Kate Beaumont

CHAPTER XV.

IN the battle of life the new generation is always beating the old, outwitting it, outfighting it, outnumbering it, and driving it off the field.

But we will not enlarge upon this huge reflection ; it would carry us far beyond the limits of our story. We will simply say, before dismounting from its elephantine back, that because Kate Beaumont was a child, she was too much for a father. When her bristly, grisly genitor, one of the most combative and domineering of men, propounded to her his notion of sending her on a visit to her sister, she at once dissipated it by saying that she would rather not go.

“ Don’t want to make Nellie a visit! ” replied Peyton Beaumont, believing that he ought to insist, and doubting whether he could.

“ Why, papa ! ” said Kate, in a tone of good-natured wonder and reproof. “ Have you forgotten ? ”

“ Forgotten what ? ”

Don’t you really know what I mean ? ” persisted the girl, a little chagrined.

“’Pon my honor, I don’t.”

“ O papa ! My birthday ! Nineteen next Tuesday.”

“ Bless my body ! ” exclaimed Beaumont, looking uncommonly ashamed of himself. “ Bless my body, how could I forget it ! Well, of course I knew it all the while. It had only slipped my mind for a — ” Here he recollected his conspiracy with Mrs. Chester, and fell suddenly dumb, querying whether his mind were not beginning to fail him.

“ Of course I want to keep it here,” said Kate.

“ Of course you do,” assented Beaumont, ready to knock down anybody who objected to it.

“ Why should n’t Nellie come to us ? ” asked Kate.

“ She shall,” declared Beaumont. “Write her a letter and ask her to come. Give her my best love, and tell her I insist upon it.”

It was in vain that Mrs. Chester made assault upon this new disposition of events as soon as she heard of it.

“ No danger, I tell you,” interrupted Beaumont, his temper rising at her opposition, as a wave breaks into roar and foam over a reef. “ I tell you there’s no danger whatever. Kate is not only a devilish brilliant girl, — yes, devilish brilliant, by heavens, if I do say it,— but she’s a girl of extraordinary common sense. If I should hint to her the trouble which might come from her marrying a McAlister ; if I should once say to her, ‘ Now, Kate, you see it might separate us,’ she never would think of it. I tell you, I trust to her common sense. And by heavens,” he added, his eyebrows beginning to bristle, “ I want you to trust to it.”

As Mrs. Chester had no efficient quantity of the grace in question, she did not believe in it as a motive of action with other people.

“ Well, good by to the Kershaw estate,” she replied, trying to bring the financial point of view to bear upon her brother.

“ Good by to it and welcome ! ” roared Beaumont, indignant at this thrusting of filthy lucre under his honorable nose. “What the deuce do I care for the Kershaw estate ? I am a Beaumont, and the descendant of Beaumonts. Who the deuce are you ? I thought we looked only to honor, in our family. Money! You can’t turn my head by talking money. I know the value of the thing. But, by heavens, I would n’t swerve a hair for the sake of it. I’d blow my brains out first. And as for Kate’s marrying against my wishes, you know she won’t do it and I know it. There’s no use in talking about it.”

“ No, there ’s no use in talking about it,” replied Mrs. Chester, with what might be called a snapping - turtle irony.

Stung by her brother’s charge that she was no true Beaumont, angered by his inconvenient obstinacy, and still more by his loud, overbearing voice, she suddenly and petulantly gave up her hopeless contest (as a child drops a hammer which has cracked its fingers), and marched off with short, spunky stampings, reminding one of that famous step between the sublime and the ridiculous. Her hips had become of late years an inch or so too wide to permit her to locomote thus with grace or dignity. They gave her skirts a quick, jerking swing, which, as seen from behind, was more farcical than majestic. The fat washerwoman or chambermaid of low comedy walks by preference in this manner. As Peyton Beaumont looked after her, he grinned with a kind of amused rage, and muttered, “ My God, what a goose Marian can make of herself ! ”

But after Mrs. Chester had got to her room, and had, so to speak, stuck out her lips behind the door for half an hour, she discovered some consolation and hope in the fact that Nellie Armitage was coming. She remembered Nellie as a “true Beaumont,” full of the family pride and passion and spirit, the fieriest perhaps of Peyton’s children. Was it not likely that such a woman would retain much of the feeling of the ancient family feud ? Was it not almost certain that she would violently oppose a match between her only sister and a McAlister ? Poor, bewitched, unreasonable, almost irrational Mrs. Chester plucked up her spirit a little as she looked forward to Nellie’s arrival.

At last Mrs. Armitage came, bringing her two children with her, but not her husband. This young woman (then only twenty-four years old) bore a certain resemblance to her father. She was of a medium height, with a figure more compact than is usual in American women, her chest being uncommonly full, her shoulders superbly plump, and her arms solid. Her complexion was a clear brunette, without color ; her hair a very dark chestnut and slightly wavy ; her eyes brown, steady, and searching. Barring that the cheekbones were a trifle too broad and the lower jaw a trifle too strong, her face was a handsome one, the front view being fairly oval and the profile full of spirit. There was something singular in her expression ; it was a beseeching air, alternating with an air of resistance ; she seemed in one moment to implore favor, and in the next to stand at bay. To all appearance it was the face of a woman who had had a stirring and trying heart-history. You could not study it long without wishing to know what had happened to her.

She greeted her relatives with the quick, effervescent excitabilty of her Huguenot race. A minute or two later she was absorbed, indifferent, almost stony. It seemed as if something must have partly paralyzed the woman’s affections, rendering their action intermittent.

“ Kate has grown up very handsome,” she quietly and thoughtfully remarked to her father, when she was alone with him.

“ By Jove ! “trumpeted Peyton Beaumont, unable to brag sufficiently of his favorite child, and falling into eloquent silence before the great subject, like a heathen prostrating himself to his idol.

“ I hope she will have a happy life of it,” added Nellie, with the air of one within prison-gates who wishes well to those without.

“Why shouldn’t she?” demanded the father, lifting his stormy eyebrows as an excited eagle ruffles his feathers. “ She has everything she can want, and we are all devoted to her. The baby, you know ! ” he explained, as if apologizing to his eldest daughter for so loving the youngest.

“ It is all well enough now. But she may get married by and by.”

“ Ah ! ” growled Beaumont, glancing at her with an air of comprehension, half pitiful and half angry.

Mrs. Armitage revealed no more ; if she was not happy in her own marriage, she was not disposed to say so ; either she had been born with more discretion than was usual with Beaumonts, or she had acquired it.

“ So the feud is ended,” was her next observation.

“ Well, yes ; that is, you know — well, we get along,” said the father. “ We are giving those fellows a chance to behave themselves.”

He felt obliged to apologize to a Beaumont for having given up one of the antiquities and glories of the family.

“ Of course you know best,” replied Nellie, with that indifferent air which she had at times, and which made her appear so unlike her race.

