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The unseen bridegroom


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Title:TheUnseenBridgegroom
or,WeddedForaWeek
Author:MayAgnesFleming
ReleaseDate:May22,2005[EBook#15875]
Language:English

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THEUNSEENBRIDEGROOM
OR,



WEDDEDFORAWEEK
BYMAYAGNESFLEMING
CHAPTERI.--THEWALRAVENBALL.
CHAPTERII.--"CRICKET."
CHAPTERIII.--MR.WALRAVEN'SWEDDING.
CHAPTERIV.--MOLLIE'SCONQUEST.
CHAPTERV.--MOLLIE'SMISCHIEF.
CHAPTERVI.--MOLLIE'SBRIDAL.
CHAPTERVII.--WHERETHEBRIDEWAS.
CHAPTERVIII.--THEMIDNIGHTMARRIAGE.
CHAPTERIX.--ONEWEEKAFTER.
CHAPTERX.--THEPARSON'SLITTLESTORY.
CHAPTERXI.--AMIDNIGHTTETE-A-TETE.
CHAPTERXII.--"BLACKMASK"—"WHITEMASK."
CHAPTERXIII.--MRS.CARLWALRAVEN'SLITTLEGAME.
CHAPTERXIV.--THESPIDERANDTHEFLY.
CHAPTERXV.--THEMANINTHEMASK.
CHAPTERXVI.--MOLLIE'SDESPAIR.
CHAPTERXVII.--MIRIAMTOTHERESCUE.
CHAPTERXVIII.--"SHEONLYSAID,'MYLIFEISDREARY.'"
CHAPTERXIX.--MISTRESSSUSANSHARPE.
CHAPTERXX.--HUGHINGELOWKEEPSHISPROMISE.
CHAPTERXXI.--MRS.SHARPEDOESHERDUTY.
CHAPTERXXII.--AMOONLIGHTFLITTING.
CHAPTERXXIII.--PRIVATETHEATRICALS.
CHAPTERXXIV.--MOLLIE'STRIUMPH.
CHAPTERXXV.--MIRIAM'SMESSAGE.
CHAPTERXXVI.--MIRIAM'SSTORY.
CHAPTERXXVII.--DEADANDBURIED.
CHAPTERXXVIII.--CRICKET'SHUSBAND.
CHAPTERXXIX.--WHICHWINDSUPTHEBUSINESS.


CHAPTERI.
THEWALRAVENBALL.
AdarkNovemberafternoon—wet,andwindy,andwild.TheNewYorkstreets
were at their worst—sloppy, slippery, and sodden; the sky lowering over those
murky streets one uniform pall of inky gloom. A bad, desolate, blood-chilling


Novemberafternoon.
And yet Mrs. Walraven's ball was to come off to-night, and it was rather hard
upon Mrs. Walraven that the elements should make a dead set at her after this
fashion.
The ball was to be one of the most brilliant affairs of the season, and all Fifth
Avenuewastobethereinitsglory.
FifthAvenuewasabovecaringforanythingsocommonplaceastheweather,of
course;butstillitwouldhavebeenpleasanter,andonlyahandsomethinginthe
clerkoftheweather,consideringMrs.Walravenhadnotgivenaballfortwenty
years before, to have burnished up the sun, and brushed away the clouds, and
shut up that icy army of winter winds, and turned out as neat an article of
weatherasitispossibleinthenatureofNovembertoturnout.
Ofcourse,Mrs.WalravendweltonNewYork'sstateliestavenue,inabigbrownstonepalacethatwaslikeapalaceinanEasternstory,withitsvelvetcarpets,its
arabesques, its filigree work, its chairs, and tables, and sofas touched up and
inlaidwithgold,andcushionedinsilksofgorgeousdyes.
AndinallFifthAvenue,andinallNewYorkCity,therewerenothalfadozen
oldwomenofsixtyhalfsorich,halfsoarrogant,orhalfsoill-temperedasMrs.
FerdinandWalraven.
On this bad November afternoon, while the rain and sleet lashed the lofty
windows, and the shrill winds whistled around the gables, Mrs. Ferdinand
Walraven'sonlysonsatinhischamber,staringoutofthewindow,andsmoking
noendofcigars.
FifthAvenue,intherawandrainytwilight,isnotthesprightliestspotonearth,


andtherewasverylittleforMr.Walraventogazeatexceptthestagesrattlingup
thepave,andsomebelatednewsboyscryingtheirwares.
Perhapsthesesamelittleill-cladnewsboys,lookingupthroughtheslantingrain,
andseeingthewell-dressedgentlemanbehindtherichdraperies,thoughtitmust
beafinethingtobeMr.CarlWalraven,heirtoahalfamillionofmoneyandthe
handsomesthouseinNewYork.
Perhapsyoumighthavethoughtso,too,glancingintothatloftychamber,with
itsglowinghangingsofrubyandgold,itsexquisitepictures,itsinlaidtables,its
twinklingchandelier,itsperfumedwarmth,andglitter,andluxury.
ButCarlWalraven,lyingbackinabigeasy-chair,inslippersanddressing-gown,
smokinghiscostlycheroots,lookedoutatthedismaleveningwiththeblackest
ofbitter,blackscowls.
"Confound the weather!" muttered Mr. Walraven, between strong, white teeth.
"Whythedeucedoesitalwaysrainonthetwenty-fifthofNovember?Seventeen
yearsago,onthetwenty-fifthofthishorriblemonth,IwasinParis,andMiriam
was—Miriambehanged!"Hestoppedabruptly,andpitchedhiscigaroutofthe
window."You'veturnedoveranewleaf,CarlWalraven,andwhatthedemondo
youmeanbygoingbacktotheoldleaves?You'vecomehomefromforeignparts
to your old and doting mother—I thought she would be in her dotage by this
time—and you're a responsible citizen, and an eminently rich and respectable
man. Carl, my boy, forget the past, and behave yourself for the future; as the
copy-bookssay:'Bevirtuousandyouwillbehappy.'"
Helaughedtohimself,alaughunpleasanttohear,andtakingupanothercigar,
wentonsmoking.
He had been away twenty years, this Carl Walraven, over the world, nobody
knewwhere.Areckless,self-willed,headstrongboy,hehadbrokenwildandrun
away from home at nineteen, abruptly and without warning. Abruptly and
withoutwarninghehadreturnedhome,onefinemorning,twentyyearsafter,and
walking up the palatial steps, shabby, and grizzled, and weather-beaten, had
strode straight to the majestic presence of the mistress of the house, with
outstretchedhandandacool"Howareyou,mother?"
And Mrs. Walraven knew her son. He had left her a fiery, handsome, brightfaced lad, and this man before her was gray and black-bearded and weatherbeatenandbrown,butsheknewhim.Shehadrisenwithashrillcryofjoy,and


