the advantages which were to accrue to her from the new turn of events. "You are a second parent to her, Mr. Gridley," he said. "Your vigilance, your shrewdness, and your—spectacles have saved her. I hope she knows the full extent of her obligations to you, and that she will always look to you for counsel in all her needs. She will want a wise friend, for she is to begin the world anew."
What had happened, when she saw the three grave gentlemen at the door early in the forenoon, Mistress Kitty Fagan could not guess. Something relating to Miss Myrtle, no doubt: she wasn't goin' to be married right off to Mr. Clement,—was she,—and no church, nor cake, nor anything? The gentlemen were shown into the parlor. "Ask Miss Withers to go into the library, Kitty," said Master Gridley. "Dr. Pemberton wishes to speak with her." The good old man was prepared for a scene with Miss Silence. He announced to her, in a kind and delicate way, that she must make up her mind to the disappointment of certain expectations which she had long entertained, and which, as her lawyer, Mr. Penhallow, had come to inform her and others, were to be finally relinquished from this hour.
To his great surprise, Miss Silence received this communication almost cheerfully. It seemed more like a relief to her than anything else. Her one dread in this world was her "responsibility"; and the thought that she might have to account for ten talents hereafter, instead of one, had often of late been a positive distress to her. There was also in her mind a secret disgust at the thought of the hungry creatures who would swarm round her if she should ever be in a position to bestow patronage. This had grown upon her as the habits of lonely life gave her more and more of that fastidious dislike to males in general, as such, which is not rare in maidens who have seen the roses of more summers than politeness cares to mention.
Father Pemberton then asked if he could see Miss Myrtle Hazard a few moments in the library before they went into the parlor, where they were to meet Mr. Penhallow and Mr. Gridley, for the purpose of receiving the lawyer's communication.
What change was this which Myrtle had undergone since love had touched her heart, and her visions of worldly enjoyment had faded before the thought of sharing and ennobling the life of one who was worthy of her best affections,—of living for another, and of finding her own noblest self in that divine office of woman? She had laid aside the bracelet which she had so long worn as a kind of charm as well as an ornament. One would have said her features had lost something of that look of imperious beauty which had added to her resemblance to the dead woman whose glowing portrait hung upon her wall. And if it could be that, after so many generations, the blood of her who had died for her faith could show in her descendant's veins, and the soul of that elect lady of her race look out from her far-removed offspring's dark eyes, such a transfusion of the martyr's life and spiritual being might well seem to manifest itself in Myrtle Hazard.
The large-hearted old man forgot his scholastic theory of human nature as he looked upon her face. He thought he saw in her the dawning of that grace which some are born with; which some, like Myrtle, only reach through many trials and dangers; which some seem to show for a while and then lose; which too many never reach while they wear the robes of earth, but which speaks of the kingdom of heaven already begun in the heart of a child of earth. He told her simply the story of the occurrences which had brought them together in the old house, with the message the lawyer was to deliver to its inmates. He wished to prepare her for what might have been too sudden a surprise.
But Myrtle was not wholly unprepared for some such revelation. There was little danger that any such announcement would throw her mind from its balance after the inward conflict through which she had been passing. For her lover had left her almost as soon as he had told her the story of his passion, and the relation in which he stood to her. He, too, had gone to answer his country's call to her children, not driven away by crime and shame and despair, but quitting all—his new-born happiness, the art in which he was an enthusiast, his prospects of success and honor—to obey the higher command of duty. War was to him, as to so many of the noble youth who went forth, only organized barbarism, hateful but for the sacred cause which alone redeemed it from the curse that blasted the first murderer. God only knew the sacrifice such young men as he made.
How brief Myrtle's dream had been! She almost doubted, at some moments, whether she would not awake from it, as from her other visions, and find it all unreal. There was no need of fearing any undue excitement of her mind after the alternations of feeling she had just experienced. Nothing seemed of much moment to her which could come from without,—her real world was within, and the light of its day and the breath of its life came from her love, made holy by the self-forgetfulness on both sides which was born with it.
Only one member of the household was in danger of finding the excitement more than she could bear. Miss Cynthia knew that all Murray Bradshaw's plans, in which he had taken care that she should have a personal interest, had utterly failed. What he had done with the means of revenge in his power,—if, indeed, they were still in his power,—she did not know. She only knew that there had been a terrible scene, and that he had gone, leaving it uncertain whether he would ever return. It was with fear and trembling that she heard the summons which went forth, that the whole family should meet in the parlor to listen to a statement from Mr. Penhallow. They all gathered as requested, and sat round the room, with the exception of Mistress Kitty Fagan, who knew her place too well to be sittin' down with the likes o' them, and stood with attentive ears in the doorway.
Mr. Penhallow then read from a printed paper the decision of the Supreme Court in the land-case so long pending, where the estate of the late Malachi Withers was the claimant, against certain parties pretending to hold under an ancient grant. The decision was in favor of the estate.
"This gives a great property to the heirs," Mr. Penhallow remarked, "and the question as to who these heirs are has to be opened. For the will under which Silence Withers, sister of the deceased, has inherited, is dated some years previously to the decease, and it was not very strange that a will of later date should be discovered. Such a will has been discovered. It is the instrument I have here."
Myrtle Hazard opened her eyes very widely, for the paper Mr. Penhallow held looked exactly like that which Murray Bradshaw had burned, and, what was curious, had some spots on it just like some she had noticed on that.
"This will," Mr. Penhallow said, "signed by witnesses dead or absent from this place, makes a disposition of the testator's property in some respects similar to that of the previous one, but with a single change, which proves to be of very great importance."
Mr. Penhallow proceeded to read the will. The important change in the disposition of the property was this. In case the land-claim was decided in favor of the estate, then, in addition to the small provision made for Myrtle Hazard, the property so coming to the estate should all go to her. There was no question about the genuineness and the legal sufficiency of this instrument. Its date was not very long after the preceding one, at a period when, as was well known, he had almost given up the hope of gaining his case, and when the property was of little value compared to that which it had at present.
A long silence followed this reading. Then, to the surprise of all, Miss Silence Withers rose, and went to Myrtle Hazard, and wished her joy with every