“What is this, my Anna?” he said softly to the weeping girl who clung there in his arms when M’riar had left the room. “You are tear-ing, Anna—you are tear-ing, child!” He was sure his English had escaped him, but he could not stop to make correction.
She looked up at him, at last. “‘Tear-ing? Tear-ing?’ Oh, crying! Yes, I’m crying—because I am so happy, and because—”
He was more puzzled by this extraordinary statement than he had been by her tears. “Because you are so happy! Hein! A woman—she is strange. So strange. She cries because she is so happy, then she cries because she is so sorry. When she cries no one can tell which makes her do it. You are sure it is the happiness, this time, that makes you cry?”
“Quite sure,” said Anna, trying hard to stifle the great sobs. “Yes; I am certain. It is because I am so happy, and—because—I am a little bit—af-fraid!”
“You are afraid, my child? What is it fears you?”
She slipped out of his arms. There was no going back, she now must tell him all. She knew that he would not be harshly angry, though she greatly feared he would be sorely grieved.
She held him, with a gentle hand, back in his chair as he would have arisen, and sank down at his feet, her arm upon his knee, her face upturned. “Come, father,” she said simply. “I want to sit here at your feet. I want to sit here at your feet just as I did when I was, oh, a very little girl!”
The old man was sorely puzzled, but he sank back in his chair and let her take his hands—both of them. One of them she placed upon her beautiful, dark hair; the other she held close clasped against her bosom in her own. “Father, I have something to confess.”
He was amazed, but less distressed than he had been. His Anna, his own, liebling Anna, could not have anything to confess which was so very terrible. He looked down at her and smiled in reassurance. Her wonderful, dark eyes were upturned, as he gazed, and, for an instant, looked straight at his; but then the delicately veined lids drooped.
“You have something to confess? What is it, Anna?”
“I shall not go back again to Mrs. Vanderlyn’s,” she slowly answered. “I have come home, my father; have come home to you—to stay.”
He was worried. Could she be satisfied, after what she had been having there at Mrs. Vanderlyn’s, with what his small purse had to offer her in this unpleasant tenement? His heart leaped at the thought of having her with him again; none but himself could know how greatly he had missed her, and he could give her food and shelter. But would she, now, be happy there with him, in all his poverty?
“Ah; you have quarreled?” he ventured, hesitantly.
“No,” she faltered.
His wrath rose. Ah, that was it! The woman had been unkind to her, had asked of her some menial service, had presumed upon the fact that she was but an employee! “She has mistreated you,” he cried, in indignation. “She has mistreated you! Well, here is—”