depressing influences.

When he reached the bedside of his patient it was so late and the man so ill that he decided to remain for the night.

The next morning his father came early, and after a consultation was held, it was decided that Laurie would return home and leave the elder Doctor to watch the case.

"Mr. Bliss sent for you last night, Laurie, to see your little namesake. He has whooping cough, I think, and as he is teething, I fear it will go hard with Elm. You

had better go by there and see him. I met a young man there from the North, a lover, I believe, of Miss Mel ton's. Quite an elegant gentleman, he appears to be." Then, as noticing for the first time Laurie's pale face, he added:

"Try to sleep some to-night, son; you are looking rather pale. Are you quite well?"

"Yes, sir; quite well; but I have been through a try ing ordeal in the last twenty-four hours. I will tell you all when I return home, father," he responded, in a low tone.

"Don't forget the Bliss baby, Laurie," his father cautioned, as the latter rode away.

"I will go there by all means. I would not neglect my little pet for any consideration," said Laurie, affect ing an unconcern he did not feel.

After a ride in the bracing March wind, for the weather had turned off fair and cool, he arrived at the Bliss farm just as the proprietor and his guest rode up with a large antlered buck which the latter had been so furtunate as to kill on his first hunt.

"Ah! Doctor; you have come in good time to help us eat this fine fat venison," exclaimed Mr. Bliss, with hearty cordiality.

"Let me introduce Mr. Willingham, of Boston, Doctor Montgomery," he added, as turning to that gentleman, he remarked:

"This is the young Doctor I mentioned to you last night, Mr. Willingham."

As the rivals shook hands they made a quick mental summary of each other.

Laurie's verdict was that he had a formidable an tagonist in the field.

Mr. Bliss invited them into the house, while Laurie explained that he had only called to see the baby, who, his father had told him, was ill with whooping cough. Mr. Willingham repaired to his room to change his dress, and Laurie went to the chamber of the sick child, where he remained some time in consultation with the anxious mother.

Then followed a romp with the little girls, with whom the Doctor was a great favorite. When he came out on the gallery where the men were sitting smoking he found that Mr. Bliss had had his horse put up and insisted so earnestly on his dining with them, that he could but stay.

Ere he left he concluded that Mr. Willingham was a very pleasant fellow, with little or none of the osten tation usually attributed to the majority of rich men from the North.

The hour before dinner was very pleasantly spent, and Laurie, on leaving, extended a cordial invitation to Mr. Willingham to visit them at their home.

"I think Miss Melton is planning for us to spend the evening there, if I am not mistaken. She said The Magnolias. Isn't that the name of your home?" asked Arthur Willingham.

"Yes, that is it; and I am sorry I shall not be able to be there, as I will be away on business. You know a professional man can never claim any time as his own." Yet he really felt glad in his heart that he could not be there to see his rival with Evelvn.

As he rode home his resolution was taken. With all the pride of his proud race he determined that he would appear indifferent to whatever might happen. Evelyn should be given an opportunity to decide in whose favor she wished, without the humilation of a direct refusal of himself and the acceptance of his rival before his very eyes.

"She knows I love her, and if she prefers Willingham she shall be free to decide in his favor without inter ference from me," he said, with bitter, burning jealousy.

His resolution taken was strictly kept, and none but those who knew him best suspected the torture that he endured in the weeks that followed.

To Fannie Montgomery alone was Mr. Willingham's visit productive of unmixed pleasure for the present. In his genial, refined companionship she found the sympathy she had never met before beyond her own family circle. She had never given a thought to her own feelings, or to the fact that she knew he was the lover of her dearest friend, and not till it was too late did she wake up to the knowledge that Arthur Willingham was the sole possessor of her warm young heart.

Evelyn unwittingly lent herself to further the too oft repeated meetings between her girl friend and Mr. Willingham in her own home or in the walks and drives they took together.

Mr. Willingham admired the bright, graceful South ern girl very much, and if he had been heart free would perhaps have promptly fallen in love with her. He could not well love two girls at the same time, but he came as near doing it as any man really could.

To Evelyn the demeanor of the young Doctor was inexplicable. His haughty coolness was unbearable al most to the gentle girl who did not understand him. She wondered if others noticed it and perplexed her brain to know what she had done to cause such a change in him; or if it was indeed herself that had had any thing to do with the alteration in his intercourse with her.

The thoughts that had engrossed her so much since the night of the holy dance at Greengrove, had almost been forgotten since Mr. Willingham had come into their quiet midst, bringing, unconsciously, so much trouble.

One afternoon, as they were sitting engaged in quiet conversation, Fannie asked:

"Evelyn, did you ever tell Mr. Willingham of your experience at the negro meeting you attended last winter?"

"No, I do not remember ever to have mentioned it to him," she answered, gently.

"No, Miss Montgomery, she has honored me with very few confidences since I have been visiting her, I do assure you," and the young man turned to Fannie. As his direct look met hers the lids drooped over the soft violet eyes and the pink flush deepened on the fair young face.

Evelyn saw it all in a moment, and a pang of self-reproach shot through her heart, as she thought of the unhappiness in store for Fannie if she had given her love unsought and unappreciated. She thought bit terly of that "old crosspatch Fate," who was always

introducing elements that spoiled somebody's happiness in life. But she said gaily:

"Fie, Mr. Willingham, to speak so disparagingly of my efforts to prove entertaining; but I am going to leave that interesting recital to you, Fairy; you can relate that much better than I, as I do not understand the negro dialect sufficiently yet to undertake anything so difficult."

"Miss Melton, you must not accuse me of inappre-ciation of my entertainment, for I have certainly had, as you young ladies would say, '&. most lovely time' since I came to Louisiana. In the two weeks I have spent in this neighborhood, I have hunted and fished to my heart's content, and you both know how much I have enjoyed the hours of your society," he exclaimed gal lantly. "But I am now waiting impatiently for Miss Montgomery's recital of the negro meeting."

"I will not have time now, as it is growing late and I must return home. See, the sun is about to leave us, and I must also make my adieus." So saying she rose to go.

"I wish you could stay longer," exclaimed Evelyn, eagerly.

"I will come again you know. I always do; don't I ?" Fannie answered with a sweet smile.

They went out on the lawn, where Gyp was feeding on the green grass.

"Where do you ladies find your beautiful ponies; not imported, are they?" questioned Mr. Willingham.

"No, indeed, we raise them here in Louisiana," as gaily waving her hand in farewell, she rode away.

"Isn't she a fine rider ? I never saw a more graceful horsewoman," Mr. Willingham remarked, as they watched Fannie gallop out of sight.

"Yes, I think her lovely and graceful in every thing/' answered Evelyn, warmly.

"Let us walk down this beautiful slope, Miss Melton; will you?" asked her companion.

