In answer to this letter, Edna merely telegraphed the captain, informing him that she would remain in San Francisco until she had heard that he had sailed when she would immediately start for the East, and for France, with Ralph and the two negroes.
Three days after this she received a telegram from Captain Horn, stating that he would sail in an hour, and the next day she and her little party took a train for New York.
“HOME, SWEET HOME”
On the high-street of the little town of Plainton, Maine, stood the neat white house of Mrs. Cliff, with its green shutters, its porchless front door, its pretty bit of flower-garden at the front and side, and its neat back yard, sacred once a week to that virtue which is next to godliness.
Mrs. Cliff’s husband had been the leading merchant in Plainton, and having saved some money, he had invested it in an enterprise of a friend who had gone into business in Valparaiso. On Mr. Cliff’s death his widow had found herself with an income smaller than she had expected, and that it was necessary to change in a degree her style of living. The hospitalities of her table, once so well known throughout the circle of her friends, must be curtailed, and the spare bedroom must be less frequently occupied. The two cows and the horse were sold, and in every way possible the household was placed on a more economical basis. She had a good house, and an income on which, with care and prudence, she could live, but this was all.
In this condition of her finances it was not strange that Mrs. Cliff had thought a good deal about the investments in Valparaiso, from which she had not heard for a long time. Her husband had been dead for three years, and although she had written several times to Valparaiso, she had received no answer whatever, and being a woman of energy, she had finally made up her mind that the proper thing to do was to go down and see after her affairs. It had not been easy for her to get together the money for this long journey,—in fact, she had borrowed some of it,—and so, to lessen her expenses, she had taken passage in the Castor from San Francisco.
She was a housewife of high degree, and would not have thought of leaving—perhaps for months—her immaculate window-panes and her spotless floors and furniture, had she not also left some one to take care of them. A distant cousin, Miss Willy Croup, had lived with her since her husband’s death, and though this lady was willing to stay during Mrs. Cliff’s absence, Mrs. Cliff considered her too quiet and inoffensive to be left in entire charge of her possessions, and Miss Betty Handshall, a worthy maiden of fifty, a little older than Willy, and a much more determined character, was asked to come and live in Mrs. Cliffs house until her return.
Betty was the only person in Plainton who lived on an annuity, and she was rather proud of her independent fortune, but as her annuity was very small, and as this invitation meant a considerable reduction in her expenses, she was very glad to accept it. Consequently, Mrs. Cliff had gone away feeling that she had left her house in the hands of two women almost as neat as herself and even more frugal.