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    Debby's Debut

    by Louisa May Alcott
    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode
    On a cheery June day Mrs. Penelope Carroll
    and her niece Debby Wilder, were whizzing along
    on their way to a certain gay watering-place, both
    in the best of humors with each other and all the
    world beside. Aunt Pen was concocting sundry
    mild romances, and laying harmless plots for the
    pursuance of her favorite pastime, match-making;
    for she had invited her pretty relative to join her
    summer jaunt, ostensibly that the girl might see a
    little of fashionable life, but the good lady secretly
    proposed to herself to take her to the beach and
    get her a rich husband, very much as she would
    have proposed to take her to Broadway and get her
    a new bonnet: for both articles she considered
    necessary, but somewhat difficult for a poor girl
    to obtain.

    Debby was slowly getting her poise, after the
    excitement of a first visit to New York; for ten
    days of bustle had introduced the young philosopher
    to a new existence, and the working-day
    world seemed to have vanished when she made her
    last pat of butter in the dairy at home. For an
    hour she sat thinking over the good-fortune which
    had befallen her, and the comforts of this life which
    she had suddenly acquired. Debby was a true
    girl, with all a girl's love of ease and pleasure;
    it must not be set down against her that she
    surveyed her pretty travelling-suit with much
    complacency, rejoicing inwardly that she could use
    her hands without exposing fractured gloves, that
    her bonnet was of the newest mode, needing no
    veil to hide a faded ribbon or a last year's shape,
    that her dress swept the ground with fashionable
    untidiness, and her boots were guiltless of a patch,
    --that she was the possessor of a mine of wealth
    in two of the eight trunks belonging to her aunt,
    that she was travelling like any lady of the land
    with man- and maid-servant at her command, and
    that she was leaving work and care behind her for
    a month or two of novelty and rest.

    When these agreeable facts were fully realized,
    and Aunt Pen had fallen asleep behind her veil,
    Debby took out a book, and indulged in her favorite
    luxury, soon forgetting past, present, and future
    in the inimitable history of Martin Chuzzlewit.
    The sun blazed, the cars rattled, children
    cried, ladies nodded, gentlemen longed for the
    solace of prohibited cigars, and newspapers were
    converted into sun-shades, nightcaps, and fans;
    but Debby read on, unconscious of all about her,
    even of the pair of eves that watched her from the
    Opposite corner of the car. A Gentleman with a
    frank, strong-featured face sat therin, and amused
    himself by scanning with thoughtful gaze the
    countenances of his fellow-travellers. Stout Aunt Pen,
    dignified even in her sleep, was a "model of deportment"
    to the rising generation; but the student
    of human nature found a more attractive subject in
    her companion, the girl with an apple-blossom face
    and merry brown eyes, who sat smiling into her
    book, never heeding that her bonnet was awry,
    and the wind taking unwarrantable liberties with
    her ribbons and her hair.

    Innocent Debby turned her pages, unaware that
    her fate sat opposite in the likeness of a serious,
    black-bearded gentleman, who watched the smiles
    rippling from her lips to her eyes with an interest
    that deepened as the minutes passed. If his paper
    had been full of anything but "Bronchial
    Troches" and "Spalding's Prepared Glue," he
    would have found more profitable employment;
    but it wasn't, and with the usual readiness of idle
    souls he fell into evil ways, and permitted curiosity,
    that feminine sin, to enter in and take possession
    of his manly mind. A great desire seized him to
    discover what book his pretty neighbor;
    but a cover hid the name, and he was too
    distant to catch it on the fluttering leaves. Presently
    a stout Emerald-Islander, with her wardrobe
    oozing out of sundry paper parcels, vacated the
    seat behind the two ladies; and it was soon quietly
    occupied by the individual for whom Satan was
    finding such indecorous employment. Peeping
    round the little gray bonnet, past a brown braid
    and a fresh cheek, the young man's eye fell upon
    the words the girl was reading, and forgot to look
    away again. Books were the desire of his life;
    but an honorable purpose and an indomitable will
    kept him steady at his ledgers till he could feel
    that he had earned the right to read. Like wine to
    many another was an open page to his; he read a
    line, and, longing for more, took a hasty sip from
    his neighbor's cup, forgetting that it was a
    stranger's also.

    Down the page went the two pairs of eyes,
    and the merriment from Debby's seemed to light
    up the sombre ones behind her with a sudden shine
    that softened the whole face and made it very
    winning. No wonder they twinkled, for Elijah
    Pogram spoke, and "Mrs. Hominy, the mother
    of the modern Gracchi, in the classical blue cap
    and the red cotton pocket-handkerchief, came
    down the room in a procession of one." A low
    laugh startled Debby, though it was smothered
    like the babes in the Tower; and, turning, she
    beheld the trespasser scarlet with confusion, and
    sobered with a tardy sense of his transgression.
    Debby was not a starched young lady of the
    "prune and prism" school, but a frank, free-
    hearted little body, quick to read the sincerity of
    others, and to take looks and words at their real
    value. Dickens was her idol; and for his sake she
    could have forgiven a greater offence than this.

    The stranger's contrite countenance and respecttul
    apology won her good-will at once; and with
    a finer courtesy than any Aunt Pen would have
    taught, she smilingly bowed her pardon, and,
    taking another book from her basket, opened it,
    saying, pleasantly,--

    "Here is the first volume if you like it, Sir. I
    can recommend it as an invaluable consolation for
    the discomforts of a summer day's journey, and it
    is heartily at your service."

    As much surprised as gratified, the gentleman
    accepted the book, and retired behind it with the
    sudden discovery that wrongdoing has its compensation
    in the pleasurable sensation of being forgiven.
    Stolen delights are well known to be specially
    saccharine: and much as this pardoned sinner loved
    books, it seemed to him that the interest
    of the story flagged, and that the enjoyment of
    reading was much enhanced by the proximity of a
    gray bonnet and a girlish profile. But Dickens
    soon proved more powerful than Debby, and she was
    forgotten, till, pausing to turn a leaf, the young
    man met her shy glance, as she asked, with the
    pleased expression of a child who has shared an
    apple with a playmate,--

    "Is it good?"

    "Oh, very!"--and the man looked as honestly
    grateful for the book as the boy would have done
    for the apple.

    Only five words in the conversation, but Aunt
    Pen woke, as if the watchful spirit of propriety had
    roused her to pluck her charge from the precipice
    on which she stood.

    "Dora, I'm astonished at you! Speaking to
    strangers in that free manner is a most unladylike
    thing. How came you to forget what I have told
    you over and over again about a proper reserve?"
    The energetic whisper reached the gentleman's
    ear, and he expected to be annihilated with a look
    when his offence was revealed; but he was spared
    that ordeal, for the young voice answered,
    softly,--

    "Don't faint, Aunt Pen: I only did as I'd be
    done by; for I had two books, and the poor man
    looked so hungry for something to read that I
    couldn't resist sharing my 'goodies.' He will see
    that I'm a countrified little thing in spite of my
    fine feathers, and won't be shocked at my want of
    rigidity and frigidity; so don't look dismal, and I'll
    be prim and proper all the rest of the way,--if I
    don't forget it."

    "I wonder who he is; may belong to some of our
    first families, and in that case it might be worth
    while to exert ourselves, you know. Did you
    learn his name, Dora? " whispered the elder lady.

    Debby shook her head, and murmured, "Hush!"--but
    Aunt Pen had heard of matches being made in cars as
    well as in heaven; and as an experienced general,
    it became her to reconnoitre, when one of the enemy
    approached her camp. Slightly altering her position,
    she darted an all-comprehensive glance at the invader,
    who seemed entirely absorbed, for not an eyelash stirred
    during the scrutiny. It lasted but an instant, yet in
    that instant he was weighed and found wanting; for
    that experienced eye detected that his cravat was
    two inches wider than fashion ordained, that his
    coat was not of the latest style, that his gloves
    were mended, and his handkerchief neither cambric
    nor silk. That was enough, and sentence was
    passed forthwith,--"Some respectable clerk,
    good-looking, but poor, and not at all the thing
    for Dora"; and Aunt Pen turned to adjust a
    voluminous green veil over her niece's bonnet,
    "To shield it from the dust, dear," which process
    also shielded the face within from the eye of man.

    A curious smile, half mirthful, half melancholy,
    passed over their neighbor's lips; but his peace of
    mind seemed undisturbed, and he remained buried
    in his book Till they reached -----, at dusk. As he
    returned it, he offered his services in procuring a
    carriage or attending to luggage; but Mrs. Carroll,
    with much dignity of aspect, informed him that her
    servants would attend to those matters, and, bowing
    gravely, he vanished into the night.

    As they rolled away to the hotel, Debby was
    wild to run down to the beach whence came the
    solemn music of the sea, making the twilight
    beautiful. But Aunt Pen was too tired to do
    anything but sup in her own apartment and go
    early to bed; and Debby might as soon have
    proposed to walk up the great Pyramid as to make
    her first appearance without that sage matron to
    mount guard over her; so she resigned herself to
    pie and patience, and fell asleep, wishing it were
    to-morrow.

    At five, a. m., a nightcapped head appeared
    at one of the myriad windows of the ----- Hotel,
    and remained there as if fascinated by the miracle
    of sunrise over the sea. Under her simplicity of
    character and girlish merriment Debby possessed a
    devout spirit and a nature full of the real poetry of
    life, two gifts that gave her dawning womanhood
    its sweetest charm, and made her what she was.
    As she looked out that summer dawn upon the
    royal marriage of the ocean and the sun, all petty
    hopes and longings faded out of sight, and her
    young face grew luminous with thoughts too deep
    for words. Her day was happier for that silent
    hour, her life richer for the aspirations that uplifted
    her like beautiful strong angels, and left a blessing
    when they went. The smile of the June sky
    touched her lips, the morning red seemed to linger
    on her cheek, and in her eye arose a light kindled
    by the shimmer of that broad sea of gold; for
    Nature rewarded her young votary well, and gave
    her beauty, when she offered love. How long she
    leaned there Debby did not know; steps from below
    roused her from her reverie, and led her back
    into the world again. Smiling at herself, She stole
    to bed, and lay wrapped in waking dreams as
    changeful as the shadows. ancing on her charnber-
    wall.

