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of the city. They entered an arbor and were seated on a rustic seat, in front of which gushed a pure spring of water that sent a rill bubbling along at their feet, among trailing vines and flowers. “How quiet and secluded ?" said Preston, as they entered this little bower.
“ This is a favorite retreat of mine,” said Eda, as she took a silver cup from beneath the seat, and filling it with water from the fountain, offered it to Charles. Preston took the cup and drank.
“ This reminds me of the country,” said Preston, except that in drinking from the natural spring, we were wont to use a leaf.”
“A leaf?” said Eda, “In what manner?"
“You have offered me fresh water from nature's pure fountain, in a silver vessel upon which art has inscribed his skillful handiwork ; I will offer you from the same fountain in a vessel fresh from the hand of nature.”
Thus saying, Charles plucked a large green leaf from the overhanging bough of a Linden tree, which he formed into a tunnel shaped cup, filled it with water at the spring and presented it to the daughter of the millionaire. She smiled, took the cup, and drank the water. Mr. Wilson smiled, and looked on in silence.
“How primitive ?” said Eda, and continued: “How few, indeed would be our wants, if we could only content ourselves with the absolute necessaries of life."
“ True," replied Preston, “but, society is a tyrant that rules with an iron will and a golden sceptre; and, woe unto him who refuses to submit to his sway, or, is condemned to servile offices, because he has not the means of conforming to the conventional demands of the
A servant came and informed Mr. Wilson that Mr. Leddington, the banker, was in the library and wished to see him on pressing and important business.
Mr. Wilson excused himself to Charles and left Eda and him alone.
Charles sat in silence. He was alone with the object of his love. He was the victim of conflicting impulses. He shrank from his situation, and yet, was impelled to throw himself at her feet, and open the great secret of his bosom before her. He remembered the counsels of his mother, and the suggestions the Countess Mont Martre, to disclose his secret, confess his love, and offer his hand.
“You can but be rejected,” the language of his mother, then rung in his ears, and he became irresolute. Then like far-off music came to his memory the dying words of John Gimlett, “Eda Wilson, she loves you, I know she does.” But, he reflected again, and a cloud came across his mind as he remembered her resolution to remain single.
Neither had spoken since the departure of Mr. Wilson. Preston looked at Eda for the first time since they were left alone. She sat upon the other end of the rustic seat. The leaf from which she had quaffed the water a few minutes before, still lay in her lap, partially covered with petals of the clematis flowers which she was picking to pieces and letting fall upon it. Her head was bowed, and her blonde ringlets hung in rich clusters about her neck and cheeks.
Preston studied the picture before him several minutes before he spoke. At last a ray of the setting sun stole through the umbrage, illuminating her cheek and forehead with a transparent rosy tint, and bathing her flowing hair with a golden richness.
“You are destroying a beautiful flower, Miss Wilson," said Preston, as Eda plucked another clematis from the vine beside her, and commenced to pick the delicate azure petals from it.
Eda suddenly started as Preston spoke, and recalled her from that mental absence into which she had fallen, and replied to his remark by saying:
• Many a beautiful thing is thoughtlessly destroyed in this mysterious journey of life in which we find ourselves. But, I will repent now, and destroy no more of these flowers."
“ "No, we should bind up and not destroy. Everything is worth saving. The odor of these crushed flowers cannot be recalled, or gathered together again."
“What becomes of the perfume of flowers, Mr. Preston? do they die, like mortal things ? or are they dissolved and mingled in the atmospheric elements ?”
“Your questions elicits a thought that can only be answered in eternity, for, it strikes me, that the perfume of flowers is like the hearts pure young affection; they cannot be recalled when once scattered and wasted, but live on though unrequited. In tracing our being, from the shadows of a divine nature which we find in ourselves, with our tender emotions and affections, back to the infinite source of that being, we meet with many problems beyond our solution and above our comprehension. When we regard pure love as the odor of the heart, the perfume of our natures, the divine essence of our being, we appear to ourselves but a little lower than the angels; but without this sanctifying essence, we at once sink to a degree but a little above the clouds."
Eda made no reply. Preston noticed that her face was Aushed, and that her hand trembled as she attempted to re-form the cup from the leaf she had taken from her lap.
“It seems to me," continued Charles, “ that that eternity which no one's comprehension can embrace nor reason grasp, commences with us here, and that in this life we shape ourselves and adapt our natures for our eternal destiny."
" It cannot be otherwise, Mr. Preston," said Eda, in a low and tremulous voice.
“ Then,” continued Charles, “ if we drag a miserable existence of disappointed affections, and unrequited love through our three-score and ten years of mundane life,or rather though the morning of eternity, what hope can we have of felicity and beatitude at its celestial noon tide? will our love be reciprocated up there? or are we to mingle the bitterness of its disappointments in the cup of eternal progressions ? Will the heart that cannot respond to our emotious of love in the morning of being change its nature and its tender impulses in eternity, wed itself to our being and mingle its destiny with ours?"
Charles again looked at Eda, a tear stood on either cheek, while her fingers were nervously crimping into form the serrated edges of the linden leaf.
