After the departure of her mother, Eva in vain tried to compose herself to sleep. Her cheeks were flushed, and her brain was in a complete whirl. Her mother had said and hinted just enough about the financial condition of the family to fill her with vague alarms. She walked uneasily up and down her luxurious chamber, all whose appointments spoke of wealth and taste; and it was with an unpleasant feeling of insecurity that she regarded the pictures and statues and sofas, and all the charming arrangements, in perfecting which her father had always allowed her carte blanche as to money. She reflected uneasily, that in making all these expensive arrangements, she had ordered simply what pleased her fancy, without inquiry as to price, and without ever glancing over a bill to know the result; and now, she found herself affianced to a young man without any other resources than those which must come from the exertion of his talents, seconded by prudence and economy. And here, again, offered to her acceptance, was another marriage, which would afford her the means of gratifying every taste, and of continuing to live in all those habits of easy luxury and careless expenses that she could not but feel were very agreeable to her. Not for one moment did she feel an inclination, or a temptation, to purchase that luxury, and that ease, by the sale of herself; but still, when she thought of her lover—of the difficulties that he must necessarily meet, of the cares which she must bring upon him—she asked herself, "Was it not an act of injustice to him to burden him with so incapable and helpless a wife, as she feared she should prove?"

"But I am not incapable," she said to herself, "and I will not be helpless. I have strength in me, and I will use it; I will show that I am good for something. I wonder if it is true that papa is embarrassed. If he is, I wish he would trust us; I wish he would tell us at once, and let us help him economize. I would do it; I am sure we all would do it."

It was in vain, under the pressure of these thoughts, to try to compose herself to sleep; and, at last, she passed into her sister Ida's room, who, with her usual systematic regularity as to hours, had for a long time been in the enjoyment of quiet slumber.

"Ida, dear!" she said, stooping over and speaking to her sister, "Ida, look here!"

Ida opened her eyes, and sat up in bed. "Why Eva, child, not gone to bed yet? What is the matter with you? You will certainly ruin your health with these irregular hours."

"Oh Ida, I am so nervous I can't sleep! I am sorry to disturb you, but, indeed, I want to talk to you about something that worries me; and you know you are always gone before I am up in the morning."

"Well, dear, what is it?" said Ida, stroking her head.

"Do you know mamma has just been into my room with a letter from Mr. Sydney. He is coming into the field again, and has written to mamma, and mamma has been in talking to me till I am just ready to cry. Now, Ida, you know all that took place between Mr. Henderson and me yesterday in the Park; we are engaged, are we not, as much as two people can be?"

"Certainly you are," said Ida, decisively.

"Well now, mamma is so distressed and disappointed."

"You told her about it, then?" said Ida.

"Certainly; yes, I told her all about it; and oh, Ida! what do you think? mamma really made me feel as if something dreadful was going to happen in the family, that papa was getting embarrassed in his business, and perhaps we might all fail and come to ruin if I did not help him by marrying Mr. Sydney. Now, do you think it would be right for me? It certainly can not be my duty!"

"Ask yourself that question," said Ida; "think what you must promise and vow in marriage."

"To be sure! and how wicked it would be to promise and vow all that to one man when I know that I love another one better!"

"Then," said Ida, "asking a woman to take false marriage vows to save her family, or her parents from trouble, is just like asking her to steal money, or forge a false note to save them. Eva, you cannot do it."

"Well," said Eva, "that is what I told mamma. But, Ida dear, is it really true, do you think, that papa is troubled in his business?"

"Papa is not a man that would speak freely to any woman on business matters," said Ida, "not even to me; but I know that his liabilities and ventures are terrific; and nothing would surprise me less than to have this whole air-castle that we have been living in dissolve like a morning mist, and let us down on the pavement. All I have to say is, that if it comes it is just what I have been preparing for all my life. I have absolutely refused to be made such a helpless doll as young girls in our position commonly are. I have determined that I would keep my faculties bright, and my bodily health firm and strong; and that all these luxuries should not become a necessity to me, so but what I could take care of myself, and take care of others, without them. And all I have to say is, if a crash comes it will find me ready, and it won't crush me."

"But, Ida, don't you think it would be a great deal better if we would all begin now to economize, and live very differently? Why, I am sure I would be willing to move out of this house, and rent it, or sell it, and live in a smaller one, and give up the carriages and horses. We could live a great deal cheaper and more quietly than we do, and yet have everything that I care about. Yes, I'd even rather sell the pictures—all except a few—and feel safe and independent, than to live in this sort of glittering, uncertain way, and be pressed to marry a man that I do not love, for the sake of getting out of it."