    The advent of her aunt's maid, Victorine, some
    two hours later, was the signal to be "up and
    doing"; and she meekly resigned herself into the
    hands of that functionary, who appeared to regard
    her in the light of an animated pin-cushion, as she
    performed the toilet-ceremonies with an absorbed
    aspect, which impressed her subject with a sense
    of the solemnity of the occasion.

    "Now, Mademoiselle, regard yourself, and
    pronounce that you are ravishing" Victorine said
    at length, folding her hands with a sigh of
    satisfaction, as she fell back in an attitude of
    serene triumph.

    Debby robeyed, and inspected herself with great
    interest and some astonishment; for there was a
    sweeping amplitude of array about the young
    lady whom she beheld in the much-befrilled gown
    and embroidered skirts, which somewhat alarmed
    her as to the navigation of a vessel "with such a
    spread of sail," while a curious sensation of being
    somebody else pervaded her from the crown of
    her head, with its shining coils of hair, to the soles
    of the French slippers, whose energies seemed to
    have been devoted to the production of marvellous
    rosettes.

    "Yes, I look very nice, thank you; and yet I
    feel like a doll, helpless and fine, and fancy I was
    more of a woman in my fresh gingham, with a knot
    of clovers in my hair, than I am now. Aunt Pen
    was very kind to get me all these pretty things;
    but I'm afraid my mother would look horrified to
    see me in such a high state of flounce externally
    and so little room to breath internally."

    "Your mamma would not flatter me, Mademoiselle;
    but come now to Madame; she is waiting to behold
    you, and I have yet her toilet to make "; and,
    with a pitying shrug, Victorine followed Debby
    to her aunt's room.

    "Charming! really elegant!" cried that lady,
    emerging from her towel with a rubicund visage.

    "Drop that braid half an inch lower, and pull the
    worked end of her handkerchief out of the right-hand
    pocket, Vic. There! Now, Dora, don't run about and
    get rumpled, but sit quietly down and practice repose
    till I am ready."

    Debby obeyed, and sat mute, with the air of
    a child in its Sunday-best on a week-day, pleased
    with the novelty, but somewhat oppressed with the
    responsibility of such unaccustomed splendor, and
    uttefly unable to connect any ideas of repose with
    tight shoes and skirts in a rampant state of starch.

    "Well, you see, I bet on Lady Gay against
    Cockadoodle, and if you'll believe me -- Hullo!
    there's Mrs. Carroll, and deuse take me if she
    hasn't got a girl with her! Look, Seguin!"--
    and Joe Leavenworth, a "man of the world,"
    aged twenty, paused in his account of an exciting
    race to make the announcement.

    Mr. Seguin, his friend and Mentor, as much his,
    senior in worldly wickedness as in years, tore himself
    from his breakfast long enough to survey the
    new-comers, and then returned to it, saying,
    briefly,--

    "The old lady is worth cultivating,--gives
    good suppers, and thanks you for eating them.
    The girl is well got up, but has no style, and
    blushes like a milkmaid. Better fight shy of her,
    Joe."

    "Do you think so? Well, now I rather fancy
    that kind of thing. She's new, you,see, and I get
    on with that sort of girl the best, for the old ones
    are so deused knowing that a fellow has no chance
    of a -- By the Lord Harry, she's eating bread
    and milk!"

    Young Leavenworth whisked his glass into his
    eye, and Mr. Seguin put down his roll to behold
    the phenomenon. Poor Debby! her first step had
    been a wrong one.

    All great minds have their weak points. Aunt
    Pen's was her breakfast, and the peace of her
    entire day depended upon the success of that meal.
    Therefore, being down rather late, the worthy
    lady concentrated her energies upon the achievement
    of a copious repast, and, trusting to former
    lessons, left Debby to her own resources for a few
    fatal moments. After the flutter occasioned by
    being scooped into her seat by a severe-nosed
    waiter, Debby had only courage enough left to
    refuse tea and coffee and accept milk. That being
    done, she took the first familiar viand that appeared,
    and congratulated herself upon being able
    to get her usual breakfast. With returning composure,
    she looked about her and began to enjoy
    the buzz of voices, the clatter of knives and forks,
    and the long lines of faces all intent upon the business
    of the hour; but her peace was of short duration.
    Pausing for a fresh relay of toast, Aunt
    Pen glanced toward her niece with the comfortable
    conviction that her appearance was highly creditable;
    and her dismay can be imagined, when she
    beheld that young lady placidly devouring a great
    cup of brown-bread and milk before the eyes of the
    assembled multitude. The poor lady choked
    in her coffee, and between her gasps whispered
    irefully behind her napkin,--

    "For Heaven's sake, Dora, put away that
    mess! The Ellenboroughs are directly opposite,
    watching everything you do. Eat that omelet, or
    anything respectable, unless you want me to die of
    mortification."

    Debby dropped her spoon, and, hastily helping
    herself from the dish her aunt pushed toward her,
    consumed the leathery compound with as much
    grace as she could assume, though unable to
    repress a laugh at Aunt Pen's disturbed countenance.
    There was a slight lull in the clatter, and the blithe
    sound caused several heads to turn toward the
    quarter whence it came, for it was as unexpected
    and pleasant a sound as a bobolink's song in a cage
    of shrill-voiced canaries.

    "She's a jolly little thing and powerful pretty,
    so deuse take me if I don't make up to the old lady
    and find out who the girl is. I've been introduced
    to Mrs. Carroll at our house: but I suppose she
    won't remember me till I remind her."

    The "deuse" declining to accept of his repeated
    offers (probably because there was still too
    much honor and honesty in the boy,) young
    Leavenworth sought out Mrs. Carroll on the
    Piazza, as she and Debby were strolling there an
    hour later.

    "Joe Leavenworth, my dear, from one of our
    first families,--very wealthy,--fine match,--pray,
    be civil,--smooth your hair, hold back your shoulders,
    and put down your parasol," murmured
    Aunt Pen, as the gentleman approached with as
    much pleasure in his countenance as it was consistent
    with manly dignity to express upon meeting
    two of the inferior race.

    "My niece, Miss Dora Wilder. This is her
    first season at the beach, and we must endeavor to
    make it pleasant for her, or she will be getting
    homesick and running away to mamma," said Aunt Pen,
    in her society-tone, after she had returned his
    greeting, and perpetrated a polite fiction,
    by declaring that she remembered him perfectly,
    for he was the image of his father.

    Mr. Leavenworth brought the heels of his varnished
    boots together with a click, and executed the latest
    bow imported, then stuck his glass in his eye and stared
    till it fell out, (the glass, not the eye,) upon which
    he fell into step with them, remarking,--

    "I shall be most happy to show the lions: they
    are deused tame ones, so you needn't be alarmed.
    Miss Wilder."

    Debby was good-natured enough to laugh; and,
    elated with that success, he proceeded to pour
    forth his stores of wit and learning in true collegian
    style, quite unconscious that the "jolly little thing"
    was looking him through and through with the
    smiling eyes that were producing such pleasurable
    sensations under the mosaic studs. They strolled
    toward the beach, and, meeting an old acquaintance,
    Aunt Pen fell behind, and beamed upon the
    young pair as if her prophetic eye even at this early
    stage beheld them walking altarward in a proper
    state of blond white vest and bridal awkwardness.

    "Can you skip a stone, Mr. Leavenworth?
    asked Debby, possessed with a mischievous desire
    to shock the piece of elegance at her side.

    "Eh? what's that? " he inquired, with his
    head on one side, like an inquisitive robin.

    Debby repeated her question, and illustrated it
    by sending a stone skimming over the water in the
    most scientific manner. Mr. Joe was painfully
    aware that this was not at all "the thing," that his
    sisters never did so, and that Seguin would laugh
    confoundedly, if he caught him at it; but Debby
    looked so irresistibly fresh and pretty under her
    rose-lined parasol that he was moved to confess
    that he had done such a thing, and to sacrifice his
    gloves by poking in the sand, that he might indulge
    in a like unfashionable pastime.

    "You'll be at the hop to-night, I hope, Miss
    Wilder," he observed, introducing a topic suited
    to a young lady's mental capacity.

    "Yes, indeed; for dancing is one of the joys of
    my life, next to husking and making hay"; and
    Debby polked a few steps along the beach, much
    to the edification of a pair of old gentlemen,
    serenely taking their first constitutional."

    "Making what? " cried Mr. Joe, poking after
    her.

    "Hay; ah, that is the pleasantest fun in the
    world,--and better exercise, my mother says, for
    soul and body, than dancing till dawn in crowded
    rooms, with everything in a state of unnatural
    excitement. If one wants real merriment, let him go
    into a new-mown field, where all the air is full of
    summer odors, where wild-flowers nod along the
    walls, where blackbirds make finer music than any
    band, and sun and wind and cheery voices do their
    part, while windrows rise, and great loads go
    rumbling through the lanes with merry brown faces
    atop. Yes, much as I like dancing, it is not to be
    compared with that; for in the one case we shut
    out the lovely world, and in the other we become
    a part of it, till by its magic labor turns to poetry,
    and we harvest something better than dried buttercups
    and grass."

    As she spoke, Debby looked up, expecting to
    meet a glance of disapproval; but something in the
    simple earnestness of her manner had recalled
    certain boyish pleasures as innocent as they were
    hearty, which now contrasted very favorably with
    the later pastimes in which fast horses, and that
    lower class of animals, fast men, bore so large a
    part. Mr. Joe thoughtfully punched five holes in
    the sand, and for a moment Debby liked the expression
    of his face; then the old listlessness returned,
    and, looking up, he said, with an air of
    ennui that was half sad, half ludicrous, in one so
    young and so generously endowed with youth,
    health, and the good gifts of this life,--

    "I used to fancy that sort of thing years ago,
    but I'm afraid I should find it a little slow now,
    though you describe it in such an inviting manner
    that I would be tempted to try it, if a hay-cock
    came in my way; for, upon my life, it's deused
    heavy work loafing about at these watering-places
    all summer. Between ourselves, there's a deal of
    humbug about this kind of life, as you will find,
    when you've tried it as long as I have."