"Yes, it is too lovely to stay indoors. Fannie Mont gomery and I spend most of the time we are together out on our ponies, or walking. We have discovered a hill from which we get a beautiful view of the setting sun. It is just out here, not far from the public high way. We have named it sunset hill, and we often go there to watch the sun sink behind the western slopes. Suppose we try to reach it before the sun quite leaves us," and Evelyn quickened her pace.

"With all my heart, for I think a sunset in these in tensely green hills must be very beautiful. All the world is lovely to me when I am with you," he said softly, then he asked:

"Why is it that you seem to love the younger sister so much more than the elder of the Montgomery girls ?"

"Eeally, I can scarcely tell you, unless it be the fact that she seems to love me better than the elder sister does," answered Evelyn, musingly.

"On the principle of love begetting love, I suppose," he responded gently. "I wonder if that theory holds good in love as in friendship. If that be true then I may hope for a successful issue to my Guit."

They were sitting on a log at the summit of the hill just where the road made an abrupt bend around a

dense thicket of small pine trees, watching the last vestige of color fade from the western sky.

Evelyn did not reply to his last remark, and he con tinued in the same earnest voice:

"Evelyn, you know why I came to Louisiana; you know, you must know, that I have loved you ever since I first met you in my home two years ago. You have scrupulously concealed your feelings; you have given me no room for hope; yet I will hope in spite of all, that you do love me, if it is only a little," he pleaded, as he took her hand.

At this moment a horseman turned the bend of the road, just beyond where they were sitting, and Evelyn quickly disengaged her hand from Mr. Willingham's detaining clasp. The movement was quick, but not be fore Laurie—for it was he—saw it, and Evelyn's deep blush of confusion, made him doubly sure that they were engaged lovers.

He was not riding as rapidly as usual, or he might not have seen so plainly, as he did, that which made him pale and brought a compression to his lips that told of suffering plainer than words. He took off his hat to them, a courtly way peculiar to him, and putting spurs to his horse was quickly out of sight.

"Evelyn, you must answer me; I cannot endure this suspense longer," he urged, as he endeavored to regain possession of her hand.

"Oh, no—no—" she answered, in a low tone. She was trembling with excitement now. "I will not deceive you; I do not love you; I can never be more than a friend to you. I have tried to show you that I did not,

could not, love you, and I was beginning to "hope that you were learning to love my little friend at The Magnolias; who I fear thinks too much of you already. She is more worthy of you, and better suited to you, than I ever could be. Oh! I am so much troubled and distressed about it," she said, speaking more rapidly and passionately than he had believed she possibly could.

He replied in a low, constrained tone:

"Don't you know, that to offer a friend, instead of yourself, to a lover, is like giving a stone to a man beg ging bread. Perhaps you misunderstand your friend's feelings toward me after all ; at least you will not hold me responsible for them," he added, bitterly.

"Oh, no, I do not, could not blame you in the least, for what I fear in regard to her sentiments toward you, and am truly sorry that I should have betrayed what I only conjecture; but I know that I can trust you to keep the knowledge of it inviolably sacred," said Evelyn, deeply mortified that she in her excitement should have said a word of what she had good reason to fear.

<c Yon may trust anything concerning Miss Mont gomery safely with me. I admire her above every other woman I have ever met excepting yourself; and, per haps, in time may learn to love her, if, as you say, she has bestowed the priceless gift of her love on so un worthy an object as myself, but just now I cannot think of any one but you. I cannot in a few hours eradicate from my heart the sweet vision that has lin-

gered there so tenderly for many months/' he replied, with mournful pathos.

Evelyn's gentle eyes were full of tears, as she replied:

"I would not willingly give anyone pain, especially the brother of a dear friend, and a friend yourself in whom I feel the deepest interest; but I cannot give my hand without the love of my heart. Please do not think unkindly of me for what I have said," she asked softly.

"Oh, Evelyn, think again of my offer—a heart full of love for you, and, dearest, I can offer you all the advantages of wealth and position, which you so richly deserve. I am willing to wait and trust you for the love that will come in time, if you have not already given your heart to another. Such love as mine must bring an answering impulse in a colder nature than yours. Will you not give my proposition a little longer consideration? Think over it to-night and perhaps you may change your mind in my favor. Do not de cide irrevocably this evening, a question that is fraught with so much, for at least one of us. I will come to bid you farewell in the morning and you may then give me an answer that I shall consider as final," he pleaded with eyes and voice, as they parted at the little gate.

To Evelyn the night was one of trial and tempta tion. No woman is deaf to the alluring vision of wealth and position; a bridal tour of Europe, any thing and everything, that money cauld buy or love suggest, would be hers as the wife of Arthur Willing-ham. A home of luxury for her parents, the money to put into quick execution the project of benevolence so

dear to her heart. All these thoughts thronged, upon her mind. Did not he say that he would wait for the love she could not yet give him; and was she sure that her love was of any value to the man who, but yester day, had treated her as a stranger almost.

Yet there was Fannie—had not Arthur said he might, in time learn to love her, and that she loved him, she did not doubt for a moment, after what she had seen that very evening?

She tossed restlessly for many hours while the battle of contending passions raged in her heart. At last woman's strong, faithful love came off conqueror, as she resolutely laid her heart on the altar of her first, deep and true love. She knew now that she loved with all the sweet tenderness of mature womanhood; and with that knowledge, came the gentle humility that comes to a woman in regard to the object of her de votion—a feeling that she is not worthy of the idol of perfection that she has enthroned upon the pedestal of her heart. For a woman always makes an idol of him to whom she gives the first great love of her woman hood ; and she is no iconoclast. Once he is enthroned in that heart, he is never, by any act of hers, cast down; not the world's scorn, nor the contumely of friends, has power to move one iota that worshipful love she can give but once. But let him, that petted darling of a woman's love, but debase himself in her eyes and he hurls himself from the lofty pedestal on which faith ful love had placed him, to return no more thither. She may be faithful to her marriage vows, but never

again can she feel the loving reverence she once has felt for him.

Evelyn realized now, as she never had before, the power of unspoken love, and meekly bent her heart to Fate.

She rose early the next morning and wrote to Mr. Willingham a very kind, but decided refusal of his suit, with best wishes for his future happiness, and bid ding him farewell; in conclusion she said:

"It will spare us both pain if we meet no more just now, therefore, again, farewell."

While Evelyn was spending the first hours of the night in restlessness and doubt, the two men over whom she was having this mental conflict, were sitting on Mr. Bliss's porch smoking and talking.