heldopenherarms.
"I'vecomeback,yousee,mother,"Mr.Carlsaid,easily,"liketheproverbialbad
shilling. I've grown tired knocking about this big world, and now, at nine-andthirty, with an empty purse, a light heart, a spotless conscience, and a sound
digestion,I'mgoingtosettledownandwalkinthewayIshouldgo.Youareglad
tohaveyourne'er-do-wellbackagain,Ihope,mother?"
Glad!Awidowedmother,lonelyandold,gladtohaveanonlysonback!Mrs.
Walraven had tightened those withered arms about him closer and closer, with
onlythatoneshrillcry:
"Oh,Carl—myson!myson!"
"All right, mother! And now, if there's anything in this house to eat, I'll eat it,
because I've been fasting since yesterday, and haven't a stiver between me and
eternity. By George! this isn't such a bad harbor for a shipwrecked mariner to
cast anchor in. I've been over the world, mother, from Dan to—What's-hername!I'vebeenrichandI'vebeenpoor;I'vebeenlovedandI'vebeenhated;I've
hadmyflingateverythinggoodandbadundertheshiningsun,andIcomehome
from it all, subscribing to the doctrine: 'There's nothing new and nothing true.'
Anditdon'tsignify;it'semptyasegg-shells,thewholeofit."
Thatwasthestoryoftheprodigalson.Mrs.Walravenaskednoquestions.She
wasawiseoldwoman;shetookhersonandwasthankful.Ithadhappenedlate
in October, this sudden arrival, and now, late in November, the fatted calf was
killed,andMrs.Walraven'sdearfivehundredfriendsbiddentothefeast.
And they came.Theyhadallheardthestoryofthewidow'sheir,solong lost,
andnow,darkandmysteriousasCountLara,returnedtolorditinhisancestral
halls.Hewasaveryheroofromance—awealthyhero,too—andallthepretty
man-traps on the avenue, baited with lace and roses, silk and jewels, were
comingto-nighttoangleforthisdazzlingprize.
The long-silent drawing-rooms, shrouded for twenty years in holland and
darkness, were one blaze of light at last. Flowers bloomed everywhere;
musicians, up in a gilded gallery, discoursed heavenly music; there was a
conservatorywherealabasterlampsmadeasilvermoonlightinamodernGarden
of Eden; there was a supper-table spread and waiting, a feast for the gods and
Sybarites;andtherewasMrs.Walraven,inblackvelvetandpointlace,upright
andstately,despitehersixtyyears,withadiamondstaroffabulouspriceablaze


onherbreast.Andtherebyherside,tall,anddark,anddignified,stoodheronly
son,theprodigal,therepentant,thewealthyCarlWalraven.
"Nothandsome,"saidMissBlancheOleander,raisingherglass,"buteminently
interesting.Helooksliketheheroofasensationnovel,oramodernmelodrama,
oroneofLordByron'spoems.Doeshedance,andwillheaskme,Iwonder?"
Yes,theduskyheroofthenightdiddance,anddidaskMissBlancheOleander.
Atall,gray-eyed,imperioussortofbeauty,thisMissBlanche,seven-and-twenty
yearsofage,andfrightfullypassée,moreyouthfulbellessaid.
Mr.WalravendancedtheveryfirstdancewithMissOleander,toherinfinitebut
perfectlyconcealeddelight.
"IfyoucanimaginetheCorsair,whirlinginarapidredowawithMedora,"Miss
Oleanderafterwardsaid,"youhaveMr.Walravenandmyself.Therewereabout
eightyGuinaresgazingenviouslyon,readytoponiardme,everyoneofthem,if
theydared,andiftheywerenotsuchmiserablelittlefoolsandcowards.When
theyceasetosmellofbreadandbutter,Mr.Walravenmaypossiblydeigntolook
atthem."
It seemed as if the dashing Blanche had waltzed herself straight into the
affections of the new-found heir, for he devoted himself to her in the most
prononcémannerforthefirstthreehours,andafterwardledherintosupper.
Miss Blanche sailed along serene, uplifted, splendidly calm; the little belles in
lace, androses,andpearls, flutteredandtwitteredlikeangrydoves;andMme.
Walraven,fromtheheightsofherhostess-throne,lookedaslantathervelvetand
diamondswithuneasyoldeyes.
"The last of all you should have selected," she said, waylaying her son after
supper."Awomanwithoutaheart,Carl—amodernMinerva.Ihavenowishto
interferewithyou,myson;Ishallcallthedayhappythatbringsmeyourwife,
but not Blanche Oleander—not that cold-blooded, bold-faced, overgrown
grenadier."
Madamehissedoutthewordsbetweenasetofspiteful,falseteeth,andglared,
aswomendoglare,uponthegray-eyedBlanche.AndCarllistened,andlaughed
sardonically.
"Awomanwithoutaheart.Somuchthebetter,mother;thelessheartthemore
head;andIlikeyourclever,dashingwomen,whoarebigandbuxom,andable


