She stood in thoughtful silence for a moment after reading these names, a look of perplexity on her young face, a little shadow dimming her pretty brown eyes.
"I wonder," she began; then, suddenly cutting herself short, she threw back her small head with an unaccustomed air, and with a bright red spot on either cheek, went straight to her room,
"Bless your heart, honey! Whatever has given you such a magnificent color?" Sadie exclaimed, as Katherine opened the door, to find her roommate trying to dispose of the wealth of flowers that had poured in upon her from all sources.
"Have I more than usual?" she inquired, putting one hand over a hot cheek, which began to take on an even deeper hue.
"Indeed you have, and it's mighty becoming to you. You are perfectly stunning, and I'd like a picture of you as you look now," and the girl's appreciative glance swept over the graceful figure in its trailing white dress, the brilliant flowers encircled with one fair arm and the beautiful face all aglow with its unaccustomed color. "Well," she went on, with a satisfied sigh, "it is all over, ami mia, and I'm sure we made a downright splendid show, to say nothing about the honor we heaped upon ourselves, with our essays, poems, class history, singing, etc. I was proud of it all. Now for the grand finale to-night, and that, I suppose, will end our school life. Heigh-ho! aren't you just a little bit sorry, Kathleen mavourneen?"
"Yes, of course; one cannot help feeling the breaking away; er— Sadie, was Dr. Stanley in the audience this afternoon?"
Miss Minot shot a quick, comprehensive look from under her long lashes at her companion, who had turned a little from her and was now apparently gazing out of a window.
"O-h! I see!" she ejaculated, reflectively, after an instant of hesitation.
"What do you see?" demanded Katherine, in surprise, and facing her suddenly.
"Why! Why, this beautiful Katherine—Mermet is refractory; she—it won't stand up in the vase; it has a crooked stem, lops over dejectedly and needs doctoring," Sadie observed, demurely, as she held the flower up to view. "But"—with 'a sly smile—"I reckon a little skillful surgery will straighten it out. Yes, Dr. Stanley was there—up in the north corner, almost behind that great post. How strange you didn't see him!"
"I didn't try to find anybody; I didn't care to know where anybody sat, at least until after I had read my essay; and then, you know, it was almost over," explained Katherine, turning away again, but not before her friend had noticed that the color was now all gone from her face.
She nodded her head wisely once or twice.
"He didn't send any flowers," she mentally observed. "Those Jacks are mine; the mixed bouquet is from the Minturns, and I saw Dorrie give the usher those Daybreak pinks. Well, it is queer. I wonder what it means?"
"There!" she remarked, aloud, "I've done the best I can with my avalanche of sweetness; now give me yours, honey, and I will put them in this jardiniere. But what will you save out to wear with your reception gown to-night?" she asked, as she took the flowers from Katherine.
"I—don't know, Sadie; I believe I won't make any change—I'll go just as I am," was the dejected reply as the girl sank wearily into a chair.
"Go just as you are! not make any change! Well, now, Miss Minturn, that really 'jars' me; with that perfectly killing pink liberty gauze, made over pink silk, all ready to slip on, and which just makes me green with envy to look at," Sadie exclaimed, in a tone of mock consternation, although, as she told her later, she was "dying to shriek with laughter." "What is the matter, honey?" she added, softly, the next moment.
"Matter?" repeated Katherine, trying to look unconscious.
"Yes; are you tired?"
"Well—it has been a pretty busy day, you know," and a half- repressed sigh seemed to indicate weariness.
"Who is that, I wonder?" remarked Miss Minot, as some one knocked for admittance. "Come in."
The door opened and a maid put her head inside.
"A box for Miss Minturn," she said, briefly.
Katherine sprang forward to take it and a strange tremor seized her as she severed the twine, removed the wrapper and lifted the cover.
Then the rich color flooded cheek and brow as she saw a small but exquisite spray bouquet of white moss rosebuds lying upon a bed of moist cotton, and, beside them, a card bearing the name, "Phillip Harris Stanley."
"Sadie! Did you ever see anything so lovely?" she cried, holding it out for her friend to admire, and trying not to look too happy.
"'Lovely' doesn't half express it," returned the girl, glancing from the waxen buds to the radiant face bending above them. "Ahem! Who sent 'em?"
"U-m! just the thing to wear with that pink gauze to-night," was the laconic suggestion.
"They would look pretty with it, wouldn't they?" said Katherine, innocently.
"I reckon that was what they were meant for, or they would have come before and been handed in downstairs," Miss Minot observed, with an audible chuckle.
"What'll you wager on it?"
"How can one make a wager on what can't be verified?"
"Oh"—with an irrepressible giggle—"I'll take care of that part of it, if you'll only bet."
"What a perfect torment you can be, Sadie Minot, when you take a notion," interposed Katherine, flushing, but with a laugh that rang out clearly and sweetly. "But I must go and find mamma. She will be wondering what has become of me," and she turned abruptly away to get out of range of a pair of saucy, twinkling eyes.
She carefully sprinkled her buds, then covered them to keep them fresh, after which she went out to seek her parents, humming a bar of their farewell song on the way. As the sound of her footsteps died away in the distance Sadie sank upon a chair and gave vent to a ringing peal of mirthful laughter.
"Moss rosebuds!" she panted. "They will look 'pretty' with her dress! Oh, innocence! thy name is Katherine."
A few hours later the main building of the seminary was ablaze with light and resounding with music, happy voices and laughter, together with the tripping of many feet in the merry dance.
Bright and attractive maidens, in lovely evening dresses of many hues, flitting hither and thither with their attendants in more conventional attire; parents and guardians, gathered in social groups, or from advantageous positions, watching with smiling content the brilliant scene; lavish and beautiful floral decorations lending a perfumed atmosphere and artistic effect to the whole, all made a charming and spirited picture which Prof. Seabrook dearly loved to gaze upon, and to which he always looked eagerly forward at the close of every school year; albeit his enjoyment was somewhat tempered with sadness in view of the final farewells that must be said to his senior class on the morrow.
To-night, as he mingled with his guests, everywhere showing himself the thoughtful host and courteous gentleman, his glance fell, several times, upon a graceful, rose-draped figure wearing a spray of white moss rosebuds on her corsage.
He also observed, as she moved in rhythmic sway to the inspiring music, that she was supported by the strong arm of his distingue- looking brother-in-law, who seemed, he thought, to be paying more homage than usual to the Terpsichorean Muse, and one particular lady.
"Well, what do you think of it, Will?" whispered his wife, who happened to be near him once as the couple went circling by.
"What do I think of what, Emelie?" he queried, evasively.
"Why, of the way Phil is carrying on to-night! Did you ever see anybody so lost to all things mundane—save the presence of a certain very dainty little lady—as he is at this moment?"
"He does seem unusually frisky, I admit—especially with his feet," said the professor, with a smile.
