“Is that you, Miss Leah?” said Mingo the porter, as he opened the door of the lodge.
“Yes, Mingo, I am late this evening. Has my father come home?”
“Has just passed in, miss.”
“I am thankful for that,” she murmured to herself. “Thank you, Mingo,” she added aloud, as the faithful attendant closed the door.
Nervous from excitement and emotion, it was late that same night before Lizzie Heartwell could quiet herself to slumber. Leah’s melancholy story still haunted her.
At length she slept and dreamed—slept with the tear-stains on her cheeks, and dreamed a strange, incongruous, haunting dream, reverberating with the deadly war of artillery, and flashing with blazing musketry. The sea, too, the quiet harbor, that she always loved to look upon, was agitated and dark with mad, surging waves.
The gray old fort also stood frowning in the distance, with strange dark smoke issuing from behind its worn battlements. And amid this confusion of dreams and distorted phantasms of the brain, ever and anon appeared the sweet, sad face of Leah Mordecai, looking with imploring gaze into the face of her sleeping friend.
But at length this disturbed and mysterious slumber was ended by the morning sun throwing its beams through the window pane and arousing the sleeper to consciousness. Once awakened, Lizzie sprang from her bed, and involuntarily drew aside the snowy curtain that draped the east window. Then she looked toward the blue sea that surrounded the fort, and exclaimed, “How funny! Defiance is standing grim and dark in its sea-girt place as usual, and all is quiet in the harbor. How funny people have such strange dreams. But I fear the vision of that smoking fortress and that angry harbor will not fade soon from my memory; perhaps I have a taint of superstition in my nature. But I must hasten, or I’ll be late for the morning worship. I believe I’ll tell my uncle of my dream.”
The month sped on. The end of Madam Truxton’s year was rapidly advancing. School-friendships that had grown and matured within the seminary walls, now deepened and intensified as the day for final separation approached. All were studying, with a zeal commendable and necessary, too, for the final ordeal through which Madam Truxton’s pupils must necessarily pass.
Since that dark, gloomy day when Leah Mordecai acquainted Lizzie Heartwell with some of the facts of her sad life, not a word further had been spoken on the subject. But they had seemed bound to each other by an indissoluble bond of love. No word harsher than a caress, and no look sterner than a smile, had Lizzie ever cast upon Leah; and as the thirsty, withered flowers drink up the dew of heaven, so this girl of misfortune received that tender, unalloyed love.
The inexorable duties of the school were pressing, forbidding long confidential talks and clandestine interviews. Each and all were impressed with the fact that they were approaching an important, and, to some, a dreaded epoch in their lives.