“The most curious thing has happened. I came accidentally to-day across the three girls about whom you were so interested. I met them at St. Paul’s, and could not help speaking to the second one. The brightness, and yet the melancholy, of her little face attracted my attention. She was not with the rest of her party, but sat for some of the time on one of the chairs, and then knelt down and covered her face. Poor little soul! I think she was crying. My sympathies were roused by her, and I spoke. She flashed up a very bright glance at me, and we became friends on the spot. I took her about the cathedral, and showed her one or two objects of interest. She was full of intelligence. Then her sisters joined her, and your boy came up, and, of course, his name came out; and there was confusion and wondering glances, and the girl whom I had spoken to turned first crimson, and then white, and her dark grey eyes became full of tears. ’I know the Ellsworthys; they are my dear, dear friends!’ she exclaimed.
“I found out where the three lived before I left them. They were accompanied by a prim-looking maiden lady, who was introduced to me as a Miss Slowcum, and who appeared to be taking excellent care of the pretty creatures. All three are delightful, and I have lost my heart to them all.
“Can I do anything for them? Of course you have already told me what perverse creatures they are, and Miss Jasmine confirmed your story, only, of course, she put her own coloring on it. I pity them, and yet, to a certain extent—forgive me, mother-friend—I admire their spirit. That eldest girl had a look about her face which will certainly keep every one from being rude to her. Such an expression of innocence and dignity combined I have seldom come across. Now, can I help them? It is an extraordinary thing, but I have a wonderful fellow-feeling for them. I can never forget the old days when I too was alone in London, and you took me up. Do you remember how you met me, and took my thin and dirty hands in yours, and looked into my face and said: ’Surely this is a gentleman’s son, although he is clothed in rags?’ I could just remember that I was a gentleman’s son, and that I used to put my arms round a beautiful lady’s neck and kiss her, and call her mother. Between her face and me there was a great horror of darkness, and suffering, and ill-usage; and my memories were feeble and dream-like. I don’t even now recall them more vividly. You took me up, and—you know the rest of my history.
“Well, it is a strange thing, but those girls, especially that little Jasmine, brought back the memory of the lady whose sweet face I used to kiss. Can I do anything for your girls? There are a thousand ways in which I could help them without hurting their proud spirits.
In a very short time Mr. Noel received a brief communication from Mrs. Ellsworthy:—