“ You see this young McAlister had the luck to place us under immense obligations to him,” continued the old fighting-cock. “ And devilish lucky it was for that blockhead his brother. Vincent would have shot him as sure as Christmas is coming.”

“And how about Kate? Is she likely to marry this Frank McAlister ? ”

“ Likely to marry the Old Harry!” snorted Beaumont, indignant at being spurred up to this ugly subject again. “ Who the deuce told you that nonsense ? ”

“ Aunt Marian wrote to me about it.”

“ Aunt Marian is a babbling busybody,” returned Beaumont, thrusting his hands fiercely into his pockets, as if feeling for a brace of derringers.

“ She told me not to tell you of her letter, and so I thought it best to tell you,” added Nellie.

“ By Jove ! you know her,” replied Marian’s brother, bursting into a laugh. “By Jove, it’s amazing how she lacks common sense,” he added, as if his breed were famous for it. “ In a general way,— I’m fairly obliged to own it, — whatever Marian wants done had better not be done. It’s astonishing!”

“ If there is any such courtship going on, I want it stopped,” continued Nellie, somewhat of the family excitability beginning to sparkle in her eyes.

Peyton Beaumont, vain and selfopinionated and pugnacious as he was, would always listen to those privileged, those almost sacred creatures, his children.

“ Look here, Nellie, I’m glad you came down,” he said. “ I want to talk to you about this very thing. Not that there is any danger, — O no ! ” he explained, motioning away the supposition with his thick, hairy hand. “ But then, if things should goon, there might be trouble. That is, you understand, the thing is just possible, — I don’t say probable, mind, I say possible.”

“ It must not be possible,” declared Nellie.

“You think so ?” stared Beaumont, a little bothered. Considering his own weakness in the presence of Kate, was he absolutely sure that he could put the match outside of the possibilities, in case she should prefer to bring it inside ?

“ Certainly I think so,” affirmed Mrs. Armitage, firing up in a way which left no doubt as to her being a true Beaumont. “ See here, I want at least one woman in the world to succeed ; I want Kate to have a happy married life. If she marries a McAlister, what are the chances for it ? You know that family, and you know our own. How long will the two travel together? You know as well as I do that the old quarrel is pretty sure to come up again. Then where will Kate be? A woman who is forced to fight her own flesh and blood, God help her!”

She said much more to this effect ; perhaps she repeated herself a little, as emotional people are apt to do ; she was very much in earnest, and hardly knew how to stop.

“ Well, of course ! ” neighed Beaumont, quite roused by her excitement, as one horse rears because another plunges. “The thing cannot, must not, and shall not be allowed. I ’ll see to it.”

“ You ’ll see to it ! repeated Nellie, amused in spite of lier anxiety, and good-naturedly laughing him to scorn.

“What d’ ye mean?” queried the father, trying to raise his bristles.

“You’ll just see that every one of your idiots of children does exactly what he or she pleases,” explained Nellie.

“ Nonsense ! ” growled Beaumont, marching off with all his peacock plumage spread. To prove to himself that he possessed paternal austerity, he took advantage of the first opportunity to fall afoul of Tom, giving him a lively blowing up for birching a negro. Only, the lecture being concluded, he drew his cigar-case and presented the youngster with one of his costliest Havanas, the two thereupon smoking what might pass for the calumet of peace.

The case of Frank and Kate soon came up between Mrs. Armitage and Mrs, Chester.

“ Of course not,” haughtily affirmed Nellie, when her aunt had declared that the McAlister match would never do. “ I have discussed the matter with papa. We will attend to it.”

This was saying that the affair was none of Mrs. Chester’s business ; and that lady so understood the remark, and trembled with wrath accordingly. The two were treading on the verge of an old battle-ground which had been many times fought over between them. Mrs. Chester, an advisatory and meddlesome creature, felt in all her veins and nerves that she was a Beaumont, and that whatever concerned any of that race concerned her. This pretension, so far at least as it extended to the children of Peyton Beaumont, Nellie had always violently combated, even from infancy. One of her earliest recollections was of scratching Aunt Marian for trying to slap Tom. The fight had been renewed many times, the niece gaining more and more victories as she grew older, for she was a cleverer woman than Mrs. Chester, and also a braver. It need not be said that, while there was no outrageous and disreputable quarrel, there was no fervent love lost between them. But although Aunt Marian did not adore Nellie, and was at the moment considerably irritated against her, she did not, under present circumstances, care to fight her.

“ Of course you and your father will do what is proper,” she said, putting on that air of sulphuric-acid sweetness which so many tartarly people have at command, and which profits them so little. “You two are Kate’s natural guardians,” she further conceded. “ Certainly ! ”

She waited to hear something more about the match, but Nellie had no communications to volunteer, and there ensued a brief silence, insupportable to Mrs. Chester.

“ Of course you never could give your approval,” she ventured to resume, smoothing her niece’s hair.

“No!” sharply replied Nellie, who would have answered more graciously if Mrs. Chester had kept her hot hands to herself.

Unamiably as this response was enunciated, the elder lady was so delighted with it that she lost her selfpossession, and let out a gush of confidence which was imprudent.

“ Kate will have plenty of offers. I know one fine young man who is desperately in love with her. I am sure that your husband’s brother— ”

Nellie turned upon her with sparkling eyes and quivering nostrils.

“ Bent Armitage ? ” she demanded. “Is he courting her?”

“ O no,” responded Mrs, Chester, discovering her error and at once trying to fib out of it. “ I was about to say that Bent, as you call him, told me that Pickens Pendleton was cracked about her.”

Which was true enough as regarded Pickens Pendleton, only the tale of it had not come from Bent Armitage.

Well, each of the ladies had made a discovery. Nellie had learned, in spite of her aunt’s prompt dodging, that Bent Armitage was wooing Kate ; and Mrs, Chester had perceived without the slightest difficulty that such a match would be sternly disfavored by Nellie. Both being thus provided with matter for grave meditation, they found conversing a weary business, and soon separated.

The next important dialogue of this straightforward and earnest Mrs. Armitage was with her sister.

“ How you have grown, Kate ! ” she laughed, turning her about and standing up to her back to back. “ Pshaw ! you are taller than I am. You ought to know more. I wonder if you do. What did you study abroad ?”

“ O, everything that is useful,” smiled Kate. “Only I don’t find that I use it. I think a good cookery-book ought to be the main class-book of every girls’ school. I wish I knew a hundred receipts by heart.”

“ Well, send for a cookery-book, and go to getting them by heart.”

“ I have,” said Kate.

“ Pudding-making and love-making are woman’s chief business,” observed Nellie, shaping her course toward the subject which she had on her mind. “They are both important, but I think the last is the most so. Which do you like best of all the men who come here ? ”

“ I don’t like any of them,” said Kate, for once driven to fib by an awful heart-breaking, and blushing profoundly over her — was it her guilt ?

“ O, what a monstrous lie ! ” laughed Mrs. Armitage.

