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- Marguerite Verne - 6/71 -
"Now, Mr. Tracy, that was mine as it lay!" cried his partner, somewhat petulantly, as she noted the mistake.
"Never mind this time; I will look out better again," said the culprit, his penitential look being sufficient apology for a more grievous offence.
"If I didn't know you better, Tracy, I would say you were in love," exclaimed a fashionable young man, engaged as bookkeeper in one of the largest wholesale firms in the city.
"You seem to have great confidence in your own opinion, Mr. Berkeley," retorted Miss Simpkins, who, be it said, was a girl of much moral stamina, having an aversion to conceited young men, and let no opportunity slip when she could give a home-thrust.
"Pray don't be so captious, Lottie; I am certain that Mr. Berkeley's opinions are always founded on correct observation," timidly ventured a mild-looking little woman, whose speech had no other motive than a desire to throw oil on troubled waters.
As the game progressed, the party became more interested, and after an hour or more thus engaged Miss Simpkins was congratulated on her run of good luck; and Mr. Tracy, to show his appreciation of her ability, turned out some pretty compliments.
"Where is Mr. Arnold to-night, Mr. Tracy?" asked one of the guests, as the party stood in the hall making their adieux to the hostess.
"I cannot say," replied the young man, tugging at his great coat with more vehemence than was necessary, but affording relief to hide this oracular reply.
"Oh! you need not ask that question," exclaimed a voice near; "we all know that he is at 'Sunnybank,' paying his devoirs to the peerless Evelyn." The speaker was a young lady, and the tone of this speech intimated that jealousy was at the bottom of it. But there was another side to the story. Turning to Hubert Tracy, with an air of playful badinage, the young lady continued: "And I believe that Miss Marguerite has a lover too. Surely, Mr. Tracy, you must know about it for you are on intimate terms with the family. You can enlighten us upon the subject."
Hubert Tracy was master of his feelings, but he had difficulty to suppress himself. An opportune bustle among some of the other guests gave him time to reply in a cool and wholly indifferent manner which would turn their attention to another source.
It was only when this would-be suitor had thrown off the mask of studied indifference that he began to realize the state of his mind.
"It will never be," he cried, in a fit, half-anger, half-emotional, as he paced his room during the silent hours that precede the dawn.
"I don't want to injure the fellow in any other way. Arnold says wipe him out; but--heavens! those words--he is a good young man! what makes them haunt me! It seems as if my mother and the dear girls at home are repeating them to me: Why was I not dragged up, instead of living hourly under the influence of a sainted mother and devoted self-sacrificing sisters? Ah! young man; it is a hard struggle for you to fall when you think of 'Home, sweet home!'"
Such was the soliloquy of Hubert Tracy as he sat himself down in a half-desperate state and commenced writing a letter with that nervous haste which showed he was anxious to get rid of the disagreeable task at once. After the envelope had been addressed the writer gave a sigh of relief, and rising from his seat, exclaimed: "Heavens! I would rather than a fortune it was over with!"
Despite the fact that curiosity has been defined "the lowest emotion of the soul," we cannot forbear glancing over the content of the letter which seemed to affect the writer so deeply. It ran thus:--
ST. JOHN, Jan. 25th, 188-.
_Dear Friend_,--Intended to write you some days ago, but am now at fever heat, and manufacture my thoughts accordingly. Going to make no excuse, but come to the point right off. You heard the report about Lawson. It is too true, and if I cannot choke him off somehow, it is all up with me. I want to get the fellow out of the way. Can you secure that site for him instead of poor Jim Watters? If we can only get that deuced sprig of the law entrapped out there, some goodly stroke of malaria may come to the rescue, and I can breathe the grateful fog with double freedom. "Give the devil his due," I believe the fellow is a veritable Mark Tapley--jolly under all circumstances--and will in the end thank us for giving him a change of climate and the vicissitudes of life so invigorating to his athletic and muscular composition. Much depends upon you to think and act at once. Saw that "drummer" yesterday; not a bad sort of a fellow. He speaks well of you--says you are a tramp. Go to headquarters on receipt of this and write immediately. If Lawson can be induced to go, my prayers will follow you for life.
