* * * * *
This was Katy’s letter, and it brought a gush of tears from the four women remembered so lovingly in it, the mother and the aunts stealing away to weep in secret, without ever stopping to look at the new dresses sent to them by Wilford Cameron. They were very soft, very handsome, especially Helen’s rich golden brown, and as she looked at it she felt a thrill of satisfaction in knowing it was hers, but this quickly passed as she took out one by one the garments she had folded with so much care, wondering when Katy would wear each one and where she would be.
“She will never wear them, never—they are not fine enough for her now!” she exclaimed, and as she just then came upon the little plaid, she laid her head upon the trunk lid, while her tears dropped like rain in among the discarded articles condemned by Wilford Cameron.
It seemed to her like Katy’s grave, and she was still sobbing bitterly, when a step sounded outside the window, and a voice called her name. It was Morris, and lifting up her head Helen said, passionately:
“Oh, Morris, look! he has sent back all Katy’s clothes, which you bought and I worked so hard to make. They were not good enough for his wife to wear, and so he insulted us. Oh, Katy, I never fully realized till now how wholly she is lost to us!”
“Helen, Helen,” Morris kept saying, trying to stop her, for close behind him was Mark Ray, who heard her distinctly, and glancing in, saw her kneeling before the trunk, her pale face stained with tears, and her dark eyes shining with excitement.
Mark Ray understood it at a glance, feeling indignant at Wilford for thus unnecessarily wounding the sensitive girl, whose expression, as she sat there upon the floor, with her face upturned to Morris, haunted him for months. Mark was sorry for her—so sorry that his first impulse was to go quietly away, and so spare her the mortification of knowing that he had witnessed that little scene; but it was now too late. As she finished speaking her eye fell on him, and coloring scarlet she struggled to her feet, and covering her face with her hands wept still more violently. Mark was in a dilemma, and whispered softly to Morris: “I think I had better leave. You can tell her all I had to say;” but Helen heard him, and mastering her agitation she said to him:
“Please, Mr. Ray, don’t go—not yet at least, not till I have asked you of Katy. Did you see her off? Has she gone?”
Thus importuned, Mark Ray came in, and sitting down where his boot almost touched the new brown silk, he very politely began to answer her rapid questions, putting her entirely at her ease by his pleasant, affable manner, and making her forget the littered appearance of the room as she listened to his praises of her sister, who, he said, seemed so very happy, attracting universal admiration wherever she went. No allusion whatever was made to the trunk during the time of Mark’s stay, which was not long. If he took the next train to New York, he had but an hour more to spend, and feeling that Helen would rather he should spend it at Linwood he soon arose to go. Offering his hand to Helen, there passed from his eyes into hers a look which had over her a strangely quieting influence, and prepared her for a remark which otherwise might have seemed out of place.