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DARKNESS AND DAYLIGHT.
MRS. MARY J. HOLMES,
AUTHOR OF "LENA RIVERS," "MARIAN GREY," "MEADOW BROOK,"
"HOMESTEAD," "DORA DEANE," "COUSIN MAUDE," "TEMPEST AND SUNSHINE,"
"ENGLISH ORPHANS," ETC.
II. EDITH HASTINGS GOES TO COLLINGWOOD
III. GRACE ATHERTON
IV. RICHARD AND EDITH
V. VISITORS AT COLLINGWOOD AND VISITORS AT BRIER HILL
VI. ARTHUR AND EDITH
VII. RICHARD AND ARTHUR
VIII. RICHARD AND EDITH
X. EDITH AT HOME
XI. MATTERS AT GRASSY SPRING
XIV. THE MYSTERY AT GRASSY SPRING
XVI. ARTHUR'S STORY
XVII. NINA AND MIGGIE
XVIII. DR. GRISWOLD
XIX. EX OFFICIO
XX. THE DECISION
XXI. THE DEERING WOODS
XXII. THE DARKNESS DEEPENS
XXIV. THE NINETEENTH BIRTHDAY
XXVI. EDITH AND THE WORLD
XXVII. THE LAND OF FLOWERS
XXIX. THE SISTERS
XXX. ARTHUR AND NINA
XXXI. LAST DAYS
XXXII. PARTING WITH THE DEAD AND PARTING WITH THE LIVING
XXXIV. NINA'S LETTER
XXXV. THE FIERY TEST
XXXVI. THE SACRIFICE
XXXVII. THE BRIDAL
XXXVIII. SIX YEARS LATER
DARKNESS AND DAYLIGHT.
Collingwood was to have a tenant at last. For twelve long years
its massive walls of dark grey stone had frowned in gloomy silence
upon the passers-by, the terror of the superstitious ones, who had
peopled its halls with ghosts and goblins, saying even that the
snowy-haired old man, its owner, had more than once been seen
there, moving restlessly from room to room and muttering of the
darkness which came upon him when he lost his fair young wife and
her beautiful baby Charlie. The old man was not dead, but for
years he had been a stranger to his former home.
In foreign lands he had wandered--up and down, up and down--from
the snow-clad hills of Russia to where the blue skies of Italy
bent softly over him and the sunny plains of France smiled on him
a welcome. But the darkness he bewailed was there as elsewhere,
and to his son he said, at last, "We will go to America, but not
to Collingwood--not where Lucy used to live, and where the boy was
So they came back again and made for themselves a home on the
shore of the silvery lake so famed in song, where they hoped to
rest from their weary journeyings. But it was not so decreed.
Slowly as poison works within the blood, a fearful blight was
stealing upon the noble, uncomplaining Richard, who had sacrificed
his early manhood to his father's fancies, and when at last the
blow had fallen and crushed him in its might, he became as
helpless as a little child, looking to others for the aid he had
heretofore been accustomed to render. Then it was that the weak
old man emerged for a time from beneath the cloud which had
enveloped him so long, and winding his arms around his stricken
boy, said, submissively, "What will poor Dick have me do?"
"Go to Collingwood, where I know every walk and winding path, and
where the world will not seem so dreary, for I shall be at home."
The father had not expected this, and his palsied hands shook
nervously; but the terrible misfortune of his son had touched a
chord of pity, and brought to his darkened mind a vague
remembrance of the years in which the unselfish Richard had
thought only of his comfort, and so he answered sadly, "We will go
One week more, and it was known in Shannondale, that crazy Captain
Harrington and his son, the handsome Squire Richard, were coming
again to the old homestead, which was first to be fitted up in a
most princely style. All through the summer months the extensive
improvements and repairs went on, awakening the liveliest interest
in the villagers, who busied themselves with watching and
reporting the progress of events at Collingwood. Fires were
kindled on the marble hearths, and the flames went roaring up the
broad-mouthed chimneys, frightening from their nests of many years
the croaking swallows, and scaring away the bats, which had so
long held holiday in the deserted rooms. Partitions were removed,
folding doors were made, windows were cut down, and large panes of
glass were substituted for those of more ancient date. The grounds
and garden too were reclaimed from the waste of briers and weeds
which had so wantonly rioted there; and the waters of the fish-
pond, relieved of their dark green slime and decaying leaves,
gleamed once more in the summer sunshine like a sheet of burnished
silver, while a fairy boat lay moored upon its bosom as in the
olden time. Softly the hillside brooklet fell, like a miniature
cascade, into the little pond, and the low music it made blended
harmoniously with the fall of the fountain not far away.
It was indeed a beautiful place; and when the furnishing process
began, crowds of eager people daily thronged the spacious rooms,
commenting upon the carpets, the curtains, the chandeliers, the
furniture of rosewood and marble, and marvelling much why Richard
Harrington should care for surroundings so costly and elegant.
Could it be that he intended surprising them with a bride? It was
possible--nay, more, it was highly probable that weary of his
foolish sire's continual mutterings of "Lucy and the darkness," he
bad found some fair young girl to share the care with him, and
this was her gilded cage.
Shannondale was like all country towns, and the idea once
suggested, the story rapidly gained ground, until at last it
reached the ear of Grace Atherton, the pretty young widow, whose
windows looked directly across the stretches of meadow and
woodland to where Collingwood lifted its single tower and its
walls of dark grey stone. As became the owner of Brier Hill and
the widow of a judge, Grace held herself somewhat above the rest
of the villagers, associating with but few, and finding her
society mostly in the city not many miles away,
When her cross, gouty, phthisicy, fidgety old husband lay sick for
three whole months, she nursed him so patiently that people
wondered if it could be she loved the SURLY DOG, and one woman,
bolder than the others, asked her if she did.
"Love him? No," she answered, "but I shall do my duty."
So when he died she made him a grand funeral, but did not pretend
that she was sorry. She was not, and the night on which she
crossed the threshold of Brier Hill a widow of twenty-one saw her
a happier woman than when she first crossed it as a bride. Such
was Grace Atherton, a proud, independent, but well principled
woman, attending strictly to her own affairs, and expecting others
to do the same. In the gossip concerning Collingwood, she had
taken no verbal part, but there was no one more deeply interested
than herself, spite of her studied indifference.
"You never knew the family," a lady caller said to her one
morning, when at a rather late hour she sat languidly sipping her
rich chocolate, and daintily picking at the snowy rolls and nicely
buttered toast, "you never knew them or you would cease to wonder
why the village people take so much interest in their movements,
and are so glad to have them back."
"I have heard their story," returned Mrs. Atherton, "and I have no
doubt the son is a very fine specimen of an old bachelor; thirty-
five, isn't he, or thereabouts?"
"Thirty-five!" and Kitty Maynard raised her hands in dismay. "My
dear Mrs. Atherton, he's hardly thirty yet, and those who have
seen him since his return from Europe, pronounce him a splendid
looking man, with an air of remarkably high breeding. I wonder if
there IS any truth in the report that he is to bring with him a
"A bride, Kitty!" and the massive silver fork dropped from Grace
SHE was interested now, and nervously pulling the gathers of her
white morning gown, she listened while the loquacious Kitty told
her what she knew of the imaginary wife of Richard Harrington. The
hands ceased their working at the gathers, and assuming an air of
indifference, Grace rang her silver bell, which was immediately
answered by a singular looking girl, whom she addressed as Edith,
bidding her bring some orange marmalade from an adjoining closet.
Her orders were obeyed, and then the child lingered by the door,
listening eagerly to the conversation which Grace had resumed
concerning Collingwood and its future mistress.
Edith Hastings was a strange child, with a strange habit of
expressing her thoughts aloud, and as she heard the beauties of
Collingwood described in Kitty Maynard's most glowing terms, she
suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, JOLLY don't I wish I could live there,
only I'd be afraid of that boy who haunts the upper rooms."
"Edith!" said Mrs. Atherton, sternly, "why are you waiting here?
Go at once to Rachel and bid her give you something to do."
Thus rebuked the black-eyed, black-haired, black-faced little girl
waited away, not cringingly, for Edith Hastings possessed a spirit
as proud as that of her high born mistress, and she went slowly to
the kitchen, where, under Rachel's directions, she was soon in the
mysteries of dish-washing, while the ladies in the parlor
continued their conversation.
"I don't know what I shall do with that child," said Grace, as
Edith's footsteps died away. I sometimes wish I had left her where
I found her."
"Why, I thought her a very bright little creature," said Kitty,
and her companion replied,
"She's too bright, and that's the trouble. She imitates me in
everything, walks like me, talks like me, and yesterday I found
her in the drawing-room going through with a pantomime of
receiving calls the way I do. I wish you could have seen her
stately bow when presented to an imaginary stranger."
"Did she do credit to you?" Kitty asked, and Grace replied,
"I can't say that she did not, but I don't like this disposition
of hers--to put on the airs of people above her. Now if she were
not a poor--"
"Look, look!" interrupted Kitty, "that must be the five hundred
dollar piano sent up from Boston," and she directed her
companion's attention to the long wagon which was passing the
house on the way to Collingwood.
This brought the conversation back from the aspiring Edith to
Richard Harrington, and as old Rachel soon came in to remove her
mistress' breakfast, Kitty took her leave, saying as she bade her
friend good morning,
"I trust it will not be long before you know him."
"Know him!" repeated Grace, when at last she was alone. "Just as
if I had not known him to my sorrow. Oh, Richard, Richard! maybe
you'd forgive me if you knew what I have suffered," and the proud,
beautiful eyes filled with tears as Grace Atherton plucked the
broad green leaves from the grape vine over her head, and tearing
them in pieces scattered the fragments upon the floor of the
piazza. "Was there to be a bride at Collingwood?" This was the
question which racked her brain, keeping her in a constant state
of feverish excitement until the very morning came when the family
Mrs. Matson, the former housekeeper, had resumed her old position,
and though she came often to Brier Hill to consult the taste of
Mrs. Atherton as to the arrangement of curtains and furniture,
Grace was too haughtily polite to question her, and every car
whistle found her at the window watching for the carriage and a
sight of its inmates. One after another the western trains
arrived, and the soft September twilight deepened into darker
night, showing to the expectant Grace the numerous lights shining
from the windows of Collingwood. Edith Hastings, too, imbued with
something of her mistress' spirit, was on the alert, and when the
last train in which they could possibly come, thundered through
the town, her quick ear was the first to catch the sound of wheels
grinding slowly up the hill.