The subject naturally drifted to the South, and the unhappy state of things in that section, now making such strenuous efforts to recover from the blasting ef fects of the civil war. The suddenly emancipated negro and his present status was discussed, when young Wil lingham exclaimed:

"Last evening your sister Fannie made an allusion to a negro meeting, that she and Miss Melton had at tended, which seemed to have a very disquieting effect upon the latter, who at once referred the description and explanation of the affair to Miss Fannie. The matter was left untouched, as Miss Montgomery left shortly afterward for home, promising to tell me to morrow, but as I expect to leave the neighborhood to morrow, I will be glad if you will tell me something of

an affair that seemed to have power to affect Miss Mel ton so much."

Laurie winced inwardly at the memory of that last evening he had spent with Evelyn, this subject called so vividly to mind their short-lived plan for united effort in the pursuit of philanthropy, but he answered calmly:

"Yes, I think I can explain to you why Miss Melton is so very much troubled in regard to the negroes of this backwoods section of the state, where there are no public schools that are really worth calling schools, and also her morbidly exaggerated view of her possible duty toward them," replied Doctor Montgomery.

He then gave his interested listener a graphic ac count of the meeting at the African Church, the holy dance, and its effects on Evelyn.

"One of her dreams now is to establish a training school in this neighborhood; where the younger genera tion of negroes shall be taught useful trades, and given a common school education.

"She is very apprehensive of the negroes' relapse into a state of barbarism, judging by their church worship that she witnessed at Green Grove; and the fearfully low state of their morals, of which she knows very little, and has only learned that little since her residence in the South," Laurie said, gravely.

"But why more danger now, than as slaves they were denied the right of the ballot, and of the public schools?" inquired Mr. Willingham.

"Well, you know I have only been giving you your Northern friend's view of the situation, and am not

accountable for any of her opinions on the subject. But I shall answer your last question from the stand point of one who, being on the ground, can understand the situation better than anyone could from a distance. The negro, during the days of slavery—I am speaking for the hill country strictly—worshiped with their mas ters, and were taught the same gospel. All this voo-dooism, or barbarous ritualism, was introduced since their emancipation; and, with the aptitude of the black race to retrograde, it is certainly not a problem easy of solution as to what is the most efficient means to advance them, mentally, morally and financially. It is, I think, a formidable question that will have to be met in some way. I must confess it has troubled me no little, as I have a better opportunity in my profession of knowing more of their utter disregard of the moral obligations of life, than most people have. We can only hope for the best and be patient with them. Perhaps when the country grows more prosperous, and the public schools are more numerous and efficient, things will improve with them, even in so remote a section as this.

"My father and I help them all we can. Our prac tice for them is largely gratuitous. I think they all have confidence in us and regard us as their friends/' concluded the young doctor.

A silence of some moments fell between the young men, which was broken at length by Mr. Willingham's inquiring in a low tone:

"Would you, Doctor Montgomery, be willing to devote the time and study necessary to the success of such an undertaking, if I supply the money that will enable

you to carry yours and Miss Melton's beneficent scheme into execution? Or is it asking too much of a busy, professional man like yourself?"

"I am willing, and more than willing, to do every thing to further any move that has the uplifting of humanity as its object. And I assure you that you will win the deep gratitude of Miss Melton's heart as well as of mine, in thus nobly contributing to this work of philanthropy," the Doctor responded, heartily.

"Well, remember," answered Arthur Willingham, "that to you alone I shall entrust this fund. I shall place it entirely at your disposal, with the most im plicit confidence in your ability to dispose of it for the best results, and you need not tell Miss Melton that I have had anything to do with it, unless you choose to do so/' with a tinge of bitterness in his voice.

"I shall not attempt to express to you my apprecia tion of your confidence in me, save by striving to jus tify your good opinion of my ability to put into execu tion a scheme I have long been very anxious to see tried, but have never been able, for lack of funds, to carry out. I do not believe you will ever regret your gener ous gift, as I am fully in accord with that text of Holy Writ, which says, 'it is better to give than to receive,'" Laurie replied, warmly.

"I do not wish any gratitude on your part; that should all come in on my side to you, for thus putting me in the way of investing a little of the money, use fully, that I probably should have squandered on selfish pleasures, as I have done so many thousands already. This visit has taught me a great deal more of you

Southerners than I could have learned by passing through your cities, or lingering at your winter resorts, where one sees only the wealthy and fashionable side of life. Mr. Bliss has told me much of yours and your noble father's kindness, and fair treatment of the ne groes in your district/' said Arthur, as he threw his cigar in the yard, and added:

"I shall, in all probability, leave your neighborhood to-morrow, as I mentioned a few moments ago, and shall give myself the pleasure of calling by The Mag nolias and bidding your mother and sisters farewell."

"We shall be sorry to bid you good-bye, and hope you will come again to see the progress of the training school; the 'Willingham Academy'," said the doctor.

"No, you must not call it for me, I am having too little to do with it, to deserve the honor of having it called for me. As soon as I reach New Orleans, I shall make all the arrangements necessary to transmit to you the money as you need it."

After discussing their plans fully, both men rose, Laurie to ride home and the other to go to his room for the remainder of the night.

Ere they parted they shook hands warmly, and the strong friendship, thus begun, lasted through life.

When Laurie reached home, he went to his mother's room and told her that Mr. Willingham would call early in the morning to bid them adieu; then he went up stairs and throwing himself on his bed, was soon asleep. His vigils for the past two weeks were telling on him, together with the intense mental suspense through which he had passed made him very weary, and he did

not awaken until the sun shone through the open windows so brightly as to disturb him.

True to promise, Evelyn's suitor called at her father's on his way to The Magnolias, and a very small, black boy came out to the gate as soon as the buggy stopped, and handed him the note that Evelyn had written early that morning. He read it, flushing and paling by turns, then thrusting it in his pocket he bade the driver take him to Doctor Montgomery's.

It is singular how quickly some men will turn away from the impregnable wall of an irrevocable never. Why stand gazing idly at the unattainable Edelweiss, flaunting on Alpine heights of impossibility, when ver dant meadows of Probability stretched around him, decked with fairer flowers ready for his plucking?

Thus Arthur Willingham felt, as he took his wounded heart to his sympathetic friend at The Magnolias, for the magic touch of love's sweet healing. It was plain to him now, since Evelyn's subtle suggestion, that Fannie was more suitable to him as a wife than Evelyn could ever be. Perhaps she did love him, and the idea gave him a feeling of consolation.

Fannie Montgomery was in the garden gathering flowers when the buggy drove up to the gate of the Montgomery homestead. The roses blushed no deeper pink than bloomed in the cheeks of this fair flower of the garden, when she saw the occupant of the vehicle step out, and walk rapidly up the path to where she stood, with her hands full of flowers. When he reached her side, he said gaily:

"Queen Eose of the rosebud garden of girls, allow

me to assist you with your burden of beauty/' as he took some of the flowers from her, then added, softly:

"I have come to say good morning, and farewell in the same breath almost, Miss Fannie."

