Eva Van Arsdel was seated in her apartment in all that tremulous flush of happiness and hope, that confusion of feeling, which a young girl experiences when she thinks that the great crisis of her life has been past, and her destiny happily decided.

"Yes, yes," she said to herself, "I like him, I like him; and I am going to like him, no matter what mamma, or Aunt Maria, or all the world say. I'll stand by him through life and death."

At this moment her mother came into the room.

"Dear me! Eva, child, not gone to bed yet! Why, what's the matter? how flushed your cheeks are! Why, you look really feverish."

"Do I?" said Eva, hardly knowing what she was saying. "Well, I suppose that is becoming, at any rate."

"Aren't you well?" said her mother. "Does your head ache?"

"Well? certainly, nicely; never better, mamma dear," said Eva, caressingly, coming and seating herself on her mother's knee, and putting her arm around her neck—"never better, mother."

"Well, Eva, then I am glad of it. I just wanted a few minutes alone with you to-night. I have got something to tell you"—and she drew a letter from her pocket. "Here's this letter from Mr. Sydney; I want to read you something from it."

"Oh dear mamma! what's the use? Don't you think it rather stupid, reading letters?"

"My dear child, Mr. Sydney is such a good man, and so devoted to you."

"I haven't the least objection, mamma, to his being a good man. Long may he be so. But as to his being devoted to me, I am sorry for it."

"At least, Eva, just read this letter—there's a dear; and I am sure you must see how like a gentleman he writes."

Eva took the letter from her mother's hand, and ran it over hurriedly.

"All no use, mamma, dear," she said, when she had done. "It won't hurt him. He'll get over this just as people do with the chicken pox. The fact is, mamma, Mr. Sydney is a man that can't bear to be balked in anything that he has once undertaken to do. It is not that he loves me so very dreadfully, but he has set out to have me. If he could have got me, ten to one, he would have tired of me before now. You know he said that he never cared anything about a girl that he knew he could have. It is simply and only because I have kept myself out of his way and been hard to get that he wants me. If he once had me for a wife, I should be all well enough, but I should be got, and he'd be off after the next thing he could not get. That's just his nature, mamma."

"But, Eva dear, such a fine man as he is."

"I do not see that he is so very fine."

"But, Eva, only look at the young men that girls marry! Why, there's that young Rivington; he's drunk three nights in a week, so they tell me. And there are worse stories than that about him. He has been bad in every kind of way that a man could be bad. And yet, Polly Elmore is perfectly crazy with delight to have her daughter get him. And here's Wat Sydney, who, everybody says, is always perfectly sober and correct."

"Well, mamma dear, if it is only a sober, correct man that you want me to have, there's that Mr. Henderson, just as sober and correct, and a great deal more cultivated and agreeable."

"How absurd of you, my daughter! Mr. Henderson has not anything to support a wife on. He is a good moral young man, I admit, and agreeable, and has talent and all that; but my dear Eva, you are not fitted to contend with poverty. You must marry a man that can support you in the position that you have always been in."

"Whether I love him or not, mamma?"

"My dear Eva, you would, of course, love your husband. A man that is able to take care of you and get you everything that you want—give you every wish of your heart—you would love of course."

"Well, mamma, I have got a man that does exactly that for me, now," said Eva, "and I don't need another. That's just what papa does for me. And now, when I marry, I want a companion that suits me. I have got now all the bracelets, and jewelry, and finger rings that I can think of; and if I wanted forty more I could tease them out of papa any day, or kiss them out of him. Pa always gets me everything I want; so I don't see what I want of Mr. Sydney."

"Well, now, my dear Eva, I must speak to you seriously. You are old enough now not to be talked to like a child. The fact is, my darling, there is nothing so insecure as our life here. Your father, my love, is reported to be a great deal richer than he is. Of course we have to keep up the idea, because it helps his business. But the last two or three years he has met with terrible losses, and I have seen him sometimes so nervous about our family expenditures that, really, there was no comfort in life. But, then, we had this match in view. We supposed, of course, that it was coming off. And such a splendid settlement on you would help the family every way. Mr. Sydney is a very generous man; and the use of his capital, the credit that the marriage would give to your father in business circles, would be immense. And then, my child, just think of the establishment you would have! Why, there is not such an establishment in the country as his place on the North River! You saw it yesterday. What could you ask more? And there is that villa at Newport. You might be there in the Summer, and have all you sisters there. And he is a man of the most splendid taste as to equipages and furniture, and everything of that sort. And as I said before, he is a good man."

"But, mamma, mamma, it will never do. Not if he had the East and West Indies. All that can't buy your little Eva. Tell me, now, mamma dear, was pa a rich man when you married him—I mean when you fell in love with him?"

