- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XLVII. MRS. SILVERTUNG SOLVES THE MYSTERY.
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MRS. SILVERTUNG SOLVES THE MYSTERY.
ELSIE was beside herself with joy. Stanly was safe, and her friend assured her of freedom. She danced, she sang, and made such a noise that her mother came to the door, to see what was the matter. "Elsie, child, you will catch your death of cold; you must be crazy."
"Yes, mother, I am crazy with joy;" and to prove her words, Elsie ran up to the mother, caught her in a close embrace, and danced her into the house.
A lamp burned on the table, which was strewn with work; for Mrs. Silvertung had no time to waste in twilight reveries, even bad she been so inclined. Elsie seated her mother, and then danced round the room clapping her hands. "Don't, Elsie , you will awaken the children, and I'm so tired. What ever can you find to be so happy about?" The woman sighed. The words and the sigh touched Elsie; she stopped, looked at her mother's wan, hopeless face, and sighed too. What was there, indeed, to be so happy about?
Since the imprisonment, Mrs. Silvertung's manner towards Elsie had changed. It seemed deprecatory, as if the woman had become conscious of the wrong she had inflicted upon her child. The affectionate girl quickly perceived the change. She shrank from | | 358 wounding, by word or deed, the mother's heart, bruised by remorse; so she checked her joyous demonstrations, which savored of cruel mockery, and embraced her mother, saying: "Mother, dear, I want you to rejoice with me, for I have some good news; so don't sew any more to-night. I will help you lots to-morrow. Come now, there's a dear." The girl fondly stroked her mother's pals cheek; in doing so, the ring, which in the excitement Elsie had slipped on her forefinger, attached Mrs. Silvertung's attention.
"Why, Elsie, where did you get that ring?"
"That is a secret, Mother dear, that I will tell you, if you promise never, never to speak of it. But there, I don't think you will tell the elder now."
While Elsie was talking, her mother took the ring and examined it with eager scrutiny. Then she rose, went to a little box, the only one she kept locked, opened it and drew from its recesses another ring, the counterpart of Elsie's, only smaller. "It is, it is," muttered the mother; then, turning to Elsie, she cried: "Speak, quick, tell me where you got this?" Mrs. Silvertung uttered the command in a hollow voice; her features lost their immobility; her eyes glared. Elsie had never seen her look like that. Amazement prevented her answering. "Are you dumb? Won't you tell me how, and when you got this ring? Who gave it to you? What did he say? Don't look at me so! but speak." The woman's voice ended in a shriek. Elsie felt alarmed.
"Mother, for mercy's sake, don't get so excited. I will tell you all about it; at least, all I know, if you will give me a chance."
Mrs. Silvertung sat down, her face turned from | | 359 Elsie. She listened while for the second time that evening Elsie told all she knew about the ring and the sender. "But, Mother," continued Elsie, "the strangest of all is this. The day I left Smithville,--do you remember? as we passed that point where the old trail meets the road, a man, looking like a tramp, stood there as if waiting for us. Something in the man's face attracted me. He seemed to look into my very soul."
"What was he like; can you remember?"
"I can never forget! He was dark, eyes large and piercing, but kind; the lower part of his face hidden by a heavy beard; not tall, but broad-shouldered. He looked superior to most of the tramps, and somehow I thought he had suffered a great deal. After we had passed, I remembered that he was standing in the road near the house when we started."
"Then it was not all fancy," muttered the woman. "Go on, go on."
"Well, he sent that ring to me, with promises of help;--for I met him, after that, here in Salt Lake; but he was dressed better then."
"What did he say?"
"Only asked me if I had received the package. He would not answer any questions; but he is the man. Brother Menly recognized him immediately, from my description. Now I will show you the notes."
"The notes! He has written? Quick, child, let me see them, and don't look at me as if you were my judge;" for Elsie stood, one hand in her pocket, gazing at her mother in utter bewilderment. That her mother, always so hopelessly quiescent, should display such violent emotion, was more of a mystery than that surrounding the ring.| | 360
" Well can't you show me the note; you said note, or did you want to torture me?"
"Mother, you frighten me so, that I scarcely know what I am doing. Here they are." Mrs. Silvertung clutched the papers; but instead of reading them, she looked everywhere,--at every thing except the notes. It seemed as if she were afraid of seeing written thereon some awful doom. "Why, Mother, look at them. I thought you were in a hurry to read them. Just see what fine writing it is."
Mrs. Silvertung, shivering, opened the first one received. As soon as she glanced at the writing she groaned and fell forward on the table. Elsie screamed with fright, there was no one near to heed. Was this death? those set, vacant eyes, those still, white features, that prone, rigid form? "Mother, Mother, speak to me," screamed Elsie, as she chafed the cold hands and smoothed the damp brow.
At length the spasm passed away. Mrs. Silvertung lay quiet and still, save an occasional moaning cry: "He has come, though they told me he was dead. He has come; for what?"
Elsie heard the words with trembling; she felt she was approaching a mystery that would color her life. The moans became less frequent; agony left the features. Mrs. Silvertung opened her eyes: in them dwelt a strange light.
"Here I am, Mother."
The wretched woman drew her daughter towards her. "Elsie, my child, forgive me. Ask him to forgive me. Give him this ring (it was the smaller one), and implore him to forgive me. Tell him I thought it | | 361 was God's command--that it was for the best--tell him--"
"Him!" repeated Elsie, "Who?"
"The husband of my youth--your father; he who promises to save you."
"Yes, 'tis he. Don't reproach me! don't look at me so pitilessly! I was blind, deluded. Oh! how I have suffered! Forgive me, Elsie; pray for me, pray him to pardon me. Don't let his curse pursue me to the grave. He will grant you anything, he loved you so dearly. Ah! how wrong it was--how he must have suffered! and I--But God must forgive me, for I did it for His sake. Elsie, can you forgive me?"
Elsie answered with a kiss, for tears stifled all utterance. It was she who wept now, while her mother, the woman of tears, looked on dry-eyed.
"God bless you, Elsie. Stay with me to-night, I'm afraid. A crisis comes--I'm afraid. He is not dead--not dead!"
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