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Title: The Heatherford Fortune
a sequel to the Magic Cameo
Author: Mrs. Georgie Sheldon
Release Date: November 13, 2011 [eBook #38006]
[Most recently updated: May 11, 2021]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Darleen Dove, Shannon Barker, Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

The Heatherford Fortune


"Tina," "The Lily of Mordaunt," "Mona,"
"Little Miss Whirlwind," etc.




Publishers New York


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Lily of Mordaunt, The

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Copyright, 1898 and 1899 By Street & Smith




The Heatherford Fortune.

A Sequel To "The Magic Cameo."


Mollie Heatherford had thought no more of her brave act, by which, at the risk of her life, she had saved the child Lucille from being trampled to death under the hoofs of the pawing horses.

The next morning she was greatly surprised to receive a letter from a gentleman—Monsieur Jules Lamonti, by name—who said he was the grandfather of little Lucille, and who, after expressing his gratitude in most heartfelt terms, requested permission to call upon her at her earliest convenience.

The missive was written in French, and evidently by a highly cultured gentleman, and Mollie felt that it would only be courteous to grant the interview so earnestly solicited. She accordingly responded immediately, and named an hour of the following morning for Monsieur Lamonti to call, if the time should be convenient for him.

She was somewhat disappointed that he did not keep the appointment, but the next day, at the specified hour, a magnificent equipage, with coachman and footman in cream-colored liveries, dashed to the door and stopped.

Presently an elderly gentleman, of apparently sixty years, with snow-white hair and beard, his somewhat bowed and attenuated form clad in the finest of garments, alighted. He was a trifle lame, and depended, in a measure, upon a cane which, Mollie observed, had a massive gold head, curiously carved.

Eliza answered his ring and admitted him to the small parlor, then took the visitor's card, bearing the name "M. Jules Lamonti," to her young mistress.

Mollie did not keep her caller waiting, to make any change in her toilet, for she made it a point to be always neatly, if simply, clad; and, entering his presence with perfect composure, greeted him with a charming ease and grace of manner.

She saw at a glance that he was an aristocrat; but that did not disturb her in the least.

He bowed low before her as he responded to her greeting; then, in a voice that was tremulous from deep emotion, he observed in very fair English:

"Mademoiselle Heatherford has laid on me an obligation everlasting. Ah! but my poor heart would have been broken if I the little one had lost."

Mollie, realizing that it would be much easier for him to express himself in his own language, responded in purest of French, disclaiming all thought of obligation, and concluded by inquiring if little Lucille had experienced any ill effects from her accident. The Frenchman was delighted to find that his hostess could converse with him in his mother-tongue, and his face beamed with pleasure.

"You speak French, mademoiselle!" he exclaimed. "Ah! that is delightful! Now we will talk without any difficulty, for I mix your language so badly. No, Lucille was not hurt. She is perfectly well, and as bright as the morning. But, Mon Dieu! I tremble when I think what might have been to-day but for you," he interposed, growing so white that Mollie was startled. "It was very brave, Mademoiselle Heatherford—it was grand! They tell me you went straight in under that powerful, frightened brute to save my precious child. You are a heroine, mademoiselle, and now I have come to ask you what I shall do to prove my everlasting gratitude."

Mollie flushed and smiled as he called her a "heroine." The word always thrilled her—as she once told her father. It was like a strain of music in her ears.

"Please, monsieur, do not speak of any return for what was simply a humane act," she gently returned; "I am more than recompensed in knowing that your dear little grandchild escaped unhurt. And how is poor Nannette to-day? She was greatly frightened and distressed, and I felt very sorry for her."

A frown darkened Monsieur Lamonti's face, and his eyes flashed with sudden anger at the mention of the bonne.

"Nannette shall go away—I will not trust my beautiful one with her ever again," he said sternly. "Ah! if she had been killed! Mon Dieu! I tell you I could not have survived; she is all I have, mademoiselle, the only child of my only daughter—ah! but I cannot talk of it," he concluded brokenly, and trembling visibly.

"But, monsieur, it is all over—she is safe, and let us rejoice that all is well," soothingly replied Mollie. "And I am sure," she added confidently, "that Nannette will be very careful in the future. This will be a lesson to her, and I would have far more confidence in her now than in a strange maid. She seemed like a good girl and very fond of the little one, while she bewailed her carelessness with sincere sorrow."

"There is truth in what you say," the gentleman returned, after a moment of thought. "Nannette has been a good girl—she is faithful, as a rule, and Lucille loves her. I shall consider what you have said, mademoiselle, and Nannette will have cause to be grateful to you."

"Thank you. I should feel sorry to have her lose her situation; at the same time I can understand your anxiety, and she should be required to promise to be very careful in the future."

Mollie and her caller drifted to other subjects after that and chatted of many things—of Europe in general, of Paris in particular. Monsieur Lamonti was charmed with the beautiful girl, while she was no less delighted with his courtly manner, his culture and brilliant conversation, and was sincerely sorry when he arose to take his leave.

"Adieu, mademoiselle," he said, holding out his slim, aristocratic hand; "it is a great pleasure to have met you—you know my country so well; you speak my language so beautifully; while, for yesterday, I shall always cherish you in most grateful remembrance. Ah! but to me that is like sounding brass," he interposed, with a dissatisfied shrug of his shoulders and in a regretful tone. Then, as his keen eyes swept the graceful figure in its simple cambric dress, he added: "Is mademoiselle sure that I cannot serve her in any way?"

Mollie glanced up quickly at him, as a thought suddenly flashed through her mind, and a bright flush suffused her face as she asked herself if she dare put the thought into words. There was something his expressive face, in the sincerity of his speech and his refinement and courtesy, that inspired her with confidence in him.

"Monsieur, there is one way in which, possibly, you might aid me," she began, with some reluctance.

"Name it, mademoiselle!—by all means name it!" Monsieur Lamonti eagerly interposed.

"To do that I shall have to open my heart to you a little," Mollie continued, with a slight quiver of her sweet lips.

"Ah! mademoiselle honors me," said the gentleman, with a grave and courteous bow.

"Monsieur," the fair girl resumed, flushing again, but with her lovely eyes steadfastly gazing into his, for she had no false shame on account of her poverty, "I have recently been reduced to the necessity of supporting myself and my father, who is a hopeless invalid; but I am unable to obtain a position. If monsieur could assist me in this respect, I should be very grateful, for the need is urgent."

Her companion regarded her with admiration. She looked like a young queen, in spite of her surroundings and the simplicity of her apparel. Her face was grave and sweet, but strong with the noble purpose that animated her; her shining hair was like a coronet of gold above her brow, and she bore herself with a quiet dignity and air of self-respect that must have commanded the esteem of any one.

"And what is mademoiselle fitted for—what is the position which she would like best of all?" Monsieur Lamonti inquired.

"I hardly know," Mollie thoughtfully returned. "I have a good education, and I could teach, if I could find an opening. As you perceive, I can speak French."

"Mademoiselle's accent is perfect," interposed her listener.

"I am equally familiar with German," she resumed, with an appreciative smile at his compliment; "I studied in Heidelberg two years, and there are some other branches which I think I may truthfully say I am competent to teach."

The man was silent for a moment or two after she ceased, evidently considering some thought which had suggested itself to him. Then he broke forth with the characteristic impulse of his nationality:

"Ah! to teach—it is a slave's life!" he said. "The nerves they cannot bear it, unless indeed mademoiselle has nerves of steel. I tell her what she shall do. I know exactly the position and it is for mademoiselle's acceptance if it meets her approval. She speaks French like the native of Paris; would she take the place of a private secretary, to write four hours a day for a French gentleman?"

Mollie's heart leaped with joy at such a prospect. It seemed very inviting, particularly the "four hours a day," which would leave her much time to be with her dear sick one. But was she competent? That was a question that seemed important, and for the moment she did not know what to say.

"Mademoiselle hesitates, and she is quite right," said her companion, coming to the rescue. "I will explain: The gentleman's secretary was discharged three days ago for betraying the affairs of his employer, who not yet has been able to find another to take his place, and the correspondence is piling up with every mail. It is important that the letters should be answered. Mademoiselle speaks and writes German also? Good! There will be German correspondence, too. The remuneration has been four hundred and fifty francs—or ninety dollars of American money—monthly. Will Mademoiselle consider the offer?" he concluded with some eagerness.

"It is certainly very tempting," Mollie smilingly replied, and with rapidly beating pulses, "and I should not hesitate an instant if——"


"If I was sure I could fill the position acceptably and the gentleman is willing to substitute a woman for the clerk who has hitherto served him."

"The latter doubt is easily dispelled, Mademoiselle, since I myself am the anxious seeker for a trustworthy secretary. Regarding the ability, a few days' trial will settle that point, and the requirements are perfect and fluent French and German, and fidelity to the employer's interests. I shall be pleased if Mademoiselle will come for a week and try."

"Monsieur Lamonti, I will, and I thank you more than I can express; for this offer is very opportune, I assure you," said Mollie, her lips trembling in spite of her efforts at self-control. "I will gladly make the trial, and I will certainly do my best to please you in every way."

"And when will Mademoiselle oblige me by beginning her duties?" queried Monsieur Lamonti.

"I am sure, from what you have said, that I am needed at once, and I will come to-morrow at any hour which you may choose to name," Mollie replied.

"And that is considerate," returned the gentleman in a gratified tone. "Then at nine, if that will not inconvenience Mademoiselle, and the address she will find here."

He drew a card-case from his pocket and presented her a card which had his business address upon it. Then bidding her a courteous "au revoir," he bowed himself out with as much ceremony as if he were leaving a drawing-room, and a moment later his elegant equipage was rolling rapidly down the street, while Mollie still stood in the middle of the room, wondering if the interview had not been all a dream.

She could scarcely credit the evidence of her senses. Ninety dollars a month! It seemed too good to be true, and like a smile from fortune to her, when, of late, she had been so anxiously counting even her pennies. A great burden rolled from her heart and a luminous smile illumed her face, although there were tears in her eyes.

"At last," she murmured, "I am to know what it means to be of some practical use in the world, and I will do my very best."


It was a strange experience for this hitherto delicately nurtured girl to go out into the world and work to support herself and her father, who had always so watchfully shielded her from every care; who had scarce allowed her to express a wish before it was gratified, and almost surfeited her with the luxuries of life.

But she met it bravely. She did not once say to herself that it was a hardship—she did not even feel it to be such. The heroic element was strong in her nature, and it showed itself grandly now in this emergency.

The one thing that did seem hard and cruel to her was the fact that her dear father was beyond realizing her good fortune and sympathizing with her in her joy that a future of comparative comfort was assured them, if she should prove herself competent to retain the position which Monsieur Lamonti had offered her. She did not feel much doubt upon this point, for she was sure that he would be very considerate until she became accustomed to her duties, and she was determined to master every difficulty and acquit herself with satisfaction.

She presented herself in his office a few minutes before nine o'clock the next morning and found him awaiting her. He received her with all the courtesy which characterized his manner toward her the previous day in her own home.

"Mademoiselle is prompt; that is well," he smilingly observed, "and now, if you please, we will attend directly to business, for it is urgent."

He pointed to several piles of letters, lying unopened upon a desk, and Mollie slipped into the chair before it and prepared to give her undivided attention to his instructions.

He selected several epistles which demanded immediate replies, and, after clearly explaining what her duty would be, left her to do the work. Her task was not difficult. Monsieur Lamonti possessed the faculty of being clear and concise in his directions, and with her natural fluency of diction, her thorough knowledge of both French and German, she found everything moving along very smoothly.

The hours slipped swiftly by, and Mollie was greatly surprised when the clock on the desk above her struck one, and Monsieur Lamonti, glancing up at the sound, observed:

"That will be all for to-day, Mademoiselle Heatherford, and everything has been most satisfactory. Allow me to add that I regard myself as very fortunate in securing such a helper."

"Thank you, monsieur," replied Mollie gratefully. Then she added as she glanced at the numerous missives still unopened upon both desks: "Pray let me work another hour; I am not in the least weary."

"But your luncheon, Mademoiselle," said the gentleman in a doubtful tone.

"I am not in the least hungry, either," said the fair girl, smiling. "I seldom lunch before half-past one, and I shall not mind waiting thirty minutes longer; while I am sure there is work here which is equally as important as what I have already done."

"Mademoiselle is right," returned monsieur, his thoughtful glance following hers, "but this is your first day and you should not be overtaxed."

"Do not fear; I have not thought of being tired, and it will give me pleasure to work another hour and continue to do so every day until the ordinary routine of business is attained."

She spoke with so much of sincerity, even eagerness, that Monsieur Lamonti accepted the offer in the same spirit that it was made. At the end of the hour Mollie was politely dismissed, and went home with a light heart and with a feeling of importance that was as delightful as it was novel.

Every morning, promptly at nine o'clock, found her at her desk, where for five hours she worked patiently and industriously for a week, when Monsieur Lamonti informed her that his business had been reduced to its normal condition, and there would be no more extra hours required.

It was a proud moment for the beautiful girl when, as she was about to leave the office, that gentleman handed her a check for the first money she had ever earned in her life. She thanked him with a smile and flush of pleasure; then, as she glanced at it and saw the amount, she started slightly and exclaimed:

"But monsieur! this is too much; you have made a mistake."

"Pardon, mademoiselle; there is no mistake," quietly returned her companion. "The check is for twenty-six dollars, is it not?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Very good. The agreement was that mademoiselle should work four hours a day for ninety dollars per month; but she has labored one extra hour every day during this week, which calls for extra remuneration, and—as near as can be estimated—the amount which the check represents," Mr. Lamonti explained.

"But, monsieur, I never thought—I did not intend——" Mollie faltered in some confusion.

"Very true—I understand," said the gentleman, smiling kindly into the lovely face; "but it is only just compensation, and you will oblige me by making no objection to it. I am also exceedingly obliged for the accommodation and well pleased with your services. We shall go on very nicely for the future."

This was a delightful surprise, and she felt highly elated as she ran about, before going home, to settle some small bills which she had been obliged to contract, and to purchase a few luxuries for the invalid.

As the weeks slipped by she became deeply interested in her work, and had her father been well she would have been perfectly happy, for she felt that she had now a more worthy object in life than that of living for her own amusement and the demands of fashionable society, as heretofore.

She entertained a profound respect for Monsieur Lamonti, who was invariably courteous and considerate, and never appeared to be ruffled in the slightest degree, no matter how perplexing his business might be.

She gradually learned considerable of his history, as from time to time he referred to his past, and ascertained that his life had been full of romance and sorrow.

He belonged to a noble family of France, but had incurred the lasting displeasure of his relatives by marrying contrary to their wishes and was disinherited in consequence. But he loved his beautiful girl-wife with all the strength of his manhood, and preferred exile and poverty a thousand times with her, to fame and fortune without her.

They had retired to a quiet little village immediately after their marriage, and where, with a little money, together with unlimited energy and perseverance, Monsieur Lamonti had perfected an invention which ere long brought him large returns in sales and royalties, and at the end of fifteen years he was the possessor of a large fortune.

Then his wife was suddenly taken from him, leaving him with a lovely daughter, fourteen years of age, and who now became all-in-all to his almost broken heart.

Wishing her to profit by the very best education which his country afforded and her future position would demand, he transferred his residence to Paris,where he remained for the ten succeeding years, and where his daughter married a worthy young man, of whom he heartily approved.

Her child, the little Lucille, was born a year later, and she was only a few months old when her mother's health began to fail and she was ordered to Italy for change of scene and climate. She was accompanied by her husband, but the child was left behind with Monsieur Lamonti and in the care of an efficient nurse.

Two months later, both father and mother were drowned during a terrible gale while on a yachting excursion in the Mediteranean, and this tragic event and terrible affliction nearly deprived him of his mind for a time and aged him many years in appearance. But from that time all his thought and affection was centered in his granddaughter, who was a bright and promising child, and who, eventually, if she lived, would become sole heiress to his immense fortune.

When she was a year old certain interests connected with his invention demanded Monsieur Lamonti's presence in America, while, during the last few years, having become somewhat prominent in matters of a political nature, he was elected a sort of charge d'affaires to conduct certain negotiations of a delicate nature in this country, and which would require the exercise of tact, judgment, and diplomacy.

He had accepted the commission, more for the sake of having plenty to occupy his mind and prevent him from dwelling upon his many sorrows, than because he desired public office and emolument, hence his presence in the nation's capital, where he had resided during the last two years.

"Thus you will understand, mademoiselle," he had observed to Mollie with a heavy sigh, when telling her something of his life, "how utterly desolate I should have been to-day, if you had not so bravely risked your life to save my little Lucille. The world would hold nothing for me if I were to lose her—she is the one link that now holds me here—that makes me prize in the least a life that has been full of sorrow. See!" he interposed, touching the silvery locks above his temples. "I am not yet quite fifty years of age, and any one would declare that I am more than sixty."

It was all very sad, Mollie thought—there were many sad and incomprehensible things in life that were forcing themselves more and more upon her observation of late, and she could not be reconciled to them. If she could have known how she cheered the sorrow-burdened man with her sweet and sunny presence—how like a ray of bright, warm sunshine she seemed, whenever she appeared in his office, and that her voice was, like Lucille's, as inspiring and soothing to him as a strain of sweetest music, she would have been very happy.

He frequently brought the child to the office, to make a little call upon her, and the two soon began to grow very fond of each other. Then, too, Monsieur Lamonti would often call for her in the afternoon to go for a drive with them, and, upon several occasions, he had invited her to be present when he made a small fete for his granddaughter, to assist in entertaining the children, since he had no mistress in his home to manage such festivities, and he had learned that she dearly loved little ones. At such times he exerted himself to make the occasion pleasant for her in other ways—by showing her works of art and numerous curios which he had gathered from various portions of the world by playing various instruments, for he was very talented in music and could play the organ, harp, piano, and violin with more skill than many a professional while he could talk of masters and artists, giving their history and merits, with a fluency which proved him thoroughly posted in such matters. He was also very thoughtful for Mr. Heatherford, often sending his carriage to take him out for an airing, the coachman and footman being instructed to show him every attention while wines, fruits, and other delicacies for him mysteriously found their way into Eliza's domains.

He also had learned much of the girl's past, previous to her misfortunes; he studied her from day to day and learned to reverence the strength of character and purity of purpose which were apparent in her every act, and thus there grew up a strong and abiding friendship between the fair young girl and the courtly Frenchman.

One morning Mollie started forth, at the usual hour, to go to the office, and for some reason she seemed brighter and happier than common. She was in perfect health, there was an exquisite color in her cheeks, her lips were like holly berries, and her eyes glowed with the hope and vigor that belonged to her young life.

She was clad in a golden-brown broadcloth costume, trimmed with narrow bands of sable fur. It was one of the last dresses she had bought in Paris, recently made over by a clever modiste—whom she had discovered near her—and it fitted her exquisitely, showing her finely proportioned figure to good advantage. Her hat matched her suit in color and was brightened by the wing of a Baltimore oriole. In her well-gloved hands she carried a rich, but modest pocketbook—another relic of the past, and no one would have dreamed, as this stylish and elegantly clad young woman stepped upon the street-car on her way to Monsieur Lamonti's office, that she was working for her daily bread.

She might have passed for the wife or daughter of some senator or other distinguished official—although it was rather an early hour for the elite to be abroad—and many an admiring eye lingered upon her bright beauty.

In the car her eye was attracted by a gentleman who was standing near her. He was clinging to a strap overhead, and as Mollie's glance swept over him and upward, along his arm to the hand above, her heart gave a great startled bound, her cheeks flushed a vivid scarlet, and her eyes darkened until they seemed almost black.


The gentleman who had attracted Mollie's attention was above the medium height, broad-shouldered, erect, and with a fine, well-poised head which was covered with dark-brown hair. He was nicely, though not richly clad, although he looked the gentleman, every inch, while his bearing was as quietly dignified and self-possessed as if he had been the possessor of millions.

He was standing with his back toward Mollie, and she could not see his face, thus he was utterly unconscious of the beautiful eyes that were resting upon him and also of the commotion which he had roused in the heart of the possessor of those same lovely eyes.

It was not the stalwart figure, nor the proud, nobly formed head, which had especially attracted her attention. It was the strong and shapely hand that was firmly grasping the strap above him and upon the little finger of which he wore an exquisitely cut cameo ring.

Mollie had recognized it instantly—she would have known it anywhere, for it was the ring which she had given to Clifford Faxon, six years previous, when, acting upon the impulse of the moment, she had sought him out at New Haven to thank him, individually, for the lives he had saved when, though only a farmer's bound boy, he had prevented a terrible railroad wreck.

Again, as on that occasion, she was strangely thrilled by his presence, even though he was unconscious of her own.

How she wished that he would turn his head so that she could obtain a view of his face! She knew, well enough, that it was in keeping with the splendid form before her and with what she knew of the character of the man, but she wanted to see if she could trace familiar lines in it; if it still wore the same frank, honest expression of six years ago; if the magnificent brown eyes still retained their clear, earnest, straightforward glance; if the lips wore the same genial smile. Then she found herself wondering if he would remember her, or whether she had changed so much that he would merely glance indifferently at her and then pass her like any stranger. What right had she to think he would recognize her? she mentally questioned with an impatient shrug of her shoulders, the flush deepening again upon her cheeks.

She had been only a miss in short dresses and one among the hundreds who had been eager to honor him upon that occasion—to grasp him by the hand and shower grateful thanks upon him. True she had given him the ring as a souvenir, and told him she should love him all her life for what he had done—how her face burned as she recalled those impulsive words—but he had received from others what had doubtless proved to be a far more useful and practical gift—the generous purse of money.

But why did he wear the ring if he treasured no pleasant memory of the giver? This thought set her heart to fluttering again in a way that was highly foreign to the usual self-possession of the recent society belle, but it was quickly followed by the somewhat mortifying reflection that the cameo was a valuable and unique affair and quite a treasure of art to possess.

Every pulse thrilled anew when, as she signaled the conductor to stop, she observed the young man preceding her, as if he also was about to alight. Mollie followed closely, hoping that she might be fortunate enough to get a view of his face.

He stepped off the car, and paused to wait for it to pass on, before crossing the street, as was evidently his intention.

Mollie, with her thoughts full of the past, in which he had figured so conspicuously, was a little heedless as she alighted, her foot turning awkwardly, and she would have fallen if her "hero" had not sprung to her side, and, with a courteous, "allow me," grasped her arm and saved her from what might have been a painful accident.

"Thank you very much," she said with a brilliant smile and blush, as she recovered herself, and lifted her gleaming eyes to the handsome face which she had so longed to see.

The young man started at the sound of her voice, and then bent an earnest look upon her, an expression of perplexity sweeping over his features. Then, almost instantly, his countenance cleared, a glad, eager light leaped into his eyes, which Mollie saw were unchanged, and there was a repressed thrill of triumph in his tones as he earnestly observed:

"I hope you are not hurt."

"Not in the least, I assure you, and I owe it to your timely aid," Mollie returned, an answering ring of joy in her own voice, as she saw that he remembered her, in spite of the changes time had made in her.

But, even though she realized that he was lingering with the hope that she would make the first advances and reference to their former meeting, as certainly belonged to her to do, a sudden and unaccountable shyness seized her. She stooped to brush some dust that had adhered to her skirt, then, with another smile and bow, she entered Monsieur Lamonti's office. A moment later she bitterly repented having allowed the precious opportunity to pass unimproved.

"Why," she mentally exclaimed, with a sense of scorn for herself. "I acted just like a bashful schoolgirl, and ought to be ashamed of myself. It was my place, when I saw that he knew me, to recognize him. How unappreciative and indifferent he must think me—how ill-mannered, when I told him that day that I should never forget him. I am more sorry than I can express, for perhaps he is in Washington only for a few days, and I may never meet him again. How utterly stupid of me!"

But in spite of these keen regrets, the girl's heart was unusually light all day, for the "hero" of her girlhood had more than fulfilled her anticipations; she had realized, during those few months, when they had stood face to face, that he was strong and true and manly in the highest acceptation of the terms; she believed that he was destined to distinguish himself in the future, but what made her especially happy was the fact that he had not forgotten her—that he had been glad to meet her again, as both his look and tone had testified.

With these reflections came the sudden revelation of her exact attitude toward Philip Wentworth. The contrast between the two young men was marked and suggestive. Phil was the pleasure-loving man of the world, living only for what entertainment he could extract from life and society. Clifford Faxon was the thoughtful, conscientious worker, with some high and earnest purpose in view that would not only promote his own individual interests, but also advance the standard of men and methods in general, and Mollie now saw that she had never even been in danger of loving Phil—that he was hardly worthy of even her respect, and she almost scorned herself for having hesitated an instant when he had declared his love for her, a little more than a year ago, during her visit in Brookline.

She had never seen him since leaving Boston, although he had often asserted that he was "coming to Washington." His letters had been growing few and far between, each one colder and more formal in its tone. Not once had he renewed his protestations of love for her, although there was a vein of assumption—a kind of taken-for-granted style in his epistles which might be interpreted to mean much or nothing; there certainly had been nothing tangible in them, and it had been several months now since she last heard from him. But had he remained as true as the needle to the pole, she knew now that she never could have married him after this meeting with Clifford Faxon.

"Oh, any one can see that he is head and shoulders above Phil, mentally, morally, and, almost that, physically," she mused, as she recalled Cliff's splendid physique, his thoughtful face and earnest eyes. "I hope I shall meet him again some day," and the sigh that supplemented this reflection told how deeply she regretted the lost opportunity of the morning.

Clifford Faxon himself was fully as much exercised in view of the unexpected meeting and its unsatisfactory results. He had not observed Mollie particularly at first, except that he had realized that some one had made a misstep, and almost involuntarily he had tried to avert an accident; but the instant she spoke, her tones had betrayed her to him—he had never forgotten them. Many and many a time in his dreams, both waking and sleeping, he had seemed to hear her silvery voice vibrating with its thrill of fervent gratitude in those words so indelibly stamped upon his heart: "You have saved my life—you have saved all our lives, and it is such a wonderful—such a grand thing to have done! I am very grateful to you, for my life is very bright. I love to live. Oh, I cannot say half there is in my heart; but I shall never forget you—I shall love you for your heroism of this day always."

Then, as he had studied the lovely face, he had traced the well-remembered features, even though she had changed and bloomed from the slip of a girl in short dresses and with that shining braid of hair hanging between her shoulders, into this beautiful and stylish young woman, with her perfect form, her queenly carriage and elegant apparel.

He saw that she had recognized him, for he had been quick to note the light that had leaped into her eyes and the conscious flush that had suffused her face, and, though he was disappointed, he was half-inclined to believe what was really the truth, that a sudden shyness, produced by the unexpected encounter, had alone caused her to refrain from referring to their former meeting, and yet, believing her to be still the petted child of fortune and far above him, socially, his sensitiveness suggested that she might not now care to renew their acquaintance—if such it could be called—in spite of her assurance that she should "never forget him."

He also had been in Washington for more than a year. He had come, as he had told Maria Kimberly he contemplated doing, with Mr. Hamilton, who had opened the —— House the first of that season. He had served him for nearly a year, and then, through the influence of some gentlemen who were guests in the hotel, he had secured a government position, and was proving himself so efficient he bade fair to rise still higher in the service of the nation.

It is rather remarkable that he and Mollie should never have met before during all this time; but it was one of those happenings which can never be accounted for.

And even though they had at last encountered each other, he experienced the same perplexity that Mollie had felt, not knowing whether she was there merely for a few days, as a sightseer, and would immediately float away again beyond his reach, or whether her father had some official position and was residing in the city. It was all very tantalizing, especially the fact that he did not even know her name. He had often heard Mrs. Temple call her Mollie, and Philip Wentworth had refused to tell him anything about her, except to boast that she was his fiancée.

Then, as these memories crowded upon him, he caught his breath sharply as a sudden, terrible fear took possession of him. Possibly this fair Mollie, this gloriously beautiful girl, who was his ideal of all that was perfect in womanhood, might already be Philip's wife, for only a day or two previous the Temples had passed him on the street in their carriage, and his former classmate was with them.

When Mollie entered the office that morning she found it empty, Monsieur Lamonti not having arrived, although he was almost invariably there before her. He came a few moments later, however, but appeared sad and preoccupied, and upon Mollie inquiring if he were ill he said no, but that Lucille was far from well. She had been feverish and restless all night. He had called a physician that morning, but he spoke lightly, saying that her indisposition was only the effect of a slight cold, and she would be all right in a day or two.

But the gentleman was evidently very much disturbed, and finally confessed to Mollie that he would be obliged to go to New York that afternoon, and could not return until the next evening. The approaching separation and suspense, he said, seemed almost unbearable, particularly as Lucille was ill.

"I know that Nannette is, as a rule, careful and faithful," he observed, "but somehow I feel very reluctant to leave the child alone with her."

Mollie turned to him eagerly.

"Monsieur, would you feel more comfortable if I should go and remain with Lucille and Nannette until you return?" she inquired.

The man's face cleared instantly at the suggestion.

"Would you be so good, mademoiselle?" he asked in a relieved tone. "Could you be spared from your father?"

"Oh, yes; Eliza can do everything necessary for papa, and I will gladly stay with Lucille," Mollie replied.

Monsieur Lamonti accepted her offer most gratefully, upon this assurance, and when his carriage came to him he drove home with her to tell Eliza what her plans were, after which they repaired to his residence.

They found Lucille much better than she had been in the morning, and Monsieur Lamonti prepared for his journey with restored cheerfulness, and finally took his departure, feeling quite content.

Mollie took Lucille wholly in charge for the remainder of the day, and allowed Nannette, who had been closely confined within doors, to have a little time to herself, and she went out to visit and take tea with a friend.

She returned about nine in the evening to find her charge sleeping quietly and restfully, and Mollie reading a new book in the library.

They soon retired, Mollie occupying Monsieur Lamonti's room, which adjoined, although it did not connect with the one where Lucille and Nannette slept. Mollie said she preferred this arrangement to being put off in the guest chamber, as she would feel less lonely.

After shutting herself into the room for the night—although she did not lock the door—not feeling sleepy, she began to look about the apartment, which, like the rest of the house, was full of beautiful and interesting things—fine paintings on the walls, choice books and bric-a-brac on tables and mantle, and in one corner a cabinet of curios, rare and costly.

Mollie spent a long time looking these latter over and reading from the "key" their history and the names of the far-off places whence they had come. But she grew weary of this occupation after a while and finally began to prepare for bed.

While thus engaged she observed on a stand behind the bed what appeared to be a book having a curious cover. She attempted to take it up when the top came off, and she was startled to find it was a box containing a small, but beautiful silver-mounted revolver.

Her start, however, was only momentary, for Mollie knew something about firearms, having had some practise at shooting at a target while she was abroad. She lifted the weapon and examined it carefully, noting the curious chasing on the silver, the number of chambers, and also that it was loaded.

She finally laid it back in its place, replacing the cover, and had scarcely done so when, for the first time, she noticed upon the opposite side of the room a small safe. For a moment an uncomfortable sensation began to creep over her, for the safe and the loaded revolver suggested that there might be valuables to be defended in the former—possibly, she thought, costly jewels, which might have belonged to Lucille's mother and grandmother.

But she put away the feeling with a little shrug and smile, resolutely put out the electric lights, then crept into bed and was soon dreaming, as on two previous nights since her meeting with him, of the hero of her girlhood—Clifford Faxon.

The next she knew she was vaguely conscious of hearing the cathedral clock in the hall strike two; then she was suddenly broad awake, every sense painfully on the alert, although she could not, for the moment, move a muscle, as the conviction was forced upon her that some one was moving stealthily about the room.


For a moment Mollie was simply paralyzed with fear; she could neither move hand nor foot, which perhaps was the very best thing that could have happened under the circumstances. But her mind worked with the rapidity of lightning and to some purpose.

She could distinctly hear the movements of some one about the room, stealthy and cautious as the invader tried to be, and once she plainly saw the outline of a man as the figure passed between her vision and a window.

She was sure that a burglar had entered the house—some one who, doubtless, had learned of Monsieur Lamonti's absence and had taken advantage of it to come and help himself to what valuables he could find.

Then a shock of dismay and fear set all her nerves tingling as she remembered the safe; but this was almost immediately succeeded by a great calm, a grim determination taking possession of her, and plans to carry it out quickly forming in her active brain.

Very cautiously she reached out her right hand and secured the revolver that lay on the stand beside her. Her touch was so light that, as she timed her act just as the burglar stooped to examine the safe, not a sound was distinguishable.

Slipping it under the bed-clothing she softly removed it from the box. The next moment it was cocked and she drew a deep, silent breath of relief as she realized that she could now control the situation about as she pleased.

Her next act was to reach out again and feel for a cluster of three electric buttons, which had been placed in the wall close beside the bed.

One of these controlled a wire communicating with the nearest police-station, and had been put there for just such an emergency as the present. Another was connected with the electric apparatus for lighting the house, and the third governed the lock of the front door.

Similar buttons were in every room of the main portion of the house, and Monsieur Lamonti had explained their operation to Mollie several weeks previous during one of her visits, and they were grouped in the form of a triangle; two were side by side, and the third between and above them.

It was the upper button which Mollie had touched. Then she lay quietly listening for several minutes, while the other occupant, having produced a tiny dark-lantern, continued his investigations at the safe.

All at once, in the distance, she caught the sound of hoofs and wheels, and knew that help was coming to her.

She now touched the button controlling the front door. A moment later she lightly pressed the third button, and instantly the apartment was flooded with light, as was also the hall outside. With a startled oath the burglar sprang to his feet, and, turning, found himself confronted by the loveliest vision he had ever seen in his life, as he afterward told a pal in prison, and a "dandy barker" that was cocked and aimed straight at his heart.

Mollie had sprung to a sitting posture after touching the third button and was prepared for duty. Her face was pale as marble, but there was a determined light in the blue eyes which warned the invader that she was braced for instant action while his experienced eye immediately grasped the fact that she knew how to manipulate the weapon she held, and that her hand was as steady as if she were holding simply a glass of water.

But the man was a desperate and powerful fellow, and he did not mean to be beaten at his game "by any slip of a girl like that," and so determined to make a bluff to attain his object and watch his chance to disarm her.

The house was perfectly still, and he was confident that no one else in it had been aroused, and he fondly imagined he could easily intimidate his fair captor, for he had not the slightest suspicion that she had any way of summoning assistance from outside.

