He made one mistake. For just a moment he allowed his eyes to meet the sweet blue ones, looking lovingly and trustingly into his, and whatever it was, whether the remembrance that his one daughter was so soon to go out from her home, or the thought of all the tender and patient love and care which she had bestowed on him in those early morning hours, the stern gray eyes grew tender, the haughty lines about the mouth relaxed, and with a sudden caressing movement of his hand among the brown curls, he said in a half moved, half playful tone:
“Did you ever ask any thing of anybody in your life that you didn’t get?” Then more gravely: “You shall have your way once more. Abbie, it would be a pity to despoil you of your scepter at this late day.”
“Fiddlesticks!” ejaculated Mrs. Ried.
Before she had added anything to that original sentiment Abbie was behind her chair, both arms wound around her neck, and then came soft, quick, loving kisses on her cheeks, on her lips, on her chin, and even on her nose.
“Nonsense!” added her mother. Then she laughed. “Your father would consent to have the ceremony performed in the attic if you should take a fancy that the parlors are too nicely furnished to suit your puritanic views and I don’t know but I should be just as foolish.”
“That man has gained complete control over her,” Mrs. Ried said, looking after Abbie with a little sigh, and addressing her remarks to Ester as they stood together for a moment in the further parlor. “He is a first-class fanatic, grows wilder and more incomprehensible in his whims every day, and bends Abbie to his slightest wish. My only consolation is that he is a man of wealth and culture, and indeed in every other respect entirely unexceptionable.”
A new light dawned upon Ester. This was the secret of Abbie’s “strangeness.” Mr. Foster was one of those rare and wonderful men about whom one occasionally reads but almost never meets, and of course Abbie, being so constantly under his influence, was constantly led by him. Very few could expect to attain to such a hight; certainly she, with her social disadvantages and unhelpful surroundings, must not hope for it.
She was rapidly returning to her former state of self-satisfaction. There were certain things to be done. For instance, that first chapter of John should receive more close attention at her next reading; and there were various other duties which should be taken up and carefully observed. But, on the whole, Ester felt that she had been rather unnecessarily exercised, and that she must not expect to be perfect. And so once more there was raised a flag of truce between her conscience and her life.