    "Yes, I begin to think so already; but perhaps
    you can give me a few friendly words of warning
    from the stones of your experience, that I may be
    spared the pain of saying what so many look,--
    'Grandma, the world is hollow; my doll is stuffed
    with sawdust; and I should 'like to go into a
    convent, if you please.'"

    Debby's eyes were dancing with merriment;
    but they were demurely down-cast, and her voice
    was perfectly serious.

    The milk of human kindness had been slightly
    curdled for Mr. Joe by sundry college-tribulations;
    and having been "suspended," he very naturally
    vibrated between the inborn jollity of his
    temperament and the bitterness occasioned by his wrongs.

    He had lost at billiards the night before, had been
    hurried at breakfast, had mislaid his cigar-case,
    and splashed his boots; consequently the darker
    mood prevailed that morning, and when his counsel
    was asked, he gave it like one who bad known
    the heaviest trials of this "Piljin Projiss of a
    wale."

    "There's no justice in the world, no chance
    for us young people to enjoy ourselves, without
    some penalty to pay, some drawback to worry us
    like these confounded 'all-rounders.' Even here,
    where all seems free and easy, there's no end of
    gossips and spies who tattle and watch till you feel
    as if you lived in a lantern. 'Every one for himself,
    and the Devil take the hindmost'; that's the
    principle they go on, and you have to keep your
    wits about you in the most exhausting manner, or
    you are done for before you know it. I've seen a
    good deal of this sort of thing, and hope you'll get
    on better than some do, when it's known that you
    are the rich Mrs. Carroll's niece; though you don't
    need that fact to enhance your charms,--upon my
    life, you don't."

    Debby laughed behind her parasol at this burst
    of candor; but her independent nature prompted
    her to make a fair beginning, in spite of Aunt
    Pen's polite fictions and well-meant plans.

    " Thank you for your warning, but I don't
    apprehend much annoyance of that kind," she said,
    demurely. "Do you know, I think, if young
    ladies were truthfully labelled when they went into
    society, it would be a charming fashion, and save a
    world of trouble? Something in this style:--
    'Arabella Marabout, aged nineteen, fortune
    $100,000, temper warranted'; 'Laura Eau-de-Cologne,
    aged twenty-eight, fortune $30,000,
    temper slightly damaged'; Deborah Wilder,
    aged eighteen, fortune, one pair of hands, one head,
    indifferently well filled, one heart, (not in the
    market,) temper decided, and no expectations.'
    There, you see, that would do away with much of
    the humbug you lament, and we poor souls would
    know at once whether we were sought for our fortunes
    or ourselves, and that would be so comfortable!"

    Mr. Leavenworth turned away, with a convicted sort
    of expression, as she spoke, and, making
    a spyglass of his hand, seemed to be watching
    something out at sea with absorbing interest. He
    had been guilty of a strong desire to discover
    whether Debby was an heiress, but had not expected
    to be so entirely satisfied on that important
    subject, and was dimly conscious that a keen eye
    had seen his anxiety, and a quick wit devised a
    means of setting it at rest forever. Somewhat
    disconcerted, he suddenly changed the conversation,
    and, like many another distressed creature, took to
    the water, saying briskly,--

    "By-the-by, Miss Wilder, as I've engaged to
    do the honors, shall I have the pleasure of bathing
    with you when the fun begins? As you are fond
    of hay-making, I suppose you intend to pay your
    respects to the old gentleman with the three-
    pronged pitchfork?"

    "Yes, Aunt Pen means to put me through a course
    of salt water, and any instructions in the art
    of navigation will be gratefully received; for I
    never saw the ocean before, and labor under a
    firm conviction, that, once in, I never shall come
    out again till I am brought, like Mr. Mantilini, a
    'damp, moist, unpleasant body.'"

    As Debby spoke, Mrs. Carroll hove in sight,
    coming down before the wind with all sails set, and
    signals of distress visible long before she dropped
    anchor and came along-side. The devoted woman
    had been strolling slowly for the girl's sake, though
    oppressed with a mournful certainty that her most
    prominent feature was fast becoming a fine copper-
    color; yet she had sustained herself like a Spartan
    matron, till it suddenly occurred to her that her
    charge might be suffering a like

    "sea-change
    Into something rich and strange."

    Her fears, however, were groundless, for Debby
    met her without a freckle, looking all the better
    for her walk; and though her feet were wet with
    chasing the waves, and her pretty gown the worse
    for salt water, Aunt Pen never chid her for the
    destruction of her raiment, nor uttered a warning
    word against an unladylike exuberance of spirits,
    but replied to her inquiry most graciously,--

    "Certainly, my love, we shall bathe at eleven,
    and there will be just time to get Victorine and our
    dresses; so run on to the house, and I will join you
    as soon as I have finished what I am saying to
    Mrs. Earl,"--then added, in a stage-aside, as she
    put a fallen lock off the girl's forehead, "You are
    doing beautifully! He is evidently struck; make
    yourself interesting, and don't burn your nose, I
    beg of you."

    Debby's bright face clouded over, and she
    wakked on with so much stateliness that her escort
    wondered " what the deuse the old lady had done
    to her," and exerted himself to the utmost to recall
    her merry mood, but with indifferent success.

    "Now I begin to feel more like myself, for this
    is getting back to first principles, though I fancy I
    look like the little old woman who fell asleep on
    the king's highway and woke up with abbreviated
    drapery; and you look funnier still, Aunt Pen,"
    said Debby, as she tied on her pagoda-hat, and
    followed Mrs. Carroll, who walked out of her
    dressing-room an animated bale of blue cloth
    surmounted by a gigantic sun-bonnet.

    Mr. Leavenworth was in waiting, and so like a
    blond-headed lobster in his scarlet suit that Debby
    could hardly keep her countenance as they joined
    the groups of bathers gathering along the breezy
    shore.

    For an hour each day the actors and actresses
    who played their different roles at the ----- Hotel
    with such precision and success put off their masks
    and dared to be themselves. The ocean wrought
    the change, for it took old and young into its arms,
    and for a little while they played like children in
    their mother's lap. No falsehood could withstand
    its rough sincerity; for the waves washed paint and
    powder from worn faces, and left a fresh bloom
    there. No ailment could entirely resist its vigorous
    cure; for every wind brought healing on its wings,
    endowing many a meagre life with another year
    of health. No gloomy spirit could refuse to listen
    to its lullaby, and the spray baptized it with the
    subtile benediction of a cheerier mood. No rank
    held place there; for the democratic sea toppled
    down the greatest statesman in the land, and
    dashed over the bald pate of a millionnaire with
    the same white-crested wave that stranded a poor
    parson on the beach and filled a fierce reformer's
    mouth with brine. No fashion ruled, but that
    which is as old as Eden,--the beautiful fashion of
    simplicity. Belles dropped their affectations with
    their hoops, and ran about the shore blithe-hearted
    girls again. Young men forgot their vices and
    their follies, and were not ashamed of the real
    courage, strength, and skill they had tried to leave
    behind them with their boyish plays. Old men
    gathered shells with the little Cupids dancing on
    the sand, and were better for that innocent
    companionship; and young mothers never looked so
    beautiful as when they rocked their babies on the
    bosom of the sea.

    Debby vaguely felt this charm, and, yielding
    to it, splashed and sang like any beach-bird, while
    Aunt Pen bobbed placidly up and down in a
    retired corner, and Mr. Leavenworth swam to and
    fro, expressing his firm belief in mermaids, sirens,
    and the rest of the aquatic sisterhood, whose warbling
    no manly ear can resist.

    " Miss Wilder, you must learn to swim. I've
    taught quantities of young ladies, and shall be
    delighted to launch the 'Dora,' if you'll accept me
    as a pilot. Stop a bit; I'll get a life-preserver
    and leaving Debby to flirt with the waves, the scarlet
    youth departed like a flame of fire.

    A dismal shriek interrupted his pupil's play, and
    looking up, she saw her aunt beckoning wildly with
    one hand, while she was groping in the water with
    the other. Debby ran to her, alarmed at her
    tragic expression, and Mrs. Carroll, drawing the
    girl's face into the privacy of her big bonnet,
    whispered one awful word, adding, distractedly,--

    "Dive for them! oh, dive for them! I shall be
    perfectly helpless, if they are lost!"

    "I can't dive, Aunt Pen; but there is a man,
    let us ask him," said Debby, as a black head
    appeared to windward.

    But Mrs. Carroll's "nerves" had received a
    shock, and, gathering up her dripping garments,
    she fled precipitately along the shore and vanished
    into her dressing-room.

    Debby's keen sense of the ludicrous got the better
    of her respect, and peal after peal of laughter
    broke from her lips, till a splash behind her put an
    end to her merriment, and, turning, she found that
    this friend in need was her acquaintance of the day
    before. The gentleman seemed pausing for permission
    to approach, with much the appearance of a sagacious
    Newfoundland, wistful and wet.

    "Oh, I'm very glad it's you, Sir!" was Debby's
    cordial greeting, as she shook a drop off the end of
    her nose, and nodded, smiling.

    The new-comer immediately beamed upon her
    like an amiable Triton, saying, as they turned
    shoreward,--

    "Our first interview opened with a laugh on my
    side, and our second with one on yours. I accept
    the fact as a good omen. Your friend seemed in
    trouble; allow me to atone for my past misdemeanors
    by offering my services now. But first let me introduce
    myself; and as I believe in the fitness of things, let
    me present you with an appropriate card"; and, stooping,
    the young man wrote "Frank Evan" on the hard sand at
    Debby's feet.

    The girl liked his manner, and, entering into the
    spirit of the thing, swept as grand a curtsy as her
    limited drapery would allow saying, merrily,-
    -
    "I am Debby Wilder, or Dora, as aunt prefers
    to call me; and instead of laughing, I ought to be
    four feet under water, looking for something we
    have lost; but I can't dive, and my distress is
    dreadful, as you see."

    "What have you lost? I will look for it, and
    bring it back in spite of the kelpies, if it is a human
    possibility," replied Mr. Evan, pushing his wet
    locks out of his eyes, and regarding the ocean with
    a determined aspect.

