The stranger started, and his face flushed with some strong emotion, while his hand rested caressingly upon the flowing curls of the beautiful three-years-old girl, as he asked,
“Who Is mamma, darling? What is her name, I mean?”
“I can tell that a heap better’n Kina,” chimed in a boy of five, who was sitting just across the aisle, and joining the little girl, he continued, ’My mother is Edith, so Aunt Grace calls her, but father says Miggie most all the time.
The stranger sank into the seat, dizzy and faint with the mighty shock, for he knew now that Edith’s children were standing them before him—that frank, fearless boy, and that sweet little girl, who, not caring to be outdone by her brother, said, in a half exultant way, as if it were something of which she were very proud,
“I’ve got an Uncle ‘Ichard, I have, and he’s tomin’ home bime by.”
“And going to bring me lots of things,” interrupted the boy again, “Marie said so.”
At this point a tall, slender Frenchman, who had entered behind the man with the green shade, glided from the car, glancing backward just in time to see that his master had coaxed both children into his lap, the girl coming shyly, while the boy sprang forward with that wide-awake fearlessness which characterized all his movements. He was a noble-looking little fellow, and the stranger hugged him fondly as he kissed the full red lips so like to other lips kissed long years ago.
“What makes you wear this funny thing?” asked the child, peering up under the shade.
“Because my eyes are weak,” was the reply, “People around your home call me blind.”
“Uncle ’Ichard is blind,” lisped the little girl, while the boy rejoined, “but the bestest man that ever lived. Why, he’s betterer than father, I guess, for I asked ma wan’t he, and pa told me yes.”
“Hush-sh, child,” returned the stranger, fearing lest they might attract too much attention.
Then removing the shade, his eyes rested long and wistfully upon the little boy and girl as he said,
“I am your Uncle Richard.”
“True as you live and breathe are you Uncle Dick,” the boy almost screamed, winding his chubby arms around the stranger’s neck, while Nina standing upon her feet chirped out her joy as she patted the bearded cheek, and called him “Uncle ’Ick.”
Surely if there had been any lingering pain in the heart of Richard Harrington it was soothed away by the four soft baby hands which passed so caressingly over his face and hair, while honeyed lips touched his, and sweet bird-like voices told how much they had been taught to love the one whom they always called Uncle. These children had been the hardest part of all to forgive, particularly the first born, for Richard, when he heard of him had felt all the old sorrow coming back again; a feeling as if Edith had no right with little ones which did not call him father.