How well Arthur remembered that rich, full, musical voice. It seemed to him but yesterday since, he heard it before, and he shrank more and more from the reply which must be made to that question, and quickly, too, for the countenance of the blind man was beginning to wear a look of perplexity at the continued silence.
Summoning all his courage he stepped forward and taking the hand groping in the air, said rapidly, “Excuse me, Mr. Harrington, I hardly know what to say, I’ve come upon so queer an errand. You know Edith Hastings, the little girl who lived with Mrs. Atherton?”
He thought by introducing Edith at once to divert the blind man from himself; but Richard’s quick ear had caught a tone not wholly unfamiliar as he replied,
“Yes, I know Edith Hastings, and it seems to me I ought to know you, too. I’ve heard your name and voice before. Wasn’t it in Geneva?” and the eagle eves fastened themselves upon the wall just back of where Arthur stood.
Arthur fairly gasped for breath, and for an instant he was as blind as Richard himself; then, catching at the word Geneva, he answered, “Did you ever live in Geneva, sir?”
“Not in the village, but near there on the lake shore,” answered Richard, and Arthur continued,
“You probably attended the examinations then at the Academy, and heard me speak. I was a pupil there nearly two years before entering the college.”
Arthur fancied himself remarkably clever for having suggested an idea which seemed so perfectly to satisfy his companion and which was not a falsehood either. He had been a student in the Academy for nearly two years, had spoken at all the exhibitions, receiving the prize at one; he had seen Richard Harrington among the spectators, and had no doubt that Richard might have observed him, though not very closely, else he had never put himself in his power by the one single act which was embittering his young life.
“It is likely you are right,” said Richard, “I was often at the examinations, and since my misfortune I find myself recognizing voices as I never could have done when I had sight as well as hearing upon which to depend. But you spoke of Edith Hastings. I trust no harm has befallen the child. I am much interested in her and—wonder she has not been here long ere this. What would you tell me of her?”
Briefly Arthur related the particulars of his visit at Brier Hill, a visit which had ended so disastrously to Edith, and even before he reached the important point, Richard answered promptly, “She shall come here, I need her, I want her—want her for my sister, my child. I shall never have another;” then pressing his hands suddenly up on his forehead, whose blue veins seemed to swell with the intensity of his emotions, he continued. “But, no, Mr. St. Claire. It cannot be, she is too young, too merry-hearted, too full of life and love to be brought into the shadow of our household. She