The Adventures of Miss Volney
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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  It was quite noon on the following day when Mrs. Murphy heard a timid rap on her door, and opened it to admit the almost fainting form of Vey Volney. Ever since six o'clock in the morning the poor child had wandered about the streets of New York, bewildered by the babel, and confused by the variety of street cars. As she stood on the platform of the Grand Central depot and looked for the first time upon a great city, New York seemed to her imagination like an immense ant hill, and the hurrying crowds of people, dashing here and there, as purposeless as those agitated insects seemingly are in their endless activity. Mrs. Murphy had said that a yellow car passed within a block of her house. But there were dozens of yellow cars running in every direction, and her search seemed an almost hopeless one.

  After gazing about in bewilderment for half an hour she approached an old gentleman who was buying a newspaper and asked him to direct her to West Broadway. The old gentleman had never heard of such a street, he said, and advised her to consult a policeman. The policeman, who was listening to a good story related by a brother officer, heard only the word Broadway, and indicated a boulevard car which set Vey down at the entrance to Central Park, five miles at least from her destination.

  Here she consulted another policeman, who placed her on a down-town car, and left her to the wisdom of the conductor. There are just two things which a New York street car conductor knows concerning his business. He knows where his route begins and where it ends; but any intermediate facts are far too many for his brain to carry. You may as well ask the moon to tell you when it first sights China after leaving the earth, as to expect one of these conductors to remember that you wish to get off at Canal street, or give any information of the locality of numbers on that line of travel. Therefore, it is no wonder that poor Vey was carried to the Battery and again left at the mercy of a policeman. She might have been forced to accept a corner in a station house by nightfall had it not been for the timely appearance of a messenger boy, from whom the policeman ascertained directions which enabled him to send the now thoroughly alarmed and fatigued waif upon her way.

  After recovering from her astonishment at the sight of Vey Volney and listening to the story of Toad Adams' persecutions, her flight, adventurous journey, and lonely wanderings about the city, Mrs. Murphy had not the heart to turn the girl away. Yet her residence, which Vey in her rustic ignorance had imagined a roomy house like Mrs. Adams' situated in a large lawn, in reality consisted of two rooms on the third floor in a crowded block of business houses.

  One room was reserved as a kitchen, parlor, and bedroom for Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, and the other was occupied by three children, all of similar ages. Vey was obliged to share their trundle bed and when she found, in her surprise and chagrin, that Mrs. Murphy bought and paid for in precious money all the meat, bread, milk and vegetables which the family consumed, she quite emptied her purse of carefully hoarded savings into Mrs. Murphy's broad lap.

  So for the third time the poor child became an unwelcome member of a household where her presence was not needed nor desired. A whole month passed before they succeeded in finding any employment for her.

  Finally she secured a place in the dry goods house where Mrs. Murphy's friend was engaged as assistant "figure" at $3 per week. This would not pay her board anywhere save with Mrs. Murphy, who consented to let her remain at $2, with the understanding that she was to assist in the work morning and evening.

  During the next four months she arose at early dawn, and prepared the family breakfast and washed and dressed the children before going to her employment. At night she performed a score of duties which were left for her to do, and finally retired to her uncomfortable couch to cry herself into a disturbed slumber.

  At the end of the fourth month a new trial arose which brought about another important change n her life.

  Mr. Murphy, like Toad Adams, awoke to the realization that a very pretty young woman was dwelling under his roof.

  Again had Vey's kind yet servile idea of duty toward the male sex brought her into trouble.

  Mr. Murphy could not understand that all the thoughtful attentions she bestowed upon him were offerings laid on the shrine of mankind. As a man, he, like his young predecessor, fancied they were evidence of a personal regard of a tender nature.

  One evening, being rather more in liquor than usual, he attempted to impress that young lady with his appreciation of her charms, but only to meet with an unexpected rebuff.