totakecareofthemselves.Don'tforget,mothermine,Ihaven'tproposedtothe
sparklingBlanche,andIdon'tthinkIshall—to-night.Youwouldn'thavemefall
atthefeetofthosemealy-wingedmothsflutteringaroundus,withheadssofter
thantheirpoorlittlehearts—youwouldn't,Ihope?"
WithwhichMr.WalravenwentstraightbacktoMissOleanderandaskedherto
dancethelancers.
MissOleander,turningwithineffablecalmfromabevyofrose-robedandwhiterobedyoungladies,said,"Yes,"asifMr.Walravenwasnomorethananyother
man,andstooduptotakehisarm.
But there is many a slip. Miss Oleander and Mr. Walraven never danced that
particular set, for just then there came a ring at the door-bell so pealing and
imperiousthatitsoundedsharplyeventhroughthenoisyball-room.
"TheMarbleGuest,surely,"Blanchesaid,"andverydeterminedtobeheard."
Beforethewordswerewellutteredtherewasasoundofanaltercationinthehall
—one of the tall footmen pathetically protesting, and a shrill female voice
refusingtolistentothoseplaintiveprotests.Thentheresuddenlyfellpeace.
"Afterastormtherecomethacalm,"Mr.Walravensaid."MissOleander,shall
wemoveon?Well,Johnson,whatisit?"
For Johnson, the taller of the two tall footmen, stood before them gazing
beseechinglyathismaster.
"It'sawoman,sir,allwetanddirty,andhorridtolookat.Shesaysshewillsee
you, and there she stands, and Wilson nor me we can't do nothing with her. If
you don't come she says she'll walk up here and make you come. Them," said
Johnson,plaintively,"wereherownlanguage."
Blanche Oleander, gazing up at her companion's face, saw it changing to a
startled,duskywhite.
"Some beggar—some troublesome tramp, I dare say." But he dropped her arm
abruptlyashesaidit."Excusemeamoment,MissOleander.Ihadbetterseeher
topreventnoise.Now,then,Johnson."
Mr.Johnsonledthewaydownagrand,sweepingstaircase,richingildingand
carving,throughapavedandvaultedhall,andoutintoaloftyvestibule.


Thereawomanstood,drippingwetandwretchedlyclad,asmiserable-lookinga
creatureaseverwalkedthebadcitystreets.Theflareofthegas-jetsshonefull
uponher—uponahaggardfacelightedupwithtwoblazingeyes.
"ForGod'ssake!Miriam!"
CarlWalravenstartedback,asifstruckbyanironhand.Thewomantookastep
forwardandconfrontedhim.
"Yes,CarlWalraven—Miriam!Youdidwelltocomeatonce.Ihavesomething
tosaytoyou.ShallIsayithere?"
ThatwasallMessrs.JohnsonandWilsoneverheard,forMr.Walravenopened
the library door and waved her in, followed, and shut the door again with a
soundingslam.
"Now,then,"hedemanded,imperiously,"whatdoyouwant?Ithoughtyouwere
deadand—"
"Don'tsaythatotherword,Mr.Walraven;itistooforcible.Youonlyhopedit.I
amnotdead.It'sagreatdealworsewithmethanthat."
"What do you want?" Mr. Walraven repeated, steadily, though his swarth face
wasduskygraywithrageorfear,orboth."Whatdoyoucomehereforto-night?
Hasthemasteryouservehelpedyoubodily,thatyoufollowandfindmeeven
here?AreyounotafraidIwillthrottleyouforyourpains?"
"Nottheleast."
Shesaiditwithacomposurethebestbredofhismother'sguestscouldnothave
surpassed, standing bolt upright before him, her dusky eyes of fire burning on
hisface.
"I am not afraid of you, Mr. Walraven (that's your name, isn't it?—and a very
fine-sounding name it is), but you're afraid of me—afraid to the core of your
bitter,blackheart.Youstandtheredressedlikeaking,andIstandhereinrags
yourkitchenscullionswouldscorn;butforallthat,CarlWalraven—forallthat,
you'remyslave,andyouknowit!"
Hereyesblazed,herhandsclinched,hergauntformseemedtotowerandgrow
tallwiththesenseofhertriumphandherpower.
"Haveyouanythingelsetosay?"inquiredMr.Walraven,sullenly,"beforeIcall