"You'd better put down that barker, miss, if you don't want to get into trouble," he commanded in a gruff, though subdued voice, for he had no desire to arouse any one else. "I don't ever like to hurt a lady, and I'd be 'specially loath to do harm to such a pretty girl as you are."

Mollie's eyes flashed indignant fire at his familiar language and obnoxious compliment.

"Silence!" she cried, in a clear, incisive tone, and her faultless elocution served her to some purpose now, for it made her every word tell effectively. "No!—don't you dare to attempt to get out your revolver if you have one," she continued, as she saw his right hand creeping toward one of his pockets. "That is right," as he instantly dropped it again to his side. "Obey me and you will not be hurt. Show the slightest disposition to disobey me and I will not hesitate to let you have the contents of one of these chambers, and I shall not miss you, either. Now sit down in that rocking-chair near you and put your hands upon the arms."

But the man did hesitate to obey this command and glanced nervously toward the door, which he had left open when he entered the room, as if contemplating a bold dash for freedom. Then he suddenly changed his mind, as the small hand which held that costly revolver was slightly raised as if to take a truer aim, and he obediently dropped into the chair which Mollie had indicated, then added in a tone of mingled wrath and admiration:

"Well, for a girl of your years, you're the coolest specimen I've ever seen."

"Yes, I know something about firearms. I had considerable practise shooting at a target in a gallery in Paris a couple of years ago," remarked the intrepid girl with deliberate distinctness.

Her captive cringed visibly at her remark, and, observing it, she realized that he was at heart a coward in spite of his profession and his attempt to bully her, and her courage rose in proportion. Just then she heard a vehicle outside slacken speed and stop before the house. The burglar also caught the sound and an anxious look shot into his eyes.

"What's that?" he demanded roughly; "the boss coming home?"

"No; Monsieur Lamonti will not return until to-morrow, or until this afternoon, I should have said," Mollie composedly remarked. Then she added with a gleam of triumph in her blue eyes:

"I am expecting some friends whom I have summoned to aid me in this emergency; doubtless they have arrived."

"The cops!" cried the burglar in a startled tone.


"How on earth did you manage that?" he questioned breathlessly.

"Ah!"—as his practised eye swiftly swept the walls and finally rested on the group of electric buttons—"the house is wired for it."

"You are right, and it is an exceedingly convenient arrangement," dryly responded the girl.

"Thunder and lightning! I swear I won't sit here to be caught like a rat in a trap," snarled her companion, as he started wildly to his feet and glanced around him for some way of escape.

"Sit down!" and the pistol in Mollie's hand was again raised menacingly, while footfalls were now plainly heard ascending the steps leading to the entrance to the house.

The man dropped with a quick, indrawn breath, as his eye fell upon the white, slim finger that rested on the trigger of the revolver. Then a sudden thought struck him and he breathed more freely.

"But they can't get in," he observed with a chuckle of exultation, for he told himself that if she was obliged to get up to admit the policemen he would have an opportunity to make a bolt for the nearest window and have a fair chance to escape by means of a balcony which could be plainly discerned outside.

"You are mistaken," his fair captor replied, "for when I touched the button that governs the communication with the station-house I also pressed another that unlocks the front door. Allow me to say for the information of any of your friends who may be followers of your profession, in case you should have an opportunity to communicate with them, that almost every room in the house is wired in the same way."

"Hell and furies!" groaned the unfortunate victim, and actually writhing in his chair, for at that moment steps and voices were heard in the hall below, and he knew that he was inextricably "bagged." Involuntarily he clapped his hand to his pistol-pocket.

"Sit still!" commanded the brave girl, and she leaned forward, her eyes blazing like two points of flame. "Another movement and I fire."

He knew she would, for there was a relentless purpose in her watchful gaze, and he settled back limp and white to await the inevitable.

With her glance never for an instant wavering from the form in the rocker, Mollie called out in clarion tones:

"Come right up-stairs, Mr. Officer, and you will find what you are looking for."

A moment later two policemen entered the room and took in the situation at a glance.

In a trice they had their prize—whom they instantly recognized as a man they had long been trying to run down—disarmed and safely handcuffed, he offering no resistance.

Then they turned their attention to the heroic girl upon the bed. But she felt little like a heroine at that moment.

She had dropped her weapon the instant the officers appeared upon the scene, too weak and spent to hold it longer, and now lay white and panting upon her pillows, consciousness almost forsaking her now that the reaction had come.

Almost simultaneously Nannette rushed into the room, her eyes wide and staring with fear upon beholding three strange men in the place, while she tremulously inquired if the house was on fire.

"No, no," one of the policemen replied reassuringly, "everything is all right now; but you'd better get the young lady a glass of wine or something. Did he attempt to do you any harm, miss?" he respectfully inquired.

"No, he did not have any opportunity," she panted, a ghost of a smile curving her white lips as she significantly touched the revolver that lay beside her.

"I see," said the man with a nod, "and you are a downright plucky girl! There, drink something, and then you shall tell us all about the affair," he concluded as Nannette approached with a glass of port wine which she had taken from a small cabinet which Monsieur Lamonti had in his room.

There was a tall Oriental screen before the fire-place, and the men placed this between the bed and their prisoner, then retired behind it themselves to give the exhausted girl time to recover herself.

Mollie sipped a little of the wine and soon found her strength returning, and with it and the friendly presence of Nannette, much of her habitual self-possession.

"Nannette, pray, get me a shawl or dressing-sack," she whispered to the girl. The maid whisked into her own room and returned almost immediately with a pretty wrapper of her own, and into which she deftly assisted Mollie, who then signified her readiness to talk with the officers, while she seated herself in a chair outside the screen and motioned Nannette to another near her.

She briefly related what had occurred from the moment when she had heard the clock strike two until the appearance of the officers. Her language was simple and unassuming, but the story produced a marked impression upon her hearers.

Nannette became greatly excited during the recital, but protested that she had not heard a sound until Miss Heatherford called out to the officers to come up-stairs, when she hurriedly threw on her robe and came to her, fearing she might be ill or the house afire.

The policemen regarded the fair narrator with undisguised admiration, as she told how she had softly taken possession of the revolver and cocked it beneath the bed-clothing before turning on the lights.

"It was a mighty plucky thing to do," one of them remarked.

"I sincerely hope that I shall not have to testify against this man at a public trial," said Mollie anxiously.

The officers saw that she was greatly distressed in view of such a possibility, and their sympathies were with her.

"Well, miss, I can't say for certain about that. I reckon you'll have to appear and give evidence; but perhaps a private examination can be arranged, and if the reporters don't get hold of it you'll be all right. I'm sure I, for one, would be glad to oblige a lady who has shown more grit than many a man would have done in such a tight place," one of the men observed in the most respectful manner.

"And I'm with you," said the other heartily.

"Thank you very much," Mollie replied gratefully and with that rare smile of hers which made every one delight to serve her.

"Are you timid, Miss Heatherford?" the one who appeared to be the superior officer inquired. "Would you like one of us to stay in the house or about the place for the remainder of the night?"

"Oh, no—thank you. I am sure that will not be necessary, for we shall not be likely to have this experience repeated to-night. We will open the door connecting with the servants' hall, and I shall feel perfectly safe."

"Very well; then we may as well be getting our jailbird into his cage. But, upon second thought," the man added, as he caught sight of Nannette's shiver of terror and saw that Mollie was still very pale, "I think when I get him aboard the patrol-wagon I will leave Brown here to watch about until daylight; maybe it will make you a little easier in your mind."

Mollie smiled gratefully into his honest face.

"Thank you," she said heartily, and with a sudden sense of relief which convinced her that she had overestimated her feeling of security; "perhaps you are right, and I think, on the whole, we may rest better to know that we are guarded."

"Come," said the officer, turning to the burglar, who had not once spoken, except to curse when the handcuffs were slipped upon his wrists, "we must be moving."

Then, with a respectful good-night to the two girls, the officers led him away, and three minutes later Mollie heard the patrol-wagon drive away and heaved a long sigh of thankfulness that the horrible experience was over, and with no loss of valuables to her good friend, Monsieur Lamonti.

Nannette, who had been watching the departure from a window, informed her that Officer Brown had been left behind, and was slowly pacing the sidewalk before the house.

This arrangement was so reassuring to both girls that they immediately retired with a sense of perfect security, and were soon sleeping as soundly and restfully as if they had not been disturbed.


It was after eight o'clock when Mollie finally awoke again, and feeling, somewhat to her surprise, not one whit the worse for her exciting adventure during the small hours of the morning.

After making her toilet she sought Nannette, who was dressing Lucille, and they both agreed not to speak of what had occurred before the servant—at any rate, until after Monsieur Lamonti's return.

Lucille was better, and, after they had had their breakfast, Mollie thought, as the day was very fine, it would do her good to go for a drive.

The carriage was accordingly ordered, and the three—for Lucille never went anywhere without her maid, except on rare occasions with her grandfather—were soon rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, thence to Mollie's home to ascertain how Mr. Heatherford had passed the night, after which the coachman was told to drive out toward Arlington Heights.

They rested a while in the venerable mansion, and then started on their homeward way. They were just passing the boundary of what was once known as the "old Lee estate," when they met another carriage entering the beautiful grounds.

This vehicle contained four persons, and they were none other than Mr. and Mrs. William Temple, with their daughter Minnie, and Philip Wentworth. This quartet manifested no little astonishment upon beholding Mollie, sitting like a fair young princess in her fine equipage, and she experienced a little secret amusement as she encountered their wondering gaze.

Mr. and Mrs. Temple bowed politely, but with marked formality. Minnie waved her hand, with a smile of pleasure, at her old friend, of whom she had been very fond, while Philip removed his hat with elaborate courtesy, his eyes beaming with admiration as he looked into Mollie's fair face and realized that she was even lovelier than when he had seen her last in Boston, a year and a half previous, and instantly all his old-time passion for her revived.

Mollie returned these greetings courteously and with the utmost self-possession; but her eyes were very bright and the color in her cheeks gleamed like scarlet poppies for a moment.

Then the carriages passed and were parted without a word having been spoken, although Minnie had been upon the point of bursting out in her childish eagerness with some expression of greeting; but her mother hushed her with a single low-spoken word.

Mollie's heart burned within her with mingled scorn and indignation, in view of this coldness, for she well remembered the days when the whole family had been most gracious in their manner toward her—had even fawned upon her and spared no effort to cultivate her society.

She was stung anew, too, with the memory of the unpardonable outrage perpetrated against her father during their last visit with the Temples; while, even though she had long known that she had never loved and could never love and would never marry him under any circumstances, Philip's peculiar attitude toward her filled her with a secret contempt for him.

"Why! how strange that we should have met Mollie Heatherford, and what an elegant turnout that is in which she is riding!" Mrs. Temple observed to her husband after the encounter, while she turned and peered out of the rear window of their own carriage for another glimpse of Monsieur Lamonti's fine victoria with its liveried coachman and footman.

"It certainly is," Mr. Temple replied. "Those were magnificent horses, and everything about the affair indicated lavish expenditure. I don't quite understand the condition of things," he concluded reflectively.

"Mollie was richly dressed, too, and looked, as she always had a way of looking, like a queen—she has grown handsomer than ever," his wife pursued. "Did you notice the child and its nurse who were with her?" she went on, as if some startling thought had occurred to her. "Do you suppose the girl has married some rich widower and is queening it here in Washington society?"

Philip gave a violent start as his mother propounded this solution to the problem that was puzzling them all, and jealously regretting—as fickle human nature is prone to do when another shows appreciation of a discarded favorite—what he fondly imagined might have been his if he had chosen to press his suit.

"I have heard nothing of it if she has," said Mr. Temple, and looking not altogether comfortable in view of finding the Heatherfords again on an equal footing with himself. "The last I knew, Mr. Heatherford had secured a position here with a fair salary, and they were living comfortably, but in a very humble way compared with their former circumstances. I will make some inquires to-morrow and ascertain, if possible, just how they are situated."

Philip did not join in the conversation, but he secretly resolved that he would himself ascertain the truth about Mollie that very day. He would seek her in the location to which he had always addressed his letters, as long as he had written her, and if he failed to find her there he would search the city over for her.

Neither Mr. Temple nor his mother had known of his correspondence with her, and the latter had flattered herself that she had been very tactful in managing to break up certain "foolish" relations between the two that were liable to prove very awkward.

The family had been in Washington only a few days, and, although Philip had thought of Mollie in an indifferent kind of way, he had not felt any special interest to look her up. Now, however, the sight of her radiant beauty, together with her cool and dignified bearing and the fear that possibly she had dared to marry another, while he assumed to have a claim—however indefinite—upon her, fired anew his old-time love for her and aroused a fierce jealousy within him.

Accordingly, after he had lunched, he immediately set forth upon his quest for her, going directly to the address where his letters had been sent.

Eliza, of course, answered his ring, but informed him that her young mistress was not at home—that, however, she would probably return that evening. He then inquired for Mr. Heatherford, and was told, with a non-committal air, that he was "comfortable."

"Has he been ill?" questioned Philip, with some surprise.

"Yes, sah; Marsa Heatherford have been very ill." Eliza quietly returned, but without volunteering any information regarding the nature of that gentleman's malady, while she eyed Philip curiously, not half-liking his looks nor his arrogant bearing.

The young man, however, went away, smoothing his ruffled plumage with no little satisfaction. Mollie was not married; probably, he assumed, she was simply a day governess in some wealthy family, and that would account for her being out for a drive with the child and its nurse in the elegant carriage he had seen that morning.

He returned to his hotel quite elated and promising himself that he would resume his old relations—to a certain extent—with Mollie, and thus help to pass some otherwise dull hours during his sojourn in the city.

In spite of the secrecy which Mollie had desired to preserve regarding her exciting adventure of the previous night, the evening papers contained a thrilling account of a bold attempt at robbery, and how it had been thwarted by the remarkable heroism of a young lady, who had held the would-be burglar paralyzed at the muzzle of a revolver until the police were summoned to her aid and captured the criminal.

The name of the gentleman whose residence had been entered was given; but Mollie's name was considerately withheld. She was simply designated as Monsieur Lamonti's private secretary, who had been spending a couple of days in the house as chaperon for the gentleman's little granddaughter during his absence on a business trip to New York.

Monsieur Lamonti returned, as he had planned, that same evening, and was greatly exercised in view of what had occurred.

"Mademoiselle has shown herself very brave," he said, after having freely discussed the matter and regarding her admiringly, "but I tremble when I think of the danger that threatened her. And there was much of value in the safe, too—a large sum of money, besides many valuable jewels. Ah! but you have been my good angel many times, mademoiselle," he concluded in a grateful tone.

He opened the safe and showed her the jewels, and, though she had seen many costly articles of jewelry, she was almost dazzled by the beauty and value of the collection before her.

"We will not keep them here any longer," said Monsieur Lamonti, as he returned them to their places. "I could not bear to send them away because my dear ones had worn them," he added with a regretful sigh, "but no one must ever be subjected again to such peril as threatened you last night."

And the following morning he deposited his treasure in a safety-vault, where no burglar would attempt to seek them.

Shortly after Monsieur Lamonti's arrival Mollie was sent home in his carriage, that gentleman slipping into her hands a box containing a dozen pairs of elegant kid gloves, as she left.

"It is nothing," he said with a deprecatory shrug in reply to her thanks; "it was only to give myself the pleasure of buying something for some one."

Eliza welcomed her young mistress with a beaming face when she appeared, and she found that her father had received excellent care during her absence; but she had not been in the house half an hour, when Philip Wentworth again made his appearance.

Mollie received him courteously, though somewhat coldly; but he ignored her lack of cordiality, and, catching both her hands in his, fervently exclaimed:

"At last! Mollie, we meet again! It has seemed an age since I saw you in Boston. Did your servant tell you of my call directly after lunch?"

"Yes; Eliza gave me your card on my return. I have been away spending a couple of days with some friends," Mollie quietly explained, as she released her hands and indicated a chair for him, then seated herself upon a small sofa near him.

"Perhaps you will think me very persistent and impatient to make two calls in one day," Philip observed apologetically, and feeling a trifle disconcerted by the girl's perfect composure; "but I have been wild to learn why you ceased writing to me so suddenly—I have not heard from you for the longest while!"

Mollie lifted a look of surprise to him.

"I think you have transposed the situation," she said, a faint smile curving her lips. "I have answered every letter that I have received from you."

"Ah! then I have wronged you; forgive me! And my last letter must have miscarried, for when I did not hear from you I began to wonder if it could have contained anything to offend you," Philip returned, but he flushed beneath the clear, searching eyes looking steadily into his, as he uttered the lie. Then unceremoniously waiving the uncomfortable topic, he added with animation:

"But tell me something about yourself now, Mollie. I do not need to ask if you are well; for your blooming appearance speaks for itself; but how is your father, and what have you been doing to amuse yourself during all these long months?"

Again that faint smile wreathed Mollie's lips, and there was a suspicion of irony in it, for his question was suggestive of the tenor of his own way of passing his time.

"'To amuse myself'," she repeated in a peculiar tone. "I really have had very little time to devote to amusement of any kind during the last year and a half. For the first few months I was busy keeping house for papa, for we were trying to be economical and kept no servant. Then he was taken ill."

"Yes, I remember you wrote me at one time that he was ill," Philip interposed, "but I supposed that he had recovered long ago."

"My father is a hopeless invalid—the physicians tell me that he will never be any better," said Mollie sadly.

"Can that be possible?" queried her companion, and trying to throw a proper amount of sympathy into his tone, but secretly wondering how they managed to keep the wolf from the door.

"Of course, when his health gave out he lost his situation, and his income stopped," Mollie gravely resumed, "and I was obliged to seek some employment. I have a position as private secretary to Monsieur Lamonti, a French gentleman of some prominence here in Washington—possibly you may have heard of him."

"Ah! yes, I have," said Philip with elevated eyebrows, for the wealthy Frenchman had been pointed out to him, and now he understood how Mollie had happened to be riding in that elegant turnout that morning. Then he added: "I am sorry to learn that Mr. Heatherford's case is so serious."

"Yes; papa has failed sadly; he seldom recognizes even me, now, while his hands have become so useless that he has to be fed like a child," Mollie returned with starting tears.

"That must make it very hard for you, dear," Philip responded with a tender inflection; "you must find it very irksome, reared as you have been, to confine yourself to a position and the care of an invalid."

"I do not," she returned brightly, though she straightened herself a trifle and flushed at his term of endearment. "I thoroughly enjoy my position, and if papa could only be well once more, I should feel perfectly happy with my work and the consciousness that I am really of some practical use in the world."

She looked so proud and animated and bore herself with such an air of dignity and self-reliance that the young man told himself she was a hundredfold more lovely and attractive than she had ever been.

But, at the same time, there was an unmistakable atmosphere about her that held him at arm's length and made him feel as if she had drifted so far apart from him as to have put him entirely out of her life.

The very thought enraged him, and an insatiate desire to conquer these conditions and make himself necessary to her happiness took possession of him. He flushed hotly as he suddenly bent nearer to her.

"Mollie, I cannot bear to know that you are working for wages," he said passionately.

Mollie laughed out musically, although she drew herself away from him with an unmistakable chill in her manner.

"Pray, do not be disturbed," she said lightly, "for I assure you that I enjoy my 'wages,' as you term them, immensely."

"But the humiliation of it," he persisted hotly; "to think of it!—you, who are fit to queen it anywhere, becoming the servant of any one!"

"I have no sense of humiliation, Philip. I frankly protest that I never in my life experienced a more comforting sense of self-respect than at the present time," Mollie spiritedly rejoined, and with a warning sparkle in her eyes.

"But there is no need of it," he insisted.

"There is every need," she briefly, but gravely, replied.

"No, no, Mollie; surely you have not forgotten the old days," he broke forth vehemently; "you cannot have forgotten the question which I asked you a year and a half ago, and which you have never answered. Need I tell you that I still love you with all my heart?—that I yearn for you, in spite of the little misunderstanding and interruption to our correspondence? Mollie, dearest, give up this position; let me provide for you hereafter—let me stand between you and the necessity for toil; give yourself to me—you shall have every wish gratified, and I will become your protector and—your slave."


Mollie grew first red, then white, at this unexpected renewal of Philip's suit. At the same time, she was conscious that it did not ring quite true, in spite of his passionate avowal of love and eagerness of manner; there was an indefinable undercurrent of reservation—a lack of sincerity in it that impressed her unpleasantly.

For one thing, she felt that if he had been a true lover, he never would have allowed their correspondence to cease, simply because a single letter had gone astray; he would never have been content to let a year and a half pass without making an attempt to see her and learn how she was living and how her father was prospering, after having been robbed of his last dollar by the treachery of his pretended friend.

She began to recover from her confusion almost immediately, however, and lifting her eyes, earnestly searched her companion's face. Somehow, it had never appeared so unattractive to her before; it was weak and showed in the lowering brow, in the habitual expression of discontent, in the sensuous mouth and irresolute chin, a lack of that true nobility and strength of character which she knew she must find in the man whom she married, and even while she looked his eyes wavered and fell before her, while he shifted uneasily upon his chair.

"Mollie, why do you not answer me?" he demanded, to cover his embarrassment, and bending toward her tried to capture one of the small, perfect hands which lay on her lap. "It cannot be possible that you have forgotten the past or lost all the old love for me. Ah! come to me, dearest, let me take care of you, and you never need toil another day; you shall have every luxury which money can buy."

"Phil," Mollie began gently, for she did not wish to wound him, even though not one chord of her heart thrilled responsive to his ardent appeal, while at the same time she quietly, but resolutely, released her hand from his grasp, "I certainly have not forgotten the old days nor the many good times which we enjoyed during our childhood. But when you speak of 'the old love,' that is another thing, and I know now that I never loved you; that is, in the way which you speak of now. When you asked me before, I told you I was not prepared to say just what my feelings toward you were, as you will remember. I felt very friendly, as I said then, 'I liked you right well,' and, as you seemed to be so fond of me and so anxious that our boy-and-girl play should become a reality, I thought I would wait a little, and, perchance, as I came to like you better, the 'like' might grow into love. I could have told you this some time ago if you had renewed the subject, but you never did; your letters ceased coming and I supposed you had thought better of the matter and changed your mind. No, Phil, I do not love you as a woman should love the man she expects to marry; so let us drop the subject here and now and agree to be simply good friends for the future."

But her refusal aroused all Philip's antagonism. He was one who could never bear to be balked in anything, and her statement that she knew 'now' that she did not love him stirred him to fiercest jealousy. What had led her to such a conclusion? he asked himself. Perhaps she had met some one else who had awakened the affection which he so coveted, and this possible solution of the problem made him furious.

For the moment he forgot her poverty; forgot that he had vowed he would never marry any girl who did not possess an ample fortune. He only remembered that he loved her—had always loved her, and rich or poor he was determined to carry his point, if by any possible means he could achieve it, even though he should rudely trample upon her heart after he had won it.

"Mollie!" he cried appealingly, "you do not mean it—you cannot be so cruel as to blight all my hopes, after so many years of devotion to you. You know that I have loved you ever since we were children; you know that I have always expected that you would give yourself to me, and do you think that I can easily surrender you now?"

Mollie wondered what made her shrink involuntarily every time he mentioned his love for her. There was something that grated harshly upon her in his every tone, and she experienced a singular distrust of him.

"I am truly sorry, Phil, if you have really been cherishing this hope for so long," she returned after a moment of thoughtful silence, "for, to be perfectly frank with you, I have believed everything to be at an end between us ever since I left Boston. I am very quick to feel any change in my friends, and I was sure, when the financial crash came to my father, that a union between you and me would be regarded as a great misfortune for you. I inferred this both from your own manner and your mother's when you made your farewell call upon me at the Adams House. I also observed it in the tone of your letters afterward, and when they finally ceased altogether, as I have already said, I regarded the matter as finally settled, as far as you were concerned, and, as I had arrived at a knowledge of my own attitude toward you, I was perfectly content. You perceive that I am very plain with you, and now let me add, Phil, that you will yet make the discovery that some other woman will make you happier than I ever could have done."

"I shall not!" Philip retorted vehemently. "I love you, and you alone. Mollie, you shall not send me away like this—I cannot bear it. Give me at least a little more time in which to try to make you love me; do not throw me over utterly, for you will ruin my life if you do."

And he began to believe what he was saying. The more he realized that she was dropping out of his life altogether, the more he coveted her love. In the rashness of the moment, in the heat of his anger at being opposed in his purpose, he might even have gone to the length of marrying her on the spot, if the conditions had been propitious.

"No, I can give you no more 'time,' Phil, for the matter is irrevocably settled, as far as I am concerned," Mollie responded kindly, but firmly, "and I should only be doing you a great wrong if I should encourage you to believe otherwise. Now, please let us dismiss the subject, once for all, and agree to be only the best of friends in the future."

"Mollie, I won't!" Philip exclaimed with mingled anger and wounded pride. "There must be some reason for this unaccountable change in you—more than appears on the surface. Perhaps you have met some one else whom you have learned to love—tell me, is it so?"

Two scarlet spots leaped into Mollie's cheeks at this excited and imperative demand. They were called there by a shock of mingled indignation and conscious guilt. She felt that, even though Phil had been a lifelong friend, he had no right to try to extort the secrets of her heart in any such high-handed manner.

Yet, at the same instant, when he had accused her of loving another, Clifford Faxon's face, with its expression of high resolve and noble purposes, its clear, honest eyes, its frank and genial smile, arose before her, causing a sudden, conscious heart-thrill, which also brought with it a sense of dismay.

Could it be possible, came the simultaneous thought, that she had bestowed her affections upon a man whom she did not know—with whom she had never exchanged half a dozen sentences—who had flashed like a meteor, once or twice, across her path and was gone, perhaps never to appear again?

Ah! but it was true, nevertheless. Soul meets soul in the flash of an eye, through the tones of the voice, and the touch of a hand, and, like a revelation, there came to her the consciousness of the fact that when she had stood before Clifford Faxon, more than six years previous, she had recognized in him—even though he had spoken no word in response to her impulsive outburst of gratitude—a nature the counterpart and, therefore, the companion of her own, and with this unveiling of the holy of holies within her soul came the realization that no other would satisfy the cravings of her heart.

At the same time, she was under no obligation to make Philip Wentworth her father confessor, and she resented his imperative demand that she do so. She drew herself up with quiet dignity as she coldly replied:

"Excuse me, Phil, but I think you are overstepping the bounds of both courtesy and friendship in asking me such questions."

Philip sprang to his feet, his face a sheet of flame.

"You do not deny it," he cried angrily.

"I neither admit nor deny," said Mollie, as she also arose and stood before him with a regal air. "I simply say that you have—as indeed no one else has—the right to question me in the way you have done. Whatever concerns you personally, you, of course, have a right to know about. I have answered you frankly and as kindly as I knew how, and that must settle it. Now"—her manner suddenly changing to her old-time graciousness, and holding out her hand, with a charming smile—"shall we drop it and still be the best of friends?"

He regarded her in silence for a moment. She was inexpressibly lovely, and would have disarmed a savage; but his pride was wounded, and his heart was filled with rage at the thought of being balked in his determination to subjugate her to his will.

"No!" he said shortly, "there is no meaning for me in the word 'friend' where you are concerned."

He turned abruptly from her as he ceased and walked from the room and the house, taking no pains to close the door after him.

Mollie stood where he had left her for a full minute, a grave expression on her fair face. Then she drew a long, deep breath, and her lips curled with contempt:

"He could not stand the test—he is not worthy to be my friend, even," she murmured; "he is selfish to the core, for, since he cannot have just what he wants, he repudiates all, turns and cruelly wounds the one he has pretended to love. It is himself he loves—not me; and I am glad that everything is finally settled between us. Still, I am sadly disappointed in my old-time friend."

She sighed regretfully as she thought of the failure he was making of life, for he had had every advantage, and had he appreciated and improved his opportunities a brilliant career might have been his, while now he was only an idle seeker after pleasure.

Then, in striking contrast to this pampered young man of fortune, there arose before her the sunburned, bareheaded, coarsely clad lad to whom she owed her life, and who, by his own efforts, had overcome every obstacle and distanced Philip Wentworth at college.

Clifford Faxon might never rise socially to the position that was accorded Philip in the fashionable world—he might never acquire great wealth, but she felt that he had already attained that which was far more grand and desirable than fame or fortune—a noble manhood and the pursuit of some worthy object in life. In the midst of these reflections Mollie blushed rosy red.

"Why do I allow my thoughts to dwell upon him?" she exclaimed, with a shrug of her shoulders and a pretty assumption of impatience; "he is the same as a stranger to me, and I may never see him again. How foolish I am!"

Nevertheless, Clifford Faxon's strong, handsome face haunted her continually, and even in her dreams that night she saw a shapely hand outstretched to her; in its palm there lay a heart pierced with an arrow, its feather the shade of her own bright hair, and on the hand there gleamed a well-remembered cameo ring.

The following morning brought another trial to Mollie, and one which she had never dreamed of being subjected to. When she entered Monsieur Lamonti's office at the usual hour, she found him already there, but looking unusually grave and preoccupied. She bade him a cheerful "bon jour," to which he courteously but, to her sensitive ear, rather coldly responded.

"Yes," he briefly replied, "Lucille is well."

Mollie began to wonder if anything had gone wrong in connection with his business; or if, by any possibility she had made a mistake that required a reproof, which he might be very loath to administer; or perhaps he might not be feeling well, and did not realize how constrained his manner was.

However, she slipped quietly into the chair before her desk and began her work, but with a strange feeling of sadness and embarrassment oppressing her. She wrote steadily for more than an hour, during which time not a word was spoken by either occupant of the room.

Then, all at once, Monsieur Lamonti laid down his pen and, wheeling around in his chair, faced her.

"Will mademoiselle be kind enough to give me her attention for a few moments?" he gravely questioned. "I have something of importance to communicate to her."

Mollie grew suddenly pale with apprehension. Oh! could it be possible that Monsieur Lamonti was contemplating some change that would deprive her of her position? Maybe he was on the point of returning to France, or had been assigned to some other station in the United States to continue his public duties. What could she do—where turn for employment in such an emergency?

"Certainly, monsieur," she managed to falter, as she mechanically placed a paper-weight upon the sheet before her; then tried to smile bravely as she turned her colorless face to him to await her sentence, whatever it might be.

The man started violently as he bent his searching glance upon her.

"Ah mademoiselle, you are surely ill!" he exclaimed in a voice of alarm. "Pardon me that I have not before observed the fact. Why—why have you come to work if you are not well?"

Something in his look and tone brought the truant color back to her face in a crimson flood.

"Thank you, monsieur, but I am perfectly well."

Then, with a smile and her habitual frankness, she explained:

"I am only in suspense since, from monsieur's manner, I have inferred that something is wrong; that perhaps you may have disagreeable tidings for me."

It was now the gentleman's turn to change color and to look disturbed. Then he broke forth with characteristic impetuosity:

"Pardon—a thousand pardons, mademoiselle, if I have caused you one moment of anxiety or suffering! Yes, I have been thoughtless—I have been distrait, but not because I have any ill news to impart; but because I had decided to ask mademoiselle an important question this morning. Mademoiselle Heatherford, will you do me the honor—the supreme happiness—to become my wife?"


Mollie was stunned by this wholly unexpected contretemps, and she lifted to Monsieur Lamonti a face expressive of the blankest astonishment.

"Ah! I have taken mademoiselle entirely by surprise! I see—I understand!" he said, apologetically, though a faint smile flitted across his lips. "Pray forgive me, mon ami; but let me explain, and then I am sure you will not wonder so much. You have seen that I am a very lonely man, without kith or kin. I have nothing in life to comfort me or to throw one ray of sunshine along my path but the little Lucille. This has been so for years, but since mademoiselle came to me I have known more of enjoyment, I have had more pleasure in her society than I have experienced since I lost my dear children—Lucille's father and mother. Mademoiselle is beautiful, accomplished; she was reared for something far better than to work out a weary life at a desk. She has earned my profoundest respect, my gratitude and admiration by her many rare qualities of heart and mind, her amiable and sunny temperament and her faithfulness in my service.

"My home is very lonely, mademoiselle; my little Lucille needs the tender care, the gentle restraining hand, and the cultivated presence of something better than a nursemaid or governess; she requires some one who would exercise the wise guidance and authority of a mother, and she has become very fond of you, mon ami. I do not ask—I do not expect mademoiselle to bestow upon me the affection which she might perhaps accord to a younger man; and yet——" he faltered slightly and flushed; "such regard would make me supremely happy, for I have grown to love her most tenderly. Mademoiselle is leading a life of toil—she has perplexing home cares and sorrows, but these can all be mitigated to a great extent; for her father shall become my care also, and her future shall not have a single cloud to mar it, if it is in the power of man and money to prevent it. Mademoiselle, will you honor me by accepting my hand, my heart and my fortune?—become the mistress of my home, and take your rightful position in society, where you are so well fitted to shine.

"If——" he added, after a moment of awkward silence, for Mollie was still too astonished and overcome to utter a word; "if I have been too abrupt, mon ami, and you do not feel prepared to answer me at present, pray take time—as long as you wish—to consider the matter, and I will patiently await your decision."

Mollie was not only astonished, she was also deeply touched by this unlooked-for proposal, which seemed to her a most pathetic appeal from this distinguished gentleman, whose history had been so sad and whose life had been so lonely. She knew that there was very little in it, even now, to make it enjoyable, notwithstanding his great wealth and the enviable position that he occupied.

Of course, he loved his little granddaughter with all his heart; indeed, his every hope hitherto had been centered upon her; but she could readily understand that it would be utterly impossible for a child like Lucille to satisfy the requirements of a nature like that of Monsieur Lamonti.

He was cultured and intellectual, and, naturally, he desired congenial companionship. In his magnificent home there was not one with whom he could converse upon terms of equality, either mentally or socially, or who could sympathize with him in any of the affairs or interests of his life.

He had been into society but little during his residence in Washington, for, as he had told her, he had no heart for the gaieties of the world, since he was doomed to go alone wherever he was invited, while, too, with no mistress at the head of his own establishment he could not entertain in return for such courtesies.

Surely, Mollie told herself, it was a desolate existence for one like him to lead, for he was a polished gentleman, of high attainments, brilliant in conversation, and well calculated to shine among the many noted and distinguished people in the nation's capital. But, in spite of her genuine respect and admiration, together with her deepest sympathy; in spite of his wealth and position and the tempting future which he had offered her, she could not become his wife.

