At first nothing but a handkerchief,—a yellow silk handkerchief, of curious pattern, carefully folded into a small square and fitting nicely inside the box. That was all; but Farmer Hartley’s voice trembled as he said, in a husky whisper, “Father’s hankcher!” and it was with a shaking hand that he lifted the folds of silk. One look—and he fell back in his chair, while Hildegarde quietly sat down on the floor and cried. For the diamonds were there! Big diamonds and little diamonds,—some rough and dull, others flashing out sparks of light, as if they shone the brighter for their long imprisonment; some tinged with yellow or blue, some with the clear white radiance which is seen in nothing else save a dewdrop when the morning sun first strikes upon it. There they lay,—a handful of stones, a little heap of shining crystals; but enough to pay off the mortgage on Hartley’s Glen and leave the farmer a rich man for life.
Dame Hartley was the first to rouse herself from the silent amaze into which they had fallen. “Well, well!” she said, wiping her eyes, “the ways of Providence are mysterious. To think of it, after all these years! Why, Jacob! Come, my dear, come! You ain’t crying, now that the Lord, and this blessed child under Him, has taken away all your trouble?”
But the farmer, to his own great amazement, was crying. He sobbed quietly once or twice, then cleared his throat, and wiped his eyes with the old silk handkerchief. “Poor ol’ father,” he said, simply. “It seems kind o’ hard that nobody ever believed him, an’ we let him die thinkin’ he was crazy. That takes holt on me; it does, Marm Lucy, now I tell ye! Seems like’s if I’d been punished for not havin’ faith, and now I git the reward without havin’ deserved it.”
“As if you could have reward enough!” cried Hildegarde, laying her hand on his affectionately. “But, oh! do just look at them, dear Farmer Hartley! Aren’t they beautiful? But what is that peeping out of the cotton-wool beneath? It is something red.”
Farmer Hartley felt beneath the cotton which lined the box, and drew out—oh, wonderful! a chain of rubies! Each stone glowed like a living coal as he held it up in the lamp-light. Were they rubies, or were they drops of blood linked together by a thread of gold?
“The princess’s necklace!” cried Hilda. “Oh, beautiful! beautiful! And I knew it was true! I knew it all the time.”
The old man fixed a strange look, solemn and tender, on the girl as she stood at his side, radiant and glowing with happiness. “She said—” his voice trembled as he spoke, “that furrin woman—she said it was her heart’s blood as father had saved. And now it’s still blood, Hildy, my gal, our heart’s blood, that goes out to you, and loves and blesses you as if you were our own child come back from the dead.” And drawing her to him, he clasped the ruby chain round Hilda’s neck.