myservantsandhaveyouturnedout?"
"You dare not," retorted the woman, fiercely—"you dare not, coward! boaster!
andyouknowit!Ihaveagreatdealmoretosay,andIwillsayit,andyouwill
hear me before we part to-night. I know my power, Mr. Carl Walraven, and I
meantouseit.DoyouthinkIneedweartheserags?DoyouthinkIneedtramp
theblack,badstreets,nightafternight,ahomeless,houselesswretch?No;notif
I chose, not if I ordered—do you hear?—ordered my aristocratic friend, Mr.
Walraven,ofFifthAvenue,toemptyhisplethoricpurseinmydirtypocket.Ah,
yes,"withashrilllaugh,"Miriamknowsherpower!"
"Areyoualmostdone?"Mr.Walravenreplied,calmly."Haveyoucomeherefor
anythingbuttalk?Ifso,forwhat?"
"Notyourmoney—besureofthat.Iwouldstarve—Iwoulddie thedeathofa
doginakennel—beforeIwouldeatamouthfulofbreadboughtwithyourgold.
Icomeforjustice!"
"Justice"—heliftedapairofsullen,inquiringeyes—"justice!Towhom?"
"Toonewhomyouhaveinjuredbeyondreparation—MaryDane!"
Shehissedthenameinasharp,sibilantwhisper,andthemanrecoiledasifan
adderhadstunghim.
"Whatdoyoumean?"heasked,withdry,parchedlips."Whydoyoucomehere
totormentme?MaryDaneisdead."
"Mary Dane's daughter lives not twenty miles from where we stand. Justice to
thedeadisbeyondthepowerofeventhewealthyCarlWalraven.Justicetothe
livingcanyetberendered,andshallbetotheuttermostfarthing."
"Whatdoyouwant?"
"IwantyoutofindMaryDane,andbringherhere,educateher,dressher,treat
asyourownchild."
"WhereshallIfindher?"
"AtK——,twentymilesfromhere."
"Whoisshe?Whatisshe?"
"An actress, traveling about with a strolling troupe; an actress since her sixth


year—onthestageelevenyearsto-night.Thisisherseventeenthbirthday,asyou
know."
"Isthisall?"
"Allatpresent.Areyoupreparedtoobey,orshallI—"
"There!" interrupted Mr. Walraven, "that will do. There is no need of threats,
Miriam—I am very willing to obey you in this. If I had known Mary Dane—
whythedeucedidyougiveherthatname?—wasonthiscontinent,Iwouldhave
huntedherupofmyownaccord.Iwould,uponmyhonor!"
"Swear by something you possess," the woman said, with a sneer; "honor you
neverhadsinceIfirstknewyou."
"Come,come,Miriam,"saidMr.Walraven,uneasily,"don'tbecantankerous.Let
by-gonesbeby-gones.I'msorryforthepast—Iamindeed,andamwillingtodo
wellforthefuture.Sitdownandbesociable,andtellmeallaboutit.Howcame
youtoletthelittleonegoonthestagefirst?"
Miriamspurnedawaytheprofferedchair.
"I spurn it as I would your dead body if it lay before me, Carl Walraven! Sit
downwithyou?Never,ifmylifedependedonit!Thechildbecameanactress
because I could keep her no longer—I couldn't keep myself—and because she
hadthevoiceandfaceofanangel—poorlittlewretch!Themanagerofabandof
strollingplayers,passingthroughourvillage,heardherbabyvoicesingingsome
babysong,andpounceduponherontheinstant.Westruckabargain,andIsold
her,Mr.Walraven—yes,soldher."
"Youwretch!Well?"
"Well, I went to see her occasionally afterward, but not often, for the strolling
troupe were here, there, and everywhere—from pillar to post. But I never lost
sight of her, and I saw her grow up a pretty, slender, bright-eyed lass, well
dressed,wellfed,andhappy—perfectlyhappyinherwanderinglife.Hergreatgrandmother—old Peter Dane's wife—was a gypsy, Mr. Walraven, and I dare
saythewildbloodbrokeout.Shelikedthelife,andbecamethestarofthelittle
band—the queen of the troupe. I kept her in view even when she crossed the
Atlanticlastyear,andpaidheravisitaweekagoto-night."
"Humph!"wasCarlWalraven'scomment."Well,MistressMiriam,itmighthave


been worse; no thanks to you, though. And now—what does she know of her
ownstory?"
"Nothing."
"What?"
"Nothing,Itellyou.HernameisMaryDane,andsheisseventeenyearsoldon
thetwenty-fifthofNovember.Herfatherandmotheraredead—poorbuthonest
people, of course—and I am Aunt Miriam, earning a respectable living by
washing clothes and scrubbing floors. That is what she knows. How much of
thatistrue,Mr.Walraven?"
"Thensheneverheardofme?"
"Shehasneverhadthatmisfortuneyet;ithasbeenreservedforyourself.Youare
arichman,andyouwillgotoK——,andyouwillseeherplay,andwilltakea
fancy to her, and adopt her as your daughter. There is the skeleton for you to
clothewithflesh."
"Andsupposesherefuses?"
"She will not refuse. She likes handsome dresses and jewelry as well as any
otherlittlefoolofseventeen.Youmakehertheoffer,andmywordforit,itwill
beaccepted."
"I will go, Miriam. Upon my word I feel curious to see the witch. Who is she
like,Miriam—mammaorme?"
Thewoman'seyesflashedfire.
"Not like you, you son of Satan! If she was I would have strangled her in her
cradle! Let me go, for the air you breathe chokes me! Dare to disobey at your
peril!"
"I will start for K—— to-morrow. She will be here—my adopted daughter—
beforetheweekends."
"Good!Andthisoldmotherofyours,willshebekindtothegirl?Iwon'thave
hertreatedbadly,youunderstand."
"My mother will do whatever her son wishes. She would be kind to a young
gorillaifIsaidso.Don'tfearforyourniece—shewillbetreatedwell."