"Oh, are you going to leave us to-day; and does Evelyn know it, Mr. Willingharn ?" she asked, looking at him from under the dark lashes that would droop in trying to hide the telltale eyes.

''Yes, she knows, and she does not care. I do assure you she does not regard my movements with the slight est degree of interest," he responded, a little fiercely; then he added more gently:

"If you will arrange a bouquet of these lovely flowers, and give me to take home, I shall preserve it in mem ory of the radiant picture I saw in this garden when I first arrived this morning," and the handsome black eyes looked admiringly into the blushing face before him.

Fannie was only seventeen, and looked even younger. The constantly changing color played over the fair face as she answered:

"Oh, yes, and you will help me. I know what ex quisite taste you have in arranging flowers. Do you remember the wreath we wove for Evelyn's hat, the day we went fishing down on the bayou?" and she laughed gaily at the memory, one of her musical, con tagious laughs, in which he joined.

"Yes, I remember, very distinctly, assisting you in weaving the wreath, but cannot recall any especial dis play of taste on my part," he replied, as he walked by her side up the garden path toward the house.

"Shall we go in now and let mother and Marion know that you are going to leave us? I know they will regret it, for you have made warm friends of every one here, Mr. Willingham," said Fannie, as she looked shyly up at him.

"Miss Fannie, tell me, before we go in, will you an swer the letters I am going to write you when I leave Louisiana ?" he asked, softly.

The sweet face grew pinker, and she hesitated a moment. How perfectly lovely she looked as they paused a moment for her reply to his question. How much he wished in that moment that he could transfer to her instantly his whole heart, for it was evident to him now that this trusting young creature had, un knowingly, given her heart into his keeping.

After an instant's hesitation, she answered frankly:

"Mother has always objected to my entering into correspondence with gentlemen; but perhaps she will make an exception in your favor, as you seem to be a favorite with her; we can ask her, or rather you may ask."

They now entered the parlor, where they found Marion by the window reading. Fannie then went in search of her mother, leaving Mr. Willingham seated near Marion.

As she left the room he was saying:

"I did not know before I came that I would find so many friends here whom I could love and admire. I was thinking as I drove over here what a noble young man your brother is. It is not often in life we meet

with such men. He and I are the best of friends, sin gular as it may seem/' and Arthur smiled grimly.

"Well, as the country proved a better one than you anticipated this time, perhaps we may persuade you to come again/' responded Marion, blushing deeply, as she added:

"If it will be an inducement, I will give you an in vitation to my marriage on Mayday. Will you come?"

"It is a great temptation, and I earnestly wish I were free to accept your kind invitation, but I will be in the far West then, and it will be impossible for me to re turn at that time, but I will write my congratulations," Arthur replied.

Fannie now came in with her mother, and while the others talked she listened and arranged some of her most lovely flowers into a bouquet for Mr. Willingham. He asked for and obtained from Mrs. Montgomery a frank consent to a correspondence between himself and Fannie.

He now rose to leave and received many cordial in vitations to repeat his visit to Louisiana at an early day. To Fannie's white little hand he- gave a warmer pressure, and there was a deeper meaning in the dark eyes as they met hers for a moment, in farewell; and then he went away. To one young heart his going meant so much: a sudden darkening of the light, a dullness, that rendered all things devoid of interest. She went to her room, and tried to get her mind fixed on a book of her favorite poems, but all in vain. She threw down the volume in disgust, and running downstairs called to her mother as she got her hat:

"Mother, dear, I am going for a ride." She went out to the lot, caught and saddled Gyp, and galloped away for several miles. On her return, she stopped a mo ment to chat with Evelyn, whom she found in the kitchen with sleeves rolled up, checked apron on, and seemingly very busy.

"Fannie, mother has gone to Mrs. Bliss's for the day, and left me to prepare the dinner. I am very much afraid that father will not find it a chef d'ceuvre, as I must confess that I am a very poor cook. Mother will never allow me to do any plain cooking; only cakes or something that we do not have ordinarily," said Evelyn, as she welcomed Fannie warmly.

"Well, you need not be ashamed to confess to me, Evelyn, for I am in the same lamentable condition. I don't know any more about cooking 'than a cat does about Sunday,' with the exception of jam puffs and French rolls," said Fannie, with a grimace.

"I can testify that you make them to perfection," was Evelyn's laughing rejoinder.

"I did not stop here but for a moment, Evelyn, and have not time to discuss cookery, but to ask when are you ever again to pay us an old-time, confidential visit. I really have not seen you alone in over two weeks," exclaimed Fannie, solemnly.

"Did Arthur Willingham go by to tell you good-bye, Fannie?"

"Yes, he came by, and stayed an hour or two. I wonder if you are going to wait until I beg your con fidence, before you tell me what is the matter between you and that gentleman, for I know, of course, that he

came to Louisiana to see you/' Fannie said in an in jured tone, as the blood came and went in her face.

"Please give me time, dear, and I will tell you all there is to tell. Come and spend the night with me, Fannie, can't you?" pleaded Evelyn.

"No, I feel as if I cannot leave Mai longer than an hour or two now. She has so few weeks to stay with us. It gives me the most awful blues, just to contem plate my loneliness after she leaves me," and bidding Evelyn an affectionate good-bye, Fannie left for home.

CHAPTER XV.

CONCLUSION-.

Orlando. "I take thee, Rosalind, for wife." Rosalind. "I might ask you for your commission; but—I do take thee, Orlando, for my husband."—"As You Like It."

A FEW mornings after Fannie's visit to Evelyn, she found, on coming down to the sitting room, that her mother, father and Laurie, had spent the night at the Bliss's, with the baby, who was quite ill. Laurie was the only occupant of the room and he looked dull and sleepy.

"And are father and mother still there?" Fannie inquired.

"Yes, and will remain until the afternoon, • when I shall return, and if you and your friend, Miss Melton, wish to make yourselves useful, you may go over and help nurse the little fellow to-night, so that those who sat up with him last night may get some rest and sleep," Laurie replied.

"I did not know the baby was so very ill," Fannie said. "Evelyn did say something about her mother's being over there a good deal, but I don't remember anything of sickness in the matter. Of course, Laurie, we will go; though I do hate to go where anyone is

very ill, yet I know I ought to learn how to nurse, and to get over my extreme selfishness."

"You and Miss Melton may go early. Do not wait for me, as I shall not come until later. The baby will pass the crisis, most probably, the latter part of the night, and will be better or worse by morning/' said Laurie, as he took a seat near his sister.

"Laurie, I must tell you some of the nice things Mr. Willingham said of you, the morning before he left us. He spoke in such flattering terms of you. It made me quite proud of you when I heard him, who knows so much of the world, speak of you as he did," and Fannie threw her arms around her brother's neck.

