Madge sighed happily. “It has been beautiful to pretend that I was your real daughter. It has been like the games I used to play when I was a little girl. I have been lying here in the afternoons, when you thought I was asleep, making up the nicest ‘supposes.’ I supposed that I was your real daughter, that I had been lost and you had found me after many years. Just at first you did not know me, because time had made such a change in me. But—— Why, Mrs. Curtis, what is the matter?” There was wonder and concern in Madge’s question. “You don’t mind what I have said, do you? I have been making up things to amuse myself ever since I was a little girl.” She looked anxiously into the face of the older woman. It was very white, and seemed suddenly to have become drawn and old.
“My dear child, I love to have you tell me of your little dreams and fancies,” said Mrs. Curtis affectionately, laying her hand on Madge’s head. “What made you think I didn’t?”
“You looked as though what I said hurt your feelings,” returned Madge, coloring at her own frankness.
“It was only that something you said brought back a painful memory,” explained the older woman. “I would prefer not to talk of it. Tell me, is there nothing I can do to induce you to remain with me a little longer?”
Her guest shook her head. “Thank you,” she replied gratefully, “but I must go back to my chums. It won’t be going away, really, for I will come to see you as often as you like, and you and Tom and Jack must visit us on the houseboat. I want you to like the other girls almost as well as you do me,” smiled Madge. “Please don’t like them quite as well, though. That doesn’t sound very generous, but I should like to feel that I was first in your heart.”
“You shall be, my dear.” Mrs. Curtis bent and kissed the young girl’s soft cheek. “And to prove just how much I do care for you I wish to give you something which I hope you will like and keep as a remembrance of me. I know your uncle and aunt will be willing to let you have this little gift when they learn of the spirit which prompted the giving of it.” Mrs. Curtis drew from a little lavender and gold bag which she carried a square, white silk box and laid it in the astonished little captain’s hand.
“What—why—is it for me?” stammered Madge, sitting up suddenly, her eyes fastened on the box.
“It is for no one else,” was the smiling answer. “Shall I open it for you?”
Mrs. Curtis touched a tiny spring in the white box. It flew open!
There before Madge’s wondering gaze, coiled on its dainty silk bed, lay a string of creamy pearls. They were not large, but each pearl was perfect, an exquisite bit of jewelry. Mrs. Curtis took the necklace from its case. She leaned over and clasped it about Madge’s slender throat, saying: “Tom and I talked a long time about what we wished to give you as a slight remembrance of our appreciation of what you did for us. At last we decided upon this as being particularly suitable to you. Then, too, we wished to give you something that came up out of the sea.”