"Letitbeso,orbeware!Ablood-houndonyourtrackwouldbelessdeadlythan
I!Iwillbehereagain,andyetagain,toseeformyselfthatyoukeepyourword."
Shestrodetothedoor,openedit,andstoodintheilluminatedball.Johnsonjust
hadtimetovanishfromthekey-holeandnomore.Downthestair-waypealed
thewild,melancholymusicofaGermanwaltz;fromthedining-roomcamethe
clinkandjingleofsilver,andchina,andglass.Thewoman'shaggardfacefilled
withscornandbitternessasshegaveonefleeting,backwardglance.
"TheysaythereisajustandavengingHeaven,yetCarlWalravenismasterofall
this.Wealth,love,andhonorforhim,andanamelessgraveforher;thestreets,
foul and deadly, for me. The mill of the gods may grind sure, but it grinds
fearfullyslow—fearfullyslow!"
TheywerethelastwordsCarlWalravenheardherutter.Sheopenedthehouse
door,gatheredherthreadbareshawlcloseraroundher,andflutteredawayinthe
wild,wetnight.


CHAPTERII.
"CRICKET."
The little provincial theater was crowded from pit to dome—long tiers of
changingfacesandluminouseyes.Therewasaprevalentodorofstaletobacco,
andorange-peel,andbadgas;andtherewasbustle,andnoise,andlaughter,and
aharshcollectionofstringedinstrumentsgrindingouttheoverture.
There were stamps and calls for the tawdry curtain to rise, when a gentleman
entered,sauntereduptoafrontseat,tookupabillandbegantoreadit—atall,
middle-aged,ratherdistinguished-lookingman,blackandbearded,withpiercing
eyes,superfineclothes,andageneralaristocraticairabouthim.
People paused to look again at him—for he was a stranger there—but nobody
recognizedhim,andMr.CarlWalravenreadhisbillundisturbed.
Theplaywas"FanchontheCricket,"andthebillannounced,inverybigcapitals,
that the part of Fanchon was to be played by that "distinguished and beautiful
youngEnglishactress,MissMollieDane."
Mr. Walraven saw no more; he sat holding the strip of paper before him, and
staring at the one name as if the fat letters fascinated him—"Fanchon, Miss
MollieDane."
Ashrill-voicedbelltinkled,andthedrop-curtainwentup,andthehouseholdof
FatherBarbeaudwasrevealed.Therewasageneralsettlingintoseats,hatsflew
off,thenoisesceased,andtheplaybegan.
Amomentortwo,and,inragsandtatters,hairstreaming,andfeetbare,onthe
stageboundedFanchon,theCricket.
There was an uproarious greeting. Evidently it was not Miss Dane's first
appearance before that audience, and still more evidently she was a prime
favorite.
Mr.Walravendroppedhisbill,poisedhislorgnette,andpreparedtostarehisfill.
Shewasverywellworthlookingat,thisclear-voicedMollieDane—throughthe


tattersandunkempthairhecouldseethat.ThestarsinthefrostyNovembersky
without were not brighter than her dark, bright eyes; no silvery music that the
heir of all the Walravens had ever heard was clearer or sweeter than her free,
girlishlaugh;nogoldensunburstevermorebeautifulthanthewavingbannerof
wild,yellowhair.MollieDanestoodbeforehimabeautyborn.
EverynerveinCarlWalraven'sbodythrilledashelookedather.Howlovelythat
face!Howsweetthatvoice,thatlaugh!Howeminentlywellsheacted!
He had seen women of whom the world raved play that very part; but he had
never,no,neverseenitbetterplayedthanhesawitto-night.
"Shewillmaketheworldringwithhernameifsheadherestothestage,"Carl
Walraven said to himself, enthusiastically; "and she never will play anything
better than she plays the 'Cricket.' She is Fanchon herself—saucy, daring,
generous,irresistibleFanchon!Andsheisbeautifulastheangelsabove."
The play went on; Fanchon danced, and sobbed, and sung, and wept, and was
mischievousasascratchingkitten,andgentleasaturtle-dove;tookallthehearts
bystorm,andwastriumphantlyreunitedtoherloveratlast.
Idon'tknowhowmanyyoungmeninthataudiencewereleftwithoutanatomof
heart, how many would have given their two ears to be in handsome Landry
Barbeaud'sboots.
The roof nearly rose with the thunders of applause when the curtain fell, and
CarlWalravengotupwiththerest,hisheadwhirling,hisbraindizzy.
"GoodHeaven!"hethought,stumblingalongthedark,chillystreetstohishotel,
"what a perfectly dazzling little witch she is! Was there ever such another
sparkling,bewilderinglittlefairyintheworldbefore?"
Mr.Walravenspentthenightinafeverofimpatience.Hewasoneofthosemen
who, when they set their hearts on anything, find no peace, no rest, until they
obtainit.Hehadcomeherepartlythroughcuriosity,partlybecausehedarenot
refuseMiriam;hehadseenMaryDane,andlo!atfirstsighthewasdazzledand
bewitched.
Nextmorning,atbreakfast,Mr.Walravenobtainedalltheinformationhedesired
concerning Miss Mollie Dane. Some half dozen of the actors were stopping at
thehotel,andprovedverywilling,undertheinfluenceofbrandyandwater,to
givethefree-handedstrangerMissDane'sbiographyasfarastheyknewit.