"They are coming, Mrs. Atherton!" she cried; and nimble as a
squirrel she climbed the great gate post, where with her elf locks
floating about her sparkling face, she sat, while the carriage
passed slowly by, then saying to herself, "Pshaw, it wasn't worth
the trouble--I never saw a thing," she slid down from her high
position, and stealing in the back way so as to avoid the scolding
Mrs. Atherton was sure to give her, she crept up to her own
chamber, where she stood long by the open window, watching the
lights at Collingwood, and wondering if it WOULD make a person
perfectly happy to be its mistress and the bride of Richard
EDITH HASTINGS GOES TO COLLINGWOOD.
The question Edith had asked herself, standing by her chamber
window, was answered by Grace Atherton sitting near her own. "Yes,
the bride of Richard Harrington MUST be perfectly happy, if bride
indeed there were." She was beginning to feel some doubt upon this
point, for strain her eyes as she might, she had not been able to
detect the least signs of femininity in the passing carriage, and
hope whispered that the brightest dream she had ever dreamed might
yet be realized.
"I'll let him know to-morrow, that I'm here," she said, as she
shook out her wavy auburn hair, and thought, with a glow of pride,
how beautiful it was. "I'll send Edith with my compliments and a
bouquet of flowers to the bride. She'll deliver them better than
any one else, if I can once make her understand what I wish her to
Accordingly, the next morning, as Edith sat upon the steps of the
kitchen door, talking to herself, Grace appeared before her with a
tastefully arranged bouquet, which she bade her take with her
compliments to Mrs. Richard Harrington, if there was such a body,
and to Mr. Richard Harrington if there were not.
"Do you understand?" she asked, and Edith far more interested in
her visit to Collingwood than in what she was to do when she
reached there, replied,
"Of course I do; I'm to give your compliments;" and she jammed her
hand into the pocket of her gingham apron, as if to make sure the
compliments were there. "I'm to give them to MR. Richard, if there
is one, and the flowers to Mrs. Richard, if there ain't!"
Grace groaned aloud, while old Rachel, the colored cook, who on
all occasions was Edith's champion, removed her hands from the
dough she was kneading and coming towards them, chimed in, "She
ain't fairly got it through her har, Miss Grace. She's such a
substracted way with her that you mostly has to tell her twicet,"
and in her own peculiar style Rachel succeeded in making the
"substracted" child comprehend the nature of her errand.
"Now don't go to blunderin'," was Rachel's parting injunction, as
Edith left the yard and turned in the direction of Collingwood.
It was a mellow September morning, and after leaving the main road
and entering the gate of Collingwood, the young girl lingered by
the way, admiring the beauty of the grounds, and gazing with
feelings of admiration upon the massive building, surrounded by
majestic maples, and basking so quietly in the warm sunlight. At
the marble fountain she paused for a long, long time, talking to
the golden fishes which darted so swiftly past each other, and
wishing she could take them in her hand "just to see them squirm."
"I mean to catch ONE any way," she said, and glancing nervously at
the windows to make sure no Mrs. Richard was watching her, she
bared her round, plump arm, and thrust it into the water, just as
a footstep sounded near.
Quickly withdrawing her hand and gathering up her bouquet, she
turned about and saw approaching her one of Collingwood's ghosts.
She knew him in a moment, for she had heard him described too
often to mistake that white-haired, bent old man for other than
Capt. Harrington. He did not chide her as she supposed he would,
neither did he seem in the least surprised to see her there. On
the contrary, his withered, wrinkled face brightened with a look
of eager expectancy, as he said to her, "Little girl, can you tell
me where Charlie is?"
"Charlie?" she repeated, retreating a step or two as he approached
nearer and seemed about to lay his hand upon her hair, for her
bonnet was hanging down her back, and her wild gipsy locks fell in
rich profusion about her face. "I don't know any boy by that name,
I'm nobody but Edith Hastings, Mrs. Atherton's waiting maid, and
she don't let me play with boys. Only Tim Doolittle and I went
huckleberrying once, but I hate him, he has such great warts on
his hands," and having thus given her opinion of Tim Doolittle,
Edith snatched up her bonnet and placed it upon her head, for the
old man was evidently determined to touch her crow-black hair.
Her answer, however, changed the current of his thoughts, and
while a look of intense pain flitted across his face, he whispered
mournfully, "The same old story they all tell. I might have known
it, but this one looked so fresh, so truthful, that I thought
maybe she'd seen him. Mrs. Atherton's waiting maid," and he turned
toward Edith--"Charlie's dead, and we all walk in darkness now,
Richard and all."
This allusion to Richard reminded Edith of her errand, and
thinking to herself, "I'll ask the crazy old thing if there's a
lady here," she ran after him as he walked slowly away and
catching him by the arm, said, "Tell me, please, is there any Mrs.
"Not that I know of. They've kept it from me if there is, but
there's Richard, he can tell you," and he pointed toward a man in
a distant part of the grounds.
Curtseying to her companion, Edith ran off in the direction of the
figure moving so slowly down the gravelled walk.
"I wonder what makes him set his feet down so carefully," she
thought, as she came nearer to him. "Maybe there are pegs in his
shoes, just as there were in mine last winter," and the barefoot
little girl glanced at her naked toes, feeling glad they were for
the present out of torture.
By this time she was within a few rods of the strange acting man,
who, hearing her rapid steps, stopped, and turning round with a
wistful, questioning look, said,
"Who's there? Who is it?"
The tone of his voice was rather sharp, and Edith paused suddenly,
while he made an uncertain movement toward her, still keeping his
ear turned in the attitude of intense listening.
"I wonder what he thinks of me?" was Edith's mental comment as the
keen black eyes appeared to scan her closely.
Alas, he was not thinking of her at all, and soon resuming his
walk, he whispered to himself, "They must have gone some other
Slowly, cautiously he moved on, never dreaming of the little
sprite behind him, who, imitating his gait and manner, put down
her chubby bare feet just when his went down, looking occasionally
over her shoulder to see if her clothes swung from side to side
just like Mrs. Atherton's, and treading so softly that he did not
hear her until he reached the summer-house, when the cracking of a
twig betrayed the presence of some one, and again that sad,
troubled voice demanded, "Who is here?" while the arms were
stretched out as if to grasp the intruder, whoever it might be.
Edith was growing excited. It reminded her of blind man's buff;
and she bent her head to elude the hand which came so near
entangling itself in her hair. Again a profound silence ensued,
and thinking it might have been a fancy of his brain that some one
was there with him, poor blind Richard Harrington sat down within
the arbor, where the pleasant September sunshine, stealing through
the thick vine leaves, fell in dancing circles upon his broad
white brow, above which his jet black hair lay in rings. He was a
tall, dark, handsome man, with a singular cast of countenance, and
Edith felt that she had never seen anything so grand, so noble,
and yet so helpless as the man sitting there before her. She knew
now that he was blind, and she was almost glad that it was so, for
had it been otherwise she would never have dared to scan him as
she was doing now. She would not for the world have met the flash
of those keen black eyes, had they not been sightless, and she
quailed even now, when they were bent upon her, although she knew
their glance was meaningless. It seemed to her so terrible to be
blind, and she wondered why he should care to have his house and
grounds so handsome when he could not see them. Still she was
pleased that they were so, for there was a singular fitness, she
thought, between this splendid man and his surroundings.
"I wish he had a little girl like me to lead him and be good to
him," was her next mental comment, and the wild idea crossed her
brain that possibly Mrs. Atherton would let her come up to
Collingwood and be his waiting maid. This brought to mind a second
time the object of her being there now, and she began to devise
the best plan for delivering the bouquet. "I don't believe he
cares for the compliments," she said to herself, "any way, I'll
keep them till another time," but the flowers; how should she give
those to him? She was beginning to be very much afraid of the
figure sitting there so silently, and at last mustering all her
courage, she gave a preliminary cough, which started him to his
feet, and as his tall form towered above her she felt her fears
come back, and scarcely knowing what she was doing she thrust the
bouquet into his hand, saying as she did so, "POOR blind man, I am
so sorry and I've brought you some nice flowers."
The next moment she was gone, and Richard heard the patter of her
feet far up the gravelled walk ere he had recovered from his
surprise. Who was she, and why had she remembered him? The voice
was very, very sweet, thrilling him with a strange melody, which
carried him back to a summer sunset years ago, when on the banks
of the blue Rhine he had listened to a beautiful, dark-eyed Swede
singing her infant daughter to sleep. Then the river itself
appeared before him, cold and grey with the November frosts, and
on its agitated surface he saw a little dimpled hand disappearing
from view, while the shriek of the dark-eyed Swede told that her
child was gone. A plunge--a fearful struggle--and he held the
limp, white object in his arms; he bore it to the shore; he heard
them say that he had saved its life, and then he turned aside to
change his dripping garments and warm his icy limbs. This was the
first picture brought to his mind by Edith Hastings' voice. The
second was a sadder one, and he groaned aloud as he remembered how
from the time of the terrible cold taken then, and the severe
illness which followed, his eyesight had begun to fail--slowly,
very slowly, it is true--and for years he could not believe that
Heaven had in store for him so sad a fate. But it had come at
last--daylight had faded out and the night was dark around him.
Once, in his hour of bitterest agony, he had cursed that Swedish
baby, wishing it had perished in the waters of the Rhine, ere he
saved it at so fearful a sacrifice. But he had repented of the
wicked thought; he was glad he saved the pretty Petrea's child,
even though be should never see her face again. He knew not where
she was, that girlish wife, speaking her broken English for the
sake of her American husband, who was not always as kind to her as
he should have been. He had heard no tidings of her since that
fatal autumn. He had scarcely thought of her for months, but she
came back to him now, and it was Edith's voice which brought her.