"His feet! Will, just look at him! He doesn't know he has any feet; he is all eyes and—heart! You know what I mean, dear," his companion pursued. "I've seen you watching them with that quizzical look in your eyes. What would you think of it as a—a match?"
"Emelie! a matchmaker!—thou!" ejaculated her husband, in a tone of mock dismay, though his lips twitched with amusement.
She laughed out musically, a sound that he loved and heard frequently nowadays.
"But what would you think?" she persisted.
"I would think, sweetheart, that—with one exception I could name- -he had won a crown jewel and the sweetest wife in the world," replied the professor as he looked fondly down into the blue eyes uplifted to his.
Once Sadie, leaning on the arm of a dashing cadet in uniform, swept slowly by Katherine and her companion.
"How about that wager, honey?" she languidly inquired, her roguish eyes fastened upon the conspicuous rosebuds.
But Katherine's only reply was a defiant toss of her brown head as she smiled serenely back at her and whirled blissfully on.
Of course, it all had to come to an end, and morning found the weary, though still happy, revelers preparing, with much bustle and confusion, to disperse to their various homes; but that last delightful evening, with its music, and flowers, and charming associations, remained a brilliant spot in memory's realm during many after years.
A week later found the Minturns and Seabrooks again located for the season at Manchester-by-the-sea.
Prof. Seabrook, to the great joy of his family, was to remain with them throughout the vacation. He would do no roaming this year, he said. He had something of far more importance to attend to, and unfolded a plan to his dear ones, which was received with the greatest enthusiasm; more of which anon.
It proved to be a summer long to be remembered by all, especially by Jennie, for various reasons; one of which was, she had never before seen the ocean, and it was a wonderful revelation to her, filling her with ever-increasing admiration and awe.
"One gets something of an idea of what eternity means," she said, with a long-drawn breath of rapture, when, one day, Katherine accompanied her to a high point which commanded a limitless expanse of sea that seemed to softly melt away into the sky and so become lost to human vision.
She could not content herself indoors much of the time, and almost won for. herself again the sobriquet of "Wild Jennie," for she would often disappear directly after breakfast, going off on long tramps to return hours later, laden with a promiscuous assortment of shells, stones, star-fish and other curiosities with which she lavishly adorned her own room and various other portions of the house.
"Oh, it's only a 'spell,'" she retorted one day, when Katherine laughingly commented upon her conchological, geological, ichthyological "research." "It has got to have its 'run,' like some other beliefs that aren't so good; then I'll get over it, I suppose, settle down and behave like people who are already seasoned. If I could only be as successful in a genealogical way there'd be nothing left to wish for," she concluded with a wistful sigh.
"Are you still brooding over that, Jennie?" gravely inquired Katherine.
"Not exactly 'brooding,' dearie. I guess it's just a kind of hankering, though mortal mind does set up a howl, now and then, in spite of me, and says 'don't you wish you knew.'"
Katherine laughed softly at the characteristic phraseology, but bent a very tender look upon the girl.
"Well, you do know that you are God's child," she said, gently.
"Yes; and I know it now, in a way that I never did before I knew you; and I'm sure no other 'stray waif' ever had quite so much to be thankful for as I have."
They all loved the girl, and she was the life of the house, although she had toned down considerably during the last year; for she was always bright and cheery, keeping everybody in a ripple with her quaint sayings and contagious mirth.
At the same time she made herself helpful, in many ways, was ever thoughtful for others, and, withal, so affectionate that everyone was the happier for her presence in the house.
So the time drew on apace for the convening of Mrs. Minturn's "class," the date of which had been set for the twentieth of July.
It was to be a full class, this year, and a convenient room had been secured in the "Back Bay district," in Boston, many of her prospective students being desirous of spending their vacation in that city to enjoy the privileges and services of "The Mother Church."
Prof. Seabrook took rooms for himself and family near by—this was his "plan," that they all three have class instruction together— for such an arrangement would be more convenient for them than to try to go back and forth, each day, and also give them more time for study.
It was an earnest and intelligent company that gathered in the appointed place on Monday, July twentieth, all eager to be fed with the Bread of Life. There were two clergymen, one physician, two lawyers, several teachers, business men and women, and others from humbler walks of life. Miss Reynolds had come on to "review"; Jennie and Sadie were also among the number.
Intense interest and the closest attention were manifested throughout the course, and Mrs. Minturn afterwards remarked that the class, as a whole, was one of the brightest and most receptive that she had ever taught.
The sixth lesson was a particularly impressive one, during which every occupant of that sacred room became so conscious of the power and presence of Truth and Love, that the place almost seemed to them a "mount of transfiguration," as it were, where the Christ was revealed to them as never before.
When the class was dismissed for the day, Mrs. Minturn asked Prof. Seabrook if he would kindly remain to assist her with some papers she had to make out; and Mrs. Seabrook and Dorothy, their "hearts still burning within them," stole quietly away to their rooms to talk over by themselves the beautiful things they had learned that morning.
They passed out upon the street and had walked nearly half the distance to their boarding place, when Mrs. Seabrook stopped short and turned a startled face to her child.
"Dorothy, your crutches!" was all she could say.
The girl lifted a wondering look to her.
"Mamma!" she said, in a voice of awe, "I forgot all about them!"
"Shall we—shall I go back for them?" mechanically inquired her mother.
"Go back for my crutches? Mamma! why, mamma! don't you see that I am free?—that I can walk as well as you?" she exclaimed, with a catch in her breath that was very like a sob. "You've just got to know it, for me and with me," she continued authoritatively, as she started on, "for I will never use them again. I have 'clung to the truth'—we've all clung—and 'Truth has made me free'! Oh!"— in an indescribable tone—"'who is so great a God as our God?' Let us g-get home quick, or—I shall have to c-cry right here in—the street."
"Mamma, I think I know, now, just when all the fear left me," Dorothy said later, when, after reaching their rooms, each had for a few moments sought the "secret place" to offer her hymn of praise for this new gift of Love. "You know how beautifully Mrs. Minturn talked about man's 'God-given dominion,' this morning; did you ever hear anyone say such lovely things? She seemed to take you almost into heaven, and I felt so happy—so light and free, I wanted to fly. I forgot all about my body, and I walked out of that room without realizing what I was doing; I hadn't really got back to mortal sense and things material, when you stopped and spoke of my crutches. I haven't said anything about it, for it seemed too good to be true, but for nearly two weeks I've had such a longing to walk alone, and, at times, it has almost seemed as if I could, but didn't quite dare to try. And, mamma"—Dorothy lowered her voice reverently—"have you noticed, when helping me to dress lately, that—that one of the curves is nearly gone from my back?"
"Yes, dear, but I 'have not dared' to call your attention to it— that is what has made you seem so much taller, though we have called it 'growing,'" her mother returned.
"Don't you think we have been very, very faithless, mamma, dear, not to 'dare' speak of our blessings and thank God for them?" said the girl, tremulously.