    Debby leaned toward him, whispering with
    solemn countenance,--

    "It is a set of teeth, Sir."

    Mr. Evan was more a man of deeds than words,
    therefore he disappeared at once with a mighty
    splash, and after repeated divings and much
    laughter appeared bearing the chief ornament of Mrs.
    Penelope Carroll's comely countenance. Debby
    looked very pretty and grateful as she returned her
    thanks, and Mr. Evan was guilty of a secret wish
    that all the worthy lady's features were at the
    bottom of the sea, that he might have the satisfaction
    of restoring them to her attractive niece;
    but curbing this unnatural desire, he bowed, saying,
    gravely,--

    "Tell your aunt, if you please, that this little
    accident will remain a dead secret, so far as I am
    concerned, and I am very glad to have been of
    service at such a critical moment."

    Whereupon Mr. Evan marched again into the
    briny deep, and Debby trotted away to her aunt,
    whom she found a clammy heap of blue flannel
    and despair. Mrs. Carroll's temper was ruffled,
    and though she joyfully rattled in her teeth, she
    said, somewhat testily, when Debby's story was
    done,--

    "Now that man will have a sort of claim on us,
    and we must be civil, whoever he is. Dear! dear!
    I wish it had been Joe Leavenworth instead.
    Evan,--I don't remember any of our first families
    with connections of that name, and I dislike to be
    under obligations to a person of that sort, for
    there's no knowing how far he may presume; so,
    pray, be careful, Dora."

    "I think you are very ungrateful, Aunt Pen;
    and if Mr. Evan should happen to be poor, it does
    not become me to turn up my nose at him, for I'm
    nothing but a make-believe myself just now. I
    don't wish to go down upon my knees to him, but
    I do intend to be as kind to him as I should to that
    conceited Leavenworth boy; yes, kinder even; for
    poor people value such things more, as I know very
    well."

    Mrs. Carroll instantly recovered her temper,
    changed the subject, and privately resolved to
    confine her prejudices to her own bosom, as they
    seerned to have an aggravating effect upon the
    youthful person whom she had set her heart on
    disposing of to the best advantage.

    Debby took her swimming-lesson with much
    success, and would have achieved her dinner with
    composure, if white-aproned gentlemen had not
    effectually taken away her appetite by whisking
    bills-of-fare into her hands, and awaiting her orders
    with a fatherly interest, which induced them to
    congregate mysterious dishes before her, and
    blandly rectify her frequent mistakes. She survived
    the ordeal, however, and at four p.m. went to drive
    with "that Leavenworth boy" in the finest turnout
    ----- could produce. Aunt Pen then came off guard,
    and with a sigh of satisfaction subsided into a peaceful
    doze, still murmuring, even in her sleep,-

    "Propinquity, my love, propinquity works
    wonders."

    "Aunt Pen, are you a modest woman?" asked
    the young cruisader against established absurdities,
    as she came into the presence-chamber that evening
    ready for the hop.

    "Bless the child, what does she mean? " cried
    Mrs. Carroll, with a start that twitched her
    back-hair out of Victorine's hands.

    "Would you like to have a daughter of yours
    go to a party looking as I look?" continued her
    niece, spreading her airy dress, and standing
    very erect before her astonished relative.

    "Why, of course I should, and be proud to own
    such a charming creature," regarding the slender
    white shape with much approbation,--adding,
    with a smile, as she met the girl's eye,--

    "Ah, I see the difficulty, now; you are disturbed
    because there is not a bit of lace over
    these pretty shoulders of yours. Now don't be
    absurd, Dora; the dress is perfectly proper, or
    Madame Tiphany never would have sent it home.
    It is the fashion, child; and many a girl with such
    a figure would go twice as decolletee, and think
    nothing of it, I assure you."

    Debby shook her head with an energy that set
    the pink heather-bells a-tremble in her hair, and
    her color deepened beautifully as she said, with
    reproachful eyes,--

    "Aunt Pen, I think there is a better fashion
    in every young girl's heart than any Madame
    Tiphany can teach. I am very grateful for all
    you have done for me, but I cannot go into public
    in such an undress as this; my mother would never
    allow it, and father never forgive it. Please don't
    ask me to, for indeed I cannot do it even for you."

    Debby looked so pathetic that both mistress
    and maid broke into a laugh which somewhat
    reassured the young lady, who allowed her
    determined features to relax into a smile,
    as she said,--

    "Now, Aunt Pen, you want me to look pretty
    and be a credit to you; but how would you like to
    see my face the color of those geraniums all the
    evening?"

    "Why, Dora, you are out of your mind to ask
    such a thing, when you know it's the desire of
    my life to keep your color down and make you
    look more delicate," said her aunt, alarmed at the
    fearful prospect of a peony-faced protegee.

    Well, I should be anything but that, if I wore
    this gown in its present waistless condition; so here
    is a remedy which will prevent such a calamity
    and ease my mind."

    As she spoke, Debby tied on her little blonde
    fichu with a gesture which left nothing more to be
    said.

    Victorine scolded, and clasped her hands; but
    Mrs. Carroll, fearing to push her authority too far,
    made a virtue of necessity, saying, resignedly,--

    "Have your own way, Dora, but in return
    oblige me by being agreeable to such persons as I
    may introduce to you; and some day, when I ask
    a favor, remember how much I hope to do for you,
    and grant it cheerfully."

    "Indeed I will, Aunt Pen, if it is anything I
    can do without disobeying mother's 'notions' as
    you call them. Ask me to wear an orange-colored
    gown, or dance with the plainest, poorest man in
    the room, and I'll do it; for there never was a
    kinder aunt than mine in all the world," cried
    Debby, eager to atone for her seeming wilfulness,
    and really grateful for her escape from what seemed
    to her benighted mind a very imminent peril.

    Like a clover-blossom in a vase of camellias little
    Debby looked that night among the dashing or
    languid women who surrounded her; for she possessed
    the charm they had lost,--the freshness of
    her youth. Innocent gayety sat smiling in her eyes,
    healthful roses bloomed upon her cheek, and
    maiden modesty crowned her like a garland. She
    was the creature that she seemed, and, yielding to
    the influence of the hour, danced to the music of
    her own blithe heart. Many felt the spell whose
    secret they had lost the power to divine, and
    watched the girlish figure as if it were a symbol
    of their early aspirations dawning freshly from the
    dimness of their past. More than one old man
    thought again of some little maid whose love made
    his boyish days a pleasant memory to him now.
    More than one smiling fop felt the emptiness of his
    smooth speech, when the truthful eyes looked up
    into his own; and more than one pale woman
    sighed regretfully with herself, "I, too, was a
    happy-hearted creature once!"

    "That Mr. Evan does not seem very anxious
    to claim our acquaintance, after all, and I think
    better of him on that account. Has he spoken to
    you to-night, Dora?" asked Mrs. Carroll, as
    Debby dropped down beside her after a "splendid
    polka."

    "No, ma'am, he only bowed. You see some
    people are not so presuming as other people
    thought they were; for we are not the most
    attractive beings on the planet; therefore a gentleman
    can be polite and then forget us without breaking
    any of the Ten Commandments. Don't be offended
    with him yet, for he may prove to be some
    great creature with a finer pedigree than any of
    your first families.' Mr. Leavenworth, as you
    know everybody, perhaps you can relieve Aunt
    Pen's mind, by telling her something about the
    tall, brown man standing behind the lady with
    salmon-colored hair."

    Mr. Joe, who was fanning the top of Debby's
    head with the best intentions in life, took a survey,
    and answered readily,--

    "Why, that's Frank Evan. I know him, and
    a deused good fellow he is,--though he don't
    belong to our set, you know."

    "Indeed! pray, tell us something about him,
    Mr. Leavenworth. We met in the cars, and he
    did us a favor or two. Who and what is the
    man?" asked Mrs. Carroll, relenting at once
    toward a person who was favorably spoken of by
    one who did belong to her "set."

    "Well, let me see," began Mr. Joe, whose
    narrative powers were not great." He is a
    bookkeeper in my Uncle Josh Loring's importing
    concern, and a powerful smart man, they say. There's
    some kind of clever story about his father's leaving
    a load of debts, and Frank's working a deused
    number of years till they were paid. Good of him,
    wasn't it? Then, just as he was going to take
    things easier and enjoy life a bit, his mother died,
    and that rather knocked him up, you see. He fell
    sick, and came to grief generally, Uncle Josh said;
    so he was ordered off to get righted, and here he
    is, looking like a tombstone. I've a regard for
    Frank, for he took care of me through the smallpox
    a year ago, and I don't forget things of that
    sort; so, if you wish to be introduced, Mrs. Carroll,
    I'll trot him out with pleasure, and make a proud
    man of him."

    Mrs. Carroll glanced at Debby, and as that
    young lady was regarding Mr. Joe with a friendly
    aspect, owing to the warmth of his words, she
    graciously assented, and the youth departed on his
    errand. Mr. Evan went through the ceremony
    with a calmness wonderful to behold, considering
    the position of one lady and the charms of the
    other, and soon glided into the conversation with
    the ease of a most accomplished courtier.

    "Now I must tear myself away, for I'm engaged
    to that stout Miss Bandoline for this dance.
    She's a friend of my sisLer's, and I must do the
    civil, you know; powerful slow work it is, too, but
    I pity the poor soul,--upon my life, I do;" and
    Mr. Joe assumed the air of a martyr.

    Debby looked up with a wicked smile in her
    eyes, as she said,--

    "Ah, that sounds very amiable here; but in five
    minutes you'll be murmuring in Miss Bandoline's
    earm--'I've been pining to come to you this half
    hour, but I was obliged to take out that Miss
    Wilder, you see--countrified little thing enough,
    but not bad-looking, and has a rich aunt; so I've
    done my duty to her, but deuse take me if I can
    stand it any longer."

    Mr. Evan joined in Debby's merriment; but
    Mr. Joe was so appalled at the sudden attack that
    he could only stammer a remonstrance and beat a
    hasty retreat, wondering how on earth she came
    to know that his favorite style of making himself
    agreeable to one young lady was by decrying
    another.

