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you ask her, old fellow. She'd never refuse It was only the night before that he had you. You might take Miss Blossom out, as drunk tea with them, but his visits had once you did the other day, and then turn her been almost daily, and why should they not over to me."
be again ? He had asked to come as he "I might," the captain said, with a grim used. She wiped away her tears, arranged smile.
her dress, and was behind the shabby little " That would be the surest way,” the window watching for their return before lieutenant went on, meditatively.
“ Her the afternoon had half passed away. It mother would never say no to you.
Yes, was almost dark when they appeared, she's a good little girl!"
Captain Elyot swinging Miss Laud's skates He apostrophized her with a sigh, raising and his own, and the latter looking up into a cloud of incense in the silence his com- his face as they came on over the snow panion did not break.
in the gray light, in a saucy, bewitching Captain Elyot did not forget his promise way not pleasant for another woman to to Miss Laud. The afternoon was fine, see—if that other woman chanced to feel a and they spent a long hour on the ice. personal interest in the smiles of the young Claudia watched them set out from behind man, the curtain of her room, where she was hid- They stood a moment, these two, at the den, with a beating heart and a twinge of door, but Miss Bryce had retreated from the jealousy she could not overcome.
window. She did not feel that she could “ What if he asks for you when he compose her countenance to meet Captain calls ? "
Elyot's eye. She listened to their voices, Miss Laud was determined to steer clear however, for their conversation was proof all dangers after her narrow escape the longed for some time after they had gained night before.
the door. A very gay time Kitty was hav“ You had better be ready so that he ing, and without a thought of her! Claudia need not wait,” Claudia had replied calmly. could hardly keep back the tears of vexation "Of course if he asks for me I shall see him. while she hearkened every moment for the But in that case he might feel obliged to door to open. It did open after a time,-a invite me to go with you.”
long time it seemed to her,—but she could “Why, then you would.”
distinctly hear the retreating step of the " Then I would not,” said Claudia, with young man. So he was not coming in, some heat. “Unless-unless there should after all! And with the pang of disappointbe something very particular in his man- ment, sharp as the stab of a knife, her ner,” she added, slowly, upon second friend entered, happy and most inapproprithought.
ately gay and rosy. But there was nothing at all particular in Claudia, I wish you had come out; we his manner when he appeared, unless it was have had a delightful time.” the absence of all interest in Claudia. He “ So I should judge from the sound of did, indeed, ask if she were well, and hoped your voice at the door,” Claudia replied, they should see her on the ice, in a coldly stiffly. “I only hope you have not caught polite tone which struck a chill to the girl's cold standing so long outside.” heart, even through the door against which And Miss Bryce bent over the work in she had placed her ear.
her hand as though life were too short for Why did not Kitty reply? Why did she its completion. not call her ? she thought, with a burst of " Don't be cross, dear,” and Miss Laud tears, throwing herself upon the bed. But laid her rosy face against Claudia's pale Miss Laud had no opportunity to reply. cheek. “How could I help enjoying myHe had taken her skates from her hand with self? Everybody was out, and asked for a "by your leave," and hastened her away, you," she added quickly. Miss Bryce moved for all the world, as Miss Laud said to
her face away.
“And indeed I did invite herself, as though he dreaded Claudia to him in, but he refused. He had promised appear.
to meet some one. It was about some affairs But Miss Bryce did not spend the after at the mess-room I don't understand, but I noon in tears. There was still a shred of heard him make the engagement with Caphope left to her.
tain Luttrell on the ice. So you see, dear, “ Be sure that you ask him to come in it was no flimsy pretext to get off. But why when you return,” she had said to her friend. were you not at the window ? I kept him " You may invité him to tea if you choose.” a moment, thinking you would appear.”
“ How could I stand in the window, as “By no means,' he replied, emphatically. though I were watching for you and him ?” • I never passed an evening further removed Claudia said, relenting a little.
from dullness. She hesitated, blushing faintly.
“ Did he, Kitty ? Did he really say “And did he say anything, Kitty? Did that?” he ask if I were coming out ?"
“Then perhaps you will repeat it,' said “ He asked that before we left the house,” 1. “I'll promise you a better partner another Miss Laud replied.
time."" But there was little comfort in this assur- Claudia waited eagerly for what was to ance, since
Claudia had overheard the come. But here Miss Laud's memory failed inquiry.
her. " And there really was no opportunity," “He thanked me, I know, and added Miss Laud went on hastily as she disrobed. something of having spent many pleasant “ We were never alone a moment."
evenings here." “ But there was the walk home. I am “But did he say he should come again ? sure you came on slowly enough to have You must remember, Kitty, if you
think a talked over everything."
moment." So Claudia had been at the window! “I can't say; I really don't know; and
“ Yes; and he gave me a most amusing yet the impression I received was that he account of a skating experience - " would come.”