"Ah! does it take Willingham's good opinion of me expressed in 'flattering terms/ to make you proud of me, little sis?" he said playfully, returning her caress. Then he added:

"I wonder if my loving little Fairy is sure that she did not let that 'Yankee 1 take away with him any part of the loyal little big-heart, that should all remain at home," and he looked apprehensively at the blushing face and downcast eyes.

"You must know, Fairy, that he came here solely to visit Miss Melton; therefore, sacredly guard so preg nable a fortress as your heart, against one who cannot value it."

"Yes, Laurie, but I am almost certain that Evelyn does not love him; and am just as sure that she told him so. He intimated as much to me, the morning he left us. I believe, Laurie, that she loves you, and you only," Fannie replied, looking into his face.

"I wish it was true; but very much fear that you are mistaken in regard to her feelings toward me." Then changing the subject abruptly, he remarked, "Willing-ham is a noble fellow if he is a New Englander."

"Why, I thought your ideal of perfection was em bodied in a New Englander," and Fannie laughed, softly.

He frowned and compressed his lips, and they went into breakfast, where they were joined by Marion.

"Ah," sighed Fannie, as she went into the flower garden after breakfast. "Love is a hard master; he takes our hearts and wrings them at his will. Surely, 'Love hath more of pain than bliss/ and she walked slowly among the blooming roses, and remembered the presence of a loved one, whose every word and glance meant so much to her warm, young heart.

After dinner Mrs. Montgomery returned home, and Fannie went to her chamber with her; assisted her to undress and go to bed, then, darkening the room, she kissed her fondly and left her to sleep. She was be ginning to think more for others. Already, suffering was lessening selfishness.

Fannie argued, and conjectured to herself, what Mr. Willingham's treatment of her meant. She came to conclusions, then as resolutely dismissed them as worth less. As she sat in the vine covered summer house dreaming, she murmured aloud:

"If he cares nothing for me, why should he wish to correspond with me? I cannot, will not, believe that Arthur Willingham is a flirt," and the red lips drooped pathetically.

She dressed and went early to Mr. Melton's, where she was joined by Evelyn. They then went on to Mr. Bliss's, where they arrived just at sunset, and in obedi ence to the physician's orders, sent Mrs. Melton to rest and sleep.

Mrs. Bliss expressed great satisfaction at the kind ness of the girls, and said she knew they would prove good nurses.

"With Doctor Laurie here to superintend your willing hands, I will rest easy, and feel confident that my baby will be carefully tended by such sweet, good girls/' she exclaimed, as the tears sprang to her eyes.

"Let me have the fan, Mrs. Bliss, and your place by baby, while you eat your supper, or do anything that you please to do. You might lie down and rest until the doctor comes," said Evelyn gently.

"Have you and Fannie had supper, already?"

"Yes, not really supper, but an early lunch," an swered Fannie.

"Well, if you should get hungry while you are sit ting up, I think you both feel enough at home to help yourselves to anything you wish in my pantry, and there will be hot coffee on the stove for you to drink;" then she left the room and the sick baby to the young ladies. When she reached the door she turned, and said:

"I will come back when Doctor Laurie comes and hear his opinion of the baby, before I try to sleep."

About nine o'clock the Doctor came in, and in a low tone, modulated to suit the sick chamber, bade the young ladies good evening, but did not offer to shake

hands with Evelyn, as their intimacy had lately sanc tioned him to do.

The glance he gave her on entering the room showed him how pale and delicate she looked, and his heart smote him painfully, as he wondered if Fannie could be true in her surmise, while he counted the baby's rapid pulse, and listened to his labored breathing.

While he was thus employed, Evelyn watched the strong, white hands, as they handled tenderly the infant form, and wondered how such strength and gentleness could be so combined in one who looked as if he had never known illness or pain.

When Mrs. Bliss returned to the room and interro gated Laurie as to the baby's condition, he told her there would not likely be any change until after mid night, and insisted on her going to sleep; promising to have her awakened immediately, should any change occur. She readily promised to obey commands, if she could possibly do so, and left the room to the nurses and physician.

Evelyn sat beside the crib and brushed away the flies that are troublesome, in cases of protracted illness, even at night, in our warm climate. She and Fannie kept up a desultory conversation in low tones, which kept them from growing sleepy.

The Doctor spent most of the time walking back and forth on the gallery, while he consoled himself, man fashion, with a cigar.

"Fannie/' asked Evelyn, as she caught a faint odor of the burning tobacco, "do you like cigar smoke ?"

"Yes," answered Fannie, dreamily, "it is so delight-

fully suggestive of there being a man on the premises somewhere, and I like always to feel there's a mascu line protector near by."

"You are deliciously frank, carissima mia," replied her friend, laughing.

"Yes, I thought you knew, Evelyn, that candor was one of my virtues, or faults; which?" and Fannie flushed at the recollection of some pretty phrases which Mr. Willingham had used in regard to her naivete, as he styled it. He was so much older than she in every sense of the word.

Evelyn and Laurie had preserved the most dignified coldness toward each other. Thus they drifted wider and wider apart.

After twelve o'clock, the baby grew less restless; his breathing became easy, and by three, Laurie pronounced him out of danger, and the crisis past. The happiness of the parents knew no bounds, and two more grateful people than Mr. and Mrs. Bliss could not be found.

They were fond of the young Doctor before, but now they were enthusiastic in his praise, as never before. He left before it was yet light. Evelyn and his sister were standing on the gallery, when he came out of the sick chamber. Going to them, he said:

"I had better bid you both good-bye, as I will not see you again in some weeks. I am going this morning to the river to embark for the city to attend the State Medical Association, which convenes there next week; from there I will go over into Mississippi, and will not return until I come back with Captain Singleton to his marriage." He kissed Fannie, and extended his hand

to Evelyn. She gave him hers, and the pressure of that parting clasp lingered tenderly with her for many days, and helped her to endure the dull, lonely weeks that followed. Had she but seen the look that accompanied it, she would have been happier, but darkness veiled that from her.

"I did not know that your brother was going away, Fannie. You have never mentioned it to me."

"No, I did not know myself, that he was going so soon. I heard him say some time ago, that he would attend the Medical Association in New Orleans, but did not think that he would leave before next week. How ever, I do remember now, that I heard him say some thing of a letter from Mr. Willingham, asking him to come down to the city to meet him on business. So I guess that is why he is hurrying off so much earlier than he intended," and Fannie fell to wondering what her brother and Mr. Willingham could have to interest them in common. Eivals for the love of the same woman, and yet such friends! It seemed an anoma lous situation. Evelyn's thoughts ran a good deal in the same channel, though she, too, made no comment.