Mollie was too true, too conscientious a woman to marry any man whom she could not love with all her heart, even though she would have enjoyed the luxuries to which, nearly all of her life, she had been accustomed, and with which she would have so liked to surround her father; while she did sometimes yearn in secret for the old-time gaieties and society from which she now seemed to be entirely shut out.

All these things had flashed through her brain while Monsieur Lamonti was talking, but never for an instant did she waver from what she knew was right and just to herself and to him. As he concluded she lifted her grave, sweet eyes to his face.

"Monsieur Lamonti," she began, and her voice was husky from repressed feeling; "you have indeed surprised me beyond measure, for I certainly never dreamed that you entertained for me the feelings you have expressed—although I have congratulated myself that I possessed your esteem and friendly interest. It grieves me that I am obliged to disappoint you; but, monsieur, I must be true to myself and to you. I could not become the wife of any man unless I had first given him the deepest affection of my heart. While I have, during our relations as employer and employee, learned to regard you as a true friend—my best and almost my only one, I may say, since nearly all who knew me in more prosperous days have deserted me—still, such a regard would satisfy neither you nor me if we should assume closer ties. Believe me, dear Monsieur Lamonti, I feel greatly honored by your preference, and am also deeply grateful to you for your many kindnesses to both my father and myself. Forgive me if there has ever been the slightest indication in my manner to encourage you to infer——"

"There has not, mademoiselle, I assure you," Monsieur Lamonti interposed, as she flushed and faltered; "there has been nothing in your manner at any time to show me that you regarded me other than as a friend. It was alone my affection for you—my intense yearning for the presence of a charming woman in my home, to be a companion to and in sympathy with me and to help me to rear Lucille, which emboldened me to ask you to be my wife. Ah! mademoiselle, you do not know the grief, the sorrow I feel! If you would but reconsider—take time to try to—to grow fond of me; if I could but have a little hope," he concluded in a voice so eager, yet, withal, so sad and tremulous that tears sprang involuntarily to Mollie's eyes.

"Monsieur, it would not be right; I—I could not bid you hope; my answer must be final," she almost sobbed, for his pathetic appeal had very nearly unnerved her. Monsieur Lamonti was very pale; but after a moment of silence he pulled himself together bravely.

"Pardon—pardon, mademoiselle; the sorrow—the annoyance I have occasioned you," he said, with grave courtesy. "I bow to the inevitable; you have been most kind, and we will regard the matter as if it had never been. But, mon ami," and now he turned to her with his old kindly smile, "leaving all that forever, may I now presume to ask a great favor of you?"

"Certainly, monsieur; you must know that anything in my power I would gladly do for you," Mollie cordially, even eagerly, returned.

"Many thanks; but perhaps I am a trifle premature. I should first have told you what I desire before asking your promise. However, you are free to refuse if you find the matter not one to your taste. I have told you that I have no kith or kin—that aside from Lucille, I am absolutely alone in the world. You can readily perceive that, should anything happen to—to remove me, the child would be left without a protector—without a soul to feel the slightest interest in her. Now, mademoiselle, the favor I wish to crave is a great one—will you, in the event of which I have spoken, assume the guardianship of my little girl?"

Mollie's breath was almost taken away again, and she regarded her companion in grave wonderment.

"I, monsieur! Could you trust me with so sacred a charge?" she questioned in a voice of awe. "I am very young; I have never had any experience with children, and it seems a grave responsibility!"

"Mademoiselle, I could trust you with—ah! have I not asked you to care for the greatest treasure the world holds for me, and could I manifest greater confidence in you?" responded Monsieur Lamonti, while he regarded the girl with a look that betrayed far more than his words.

"I have seen," he went on, "that you are fond of Lucille—she adores you. You have been carefully reared; you are a gentlewoman in every sense of the word, and if my little one could become like you—could be shielded in the future by your love and guidance, and grow up pure and good and noble, I could ask nothing better for her on earth. You understand, mademoiselle, this arrangement is to be contingent only upon my demise, and I may live many years yet. I simply wish to make sure that she will not be left to the care and cupidity of strangers, and there will be ample remuneration for you, to enable you to live even more comfortably than at present. Also I should leave all financial matters so compactly arranged that you would have very little care in the management of them. I would not like to burden you in any way except to make sure that Lucille will be wisely and kindly nurtured. May I depend upon you, mon ami?"

Mollie did not reply immediately. To grant Monsieur Lamonti's request seemed like assuming a very grave responsibility, and she was wondering within herself if she dare attempt it.

"Yes, I love dear little Lucille, and I believe she loves me," she finally murmured, more to herself than in reply to her companion. "I am sure it would be a pleasure to me to have the child with me; she would be like a young sister, and to guard and watch her development would be a very interesting and a great delight—if I were sure that I am equal to the task——"

"But the trust must be confided to some one," Monsieur Lamonti here interposed, "and will mademoiselle kindly allow me to be the judge of what is best for my darling?"

Mollie was deeply touched by this evidence of his confidence in her, and she felt that he was paying her the highest tribute which it was possible for one human being to confer upon another. She looked up at him with a tremulous smile and eyes full of tears.

"Yes," she said, with evident emotion, "and I solemnly assure you that I will do the very best that I am capable of, for her."

"Mademoiselle does not need to promise me that; it is her nature to do her best under all circumstances," replied the gentleman heartily, "and she has my everlasting gratitude."

"Thank you, my friend, for your kindly praise, and believe me, I sincerely appreciate the trust you repose in me; let us hope that for many years you two may be spared to each other—until, perhaps, Lucille will be old enough and wise enough to choose a protector for life, and you will give her away with your blessing."

Monsieur Lamonti smiled in sympathy with her mood, then reaching out his hand he clasped hers as if to ratify the compact they had made and observed.

"Thank you, mademoiselle; you always comfort and cheer me. May the good God bless you."

Both resumed their work, and nothing save business was mentioned during the remainder of the morning, while Monsieur Lamonti's manner was the same as usual, courteous and kind, and without a vestige of disappointment or chagrin to betray how sorely he had been smitten by Mollie's rejection of his suit.

After partaking of her lunch that afternoon Mollie could not seem to settle down to either reading or work. Her thoughts were full of the events of the morning, and the grave responsibility she had assumed, and she finally became so nervous that she resumed her street costume and started out again to visit the Corcoran Art Gallery, hoping to forget her anxiety.

It was between three and four when she reached the gallery, and she soon became so absorbed in the treasures of art all about her, she did not observe the flight of time, especially as the various rooms were artificially lighted, until notice was given that it was time to close the building.

As she stepped out upon the street she was surprised to find how dark it had grown. Heavy clouds had covered the sky, a fine mist was falling, and the short winter's day, dawning to its close, seemed exceedingly gloomy and depressing.

Drawing her coat-collar up about her throat and face, for the air was keen, she hurried on her way toward home, deciding that walking would be preferable to standing upon a corner to wait for a trolley in the rain.

When she finally turned off the avenue into a side street, where the residences were some distance apart, and which was not particularly well lighted, she suddenly become conscious some one was following her.

With a heart-throb of fear, she quickened her steps. The figure behind her did the same. Then she walked more slowly in order to allow the man to pass her. In another moment he was beside her, when, with all her pulses throbbing like trip-hammers, she realized that he was intoxicated.

"Fine evening, miss," he remarked in a voice which, although rather thick and unsteady, seemed strangely familiar.

Her assailant was quite tall, but it was too dark to see his figure distinctly, while a slouch-hat was drawn so far down over his face that his features were almost entirely concealed. But Mollie was too frightened to observe him closely, and vouchsafing no reply to his remark, quickened her steps again.

The man reached out his hand and laid hold upon her arm, exclaiming:

"Hold on, now—hic—my pretty one. I'sn't—ah—dignified to run. Just le' me—hic—see you home; then I'll take a—hic—kiss and we'll call it—hic—square."

Mollie stopped short, her ears actually ringing from the rapid beating of her heart, while her blood was boiling with mingled disgust and indignation. She swept his hand from her arm with a force that made him stagger. But he was too quick for her, and clutched it again instantly.

"Don't dare to touch me! Do not presume to detain me!" she cried authoritatively.

But his fingers only closed more roughly over her wrist.

"Come, come, pretty one, don't be—hic—offish; or If you're in such—hic—a deuced hurry I'll take the—hic—kiss now and let you—hic—go."

He drew her toward him as if to put his threat into execution, but before Mollie's frightened cry for help had barely escaped her lips, the hand was stricken from her arm and her assailant lay sprawling upon the ground at her feet, while she turned with a long breath of relief to find another stalwart figure close beside her.


The night was so dark, the mist so heavy and the street so illy lighted that Mollie could not clearly see either of her companions; but as she turned to the stranger who had appeared upon the scene so opportunely, a feeling of perfect confidence took possession of her, for his dignified and self-assured bearing inspired her with a sense of absolute security.

"Oh, thank you! thank you!" she breathed gratefully though tremulously, as she involuntarily drew nearer to him.

"I am very glad that I happened to be near," the gentleman replied in a rich, deep but pleasantly modulated voice. "I was just passing out of a gate opposite when I heard you call. The wretch was very bold to assail you on the street at this hour of the evening! Is he intoxicated?"

"I think so," said Mollie, and speaking more calmly now, for she was fast recovering her self-possession, "and I am very thankful to you for your timely assistance, I——"

A groan from the prostrate man interrupted her at this point, and both she and her companion turned at the sound.

"Well, sir, what is it?" curtly demanded the stranger, as he bent over him and tried to get a view of his face.

"You've given me a nasty blow, whoever you are; curse you!" he growled, as he made an effort to regain his feet.

But he seemed to find it a difficult achievement, and the stranger grasped him by the arm and assisted him to rise.

"There you are," he said, "now can you walk?"

Again his victim groaned as he attempted to take a step or two, and almost fell a second time.

"Well you are a trifle the worse for your fall, that is a fact," his companion observed. "I will help you to the corner, where you can get either a carriage or a car to take you home; and, now, if you will accept a bit of friendly advice, I will suggest that you keep your brain clearer in the future, when perhaps you will not be tempted to assault unprotected women in the street and get yourself into trouble again."

Mollie's recent assailant wrenched his arm from the other's grasp with another oath, and, bending forward, tried to peer into the face before him. His fall evidently had not disabled him so seriously as he had at first feared, while the shock had served to sober him somewhat.

"Look here!" he exclaimed in a supercilious tone; "I've a notion that I know who you are, and this isn't the first time, either, that you have interfered with me in what was none of your business. I know you, Faxon, and I swear I'll make you sweat for this!"

Clifford Faxon—for it was he—now bent forward and peered into the face of the speaker, even though he had already recognized the speaker.

"Great heavens!" he exclaimed in a voice resonant with mingled disgust and indignation, "have you descended so low as this, Wentworth?"

A startled cry broke from Mollie at this point, and she swept close to the young man's side.

"Philip Wentworth!" she gasped, and now she knew why his voice had sounded familiar to her, although, having been under the influence of liquor, his utterance had been very indistinct, while fear had so changed hers that, in his drunken condition, he had failed to recognize it. But as she now spoke his name a terrible shock went through him, sobering him completely.

"Mollie! Good God!" he cried in a tone of mingled mortification and dismay, while Clifford's heart leaped with joy as he caught the name. The fair girl haughtily drew herself erect and away from him.

"Let this be the last time, Mr. Wentworth, that you ever address me so familiarly; indeed, from this moment we are strangers."

"By all that is sacred, Mollie, I never dreamed that it was you."

Philip faltered with abject humility. "I swear——"

"Silence!" she commanded imperatively. "Never presume to call me 'Mollie' again. Of course I understand that you did not know me—neither did I recognize you under existing conditions. But you did know that you were insulting a woman, and the fact that you had no more respect for my sex, whoever the individual might be, I regard as direct an outrage as if you had known me."

"Come, now," said Philip appealingly, and his voice was husky with shame and grief, "you are downright hard on a fellow. I was not quite myself, I am bound to confess, and so not responsible——"

"Not responsible!" repeated Mollie with grave reproof. "Yes, you are responsible; for you have no moral right to put yourself in a condition that renders it unsafe for people to come in contact with you upon the street, or elsewhere.

"Let me say one word more," she added more gently, yet not less impressively, "for your mother's and sister's sake and for your own good, I beg that you will forsake your cups and the aimless life you are leading and try to live to some purpose in the future."

She stepped aside to allow him to pass, whereupon Clifford Faxon considerately inquired:

"Shall I lend you an arm to the corner, Wentworth?"

"No!—you!" was the passionate response, as Philip angrily struck aside the proffered support, almost beside himself with mingled shame and rage, "and, let me repeat, that I will yet make you sorry for this night's work." He turned his back upon them both and strode away limping, but not nearly so badly crippled as his companions had feared he might be.

Then Mollie stepped forward to Clifford.

"Mr. Faxon," she said, and extending her hand to him, "this is the third time that we have met under peculiar circumstances, all of which have made me greatly your debtor. I am Miss Heatherford, and I have never forgotten the hero of that exciting New Haven incident."

"Thank you, Miss Heatherford," Faxon returned, and tingling to his finger-tips with rapture as he clasped the hand so cordially offered him, "and let me assure you that I am very much pleased to meet you again, and, at last, learn the name of one to whom I am also indebted. I refer to the beautiful souvenir of the event of which you have spoken, and which I have always treasured most sacredly. I am very glad I was at hand to rescue you from your recent unpleasant experience. Now, may I have the additional pleasure of attending you to your home? I should feel very uncomfortable to allow you to go alone after the shock you have received."

"Thank you; it is very kind of you to offer to attend me," Mollie replied, and feeling much relieved in view of having a protector, for she had been badly frightened. "But, Mr. Faxon, I am afraid it will seem almost an imposition, for I have quite a walk yet," she added doubtfully.

"That will not disturb me in the least," Clifford returned eagerly, "though it is very damp, and perhaps you would prefer to take a car; in either event, however, I shall not leave you until I see you safely housed."

"Taking a car would not save me very much, as I must go back to Pennsylvania Avenue to get one, and I would have just about the same distance at the other end," said Mollie reflectively. "On the whole, I believe I will take you at your word and we will walk."

"Thank you," Clifford responded so earnestly that Mollie smiled involuntarily, while she experienced a peculiar exhilaration in his companionship.

She unhesitatingly accepted the arm he offered her, and they fell into a social chat which grew so absorbing to both that distance became of no account, and Faxon was conscious of a sense of keen disappointment when his companion finally paused before her own door.

"Why, Miss Heatherford, you told me it was a long walk; I did not suppose we were half-way there yet!" he exclaimed in a tone that plainly betrayed his regret.

"I think you must be a practised pedestrian, for it is very nearly a mile," said Mollie with a silvery little laugh, "and, now, won't you come in for a little rest before you make the return trip?"

Clifford would gladly have accepted the invitation and prolonged his enjoyment of her society for another half-hour, but he did not feel quite justified in doing so upon so short an acquaintance, and so politely excused himself.

"Then some other evening, Mr. Faxon, I shall be happy to have you call if you should feel inclined," Mollie cordially observed greatly to his delight.

"Thank you, Miss Heatherford; it certainly will give me great pleasure to do so, and I shall avail myself of the privilege at an early date," the young man responded, and he was on the point of bidding her good evening when Mollie lifted a shy glance to him and said:

"I feel that I owe you an apology, Mr. Faxon, for not recognizing you a few days ago when you saved me from having a fall from the car, but I was so surprised at the unexpected meeting that I was momentarily embarrassed, and so failed to do my duty."

"Pray do not be disturbed," Faxon returned with a heart-throb of gladness. "I saw you were somewhat overcome, and the omission was not to be wondered at under the circumstances."

"I knew you at once," Mollie continued naively and with charming frankness, "and I feared afterward that you might attribute my seeming neglect to an unworthy motive."

"Indeed, no—I hope I could not so wrong you, although you will allow me to say that I was somewhat disappointed," Clifford replied in the same spirit.

He then bade her a reluctant "good evening," lifted his hat, and went away. It seemed to him that he was walking on air as he retraced his steps up-town.

At last he had met and learned the name of the divinity who for years had been his inspiration, whose fair face and deep blue eyes had haunted both his waking and sleeping hours; whose sweet girlish tones and thrilling words had rung like a melodious refrain in his ears for nearly six long years.

It had been a great trial to him not to know who she was, and he had been more irritated over the fact that Philip Wentworth had refused to give him any information regarding her than he usually allowed himself to become over anything. It had been like a poisoned dagger in his heart when that young man had arrogantly boasted of his engagement to the girl who had given him the cameo, which was the choicest treasure he possessed.

But now he knew that Philip had lied—the occurrence of that evening had proved to him that no such tie had ever existed between the two. To be sure, Wentworth had addressed her by the familiar name "Mollie," but her manner toward him had plainly indicated that, although she might previously have regarded him as a friend, she had never surrendered her heart into his keeping.

This assurance set every pulse bounding with a feeling of exultation, and a vague, sweet hope that possibly he might yet awaken some responsive chord in her nature that as yet had been untouched began to take root in his heart.

He blessed the fates that had sent him upon an errand that night into the locality where he had found her in trouble, and thus enabled him to go to her rescue. Then that never-to-be-forgotten walk had seemed leading him straight toward Paradise, the door of which Mollie had opened to him by her invitation to call—a privilege of which he resolved to avail himself at a very early day.

And three evenings later found him standing at her door, seeking admittance.

Eliza answered his ring and showed him into the cosy homelike parlor, and five minutes later Mollie appeared, looking charming in a dainty house-gown of some soft, white material without an atom of color save her blue eyes and glorious hair to mar its chaste simplicity.

She almost always wore white at home—it had been her custom since childhood, for her father loved to see her in it.

She greeted Faxon with a cordiality which assured him that he was most welcome, and his heart thrilled with joy unspeakable as he observed the lovely color that suffused her face as he clasped her hand and responded to her salutation. She put him at his ease at once by seating herself near him and beginning to chat freely of Washington and its society; of politics and politicians and various current topics. Then she gradually drifted to other things, and finally to their first meeting, after which she adroitly led him to speak of his college life, struggles, and experiences.

He was surprised to find how freely and almost involuntarily he opened his heart to her of those things which he had seldom mentioned to others, and when he concluded he held up and showed her the cameo ring upon his hand.

"It has been my mascot," he said, smiling, "and I can never make you understand how much it has meant to me. But I never presumed to wear it in public until the day I took my degree and only occasionally since."

"I am afraid you have prized my simple souvenir far beyond its worth," said Mollie, flushing. "It was really intended for a good-luck ring, however. I purchased it, and had it marked for a cousin who was going West to live, but as some one else had already given him a ring I kept it and sent him something else. Have you discovered its little secret, Mr. Faxon?"

"Yes," said Clifford, as he touched the spring and the stone lifted from its place; but he did not tell her then how he had learned it, "and I have wondered during all these years until I met you the other night what these tiny initials stood for."

"Marie Norton Heatherford," Mollie repeated with a flush as she observed the look with which he was regarding the letters.

Then to dispel the feeling of embarrassment she smilingly added:

"But, Mr. Faxon, I am afraid I should have felt that I was doing rather a bold thing to offer a gentleman a ring marked with initials if I had stopped to think about it that day—not that I regretted the ring, believe me," she interposed, as he glanced up at her quickly, "it was a very little thing to express all that I felt, but the letters rather troubled me. I—I almost hoped you would not find them."

"Ah! but the initials and the horseshoe have been its chief charm to me," Clifford returned earnestly; "somehow they seemed to be a link between the giver and myself, although, of course, I did not know what they stood for. And, now that I have met you again, may I have your permission to wear it constantly?"

"By all means, if you wish—I am sure you will honor my little souvenir by doing so," Mollie responded with downcast eyes and bounding pulses.

She began to tell him something of her own life since that day; how a few days later she and her parents had sailed for Europe to remain for several years; how she had lost her mother during her sojourn abroad, and one misfortune followed another until just after her return to this country the grand crash had come that had made her father penniless.

"Yes," she said, with a little regretful sigh at an exclamation of sympathy from Faxon, "papa met with loss after loss, until a year and a half ago we found that we were literally homeless and almost penniless. A friend helped him to a position here in Washington, and for a while we were very comfortable and happy; but papa lost his health, and for several months past has been very ill—is, in fact, a hopeless invalid."

"That is very sad," Clifford gravely observed, "and the change in your life must have seemed hard—even cruel."

"I don't know as I can say that," said Mollie reflectively; "I believe I have rather enjoyed the change in some respects."

"Enjoyed it!" repeated her companion astonished.

"Yes," Mollie brightly affirmed, "for I then began to feel that I was really of some use in the world. After papa gave up business I secured a position, and I am now working regular hours every day; were it not for my father's pitiable condition, I believe I should be perfectly happy. I think it is grand to feel that one has the power to win one's own way in the world."

Faxon regarded her with mingled admiration and sympathy. He knew just the feeling she described, for he had experienced the same thrill of proud independence while working his way through college and also since he had begun to know something of the real business of life, in spite of the many crosses and hardships that he had endured.

Then a wild, sweet hope took possession of his heart as he realized that she no longer inhabited a sphere so far above him socially that she was, as he had always believed her to be, utterly beyond his reach.

She was every whit as poor as himself, according to her own frank acknowledgment—there was now no golden barrier between them. Why, then, might he not hope to win her—this fair, brave, sweet girl who had been the star and the inspiration of his life during the last six years?


"And so you do not regret the loss of fortune nor of fortune's friends?" Clifford questioned, while with the fond, new hope in his heart he regarded her with more of tenderness in his glance than he was aware of.

And Mollie flushed beneath his look, more because she was becoming conscious that something within her was springing forth to meet that which shone in his eyes than because of embarrassment.

"I cannot quite say that, Mr. Faxon," she gravely replied, "for I should be glad of an independent income—even though it was small—that would enable me to do more for my father and put him under the constant care of experts; for, in spite of what the physicians have told me, I cannot quite give up all hope. I cannot bear to think that he must live on indefinitely in his present darkened mental condition.

"But as for myself," with an uplifting of her pretty head that denoted conscious strength, "I do not regret the experience of the last two years which the loss of fortune has brought me, and which has proved to me that it is more noble and satisfactory to be a useful woman than a butterfly of fashion. As for the 'friends of fortune,' that was well put, Mr. Faxon, for those who have turned the cold shoulder upon me were simply that and nothing more, and there is nothing to regret. It is far better to have discovered the truth than to go on being cajoled and deceived. I may say that there are but few whom I can regard as true friends, and most of those I have made since I became a working girl. What a queer world it is, isn't it? What a strange element there is in humanity, which, as a rule—though there is now and then a rare exception—does not take into account the real worth of an individual, but is ready to hug to the heart a mental beggar and a moral leper, provided he is sufficiently gilded with money. Can you explain it?"

"I think it can all be summed up in one word, Miss Heatherford, and that is—selfishness," Clifford replied.

"Y—es," she thoughtfully assented, "and yet I think I should add pride, vanity and ostentation."

"And what is pride but self-esteem, self-conceit? What are vanity and ostentation but egotism and self-sufficiency?"

"You are right!" said Mollie, sitting suddenly erect, as if some new thought had taken possession of her. "Why! I never thought of it before, but the world—society so-called—is governed by selfishness!"

"I am afraid that is the fact, as a rule," assented the young man.

"How dreadful!" sighed his companion; "what veritable heathen idolaters we are, in spite of our boasted civilization and Christianity; and how little we know the meaning of the 'Golden Rule!'"

"That is true; self is the god of this world," said Clifford; "and when we attempt to analyze humanity we find it in every phase of life. Royalty 'lifts its crested head' and declares, 'I am enthroned; come not near, except on bended knee.' The multimillionaire, with lofty air, says, 'Keep a respectful distance, unless you can match my purse with one as heavy.' The merchant and banker refuse to associate with their butcher and grocer; the employer looks down upon his employee; the mistress upon her maid; and so it goes all along down the line even to newsboys and bootblacks; for——" and here Faxon laughed, "to illustrate, I saw two boys on the street the other day; one had a bundle of papers under his arm; the other was stationed on a corner, with his kit for blacking boots. 'Hello!' called out the newsboy familiarly and with an envious glance at the kit, 'how long yer ben at it?' 'Git out!' cried the youthful proprietor loftily, 'I've gone inter biz for myself, I have; an' we don't take newsboys inter our 'sociation.' So from the crowned heads of royalty down to the bootblack, who lords it over the peddler of papers, because he makes his nickel where the other gets but a penny, we find the serpent self with its spirit of arrogance and malicious sting."

"That is true," said Mollie, with a sigh, "and, worse than all, we find it even in the churches, where the rich and intellectually proud hold aloof from the poor widow and orphan and the beggar at their doors, except, perhaps, to bestow, with lofty patronage a little of their surplus wealth, and hoping thus to cancel their obligations as Christians and believe that they have fulfilled the law of Love. Oh, I am beginning to see how little the meaning of that word is understood."

"And it never will be understood until the world learns how to 'deny self' and become 'poor in spirit,' as taught by the Great Teacher nineteen centuries ago," Clifford supplemented in a reverent tone.

Mollie bent a thoughtful look upon his face. She thought him the grandest character she had ever met. No young man of her acquaintance had ever discussed such subjects in her presence before—they had always been, for the most part, full of small talk, jest and compliment—and she knew that most of her girl friends would have regarded such a conversation as prosy and stupid.

But she liked it—it seemed to meet something that she had long hungered for. Faxon had struck a note in nature that vibrated in keenest sympathy and perfect harmony with his thought, and when they parted that evening both felt as if they must have known each other for years.

After that they saw each other frequently. Mollie had invited him to 'come again,' and feeling that she was perfectly sincere, he had not hesitated to avail himself of the privilege. Each time they met they were drawn nearer each other, for they liked the same books and authors. Faxon was a good reader, Mollie an appreciative listener, while they had many an animated discussion over what they read.

They attended lectures, concerts and occasionally the theater and opera; though Mollie would not go often to the latter place because of the expense, which she doubted that Faxon could afford. But she told herself that she had never enjoyed a winter, even during her palmiest days, as she had enjoyed this one.

She well knew why; she had long known that she loved Clifford Faxon with all her heart, and she was sure that he returned her affection, although as yet no word of confession had escaped him. Nevertheless, she had abundant evidence of the fact in his every act, in every glance of his eyes and every tone of his voice. Yet she was not impatient—she was content to bide his time, well knowing that when he felt it right to speak he would do so.

Her new happiness added greatly to her loveliness. There was a brighter light in her deep blue eyes, a sweeter, sunnier smile—if that were possible—on her lips, a buoyancy, an elasticity in her every movement and step which plainly betrayed that she loved to live and lived to love.

Monsieur Lamonti was quick to observe these things, and wondered within himself what had caused this radiant change in her. He was not long left in doubt, for one afternoon he met the lovers, face to face, upon the street.

Mollie stopped short in his path and greeted him cordially; then, with beaming eyes and heightened color, introduced her companion. The three stood chatting for a few moments, then parted and went their different ways.

The next morning Monsieur Lamonti interrupted Mollie in her work, and, after discussing two or three questions relating to business, suddenly inquired:

"By the way, mademoiselle, allow me to ask who was the gentleman to whom you introduced me yesterday? His name, of course, I know—Monsieur Faxon—but is he an old or a new friend?"

Mollie blushed delightfully at the question.

"He is both, monsieur, if you can comprehend anything so paradoxical," she said with a musical little laugh of rippling happiness, and which called an answering smile to her listener's lips. Then she went on and frankly told him the whole of Cliff's history as far as she knew it, from the time of her first meeting with him in the station at New Haven to his coming to Washington, while Monsieur Lamonti appeared greatly interested, and reading in the girl's every look and tone the sweet love-story that was making her life so beautiful.

"Ah," he observed when she concluded, "Mr. Faxon is a self-made man; he is doubtless a noble young man. I am sure he will rise yet higher and do himself honor."

Mollie smiled with pleasure at his commendation of her lover.

"I also am sure he will," she said with shining eyes.

"And what is he doing now, mademoiselle?" queried the gentleman.

"At present he is in the Patent Office, with the expectation of a promotion at the beginning of the year."

"Well, mademoiselle, it is evident he is a fine young fellow; he certainly looks it; I am truly glad you have such a friend," said Monsieur Lamonti, with a kindness and sincerity that touched Mollie deeply.

He resumed his writing, and nothing more was said upon the subject, but Mollie observed that, from time to time, he paused in his work and gazed abstractedly out of the window, as if his thoughts were busy elsewhere.

A few days later on reaching the office she found a note from Clifford, asking if she would go with him the following evening to hear Madam Melba in "Faust."

He mentioned the fact that he was well acquainted with a prominent member of the company, who had offered him complimentary tickets for a box or any seats which he might prefer elsewhere in the house, and would she please signify which she would like best.

Mollie smiled as she read the note. She knew it would be the "first night" of the opera, and she understood that Clifford feared that she either might not be able or wish to appear in evening dress, and so had given her a choice of seats, while, too, it would settle the question regarding what his own attire should be.

She responded cordially, saying she would be delighted to hear Melba, and would enjoy the box if it would be agreeable to him. Clifford wrote a clear, symmetrical hand, and before returning his missive to its envelope Mollie passed it to Monsieur Lamonti, remarking that perhaps he would like to see Mr. Faxon's penmanship.

"People claim, you know," she said, smiling, "that there is a great deal of character expressed in a person's handwriting."

Monsieur Lamonti read the note, then passed it back to her with the observation:

"It is certainly a fine hand, mademoiselle, and if it is an exponent of Mr. Faxon's character, I should judge him to be a frank, honest, high-minded young man."

Mollie was, of course, pleased with this tribute to her lover, for she saw that it was sincere, while she knew that Monsieur Lamonti was a keen observer, and she was sure that he regarded Clifford with approbation.

The next afternoon, while she was putting some finishing touches to an evening dress which she had remodeled to wear to the opera, Monsieur Lamonti's coachman drove to the door, and a few moments later Eliza came to her, bringing a good-sized box.

On opening it, Mollie gave a cry of delight as her eyes fell upon a rare collection of hot-house flowers, whose perfume filled the room, and which she well knew, without glancing at the accompanying card, had been culled from the greenhouse of her good friend.

"How kind, how thoughtful he always is!" she murmured appreciatively as she buried her face in the mass of luxuriant bloom to inhale the delicious fragrance.

Later, when Clifford called for her she was radiantly lovely in her rich, lustrous silk of pale blue, another creation of Worth's, and a remnant of her old-time glory which had long been packed away as unsuitable to wear in her present circumstances. The dress, with a few alterations, seemed almost like new.

She wore diamonds upon her neck and in her ears; also a dazzling ornament in her golden hair, for her jewels—many of which had been her mother's—had also been carefully stowed away, her father having insisted that she should keep them, although she had cheerfully offered to relinquish every one if such sacrifice would lighten his burdens in any way. But he had told her, "No; every debt would be paid, and the gems were too sacred to be surrendered."

Her hands and arms were encased in long white gloves, chosen from the box with which Monsieur Lamonti had presented her, and as Faxon entered, she was just tying a long ribbon around a bouquet which she had arranged from Monsieur Lamonti's floral offering.

The young man's eyes glowed with tender admiration as Mollie went forward to meet him.

"Ah," he said ingenuously and with a thrill of fondness in his voice as he clasped her extended hand, "I am so glad you chose the box."

Mollie laughed musically, for his words told her that he had hoped to find her in evening dress, and was more than pleased with her appearance.

"It was very kind of you to give me the option," she replied with a glance which plainly told him that she had understood his motive and thoroughly appreciated it.

"Well," he observed, with a twinkle in his handsome eyes, "I thought we might as well make the most of our opportunity. What lovely flowers!"

"They are, indeed!" she returned. "Monsieur Lamonti sent them."

Then as she glanced at the lapel of his coat she continued: "And you must have a boutonniere; may I select something for you?"

"Not if you will have to rob this; I would not have a single blossom disarranged," said Clifford, as he eyed the bouquet admiringly.

"Oh, no; I have quantities more," said Mollie, as she gently released the hand which he had unconsciously been holding and turned to a table which there was a large glass dish filled with flowers.

She bent over them and paused to consider what she would offer him. Presently she detached three small crimson moss-rosebuds with a single spray of green leaves and held them up before him.

"Will you wear these?" she queried.

A great shock went coursing through Clifford as he took them from her white gloved hands and regarded them with a yearning look.

Then his eyes—almost black now with the intensity of his emotion—sought her face.

"May I?" he breathed, "may I wear them with the assurance of what they express? Do you know the language of the red moss-rosebud, Mollie?"

A scarlet flood leaped to the fair girl's temples as she realized, too late, the significance of her gift; while his use of her given name, for the first time, set every pulse to bounding wildly. She lifted a startled look to his face; then as quickly her golden lashes dropped upon her flaming cheeks.

"Yes, I know," she murmured, "but I did not think of it when I chose them."


"I know you did not, love," Clifford returned as he bent forward and gathered both her hands into his, "and it was an unfair question, I am afraid. But I love you, dear—I love you. You must have seen it, you must have read it for weeks, for my every thought has been of and for you, and sometimes I have even dared to think that your thought has been responsive to mine, assuring me that I had won your heart, and that my future is to be crowned with the supreme blessing of your love. You do not turn from me—you do not take your hands from mine—may I hope, Mollie? Tell me that you love me—that you will be my wife when I shall have won a position worthy to offer you. May I wear the buds as the token of your assent? Oh, my darling, where can I find language to tell you all that is in my heart? Tell me—tell me!"

His passionate emotion moved her deeply, although his voice had been raised scarcely above a whisper. His fond words, his rich, thrilling tones were like the solemn notes of an organ. She never had been so supremely happy in her life as at that moment, and yet she wanted to weep.

But her whole heart went out to him. She lifted her eyes to his and they were brimming with tears.

"Yes, you know—you must have long known that I love you, Clifford," she whispered.

He could not speak for the moment. He was white, even to his lips, with joy that was beyond words. He lifted her hands and laid them about his neck; then his arms slid around her graceful form and drew her to his breast, where he held her close—so close that she could both feel and hear the throbbing of his heart.

They stood thus for a few moments, speechless from the consciousness of the sacred union. At length Clifford gently released her and, fondly placing one hand beneath her chin, lifted her face and scanned it earnestly.

"Tears?" he said softly.

"Yes," said Mollie, with a shy, sweet laugh, "my cup is so full it cannot hold all my joy, and some had to brim over."

"Sweetheart!" he murmured, but he still continued to study her face with a look that seemed to have something of wonderment in it.