    "Dora, my love, that is very rude, and 'Deuse'
    is not a proper expression for a woman's lips.
    Pray, restrain your lively tongue, for strangers may
    not understand that it is nothing but the sprightliness
    of your disposition which sometimes runs away with you."

    "It was only a quotation, and I thought you
    would admire anything Mr. Leavenworth said,
    Aunt Pen," replied Debby, demurely.

    Mrs. Carroll trod on her foot, and abruptly
    changed the conversation, by saying, with an
    appearance of deep interest,--

    "Mr. Evan, you are doubtless connected with
    the Malcoms of Georgia; for they, I believe, are
    descended from the ancient Evans of Scotland.
    They are a very wealthy and aristocratic family,
    and I remember seeing their coat-of-arms once:
    three bannocks and a thistle."

    Mr. Evan had been standing before them with
    a composure which impressed Mrs. Carroll with a
    belief in his gentle blood, for she remembered her
    own fussy, plebeian husband, whose fortune had
    never been able to purchase him the manners of a
    gentleman. Mr. Evan only grew a little more
    erect, as he replied, with an untroubled mien,--

    "I cannot claim relationship with the Malcoms
    of Georgia or the Evans of Scotland, I believe,
    Madam. My father was a farmer, my grandfather
    a blacksmith, and beyond that my ancestors
    may have been street-sweepers, for anything I
    know; but whatever they were, I fancy they were
    honest men, for that has always been our boast,
    though, like President Jackson's, our coat-of-arms
    is nothing but 'a pair of shirt-sleeves.'"

    From Debby's eyes there shot a bright glance
    of admiration for the young man who could look
    two comely women in the face and serenely own
    that he was poor. Mrs. Carroll tried to appear at
    ease, and, gliding out of personalities, expatiated
    on the comfort of "living in a land where fame
    and fortune were attainable by all who chose to
    earn them," and the contempt she felt for those
    "who had no sympathy with the humbler classes,
    no interest in the welfare of the race," and many
    more moral reflections as new and original as the
    Multiplication-Table or the Westminster Catechism.
    To all of which Mr. Evan listened with
    polite deference, though there was something in
    the keen intelligence of his eye that made Debby
    blush for shallow Aunt Pen, and rejoice when the
    good lady got out of her depth and seized upon a
    new subject as a drowning mariner would a hen-coop.

    "Dora, Mr. Ellenborough is coming this way;
    you have danced with him but once, and he is a
    very desirable partner; so, pray, accept, if he asks
    you," said Mrs. Carroll, watching a far-off individual
    who seemed steering his zigzag course toward them.

    "I never intend to dance with Mr. Ellenborough
    again, so please don't urge me, Aunt Pen; "
    and Debby knit her brows with a somewhat irate
    expression.

    "My love, you astonish me! He is a most agreeable
    and accomplished young man,--spent three years in
    Paris, moves in the first circles, and is considered
    an ornament to fashionable society.

    "What can be your objection, Dora?" cried Mrs.
    Carroll, looking as alarmed as if her niece had
    suddenly announced her belief in the Koran.

    "One of his accomplishments consists in drinking
    champagne till he is not a 'desirable partner'
    for any young lady with a prejudice in favor of
    decency. His moving in 'circles' is just what I
    complain of; and if he is an ornament, I prefer
    my society undecorated. Aunt Pen, I cannot
    make the nice distinctions you would have me,
    and a sot in broadcloth is as odious as one in rags.
    Forgive me, but I cannot dance with that silver-
    labelled decanter again."

    Debby was a genuine little piece of womanhood;
    and though she tried to speak lightly, her
    color deepened, as she remembered looks that had
    wounded her like insults, and her indignant eyes
    silenced the excuses rising to her aunt's lips. Mrs.
    Carroll began to rue the hour she ever undertook
    the guidance of Sister Deborah's headstrong child,
    and for an instant heartily wished she had left her
    to bloom unseen in the shadow of the parsonage;
    but she concealed her annoyance, still hoping to
    overcome the girl's absurd resolve, by saying,
    mildly,--

    "As you please, dear; but if you refuse Mr.
    Ellenborough, you will be obliged to sit through
    the dance, which is your favorite, you know."

    Debby's countenance fell, for she had forgotten
    that, and the Lancers was to her the crowning
    rapture of the night. She paused a moment, and
    Aunt Pen brightened; but Debby made her little
    sacrifice to principle as heroically as many a greater
    one had been made, and, with a wistful look down
    the long room, answered steadily, though her foot
    kept time to the first strains as she spoke,--

    "Then I will sit, Aunt Pen; for that is preferable
    to staggering about the room with a partner
    who has no idea of the laws of gravitation."

    "Shall I have the honor of averting either calamity?"
    said Mr. Evan, coming to the rescue with
    a devotion beautiful to see; for dancing was nearly
    a lost art with him, and the Lancers to a novice is
    equal to a second Labyrinth of Crete.

    "Oh, thank you!" cried Debby, tumbling fan,
    bouquet, and handkerchief into Mrs. Carroll's lap,
    with a look of relief that repaid him fourfold for
    the trials he was about to undergo. They went
    merrily away together, leaving Aunt Pen to wish
    that it was according to the laws of etiquette to
    rap officious gentlemen over the knuckles, when
    they introduce their fingers into private pies
    without permission from the chief cook. How the
    dance went Debby hardly knew, for the conversation
    fell upon books, and in the interest of her
    favorite theme she found even the "grand square"
    an impertinent interruption, while her own deficiences
    became almost as great as her partner's;
    yet, when the music ended with a flourish, and her
    last curtsy was successfully achieved, she longed
    to begin all over again, and secretly regretted that
    she was engaged four deep.

    "How do you like our new acquaintance, Dora?" asked
    Aunt Pen, following Joe Leavenworth with her eye,
    as the "yellow-haired laddie" whirled by with the
    ponderous Miss Flora.

    "Very much; and I'm glad we met as we did,
    for it makes things free and easy, and that is so
    agreeable in this ceremonious place," replied
    Debby, looking in quite an opposite direction.

    "Well, I'm delighted to hear you say so, dear,
    for I was afraid you had taken a dislike to him,
    and he is really a very charming young man, just
    the sort of person to make a pleasant companion
    for a few weeks. These little friendships are part
    of the summer's amusement, and do no harm; so
    smile away. Dora, and enjoy yourself while you
    may."

    "Yes, Aunt, I certainly will, and all the more
    because I have found a sensible soul to talk to.
    Do you know, he is very witty and well informed,
    though he says he never had much time for self-
    cultivation? But I think trouble makes people
    wise, and he seems to have had a good deal,
    though he leaves it for others to tell of. I am
    glad you are willing I should know him, for I
    shall enjoy talking about my pet heroes with him
    as a relief from the silly chatter I must keep up
    most of the time."

    Mrs. Carroll was a woman of one idea; and
    though a slightly puzzled expression appeared in
    her face, she listened approvingly, and answered,
    with a gracious smile,--

    "Of course, I should not object to your knowing
    such a person, my love; but I'd no idea Joe
    Leavenworth was a literary man, or had known
    much trouble, except his father's death and his
    sister Clementina's runaway-marriage with her
    drawing-master."

    Debby opened her brown eyes very wide, and
    hastily picked at the down on her fan, but had
    no time to correct her aunt's mistake, for the real
    subject of her commendations appeared at that
    moment, and Mrs. Caroll was immediately absorbed
    in the consumption of a large pink ice.

    "That girl is what I call a surprise-party, now,"
    remarked Mr. Joe confidentially to his cigar, as
    he pulled off his coat and stuck his feet up in the
    privacy of his own apartment. "She looks as mild
    as strawberries and cream till you come to the
    complimentary, then she turns on a fellow with
    that deused satirical look of hers, and makes him
    feel like a fool. I'll try the moral dodge to-morrow
    and see what effect that will have; for she is
    mighty taking, and I must amuse myself somehow,
    you know."

    "How many years will it take to change that
    fresh-hearted little girl into a fashionable belle,
    I wonder?" thought Frank Evan, as he climbed
    the four flights that led to his "sky-parlor."

    "What a curious world this is!" mused
    Debby, with her nightcap in her hand. "The
    right seems odd and rude, the wrong respectable
    and easy, and this sort of life a merry-go-round,
    with no higher aim than pleasure. Well, I have
    made my Declaration of Independence, and Aunt
    Pen must be ready for a Revolution if she taxes
    me too heavily."

    As she leaned her hot cheek on her arm,
    Debby's eye fell on the quaint little cap made
    by the motherly hands that never were tired of
    working for her. She touched it tenderly, and
    love's simple magic swept the gathering shadows
    from her face, and left it clear again, as her
    thoughts flew home like birds into the shelter of
    their nest.

    "Good night, mother! I'll face temptation steadily.
    I'll try to take life cheerily, and do nothing that
    shall make your dear face a reproach, when it looks
    into my own again."

    Then Debby said her prayers like any pious
    child, and lay down to dream of pulling
    buttercups with Baby Bess, and singing in the
    twilight on her father's knee.

    The history of Debby's first day might serve
    as a sample of most that followed, as week after
    week went by with varying pleasures and increasing
    interest to more than one young debutante.

    Mrs. Carroll did her best, but Debby was too
    simple for a belle, too honest for a flirt, too
    independent for a fine lady; she would be nothing
    but her sturdy little self, open as daylight, gay as
    a lark, and blunt as any Puritan. Poor Aunt
    Pen was in despair, till she observed that the girl
    often "took" with the very peculiarities which
    she was lamenting; this somewhat consoled her,
    and she tried to make the best of the pretty bit
    of homespun which would not and could not become
    velvet or brocade. Seguin, Ellenborough,
    & Co. looked with lordly scorn upon her, as a
    worm blind to their attractions. Miss MacRimsy
    and her "set" quizzed her unmercifully behind
    her back, after being worsted in several passages
    of arms; and more than one successful mamma
    condoled with Aunt Pen upon the terribly defective
    education of her charge, till that stout matron
    could have found it in her heart to tweak off their
    caps and walk on them, like the irascible Betsey
    Trotwood.