"Dorrie, you shame me, every day, by your implicit faith!" faltered the woman, tears raining over her face.
"No—no; not 'implicit,' mamma, for that would make the other curve straight this very minute. But I know it is going to he, sometime, for God made the real me upright and nothing can deprive me of my birthright."
Half an hour later Prof. Seabrook came in, looking a trifle pale and anxious.
Dorothy arose and went forward, with radiant face, to meet him. He could not speak, but opened his arms to her and held her close for a minute, his trembling lips pressed against the fair head lying on his breast.
Presently she gently released herself, remarking:
"Papa, do you know, when you came in, you looked as if you expected to find what we have all wished for so long."
"I did and—I didn't," he replied, with a faint smile. "When I had finished what Mrs. Minturn asked me to do, and started to leave the room, I saw your crutches standing in the corner where I had put them after you were seated.
"While I stood blankly staring and wondering, that blessed woman came to me with such a light on her face—it fairly shone with joy and love.
"'Dorrie has gone,'" she said. "'I saw her walk out with her mother.'
"Involuntarily I put out my hand to take the crutches,
"'No—leave them,' she said, 'she will never need them again, and you do not wish any reminders of error about you.' So I came away praying 'Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.'"
A MOMENTOUS ERRAND.
There were only three more sessions, but they were wonderful "sittings together," for every member had been deeply impressed by the signal manifestation of God's power in their midst, in connection with Dorothy; and felt that the place whereon they stood was indeed "holy ground."
Then the class was dismissed with solemn, but loving, injunctions to go forth to "cheer the faint, uplift the fallen, and heal the sick."
But, before letting them go, Mrs. Minturn cordially invited the students to spend the following Thursday at her home in Manchester; to enjoy a reunion and an outing before finally separating to go to their different fields of labor.
As their last meeting occurred on Tuesday, there intervened but one day in which to prepare for the prospective festivities on Thursday. But willing hearts and hands—for Mr. Minturn was now at home, and Prof. Seabrook and Dr. Stanley proffered their services- -made light work of the various things to be done.
Katherine, Sadie and Jennie planned elaborate decorations for the veranda; accordingly the coachman and hostler were dispatched to the woods for pine boughs, evergreens, etc., then to a florist's, for potted ferns and plants, with an order for cut-flowers to be sent on Thursday morning, and it was not long before the house began to put on quite a festive appearance.
On Wednesday, just after lunch, Mr. Minturn repaired to the attic and brought forth a box supposed to contain Chinese and Japanese lanterns, with other decorations; but, alas! when it was opened it was found that the mice had made sad havoc with its contents, and they were condemned as utterly useless.
"That means a trip to Boston," the gentlemen observed to his wife, as he pushed the box into a corner with other rubbish, "for it would not be safe to trust to an order, at this late hour, and yet I do not see how I can go and leave things here."
"I suppose one of the maids might go," said Mrs. Minturn, rather doubtfully, "but, really, they are having such a busy day, with sweeping and cleaning, and there is so much still to be done, I hardly have the heart to ask them."
Jennie, who, with Mrs. Seabrook, Dorrie, Katherine and Sadie, was twining evergreen ropes and wreaths, and, at the same time, having a lovely, social visit, overheard the above conversation, and, knowing that Mr. Minturn could ill be spared, said to herself, with a sharp pang of regret:
"I'm the one who ought to go; but—I don't want to."
She glanced wistfully at the happy faces about her; at the half- finished wreath in her hands; at the deep-blue ocean whence came a cool, refreshing breeze, then, with a quickly repressed sigh, laid down her work and arose.
"Let me go," she said, turning to Mrs. Minturn and stealing a fond arm around her waist. "I'm sure I can do the errand all right."
"Dear, they will make quite a package, for there will have to be a good many," objected her friend, but with a quick smile of appreciation for her thoughtfulness. "Besides," she added, glancing at the merry group behind them, "you are all having such a good time."
"Never mind anything so we have the lanterns. We must let our light shine, you know; and just look at that for muscle!" cheerily returned the girl, as she swept up her loose sleeve and revealed a truly sturdy arm. "I can catch the next train, if I step lively, and I'll be back on the one that leaves at five. Make out your order, Mr. Minturn, and I'll be ready before you can say 'Jack Robinson.'"
She bounded into the house and was halfway upstairs before Mr. Minturn could get out his notebook and pencil, and in less than ten minutes was down again equipped for her trip.
"'Jack Robinson,'" solemnly repeated Mr. Minturn, but with a roguish twinkle in his eyes as he handed her the leaf which he had torn from his notebook, with his order and the address of a Boston firm written on it. "Now be off, you sprite, or you will lose your train, and you shall have your reward later," he concluded, as the trap, which he had ordered up from the stable, dashed to the door.
"I'll get my reward on the way," laughed the girl, throwing him a bright glance over her shoulder as she ran nimbly down the steps and sprang into the carriage, little thinking how true her lightly-spoken words would prove.
Four hours later the trap was again sent to the station to meet her, and, a five minutes' drive, behind the pair of spirited beauties, landed her at home once more.
Much had been accomplished during Jennie's absence, and the broad veranda was like a sylvan bower, the last nail having just been driven, the last wreath and festoon put in place; while the Seabrooks were on the point of going home to dinner as the carriage stopped before the door.
She looked pale and appeared to see no one; but, leaping to the ground, sprang up the steps, touched Katherine on the arm, saying briefly, "Come!" then fled inside the house.
Everyone wondered at her strange behavior, and Katherine immediately followed her to her room.
The moment she appeared Jennie caught her in her arms and swung to the door.
"Katherine! Katherine!" she cried, breathlessly, "I'm found!—I'm found!—I'm not a 'stray waif'—I'm not lost any longer—I'm—I'm- -"
She could say no more-her breath was spent; her emotion mastered her—and, bowing her head on her companion's shoulder, she burst into passionate weeping that shook her from head to foot.
Katherine held her in a close, loving embrace for a moment, then gently forced her into a rocker and knelt beside her, still keeping her arms around her, while she worked mentally for dominion and harmony.
But the flood-gates were open wide. The pent-up yearnings of years were let loose, and it was some time before the storm began to abate.
Once or twice she attempted to say something, then lapsed into fresh weeping, her self-control strangely shattered; for Jennie had seldom been known to shed tears in the presence of others, even under great pressure.
"Hush!" at length commanded Katherine, with gentle authority; "be still and know who has you in His care."
"That's pa-part of it!—to—to think that I—I didn't 'know'; and now it has c-come when I never really had f-f-faith to be-believe it would. I—do-don't d-deserve it," sobbed the girl, with another helpless outburst.
While Katherine is patiently waiting and working for the return of a more tranquil frame of mind, let us take a backward glance and follow Jennie on her eventful trip to Boston.