“Miss Wilson,” said Charles, “pardon me, I did not intend to give you pain."
Eda dropped the leaf from his fingers, and burst into tears, as she arose to her feet in deep confusion, and, in broken sentences, replied:
"Pardon me, Mr. Preston, for allowing my feelings to be betrayed into this weakness—but your picture of the future, your eternity without love, your-your-life without-your-"
" Eda Wilson!” said Preston, approaching her.
“ Charles Preston ! said Eda, as he took her hand and raised it to his lips. Eda's head was bowed, her tears ceased to fall, she trembled as Charles placed his lips to her ear and whispered,
“Will you requite my love, and bless my life and my eternity, that I have so long regarded as hopeless ?”
Eda looked up into his face with a smile of affection, and, as she dropped her head upon his bosom, said:
“Charles, I am yours for life and eternity.”
It was quite dark when Charles and Eda reëntered the mansion of Mr. Wilson. Eda retired te her chamber. Preston entered the library just as Mr. Leddington was shown out.
Preston was seated. The banker was thoughtful. Both sat in silence some minutes. At length Charles spoke.
At length Charles spoke. He commenced by saying:
“Mr. Wilson, I desire a few confidential words with you upon a subject of the greatest importance to me."
Mr. Wilson turned to Charles in surprise at his undecided and hesitating manner so different from his usual habit of conversation.
“ Proceed Mr. Preston, I am ready to hear you,” returned Mr. Wilson.
“ The events of an hour may change one's purposes of life. Yesterday I had resolved to quit your employment and travel in Europe. My purposes are changed this evening. I am about to place my destiny in your hand and make you its arbiter.”
The banker sat forward in the easy chair in which he had been reclining, and stared at Preston in undisguised astonishment. Preston hesitated and returned the look with one of enquiry.
“Proceed Mr. Preston," said the banker.
“I have loved your daughter ever since my first acquaintance with her, without even presuming to expect a reciprocation of my affection, and with the intention to keep my secret and live a life of celibacy. Within the last hour my sentiments of affection have forced themselves into expression, and I find that your daughter most affectionally responds to them; I have, therefore, presented myself before you
“ To ask her hand,” said the millionaire, springing to his feet, throwing his arms around Preston and embracing him.
“God bless you my son!” said Mr. Wilson, “take her, she shall be yours .
and make you happy. Take her. You have saved me from the fire, and now you come to bless me, and to crown my old
with happiness. Thank God! after all, I have lived to some purpose, -10 some good purpose !”
Mr. Wilson resumed his seat and wept like a child. At a moment when least expected to him, a life that had been burdened with sapless boughs and withered leaves, suddenly bloomed and fructified. When he expected a harvest of bitter apples in his old age, he plucked rich golden fruit. His life of disappointments had proved so fruitless of joys that the realization of this first fruit of his golden harvest which was but the earnest of an abundant harvest home, was more than he was prepared to receive and quite overcame him.
Like as a tender mother does her child, he took Charles's hand in his and pressed it affectionately. He sat near him and leaned his head against his shoulder.
When Mr. Wilson entered his library, after having left his daughter and Preston in the arbor, he found the elder Leddington awaiting him.
“ How d'ye do, Wilson?” said Leddington.
Mr. Wilson bowed in return without opening his lips, or removing his hat.
“ Come be seated,” said his visitor, without rising, at the same time pushing a chair towards his host.
“I thank you, sir," said Mr. Wilson, bowing, and continued: “ If you have any business with me at this unusual hour, Mr. Leddington, I will thank you to announce it without further ceremony."
“I have come, sir, for a final answer to the proposition with which I honored you in the early part of the season. Is my son to marry your daughter.
“He is not, sir. You have a final answer," said Mr. Wilson, again bowing.
“Why not? I would like to know," interrogated Leddington.
“Mr. Leddington you have received your final answer, and allow me to say that this is a subject which admits of no argument, and which I will not discuss with you."
“Wilson hear me," said Leddington, rising to his feet, “by this decision you doom me to ruin and disgrace.”
“ In what manner?”
“ I will confess to you that I am on the eve of bankruptcy,” replied Leddington, “and were you to consent to this marriage and advance twenty-five thousand dollars of the girl's dowry, that sum might be made available in meeting certain liabilities which must, otherwise, involve me in ruin.
“Mercenary villain!” rejoined Mr. Wilson, “ Is this the proposition with which you have seen proper to honor me? Were I to order you to leave my house, the rudeness would be excusable, after such an insult."
“Wilson, if you are determined to reject this proposition, then lend me twenty-five thousand dollars until I can make some turn to my advantage." How can it be possible," asked Mr. Wilson, that
should fail so suddenly? It was claimed by you recently that you were worth a million. What has become of this vast sum ?”
“ To you I confess the truth. I never had half of it. I made some money during the war, and I also contracted some liabilities in Boston and New York, which I had the indiscretion to ignore, they being with parties whose opposition to the Colonial government would not permit them to make a claim against me as I supposed, I came to this city to get out of their way. They now present their claims with