“ Then what do you ask such questions for ? ” retorted Kate, becoming honest again.

“Because I want to know,” said Nellie, looking her earnestly in the face.

“ When the young man speaks, I will come and tell you,” was the evasive answer.

“ But then it will be too late to tell me. Your mind will be already made up, and you will accept him or refuse him, and then advice will be useless.”

“ O, that is the way it goes ? ”

“That is the way it went with me.”

“ Well, you have never repented it,” said Kate, who knew nothing of her sister’s sorrows, if sorrows there were.

“ Let me tell you one thing,” answered Nellie, roused to fresh resolution by this remark. “ Let me tell you whom not to marry. Neither Frank McAlister nor Bent Armitage. If you take the first, you will make trouble for yourself; and if you take the second, he will make trouble for you.”

Kate struggled to retain her selfpossession, but she was not a little disturbed, and her sister perceived it.

“ You don’t care for either of them ? ” demanded Nellie, imploringly. “ I don’t want it. Papa does n’t want it.”

“ I won't care for either of them,” was the promise which dropped from Kate’s lips before she realized its gravity. There was conscience and discipline in the girl ; she instinctively and by habit respected and obeyed her elders ; she did it naturally and could not help it. But the moment she had given her pledge she grew pale and tried to turn away from her sister.

“ Look here, Kate, this costs you a struggle,” said Nellie, slipping her arm around the child’s waist and kissing her. “ Which one is it ? ”

Kate made no answer, for she had as much as she could do to catch her breath, and she was for the moment beyond speaking.

“ Not Bent Armitage ? ” begged Nellie.

Kate shook her head.

“ The other ? ”

Kate began to cry.

“ O Katie ! ” said Nellie, and began to cry a little herself, being womanish and Beaumontish to that extent that she could not easily resist the contagion of emotion.

After a moment Kate made a desperate struggle for some small bit of a voice, and broke out, “ But I don’t care so much about him. Only you surprised me so. You worried me. You — ”

“ I know, Katie,” whispered Nellie, all tenderness now. “ I did put things at you too hard. Don’t be vexed with me. I do love you. That is the reason. Well, you can’t talk of it now. We won’t say a word more now.”

“Yes, I can talk of it,” declared Kate, collecting her soul bravely. “What is the whole of it? What is it?”

“ Suppose there should be another long quarrel with the McAlisters ? ” began Nellie.

“ I know. I have thought of that. I will think of it.”

“ O, you are pretty sensible, Kate. Well, as for Bent Armitage — ”

“You need n’t tell me about him. It is of no consequence.”

“I hope not,” said Nellie, too anxious to be quite sure. “Well ?”

“You have my promise,” declared Kate, firmly.

“Yes,” answered Nellie, meditatively.

“ Do you suppose I won’t keep it ? ”

“ I was n’t thinking of that,” replied Nellie, who, now that she had gained her point, had a sudden, natural irrational reaction of feeling, and did not find herself positive that the promise ought to be kept. “I was thinking — but never mind now, dear. Another time.”

CHAPTER XVI.

MRS. ARMITAGE went through a variety of spiritual exercises with regard to this possible match between her sister and Frank McAlister.

At first she had been sternly opposed to it ; then the contagion of Kate’s emotion caused her to relent somewhat ; next she reflected upon the matter by herself, and hardened her heart once more ; at last she met the young man, and in consequence experienced a further change.

Although she was prepared to find him agreeable and handsome, she was rather surprised by his grand figure, his fine face, and pleasant address. His lofty stature did not seem to her objectionable or even very odd, for in the midland and back country of South Carolina, where she had passed her life, the human plant grows luxuriantly, six feet being a common height and six feet four not unique. Moreover, there are probably few women who do not find a certain massive charm in large men. “ No wonder,” thought Nellie, “ that Kate likes this fellow, especially since he saved her life.” Nevertheless, she would study him ; she would see whether he were half as good as he looked; she would see whether he were good enough to make up for being a McAlister.

There was not much in their interview of the wandering small-talk which is apt to follow introductions ; for both Mrs. Armitage and Frank were of that earnest class of souls who usually mean something and say it. The lady, too, had a fervent purpose at heart, and none too much time in which to carry it out.

“ Are you going to live at home, Mr. McAlister ? ” she very soon inquired.

Frank colored ; it seemed as if she were asking him whether he meant to live on his father, like so many other sons of well-to-do planters ; and he remembered that he had been in Hartland several weeks without doing anything chemical or metallurgical.

“ I have n’t yet decided where I shall be,” he replied. “But I hope before long to find some place where I can earn my own living.”

Mrs. Armitage stared ; a young gentleman of expectations who wanted to earn his own living was a novelty to her ; she was so puzzled that she smiled in a rather blank fashion.

“And how do people earn their own living ? ” she demanded.

“ I want to earn mine by making other people rich.”

“ I don’t understand,” said Nellie, more perplexed than ever, and beginning to query whether this McAlister were not jesting with her.

So Frank explained that he had studied metallurgy and commercial chemistry ; that he proposed to test mines and phosphate beds, and decide whether they could be worked profitably ; and that for such services he should expect a reasonable compensation.

“But will that get a living?” inquired Mrs. Armitage. Another reflection, which, however, she kept to herself, was, “ Is that work for a gentleman ? ”

“ It may not for a time,” laughed Frank. “ Our people don’t care much as yet for their underground wealth. Their eyes are bandaged with cotton. But I have an ambition, Mrs, Armitage. I want to open people’s eyes. I want to develop the natural wealth of my State. I want to be a benefactor to South Carolina.”

“ O, that is right,” admitted Nellie, thinking the while that, if he became famous as a benefactor, he might run for Congress.

“ Yes, there would be little to do for a time,” continued Frank. “So the other part of my plan is to obtain a professorship in some college.”

Nellie frowned frankly; he seemed too grand a fellow to be a mere professor ; she was already interested in him, and wished him well.

‘ If you really want a professorship, I should think you might easily get one,” she said. “Your father has a great deal of political influence.”

The serious young man was tempted to smile in the face of the serious young woman. Of course, scientific enthusiast as he was, he scorned the idea of getting a professorship through his father’s wire-pullings, and trusted to earn one by making himself famous, desirable and necessary as a chemist and metallurgist. But it was not worth while, nor perhaps in good taste, to try to render these matters clear to Mrs. Armitage

“ Well, you will not starve; your father will see to that,” was her next remark, good-naturedly and smilingly uttered but surely very discouraging.

His father again! It was almost provoking to have his high and mighty and respected parent flung at his head in this persistent manner. So far was Frank from looking to the paternal statesmanship, influence, and acres for his bread and butter, that he at heart expected to gain pelf as well as honor by his sciences, developing untold wealth and sharing in the profits.

“Do you expect to find gold-mines in Hartland District?” was Nellie’s next speech.