  The next morning Vey did not present herself at the cloak-room until noon, and then only to inform the manager that she had found employment in an up-town establishment at $6 per week, and that she was to begin her duties the next day. She was willing to forfeit a week's wages to be allowed to go. The entire afternoon was employed in searching for a boarding-house near her new quarters. Vey had learned something of the city in her Sunday saunterings to see the sights with the Murphy family or with her assistant in the cloak department.

  After various discouraging experiences with boarding-houses between Fourth and Twenty-fourth streets, where the lowest prices were all beyond her means, Vey finally made a satisfactory arrangements with a tender-hearted matron on West Twenty-first street. The good lady's lowest price for a furnished room without board was $5. But when Vey explained her position, and the necessity to make an immediate change in order to be nearer her work, something in her face and manner so won the dame's sympathies that she was promised a small hall-room with a folding couch on the fourth floor at $5 a week with breakfast and dinner included. Although this made a great inroad upon her increased wages, it left her the same surplus she had been receiving, with reduced labors and improved conditions.

  Late that afternoon she bade good-by to Mrs. Murphy, merely explaining that her new position necessitated the change, and an extra dollar added to the week's board she was owing averted Mrs. Murphy's displeasure at the sudden departure.

  Vey settled her few belongings in Mrs. Chester's hall-room, with the happy thought that for the first time in her life, she was in no one's way, and that she really possessed a room all to herself.

  It was a lonely luxury, and for a time she felt oppressed with a sense of fear when she awoke in the night alone. But this wore away, and she grew to enjoy her undisturbed slumber and her freedom from all external cares.

  Mrs. Chester was too busy and occupied to see much of her new boarder, but she sometimes chatted with her in the hall or on the stairway, and one day she settled matters over which Vey had been worrying her head recently by a few kind words.

  "If you care to save your laundry bills by doing your own washing, you can use the laundry and the tubs any evening," she said. "I don't suppose you feel above saving a penny; and you can use the parlors to see your callers or practise on the piano any time you like."

  Vey thanked her for the first timely offer, and could have laughed aloud, or cried either, at the last two suggestions.

  How strangely Mrs. Murphy would appear in that--to her eyes--grand parlor! And what other friend had she in all this great people-filled world? As for the piano--oh! if she could only play! Music was clothing, shelter, food, fire to her! If only she could express the feelings within her through her finger-tips as she heard others do!

  Bella Dean, the girl who displayed the misses' sized garments in the department adjoining her own, came late next morning. She was a small, petite blonde with a pretty doll face, china blue eyes and airy manners. She was not popular with any of her companions, perhaps because one of the proprietors of the establishment seemed to allow her more liberties than any other girl in the house received; at all events, they all left her very much alone for some reason, and Vey was the only one who talked with her. Vey's conversations consisted mainly in listening, however, which was just what Bella desired. Bella was five years older than Vey in time and twenty-five in worldly knowledge.

  "Late again," Vey said, smilingly, as Bella came out of the wash-room where she left her jaunty hat and stylish outer-garment. Bella was considered the most dressy girl in the house, and her hands sparkled with handsome rings.

  "Yes," answered Bella, as she ran her jeweled fingers through her soft blonde frizzes, "I take a music lesson three times a week, you know, so I am always late these mornings."

  "How lovely," sighed her listener. "I was wishing yesterday that I could take lessons. My landlady says I could practise on her piano. But I suppose it is very expensive, is it not?"

  "Well, my teacher charges me a dollar a lesson," Bella replied. "He is one of the best. I take three lessons a week, and ought to practise an hour a day, but I don't do it. I hate to practise."

  "What makes you take lessons, then, if you don't love it? I wouldn't spend so much money on anything I hated."

  Bella laughed lightly. "Oh, I don't pay for the lessons," she said. "I have--a friend who is very anxious that I should become musical. He got the teacher for me."

  "He must be a very good man," Vey responded, thinking how blest Bella's lot to possess such a friend.

  Bella laughed immoderately at this remark.

  "Some people wouldn't agree with you," she said, and turned away humming a light air.

  Vey seemed to be the only young lady boarder at Mrs. Chester's; all the men were elderly. She seldom saw any of them save at the dinner table, and they took no notice of her beyond being civil.

