“What is it, Richard?”
He liked to have her call him Richard, as she frequently did. It narrowed the wide gulf of twenty-one years between them, bringing him nearer to her, so near, in fact, that bridal veils and orange wreaths now formed a rare loveliness walked ever at his side; clothed in garments such as the mistress of Collingwood’s half million ought to wear, and this maiden was Edith—the Edith who, on her nineteenth birth-day, sat in her own chamber devising a thousand different ways of commencing a conversation which she meant to have with her guardian, the subject of said conversation being no less a personage than Grace Atherton. Accidentally Edith had learned that not the Swedish baby’s mother but Grace Elmendorff had been the lady who jilted Richard Harrington and that, repenting bitterly of her girlish coquetry, Mrs. Atherton would now gladly share the blind man’s lot, and be to him what she had not been to her aged, gouty lord. Grace did not say all this to Edith, it is true, but the latter read as much in the trembling voice and tearful eyes with which Grace told the story of her early love, and to herself she said, “I will bring this matter about. Richard often talks of her to me, asking if she has faded, and why she does not come more frequently to Collingwood. I will speak to him at the very first opportunity, and will tell him of my mistake, and ask him who Eloise Temple’s mother was, and why he was so much interested in her.”
With this to engross her mind and keep it from dwelling too much upon the past, Edith became more like herself than she had been since that dreadful scene in the Deering woods. Even her long neglected piano was visited with something of her former interest, she practising the songs which she knew Grace could sing with her, and even venturing upon two or three duets, of which Grace played one part. It would be so nice, she thought, to have some female in the house besides old Mrs. Matson, and she pictured just how Grace would look in her white morning gowns, with her blue eyes and chestnut curls, presiding at the breakfast table and handling the silver coffee urn much more gracefully than she could do.
It was a pleasant picture of domestic bliss which Edith drew that April morning, and it brought a glow to her cheeks, whence the roses all had fled. Once, indeed, as she remembered what Arthur had said concerning Richard’s probable intentions, and what she had herself more than half suspected, she shuddered with fear lest by pleading for Grace, she should bring a fresh trial to herself. But no, whatever Richard might once have thought of her, his treatment now was so fatherly that she had nothing to fear, and with her mind thus at ease Edith waited rather impatiently until the pleasant April day drew to its close. Supper was over, the cloth removed, Victor gone to an Ethiopian concert, Mrs. Matson knitting in her room, Sarah, the waiting-maid, reading a yellow covered novel, and Richard sitting alone in his library.