Ruth brought Uncle and Aunt Roderick up the long steps, and so around.
“Good morning,” said father, surprised. “Why, Ruth, what is it?” And he met them right on that very loose board; and Stephen stood stock still, pertinaciously in the way, so that they dodged and blundered about him.
“Yes, Ruth; what is it?” said Mrs. Roderick Holabird.
Then Ruth, after she had got the family solemnly together, began to be struck with the solemnity. Her voice trembled.
“I didn’t mean to make a fuss about it; only I knew you would all care, and I wanted—Stephen and I have found something, mother!” She turned to Mrs. Stephen Holabird, and took her hand, and held it hard.
Stephen stooped down, and drew out the loose board. “Under there,” said he; and pointed in.
They could all see the folded paper, with the drifts of dust upon it, just as it had lain for almost a year.
“It has been there ever since the day of the September Gale, father,” he said. “The day, you know, that grandfather was here.”
“Don’t you remember the wind and the papers?” said Ruth. “It was remembering that, that put it into our heads. I never thought of the cracks and—” with a little, low, excited laugh—“the ’total depravity of inanimate things,’ till—just a little while ago.”
She did not say a word about that bright boy at West Point, now, before them all.
Uncle Roderick reached in with the crook of his cane, and drew forward the packet, and stooped down and lifted it up. He shook off the dust and opened it. He glanced along the lines, and at the signature. Not a single witnessing name. No matter. Uncle Roderick is an honest man. He turned round and held it out to father.
“It is your deed of gift,” said he; and then they two shook hands.
“There!” said Ruth, tremulous with gladness. “I knew they would. That was it. That was why. I told you, Stephen!”
“No, you didn’t,” said Stephen. “You never told me anything—but cats.”
“Well! I’m sure I am glad it is all settled,” said Mrs. Roderick Holabird, after a pause; “and nobody has any hard thoughts to lay up.”
They would not stop to breakfast; they said they would come another time.
But Aunt Roderick, just before she went away, turned round and kissed Ruth. She is a supervising, regulating kind of a woman, and very strict about—well, other people’s—expenditures; but she was glad that the “hard thoughts” were lifted off from her.
* * * * *
“I knew,” said Ruth, again, “that we were all good people, and that it must come right.”
“Don’t tell me!” says Miss Trixie, intolerantly. “She couldn’t help herself.”
Leslie Goldthwaite’s world of friendship is not a circle. Or if it is, it is the far-off, immeasurable horizon that holds all of life and possibility.