  One morning when she had been at Mrs. Chester's for three weeks, she met a young man on the stairway. He was coming up three steps at a time, with his hat on the back of his head. When he caught sight of her he stopped in the midst of a merry air he had been whistling, moderated his pace and removed his hat with a quick gesture. For just one second his eyes wandered form the toe of Vey's boot up to her beautiful rounded figure, as displayed in its neat close-fitting jersey, and rested in bold but respectful admiration on her fresh young face. And then disappeared.

  Vey passed out upon the street with a sudden blaze of color in her usually pale cheek, and a strange feeling in her throat.

  "He actually took off his hat to me," she said mentally, "to me--as if I were somebody." And all day the thought remained with her like a gentle perfume.

  It was the first time in all her life that she had ever received even so simple a courtesy from any man living.

  Accustomed to neglect, indifference or rudeness, this commonplace act of politeness opened the door to a new range of emotions within her. The world never seemed quite so lonely after that until the waters of complete desolation enveloped her.

  She went into the parlor for the first time that evening, and, finding it unoccupied, sat down to the piano and tried to drum out the air which Bella had been humming all day.

  Mrs. Chester, passing the door, heard the sound of the piano and came in, speaking pleasantly to the young girl. "Glad to see you making yourself at home," she said. "It seems as if you must get lonely staying in your room so much and never going out and never having any callers. I like my boarders to enjoy themselves, but I get no time to do much for them separately."

  There was a step in the hall and a voice at the parlor door.

  "Are you in here, Mrs. Chester--oh, I beg your pardon." And a young man put his head in at the door, then entered bodily, instead of retreating, as his apologetic words indicated that he was about to do.

  He fixed his bold, pleasant gaze on Vey's face and stood in a waiting attitude, hat in hand.

  "Oh, Mr. Dayton, come right in," chirped Mrs. Chester. "Miss Volney, this is Mr. Dayton, one of our boarders. He has been away for several weeks; and good it seems to see him back again, too; and this is Miss Volney, Mr. Dayton--I'm sure you young people ought to get acquainted, being the only young ones in the house."

  Mr. Dayton bowed politely and remarked, "I believe I met Miss Volney on the stairs this morning, did I not?" and Vey blushed with happiness--it was so new and pleasant to be remembered a whole day by anybody.

  Mr. Dayton carried Mrs. Chester off to attend to something about his room a moment later, and Vey went to her room feeling as if the world contained a great many more agreeable people than ever before.

  The next morning Mr. Dayton came down stairs just as she was going out, and he walked to her destination with her and left her with a neat little speech of regret that the walk was so brief.

  It was the ordinary speech that any man would have uttered to any woman, yet it made the day very bright for poor, lonely Vey.

  She carried a radiant face into the cloak room, and seemed unusually animated all day.

  Bella looked at her curiously, as they were putting on their wraps at six that evening.

  "You are growing very pretty lately, do you know?" she said, suddenly. "You have a splendid form; if you'd only dress up more you might be really stunning."

  "I have no one to dress for," Vey answered soberly. "No one cares how I look."

  "Plenty would care if you once put on the style. That's what they all like," laughed Bella, turning the jewels of her rings under so they would not cut her fresh kid gloves.

  "But it takes money to be stylish, and I have no money," Vey explained.

  "There's plenty to help you to money, and nice presents and the like once you fix up and show yourself off. Men are such fools; a pretty face and a little flattery will get anything out of them; and what is the use of being poor all your life when they're ready to throw away money on you." And Bella went off laughing, and left Vey to puzzle over her words. She was strangely ignorant of the world; although a homeless waif her life had been isolated from actual evil; she had never known any other girl intimately enough to exchange confidences or listen to secrets, and she had never read a novel.

  But Bella's words jarred upon naturally fine instincts. The thought of using a pretty face or sweet words to buy favors of people seemed horrible to her.

