Betty received a pitiful letter from her stepmother, trying to explain away her part in the affair and professing to be so relieved at the news that Betty was still alive and well that she cared nothing about anything else, not even the fact that poor dear Herbert was landed in jail, or that the fortune which she had schemed so long to keep in her own power was wrested from her so ignominiously. She begged Betty to come back to their home and "be happy again together."
But Betty was so happy where she was that she could afford to be generous and try to forget her wrongs. She wrote a decent little note gently but firmly declining to come "home" ever again, making it quite plain that she was no longer deceived by honeyed phrases, and closing with a request that if in future any communication might be necessary it should be made through her lawyer, Mr. Warren Reyburn.
This same Warren Reyburn had returned to his city office in a very much exalted state of mind. He could not get away from that little hand of Betty's that had been laid so tremblingly and confidingly in his; and yet how could he, a poverty-stricken lawyer with absolutely no prospects at all, ever dare to think of her, a lady of vast estates. Still, there was some comfort in the fact that he had still some business to transact for her, and would have to return to Tinsdale again. He might at least see her once more. So he solaced himself on his return trip, feeling that he had done some good work, and that he would have a pleasant report to give to Jane Carson when he called upon her, as he meant to do the next day.
He arrived at home to find James Ryan in a great state of excitement. A pile of mail had arrived, and he had memorized the return addresses on the outside of all the envelopes. One was from a big corporation, and another bore a name widely spoken of in the circles of the world of finance, Jimmie in close council with Jane Carson, had decided that it must be from that person who called up twice on the 'phone and swore such terrible oaths when he found that Reyburn was away.
Jimmie hovered nervously about, putting things to rights, while Reyburn read his mail. He had come to the smallest envelope of all, a plain government envelope now, and nothing had developed. Jimmie saw his first place fast slipping away from him and his heart grew heavy with fear. Perhaps after all nothing good had turned up yet.
Suddenly Reyburn sprang up and came toward him with an open letter, holding out his hand in a joyous greeting:
"Read that, Ryan! We're made at last, and I shan't have to let you go after all!"
Ryan read, the letters dancing before his delighted eyes, every one wearing an orange blossom on its brow. It was from an old established and influential firm, asking Reyburn to take full charge of all their law business, and saying they had been referred to him by two old friends in Boston, who by the way were Betty's two trustees.
"Come on, Ryan, come out to lunch with me! We've got to celebrate," said Reyburn. "I have a hunch somehow that you have been the one that brought me this good luck. You and a Miss Jane Carson. You both share alike, I guess, but you were the first with your five-thousand-dollar reward story."
"Jane Carson!" said Jimmie mystified. "Why, she's my girl!"
"Your girl?" said Reyburn, a queer look coming in his eyes. "You don't say! Well, you're in some luck, boy, with a girl like that! And, by the way, next time you see her, ask her to show you her wedding dress!"
And not another word would Reyburn tell him, though he recurred frequently to the subject during the very excellent lunch which they had together in friendly companionship.
They spent the afternoon composing the brief and comprehensive letter in response to the momentous one of the morning, and in the evening together they sought out Jane Carson, Reyburn staying only long enough to outline the ending of the Elizabeth Stanhope story, while Jimmie remained to hear the beginning, and get a glimpse of the wedding gown, which Reyburn assured Jane he was sure she need never return. He said he thought if the owner of it was married ever in the future she would be likely to want a gown that had no unpleasant associations.
Great excitement prevailed in Tinsdale as the weeks went by. Betty had bought the lots either side of the Carson house, and wonderful improvements were in progress. A windmill was being erected and water pipes laid scientifically. Workmen arrived, some of them from the village, some from the city. Extensive excavations went on about the old house, and stone arrived. It began to be whispered about that "Miss Stanhope," as Betty was now called, was going to build the house all over and all of stone.
The work went forward rapidly as work can go when there is money enough behind it, and the family, living in the little old part of the house, and still using the faithful tin bath-tub and shower of Bob's manufacture, now looked forward to real bathrooms on the bedroom floor, with tiled floors and porcelain fittings. Large windows cropped out on the new walls that were going up, a wide stone chimney and porches. A charming little stone affair in the back yard that went up so quietly it was hardly noticed until it was done suddenly became the home of a big gray car that arrived in town one morning. Betty gave up her position at the Hathaways so that she could have more time to superintend the work and see that it was just as she wanted it, and she and Bob spent hours going over the plans together, he making many wise suggestions. Mrs. Hathaway called her "Miss Stanhope" with elaborate ceremony, and made Elise kiss her whenever she met her.
