SOMETHING BEFORE UNKNOWN
Clara Heyward was dressed in deep mourning, and it was evident that the emblems of bereavement were not worn merely in compliance with a social custom. Her face was pallid from grief, and her dark beautiful eyes were dim from much weeping. She sat in the little parlor of a cottage located in a large Californian city, and listened with apathetic expression as a young man pleaded for the greatest and most sacred gift that a woman can bestow. Ralph Brandt was a fine type of young vigorous manhood; and we might easily fancy that his strong, resolute face, now eloquent with deep feeling, was not one upon which a girl could look with indifference. Clara’s words, however, revealed the apparent hopelessness of his suit.
“It’s of no use, Ralph,” she said; “I’m in no mood for such thoughts.”
“You don’t believe in me; you don’t trust me,” he resumed sadly. “You think that because I was once wild, and even worse, that I’ll not be true to my promises and live an honest life. Have I not been honest when I knew that being so might cost me dear? Have I not told you of my past life and future purposes when I might have concealed almost everything?”
“It’s not that, Ralph. I do believe you are sincere; and if the dreadful thing which has broken me down with sorrow had not happened, all might have been as you wish. I should have quite as much confidence in a young man who, like you, has seen evil and turned resolutely away from it, as in one who didn’t know much about the world or himself either. What’s more, father—”
At the word “father” her listless manner vanished, and she gave way to passionate sobs. “His foul murder is always before me,” she wailed. “Oh, we were so happy! he was so kind, and made me his companion! I don’t see how I can live without him. I can’t think of love and marriage when I remember how he died, and that the villain who killed him is at large and unpunished. What right have I to forget this great wrong and to try to be happy? No, no! the knife that killed him pierced my heart; and it’s bleeding all the time. I’m not fit to be any man’s wife; and I will not bring my great sorrow into any man’s home.”