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- Sara, a Princess - 35/43 -
that you could do without; it is that better part one can hardly name, only feel; and your Maker has been slow in shaping you that you might fit the more perfectly. Kiss me, dear, I am glad you are _my_ daughter!"
Sara kissed her tenderly, her eyes wet with tears of happiness; and Molly and Morton entering just then, with questions as to where Polly should be suspended, turned the talk into lighter channels.
The latter soon found herself chained to a perch of Sam's contriving, out on the deep veranda, and for the rest of her stay had a string of admirers ranged along the sidewalk at nearly all hours of the day, bandying words with her ladyship. As for Sam, he furtively admired her as much as the street-boys, and would be seen to slap his thighs and double over with silent merriment, when she was a little more wicked than usual; not that Sam was an encourager of vice; by no means; but as he confided to Hetty,--
"It do beat all nater to see that pious old gurrl so fond of a haythen creetur that's enough to disgrace a pirate hisself; an' the quareness of it just gets me, it do."
As to the "pious old girl," (according to Sam's disrespectful characterization of Miss Prue) she had quite given up in despair.
"Really, Sara," she remarked with deep melancholy, "it must be the city atmosphere" (Dartmoor was a town of perhaps fifteen thousand inhabitants), "for, you know, she never was so perverse in Killamet. I'm afraid she'll disgrace us all!" Upon which Sara would comfort her by saying that, as most parrots were trained by rough people, nothing better could be expected, and she was sure nobody would blame them; while Molly, the naughty little elf, would shake her curls with a solemn air, and exclaim,--
"It's a mercy the students and faculty are mostly away, Miss Prue; I'm afraid she'd have to be expelled if college was in session, in consideration of the morals of the institution!"
But, in spite of Polly's harrowing performances, it was a delightful visit; yet, as often happens with delightful things, it brought to Sara a new worry and a great temptation. There were several of the young people present one evening; and Miss Prue, enjoying the moonlighted veranda and the music from the gas-lighted drawing-room, as well as anybody, watched the little by-plays with keen, interested eyes. Among the group was Mr. Preston Garth, a tall, shapely young fellow, whose face was redeemed from plainness by a pair of large intelligent gray eyes, and a ready smile, accented by the whitest of teeth.
Miss Prue was attracted by his looks; and, being a close observer, she soon noted that, though he talked about laboratory matters with Morton, and was ready to joke or sing with Molly and the two older young ladies present, yet every time Sara addressed him, he turned to answer with an eagerly respectful air, different from the rather careless manner usual with the others.
The next day, as she sat with her favorite in the cool library, Molly being away on an errand, she asked, apropos of nothing,--
"Who is that Mr. Garth, Sara?"
The young girl smiled.
"Just what you see, Miss Prue; a college student, and seemingly a fine young man."
"But where does he live?"
"I believe in Trenton."
"Know anything about his family?"
"No, except that there are not many of them, I believe. At any rate, he has no parents. He's helping himself through college partly, though I understand he has a small property; that's why he works in the laboratory."
"H'm," Miss Prue bent towards the light to pick up a dropped stitch in her knitting. "He looks like a fine fellow; does he come here often?"
"Yes, rather," Sara answered carelessly, just then engaged in digging about the roots of a palm in the window with one of her hairpins; "he likes to sing with Molly."
Miss Prue did not answer, except by an expressive little grunt, and then, apparently, changed the subject.
"Do you ever hear from Cousin Jane nowadays?" ("Cousin Jane" was Mrs. Norris, Jasper's mother.)
"I haven't lately. She did write me a few times, and I answered; but the last letter came in cold weather,--I should say, before February." "Yes. Jasper has a schooner of his own now, did you know it?"
"No; has he? That's fine!"
"Yes; Jasper always was forehanded, and he has laid by quite a snug little sum; then of course his father helps him; you never hear from him?"
"No; that is, he did write a postscript in one of his mother's letters."
"Did you answer it?"
"Not directly. I expressed my thanks, etc., to Mrs. Norris when I next wrote."
Sara had resumed her chair and sewing; but at this she laid it in her lap, and looked curiously at her old friend, wondering what categorical fiend possessed her this morning. Miss Prue knitted two or three rounds in silence, then remarked, with elaborate carelessness,--
"You and Jasper have always been good friends?"
As she ended with the rising inflection, Sara answered,--
"Oh, yes, always," and picked up her sewing.
"I've about made up my mind," added Miss Prue, lowering her voice to a more confidential tone, "to make Jasper my heir. His mother has been for years my nearest of kin, and Jasper's a fine lad, honest and trustworthy. But I have some notions about woman's rights in property matters; and if I knew just the girl he would marry, I should leave it to both, share and share alike. I know whom he _wants_ to marry," she finished decisively. "Is it Dolly Lee?" asked Sara, all interest.
"No, it isn't Dolly Lee," dryly; "it's Sara Olmstead."
The sewing dropped again.
"Well, it is, and you needn't speak as if I'd told a falsehood; for I _know!_"
Sara's cheeks had crimsoned warmly, and her voice faltered a little, as she asked,--
"Did he tell you himself?"
"Not in so many words; but I've known it, so has his mother, for a long time. He has cared for you ever since he was a little boy. And Sara," earnestly, "where would you find a better husband, a truer heart? I'm an old goose, I suppose, to speak out so plainly; but the fact is, Jasper's a bit afraid of you, and doesn't dare to speak, I imagine."
"Afraid of _me?_"
"Yes, he thinks you some kind of a goddess probably; most men do till they are married, and then they're too apt to think their wives are kitchen-maids; but I don't think Jasper'll be like that!" she added hastily.
"I've no doubt, Miss Prue, that Jasper would be all that is good and noble; ah! there is Molly coming back; I wonder if she succeeded in matching your yarn," and rising with a relieved air, she hurried out to meet her sister.
But the conversation lingered in her memory, and was often brought to mind by trivial events. During all of her visit, Miss Prue had an air of taking possession of Sara, which was, if not new, at least accented greatly, and occasionally would drop such expressions as,--
"If you should ever live in Killamet again," or "When you come back to us, Sara," which gave the girl an uneasy feeling that her future was being settled for her, leaving no alternative. Even her very last day, during the packing, there was an instance of this.
Sara and Molly, revelling in the midst of bags and boxes, while pretending to help, came upon a little morocco case of antique appearance.
"May I look at this, Miss Prue?" cried Molly, holding it up.
"Of course, child; just hand me that bundle, Sara; it's bandages I brought along in case of accidents; I always carry some in my hand-bag, besides my old Indian ointment."
"Oh, how lovely!" exclaimed Molly, as the cover of the case flew back, discovering a set of coral ornaments of exquisite workmanship, outlined against the faded blue satin lining. "Coral's all out of style now, but it's wonderfully pretty, just the same; and what an odd design; see Sara!"
She held them out towards the latter, then by a sudden impulse took the ear-rings and placed them against her sister's shell-like ears.
"Oh! look Miss Prue. Aren't they becoming?" "Exceedingly," said that lady, looking around with a critical air: "coral always becomes such a complexion and hair. I've always intended those for Jasper's wife."
Her accent and tone were so peculiar as she said this that even Molly noticed it.
"Jap's wife?" she cried gayly. "There's your chance, Sara. Why don't you set your cap for him, and the corals?"
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