University of Virginia Library




“Our youth, our childhood, that spring of springs,
'Tis surely one of the blessedest things,
That nature ever invented.”

Beautiful is the light and pleasant to behold!” and
never did it seem to Alice so beautiful, so pleasant to behold,
as when, brightening the world, it stole slowly and dimly
into her cell. The little doers of evil deeds had shrunk away
into darkness; and yet she waited, and listened two mortal
hours before she heard the sound of footsteps in the corridor.
But she did hear them, and hearing her own name
pronounced, she sprang to the door, turned the bolt, and
rushing out, confronted—Archibald Lisle!

Pardon her, fastidious reader—the truth must be told—
“Oh, Archy!” she exclaimed, and throwing her arms around
his neck, she clung to him as to a dear brother, who had
brought her comfort and help; then, as suddenly retreating,
she covered her blushing face with both hands, and stammered
out apologetically, “I forgot myself—I have been so
dreadfully terrified!”

“Terrified!” exclaimed Lisle, looking fiercely at the turnkey,
“who has molested you?”

Poor Alice hesitated, and in one breath made the short
passage from the sublime to the ridiculous, answering in the
feeblest, meekest tone, “Mice!!” and then looking up and
seeing the too expressive smile on Archibald's lips, and
meeting his laughing eye, she laughed herself, a little hysterically,


Page 144
and looking again, and comprehending at a glance
the change that had passed on Lisle, from a country-bred
youth, fresh from college, to the perfection of ripe manhood,
and seeing in place of the smooth face and the delicately
tinted skin, a countenance consolidated by experience, illuminated
by the habit of keen observation, and yet preserving
an indefinable sweetness and sensibility that her
memory had retained as the charm of its immaturity—
“Mercy!” she thought, “what must he think of me?
How could I rush so into his arms?” “Mr. Lisle,” she began,
with a very sober consciousness—

“Archy, if you please,” he said, interrupting her; “let
me be still Archy, as you must remain `little Alice' to me,
while you continue in peril of life, limb, and reason from a
mouse, just as you were when you ran shrieking out of your
mother's pantry.”

“A mouse! Why there were droves of the horrid creatures;
but it was not altogether my terror that made me so

“Affectionate in your welcome? Now don't take that
back, dear Alice.”

“No, indeed!” she said, giving him her hand; “I am
very, very glad to see you, so glad that I forgot it was seven
years since we parted, and that I am no longer a little girl,
and you no longer the very young man who was almost as
familiar and dear in our home, as the brother we loved and
mourned together. You know you almost took that brother's
place, and it was on the strength of that feeling that
we appealed to you in our present strait—and how kind of
you to come so soon.”

“Ah, dear Alice, your reasons are excellent, your instincts
were better. Now let me know all that has happened to
Max. I have only partly learned it from the officer here. I
need no assurance of his innocence.”


Page 145

While her brother, who had just been awakened by the
turnkey's thundering rap at his door, was hurrying on his
clothes, Alice briefly detailed the particulars. She was disturbed
at Archibald vehemently biting his nails while he
listened, an old inevitable trick of his, as she remembered,
when any thing seriously disturbed him. “Do you think it
very bad?” she concluded.

“We will try to make it better,” he replied, turning from
her to enter Max's cell, and to receive his affectionate welcome,
demonstrated without any of the lets and hindrances
that nature and society put between the sexes. After the
glow of meeting had passed, cares overshadowed Archibald's
brow, and he proposed at once to begin his work by offering
bail for his friend.

“I knew you would do that,” said Max, gratefully, “but
for conscience' sake first send me a breakfast. I never can
work or think till I have had my breakfast. Alice contrived
to procure me a capital supper last evening.”

“Alice! she can do any thing,” rejoined Archibald; “but
confront—mice!” mimicking the low deprecating tone in
which she had uttered that word.

“Oh, that's nothing!” exclaimed Max, rather jealous of
his sister's reputation. “All women, young and old, are just
such geese about mice. I should like you, Archy, to show
me another girl who would have come straightway and alone
to a city where she never was before—on such an errand—
and hitting all her nails on the head too. I say, Alice, you
may be a coward about mice, if you will.”

“I am afraid I can't help it, dear Max; I am a coward
upon instinct.”

“And every thing that's good and noble upon instinct,
dear sister, so let that go for what it will fetch.”

Archibald looked at the brother and sister with a smile,


Page 146
provoked, Alice thought, by the vain-glorying of her brother;
she did not understand it.