Upon her arrival in town she went directly to the store to which she had been directed and where her order was immediately filled; then finding that she had more than an hour on her hands before her train would go, she left her package to be called for and slipped into a large department store, to look at some pictures that had been recently and extensively advertised in the papers.
But before reaching the room where they were on exhibition, she was attracted another way, by seeing a crowd of people standing before an alcove that had been curtained off, and where a so- called "transformation scene" was being enacted before admiring and wondering observers.
She had never seen anything of the kind and stood like one entranced, while an exquisite marble statue, representing a beautiful girl holding a basket of flowers in her hands, slowly and mysteriously took on a lifelike appearance, until at length she stood a living, breathing maiden, smiling brightly into the faces around her, while her basket of flowers had also been changed to a cradle of bulrushes, in the midst of which lay an infant reaching up eager hands to the lovely woman above him.
Jennie watched this scene—supposed to represent "Pharaoh's Daughter and The Infant Moses"—change the second time, then turned abruptly away, just as the metamorphosis back to marble began, to find herself confronted by a fine-looking, middle-aged gentleman, who was gazing with strange intentness at her.
She would have passed him without a second glance, but, lifting his hat to her, he courteously inquired:
"Young lady, will you kindly tell me your name?"
Jennie flushed with sudden embarrassment. She had often been warned never to converse with strangers who might accost her; but, in this instance, while she had no intention of telling him who she was, she felt exceedingly awkward to refuse to grant a request so politely solicited.
"I hope you will pardon me," he continued as he observed her confusion. "I am aware that I appear presumptuous; but you are the counterpart of a sister whom I lost years ago, and whose daughter I have been vainly seeking during the last five years."
Jennie's heart bounded into her throat at this, and her discretion instantly vanished in her eagerness to verify a startling suspicion that had popped into her head while he was speaking.
"Oh, sir," she began, with a nervous catch in her breath. "I am called Jennie Wild, but that isn't really my name—I don't know what it is. My father and mother were both killed in a railroad accident when I was a baby, and a kind lady adopted me and— perhaps—oh, do you think—-" but her voice failed her utterly at this point, for her heart was panting painfully from mingled hope and fear.
The stranger smiled genially down upon her, but his own voice was far from steady, as he said:
"Suppose, Miss Wild, we go and sit down over yonder, where we will be by ourselves"—indicating a remote corner of the room—"and, perhaps, we can find out a little more about this double-puzzle; at least, we can ascertain whether your facts and mine will fit together."
He led the way and placed a chair for her in a position to shield her from observation as they talked, and then, sitting down beside her, asked her to please tell him as much of her history as she was willing he should know.
But, as we are aware, that was very little, indeed, and took only a few minutes to relate.
"Well, my child," the man observed, when; she concluded, "there is not much in what you have told me that throws any light upon what I am anxious to learn; your face and form alone seem to indicate kinship, and that may be but a singular coincidence. All the same, you shall hear my story.
"Years ago I had a sister whom I loved very dearly. She was much older than I and took the place of my mother when I lost her. I lived with this sister, after her marriage, until I was eighteen years of age, and grew to love the little daughter who came to her when I was a boy of ten, with a tenderness which I have no words to express. At the age of eighteen, an East India merchant, who dealt in spices, coffee, tea, etc., and who, having no children of his own, had made a kind of protege of me, proposed that I come to him and learn his business. His partner in the East had recently died; he was about to go abroad to take his place and suggested that this would give me a fine start in life. It was too good an opportunity to be slighted, and I eagerly accepted it. Years passed; my sister and her husband both died—their daughter married and settled in a thriving town, not far from San Francisco, Cal. Then, after a time, word came that there was another little girl in the daughter's home, and she wrote begging me to come back to her, if only for a visit, for I was now her only living relative and her lonely heart was hungry for me. I immediately made plans to do so; but my partner—who formerly had been my employer—was suddenly taken away and I was obliged to give up the trip. Nearly a year later my niece wrote very hurriedly, telling me that her husband had obtained a fine position in Chicago, that they had sold their home and were on the point of leaving for that city, but she would send me their address when they were settled. That was the last I ever heard from her, although I wrote numberless letters of inquiry to their former place of residence and also to Chicago. Complications in business made it impossible for me to come to the United States to institute a personal search, until about five years ago, and I have spent these years looking for the dear girl who so strangely disappeared after leaving her California home. I have been in nearly every large city in the land, and in each have advertised extensively, but all to no purpose. A month ago I came to Boston for the second time, and have liked the place so well I am loath to leave it. While looking at the transformation scene over yonder, I was attracted by your remarkable resemblance to my sister, as she was at your age, and could not refrain from speaking to you, hoping that I might hear a familiar name. Miss Wild, can you tell me just when this accident, which deprived you of your parents, occurred?"
Jennie gave him the date of the month and the year, and her companion's face changed as he heard it.
"That was the same month and the year that my niece left California to go to Chicago," he said. "I believe—I wonder—By the way, Miss Wild"—with a sudden start—"was there nothing about you when that woman found you, by which you could have been identified?"
"Oh, yes! I never thought!" panted Jennie, as her trembling hands flew to her throat.
In a trice she had unclasped the string of amber beads which she always wore inside her clothing, and laid them in his hand.
The man grew very white as he saw them, turned the curious clasp over and read the initials engraven there. He did not speak for a full minute. He was evidently deeply moved, and Jennie sat watching him with bated breath and tensely clasped hands.
"My dear," he finally said, "this is the 'open sesame' to everything. This and your remarkable resemblance to my sister, together with the date you have given me, prove to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are the daughter of my niece."
"O-h!" breathed Jennie, with tremulous eagerness.
"The initials 'A. A. to M. A. J.,' on the clasp, stand for 'Alfred Arnold to Mildred Arnold Jennison,'" the gentleman continued. "I am Alfred Arnold. When my niece wrote me of the birth of her little daughter, and that she had named her 'Mildred' for her mother, and 'Arnold,' for me, I bought this string of amber in Calcutta, had the initials engraved on the clasp and sent it to the tiny stranger."
"Then—then I am—you are—" began Jennie, falteringly.
"You are my grandniece—I am your great-uncle. My child, do you think you will care to own the relationship?"
But the girl was, for the moment, beyond the power of speech.
To have the harassing mystery of her life solved at last; to learn something definite regarding her family, even though no one remained to claim her save this distant relative, yet to find in him a cultured gentleman, and reaching out to her with tender yearning, as the only link with his past—was more than she could bear with composure. To have tried to speak just then would have precipitated a burst of tears and she "wouldn't cry in public."
So she could only throw out an impulsive, trembling hand to him and smile faintly into the grave, kind face beside her.
He folded it within his own and patted it soothingly with a fatherly air.
"Little girl, little girl!" he said, huskily, but tenderly, "I can hardly believe it! I was becoming discouraged in my quest; but I begin to think now that life is worth living, even though the dear one I sought is gone and I shall never see her again in this life."