“ No,” patiently responded our scientist, not even marvelling at the depths of her ignorance, though he knew that auriferous ore out of Hartland was less possible than sunbeams out of a cucumber. “I shall have to run about after my work,” he added.

He feared that he was damaging his chances as a suitor for Kate ; but he was too honorable to tell anything less than the truth.

“ Run about,” repeated Nellie, quite decided for the moment that he should not have her sister ; “ I should think it would be pleasanter to stay at home.”

Frank was discouraged; nobody hereabout sympathized with his tenderness for chemistry and his passion for metallurgy ; sometimes he thought he should have to drop his sciences and go to sleep upon cotton, like the rest of South Carolina.

“You must excuse my frankness,” said Mrs. Armitage, who perceived that she had dashed him a little. “ It is so strange that I should be talking to you at all! It seems as if I were at liberty to say everything.”

“ There has been a prodigious breaking of the ice between our families.”

“Yes; and you broke it. It was a great thing to do, and you found a grand way to do it.”

“It was accident,” said Frank, coloring under this praise from Kate’s sister.

“ I can’t thank you enough for saving her,” continued Nellie, a little moved. “ It is useless to try to do it.”

There was a short silence. The young man’s spirit was beginning to burgeon and bloom all over with hope. The lady was meditating how she could tear up his hopes, without seeming to him and to herself outrageously ungrateful and hard-hearted.

“Yes, you did a noble thing,” she resumed. “ I hope you will never have occasion to regret it.”

“ How ! ” he exclaimed, in a sudden burst of earnest bass, at the same time starting up and pacing the room. “ I beg your pardon,” he almost immediately added, and sat down again.

“ He is very much in love with her,” thought Nellie. “What a dreadful business it is ! What shall I say to him ? ”

She steeled herself with a remembrance of her duty to her sister, and added : “ It might have been better if some one else had saved her.”

The Chinese wall was broken down ; the great subject of Kate Beaumont lay open before them for discussion ; and the only question was, whether Frank McAlister could summon breath to enter upon it. For a moment he was like a climber of mountains who should discover a barely traversable path leading to the longed-for summit, and should just then find himself turning dizzy. He absolutely had to make another excursion to the window and back before he was able to say, “ Do you think I would take improper advantage of my slight, very slight claim to gratitude ? ”

“ No, I do not,” replied the impulsive Nellie, unable to help admiring him for his honesty, his goodness, and his beauty. “ I am sure, Mr. McAlister, that you are a gentleman. But have you thought, have you considered ? O, how hard it is to say some things ! Well, I must speak it out. Here is my young sister under great obligations to you. And you are a McAlister. I know that there is peace now between our families. But how long will it last ? Suppose it should not last ? Would you like to have your name stand between your wife and her own father and brothers ? ”

Suddenly remembering that she had assumed that he cared to marry her sister, when he had not yet told her so, Nellie stopped in confusion. It was so like her to spring forward in that instinctive way ; it was so like the emotional, headlong race to which she belonged.

“ I hope it would never be as you say,” groaned the young man, frankly acknowledging the purpose which had been imputed to him.

“Ah—yes,” replied Nellie, with a sigh of sympathy. Her opposition was weakening; she found it very hard to withstand this good and handsome lover to his face; she was mightily tempted to get done with him by giving him her sister. Discovering her weakness, and deciding that it was her duty not to yield to it, she hastened to speak her mind wdiile she had one.

“ See here, Mr. McAlister. I ask you one thing. I ask it of you as a gentleman ; yes, and as a friend. I beg of you that, if ever you should wish to say a word of love to Kate, you will not say it without the full permission of her father.”

He came up to her with a bright smile, seized her hand, pressed it, and in his thankfulness kissed it.

Nellie’s resolution was almost upset; she came very near saying, “ Take her.”

“ I worship her,” he whispered. “ But before I say one word, you shall permit it. You and your father shall both permit it.”

“ O, it all amounts to nothing,” returned Nellie, shaking her head with a slightly hysterical laugh. “ Such things are said without saying them. If you love her, she will find it out, though you should never speak again.”

“ But you won’t send me away ? ” begged Frank, his smile suddenly fading and his eyes turning anxious.

“ No,” said Nellie. “ Every woman is a big fool on these subjects. I can’t send you away.”

And so ended Mrs. Armitage’s first attempt to prevent a match between her sister and Frank McAlister. It had been so far from a triumph that she had given the young man a tacit permission to continue some silent sort of courtship, and had at the bottom of her heart become little less than his partisan. She did not deceive herself as to the result of the onslaught ; she admitted that one more such victory would beat her completely ; and her sagacious decision was, “ I won’t say another word about it.” It was a resolution, as certain metaphysicians inform us easier for a woman to make than to keep.

In fact, Nellie was rather an aid than a bar to Frank in his researches after happiness at the Beaumont mansion, inasmuch as she kept Mrs. Chester from balking apd worrying him with her venerable assiduities. It must be understood that the cracked old flirt had got over her wrath at the youngster for playing his brother upon her while he himself had walks and talks with her niece. She observed that in these days he never saw Kate alone ; and, not knowing the true reason, she guessed that he had tired of her. Consequently she once more had hopes of — the gracious knows what; and with the return of hope came a resurrection of fondness for her Titan.

Now Nellie did not mean to smooth the course of Frank’s love ; impulsive as she might be, she was no such weathercock as that. But she had grown up in the habit of fighting Aunt Marian ; and, moreover, she could not bear to see the old girl make a fool of herself; for did not her absurdities more or less disgrace the family ? As soon, therefore, as she perceived that Mrs. Chester was indulging in her time-worn vice of flirting with a man ever so much her junior, she prepared to open fire upon her. The two ladies were sewing by themselves in the breezy veranda, when Mrs. Armitage commenced her bombardment with “What a handsome fellow Frank McAlister is ! ”

How easily the slyest of us are humbugged when people talk to us about those whom we love! It was of no use to Mrs. Chester that she was a woman, that she was a veteran worldling, that she was an old coquette. The doors of her heart flew open at the sound of the name which was her open sesame ; and with a throb of pleasure, with the sincere countenance of a gratified child she replied “ Yes, indeed ! ”

“ He is trying to catch Kate, and I fear he will do it,” added the cruel Nellie, sending a straight thrust at the unguarded bosom.

“ It would be a most outrageous match,” burst out the surprised and tortured Mrs. Chester.

“It would make more than one of us miserable,” continued Nellie, turning the blade in the wound; and at the same time she gave her discovered, unhappy, ridiculous, irrational relative a glance of angry scorn. A woman who “loves not wisely” gets little pity from other women ; they regard her as men regard a brother-man who loses his estate in silly speculations ; perhaps, also, they look upon her as one who cheapens and discredits her sex.

