If you should decide not to keep my little girl (as I do not think you will), send a line addressed E.H.H., to the personal column in the ‘N.Y. Herald.’ But do not try to find me. I shall answer you in the same way and tell you where to send the child. E.H.”
This letter was not shown to me until several years after, but even then the half illegible words, evidently traced with a trembling hand, the pathetic abruptness of the sentences, sounding like the grief-stricken cries of a living voice, and the still visible marks of tears upon the paper, made an impression upon me which is not easily forgotten.
In the meanwhile Storm, having read and reread the letter, was lifting his strangely illumined eyes to the ceiling.
“God be praised,” he said in a trembling whisper. “I have wronged her, too, and I did not know it. I will be a father to her child.”
The little girl, who had awaked, without signalling the fact in the usual manner, fixed her large, fawn-like eyes upon him in peaceful wonder. He knelt down once more, took her in his arms, and kissed her gravely and solemnly. It was charming to see with what tender awkwardness he held her, as if she were some precious thing made of frail stuff that might easily be broken. My curiosity had already prompted me to examine the basket, which contained a variety of clean, tiny articles,—linen, stockings, a rattle with the distinct impress of its nationality, and several neatly folded dresses, among which a long, white, elaborately embroidered one, marked by a slip of paper as “Baby’s Christening Robe.”
I will not reproduce the long and serious consultation which followed; be it sufficient to chronicle the result. I hastened homeward, and had my landlady, Mrs. Harrison, roused from her midnight slumbers; she was, as I knew, a woman of strong maternal instincts, who was fond of referring to her experience in that line,—a woman to whom your thought would naturally revert in embarrassing circumstances. She responded promptly and eagerly to my appeal; the situation evidently roused all the latent romance of her nature, and afforded her no small satisfaction. She spent a half hour in privacy with the baby, who re-appeared fresh and beaming in a sort of sacerdotal Norse night-habit which was a miracle of neatness.
“Bless her little heart,” ejaculated Mrs. Harrison, as the small fat hands persisted in pulling her already demoralized side curls. “She certainly knows me;” then in an aside to Storm: “The mother, whoever she may be, sir, is a lady. I never seed finer linen as long as I lived; and every single blessed piece is embroidered with two letters which I reckon means the name of the child.”