    But Debby had a circle of admirers who loved
    her with a sincerity few summer queens could
    boast; for they were real friends, won by gentle
    arts, and retained by the gracious sweetness of her
    nature. Moon-faced babies crowed and clapped
    their chubby hands when she passed by their
    wicker-thrones; story-loving children clustered
    round her knee, and never were denied; pale invalids
    found wild-flowers on their pillows; and
    forlorn papas forgot the state of the moneymarket
    when she sang for them the homely airs their
    daughters had no time to learn. Certain plain
    young ladies poured their woes into her friendly
    ear, and were comforted; several smart Sophomores
    fell into a state of chronic stammer, blush,
    and adoration, when she took a motherly interest
    in their affairs; and a melancholy old Frenchman
    blessed her with the enthusiasm of his nation, because
    she put a posy in the button-hole of his
    rusty coat, and never failed to smile and bow as
    he passed by. Yet Debby was no Edgworth heroine
    preternaturally prudent, wise, and untemptable;
    she had a fine crop of piques, vanities, and
    dislikes growing up under this new style of cultivation.
    She loved admiration, enjoyed her purple
    and fine linen, hid new-born envy, disappointed
    hope, and wounded pride behind a smiling face,
    and often thought with a sigh of the humdrum
    duties that awaited her at home. But under the
    airs and graces Aunt Pen cherished with such
    sedulous care, under the flounces and furbelows
    Victorine daily adjusted with groans, under the
    polish which she acquired with feminine ease, the
    girl's heart still beat steadfast and strong, and
    conscience kept watch and ward that no traitor should
    enter in to surprise the citadel which mother-love
    had tried to garrison so well.

    In pursuance of his sage resolve, Mr. Joe tried
    the "moral dodge," as he elegantly expressed it,
    and, failing in that, followed it up with the tragic,
    religious, negligent, and devoted ditto; but acting
    was not his forte, so Debby routed him in all; and
    at last, when he was at his wit's end for an idea,
    she suggested one, and completed her victory by
    saying pleasantly,--

    "You took me behind the curtain too soon, and
    now the paste-diamonds and cotton-velvet don't
    impose upon me a bit. Just be your natural self,
    and we shall get on nicely, Mr. Leavenworth."

    The novelty of the proposal struck his fancy,
    and after a few relapses it was carried into effect
    and thenceforth, with Debby, he became the
    simple, good-humored lad Nature designed him
    to be, and, as a proof of it, soon fell very sincerely
    in love.

    Frank Evan, seated in the parquet of society,
    surveyed the dress-circle with much the same
    expression that Debby had seen during Aunt Pen's
    oration; but he soon neglected that amusement
    to watch several actors in the drama going on
    before his eyes, while a strong desire to perform a
    part therein slowly took possession of his mind.

    Debby always had a look of welcome when he
    came, always treated him with the kindness of a
    generous woman who has had an opportunity to
    forgive, and always watched the serious, solitary
    man with a great compassion for his loss, a growing
    admiration for his upright life. More than
    once the beach-birds saw two figures pacing the
    sands at sunrise with the peace of early day upon
    their faces and the light of a kindred mood shining
    in their eyes. More than once the friendly ocean
    made a third in the pleasant conversation, and its
    low undertone came and went between the mellow
    bass and silvery treble of the human voices
    with a melody that lent another charm to interviews
    which soon grew wondrous sweet to man
    and maid. Aunt Pen seldom saw the twain together,
    seldom spoke of Evan; and Debby held
    her peace, for, when she planned to make her
    innocent confessions, she found that what seemed
    much to her was nothing to another ear and
    scarcely worth the telling; so, unconscious as yet
    whither the green path led, she went on her way,
    leading two lives, one rich and earnest, hoarded
    deep within herself, the other frivolous and gay
    for all the world to criticize. But those venerable
    spinsters, the Fates, took the matter into their own
    hands, and soon got the better of those short-sighted
    matrons, Mesdames Grundy and Carroll;
    for, long before they knew it, Frank and Debby
    had begun to read together a book greater than
    Dickens ever wrote, and when they had come to
    the fairest part of the sweet story Adam first told
    Eve, they looked for the name upon the title-page,
    and found that it was "Love."

    Fight weeks came and went,--eight wonderfully
    happy weeks to Debby and her friend; for
    "propinquity" had worked more wonders than poor
    Mrs. Carroll knew, as the only one she saw or guessed
    was the utter captivation of Joe Leavenworth.
    He had become "himself" to such an extent that a
    change of identity would have been a relief; for
    the object of his adoration showed no
    signs of relenting, and he began to fear, that, as
    Debby said, her heart was "not in the market."
    She was always friendly, but never made those
    interesting betrayals of regard which are so
    encouraging to youthful gentlemen "who fain would
    climb, yet fear to fall." She never blushed when
    he pressed her hand, never fainted or grew pale
    when he appeared with a smashed trotting-wagon
    and black eye, and actually slept through a
    serenade that would have won any other woman's
    soul out of her body with its despairing quavers.
    Matters were getting desperate; for horses lost
    their charms, "flowing bowls" palled upon his
    lips, ruffled shirt-bosoms no longer delighted him,
    and hops possessed no soothing power to allay
    the anguish of his mind. Mr. Seguin, after
    unavailing ridicule and pity, took compassion on
    him, and from his large experience suggested a
    remedy, just as he was departing for a more
    congenial sphere.

    "Now don't be an idiot, Joe, but, if you want
    to keep your hand in and go through a regular
    chapter of flirtation, just right about face, and
    devote yourself to some one else. Nothing like
    jealousy to teach womankind their own minds,
    and a touch of it will bring little Wilder round in
    a jiffy. Try it, my boy, and good luck to you!"
    --with which Christian advice Mr. Seguin slapped
    his pupil on the shoulder, and disappeared, like
    a modern Mephistopheles, in a cloud of cigar-smoke.

    "I'm glad he's gone, for in my present state of
    mind he's not up to my mark at all. I'll try his
    plan, though, and flirt with Clara West; she's
    engaged, so it won't damage her affections; her
    lover isn't here, so it won't disturb his; and, by
    Jove! I must do something, for I can't stand this
    suspense."

    Debby was infinitely relieved by this new move,
    and infinitely amused as she guessed the motive
    that prompted it; but the more contented she
    seemed, the more violently Mr. Joe flirted with her
    rival, till at last weak-minded Miss Clara began to
    think her absent George the most undesirable of
    lovers, and to mourn that she ever said "Yes"
    to a merchant's clerk, when she might have said it
    to a merchant's son. Aunt Pen watched and approved
    this stratagem, hoped for the best results,
    and believed the day won when Debby grew pale
    and silent, and followed with her eyes the young
    couple who were playing battledoor and shuttle-cock
    with each other's hearts, as if she took some
    interest in the game. But Aunt Pen clashed
    her cymbals too soon; for Debby's trouble had a
    better source than jealousy, and in the silence of

    the sleepless nights that stole her bloom she was
    taking counsel of her own full heart, and resolving
    to serve another woman as she would herself be
    served in a like peril, though etiquette was outraged
    and the customs of polite society turned upside down.

    "Look, Aunt Pen! what lovely shells and moss
    I've got! Such a splendid scramble over the rocks
    as I've had with Mrs. Duncan's boys! It seemed
    so like home to run and sing with a troop of
    topsy-turvy children that it did me good; and I wish you
    had all been there to see." cried Debby, running
    into the drawing-room, one day, where Mrs. Carroll
    and a circle of ladies sat enjoying a dish of
    highly flavored scandal, as they exercised their
    eyesight over fancy-work.

    "My dear Dora, spare my nerves; and if you
    have any regard for the proprieties of life, don't go
    romping in the sun with a parcel of noisy boys. If
    you could see what an object you are, I think you
    would try to imitate Miss Clara, who is always a
    model of elegant repose."

    Miss West primmed up her lips, and settled a
    fold in her ninth flounce, as Mrs. Carroll spoke,
    while the whole group fixed their eyes with
    dignified disapproval on the invader of their refined
    society. Debby had come like a fresh wind into
    a sultry room; but no one welcomed the healthful
    visitant, no one saw a pleasant picture in the
    bright-faced girl with windtossed hair and rustic
    hat heaped with moss and many-tinted shells; they
    only saw that her gown was wet, her gloves forgotten,
    and her scarf trailing at her waist in a manner no
    well-bred lady could approve. The sunshine faded out
    of Debby's face, and there was a touch of bitterness
    in her tone, as she glanced at the circle of fashion-plates,
    saying with an earnestness which caused Miss West to
    open her pale eyes to their widest extent,--

    "Aunt Pen, don't freeze me yet,--don't take
    away my faith in simple things, but let me be a
    child a little longer,--let me play and sing and keep
    my spirit blithe among the dandelions and the
    robins while I can; for trouble comes soon enough,
    and all my life will be the richer and the better for
    a happy youth."

    Mrs. Carroll had nothing at hand to offer in
    reply to this appeal, and four ladies dropped their
    work to stare; but Frank Evan looked in from
    the piazza, saying, as he beckoned like a boy,--

    "I'll play with you, Miss Dora; come and make
    sand pies upon the shore. Please let her, Mrs.
    Carroll; we'll be very good, and not wet our
    pinafores or feet."

    Without waiting for permission, Debby poured
    her treasures into the lap of a certain lame Freddy,
    and went away to a kind of play she had never
    known before. Quiet as a chidden child, she
    walked beside her companion, who looked down
    at the little figure, longing to take it on his knee
    and call the sunshine back again. That he dared
    not do; but accident, the lover's friend, performed
    the work, and did him a good turn beside. The
    old Frenchman was slowly approaching, when a
    frolicsome wind whisked off his hat and sent it
    skimming along the beach. In spite of her late
    lecture, away went Debby, and caught the truant
    chapeau just as a wave was hurrying up to claim
    it. This restored her cheerfulness, and when she
    returned, she was herself again.

    "A thousand thanks; but does Mademoiselle
    remember the forfeit I might demand to add to the
    favor she has already done me?" asked the gallant
    old gentleman, as Debby took the hat off
    her own head, and presented it with a martial
    salute.