They went home after an early breakfast, and were both of them in a mood to enjoy the ozone breezes that blew down the long corridors of pines, whose brown trunks formed the lofty columns that supported the canopy of everlasting green, in these temples of God's own creating.

The valleys and hillsides were clothed in Springtime verdure; and if, in every flower's ear there shone a pearl, still more brilliantly flashed a diamond on every

swaying blade of grass. 'The cooing sound of a dove's soft note, in plaintive minor key, was answered by the cheery whistle of a partridge in a field near by. Even the lowing of the cattle on the hills was softened by the distance. The pine trees kept up their ceaseless orchestra, now swelling loud, or moaning low as the green keys were swept by the fairy fingers of the morn ing breezes.

"When I walk through a pine forest, it gives me al ways a feeling of deep melancholy. These grand old trees that consumed ages in development, make us feel solemnly, the brevity of our own lives. Aren't they grand, Fannie, those tall longleaf pine trees?" asked Evelyn, as they paused a moment on the summit of a hill, and looked back over the way they had come.

"Yes," replied Fannie, "but isn't their song a sad one? I used to think when we were children, Laurie, and Mai, and I, that they were playing the dead march for the Indian chiefs, who had lived in their camps under these same trees. I think it was Laurie's idea, though, and not mine, originally. He used always to be playing chief, and had his following of the little negroes on the place, who were his warriors/' Fannie said, reminiscently.

"How pleasant it must be for one to have a brother and sister, Fannie."

"Well, am I not as good as a sister to you, Evelyn, and have I not repeatedly offered myself in that ca pacity for your acceptance ? I can't offer you a brother in Laurie, for he would indignantly repudiate the rela tionship, craving as he does, a very much nearer and

dearer one," and Fannie looked in the direction of her target. Evelyn's face was a study.

The remainder of the distance was walked in silence by the girls, and in a few minutes after, they entered the gate at The Kefuge.

"You will stay with me to-day, won't you, Fannie?" asked Evelyn.

"No, thank you, dear, not if you will lend me the 'Tuckapaw,' to ride home. Mother will not send for me until later, and I wish to go right away."

"Certainly, my dearest, and we will go and catch him immediately for you if you wish," Evelyn replied, and they went out to the lot to find him.

"Evelyn, where is Hynda ? I have not seen her in a week," questioned Fannie.

"Nor I. I begin to fear that Doctor Montgomery's caution to me was not altogether useless, and that I will never see my beautiful little pet again," and her eyes filled with tears.

"When my first pet deer left me, I was inconsolable and wept freely over my loss. I was only nine years old, you must remember," said Fannie.

"Which remark means, that as I have arrived at the dignified age of twenty-two, it is not expected that I shall disgrace that maturity by shedding any tears over my lost Hynda; eh, Fannie?" and Evelyn smiled through her tears.

•Terhaps if we ever take that long talked of, and long deferred deer hunt, the dogs will 'jump' Hynda first one," laughed Fannie.

"Well, then, I shall never go, never!" and the soft eyes flashed as Fannie had never seen them do before.

"Dear, gentle little Evelyn, I did not know you could look so dangerously savage. Did you ever treat Mr. Willingham to such a glance?" Fannie asked, laughing heartily at Evelyn's indignant look.

"By the way, Fannie, that gentleman pretended to be very much surprised that I did not have a pet alli gator, a glossy black pickaninny for a page, and strang est of all, not even a pet mocking bird. Only such common-place pets as fawns and Attakapas ponies," and Evelyn patted the last named little fellow and leaned her head against his glossy coal

Fannie remarked as she rode away, "Evelyn, we shall expect you to spend a great deal of your time with us now that Laurie is away, for we will be so lonely, and Marion so soon to leave us, too. You will, won't you?"

"Yes, I suppose I will stay with you, as I always do, a great deal, Fannie," she answered.

The weeks that followed were busy ones at the Mont gomery's. Marion's trosseau had all to be made at home, and for many months, deft fingers had been busy making tatting, crochet, embroidery and drawnwork to adorn the dainty lingerie of the bride-elect. There was not an article in that wardrobe, but was conse crated by some pleasant, or tender memory of loving conversation, held while seated around the table sewing. Evelyn spent much time with them, which she would not have done if Laurie had been there.

When Evelyn had told Fannie of her rejection of

Arthur Willingham's suit, she had concluded by re marking :

"I do not consider him inconsolable, not hopelessly so at all. I think some favored fair one will easily catch his heart in the rebound. I think his love for me was only a fancy, fostered by Marguerite's fondness for her old chum of college days," and nothing more on the subject was ever mentioned.

With the marriage day came Laurie and Captain Singleton. The former brought with him the orange blossoms; Nature's own fragrant offering to bedeck the brow of the blushing young woman.

Marion was a beautiful bride as she stood beside her chosen husband, whose empty sleeve hung with a pa thetic droop, that gave him an interest for all, that nothing else can so give a man.

Evelyn had not met Laurie since the night they had parted at Mrs. Bliss's. She came into the parlor just before the bridal party were ushered in. She looked almost as delicate as the white roses she wore upon her breast and in her hair.

There was one who watched her with deepest interest as she entered the room, and his heart throbbed with pleasure and pain, strangely mingled, as he noticed how thin and pale she looked.

As soon as the ceremony was performed that made his sister the wife of Captain Singleton, and the con gratulations that followed were over, Laurie made his way to Evelyn's side.

"Are you quite well ?" he inquired of her.

"Quite well, thank you, Doctor Montgomery; but why

do you ask? Do I look ill?" she replied, with an amused smile.

"You look very beautiful, but distressingly pale," he answered, with a look that brought the color in a wave to her face.

Supper was now announced and an old-fashioned, well-laden table was displayed in the dining-room. There was no attempt at formality and everyone was as merry and delightfully unconventional as it is pos sible to be on such occasions. Each of the bachelors and maidens present, carried away, as souvenir, a bit of the bride's cake done up in fancy tissue paper, to "dream on."

After supper they returned to the parlor and amused themselves in various ways. At last Laurie found time to take Evelyn for a promenade in the moonlighted garden, down the path by the gardenia bushes, now sending forth their exhalation of overpowering per fume. They rambled on down to where a rustic seat was temptingly vacant under a spreading magnolia tree. The white moonlight fell in fretted brightness through the dark green foliage, and over all was the stillness and hush of the night.

To them both came an overpowering sense of being alone, for the first time since that memorable evening when her father came so unexpectedly into the room. Laurie first broke the silence that had fallen between them.

"I have so much to tell you in a business way, that I will have to make an engagement to meet you to-mor row, and discuss it all. It is on the subject of your pet

scheme, you know, the training school for the young negroes around here," Laurie said in a happy tone.

"I hope it is something cheering, for I had almost come to the conclusion that you had forgotten all about it. But then I have not met you alone before in so long a time," she replied a little reproachfully.

