“Haven’t you eyes? Can’t you see? Don’t you like her yourself?”
“Yes, very much.”
“And are you willing she should be your daughter?”
Mark had his arm around his mother’s neck, and bending his face to hers, kissed her playfully as he asked her the last question.
“Say, mother, are you willing I should marry Helen Lennox?”
There was a struggle in Mrs. Banker’s heart, and for a moment she felt jealous of the girl whom she had guessed was dearer to her son than ever his mother could be again, but she was a sensible woman. She knew that it was natural for another and a stronger love to come between her and her boy. She liked Helen Lennox. She was willing to take her as a daughter, and she said so at last, and listened half amazed and half amused to the story which had in it so much of Aunt Betsy Barlow, who had cleared away his doubts, and who at that very moment was an occupant of their best guest chamber, sitting with her bonnet on, and waiting for her cap from the Bowery.
“Perhaps it was wrong to bring her home,” he added, “but I did it to spare Helen. I knew just what a savage Wilford would be if he found her there, where she would be in the way. Say, mother, was I wrong?”
He was not often wrong in his mother’s estimation, and certainly he was not now, when he kissed her so often, begging her to say he had done right.
Certainly he had. Mrs. Banker was very glad to find him so thoughtful; few young men would do as much, she said, and from feeling a little doubtful, Mark came to look upon himself as a very nice young man, who had done a most unselfish act, for of course he had not been influenced by any desire to keep Aunt Betsy from the people who would be present at the dinner, neither had Helen been at all mixed up in the affair.
It was all himself, and he began to whistle “Annie Laurie” very complacently, thinking the while what a clever fellow he was, and meditating other dangerous acts toward the old lady overhead, standing by the window, and wondering what the huge building could be gleaming so white in the fading light.
“Looks as if it was made of stone cheena,” she thought, just as Mrs. Banker appeared, her kind, friendly manner making Aunt Betsy feel wholly at ease, as she answered the lady’s questions or volunteered remarks of her own.
Mrs. Banker had lived in the country, and had seen just such women as Aunt Betsy Barlow, understanding her intrinsic worth, and knowing how Helen Lennox, though her niece, could still be refined and cultivated. She could also understand how one educated as Wilford Cameron had been would shrink from coming in contact with her, and possibly be rude if she thrust herself upon him. Mark did well to bring her here, she thought, as she left the room to order the tea which the tired woman so much needed. The satchel, umbrella and capbox, with a note from Mattie, had by this time arrived, and in her Sunday cap, with the