"Poor blind man," he whispered aloud. "How like that was to
Petrea, when she said of my father, 'Poor, soft old man;'" and
then he wondered again who his visitor had been, and why she had
left him so abruptly.
It was a child, he knew, and he prized her gift the more for that,
for Richard Harrington was a dear lover of children and he kissed
the fair bouquet as he would not have kissed it had he known from
whom it came. Rising at last from his seat, he groped his way back
to the house, and ordering one of the costly vases in his room to
be filled with water, he placed the flowers therein, and thought
how carefully he would preserve them for the sake of his unknown
Meantime Edith kept on her way, pausing once and looking back just
in time to see Mr. Harrington kiss the flowers she had brought.
"I'm glad they please him," she said; "but how awful it is to be
blind;" and by way of trying the experiment, she shut her eyes,
and stretching out her arms, walked just as Richard, succeeding so
well that she was beginning to consider it rather agreeable than
otherwise, when she unfortunately ran into a tall rose-bush,
scratching her forehead, tangling her hair, and stubbing her toes
against its gnarled roots. "'Taint so jolly to be blind after
all," she said, "I do believe I've broken my toe," and extricating
herself as best she could from the sharp thorns, she ran on as
fast as her feet could carry her, wondering what Mrs. Atherton
would say when she heard Richard was blind, and feeling a kind of
natural delight in knowing she should be the first to communicate
the bad news.
"Edith," said Mrs. Atherton, who had seen her coming, and hastened
out to meet her, "you were gone a long time, I think."
"Yes'm," answered Edith, spitting out the bonnet strings she had
been chewing, and tossing back the thick black locks which nearly
concealed her eyes from view. "Yes'm; it took me a good while to
talk to old Darkness."
"Talk to whom?" asked Grace; and Edith returned,
"I don't know what you call him if 'taint old Darkness; he kept
muttering about the dark, and asked "where Charlie was."
"Ole Cap'n Harrington," said Rachel. "They say how't he's allus
goin' on 'bout Charlie an' the dark."
This explanation was satisfactory to Grace, who proceeded next to
question Edith concerning Mrs. Richard Harrington, asking if she
saw her, etc.
"There ain't any such," returned Edith, "but I saw Mr. Richard.
Jolly, isn't he grand? He's as tall as the ridge-pole, and---"
"But what did he say to the flowers?" interrupted Grace, far more
intent upon knowing how her gift had been received, than hearing
described the personal appearance of one she had seen so often.
Edith felt intuitively that a narrative of the particulars
attending the delivery of the bouquet would insure her a scolding,
so she merely answered, "He didn't say a word, only kissed them
hard, but he can't see them, Mrs. Atherton. He can't see me, nor
you, nor anybody. He's blind as a bat--"
"Blind! Richard blind! Oh, Edith;" and the bright color which had
stained Grace's cheeks when she knew that Richard had kissed her
flowers, faded out, leaving them of a pallid hue. Sinking into the
nearest chair, she kept repeating "blind--blind--poor, poor
Richard. It cannot be. Bring me some water, Rachel, and help me to
my room. This intensely hot morning makes me faint."
Rachel could not be thus easily deceived. She remembered an old
house in England, looking out upon the sea, and the flirtation
carried on all summer there between her mistress, then a beautiful
young girl of seventeen, and the tall, handsome man, whom they
called Richard Harrington. She remembered, too, the white-haired,
gouty man, who, later in the autumn, came to that old house, and
whose half million Grace had married, saying, by way of apology,
that if Richard chose to waste his life in humoring the whims of
his foolish father, she surely would NOT waste hers with him. SHE
would see the world!
Alas, poor Grace. She had seen the world and paid dearly for the
sight, for, go where she might, she saw always one face, one form;
heard always one voice murmuring in her ear, "Could you endure to
share my burden?"
No, she could not, she said, and so she had taken upon herself a
burden ten-fold heavier to bear--a burden which crushed her
spirits, robbed her cheek of its youthful bloom, after which she
sent no regret when at last it disappeared, leaving her free to
think again of Richard Harrington. It was a terrible blow to her
that he was blind, and talk as she might about the faintness of
the morning, old Rachel knew the real cause of her distress, and
when alone with her, said, by way of comfort,
"Law, now, Miss Grace, 'taint worth a while to take on so. Like
'nough he'll be cured--mebby it's nothin' but them fetch-ed water-
falls--CAT-A-RATS, that's it--and he can have 'em cut out. I
wouldn't go to actin' like I was love-sick for a man I 'scarded
Grace was far too proud to suffer even her faithful Rachel thus to
address her, and turning her flashing eyes upon the old woman, she
"How dare you talk to me in this way--don't you know I won't allow
it? Besides, what reason have you for asserting what you have?"
"What reason has I? Plenty reason--dis chile ain't a fool if she
is a nigger, raised in Georgy, and a born slave till she was
turned of thirty. Your poor marm who done sot me free, would never
spoke to me that way. What reason has I? I'se got good mem'ry--I
'members them letters I used to tote forrid and back, over thar in
England; and how you used to watch by the winder till you seen him
comin', and then, gal-like, ran off to make him think you wasn't
particular 'bout seein' him. But, it passes me, what made you have
ole money bags. I never could see inter that, when I knowd how you
hated his shiny bald head, and slunk away if he offered to tache
you with his old, soft, flappy hands. You are glad he's in Heaven,
yon know you be; and though I never said nothin', _I_ knowd you
was glad that Squire Herrin'ton was come back to Collingwood, just
as I knowd what made you choke like a chicken with the pip when
Edith tole you he was blind. Can't cheat dis chile," and adjusting
her white turban with an air of injured dignity, Rachel left her
mistress, and returned to the kitchen.
"What ails Mrs. Atherton?" asked Edith, fancying it must be
something serious which could keep the old negress so long from
On ordinary occasions the tolerably discreet African would have
made some evasive reply, but with her feathers all ruffled, she
belched out, "The upshot of the matter is, she's in love?"
"In love? Who does Mrs. Atherton love?"
"Him--the blind man," returned Rachel, adding fiercely, "but if
you ever let her know I told you, I'll skin you alive--do you
hear? Like enough she'll be for sendin' you up thar with more
posies, an' if she does, do you hold your tongue and take 'em
Edith had no desire to betray Rachel's confidence, and slipping
one shoulder out of her low dress she darted off after a
butterfly, wondering to herself if it made everybody faint and
sick at their stomach to be in love! It seemed very natural that
one as rich and beautiful as Grace should love Richard Harrington,
and the fact that she did, insensibly raised in her estimation the
poor, white-faced woman, who, in the solitude of her chamber was
weeping bitterer tears than she had shed before in years.
Could it he so? She hoped there was some mistake--and when an hour
later she heard Kitty Maynard's cheerful voice in the lower hall
her heart gave a bound as she thought, "She'll know--she's heard
of it by this time."
"Please may I come in?" said Kitty, at her door. "Rachel told me
you had a headache, but I know you won't mind me," and ere the
words were half out of her mouth, Kitty's bonnet was off and she
was perched upon the foot of the bed. HAVE you heard the news?"
she began. "It's so wonderful, and so sad, too. Squire Harrington
is not married; he's worse off than that--he's hopelessly blind."
"Indeed!" and Grace Atherton's manner was very indifferent.
"Yes," Kitty continued, "His French valet, Victor, who travelled
with him in Europe, told brother Will all about it. Seven or eight
years ago they were spending the summer upon the banks of the
Rhine, and in a cottage near them was an American with a Swedish
wife and baby. The man, it seems, was a dissipated fellow, much
older than his wife, whom he neglected shamefully, leaving her
alone for weeks at a time. The baby's name was Eloise, and she was
a great pet with Richard who was fond of children. At last, one
day in autumn, the little Eloise, who had just learned to run
alone, wandered off by herself to a bluff, or rock, or something,
from which she fell into the river. The mother, Petrea, was close
by, and her terrific shrieks brought Richard to the spot in time
to save the child. He had not been well for several days, and the
frightful cold he took induced a fever, which seemed to settle in
his eyes, for ever since his sight has been failing until now it
has left him entirely. But hark! isn't some one in the next room?"
and she stepped into the adjoining apartment just as the nimble
Edith disappeared from view.
She had been sent up by Rachel with a message to Mrs. Atherton,
and was just in time to hear the commencement of Kitty's story.
Any thing relating to the blind man was interesting to her, and so
she listened, her large black eyes growing larger and blacker as
the tale proceeded. It did NOT seem wholly new to her, that story
of the drowning child--that cottage on the Rhine, and for a moment
she heard a strain of low, rich music sung as a lullaby to some
restless, wakeful child. Then the music, the cottage and the blue
Rhine faded away. She could not recall them, but bound as by a
spell she listened still, until the word Petrea dropped from
Kitty's lips. Then she started suddenly. Surely, she'd heard that
NAME before. Whose was it? When was it? Where was it? She could
not tell, and she repeated it in a whisper so loud that it
attracted Kitty's attention.
"I shall catch it if she finds me listening," thought Edith, as
she heard Kitty's remark, and in her haste to escape she forgot
all about Petrea--all about the lullaby, and remembered nothing
save the noble deed of the heroic Richard. "What a noble man he
must be," she said, "to save that baby's life, and how she would
pity him if she knew it made him blind. I wonder where she is. She
must be most as big as I am now;" and if it were possible Edith's
eyes grew brighter than their wont as she thought how had SHE been
that Swedish child, she would go straight up to Collingwood and be
the blind man's slave. She would read to him. She would see for
him, and when he walked, she would lead him so carefully, removing
all the ugly pegs from his boots, and watching to see that he did
not stub his toes, as she was always doing in her headlong haste.
"What a great good man he is," she kept repeating, while at the
same time she felt an undefinable interest in the Swedish child,
whom at that very moment, Grace Atherton was cursing in her heart
as the cause of Richard's misfortune.