  She looked at herself curiously in the small mirror that night to see if Bella's words were true. And she wondered if Mr. Dayton had thought her pretty. She wished her hair was not red. And she twisted up a bright bow of ribbon and pinned it coquettishly on her collar just under her left ear the next morning to relieve the plainness of her black jersey waist.

  "That's an improvement," was Bella's comment as she noticed the blue ribbon. "But you want to begin at your feet, dear. Don't you know a man always looks at your feet first and then up to your face, and then, if you are pretty, he looks to see how you are dressed? You just take notice now, and you'll find every man you meet on the street does just as I have said. A woman looks at your clothes first, and if they are nice and stylish she looks a your face. But if you dress to please the men, you must begin with your shoes."

  And Bella coquettishly thrust out her own small and elegantly dressed foot for Vey to admire.

  "That boot cost $14," she said, "but it makes me feel well dressed no matter what I wear beside."

  Vey listened to these words of wisdom and wondered how Bella knew so much. She remembered that Mr. Dayton had looked at her feet on the stairway before he had looked at her face, and she blushed now to think how ugly and coarse her shoes were. She felt like hiding her feet as she walked home that evening, and decided to invest in a new pair of shoes as soon as she could afford it.

  This condition of things arrived sooner than she had hoped for, as the very next week her wages were increased to $8 through her having taken extra work upon herself during a busy season, besides showing a constant desire to accommodate and please.

  The native born New York salesgirl often impresses her vast superiority upon the hapless patrons of the establishment where she is employed in a thousand unspeakable ways which accent the miseries of shopping.

  Vey, by her gracious manners, affability and readiness to oblige, therefore, won the gratitude and appreciations of her employers and their customers.

  She met Mr. Dayton at the breakfast table a few mornings later, and they seemed like old friends when the meal ended. He walked down street with her again, and after that they met once or twice every day, and one evening they chatted in the parlors after dinner.

  He told her that he was in the insurance business and that he was prospering all beyond his expectations, and hoped to open an office of his own next year, and he talked to her about operas and theaters and asked her if she had seen this or that, and if she were a society belle.

  Vey had never attended a play in her life, but she did not tell him so. Bella, who was a great theater-goer, had talked to her so much about the different actresses and described their costumes, and the scenes in which they wore them, that Vey was able to speak intelligently on the subject. Ignorant as she was, her quiet manner of gentle dignity, and her few low-uttered words, together with her fine physique and handsome young face, left her companion with the impression that she was a modest, reserved young lady who preferred listening to talking. He was charmed with her, and said to himself that, "after that voluble, blase, tailor-made New York girl, she was a delightful change." So, before she left the parlor he asked her to go to the theater with him a few evenings later.

  Vey seemed to walk on clouds the next two days, and she made quite an inroad upon her store of savings to purchase a new pair of shoes and some materials with which she fashioned a wonderful bonnet; and when the eventful night came, and with it a lovely cluster of flowers bearing Mr. Dayton's card, she broke into tears of joy.

  "It is all just as if I were somebody," she sobbed, kissing the flowers with childish delight.

  What a night it was! She looked so pretty under her new bonnet, which he declared was a marvel of milliner's art that must have come straight from Fifth avenue, little dreaming her own deft hands had fashioned it, and the trim jersey was embellished with a bright ribbon at the throat and his roses at the corsage, and looked for all the world like a brand new dress to his masculine eyes.

  And the play seemed so wonderful, and she laughed and cried so readily through it that he was amused and touched and thought her a strangely sympathetic girl, so unlike all the New York belles, never dreaming it was the first entertainment of any kind she had ever attended.

  And there was the little supper afterward, and he was so bright and jolly, so attentive and kind, and he took such good care of her on the way home, and told her at the door to sleep just as long as she could in the morning so as not to feel fatigued during the day.

  But she never slept a wink the whole night instead, just lying awake from very happiness; and yet she arose more refreshed and fuller of youthful life than ever before it seemed to her.

  "You are getting to look better every day," Bella observed shortly afterward. "I never saw anyone change as you have lately. When you first came here you looked like a country girl, but no one would believe you were the same person. If I had your figure I'd carry every thing before me. I would not stay in this old store long, I can promise you."