"Why do you look at me like that? Of what are you thinking?" Mollie inquired.

"I am wondering how it would have been with us if Mr. Heatherford had never lost his millions," said the young man reflectively.

"Clifford!" cried Mollie, in a tone of reproach, "you know I should have loved you just the same; but I am glad that I am poor, for I am awfully afraid if I had not been, you would have been too proud to tell me what you have told me to-night."

"Suppose such had been the case?" he smilingly questioned.

"I—I think I should have made you confess it somehow," she replied with an imperative little tap of her foot, "or"—with a gleam of mischief in her happy eyes, "I might have unsexed myself and proposed to you—oh! I am afraid I almost did as it is," she concluded, flushing again rosily as she thought of the rosebuds.

He laughed joyously and caught her to him again; then, bending his handsome head, he kissed her softly, reverently on her lips.

"I shall never wear anything but the red moss-rose after this," he said, "and now after you have fastened them in for me, we must go, or we shall be late for the opera. And I nearly forget, dear—I have tickets for to-morrow night to see Willard in the 'Professor's Love-story.'"

"Aren't you getting dissipated, Cliff?" questioned Mollie chidingly.

"Wouldn't you like to see the play?"

Mollie took the rosebuds daintily in her white-gloved fingers, shot a sly glance up at him as she kissed them, then slipped them deftly into the buttonhole and fastened them there.

"Yes. Willard is fine," she said, "but I'm afraid that I am not quite so deeply interested in the 'Professor's Love-story' just at present as I am in my own."

"My darling!" said Faxon in a voice that was tremulous with his new, great happiness as he pressed his lips upon her white forehead. Then he lifted a beautiful opera-cloak that was hanging over a chair, and laid it over her shoulders.

It was made of white brocaded satin, trimmed with ermine, and her golden-crowned head, with the crescent of flashing diamonds rising out of its snowy whiteness, made him think of some rare and beautiful flower.

"My own, you look like a queen in your coronation-robe, and I feel like a king who has just been crowned," he fondly murmured as he fastened the silver clasp beneath her chin.

"You are a king, Cliff—my king," Mollie softly responded.

A minute later they were rolling swiftly up-town, sitting hand in hand and feeling as if an enchanted future lay before them.

The house was filled and brilliant with a first-night audience as they stepped within their box, and many a glass was leveled at the peerlessly beautiful girl and her handsome escort, with expressions of mingled admiration, wonder, and curiosity. As it happened, Philip Wentworth and his mother were located in the box directly opposite, and both gave a start of undisguised surprise as Mollie took her seat, for they recognized her instantly.

"Why, Phil!" exclaimed Mrs. Temple, "she really looks like the old-time Mollie, doesn't she? She still has her diamonds, I see, and I suppose no one here would believe she had ever worn that dress before. I recognize it, however, although I must confess it looks just as fresh as it did when she arrived from Paris. She is downright beautiful, Phil! Oh, dear! I wish they hadn't lost their money. Do you know who that is with her? It seems as if I had seen him before."

"He's that cad Faxon—blast him!" Philip replied, his face flaming with sudden anger and shame.

"Why do you call him that, Phil?—he certainly looks like a gentleman. Oh, by the way, isn't he the young man who worked his own way through Harvard and took the second honor in your class?"


"And he is the one who had that ring of Mollie's. Did you ever find out how he came by it?"

"No." He preferred to lie about it rather than explain Faxon's heroic deed.

"Mercy, Phil, how monosyllabic you are," said Mrs. Temple as she shot a curious sidelong glance at him. "I fully intended to ask Mollie about it when she returned, but I never thought of it. Have you any idea how he became acquainted with Mollie?"

"How should I know?" queried Philip evasively, but he found great difficulty in controlling himself sufficiently to preserve a respectful tone, and his hands were so tightly clenched that the nails actually cut the palms.

The sight of the couple opposite had brought vividly to his mind the night when he had overtaken and insulted Mollie upon the street and Faxon had come to the rescue. He had never seen either of them since, but he had felt deeply humiliated every time he had thought of the affair, and his old hatred of Clifford increased a hundred-fold in view of the indignity, merited though it was, that he had suffered at his hands.

"How handsome he is!" he mentally exclaimed as he studied those bright faces. "He is dressed in the very latest style, too, and I wonder where he gets the cash to sport a box? And Mollie—she is just too lovely for anything!" A shaft of pain went quivering through him from head to foot as he feasted his eyes upon her beauty.

"There is no one like her—and I love her in spite of everything," he went on, choking back something very like a sob, "but, of course, she must positively hate me now. What a fool I was not to have made sure that she was a stranger before I spoke to her that night!"

These were some of the thoughts which thronged Philip Wentworth's brain as he sat and watched the young couple, paying very little heed to the brilliant prima donna on the stage.

The footlights were bright enough to enable him to see their every movement—almost their every look, and he was quick to observe Faxon's tender glance and manner whenever he addressed his fair companion; while Mollie's varying color, the glad light in her eyes, whenever they met his, and the happy smiles that rippled over her lips were simply maddening to his jealous heart, and aroused a terrible fear within him.

"By Jove!" he said to himself, a cold chill creeping over him. "I believe, upon my soul that there is an understanding between them, and it would certainly cap the climax of the worst I ever dreamed if he should win her."

He could not tell whether Mollie was conscious of his and his mother's presence or not. Of course, he knew that the occupants of one box were just as conspicuous as those in another, and two or three times he had seen her lift her gold-mounted glass and sweep the house. But if she had seen them she gave no sign of the fact.

He wondered if she would preserve the strict letter of the sentence which she had pronounced upon him the last time they met, if he should happen to encounter her again, and he was soon to have that question settled beyond all doubt.

When the opera was over and while Mollie and Clifford were waiting at the entrance of the theater for their carriage, Philip and his mother came upon them suddenly.

Mrs. Temple, finished woman of the world though she was, was taken aback a trifle, and the warm color flushed to her face. Yet she greeted Mollie with something of her old-time cordiality, for the girl was so exquisitely lovely that her heart involuntarily warmed toward her.

Still there was a certain reserve in her manner which Mollie was quick to feel, although she responded with equal courtesy. She was keenly sensitive to the fact also that Mrs. Temple had felt no interest to seek her out, even though she had been in Washington many weeks; but, at the same time, she bore herself with a quiet dignity, which plainly betrayed that it would take more than the loss of property and fair-weather friends to crush either her spirit or self-respect. Moreover, when Phil advanced as his mother moved on she looked him full in the face and gave him the cut direct.

He was as white as his immaculate tie as he strode on, inwardly foaming with mingled rage and mortification. He knew now that she would adhere to what she had said. She had taken her stand and would maintain it, and he realized that he fully merited the punishment meted out to him. But to see her standing so proudly by the side of the man whom he both envied and hated, and leaning upon his arm with that air of confidence and content, was almost more than he could endure and retain his self-control.

Clifford had been a deeply interested observer of the little scene. Philip Wentworth and his mother had taken no more notice of him than if he had been simply one of the pillars which supported the arch above them.

Mollie also had observed Philip's slight and resented it, her hand involuntarily closing over Cliff's arm, and thus betraying her indignation. Possibly she might not have been quite so frigidly statuesque but for that.

"I did not care to introduce you to Mrs. Temple, dear," she explained to Clifford as soon as they were seated in their carriage. "I am afraid, though, it made it a trifle awkward for you; but I hope you do not mind."

"Not in the least, for, of course, it was her place to recognize me, since we had met before," Faxon smilingly returned.

"What!" cried Mollie, in resentful astonishment, "and she presumed to ignore you!"

"It is barely possible that she did not recognize me," the young man quietly replied, although he was quite sure to the contrary, for he had not been unobservant of the interest which the occupants of the box opposite his own had manifested in connection with Mollie and himself during the evening.

Then he told her something of the circumstances of his meeting with Mr. Temple on the campus at Cambridge four years previous.

"Well, it is the way of the world I suppose," said Mollie with a gentle sigh. "She used to appear to be very fond of me when we lived in New York, and we have exchanged visits many times, but she, like others, has given me a very cold shoulder since I became the child of misfortune, and what makes it seem worse in this case is the fact that Mr. Temple was responsible for the climax of my father's financial ruin."

She explained as well as she was able how this had happened, but the lovers soon drifted to more agreeable topics, and, caring little for either the smiles or frowns of the Temples, or of any one else, in fact, for they were far too deeply absorbed in their own new-found happiness—their world, for the present at least, was circumscribed by each other and their individual interests.

But for Mollie the tables were soon to be turned by a most unexpected and signal triumph—a triumph which caused many an old friend (?) a taste of bitter regret and mortification.

About a week later, on entering Monsieur Lamonti's office, she found her friend absent and a note lying on her desk. It proved to be from her employer, who mentioned that he was a trifle under the weather, but requested that she would go on with her work as far as she was able and then come to him for instructions.

She worked diligently until nearly noon, then, finding that she could do no more without explicit directions, she donned her hat and jacket and proceeded to Monsieur Lamonti's residence.

She found him ill in bed with a violent cold, and quite feverish, but he assured her that he would be all right in a day or two, when he would rejoin her at the office.

But the next morning a note from Nannette announced that he was worse, and as Mollie could not work alone, she went to the house, where she spent most of the day caring for Lucille, in order to allow the maid to give her undivided attention to her master. She left about five o'clock feeling greatly depressed, for Monsieur Lamonti had grown steadily worse, and the physician had told her that he was a very sick man, though he might pull through—a few hours would decide the matter.

Faxon spent the evening with her, and she was somewhat cheered by his presence. He left her at ten, but had not been gone fifteen minutes when Mollie heard a carriage dash up to the door and the next moment the bell clanged a vigorous and imperative peal.

She rushed to the door to find Monsieur Lamonti's footman standing without and looking pale and anxious.

"Oh! what is it?" she breathed in an almost inarticulate voice.

"The master is going, miss, for sure, and wants to see you," the man replied.

Mollie seized a long wrap and, while she was fastening it about her, explained to Eliza that she should be away all night. The next minute she was inside the carriage and being whirled at a rapid rate toward the Lamonti mansion.

She was comparatively calm when she arrived and followed the weeping Nannette to her master's room without a word, although she held the girl's hand in a clasp of sympathy on the way hither.

She was terribly shocked at the change in her kind friend which the last few hours had made, but she gave no outward sign of this except that she was very pale.

She found the physician, a trained nurse, and Monsieur Lamonti's lawyer present; but paying no heed to them she walked quietly to the bedside, where she sat down and took the hand which the man weakly extended to her. He was white as wax, but very calm, and smiled as his fingers closed over hers. He glanced up at his lawyer.

"Tell them to go out," he said, indicating the nurse, Nannette, and the physician, and as they passed from the room Mollie bent over her friend.

"You sent for me," she said gently, "what can I do for you?"

"Just this, mademoiselle," he replied gravely, but speaking with difficulty, "you have promised to care for my Lucille, to rear and educate her carefully, to be, in fact, a mother to her, as well as her legal guardian until she is of age or marries?"

"Yes," briefly but solemnly assented Mollie.

He thanked her with a little pressure of her hand.

"I have left explicit instructions," he resumed after a moment. "I have made all my wishes known in my will. Promise me that you will heed them all, that every one shall be carried out as I have directed," he concluded with impressive earnestness.

"I know you would not ask anything impossible of me, dear friend, so I cheerfully promise," Mollie unhesitatingly responded.

"Swear it, mademoiselle," said Monsieur Lamonti, glancing at the prayerbook which lay beside his pillow.

Mollie's lips trembled; the scene was becoming very trying to her.

"I will swear if monsieur wishes; but my word would be just as sacred to me as an oath," she said gently.

The man smiled up at her.

"That is enough—I am satisfied," he said, "and Mr. Ashley here already knows that I trust you implicitly, as I would my own daughter had she lived. Now, my child, let me add that you have been a great comfort to me; do not forget in the days to come that you made the last few months of a lonely, almost heart-broken man, much the brighter by your sweet presence, and the highest tribute I can show you is to trust you with my one earthly treasure—my Lucille. Now, I will not keep you, mademoiselle, adieu, and may the good God forever bless you and yours."

Mollie arose. She felt that she could scarcely have borne another word; her throat was almost convulsed, her eyes heavy with unshed tears, and yet she must not weep before him.

She could not speak, but she bent down and left a light caress upon the man's forehead, then swiftly but noiselessly passed from the room.

At the door she turned for one last look at her friend, to find his eyes fastened upon her, and in them a light of peace and gladness that she had never seen in them before. The memory of it never left her. That night Monsieur Lamonti passed away, and all Washington was grieved and shocked to read of it the following day.


A few days later another ripple of excitement was created among the elite of the nation's capital when the contents of Monsieur Lamonti's will were made known, and it was learned that a young and beautiful woman had been made the guardian of the distinguished gentleman's granddaughter and the executrix of the important testament. The document was simple and concise, but betrayed careful thought, and the fact that the testator knew exactly what he was about, for there was not a flaw in it that could possibly have been contested, had any one been disposed to do so.

It provided that all real estate, horses, carriages, plate, books, pictures, and choice bric-a-brac, together with certain stocks and bonds therein named, were to become the sole property of his beloved granddaughter, Lucille Gillette, to be held in trust for her, without bonds, until she arrived at the age of twenty-one or married, by Mademoiselle Marie Norton Heatherford, for whom the testator entertained the most profound esteem, and in whom he placed the utmost confidence, and who was hereby authorized and entreated to carry out his instructions to the letter, to wit: that she would legally adopt said Lucille Gillette as her own child, allowing her to retain her present name, and rear and educate her as tenderly and carefully as if she were indeed her own flesh and blood. Then there followed several minor bequests and requests, supplemented by something that was to make a radical change in Mollie's future.

In return for assuming said responsibilities, said Mademoiselle Heatherford would please accept the testator's deepest gratitude, together with, as a slight testimonial of the same, the residue of all that he possessed.

The will further provided that Mademoiselle Heatherford was to exercise perfect freedom in the choice of a place of residence; she was at liberty to occupy the present home of the youthful heiress, retaining the same number of servants, horses, and carriages, or dispose of the property and reside elsewhere, as she chose; the only stipulation being that she should always live in a style befitting the fortune and position of the testator's grandchild, all expenses to be paid out of the income of said grandchild, the bequest of Mademoiselle Heatherford being intended for her own private use and disposal.

She was advised to retain Monsieur Lamonti's present lawyer, as the testator regarded him a trustworthy and competent attorney; but she was not bound in any way to do so, if circumstances or her judgment should at any time dictate otherwise.

Of course, Mollie had expected something of this kind, in the event of Monsieur Lamonti's demise, for she had agreed to accept the charge of Lucille; but she was not prepared for, and was somewhat appalled by, the magnitude of the fortune which she would be required to manage in the future, and the absolute freedom from conditions and restrictions in which she found herself placed. Regarding the bequest to herself, she did not at first give much thought to it. Monsieur Lamonti, when talking the matter over with her, had assured her that she would receive ample remuneration, and she had inferred that she would, perhaps, be paid a salary—possibly somewhat increased—the same as she had been getting from him monthly for her services as private secretary.

His stating her remuneration in the blind way "as the residue of his property" she imagined might have been so expressed to save her feelings and prevent the curious public from knowing the amount she was to be paid for her services.

But a great surprise was in store for her. She was, of course obliged to consult with Monsieur Lamonti's lawyer, Mr. Ashley, in order to become familiar with all the details regarding her duties in connection with the property which she was to administer, and then she found that "the little Lucille" was a veritable little princess—that she was heiress to a most magnificent fortune.

"Oh, Mr. Ashley! I never can manage it. I am utterly incompetent!" she exclaimed in deep distress, when she began to comprehend something of the condition of affairs. The lawyer smiled.

"Of course, you are not expected to act alone; you must have help; your friend had no intention of having you harassed with pecuniary burdens. He left everything in excellent condition, and I assure you there will be no complications. I have everything in a nutshell, so to speak, though I confess it is a good big nut, and I am sure, from what Mr. Lamonti has told me regarding your business-capacity, that you will readily understand everything when I place my statements before you. But, Miss Heatherford, let us now talk about your own fortune. I shall want to know just what disposition to make of it."

"Fortune!" repeated Mollie, astonished. "I imagine you magnify Monsieur Lamonti's bequest to me; you dignify it by too high-sounding a name."

"He has left you exactly one-fourth of all that he possessed, Miss Heatherford," Mr. Ashley quietly returned.


At first the words did not seem to mean much to Mollie. Then, as her active mind began to grasp the situation, she started violently, flushed, then paled.

"Mr. Ashley! you do not mean that! I—it cannot be possible!" she gasped in breathless astonishment. "Why! that would be——"

"Yes, exactly; since you already know what Lucille's fortune amounts to, it is comparatively an easy matter to compute your own," smilingly returned her companion, and thoroughly enjoying the surprise of the beautiful girl, for whom, although he had only recently made her acquaintance, he was rapidly acquiring a great admiration and respect.

"But I never dreamed of anything like this!" Mollie panted, for she was actually quivering with excitement. "Oh! It does not seem right. I have done nothing to deserve so much. I cannot accept it."

"But, my dear Miss Heatherford, you have no alternative," Mr. Ashley quietly observed. "Monsieur Lamonti has decreed what shall be done with his property, and you gave him your solemn promise, in my presence, that you would attend to having his wishes carried out to the letter."

"Ah! that was why he sent for me the night he—went away; that was why he was so particular, so explicit; that is why he tried to make me 'swear' that I would do as he wished," said Mollie, still looking much disturbed. "Did you know at that time why he was so insistent?"

"Yes. I had been with him a portion of every day during his illness, helping him draw up the will," the gentleman replied. "You did not 'swear,' Miss Heatherford, but you told him that your word would be just as sacred to you as an oath."

"Yes, I did; but I did not once suspect that he would put me to such a test; and, truly, I feel as if I have no moral right to such an amount, independent of all my expenses, as the will states. Why! it will make me, also, a rich woman!" Mollie concluded, with a look of real trouble in her eyes.

"Yes, it is certainly a very handsome plum, my dear young lady," Mr. Ashley assented, with a satisfied nod of his head; "while as for the right of the matter, allow me to say I consider that you have every right to it. In the first place, you are wronging no one living by accepting it, for little Miss Lucille Gillette will have more money than she will ever know what to do with. I will also say that I think you would wrong your late friend, Monsieur Lamonti, by rejecting the provision he has made for you, for he gave me some of his reasons for wishing to settle this amount upon you. For one thing, you saved the life of his granddaughter, did you not?"

"I—suppose I did," Mollie admitted rather reluctantly, then added: "But any one else would have done the same thing under the same circumstances."

"That may be very true; at the same time, I cannot see that such a view of the case detracts in the least from the heroism of your act, or lessens one whit the obligation which Monsieur Lamonti would naturally feel," the lawyer argued. "Then I understand that you were in his employ for some time, and not only served him most faithfully, winning his highest esteem and entire confidence, but——"

"Well, but he paid me generously," Mollie hastily interposed, and feeling decidedly uncomfortable to have her services so overestimated.

"Pardon me, Miss Heatherford," Mr. Ashley laughingly retorted, "but I can't have my argument spoiled in that way. I was about to say that you also saved your friend a great loss, not only of money, but of valuables which no money could replace. Am I right?"

"Yes," faltered Mollie. Then she laughed out rather nervously, and continued: "I perceive, Mr. Ashley, that you are determined to corner me, and I think it might be well for me to withdraw from the argument."

"Then it will have to be a one-sided one for a while longer, as I perceive you are not yet quite reconciled," her companion returned, with a smile. Then he observed very gravely: "There are some things which money can never repay, Miss Heatherford, and I am sure that Monsieur Lamonti felt that when he was making his will. Leaving all that had occurred, for which he felt there was no adequate return, out of the question, the fact that you were willing to assume the care of his little one relieved his heart of an incalculable burden."

"But I love Lucille; she is a dear child, and it will be a pleasure to me to care for her," broke in Mollie earnestly.

"You are condemning yourself, my young friend," said the lawyer, with twinkling eyes, "for don't you see that money is no recompense for such an interest in any one; then you have pledged yourself to be a mother to her, according to your highest conception of the word; you are to watch and guard her development; you are to see that she is properly educated for the position she will occupy by and by; you have sacredly promised to do everything in your power to make her a true and noble woman, and thus you are accountable in a great measure for her future. If I might be allowed to judge—and I have dear children of my own—I should say that no pecuniary emolument could ever balance such responsibilities. Now, let me advise you not to feel burdened by the bequest of your good friend, but accept it in the same spirit in which it was bestowed; take up your new duties cheerfully, and try to be just as happy as possible in your future sphere—a sphere which, if I am not mistaken, you are eminently fitted to grace. Don't you think that such a course would better please Monsieur Lamonti, if he could speak, than to reject, from an oversensitiveness, what I know he must have regarded as a small return for what he owed you in the past and all that he has asked of you for the future?"

Mollie was silent for a few minutes, while she gravely considered what he had said, and tried to realize how she herself would have felt if the positions had been reversed. At length she looked up with clear eyes and her own sunny smile.

"You are right, Mr. Ashley," she said, "you have made me see things in a different light, and yet I think it will take me some time to get over the feeling, in view of all the wealth that has come upon me, like an avalanche, to manage, that I have an embarrassment of riches."

"Do not be troubled," the gentleman kindly returned, "for if affairs are managed in the future as they have been in the past—I mean according to Monsieur Lamonti's system—you will find that everything will move along very smoothly."

"You are surely very comforting," Mollie observed, her heart beginning to grow light once more. "Of course, you must be my counselor, and I trust you will not mind if I come to you with all my troubles, as freely as if I were your own daughter, at least until I become accustomed to my new duties."

And the gentleman said he should be very happy to have her honor him with her confidence to such an extent.

In spite of the blind way in which Monsieur Lamonti had worded his bequest to Mollie, it became noised abroad that the future guardian of the youthful heiress had herself been very handsomely dowered, and immediately all Washington became intensely interested in her. The romantic incidents connected with the saving of the child's life and the capturing of the midnight burglar—for that, also, had been whispered about—the beauty and refinement of Miss Heatherford, whom numberless people now began to remember as a previous New York belle, became, for the time, the talk of society, and much interest and curiosity were manifested regarding her plans for the future.

Would she remain in Washington and maintain the fine establishment of the late millionaire, or would she retire to some place where she would not be so closely watched during the minority and educating of her young charge? Would she enter society again, after a proper season of seclusion out of respect to Monsieur Lamonti, entertain and be entertained, and finally be won by some aspiring young man of the world?

Of course, Mollie's early life and training had well fitted her to preside in the palatial home of Lucille, and to shine among the most distinguished people of Washington, or, indeed, of any city; and, although she did not give much thought to society just now, there was much to induce her to remain where she was.

She believed that her friend would prefer her to do so, at least for the present, and preserve his home just as he had left it, that Lucille might not too soon forget him; while, as she thought the matter over in all its bearings, it seemed almost like sacrilege to her to displace the beautiful furnishings and many treasures of art which had been so carefully purchased and arranged under his supervision; the servants were all well trained and trustworthy, and it would have entailed an infinite amount of perplexity and labor to make any change, and even though she felt that the responsibility of keeping up such an extensive establishment would be very great, she finally decided it was the right thing for her to do. Moreover, and it was the greatest inducement of all, Cliff was to remain indefinitely in Washington, and she felt that she could not be separated from him.

So her modest little home, in the humble street where they had lived for nearly two years, was broken up. Mr. Heatherford was removed to the pleasantest suite of rooms in the Lamonti residence, and the faithful Eliza was retained to act solely as his nurse and attendant.

"Poor, dear papa!" Mollie sighed as she bent fondly over him, after he was comfortably settled in a sunny south window of his luxurious apartment, "if you could only realize the good fortune that has come to us, after our battle with poverty, I should be perfectly happy."

When Faxon first learned of the great change that had come into Mollie's life so unexpectedly he looked anything but pleased.

"So, dear, you now belong to another sphere," he observed, with a quickly repressed sigh, "or, perhaps, I should have said you have been restored to your proper sphere."

"Cliff," said Mollie reprovingly, but with a light on her face which expressed far more than her words, "I belong alone to you—your sphere will always be mine, unless—oh, you grand, aspiring fellow!—I am unable to keep up with you mentally as you climb the ladder of fame."

The young man's arms closed around her in a fond embrace, but a sudden contraction in his throat would not admit of his speaking for the moment. This little revelation of her great and absorbing love for him moved him deeply. Mollie observed it, and, flashing a sly, mischievous glance into his face, she demurely remarked:

"I'm very sorry, Cliff, if you are going to feel burdened to take me with the appendage that has been thrust upon me. Of course, you know I would rather have you than the fortune—love in the proverbial cottage with you than the whole world without you—but since I cannot get rid of the fortune, I don't see but that you will have to take me just as I am, be it for 'better or worse.'"

"Mollie! Mollie!" murmured Faxon, in a voice that almost made her weep—it was so intense from the emotion which nearly mastered him—"what a rare, sweet woman you are!"

He was silent for a moment, and then he resumed with more self-control.

"I dared to love you when you were 'Miss Heatherford the heiress,' but I should not have presumed to try to win you while you were rich and I was poor. I have been so glad and proud to have won you while we were on the same plane socially, and to feel that we love each other for just what we are. I have exulted in the thought that it would be my privilege to work for you, and, perchance, restore you to the position you once occupied; but since I am to be denied that I can only bend all my energies toward making my name one that you will be proud to bear by and by."

"I am already proud of it, dear," said Mollie, with beaming eyes, "but I shall be even more so when it becomes my own."

Clifford's answer to this loving tribute need not be recorded, but, judging from the sweet laugh which rippled over Mollie's lips, it was entirely satisfactory.


Immediately after Mr. Heatherford's removal to the Lamonti mansion, Mollie resolved to make one more desperate effort for his recovery and to spare no expense to put him under the most noted specialists for diseases of the brain that could be secured. After making diligent inquiries, she decided to send for Doctor ——, of New York, to come to Washington and diagnose her father's case. The great man came, but, after a careful and protracted examination, pronounced the fatal verdict, which she so dreaded to hear.

"Miss Heatherford, it pains me deeply to have to tell you that there is not the slightest ray of hope, as far as I can see," he said, and then lapsed into a learned description of the patient's condition, describing the state of his brain, the probable progress of the disease, and its inevitable termination, while Mollie felt as if she would herself become distracted before he concluded his terrible picture.

"Oh!" she cried at last, "then he must live on like this indefinitely, growing gradually more and more helpless! He is never to know anything more of life, never even give me, his only child, one fond word or look of recognition! How can I bear it?"

"My dear young lady, it is hard, I know," said the physician kindly, and deeply touched by the tearless grief, "and were it in my power to give you the least encouragement, I should be more than glad to do so. I have given you my opinion of the case as it appears to me," he went on after a moment of deep thought, "but if it would comfort you any to make one more trial, I will suggest that a noted Paris specialist, who is now in this country, be called to examine Mr. Heatherford. There is no higher authority in the world that I know of."

Mollie grasped eagerly at this straw, and the highest authority in the world, the great Paris doctor, was sent for at once. He came and went; but he left behind him only bitter disappointment and a sentence of doom.

Poor Mollie, who had hoped against hope, was utterly prostrated for a time in view of this ultimatum. She shut herself into her room to meet this terrible blow and fight her battle out where no eye could witness her anguish.

The fate to which her father had been doomed by the verdict of the doctors seemed absolutely unbearable, and she cried aloud in her anguish that she would not submit to it.

She was nearly worn out with this conflict by luncheon-time, two hours and more after the departure of the Paris authority, and was only able to drink a cup of tea when her maid brought a temptingly arranged tray to her; but she felt that she could not live through the afternoon, left alone with her own thoughts, and finally, ringing for Nannette, she ordered her to make Lucille ready for a drive, and half an hour later found them rolling out toward the Washington monument. They drove for nearly two hours, and then Mollie ordered the coachman to turn toward home.

As the carriage was passing through Fourteenth Street something caught Mollie's eye—something which made her sit suddenly erect, while a look of eager interest swept over her pale, lovely face. The object which had attracted her attention was a very modest sign hanging in a window.

It read thus: "John L. Freeman, Christian Science Healer," and into the girl's mind flashed the thought, accompanied by a wild hope: "Perhaps that man can help my father—I have heard that Christian Scientists do wonderful things."

Almost before she was aware of what she was doing, she had ordered the driver to stop, when, taking Lucille by the hand, she alighted, mounted the steps, and rang the bell of the house where Mr. Freeman resided.

Then, as the tinkle of the bell came to her ears, she suddenly began to feel ashamed of her errand, for she had always been both skeptical and intolerant of all such "metaphysical nonsense," as she had termed it.

She was half-tempted to beat a hasty retreat, and perhaps would have done so if the door had not been opened at that instant by a sweet, happy-looking girl, whose winning smile at once won her confidence and inspired her with fresh hope.

"Can I see Mr. Freeman?" she briefly inquired.

"I think so; come in, please," replied the girl, and, turning, she led the way into a pleasant room, where a gentleman of perhaps forty years was sitting.

He arose and greeted Mollie with easy courtesy, his dark eyes searching her face with a kind but penetrating look, and instantly a strange feeling of peace fell upon her aching, rebellious heart. She took the chair he offered her, and then opened her heart to him, telling him all her trouble and sorrow—of her father's long illness, of the many weary months of anxious care and hopeless seeking after help from various sources, and of her last despairing efforts and their result. The gentleman did not once interrupt her, but sat with downcast eyes and attentive mien until she concluded, when she tremulously inquired:

"Can you help him—is there any hope, do you think?"

"My dear child, there is every hope," her companion confidently replied. "God is always a help in time of trouble."

"God!" repeated Mollie, with a bitter inflection. "I have begun to believe there is no God."

The gentleman bent a pitiful glance upon her.

"I am sure that you will never say that again," he replied after a moment of silence.

Then he asked her a few questions, after which he remarked that he would take the case if she desired, and would visit her father later in the day.

Mollie arose, a peculiar feeling of restfulness and hope having succeeded her previous weariness and despair; and, opening her purse, inquired what she should pay for the consultation.

"Nothing for our little talk, Miss Heatherford," said Mr. Freeman, with a quiet smile; "we are always glad to have people come to us when in trouble. Scientists, when they take patients, usually treat them by the week, the sum being uniform, unless frequent visits are required; of course, you understand that no medicines—no remedies of any kind—are to be used."

He then mentioned the amount for a week's treatment, and which seemed to the wondering girl exceedingly paltry; but she paid it, and then went away with that same strange, sweet peace still pervading her.

A week passed, and while there was no apparent change in Mr. Heatherford's mental condition, he was not nearly as restless as he had been, and slept quietly the whole night through, a thing he had not done for months.

The second week he began to take more nourishment. At the end of a month his face began to have some color, and Eliza declared that he was actually gaining flesh, while now and then they found him looking about the room, vacantly, to be sure, and yet with an air as if a dawning consciousness was trying to assert itself.

Mollie jealously watched every change, and each time that Mr. Freeman came she plied him with questions, eagerly seeking to learn something of the great principle that was governing her dear father's condition.

She read with avidity the books which the gentleman loaned her, and which taught her much, and gradually a joyous hope—an abiding confidence, rather—took possession of her, assuring her that her loved one would ere long be well again.

At the expiration of two months he had once spoken her name, and had began to try to use his hands to help himself; and finally there came a day when he actually stood upon his feet, with Eliza's strong arms around him to support him.

"Bress de Lord! I tole yo' to trust de Lord, honey," the woman exclaimed, her black face radiant with joy on this happy occasion.

"I know you did, Eliza; and at last I believe I am beginning to understand what and where God is," Mollie reverently replied, her golden lashes laden with tears of joy.

Early in May, when the weather began to be oppressive, she closed the house in Washington and took her family to the beautiful villa—one of Lucille's many possessions—at Cape May, where they remained all summer—five delightful, happy months, for the invalid improved with every day.

Faxon also spent his vacation—the month of August—there, each morning finding him early at the villa, where he and his betrothed vied with each other in making the time pass pleasantly for Mr. Heatherford, whose mind was fast becoming as clear and active as in the vigorous days of his youth.

He was still somewhat hampered physically, as the obstinate enemy, paralysis, had not been wholly conquered, although it was rapidly disappearing; but there was not a happier nor more grateful family in existence than Mollie's household, all of whom felt as if the dead had been restored to life.

Faxon returned to Washington the first of September, and a month later the Lamonti house was once more opened, and the family settled for the winter.

Mr. Heatherford was now practically well, and "prepared," he said, "to begin life over again."

Mollie, however, tried to persuade him not to think of business for a long while yet; there was no need, she asserted, for her income was ample for their every want. But Mr. Heatherford was eager to test his recovered powers, particularly as Mr. Freeman encouraged him to do so, and, having been educated for the bar, he soon made arrangements to go into business with an established firm, one of the partners proving to be an old-time friend who knew something of the reputation which Mr. Heatherford had borne during his more prosperous days; and now the future began to look very bright to him once more.

As the season advanced and distinguished people began to flock to the capital, he met many a former acquaintance, and thus it came about that both Mollie and her father were gradually drawn into society again.

When Mollie began to accept these courtesies and take her place once more in social life, she insisted that her engagement should be publicly announced, and so, of course, Clifford was always thereafter included in all invitations.

He was looking forward to a much brighter prospect in life after the first of January than he had dared to anticipate for himself thus early in his career, and it was arranged that his marriage should occur as soon as he was well settled in his new enterprise; meantime, as he was becoming quite a favorite in social circles, the young couple gave themselves up to the enjoyment of the present.

One evening, at a brilliant reception given by a distinguished senator, Mr. Heatherford and Mollie unexpectedly encountered Mr. and Mrs. Temple and Philip Wentworth, the family having come to Washington again for the winter. Mr. Temple had again become interested in politics during the last year or two, and had been elected a member of the House of Representatives, and was ambitious for still higher honors.

The meeting between Mr. Heatherford and Mr. Temple was somewhat startling to both gentlemen, especially so to the latter, since he believed the former to be still a hopeless paralytic, if, indeed, he were yet on the earth. They met in the great hall of the mansion where they were guests.

A slight smile of contempt flitted over Mr. Heatherford's face as he said: "Ah! Temple; so we meet again!"

"My God! Heatherford!" gasped the man who had so bitterly wronged him under the guise of friendship; and he was colorless even to his lips.

