Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/163

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who had so recently entered, more drooping in figure, and clad in rusty and shabby mourning.

“One more kiss, mamma, and don’t forget the sugar-plums when you come back,” cried one of the children.

The woman stooped to give the required kiss, lifting her veil as she did so, and revealing the whole of her countenance. A groan burst from the lips of one of the watchers, which was answered by a low chuckle from his companion; for both the Captain and Harry Maurice had recognised in the mysterious lady the features of the bewitching Mrs. Howard.

There is little more to tell. The question of “Who is she?” now needed no reply. Mrs. Howard, Mrs. Harley, and some dozen other aliases, were the names of an exceedingly genteel adventuress, who is yet vividly remembered by the charitable whom she victimized a few years since. She had resided in several large cities, and was drawing a very handsome income from her ingenuity. Her love of pleasure being as great as her taste for money-making, she devised a plan for living two lives at once, and her extreme mobility of feature, and exquisite adroitness, enabled her to carry out her schemes. How far she would have carried the affair with her young lover it is impossible to say, but the probability is that the “love affair” was only an agreeable episode “pour passer le tems,” and that whatever might have been the gentleman’s intentions, the lady was guiltless of ulterior views.

The Captain managed the affair his own way. He did not wish to injure the credit of the house, which he designed to call his home for the rest of his life, and therefore Mrs. Howard received a quiet intimation to quit, which she obeyed with her usual unruffled sweetness. Harry Maurice paid a visit to his mother and sister in the country, and on his return found it desirable to change his lodgings. The Captain kept the story to himself for several years, but after Maurice was married, and settled in his domestic habitudes, he felt himself privileged to use it as a warning to all gullible young men, against bewitching widows, and mysterious fellow-boarders.