  "I am sure you are prettier than I am," Vey said simply.

  "Oh, yes, I know," Bella responded complacently. "My face is, but I'm too small to cut much of a dash in the world. A pretty face can do a good deal, but I notice it is the woman with fine figures that get everybody talking and men raving about them. I'd give the world to have your height and figure." Vey did not like the way Bella talked; somehow she was growing to dislike her of late.

  "I do not want everybody talking, and I'm sure I don't want men raving about me," she answered gravely. "All in the world I want is--." She paused, as if unwilling to complete the sentence.

  Bella was curious to hear what this strange girl most wanted, and pressed her to know.

  "Come, finish your sentence--what is it you want," she teased.

  "Well," Vey recommenced slowly, "my highest ideal of happiness is a little home--two rooms will do--and some one to love me and take care of me. I would like to work and make the rooms look neat and attractive, and get up nice little meals for him when he came home, and to have him to be kind to me, and willing I should love him."

  "You are very modest in your demands, I declare," cried Bella, with a laugh that was a sneer, "and do you mean to say that you would be satisfied to live always like that?"

  Vey hesitated.

  "No," she added, "I think some time I should want God to send me some babies to take care of."

  "Horrors!" screamed Bella. "I would as son touch a worm as a baby. What a queer creature you are, to be sure," and she walked away in disgust.

  It was only a week later that Bella informed Be that she was going to leave the store.

  "Have you found a better situation?" Vey queried. Bella nodded.

  "I 'm going to take a flat," she said, "and rent rooms. "I can gain more that way than slaving away here. It gives me more freedom, too. I've got an uncle that is willing to help me furnish, and that's all the expense I'll have to start with. I'll send you my card when I'm settled and you must come and see me. I have wasted six years of my life in this old treadmill, and now I am going to enjoy myself."

  Mr. Dayton and Vey made plans every morning now, at the breakfast table, for their evenings. They went to the theater two or three times a week, and on Sundays they visited the park or walked about sight-seeing. Mr. Dayton talked a great deal, and Vey listened and drank in his most common-place utterance as inspired language. She was so wholly ignorant of the most simple matters pertaining to metropolitan life, ignorant of books and people, that every sentence he spoke contained some bit of information which she treasured in her memory.

  He was an ordinary type of young man with a fair education and ability, and it was delightful to him to be so looked up to, so appreciated. He thought Vey the most courteous-mannered young woman he had ever seen, and she thought him the most learned and wise man in the world. Nothing is more delightful than one of these mutual admiration societies while the illusion lasts.

  Vey took to reading the daily papers, in order that she might be able to talk understandingly with her new friend. He was always speaking of current events, and Vey, accustomed to the narrow limits of thought in which she had been reared, and which had not been broadened by her association with the Murphys, began to realize how large the world was outside her horizon.

  Mr. Dayton frequently spoke of some book, and asked her if she had read it.

  Her family had always regarded book reading people as the veriest milksops of existence. She remembered the scorn and disgust with which her father had once spoken in her childish presence of a neighboring woman who read novels. She had prided herself accordingly on her complete ignorance of all things, literary or intellectual. Her ideal of womanhood was a healthy physique (she remembered that her father and brothers scorned a sickly complaining woman) and a willing mind and a ready hand. She had never thought that real manly man could desire more in a woman that these requisites. But, now that Mr. Dayton talked to her of books, she longed to know something of them, and resolved to study and gain knowledge some day.

  Bella had been an omnivorous reader of light novels and was devoted to Ouida. She often declared to Vey that Lady Vavasour was the most interesting character she ever read about, and she recommended several books as "very exciting." But the desire of Vey's heart was to keep out of excitement, and just at present the daily papers were all she could master, together with her other duties and her pleasant hours with her friend.

  One Sunday afternoon, as they wandered slowly through beautiful Central Park, they came upon a gentleman and lady who were just entering an elegant carriage, after having paid a visit to the Tower. The lady was dressed as for a fête, and she was laughing gayly with her companion when Vey turned to look at her.