"Well, dear," said Ida, "you never will get Aunt Maria to let ma stop running this race with the Elmores till the last gun fires, and the ship is ready to sink; that's the whole of it. It is what people will say, and the thought of being pitied by their set, and being beaten in the race, that will go further than anything else. If you talk about any drawing in of expenses, they say that we must not do anything of the sort—that it will injure papa's credit. Now I know enough of what things cost, and what business estimates are, to know that we are spending at a tremendous rate. If we had an entailed estate settled upon us with an annual income of two or three hundred thousand dollars, there might be some sense in living as we do; but when all depends on the value of stocks that are going up to-day and down to-morrow, there is never any knowing what may happen; and that is what I have always felt. Father made a lucky hit by investing in stocks that doubled, and trebled, and quadrupled in value; but now, there is a combination against them, and they are falling. I know it gives father great anxiety; and, as I said before, I should not wonder in the least—nothing would surprise me less, than that we should have a great crisis one of these times."

"Poor Harry!" said Eva, "it was the thought of my being an heiress that made him hesitate so long; perhaps he'll have a chance to take me without that obstacle. Ida, do you think it would be right and just in me to let him take such an inefficient body as I am? Am I quite spoiled, do you think—past all redemption?"

"Oh, no, darling!" said Ida; "I have good hopes of you. In the first place, a woman that has strength of mind enough to be true to her love against all the pressure that has been brought to bear on you, has strength of mind to do anything that may be required of her. Of course, dear, it will come to the practical point of living in an entirely different style from what we now live in; and you must count the cost. In the first place, you must give up fashionable society altogether. You must consent to be pitied and wondered at as one that has fallen out of her sphere and gone down in the world. All the Mrs. Grundys will stop calling on you; and you won't have any turn-out in the Park; and you may have to take a small house on an unfashionable street, and give your mind to the business of calculating expenses, and watching outgoes and incomes."

"Well, now, seriously, Ida, I shouldn't mind these things a bit. I don't care a penny for Mrs. Grundy, nor her works and ways. As to the little house, there'll be the less care to keep it; and as to its being on an unfashionable street, what do I care for that? Nobody that I really care for would fail to come and see me, let me live where I would. And Harry and I just agree in our views of life. We are not going to live for the world, but for ourselves and our friends. We'll have the nicest little home, where every true friend of ours shall feel as much at home as we do. And don't you think, Ida, that I should make a good manager? Oh! I know that I could make a house pretty—charming—on ever so little money, just as I get up a Spring hat, sometimes, out of odds and ends; and I quite like the idea of having it to do. Of course, poor papa, I don't want him to fail; and I hope he won't; but I'm something like you, Ida, if all should go to ruin, I feel as if I could stand up, now, that I have got Harry to stand up with me. We can begin quietly at first, and make our fortune together. I have thought of ever so many things that I could do for him to help him. Do you know, Ida,—(I rather guess you'll laugh)—that I brought home his gloves and mended them this very evening? I told him I was going to begin to take care of him. You see I'll make it cheaper for him in a thousand ways—I know I can. He never shall find me a burden. I am quite impatient to be able to show what I can do."

"To begin, darling," said Ida, "one thing you must do is, to take care of your body; no late hours to waste your little brain. And so don't you think you had better go to your room and go quietly to sleep?"

"Oh Ida! I am going to be so good and so regular after to-night; but to-night, you know, is a kind of exception. Girls don't get engaged every day of their lives, and so you must forgive me if I do make a run upon you to-night. The fact is, what with my talk with Harry this afternoon, and with mamma to-night, and all the fuss that I see impending, my eyes are just as wide open as they can be; and I don't believe I could go to sleep if I were to try. Oh Ida! Harry told me all about his mother, and all about that handsome cousin of his, that he has spoken of so many times. Do you know I used to have such worries of mind about that cousin? I was perfectly sure that she stood in my way. And now, Ida, I have a most capital idea about her! She wants to go to France to study, just as you do; and how nice it would be if you could join company and go together."

"It would be pleasant," said Ida. "I must confess I don't like the idea of being 'damsel errant,' wandering off entirely alone in the world; and if I leave you, darling, I shall want somebody to speak to. But come, my dear little pussy, you must lie down and shut your eyes, and say your prayers, and try to go to sleep."

"You darling good little doctor, you," said Eva, "it is too bad of me to keep you up! There, I will be good—see how good I am! Good night"—and kissing her sister, she sought her own apartment.

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