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- Without a Home - 5/94 -


habitual use of morphia, taking it as a panacea for every ill. Had he a toothache, a rheumatic or neuralgic twinge, the drug quieted the pain. Was he despondent from any cause, or annoyed by some untoward event, a small white powder soon brought hopefulness and serenity. When emergencies occurred which promised to tax his mental and physical powers, opium appeared to give a clearness and elasticity of mind and a bodily vigor that was almost magical, and he availed himself of the deceptive potency more and more often.

The morbid craving which the drug inevitably engenders at last demanded a daily supply. For months he employed it in moderate quantities, using it as thousands do quinine, wine, or other stimulants, without giving much thought to the matter, sincerely intending, however, to shake off the habit as soon as he felt a little stronger and was more free from business cares. Still, as the employment of the stimulant grew into a habit, he became somewhat ashamed of it, and maintained his indulgence with increasing secrecy--a characteristic rarely absent from this vice.

Thus it can be understood that his mind had ceased to possess the natural poise which would enable him to manage his affairs in accordance with some wisely matured system of expenditure. In times of depression he would demand the most rigid economy, and again he would seem careless and indifferent and preoccupied. This financial vacillation was precisely what his wife had been accustomed to in her early home, and she thoughtlessly took her way without much regard to it. He also had little power of saying No to his gentle wife, and an appealing look from her blue eyes would settle every question of economy the wrong way. Next year they would be more prudent; at present, however, there were some things that it would be very nice to have or to do.

But, alas, Mrs. Jocelyn had decided that, for Mildred's sake, the coming summer must be spent at Saratoga. In vain her husband had told her that he did not see how it was possible. She would reply,

"Now, Martin, be reasonable. You know Mr. Arnold spends his summers there. Would you spoil Millie's chances of making one of the best matches in the city?"

He would shrug his shoulders and wonder where the money was to come from. Meanwhile he knew that his partners were anxious. They had been strong, and had endured the evil times for years without wavering, but now were compelled to obtain a credit more and more extended, in the hope of tiding themselves over the long period of depression.

This increasing business stagnation occasioned a deepening anxiety to her husband and a larger resort to his sustaining stimulant. While he had no sense of danger worth naming, he grew somewhat worried by his dependence on the drug, and it was his honest purpose to gradually abandon it as soon as the financial pressure lifted and he could breathe freely in the safety of renewed commercial prosperity. Thus the weeks and months slipped by, finding him more completely involved in the films of an evil web, and more intent than ever upon hiding the fact from every one, especially his wife and children.

He had returned on the evening of Belle's company, with fears for the worst. The scene in his pretty and happy home, in contrast with the bitter experiences that might be near at hand, so oppressed him with foreboding and trouble that he went out and weakly sought temporary respite and courage in a larger amount of morphia than he had ever yet taken.

While off his guard from the resulting exaltation, he met a business acquaintance and was led by him to indulge in wine also, with the results already narrated.

CHAPTER III

CONFIDENTIAL

Martin Jocelyn awoke with a shiver. He did not remember that he had been dreaming, but a dull pain in his head and a foreboding of heart had at last so asserted themselves as to banish the unconsciousness of sleep. His prospects had even a more sombre hue than the cold gray of the morning. All the false prismatic colors of the previous evening had faded, and no serene, steady light had taken their place. The forced elation was followed--as is ever the case--by a deeper despondency. The face of his sleeping wife was so peaceful, so expressive of her utter unconsciousness of impending disaster, that he could not endure its sight. He felt himself to be in no condition to meet her waking eyes and explain the cause of his fears. A sense of shame that he had been so weak the evening before also oppressed him, and he yielded to the impulse to gain a day before meeting her trusting or questioning gaze. Something might occur which would give a better aspect to his affairs, and at any rate, if the worst must come, he could explain with better grace in the evening than in his present wretched mood, that would prove too sharp a contrast with his recent gayety.

He therefore dressed silently and hastily, and left a note saying that a business engagement required his early departure. "She will have at least one more serene day before the storm," he muttered.

"Now wasn't that kind and thoughtful of papa to let us all sleep late after the company!" said Mrs. Jocelyn to Mildred. "He went away, too, without his breakfast," and in her gentle solicitude she scarcely ate any herself.