"Yes; you were not expecting to meet me again—here," returned Mr. Heatherford.

"It—it is a miracle! Who was your doctor?" panted the false friend, scarce knowing what he said.

"God," briefly but reverently responded Heatherford. Then, with a courtly but distant bow, he added: "Excuse me; I am looking for my daughter."

He passed on, leaving the other still staring blankly after him, and actually trembling, as if he had suddenly encountered a ghost of the past—as, indeed, he had.

Later in the evening Mollie found herself standing almost side by side with Philip Wentworth. She was richly and beautifully clad. Her dress was a gauzelike material of black, made over a very light-gray satin that gleamed like silver underneath. The trimmings were all of silver, and a diamond spray, with a silver aigrette, gleamed in her hair.

The corsage of her robe was cut modestly low, and the full, puffed sleeves were short, thus revealing her perfect arms and neck, which were like chiseled marble. It was a strikingly effective costume, and just suited her, for it threw out the fairness of her faultless complexion to great advantage.

She gave a slight start as she caught Philip's voice and realized his proximity, but did not glance at him. She turned slightly away, and was about to address a lady whom she knew; but before she could do so, Philip stepped directly in front of her, determined that he would not be ignored.

"You have told me never to speak to you again—that we are strangers," he began in a low tone that was husky with emotion; "cannot you forgive and forget? I have suffered bitterly for my folly of that night—I have repented in sackcloth and ashes."

Not a muscle of Mollie's face moved during his speech. She stood and looked like a statue—beautiful as a young goddess—but cold as snow, and a feeling of bitter remorse—of utter despair crept over him as he realized how he had lowered himself in her estimation and lost all chance of ever winning her.

Since learning of Mr. Lamonti's will and that Mollie had now an independent fortune, and would once more take an enviable position in society, he had cursed himself a thousand times for his past folly. While he was speaking Mollie was wondering how she could escape him without replying to him and without making herself conspicuous.

There was an awkward pause for a moment after he concluded; then Mollie's quick ear caught the voice of her hostess, who was just behind her, remarking:

"No, I have not seen Mr. Wentworth since he first entered the room; but I am sure he is still here."

Mollie turned gracefully toward the speaker, thus revealing Philip to her.

"You were inquiring for Mr. Wentworth, Mrs. Blackman," she observed, with a charming smile. "Behold him just at hand!"

Then, with a bow to the lady, she slipped away, leaving Philip in a white heat of rage and disappointment over having failed to win even a glance of recognition from her.

But Mollie escaped Philip only to run almost into the arms of Mrs. Temple, who also had already arrived at the conclusion that the girl's acquaintance was worth cultivating again. Mollie Heatherford, with a handsome fortune in her own right, was an entirely different person from the poverty-stricken private secretary of a year ago. She extended her hand with a beaming smile, and greeted her with much of her former maternal fondness.

Mollie's quiet "good evening, Mrs. Temple," together with the ceremonious touch of her finger-tips, was something of a facer; but the shrewd woman of the world was not one to easily relinquish a project, and she continued in her most cordial tone:

"Really, Mollie, it seems like old times to meet you in society again; and what a romantic experience you have had! I assure you, no one could be more delighted than we were when we learned of your good fortune. Are you back in the Lamonti house again this season?"

"Yes," Mollie briefly replied.

"I understand that it is very elegant—that Mr. Lamonti was exceedingly refined in his tastes, and made his home a perfect gem," Mrs. Temple continued, and determined to trap Mollie into asking her to call if it were possible.

"Yes," the fair girl again composedly replied, "Monsieur Lamonti spared no expense to make his home attractive, and took great pride and pleasure in gathering treasures from all parts of the world to beautify it."

"I have been told that many of the paintings are from the hands of the best masters," pursued her inquisitor.

"That is true."

"Do you ever entertain as you used to in the old days in New York, Mollie?"

"We have not as yet; it is quite early in the season, you know," said Mollie, and barely able to suppress a smile as she saw the drift of these questions; "but papa and I were talking the matter over recently, and I think we may have a regular reception evening later on."

"Ah!" exclaimed Mrs. Temple eagerly; "then you will be well launched upon the sea of Washington society, and if at any time you should feel the need of some one to matronize your affairs, you will know where to come, dear," she concluded, with her most affable smile.

"Thank you, Mrs. Temple."

"And I wish you would drop in upon us occasionally," the lady went on appealingly, but flushing slightly over the failure of her scheme. "We were all very fond of you always, Mollie, and Minnie would be delighted to see her old friend."

"Yes, Minnie and I were close friends; give my love to the dear child," Mollie replied, with more of heartiness than she had yet expressed. Then, catching sight of Mr. Heatherford, she added: "Excuse me, but I see papa looking for me. Good-night, Mrs. Temple."

And with a graceful inclination of her bright head she glided away. Mrs. Temple's face was a study as she watched the slight, perfect figure move down the room. She had been utterly baffled, and she was filled with mingled disappointment and mortification.

"Mollie is very shrewd, with all her sweetness," she muttered, with a frown; "she can hold her own anywhere, and we have all made a grand mistake."


"Waal, squire, I reckon everything is done now to the turn of the key. I've packed a dozen shirts, and, if I do say it, no Chang Wang could have put a better shine on 'em than I've given 'em. There's two dozen pocket-handkerchiefs, as white as snow; collars and cuffs to last a month, if you're careful; and everything else all in shipshape. Now I'll have lunch for you in about ten minutes, and that'll give you plenty of time to catch the train."

So spoke Maria Kimberly, as she stood in the doorway leading from the kitchen into the dining-room, where Squire Talford was sitting at his desk filling out some checks to settle his monthly bills. He was on the point of starting for Washington, whither he was going on business connected with some patents in which he had recently become interested, and which would keep him away from home for about six weeks or two months.

"All right, Maria. I'm about through; but what are you going to do with yourself while I'm gone?" the man responded, but without looking up from his employment.

"Oh, I'll take good care o' things, and I'll find enough to do, never you fear," said the woman, with a peculiar glitter in her eyes. "I ain't cleaned house yet; I've put it off, waitin' for you to git away, so's I could have full swing. I'll see that Pat and the boy don't do no loafin'; and you needn't give yourself a mite of oneasiness—things'll go on just as straight if you was goin' to be here yourself."

The squire knew this without being told, for Maria was an excellent manager, an efficient housekeeper, and, barring the fact that she had a sharp tongue, and was rather more independent than was sometimes quite agreeable, no one could have suited him better as a superintendent of affairs, both on the farm and in the house.

She had been in his family for many years, and having been thoroughly trained by his wife in every department of domestic life and economy, while being honest and faithful as the day is long in the performance of every duty, she was entirely competent to assume the management as she had done upon Mrs. Talford's death, and everything had gone on like clockwork from that day.

Squire Talford had never manifested any desire to marry again. Maria asserted that he was "too tight" to be willing to increase his expenses in any such way; for, although he always wanted the nicest of everything for himself, he used to grumble over the expense of clothing his wife.

He was very proud of his fine estate—his handsome mansion and broad acres, and kept them in first-class order; but, while he wanted every comfort for himself, he had dispensed with some luxuries and style after Mrs. Talford's demise, was close and mean with his help, and seemed to think of nothing save accumulating money.

"Though goodness knows what'll ever become of it when he's gone, for he ain't a kindred soul to leave it to, as far as I know," Mrs. Kimberly would sometimes remark in a confidential manner to her friends.

"Yes, I reckon I can trust you to keep a sharp eye out while I'm gone," the squire returned to Maria's observation, "though I'm not so sure about the loafing—you're a little inclined to be too soft-hearted with the boys. I want to find that pile of wood all sawed, split, and housed when I get back."

Maria sniffed audibly as she glanced through a window at the pile of wood referred to, and which comprised a good many cords of solid timber, and she had no idea of pushing "the boys" beyond a certain limit.

"Waal, maybe you will, and maybe you won't," she returned after a moment, with an independent toss of her head. "It'll depend a good deal on what kind o' weather we have. I suppose you know," she continued, with a sudden softening of her face and tone, "that Cliff is in Washington. I hear he's got a fine position, too. Do you imagine you'll feel any interest to look him up?"

"Not the slightest, Maria," returned Squire Talford, in a cold tone, and with a sudden stiffening of his angular figure. "Clifford Faxon is nothing to me, and I shall not concern myself in the least to learn anything about his movements."

"Oh!" returned his companion, with a peculiar inflection, while she screwed her lips into a resentful pucker, "I didn't know but you'd feel a kind o' curiosity to find out if he's workin' his way along up toward the top o' the heap in Washington, same's he did at college. You know you didn't prophecy anything very flatterin' to him when he started out for himself, but he got there, all the same."

The squire flushed hotly at this reminder.

"I think you'd better hurry up lunch, Maria," was all the reply he deigned her, and the woman vanished, but chuckling to herself as she went:

"He pretends he ain't curious, but he is, all the same, and I'd be willin' to bet my new black silk—which I ain't had on since that day at Cambridge, I'm goin' to keep it for Cliff's wedding—that he will find out about the boy," she muttered to herself, while dishing up the tempting meal which she had prepared for the master of the house.

An hour later Squire Talford was en route for New York, and Maria was left mistress of the field.

Early next morning she vigorously set about preparations for the semi-annual house-cleaning, although, to all appearance, the mansion was immaculate from garret to cellar. Nevertheless, twice every year every room was religiously upset, cleaned, and renovated.

She invariably began in the attic and went down in the most methodical manner, just as her mistress had done every year of her married life. Every box, drawer, and trunk—excepting a couple which the squire never allowed any one to touch—had to be overhauled, their contents thoroughly brushed and shaken, for fear of moths, and every nook and corner swept and scrubbed.

For some reason Maria experienced a greater sense of freedom to-day than she had ever felt before; doubtless it was because of the squire's absence, for there would be no fear of disturbing him with the noise overhead, and having no regular dinner to get, there would be nothing to interrupt operations.

She always said that the worst was over when she got through with the attic, and late in the afternoon, when she cast a satisfied glance around the clean, orderly, sweet-smelling room, every beam and rafter of which had undergone vigorous treatment, a sigh of content escaped her.

"You can't put your finger on a speck o' dust anywhere," she soliloquized, "and everything is in shipshape. It's a good job done, too, and I'm not sorry it's over."

She gathered up her brushes, pail, and mop and turned to leave the place, when her glance fell upon a small hair trunk which she had dragged out into the hall at the head of the stairs, and had neglected to replace in its accustomed corner. It was one of those which the squire never allowed to be opened and overhauled.

"I s'h'd jest like to know what's in the old thing," Maria remarked as she sat down her utensils and picked it up in her strong arms. "It looks's if it had been made in the year one, and it's always locked tighter'n a drum—goodness! goodness me!"

The latter explosive ejaculations were occasioned by an unlucky slip of the antiquated receptacle, then a resounding crash upon the floor, when the hinges snapped, the cover flew off, and a promiscuous assortment of things were scattered in every direction in the attic, which but a moment previous had presented such an orderly appearance.

Maria stood for a moment looking ruefully upon the havoc she had made, her arms akimbo, her temper ruffled in view of the work of gathering up the débris before her.

"Waal," she at length observed, with a sigh of resignation, "I guess I'm likely to find out what was in it, after all, though"—with a contemptuous sniff—"I don't imagine I'm going to be very much entertained by the operation."

The trunk had been packed full of papers—deeds, letters, bills, etc., which had been tied up in separate bundles, but the strings having given way in the force of the fall, they now lay in confused heaps and irretrievably mixed, as far as Maria was concerned.

She sat down upon the floor and began to gather them up, restoring them in as orderly a manner as possible to the trunk. Among other things she came upon a box which had slid a little to one side of the heap. This, also, had burst open, and its contents were partially spilled out. Reaching for it, she drew it toward her, and was attracted by a pungent odor which clung to it.

It was made from some sweet-smelling, fine-grained wood, and the corners were ornamented with heavily wrought silver, although the metal was badly tarnished from having lain so long unused. There were numerous letters in it, some being addressed in a woman's delicate handwriting and others in a bold, clear, masculine chirography.

"Miss Belle Abbott," Maria read from one of the envelopes addressed in the bold hand.

Then she gave a violent start.

"Goodness—gracious! How came this here?" she ejaculated. "Belle Abbott! Why, that was Cliff's mother's name afore she was married. But I wonder who W. F. T. Wilton was?" she continued as she closely inspected the handwriting on another envelope. "I'm sure Mis' Faxon must have writ these letters, for the writin' looks just like what I've seen in some of Cliff's books that he told me she gave him. But it beats me to know how these things ever got into Squire Talford's old trunk, 'less Mis' Faxon gave them to him to keep for the boy, 'n' if she did he'd oughter had 'em long ago. What's this, I wonder?"

"This" comprised two pieces of parchment attached to each other by a pin. They were folded long and narrow, like legal documents, and were also bound about with a narrow blue ribbon.

With firmly compressed lips and a flushed face, Maria sat regarding them intently, and as if deliberating a point within herself for a few moments.

"I'm going to know," she said at last, in tones of stern decision, and, suiting the action to the words, she deliberately removed the ribbon and pin, unfolded one of the papers, and began to read it with eager interest.

Every bit of color faded out of her face by the time she reached the bottom of the sheet, and with staring eyes and bated breath she seized its mate and proceeded to read that.

"Good land!" she ejaculated at length. "Now I understand some things that have always puzzled me afore! So this is Belle Atwood's marriage-bill, and this tells about Cliff's baptism! And Faxon isn't his last name, either!" she went on, with a gasp of excitement. "It is—he is—why, good Lord!—now I know why Squire Talford has always hated him so; though I never did take much stock in that story I heard when I first came here—that he was in love with her once, and she jilted him for some one else."

She sat thinking deeply for some time, a look of perplexity on her plain, honest face.

"There's some things I can't quite see through, after all," she resumed after a time; "if what I suspect is true—and there ain't much doubt about it—why on earth did Mis' Faxon ever bind that boy to the squire? Aha!" a flash of intelligence sweeping over her face, "I begin to see—it was a trick of his. He is not a man that ever forgives a wrong—he hated her and the boy's father and the boy himself, because of what they'd done. He meant to crush 'em all, and so he pretended to befriend Mis' Faxon—wormed himself into her confidence, so got her to sign them bond papers, and then, when she died, stole this box, so the boy could never find out who he really is. I remember now that she sent for him the night she died. I'll bet he stole these papers at that time. Oh! he's a tricky one, Squire Talford is! He thought he'd fixed things so that nobody'd ever find out the truth; but it's a long lane that hasn't any turn in it, and I'm goin' to prove it to you, you miserly, gray-headed, hard-hearted old rascal!"

And Mrs. Kimberly emphasized her words by angrily shaking the papers in her hand at the demolished old trunk, in lieu of the man himself, until they rattled noisily.


"Humph!" Maria resumed after some minutes, and, arousing herself from another fit of musing into which she had fallen, "I always thought there was a skeleton hid in this old hair trunk, and now I've unearthed it. 'Murder will out,' they say, and I guess the Lord thought He'd make me His instrument to see justice done that boy. He just sent me up here to-day to smash the thing, and now I s'pose I've got to finish the business up. I'm going to take charge of these papers and see that Cliff gets them."

She began to replace them and the letters in the box as she spoke, with a set face and determined air.

"Of course, I shall tell the squire just how I happened to find 'em," she went on. "I ain't one to hide anything. I'll just face him and out with the whole matter, but they ain't never goin' back into his possession again if I lose my place for it!" She handled the letters reverently as she laid them, one by one, into their receptacle, her face softening involuntarily.

"Of course, these letters will tell Cliff a lot that I may never know anything about, and what is none o' my business," she mused, but with a yearning curiosity to know their contents, nevertheless. "I only hope, if the squire has been trying to cheat him out o' anything that belongs to him, they'll help to set him right."

Having restored all that she thought belonged there to the box, she set it one side, then finished packing the trunk, replaced the cover, and, rising, drew it to the corner where it was accustomed to stand.

Then taking the exhumed "skeleton" under her arm she marched straight down to her own room, where she locked it safely away in her own trunk and hid the key.

She was quite upset by the exciting discovery of the afternoon, and for the first time in many years lay awake until after midnight nervously conning the matter over in her mind, and trying to decide just what she ought to do about it. It proved to be a perplexing question, and she chewed the cud of indecision industriously for the next two weeks, while she scrubbed and cleaned, took up and put down carpets, washed, ironed, and hung curtains, and performed the manifold duties that throng upon the busy matron during house-cleaning time.

Half a dozen times she began a letter to Cliff asking him to come to Cedar Hill, as she had something important to tell him, but she tore each one up, her sense of loyalty to the squire making her feel that she ought to tell him of her discovery first; while, too, she doubted the wisdom of asking Cliff to leave his business and be at the expense of such a journey. Once she thought she would go to a lawyer and tell him the whole story, for she had a suspicion that there might be some property coming to Cliff if his identity could be proven. But such a measure did not quite commend itself to her, for she thought he might not care to have another party let into the secrets of his origin and his mother's domestic troubles, while she also reasoned that it would be only fair to give the squire a chance to voluntarily right the wrong he had committed.

The two weeks lengthened into a month, and she was no nearer a decision than on the day of her discovery.

Meantime, however, Providence was opening the way for her to be relieved of the burden which she felt was fast becoming too heavy to be borne.

Squire Talford, on arriving in Washington, took a room in a boarding-house in a quiet street. He did not like hotel-life for numerous reasons, the chief one being that he was too economically inclined to spend his money in that way, while he also objected to the constant change, rush, and excitement of such a place.

Now, it happened, strangely enough, that Clifford had a room in a house adjoining Squire Talford's boarding-place, although he took his meals farther down on the same street.

Thus it naturally came about that the whilom bound boy and his former master ran up against each other only a few days after the arrival of the latter in the nation's capital. The encounter occurred on Sunday, about the middle of the afternoon, when Clifford, with a red moss-rosebud on his coat, started forth for the Lamonti mansion, where he was to dine with the Heatherfords.

The squire had been out to post some letters at the nearest box, and was returning to his boarding-place when the two met on a corner.

Clifford flushed slightly, and was greatly surprised to see the man so far from home, but with the politeness which always characterized him, lifted his hat and cordially saluted him. The man shot a frowning glance at him and passed on without a word, as if he had been a total stranger to him. Possibly, if Clifford had been shabbily clad and had not looked so prosperous, happy, and handsome, he might not have been quite so churlish; but it made him secretly furious to see him clothed better than himself, a fact which plainly indicated to him that he was still making his way steadily upward, while his buoyant air and alert, energetic step told of perfect health and a heart at peace with the world.

The slight stung Clifford for the instant, but, replacing his hat and straightening himself with an air of conscious superiority, he went on his way, and half an hour later had forgotten the existence of the man.

He had far more interesting things to think about just then, for he and Mollie were laying their plans for the most important event of their lives—their marriage, which it had been decided should take place some time during the latter part of January.

Several times during the next three weeks Clifford met the squire, and, out of respect for his years, invariably saluted him in a gentlemanly manner, but always with the same result—the man as often passed him with a cold stare and without moving a muscle of his hard, forbidding face.

"I wonder why he has always hated me so?" Clifford mused upon one of these occasions. "I served him faithfully during the four years that I lived with him—my conscience is clear of ever having once wilfully disobeyed him or neglected my work. I cannot understand how one human being can entertain such an unreasonable grudge against another. I am sure I have no desire to exchange places with him, rich as he is, for I think it must be very uncomfortable to hate one as he seems to me. I wish Mollie could meet him—she reads faces like books, and I really would like to know what her analysis of his character would be."

He had his wish granted not very long afterward. Squire Talford stepped into a stationery-store one afternoon on his way home to dinner, to lay in a fresh supply of paper and envelopes. He had observed before entering that a very handsome equipage was standing before the door, for being fond of fine horses, and a good judge of them, as well, he never passed them unnoticed.

He even turned to take a second look out of the window of the store before making his purchase, and found himself wondering who could be the fortunate owner of the blooded pair, while his appreciative eyes also took in the elegant appointments of the carriage and harness and the liveried coachman and footman.

Presently he turned to the counter, and found himself standing beside a beautiful girl, very richly attired. She was sitting on a stool, evidently waiting for something, and after giving his own order, Squire Talford's glance wandered again to the vision of loveliness beside him, noting her delicate, high-bred features, her wonderfully blue eyes, and hair of shining gold.

A clerk came to her after a moment or two and apologized for the necessity of keeping her waiting still longer—something seemed to have gone wrong with the order she had given.

"Never mind," said Mollie—for it was she—with the rarest of smiles and in sweetest tones. "I am not in any hurry, and do not mind waiting in the least."

"Humph" grunted the squire to himself, as he took his package and left the place.

The little incident had somehow jarred upon him and set him thinking, for he well knew that if he had been kept waiting like that, whether he had been in a hurry or not, he would have fretted and fumed and taken pains to make the clerk as uncomfortable as possible; but the lovely girl had unconsciously given him a lesson in true courtesy and charity.

He could not resist the temptation to pause on the sidewalk as he went out and take another look at the beautiful horses which he had previously admired.

"A fine pair you have there," he observed to the coachman.

"Yes, sir," replied the man, but looking neither to the right nor left, nor unbending from his stiff, upright position a hairsbreadth.


"Yes, sir," with the same rigidity as before.

"How old are they?"

"Six years, or thereabouts."

The squire eyed them yearningly a moment, then, turning, was about to proceed on his way when a passer-by jostled him, and, as he was just on the edge of the curb, caused him to lose his balance, when he nearly fell inside the carriage, which was a victoria.

He recovered himself almost immediately, however, and, after brushing the dust from his clothing, passed on, but grumbling over the rudeness and carelessness of him who had caused his discomfort.

Three minutes later Mollie emerged from the store, stepped into her carriage, and gave the order to be driven "home."

As the vehicle drew up before her door and she was about to alight, her foot came in contact with some object upon the floor. Stooping to ascertain what it was, she was greatly surprised to find a gentleman's wallet lying upon the mat just inside the carriage.

"Why, I wonder how this could have come here?" she exclaimed. Upon opening it she found several papers neatly arranged in one pocket and a number of bank-notes of various denominations, together with a slip of paper bearing the name, "A. H. Talford, No. —— Twelfth Street, N. E.," in another.

"Talford!" she repeated thoughtfully.

Where had she heard that name before? she wondered.

"Walker," she said, holding the wallet up for her coachman to see, "do you know anything about this? I have just found it on the floor."

The man thought a moment, and then told her of the elderly gentleman who had admired the horses, and then, making a misstep, had almost fallen into the carriage.

"Ah! Then the wallet must be his. Walker, you may turn around and drive me to No. —— Twelfth Street, N. E.," said Mollie, as she resumed her seat.

The man swung his horses around, and they went trotting down-town again. Arriving at the residence corresponding to the number on the slip, Mollie alighted and inquired of the maid who responded to her ring if Mr. Talford was in.

"Yes," the girl replied, with a peculiar smile, for the man had discovered his loss only a few moments before, and was turning the house upside down in his efforts to discover the missing wallet. Mollie passed the maid her card, and told her to say to the gentleman that she would like to see him.

She waited in the parlor nearly five minutes before the squire made his appearance, and then he seemed to be greatly excited and in a very unhappy frame of mind. He started upon finding himself face to face with the beautiful girl whom he had seen in the stationer's store, and searched her face curiously.

Mollie arose as he entered, and, approaching him, extended the wallet. She said afterward she never saw a more avaricious expression on any human face.

"I found this in my carriage, sir, after leaving the store where I met you a short time ago," she said. "My coachman thinks it must have slipped from your pocket as you stumbled and almost fell close beside the vehicle."

The man sprang forward and seized the purse with a greedy look and grasp.

"Yes, it is mine," he exclaimed in eager, tremulous accents. "My address is inside—I will show you."

"That is not necessary, Mr. Talford," Mollie pleasantly returned. "I took the liberty of opening the wallet, and found it, or I should not have known to whom to return it."

"Yes, yes; of course," said the squire, with some embarrassment, as he whipped it open and began to finger the bills nervously. Mollie's red lips curled slightly at the act, for she read his thoughts like a printed page. She saw that it was his nature to distrust every one, and a fear that he would be overreached by those with whom he came in contact that he was wondering, even then, whether he should find his precious money intact.

"I am very glad I found it and was enabled to restore it so soon," she went on, "and I preferred to bring it to you myself rather than to entrust it to a messenger."

She moved toward the door as she concluded, for the man's forbidding and churlish presence chilled her like an icy wind.

"Ah! yes—yes, thank you, young woman. I'm much obliged to you, I am sure," stammered the squire as he glanced irresolutely from his wallet to her, then back again at the crisp bills within it. "I—I suppose I ought to pay you something for your trouble."

Mollie flushed a vivid crimson at the reluctant suggestion, and drew herself up with involuntary hauteur.

"Indeed no, sir," she coldly responded. "I assure you you are very welcome to what I have done, and I will not detain you longer. Good evening, Mr. Talford," and she bowed herself out with a grace that could not wholly veil the vein of mockery and contempt that underlay her words, and vanished from his sight, but leaving him with a sense of shame and meanness such as he had seldom experienced in life.

"Talford! Talford! Where have I heard that name? It rings in the chambers of my memory with a strangely familiar sound, and it almost seems as if I have seen that face before," Mollie mused, with a look of perplexity on her face, as she drove back in the fast gathering twilight toward home; but she failed to place either face or name, and soon forgot all about them for the time.


Five hours later Mollie, clad in a trailing robe of pale-yellow satin, and looking a veritable princess, with her shining hair coiled high upon her shapely head and encircled with a tiara of diamonds, stood in the drawing-room of the residence of the English ambassador making her obeisance to that distinguished gentleman and his courtly wife.

She was accompanied by her father, who was now the picture of health, whose every movement was replete with vigor and almost youthful energy; for, as he claimed, after fifty years of aimless groping he was just beginning to learn how to live. Clifford was also with them, but following a step or two in the rear, and, with his fine face and manly bearing, there was not a handsomer man in the room. Their salutations over, they moved aside to make way for others, when a beautiful girl, all in white, except that she wore a great bunch of scarlet poppies in her belt, stepped forward and extended a faultlessly gloved hand to Clifford.

"I am sure that Mr. Faxon is not one to forget his old friends," she smilingly observed, while her face glowed with undisguised pleasure at the meeting.

"Miss Athol!" he exclaimed, as he cordially clasped her hand, "this is indeed an unexpected pleasure! Of course, I could not forget you, and I am most happy to meet you again."

"The pleasure is mutual, I assure you," Miss Athol heartily returned, "neither have I forgotten the auspicious occasion of our last meeting at Harvard, while too"—with a significant glance—"there are some other memories that haunt me. Mr. Faxon, when I think of that terrible accident and that awful descent that you made over the precipice I grow faint and dizzy even now."

"Then please don't think of it," said Clifford, laughing, and, anxious to change the subject, he added: "Allow me to inquire if this is your first visit to Washington?"

"Oh, no; we have all been here a number of times, but papa was elected Senator for our district this winter, and we are going to be located here for the present. He has been in town some weeks, but mama and I arrived only last Saturday," Gertrude explained. Then she added, smiling, "How singular that you also should have drifted to Washington just at this time!"

"Yes, we meet people where we least expect to, sometimes. I have been here for more than a year, and have a position in the Patent Office Department."

"Climbing all the time, I am sure," said the girl, as her glance swept his handsome face and figure with a thrill of admiration. "I knew you would. I should not be in the least surprised to find you located in the White House some day."

"Oh, Miss Athol! I beg that I may escape the responsibilities of such a position," Clifford exclaimed, flushing to his temples and feeling decidedly uncomfortable to be so lauded. Then, with a sudden thought, he continued: "But now I am going to ask the privilege of presenting you to a friend whom I am sure you will find very congenial—may I?"

"Certainly. I shall be delighted to meet any friend of yours, Mr. Faxon," said Gertrude cordially.

Clifford turned to attract the attention of Mollie, who had been exchanging greetings with a prominent society woman, and a moment later he had introduced the two girls to each other.

The moment Miss Athol looked into Mollie's beautiful face and observed the tender glance which Clifford bestowed upon her, she knew instinctively that she had met the woman whom he was to marry.

"And she is worthy of him, which is saying a great deal for her," she mentally affirmed. "She is exquisitely lovely, but the best in the land is none too good for Clifford Faxon."

The young ladies appeared to be instantly attracted to each other, and in less than ten minutes felt as if they had been acquainted for years, and would be friends for the remainder of their lives.

In a corner, not far from this interesting group, and curiously watching the brilliant throng all about him, stood Squire Talford. And the man, if one did not closely observe his cold gray eyes and the cruel, cynical expression about his mouth, made quite a fine appearance in his evening-attire.

He had never been anything of a society man, but since he was in Washington he was determined to go the whole figure and see all there was to be seen, and as money was no object where his own gratification was concerned, he easily found ways of obtaining the entrée to fashionable circles.

He had observed Mollie when she entered the room, and instantly recognized her as the young lady who had restored his wallet to him that afternoon. He had thought her a remarkably pretty girl at that time, but now, in her evening-costume, she seemed a hundred-fold more lovely, and he was positively fascinated by her beauty.

He also noted the richness of her dress and costly jewels, and, at once recalling the fine equipage which he had seen before the stationer's store, decided that she must be the daughter of some very wealthy man.

Her loveliness and charm of manner grew upon him continually, and he became anxious to learn more about her. He sought a gentleman whom he knew, and after chatting for a few moments upon current events, suddenly broke off and remarked:

"I've been watching that young woman in yellow over there; can you tell me who she is?"

"Ah, yes; that is Miss Heatherford. She's an out-and-out beauty, isn't she? A regular stunner!" was the animated reply. "She is one of the most attractive young ladies in Washington this winter, and a favorite wherever she goes. She is rich, also—has a handsome fortune in her own right, although a year ago this time she was working for a living in this city."

"Can that be possible?" inquired the squire, and appearing to be deeply interested in the gentleman's statements.

"Yes, and that is her father, that fine-looking man with the snow-white hair. Five years ago he was known as one of the money-kings of New York, but he lost every dollar of it by a series of misfortunes, and came here and went to work as a clerk for the government. Then he was taken ill, lost his position, and was reduced almost to the verge of beggary; but his daughter, like the true-blue she is, came nobly to the front, got a situation as private secretary to a wealthy old Frenchman who had some mission to this country, and supported herself and her father."

"But where did she get her present fortune?" inquired Squire Talford.

"Well, it is quite a story, and I cannot go into the details just now," his companion replied, "but the girl proved herself a heroine in two or three instances, and saved the life of the Frenchman's grandchild, prevented a robbery in the house, and won his confidence to such an extent that he made her the guardian of the child, to whom he left an immense amount of money, and a snug sum to Miss Heatherford herself. She has only recently appeared in society here, but every one has fallen in love with her—men and women alike. She is spoken for, however, for she is soon going to marry a fine fellow who bids fair to become a prominent man in the world if he keeps on as he has begun, for he is as smart as chain-lightning—there he is now, just in the act of introducing a lady to Miss Heatherford."

Squire Talford started and flushed crimson as he instantly recognized Cliff. He had not observed him before, and now to find him in that brilliant assemblage, and apparently received on an equal footing with the most distinguished, was a shock which he had not been prepared for.

"Humph! So she is going to marry him!" he managed to say without betraying how much he had been startled.

"Yes, the engagement was announced the first of the season, and, of course, any one can see that, morally and mentally, the young man is her equal in every respect. But it has leaked out that he has worked his own way up from boyhood. His name is Faxon—Clifford Faxon—and I am told that he first met his fiancée in a railroad accident—or, rather, what would have proved to be a terrible smash-up but for the boy's superhuman efforts to remove an obstruction that lay upon the track, and which made a veritable hero of him. It seems that the girl was on board the train, and she was so impressed by the wonderful achievement that she gave him a very handsome ring, which he wears constantly."

Squire Talford remembered the ring well, but it galled him inexpressibly to hear Clifford so vaunted—this boy whom he had always hated because of a secret wrong in which his mother had once figured, and which he had nursed for half a life-time. It rasped him almost beyond endurance to find that, in spite of the efforts he had made to crush him, he had overcome every obstacle in the past, and was steadily rising toward fame and fortune; that even now, in his early manhood, he had far outstripped himself in attaining a social position in the world.

"He is a handsome, intellectual-looking fellow, don't you think?" his companion inquired. "You do not often see a finer head, a more frank, honest face on a man, while his eyes are simply magnificent."

The squire literally ground his teeth with rage, but controlling himself after a moment, he remarked, with a touch of sarcasm in his tones:

"You are enthusiastic over him, I perceive. But it seems that he isn't above becoming a fortune-hunter, since he is going to marry the rich Miss Heatherford."

"There you are mistaken, sir," was the spirited retort. "Faxon is no fortune-hunter—I'd take my oath that he would never stoop to win any one from a mercenary motive. The fact is that he and Miss Heatherford met and became acknowledged lovers while the girl was working for her living, and, notwithstanding he has no fortune or social position except what he has won for himself, she is prouder of him than she would be of a crown prince."

The squire could bear no more of that kind of talk in his present frame of mind, and, excusing himself to his communicative companion, he left him and made his way toward the hall, with the intention of slipping out unobserved and returning to his boarding-place. He was so absorbed in his disagreeable reflections that he paid no heed to any of the people about him, and had just reached the great archway leading out of the drawing-room when his way was suddenly blocked by some one who had paused before him and given vent to a startled exclamation.

Squire Talford lifted his head with a great, inward shock, and found a familiar form confronting him. The two men glared into each other's faces for a full minute without speaking, both looking like a couple of specters. Then the stranger gasped with colorless lips:


"Looks like it," laconically returned the squire, who instantly began to recover himself, while his eyes glittered like points of polished steel. "Perhaps you'll be wanting to buy another ticket for New York, now that you know I'm around, eh?"

"No, I'll be —— if I will!" fiercely retorted the other, in a low, angry tone. Then he elbowed his way by his enemy, and disappeared among the crowd.

The squire chuckled viciously to himself, his irritation against Clifford forgotten for the moment in his new and rather startling encounter.

"Ha, ha! Bill. You're afraid of me, and you can't conceal the fact. And you have even more cause than you dream of," he muttered, a cruel smile wreathing his lips. "I wonder what you are doing here in Washington—I'll bet you're trying to lobby some devilish scheme or other, for your own private interests. But I think there'll be a day of reckoning between you and me before you're much older."

