And it was a great leave-taking when the party reached the wharf. Not only were three or four of her girl friends present, but a dozen or more of the old merchants forsook their desks, when the coach unlimbered, most of them crossing the cobbles—some bare-headed, and all of them in high stocks and swallow-tail coats—pens behind their ears, spectacles on their pates—to bid the young princess good-by.
For Kate was still “our Kate,” in the widest and broadest sense and the pride and joy of all who knew her, and many who didn’t. That she had a dozen beaux—and that some of them had tried to bore holes in each other for love of her; and that one of them was now a wanderer and another in a state of collapse, if report were true—was quite as it should be. Men had died for women a hundred times less worthy and a thousand times less beautiful, and men would die of love again. When at last she made up her mind she would choose the right man, and in the meantime God bless her for just being alive.
And she was never more alive or more charming than to-day.
“Oh, how delightful of you, Mr. Murdoch, and you too, Mr. Bowdoin—and Max—and all of you, to cross those wretched stones. No, wait, I’ll come to you—” she had called out, when with a stamp of her little feet she had shaken the pleats from her skirt—adding when they had all kissed her hand in turn—“Yes—I am going down to be dairy-maid at Peggy Coston’s,” at which the bald-headed old fellows, with their hands upraised in protest at so great a sacrilege, bowed to the ground, their fingers on their ruffled shirt-fronts, and the younger ones lifted their furry hats and kept them in the air until she had crossed the gang-plank and Todd and Mammy Henny, and Ben who had come to help, lost their several breaths getting the impatient dogs and baggage aboard—and so she sailed away with Uncle George as chaperon, the whole party throwing kisses back and forth.
Their reception at Wesley, the ancestral home of the Costons, although it was late at night when they arrived, was none the less joyous. Peggy was the first to welcome the invalid, and Tom was not far behind.
“Give her to me, St. George,” bubbled Peggy, enfolding the girl in her arms. “You blessed thing! Oh, how glad I am to get hold of you! They told me you were ill, child—not a word of truth in it! No, Mr. Coston, you sha’n’t even have one of her little fingers until I get through loving her. What’s your mammy’s name—Henny? Well, Henny, you take Miss Kate’s things into her room—that one at the top of the stairs.”
And then the Honorable Tom Coston said he’d be doggoned if he was going to wait another minute, and he didn’t—for Kate kissed him on both cheeks and gave him her father’s message, congratulating him on his appointment as judge, and thanking him in advance for all the kindness he would show his daughter.