She hesitated, while Mark’s eyes turned dark with excitement, and even Mrs. Banker, scarcely less interested, leaned eagerly forward, saying:
“And what? Go on, Miss Cameron. What did you do with that letter?”
“I sent it to its rightful owner, Helen Lennox. I posted it myself, so it’s sure this time. But why don’t you thank me, Captain Ray?” she asked, as Mark’s face was overshadowed with anxiety.
“I was wondering whether it were well to send it—wondering how it might be received,” he said, and Bell replied:
“She will not answer no. As one woman knows another I know Helen Lennox. I have sounded her on that point. I told her of the rumor there was afloat, and she denied it, seeming greatly distressed, but showing plainly that had such offer been received she would not have refused it. You should have seen her last summer, Captain Ray, when we waited so anxiously for news from the Potomac. Her face was a study as her eyes ran over the list of casualties, searching not for her amiable brother-in-law, nor yet for Willard Braxton, their hired man. It was plain to me as daylight, and all you have to do is to follow up that letter with another, or go yourself, if you have time.” Bell said, as she arose to go, leaving Mark in a state of bewilderment as to what he had heard.
Who withheld that letter? and why? were questions which troubled him greatly, nor did his mother’s assurance that it did not matter so long as it all came right at last, tend wholly to reassure him. One thing, however, was certain. He would see Helen before he returned to his regiment—he would hear from her own lips what her answer would have been had she received the letter. He would telegraph in the morning to Washington, and then run the risk of being a day behind the time appointed for his return to duty. Never since the day of Aunt Betsy’s revelations had Mark felt as light and happy as he did that night, scarcely closing his eyes in sleep, but still not feeling tired when next morning he met his mother at the breakfast table and disclosed in part his plans. He would not tell her all there was in his mind lest it should not be fulfilled, but when at parting with her he did say:
“Suppose you have three children when I return instead of two, is there room in your heart for the third?”
“Yes, always room for Helen,” was the reply, as with a kiss of benediction Mrs. Banker sent her boy away.
CHRISTMAS EVE AT SILVERTON.
There was to be a Christmas tree at St. John’s, and all the week the church had been the scene of much confusion. But all the work was over now; the church was swept and dusted, the tree with its gay adornings was in its place, the little ones, who, trying to help, had hindered and vexed so much, were gone, as were their mothers, and only tarried with the organ boy to play the Christmas carol, which Katy