A little later Mollie and Gertrude Athol slipped away from the company and went for a stroll through the fine conservatory that led from the south side of the house. They wandered about, chatting socially, for a time, until Gertrude, chancing to glance up, saw her father standing in the doorway beckoning to her.

"Papa wants me," she said. "I expect he wishes to introduce me to some friends of whom he told me to-day. I am sorry to leave you, Miss Heatherford, but you will come to see me soon, will you not? and then we will plan to meet often. Good night, if I should not see you again."

She tripped away, but Mollie, who was a dear lover of flowers, lingered in that bower of beauty to examine some rare and exquisite orchids which were in full bloom. Suddenly, as she rounded a corner at the extreme end of the conservatory, some one started up from a seat that was half-concealed by some palms and foliage plants, and she found herself confronted by Philip Wentworth.

She had not dreamed of his being in the house, for she had seen none of the family that evening, and, in truth, he had been there but a few minutes, having had another engagement, but had promised to join his fiancée, Gertrude Athol, before the evening was over. He had been looking for her—had come to the conservatory to seek her, entering by a door leading from the dining room, instead of the hall, when, seeing the two girls, and not wishing to meet them together, he had sought the seat referred to, and concealed himself among the foliage until they should return to the house.

But when he saw Gertrude leave and Mollie loitering among the flowers, a wild desire to talk with her took possession of him, and he arose and stood in her path.

Mollie drew herself haughtily erect, and would have passed him without a word, but he stretched forth his arms and barred her way.

"No, you shall not evade me this time," he cried in a voice tremulous with passion and wounded feeling. "I have the right to vindicate myself, and no criminal is ever condemned without a hearing. Oh, Mollie! Mollie! forgive me—forgive me! I was not myself that night. I own I had been drinking more than was good for me, and I hardly knew what I was about."

Mollie had not intended to exchange a word with him, but the self-reproach in his tones—the misery in his face—appealed to her gentle heart, and she began to be sorry for him. She told herself that she had no right to condemn him utterly, even though she felt that she could never respect or admit him to her friendship again. She recoiled a step or two from him, and her face involuntarily softened.

"If that is so," she began gently, "let it be a lesson to you, and never again make such free use of that which you admit has power to control you."

"I will not, Mollie—I will not, indeed. I promise you," Philip eagerly returned, adding appealingly: "And you will forgive me—say that you will forgive, and let us be friends, as of old, once more."

Mollie's face flushed, and she shrank involuntarily. She knew that she could never receive him as a friend again—she had no wish ever to resume the old relations with any of the family, for their treachery and ill usage had done more to weaken her faith in humanity than anything that had ever occurred in all her experience.

"No," she said, after a moment of thought. "I will be frank with you, Philip—we can never be friends again, as I understand the term. One must have confidence in one's friends—you have destroyed my confidence in you. One must respect one's friends—you have forfeited my respect. It is not easy to tell you this, but you know that I was never guilty of deception, and so I cannot pretend to a friendship that is not real."

The young man staggered back a pace. He felt as if some one had struck him a blow upon his bare heart, and in all his life he had not known such genuine suffering as he experienced at that moment. Mollie seemed beautiful as a goddess—as far above him in strength and purity of character as the stars, and yet he had never yearned for her as he did now.

"Oh! I deserve it all—I deserve you should despise me!" he exclaimed in a voice of agony; "but I love you—I love you! You, and you alone, hold my life and my future in your hands! Forgive me, Mollie—let me try to win back your respect. I swear that no one shall lead a more exemplary life—no one shall be more worthy of your confidence—your love, than I, if you will but give me a chance. See! I kneel—I beg——"

"Stop!" cried Mollie authoritatively, as she put out one hand to stay him, "never do that, for no true woman would ever wish a man to humiliate himself. And now let me say," she continued even more impressively, "you must never speak like this to me again, for—I am already the promised wife of another."


At Mollie's words Philip sprang erect, a sudden rage possessing him.

"You engaged!" he faltered in a scarcely audible voice. He had only rejoined his mother in Washington a few days previous, and, as yet, had not heard of the formal announcement of Mollie's engagement to Clifford. He had been secretly enraged during the latter part of the previous winter because of the young man's attentions to her, and he had feared that they might result in their union; but now that the blow had fallen, he found that he was entirely unprepared for it, and was almost beside himself with mingled hate and jealousy.

It did not once occur to him that he himself was playing the part of a treacherous villain, for he was still pledged to Gertrude Athol. But he would not have hesitated an instant to throw her over if he could have won Mollie and her fortune.

"You engaged!" he repeated, his clouded eyes searching the fair face before him.

Mollie flushed. She had felt almost sure he must have known the fact, and she was considerably embarrassed to be obliged to explain matters to him. But she was determined to make him understand, once for all, that their old-time friendship could never be renewed, and that he must cease persecuting her with avowals of love.

"Yes," she quietly returned, but with downcast eyes, and a tender inflection unconsciously creeping into her tones, "I am going to marry Mr. Faxon the 25th of January."

The ax had fallen! The man whom he had hated for years had won the prize which he coveted. He could have borne it better if she had named some stranger, but to be told that his old enemy, who, in spite of every adverse circumstance, had gone straight to the front, distancing him in college; who had proved himself a hero over and over; to whom he owed the life of his young sister; against whom he had once lifted a murderous hand, and who was now rapidly rising, both in the social and political world. Oh! it was too much; it was crushing, maddening!

He stood rigid as a statue for a full minute after Mollie concluded, trying to master the tempest of jealous hate that raged within him. Then he said in a voice that was ominous in its calmness:

"And you love him?"

Mollie flashed him a glance that answered him even before she spoke, for there was a light of ineffable happiness in her eyes.

"You do not need to ask such a question!" she replied, "you know that I would never give my hand to any man who had not first won my deepest affection."

"Enough!" cried Philip, now wrought up to uncontrollable fury, "you need say no more. So that low-born upstart has effectually cut me out; curse him! Bah! I could cut his heart out!"

"Stop!" commanded Mollie, facing him with an air and look that silenced him for the moment. "If you must give expression to such ignoble sentiments regarding one who is vastly your superior in every respect, you at least shall not offend my ears with such language."

She turned abruptly as she ceased, and swept down the marble walk with the hauteur of an offended queen, and a moment later disappeared within the mansion.

Philip Wentworth, left to himself, paced back and forth in the flower-bordered path with the restless step of a caged lion, while he muttered and swore and raved like one almost on the verge of insanity, and wholly unaware of the slender, white-clad figure which had a few minutes previous flitted down another path and suddenly halted behind a huge Japanese vase taller than herself, and in which there was growing a luxuriant mass of vines, which entirely concealed her from view.

The second time he turned the sound of a quick, elastic step caught his ear. He peered around the corner, and instantly a lurid light began to blaze in his eyes. The man he hated, the rival who had come between him and the—to him—one woman in the world, was approaching him, and evidently in search of some one.

Philip Wentworth stood still, concealed from the other's view by the heavy foliage beside him, and involuntarily reaching out his hand, grasped the stem of a plant that was growing in a pot, and lifted it from its place.

Clifford, who was seeking Mollie, came rapidly on, rounded the corner, and almost ran upon Philip. He pulled himself up short, and, after a swift glance around, he observed in an easy tone, as he courteously inclined his head to his former classmate:

"Ah, Wentworth, pardon me! I should have moderated my movements somewhat before turning this corner."

He was about to pass on, when Philip hoarsely exclaimed while he faced him:

"Hold! What is this I hear? I am told that you are going to marry Mollie Heatherford. Is it true?"

Clifford drew himself up slightly before replying.

"It is true, Mr. Wentworth; I am going to marry Miss Heatherford," he coldly replied, but with significant emphasis.

"Curse you!" fairly hissed Wentworth, while his grip tightened on the stem of the plant. "So that has been your game, has it? You have deliberately set yourself to cut me out. I told you four years ago that she was my promised wife; we had been pledged to each other from childhood, and heavens! do you think I am going to tamely submit to being robbed by a low-born pauper like you? Do you imagine that I'm going to let you marry her? Never, so help me!"

His right hand swung out with tremendous force, lifting the flower-pot above his head and aiming it directly at Clifford's face.

But Faxon was too quick for him. He sprang to one side, caught the uplifted arm with a grip that almost paralyzed it, and, wrenching the dangerous missile—which fortunately remained intact, the plant having become root-bound in the pot—from his grasp, calmly replaced it where it belonged.

"Mr. Wentworth, this is the second time that you have made a rash attempt upon my life," he quietly observed. "I advise you never to repeat it, and you will remember that Miss Heatherford is my promised wife, and I shall not tolerate anything that verges upon a recurrence of what has just taken place."

He paused a moment, while a softer expression swept over his fine face.

"Wentworth, what ails you?" he continued in a more friendly tone. "What has made you so strangely antagonistic toward me all these years? I fail to understand it. It began away back during our first term in college; what caused it? Where is your manliness that you could cherish a grudge for so long? Believe me, I never had the slightest personal ill-will against you, and certainly you must have been in a very uncomfortable frame of mind most of this time. If I have unconsciously done you any wrong in the past, I should be very glad to be told of it."

Again he paused, but Philip stood silent, with downcast eyes and a sullen frown upon his brow. Clifford saw that he was incorrigible, and, repressing a sigh of regret for a life so warped by selfishness, he observed:

"Possibly I am unwise in appealing to you in any such way; but I believe the day will yet come when you will regret some of these things."

He turned and went swiftly back the way he had come, while Philip watched him with a lowering brow and a look of hate in his eyes.

Suddenly a slight rustle caused him to turn and look behind him, when an exclamation of dismay escaped him, for, leaning against the tall vase, and pale as the snowy dress she wore, he saw Gertrude Athol standing not a dozen feet from him.

"Gertrude!" the young man faltered, for he knew from her manner that she must have overheard much of what had passed—how much he dared not think.

The sound of his voice acted like a shock of electricity upon her. She stood erect, swept into the path where he was, and confronted him.

"I have heard all," she said in a cold, quiet tone. "I had no intention of playing the eavesdropper, however. Miss Heatherford and I were here in the conservatory a while ago, when my father called me, but he only wished to ask me a question or two, and then I thought that I would come back to Miss Heatherford, and that is how I happened to be here. I came just as you were declaring that she and she alone held your life and your future in her hands——" and the beautiful girl's nostrils dilated with supreme contempt as she thus repeated his words. "Therefore, considering the relations that have existed between you and me for the last four years, I felt that I had the right to hear you out and learn just to what extent I had been made your dupe——"

"Oh, Gertrude!"

"Hush!" she commanded imperatively. "I will not listen to a word of extenuation from you—there is none—there can be none. I will say my say out, and that will end everything between us. I have long felt that I might perhaps be building my hopes for the future upon shifting sand—there have been many indications of it, but I hoped that you might change for the better—that your good qualities would in the end overbalance your weakness. For more than four years I have worn your ring, believing myself pledged to you," Gertrude went on, as she calmly began to unlace the glove on her left hand, "but to-night you have said in my presence that for many years you have been betrothed to another—that you have loved—worshiped that other."

She turned the glove wrong-side out, to remove it the more quickly, slipped the ring from her finger, and held it out to him. "Here, take it. You and I will part here and now. And do not think that I shall eat my heart out and die because of disappointed love—like the girl of whom we read that summer in the mountains. I am not in the slightest danger of such a fate, for you have this night slain every spark of regard or respect that I ever entertained for you."

"Gertrude, hear me——" Philip began, as he shrank away from the hand that held the ring out to him.

"I have already heard all I wish to hear," she spiritedly returned, and with an inflection that made him wince. "Take it!" she reiterated as she again offered him the ring. "Very well," as he still refused, "I will leave it here for you to think about."

She hung it upon a twig of the plant before him, then turning abruptly from him, swept down and out of the conservatory with the air and step of one who exulted in recovered freedom.

As she disappeared he reached forth his hand and secured the ring, for it was a valuable one, but with a shamefaced air and a muttered curse at his—"luck."

Fifteen minutes later, when he sought his mother, to inform her that he "was not well, and was going home," he espied Mollie and Gertrude standing in an alcove chatting socially together, and as calmly and serenely as if no thought of regret in connection with him had power to cast a shadow across their pathway. Gertrude was perhaps a trifle paler than usual, but she was bright and animated, and he was assured that she "never would eat her heart out for him."

The contempt that had vibrated in her tones as she said it was still ringing in his ears as he left the house, making him quiver from head to foot with a sense of humiliation such as he had never experienced before.

When Gertrude Athol entered her own room, after her return from the reception, she sat down and tried to calmly review the recent scene between her discarded lover and herself, and to consider what influence it was likely to have upon her future.

"I believe I can truly say that I am glad to be free," she said after a while, with a sudden proud uplifting of her head. "I have known from almost the first of our acquaintance that Philip Wentworth is a weak and selfish man; but he is a handsome fellow, entertaining, and well versed in all the little courtesies of life and possessing strong mesmeric power, and I believe that he was fond of me. I foolishly imagined that, because of this supposed fondness, I might be able to help him overcome his faults and arouse within him an ambition to cultivate the best there is in him; but I know him now for a treacherous villain—for a coward, and almost a murderer. Oh, yes; I am glad that I am free, and I shall not grieve for him; though, of course, any woman would naturally be keenly stung to discover that she has only been made a tool of—simply held in reserve in the event of the failure of other plans!"

Her cheeks grew crimson, and her eyes flashed indignantly at the thought, while two tears fell upon her jeweled hands. She flung them off with an impatient gesture.

"They are not for him!" she cried scornfully; "they fell only for my own wounded pride; and they are the last I shall ever shed for that. The hurt is not so very deep, thank Heaven! and will soon heal. So he has been in love with Mollie Heatherford 'all his life?' Well, she certainly is one of the dearest and loveliest girls I have ever met, and she has shown good judgment in her choice of a husband, for Clifford Faxon is worth a dozen men like Philip Wentworth."

A little later, after her acquaintance with Mollie had ripened into a strong and enduring friendship—when she learned how Philip had played fast and loose with her, according to the changes in her circumstances—her contempt merged into positive repulsion for the young man; and before the season was over her acquaintance with a son of the British ambassador, whom she met that evening for the first time, developed into a strong mutual attachment which bade fair to result in an early marriage.

Upon their return from the reception, Clifford lingered a while with Mollie before proceeding to his lodgings, and it was, therefore, quite late when he reached home. He was somewhat surprised to find a carriage standing before the house where Squire Talford boarded, while the coachman was assisting his former employer up to the door, the man groaning at every step.

"Here, sir!" called the cabman, as he espied Clifford, "will you lend a hand here, please? The gentleman has sprained his ankle, and he is more than I can manage."

"Certainly," Clifford cheerfully responded, as he sprang forward with alacrity to render what assistance he could.

"Here is his latch-key, sir," the driver continued, passing it to the young man, "If you'll open the door, we'll make an armchair and carry him up to his room, as easy as snapping your thumb and finger."

Clifford did as he was requested, and then the two clasped hands, making the squire sit upon them, with an arm around the neck of each of his helpers, and in this way he was borne up two flights of stairs and deposited upon a chair in his own room, which was little better than a closet at the back of a hall.


It was evident that the man was suffering intensely; but resolutely repressing, as far as he was able, outward manifestations of the fact, he turned to the cabman and briefly inquired:

"What's to pay for this?"

The man named his price, and, with a grunt of disapprobation, the squire drew forth his wallet—the same that Mollie had restored to him only a few hours previous—and paid the amount, whereupon the driver hurried away to his team below.

Squire Talford had not taken the slightest notice of Clifford, but the young man, although he found himself in an awkward position, felt that he had a duty to perform, and courteously inquired if he should go for a surgeon to attend to the injured limb.

"No," was the gruff response, "the leg has already been attended to at the drug-store, where I made the mis-step."

Cliff glanced down and observed for the first time that his boot had been removed and the ankle bandaged.

"But you will have to get to bed, sir; let me assist you," he remarked.

"No—I can do well enough by myself—I don't want any help," the squire returned ungraciously.

Cliff flushed and stood irresolute for a moment. Then a look of determination flashed into his eyes, and he deliberately unbuttoned and removed his overcoat.

"Excuse me, Squire Talford, but you do need help," he calmly observed. "I know that you are not at all fond of me; that my presence is disagreeable to you; but suppose, for this once, you ignore those facts and accept the aid you require. You cannot stir from your chair without great suffering if I leave you, and will probably have to sit in it all night, unless you call some one in the house, and everybody appears to be in bed. Here, let me have your hat," and without more ado he removed it from the man's head and placed it on a table.

"Now the coat," he added. "I am sure I can help you undress without disturbing you very much, and when I get you comfortably settled in bed I will leave you."

Squire Talford was beginning to realize his helplessness, and submitted to the disrobing without further objection, although not with the best grace in the world, and he never once met Clifford's eyes during the operation.

"Now," said the young man, when that task was over, "the next move will be to try to get you into bed without hurting this crippled foot if possible. I will move your chair close beside it, then I think I can easily lift you on."

He swung the chair around, while he was speaking, and, it being a rocker without arms, it was not difficult to place it just where he wanted it, when, almost before he had time to dread the change, the squire found himself reclining in a comparatively comfortable position, although the pain in his ankle seemed unbearable.

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Clifford inquired, with a great pity in his heart for the lonely man, as he saw how deathly white he was and noted the lines of pain about his mouth.

"I don't think of anything," said the squire, in a more subdued tone than he had yet used.

Clifford hung his clothing in the closet, and straightened things generally in the room, then found his way to the bath-room, where he procured a glass of water, which he placed on a chair beside the patient, in case he should be thirsty during the night.

"I am going to my room now, Squire Talford," he said when these arrangements were completed, "but if you should need me before morning and can arouse any one, you can send for me, and I will gladly come to you. I will drop in anyway after breakfast, to see how you are."

The man nodded, but did not unclose his eyes, and Clifford, after turning the gas low, went quietly out, taking care to close the door softly after him.

The next morning on inquiring at the door regarding the squire's condition before going to his business, he was told by the landlady that he had slept but little, and was suffering very much, both from the sprain and a high fever, for he had evidently taken a severe cold.

Clifford went up to his room and tried to persuade him to have medical advice, but the man curtly refused to do so; and after doing what little he could for his comfort, he was obliged to leave him to himself.

He found him even worse on his return at night, and he spent most of the evening with him, bathing the injured ankle, rubbing it thoroughly with a liniment which he had procured of a druggist, and afterward rebandaging it as deftly as if he were accustomed to such duties. He also bathed the man's fevered face and hands, and he seemed much refreshed afterward.

The squire did not submit to these operations with a very good grace at first, but Clifford had assumed a masterful air, and went straight ahead as if he had a perfect right to do so, and was so gentle and handy that before he was through he could see that the squire's antagonism to his presence was merging into a sort of helpless reliance upon him.

He had brought some lemons with him, and with these he made a small pitcher of lemonade, some of which the sufferer drank with thirsty relish, the remainder being left where he could easily reach it. Clifford felt very reluctant to leave him alone, for he saw that he was very ill; but the squire bade him go, saying that he was all right, and he felt obliged to obey him.

He did not feel wearied or like sleeping after reaching his own room, and, having a new book, he read until very late, retiring just as the clock in a room below struck the half-hour after twelve.

He fell asleep almost immediately; but suddenly—it seemed as if he could hardly have lost himself—he was aroused by hearing the rapid "chug-chug" of a steam fire-engine close by and a perfect babel of voices in the street below him.

He sprang from his bed and rushed to a window, and was appalled to see smoke and flame issuing from both the door and windows of the adjoining house, which he had left only a few hours previous. His first thought was for Squire Talford, who was on the third floor, and who, in his crippled condition, would find it very difficult to get out of the burning building.

He hurriedly threw on some clothing; then dashed down-stairs and out of doors. The entire lower floor of the burning house was in flames. The fire had started in the basement, and had gained great headway before it was discovered.

The stairway leading to the second story was also on fire, and thus rendered impassable, and the family and servants were being taken out of the second-floor windows by the firemen when Clifford appeared upon the scene.

"Where is Squire Talford?" he demanded of the landlady, as soon as he could find her.

"Merciful heavens, sir! I'm sure I don't know. He must be up-stairs in his room. With so many other things on my mind I haven't thought of him till this minute!" cried the almost distracted woman, wringing her hands in terror.

Clifford turned suddenly white with a terrible fear. One sweeping glance aloft told him that the man would shortly be suffocated by smoke, even if the flames had not already reached him. He knew that he could not put his injured foot to the floor; that he was almost as helpless as an infant; and unless he had immediate assistance the chances in his favor were very small indeed.

It was too late to try to save him by getting him out of the windows on the front of the house, for some of the firemen had been burned while making their last trip down the ladder with their burdens, and the flames were now pouring out of them.

Without saying a word to any one, he dashed back into his own house, bounded up three flights of stairs, and made his way out upon the roof, through a skylight, and ran across to the one on the roof of the fated building.

It was fastened; but with one blow of his heel he smashed a pane of glass, and reaching inside, unhooked it, throwing it open with a force that nearly tore it from its hinges. The next moment he was making his way down the stairs; but the whole place was black with smoke so dense that he could scarcely see or breathe.

He sprang into the squire's room, to find the man lying crossway of the bed, his face downward, panting for breath and moaning piteously. He had tried to get up to escape, wrenched his ankle, and fallen back again half-fainting from the pain, from fear, and a horrible sense of his own helplessness.

"Courage, Squire Talford!" cried Clifford, in forceful tones. "I will have you out of this very shortly. Now think quick—have you any papers and valuables that you want to take with you?"

"Yes—a package of documents in my trunk—my watch and wallet are under my pillow," the man feebly responded, though he had lifted his head eagerly the instant he caught the sound of the familiar, encouraging voice.

Clifford had the wallet and watch in his pocket almost before he ceased speaking; then he flew to the trunk—fortunately it was not locked—found the papers, and thrust them into his pocket. The next moment he was bending over the squire.

"Here, let me help you up," he said; "you must not mind if you are hurt a little—put your arms around my neck and give yourself up to me, and I will save you."

The man rolled over, and with Clifford's help stood upon his well foot, though a groan burst from him in making the effort. He clasped his hands about the young man's neck, as he was bidden, and Clifford lifted him in his arms, bore him from the room, through the volume of smoke that was now rolling up through the aperture above, up the stairs to the roof, and across it to the next house.

Here he deposited his burden upon the upper step of the flight of stairs leading below, while the fresh, frosty air had done much toward reviving the almost suffocated man.

"Now," said Clifford, "if you can manage to get inside out of the cold by yourself, I will go back and see if I can save some of your clothing. Can you?"

"Yes, I will try; but don't run any risk for the clothes, Cliff," the squire replied as he began to ease himself down the stairs; for he was shivering with cold and excitement.

In spite of the gravity of the situation, a smile flashed over Clifford's face as he noted the change in the man's tone when he pronounced his name, and marked the consideration expressed for him. He darted back and down into the room which he had only just left, although now the flames smote him as he went, for they were rolling up from below with devouring force.

He snatched a sheet from the bed, and, without making a false movement or step, piled upon it everything belonging to the squire that he could lay his hands on, emptying both trunk and closet; then gathering it up by the four corners, he knotted them, swung the pack over his head, and a moment later was again on the roof of the house, and this time getting a thorough drenching from the stream of water which had been directed to the column of smoke that was pouring out of the skylight.

He had not been any too expeditious, for almost at the same instant there came a terrible crash, which told of falling floors and stairways within the burning building. Dropping his pack through the roof of his own dwelling, he quickly followed it, to find the squire shivering in the hall below.

He assisted him down the next flight to the room he occupied, which was a large square apartment in the front of the house, and made him get into his own bed.

The man was a little inclined to rebel against this arrangement, for he seemed to think that they were still in danger from the fire; but Cliff assured him that the department were getting the flames under control, and they were in no danger, as the walls between the houses were fireproof.

As soon as he had made him comfortable, he went up-stairs again to bring down the clothing he had saved, and arranged it neatly in his closet and an empty trunk of his own; after which he had a bath and put on dry garments.

Although the engines continued to play for more than an hour after this, the worst was over, no lives had been lost, although much personal property was destroyed, and the excitement soon subsided.

But when morning broke Squire Talford was raving in the delirium of fever. Clifford felt it his duty to act upon his own responsibility, and immediately called a physician, who at once declared that the man must either go to a hospital, or have a trained nurse where he was, for he was very sick, and liable to have a tedious illness. Knowing the squire's horror of incurring heavy expenses, Clifford did not quite like to send him to a hospital, while the cost of a trained nurse in the house, with her board to be paid, would very soon amount to an appalling sum.

The man was in no condition to plan for himself, and so, after thinking the matter over seriously, and consulting with his landlady, who was a kind-hearted, sensible woman, Clifford decided to send for Maria Kimberly to come and take care of her master.

Mrs. Woodruff, the owner of the house, had a couple of empty rooms which she was very glad to rent—one on the same floor and another above—and Clifford said he would take one and Maria could have the other.

So, about the middle of the forenoon, while Mrs. Kimberly was ironing the last parlor curtain—which, after it was hung, would complete her house-cleaning for that season—a messenger-boy appeared at the door with a telegram for her.

It was Cliff's message, briefly telling of the squire's illness, and bidding her come to nurse him. She was to take the earliest possible train for New York, wire Clifford when she reached that city what hour she would leave for Washington, and he would meet her upon her arrival.

It was the first telegram that the woman had ever received in her life, and it naturally gave her quite a shock, but she was equal to the emergency, and after reading the message through twice, her mind began to act vigorously.

"Goodness gracious me!" she ejaculated as she drew a long breath. "It's come like a clap of thunder! But of course I've got to go. Yes, and—I'm sure it's another dispensation of Providence—I shall take that box belonging to Cliff along with me."


After Maria had settled the question of duty, she went very systematically to work to prepare for her journey. She calmly finished ironing her curtain, hung it nicely in its place, and then swept a satisfied look around the neatly arranged and immaculate room before closing and locking the door to keep out all intruders during her absence.

Then she rolled up her sleeves, and for the next three hours baked and boiled and fried until her pantry was well stocked with substantial and toothsome provisions for the hired man and chore-boy.

"This'll last you nigh onto two weeks, with what you can cook for yourselves," she said to Pat, as she showed him the result of her labors. "There's plenty of salt pork in the barrel that you can fry when you want a change from corned beef and ham, and there's all kinds of veg'tables in the cellar. I guess you can manage some way till I come back, and if you get out of bread you can ask Miss Barnes to bake you some, or you can buy it of the baker."

Her cooking out of the way and everything about the house left in the most tidy manner imaginable, Maria packed her small trunk, arrayed herself in a good, serviceable gown for traveling, and was driven into New Haven in ample time to catch her train.

She made her connections in New York without any difficulty, after having wired Clifford what hour she expected to arrive in Washington the following morning. He was at the station to meet her when the train rolled into it, and welcomed her most cordially; indeed, a great burden rolled from his heart the moment he caught sight of her strong, honest face, for he felt that she was equal to the responsibilities awaiting her.

To her inquiries regarding the squire's condition, he replied that he was pretty sick and had been delirious all night, but had fallen asleep a few moments before he left him to come to her.

"Who's been taking care of him?" Maria questioned.

"Well, he has not needed much care until yesterday and last night, and I've done what I could," Clifford modestly returned.

Then he told her about his accident and of his narrow escape from being burned to death, although he made as light as possible of his own agency in these matters; but Maria learned all about it later, when she had made the acquaintance of the landlady, who could not say enough in praise of him.

For three weeks Squire Talford was a very sick man, and even Maria found her powers of endurance taxed to the utmost, in spite of the aid of Clifford, who insisted upon sharing her vigils at night and doing all that he could besides out of business hours. He pulled through, however, though it was a hard pull; yet when he began to convalesce he mended very rapidly.

Five weeks after Maria's arrival he was able to be up and dressed; his appetite had returned, and he said he felt as if he had "been made over new."

One morning, after she had served him a nice breakfast and put his room to rights, Mrs. Kimberly seated herself directly opposite her patient, with a very determined look on her honest face.

"Well, what is it, Maria?" the squire questioned, for he always knew that matters of importance weighed heavily on her mind when she looked like that.

"I've got something to tell you," she replied, and coming directly to the point.

"I thought so. What is it? Go ahead."

"Waal, I expect you won't like it very well, but it's got to be told," the woman observed, and flushing slightly. "When I was cleanin' the attic, after you left, I took that little hair trunk o' your'n up to move it, dropped it, and smashed the lid off."

The squire started and shot a quick look at her at this.

"Of course, everything tumbled out," she pursued, "and I had to pick 'em up and put 'em back. I suppose I don't need to tell you that I found among the mess a box belonging to Cliff."

She glanced up as she concluded, to find that her companion had lost some of his recently recovered color during her recital.

There was a moment of awkward silence, then the man curtly remarked:


"Waal, the box had come apart in the smash, and I found a lot of letters directed to Cliff's mother and—to his father. I found, too, the papers that told about Mis' Faxon's marriage and Cliff's christening."

"Well?" questioned the squire again as she paused, but with white lips.

"Of course, I didn't read the letters. I thought 'twas none o' my business what was in 'em, but when I saw them certificates I made up my mind that a burnin' wrong had been done that boy—a wrong that must be righted, squire; so, when I got his message to come to take care o' you, I brought that box along with me."

"You did!" exclaimed Squire Talford, in a startled tone. "What have you done with it—have you given it to Cliff?"

"No, sir! You don't ketch Maria Kimberly doin' anything underhanded if she knows it," responded the woman, with considerable spirit. "As long as I found the things in your trunk, I made up my mind I'd tell you about it first and see what you'd do before I went any farther."

"That shows your good sense and honesty, Maria," said the squire appreciatively. "I suppose, however, you think the boy ought to have the papers," he added thoughtfully.

"Of course I do, and that ain't all he oughter have, either," his companion retorted, with stout-hearted frankness.

"What do you mean?" demanded the squire, with well-assumed surprise.

Maria sniffed significantly and tossed her head.

"I suppose you imagine I don't know who Cliff's father was," she said, with a wise smile. "I suppose you think I never heard that story about Belle Abbot, who, after she was engaged to one man, fell in love with another and jilted the first one. But I never suspected that the man she married was anything to you—I never heard that part of it—until just afore I came to Washington. I was dustin' the books in that old secretary in your bedroom, and came across that old Bible your mother used to like because the type was so clear. I'd seen it a hundred times, but never took any notice of the family record till that day, when I found the same name, among a lot of others, that I saw on Belle Abbot's marriage-certificate.

"You could have knocked me over with a feather, for I always believed Cliff's mother married a man by the name o' Faxon—and she did, too, for that was one of the names. I never could understand afore why you hated the boy so; but now I see through it. You knew he didn't know anything about his father; you pretended to be a friend to Mis' Faxon after she came back from the West, influenced her to bind the boy to you when she was dyin', and managed, some way, to get hold o' them papers and have kep' 'em hid from him ever since, for you didn't mean he should ever have his rights if you could help it."

"Don't you think you are getting pretty sharp and familiar in your talk, Maria?" the squire demanded shortly, as she paused for breath, but the hand that was fingering an envelope trembled visibly.

"Maybe," she coolly retorted. "I'd made up my mind that the right time had come for some 'sharp and familiar' talk to you, and I wasn't going to shirk my duty. I've lived with you, Squire Talford, nigh on to eighteen years, and I've tried to do my best for you and your'n all that time—'specially since Mis' Talford died, for I felt I owed her a lot for the pains she took to train me; then, of course, I wanted to feel that I earned the money you was payin' me, though I've never had a rise in my wages. So my conscience is clear on that score, and I don't think I've neglected anything except to speak my mind, and that I'm goin' to make up for now, if I never set foot in the old place again.

"I've had hard work to hold my tongue in the past when you was abusin' Cliff as you used to, and you'd no cause to hate him as you seemed to, either. He never wronged you; he wasn't to blame for comin' into the world the son o' the other man instead o' your'n. A better, brighter boy never drew breath; he served you faithful as the day was long and you treated him shameful—worse'n a slave. I used to wonder how you could sleep nights after some o' those awful thrashin's you gave him. I never felt meaner in my life for anybody than I did for you when you let him go off to college without even a word o' kindness and encouragement, and if I knew then what I know now he'd never have gone away as empty-handed as he did."

"You are spreading it on pretty thick, Maria, and I think it is about time you stopped," the squire here interposed, and with a face that was now crimson with mingled anger and shame.

"Yes, I s'pose I am spreadin' it on thick," she composedly admitted, "and I tell you I'm downright glad of the chance for once. I reckon I am about through, though, only I'd like to ask what you propose to do for Cliff."

"I'm not sure that I propose to do anything," was the sullen reply.

"You don't," cried Maria, bridling again, "Well, then, I do. I propose to see that that young man gets his rights. I'm far from bein' a rich woman, but I've saved up a plump little sum out o' my wages and Cliff shall have every dollar of it to help him fight for his share of the fortune that his grandmother left, and if you was clothed and in your right mind you'd want him to have the rest of it when you're done with it.

"What are you thinking of, Squire Talford," she went on, glowing with indignation, "to nurse, at your time o' life, such a spite against such a splendid fellow like Clifford Faxon—a fellow that any man might be proud to own as a son? Haven't you any gratitude for what he's done for you? You'd have been burned to a cinder and lyin' under them brick walls outside, but for him; he did what precious few men would have done that night o' the fire, to save a man he knew hated him and had abused him as you did when he was a boy.

"And that ain't all, neither; he gave up this nice room to you and has been sleepin' in a back room that's little better'n a closet, at the end o' the hall, so's he could be handy to spell me when I had to rest. And he's set up watchin' with you, night after night, just as faithful 's if you was his own father. I could never have done it alone; for, squire, you came mighty nigh slippin' over Jordan some o' them nights—mighty nigh. Man alive! haven't you got any heart? What are you made of, anyway? Waal," drawing a long breath and looking a trifle frightened as she began to realize that she had been holding forth with more vigor than discretion, "I guess I've said enough for now, and I'll leave you to think it over. I've got that box in my trunk, and if you don't see fit to do the square thing by Cliff I shall give it to him, tell him all I know and then you an' I'll settle our accounts."

The woman arose as she concluded and walked quietly from the room, leaving the squire to meditate, in no enviable frame of mind, upon a situation which he had never dreamed would overtake him.

Maria did not go near him again until luncheon-time, when she carried him a tray of daintily prepared viands that would have tempted an epicure.

