“Oh, yes, I remember now. ’Twas that tall, long-haired, scented-up, big-feelin’ man they call Squire Herrin’ton’s VALLY.”
“Victor Dupres been here!” and Grace’s face lighted perceptibly.
“Yes, he said mouse-EER, or somethin’ like that—meanin’ the squire, in course—wanted you to come up thar as soon as you got home, and my ’pinion is that you go to oncet. ’Twont be dark this good while.”
Nothing could be more in accordance with Grace’s feelings than to follow Rachel’s advice, and, half an hour later, Victor reported to his master that the carriage from Brier Hill had stopped before their door. It would be impossible to describe Mr. Atherton’s astonishment when, on entering the parlor, the first object that met her view was her former waiting-maid, attired in the crimson merino which Mrs. Matson, Lulu, the chambermaid, and Victor had gotten up between them; and which, though not the best fit in the world, was, in color, exceedingly becoming to the dark-eyed child, who, perched upon the music-stool, was imitating her own operatic songs to the infinite delight of the old man, nodding his approval of the horrid discords.
“Edith Hastings!” she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?” Springing from the stool and advancing towards Grace, Edith replied,
“I live here. I’m Mr. Richard’s little girl. I eat at the table with him, too, and don’t have to wash the dishes either. I’m going to be a lady just like you, ain’t I, Mr. Harrington?” and she turned to Richard, who had entered in time to hear the last of her remarks.
There was a world of love in the sightless eyes turned toward the little girl, and by that token, Grace Athertoa knew that Edith had spoken truly.
“Run away, Edith,” he said, “I wish to talk with the lady alone.”
Edith obeyed, and when she was gone Richard explained to Grace what seemed to her so mysterious, while she in return confessed the injustice done to the child, and told how she had sought to repair the wrong.
“I am glad you have taken her,” she said. “She will be happier with you than with me, for she likes you best. I think, too, she will make good use of any advantages you may give her. She has a habit of observing closely, while her powers of imitation are unsurpassed. She is fond of elegance and luxury, and nothing can please bar more than to be an equal in a house like this. But what do you wish of me? What can I do to assist you?”
In a few words Richard stated his wishes that she should attend to Edith’s wardrobe, saying he had but little faith in Mrs. Matson’s taste. He could not have selected a better person to spend his money than Grace, who, while purchasing nothing out of place, bought always the most expensive articles in market, and when at last the process was ended, and the last dressmaker gone from Collingwood, Victor, with a quizzical expression upon his face, handed his master a bill for five hundred dollars, that being the exact amount expended upon Edith’s wardrobe. But Richard uttered no word of complaint. During the few weeks she had lived with him she had crept away down into his heart just where Charlie used to be, and there was nothing in his power to give which he would withhold from her now. She should have the best of teachers, he said, particularly in music, of which she was passionately fond.