"I wonder whose fault it has been," he said, in a voice that shook with suppressed passion, "not mine, surely, that another came between us, to claim the love I so fondly and foolishly hoped was mine ?"

"Why do you say foolishly?" she asked, timidly.

"Oh, Evelyn, you do not know how miserable I have been since Willingham first came between us, to take from me, as I then believed he did, that which I value more than life—your love, my darling," and he caught the trembling hand and imprisoned it in his strong clasp.

"I never loved Mr. Willingham a moment and you had no right to believe it without hearing from me," she responded gently; but she did not withdraw her hand from his.

"Evelyn, will you give yourself to me; will you be my wife, dearest? I have loved you ever since I first looked into your dark eyes. Now answer all my ques tions with a sweet, inclusive 'yes/ ''

"Well, then," she answered softly, "yes."

"Evelyn, you cannot be half so happy as I, for you knew all the while that I loved you, while I, from the evidence of my own eyes, thought you were engaged to Mr. Willingham. I knew no better until he told me,

Conclusion. .241

himself, in New Orleans of his summary dismissal by you," said Laurie, kissing the hand he held in his.

"I did not know you loved me. I had good reason to think otherwise, after you treated me so shockingly, with your haughty coldness, Laurie/' answered Evelyn tenderly, accentuating his name, called for the first time without his title.

For answer he put his hand under her chin, and drawing the sweet face to him, imprinted a tender kiss on the red lips.

"Could you have seen the crushed love trying to hide behind that lofty bearing, and the agony of soul I en dured, after I saw you and Willingham on sunset hill that afternoon, in, as I then believed, the attitude of lovers, you would forgive me, dearest, for all the foolish things I did. You will forgive me now, won't you?" he replied.

"Yes, of course I will, and ask your pardon in return if I did anything wrong in regard to you," she re sponded, sweetly.

"You did nothing wrong; Fate, aided by Jealousy did the troublesome thing for us. But, darling, it is all past, now, the distrust, and the coldness—God grant that never a touch of it may ever darken our lives again," Laurie answered, impressively, as he held her for a moment close to his heart,

"I never felt any relief to my sufferings until Fannie took pity on my mute agony and told me, the day be fore I left, that she was certain that you had rejected Willingham, poor fellow," Laurie resumed, as they rose to return to the house, "and sent him back North,

a wiser, and, I guess, a great deal sadder man. How ever, I feel quite kindly toward Willingham now, which I cannot say I always did."

"I do not think Arthur is altogether inconsolable. I have good reason to believe that Fannie, sweet child, holds the key to a cure for his wounded heart. I do hope it will become an accomplished fact in the near future, for I think Arthur a noble man, though he was quite wild in his university days," Evelyn replied.

"You will think still more highly of him when I tell you what I know of his generosity; but it is too long a story for this time, and I have time for nothing now but to revel in the sweet knowledge that you love me, my beautiful little woman. I will take you home to night and ask your father's consent to our union, which must take place at an early day. Are you going to let me have my own sweet way in this important matter?" he asked as he looked at his watch by a stream of light that issued from the open parlor door. They had just been out an hour. Such a perfect, happy hour seldom comes to man but once in a lifetime.

When the guests were all departed, Laurie took Evelyn to where Marion and her husband stood a little apart, and said, in his straightforward, manly fashion:

"Marion, as you and Captain Singleton will leave early in the morning, and will not have another op portunity of seeing Evelyn, I will present her to you as a claimant for a sister's love. I know that you al ready love her as one."

"Oh, Evelyn, darling, is it really true? Nothing could have happened that adds so much to my happi-

ness as this, that you two are blest with each others' love. I congratulate you, Laurie dearest, on the bliss that is shining in your face," while the Captain added his graceful congratulations to those of his wife.

"Does Fannie know of it yet ?" asked Marion.

"No, we will acquaint her later with the happy event," said the proud lover.

"I suppose, Laurie, that we will ere long have an excuse to return to Louisiana in the form of a wedding card," asked the Captain, laughing.

"Yes, but as we have not yet settled that important matter, I cannot tell you when it will come off," Laurie responded, as Fannie came up with them.

"Fancy, will it console you any for the loss of Marion, if I offer you another sister in the person of Evelyn?" he asked, turning to her.

"Oh, Laurie! Evelyn! is it true that you two have come to your senses, at last, and cleared away the mists that gave you so much trouble and unhappiness? As for you, Evelyn, you know that I cannot love you any more than I do already," and Fannie kissed her rap turously.

If Evelyn had ever doubted the love and esteem in which she was held by the Montgomery family, ahe never doubted again after Mrs. Montgomery's affection ate embrace, and the Doctor's heartfeld, "God bless you, my children."

Mr. and Mrs. Melton were perfectly satisfied with their daughter's choice; and when later it was decided that the young couple would reside at Doctor Montgom-

ery's, their hearts were full of gratitude to God, that their one child would be always near them.

The morning after the marriage, Marion and her husband left The Magnolias, and after the bridal tour, were comfortably settled in their own home in Missis sippi.

True to promise, Laurie went next day to The Refuge, and after a tender greeting, remarked:

"I believe I told you that I would make this visit one strictly of business; did I not?" and mischief and love struggled for ascendency in the handsome grey eyes.

"No, you did not say so; you only intimated as much/' she answered, smiling sweetly up at him, "and therefore, we will proceed immediately to business. But first be seated, pray, unless you, man fashion, pre fer to take the floor and allow me to act as an en thusiastic and interested 'audience.' "

"Suppose we invite your father and mother to swell your 'audience' by their presence, and after the business meeting is over, you will be a dutiful little woman and reward me for my devotion to your plans, by saying a whole lot of sweet things to me; won't you?" and he led her to the door and opened it for her.

She did not remain out long, but soon came back with her parents. After the usual exchange of senti ment in regard to the state of the weather, Laurie came at once to the point:

"Of course, you know something of Evelyn's feelings on the subject of a school for the training of the young negroes of this section, and also know of our inability

in the past to cope successfully with this problem, be cause of the lack of means to carry our plans into exe cution. Mr. Willingham has nobly come to the rescue, and promised me all the money I need to carry out Evelyn's plans," and he looked into the eyes that were filling fast with tears of delight and gratitude.

"Don't say 'my plans,' please; I did not have any plans. I only looked to you for help in it all. I never advanced so far as to plan," protested Evelyn, meekly.

"She asked me to aid and advise her in the scheme so dear to her humane heart, and I, of course, promised her all the assistance in my power for the furtherance of an object for which I have felt the deepest solicitude myself. I did not dream of Willingham's co-operation when I told him of your distress at witnessing the holy dance at Greengrove church.