Kitty was gone at last, and glad to be alone she wept passionately
over this desolation of her hopes, wishing often that the baby had
perished in the river ere it had wrought a work so sad. How she
hated that Swedish mother and her child--how she hated all
children then, even the black haired Edith, out in the autumn
sunshine, singing to herself a long-forgotten strain, which had
come back to her that morning, laden with perfume from the vine-
clad hills of Bingen, and with music from the Rhine. Softly the
full, rich melody came stealing through the open window, and Grace
Atherton as she listened to the mournful cadence felt her heart
growing less hard and bitter toward fate, toward the world, and
toward the innocent Swedish babe. Then as she remembered that
Richard kissed the flowers, a flush mounted to her brow. He did
love her yet; through all the dreary years of their separation he
had clung to her, and would it not atone for her former
selfishness, if now that the world was dark to him, she should
give herself to the task of cheering the deep darkness? It would
be happiness, she thought, to be pointed out as the devoted wife
of the blind man, far greater happiness to bask in the sunlight of
the blind man's love, for Grace Atherton did love him, and in the
might of her love she resolved upon doing that from which she
would have shrunk had he not been as helpless and afflicted as he
was. Edith should be the medium between them. Edith should take
him flowers every day, until he signified a wish for her to come
herself, when she would go, and sitting by his side, would tell
him, perhaps, how sad her life had been since that choice of hers
made on the shore of the deep sea. Then, if he asked her again to
share his lonely lot, she would gladly lay her head upon his
bosom, and whisper back the word she should have said to him seven
It was a pleasant picture of the future which Grace Atherton drew
as she lay watching the white clouds come and go over the distant
tree tops of Collingwood, and listening to the song of Edith,
still playing in the sunshine, and when at dinner time she failed
to appear at the ringing of the bell, and Edith was sent in quest
of her, she found her sleeping quietly, dreaming of the Swedish
babe and Richard Harrington.
RICHARD AND EDITH.
On Richard's darkened pathway, there WAS now a glimmer of
daylight, shed by Edith Hastings' visit, and with a vague hope
that she might come again, he on the morrow groped his way to the
summer house, and taking the seat where he sat the previous day,
he waited and listened for the footstep on the grass which should
tell him she was near. Nor did he wait long ere Edith came
tripping down the walk, bringing the bouquet which Grace had
prepared with so much care.
"Hist!" dropped involuntarily from her lips, when she descried
him, sitting just where she had, without knowing why, expected she
should find him, and her footfall so light that none save the
blind could have detected it.
To Richard there was something half amusing, half ridiculous in
the conduct of the capricious child, and for the sake of knowing
what she would do, he professed to be ignorant of her presence,
and leaning back against the lattice, pretended to be asleep,
while Edith came so near that he could hear her low breathing as
she stood still to watch him. Nothing could please her more than
his present attitude, for with his large bright eyes shut she
dared to look at him as much and as long she chose. He was to her
now a kind of divinity, which she worshipped for the sake of the
Swedish baby rescued from a watery grave, and she longed to wind
her arms around his neck and tell him how she loved him for that
act; but she dared not, and she contented herself with whispering
softly, "If I wasn't so spunky and ugly, I'd pray every night that
God would make you see again. Poor blind man."
It would be impossible to describe the deep pathos of Edith's
voice as she uttered the last three words. Love, admiration,
compassion and pity, all were blended in the tone, and it is not
strange that it touched an answering chord in the heart of the
"poor blind man." Slowly the broad chest heaved, and tears, the
first he had shed since the fearful morning when they led him into
the sunlight he felt but could not see, moistened his lashes, and
dropped upon his face.
"He's dreaming a bad dream," Edith said, and with her little
chubby hand she brushed his tears away, cautiously, lest she
should rouse him from his slumbers.
Softly she put back from the white forehead his glossy hair,
taking her own round comb to subdue an obdurate look, while he was
sure that the fingers made more than one pilgrimage to the lips as
the little barber found moisture necessary to her task.
"There, Mr. Blindman, you look real nice," she said, with an
immense amount of satisfaction, as she stepped back, the better to
inspect the whole effect. "I'll bet you'll wonder who's been here
when you wake up, but I shan't tell you now. Maybe, though, I'll
come again to-morrow," and placing the bouquet in his hands, she
Pausing for a moment, and looking back, she saw Richard again
raise to his lips her bouquet, and with a palpitating heart, as
she thought, "what if he wern't asleep after all!" she ran on
until Brier Hill was reached.
"Not any message this time either?" said Grace, when told that he
had kissed her flowers, and that was all.
Still this was proof that he was pleased, and the infatuated woman
persisted in preparing bouquets, which Edith daily carried to
Collingwood, going always at the same time, and finding him always
in the same spot waiting for her. As yet no word had passed
between them, for Edith, who liked the novelty of the affair, was
so light-footed that she generally managed to slip the bouquet
into his hand, and run away ere he had time to detain her. One
morning, however, near the middle of October, when, owing to a
bruised heel, she had not been to see him for more than a week, he
sat in his accustomed place, half-expecting her, and still
thinking how improbable it was that she would come. He had become
strangely attached to the little unknown, as he termed her; he
thought of her all the day long, and when, in the chilly evening,
he sat before the glowing grate, listening to the monotonous
whisperings of his father, he wished so much that she was there
beside him. His life would not be so dreary then, for in the
society of that active, playful child, he should forget, in part,
how miserable he was. She was blue-eyed, and golden-haired, he
thought, with soft, abundant curls veiling her sweet young face;
and he pictured to himself just how she would look, flitting
through the halls, and dancing upon the green sward near the door,
"But it cannot be," he murmured on that October morning, when he
sat alone in his wretchedness. "Nothing I've wished for most has
ever come to pass. Sorrow has been my birthright from a boy. A
curse is resting upon our household, and all are doomed who come
within its shadow. First my own mother died just when I needed her
the most, then that girlish woman whom I also called my mother;
then, our darling Charlie. My father's reason followed next, while
_I_ am hopelessly blind. Oh, sometimes I wish that I could die."
"Hold your breath with all your might, and see if you can't," said
the voice of Edith Hastings, who had approached him cautiously,
and heard his sad soliloquy.
Richard started, and stretching out his long arm, caught the
sleeve of the little girl, who, finding herself a captive, ceased
to struggle, and seated herself beside him as he requested her to
"Be you holding your breath?" she asked, as for a moment he did
not speak, adding as he made no answer, "Tell me when you're dead,
Richard laughed aloud, a hearty, merry laugh, which startled
himself, it was so like an echo of the past, ere his hopes were
crushed by cruel misfortune.
"I do not care to die now that I have you," he said; "and if you'd
stay with me always, I should never be unhappy."
"Oh, wouldn't that be jolly," cried Edith, using her favorite
expression, "I'd read to you, and sing to you, only Rachel says my
songs are weird-like, and queer, and maybe you might not like
them; but I'd fix your hair, and lead you in the smooth places
where you wouldn't jam your heels;" and she glanced ruefully at
one of hers, bound up in a cotton rag. "I wish I could come, but
Mrs. Atherton won't let me, I know. She threatens most every day
to send me back to the Asylum, 'cause I act so. I'm her little
waiting-maid, Edith Hastings."
"Waiting maid!" and the tone of Richard's voice was indicative of
The Harringtons were very proud, and Richard would once have
scoffed at the idea of being particularly interested in one so far
below him as a waiting-maid. He had never thought of this as a
possibility, and the child beside him was NOT of quite so much
consequence as she had been before. Still he would know something
of her history, and he asked her where she lived, and why she had
brought him so many flowers.
"I live with Mrs. Atherton," she replied. "She sent the flowers,
and if you'll never tell as long as you live and breathe, I'll
tell you what Rachel says. Rachel's an old colored woman, who used
to be a nigger down South, but she's free now, and says Mrs.
Atherton loves you. I guess she does, for she fainted most away
that day I went home and told her you were blind."
"Mrs. Atherton!" and Richard's face grew suddenly dark. "Who is
Mrs. Atherton, child?"
"Oh-h-h!" laughed Edith deprecatingly; "don't you know her? She's
Grace Atherton--the biggest lady in town; sleeps in linen sheets
and pillow cases every night, and washes in a bath-tub every
"Grace Atherton!" and Edith quailed beneath the fiery glance bent
upon her by those black sightless eyes. "Did Grace Atherton send
these flowers to me?" and the bright-hued blossoms dropped
instantly from his hand.
"Yes, sir, she did. What makes you tear so? Are you in a tantrum?"
said Edith, as he sprang to his feet and began unsteadily to pace
Richard Harrington possessed a peculiar temperament, Grace
Atherton had wounded his pride, spurned his love, and he THOUGHT
he hated her, deeming it a most unwomanly act in her to make these
overtures for a reconciliation. This was why he TORE so, as Edith
had expressed it, but soon growing more calm, he determined to
conceal from the quick-witted child the cause of his agitation,
and resuming his seat beside her, he asked her many questions
concerning Grace Atherton and herself, and as he talked he felt
his olden interests in his companion gradually coming back. What
if she were now a waiting-maid, her family might have been good,
and he asked her many things of her early life. But Edith could
tell him nothing. The Orphan Asylum was the first home of which
she had any vivid remembrance, though it did seem to her she once
had lived where the purple grapes were growing rich and ripe upon
the broad vine stalk, and where all the day long there was music
such as she'd never heard since, but which came back to her
sometimes in dreams, staying long enough for her to catch the air.
Her mother, the matron told her, had died in New York, and she was
brought to the Asylum by a woman who would keep her from
starvation. This was Edith's story, told without reserve or the
slightest suspicion that the proud man beside her would think the
less of her because she had been poor and hungry. Neither did he,
after the first shock had worn away; and he soon found himself
wishing again that she would come up there and live with him. She
was a strange, odd child, he knew, and he wondered how she looked.
He did not believe she was golden-haired and blue-eyed now. Still
he would not ask her lest he should receive a second
disappointment, for he was a passionate admirer of female beauty,
and he could not repress a feeling of aversion for an ugly face.
"Is Mrs. Atherton handsome?" he suddenly asked, remembering the
fresh, girlish beauty of Grace Elmendorff, and wishing to know if
it had faded.
