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A CHAIN TO WEAR.
BY ADELINE TRAFTON.
"Он, you are going out!" exclaimed Clary in a tone of disappointment, as Katey passed her open door, an hour after tea, dressed for the street.
"Yes," Katey replied. She would not say "to church," though the words sprang to her lips. She felt that she should not go to church. Then she went on hurriedly, lest Clary should question her further. As she crossed the music-room, the door at the foot of the stairs which led to the dormitories above opened, and some one brushed past her. It was Miss Wormley, attired in her hat and shawl, and evidently on her way to the street. The sight brought a momentary surprise, for Miss Wormley, Katey knew, was in the habit of gathering the girls upon her hall into a Bible class, Sabbath evenings. The library was empty, the door of the school-parlor was half open; before one of the windows stood Miss Wormley, who had not yet gone out, fastening her glove. But Katey. did not glance in. She opened the outer door and descended the high steps. No one was in sight; the sky was overcast, and already the twilight had gathered. What if she should miss him, after all? She moved slowly up the street, hearing the faint echo of a step in the distance. Did it follow her? It drew nearer, gaining upon her each moment. It was Dacre, she knew now, and she turned to meet him. He took her hand and laid it in his arm without speaking. Even in the dim light she could see how haggard and worn and changed was his face. He was hunted, she knew. Even now his pursuers might be upon his track. Involuntarily she drew near to him. Lights were beginning to shine in the windows along the street, where the curtains were not yet drawn. There were mothers with children in their arms, there were children alone, and once she caught a glimpse of two lovers, sitting within the circle of soft light, with clasped hands and heads bent close together, while Dacre and she wandered on up the deserted street in the dreary darkness. Did he wait for her to speak?
"I have had a letter from Delphine," she said at last.
Her hand was within his arm. She felt him start.
"She told a hard story, I'll warrant," he said doggedly.
"She told no story at all. She referred to-to what had happened as though I knew it already; and she said
That I did it," broke in Dacre. "I had nothing to do with it. I tell you, Katey, I knew nothing at all about it until it was over."
Some one passing upon the other side of the street paused, as if to listen, as the excited voice rose above the stillness of the Sabbath night.
"Oh, come away;" and Katey hastened her steps. "Do come away;" and she drew him on up the street. Had some one followed them? But no; the step sounded again upon the walk over the way, slowly retreating.
"What did she say, then?"
"But I was ten miles from the place."
So these were his associates! A companion of thieves! "And these were your friends!" she said. "Oh, Dacre! Dacre!"
"Yes, I know," he answered moodily, you are prejudiced, like every one else. But a man must have some friends, and they are not so bad, after all. Poor Katey !" he went on more gently. "I would have kept it from you if I could. I might, but for Delphine's cursed interference. The world has cast me off, Katey. I stand upon one side and you upon the other. There is a sea between us.'
Because you have drifted away. Come back. Oh, it is so cruel! it breaks my heart!" she cried. They had gone on without aim or purpose, turning into one street after another, and descending the hill again at last. The wall of the school garden, which Dacre had scaled the night before, rose beside them now. Katey's violent sobs attracted the attention of a plainly-dressed woman who looked back as she passed. Dacre drew her across the street, where no flaring light lit up the
darkness. Here was a church in process of erection. The confusion of brick and stone rendered the walk impassable. They threaded their tortuous way to the great arched door, where they could find a shelter and a screen. Katey sank down upon the stone threshold and buried her head in her arms. "Don't; " Dacre said impatiently, laying a heavy hand upon her shoulder, "I hate to see a woman cry."
She strove hard to control herself. She raised her face, all wet with tears. "It was the disappointment and the pain," she said. "I thought it would be different, and it is so dreadful to bear. Try to be patient with me, Dacre; it is all so dreadful to bear."
"Why don't you curse me and wash your hands of me, then, like the rest of them?"
He did not mean to be cruel; he was beside himself with remorse and anxiety and a shame he would not own.
"How could I?" she replied, with a kind of wonder in her eyes.
His face dropped into his hands. He was not ashamed to be ashamed at last. "I am not worth one of your tears," he said. "I will tell you the truth now, if never again. You are wild to care for me. It can bring you nothing but unhappiness. Forget that you ever knew me; leave me to go to my own place alone. I shall find it soon enough," he added bitterly.
"It is too late for that, unless-are you tired of me, Dacre? Am I a burden to you?"
"Tired of you! Good God! Katey, don't tempt a man. Think a moment. Let me be honest with you for once. Think what all this will bring upon you. If you keep faith with me, there will be a secret to carry,-for years, perhaps; and what a reward at last!-to bear my name and share in my disgrace!"
She shook her head. "I cannot give you up."
