“Oh, you thar, Marm Lucy?” cried the farmer, with a sigh of relief that was half a chuckle, “Now, thar! you tell Hildy that folks does sometimes drop in—onexpected-like—folks from a consid’able distance sometimes. Why, I’ve known ’em—” But here he stopped suddenly. And as Hilda, expecting she knew not what, stood with hands clasped together, and beating heart, the door was thrown open and a strong, cheery voice cried, “Well, General!” Another moment, and she was clasped in her father’s arms.
The lovely autumn is gone, and winter is here. Mr. and Mrs. Graham have long since been settled at home, and Hildegarde is with them. How does it fare with her, the new Hildegarde, under the old influences and amid the old surroundings? For answer, let us take the word of her oldest friend,—the friend who “knows Hildegarde!” Madge Everton has just finished a long letter to Helen McIvor, who is spending the winter in Washington, and there can be no harm in our taking a peep into it.
“You ask me about Hilda Graham; but, alas! I have NOTHING pleasant to tell. My dear, Hilda is simply LOST to us! It is all the result of that dreadful summer spent among swineherds. You know what the Bible says! I don’t know exactly what, but something terrible about that sort of thing. Of course it is partly her mother’s influence as well. I have always DREADED it for Hilda, who is so sensitive to impressions. Why, I remember, as far back as the first year that we were at Mme. Haut-Ton’s, Mrs. Graham saying to Mamma, ’I wish we could interest our girls a little in sensible things!’ My dear, she meant hospitals and soup-kitchens and things! And Mamma said (you know Mamma isn’t in the least afraid of Mrs. Graham, though I confess I AM!), ’My dear Mrs. Graham, if there is one thing Society will NOT tolerate, it is a sensible woman. Our girls might as well have the small-pox at once, and be done with it.’ Wasn’t it clever of Mamma? And Mrs. Graham just LOOKED at her as if she were a camel from Barnum’s.
“Well, poor Hildegarde is sensible enough now to satisfy even her mother. Ever since she came home from that odious place, it has been one round of hospitals and tenement-houses and sloughs of horror. I don’t mean that she has given up school, for she is studying harder than ever; but out of school she is simply swallowed up by these wretched things. I have remonstrated with her almost on my KNEES. ‘Hildegarde,’ I said one day, ’do you REALIZE that you are practically giving up your whole LIFE? If you once lose your place in Society among those of your own age and position, you NEVER can regain it. Do you REALIZE