"Oh, jolly," said Edith, "I guess she is. Such splendid blue hair
and auburn eyes."
"She must be magnificent," returned Richard, scarcely repressing a
smile. "Give her my compliments and ask her if she's willing NOW
to share my self-imposed labor. Mind, don't you forget a word, and
go now. I'll expect you again to-morrow with her answer."
He made a gesture for Edith to leave, and though she wanted so
much to tell him how she loved him for saving that Swedish baby,
she forbore until another time, and ran hastily away, repeating
his message as she ran lest she should forget it.
"Sent his compliments, and says ask you if you're willing to
share, his--his--his--share his--now--something--anyway, he wants
you to come up there and live, and I do so hope you'll go. Won't
it be jolly?" she exclaimed, as half out of breath she burst into
the room where Grace sat reading a letter received by the
"Wants me to what?" Grace asked, fancying she had not heard
aright, and as Edith repeated the message, there stole into her
heart a warm, happy feeling, such as she had not experienced since
the orange wreath crowned her maiden brow.
Edith had not told her exactly what he said, she knew, but it was
sufficient that he cared to see her, and she resolved to gratify
him, but with something of her olden coquetry she would wait
awhile and make him think she was not coming. So she said no more
to Edith upon the subject, but told her that she was expecting her
cousin Arthur St. Claire, a student from Geneva College, that he
would be there in a day or two, and while he remained at Brier
Hill she wished Edith to try and behave herself.
"This Mr. St. Claire," said she, "belongs to one of the most
aristocratic Southern families. He is not accustomed to anything
low, either in speech or manner."
"Can't I even say JOLLY?" asked Edith, with such a seriously
comical manner that Grace had great difficulty to keep from
"Jolly" was Edith's pet word, the one she used indiscriminately
and on all occasions, sometimes as an interjection, but oftener as
an adjective. If a thing suited her it was sure to be jolly--she
always insisting that 'twas a good proper word, for MARIE used it
and SHE knew. Who Marie was she could not tell, save that 'twas
somebody who once took care of her and called her jolly. It was in
vain that Grace expostulated, telling her it was a slang phrase,
used only by the vulgar. Edith was inexorable, and would not even
promise to abstain from it during the visit of Arthur St. Claire.
VISITORS AT COLLINGWOOD AND VISITORS AT BRIER HILL.
The morning came at last on which Arthur was expected, but as he
did not appear, Grace gave him up until the morrow, and toward the
middle of the afternoon ordered out her carriage, and drove slowly
in the direction of Collingwood. Alighting before the broad
piazza, and ascending the marble steps, she was asked by Richard's
confidential servant into the parlor, where she sat waiting
anxiously while he went, in quest of his master.
"A lady, sir, wishes to see you in the parlor," and Victor Dupres
bowed low before Richard, awaiting his commands.
"A lady, Victor? Did she give her name?"
"Yes, sir; Atherton--Mrs. Grace Atherton, an old friend, she
said," Victor replied, marveling at the expression of his master's
face, which indicated anything but pleasure.
He had expected her--had rather anticipated her coming; but now
that she was there, he shrank from the interview. It could only
result in sorrow, for Grace was not to him now what she once had
been. He could value her, perhaps, as a friend, but Edith's tale
had told him that he to her was more than a friend. Possibly this
knowledge was not as distasteful to him as he fancied it to be; at
all events, when he remembered it, he said to Victor:
"Is the lady handsome?" feeling a glow of satisfaction in the
praises heaped upon the really beautiful Grace. Ere long the hard
expression left his face, and straightening up his manly form, he
bade Victor take him to her.
As they crossed the threshold of the door, he struck his foot
against it, and instantly there rang in his ear the words which
little Edith had said to him so pityingly, "Poor blind man!" while
he felt again upon his brow the touch of those childish fingers;
and this was why the dark, hard look came back. Edith Hastings
rose up between him and the regal creature waiting so anxiously
his coming, and who, when he came and stood before her, in his
helplessness, wept like a child.
"Richard! oh, Richard! that it should be thus we meet again!" was
all that she could say, as, seizing the groping hand, she covered
it with her tears.
Victor had disappeared, and she could thus give free vent to her
emotions, feeling it almost a relief that the eyes whose glance
she once had loved to meet could not witness her grief.
"Grace," he said at last, the tone of his voice was so cold that
she involuntarily dropped his hands and looked him steadily in the
face. "Grace, do not aggravate my misfortune by expressing too
much sympathy. I am not as miserable as you may think, indeed, I
am not as unhappy even now as yourself."
"It's true, Richard, true," she replied, "and because I am unhappy
I have come to ask your forgiveness if ever word or action, or
taunt of mine caused you a moment's pain. I have suffered much
since we parted, and my suffering has atoned for all my sin."
She ceased speaking and softened by memories of the past, when he
loved Grace Elmendorf, Richard reached for her hand, and holding
it between his own, said to her gently, "Grace, I forgave you
years ago. I know you have suffered much, and I am sorry for it,
but we will understand each other now. You are the widow of the
man you chose, I am hopelessly blind--our possessions adjoin each
other, our homes are in sight. I want you for a neighbor, a
friend, a sister, if you like. I shall never marry. That time is
past. It perished with the long ago, and it will, perhaps, relieve
the monotony of my life if I have a female acquaintance to visit
occasionally. I thank you much for your flowers, although for a
time I did not know you sent them, for the little girl would place
them in my hands without a word and dart away before I could stop
her. Still I knew it was a child, and I preserved them carefully
for her sake until she was last here, when I learned who was the
real donor. I am fond of flowers and thank you for sending them. I
appreciate your kindness. I like you much better than I did an
hour since, for the sound of your voice and the touch of your
hands seem to me like old familiar friends. I am glad you came to
see me, Grace. I wish you to come often, for I am very lonely
here. We will at least be friends, but nothing more. Do you
consent to my terms?"
She had no alternative but to consent, and bowing her head, she
answered back, "Yes, Richard; that is all I can expect, all I
wish. I had no other intention in sending you bouquets."
He knew that she did not tell him truly, but he pitied her
mortification, and tried to divert her mind by talking upon
indifferent subjects, but Grace was too much chagrined and
disappointed to pay much heed to what he said, and after a time
arose to go.
"Come again soon," he said, accompanying her to the door, "and
send up that novelty Edith, will you?"
"Edith," muttered Grace, as she swept haughtily down the box-lined
walk, and stepped into her carriage. "I'll send her back to the
Asylum, as I live. Why didn't she tell me just how it was, and so
prevent me from making myself ridiculous?"
Grace was far too much disturbed to go home at once. She should do
or say something unlady-like if she did, and she bade Tom drive
her round the village, thus unconsciously giving the offending
Edith a longer time in which to entertain and amuse the guest at
Brier Hill, for Arthur St. Claire had come.
Edith was the first to spy him sauntering slowly up the walk, and
she watched him curiously as he came, mimicing his gait, and
wondering if he didn't feel big.
"Nobody's afraid of you," she soliloquised, "if you do belong to
the firstest family in Virginia." Then, hearing Rachel, who
answered his ring, bid him walk into the parlor and amuse himself
till Mrs. Atherton came, she thought, "Wouldn't it be jolly to go
down and entertain him myself. Let me see, what does Mrs. Atherton
say to the Shannondale gentlemen when they call? Oh, I know, she
asks them if they've read the last new novel; how they liked it,
and so on. I can do all that, and maybe he'll think I'm a famous
scholar. I mean to wear the shawl she looks so pretty in," and
going to her mistress' drawer, the child took out and threw around
her shoulders a crimson scarf, which Grace often wore, and then
descended to the parlor, where Arthur St. Claire stood, leaning
against the marble mantel, and listlessly examining various
ornaments upon it.
At the first sight of him Edith felt her courage forsaking her,
there seemed so wide a gulf between herself and the haughty-
looking stranger, and she was about to leave the room when he
called after her, bidding her stay, and asking who she was.
"I'm Edith Hastings," she answered, dropping into a chair, and
awkwardly kicking her heels against the rounds in her
embarrassment at having those large, quizzical brown eyes fixed so
inquiringly upon her.
He was a tall, handsome young man, not yet nineteen years of age,
and in his appearance there certainly was something savoring of
the air supposed to mark the F. F. V's. His manners were polished
in the extreme, possessing, perhaps, a little too much hauteur,
and impressing the beholder with the idea that he could, if he
chose, be very cold and overbearing. His forehead, high and
intellectually formed, was shaded by curls of soft brown hair,
while about his mouth there lurked a mischievous smile, somewhat
at variance with the proud curve of his upper lip, where an
incipient mustache was starting into life. Such was Arthur St.
Claire, as he stood coolly inspecting Edith Hastings, who mentally
styling him the "hatefullest upstart" she ever saw, gave him back
a glance as cool and curious as his own.
"You are an odd little thing," he said at last.
"No I ain't neither," returned Edith, the tears starting in her
flashing black eyes.
"Spunky," was the young man's next remark, as he advanced a step
or two toward her. "But don't let's quarrel, little lady. You've
come down to entertain me, I dare say; and now tell me who you
His manner at once disarmed the impulsive Edith of all prejudice,
and she replied:
"I told you I was Edith Hastings, Mrs. Atherton's waiting maid."
"Waiting maid!" and Arthur St. Claire took a step or two backwards
as he said: "Why are you in here? This is not your place."
Edith sprang to her feet. She could not misunderstand the feeling
with which he regarded her, and with an air of insulted dignity
worthy of Grace herself, she exclaimed,
"Oh, how I hate you, Arthur St. Claire! At first I thought you
might be good, like Squire Harrington; but you ain't. I can't bear
"Squire Harrington? Does he live near here?" and the face which at
the sight of her anger had dimpled all over with smiles, turned
white as Arthur St. Claire asked this question, to which Edith
"Yes; he's blind, and he lives up at Collingwood. You can see its
tower now," and she pointed across the fields.
But Arthur did not heed her, and continued to ply her with
questions concerning Mr. Harrington, asking if he had formerly
lived near Geneva, in western New York, if he had a crazy father,
and if he ever came to Brier Hill.