All at once Mrs. Chester understood that Nellie had found her out and was openly flouting her. Exposure and a consciousness of “scorn’s unmoving finger ” are great helps to beclouded intelligences. Although this widow bewitched was half crazy about Frank McAlister, she could see somewhat of the ridiculousness of her position when another plainly pointed it out to her. She shook with shame and rage ; her pale brunette cheek turned ashy ; after a little her black eyes sparkled vindictively. But she had enough of selfcontrol to go on with her cuttings and bastings, and to merely mutter, “ Yes, the match would make plenty of trouble.”

“ He is enough to fascinate any woman, young or old,” added Nellie, by way of completing her massacre of this mature innocent.

Wonders were accomplished by this short dialogue. Henceforward, so long as Mrs. Armitage remained at the plantation, Aunt Marian ceased making eyes at Frank McAlister, or trying to entrap him into moonlight strolls, or doing anything else that was lovelorn, — at least before witnesses. Her reformation was, however, only external; she was in reality fully possessed by that mighty demon, a heart-affair of middle life ; she was reaping the reward of having passed thirty years in no other habit of mind than that of love-making. She was so far bewitched with Frank McAlister that she would have rushed into the madness of marrying him, had he proposed it. The case may seem incredible to those who have not witnessed something similar. While we all know that elderly men sometimes fall desperately in love with girls, we are not accustomed to see elderly women get into hallucinations over — youngsters. But the marvel sometimes happens ; and it happened to poor Mrs. Chester.

In these days she passed much time in her room ; sometimes lost in reveries which were alternately sweet and bitter; sometimes trying on dress after dress and ornament after ornament, not to mention perlatinas, etc. ; sometimes studying herself in the glass and trying to think herself youthful, or at least not old. Like Southerners in general, she found no embarrassment in the presence of a negro ; and so her ancient maid, Miriam, had plenty of opportunity to observe these prinkings and prankings.

“ Laws me ! ” muttered the indignant mawma. “ Ef Miss Marian don’t oughter have the biggest kind of a spankin’.”

There was no reason why Miriam should not guess accurately what was the matter with her mistress. Mrs. Chester was one of those people who must have sympathy ; she had always been accustomed to receive it from her faithful chattel ; and she demanded it now with a curious frankness.

“ I don’t see why Mr. McAlister should avoid me,” she would say plaintively. Then she would burst out with sudden vexation : “ But in these days no woman can get any attention who is over twenty.”

“ Don't see nuffin perticlar ’bout Mars Frank,” muttered Miriam, lying a little for her owner’s good.

“ O, he is so tall ! ” exclaimed Mrs. Chester, in naive ecstasy. So tall ! Perhaps that was the key to her possession. The jaded flirt, famished after sensations, had been captivated by a physical novelty. Her next passion might be for a dwarf, or for one of the Siamese Twins.

“No woman over twenty has any chance of being noticed here in the country,” she presently added, laying on the word country an accent of scorn and spite.

“ Miss Marian, you’s a big piece beyond twenty,” exploded Miriam, losing all patience. “ You’s a young lookin' lady for your age. I allows it. But for all that, you ain’t what they calls young no longer. I don’ keer, Miss Marian, ef you doos git angry. I ’se talkin’ for your good, an’ I ’se gwine to talk a heap, an’ I ’se gwine to talk it out. You’s jess altogeder too old to be friskin’ roun’ a young feller like Mars Frank McAlister. He ain’t a gwine to wanter frisk back, an’ you can’t make him. Now you jess let him alone. He’ll think mo’ of you ef you doos ; he ’ll think a heap mo’. An’ so ’ll everybody. Thar ! that’s what I ’se got to say ; an’ I’ve said it, thank the Lord ; an’ I ’ll say it ag’in.”

Mrs. Chester’s first impulse, under this benevolently cruel lecture, was to fly at Miriam and kill her; her next and victorious impulse was to cover her face with her hands and shed tears of humiliation and grief.

“ Thar now, honey, don’t,” implored the suddenly softened Miriam. “ Don’t cry that way. I ’se been mighty hash, I knows. The Lord forgive me for hurtin’ your feelin’s.”

And then followed a strange, an almost pathetic scene of weeping on one side and coddling on the other, which only ended when the sorrowful Marian had taken a dose of chloroform and got to sleep. Coming out of her nap refreshed, she wandered through a thorny meditation concerning Frank, and struggled up to the top of an emotional Mount Pisgah whence she looked upon him with her mind’s eye, giving up hope of possession. But this resolve left her in an angry state of mind towards him and his family, so that when she next met her bland and sympathetic friend, Major Lawson, she launched into an invective against the whole race of McAlisters.

“ Dear me ! Bless my soul ! ” said the Major, in his most soothing whisper. “ I am excessively grieved that your feelings should have been hurt by — by circumstances unknown to me. What have those truly unfortunate people been doing? I trust nothing that an apology will not atone for. Do, my dear old friend, — may I not venture to call you so?—do confide in me. I will see them about it,” he declared, grandly assuming an air of sternness, as Hector might have put on his helmet. “ I will insist upon an explanation. By heavens I will, my dear friend.”

“ O, it is nothing of that sort!” returned Mrs. Chester. “ There is nothing to have a quarrel about, I suppose. But — “and here she burst out passionately — “ they are so —so ungrateful ! ”

“ Un-grate-ful ! ” gasped the Major, seemingly horror-stricken, — “ un-grateful ! ” he chanted, running his voice through four or five flats, sharps, and naturals. “You—you confound me, — you positively do, Mrs. Chester. Wh-at a charge ! And they were supposed to be gentlemen. Claim to be such. Pass for such. Ah ! — Well ? ”

And here he looked at her for further explanations, his hands wide-spread with mock sympathy, and his eyes full of real eagerness. In truth, the Major was very anxious, for he did not know but that some serious matter of offence had arisen between the families, and he trembled for his Romeo and Juliet romance.

“ I have been as civil as I could be to Mr. Frank McAlister,” began Mrs. Chester in a low tone, which was, perhaps, a little tremulous.

The Major’s eyes brightened ; so that was all the trouble ; old flirt jealous about attentions.

“ I have certainly shown him all the consideration that a lady can properly show to a gentleman,” she continued,

her voice gaining strength, if her reason did not. “ I have done it in kindness. His position here was peculiar. So lately introduced among us, and under such trying circumstances ! I thought that he needed encouragement, and that some one was bound to give it to him. I have given it. And the result is ” — here there was almost a choking in her utterance — “ that he avoids me.”

“ Dear me ! But no. It can’t be possible. It is n’t true,” brazenly asserted the Major, alarmed by her evident emotion and fearing the worst results for Romeo and Juliet. “ My dear old friend,” getting hold of her hand and squeezing it tenderly, “ you must be mistaken. Forgive me. I am in earnest. I am excited. This is enough to throw any man off his balance. Excuse me for speaking plainly ; pardon me for contradicting you. But you must be mistaken. Why, it was onlyyesterday that I was talking with him, and the conversation fell upon yourself, my dear Mrs. Chester, and he was enthusiastic about you. Absolutely enthusiastic,” repeated the Major as glibly as if he were telling the truth. “ Nothing less than enthusiastic. Why, my dear friend, if he seems to avoid you, it must be attributed to modesty. He is afraid of wearying you, — afraid of wearying you,” he reiterated, falling back and gazing at her respectfully, as if she were a wonder of intellect. “ Afraid of wearying you,” he added, reinforcing his air of deference with a tender smile. “ Nothing else. Modest young man. Mod-est! Appreciative, too. Knows your value. Highly appreciative. I happen to know that he appreciates you. Why I happen to know it, — I am his confidant. His confidant,” insisted the Major, looking whole volumes of adoration, as if translating them from McAlister.