But Miss Bryce did not desire its recapit- And with this Claudia was obliged to conulation at this moment.
tent herself. “I know,—with the Slades," she said. “I But days passed on and he did not appear, was there myself.”.
as was said at the beginning of the chapter. But she did not so much as smile at the A heavy rain set in, flooding the ice and remembrance. She could hardly have pa rendering all out-of-door recreation impossitience with the levity of her friend. It was ble. Even visiting was for a time out of the so exaggerated as to seem almost as though question, and Miss Laud yawned and it were assumed. There must be something sighed over the dreary prospect from the more—something held back.
window, and wished herself back in the “And was the sutler's daughter out to- states again. day?"
Claudia watched and fretted in secret. “No; but she sat in the window as we Why did he not come ? Others of the offipassed just now, Claudia ; and she has the
cers dropped in, in spite of the storm. Men sweetest face
for whom she cared nothing braved wind “ Did he see her ?"
and flood to reach them. He, only, staid Claudia forgot her work for a moment. away. Sometimes she doubted her friend.
"To be sure, he did, my dear,—having the Was Kitty deceiving her? She appeared use of his eyes! He took off his hat as though true and ready with sympathy, but to she had been a duchess. I really can't Claudia's sick fancy every face was double. make him out. But I managed to refer
more than a week before the to his visit here last evening, before he left rain ceased and the heaviness hanging me."
over the little company at the fort rolled It was coming at last. This was what away with the clouds. If the cold would Claudia had waited for. She worked on but strengthen now, the skating would be steadily, but her face betrayed her, while finer than ever. Miss Laud ran on as she took off her wraps : Miss Bryce, entering the parlor suddenly
« « I'm afraid you found our game last one afternoon, discovered her friend consultnight rather slow,' said I. Rumor credits ing the thermometer. At Claudia's appearyou gentlemen with playing so high that a ance, Miss Laud reddened. quiet hand at whist with a couple of poor “ It is growing colder,” she said, with players like Claudia and me must be stupid evident embarrassment, walking away from enough.'
the window. “Rumor is a liar,' he answered, quite The cold increased throughout the night. savagely (the young man is certainly not By the second day the ice was pronounced devoid of spirit).
I can at least deny the safe, and every one prepared to enjoy it story for myself.'
after the enforced rest. In default of a more *Then you didn't find it utterly dull ? desirable attendant, Claudia had accepted We were afraid you might,' said I.
Lieutenant Gibbs as an escort.
“But I cannot think of leaving you alone | She saw clearly now that she must gather her all the afternoon,” she said as she settled strength and fight as best she could singleher hat in its place. “ I'll only go out for handed. What were red eyes in such an half an hour. I thought Captain Welles emergency! asked you last night. Why didn't you When Captain Elyot called for Miss Laud accept? So fond of skating as you are, too, (a duty he had nearly forgotten), he found I could not understand your refusal.” her equipped and awaiting him. He had
Miss Laud's back was turned to her been entrapped into asking her again,-if friend. She did not reply at once.
one can be said to be caught who walks “I refused him,” she said presently, with open-eyed into the snare. Her brusque, out turning her head, “because I am odd ways amused him ; her saucy speech expecting Captain Elyot to come for me, could not wound. It could sting, indeed; Claudia
but, as a boy, he had learned to grasp a “What do you mean? When did you nettle boldly. She still persisted in bringing see him to make such an appointment ? ” up Blossom's name; but forewarned now,
Claudia's voice was sharp, and near to he made brief reply, or none at all, to her breaking. But now Miss Laud faced her suggestions and innuendoes. friend.
The river was crowded with skaters. "Not since we went skating together Even Mrs. Bryce had been tempted to try more than a week ago. You may believe her clumsy skill
, and Lieutenant Orme was me, Claudia, I have never seen him since. happy in having Blossom under his care. But he engaged to take me out agairt the Mrs. Stubbs had been cajoled into an first fine day. You remember it looked like unwilling consent at last. a storm that night.”
Claudia and her attendant were already “And you knew it all the time and kept upon the ice when Miss Laud and Captain it back! I would never have thought it of Elyot reached it,--not the angry, tearful you, Kitty. I would never have believed Claudia of an hour before, but Miss Bryce you to be so sly.”
at her best, well-dressed, graceful, almost There was a sudden quaver in Claudia's handsome, and the observed of all. voice, and she burst into tears.
