THE GHOST.

BY FRANCES HENSHAW BADEN

Peeping through the leaves of the vine-covered bower, and watching eagerly the path through the woods, was a beautiful little maiden. An anxious look was in her deep blue eyes, as pressing her hands over her heart, as if to stop its heavy beating, she said:

"Oh, why does he not come? How long a time! If he had good news, I know he would come quicker. Oh, I have not a mite of hope!"

The pretty lips quivered then, and she stepped back, and sank on the mossy seat.

A moment after a sound, slight as the dropping of leaves, caught her ear. She sprang up, and for an instant a bright light shone in her eyes, but quickly died away, as the slow, heavy step came nearer, bringing to sight a tall, noble-looking young man, whose face, if less stern, would have been very handsome.

Without speaking, he clasped her outstretched hand and drew her within his arms, shaking his head sadly.

"I felt it was so, or you would have come sooner," the maiden said, resting her head against his shoulder.

"I had little, if any, hope, Susie. I went this last time because you bade me to."

"What did father say, Frank?"

"Over and over the same old story of having, since your babyhood, intended you to be the wife of his friend's son. Oh, if I were wealthier, it would be all right, I know," Frank said, his dark eyes flashing.

"Don't talk so, dear, please. I do not like to hear you impute a wrong motive to my father. I will never, never listen for one moment to any words of love from George Forrester, or any other man but you, Frank. So you may be sure, if papa will not let me marry you, I will never marry at all," Susie said, her eyes full of tears, looking up to his.

"Susie, I have made three appeals to your father during the year past; each time finding him, if possible, more determined to oppose our happiness. I will never humiliate myself again, and he will never yield. Now what will you do?"

"Wait, hope and pray. I can do nothing more," Susie answered, in a tearful voice.

"Yes, Susie, darling, you can, and secure our immediate happiness. You can come with me, be my own true wife, love."

"No—no—no. I cannot. I should not secure our happiness. I should be miserable, and make you so."

"Then I have nothing more to hope for. He will not give you to me, and you will not come. Oh, Susie, how can you send me off? You know you are all the world to me! If I lose you, I lose everything. I am alone in the world. There are many loved ones to comfort your father, until he comes to his better nature and calls you back to his heart. Susie, am I to leave you forever?"

The beautiful dark eyes were looking into his, filled with so much love. How could she resist?

"No—no. I shall die, if you leave me—never to come again! Oh, what am I to do? I love you better than my own life, Frank, indeed I do! But, father—oh, how can I desert him? He loves me more than the other children. I am the oldest, his first child, and so like what mother was. That is why he loves me so. And now she has gone, I should stay—"

"And break your heart and mine, too, Susie?"

"If I thought, Frank, you would not mind it very long—"

"You would give me up! And, in time, get into your father's way of thinking, and end by marrying the man he wants you to," Frank said, withdrawing his arm and turning away with a great sigh.

"Oh, Frank, how can you talk to me so?"

"Well, Susie, it is useless prolonging our sorrow. I had better say good-by, and go forever."

"No, no, Frank, dear love. Oh! what am I to do?"

"Be happy, my own, and make me so. Be my wife before I return to W—-. Go with me. Susie, your mother loved me. I know, if here, she would plead for me."

"Yes, she loved you, and perhaps in her blessed home she will pity me, and win for me forgiveness, alike from heavenly as earthly father, if longer my heart cannot resist my love," Susie sobbed, dropping her golden head on her lover's bosom and promising all he wished.

"The last night at home," she said. "On the morrow I must go forth, to return no more, the loving, dutiful child. Should he ever consent to have me come back, I can never be again what I once was to his heart. I shall have broken the trust he held in me," Susie moaned.

Tenderly the brother and sister were ministered to, her hand resting on each little head, as their lisping voices followed hers in the evening prayer. Willie and Emma arose, their demure faces lifted to receive the good-night kiss. But Rosie, the two-and-a-half-year baby, the dying mother's sacred charge, wound her tiny arms about the elder sister, and with baby-like perversity hung on, lisping:

"Now Susu pay, too. Pease, Susu. Do!"

The baby plead; and Susie, raising her eyes to Rosie's, felt mother, not far away, but near, very near, and pleading through her child.

The sunny head was dropped again, and Susie prayed—even as Rosie had begged her. Prayed for guidance to the better way.

Three pair of little pattering feet were resting. Three rosy faces pressed the downy pillow, and Susie's evening task was done.

Gently she stole away.

"I will go to father myself, to-night. I will plead with him until he must yield," Susie said, as cautiously closing, the door of the nursery she entered her own room.

The evening was oppressive, and Susie's black dress became very uncomfortable. Flitting about, guided by the moonbeams, she sought for something of lighter texture. The mourning robe was laid aside, and a dress, white and fleecy, wrapped her slender form. The clustering ringlets were smoothed back, and rolled in a heavy coil high on the back of her head.