"My mother! my father—have you their—" but Jennie was obliged to stop again because of the refractory lump in her throat.
"Yes, I have numerous photographs of them all," Mr. Arnold replied, and instinctively comprehending her thought. "I even have one of baby Mildred," he added, with a smile, "taken when she was six months old. Your mother's maiden name was Pauline West, and I have some beautiful letters from her that you will love to read some day."
"Do I look like her at all?" queried Jennie, who was beginning to forget herself and grow more composed as she drank in these interesting facts.
"No; she resembled her father, and was light, with blue eyes, though you have a way of speaking that reminds me of her. But you are almost the image of my sister—her mother—who was dark, with black eyes, and hair that curled, just as yours does, about her forehead," Mr. Arnold replied, and added: "Your father I never saw, but I have some pictures of a very nice-looking gentleman whose autograph, 'Charles E. Jennison,' is written on the back."
"And my name is 'Mildred Arnold Jennison,'" said Jennie, and drawing a long breath at the unfamiliar sounds.
"Yes, I am sure of it. With your resemblance to Annie, my sister, the dates you have given me and this string of beads I could ask for no stronger proofs," returned the gentleman as he gave back the amber necklace.
"It is a very pretty name, I think," said the girl, a happy little laugh breaking from her, "and I'm glad there is a 'Jennie' in it, for I've been called that so long I would hardly know how to answer to any other. But—oh! what time is it?" she cried, starting to her feet. "I had forgotten all about my train!"
Mr. Arnold showed her his watch, whereupon she breathed more freely.
"There is plenty of time," she added, more composedly, "but I think I must go now, for I have a package to get from another store. I hope, though, this hasn't been a 'transformation scene' that will turn back to marble or—blankness," she concluded, with a nervous laugh as she glanced towards the curtained alcove where they had met.
"Do not fear—it is all living truth, and we are going to make it seem more real every day," cheerily responded Mr. Arnold. "I will see you to your train and we will thus have a little more time together; then, very soon, I would like to come to you and meet the friends who have been so kind to you."
Jennie asked if he could make it convenient to come to Manchester on Friday, explaining why she could not make the appointment for the next day; and it was so arranged.
He accompanied her to the station and put her aboard her train, making himself very entertaining on the way by recounting interesting incidents connected with his life and travels in the East.
"You're sure you're a bona-fide uncle and no vanishing 'genie'?" she half jestingly, half wistfully remarked as the warning "All aboard!" sounded and she gave him her hand at parting.
"I'm sure of the relationship, and I think I am of too substantial proportions to become invisible to mortal eyes at a moment's warning. Whether I shall be obliged to vanish in any other way will depend upon yourself later on," Mr. Arnold smilingly replied, as he courteously lifted his hat and bowed himself away.
But during the ride home it seemed too wonderful to be true. She had dreamed of a similar revelation so many times, only to awake in the morning and find herself plain Jennie Wild, the same stray waif still hopelessly bemoaning the mystery that enshrouded her origin, that she could hardly believe she was not dreaming now.
"Mildred Arnold Jennison! Mildred Arnold Jennison!" she repeated over and over. "I don't know her; I can hardly believe she really exists; it seems more like one of the many vagaries of 'Wild Jennie' who was ever fond of imagining herself some poor little princess in disguise."
And thus, by the time she reached home, she had worked herself to the highest pitch of nervous excitement, which culminated in Katherine's arms, and which she was patiently trying to overcome when we left them to take our "backward glance."
By the time Jennie had given Katherine a brief outline of what had occurred during the afternoon, the dinner bell sounded and warned them that they must put aside romance and startling revelations for the present and come down to the more practical and prosaic affairs of life.
"But, Katherine, I can't go down," Jennie exclaimed as she sprang to the mirror and saw her red and swollen eyes. "I look a perfect fright."
"Well, of course, you need not; I will send you up something nice, and you can rest and try to compose yourself, for you will want to tell us all more of this wonderful story by and by," Katherine considerately returned as she arose from her kneeling posture to obey the summons from below.
"But you may set the ball rolling, dearie. I want them all to know, and they must have thought I had a queer 'bee in my bonnet' when I got home."
"Very well, I will formally announce the advent of our new guest, Miss Mildred Arnold Jennison, if you wish, and I know that everyone will heartily rejoice with you," was the smiling reply.
Jennie threw her arms impulsively around her friend, "Oh, Katherine! how good you always are to me!" she cried. "What a blessed thing it was for me that you chose to go to Hilton! If you hadn't I wouldn't have known about Science—I never should have come to Boston, and then I would have missed to-day, an—"
"Oh, Jennie! Jennie! God governs all; He has more ways than one of leading His children, and when they are ready for the Truth it is always revealed to them," chidingly interposed her friend, but dropping a fond kiss upon the flushed cheek nearest her.
"Well, but it was you who made me 'ready' for it," the girl persisted. "You were so dear yourself you made me want to be dear, too, and so my heart opened to receive the Truth. And, Katherine"- -impressively—"every day since I got your letter, just after auntie went away, I have said over to myself what you wrote me, and tried to believe it. It was this: 'Your identity is not lost; you are God's child, and that child can never be deprived of her birthright, or any other good necessary to her happiness and well- being'; only I put it in the first person."
"Dear, you have made it a true prayer, and to-day you have received in part the answer to it," said Katherine, softly.
"Do you think so?" said Jennie, earnestly.
"Indeed, I do. You know the promise, 'If ye ask anything in My name, believing'? But I suppose I must go down," and Katherine turned to leave the room.
Jennie stood still, thinking deeply for a moment. Then, before her friend could reach the stairs, she called out, the old cheery ring in her tones:
"You needn't send up anything, you blessing; I'll wash my face and come down. I don't care if my eyes are red; you all love me and won't mind."
So, after a little, this child of impulse joined the family below, her face radiant with happiness, in spite of the evidences of recent tears, and everybody exhibited the liveliest interest in the wonderful sequel to her life of mystery, and expressed, most cordially, their joy in view of her good fortune in finding some one akin to her.
"Tell me what he looks like, honey. I'm just expiring with curiosity and impatience to see this great magician who has transformed everything for you," said Sadie, with her good-natured drawl, after Jennie had given them a more detailed account of the interview with her relative.
"You just wait till you see this 'magician,' as you call him," retorted the girl, with a proud little toss of her head. "Anyone can tell, with half a glance, that he's an out-and-out gentleman. And, don't you know"—with a long sigh of content—"it is such a comfortable feeling, for I've often had a very lively squirming time all by myself when I've tried to focus my mental kodak upon some imaginary shade of my ancestors to see what he was like."
It was a very happy company that congregated on the verandas the next morning to complete the preparations for the reunion of the afternoon.