"Then come away with me," he exclaimed, stretching out his arms to her. "Marry me to-night. Before morning I must be miles from here. What do you care for those stupid prigs over there?" motioning towards the school. "What are they to you? Nothing at all. Jack and Delphine have their own interests; you are alone in the world. Come!"
Why should she not? Had not Delphine made the path plain before her feet? And Jack was lost to her now; he had
Josie Durant. As for the disgrace that would follow-the handsome, passionate, pleading face, turned towards her with the outstretched hands, made that to weigh as a straw only in the balance. There are moments when the world seems to drop away, leaving two to stand alone, moments when worldly opinions count for nothing. How would it be with him? How with her? That was all.
"Tell me," she said, "should we go alone, you and I? Where are these men whom Delphine wrote were with you?"
He hesitated. "Yes, we should go alone. At least, you need never see or know them."
She caught his arm in sudden terror. "They are taking you away!" she said, and her voice was like a cry. They would take you away from me! What could I do against them? O, stay and face it all. If you love me, stay. I would never desert you, not even at the worst."
But you don't know,-you do not realize,-why, Katey, they might put me in prison !"
"How could they, if you were innocent? Or, if they did, it would not be for long. There are worse fates than prisons over innocent men. We wouldn't mind it;" and she drew near to him as she spoke. "Perhaps, then, these dreadful people who lead you on would forget you. And, after a while, we would come out;" she said almost brightly," and go away somewhere, the world is so wide, you know, we'd go away where no one knew us, and begin again. Or, if we chose, since you are innocent, we need not be ashamed to stay, and live it down."
"You true girl!" But he moved away from her. "It cannot be. I told you, Katey, there was a sea between us; and well for you. You are right," he added sadly, "it would be madness for you to go with me. I was a wretch to ask it."
A man had been moving back and forth upon the opposite side of the street, so stealthily that they had not noticed him. As they stepped out from the arched doorway, he went on slowly, giving a low peculiar whistle. Dacre started. "I must go," he said. Again the signal came. It caught Katey's ear. "Do they call you?" she gasped, growing white. "Have they come for you? O, don't go. Don't go. I'll do anything, go anywhere, only don't let them take you away.' She threw her arms about his neck, as though her feeble strength could hold him.
"Hush, hush; it is too late for that," and he strove gently to free himself. "Hush, child; poor girl! Be brave, Katey, for I must leave you now." The street was beginning to fill with people. The churches were out. Katey heard the moving feet upon the walk. She raised her white face. "Then you will go," she said with strange calmness.
"I must ;" and she pleaded no more. As they passed up the side street leading to the house, followed by the dusky figure which had been groping along in the shadow of the wall, a woman's skirt brushed them. A dull, pallid face, with blinking, red-rimmed eyes, was turned towards them for an instant, as Miss Wormley hastened by.
O, what did Katey care if they all saw her-if they all knew? Nothing, at this moment. "Leave me here," she said, when they had reached the corner. She could see that crouching figure over the way,-like an evil spirit dogging their footsteps. But Dacre went on to the high stone steps. "If they see me from the house they'll only think you have a friend, Katey. They will never imagine that I am your worst enemy," he added bitterly.
The figure over the way moved out from the shadow of the doorway, where it had been hidden, and crossed the street towards them. Katey clutched Dacre's arm. He, too, saw it draw near. The last moment had come, the parting more cruel than death-holding out no hope for the future. He caught her cold hands in his as she stood upon the steps above him. "Kiss me, Katey," he said hoarsely. She heeded neither the figure moving towards them, nor the passers upon the street. The windows of the house might be opened wide. What did it matter to her though all the world should see! She stooped and kissed him. "My heart will break," she said. Then in a moment he was gone, the door had closed upon her, and she was flying as though pursued, through the house, across the veranda, up the stairs to her own room.
FAR FROM THE EYES, FAR FROM THE HEART!
