“What’s to become of the girl?” interrogated Dr. Little. “I don’t want her left on my hands. And allow me to say, sir, that I consider this intrusion in my house an unpardonable liberty.”
“Very well,” was the reply, “our business is ended, and we will withdraw. As for this unfortunate child, I will care for her until her proper guardians manifest a disposition to relieve me of the charge.”
Not a little to the surprise of all Waveland, the woman who suddenly found herself the center of observation, and whose haughty spirit could not brook humiliation, disappeared immediately after this eventful episode, leaving no clue to her whereabouts.
The unfortunate Richie was provided with a comfortable home, and upon the death of her mother’s husband, which occurred not long after, she came into possession of a sum sufficient to provide for her maintenance during the rest of her life.
Years after, a woman haggard and old, with traces of crime upon her hardened features, passed through the little village, begging her way to a neighboring city. A simple-minded girl, sitting in a doorway, whom she accosted for alms, emptied all her little store of pocket money into the poor wayfarer’s outstretched palm. This girl was none other than Richie, and the woman who failed to recognize the vacant but placid face, was her own unhappy mother.
It was the eve of the New Year. The snow had folded its white mantle over the earth, and in the gardens, where the flowers had hidden their fragile beauty from the ruthless fingers of the Frost King, it gleamed whitely from amid the sombre foliage of the hardy evergreens. On lawn and terrace it lay in uneven drifts, tossed at will by the chilling winter winds. Pendant from tree and shrub hung glittering icicles, and on the window panes the frostwork looked like the invisible effort of some fairy spirits, that a breath from mortals would dissolve.
The bright New Year is ever welcomed as a season of enjoyment for those who have happy homes, where friends meet around well-laden boards, to return thanks for past prosperity, and form plans for future happiness. But to others, friendless, forsaken, and perhaps weary of a life of ill-requited toil, the retrospection is often inexpressibly mournful.
Alone in her room, at her friend’s humble cottage, sat Clemence Graystone, watching for the noiseless incoming of another year. The light gleamed redly out from the blazing wood fire, lighting up the small apartment with its cheerful glow, but failed to call anything like warmth or color to the marble face that drooped low with its weight of painful thought.
The morrow was to be her wedding day. She raised her head and glanced around the room, which was filled with all the paraphernalia of the wedding toilet.