Archibald felt the impropriety of Alice prolonging her
stay in her present quarters, and briefly explaining his relations
with the Steinbergs he proposed taking her there.
“Your breakfast, Max,” he said, “must wait till your sister
is comfortably bestowed.”

“What a brute was I not to think of that,” exclaimed
Max; “but that's just me, I never think. I could fast a
week for you, dear Alice, when once it was put into my
head. Go with Archibald, and as soon as I am bailed out I
will come to you.”

So they parted.

The unintermitting necessity of hard work, and the intervention
of illness and absence had prevented, for some years,
Lisle's often anticipated visits to Mapleton. When last he
saw Alice there, she was a mere child—Arthur's pet and
plaything, and his. “Eye-bright,” they called her from the
resemblance of the color of her eye to the little star-flower
sprinkled, like dew-drops over all the green-sward of our
northern country. The result of his first scrutiny on meeting
her was not flattering, “The sparkle of her childhood is
gone,” thought he. “I expected to see her taller. The eye
retains its lovely color, but it lacks lustre, and there is about
her hair and dress altogether an unbecoming negligence.
Her mother's disdain of personal decoration, tells sadly
on her.” Lisle forgot to make allowance for the muss and
soil of railroad travel, for the weariness, warring, watching,
and weeping of thirty-six hours. He compared her, perhaps
unconsciously, with his fixed standard of beauty. Certainly,
Alice had not the height, the unconscious and consummate
grace, or the brilliancy of coloring that characterized her
friend, nor those irradiations of countenance that convey


Page 147
thought and feeling with the electrical swiftness of the telegraph.
Lisle was but a man, and he was, even yet, with all
his struggles and convictions, a lover, and, therefore, must
be pardoned his susceptibility to the external. His reflections
did justice to the intensity of Alice's devotion to her
brother, and to her clear-headedness. A man admires that
quality in a woman the more that it surprises him. His zeal
and his fears were quickened by her presence. Alice felt
strong in the innocence of her brother; Lisle knew it must
be proven to those who had no such faith. After installing
Alice in the comfortable quarters to which the Steinbergs
had removed, he decided to inform Miss Herbert of her
arrival in town. Lisle was now deeper in the world than
when he wore his frock-coat to Mrs. Jones's dinner, and
previous to presenting himself before Miss Herbert, he repaired
to his own lodgings to perform his morning toilet.
In this process he cast aside the traveling coat in which lay
perdu the letter he had received at his country home from
the village doctor. This letter containing some interesting
matter, was destined to remain unread till another crisis of
his life.

Walter Herbert was coming down stairs, when he heard
Lisle's voice inquiring for his niece. He hobbled down at
his utmost speed, grasped Archibald's hand with both his,
and with a face so joyous that it recalled to Lisle its utterly
bereft expression when he last saw him. “Come up
stairs,” he said, “to my room. What on earth were you
away for at this particular time? Oh, I know. God forbid
that I should forget that poor little girl's fate; and the
sorrow to you. I was dreadfully shocked. But, my dear
fellow, I am too happy now to remember griefs—the
world's a flash of sunshine!”

“What can this mean?” thought Lisle. Of course it
could only mean the rupture of Grace's engagement.


Page 148
“Saved from drowning” would have been nothing, in comparison,
to Walter Herbert. But he was prevented by that
ubiquitous woman, his sister-in-law, to whom her servant
had conveyed Lisle's inquiry. She opened the door of
the breakfast-room, and called out in her officious tone,
“Oh, good morning, Mr. Lisle, you wish to see Miss
Grace?” (“The devil take her,” muttered Uncle Walter
between his teeth. Excuse him, he was an old-fashioned
man.) “She is with Mrs. Tallis,” continued the lady. “She
has lost her only child—quite a severe affliction; and her
husband was absent at the time—an aggravation, you know;
and she has no near friends, and Grace and she were schoolmates;
she has gone to stay with her till the funeral is over.”

“There is dreadful misery there,” murmured Walter
Herbert, while Lisle, with forced politeness, listened to the
garrulous woman, and was turning to go, when Mr. Herbert

“You are in a prodigious hurry. Will you come back
before dinner?”

“Before dinner, if I can.”

“It must be before dinner, Lisle, for I must see you,
and I am going up the river immediately after dinner.”

“Then sir, it shall be before dinner, if possible.”

But Lisle did not find it possible, and Uncle Walter was
compelled to go off with the secret of Grace's temporal salvation
unimparted, and Lisle was left to blunder on.