  "Why, Bella!" she cried, and was moving toward the carriage when Jack Dayton caught her arm and drew her rapidly down the path and away from the carriage and its occupants. "Were you going to speak to that woman?" her cried, almost angrily.

  "Where in the name of heaven did you ever meet her?" There was suspicion and suspense in his eyes as he waited for Vey to reply.

  Frightened and trembling, she answered, almost like one guilty of some wrong: "Why, she was in the cloak department with me ever so long. She only went away two months ago, and that was one of the partners in the store with her."

  "Yes, yes, I see," Mr. Dayton responded. "Well, in the two months since she left the cloak room she has made her name a by-word in half the clubs of New York. She wears more diamonds and gew-gaws than the Queen of India herself, and look how shamefully loud she was dressed her on Sunday afternoon! Don't ever been seen speaking to her as long as you live if you value your good name."

  Then he changed the conversation, and directed Vey's glance toward the statue on their left, just as the carriage containing Bella and "her friend" dashed by them on their right.

  This painful experience made Vey almost ill. Like a lightning stroke the knowledge came to her of all Bella's hidden meanings in former speeches--all the causes of her disfavor with more enlightened companions--and the whole miserable false life the girl had lived was revealed to her shocked understanding. Six months previous she would not have understood, but no young girt can read the daily newspapers constantly for six months and retain absolute innocence of mind regarding the evils of society and the world at large. And he (Jack) had seen her speak to that girl; she could have covered her face in the dust. But Jack (it had come to be Jack and Vey now) was just as kind as ever when they met next day and seemed to have forgotten the whole affair.

  She had known Mr. Dayton just five months when he was called away on business. He told her about it one evening, an hour or two before his departure. "I am liable to be gone a week," he said, "perhaps two or three. I hope you will miss me a little bit, and not let some nicer fellow entirely displace me before I get back." And then he shook hands and was off.

  No syllable of love or even of sentiment had ever passed between them. Every word Jack Dayton had ever spoken to her might have been heard by the whole world, yet it is impossible for two young unmarried people to be so much together as these two had been without a tender sentiment existing. Jack was fond of her, but he was a cautious young man and not yet ready to commit himself. He wanted to see more of her, to understand his own feelings better and to be in more assured financial condition. So he left her with an off-hand good-by.

  Vey worshipped him with all the pent-up passion of a loving nature which had starved for sympathy and affection. But she did not herself know the name of the emotion which she entertained toward him.

  He was the first man who had ever been kind, gentle and thoughtful in his treatment of her. His were the first words of praise or appreciation she had ever received from masculine lips. He had made her respect herself by his courteous attention, and he had even told her that her despised red hair was a wonderful Titian hue of great beauty. He had aroused her ambitions, awakened her pride, and taught her all she knew of life worth living.

  She felt that she belonged to him and he to her, though she never gave any thought to a future life with him; she was so perfectly contended to live forever as they were living, seeing him daily, going to theaters, chatting on the stairs, and walking in the park. That was happiness enough for her, and it seemed to her it would always go on like that.

  His absence was the first cruel blow to her dream. She was unable to touch a particle of food all the day after his departure, and during the whole ten days she almost fasted. The food sickened her, and the whole world seemed so vast and void and desolate. She wondered how she could ever live through another ten days without him.

  She remained after hours on the tenth day of his absence to assist in arranging a new supply of fall and winter garments which had just been received. It was almost dusk when she reached her boarding-house. She passed listlessly up the stairway, feeling too weak almost to climb the second flight. On the first landing some one spoke her name, and looking up, there stood Jack Dayton, smiling and radiant before her. With a cry of joy she flung her arms about his neck and kissed him on the cheek three times in succession. They were the kisses a surprised child would give its parent; the kisses a happy mother would give her child up on meeting it after a long absence; the kisses one woman gives another who is very dear to her. They were innocent, spontaneous, sweet, unpremeditated, pure kisses of delight and joy, yet in spite of that they set the blood in Jack Dayton's veins to leaping madly. They were as the lighted torch to the fuse. He drew her into his arms with an embrace that frightened her and took away her breath. Then suddenly held her at arm's length, gazed upon her with stern, questioning eyes, and saying that he was only back over one train, and must hurry or he would be too late for the Boston express, dashed away, and left her half fainting in the hall. Mrs. Chester's voice aroused her from her trance of blissful agony. Mrs. Chester has a surprising piece of news to impart. She had given up the boarding house to a gentleman who was going to turn it into bachelor apartments. All lady boarders must find new quarters during the next month.

