Leaving Bedouin at the rear gate she walked slowly to the house, glancing often in the direction of the den, the windows of which were open this morning, and as she came near she saw a pair of soft blue eyes peering at her through the lattice, then a little hand was thrust outside, beckoning to her as it did once before.
“Wait, Miggie, while I write,” came next to her ear, in a voice as sweet and plaintive as a broken lute.
Instantly Edith stopped, and at last a tiny note came fluttering to her feet. Grasping it eagerly she read, in a pretty, girlish hand:
“Darling Miggie:—Nina has been so sick this great long while, and her head is so full of pain. Why don’t you come to me, Miggie? I sit and wait and listen till my forehead thumps and thumps, just as a bad nurse thumped it once down in the Asylum.
“Let’s run away—you and I; run back to the magnolias, where it’s always summer, with no asylums full of wicked people.
“I’m so lonely, Miggie. Come up stairs, won’t you? They say I rave and tear my clothes, but I won’t any more if you’ll come. Tell Arthur so. He’s good. He’ll do what you ask him.”
“Poor little Nina,” and Edith’s tears fell fast upon the bit of paper. “I will see you to-day. Perhaps I may do you some good. Dear, unfortunate Nina!”
There was a step upon the grass, and thrusting the note into her pocket, Edith turned to meet Arthur, who seemed this morning unusually cheerful and greeted her with something like his olden tenderness. But Edith was too intent upon Nina to think much of him, and after the lesson commenced, she appeared so abstracted that it was Arthur’s turn to ask if she were offended. She had made herself believe she was, for notwithstanding Nina’s assertion that “Arthur was good,” she thought it a sin and a shame for him to keep any thing but a raving lunatic hidden away up stairs; and after a moment’s hesitation she answered, “Yes, I am offended, and I don’t mean to come here any more, unless—–”
“Edith,” and the tone of Arthur’s voice was fraught with pain so exquisite that Edith paused and looked into his face, where various emotions were plainly visible. Love, fear, remorse, apprehension, all were blended together in the look he fixed upon her. “You won’t leave me,” he said. “Any thing but that. Tell me my error, and how I can atone.”
Edith was about to speak, when, on the stairs without,—the stairs leading from the den—there was the patter of little feet, and a gentle, timid knock was heard upon the door.
“It’s locked—go back;” and Arthur’s voice had in it a tone of command.
“Mr. St. Claire,” and Edith sprang from her chair, “I can unlock that door, and I will.”
Like a block of marble Arthur stood while Edith opened the oak-paneled door. Another moment and Nina stood before her, as she stands now first before our readers.