"A charming day, certainly;" she replied "I don't know why you should call me to Captain Elyot's polite greeting, uttering sly," Miss Laud said, with some spirit. “I the words with a smile. would have told you that night but I knew They were almost like the smile and the you would be angry. You were vexed as it words she had bestowed upon him months was because I didn't bring him in. I asked before,-perhaps not exactly the same, but him; what could I do more? And it's at least equal to a photograph of the origlittle enough attention I have received from inal. The amount of will and energy
which your friends. You need hardly begrudge the weakest woman will develop to hide her me this, Claudia. I may as well confess heart is beyond wonder and praise. Do that it isn't at all as I supposed it would be, not call it deceit. It is a natural growth, or what you led me to expect from your letters like porcupine quills, and intended for And my new dresses not so much as taken the same purpose of defense. Captain out of my trunks! I might
Elyot, who had remembered uncomfortably But there came a resounding rap at the the manner in which he had parted from door, and Jinny's head was thrust into the Miss Bryce that night at her door, and had room, putting an end to Miss Laud's words, determined to avoid her since, was set at as well as checking Claudia's tears. Lieu- ease at last. His vanity had deceived him, tenant Gibbs was in the parlor.
he thought to himself; the whole unpleas“ You will never go out. Your eyes are
ant evening had been but an echo of his frightfully red,” said Miss Laud in a more spirit, which was out of tune. Claudia's old composed tone.
charming manner had returned, and he The walls were thin ; what might he not wished Gibbs success with all his heart. I have overheard.
am afraid he was a good deal befogged at But Claudia disdained reply. She bathed this time, and hardly knew headlands from her eyes and smoothed her hair, ruffled by clouds. But the four formed a small circle the pillows where she had taken refuge, for a moment, and nothing could be more re-adjusted her hat and went. At last she amiable or even affectionate than the manbegan to feel something of a roused spirit. ner of the two young ladies. He little She had no one to depend upon but herself. I imagined that they had mentally vowed
never to speak to each other again less than excited tone, waking to find all these strange sixty minutes before, and that he had been faces about her. the occasion of the quarrel.
“ Nothing at all, child. Don't you be He devoted himself to Miss Laud, as in fretted," said her mother, with a strange politeness bound, but his eyes would some quaver in her voice. times follow a slight figure in a fur-lined “ You fell on the ice. They came to see jacket shooting past, with Lieutenant Orme's if you were hurt,” Captain Elyot explained. long legs beside it. Other parties were “ That was kind," said the child, with a dashing by with alarming velocity. Each sweet, faint smile. time, Blossom and her companion seemed Forgiving her enemies with the words, to increase their speed. It was reckless and though quite unconscious that she had any, unsafe; the careless boy was not to be and too weak to try to understand why the trusted with such a charge, he thought, tears came to the eyes of the chaplain's replying absently to his companion, and wife, or why the showy young lady who had tempted to interfere at the risk of angering pressed forward to Captain Elyot's side, the lieutenant. While he hesitated, the should turn away her head. calamity he had foreseen took place. There “Let me stay with you, Mrs. Stubbs," was an exclamation like a cry. The crowd said Mrs. Brown, the chaplain's wife. “I pressed forward to one spot.
can sit by her if you are called away.” “ Stand back! Stand back !" shouted an “ Thank
ma'am, but I reckon I can authoritative voice. “Don't you see that do all that is necessary,” Mrs. Stubbs replied the ice is cracking under your weight !" in & hard tone.
It was the major, who had just come. The grace of forgiveness was not hers, and
The circle widened suddenly and broke. she remembered that this woman had slighted As it parted, Elyot saw a little motionless Blossom. They stole away one after another. form, a dark heap, about which the others The major, even, had pressed into the room had gathered. There had been a collision to see how it fared with the child, though between the mad racers, and Blossom had neither Mrs. Bryce nor Claudia had followed.
Before any one could raise “You'll be quite well in the morning," he her, he had dashed into the circle, lifted her said kindly, patting her brown curls. in his arms, and was skating toward the “I am quite well now," Blossom replied. shore, ignoring Lieutenant Orme, who, upon “ I think I could sit up." his knees beside her, was tugging wildly at But Mrs. Stubbs gathered her in her strong the straps of his skates. The boy followed arms and bore her off to her bed. him as speedily as possible, as did most of the company, for she lay like one dead in
CHAPTER XIII. the young man's arms. The afternoon's
" THO' FATHER AN' MITHER AN' A' SHOULD sport was at an end.
