“Please may I come in?” said Kitty, at her door. “Rachel told me you had a headache, but I know you won’t mind me,” and ere the words were half out of her mouth, Kitty’s bonnet was off and she was perched upon the foot of the bed. Have you heard the news?” she began. “It’s so wonderful, and so sad, too. Squire Harrington is not married; he’s worse off than that—he’s hopelessly blind.”
“Indeed!” and Grace Atherton’s manner was very indifferent.
“Yes,” Kitty continued, “His French valet, Victor, who travelled with him in Europe, told brother Will all about it. Seven or eight years ago they were spending the summer upon the banks of the Rhine, and in a cottage near them was an American with a Swedish wife and baby. The man, it seems, was a dissipated fellow, much older than his wife, whom he neglected shamefully, leaving her alone for weeks at a time. The baby’s name was Eloise, and she was a great pet with Richard who was fond of children. At last, one day in autumn, the little Eloise, who had just learned to run alone, wandered off by herself to a bluff, or rock, or something, from which she fell into the river. The mother, Petrea, was close by, and her terrific shrieks brought Richard to the spot in time to save the child. He had not been well for several days, and the frightful cold he took induced a fever, which seemed to settle in his eyes, for ever since his sight has been failing until now it has left him entirely. But hark! isn’t some one in the next room?” and she stepped into the adjoining apartment just as the nimble Edith disappeared from view.
She had been sent up by Rachel with a message to Mrs. Atherton, and was just in time to hear the commencement of Kitty’s story. Any thing relating to the blind man was interesting to her, and so she listened, her large black eyes growing larger and blacker as the tale proceeded. It did not seem wholly new to her, that story of the drowning child—that cottage on the Rhine, and for a moment she heard a strain of low, rich music sung as a lullaby to some restless, wakeful child. Then the music, the cottage and the blue Rhine faded away. She could not recall them, but bound as by a spell she listened still, until the word Petrea dropped from Kitty’s lips. Then she started suddenly. Surely, she’d heard that name before. Whose was it? When was it? Where was it? She could not tell, and she repeated it in a whisper so loud that it attracted Kitty’s attention.
“I shall catch it if she finds me listening,” thought Edith, as she heard Kitty’s remark, and in her haste to escape she forgot all about Petrea—all about the lullaby, and remembered nothing save the noble deed of the heroic Richard. “What a noble man he must be,” she said, “to save that baby’s life, and how she would pity him if she knew it made him blind. I wonder where she is. She must be most as big as I am now;” and if it were possible Edith’s eyes grew brighter