The gentleman bowed, but hesitated a moment before replying.
Virgie’s manner and language told him that she was a lady, and he did not like to say anything to wound her; but the advertisement to which she referred had distinctly stated that competitors were, under no consideration to expect a personal interview regarding their contributions. They were either to be sent by mail or left at the office until an examination by the proprietor should decide who the fortunate winner of the prize might be.
“Ah!” he began, “I understand you desire to leave the specimens of your work with me.”
Virgie flushed, for his tone was rather frigid. Then she recovered herself, and her face lighted with her rare, beautiful smile, which went directly to the publisher’s heart.
“Yes, sir,” she answered, laying a package upon his desk. “Of course I understand that I am not to expect a private examination of my work. I had no intention of annoying you with the matter. I am willing to take my chance with others. But there is another matter upon which I would like to consult with you if you can spare me a little time.”
She now drew forth a more bulky package from her bag.
“Some manuscript, perhaps, which you would like examined?” responded the gentleman, glancing at it, but speaking indifferently.
“No, not manuscript according to the common acceptation of the term; and yet, in reality, I suppose it is.”
“Can you not leave it with me? I will look at it with pleasure later;” but his tone was not very encouraging.
“I should prefer not to do so, because there is not very much time between now and Christmas, and if you do not approve of it I shall like to take it elsewhere,” Virgie replied, untying the dainty ribbon which bound her package, and, removing the wrapper, she laid before him a little book about eight inches square and comprising some twenty or thirty pages.
It was composed of half sheets of the heaviest and nicest of unruled paper, tied together in three places with beautiful little cords and tassels of pale-blue silk.
On the cover, in a lovely design composed of mountain ferns, most exquisitely executed, there was written, in a dainty hand, the title—“Gleanings from the Heights.”
The gentleman uttered a low exclamation of pleasure as his eye fell upon this.
His attention was riveted; there was no indifference in his manner now.
A Mysterious Stranger.
“Did you do this?” Mr. Knight, the publisher, asked, looking up after a close examination of the dainty cover.
“Yes, sir,” Virgie answered, with a quiet smile, and, seeing that she had gained her point, that he would not leave it until he had seen the whole, she sat down near him to await his verdict.
Page after page was turned and on each there was a lovely group of mountain foliage, flowers, or ferns, all beautifully executed in pen and ink, while underneath the design, or cunningly woven around it, was written, in a dainty hand, some appropriate verse or couplet, quotations from various authors, with now and then a bit of real heart rhyme that had been the outgrowth of Virgie’s own sad experiences.