Dr. Stanley and the Seabrooks came over again to help arrange flowers, hang the lanterns, etc., and they were no less rejoiced than her other friends when informed of Jennie's happy discoveries of the previous day.
"What are we going to do without our 'Jennie Wild'?" smilingly inquired Prof. Seabrook, as he laid a friendly hand on her curly black head. "I am afraid a good many tongues will trip a good many times before they get used to 'Miss Mildred Arnold Jennison.'"
"Well, professor, you'll have the same Jennie—at least for the next two years; for I'm never going to be called anything else by my old friends," returned the girl, in a positive tone. "I don't quite know how we are going to manage about the name," she added, reflectively. "I'm free to admit, though"—with an arch look—"I think my new trimmings are rather swell; but I can't give up the Jennie. I'm sure Jennie Jennison wouldn't do—too much Jennie, you know. But I'm not going to worry about that to-day; I'm too happy, and there's too much to be done. Mrs. Minturn, where is Katherine?" she suddenly inquired, with a roguish glance at a stalwart form that was restlessly pacing the veranda.
"She is in the library, answering a letter for me; she will be through very shortly. Do you want her particularly, dear?" innocently questioned the lady who was absorbed in filling a jardiniere with scarlet geraniums.
"N-o, not very; only I've been growing conscious during the last few minutes that there is a—er—something lacking in the atmosphere. Dr. Stanley, do have this rocker," she interposed, with a sly smile, and pushing one towards him, "it's too warm this morning for such a waste of energy."
Either by chance or intention, she had swung the chair directly opposite a low window that commanded a view of the library, where Katherine, in a familiar gown of pale yellow chambrey, was oblivious to all but the work in hand. The young man shot a searching look at the mischievous elf; then, with a quiet "thank you," deliberately took the proffered seat, but, ten minutes later, he also was missing from the company.
He found Katherine seated before her own private desk, and in the act of stamping the letter which he had just seen her addressing.
"I hope I do not intrude?" he observed, in a tone of polite inquiry.
"No, I am just through," she replied, as she carefully pressed the still moist stamp in place with a small blotter.
"I have come to ask if you have a copy of that flashlight picture of the 'Flower Carnival'" he resumed. "Dorrie's is at home, but she wishes to have some more copies, and as I am going to town to- morrow I thought I would attend to it."
"Yes, I have mine right here," said Katherine, as she took a small key from a drawer and proceeded to unlock a compartment in her desk, smilingly explaining as she did so: "This is where I keep my choicest treasures—things that I do not let everyone see."
"Must I look away?" demanded her companion, in a mock-injured tone.
"Oh! no"—with a silvery ripple—"I am not quite so secretive as that."
Removing a box, she carefully placed it one side, then brought forth a package nicely wrapped in tissue paper. Unfolding this, she disclosed several photographs, and among them was the one he had asked for.
"How fortunate you were to get so good a picture!" she observed, and studied it a moment before giving it to him. "How happy Dorrie looks! Although, to see her now, one would scarcely believe that this was ever taken for her."
"No, indeed! What a marvelous change a year has made in that child!" said Dr. Stanley, in an animated tone.
"'A year!' I am sure you do not quite mean that," and she lifted a questioning look to him.
"No, I do not—thank you for correcting me," he gravely rejoined. "I know time has had nothing to do with it—that we owe it all to Christ—Truth. How watchful one needs to be of one's words, in Science."
"Yes, or one is liable to give wrong impressions without meaning to. It is scientific to be exact, and"—with a soft sigh—"we all have to learn that by being continually on guard."
There was a moment of silence, after she ceased speaking, during which Katherine began to be conscious that the atmosphere was becoming charged with an unaccustomed element, and she hastened to observe, as she glanced towards the veranda:
"How lovely the house is looking! Have you your camera here?"
"I am sorry I have not, for we ought to have some views of it. We will have," he added. "I will have a photographer from the village come up before the day is over and take some."
As he concluded, by some careless handling, the picture of the Flower Carnival slipped from his grasp, and in trying to recover it his arm came in contact with the box, which Katherine had taken from her treasure closet, displacing the cover and almost upsetting it.
"Oh!" cried the girl, in a startled tone, but flushing scarlet as she saved it from falling and hastily replaced the cover. She was not quick enough, however, to prevent her companion seeing, with a sudden heart bound of joy, that the box contained a spray of dried and faded moss rosebuds.
He turned a radiant face to her, and her eyes drooped in confusion before the look in his, while the color burned brighter in her cheeks.
"Miss Minturn—Katherine! Did you prize them enough to keep them— here?" and he touched the door of her "treasure closet"
"They are a—a souvenir of a delightful evening—my last at Hilton," she faltered.
His countenance fell; yet something in the tense attitude of the figure beside him, in her quickened breathing and fluctuating color emboldened him to ask:
"Did they convey no message to you? had they any special significance? Tell me—tell me, please!"
"They had not—then," she confessed, almost inaudibly.
"Then?" he repeated, eagerly.
"I did not know—I had not looked—-"
"You did not know their language then; but you do now, dear?" he said, a glad ring in his tones. "And may I tell you that my heart and all its dearest hopes went with those little voiceless messengers? That was Why—"
"Oh! Uncle Phillip, the carriage has come for us and we are waiting for you," cried Dorothy's voice from the low, open window on the opposite side of the room, and for the first time in his life a feeling of impatience with his niece stirred in Phillip Stanley's heart. "Why! is anything the matter?" she added, as she observed Katherine's averted eyes and unusual color and her uncle's unaccustomed intensity.
"I'll be with you in a minute, Dorrie," he said. "Just one word," he pleaded, bending nearer to Katherine, "have you treasured my messengers because of their message?"
But Katherine could not speak even the "one word"—the fluttering of her startled heart, the throbbing in her throat robbed her of the power to make a sound. The most she could do was to lift her eyes, for one brief instant, and smile faintly into the fond face looking down upon her. It was enough, however. Phillip Stanley stood erect and drew in a long, free breath.
"Coming, Dorrie!" he called out, as the girl made a movement to step over the low sill into the room; "no, there is nothing the matter—I came to ask Miss Minturn for the Flower Carnival picture, to have it copied for you."
"How nice of you, Uncle Phillip! You are always so thoughtful for me!" said unsuspicious Dorothy.
The man's laugh rang out full and clear, but with a note of genuine mirth in it that made Katherine's cheeks tingle afresh, for it told her that his main object in seeking her had not been to get the picture.
"Oh! if that child would but vanish!" he thought, with an adoring look at the pretty, drooping figure in its dainty robe of pale yellow; but little Miss Marplot evidently had no such intention, and he reluctantly turned away to save Katherine further embarrassment.
"Good-by, Miss-Katherine; we will be with you again this afternoon," he said, with a thrill in his voice as it lingered over the name; then he stepped through the low window, slipped his arm around unconscious Dorrie and led her away to the carriage.