But we can give no idea of the mellifluousness, the sugar, and sirup, and molasses, of this wondrous flatterer. To appreciate his speeches it was necessary to hear them and to watch him as he exuded them. The petting, the coaxing, the adulation that there was in his voice and address beggared description. He was a band of music ; he played successively on the harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, flute, violin, and bassoon ; he flew from bass to falsetto and back again with the agility of a squirrel scampering up and down a hickory. The repetitions in which he delighted were invariably distinguished by variations of pitch and manner. he said his impressive thing in baritone, and then he said it in tenor, and then he said it in soprano. He enforced it the first time with a stare, the second time with an arching of the eyebrows, the third time with a longdrawn smile. Nor did he weaken his effects by hasty or indistinct utterance ; he was as deliberate and perspicuous as an experienced judge delivering a charge to an obviously stupid jury ; he made a pause after each important statement, to give you time to swallow and digest it ; and meanwhile he watched you steadily to see how you bore his dosing.

To some straightforward, hard-headed people the flattering, pottering Major was very tiresome. They saw him depart from their presence with the same joy with which you behold a flea hop out of your sleeve where he has been carrying on his inflammatory familiarities. But to Mrs. Chester and other souls, who could endure much complimentary serenading, he was more delightful than nightingales.

Well, he talked an hour, and he soothed his auditor. By dint of playing interminably on the same key, he produced in her what is known to lawyers who have to cajole jurymen as a “favorable state of mind.” He made his female Balaam forget that she had come out to curse the McAlisters, and brought her to end the conversation by uttering their praises.

But in doing thus much good he unwittingly did some mischief, for he reawakened Mrs. Chester’s foolish hopes with regard to her giant, and thus opened the way to further complications and furies.

CHAPTER XVII.

So thoroughly deceived was Mrs. Chester by Major Lawson’s inventions, that she resolved to come to an explanation with Frank McAlister, and give him to understand that his fears of wearying her with his society were groundless.

We will not detail the conversation that resulted ; we will draw a partial veil over this awkward exposure of an unbalanced mind ; we will skip at once to the finale of the discordant duo. Imagine the confusion and distress of our modest and kind-hearted Titan when Mrs. Chester, after many insinuating preambles, took his hand, pressed it tenderly, and said, Let us be friends. Will you always be my friend ? My best friend ? ”

What made his situation more pitiable was that her agitation (a mixture of anxiety, of womanly shame, and of affection) was so great as to be unconcealable.

“ I have no intention of being other than your friend, madam,” replied the unfortunately honest youth.

This answer, and especially this “ madam,” stunned her. She inferred that he would be no more than a friend, and that he looked upon her as an elderly lady. Had he slapped her in the face, he could hardly have stung her more keenly or repulsed her more completely than he did by that title of respect, “madam.” Dropping his hand as if it were a hot iron, she recoiled from him a little and walked on in silence, her breast heaving and her lips very near to quivering.

“ I hope certainly that we shall always be friends,” hastily added Frank, perceiving that he had pained her, and deeply regretting it.

“ Certainly,” mechanically responded Mrs, Chester, for the moment pathetic and almost tragic. In the next breath she grew angry and continued, with a touch of hysterical irony, “ O, certainly, sir! We understand each other, I believe ! Well, I must go in ! I am afraid of this damp air. Excuse me, sir.”

And before Frank could say anything to the purpose, she had forced herself from him and was in the house.

“ Upon my honor I don’t understand it,” muttered the stupefied chemist and mineralogist. “ Is it possible that she really wants me to really flirt with her ? ”

Such a respect had he for womankind that he impatiently dismissed this supposition, as he had often dismissed it before. Because of his born chivalrousness, and still more because of his worship of Kate, he canonized the whole sex.

He was surprised out of his reflections by the apparition of Nellie Armitage from a small, thickly trellised grape-arbor close at his elbow. It was like the clash of a partridge from a thicket at one’s feet ; or rather it was more like the spring of a tiger from a jungle ; at all events, she startled him roundly. He suspected at once that she had overheard his final words with Mrs. Chester, and he grew almost certain of it when he came to notice her manner. Nodding without speaking, she took his arm and walked on rapidly, her nostrils dilated and her quick breath audible. It was evident that she was in a good old-fashioned Beaumont fit of anger.

“Mrs. Armitage,” he said, thinking it best to be at least partially frank, “ I fear that 1 have vexed your aunt by an awkward speech of mine.”

“ I wish you had boxed her ears,” broke out Nellie. “ I wanted to.”

He was enlightened: so Mrs. Chester was really making love to him ; at least Mrs. Armitage believed it. He did not know what more to say, and the awkward promenade continued speechlessly.

“ I was not in ambush,” the lady at last observed. “ I was dozing there — no sleep last night — hateful letters.

Your talking waked me, and I heard — Well, let us say no more about it. It is abominable. It is disgraceful. So ridiculous ! Oh ! ! ”

“ I beg your pardon ?” queried the anxious Frank. “ I must ask one word more. You are not blaming me ? ”

“You are only too patient, Mr. McAlister. You are a gentleman. Let us say no more about it.”

Emerging presently from an alley lined with neglected shrubbery so overgrown that a camel would have been troubled to look over it, they came upon a little stretch of flower-beds and discovered Kate gathering materials for her mantel bouquets, while Bent Armitage stood at her elbow with a basket. Ot the four persons who thus met, every one colored more or less with disagreeable surprise.

“ I took the liberty of forcing my guardianship on Miss Beaumont,” said Bent, looking apologetically at his sister-in-law. “ The roses might have wanted to keep her, you know.”

Mrs. Armitage gave Frank a glance which said as plainly as eyes could speak, “ I confide in your promise.”

Then, turning to Bent, she ordained : “ You must leave your basket to Mr. McAlister. I want to see you about things at home.”

Surrendering his pleasant charge to his rival, the young man followed Nellie, his lamed foot slapping the ground in its usual nonchalant style, and his singular, mechanical smile curling up into his dark red cheek, but Ids heart very ill at ease.

“ Bent,” commenced Nellie when they were alone, " I have nothing to say to you about your brother. There is enough to tell, but it is the same old story', and there is no use in telling it. The home that I want to talk to you about is my home here. What business have you strolling off alone with my sister ? I told you not to do it.”