    "Ah, I had forgotten that; but you may claim
    [text missing in original copy]
    do something more to give you pleasure;" and
    Debby looked up into the withered face which
    had grown familiar to her, with kind eyes, full
    of pity and respect.

    Her manner touched the old man very much;
    he bent his gray head before her, saying,
    gratefully,--

    "My child, I am not good enough to salute
    these blooming checks; but I shall pray the Virgin
    to reward you for the compassion you bestow on
    the poor exile, and I shall keep your memory very
    green through all my life."

    He kissed her hand, as if it were a queen's,
    and went on his way, thinking of the little daughter
    whose death left him childless in a foreign land.

    Debby softly began to sing, "Oh, come unto
    the yellow sands! " but stopped in the middle of
    a line, to say,--

    "Shall I tell you why I did what Aunt Pen
    would call a very unladylike and improper thing,
    Mr. Evans? "

    "If you will be so kind;" and her companion
    looked delighted at the confidence about to be
    reposed in him.

    "Somewhere across this great wide sea I hope
    I have a brother," Debby said, with softened voice
    and a wistful look into the dim horizon." Five
    years ago he left us, and we have never heard
    from him since, except to know that he landed
    safely in Australia. People tell us he is dead; but
    I believe he will yet come home; and so I love to
    help and pity any man who needs it, rich or poor,
    young or old, hoping that as I do by them some
    tender-hearted woman far away will do by Brother
    Will."

    As Debby spoke, across Frank Evan's face
    there passed the look that seldom comes but once
    to any young man's countenance; for suddenly
    the moment dawned when love asserted its supremacy,
    and putting pride, doubt, and fear underneath
    its feet, ruled the strong heart royally and bent it
    to its will. Debby's thoughts had floated across
    the sea; but they came swiftly back when her
    companion spoke again, steadily and slow, but
    with a subtile change in tone and manner which
    arrested them at once.

    "Miss Dora, if you should meet a man who
    had known a laborious youth, a solitary manhood,
    who had no sweet domestic ties to make home
    beautiful and keep his nature warm, who longed
    most ardently to be so blessed, and made it the aim
    of his life to grow more worthy the good gift,
    should it ever come,--if you should learn that you
    possessed the power to make this fellow-creature's
    happiness, could you find it in your gentle heart
    to take compassion on him for the love of 'Brother
    Will'?"

    Debby was silent, wondering why heart and
    nerves and brain were stirred by such a sudden
    thrill, why she dared not look up, and why, when
    she desired so much to speak, she could only
    answer, in a voice that sounded strange to her own
    ears,--

    "I cannot tell."

    Still, steadily and slow, with strong emotion
    deepening and softening his voice, the lover at her
    side went on,--

    "Will you ask yourself this question in some quiet
    hour? For such a man has lived in the sunshine of
    your presence for eight happy weeks, and
    now, when his holiday is done, he finds that the
    old solitude will be more sorrowful than ever,
    unless he can discover whether his summer dream
    will change into a beautiful reality. Miss Dora,
    I have very little to offer you; a faithful heart to
    cherish you, a strong arm to work for you, an
    honest name to give into your keeping,--these are
    all; but if they have any worth in your eyes, they
    are most truly yours forever."

    Debby was steadying her voice to reply, when
    a troop of bathers came shouting down the bank,
    and she took flight into her dressing-room, there
    to sit staring at the wall, till the advent of Aunt
    Pen forced her to resume the business of the hour
    by assuming her aquatic attire and stealing shyly
    down into the surf.

    Frank Evan, still pacing in the footprints they
    had lately made, watched the lithe figure tripping
    to and fro, and, as he looked, murmured to himself
    the last line of a ballad Debby sometimes sang,--

    "Dance light! for my heart it lies under your feet, love!"

    Presently a great wave swept Debby up, and
    stranded her very near him, much to her confusion
    and his satisfaction. Shaking the spray out of her
    eyes, she was hurrying away, when Frank said,--

    "You will trip, Miss Dora; let me tie these
    strings for you;" and, suiting the action to the
    word, he knelt down and began to fasten the cords
    of her bathing shoe.

    Debby stood Looking down at the tall head bent
    before her, with a curious sense of wonder that a
    look from her could make a strong man flush and
    pale, as he had done; and she was trying to concoct
    some friendly speech, when Frank, still fumbling
    at the knots, said, very earnestly and low,--

    "Forgive me, if I am selfish in pressing for an
    answer; but I must go to-morrow, and a single
    word will change my whole future for the better
    or the worse. Won't you speak it, Dora?"

    If they had been alone, Debby would have put
    her arms about his neck, and said it with all her
    heart; but she had a presentiment that she should
    cry, if her love found vent; and here forty pairs
    of eyes were on them, and salt water seemed
    superfluous. Besides, Debby had not breathed the air
    of coquetry so long without a touch of the infection;
    and the love of power, that lies dormant in
    the meekest woman's breast, suddenly awoke and
    tempted her.

    "If you catch me before I reach that rock,
    perhaps I will say 'Yes,'" was her unexpected
    answer; and before her lover caught her meaning,
    she was floating leisurely away.

    Frank was not in bathing-costume, and Debby
    never dreamed that he would take her at her
    word; but she did not know the man she had to
    deal with; for, taking no second thought, he flung
    hat and coat away, and dashed into the sea. This
    gave a serious aspect to Debby's foolish jest. A
    feeling of dismay seized her, when she saw a
    resolute face dividing the waves behind her, and
    thought of the rash challenge she had given; but
    she had a spirit of her own, and had profited well
    by Mr. Joe's instructions: so she drew a long
    breath, and swam as if for life, instead of love.
    Evan was incumbered by his clothing, and Debby
    had much the start of him; but, like a second
    Leander, he hoped to win his Hero, and, lending
    every muscle to the work, gained rapidly upon
    the little hat which was his beacon through the
    foam. Debby heard the deep breathing drawing
    nearer and nearer, as her pursuer's strong arms
    cleft the water and sent it rippling past her lips,
    something like terror took possession of her; for
    the strength seemed going out of her limbs, and
    the rock appeared to recede before her; but the
    unconquerable blood of the Pilgrims was in her
    veins, and "Nil desperandum" her motto; so,
    setting her teeth, she muttered, defiantly,--

    "I'll not be beaten, if I go to the bottom!"

    A great splashing arose, and when Evan recovered
    the use of his eyes, the pagoda-hat had
    taken a sudden turn, and seemed making for the
    farthest point of the goal. "I am sure of her
    now," thought Frank; and, like a gallant seagod,
    he bore down upon his prize, clutching it with a
    shout of triumph. But the hat was empty, and like
    a mocking echo came Debby's laugh, as she
    climbed, exhausted, to a cranny in the rock.

    "A very neat thing, by Jove! Deuse take me
    if you a'n't 'an honor to your teacher, and a terror
    to the foe,' Miss Wilder," cried Mr. Joe, as he
    came up from a solitary cruise and dropped anchor
    at her side. "Here, bring along the hat, Evan;
    I'm going to crown the victor with apropriate
    what-d'ye-call-'ems," he continued, pulling a handful
    of sea-weed that looked like well-boiled greens.

    Frank came up, smiling; but his lips were white,
    and in his eye a look Debby could not meet; so,
    being full of remorse, she naturally assumed an air
    of gayety, and began to sing the merriest air she
    knew, merely because she longed to throw herself
    upon the stones and cry violently.

    "It was 'most as exciting as a regatta, and you
    pulled well, Evan; but you had too much ballast
    aboard, and Miss Wilder ran up false colors just
    in time to save her ship. What was the wager?"
    asked the lively Joseph, complacently surveying
    his marine millinery, which would have scandalized
    a fashionable mermaid.

    "Only a trifle," answered Debby, knotting up
    her braids with a revengeful jerk.

    "It's taken the wind out of your sails, I fancy,
    Evan, for you look immensely Byronic with the
    starch minus in your collar and your hair in a
    poetic toss. Come, I'll try a race with you; and
    Miss Wilder will dance all the evening with the
    winner. Bless the man, what's he doing down
    there? Burying sunfish, hey?"

    Frank had been sitting below them on a narrow
    strip of sand, absently piling up a little mound
    that bore some likeness to a grave. As his
    companion spoke, he looked at it, and a sudden flush
    of feeling swept across his face, as he replied,--

    "No, only a dead hope."

    "Deuse take it, yes, a good many of that sort
    of craft founder in these waters, as I know to my
    sorrow;" and, sighing tragically. Mr. Joe turned
    to help Debby from her perch, but she had glided
    silently into the sea, and was gone.

    For the next four hours the poor girl suffered
    the sharpest pain she had ever known; for now
    she clearly saw the strait her folly had betrayed
    her into. Frank Evan was a proud man, and
    would not ask her love again, believing she had
    tacitly refused it; and how could she tell him that
    she had trifled with the heart she wholly loved and
    longed to make her own? She could not confide
    in Aunt Pen, for that worldly lady would have
    no sympathy to bestow. She longed for her
    mother; but there was no time to write, for Frank
    was going on the morrow, --might even then be
    gone; and as this fear came over her, she covered
    up her face and wished that she were dead. Poor
    Debby! her last mistake was sadder than her first,
    and she was reaping a bitter harvest from her summer's
    sowing. She sat and thought till her cheeks
    burned and her temples throbbed; but she dared
    not ease her pain with tears. The gong sounded
    like a Judgment-Day trump of doom, and she
    trembled at the idea of confronting many eyes with
    such a telltale face; but she could not stay behind,
    for Aunt Pen must know the cause. She tried to
    play her hard part well; but wherever she looked,
    some fresh anxiety appeared, as if every fault and
    folly of those months had blossomed suddenly
    within the hour. She saw Frank Evan more
    sombre and more solitary than when she met him
    first, and cried regretfully within herself, "How
    could I so forget the truth I owed him? -- She
    saw Clara West watching with eager eyes for the
    coming of young Leavenworth, and sighed, -- "This
    is the fruit of my wicked vanity!" She saw Aunt
    Pen regarded her with an anxious face, and longed
    to say, "Forgive me, for I have not been sincere!"

