I returned to my room past midnight, excited and wakeful. Seeing a light through the crack of Bolton's door, I went up and knocked and was bidden to enter. I found him seated under his study-lamp, looking over a portfolio of papers, some of which lay strewed around him open. I observed at a glance that the hand-writing was that of Caroline. He looked at me. Our eyes met—a slight flush rose in his cheeks as he said:

"I have been looking over a collection of writings belonging to your cousin, the fruits of the solitary years of her secluded life."

"And you find them—?"

"A literary treasure," he said, with emphasis. "Yes," he added, "what there is here will, I think, give her reputation and established position, and a command of prices which will enable her to fullfil her long cherished intention of studying in Paris. She will go out with Miss Ida Van Arsdel, soon after you are gone. I can assure her the means, and I have already procured her the situation of correspondent to the Chronicle, with very liberal terms. So you see her way is all plain."

"But what shall we do with the Ladies' Cabinet?"

"O, we'll manage it among us. Caroline will write for it occasionally."

"Caroline!" There was a great deal in the manner in which Bolton spoke that name. It was full of suppressed feeling. Some can express as much intensity of devotion by the mere utterance of a name, as others by the most ardent protestations.

I was in the mood that holds every young man on the eve of a happy marriage. I could conceive of no bliss outside of that; and there was in the sound of Bolton's voice, as he spoke, a vibration of an intense pain which distressed me.

"Bolton," I said, imploringly, "why will you sacrifice yourself and her? She loves you—you love her. Why not another marriage—another home?"

His face quivered a moment, and then settled firmly. He smiled.

"Hal, my boy," he said, "you naturally see nothing for man and woman but marriage just now. But it is not every man and woman who love each other who have the right to marry. She does love me," he added, with a deep, inward breathing. "She is capable of all that magnanimity, all that generous self-sacrifice that make women such angels to us——"

"Then, oh! why not——?" began I, eagerly.

"Because I LOVE her dearly, devotedly, I will not accept such a sacrifice. I will not risk her wrecking her life on me. The pain she feels now in leaving me will soon die out in the enthusiasm of a career. Yes, the day is now come, thank God, when a woman as well as a man can have some other career besides that of the heart. Let her study her profession—expand her mind, broaden her powers—become all that she can be. It will not impede her course to remember that there is in the world one friend who will always love her above all things; and the knowledge that she loves me will save me—if I am salvable."

"If—oh, Bolton, my brother! why do you say if?"

"Because the danger is one I cannot comprehend and provide for. It is like that of sudden insanity. The curse may never return—pray God it may not—but if it should, at least I shall wreck no other heart."

"Bolton, can you say so if there is one that loves you?"

"Not as a wife would love. Her whole being and destiny are not intertwined with mine, as marriage would unite them. Besides, if there is somewhere hid away in my brain and blood the seed of this fatal mania, shall I risk transmitting them to a helpless child? Shall I expose such a woman to the danger of suffering over again, as a mother, the anguish she must suffer as a wife?—the fears, the anxieties, the disappointment, the wearing, wasting pain? As God is my Judge, I will not make another woman suffer what my mother has."

In all my intercourse with Bolton, I never heard him speak of his mother before, and he spoke now with intense vehemence; his voice vibrated and quivered with emotion. In a few moments, however, he resumed his habitual self-possession.

"No, Hal," he said, cheerily; "build no air-castles for me. I shall do well enough; you and yours will be enough to occupy me. And now show me first what I am to do for you while you are gone. Jim and I will trudge to all impossible places, to look you up that little house with a good many large rooms in it, that all young housekeepers are in search of. I will cut out advertisements and look over nice places and let you know the result; and I'll see to the proof-sheets of your articles for the Milky Way, and write your contributions to the Democracy. If you want to be our special correspondent from the Garden of Eden, why you may send us back letters on your trip. You can tell us if the 'gold of that land' is still 'good,' and if there are there still 'bdellium and onyx stone,' as there were in the Bible days."

"Thank you," said I. "I shall send you letters, but hardly of a kind to appear in the Democracy."

"What with your engagements on that sheet, and what I shall have ready to pile in on you by the time you come back, you will have little time for philandering after your return. So take it out now and get all the honey there is in this next moon. For me, I have my domestic joys. Finnette has presented me with a charming batch of kittens. Look here."

And sure enough, snugly ensconced in a large, well-padded basket by the fire, lay madam asleep, with four downy little minikins snuggled to her. Bolton took the lamp and kneeled down to show them, with the most absorbed intent. Stumpy came and stood by the basket, wagging what was left of his poor tail, and looking as if he had some earnest responsibility in the case.

As to Finnette, she opened her yellow eyes, sleepily stretched out her claws, purred and rolled over, as if in excess of pride and joy.

"Who says there isn't happiness on earth?" said Bolton. "A cat is a happiness-producing machine. Hal, I shall save one of those kittens to set you up with. No family is complete without a cat. I shall take one in training for you. You should have a dog, too; but I can't spare Stumpy. I don't believe there is anything like him in the world."

"I verily believe you," said I.

"Stumpy's beauty is so entirely moral that I fear it never would be popularly appreciated; besides, poor brute, he is quite capable of dying for love of me if I gave him up. That's an accomplishment few men attain to. Well, Hal, go to bed now, or you'll be too sleepy to behave respectably to-morrow. God bless you!"

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