Edith's negative answer to this last query seemed to satisfy him,
and when, mistaking his eagerness for a desire to see her
divinity, Edith patronizingly informed him that he might go with
her some time to Collingwood, he answered her evasively, asking if
Richard recognized voices, as most blind people did.
Edith could not tell, but she presumed he did, for he was the
smartest man that ever lived; and in her enthusiastic praises she
waxed so eloquent, using, withal, so good language, that Arthur
forgot she was a waiting maid, and insensibly began to entertain a
feeling of respect for the sprightly child, whose dark face
sparkled and flashed with her excitement. She WAS a curious
specimen, he acknowledged, and he began adroitly to sound the
depths of her intellect. Edith took the cue at once, and not
wishing to be in the background, asked him, as she had at first
intended doing, if he'd read the last new novel.
Without in the least comprehending WHAT novel she meant, Arthur
promptly replied that he had.
"How did you like it?" she continued, adjusting her crimson scarf
as she had seen Mrs. Atherton do under similar circumstances.
"Very much indeed," returned the young man with imperturbable
gravity, but when with a toss of her head she asked; "Didn't you
think there was too much 'PHYSICS in it?" he went off into peals
of laughter so loud and long that they brought old Rachel to the
door to see if "he was done gone crazy or what."
Taking advantage of her presence, the crest-fallen Edith crept
disconsolately up the stairs, feeling that she had made a most
ridiculous mistake, and wondering what the word COULD be that
sounded so much like 'PHYSICS, and yet wasn't that at all. She
know she had made herself ridiculous, and was indulging in a fit
of crying when Mrs. Atherton returned, delighted to meet her young
cousin, in whom she felt a pardonable pride.
"You must have been very lonely," she said, beginning to apologize
for her absence.
"Never was less so in my life," he replied. "Why, I've been
splendidly entertained by a little black princess, who called
herself your waiting maid, and discoursed most eloquently of
METAPHYSICS and all that."
"Edith, of course," said Grace. "It's just, like her. Imitated me
in every thing, I dare say."
"Rather excelled you, I think, in putting on the fine lady,"
returned the teasing Arthur, who saw at once that Edith Hastings
was his fair cousin's sensitive point.
"What else did she say?" asked Grace, but Arthur generously
refrained from repeating the particulars of his interview with the
little girl who, as the days went by, interested him so much that
he forgot his Virginia pride, and greatly to Mrs. Atherton's
surprise, indulged with her in more than one playful romp,
teasingly calling her his little "Metaphysics," and asking if she
hated him still.
She did not. Next to Richard and Marie, she liked him better than
any one she had ever seen, and she was enjoying his society so
much when a most unlucky occurrence suddenly brought her happiness
to an end, and afforded Grace an excuse for doing what she had
latterly frequently desired to do, viz. that of sending the little
girl back to the Asylum from which she had taken her.
Owing to the indisposition of the chambermaid, Edith was one day
sent with water to Mr. St. Claire's room. Arthur was absent, but
on the table his writing desk lay open, and Edith's inquisitive
eyes were not long in spying a handsome golden locket, left there
evidently by mistake. Two or three times she had detected him
looking at this picture, and with an eager curiosity to see it
also, she took the locket in her hand, and going to the window,
touched the spring.
It was a wondrously beautiful face which met her view--the face of
a young girl, whose golden curls rippling softly over her white
shoulders, and whose eyes of lustrous blue, reminded Edith of the
angels about which Rachel sang so devoutly every Sunday. To Edith
there was about that face a nameless but mighty fascination, a
something which made her warm blood chill and tingle in her veins,
while there crept over her a second time dim visions of something
far back in the past--of purple fruit on vine-clad hills--of music
soft and low--of days and nights on some tossing, moving object--
and then of a huge white building, embowered in tall green trees,
whose milk-white blossoms she gathered in her hand; while distinct
from all the rest was this face, on which she gazed so earnestly.
It is true that all these thoughts were not clear to her mind; it
was rather a confused mixture of ideas, one of which faded ere
another came, so that there seemed no real connection between
them; and had she embodied them in words, they would have been
recognized as the idle fancies of a strange, old-fashioned child.
But the picture--there WAS something in it which held Edith
motionless, while her tongue seemed struggling to articulate a
NAME, but failed in the attempt; and when, at last, her lips did
move, they uttered the word MARIE, as if she too, were associated
with that sweet young face.
"Oh, but she's jolly," Edith said, "I don't wonder Mr. Arthur
loves her," and she felt her own heart throb with a strange
affection for the beautiful original of that daguerreotype.
In the hall without there was the sound of a footstep. It was
coming to that room. It was Grace herself, Edith thought; and
knowing she would be censured for touching what did not belong to
her, she thrust the locket into her bosom, intending to return it
as soon as possible, and springing out upon the piazza, scampered
away, leaving the water pail to betray her recent presence.
It was NOT Grace, as she had supposed, but Arthur St. Claire
himself come to put away the locket, which he suddenly remembered
to have left upon the table. Great was his consternation when he
found it gone, and that no amount of searching could bring it to
light. He did not notice the empty pail the luckless Edith had
left, although he stumbled over it twice in his feverish anxiety
to find his treasure. But what he failed to observe was discovered
by Grace, whom he summoned to his aid, and who exclaimed:
"Edith Hastings has been here! She must be the thief!"
"Edith, Grace, Edith--it cannot be," and Arthur's face indicated
plainly the pain it would occasion him to find that it was so.
"I hope you may be right, Arthur, but I have not so much
confidence in her as you seem to have. There she is now,"
continued Grace, spying her across the yard and calling to her to
Blushing, stammering, and cowering like a guilty thing, Edith
entered the room, for she heard Arthur's voice and knew that he
was there to witness her humiliation.
"Edith," said Mrs. Atherton, sternly, "what have you been doing?"
No answer from Edith save an increase of color upon her face, and
with her suspicions confirmed, Grace went on,
"What have you in your pocket?"
"'Taint in my pocket; it's in my bosom," answered Edith, drawing
it forth and holding it to view.
"How dare you steal it," asked Grace, and instantly there came
into Edith's eyes the same fiery, savage gleam from which Mrs.
Atherton always shrank, and beneath which she now involuntarily
It had never occurred to Edith that she could be accused of theft,
and she stamped at first like a little fury, then throwing herself
upon the sofa, sobbed out, "Oh, dear--oh, dear, I wish God would
let me die. I don't want to live any longer in such a mean, nasty
world. I want to go to Heaven, where everything is jolly."
"You are a fit subject for Heaven," said Mrs. Atherton,
scornfully, and instantly the passionate sobbing ceased; the tears
were dried in the eyes which blazed with insulted dignity as Edith
arose, and looking her mistress steadily in the face, replied,
"I suppose you think I meant to steal and keep the pretty picture,
but the one who was in here with me knows I didn't."
"Who was that?" interrupted Grace, her color changing visibly at
the child's reverent reply.
"God was with me, and I wish he hadn't let me touch it, but he
did. It lay on the writing desk and I took it to the window to see
it. Oh, isn't she jolly?" and as she recalled the beautiful
features, the hard expression left her own, and she went on, "I
couldn't take my eyes from her; they would stay there, and I was
almost going to speak her name, when I heard you coming, and ran
away. I meant to bring it back, Mr. Arthur," and she turned
appealingly to him. "I certainly did, and you believe me, don't
you? I never told a lie in my life."
Ere Arthur could reply, Grace chimed in.
"Believe you? Of course not. You stole the picture and intended to
keep it. I cannot have you longer in my family, for nothing is
safe. I shall send you back at once."
There was a look in the large eyes which turned so hopelessly from
Arthur to Grace, and from Grace back to Arthur, like that the
hunted deer wears when hotly pursued in the chase. The white lips
moved but uttered no sound and the fingers closed convulsively
around the golden locket which Arthur advanced to take away.
"Let me see her once more," she said.
He could not refuse her request, and touching the spring he held
it up before her.
"Pretty lady," she whispered, "sweet lady, whose name I most know,
speak, and tell Mr. Arthur that I didn't do it. I surely didn't."
This constant appeal to Arthur, and total disregard of herself,
did not increase Mrs. Atherton's amiability, and taking Edith by
the shoulder she attempted to lead her from the room.
At the door Edith stopped, and said imploringly to Arthur,
"DO you think I stole it?"
He shook his head, a movement unobserved by Grace, but fraught
with so much happiness for the little girl. She did not heed
Grace's reproaches now, nor care if she was banished to her own
room for the remainder of the day. Arthur believed her innocent;
Uncle Tom believed her innocent, and Rachel believed her innocent,
which last fact was proved by the generous piece of custard pie
hoisted to her window in a small tin pail, said pail being poised
upon the prongs of a long pitch-fork. The act of thoughtful
kindness touched a tender chord in Edith's heart, and the pie
choked her badly, but she managed to eat it all save the crust,
which she tossed into the grass, laughing to see how near it came
to hitting Mrs. Atherton, who looked around to discover whence it
could possibly have come.
That night, just before dark, Grace entered Edith's room, and told
her that as Mr. St. Claire, who left them on the morrow, had
business in New York, and was going directly there, she had
decided to send her with him to the Asylum. "He will take a letter
from me," she continued, "telling them why you are sent back, and
I greatly fear it will be long ere you find as good a home as this
has been to you."
Edith sat like one stunned by a heavy blow. She had not really
believed that a calamity she so much dreaded, would overtake her,
and the fact that it had, paralyzed her faculties. Thinking her in
a fit of stubbornness Mrs. Atherton said no more, but busied
herself in packing her scanty wardrobe, feeling occasionally a
twinge of remorse as she bent over the little red, foreign-looking
chest, or glanced at the slight figure sitting so motionless by
"Whose is this?" she asked, holding up a box containing a long,
thick braid of hair.