  Vey went to her room feeling as if she had been shaken by an earthquake.

  Her sudden childish exhibition of joy at seeing Jack again, his wild caress, his stern gaze and abrupt departure, filled her with troubled emotions.

  His kiss still burned upon her lips; lips that had never known the caress of even mother, father, or woman friend.

  She flushed at the memory, and there stole over her an ineffable sadness. She had known no teacher but her own instincts. These had protected her from the rude and vulgar advances of Toad Adams and Mr. Murphy. These same natural instincts had caused her to fly to her lover's arms with childish delight, as a bird will fly to the hand that has given it food when starving.

  These same instincts made her conscious now of a sense of loss. Her lover's impassioned caress had torn the dream veil from her girlish eyes, and henceforth she would see the world from a woman's standpoint.

  The more ardent and intense are a refined woman's emotions, the higher values he sets upon her virtue.

  The very thrill which electrified Vey's whole being at the memory of that quick caress filled her with overwhelming remorse for having given forever the virgin freshness of her lips. But it was only in the losing that she became conscious of the value of that which she lost. She passed a sleepless night of tears and nervousness, and arose with a nameless dread of what the day might bring forth, which seemed like a premonition in the light of later events.

  The day brought her a letter. It was from Jack--the first one she had ever received--and it had been written the previous evening and mailed before his departure for Boston. It read thus:

  "DEAR VEY:--During my brief hour at Mrs. Chester's I learned that she had given the lady boarders warning to leave. I have a proposition to make to you. If you are agreed I will select and fit up pleasant rooms for you, and relieve you of the trouble this change must otherwise cause you. I may not be able to provide as elegant apartments as your former acquaintance, Bella, possessed, but I think we might find a very cozy little place she you could be snug and comfortable. Don't you? If this plan suits you drop me a line at the Parker House, Boston, during the next three days.
                      "Your devoted                        JACK"

  Vey read the letter through once with merely a sensation of puzzled, pleased surprise. "Dear Jack," she thought, "how good he is; he wants to save me from all worry about finding a new boarding place." Then she read it over again and paused on the sentence: "I may not be able to provide as elegant apartments as your former acquaintance, Bella, possesses." And the letter fell from her nerveless hand to the floor; her face grew ashen white, and with a great cry of horror she sank down sobbing "My God! my god!" and lost consciousness. It was dark when she awoke to life again, and she groped her way to her bed and lay down still dressed, and never moved till the gray autumn morning crept in through the small windows.

  She had never closed her eyes, and she was conscious of no pain. But all life seemed as utterly crushed out of her body as if the building had fallen upon her, and it was only her mental, spiritual part which arose now to go through the dull formalities of life..

  The voices of the boarders at the table and the faces of people on the street were unreal and far away, like beings of another sphere.

  The thought came to her that it might be true. "Perhaps I am dead," she said, "and it is only my spirit moving about these old places."

  Every particle of hope and joy in life, of pleasure and pride, was crushed out of existence. The only living human being for whose good opinion she cared believed her to be base and unworthy, and was willing to encourage her in wrong doing.

  Nothing mattered now. She packed all her little wardrobe in a neat shawl strap and bade Mrs. Chester a quiet good-by. Then she walked rapidly toward the east.

The Adventures of Miss Volneyby Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Tumwater, WA: The Ella Wheeler Wilcox Society, 2006.
Based on the printing by Street & Smith, c1900.

The Adventures of Miss Volney
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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