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Proving A Heart – A Love Story
by [?]

“Hold fast! don’t be frightened! I can save you if you will only be strong!” were the exclamations that burst hurriedly from young Dr. Gardner’s lips as, with horror-struck face he sprang from his window-seat and bounded downstairs.

And well might he hasten, for she who awaited his succor, hung perilously between heaven and earth, expecting every moment to be dashed to the ground.

For some minutes previous to his excited words, Weldon Gardner’s gaze had been riveted in awful fascination upon an immense balloon that was fast descending toward the high roofs that clustered on all sides about his comfortable rooms on —- St., New York.

Something was wrong. He could readily detect this in the unsteady wavering of the gaily-striped air-ship. And so, too, thought the crowd that he now saw had gathered in the street below.

Evidently the aeronaut had lost control of his craft. Lower still it tottered, and now were visible several arms outstretched in the vain appeal for aid.

Not a sound escaped the spell-bound multitude in the streets, for in a moment more the fate of the doomed adventurers must be decided. Suddenly two human forms dropped from the loosened basket and struck with a fearful thud against the elevated railway, then rebounded to the street below a mass of mangled flesh. Death was instantaneous. With one impulse the throng surged about the bodies; but Dr. Gardner’s eyes were still fixed upon the balloon, for as if relieved by the rapid lightening of its burden it gave a spirited sweep upward, then passed over his own roof.

Hastening to his back windows, which overlooked a paved court, he threw himself into a chair, and strained his gaze in search of the wrecked pleasure-craft, to which one other figure clung with the might of desperation.

One large tree, spared by the pruning axe of the city architect, shaded the court; and into the wide-spreading boughs of this tree, did the powerless balloon now descend, its ropes becoming hopelessly entangled. Clinging fast to whatever offered support, a young girl with dark, terror-stricken eyes, met his look of horror, as with the reassuring words already quoted, Weldon Gardner rushed down to the rescue.

Even as he gained the spot, shouting to the men in service to bring a ladder, a number of persons had penetrated to the court, and were now collected around the tree, uttering excited comments upon the disaster.

With all possible speed the young physician reached the sufferer, but unconsciousness had already closed her eyes to all danger. Bearing the light form from the entangling meshes, the doctor ascended to his consulting-room, and deposited his burden upon a couch. Summoning his housekeeper, he dismissed the gaping followers, and proceeded to examine the death-like form he had preserved from mutilation.

The patient seemed to be about eighteen years old, and bore unmistakable evidences of the lady in her attire.

Mercifully forebearing to restore her senses till after his skillfull examination, the doctor could discover no broken limbs, and nothing now remained but to enable her to speak for herself as to her condition. After a persistent use of restoratives, the anxious attendants were rewarded by seeing the color flutter back into the pallid cheeks, and the long eyelashes quiver with returning life.

Her first words were: “Lucien! Maggie! we are lost!” Then a strong shudder convulsed her slight frame, and with a startled cry she attempted to spring up.

“Be careful,” gently remonstrated the doctor, laying a detaining hand upon her. “Tell me–are you hurt anywhere?”

“I don’t know–I think not–oh! who are you? Where am I? Where are the others? Were they killed? Oh! it was too horrible!” and the agitated speaker burst into a passion of tears so violent as to alarm her watchers.

Leaving her to the housekeeper, Dr. Gardner quickly prepared and administered a soothing potion. Then, enjoining absolute quiet, he drew the blinds, and proceeded downstairs to learn of the ill-fated companions of his patient. The crowd still lingered about the spot, although the bodies had been removed to await a claimant. Nothing was known except that the balloon had ascended that morning from one of the city squares, and that, as frequently happened, a party of young people had gone up to get a bird’s eye view of the metropolis. Who they were did not yet appear.