Yours in dilemma, H. T.
This epistle--disconnected and vague as it seems--needed no further explanation on the part of the writer. The recipient was acquainted with the whole history of Hubert Tracy's career and also that of Montague Arnold.
It is necessary to add that while this correspondence was being carried on, that Hubert Tracy was a daily caller at Mr. Lawson's office, and without any apparent effort, had the satisfaction of knowing that the young lawyer was much attracted by his engaging manners and persuasive tongue.
It had been considered somewhat strange that a man of Lawson's integrity should look with favor upon a gay youth whose preferences were ever on the side of conviviality, but many wise-headed seniors said that the influence might be exerted upon the other side and Tracy would thank heaven for the star which guided him thither.
It was surprising how many little attentions were paid our young lawyer from the fact of the newly-formed friendship, and how many consultations were held as regards a promising field which glittered before the eye of the hopeful aspirant. A wide range of labor lay within his grasp, and Phillip Lawson was not made of the stuff to lose a prize when it could be attained at any cost of self-sacrifice and personal feeling. With herculean effort he shakes off the bitter thoughts that hourly intrude within the privacy of his own heart, and armed with all the moral courage and true heroism of his soul he goes forth into the world's conflicts a noble defender of the rights of true manhood!
A bevy of fair and interesting young girls are grouped around Marguerite Verne in the spacious bay-window of the library. One, a bewitching brunette, dressed in slight mourning, is indeed a pretty picture to contemplate. Louise Rutherford possesses a face and form which bespeaks a high degree of idealism--an aesthetic nature that is lofty and inspiring. As she turns toward the fair young hostess, there is an expressive look of sympathy that leads one to know they are firm friends.
"It is no use to say anything against it if _you two_ have made up your minds," exclaimed a good-natured looking maiden of seventeen, who had been trying to convince her audience that they had not selected the most fashionable characters for the coming parlor entertainment.
"That's just what I always have said, Mattie. You know well what Damon proposes Pythias will ever agree to," ventured another devotee with a "cute" little face, tiny hands and tiny feet, with decisive tone and dignity of manner showing that she was beyond the ordinary type of girlhood, whose highest ambition is to have a good time, cheat her teachers out of as many lessons as she can, and walk, skate and dance, with a train of admirers ever at her command.
Helen Rushton was a native of Halifax and had been bred upon strictly conservative principles, but there was an innate generosity of heart that converted them into a happy medium.
She had relatives in St. John, and hearing much of its advantages And disadvantages, had accepted an invitation to see for herself, And now, after six months had been passed amid the grateful breezes and invigorating fog, she dreaded the approaching season, which demanded her return home.
Marguerite Verne was indeed the crowning deity on that happy morning, as she replied to the many little speeches intended for her benefit, and as the color came and went she was truly worthy of all the admiration then and there bestowed.
She is in striking contrast to Louise Rutherford whose black cashmere costume forms an effective back-ground.
Marguerite's delicate cream-colored morning robe is also relieved by the shades of garnet worn by the others.
Much real happiness is exhibited as one looks upon every countenance within the radius of her smiles. No jealousy lurks upon the brow of any. Thrice happy Marguerite! The secret of making others happy lies within the confines of your own unselfish nature!
"Well, girls, I declare, you have not told me one bit of news. Surely there must be something going on worth talking about," exclaimed a new comer who had pounced in upon the company _sans ceremonie_.
"Nothing much, Josie," returned Marguerite, "we have just been having an old-fashioned chat, and I am not sorry to say gossip has been at a discount."
"Oh, you bad girl! Now, had that been Louise I would have been 'hoppin', but, girls, you see, we take everything from Madge."
"Yes, anything from her is worth coming from Halifax to hear," exclaimed Helen Rushton, rising from her position and crossing over to the range of bookshelves that adorned the opposite walls.
"Well, it's no use; I'm out of my element here. I can't get up to your high-toned talk. Look at Louise--reminds one of a Roman
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