“Well, we have had our talk without interruption, and so I’ll leave you,” said Leah. “Your aunt will certainly want you to herself awhile. I’ll meet you at the wharf in time. Till then, good-by.”
As Mrs. Heartwell entered Lizzie’s room, Leah passed out; and a sweeter, sadder face Mrs. Heartwell said she had rarely seen.
The hours stole on, and the one for Lizzie’s departure was at hand. As the sun sank slowly down to rest, on that memorable sunny June day, clouds of crimson, purple, and gold, blended in fantastic shapes, overspread the broad horizon, and attracted the most casual observer by their wondrous beauty. Toward the eastern horizon the sky was blue and cloudless, blending with the water in a vast azure immensity.
The cool, crisp sea-breeze had dissipated the intense heat of the day, and crowds of gay pedestrians, and scores of liveried vehicles, were passing and repassing upon the fashionable boulevard, where the wealth and beauty of the Queen City daily gathered after the heat of the day was over.
The Firefly, laden with her burden, was ready at the pier, awaiting the signal to depart. Lizzie Heartwell’s friends still lingered upon the inviting deck, reluctant to speak the parting word that must so surely come. Dr. and Mrs. Heartwell, her uncle and aunt, Judge Amity and his daughter, her Sabbath-school teacher, Bertha, Helen, and Leah, the remaining ones of the “indissoluble quartette,” as the school-girls termed these friends, were assembled on the deck, and with them Emile Le Grande and her newly formed friend, George Marshall. In compliance with his promise he had come to speed the parting vessel with good wishes, and watch its receding form till it was lost from view upon the trackless waters.
As the citadel gun fired its sunset signal, the planks were ordered in, friends rushed on shore, and then the Firefly moved from her moorings, to plough the deep again. As George Marshall spoke his last adieu, he slipped a tiny billet-doux into the hand of the departing girl, who half heeding the action, dropped it into her pocket, and sat down in loneliness upon the deck, to watch the slowly vanishing shore. Fainter and dimmer grew the speck upon the deep to the friends who watched on shore, fainter and dimmer in the gathering twilight, till the bark rounded old Defiance, and was divided by distance and darkness from their vision.
When Lizzie Heartwell, attended by the kind captain, descended below deck, she remembered the little missive, and drawing it from its hiding-place, read:
“Miss Heartwell: What would you think, if my wanderings should lead me, some day, to Melrose? “Regretfully, “G.M.”
“Think I should like to see you,” uttered the young girl, with a smile, as she folded the note again out of sight.
As the last glimpse of the Firefly faded from the vision of the sad-eyed watchers, they turned slowly from their lookout of sorrow, and bent their steps homeward.