But weakly hiding trouble for a day was not kindness. The wife and daughter, who should have helped to take in sail in preparation for the threatened storm, were left unconscious of its approach. They might have noticed that Mr. Jocelyn had been more than usually anxious throughout the spring, but they knew so little of business and its risks, that they did not realize their danger. "Men always worry about their affairs," said Mrs. Jocelyn. "It's a way they have."

Mr. Arnold's visits and manner were much more congenial topics, and as a result of the entire confidence existing between mother and daughter, they dwelt at length on these subjects.

"Mamma," said Mildred, "you must not breathe of it to a soul--not even to papa yet. It would hurt me cruelly to have it known that I think so much of one who has not spoken plainly--that is, in words. I should be blind indeed if I did not understand the language of his eyes, his tones, and manner. And yet, and yet--mamma, it isn't wrong for me to love--to think so much of him before he speaks, is it? Dearly as I--well, not for the world would I seem or even be more forward than a girl should. I fear his people are too proud and rich to recognize us; and--and--he says so little about them. I can never talk to him or any one without making many references to you and papa. I have thought that he even avoided speaking of his family."

"We have not yet been made acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Arnold," said Mrs. Jocelyn meditatively. "It is true we attend the same church, and it was there that Vinton saw you, and was led to seek an introduction. I'm sure we have not angled for him in any indelicate way. You met him in the mission school and in other ways, as did the other young ladies of the church. He seemed to single you out, and asked permission to call. He has been very gentlemanly, but you equally have been the self-respecting lady. I do not think you have once overstepped the line of a proper reserve. It isn't your nature to do such a thing, if I do say it. She is a silly girl who ever does, for men don't like it, and I don't blame them. Your father was a great hunter in the South, Millie, and he has often said since that I was the shyest game he ever followed. But," she added, with a low, sweet laugh, "how I did want to be caught! I can see now," she continued, with a dreamy look back into the past," that it was just the way to be caught, for if I had turned in pursuit of him he would have run away in good earnest. There are some girls who have set their caps for your handsome Mr. Arnold who don't know this. I am glad to say, however, that you take the course you do, not because you know better, but because you ARE better--because you have not lost in city life the shy, pure nature of the wild flowers that were your early playmates. Vinton Arnold is the man to discover and appreciate this truth, and you have lost nothing by compelling him to seek you in your own home, or by being so reserved when abroad."

While her mother's words greatly reassured Mildred, her fair face still retained its look of anxious perplexity.

"I have rarely met Mrs. Arnold and her daughters," she said; "but even in a passing moment, it seemed as if they tried to inform me by their manner that I did not belong to their world. Perhaps they were only oblivious--I don't know."

"I think that is all," said Mrs. Jocelyn musingly. "We have attended their church only since we came up town. They sit on the further side, in a very expensive pew, while papa thinks we can afford only a side seat near the door. It is evident that they are proud people, but in the matter of birth and good breeding, my dear, I am sure we are their equals. Even when poorer than we are now we were welcomed to the best society of the South. Have no fears, darling. When they come to know YOU they will be as proud of you as I am."

"Oh, mother, what a sweet prophetess you are! The life you suggest is so beautiful, and I do not think I could live without beauty. He is so handsome and refined, and his taste is so perfect that every association he awakens is refined and high-toned. It seems as if my--as if he might take out of my future all that is hard and coarse--all that I shrink from even in thought. But, mamma, I wish he were a wee bit stronger. His hands are almost as white and small as mine; and then sometimes he is so very pale."

"Well, Millie, we can't have everything. City life and luxury are hard on young men. It would be better for them if they tramped the woods more with a gun, as your father did. There was a time when papa could walk his thirty miles a day and ride fifty. But manly qualities may be those of the mind as well as of muscle. I gather from what Mr. Arnold says that his health never has been very good; but you are the one of all the world to pet him. and take care of him. Most of the fashionable girls of his set would want to go here and there all the time, and would wear him out with their restlessness. You would be happier at home."

"Indeed I would, mamma. Home, and heaven, are words that to me are near akin."

"I'm glad you are in such a fair way to win the home, but not heaven I trust for a long time yet. Let us think of the home first. While I would not for the world wish you to do a thing which the


Without a Home - 5/94

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