“ A fellow does n’t want to have the air of a boor,” he muttered sullenly. “Just look at it now. A lady goes by with a basket to pick flowers. Can't a man offer to hold her basket? Is n’t he obliged to do it ? Would you have him tilt back his chair and go on smoking ? ”

“ O, it’s easy explaining,” returned Nellie. “ But I am not to be trifled with, Bent. You sha’n’t court her. If you do, I ’ll tell my whole story to my father and brothers. Then we ’ll see if ever an Armitage enters this house again.”

Bent was cowed at once and completely ; the threat was clearly a terrible one to him.

“ Before God, I don’t take Randolph’s part,” he said. “ I know you have cause of complaint enough. I wish to God he was — ”

He stopped with a groan. His brother, as he comprehended the matter now in hand, was his evil genius, standing between him and Kate Beaumont. In his grief and anger he had come very near to wishing that that brother was dead.

“ I don’t sustain him,” he resumed. “ Besides, Randolph is not a bad fellow at heart. He is naturally a good fellow. You know what it is that makes him raise the devil.”

“ You are taking the same road,” was Nellie’s judgment. “You will be just like him.”

“Never!” declared Bent. “You shall see.”

She marched on with an unbelieving, unpitying face, and he followed her with the air of a criminal who asks for a remission of sentence, and believes that he asks in vain.

“Well, I must go, I suppose,” he said, turning towards his horse as they neared the house. “If you see old Miriam, tell her to pray for me,” he added with a smile of bitter humor. “ What I want most is to break my neck.”

“ I am sorry, Bent,” replied Nellie, just a little softened. “ But depend upon it that I am doing what is best. Just look at it yourself. What sort of a state were you in yesterday ? You were — ”

She was interrupted by Mrs. Chester calling from her window to Armitage that she wanted to see Mrs. Devine, and would ride home with him.

“Delighted,” grinned Bent. “I shall have somebody to cheer me. Misery loves company.”

Just as Kate and Frank returned chattering and laughing to the house, the two people who adored them cantered hastily away, not sending a look backward.

Whether we want to or not, and whether we find it pleasant or not, we must go back to Mrs. Chester’s heartaffairs, trusting soon to come to an end of them. We will not, however, try to analyze her present feelings ; the matter is altogether too complicated and indiscriminate. As we value a clear head we must confine ourselves to her intentions, which were lucidly spiteful, mischievous, and full of the devil. It was not Mrs. Devine whom she wanted to see, but that lady’s dangerous flirt of a daughter, Jenny ; and before the day was out the old coquette and the young one were closeted in camarilla over Kate Beaumont’s matrimonial chances.

“ You ought to help your cousin,” was Mrs. Chester’s adroit recommendation.

“Can’t he do his own courtship?” sneered Jenny. “ You ’ll be asking me next to fight his duels for him.”

“ I want him to get her,” pursued Mrs. Chester, too much engaged in her own train of thought to notice the sarcasm on her protégé. “It would be very pleasant for us all to have her married in the family, as it were. We should n't lose the dear child, you see.”

Jenny stared and nearly laughed, for this phrase, “ the dear child,”struck her as both surprising and humorous, as she knew that Aunt Marian was not given to the family affections, nor even to counterfeiting them.

“ Besides, it is so desirable to keep the Kershaw estate in the relationship,” continued the eager and absorbed Mrs. Chester. “ I must say that I wish poor Bent may succeed.”

“ And you want me to try to run off with Frank McAlister,” laughed Jenny. “That’s what you want, is it ? ”

The elder lady’s eyes flashed ; she was far enough from wanting that.

“ I won’t do it,” added Jenny. “ I believe Kate likes him.”

“ She does n’t,” affirmed Mrs. Chester.

“ Oh ! ” scoffed Jenny, incredulously.

“ I tell you she does n’t. Besides, she ought not to. It would be the worst thing in the world for her.”

And here came a long argument against a match with a McAlister, going to show that it would surely end in severing Kate from her family, that it would make her miserable for life, etc.

‘'There is something in that,” admitted Jenny. “Yes, you are right; no doubt about it. Well, take me over there and give me a chance. I don’t mind trying to help Bent a little.”

“ O, do say a word or two for the poor fellow. As for Mr. McAlister, you need n’t mind him much. Just talk to him now and then a moment, to keep him from getting in Bent’s way. Not that he means to get in his way.”

“Yes,” answered Jenny, absentmindedly. She was in a revery about this Mr. McAlister. Suppose he should fall in love with her ? Suppose she should fall in love with him ? Would it be very bad ? Would it be very nice? O dear!

The hospitality of the Beaumont house was illimitable, and nobody was put out when Mrs. Chester brought Jenny Devine to stay a fortnight. On the contrary, the little jilt was heartily welcomed, for she was a favorite with the young men of the family, while Peyton Beaumont still retained his archi-patriarchal fancy for pretty women. As, moreover, Wallace McAlister soon discovered her whereabouts, and two or three other stricken deer came daily to have their wounds enlarged, Jenny had more than beaux enough. But busy as she was with her own affairs, she found time to keep her promise to Mrs. Chester, and even to outrun it. On the very evening of her arrival she held a prolonged bedchamber conference about love matters with Kate Beaumont.

“ And so there is going to be no wedding right away ? ” said Jenny, after some preliminary catechizing.

“ No, indeed,” replied Kate, with an ostentation of calmness.

“ I think he is splendid,” continued Jenny, trusting that her friend would be thrown off her guard and answer, “Is n’t he ! ”

Getting no response, she added, pettingly, “ So tall ! Such a beautiful complexion ! Come now, don’t you like him ? Don’t you like him just a little teenty-taunty bit?”

“ I like everybody as much as that,” answered Kate, hurrying to a closet on pretence of hanging up a dress.

“ Here, come to the light where I can see you,” said Jenny, seizing her friend’s bare arms and drawing her towards the kerosene lamp which was the Beaumont substitute for gas. “ O, how you blush ! ”

“Anybody would blush, pulled about and catechized in this way,” protested Kate. “ How awfully strong you are ! and impudent ! Real impudent! ”

“ O, tell me a little bit about it,” persevered Jenny. “ Could you refuse him ? If he should come and get on his knees, and make himself only five feet high, and say his little pitty-patty prayer to you, could you refuse him ? ”

“Yes, I could,” declared Kate, amused and perplexed and annoyed all at once.

“ O, yes. But would you ? ”

“ I would” was the answer, uttered in a changed tone, somewhat solemnizing.

Jenny let go of Kate’s hands, studied her suddenly sobered face for an instant, and believed her.

“Well, Kitty, it’s awful,” she said at last, with a mock-serious twist of her pretty mouth. “ Somebody must console the poor man. I ’ll do it.”

After a minute of meditation she added. “ And there’s my poor cousin cracked after you. Will you take him ?

Kate, who at the moment was ready to cry under such teasing, found a relief in answering this question with something like temper, “No!”

