|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||Hearts or Diamonds|
HEARTS OR DIAMONDS. "If we were only rich," Sarah sighed, "I need not do such work as this! I am tired of it, it is so disagreeable!" Lola," Sarah's widowed sister, twelve years older than the seventeen-year-old beauty, who was sewing and sighing only said, gently, "We are no poorer today than we have been for many years, Sarah." "No, but," faltered Sarah, dropping her fine eyes, "it is my birthday, and I would like to have something pretty to wear to Aunt Kate's this evening. No matter how much I trouble myself over this dress, it is an old muslin, after all." "But it will look very nice." [unreadable line] "I want something more than nice! I am tired of turning old dresses, dyeing bonnet ribbons, patching, darning and contriving." "We should be thankful we are not obliged to work for a living, Sarah. I know it requires close economy to make our income meet our expenses, but we have the cottage and plenty to eat and drink, with a margin for neat? clothing." "But I want dresses, jewelry, a carriage! I want to try what it is being rich!" "Sarah!" Lola said, looking at her sister. "What has Mr. Gilbert Lee been saying to you?" The crimson blood tinged Sarah's face and throat, and her fingers trembled over her work. "Tell me!" urged Lola. "Nothing! At least nothing more than he has said a hundred times before. But he wants to see me this afternoon, and … and …" Sarah paused again, and then said, speaking very rapidly, "I promised Charley he should go with us to Aunt Kates this evening." "And you think this afternoon's interview will make you regret your promise?" Lola said, sadly. "I don't know." Sarah put her work aside abruptly, and took a seat at her sister's feet. "I don't know. Lola, did you love Frank very, very much?" "Yes, dear." "And yet he was poor. He only left you the cottage and garden when he died. Were you ever sorry that you married a poor man, Lola?" "Never, Sarah," was the firm answer. "No wealth could have made me as happy as Frank's love. We were poor, worked hard, and had heavy sorrow when our babies died of scarlet fever, both on the same day, when Frank broke his arm and lost his situation -- bitterest of all sorrow, when Frank, too, died; but I never regretted my marriage for one moment, Sarah. If it were all to live over, I would marry Frank." There was a long silence, then Sarah said in a low tone, "Gilbert Lee is very rich, Lola. His wife need not turn old dresses nor cook dinners." "Gilbert Lee's wife may be very happy, Sarah. He is a man for whom I have great respect, an honorable man, generous and tender; but, Sarah, his wife will not be happy if she does not love him." The door bell rang at this moment and Sarah went out, returning with a small package and a bouquet of choice flowers. "Two presents, Lola!" she said, a flush of pleasure on her round cheek. "No name with either, only a card of birthday congratulations. The flowers are from Charley, I am sure. He always sends me a bouquet for a party. But this -- O, Lola! Did you ever see anything so superb?" For the little package, upon being opened, was found to contain a jewel casket, upon whose cushion of deep purple velvet rested a diamond bracelet throwing forth brilliant rays of light from its clasp of pure gems. Even Lola gave a cry of admiration as Sarah lifted the splendid present and clasped it upon her round, white arm. "Gilbert Lee!" Sarah said, "and his wife may wear such bracelets with satin and velvet robes. See how it sparkles, Lola! Oh, I never saw any thing half so beautiful in my life!" "It is beautiful," Lola answered, with painful contraction at her heart as she watched her young sister's beautiful countenance radiant with pleasure at her gift. "But are you forgetting your flowers, Sarah? Shall I put them into water for you?" "Yes," said Sarah, still turning the bracelet on her arm, "if you will, Lola. Oh, if I only had one silk dress to wear with this tonight!" "You mean to accept it then? You know what that will imply Sarah -- such a costly gift as that?" "That I must say ‘yes' when Gilbert Lee comes this afternoon. I know! I will say ‘Yes.' I am tired of poverty and I mean to have some of the delights wealth will bring." Lola said no more. She was a woman of loving, tender disposition, full of gentle grace, and had filled a mother's place to Sarah since her sister was left orphaned. But she lacked energy and resolution, and long before had yielded the first place to her impulsive, active little sister. In her heart, she feared solely for Sarah's happiness, but she had no arguments ready, no words to combat the young girl's decision. She left Sarah to finish trimming her white muslin, and admire her gift, and busied herself about the house until she saw Gilbert Lee coming up the garden walk. Then she went into the sitting room, where Sarah was folding her dress, and drawing her little sister into a close embrace, she whispered, "Be sure of your own heart, Sarah." Sure of her own heart! Sarah ran lightly to her own room to smooth her hair and slip on another dress. In her hand was the velvet-lined casket, containing the diamond bracelet. She put it upon her table, and from the vase near them rose the perfume of the bouquet of flowers. It filled the room with delicious fragrance, and Sarah bent over the vase and nestled her cheek against the tender, beautiful blossoms. "Dear Charley!" she whispered. "He knows I love flowers. How thoughtful he is, and how he loves me!" She drew herself erect with a deep, gasping sigh. It flashed over her like the play of lightning, that Charley must become nothing to her when she wore Gilbert Lee's diamonds. Life without Charley? How odd it seemed. For three years Charley had been to her like a big brother, always kind, always loving, until within a few months she realized that Charley was not her brother [unreadable line] when this truth broke upon her another followed closely -- that Gilbert Lee, who had made a fortune in railway speculations, was also wooing her. They were suitors of whose attentions any girl might be proud; young, handsome, full of nature's best gifts of heart and intellect. The young millionaire was devoted and hopeful, but Sarah knew that he had never touched the spot in her heart