    At last, as her trouble grew, she resolved to go
    away and have a quiet "think,"--a remedy which
    had served her in many a lesser perplexity; so,
    stealing out, she went to a grove of cedars usually
    deserted at that hour. But in ten minutes Joe
    Leavenworth appeared at the door of the summer
    house, and, looking in, said, with a well-acted
    start of pleasure and surprise,--

    "Beg pardon, I thought there was no one here,
    My dear Miss Wilder, you look contemplative;
    but I fancy it wouldn't do to ask the subject of
    your meditations, would it?"

    He paused with such an evident intention of
    remaining that Debby resolved to make use of the
    moment, and ease her conscience of one care that
    burdened it; therefore she answered his question
    with her usual directness,--

    "My meditations were partly about you."

    Mr. Joe was guilty of the weakness of blushing
    violently and looking immensely gratified; but
    his rapture was of short duration, for Debby went
    on very earnestly,--

    "I believe I am going to do what you may
    consider a very impertinent thing; but I would
    rather be unmannerly than unjust to others or
    untrue to my own sense of right. Mr. Leavenworth,
    if you were an older man, I should not dare to say
    this to you; but I have brothers of my own, and,
    remembering how many unkind things they do for
    want of thought, I venture to remind you that a
    woman's heart is a perilous plaything, and too tender
    to be used for a selfish purpose or an hour's
    pleasure. I know this kind of amusement is not
    considered wrong; but it is wrong, and I cannot
    shut my eyes to the fact, or sit silent while another
    woman is allowed to deceive herself and wound
    the heart that trusts her. Oh, if you love your
    own sisters, be generous, be just, and do not
    destroy that poor girl's happiness, but go away
    before your sport becomes a bitter pain to her!"

    Joe Leavenworth had stood staring at Debby
    with a troubled countenance, feeling as if all the
    misdemeanors of his life were about to be paraded
    before him; but, as he listened to her plea, the
    womanly spirit that prompted it appealed more
    loudly than her words, and in his really generous
    heart he felt regret for what had never seemed
    a fault before. Shallow as he was, nature was
    stronger than education, and he admired and
    accepted what many a wiser, worldlier man would
    have resented with anger or contempt. He loved
    Debby with all his little might; he meant to tell
    her so, and graciously present his fortune and
    himself for her acceptance; but now, when the
    moment came, the well-turned speech he had prepared
    vanished from his memory, and with the
    better eloquence of feeling he blundered out his
    passion like a very boy.

    "Miss Dora, I never meant to make trouble between
    Clara and her lover; upon my soul, I didn't,
    and wish Seguin had not put the notion into my
    head, since it has given you pain. I only tried to
    pique you into showing some regret, when I
    neglected you; but you didn't, and then I got
    desperate and didn't care what became of any one.
    Oh, Dora, if you knew how much I loved you, I
    am sure you'd forgive it, and let me prove my
    repentance by giving up everything that you dislike.
    I mean what I say; upon my life I do; and I'll
    keep my word, if you will only let me hope."

    If Debby had wanted a proof of her love for
    Frank Evan, she might have found it in the fact
    that she had words enough at her command now,
    and no difficulty in being sisterly pitiful toward
    her second suitor.

    "Please get up," she said; for Mr. Joe, feeling
    very humble and very earnest, had gone down
    upon his knees, and sat there entirely regardless
    of his personal apearance.

    He obeyed; and Debby stood looking up at
    him with her kindest aspect, as she said, more
    tenderly than she had ever spoken to him before,--

    "Thank you for the affection you offer me, but
    I cannot accept it, for I have nothing to give you
    in return but the friendliest regard, the most sincere
    good-will. I know you will forgive me, and do
    for your own sake the good things you would have
    done for mine, that I may add to my esteem a real
    respect for one who has been very kind to me."

    "I'll try,--indeed, I will, Miss Dora, though
    it will be powerful hard without yourself for a
    help and a reward."

    Poor Joe choked a little, but called up an
    unexpected manliness, and added, stoutly,--

    "Don't think I shall be offended at your speaking
    so or saying 'No' to me,--not a bit; it's all
    right, and I'm much obliged to you. I might have
    known you couldn't care for such a fellow as I am,
    and don't blame you, for nobody in the world
    is good enough for you. I'll go away at once,
    I'll try to keep my promise, and I hope you'll be
    very happy all your life."

    He shook Debby's bands heartily, and hurried
    down the steps, but at the bottom paused and
    looked back. Debby stood upon the threshold
    with sunshine dancing on her winsome face, and
    kind words trembling on her lips; for the moment
    it seemed impossible to part, and, with an
    impetuous gesture, he cried to her,--

    "Oh, Dora, let me stay and try to win you!
    for everything is possible to love, and I never
    knew how dear you were to me till now!"

    There were sudden tears in the young man's
    eyes, the flush of a genuine emotion on his cheek,
    the tremor of an ardent longing in his voice, and,
    for the first time, a very true affection strengthened
    his whole countenance. Debby's heart was full of
    penitence; she had given so much pain to more than
    one that she longed to atone for it--longed to do
    some very friendly thing, and soothe some trouble
    such as she herself had known. She looked into
    the eager face uplifted to her own and thought
    of Will, then stooped and touched her lover's
    forehead with the lips that softly whispered, "No."

    If she had cared for him, she never would
    have done it; poor Joe knew that, and murmuring
    an incoherent "Thank you!" he rushed away,
    feeling very much as he remembered to have felt
    when his baby sister died and he wept his grief
    away upon his mother's neck. He began his
    preparations for departure at once, in a burst of
    virtuous energy quite refreshing to behold, thinking
    within himself, as he flung his cigar-case into the
    grate, kicked a billiard-ball into a corner, and
    suppressed his favorite allusion to the Devil,--

    "This is a new sort of thing to me, but I can
    bear it, and upon my life I think I feel the better
    for it already."

    And so he did; for though he was no Augustine
    to turn in an hour from worldly hopes and climb
    to sainthood through long years of inward strife,
    yet in aftertimes no one knew how many false
    steps had been saved, how many small sins repented
    of, through the power of the memory that
    far away a generous woman waited to respect him,
    and in his secret soul he owned that one of the best
    moments of his life was that in which little Debby
    Wilder whispered "No," and kissed him.

    As he passed from sight, the girl leaned her
    head upon her hand, thinking sorrowfully to herself,--

    "What right had I to censure him, when my
    own actions are so far from true? I have done a
    wicked thing, and as an honest girl I should undo
    it, if I can. I have broken through the rules of a
    false propriety for Clara's sake; can I not do as
    much for Frank's? I will. I'll find him, if I
    search the house,--and tell him all, though I never
    dare to look him in the face again, and Aunt Pen
    sends me home to-morrow."

    Full of zeal and courage, Debby caught up her
    hat and ran down the steps, but, as she saw Frank
    Evan coming up the path, a sudden panic fell
    upon her, and she could only stand mutely waiting
    his approach.

    It is asserted that Love is blind; and on the
    strength of that popular delusion novel heroes and
    heroines go blundering through three volumes of
    despair with the plain truth directly under their
    absurd noses: but in real life this theory is not
    supported; for to a living man the countenance of a
    loving woman is more eloquent than any language,
    more trustworthy than a world of proverbs, more
    beautiful than the sweetest love-lay ever sung.

    Frank looked at Debby, and "all her heart
    stood up in her eyes," as she stretched her hands
    to him, though her lips only whispered very
    low,--

    "Forgive me, and let me say the 'Yes' I
    should have said so long ago."

    Had she required any assurance of her lover's
    truth, or any reward for her own, she would have
    found it in the change that dawned so swiftly in
    his face, smoothing the lines upon his forehead,
    lighting the gloom of his eye, stirring his firm lips
    with a sudden tremor, and making his touch as soft
    as it was strong. For a moment both stood very
    still, while Debby's tears streamed down like
    summer rain; then Frank drew her into the green
    shadow of the grove, and its peace soothed her
    like a mother's voice, till she looked up smiling
    with a shy delight her glance had never known
    before. The slant sunbeams dropped a benediction
    on their heads, the robins peeped, and the
    cedars whispered, but no rumor of what further
    passed ever went beyond the precincts of the
    wood; for such hours are sacred, and Nature
    guards the first blossoms of a human love as
    tenderly as she nurses May-flowers underneath
    the leaves.

    Mrs. Carroll had retired to her bed with a
    nervous headache, leaving Debby to the watch
    and ward of friendly Mrs. Earle, who performed
    her office finely by letting her charge entirely alone.
    In her dreams Aunt Pen was just imbibing a copious
    draught of champagne at the wedding-breakfast of
    her niece, "Mrs. Joseph Leavenworth,"
    when she was roused by the bride elect, who
    passed through the room with a lamp and a shawl
    in her hand.

    "What time is it, and where are you going,
    dear?" she asked, dozily wondering if the carriage
    for the wedding-tour was at the door so soon.

    "It's only nine, and I am going for a sail, Aunt
    Pen."

    As Debby spoke, the light flashed full into her
    face, and a sudden thought into Mrs. Carroll's
    mind. She rose up from her pillow, looking as
    stately in her night-cap as Maria Theresa is said
    to have done in like unassuming head-gear.

    "Something has happened, Dora! What have
    you done? What have you said? I insist upon
    knowing immediately," she demanded, with somewhat
    startling brevity.

    "I have said 'No' to Mr. Leavenworth and 'Yes' to
    Mr. Evan; and I should like to go home to-morrow,
    if you please," was the equally concise reply.

    Mrs. Carroll fell flat in her bed, and lay
    there stiff and rigid as Morlena Kenwigs. Debby
    gently drew the curtains, and stole away leaving
    Aunt Pen's wrath to effervesce before morning.

    The moon was hanging luminous and large on
    the horizon's edge, sending shafts of light before
    her till the melancholy ocean seemed to smile, and
    along that shining pathway happy Debby and her
    lover floated into that new world where all things
    seem divine.
    If you're writing a Debby's Debut essay and need some advice, post your Louisa May Alcott essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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