"Well, no, dear, not very; though people always said that he was a man that would rise."

"But you didn't begin in a house like this, mamma. You began at the beginning and helped him up, didn't you?"

"Well, yes, dear, we did begin in a quiet way; and I had to live pretty carefully the first years of my life; and worked hard, and know all about it; and I want to save you from going through the same that I did."

"May be if you did I should not turn out as you are now. But really, mother, if pa is embarrassed, why do we live so? Why don't we economize? I am sure I am willing to."

"Oh, darling! we mustn't. We mustn't make any change; because, if the idea should once get running that there is any difficulty about money, everybody would be down on your father. We have to keep everything going, and everything up, or else things would go abroad that would injure his credit; and he could not get money for his operations. He is engaged in great operations now that will bring in millions if they succeed."

"And if they don't succeed," said Eva, "then I suppose that we shall lose millions—is that it?"

"Well, dear, it is just as I tell you, we rich people live on a very uncertain eminence, and for that reason I wanted to see my darling daughter settled securely."

"Well, mamma, now I will tell you what I have been thinking of. Since 'riches make to themselves wings and fly away,' what is the sense of marrying a man whose main recommendation is, that he is rich? Because that is the thing that makes Mr. Sydney more, for instance, than Mr. Henderson, or any other nice gentleman we know. Now what if I should marry Mr. Sydney, who, to say the truth, dear mamma, I do not fancy, and who is rather tiresome to me—and then some fine morning his banks should fail, his railroads burst up, and his place on the North River, and his villa at Newport have to be sold, and he and I have to take a little unfashionable house together, and rough it—what then? Why, then, when it came to that, I should wish that I had chosen a more entertaining companion. For there isn't a thing that I am interested in that I can talk with him about. You see, dear mother, we have to take it 'for better or for worse;' and as there is always danger that the wheel may turn, by and by it may come so that we'll have nothing but the man himself left. It seems to me that we should choose our man with great care. He should be like the pearl of great price, the Bible speaks of, for whom we would be glad to sell everything. It should be somebody we could be happy with if we lost all beside. And when I marry, mother, it will be with a man that I feel is all that to me."

"Well, Eva dear, where'll you find such a man?"

"What if I had found him, mother—or thought I had?"

"What do you mean, child?"

"Mother, I have found the man that I love, and he loves me, and we are engaged."

"Eva, child! I would not have thought this of you. Why haven't you told me before?"

"Because, mamma, it was only this afternoon that I found out that he loved me and wanted me to be his wife."

"And may I presume to ask now who it is?" said Mrs. Van Arsdel, in a tone of pique.

"Dear mother, it is Harry Henderson."

"Mr. Henderson! Well, I do think that is too dishonorable; when I told him your relations with Mr. Sydney."

"Mother, you gave him to understand that I was engaged to Mr. Sydney, and I told him, this afternoon, that I was not, and never would be. He was honorable. After you had that conversation with him, he avoided our house a long time, and avoided me. I was wretched about it, and he was wretched; but this afternoon we met accidentally in the Park; and I insisted on knowing from him why he avoided us so. And, at last, I found out all; and he found out all. We understand each other perfectly now, and nothing can ever come between us. Mother, I would go with him to the ends of the earth. There is nothing that I do not feel able to do or suffer for him. And I am glad and proud of myself to know that I can love him as I do."

"Oh well, poor child! I do not know what we shall do," said Mrs. Van Arsdel, with profound dejection.

"Deary mother, I will do everything I can to help you, and everything I can to help papa. I do not believe there is one of us children that would not. And I think it is true, what Ida is always telling us, that it would be a great deal better for us if we had less, and had to depend on ourselves and use our own faculties more. There are the boys in college; there is no need of their having spending-money as they do. And I know if papa would tell them of his difficulties it would make men of them, just as it would make a woman of me."

"Well, I do not know," said Mrs. Van Arsdel. "Your father has not told me of any particular embarrassments, only I see he is anxious and nervous, and I know him so well that I always know when his affairs trouble him. And this is a great blow to me, Eva."

"Well, dear mother, I am very sorry it is so; but I cannot help it. It would be wicked for me, mother, to marry any other man when I love Harry as I do. Love is not a glove that you can take off as you please. It is something very different. Now, with him, I never felt tired. I always like to be with him; I always like to talk with him; he never makes me nervous; I never wish he was gone; he can always understand me, and I can understand him. We can almost tell what the other is thinking of without speaking. And I will risk our not being happy together. So please do, dear mother, look a little cheerful about it. Let me be happy in my own way."

"Well, I suppose I must," said Mrs. Van Arsdel, with a deep sigh, taking up the lamp. "You always did have your own way, Eva."

"Oh, well, mother dear; some day you'll be glad of it. Good night."

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook