HELENA MAXON stood at the window which looked out on the
tennis court, weeply softly, when her mother's arm encircled her, and her
mother's voice, tremulous with tears unshed, addressed her.
"Lena, darling," she said, "you must control yourself.
Madame Scranton will return in a moment, with the young lady who is to
be your roommate and companion, during the next year. She is a lovely
and charming girl; and I do not want my own sweet darling's face to be
utterly disfigured by weeping when her new friend first beholds it. I am
certain, my dear daughter, that you will be very happy here, and perfectly
content after the first loneliness wears away."
"I can never be happy and contented away from you and
Papa!" cried the young lady passionately. "I should feel like a wicked,
cruel hearted creature, if I became contented and happy when separated
from you. I know I shall die of home-sickness before I have been here one
term," and her tears dripped anew.
Mrs. Maxon choked down a lump in her own throat, and forced
a smile to her lips.
"You will, I know, try to be happy dear," she continued,
"when you realize that the happiness of your parents depends upon your
own. We have selected this academy as the most desirable institution in
which to place you, and Madame Scranton is a lady in every way suited to
guide and direct a young girl's mind. It will be very hard for us to live
without you, but we know it is for your good, and you will one day thank
us for it. Here comes Madame, and the young lady; dry your eyes, dear child,
and greet her pleasantly." And while Lena was bravely striving to stem
the upward-welling tide of tears with a very moist bit of cambric, she
heard Madame's deep contralto voice following her mother's tremulous soprano
“Miss Maxon, let me present your future companion and
I trust, friend. Miss Dolores King-Miss Helena Maxon."
As the two girls looked in each other's eyes and clasped
hands, no faintest premonition came to either young heart of the strange
and tragic destiny which was to link their future lives.
Helena's first thought was, "What a beautiful creature--a
perfect Aphrodite." While Miss King was saying to herself, "Rather
a nice little body--and almost pretty if she had not disfigured herself
An artist might have found the two girls a fine study
for opposite effects.
Miss King was nearly twenty; tall, and so slight as to
seem almost fragile. Her face was exquisitely beautiful in contour, quite
classic in its perfnctly-chiseled features, and interesting from its mingled
expression of pride and melancholy. In color her hair was a pure,
pale shade of yellow, like the under side of a canary bird's wing; her
skin that firm, yet delicate white, of the calla lily blossom. Her
long heavily-fringed eyes were, as darkly blue as the heart of a violet--the
flower she best loved. A rare, wonderful face, a face that might
become a priceless fortune or a blighting curse to its possessor.
Helena Maxon was full half a head below her new friend
in stature, and though three years her junior, her figure was much more
voluptuously developed. A round! face, a clear brunette complexion,
a coil of dark hair that exactly matched the color of her eyes--eyes peculiar,
from the fact that at times they seemed veiled with a delicate film, which
gave the appearance at one in a trance or somnambulic state--a nose which
no phrenologist could classify, which we must therefore call irregular
(and which was just now swollen and reddened with much weeping), lips too
full for beauty, yet a mouth so luscious in bloom, and so sweet in expression,
that the beholder instantly forgave it for being large. This comprises
a fair pen picture of Helena Maxon, on that September afternoon as she
stood in the stiff and orderly reception room of Madame Scranton's Select
Academy for young ladies.
"Miss King will show Miss Maxon to her apartments," said
Madame, after two girls had exchanged greetings, "W e will join you there,
presently." Then, turning to Mrs. Maxon as soon as the young ladies
had left the room, she continued: "I wish to assure you, my dear madame,
that your daughter could not have a more desirable companion, in this her
first absence from you, than the young person you have just seen.
Miss King is quite a rare character; I consider her the most reliable pupil
in my charge. I have never known her to disobey a rule during the
three years she has been with me. I regret that she remains only
"She is very beautiful," Mrs. Maxon said, musingly; "hut
her face impresses me as a sad one."
"Her nature is tinged with a seriousness which is almost
melancholy," Madame replied. "Her mother died when she was but a few months
old: her father married a second time, and unhappily, I believe: at all
events, Dolores has made her home with an uncle--a peculiar and austere
man; he has given her every advantage, as he is a man of wealth, but she
seems prematurely grave and serious-minded, from her association with him.
She is very thoughtful, and of marked originality, and absolutely devoid
of the vanity one might naturally expect so beautiful a girl to possess.
She is wholly indifferent to admiration, and seems to have none of the
sentimental weaknesses of youth. I am sure she can only be an advantage
and benefit to your daughter. She is, too, a member of an Orthodox
church in good standing."
"I am pleased with what you tell me of this young lady,"
Mrs. Maxon replied. "I fully realize the great dangers to which parents
expose their daughters in sending them from home to boarding-schools: it
requires the utmost care and surveillance, to surround them with the right
influences. The choice of instructors and companions for a daughter at
this critical period of her existence, is a matter of vital importance;
and one not sufficiently considered. Many a young girl's mind has been
poisoned, and her future warped by injudicious companionship at boarding-school.
Too often the most careful instructors are utterly ignorant of :their pupil's
thoughts and conversation outside the class room."
"Quite true: too true," Madame Scranton assented. "But
I endeavor as much as possible to render myself the confidant of my pupils:
to lead them to talk to me on all subjects as they would talk with their
mothers. Having a limited number of young ladies in my charge, this is
possible for me, while it could not be successfully done in a larger establishment."
"And that is the reason why Mr. Maxon and myself decided
upon bringing Helena to you." Mrs. Maxon continued. "We were convinced
that you would exercise a wise supervision over her character and conduct.
She is of a strongly affectionate and emotional nature, full of love for
humanity, and belief in her fellow beings. I do not want her affections
chilled, nor her confidence checked by worldly counsels, or a premature
knowledge of the baseness which exists in the world: let her keep her beautiful
faith and loving impulses while she may. Only guard her from being led
into folly or imprudence. As I grow older I am more and more convinced
that the people who constantly strive to impress the mind of the young
with distrust for humanity are the people who are themselves unworthy of
trust: or else those who have become embittered by sorrows they have not
understood. I believe it possible to keep a nature like Lena's sweet and
"But there are infinite disappointments and bitter experiences
in store for a nature such as you describe," Madame suggested. "That
beautiful trust must be rudely shattered."
"Shocked, but not shattered;" corrected Mrs. Maxon. "And
I think it better in this life to be often wounded through too great faith
in our fellow-beings than to embitter our minds with an early distrust.
"I have tried to impress her with the belief, that whatever
pain is sent to her, comes as an ennobling and purifying lesson; not as
a punishment. I want. her to think of her Creator as a Benefactor; not
as an Avenger. Her heart is free now, from all envious or jealous emotions,
as a carefully tended flower-bed is free from weeds. But she has never
been exposed to the constant friction of association with her own sex:
and I tremble when I think what emotions evil influences may implant in
that fresh soil.
"I want you to teach her, asI have done, that envy is
a vice, and jealousy and unkind criticism are immoralities, certain to
destroy the noblest character. We warn our sons from the gaming-table and
the wine-cup, with loud voices; but too many of us sit silent while our
daughters contract habits of malicious speaking and envious criticism,
which are quite as great evils in society to-day, as intemperance, or gambling.
"You will forgive my lengthy dissertation, my dear
Madame, when you remember how precious the trust placed in your care.
And now I must bid her a last farewell and take my departure. Poor
child! she has never been separated from me a week in her life. The parting
will be very hard for both of us."
"Remember, my sweet child," was Mrs. Maxon's last injunctions
to her weeping daughter, "that you are always to make me your first confidant
in all things. Hear nothing, say nothing, do nothing, which you cannot
tell your mother, who will ever strive to be your best adviser. And now,
God's angels guard you, dear, and good-by."
And Mrs. Maxon turned hastily from the clinging arms of
her daughter, and hurried away, while Helena threw herself upon the couch
in a wild passion of uncontrolled tears.