where Charley had found a place three years ago. The flowers wrapping her in sweet incense were telling Sarah all the secrets of her heart, when Lola tapped at the door. "Mr. Lee is waiting, Sarah." Never had Sarah, in the bloom of her beauty, looked so dignified and womanly as she did when she entered the little parlor where Gilbert Lee awaiting her. Never had he so longed to take her to his heart and home as he did when she answered his suit with gentle firmness that was a new beauty in her manner. Throwing aside all coquetry, she gave him his refusal with a truthful expression in her blue eyes, as her low voice said, "I should wrong you, Gilbert, and be false to my own heart if I married you." "You do not love me?" "Not as your wife should love you." Then, seeing his look of pain and mortification, she added, bravely, "had I known you sooner, my answer would have been different; but before we met, I had given away all my love." "Thank you for telling me that," he answered, earnestly. "I shall respect your confidence." He had gone before Sarah remembered the bracelet. "I must send it," she told Lola, when her sister came to her again. Then looking into the gentle, sweet face, she whispered,"I think I was true to my own heart, Lola." Not long after, a white-robed little figure, in the old muslin, filled and fluted until it was a marvel of snowy prettiness, came fluttering into the parlor for the finishing touches of Lola's deft fingers. Upon the bosom of the white dress was a cluster of Charley's flowers, and there were more twisted in the nut-brown curls. Charley glanced at them as he came in; but he looked grave and preoccupied. Never in three years of courting had he approached Sarah with such a solemn air. Lola, guessing what was coming, was stealing away, but Charley put his hand on her arm. "Stay!" he said, in a grave voice; "I have no secret from you. You knew long ago what I meant to ask Sarah, for you begged me to wait till she was older. She is seventeen tonight, and she must know her own heart. Sarah," his voice thrilled with infinite tenderness as he spoke the name -- I love you. Will you be my wife?" Sarah, somewhat awed by his grave manner, put her hand in his, without any answer than a vivid blush and downcast eyes. In a moment the old Charley, radiant sunny Charley was there again. "You do love me? Oh, Sarah, I have been so wretched! Gilbert Lee was here today and you are wearing his flowers. I saw him sending them to you." "His flowers? I thought they were yours." "No, I didn't send flowers. I have a confession to make, Sarah, if you will hear it." The three sat down cosily, as if there were no parties in prospect, and Charley holding Sarah's hand fast in his own, said: "You never heard me speak about my father, but tonight I must tell you something of him. When I was a mere boy, not more than five years old, the gold fever in California took fast hold on his imagination, and he was one of the first gold seekers who sailed from Liverpool to dig wealth from the ground and wash it from the waters of California. For a little time my mother heard from him, but the intervals between the letters grew longer and longer, till after five years of watching and waiting, she ceased to hear at all. I was but twelve years old when my mother died. My uncle, Harold Green, took me into his own family, and educated me with his boys. He was not a rich man, and I knew I must depend upon my own exertions for support, as soon as I was old enough to work. Still he insisted on my attending school until I was eighteen, and then gave me a year's tuition at University College in London before I took a position in the bank of this town. Then I met you, Sarah, little girl, but the sweetest and most winsome little girl in the world. Your sister's kind hospitality to the stranger, the poor clerk, enabled me to see you often; to love you fondly followed very soon. But I was poor and you had often told me how bitter and galling poverty was to you. I had no wealth to lay at your feet, and you were but a mere child; so I spoke no words of love, bound you by no promise, hoping to win gold to offer you before you were much older." "What a fearful mercenary you must have thought me!" said Sarah, laughing. "Then," Charley said, "Gilbert Lee came. He was very rich, bought the grandest house in the neighborhood, and added to its attractiveness by a lavish outlay of money. He was young, too, and handsome, with a winning tongue, and gentle courtesy of manners. He saw you, Sarah, and he loved you. I did not dare urge my suit then. I did not dare ask you to clasp hands with poverty, when there was wealth waiting for your acceptance. I waited, and today I know Gilbert Lee had a private interview with you. I came tonight nerved to hear the worst, and find you love me, Sarah! You will be my wife, though Gilbert Lee offers you his [unreadable line]. Yesterday I heard from my uncle of my father's death in San Francisco. The money hardened him against home, wife, and child. To pile dollar upon dollar, to add to his hoard, he changed his name and allowed his own family to mourn him as dead. Not till death came to tear him from his treasures did he resume his own name and make a will, by which (now Sarah, don't scream) he leaves me, his only son, heir to a hundred thousand pounds!" The announcement made by the once despised lover caused the utmost surprise, which was in no wise lessened later on. Sarah did not scream but her very lips grew pale. "It is all ours, Sarah -- yours, mine and Lola's. I have no sister except Lola, you know; and my love for her will increase if she will please order you a wedding dress as speedily as possible, and then come to our house to keep her scapegrace brother in order. But Sarah, though I did not send you the flowers, I did send you a birthday gift -- a bracelet! Will you not wear it tonight?" "You!" cried Sarah. "Oh! If you knew how nearly I returned it to Gilbert Lee. It is in package directed to him, with a note of thanks, but declining his gift, at this moment." But it figured at Aunt Kate's party, and only a few weeks later, lent its brilliant jet of light to beautify Sarah's wedding dress when she became Charley's wife, having chosen between diamonds and hearts, and found herself in possession of both.