Shewasjustascharmingoffthestageason;justaspretty,justassaucy,justas
captivating.Shewaswildandfulloftricksasanunbrokencolt;butshewasa
thoroughly good girl, for all that, lavish of her money to all who needed, and
snubbing lovers incontinently. She was stopping up the street at another hotel,
andshewouldinallprobabilitybeeasilyaccessibleaboutnoon.
Theseedy,strollingplayersdranktheirdilutedbrandy,smokedtheircigars,and
told Mr. Walraven all this. They rather laughed at the New York millionaire
whenhewasoutofsight.Hehadfalleninlovewithpretty,blue-eyedMollie,no
doubt,andthatwasaverystalestorywiththeshabbyplayers.
Noon came, and, speckless and respectable to the last degree, Mr. Walraven
presentedhimselfattheotherhotel,andsentuphiscardwithawaitertoMiss
Dane.
Thewaiterusheredhimintothehotelparlor,coldandprimasitisinthenature
ofhotelparlorstobe.Mr.Walravensatdownandstaredvaguelyatthepapered
walls, rather at a loss as to what he should say to this piquant Mollie, and
wonderinghowhewouldfeelifshelaughedathim.
"Andshewilllaugh,"hethought,withamentalgroan;"she'sthesortofgirlthat
laughs at everything. And she may refuse, too; there is no making sure of a
woman;andthenwhatwillMiriamsay?"
Hepausedwithagasp.Therewasaquickpatteroflightfeetdownthestairs,the
lasttwoclearedwithajump,a swish ofsilkenskirts,alittlegushofperfume,
andthen,brightasaflashoflight,blue-eyedMolliestoodbeforehim.Sheheld
hiscardinherfingers,andalltheyellowhairfelloverherplumpshoulders,like
ambersunshineoversnow.
"Mr.CarlWalraven?"MissDanesaid,withasmileandagracefullittlebow.
Mr. Carl Walraven rose up and returned that pretty courtesy with a salute stiff
andconstrained.
"Yes,MissDane."
"Prayresumeyourseat,Mr.Walraven,"withanairywaveofalittlewhitehand.
"TowhatdoIowethisvisit?"
She fluttered into a big black arm-chair as she spoke, folded the little white
hands,andglancedacrosswithbrightlyexpectanteyes.


"Youmustthinkthiscall,fromanutterstranger,rathersingular,MissDane,"Mr.
Walravenbegan,considerablyataloss.
MissDanelaughed.
"Oh,dear,no!notatall—thesortofthingIamusedto,Iassureyou!MayIask
itspurport?"
"Miss Dane, you must pardon me," said Mr. Walraven, plunging desperately
head first into his mission, "but I saw you play last night, and I have—yes, I
havetakenaviolentfancytoyou."
MissMollieDaneneverflinched.Thewickedsparkleinthedancingeyesgrewa
triflewickeder,perhaps,butthatwasall.
"Yes,"shesaid,composedly;"goon."
"You take it very coolly," remarked the gentleman, rather taken aback himself.
"Youdon'tappeartheleastsurprised."
"Ofcoursenot!ItoldyouIwasusedtoit.Neverknewagentlemanoftasteto
seemeplayyetandnottakeaviolentfancytome.Praygoon."
If Miss Dane wished, in her wickedness, to utterly disconcert her middle-aged
admirer,shecouldnothaveadoptedasurerplan.Forfullyfiveminuteshesat
staringinhopelesssilence.
"Haveyouanythingmoretosay?"queriedthedauntlessMollie,pullingouther
watch."Because,ifyouhave,youwillpleasesayitatonce.Mytimeisprecious,
Iassureyou.Rehearsalisatthree,andafterrehearsaltherearethespanglesto
sewonmydress,andafterthat—"
"Ibegyourpardon,MissDane;Ihaveagreatdealmoretosay,andifyouwill
listen you need never attend rehearsal again, and never sew on spangles any
more."
"Indeed!"
Theblueeyesopenedverywideinafixed,unwinkingstare.
"Ilikeyouverymuch,MissDane—somuchthatIthinkitisathousandpities
youshouldwasteyouryouth,andbeauty,andgeniusondesertair.So—"
"Yes,"saidMissDane—"soyouhavefalleninlovewithmeatfirstsight.Isthat


whatyouaretryingtosay?"
"No!"respondedMr.Walraven,emphatically."Iamnotintheleastinlovewith
you,andnevermeantobe—inthatway."
"Oh,inwhatway,then,Mr.Walraven?"
"Iamarichman,MissDane,andalonelymanveryoften,andIshouldliketo
have a daughter to cheer my old age—a daughter like you, Mistress Cricket,
saucyandbright,andsoprettythatitwillbeapleasureonlytolookather."
"Andaverycomplimentarypapayouwillmake.Haveyounodaughtersofyour
own,Mr.Walraven?"
"None,MissMollie.Ihavethemisfortunetohavenowife."
"Andnevermeantohave?"
"Can'tsayaboutthat.Imayoneday."
"Andyouarequitesureyouwillneverwantmetofillthatvacanthonor?"
"Surerthansure,mydearlittlegirlIwantyouonlyformyadopteddaughter."
"Andyouneversawmebeforelastnight?"
"Never,"saidCarlWalraven,unflinchingly.
"Youareaveryrichman,yousay?"
"Veryrich—amillionaire—andyoushallbemyheiresswhenIdie."
"IamafraidIshallbeaverylongtimeoutofmyinheritance,then.Well,thisisa
surprise,andyouaretheoddestgentlemanIhavemetforsometime.Pleaselet
mecatchmybreath!Youarequitecertainyouarenotplayingapracticaljokeat
myexpenseallthistime?"
"No!uponmywordandhonor,no!ImeanpreciselywhatIsay."
"AndsupposingIsayyes—supposingIagreetogowithyou,forthefunofthe
thing,whatdoyoumeantodowithme,Mr.Walraven?"
"TotreatyouasIwouldaMissWalravenofseventeenyearsold,iftherewere
such a person; to fill your pockets with money, and your wardrobe with fine
clothes;togiveyouahorsetoride,andapianotoplay,acarriagetodrivein,