Jenny was so amused by this explosion from her usually quiet friend, that she burst into a shriek of laughter.

“ Poor Bent! ” she gasped. “ Coffin number two. Will they drown themselves, I wonder, or take a cup of cold pizen together ? Pizen, I guess. Mr. McAlister could n’t drown himself without going to the seaside. Just imagine them sitting down to arsenic tea and quarrelling for the first drawing.”

“ Jenny, what does all this mean ?” demanded Kate, seriously. “ Have you been sent here to pump me ? ”

“ No, no, no, no ! ” chattered Jenny. “ Why, wha-t an idea ! ”

“ Excuse me,” said Kate. “ I must go now. Good night.”

And, with an exchange of kisses which strikes us as sweetness wasted, the two girls parted and went to bed, the one to laugh herself to sleep over the interview, and the other to —well, she did not laugh.

The next day, believing that Kate cared little or nothing for Frank McAlister, and believing also that it would be well if she should never learn to care for him, Jenny watched eagerly for the appearance of that giant gentleman, and when he came set her nets for him. She was fearfully and wonderfully successful ; she got him away from her friend and got him away from Mrs. Chester ; she made him take her to walk and made him take her to ride. She played backgammon with him, and euchre and high-low-jack, crowing over him defiantly when she beat him, and making pretty mouths at him when he beat her. It seemed for two or three days as if she only stayed at the Beaumonts to receive his visits, and as if he only came there to see her. Something of a romp and a good deal of a chatterer, she had a thousand tricks for occupying and amusing men, and killed time for them without their being aware of it. The field was the more easily her own for two reasons : first, because Kate, mindful of her promise to her sister, had lately taken to holding the McAlister at a distance ; and, second, because that young chieftain, discouraged at being treated with reserve and continually hampered by either Mrs. Armitage or Mrs. Chester, had come to a stand in his courtship.

The result of this seeming flirtation between the bothered Frank and the feather-headed jenny was a sentimental muddle. Although Kate kept up a smiling face, she did not at heart like the way things were going, and she grew more reserved than ever towards her admirer. Mrs. Chester very rapidly became as jealous of Miss Devine as she had been of Miss Beaumont. Wallace detected the girl whom he loved best in making eyes at his handsome brother, and fell into a state of mind which was likely to rob him of what hair he had left. Nellie Armitage, now that she saw a chance of losing Frank as a brother-in-law, inclined to think that her sister might go farther and fare worse. From all that she could learn of him, she had come to admit that he was morally one of the finest young fellows in the district. He scarcely drank at all ; he had never been known to gamble ; he had never been engaged in a squabble. There were others, to be sure, as worthy as he ; there were Pickens Pendleton and the Rev. Arthur Gilyard and Dr. Mattieson ; but Kate could not be got to care about any of them. What if the child should throw Frank McAlister away, only to pick up Bent Armitage ? In short, Nellie began to lose distinct recollection of the feud with the McAlisters, and to feel a little anxious, if not a little pettish, over this flirtation of Jenny Devine.

An explosion came, but of course it was neither Kate nor Nellie who brought it about; and equally, of course, it was Mrs. Chester. That sensitive young thing (only forty-five summers, please to remember) let her heart go fully back to Frank as soon as she saw him entangled with Jenny, and lived a year or so of torture in three or four days. It is perhaps impossible to write into credibility the almost insane jealousy with which she watched this girl of nineteen coquetting with this youth of twenty-four. But if you could have seen the spasm which pinched her lips and the snaky sparkle which shot from her eyes when she saw them together, you would have believed in the reality of her passion. Her emotions were so strong that her reasoning powers, never of any great value, were not worth a straw to her. She forgot that she had done much to start Jenny on her present adventure, and thought of her as an unbidden intruder, impudent, cunning, false, and selfish. She secretly gnashed her teeth at her, and lay in wait to expel her. After a sufficiency of this firing up, she all at once broke through the crust and uttered herself like a volcano.

“I don’t know what your mother would say to all this,” she began abruptly. Not that she meant to be abrupt ; in her excitement it seemed to her that much had been said already ; that Jenny and everybody else must know what was upon her mind.

“All what?” demanded the young lady, her eyes opening wide at this sound of coming tempest. She knew, like all Hartland, that Mrs. Chester was a tartar ; but she was, nevertheless, surprised by the lunge now made at her ; in fact, Mrs. Chester was capable of surprising anybody.

“ O, of course,” sneered the old coquette, not to be foiled by the supposed arts of a young coquette.

“ I don’t understand you, Mrs. Chester,” declared Jenny, drawing herself up with the hauteur of self-respect, and looking her assailant firmly in the face.

“ Then it’s my duty to make you understand,” was the reply of a woman whose reason was dragging at the heels of her emotion. “ I think that, considering you are not at home, you are flirting pretty smartly.”

“ You must be joking ! ” said the astounded girl. “Why, you brought me here to — what do you mean ? ”

“ I mean what I say,” returned Mrs. Chester, perfectly ready to quarrel and fit to go to a maison de santé. “ You are flirting scandalously.”

“ Why, you old wretch ! ” exclaimed Jenny, suddenly and furiously indignant.

“ Old ! — wretch ! ” gasped Mrs. Chester, looking as if a strait-jacket would be a blessing to her.

“Where is Mr. Beaumont?” demanded Jenny, quite as angry and not a bit intimidated. “ I want to see Mr. Beaumont.”

Mrs. Chester quailed as a lunatic might who should hear his keeper called for.

“ He is not at home,” she asserted, which happened to be the case, although she did not know it.

Jenny marched away with the swing of an insulted hoyden ; called for her dressing - maid and had her trunks packed ; evaded Kate’s questions as to the cause of her departure ; begged the loan of the Beaumont coach, and drove home. On the way she cried a little, and clenched her small fist a number of times, and laughed hysterically more than once.

Thus ended Jenny’s visit to the Beaumonts ; but short as it was, it had brought about one important result ; it had led Kate’s sister to see the value of Kate’s lover. That very afternoon, even while Jenny Devine was having her wickedness borne in upon her by Mrs. Chester, Nellie had said to the young man, in her characteristically frank way, “ How much have you changed in the last week ? ”

“ Not one bit,” was the earnest and honest reply.

“Then I withdraw my opposition,” declared Nellie. “ You may succeed, if you can.”

“ I shall speak to her now,” returned Frank, his heart throbbing as if it were of volcanic nature and communicated with the internal earthquake forces.

“ Oh ! ” gasped Mrs. Armitage, quailing a little under the suddenness of the thing, and wishing, as all women do, to prolong a spectacle of courtship. “ O, so quick ? But you must see my father first,” she added, recollecting that obstacle, likely, as she knew, to be no obstacle at all. “ You surely will see him first ? ” she begged, feeling that she had no right to command a man who was invested with the great authority of love. “ And he is not at home.”

“ I shall wait for his return,” was the decision of a true lover.

J. W. DeForest.