GAE MAD." “Will you oblige me by apologizing to Miss Laud and taking her home," Captain Early in the evening Lieutenant Orme Elyot said, coldly, to the young lieutenant, crept around to the store. He looked with who came up as the former was having his longing eyes toward the parlor door, but it skates removed.
was not to open for him. The poor lieutenant, terrified and repent- “ How is Miss Blossom ?" he ventured to ant, went off without a word to do his bid- ask of Mrs. Stubbs, who stood like a grim ding, while Captain Elyot carried Blossom image of justice behind the scales. home to her mother. Any one of the women Thank God! she was not dead, or even who had regarded her so superciliously a desperately ill, or her mother would not be moment before, would have gladly done here. something for the poor little thing now. “ Blossom ?" repeated Mrs. Stubbs, in an Some one offered to run on and prepare unpleasant voice. “She's but poorly, sir." Mrs. Stubbs. But the dash over the ice had And she poured out the coffee she had begun to revive her already, and by the time been weighing. she was laid upon the fine sofa in her own A chill ran through all his bones. parlor, Blossom had opened her eyes. Half “ It was my fault, I know; but you the company who had witnessed this acci- see dent had crowded into the room or hung The boy would have attempted to excuse about the open door.
himself to her,—though no excuse would “ What is it?” Blossom cried, in an have set him right in his own eyes,—but Mrs. Stubbs, tying up the package and giv- She shut up her book, with the air of ing it into the hands of the purchaser, paid having the lieutenant's head between the no further attention to him.
covers, and descended from her high seat. “Is there nothing more? Thank you,” “But you may go on, Cap'n Elyot; I'll as she handed back the change, for the sut- follow you presently." ler's wife was ceremoniously polite within the And she proceeded to make everything bounds of her business affairs.
tidy and fast for the night, while the cap"Could I do anything?." asked the lieu- tain, after a tap and a pause at the parlor tenant in an awed voice, pressing into notice door, passed on into the room where he was again.
to find Blossom. A pale, soft light shone What if she were to die, after all !
through it from a great lamp on the “ Nothing that I think of now," Mrs. table beside the sofa, and just rising from Stubbs replied coldly, moving off and in- the sofa, in some kind of a loose, white trenching herself behind a great ledger which gown, was Blossom. Was it the pale yelgave her the appearance of having stepped low light or the gown that made her so around a corner, and effectually ended the white ? conference.
“ Don't let me disturb you; I am sure The boy stole away, heavy-hearted and you had better lie down," Captain Elyot full of forebodings. If she were to die! He said, tossing his hat upon the floor, and sat down upon the steps outside for a drawing a chair close to her side. " I have moment. He was too miserable to go back come from Lieutenant Orme, which must to his quarters. Even Captain Elyot had excuse a rather late call. The poor fellow blamed him,-he felt it, though they had dared not come himself. I left him tearing not met since they parted on the ice. And his hair over his carelessness." did Blossom also reproach him? Or—and Oh, he need not do that,” Blossom said he grew sick at heart over the vision his quickly; "it was my own fault, and, indeed, fancy called up-did she lie still and white there is no harm done. I shall be up towith no thought of him at all—too ill for morrow." recollection ? He could not bear the sus- “He heard a most alarming account of pense or the weight of his fears. He would you at the store.” seek Captain Elyot and beg of him to go “I suppose he didn't see mother." and face Mrs. Stubbs, and learn the truth, And Captain Elyot could not contradict even if by so doing he received the full her. There fell a moment's silence between measure of his friend's anger for his care- the two, with the hush that comes at lessness.
night-falla hush of the spirit as well as of A half an hour later, Captain Elyot all confused and laborious sounds that fill strolled into the store.
the working-hours. “And how is Miss Blossom now ?” he Blossom lay back in one corner of the inquired cheerfully. “None the worse for flowered sofa, her cheek against its arm, her fall, I hope."
one hand, with its pink-tipped fingers, just " You may just step in an' see for your showing below the loose sleeve of her gown self, Cap'n Elyot. She's a bit weak an' as it lay on her knee. How frail and sweet trembly yet; but you'll find her in the par- to look at she was this night! It came to lor. She would be brought out; she de- him like a revelation that life would hold clared she could walk; but 'Not a foot do nothing beautiful or dear to him if those you put to the floor this night,' said eyes, languidly open now, should close for1. The surgeon says there are no bones ever,—what it would have been to him if broke, but he's a fool at the best, as they had never opened again. He bent, every one knows. Ah, well, I deserve a with a sudden impulse, and kissed her broken back myself for being talked into hand. trusting her to that rattle-headed
“You gave me an awful fright,” he said, “Don't be hard on Orme. The boy is in a hoarse voice, and with the beating of his frightened enough at what has happened. heart sounding in his ears. He'll be more careful another time; and, There was a hand on the door. It opened, really, it was not entirely his fault. I saw and Mrs. Stubbs appeared. Captain Elyot it all, and
had risen to his feet. His color was height“ Them can risk their lives as choose; but ened, but he stood erect and unabashed. it'll be neither me nor mine," said Mrs. “ Are you going, Cap'n Elyot ?" Mrs. Stubbs in a tone beyond gainsaying. Stubbs asked, suspecting nothing.