She watched him out of the corners of her eyes while she arranged his table, and the thoughtful expression on his face appeared to afford her an immense amount of satisfaction, for two or three times, when she passed behind his chair, she nodded her head with a gratified air which spoke volumes.

The man did not refer to the conversation of the morning, but there was that in his manner and in the tones of his voice whenever he addressed her, which assured her that he did not think any the less of her for the stand she had taken.

She kept out of his way during most of the afternoon, also, giving as a reason that she was going to be busy in the laundry, but at night, as at noon, his dinner was prepared with the greatest care and nicety.

"You are a good cook, Maria," he remarked as she brought him a second cup of coffee, the aroma of which pervaded the whole room, "and," he added gravely, "you have proved yourself to be a tip-top nurse."

"Thank you, sir," Maria respectfully responded and flushing with pleasure at the unusual praise; "I had a good woman to train me—Mis' Talford made me what I am, and I'm not backward to give her the credit of it; she was a prime housekeeper and one o' the salt o' the earth."

Whether it was this reference to his wife, or whether some other matters were pressing heavily upon him, Maria had no means of knowing, but she was sure she heard him sigh and saw his lips contract spasmodically—signs of emotion which were very rare with him.

He finished his dinner in silence, but as she was about to leave the room with his tray he suddenly inquired:

"Maria, has Cliff come in yet?"

"Yes, sir; I met him in the hall as I was bringing up that last cup of coffee."

"Well, will you go to his door and ask him if he can spare me an hour this evening? Say that it is a matter of importance."

"All right, sir; I'll tell him," Maria responded, but with a sudden choking in her throat which rendered her utterance somewhat indistinct.

"And, Maria——"

"Yes, sir."

She paused with her hand upon the handle of the door, but did not look around.

"When I ring you may bring me that box, of which you told me to-day."

"Yes, sir."

It was all she could say; then she passed out of the room, shutting the door softly behind her, but paused in the hall to wipe away the tears that were raining over her cheeks.


Maria hurried away to the basement with her tray, then, all unmindful of the fact that as yet her own fast had not been broken, sought Cliff, who was in the library, his landlady having considerately offered him the freedom of the house while he was excluded from his own room.

"Is it anything particular, Maria?" the young man inquired when she had delivered her message, while he glanced at his watch, for he had an engagement with Mollie for nine o'clock.

"Yes, 'tis," the woman replied with an emphatic nod of her head; "it's very particular, and I'd advise you to 'tend to it now, while the squire's in the right mood."

Cliff regarded her curiously a moment; but, as she did not seem inclined to say more, he observed:

"Very well, I will go to him at once," and, following her from the room, he mounted the stairs and was soon knocking for admission at the door of the room above.

"Good evening, Squire Talford, how do you find yourself to-night?" he inquired pleasantly upon entering at the man's bidding.

"I'm getting on very well," was the somewhat laconic reply.

"Maria told me that you wished to see me. What can I do for you?" Clifford asked, but instinctively scenting something unusual in the atmosphere.

"Sit down," briefly commanded the squire and pointing at a chair opposite him. Clifford obeyed, smiling indulgently at the peremptory tone.

"I've got a story to tell you," began the squire plunging at once into the disagreeable task before him, "and I expect it may surprise you a bit in some ways. My father died when I was a baby. He was a rich man, owning the place which has always been my home, besides considerable other property. He made a will before he died giving everything he possessed to my mother, and leaving her free to do with it just what she chose. Two years afterward she married a second time—a man with no means, a bookworm and would-be literary man, who sometimes earned a little by his pen, though for the most part he was a failure from a pecuniary point of view.

"Less than a year later there came another boy into the family—my half-brother—and at the end of another twelve months my mother was again a widow. From that time she lived only to rear and educate her children, who grew up together, nominally as brothers, but secretly antagonistic to each other from their earliest youth. From my boyhood I was thrifty and ambitious; all my interest and my pride were centered in my home, and I was always planning and working to improve it and make it yield a handsome income. My brother, on the contrary, would not work; he was fond of books, like his father, and, more than all, of a rollicking good time.

"He had no interest in the farm or in anything that pertained to the ways and means of living, and, as he grew toward manhood, he became wild and unmanageable, giving our mother many a heartache because of his reckless habits and extravagance. He always managed to get the lion's share of everything, and, although I know my mother did not mean to be unfair to me, she favored him in many ways, and denied herself almost every luxury to keep his pockets well filled. We both went to college, but when I was through I settled down to manage the estate and make the most out of it and what other property my mother owned. When Bill finished his education he insisted that he must have a trip to Europe. He had his way, and spent a pile of money—more than he had any right to—while I trudged on at home and bore all the burdens. About six months after he went away I became attracted to a—a handsome girl in New Haven. Her name was Isabelle Abbot."

"My mother!" exclaimed Cliff with a sudden start and thrill of dismay, while he grew first crimson, then white.

"Yes, your mother," sharply repeated the squire, "and, as I said, she lived in New Haven, her father doing a good business there in gents' furnishing goods. She returned—or appeared to return—my regard for her, and we shortly became engaged and planned to be married the next fall, as soon as the harvesting was over. In June my brother returned from Europe—the same rollicking, pleasure-loving, indolent fellow he had always been. My mother urged him to settle down to some business or profession, but he kept putting her off, telling her that when he found something that suited him he'd dip in, as he expressed it; but he didn't find what he wanted and continued to live his lazy life, but spending money just as freely as ever. It was a bitter day for me when I introduced him to the girl I expected to marry. He expressed a great deal of admiration for her, called me a 'lucky dog' and said he should 'be very fond of his pretty sister-in-law.'"

The bitterness in Squire Talford's tones as he repeated these sayings of his brother plainly betrayed that his heart was still very sore from these painful experiences of the past.

"Well, it is the old story of treachery, and confidence betrayed," he resumed after a short pause. "He began to visit Belle on the sly, and wormed himself into her affections, and I, while I could see that she was not quite the same as she was before he came home, never dreamed of what was going on between them, until one day—just a month before the day set for our wedding—they both disappeared, leaving only this to tell what had occurred."

The squire paused again and drew from the inner pocket of his dressing-gown a small, square leather case, which he passed over to Clifford.

The young man took it with fingers that were trembling visibly, opened it and drew forth a soiled and yellow envelope addressed to Mr. Alfred H. Talford and in a hand which he instantly recognized to be his mother's.

Slipping the missive from the envelope, he unfolded it and read the following brief letter:

"Alfred: I know that you can never forgive me the wrong I am doing you, but, too late, I have learned that I love another and not you. When you receive this I shall be the wife of that other—you well know who. I wish I could have saved you this blow, so near the day that was set for our wedding; but I should have doubly wronged you had I remained and fulfilled my pledge to you, with my heart irrevocably elsewhere. Forget and forgive if you can. T.A."

Clifford was very pale as he perused these lines; which had crushed all the brightest hopes of the man before him and embittered and warped his whole life.

He sighed, and a feeling of sympathy thrilled his heart as he returned the epistle to its worn, leathern receptable and handed it back to his companion, while he told himself that there must be depths to the man's nature that he had never suspected, or he would not have preserved and carried about with him for so many years this relic of an old-time love.

The squire hesitated before taking it, glancing irresolutely from it to Clifford, as if half-ashamed of the tenacity with which he had clung to it, and was inclined to repudiate any further interests in it, but he finally put forth his hand to receive it and returned it to the pocket from which he had taken it.

"Then, my mother married your half-brother, Squire Talford," Clifford gravely observed, after a thoughtful pause, "and that makes you—"

"Yes, it makes me your uncle, or half-uncle, though perhaps the least said about the relationship the better," was the somewhat bitter reply. Then he resumed with pale, pain-drawn lips, which betrayed that it was no easy matter for him to lay bare these secrets of his heart; "You can, perhaps, imagine something of what that letter meant to me—it changed in one moment of time my whole life; it made a devil of me, and all the affection which I had previously entertained for those who had so wronged me turned to rankest hatred, and I vowed that I would some day make them conscious of the fact; that I would spare neither of them if the time ever came when I could set my heel upon them.

"That time came, at least for one, sooner than I expected. Meantime, I married a thrifty, sensible girl who made me a good wife. I'd got to have somebody to keep house for me and look out for things generally, for my mother was giving out; that last act of Bill's broke her heart as well as turned mine to stone. But she—my wife—didn't live so very long. I expect she found life rather disappointing, for she never seemed very chipper after the first month or two. So, when she died, I concluded I was better off alone, and, as Maria had been thoroughly trained in the ways of the house and farm, I concluded I'd fight it out by myself. But, to go back a little," he continued, his voice suddenly hardening again, a little note of regret having crept into it while he was speaking of his mother and his dead wife. "Mr. Abbot, Belle's father, was all broken up over her elopement; he had a long sickness, during which his business went to rack and ruin, and when he finally got out again he settled up the best he could and bought that little place where you spent the first thirteen years of your life, paying down what he could and giving a mortgage for the rest. I bought up that mortgage just as soon as I got wind of it, and that was the first grip I got toward paying off old scores. He and his wife lived there very quietly for a couple of years; then Mrs. Abbot died. Her husband struggled on alone for ten or eleven months longer, and then he gave up the battle.

"He made his will only a few weeks previous, leaving his interest in his house to his daughter, if she ever came back, and made me administrator of the estate—that was another grip for me. You see, I held the mortgage, and as I'd never let on about my state of mind regarding that old disappointment, he naturally thought I'd be the best one to manage the business, if I could ever get trace of his daughter. Ha!"

Clifford moved uneasily in his chair, for the vindictiveness in his companion's voice rasped almost beyond endurance. The squire observed it, and a wintry smile flitted over his face.

"That strikes you as rather vicious, doesn't it?" he said. "But I told you that that wrong made a devil of me. Well, Mr. Abbot hadn't been gone two months when his daughter came home, bringing her four-weeks'-old baby—you—with her."

"But, my father—where was he?" questioned Clifford in an eager tone.

"That was more than any one could tell; he had deserted his wife nearly a year previous, and she never saw or heard from him afterward. Here is the letter he wrote her, informing her of his intention. I found it among her papers after she died, and, as it struck me as being something rather unique, I have kept it as a curiosity and with the thought that it might prove useful to me at some time or other. It may, perhaps, serve to give you an inkling regarding his character."

He lifted a letter from the table beside him and handed it to Clifford with a grim smile on his face.

This is what the young man read;

"I'm off. There is no use in longer trying to conceal the fact that I am tired of the continual grind of the last two years. It was a great mistake that we ever married, and I may as well confess what you have already surmised, that I never really loved you. Why did I marry you, then? Well, you know that I never could endure to be balked in anything, and as I had made up my mind to cut a certain person out, I was bound to carry my point. You know who I mean, and that he and I were always at cross-purposes. The best thing you can do will be to go back to your own people—tell whatever story you choose about me. I shall never take the trouble to refute it, neither will I ever annoy you in any way. Get a divorce if you want one. I will not oppose it; as I said before, I am tired of the infernal grind and bound to get out of it. I'll go my way, and you may go yours; but don't attempt to find or follow me, for I won't be hampered by any responsibilities in the future."

"Wretch!" he muttered between his tightly locked teeth. "And have you never heard anything of him since?"

"Wait; let me tell my story in my own way and you will know all there is to know when I am through," the squire replied, and then resumed: "I told you that Belle Abbott came home with her baby, to find her father and mother both gone and with no resources for herself except the interest in the house where her parents had died. But she was thankful for even a roof to cover her, and, being a woman of considerable energy and strength of character, she began to look about for something to do to support herself and her child, and—to pay the interest on the mortgage, which, even then, was overdue."

Again Clifford moved restlessly, for the man's malice irritated him excessively, for he began to realize now, as he never had before, something of what his mother's wrongs and sufferings had been, and how this vindictive man had oppressed her to gratify a mean revenge.

"You think I was a 'wretch,' too, no doubt," said the squire. "I don't deny it; but you know the old saying that 'even a worm will turn when trod upon,' and my heart had been trampled to adamant and I had sworn that I would have my pay for it. Your mother never went by her husband's surname after she came back—she called herself Mrs. Faxon, for she did not want you to know anything about the troubles of her life until you were old enough to comprehend them clearly. That was why she would never talk with you about your father. She had a first-rate education, having stood at the head of her class when she graduated from the Normal School in New Haven, and so she decided to open a private school in her own house and try to get her living that way. She managed to just about cover her expenses, except that she couldn't meet the interest on that mortgage, during the last few years, and so the place came into my hands, as you know, when she died. I didn't press her for the money, and I didn't show my hoofs to her very much. I—well, I had my reasons for it, as you will see." The man faltered and changed color here a trifle.

"So," he went on, bracing himself after a moment, "she naturally believed that I had wiped out old scores; but I hadn't. I simply wanted to work out certain plans which I had in view for you, and when I proposed that she should bind you to me for a term of years she fell into the trap without a suspicion, believing that I would look out for your future interests, and, if at any time your father's death could be proved, you would come in for a certain share of the property. But that was the very thing that I was determined should never happen, and so, when, the night before she died, she sent for me and gave me a box of letters and other papers explaining your parentage to keep for you until your time was out——"

"What!" cried Clifford, flushing crimson with sudden indignation, "and you never gave them to me! Why have you done this—this wicked, inhuman thing—why have you kept them from me?"

"Because of that old devil in me, I suppose," was the dogged response. "The hatred which I had been nursing against your father and mother for so many years seemed to concentrate upon you. I never meant you should know who your father was, nor your relationship to me, nor that you should get a penny of your grandmother's property, if I could help it."

"Did my grandmother make a will?" Clifford briefly inquired.

"No, there was no will; but as nothing was ever heard of my brother, and as I had managed everything for years, the property has all remained in my hands," the squire replied.

"Why have you told me all this now—why have you changed your mind and revealed these secrets?" Clifford demanded as he leaned forward and gazed steadily into his companion's face. Something about him seemed to fascinate the man, for he regarded him with a peculiar, searching look for a full minute.

"Your eyes are very like your mother's," he musingly observed. "She had the most beautiful eyes I ever saw, and your features are something like hers. I used to think you looked like your father, but you have changed during the last few years, and you make me think of her to-night. Oh!"—with a sudden start and giving himself a rough shake—"why have I told you this story now? Well, for one reason, I was compelled to do so. I thought that box of papers would never see the light again—I meant to have burned it long ago, but kept putting it off—but fate has taken the matter entirely out of my hands. I had it safely locked away in an old trunk, with a lot of other papers, but while Maria was cleaning house, after I came to Washington, the trunk got a fall, was smashed, and she found it. She brought it along with her, and this morning she informed me that I must relate the facts of your history to you or she should take the matter into her own hands. Of course, I preferred to face the inevitable," he concluded stoically.

"What are the papers in the box?" queried Clifford.

"Some old love-letters that passed between your father and mother while they were fooling me to the top of their bent, the certificate of their marriage, and another of your baptism, with some other things of minor importance."

"Oh! then there is proof that my mother was legally married?" said Clifford eagerly.

"Yes, they were married, straight enough; though it wouldn't have surprised me at all if my scapegrace of a brother had made a fool of her. I never knew him to consult his conscience much where his own pleasure was concerned," said the squire dryly.

"I once inferred from something you said that there was some doubt about it," said Clifford flushing.

"Well, I was pretty mad at you that night, and I didn't care much what I said."

"You have said that my father was your half-brother, and that Faxon was not his surname. What was his name?" the young man inquired with a clouded brow.

"Well, it is natural that you should want to know, and these papers will tell you. I'll call Maria and she will bring them to you," Squire Talford replied, and he rang the little handbell by his side, and which was to summon Mrs. Kimberly to the scene.


Maria, evidently, was not far away, for she entered the room almost immediately after the ringing of Squire Talford's bell and bearing the box in her hands. She paused, after closing the door, and glanced inquiringly at the squire.

"Give it to him," he said, with a nod toward Clifford, and Maria placed it in his hands, after which she walked quietly from the room again.

Clifford was deeply moved, and his hands trembled visibly as he untied the cord that held the cover in place and removed it. He merely glanced at the letters as he took them out; but seized the folded parchment with an eagerness which betrayed how anxious he was to learn the identity of the man who had married and deserted his mother.

He removed the pin that held the two papers together and unfolded the topmost one, which proved to be the marriage-certificate. He searched it eagerly for the name he wanted, and a perplexed look swept over his face as he read it: "W. F. T. Wilton."

"W. F. T. Wilton," he repeated thoughtfully. "Well, it does not enlighten me very much. What do the initials 'W. F. T.' stand for?"

"William Faxon Temple," briefly replied his companion, and regarding him with a peculiar look.

At first the name did not seem to mean much to Clifford. Then, all at once, he started erect, a terrible shock galvanizing him from head to foot, as his mind flew back to his first summer in the mountains, where he had met the wealthy banker, William F. Temple, and his family; as he recalled also his interview with the man on the morning after Minnie Temple's rescue, when he had been so strangely moved upon learning his own name.

"But it cannot be possible!" he muttered, repudiating the thought almost as soon as it had taken form in his mind.

"What cannot be possible?" inquired the squire.

"Why, I know a man here in Washington by the name of William F. Temple, and it struck me as an odd coincidence that is all," Clifford explained, but with clouded eyes.

"Well?" said the squire, but with such a peculiar intonation that Clifford started again.

"You cannot mean—surely it cannot be possible that he is the man you refer to—your half-brother!" he cried breathlessly.

"Yes, he, and no other, is the man," was the emphatic response, "only he has found it convenient to drop the name of Wilton."

"But are you sure? Have you met this man who calls himself William F. Temple? Do you know that he is your brother?"

"Yes, I am sure—we have met and recognized each other, greatly to his confusion. I could take my oath as to his identity and that he is the man who married Belle Abbot more than twenty-three years ago, though I am sure he has never dreamed of your existence, for you were born eight months after he had deserted your mother. She called herself by the name of Faxon and named you Clifford, for your grandfather, Abbot. She said you should never be known by the name of Wilton, and as the population of New Haven was constantly changing, and her home was on the outskirts of the city, she hoped to keep your identity a secret and your young life unhampered by any knowledge of the great wrong of which your father had been guilty. She never heard one word from her husband, and she finally came to the conclusion that he must be dead. I also shared that belief, for I was pretty sure that if he was alive and needed money he would make some effort to get his share of his mother's property; but four years ago last summer we suddenly ran across each other on a train between New York and Albany——"

"You did?" sharply interposed Clifford, "and did you tell him of my existence?"

"You may be sure I didn't. I never meant that any one should know that there was any tie of kinship between you and me," replied the squire, with some asperity. "At first Bill pretended that he did not know me, but I very soon brought him down from his high horse and convinced him that I knew my man. He was dressed like a nabob, and told me that he had become rich—he even told me that I was welcome to all that our mother left, and that he should never give me any trouble about his share of it; but I supposed that was a kind of bribe for me to let him alone, and, as I'd come to look upon everything as belonging to me, I concluded to give him a wide berth, rather than to get into an expensive lawsuit over the matter. I never met him again until the day you took your degree at Harvard—bah! I did not mean to let that cat out of the bag!" the man interposed, with a shrug of irritation and flushing hotly.

"Oh! I knew you were there," Clifford quietly returned. "I saw you almost as soon as I entered the hall, and your presence was a great inspiration—I feel I owe you a great deal for it."

"An inspiration!" repeated his companion, wonderingly.

"Yes; for I knew you had come to criticize—to ascertain for yourself if I had been able to work my own way through college and acquit myself creditably, and the knowledge proved a wonderful bracer for me. But you were telling me about your second meeting with Mr. Temple."

"Yes, I ran against him and his whole family just as I was leaving the grounds. They were a stunning party, and their carriage and horses as fine as one would care to see. But it nearly took Bill's breath away to see me—he looked as if he had met a ghost, though neither of us let on that he knew the other," the squire explained.

"And that man is my father!—you have taken my breath away by the revelation," said Clifford, with an air of bewilderment and a sudden sense of repulsion. "However, I have no desire to lay claim to any such relationship. Do you know where he went and how he made his money after he deserted my mother?"

"I've been told that he 'struck pay-gravel' in some Western mines; then went to San Francisco, where he set up as a banker, got into society there, and served one or two terms as Mayor of the city and met his present wife—who was a rich widow by the name of Wentworth and married her there. I learned this from a San Francisco man whom I met when I first came to Washington."

"When—how long ago was he married to this woman?" Clifford questioned, with a violent start.

"I'm sure I don't know—I haven't felt interest enough in their affairs to make any inquiries about the matter," said the squire indifferently. "I remember when I met him on that trip to Albany I told him that all the folks at home were gone. He said he knew it—he'd kept himself posted; so I suppose he must have married this woman after that."

But Clifford had grown deathly pale while he was speaking, for his mind had been working rapidly.

"No—no; great heaven;" he exclaimed, "I am sure he must have married her before my mother died!"

"What's that?" exclaimed the squire, and now all on the alert, while a malicious gleam flashed into his eyes.

"Yes, I am sure of it—oh! the shame of it!" groaned Clifford in deep distress, "and that dear, sweet child, Minnie, who is, of course, my half-sister, has no legal right to the name she bears; neither has her proud-spirited mother. What a wretch that man has been!"

"Hold on, my boy—don't go so fast," interposed his companion, with considerable excitement. "What is all this lament about?—explain what you mean."

"You have said that you have seen Mr. Temple's whole family; then of course you know that he has a beautiful little daughter about eleven years old——"

"His child by this second marriage?—are you sure?" exclaimed the squire breathlessly.

"Yes; her name is Minnie Temple."

"Ha! I had never given a thought to the girl nor her possible age. But if what you say is true, I have lived to see him bitterly punished," and the man chuckled maliciously.

"Ah, yes, he must long have felt that a sword was hanging over his head," Clifford gravely observed. "Let me see; I met the family in the White Mountains during the vacation after my first year at college. Minnie was then five years old; more than five years have elapsed since then, so she must be between ten and eleven now, and my mother died ten years ago last August," he concluded, with a look of keen pain in his eyes.

"And that proves Mrs. Temple to be no wife and the child illegitimate. Bill Wilton was a fool ever to show his face this side of the Rockies again—it's a true saying, 'give a rogue rope enough and he'll hang himself.' We'll fix him now, though I never dared to hope for such a triumph as this," said the squire, with another chuckle that actually made Clifford's flesh creep.

"Oh, don't!" he exclaimed, with mingled disgust and distress.

"Don't!" repeated the man in a tone of astonishment. "Don't you want to see a rascal like that brought to justice? I do. His whole life has been one long story of selfish indulgence and crime."

"I am not thinking of him at all," said Clifford sorrowfully, "but of the innocent ones who have been so deeply wronged by him—that lovely woman and her sweet child——"

"How about yourself?" snapped the squire. "You have your rights."

"My dear mother was a legal wife. Assured of that, I am not disturbed about myself, as far as Mr. Temple is concerned. I have fought my way thus far, and I shall go still higher, without extorting anything from him."

"But you surely will demand that he shall do the fair thing by you in the disposition of his property."

"No!" cried Clifford, in a tone of scornful repudiation. "I would never claim kinship with such a man and I want none of his gold. But"—a wistful expression creeping into his eyes and dropping into a musing tone—"I could love that dear child—my little half-sister—very tenderly if I might be allowed to. I have always felt a sort of proprietorship in her ever since the day that I went over that precipice after her—somehow she has seemed to belong to me in a way, though I little imagined that I was rescuing my own sister from a terrible death——"

"'Death!—rescue!'" repeated the squire wonderingly, "what are you talking about, Cliff?"

The young man looked up with a smile and shook himself. "I was dreaming of the past, and hardly realized that I was speaking aloud," he said.

Then he described the event, while the man listened attentively, his eyes fastened upon the manly young face, and a look of wonder grew in his eyes as he began to comprehend the heroism of the deed.

"And you did that! you went over that precipice and down a hundred feet on a rope and back again, the same way, with that child on your back!" he demanded in astonishment when Clifford concluded.

"Of course—there was nothing else to be done."

"Weren't you afraid?—you must have known that you were liable to lose your head, fall and be dashed to atoms on the rocks below."

"Well, I knew there was a risk, of course; but I did not stop to think about being afraid. I should have gone, just the same, if I had known I should fail—I could not leave that child there without making an effort to save her," was the grave reply.

"Well, that makes another!" ejaculated the squire thoughtfully.

"Another what?" questioned Clifford, who did not catch his companion's meaning.

"Another deed to be proud of," was the hearty, but almost involuntary response.

It was now Clifford's turn to look astonished—and he was beyond measure—for it was the first time he had ever heard a word of genuine commendation from the man's lips.

"Thank you, sir," he earnestly returned.

"Humph!" grunted the squire, as if half-ashamed of having betrayed so much weakness; "so you don't appear to be very much elated over the fact that you are the sole heir to William Faxon Temple's millions."

"No, sir; I do not want a dollar of his money," was the spirited reply, "and I should never—under any circumstances—attempt to prove myself his heir, or entitled to bear his name. My mother named me Clifford Faxon, and while I live I will bear no other."

"Well, I must say, you are mighty indifferent about your rights; and you do not seem to grasp the fact either, that, as my nephew, there is a possibility that you may inherit something handsome from me one of these days," and the man regarded him curiously as he said this.

Clifford flushed again.

"I had not thought of such a thing, I assure you," he said coldly. "Of course I cannot help the fact that a certain relationship exists between us; but I do not want your property, Squire Talford—I don't want any man's money."

"Oh, you don't! It strikes me that you are mighty independent, and perhaps may live to regret assuming such airs," snapped his companion, in evident irritation. Then he added maliciously: "But then, I forgot for the moment that you are expecting to marry a fortune—I am told that Miss Heatherford is a rich girl."

Clifford was secretly furious at this spiteful thrust; nothing but his respect for the man's age and weakened condition kept him from voicing a scathing retort.

"Miss Heatherford's property will be settled exclusively upon herself before she becomes my wife," he merely replied, with an air of dignity that sat well upon him. "I have no desire to build myself up upon the foundation of another. From my earliest boyhood I have been conscious of something within me that was bound to rise, and if I have my health I have no fear that I shall be able to make for myself a name and position of which neither I nor my friends will be ashamed."

"Humph!" grunted the squire again; but he shot a look at the fine face opposite him that had an unwonted gleam of respect in it.

"You remarked a while ago," Clifford resumed after a moment of silence, "that you believe Mr. Temple is unaware of the fact that he has a son. I am confident you are mistaken. I am quite sure that he knows that I am his son, although he evidently thinks that I am ignorant regarding my relationship to him."

He then described his first meeting with Mr. Temple a few days after Minnie Temple's accident, and how agitated the man had been upon learning of his name and the fact that he had been bound to Squire Talford for four years.

The squire smiled grimly as he concluded:

"Well, it does look as if he had an inkling of the truth, that's a fact," he said, "and he must have had quite a shock at the time—he couldn't have felt over and above easy, I'm thinking, especially since I came to Washington. I don't see that it has done much good telling you this story," he went on moodily, "except that perhaps it has set your mind at rest about your origin. I don't suppose I should ever have told it if it hadn't been for Maria—she was bound that you should know the truth, and, on the whole, I am not sorry it is over with."

Clifford made no reply to these remarks—he felt they called for none—but busied himself with gathering up his papers and replacing them in their box, his companion regarding him curiously while he did so.


When he had arranged everything in an orderly manner, Clifford tied the cover on the box, after which he arose to go.

"I am very glad that we have had this explanation, Squire Talford," he thoughtfully remarked, "for I never could understand why I was such an object of aversion to you. I sincerely regret that I should have been the innocent cause of so much discomfort to you; but let me say now, as it is probable we shall never meet again after you leave Washington, that you need give yourself no uneasiness for the future, for no one shall ever learn from me the relationship that exists between us."

"Humph! and you really mean, too, that you will never tell your father that you have learned you are his son and can prove the fact?"

"Never. I have no wish ever to meet the man again," Clifford returned with decision.

"Suppose he should some day approach you upon the subject?"

"That is a different matter, though I think it is not a supposable case; he has too much at stake to care to agitate so serious a subject. I hope our long talk has not wearied you and that you will still continue to improve as rapidly as I am glad to see you have been during the last few days."

"Yes, I am getting along finely, and we are going home the first of next week," the squire observed, but with his eyes downcast in a thoughtful mood.

"Ah! I was not aware you had set the day; but no doubt you will be far more comfortable in your pleasant home at Cedar Hill. I trust, if there is anything I can do for you in a business way, or otherwise, before you go, you will command me. Now, as I have an engagement, I must go. Good night."

"Good night," briefly returned the man, but without looking up, and Clifford quietly left the room. He met Maria in the hall.

"Waal, you've got it," she observed, and glancing significantly at the box in his hands.

"Yes, thanks to you, my faithful friend. I feel that I owe you a great deal, first and last," the young man replied in a grateful tone; "and the squire tells me you are going home next week."

"I guess there ain't no call for you to feel overburdened," said the woman, swallowing hard to keep a sob from choking her, as she thought of the coming separation, "I never had to ask you twice to do anything for me, even when you was a boy; you was always careful about makin' trouble, you never made any litter bringin' wood—you never got any ashes on the floor when you made the fire in the mornin', and you always had a pleasant word for me when other folks were cross'n two sticks. I don't forget them things, I can tell you."

"And I am sure I have just as many pleasant memories. You were always very kind to me, Maria," said Clifford. Then, as he saw she was almost ready to weep, he added, with a laugh: "Oh, those turnovers and doughnuts that you used to tuck into my basket when I had to take my dinner to school on stormy winter days were things a boy could never forget! I believe nobody can make such doughnuts as yours, Maria—really, my mouth waters for one this very moment."

"Sho!—now you're giving me taffy," the woman retorted, with an answering laugh; but her face flushed with pleasure at his tribute nevertheless.

The next morning Squire Talford busied himself with writing a somewhat lengthy epistle, which, after addressing it, he directed Maria to post immediately.

Mrs. Kimberly was not above glancing at the superscription as she went out, and nodded significantly as she read the name, "William Faxon Temple, Esq." for she had recently seen the same, with another added, in the old family Bible at home. She, therefore, had a shrewd suspicion that the contents of that envelope related to matters of grave importance that were closely connected with Clifford. She looked even more wise when, that same evening, the maid who waited upon the door handed her a card and told her a gentleman was in the parlor and wanted to see Squire Talford, for one glance at the bit of pasteboard had revealed the same name that she had seen on the letter which she had posted that morning.

The squire told her to show the gentleman up immediately, and the two men were closeted together for more than two hours.

When the visitor left, Maria, who of course, was on the alert, observed that he was deathly pale, and that he walked unsteadily like one who had received a severe blow or had suddenly aged.

"So, that's the man; waal, the day o' judgment has come for him at last! The way of the transgressor is hard," she muttered gravely to herself.

The next afternoon, shortly before leaving his office, Clifford received the following note:

"Will Mr. Clifford Faxon have the kindness to call this evening about nine o'clock at No. 54 —— Street? A matter of great importance is the excuse for the request. Very respectfully,  William F. Temple."

Clifford was somewhat appalled as he read this, and readily understood that Squire Talford had taken matters into his own hands.

His whole soul arose in rebellion as he read the formal note, and his first impulse was to pen a curt refusal to comply with the writer's request. He had hoped that he need never meet the man again, now that he had learned who and what he was; this man, devoid of all honor, who, according to his own written statement, had deliberately set himself to win the love of a pure and innocent girl, just out of a spirit of rivalry with his brother, and then, as soon as he had become weary of his toy, he had remorselessly broken her heart by deserting her and leaving her in a strange city to fight the desperate battle of life alone.

His contempt for the man was beyond the power of expression, especially when he thought of how he had daringly ignored all moral and civil law by marrying another without taking any pains to ascertain whether his first victim was still living, and thus had entailed upon the second wife and her child irrevocably shame and sorrow.

Of course he understood that motives of revenge alone had prompted Squire Talford to precipitate matters in this way—that he would gloat over this opportunity to pay off, in a measure, the old scores which he had nursed for so many years, and his scorn for him was little less than that for his more daring and reckless brother.

But after giving the matter some serious thought, and realizing that a meeting between himself and Mr. Temple was bound to occur sooner or later, he decided to comply with his request, boldly declare the attitude which he intended to maintain toward him, and thus settle the matter for all time.

Accordingly the hour designated—nine o'clock—found him standing upon the marble steps of Mr. Temple's palatial residence ringing for admittance. A dignified butler admitted him to a reception-room and took his card to his master. He reappeared very shortly with a request from Mr. Temple that he would kindly step into the library.

As Clifford followed the man through the spacious hall he could not fail to observe everywhere the numerous evidences of great wealth and the exquisite taste displayed in the choice of furnishings, pictures, bric-a-brac, etc., and a pang of bitterness, mingled with righteous indignation, smote his heart as he recalled how his mother had toiled and struggled to eke out a miserable existence.

As he entered the luxurious library and the servant withdrew, closing the door after him, Mr. Temple came forward to greet him with extended hand, but with an almost colorless face and unsteady step.

"We have met before," he said, "we need no introduction——"

"That is true, Mr. Temple," Clifford observed, as the man faltered, while he gravely met his glance but ignored his proffered hand, "and while I would have much preferred—since learning from Squire Talford yesterday of the relations existing between us—that we need never meet again, it has seemed best to me to respond to your request and come to some definite understanding regarding our attitude toward each other in the future."

Mr. Temple had grown red and white by turns during this formal speech, and his eyes wavered and fell beneath the clear, direct look of the young man before him. He felt deeply humiliated in the presence of his unacknowledged son—a son whom he realized any father might be proud to own.

"I comprehend," he said after a moment of awkward silence, "you refuse to take the hand of the man who you feel has deeply wronged both yourself and your mother; you perhaps have no desire to recognize any tie of kinship between us."

"You are right, sir," Clifford briefly but positively declared.

Mr. Temple flushed again, but bowed a grave acquiescence to his decision.

"Will you be seated?" he remarked. "I will not presume to question the justice of the attitude you have chosen to adopt, at the same time there are some matters regarding which I wish to consult you.

"We might as well come straight to the point," the gentleman began, but with white lips and averted eyes, for he had never been as conscious of his own littleness of soul and lack of manliness as at that moment in the presence of his son, whom he recognized as infinitely his superior in every respect. "I spent a couple of hours with Alfred Talford last evening, and he told me of his interview with you and also gave me the history of your life. Since this conference must necessarily be mostly one of confession, I may as well state plainly at the outset that I never really loved your mother. She was a bright, handsome girl, and I was temporarily attracted toward her, while a spirit of deviltry prompted me to try to make her prove false to Alf, between whom and myself there had always existed a feeling of jealousy and rivalry.