"Now I will go down. Father will be alone at this hour, and—" She paused, raised her sweet eyes upward, and clasping her hands she murmured, "Mother in heaven, plead for me."

Noiselessly she opened the door and glanced into the room. Her father sat with his back toward her, leaning on a table over which were scattered books and papers. In his hand he held the picture of her mother. She drew back a little, still, however, standing within the door. She dared not interrupt the sacred privacy of the hour. The rustle of her garments, light as it was, must have caught his ear, for his bowed head was raised.

"Mary! my wife! my own!" he cried, starting forward, with extended arms. "Thank God for granting me one glimpse of you again!"

Susie, awed and trembling, raised her eyes to see clothed as in life, the same sweet, gentle face, the rippling hair, caught back from the smooth, clear brow.

"Mother!" she breathed forth.

The room was lighted only by the moonbeams; but the vision was plainly seen. Another eager glance, and Susie stole away to her own room, and sank almost fainting into her mother's chair. A little while, and grown calmer, she opened her eyes, to see again, directly in front of her, the same vision.

She started forward, stretching out her arms, and calling softly, "Mother."

Nearer—nearer she drew, until, face to face, she stood beside the large mirror in front of which she had seated herself.

Unwittingly in one of her mother's dresses she had robed herself, and gathered her curls in the manner her mother was accustomed to.

"How very, very like her I am! Yes, now I know: father saw me in the mirror opposite which I stood. Well, I will not break his sweet delusion. I meant it not, Heaven knows. Oh, if mother could only come to him—in dreams, perhaps—to plead for me! I cannot desert him, I cannot; I dare not! But Frank—oh, how can I give him up! I will give up neither, but clinging to both loved ones, will trust to Heaven for a happy decision."

With this determination she sank to sleep, sweet and undisturbed.

Early next morning, as usual, she was in the breakfast-room, ministering to the little ones clustering around her. The father's frown had lost its accustomed sternness, as he stood regarding his eldest child. A gentle, sympathetic light was in his eyes as they rested on the sweet face grown older, much, in those days of anxious care. How matronly she looked! So patiently listening to, and answering every wish of the little ones.

At last they were all satisfied; and Susie seeing, as she thought, her father deeply interested in the morning paper, stole away to the trysting-place.


"I cannot leave him, Frank. Indeed, I never can without his blessing resting on me. No, no!" she cried, as she saw the disappointed and stern expression of her lover's face, "I have tried, in vain, to make my mind up to it. How can I give up either? loving you both so well."

"You have trifled with me, Susie; you have broken your promise, too. You will, most likely, never see me after this morning, if I go from you. Are you determined?"

"Yes, dear, dear Frank, I am determined not to go unless father blesses and bids me go. I will trust my happiness to him, and God, who ruleth all things," Susie answered, looking very sorrowful, notwithstanding her faith.

"Then, good-by."

She raised her face, pale and pleading, to his:

"Kiss me good-by, Frank, and say, 'God bless me,' please," she whispered.

He did as she pleaded, but there was an injured air in his manner. As he parted from her, she sprang after him, crying:

"Forgive me, Frank, if I have wounded you. Know that to me it is worse. One little parting look of love, darling!"

"Oh, Susie, how can you?" He pressed her again to his heart, looked lovingly enough: but his eyes, as plain as words could, repeated Tennyson's lines:

"Trust me all in all,
Or not at all."

And, determined to make one more appeal, he said:

"Susie, darling! love! trust me for happiness. You will never repent it. Come!"

"No, no. Go!"

He turned off quickly, angrily then; and Susie sank, sobbing, on the grass.

"My daughter!"

She raised her eyes, heavy with tears. Beside her, with a sad but kind and gentle face, her father stood. With him, a puzzled, doubtful expression on his features, her lover.

"Oh, Frank, I am so—so glad to see you again!" she cried, with as much joy beaming in her eyes as though their parting had been for years.

"Yes; as it is so very long since you saw him last!" her father said, with a pleasant smile.

"I feared it would be for years, perhaps forever," Susie said, in a low voice, anxiously regarding her father, and longing to beg an immediate explanation of her lover's return.

"My daughter, what did you intend to do after sending off this young man? Be a dutiful child, and wed as I wish you?"

"Never, never, father! I intend to be dutiful only so far as not wedding against your wishes, that is all—to leave the future to God, only praying constantly that some blessed influence may be sent to change your mind and heart," Susie answered, raising her eyes to his, filled with earnest determination.

"Your prayers must have commenced already, my child. Some influence hath surely been sent—some blessed influence, I truly believe. Yes, my child, you will wed to please your father. Here, Frank, take her. I ought to scold you for trying to coax her from me. I heard it all this morning. But I forgive you for her sake, and bless you, too, boy, for the sake of the one in heaven who loved you. There, there, daughter, don't choke me with your kisses. Take her off, Frank, and make her happy. She is a good child, and will make a true and loving wife. God bless you both, my children!"

And so ended Susie's intended elopement.