- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER VI. LOST!
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WHILE Mary Lascelle was struggling hopelessly between the dictates of her womanly conscience and the evil influences of fanaticism, her husband hurried homewards, his step buoyant, his eye sparkling, for he had that day won a position he had desired for many a long year, and as he drew near the pretty rustic villa which he called home, the exuberance of joy burst out in song.
"How glad Mary will be," he murmured. Then suddenly his brow contracted; some dark thought had chased away the sunshine. He is not a pleasant man to look at when he frowns, when storms gather in the dark eyes, when passion dilates the nostril and makes the brown face glow with swarthy redness. But the very intensity of his nature rendered him a devoted husband and father; perhaps somewhat egotistic and dictatorial, yet loving and tender withal. Edward Lascelle idolized his wife and child. In them centered all his hopes, his affections, his aspirations. They were his world, his heaven. And the Mormon shadow had crept into his home, chilling love's warmth, shadowing the sweet face of his darling Mary. How he hated this religious craze about the New Jerusalem! The mere thought of it enraged him. But success has made him far too happy to-day to be depressed by a shadow.
"Pshaw," he said to himself. "Mary will soon forget these silly ideas. She must have a change of | | 29 scene. I can well afford it now. How happy Mary will be."
As he entered the gate, a winsome, brown-eyed sprite of four summers danced out to meet him.
"Papa, I tho glad you're come. Mamma gone and I'm lonethome."
"Mamma gone," gasped the man.
"Yeth, gone to the nathy preather man. Papa, why don't you kill that preather man? He makth mamma cry. I don't like him, tho' he givth me candy. I throwth ith candy away, papa. Ain't I a good girl?"
"Yes; love, don't have anything to do with him."
Mr. Lascelle spoke mechanically. The absence of his wife pierced him to his soul, and the words of his little Elsie rang through his brain with a fearful echo. "Kill the man! Why not?" Then he shuddered at the awful thought; and cast it from him.
"Come, papa, take me up, and go in."
A trim servant-maid met him at the door, with a message that mistress would not be home for some time, and that dinner was all ready.
"Yeth, and I will make yoo tea," said little Elsie, who, enthroned on her father's shoulder, lovingly tried to kiss away his disappointment. Her childish caresses were soothing; but they could not bring back the gladness to the father's face. He returned the caresses of his little Elsie; he smiled at her baby prattle; but his heart sighed wearily.
It was a worn, spiritless man that sat down at table. The appetizing viands had lost their flavor,--the pleasant home, its sunshine. From that day of | | 30 joyful success, the triumph had fled; for his inspiration, his love, his wife was not there to share his happiness. His good fortune was the result of long continued labor,--of nights as well as days spent in anxious efforts. Traces of care and fatigue were plainly visible in the dark face, no longer illumined with joy.
He rose from the table and threw himself upon a sofa,--too weary even to smile at Elsie. The child, lulled by the stillness, dropped asleep in her father's arms. Weary and disappointed, the man closed his eyes. He dreamed of darkness--of horror. He saw himself a wanderer on a desert. Mountains, cloud- wrapt and gloomy, imprisoned him. Shadowy forms surrounded him. The shadows became more distinct. The faces of wife and child appeared; but how changed by anguish and despair! A lurid cloud hung over his Elsie. She stretched forth her hands to him imploringly. He rushed into the gloom. The forms vanished. Again he was alone, his hands dyed in blood.
"Thank God, 'tis but a dream!" he cried, as he awoke 'to find a bright form bending over him. It was his wife. Her sweet face wore a strange expression of mingled sorrow and love. Fear looked out of the blue eyes, while on their gold-tipped fringe, teardrops glistened.
The awakened man gazed upon her in wondering love, little dreaming of the cause of her quivering lips and hunted look.
To him she appeared so beautiful. He noted even the shimmering of her blue dress, and the fragrance of the blush rose that nestled in the dainty lace at her throat.| | 31
"How lovely you are, darling! But why so sad? I have news that will make you glad. Dance with glee, little wife. I am a partner now. Isn't that gay? Why, you are sighing instead of laughing. Are you not pleased?".
"Oh, yes, dear, but--"
"But what? Why, I declare you are quite pale, and all trembling. You want change of air and scene. You are growing nervous."
"That is what I tell her, Edward," said Oreana, entering the room. "In fact, I have come this evening on purpose to talk with you on the subject. Tomorrow afternoon, I am going to London to cousin Laura's for a week; and I think it would do Mary ever so much good to go with me. You know I ought to have some matron to chaperon me; now mamma says it is impossible for her to leave, and cousin Laura never goes out, so you will be good and let Mary come, won't you? You see I am very selfish."
"Just the very thing, isn't it, little wife?"
Mrs. Lascelle felt too guilty to speak. She sank sobbing in her husband's arms. "Don't send me away Edward,--don't."
Oreana trembled; Mary was so weak.
"Send you away, darling! Why, what nonsense you are talking! Go with Oreana to-morrow."
"It is rather short notice. Of course we must take Elsie; but they do not require any preparation," added Oreana.
"Oh I Edward, I don't want to leave you," cried Mrs. Lascelle, still clinging to her husband. Ah ! why could he not read her heart?
"Don't cry, love. Why, I did not think you were | | 32 so low-spirited and nervous. Now go to-morrow, like a brave little woman, and I will run down to you next week; then we will go to the sea-side for a little holiday. We can afford it now, Mary, and we shall enjoy it so much. During the next few days I shall be up to the ears in business; and there! I had almost forgotten, I have to leave for Liverpool this very night. Just get me a few things ready. I have not a moment to lose. I am so glad you are going with Oreana, for you would feel so lonely."
Mrs. Lascelle groaned. Everything seemed to urge her to the fatal step. Never had she loved her husband more; and had she been free from Oreana's influence, she would have told him all. But Oreana's will subjugated her; in this presence her lips refused to speak the words of salvation.
The moments flew by. All was ready. Mr. Lascelle had kissed little Elsie. The door was open for his exit.
"Now, Mary, love, smile once before I go."
"Edward, will you forgive me?" cried the wife in piteous agony.
"Forgive you, darling? What ever for? There, now, one kiss. Good bye, till next week. Cheer up, little wife. Oreana, do try to make her once more her old self, and persuade her to forget those horrid Mormons, as you have done." (Oreana winced.) "Take good care of yourselves and our little Elsie. Good bye."
He left the house whistling a merry tune, and was soon out of sight.
Mary watched him with strained eyes, then she fell on her knees by the side of her sleeping child, moaning, "Lost, lost! and I--"
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