The reunion of the afternoon was a most delightful occasion. Mr. Minturn had chartered a yacht to take the whole party out for a few hours' sail, and, the day being perfect, the sea in its bluest attire and quietest mood, there was nothing to mar their enjoyment, and the experience proved ideal for everyone.
They returned just at sunset, to find numerous daintily laid tables awaiting them on one of the broad verandas and groaning beneath an abundance of the many luxuries that had been provided to tempt and regale; while spotlessly attired maids and white- jacketed men were in attendance to serve the hungry excursionists. As twilight dropped down o'er land and sea, as the numerous lanterns were lighted and flung their soft radiance and vivid spots of color upon the scene, while a fine orchestra discoursed melodiously from some green-embowered nook, the place seemed like an enchanted realm where one might almost expect to discern, flitting among the playful shadows, those weird forms that people the elf land of childhood's fancy—
"Fairies, black, gray, green and white, Those moonshine revelers and shades of night."
And thus the evening was spent in a delightfully informal manner, each and all appearing to feel as if they were members of one happy family, as, indeed, they were, in Truth and Love.
But the final farewells had to be said at length, for railway time-tables are absolute, and the last train for Boston would leave at ten o'clock.
At half-past nine the carriages were at the door and fifteen minutes later all were gone, excepting the Seabrooks, who lingered for a few last words with the family, and to take leave of Miss Reynolds, who would go home on the morrow.
They were all standing together in the brilliantly lighted reception hall, Dorothy with one arm linked within her father's, the other encircling Katherine's waist.
"Hasn't it been a wonderful day, papa?" said the girl, during a little lull in the general conversation.
"It certainly has, dear," he replied, giving the small arm a fond pressure.
"And see!" she continued, glancing around the circle, "all of us, except Mr. and Mrs. Minturn, belong to Miss Katherine."
"Well, bless my heart!" here laughingly interposed Mr. Minturn. "Miss Dorothy, I think that is very unceremoniously crowding us out of our own domain."
"You'll know I didn't mean to do any crowding when I tell you my thought," she returned, and nodding brightly at him. "You see, it was she who interested everyone of us in Science, and I think we ought to be called Miss Katherine's sheaves. You know it says in the Bible 'he who goes forth bearing precious seed shall come again bringing his sheaves with him.' She sowed the seed at Hilton and has 'gathered us all in' here."
"That is a very sweet thought, Dorrie, and it is true enough, too," said her mother, as she bestowed a fond look upon Katherine. "But," she added, moving towards the door, "we must go home this very minute, for it is getting late," and with general "good- nights" they also went away.
Katherine followed them out upon the veranda, where she stood leaning against the balustrade and watched their forms melt away in the darkness, a thrill of loving gratitude in her heart, for, were they not indeed her "sheaves"?
Presently she heard a step behind her, then a firm yet gentle hand was laid upon hers.
"May I have it for always, Katherine?" questioned Phillip Stanley, in a low voice, as he lifted and inclosed it in both of his. "I could not say half I wished this morning, dear. Poor Dorrie!"—in a mirthful tone—"did not realize how exceedingly de trop she was, and, for a moment, I was half tempted to be cross with her. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Minturn after I returned from my drive and told them something of what I had tried, under such difficulties, to make you understand."
"You told papa and mamma!"
"I had to—I simply could not keep it. I know you had given me no verbal authority to ask for what I wanted; but, ah!—that look, that smile, as I left you, made me bold enough for anything."
"They told me that it would have to be just as Katherine said. What does my 'brown-eyed lassie' say?"
Involuntarily the girl's slender fingers closed over his hand as she lifted frank, sweet eyes to him.
"Yes, Phillip." Softly, shyly, the coveted answer fell on his ears.
"That means that you are mine, as I am yours," he said, a great joy throbbing in his tones, "and"—reverently—"we are also to be one, in heart and purpose, in the service of our great cause."
Drawing the hand he held within his arm, he led her down the steps out among the fairy shadows to a great rock that overlooked the sea.
Meantime, the "news" was being whispered among the family inside and was received with general satisfaction, Sadie, particularly, expressing great delight in view of what she termed a "perfectly elegant match."
Jennie, on the other hand, accepted it as a matter of course.
"It didn't need to be announced, at least to me," she declared, with a wise nod of her head. "I've seen it coming this long while, for Science isn't the only absorbing subject that a certain gentleman has been investigating during the last year and a half. But just let me tell you—if my name had been Jimmy instead of Jennie that handsome M.D. wouldn't have found such clear sailing in this harbor."
When Katherine finally came in, trying hard to appear unconscious, but looking rosy and starry-eyed, Sadie sprang forward and threw her arms around her, kissing her heartily.
Then drawing back, but still holding her a prisoner, she mockingly exclaimed:
"Moss rosebuds! Katherine, have you ever taken the trouble to ascertain what they mean when sent by a swain to a maid?"
"Oh! Sadie, how you do love to tease!" cried the blushing girl as she tried in vain to release herself from the clinging arms.
"Well, honey," continued her tormentor, "it was as plain as A B C to me that night, and I chuckled right smart to myself when I saw you innocently pin them, on your breast. It was simply delicious! But"—suddenly laying her hands on the pretty brown head—"bless you, my children! you have my unqualified sanction and I'll put my whole heart into my toes when I dance at your wedding."
With a light laugh the gay girl bounded to the piano and vigorously began playing Mendelssohn's wedding march. But Katherine had vanished.
Phillip Stanley, however, sitting on the veranda, across the way, caught the suggestive strains and laughed softly to himself, as, in imagination, he surmised something of what was going on in the Minturn mansion.
The following day brought Mr. Arnold to make his promised call upon Jennie and her friends, when, as the proud and happy girl had predicted, it did not require much discernment to realize that he was every whit a "gentleman." He told them, among other things, that his life had been rather a lonely one, as he had no family. Several years after going to the East he had married the daughter of a planter, but she had been taken from him two years after their union, and he had never cared to marry again.
When his partner died he became sole proprietor of their business, which he had successfully conducted until he determined to return to America, when he had sold out to some of his clerks, satisfied to retire with a moderate fortune and allow them to have their day, as he had had his.
He brought with him letters, papers and numerous photographs which convinced Mr. Minturn that he was, in truth, akin to Jennie and entitled to be her future protector, as he both desired and claimed the right to be.
He expressed his grateful appreciation of what the Minturns, particularly Katherine, had done for his niece, but insisted upon refunding all that they had thus far expended upon her education.
"It is but just and right," he persisted, when Katherine demurred, saying it had been "a love offering, and she did not wish it back." "I am abundantly able to do it and also to give her every advantage in the future. I do feel, however, that nothing can ever repay you for the great kindness you have shown her."
He afterwards had a private conversation with Jennie, during which he proposed to legally adopt her, if she had no objection to taking his name, and would be content to make her home with an "old gentleman" like himself.