Betty went to a near-by town and bought some pretty clothes, and a lot of things for Ma and Emily and Bob. A beautiful new piano came by express and took the place of Mrs. Barlow's tinpanny one.
Then Betty went up to the city and bought more things, furniture and silver and curtains and rugs, and brought Jane back with her to take a rest and see the little old house once more before it became the big new house, and stay until she was ready to be married; for Betty was determined to have the house ready for Jane's wedding.
When all the new beautiful things began to arrive Betty told Ma that she had taken her in when she was poor and homeless and absolutely penniless, and now all these things were her reward, and Betty couldn't do enough ever to thank her for what she had done for her. They had offered a five-thousand-dollar reward for news of her, and Ma had done more than ten thousand and thousands of thousands of dollars' worth of holding back news about her, and she was never going to get done giving her her reward.
Of course Betty brought Nellie home, too, and established her in a lovely new room just fit for a young girl, and began to pet her and fix her up with pretty things as any loving sister might do if she had money of her own.
All this time Reyburn had much business to transact in Tinsdale, for Betty had asked him to look after all the little details about the building for her, and he had to come down every week-end and look things over to see that she was not being cheated. And once he brought Jimmie down with him for Ma to look over and approve and they had a wonderful time with the two best hens in the hen-coop for dinner. Ryan incidentally gave his approval to Betty.
During these visits Reyburn was making great strides in the wisdom and the knowledge of the love of God. One could not be in that family over Sunday and not feel the atmosphere of a Christian home. Even Jimmie felt it and said he liked it; that he wanted his house to be that way when he had one. He went obediently to church with Jane, and marveled at the way social classes were getting all muddled up in his world.
The Christmas time was coming on when the house finally got itself completed and was ready for living, and with holly and mistletoe and laurel they made it gay for the wedding. Betty spent several days with Jane in New York picking out Jane's "trooso" things, and then a few more days doing some shopping of her own, and at last the wedding day arrived.
Nobody thought it queer, though Jimmie felt just the least bit shy when the two trustees of Betty's estate arrived the night before from Boston and incorporated themselves into the wedding party. Ma seemed to think it was all right, so nobody said anything about it.
But after the ceremony when Jane and Jimmie were happily married, Jane looking very young and pretty indeed in Betty's old wedding gown, veil and slippers and all, and standing under the holly bell in the laurel arch to be congratulated just as it had been arranged, there suddenly came a hush over everybody. Jane noticed for the first time that Betty was not anywhere in the room. Then everybody's eyes went to the wide staircase, and here came Betty trailing down the stairs on the arm of Reyburn, wearing still the little white organdie she had worn a few minutes before as a bridesmaid, only she had thrown aside the rose-colored sash and put over her brow a simple tulle veil, and her arms were full of little pink rosebuds and lilies of the valley.
Up they walked in front of the minister just where the others had stood, and were married with the same sweet simple service, and everybody was so surprised and delighted and excited and breathless that Bob simply couldn't stand it. He slipped into the little music room where the piano had been installed, turned a handspring on the floor, and then sat down and played chopsticks on the piano with all the pedals on, till Ma had to send Emily in to stop him.
* * * * *
Obvious punctuation errors have been corrected.
Repeated book title was removed.
Page 30, "posible" changed to "possible" (the feathers as possible)
Page 36, "Pood" changed to "Poor" (Poor soul! Candy!)
Page 71, "beter" changed to "better" (you better go to)
Page 77, "ominious" changed to "ominous" (the ominous silence)
Page 90, repeated word "an" removed from text. Original read (by an an inch and)
Page 121, "hrurrying" changed to "hurrying" (said Ma, hurrying)
Page 131, "wante" changed to "wanted" (I kind of wanted)
Page 131, "l" changed to "look". The space was there it just was not printed. (It doesn't look)
Page 131, as above, "wh" changed to "when you" (you know, when you)
Page 196, "suspicians" changed to "suspicions" (these suspicions which)
Page 199, "tiptoing" changed to "tiptoeing" (and tiptoeing to the door)
Page 220, "disapointment" changed to "disappointment" (great disappointment of Bi)