"But God, who can bend the proud heart of man to execute His will, made our young friend the instru ment with which He fashioned the answer to our pray ers. Willingham, with a confidence that is very flat tering to me, has placed the money entirely at my dis posal, and I am going to ask the assistance of you, Mr. Bliss, and Mr. Hynson as trustees of this fund. I know that you will be willing to do all in your power to ad vance the interest of the school," and Laurie looked gravely at his prospective father-in-law.

"You are right in conjecturing that, and I hope you will find on experience that your confidence in us has not been misplaced, Doctor," replied Mr. Melton with a slight tremor in his voice. He was deeply moved by

the attitude taken by the young doctor; so different in every way from what he, in his narrow-minded, sec tional life in New England, could have believed possi ble for a Southern man to take. He often felt that he owed his Southern brothers an apology for his entirely false views of them. As for the young physician, he loved and honored him beyond expression.

"I think," resumed Laurie, "that we can perfect our plans and carry them into execution in time to open the school by the first of October. Father will give the land necessary to locate the buildings, and the negroes will be willing to devote the whole summer to the work, if necessary to its completion. I am going to make them.do all they can to aid in the undertaking. They are very enthusiastic people and will be completely car ried away at the idea of such a school for them out here," Laurie said with the heartiness that characterized him in everything in which he took a part.

"How good! how kind of you!" exclaimed Evelyn with emotion, "how worse than foolish—how chimerical, I was—to ever dream that I could do such a thing."

"You have done it all, Evelyn," he said, tenderly, "it was your influence that has accomplished it through Willingham. I do not know when I should have col lected sufficient fortune to carry my plans into execu tion."

"Well," said Mr. Melton, "it is a splendid scheme you two young men have gotten up; and your kindness in being willing to devote any of your time, which is already so fully occupied, is noble indeed. Your knowl-

edge of the situation and needs of the negro, is as neces sary to the success of the undertaking, as is Willing-ham's money. The negroes, too, have perfect confi dence in you and your father. I have spoken to a great many of them since I have been here, and they one and all seem to respect and fear as well as love you."

Laurie was quite well pleased with Mr. Melton's ap proval of his plans, and he remarked in conclusion:

"The teachers were selected while I was in the city. I made Mr. Willingham lend his assistance on that im portant task. They are colored men of education and good sense. There is nothing to be taught but a plain English course and useful trades to both sexes. I thought that it would be best to put Tenah, mother's sewing woman of ante-bellum days, to preside over that department, as she is thoroughly competent to fill the place, and will cost less than a city woman. Tenah, too, is such a dear good old thing, I would be glad to get her in a good place. I wish to make good morals a special feature in our . curriculum. I shall take great interest in watching the results of our first efforts in the devel opment of such of them as are apt to learn. Some of them I believe are so dull that they will never get above the first reader in this generation, but their children will be that much higher to begin life. I have made a spe cial provision for those who cannot attend the day school, by arranging to have a series of night classes for all who work through the day, as Monk for instance, who is very anxious to learn, yet cannot give up his means of earning his living.

"I do not wish to make a heavier draw on Willing-ham's generosity than is absolutely necessary/' Laurie continued, and ere long the conversation drifted to other things, and soon father and mother left the room to the lovers. As the door closed behind them, Evelyn turned to Laurie and asked:

"Have you seen the letter which Fannie received from Arthur while he was in the city; or perhaps I am be traying confidence in telling you of it?"

"No, I have not read it for the reason that I have not had time to read anything since I got home, you know," and Laurie imprisoned the hand that was lying idly on Evelyn's lap and began to slip on the third small finger a ring. "No, I am quite sure Fannie will never keep anything secret from me, and I know she carries all. her letters for mother's inspection. We have always done that, you know, dearest."

"I am so anxious for Mr. Willingham to transfer to our dear Fairy the heart I think he only imagined he had given me at the first. I believe he will, if he has not already done so," Evelyn remarked as she watched with blushing interest the fitting of the pretty, shining ring.

"Why, what reason have you for thinking so, and do you think that Fannie has given her heart to a man whom she knew was deeply in love with another wo man?" Laurie questioned with just a touch of bitter ness in his tone.

"I believe that Fannie could learn to love him very easily if he were to love her, and I think she is so charm-

ing, so lovable, I do not see how he could prefer me to her, long," Evelyn said, with unusual warmth and en thusiasm.

"If you underrate yourself it will be paying a poor tribute to my taste; will it not, dearest?" and he held up the hand to catch the gleam of the diamond. Ap parently he was satisfied, for he kissed her hand pas sionately.

"Evelyn, this was my father and mother's engage ment ring, and as theirs was a very happy and loving married life, I trust ours will be the same. Mother called me to her room last night and gave it to me to place on this sweet hand. She cannot wear it now; in fact, has not worn it in many years. She has always said she intended it for me. It is a very fine stone, and cost a great deal of money," and Laurie turned to her and in a voice, tenderly pleading, said:

"Now look into my eyes, darling, and tell me that you love me."

She did look into his eyes, and then he did not need the softly spoken, "Laurie, I love you better than all else in life," to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she did indeed love him, as he loved her, with all the strength of a first and only love.

*******

Years have passed, and, with the receding years, have gone some of the friends we met when first we looked into the home Under The Magnolias. A glance there will show us sweet Evelyn Montgomery as the gentle mistress of that happy home.

Laurie is Doctor Montgomery now, since the death of his father left him sole practitioner of that now popu lous and thriving neighborhood.

Fannie, as Mrs. Willingham, presides gracefully over her husband's elegant home in Boston. She often spends her winters in the genial climate of her native State. Her noble husband gave, and still gives gener ously, to the school which bears his name; which but for him, would never have become the potent factor for good it has proved to be in all that section of country.

The gracious Christian mother of the Montgomery home sleeps beside the aged Doctor in the old Brierwood cemetery.

Change is stamped on everything, and even in the kitchen where old Mauma Silvy held sway we find her not. She too has stepped aside from the busy scenes of life and rests in the graveyard on the hill. At The Eefuge, from which it seemed all the light had fled when Laurie Montgomery bore away its pet and darling, the peace and quietude of a happy old age is creeping over its pious inmates. Mr. Melton has proved conclu sively, that amid the forests of Louisiana, any honest and industrious man can, with the blessing of God, build for himself and loved ones, a home of plenty, if not of wealth. He succeeded when, past the meridian of life, he deemed he was too old to begin anew in a strange place, different, in every way, from his native State.

His old age is crowned with plenty and happiness. His grandchildren are as dear to him, he says, as Evelyn herself. Often, in the summer evenings, they sit and

Conclusion.

251

discuss the ways of Providence in leading them to the South and Evelyn declares that it was the personal magnetism of Doctor Laurence Montgomery that at tracted her to the sunny State of Louisiana.

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