and a waiting-maid to scold. What more can I do? I will give you masters to
teach you everything under the sun. Balls, parties, and the opera at will—
everything,inshort,yourheartcandesire."
Thestarryeyessparkled,therose-tintedcheeksflushedwithdelight.
"I can not believe it; it is too good to be true. Oh, you can't mean it, Mr.
Walraven.Nooneeverhadtheirwildestflightoffancyrealizedinthismanner."
"Youshallifyouwillbecomemydaughter.Ifmypromiseprovesfalse,areyou
not free to return? There are no ogres nowadays to carry young ladies off to
enchantedpalacesandeatthem.ComewithmetomyhomeinNewYork.IfI
failinaughtIhavepromised,why,returnhere."
Molliebroughthertwolittlepalmstogetherwithanenthusiasticslap.
"I'lldoit,Mr.Walraven!Iknowit'salladreamandanillusion,butstillI'llsee
thedreamtotheend;thatis,ifyoucanmakeitallrightwithMr.Harkner,the
manager."
"I can make it all right!" exclaimed Mr. Walraven. "Money can do anything
underthesun.Hehashisprice,likeothermen,andIcanpayit.IfMr.Harkner
andIcometoterms,willyoubereadytostartwithmeto-morrow,Mollie?"
"Quiteready.Butyouwon'tmakeitright.Hewillneverletmego;youwillsee."
"Iamnotafraid.Iwillcalluponhimatonce,andaftertheinterviewIwilllet
youknowtheresult.Heisinthehousenow,ishenot?"
"Downatthebar,verylikely.Iwillwaitforyouhere."
Mr.Walraventookhishatandleft,delightedwithhissuccess.
Themanagerwasatthebar,asMissDanehadpredicted,andeyedMr.Walraven
suspiciously from head to foot when he found his business concerned his star
actress.
He was accustomed to gentlemen falling in love with her, and quite willing to
take little bribes from them; but he stared in angry amazement when he heard
whatCarlWalravenhadtosay.
"Carry off Mollie!" exclaimed Mr. Harkner, "and adopt her as your daughter!
Whatdoyoutakemefor,tobelievesuchastoryasthat?"


Mr.Harknerwasprettyfargone,andallthemoreinclinedtobeskeptical.Mr.
Walraven saw it, and knew that appearances were dead against him, and so
swallowedhiswrath.
"It is the truth, upon my honor. Miss Dane believes me and has consented.
Nothingremainsbuttosettlematterswithyou."
"Iwon'tsettlematters!Iwon'thearofit!Iwon'tpartwithmybestactress!"
"Yesyouwillforafairprice.Come,namethesum;I'llpayit."
Mr.Harkneropenedhiseyes.Mr.Walravenopenedhischeck-book.
"Youdomeanit,then?"
"Don'tIlookasifImeantit?Quick,Isay!Ifyoudon'tlooksharpIwilltakeher
withoutanyprice!"
"She'sapricelesstreasure!"hiccoughedthemanager—"worthherweightingold
tome,andso—"
HenamedasumthatmadeevenCarlWalravenwince;buthewasagreatdeal
toorecklesstodrawback.
"Itisamostcold-bloodedextortion,"hesaid;"butyoushallhaveit.Andatyour
perilyoueverinterferewithmyadopteddaughterafterward."
Hesignedthecheckandflungittothemanager,turnedandwentout,andleft
thatindividualstaringinblankbewilderment.
Golden-hairedMolliewaspacingimpatientlyupanddowntheparlorwhenMr.
Walravenwalkedinagain,hisfaceaglowwithtriumph.
"Itisallright,Mollie.ItoldyouIwasmorethanamatchforyourmanager.You
havetrodtheboardsforthelasttime."
"Excuseme,Mr.Walraven;Iamgoingtotreadtheboardsagainto-night.Itis
Cricketstill.Don'tyouwanttobeenchantedoncemore?"
"Justasyouplease.Onceisneitherherenowthere.Butyouwillbereadyforthe
eightA.M.trainto-morrow,Mollie?"
"I have promised, Mr. Walraven, and I always keep my word. So Mr. Harkner
has consented? Now, that is not flattering, is it? What winning ways you must


possesstomakealltheworlddoasyousay!"
Mr.Walravenhelduphispurse,goldshiningthroughitssilkenmeshes.
"Behold the magic key to every heart, Cricket! Here, you shall be my pursebearernow."
Hetosseditinto herlap.Mollie's blue eyessparkled. Shewasonlyseventeen,
poorchild,andshelikedmoneyforwhatmoneybrought.
"Ishallleaveyounow,"Mr.Walravensaid,lookingathiswatch."Threeo'clock,
Mollie,andtimeforrehearsal.IshallgoandseeCricketto-night,andto-morrow
morningCricketmustbereadytogowithme.Untilthen,myadopteddaughter,
adieu!"
That night, when the green curtain went up, the strange gentleman sat in the
frontseatforthesecondtime,andgazedontheanticsofFanchon,theCricket.
Thegirlplayeditwell,becausesheplayedherownwillful,trickyself,andshe
kissed her taper fingers to the enraptured audience, and felt sorry to think it
mightbeforthelasttime.
Next morning, as demure as a little nun, in her traveling suit of gray, Miss
Cricket took her seat beside her new-made guardian, and was whirled away to
NewYork.
"Pray,whatamItocallyou?"sheasked,astheysatsidebyside."AmItokeep
at a respectful distance, and say 'Mr. Walraven,' or, as I am your adopted
daughter,isittobepapa?"
"Well,Cricket,personallyIhavenoobjection,ofcourse;but,then,'papa'—don't
youthink'papa'mightsetpeopleaskingquestions,now?"
"Very true; and some clever person might get investigating, and find out you
weremypapainreality."
"Mollie!"saidMr.Walraven,wincing.
"That'sthewayinthemelodramas,yousee,andyouareveryliketheheroofa
five-actmelodrama.Well,Mr.Walraven,decidewhatIshallcallyou!"
"Suppose you say guardian. That will hit the mark, I think. And we will tell
people who ask troublesome questions that you are the orphan daughter of a