"Content!" she exclaimed, drawing an ecstatic breath. "Well, for a girl who has always felt that she didn't really belong anywhere, that is a prospect that would just about turn my head if I hadn't found a new chart and compass to steer by. As for the 'old gentleman,' if you don't mind"—with a roguish glance but flushing slightly—"I'd—like to tell you I think he is just dear."
"I wonder what I'll have to pay for that?" said Mr. Arnold, laughing, but with a suspicious moisture in his eyes.
"Well," said Jennie, cocking her head on one side and giving him an arch look, "if you'll try to think the same of me we'll call it square."
"That won't be such a difficult task," he replied, gently touching a curling lock on her forehead that was so like his sister's.
"As for the name," Jennie resumed, more seriously, "you say my middle one was given me for you; why not transpose it and call me Mildred Jennison Arnold? Then I can keep them all, and it will not seem out of place to still address me as 'Jennie.'"
This was regarded as a happy thought, and, as soon as the necessary papers could be made out, she became Alfred Arnold's legally adopted daughter.
His chief thought now appeared to be to make her life as happy as possible, and, after consulting her wishes, he purchased a lovely home very near Hilton Seminary, secured a competent and motherly woman for a housekeeper, and thus the girl was enabled to continue her course at school, as a day scholar, and enjoy her delightful home at the same time.
Dr. Stanley also bought a fine residence in the same locality, and early in January Katherine was back once more to take up her life work 'mid old familiar scenes, greatly to the delight of the Seabrooks and her many other friends.
Her husband still retained his office in the city, but with a new sign now hanging in his window—"Phillip Harris Stanley, M.D., Christian Scientist," and already he was becoming widely known as a successful practitioner.
Soon after their return, in the fall, Prof. Seabrook and his family identified themselves with the Scientists of the city, and also with "the Mother Church" in Boston. Some of the pupils dropped out of Hilton, because of this step, but others came to fill their places, and a year later both wings of the building had been extended and a most flourishing condition of affairs prevailed. Miss Reynolds had resigned her position at Hilton, at the beginning of the year, and remained at home with her mother, and where she also had taken up her work for Truth.
Sadie Minot, having attained her majority and come into possession of her fortune, decided that she would be happier to locate near her old friends, with whom she was in such close religious sympathy, and she accordingly found a pleasant home in the city and resumed the study of French, German and music.
One morning, late in February, she went up on the hill to spend the day with Katherine, who often claimed her for such a visit, for their friendship was one of the dearest things of their lives.
To-day, however, Sadie appeared to have some weighty subject on her mind, for she was unusually thoughtful, and Katherine was beginning to wonder if anything was troubling her, when she drew forth a letter and, passing it to her, said:
"Read that, honey, and tell me what you think of it."
With a dim suspicion of what was coming, Katherine drew forth the missive from its envelope and read:
"DEAR SADIE: When the prodigal faced about to go back to his home, his father went forth to meet him. I have faced about; I have returned to my father and—our Father. The one has welcomed and forgiven, and Truth is teaching me what true forgiveness of sin is—the destruction of sin in the human consciousness. Now I turn to you to seek pardon—nay, I suppose I should 'know' that I am already pardoned, since you also are learning to recognize man only as his Father's 'image and likeness.' At the same time, some acknowledgment is due for wrong that I have done you. Truth compels me to confess that my motive in seeking you, two years ago, was not good, and I am now ashamed of my later persecution— it was unworthy of any man. And now, justice to myself prompts me to say that, underneath, there was a real fondness for you, and I find—now that I am clothed and in my right mind—that it had acquired even a stronger hold upon me than I then realized. I write this because I am soon to go abroad for an indefinite period—have been appointed confidential secretary to——, who goes, in March, as United States Minister to England. All I am, together with the brighter prospects before me, I owe to Phillip Stanley, who, next to her who has given to this sin-burdened world the message of Love that has saved me, commands my deepest gratitude and respect. Send me one word, Sadie—'forgiven'—and I shall leave my country with a lighter heart than I have known for years. NED."
Katherine lifted moist eyes, to her friend after reading and refolding the letter.
"Phillip says the change in him is wonderful—he saw him, you know, when he was at home for Christmas," she observed. "Shall you send him the word he asks for, Sadie?"
Miss Minot did not reply for a moment, and her flushed face drooped lower over the embroidery in her hands. At last she said, slowly:
"Honey, I have sent him a word; but it was 'Come'!"
"Yes, and"—a shy smile playing around the corners of the girl's mouth—"a telegram received last night reads: 'Coming Thursday; sail March thirtieth; can you get ready?'"
"You fairly take my breath away!" exclaimed Katherine, amazed. "And you are going to England with him?"
"I reckon he'd hardly expect anything else, after I had said 'Come,' would he?" queried Sadie, sweeping her friend a shy look from under her lashes.
"It seems to me you are not quite so averse to a European trip as you were a year and a half ago," Mrs. Stanley observed, in a significant tone.
Sadie laughed out merrily.
"Well"—the old Southern drawl manifesting itself—"at that time, honey, the attraction to stay was the same that it now is to go."
"I am glad, Sadie—I really am," said Katherine, after a thoughtful pause. "Phillip and I have often wondered how things would eventually arrange themselves for you two. I must say, though, the way you've managed it is unique in the annals of history," and she burst into a hearty laugh.
"Think so? Well, you see, I didn't have any preserved moss rosebuds to send him," retorted Miss Minot, with a chuckle.
"Sadie, will you never let up on those rosebuds?" cried Katherine, still laughing. "However, as I said before, I am glad; you are practically alone in the world and will be happier to have a home of your own, and I think I would feel very sorry to have Mr. Willard go to a far country all by himself. Now, I am going to have you come right to me until you go," she went on, with animation. "You shall be married here. I will matronize you, and we will have all the old school friends on hand to give you a rousing send-off."
"How perfectly lovely of you, Katherine! It will surely be a great comfort to me—give me such a homey feeling, you know, and I—" but Sadie's tremulous lips and an unmanageable lump in her throat would not permit her to go on.
"I shall love to do it, dear. It will give me a fine opportunity to entertain our classmates and other friends," Katherine hastened to say. "But how perfectly funny!" she cried, gayly, "to be planning for your wedding, and you two lovers haven't yet come to a definite understanding?"
"Oh! yes, we have, honey. Ned knows, as well as I, that everything was settled by that one word, 'Come.' Nothing but details remain to be arranged. But—oh! Katherine, how I shall miss you!" she concluded, yearningly, for, as we know, during their two years' friendship there had been scarcely a cloud to obscure the harmony between them.
"Yes, we shall miss each other," Katherine assented, with a soft sigh. "But"—turning luminous eyes upon her—"we both have the same shepherd—Love; we shall both dwell together in the 'secret place' and be ever working for the same blessed Cause. Nothing can really separate us, dear, so long as we faithfully keep step in moving towards the Light."