"Mother's hair! mothers hair! for Marie told me so. You shan't
touch THAT!" and like a tigress Edith sprang upon her, and
catching the blue-black tress, kissed it passionately, exclaiming,
"'Tis mother's--'tis. I remember now, and I could not think
before, but Marie told me so the last time I saw her, years and
years ago. Oh, mother, if I ever had a mother, where are you to-
night, when I want you so much?"
She threw herself upon her humble bed, not thinking of Grace, nor
yet of the Asylum, but revelling in her newborn joy. Suddenly,
like a flash of lightning, an incident of the past had come back
to her bewildered mind, and she knew now whose was the beautiful
braid she had treasured so carefully. Long ago--oh, how long it
seemed to her--there had come to the Asylum a short, dumpy woman,
with a merry face, who brought her this hair in a box, telling her
it was her mother's, and also that she was going to a far country,
but should return again sometime--and this woman was Marie, who
haunted her dreams so often, whispering to her of magnolias and
cape-jessamines. All this Edith remembered distinctly, and while
thinking of it she fell asleep, nor woke to consciousness even
when Rachel's kind old hands undressed her carefully and tucked
her up in bed, saying over her a prayer, and asking that Miss
Grace's heart might relent and keep the little girl. It had not
relented when morning came, and still, when at breakfast, Arthur
received a letter, which made it necessary for him to go to New
York by way of Albany, she did suggest that it might be too much
trouble to have the care of Edith.
"Not at all," he said; and half an hour later Edith was called
into the parlor, and told to get herself in readiness for the
"Oh, I can't, I can't," cried Edith, clinging to Mrs. Atherton's
skirt, and begging of her not to send her back.
"Where will you go?" asked Grace. "I don't want you here."
"I don't know," sobbed Edith, uttering the next instant a scream
of joy, as she saw, in the distance, the carriage from
Collingwood, and knew that Richard was in it. "To him! to him!"
she exclaimed, throwing up her arms. "Let me go to Mr. Harrington!
He wants me, I know."
"Are you faint?" asked Grace, as she saw the sudden paling of
"Slightly," he answered, taking her offered salts, and keeping his
eyes fixed upon the carriage until it passed slowly by, "I'm
better now," he said, returning the salts, and asking why Edith
could not go to Collingwood.
Grace would rather she should go anywhere else, but she did not
say so to Arthur. She merely replied that Edith was conceited
enough to think Mr. Harrington pleased with her just because he
had sometimes talked to her when she carried him flowers.
"But of course he don't care for her," she said. "What could a
blind man do with a child like her? Besides, after what has
occurred, I could not conscientiously give her a good name."
Arthur involuntarily gave an incredulous whistle, which spoke
volumes of comfort to the little girl weeping so passionately by
the window, and watching with longing eyes the Collingwood
carriage now passing from her view.
"We must go or be left," said Arthur, approaching her gently, and
whispering to her not to cry.
"Good bye, Edith," said Mrs. Atherton, putting out her jewelled
band; but Edith would not touch it, and in a tone of voice which
sank deep into the proud woman's heart, she answered:
"You'll be sorry for this some time."
Old Rachel was in great distress, for Edith was her pet; and
winding her black arms about her neck, she wept over her a simple,
heartfelt blessing, and then, as the carriage drove from the gate,
ran back to her neglected churning, venting her feelings upon the
dasher, which she set down so vigorously that the rich cream flew
in every direction, bespattering the wall, the window, the floor,
the stove, and settling in large white flakes upon her tawny skin
and tall blue turban.
Passing through the kitchen, Grace saw it all, but offered no
remonstrance, for she knew what had prompted movements so
energetic on the part of odd old Rachel. She, too, was troubled,
and all that, day she was conscious of a feeling of remorse which
kept whispering to her of a great wrong done the little girl whose
farewell words were ringing in her ear: "You'll be sorry for this
ARTHUR AND EDITH.
If anything could have reconciled Edith to her fate, it would have
been the fact that she was travelling with Arthur St. Claire, who,
after entering the cars, cared for her as tenderly as if she had
been a lady of his own rank, instead of a little disgraced waiting
maid, whom he was taking back, to the Asylum. It was preposterous,
he thought, for Grace to call one as young as Edith a waiting
maid, but it was like her, he knew. It had a lofty sound, and
would impress some people with a sense of her greatness; so he
could excuse it much more readily than the injustice done to the
child by charging her with a crime of which he knew she was
innocent. This it was, perhaps, which made him so kind to her,
seeking to divert her mind from her grief by asking her many
questions concerning herself and her family. But Edith did not
care to talk. All the way to Albany she continued crying; and
when, at last, they stood within the noisy depot, Arthur saw that
the tears were still rolling down her cheeks like rain.
"Poor little girl. How I pity her!" he thought, as she placed her
hand confidingly in his, and when he saw how hopelessly she looked
into his face, as she asked, with quivering lip, if "it wasn't
ever so far to New York yet?" the resolution he had been trying
all the day to make was fully decided upon, and when alone with
Edith in the room appropriated to her at, the Delavan House, he
asked her why she supposed Richard Harrington would be willing to
take her to Collingwood.
Very briefly Edith related to him the particulars of her
interviews with the blind man, saying, when she had finished,
"Don't you believe he likes me?"
"I dare say he does," returned Arthur, at the same time asking if
she would be afraid to stay alone one night in that great hotel,
knowing he was gone?"
"Oh, Mr. Arthur, you won't leave me here?" and in her terror
Edith's arms wound themselves around the young man's neck as if
she would thus keep him there by force.
Unclasping her hand's, and holding them in his own, Arthur said,
"Listen to me, Edith. I will take the Boston train which leaves
here very soon, and return to Shannondale, reaching there some
time to-night. I will go to Collingwood, will tell Mr. Harrington
what has happened, and ask him to take you, bringing him back here
with me, if he will---"
"And if he won't?" interrupted Edith, joy beaming in every
feature. "If he won't have me, Mr. Arthur, will you? Say, will you
have me if he won't?"
"Yes, yes, I'll have you," returned Arthur, laughing to himself,
as he thought of the construction which might be put upon this
mode of speech.
But a child nine and a half years old could not, he knew, have any
designs upon either himself or Richard Harrington, even had she
been their equal, which he fancied she was not. She was a poor,
neglected orphan, and as such he would care for her, though the
caring compelled him to do what scarcely anything else could have
done, to wit, to seek an interview with the man who held his
"Are you willing to stay here alone now?" he said again. "I'll
order your meals sent to your room, and to-morrow night I shall
"If I only knew you meant for sure," said Edith, trembling at the
thought of being deserted in a strange city.
Suddenly she started, and looking him earnestly in the face, said
"Do you love that pretty lady in the glass--the one Mrs. Atherton
thinks I stole?"
Arthur turned white but answered her at once.
"Yes, I love her very, very much."
"Is she your sister, Mr. Arthur?" and the searching black eyes
seemed compelling him to tell the truth.
"No, not my sister, but a dear friend."
"Where is she, Mr. Arthur? In New York?"
"No, not in New York."
"In Albany then?"
"No, not in Albany. She's in Europe with her father," and a shade
of sadness crept over Arthur's face, "She was hardly a young lady
when this picture was taken, and he drew the locket from its
hiding place. She was only thirteen. She's not quite sixteen now."
Edith by this time had the picture in her hand, and holding it to
the light exclaimed, "Oh, but she's so jolly, Mr. Arthur. May I
kiss her, please?"
"Certainly," he answered, and Edith's warm red lips pressed the
senseless glass, which seemed to smile upon her.
"Pretty--pretty--pretty N-n-n-Nina!" she whispered, and in an
instant Arthur clutched her so tightly that she cried out with
"Who told you her name was Nina?" he asked in tones so stern and
startling that Edith's senses all forsook her, and trembling with
fright she stammered,
"I don't know, sir--unless you did. Of course you did, how else
should I know. I never saw the lady."
Yes, how else should she know, and though he would almost have
sworn that name had never passed his lips save in solitude, he
concluded be most have dropped it inadvertently in Edith's
hearing, and still holding her by the arm, he said, "Edith, if I
supposed yon would repeat the word Nina, either at Collingwood or
elsewhere, I certainly should be tempted to leave you here alone."
"I won't, I won't, oh, Mr. Arthur, I surely won't!" and Edith
clung to him in terror. "I'll never say it--not even to Mr.
Harrington. Ill forget it, I can, I know."
"Not to Mr. Harrington of all others," thought Arthur, but he
would not put himself more in Edith's power than he already was,
and feeling that he must trust her to a certain extent, he
continued, "If you stay at Collingwood, I may sometime bring this
Nina to see you, but until I do you must never breathe her name to
any living being, or say a word of the picture."
"But Mr. Harrington," interrupted the far-seeing Edith, "He'll
have to know why Mrs. Atherton sent me away.
"I'll attend to that," returned Arthur. "I shall tell him it was a
daguerreotype of a lady friend. There's nothing wrong in that, is
there?" he asked, as he noticed the perplexed look of the honest-
"No," she answered hesitatingly. "It is a lady friend, but--but--
seems as if there was something wrong somewhere. Oh, Mr. Arthur--
"and she grasped his hand as firmly as he had held her shoulder.
"You ain't going to hurt pretty Nina, are you? You never will do
her any harm?"
"Heaven forbid," answered Arthur, involuntarily turning away from
the truthful eyes of the dark-haired maiden pleading with him not
to harm the Nina--who, over the sea, never dreamed of the scene
enacted in that room between the elegant Arthur St. Claire and the
humble Edith Hastings. "Heaven forbid that I should harm her---"
He said it twice, and then asked the child to swear solemnly never
to repeat that name where any one could hear.
"I won't swear," she said, "but I'll promise as true as I live and
breathe, and draw the breath of life, and that's as good as a
Arthur felt that it was, and with the compact thus sealed between
them, he arose to go, reaching out his hand for the picture.
"No," said Edith, "I want her for company. I shan't be lonesome
looking in her eyes, and I know you will come back if I keep her."
Arthur understood her meaning, and answered laughingly, "Well,
keep her then, as a token that I will surely return," and pressing
a kiss upon the beautiful picture he left the room, while Edith
listened with a beating heart, until the sound of his footsteps
had died away. Then a sense of dreariness stole over her; the
tears gathered in her eyes, and she sought by a one-sided
conversation with her picture to drive the loneliness away.