deadcousinofmine.Whatdoyousay?"
"Asyouplease,ofcourse.Itisallonetome."
Thetrainthunderedintothedepotpresently,andtherewastheusualturmoiland
uproar. Mr. Walraven called a cab, and half an hour's rattling over the stony
streetsbroughtthemtotheWalravenmansion.
MollieDane,accustomedallherlifetodingyhotelsandlodgings,glancedupat
the grand staircase and imposing hall in rapturous surprise. Mme. Walraven
stoodgraciouslywaitingtoreceiveher.
"Here'sagranddaughterforyou,mother,"saidMr.Walraven—"acompanionto
cheerandbrightenyourfuturelife.Myadopteddaughter—MollieDane."
Thestatelyoldladybentandkissedthebright,freshface.
"Iamveryhappytowelcomeyou,mydear,andwilltryheartilytomakeyour
newhomepleasant.Youaretired,ofcourse?Here,Margaret,showMissDane
toherroom."
Asprucewaiting-maidappearedattheoldlady'ssummons,andledMissDane,
through carpeted corridors, into the daintiest of dainty bed-chambers, all blue
silkandwhitelacedrapery,andrichfurniture,andexquisitepictures.
Inallherlifelong,Molliehadneverbeheldanythinghalfsobeautiful,andshe
caughtherbreathwithonelittlecryofdelight.
"ShallIhelpyou,miss?"veryrespectfullyaskedthegirl."I'mtobeyourmaid,
please,andluncheonwillbereadybythetimeyouaredressed."
Miss Dane permitted her to remove her traveling-dress in ecstatic silence, and
robeherinazuresilk,justashadelessbluethanhereyes.
Very,veryprettyshelooked,withallherloosegoldenringlets,andthatbrilliant
flush on either cheek; and so Mrs. Walraven and her son thought when she
appeared,likearadiantvision,inthedining-room.
The afternoon and evening went like a swift dream of delight in viewing the
house and its splendors. She retired early, with a kiss from guardian and
grandmamma,herheadinawhirlwiththeeventsoftheday.
Margaret'staskswereverylightthatnight;herlittlemistressdidnotdetainher


tenminutes.Whenshehadgone,andshewasfairlyalone,Molliesprungupand
wentwhirlingroundtheroominadanceofdelight.
"To think of it!" she cried—"to think all my wildest dreams should come true
like this, and my life go on like a fairy tale! There is Mr. Walraven, the good
geniiofthestory;Mrs.Walraven,theoldbutwell-meaningfairygodmother;and
I'mCinderella,withthetattersandragsturnedtoclothofgold,andnothingtodo
butwaitatmyeaseforthefairyprince,andmarryhimwhenhecomes.Cricket!
Cricket! you're the luckiest witch's granddaughter that ever danced to her own
shadow!"


CHAPTERIII.
MR.WALRAVEN'SWEDDING.
Mollie Dane made herself very much at home at once in the magnificent
Walravenmansion.Thedazzleofitsgloriesscarcelylastedbeyondthefirstday,
or,ifitdid,nobodysawit.Why,indeed,shouldshebedazzled?She,whohad
beenLadyMacbeth,andreceivedtheThaneofCawdoratherowngates;who
hadbeenJuliet,theheiressofalltheCapulets;whohadseendukesandnobles
snubbedunmercifully everynightofherlifebyvirtuouspoverty,onthestage.
Before the end of the first week Mollie had become the light of the house,
perfectlyindispensabletothehappinessofitsinmates.
Miss Dane was launched into society at a dinner-party given for the express
purposeby"grandmamma".Wondrouslyprettylookedtheyouthfuldébutante,in
silvery silk and misty lace and pearls, her eyes like blue stars, her cheeks like
Juneroses.
In the wintery dusk of the short December days, Mrs. Walraven received her
guestsinthelibrary,animposingroom,oak-paneled,crimson-draped,andfilled
from floor to ceiling with a noble collection of books. Great snow-flakes
flutteredagainsttheplateglass,andanicyblasthowleduptheavenue,butinthe
glittering dining-room flowers bloomed, and birds sung, and tropical fruits
perfumed the air; and radiant under the gas-light, beautiful Miss Dane flashed
the light of her blue eyes, and looked like some lovely little sprite from fairyland.
Miss Blanche Oleander, darkly majestic in maize silk and jewels, sat at Miss
Dane's right hand, and eyed her coldly with jealous dislike. Mollie read her
throughatthefirstglance.
"She hates me already," thought Mr. Walraven's ward; "and your tall women,
with flashing black eyes and blue-black hair, are apt to be good haters. Very
well,MissOleander;itshallbejustasyoulike."
A gentleman sat on her other hand—a handsome young artist—Mr. Hugh
Ingelow,andhelistenedwithanattentiveface,whilesheheldherownwiththe
sarcasticBlanche,andrathergotthebestofthebattle.


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