Ah, little Birdie, a smile will visit his pale face when you chirp tenderly to him, and a faint tinge comes upon his cheek when you lay your soft tiny hand upon it; yet all the while there is that desperate secret lying next his heart, and, like a vampire, sucking away, drop by drop, happiness and peace.
Not so with little Birdie; she is happy—oh, so happy: she rises with a song upon her lips, and is chirping in the sunshine she herself creates, the live-long day. Flowers of innocence bloom and flourish in her peaceful lithesome heart. Poor, poor, little Birdie! those flowers are destined to wither soon, and the sunlight fade from thy happy face for ever.
One morning, Clarence, little Birdie, and her intended bridesmaid, Miss Ellstowe, were chatting together, when a card was handed to the latter, who, on looking at it, exclaimed, “Oh, dear me! an old beau of mine; show him up,” and scampering off to the mirror, she gave a hasty glance, to see that every curl was in its effective position.
“Who is it?” asked little Birdie, all alive with curiosity; “do say who it is.”
“Hush!” whispered Miss Ellstowe, “here he comes, my dear; he is very rich—a great catch; are my curls all right?”
Scarcely had she asked the question, and before an answer could be returned, the servant announced Mr. George Stevens, and the gentleman walked into the room.
Start not, reader, it is not the old man we left bent over the prostrate form of his unconscious daughter, but George Stevens, junior, the son and heir of the old man aforesaid. The heart of Clarence almost ceased to beat at the sound of that well-known name, and had not both the ladies been so engrossed in observing the new-comer, they must have noticed the deep flush that suffused his face, and the deathly pallor that succeeded it.
Mr. Stevens was presented to Miss Bates, and Miss Ellstowe turned to present him to Clarence. “Mr. Garie—Mr. Stevens,” said she. Clarence bowed.
“Pardon me, I did not catch the name,” said the former, politely.
“Mr. Clarence Garie,” she repeated, more distinctly.
George Stevens bowed, and then sitting down opposite Clarence, eyed him for a few moments intently. “I think we have met before,” said he at last, in a cold, contemptuous tone, not unmingled with surprise, “have we not?”
Clarence endeavoured to answer, but could not; he was, for a moment, incapable of speech; a slight gurgling noise was heard in his throat, as he bowed affirmatively.
“We were neighbours at one time, I think,” added George Stevens.
“We were,” faintly ejaculated Clarence.
“It is a great surprise to me to meet you here,” pursued George Stevens.
“The surprise is mutual, I assure you, sir,” rejoined Clarence, coldly, and with slightly agitated manner.