"Pretty Nina! Sweet Nina! Jolly Nina!" she kept repeating, "I
guess I used to see you in Heaven, before I came down to the nasty
old Asylum. And mother was there, too, with a great long veil of
hair, which came below her waist. Where was it?" she asked herself
as Nina, her mother and Marie were all mingled confusedly together
in her mind; and while seeking to solve the mystery, the darkness
deepened in the room, the gas lamps were lighted in the street,
and with a fresh shudder of loneliness Edith crept into the bed,
and nestling down among her pillows, fell asleep with Nina,
pressed lovingly to her bosom.
At a comparatively early hour next morning, the door of her room,
which had been left unfastened, was opened, and a chambermaid
walked in, starting with surprise at sight of Edith, sitting up in
bed, her thick black hair falling over her shoulders, and her
large eyes fixed inquiringly upon her.
"An, sure," she began, "is it a child like you staying here alone
the blessed night? Where's yer folks?"
"I hain't no folks," answered Edith, holding fast to the locket,
and chewing industriously the bit of gum which Rachel, who knew
her taste, had slipped into her pocket at parting.
"Hain't no folks! How come you here then?" and the girl Lois
advanced nearer to the bedside.
"A man brought me," returned Edith. "He's gone off now, but will
come again to-night."
"Your father, most likely," continued the loquacious Lois.
"My father!" and Edith laughed scornfully, "Mr. Arthur ain't big
enough to be anybody's father--or yes, maybe he's big enough, for
he's awful tall. But he's got the teentiest whiskers growing you
ever saw," and Edith's nose went up contemptuously at Arthur's
darling mustache. "I don't believe he's twenty," she continued,
"and little girl's pa's must be older than that I guess, and have
"How old are you?" asked Lois, vastly amused at the quaint
speeches of the child, who replied, with great dignity,
"Going on TEN, and in three years more I'll be THIRTEEN!"
"Who are you, any way?" asked Lois, her manner indicating so much
real interest that Edith repeated her entire history up to the
present time, excepting, indeed, the part pertaining to the locket
held so vigilantly in her hand.
She had taken a picture belonging to Mr. Arthur, she said, and as
Lois did not ask what picture, she was spared any embarrassment
upon that point.
"You're a mighty queer child," said Lois, when the narrative was
ended; "but I'll see that you have good care till he comes back;"
and it was owing, in a measure, to her influence, that the
breakfast and dinner carried up to Edith was of a superior
quality, and comprised in quantity far more than she could eat.
Still the day dragged heavily, for Lois could not give her much
attention; and even Nina failed to entertain her, as the western
sunlight came in at her window, warning her that it was almost
"Will Arthur come? or if he does, will Mr. Harrington be with
him?" she asked herself repeatedly, until at last, worn out with
watching and waiting, she laid her head upon the side of the bed,
and fell asleep, resting so quietly that she did not hear the
rapid step in the hall, the knock upon the door, the turning of
the knob, or the cheery voice which said to her:
"Edith, are you asleep?"
Arthur had come.
RICHARD AND ARTHUR.
It was not a common occurrence for a visitor to present himself at
Collingwood at so early an hour as that in which Arthur St. Claire
rung for admittance, and Victor, who heard the bell, hastened in
some surprise to answer it,
"Tell Mr. Harrington a stranger wishes to see him," said Arthur,
following the polite valet into the library, where a fire was
slowly struggling into life.
"Yes, sir. What name?" and Victor waited for a moment, while
Arthur hesitated, and finally stammered out:
"Mr. St. Claire, from Virginia."
Immediately Victor withdrew, and seeking his master, delivered the
message, adding that the gentleman seemed embarrassed, and he
wouldn't wonder if he'd come to borrow money."
"St Claire--St. Claire," Richard repeated to himself. "Where have
I heard that name before? Somewhere, sure."
"He called himself a stranger," returned Victor, adding that a
youth by that name was visiting at Brier Hill, and it was probably
of him that Mr. Harrington was thinking,
"It may be, though I've no remembrance of having heard that fact,"
returned Richard; "but, lead on," and he took the arm of Victor,
who lead him to the library floor and then, as was his custom,
More than once during the rapid journey, Arthur had half resolved
to turn back and not run the fearful risk of being recognized by
Richard Harrington, but the remembrance of Edith's mute distress
should he return alone, emboldened him to go on and trust to
Providence, or, if Providence failed, trust to Richard's
generosity not to betray his secret. He heard the uncertain
footsteps in the hall, and forgetting that the eyes he so much
dreaded could not see, he pulled his coat collar up around his
face so as to conceal as much of it as possible.
"Mr. St. Claire? Is there such a person here?" and Richard
Harrington had crossed the threshold of the door, and with his
sightless eyes rolling around the room, stood waiting for an
How well Arthur remembered that rich, full, musical voice. It
seemed to him but yesterday since, he heard it before, and he
shrank more and more from the reply which must be made to that
question, and quickly, too, for the countenance of the blind man
was beginning to wear a look of perplexity at the continued
Summoning all his courage he stepped forward and taking the hand
groping in the air, said rapidly, "Excuse me, Mr. Harrington, I
hardly know what to say, I've come upon so queer an errand. You
know Edith Hastings, the little girl who lived with Mrs.
He thought by introducing Edith at once to divert the blind man
from himself; but Richard's quick ear had caught a tone not wholly
unfamiliar as he replied,
"Yes, I know Edith Hastings, and it seems to me I ought to know
you, too. I've heard your name and voice before. Wasn't it in
Geneva?" and the eagle eves fastened themselves upon the wall just
back of where Arthur stood.
Arthur fairly gasped for breath, and for an instant he was as
blind as Richard himself; then, catching at the word Geneva, he
answered, "Did you ever live in Geneva, sir?"
"Not in the village, but near there on the lake shore," answered
Richard, and Arthur continued,
"You probably attended the examinations then at the Academy, and
heard me speak. I was a pupil there nearly two years before
entering the college."
Arthur fancied himself remarkably clever for having suggested an
idea which seemed so perfectly to satisfy his companion and which
was not a falsehood either. He had been a student in the Academy
for nearly two years, had spoken at all the exhibitions, receiving
the prize at one; he had seen Richard Harrington among the
spectators, and had no doubt that Richard might have observed him,
though not very closely, else he had never put himself in his
power by the one single act which was embittering his young life.
"It is likely you are right," said Richard, "I was often at the
examinations, and since my misfortune I find myself recognizing
voices as I never could have done when I had sight as well as
hearing upon which to depend. But you spoke of Edith Hastings. I
trust no harm has befallen the child. I am much interested in her
and--wonder she has not been here long ere this. What would you
tell me of her?"
Briefly Arthur related the particulars of his visit at Brier Hill,
a visit which had ended so disastrously to Edith, and even before
he reached the important point, Richard answered promptly, "She
shall come here, I need her, I want her--want her for my sister,
my child. I shall never have another;" then pressing his hands
suddenly up on his forehead, whose blue veins seemed to swell with
the intensity of his emotions, he continued. "But, no, Mr. St.
Claire. It cannot be, she is too young, too merry-hearted, too
full of life and love to be brought into the shadow of our
household. She would die upon my hands. Her voice would grow
sadder and more mournful with the coming of every season, until at
last when I had learned to love her as my life, I should some
morning listen for what, would never greet my ear again. It's a
great temptation, but it must not be. A crazy old man and his
blind son are not fit guardians for a child like Edith Hastings.
She must not walk in our darkness."
"But might not her presence bring daylight to that darkness?"
asked Arthur, gazing with mingled feelings of wonder and
admiration upon the singularly handsome noble-looking man, who was
indeed walking in thick darkness.
"She might," said Richard. "Yes, she might bring the full rich
daylight to us, but on her the shadow would fail with a fearful
blackness if she linked her destiny with mine. Young man, do you
like Edith Hastings, if so, take her yourself and if money----"
Arthur here interrupted him with, "I have money of my own, sir;
but I have no home at present. I am a student in college. I can do
nothing with her there, but--" and his voice sunk almost to a
whisper. "Years hence, I hope to have a home, and then, if you are
tired of Edith I will take her. Meantime keep her at Collingwood
for me. Is it a bargain?"
"You are young, I think," said Richard, smiling at Arthur's
proposition, and smiling again, when in tones apologetical, as if
to be only so old were something of which he ought to be ashamed,
"I am nineteen this month."
"And I was thirty, last spring," said Richard. "An old man, you
think, no doubt. But to return to Edith Hastings. My heart wants
her so much, while my better judgment rebels against it. Will she
be greatly disappointed if I refuse?"
"Oh, yes, yes," said Arthur, grasping the hand laying on Richard's
knee. "I CAN'T go back to her without you. But, Mr. Harrington,
before I urge it farther, let me ask as her friend, will she come
here as a SERVANT, or an equal."
There was an upward flashing of the keen black eyes, a flush upon
the high, white forehead, and Richard impatiently stamped upon the
floor as he answered proudly,
"She comes as an equal, or not at all. She shall be as highly
educated and as thoroughly accomplished as if the blood of the
Harrington's flowed in her veins."
"Then take her," and Arthur seemed more anxious than before. "She
will do justice to your training. She will be wondrously
beautiful. She will grace the halls of Collingwood with the air of
England's queen. You will not be ashamed of her, and who knows but
Arthur began to stammer, and at last managed to finish with,
"There is NOT such a vast difference in your ages. Twenty-one
years is nothing when weighed against the debt of gratitude she
will owe you--"
"There, I've made a fool of myself," he thought, as he saw the
forehead tie itself up in knots, and the corners of the mouth
twitch with merriment.
"By that last speech you've proved how YOUNG and romantic you
are," answered Richard. "Winter and spring go not well together.
Edith Hastings will never be my wife. But she shall come to
Collingwood. I will return with you and bring her back myself."
Ringing the bell for Victor, he bade him see that breakfast was
served at once, saying that he was going with his friend to