Obtaining a limited leave of absence from the army, he had come home to visit his kindred, and his friend at Melrose. The time was necessarily short. Only one week could he spend at Melrose-one short seven days-days crowned with a golden halo in the after years. To the young school-mistress these were days bright with hope and happiness, bright as the effulgent sun that ushered them in, one by one. Days, too, that she parted with regretfully, as each one’s sun went down. Six of these golden days were passed-passed in pleasant converse, in singing, in reading, in hoping, and the seventh was drawing nigh.
“Mr. Marshall,” said Lizzie, on the evening of the sixth day, “will you leave Melrose without seeing my school, and telling me what you think of my avocation?”
“Certainly not, if you will allow me the pleasure, and to-morrow is the only time I have left,” he replied.
“Well, then, come to-morrow if you like, and see me enthroned in my kingdom. My school opens at eight o’clock, for in this country we teach a long, honest day. Our people know nothing of the five-hour system,” she replied merrily.
“Then, Miss Heartwell, if you will grant me the pleasure, I’ll call early in the morning, and we’ll stroll by the river-side. I must tell you further of my coming to Melrose, and then I’ll see you in your field of labor. Will you grant me this last request?” the young man demanded nervously.
“I will, with pleasure,” she replied. “I’ll be ready by seven o’clock, and I’ll show you the place where tradition says an Indian maiden jumped from the bluff into her lover’s waiting skiff below, to elude her angry father’s pursuit, and lost her life on the rocks.”
“That was sad! ‘Love’s sacrifice’ indeed, at a terrible cost!” replied the young man thoughtfully. “I trust I’ll be more successful some day than the Indian lover was.”
Lizzie trembled, and turning her eyes upon a vase of wild-flowers that adorned the simple table, replied confusedly, “Poor Wenona! hers was a sad fate.”
“To-morrow, at ten o’clock, the stage-coach leaves. I can see you a while in the morning, can I? So I’ll bid you good night,” and George Marshall arose and extended his hand.
“Good night!” murmured Lizzie, with a sinking sensation at her heart, and a dimness of vision that almost betrayed tears.
Night passed, and morning came-bright, clear, fresh morning; and the young girl was awake with the dawn.
“Ah me!” she sighed, as she arranged the shining curls before her simple mirror, “this is the last day. I am almost sorry he ever came to Melrose. I was so interested in my school before; now, I fear I’ll be always thinking of the army. Yes, I’ll put on this blue ribbon-he likes blue, he admired the blue ‘forget-me-not’ I wore at Madam Truxton’s the first night I ever met him. And these violets I’ll pin on my bosom, they are blue too. I am a silly girl, I fear; and yet there is a strange aching at my heart. Can it be—Alas! I cannot speak it. Seven o’clock! He’s coming! yes, he is here! I hear him on the step.”