"How well I succeeded you already know. I completely mesmerized the girl into believing that her existence depended upon me, and persuaded her to elope with me, leaving her discarded lover to bear his disappointment as best he could. We went West, but I soon grew weary of my unloved wife. Perhaps I could have borne our relations better if we had been prosperous; but after the money I had taken with me had given out and I knew I would not be likely to get any more out of the estate while my mother lived, I had hard luck—I did not get business that amounted to anything, and every day was a struggle for a meager existence. Belle had to work hard to help along, and so had no time to spend upon pretty toilets to make herself attractive as before our marriage, while anxiety and disappointment stole all her color and beauty. I stood it as long as I could, and then I made up my mind to bolt. I——"

"Pardon, Mr. Temple," Clifford here interposed, a look of mingled pain and aversion sweeping over his face, "pray spare yourself and me a rehearsal of that—I have in my possession the letter which you wrote my mother at that time, and it needs no elucidation."

"Very well," the man curtly observed, though he shrank visibly, as he realized how utterly contemptible he must appear in the eyes of his son if he had read the cruel lines he had written. "On leaving Chicago I dropped my last name, Wilton, and called myself Temple. I drifted into a mining-district of Colorado, where, after a time, I made a lively strike, and, in a few years, became independently rich. Then, as I did not like the rough life of a miner and craved better society, I sold out and went to San Francisco, where I established myself as a banker."

"Did no sense of responsibility make you feel that you ought to make some provision for the wife you had left after you became so prosperous?" Clifford here inquired.

"Well," replied Mr. Temple, with a restless movement, "I supposed she had gone back to her own folks, and, as Mr. Abbot was doing a good business when she left home, I imagined she would be well provided for, while I wanted to keep dark. I was perfectly willing that all my old acquaintances in the East should believe me dead. I knew my mother was dead, for I had read a record of it, having ordered a New Haven paper sent to a certain address after I went to San Francisco, and there was nobody else in that region that I cared anything about. Later, I became interested in politics, made myself popular, and served two terms as Mayor of the city.

"Then"—he paused and swallowed hard, while his face became drawn and pinched with pain—"I met my present wife, who was a wealthy widow with one son, visiting some friends in the city, and I fell really in love for the first time in my life, and—and my affection for her has strengthened with every passing year. You doubtless wonder how I dared to marry her without procuring a divorce from Belle. I admit it was a bold and risky thing to do; but I knew that I had no grounds for a divorce—that if I should attempt such a measure, very likely I should fail, for I felt very sure that Alf must hate me to that extent that he would spare nothing to thwart any plan of that kind. I told myself that I was practically dead to all who had known me earlier in life—that it would be better for me not to arouse sleeping dogs, who would be likely to blight all the dearest hopes of my life; the continent was between us, and as I had changed my name, it seemed more than probable that I could live out my life without the fear of being molested by any one.

"So I boldly won the woman I loved and resolutely silenced every fear for the future. In less than a year my little daughter, Minnie, was born, and then for a while I confess I experienced some uneasiness on her account; but a year later that all vanished when one day I read in my New Haven paper of the death of Mrs. W. F. T. Wilton, and knew that at last I was free. I told myself that now I could enjoy life to the utmost—my past was a sealed book, and the future was bright with unlimited wealth, a beautiful wife, a lovely child. I felt as if I had been released from a terrible bondage, and lived accordingly. We had the entrée of the best society, and there was even some talk of making me governor of the State. An almost ideal existence was ours, and yet, even then, occasionally there would be forced upon my consciousness the fact that my wife had no legal right to the position she occupied and that my idolized child was——"

"Oh, I beg you will not speak like that of that innocent child!" Clifford here broke forth, with a note of keen pain in his tones. "It is wholly unnecessary to rehearse all that to me."

"Yes, yes, I suppose it is," Mr. Temple assented, as he shook himself roughly as if arousing from a disagreeable dream, "and I hardly know why I have allowed myself to go so into details. Well, the greatest mistake of my life was made when I yielded to Mrs. Temple's persuasions to come East and settle, so that her son could be educated at Harvard—and, by the way, it seemed like the mockery of fate that you two should have been in the same class. At first I objected to the plan, for I, of course, felt safer to be three thousand miles from the scenes of my youthful escapades, and I was still ambitious for political honors, in spite of the fact that my own party had been defeated in the last elections; but her heart was so set on the project that I finally gave up the point. We accordingly went to Boston, and a little later I purchased a fine estate in Brookline, which has been our home ever since.

"Mind you, during all this time I had never dreamed of your existence. My first intimation of the fact that I had a son was that morning when I sought you to express my gratitude to you for having saved the life of my little daughter. The moment I looked into your eyes I was conscious that there was something strangely familiar about you, and when you told me that your name was Clifford Faxon, it seemed as if the earth was slipping out from underneath me. I knew the truth then, for your mother had often said that if she ever had a son she would name him Clifford, for her father; and I understood that she had refrained from giving you your true surname because she wished to keep from you the knowledge of who your father was.

"I have learned all about her life after she returned to New Haven, and also her history from Squire Talford. I know what you have had to meet and overcome, and that you have steadily and resolutely risen above every obstacle. I realize the fact that you are a young man, morally and intellectually, of whom any man might feel proud as a son, and yet, situated as I am, you can readily see that such a recognition would entail——"

"I beg that you will give yourself no uneasiness, sir; I have no desire to recognize such a tie, nor to have any one else informed of the fact," Clifford quietly interposed.

Mr. Temple changed color, yet at the same time the look of intense anxiety which his face had worn hitherto faded out and he drew a breath of relief.

"Very well; and now we have arrived at a point where I wish to discuss matters from a business point of view. I tell you candidly I adore my wife, I worship my child, and I would far rather that a millstone should crush me at this instant than have either learn the terrible facts regarding their true position. Therefore, I am going to throw myself upon your mercy; I know that you are an honorable man, and that your word would be as sacred to you as your oath, and I am going to ask you to pledge yourself never to reveal to any one the secret of my past. In return for such a pledge I will settle upon you outright the sum of three hundred thousand dollars——"

Clifford drew himself suddenly erect, and a statue could scarcely have been colder or more rigid.

"Mr. Temple," he interrupted, with a dignity that was most impressive, "there is not the slightest need of purchasing my silence. As I have said, I have no wish to have any part of this history known; my love for my mother, who was a pure, sweet, gentle woman, and my pride alike, forbid that I should lay any claim to kinship with you, and I would not accept a dollar of your money to save myself from starvation."

"You are hard on me, young man," said Mr. Temple, cringing beneath the scathing words as under a blow.

"Hard!" repeated Clifford, whose scorn for the man was almost beyond control, for he not only had his own and his mother's wrongs to remember, but the treachery of the man in connection with Mr. Heatherford, "the greatest condemnation that could be pronounced upon you, you have yourself voiced to-night in the heartless story which you have related to me; and let me assure you that I am actuated by no sympathy with or pity for you in promising that my lips will forever be sealed regarding our relations to each other, but out of regard alone for the dear child whom I saved from a terrible death, and for whom I have ever since entertained a strong affection. For her sake this secret, which would blight her young life, shall be guarded most sacredly—ah!—what does that mean?"

And Clifford paused briefly, a look of blank dismay upon his face, as a low, wailing, shuddering moan sounded through the room.


That heart-broken cry struck instant terror to the souls of both men. Clifford started to his feet, and Mr. Temple sprang forward, with a muttered oath, toward the portières that screened an alcove at one end of the room, just as they parted, and Minnie Temple appeared in the aperture.

"Oh, papa, papa! what does it all mean?" she wailed as she fell into his outstretched arms, and he caught her almost fiercely to his breast. "I have heard every word that you have said. I came in here after dinner, laid down on the couch in the alcove and went to sleep. I awoke when Clifford Faxon came in, but was too late to leave; then when you began to talk I remained where I was—forgot everything but what you were saying. Oh, tell me, what is this dreadful story about mamma and me, and about Mr. Faxon being your son? I must know—I must know! I will know!"

The poor girl was fearfully wrought up, and at this point lapsed into violent hysterics that alarmed both her companions.

With the child still hugged to his bosom and a face like chalk, Mr. Temple strode to the mantle and touched an electric button.

"Send Mrs. Maxfield immediately—Miss Minnie is ill," he said when the butler appeared.

Then he attempted to soothe her, calling her every endearing name he could think of, and assuring her that there was no story—she simply dreamed or had a horrible nightmare.

But she was past all reason, and when the housekeeper appeared she was borne up-stairs in an almost unconscious condition and put to bed, while Clifford quietly left the house, but with an exceedingly heavy heart.

A physician was summoned, and after powerful anodynes had been administered the child fell into a profound stupor, from which she did not arouse until the next morning.

But, of course, when the effects of the sleeping potion wore off and memory returned, the girl, who was mature beyond her years, sent for her father and insisted upon being told the truth about herself.

Mr. Temple tried to evade her as he had done the night previous, by trying to convince her that she had only been dreaming; but she asserted that she knew better, and appealed to her mother—who had been out at a reception the night before—to make her father explain what she had overheard.

Mr. Temple was in despair—he felt that the web of fate was closing around him, and, for the first time in his life, fell into a violent passion with her, sternly commanding her to stop questioning him regarding what was none of her affairs, but had been purely a matter of business between himself and Mr. Faxon.

Of course, the curiosity of both Mrs. Temple and Philip, who was also present, was aroused, and, upon their insistence, Minnie faithfully rehearsed the conversation between her father and Clifford, and, thus brought to bay, the wretched millionaire was forced to make a clean breast of everything.

It was a crushing blow to the entire family. Mrs. Temple shut herself up in her own room and would see no one for three days.

Then she sent for Philip, who seemed to have been suddenly transformed, and bore himself with a grave dignity that he had never worn before.

They were closeted for several hours; then they requested Mr. Temple to come to them. He obeyed the summons, but appeared like an old man, out of whom all hope and ambition had been crushed.

He tried many times to see his wife during those three, to him, endless days; but she would not admit him. He had sent her note after note that were pitiful in their expressions of remorse and appeals for forgiveness. His heart sank anew within him as he now entered her presence and noted how she had also changed. When he would have greeted her with his customary caress he was waved to a distant chair with an air of repulsion.

"I have come to the decision, Mr. Temple, that there is but one thing for me to do," she began, but without looking at him, "and that is to leave Washington immediately, seek some place of retirement and hide my shame as best I can."

"Don't Nell! Oh—don't!" cried the stricken man, cringing before her; "no breath of shame shall touch you, my darling; we will right everything."

"Right everything!" exclaimed the outraged woman, turning upon him in righteous indignation. "Do you presume to talk of righting such a wrong as mine at this late day? Do you imagine that the formal benediction of a clergyman would restore to me the self-respect of which you have deliberately robbed me, or wipe out the stigma that rests upon my child? I am not your wife—I have never been your wife—I have simply been, like a piece of merchandise, labeled with your name, and—I will never answer to it again."

"Oh, Nell! forgive—you break my heart!" groaned the wretched listener.

"Break your heart!" the almost maddened woman exclaimed with a bitter laugh. "Ah, me! one could scarce expect anything else—you think only of your heart, your suffering. It is all of a piece with the selfishness and recklessness that wrecked the life of that other woman, although the wrong done her is not to be compared with mine. She at least was a legal wife and her child legitimate, while I—oh, heavens!—to think what I am! what my child is!" and she threw out her clenched hands with a cry of mingled shame and agony that rang sharply through the room.

"Mother, hush! do not go over all that again!" Philip here interposed, with quiet authority. "There is no call for you to mourn any loss of self-respect, for you are in no way responsible for this wrong, and we will guard Minnie so tenderly that the world shall never have an opportunity to make her suffer a single pang. Of course," he continued with grave thoughtfulness, "things cannot go on as they are. If your decision—that you will not legally assume the name that you have hitherto borne—is irrevocable, we must arrange for as quiet a separation as possible, for Minnie's sake——"

"Oh, Nell! spare me that, I beg," pleaded Mr. Temple, with a heartbroken sob. "Oh, forgive me this great wrong; don't talk of separation; let me make you legally my wife, then we will go away to Europe—or anywhere you like—and I will be your slave—I will do my utmost to atone for the past and make you happy for the future. No one need ever know aught of this secret. Faxon is honor itself, and he assured me that no hint of it should ever escape his lips, and I am sure he would keep his word—Phil, you know that he can be depended upon."

"Yes," Philip gravely asserted, after a moment of hesitation, "I know, if Faxon said that he will abide by it. But, Mr. Temple," he resumed in a tone which was an indication of his own attitude, "I feel sure that my mother has received a shock from which she can never recover, and I agree with her that a separation will be the wisest measure to adopt under the circumstances."

"Let your mother speak for herself, if you please, Phil," Mr. Temple interrupted, as he braced himself in his chair and turned his haggard face toward the woman whom he adored.

The proud, beautiful worldling shivered as if an icy wind had blown over her, for she had loved this man who, for twelve almost idealistic years, she had regarded as her husband. She had scarce had a wish ungratified; she had enjoyed his wealth and been proud of her position in society.

But, as Philip had said, the shock which she had sustained had been one from which she could never rally, for it had killed both love and respect at one blow. She did not move or lift her glance to him as she said in an almost inaudible voice.

"Phil has stated it right—I can never forgive the fearful wrong that you have done me. We must part."

"How about—Minnie?" Mr. Temple questioned, a look of despair on his face.

It was an unfortunate question. It aroused all the lioness in the outraged woman, and she turned upon him with a burst of passion of which he had never imagined her capable.

"Minnie is mine!" she cried in a voice that rang shrilly through the room—"mine by the right of motherhood and—oh, God!—mine, exclusively mine, by right of the shame which you have entailed upon us both."

It was a terrible thrust, and William Temple threw out his hands with a gesture of keenest anguish, as if warding off the point of a dagger. He sat like one stunned for several moments, and there was no sound in the room.

Finally the man lifted his bowed head and observed in a hollow tone and with a look of utter hopelessness:

"Very well, Nell, it will have to be as you say; but no breath of shame from the world shall ever touch either of you—I could not bear that. I know I deserve my punishment, and I bow to the inevitable. You shall have Minnie—I relinquish her to you—and you shall go where you will; or, if you prefer to remain here in Washington, I will go to the ends of the earth, on some plausible errand, and you shall never hear of me again.

"Now"—rising feebly and holding onto the back of his chair, while he gazed on her with the look of one whose heart was breaking—"arrange everything to suit yourself. I will not lay a straw in your way, and you shall have all the money you want."

He tottered from the room, groping his way down-stairs and walking like one who has been stricken blind, sought the library, and locked himself in to keep out intruders, while trying to face a future which did not seem to have a single ray of hope to make it worth the living.

There they found him five hours later, sitting before his desk, his head bowed upon his outstretched arms, unconscious and almost rigid.

The butler, desiring some instructions regarding certain orders his master had given him, rapped upon the door for admission; but, after repeated attempts, receiving no answer, he had gone out upon the veranda and entered the room by a window, to find the occupant of the room in the condition described.

He was borne to his room and the family physician summoned, when the attack was pronounced an apoplectic stroke.

He recovered consciousness after a few days, but could move neither hand nor foot, while the verdict of the doctors was that his days, even his hours, were numbered.

When this was made known to Mrs. Temple she seemed to become like one petrified. She sat motionless and speechless for several minutes; then she burst into a passion of weeping, so violent in her utter abandonment to her overwhelming grief that she was utterly prostrated by it; the flood-gates that had hitherto been held back by an almost indomitable will and pride were lifted, and all her pent-up sorrow and shame were let loose.

When the storm finally spent itself she slept from sheer exhaustion, and did not wake for several hours. Then she was calm, and once more mistress of herself, and clothing herself in soft, noiseless garments, she went directly to her husband, a chastened look on her face, an air of gentleness and resignation in her bearing that hitherto had been wholly foreign to her.

Almost ever since memory had returned to him, the sick man had lain with his eyes fastened upon the door leading from his room, and with a look of longing in them that was pathetic beyond description.

When, at length, it opened to admit his wife, his whole face lighted with an expression of joy that nearly made her weep again, but which sent a thrill to her own heart that told her she loved him still, in spite of the irreparable wrong he had done her.

She went to his bed and sat down beside him, gathering one of his lifeless hands into hers, and, bending over him, kissed him on the forehead.

Two great tears welled up from the fountain of his heart and brimmed over upon his cheeks. His wife gently wiped them away and questioned tenderly:

"Will, is there anything you would like me to do for you?"

He closed his eyes slowly, thus signifying that there was, then, opening them again, he glanced toward the nurse.

"Do you wish to be alone with me for a while?" Mrs. Temple inquired.

Yes, the sad eyes signified, and the attendant went immediately out.

"Now, dear, how can I manage to find out just what you want?" said Mrs. Temple, when the door was closed.

Again that intensely yearning look was fastened upon her face, and she instinctively divined his thought at once.

"Is it that you wish me to say something kind to you?" she asked.

His look brightened, but the tears started at the same time.

"Well, then, Will, dear," began the chastened wife, in a voice that was tremulous with emotion, "I have fought my battle out, and I believe I can truly say that I forgive all. I see now that I was selfish in thinking only of my own suffering—I had no right to be cruel to you when you were more wretched than I. Get well, Will—try to get well, and then we will all go to some quiet place and begin to live in a more earnest and sensible way."

The tears were raining thick and fast now from the man's eyes, but she wiped them away, while she continued to talk to him in a soothing, comforting strain, until he became more composed. But she soon saw that there was still something on his mind, and she tried to ascertain what it was, but though she asked many questions regarding his business and certain appointments which she knew he had made, she could not seem to get at his thought.

At last she told him that she would say the alphabet and they would spell out his wish. When she reached the letter M, he signified that was right, and she instantly jumped to a conclusion, and inquired:

"Do you want Minnie?—how strange I did not think of that before!"

Yes, the eyes assented. Mrs. Temple rang the bell and sent for the child, who had not been allowed to come into the room, except for a moment or two, while her father was sleeping.

She soon made her appearance, looking pale and drooping, for the sensitive girl had been stricken to the heart by what she had learned, and inexpressibly lonely and wretched while her mother was brooding over her own misery.

Mrs. Temple folded her in her arms and kissed her tenderly, then made her sit down in her own chair, while she drew another near for herself.

"Papa wished me to send for you, dear," she said; "he cannot speak, but you may talk to him a little; and, love, say something kind to him," she concluded, with her lips close to Minnie's ear.

Minnie sat down by the sick man and laid her cheek against his with all her accustomed fondness.

"Papa," she murmured, "I love you—I am so sorry you are ill and cannot talk to me; but"—now lifting her head and looking earnestly into his eyes—"you know that I love you—that I shall always love you."

The look of yearning and agony which he bent upon her was more than she could bear, and, dropping her head again upon his pillow, she added:

"Now cannot you go to sleep for a little while; I will sit here beside you and hold your hand; then, perhaps, when you are rested you can talk to me a little."

She clasped his hand in both of her own soft, warm palms, raised it to her lips, kissed it, and held it there, and for nearly half an hour there was no sound in the room.

Finally the nurse came softly in, to look after her patient, and Mrs. Temple turned, with her finger upon her lips.

"They are both asleep," she whispered.

It was true, both the man and child were wrapped in slumber; one in that which knows no waking, the other in the innocent, restful sleep of childhood.


So William Faxon Temple Wilton's mortal experience on this plane of existence came to an end. Love of ease and pleasure, selfishness and greed, the fostering of malice, passion, and appetite invariably bring their punishment, even here.

When all was over it was found, upon making a thorough examination of his papers, that the man had left no will. A memorandum of a few bequests was discovered in a little blankbook in his desk, showing that he had given some thought to the subject; but these, of course, amounted to nothing, and Philip Wentworth was appalled when he realized what such culpable neglect on the part of Mr. Temple meant in connection with his mother and sister.

"Mother, this is simply awful!" he exclaimed, when they were at last obliged to relinquish their fruitless search; "you and Minnie are literally penniless, for not a dollar of Mr. Temple's fortune can either of you touch. Clifford Faxon, who is his son by that other woman, becomes the sole heir to his magnificent property."

"Can that be possible?" said Mrs. Temple, greatly distressed. "Oh, it seems dreadful that Minnie—that innocent child—must suffer for the sin of another. She was her father's idol, and, of course, he intended that she should be his heiress. I know if he had even dreamed that the truth would be revealed he would have made a will in her favor, and settled the matter irrevocably."

"He did know," said Phil, flushing with indignation; "don't you know he said that he realized that Faxon was his son, as long ago as when he met him at the mountains. I cannot understand how he dared to leave matters so at loose ends."

"Well," observed Mrs. Temple, after a thoughtful pause, "I am not going to cast reflections upon him now. I told him that I forgave him, and I will hold to what I said. I begin to think that unlimited wealth is a snare which binds and warps all that is best in our natures. I am not literally penniless, as you said. I have my own small fortune, which Will insisted upon settling upon me when we were—ah! why do I refer to that miserable farce!" she interposed with sudden passion.

But she calmed herself almost instantly and continued:

"I am sure I can manage with what I have quite comfortably, though, of course, we will have to give up all this style and exercise economy. Now, Phil"—with an air of determination—"I am not going to have any legal contest or gossip over these matters. Everything has been kept quiet so far, and for both Minnie's and my sake there must be no scandal. I am going to send for Mr. Faxon, tell him frankly that there is no will, and relinquish everything to him."

"That would be neither right nor sensible!" cried Philip hotly, his old grudge against Clifford flaming up anew. "Of course, I can understand that Faxon—hem! has certain legal rights that will have to be respected; but, morally, he has no right to this fortune—Minnie should have every dollar of it. Blast it all!" he burst forth, as he sprang to his feet and excitedly paced the room, "we are in a horrible situation. If we fight for the property that damnable secret will all have to come out——"

"Yes, and there would be no use in fighting, for Mr. Faxon can easily prove his own position and get everything. Oh, it would be worse than folly, Phil, to attempt to contest the matter—our hands are tied—we are utterly helpless; so I am going to quietly give up everything. I would rather forfeit every penny than have the world know our shameful story."

Philip was almost beside himself in view of this unforeseen calamity. Since the trouble has fallen upon his mother he had borne himself with more dignity and manliness than he had ever manifested. He had seemed to be suddenly transformed, and had been a veritable staff and support to her. He had even appeared somewhat softened toward Clifford upon learning how nobly considerate he had been and that he had given his word to preserve their secret inviolate.

But now, when he realized that he alone was Mr. Temple's heir, and that his mother and sister would be deprived of the luxuries to which they had always been accustomed, his old hatred revived with tenfold fury, and he became capable for the time of almost any crime in his desire to wreck vengeance upon his rival.

But Mrs. Temple proceeded to put her resolution into immediate action, and wrote a brief, courteous note to Clifford, requesting him to call at his earliest convenience, as she had a matter of the most vital importance to discuss with him.

He at once surmised something of the nature of the matter—for he knew that if he had not been mentioned in Mr. Temple's will he could break it if he chose—and accordingly presented himself at the Temple mansion that same evening.

Mrs. Temple received him cordially, but Phil, his mother having insisted that he should be present during the interview, barely accorded him a recognition.

Mrs. Temple came to the point at once, stating the case briefly, but plainly, and to say that Clifford was astonished upon learning that there was no will and that he alone was heir to the large fortune which Mr. Temple had left would not feebly express his feelings.

He had never once thought of such a contingency. He supposed, of course, that Mr. Temple had made his will, leaving everything to the woman he adored and the child he worshiped, and that they had sent for him simply to make terms with him to prevent him from making them any trouble in settling the estate. But to learn that there were no terms to be made—to learn that they had sent for him to relinquish everything, without a desire or a condition, except that he would reassure them of his willingness to keep their miserable secret, almost dazed him.

To most people that would have been a moment of signal triumph; but it was not in Clifford's nature to triumph in any one's misfortune, although it did flash upon him, as his mind reverted to that day when Philip Wentworth had so rudely saluted him—"Say, here! you window-washer!"—that the tables had been turned in a most wonderful manner.

It seemed like a dream to be sitting there and know that, for the moment, at least, he was a millionaire, while his old-time enemy and his proud mother were groveling before him in the valley of humiliation.

He listened gravely to all Mrs. Temple had to say, and his heart ached for her in her sorrow, and grew very tender toward her, as well, for was she not the mother of his young sister?

When, at the close of her explanations, she begged him, for Minnie's sake, to take everything and welcome if he would only save them the disgrace of having the world learn the truth and point the finger of scorn at them, he flushed to his brows with wounded feeling.

"My dear madam," he said as she concluded, "I am wondering what your estimate of me can be! I assure you that I am as eager as yourself to keep these matters from the world. I may as well tell you that Mr. Temple offered to settle three hundred thousand dollars upon me upon the same condition; but I say to you now, as I said to him that evening, I cheerfully promise that, as far as I am concerned, the secret shall be inviolate, and I do not want—I will not have—a dollar of this fortune which you assert, and which I can understand, might be mine by the law of inheritance."

At this point Philip Wentworth turned and faced him for the first time during the interview, his face wearing an expression of profound astonishment.

"What are you saying?" he demanded sharply; "you do not intend to take any of Mr. Temple's money?"

"Not a penny, Wentworth," Clifford quietly returned.

"But—I do not understand it!" said Philip, with a blank stare of wonderment.

"It is very simple," returned Clifford, with a frank smile. "Mr. Temple never knew of my existence until a little over five years ago, and even after he learned the fact he manifested no interest in me. All his hopes and plans were centered in his daughter and her mother; his fortune was made for them, and he expected and intended that it would become theirs in the event of his death. Now, I feel that I have no more right to it, morally, than I have to the fortune of one of the Vanderbilts. I can see, as you do, that I might, according to the law governing such matters, claim it all if I was so disposed; but I assure you I want no part of it. Probably the world—if it were conversant with the circumstances—would judge me to be quixotic and say that my pride outweighed my judgment. Possibly, that may be true to a certain extent—I cannot quite define my own feelings regarding the matter; but," he concluded decidedly, "the fact remains—I will not touch it!"

Mrs. Temple had observed him with growing interest, mingled with deepest respect and admiration, during these remarks, and as he concluded she turned to him with an eager light in her eyes:

"Mr. Faxon," she said, "there is, I suppose, a great deal of money; may I beg, as a personal favor, that you will take at least a portion of it—that you will share it with Minnie?"

"Madam, that would be impossible. I most cheerfully resign everything to her," was the firm but courteous response.

"I am amazed!" said the lady, with visible emotion, "and, morally, it does not seem right to me that my child should, under the circumstances, alone be enriched by Mr. Temple's wealth. Oh! I trust that the innocent girl may not fall under the ban of your censure because of her father's wrongdoing."

"Surely not, Mrs. Temple," said Clifford earnestly; "on the contrary, I have long entertained a very tender feeling toward her. How could I help it after the thrilling experience in which we participated a few years ago?—and now the knowledge that we are akin to each other has only served to strengthen the bond. With your permission, I shall be glad to cultivate an even closer friendship than has hitherto existed between us."

"You not only have my permission—I shall be proud to have you for her friend, and—mine," said Mrs. Temple huskily; and then, utterly overcome by his magnanimity, she buried her face in her hands and wept.

"Thank you," returned Clifford heartily, "and allow me to say that you both have had my deepest sympathies during this trial. Had I dreamed of these results I should certainly have refused to comply with Mr. Temple's request for an interview. But we will never refer to the subject again, only let me add that I feel you have shown yourself very honorable in your proposals to me this evening."

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Temple, with a gesture of repudiation, as she lifted her face to him, "do not commend me for what was prompted by purely selfish motives; my only thought was to secure your silence at any cost, but now I really wish, out of a spirit of gratitude and of admiration for your nobility, that I could persuade you to revoke your decision."

"I cannot, Mrs. Temple," said Clifford gravely and decisively, "but"—a genial smile chasing the gravity away—"I will most thankfully avail myself of your proffered friendship, and even though—because of the world—I may not claim my young sister as such, I assure you I shall love her none the less tenderly."

Feeling that the interview should end, Clifford now arose to go, pleading another engagement. Mrs. Temple also arose and came toward him, with outstretched hand.

"I am more grateful to you than I can express," she said, with the tears springing afresh. "I have had a bitter cup to drink—a terrible wound to bear, but you have greatly soothed and comforted me to-night; if I can ever serve you in any way, believe me I shall esteem it a privilege to do so."

"Thank you," said Clifford heartily, as he clasped her trembling hand.

Then he glanced somewhat doubtfully at Philip, who during the last half-hour, had been sitting silent and apparently preoccupied, and wearing a strangely depressed air.

"Good night, Wentworth," he said cordially, after an instant of irresolution.

There was a moment of awkward silence.

"Phil!" broke in his mother, in a tone of surprised reproof.

The young man sprang to his feet and turned a flushed, shamed face upon Clifford.

"I say, Faxon," he faltered huskily, "this has been too much for me! I've been a cad and a knave time and again, but you have set your heel upon me pretty effectually this time! I am simply crushed. You have done to-night what I did not believe any man was capable of doing, and when you entered the room I was in a more murderous frame of mind than I have ever been before; but you have taken the starch all out of me, and I am ready now to eat humble pie. If you won't feel insulted, after all that has passed, I'd like to ask you to shake hands and wipe out old scores."

Clifford's hand went out to him with instant cordiality.

"Gladly!" he said, and in that friendly clasp there was ratified a treaty which endured throughout their lives.

No other word was spoken, for Philip was now beyond the power of speech, and Clifford, recognizing the fact, beat a considerate retreat, and left the house with a buoyant heart, an elastic step, a smile on his lips, and the consciousness of a noble victory gleaming in his expressive brown eyes, for of an enemy he had at last made a friend.

Mrs. Temple and Philip set themselves immediately about winding up Mr. Temple's affairs, and both seemed to have undergone a radical transformation.

The proud, gay butterfly of fashion had suddenly become the gentle, tender, considerate mother—a thoughtful, womanly woman; the indolent, aimless man was fast developing into an attentive son, a wise adviser, an efficient helper and protector.

"You are growing very like your father, Phil," his mother said to him one day, after many hours of patient labor over perplexing accounts and papers.

"Thank you, mother, you could not have said anything to have encouraged me more," the young man replied, with grave appreciation, but with a sigh over the wasted years of his life.

Upon completing their business-arrangements, Mrs. Temple insisted that the sum of fifty thousand dollars should be made over to Mr. Heatherford, who, she asserted, must have lost fully that amount, first and last, in his dealings with her husband, she and Phil having discovered the fact during their examination of the man's account. The man, at first, demurred against taking it, but she assured him that out of her abundance it would never be missed, and that she would feel that she was retaining money which did not belong to her if he did not accept it; and he finally acceded to her request, for he well knew that the methods which Mr. Temple had employed had amounted to the same thing as taking so much money out of his pockets and transferring it to his own.

During this time Clifford saw considerable of the family, and between him and Minnie there grew up a strong and endearing friendship, which, in after years, became the source of much happiness to them both.

Mollie, also, feeling her sympathies aroused in view of the wrongs and trials of the family, renewed her friendship with them—even with Phil, who was so thoroughly repentant for the past and so changed that she had not the heart to keep him longer under the ban of her displeasure.

Their business-affairs in Washington once arranged, they returned to their home in Brookline, where they dropped into a quiet, peaceful way of living, Minnie throwing her whole heart into her studies to prepare for college; Philip settling down to business in a firm where a young and enterprising man with some capital was needed, while Mrs. Temple devoted herself exclusively to her two children and their interests.

The twenty-fifth of January there was a brilliant society wedding in Washington, when Mollie Heatherford gave herself to her king, and believed that she was the happiest woman living, while Clifford felt himself truly crowned with the supreme joy of his life. Miss Athol was maid of honor to the fair bride, and her fiancé, the son of the British ambassador, was Clifford's best man.

Maria Kimberly and Squire Talford were both bidden to the festivities.

The squire did not respond in any way to the courtesy extended to him, but Maria presented herself a week beforehand, to help the affair along, and she could not have shown a more vigorous interest if Clifford and Mollie had been her own children.

The Temples and Philip Wentworth also received invitations, but they excused themselves on account of their mourning.

Mollie, however, received a family remembrance in the form of a solid silver service, and Clifford a magnificent saddle-horse for his own private use.

Life looked very bright to the happy couple, and, indeed, to Mr. Heatherford, as well, for he had grown very fond of the noble fellow whom his daughter had chosen to be her life companion, and, with health, wealth and congenial tastes, there seemed to be nothing to be desired for their future, and they formed an ideal family in their ideal home.

When the wedding was over Maria returned to the squire, but with a somewhat heavy heart, for she yearned to keep her old-time promise to Clifford—to superintend his culinary department when he was able to set up an establishment of his own.

He had told her that the place was open to her whenever she saw fit to take it, but her sense of duty would not allow her to leave the squire, "who wasn't nigh so chipper as he used to be afore he had that sickness," and she hadn't the heart to leave him—at least, until he got stronger.

The result was she continued to live at Cedar Hill for two years longer, and during which the squire gradually failed in health, and finally was found one morning cold and still in his bed.

He preserved his gruff, cynical, reticent manner till the last; but when his will was read, to the astonishment of every one, it was found he had bequeathed his entire property—excepting three thousand dollars to Maria—which proved to be a very handsome inheritance, to Clifford Faxon; while among his papers there was also found a letter addressed to the young man, in which he had poured out much of the pent-up feeling of many years, and showing plainly that his love for Clifford's mother had been the strongest and most enduring sentiment of his nature.

"I've been proud of you, too," he closed the characteristic epistle by saying—"prouder than you will ever know; but the devil in me that hated your father would never let me show it."

"Poor old man!" said Clifford, as he finished the strange missive, "how glad I would have been to have made his life more enjoyable."

Henceforth the fine estate at Cedar Hill became the summer home of the Faxons, while Maria continued to preside there, a proud and happy queen, in her way, of all she surveyed, for Mollie declared she would never presume to call herself mistress in a place so immaculately kept and well ordered as Clifford's home in the East.

She grew to love the place very dearly, for from the window she could look out upon the very spot where, as a boy, her husband had wielded those vigorous blows which had doubtless saved the lives of hundreds of people and resulted in their first meeting, when she had lost her heart while looking into his brown eyes and had given him the magic cameo, which still graced his strong hand.


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