THE days were shortening now, and growing cold. A rime covered the grass of the garden in the early morning. The elms had scattered all their leaves, and the
Virginia-creeper against the wall moved thin, bare arms in the chilling autumn wind. The wide veranda was deserted. The girls gathered after school-hours about the high stove in the music-room, or in the wide dormitory halls. In the class-rooms everything moved on with tedious regularity. Katey discharged her duties. with conscientious fidelity, the more from knowing how little of her heart was in them. O, the inexpressible anxiety and yearning of these days! like that of the Apostle, who could wish himself accursed for the sake of his brethren. It seemed to her that she could have borne the torments of the lost, if by that means Dacre might be drawn from the dangers which surrounded him. He had disregarded her prayers and tears; he had chosen to go away from her; he had deliberately taken up with a life which must lead sooner or later to crime. He had joined hands with those who set themselves against society, who hold that any weapons are lawful and fair in the warfare they wage with authority
and, yet, she could not give him up. She looked forward to no happy future, she saw no light in the darkness, and, yet, she held fast to her promise and to him. She could bear not to be happy, she could miss of blessedness if she could only rescue him from the snares which held him. So far she had failed of accomplishing her desire. She had done what she could, and it had not availed. She knew nothing of him now. He had written one brief note, post-marked she could not tell where, full of self-reproach for the wrong he was doing her; but with no hint or suggestion of plans, associates or surroundings. To this she had replied at once, as he desired her to do, under cover of another name, to a town where she was confident he was not. A month had passed since then, and she had heard nothing. She could do nothing but wait-and pray. She had read of men turned in the midst of their sins by a mighty arm. Was it not possible now? O, if she could but have the faith to believe, might it not be so? Many times in the day she breathed this liturgy of confession and supplication. It bore always the same burden, but yet lost never its fervent spirit, and strong desire. But, above all, did she not forget it at church when the whole congregation knelt,-the girls whispering and staring though upon their knees, it seemed as though He would be more inclined to hear and heed when
the minister and the people prayed together.
Professor Dyce marked her in these days, a gray-clad figure, with a face growing whiter and more absorbed every day,slipping away from the table before he had left his place, stealing through the musicroom in the early twilight like a ghost, too unreal to be addressed, who would vanish away if approached.
She seldom came down now to the Friday evening readings when he sat in the desk; but the early morning prayers, when the letters were distributed, always found her in her place-one of the last desks in the room, which no one of the girls had chosen. He felt the great dark eyes fixed upon him with a painfully eager expression as he turned over the pile of letters, reading the name upon each aloud as he spread them out. He knew that the face grew still whiter, the lines about the mouth more tense, as one after another was laid down, even to the last. Then, in the confusion, as the girls rose, she vanished away.
He knew more than she dreamed of his knowing. He had never forgotten the day when he met her upon the street with Dacre Home, when her face told its own story. "Ah! poor girl, is it so ?" he had said to himself, struck by the face, and knowing Dacre Home. He had been inclined to think his pity wasted when he met her again, decked out so fantastically at the Junction; and yet, later, when she appeared so unexpectedly at the school, when, too bewildered to act, he had waited and watched, he had been inclined to doubt again his judgment. Now, reading of this bank robbery, which had been blazoned to the world through the newspapers, and being privately advised that Dacre Home was implicated, though his name had not appeared, he thought, first of all, of the effect upon this inexplicable girl. He marked her uneasiness the night of the school reception, he missed her from the room, and overheard Miss Wormley's malicious comments upon her return. He even interfered to rid her of them, pitying her confusion. He hated himself for unconsciously watching her; he hated Miss Wormley still more for slyly underrating her at every opportunity. The morning after passing Katey and Dacre upon the street that Sabbath evening, when, in fact, suspecting something, and following her, she had seen the meeting, heard Katey's irrepressible sobs, and, peer
ing from the darkened windows of the school parlor, been shocked at the manner in which they parted,-Miss Wormley sought Professor Dyce, and, in the absence of the President, laid the whole matter before him.
He heard her general remarks without suspecting their bearing,-her observations upon teachers who were given to clandestine meetings in the garden, who wept upon the shoulders of young men and kissed them voluntarily at parting,—yes, actually kissed them from the very steps of the house, where any one might see. Then, at last, she spoke Katey's name.
The Professor was sitting before the desk in his study. He had laid down his pen reluctantly to listen to her story. Complaints from Miss Wormley's lips were by no means rare, and he gave little heed to what she was saying. But at the mention of this name he flushed so fierce a red, he sprang so suddenly to his feet, that she started back in dismay.
Woman!" he said in a voice of thunder, "have you no shame? What are Miss Earle's friends to you or me, that we should play the spy upon her?" He pointed to the door and she went out, but not before she had turned, in her anger at being foiled, and vowed to be revenged.
The Professor paced the floor with rapid strides when the door closed after her. He tried not to recall what she had said, but every word, carelessly as he had heard it, stood out now as though in alto-relievo. The various circumstances wove themselves together in his mind, and it was Dacre Home, he knew, whom Miss Wormley had seen with Katey. Was the girl bereft of her senses? Had she no friends to warn her?
The wind and rain beat dismally against the window-panes of the school-room, where, in the chill, gray morning light, the girls had gathered for prayers, the curls pinned up hastily, the pretty feminine fineries not yet assumed, as one after another straggled down from the dormitories above, or ran across the veranda from the other house.
A tall, slight figure, wrapped in a little red shawl, stole down the broad, winding stairs at the end of the room and took its accustomed place before one of the last desks, as Professor Dyce, moving the pile of waiting letters aside, opened the Bible before him to find the morning lesson.
Katey closed her eyes, and, compressing