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THE TRUTH AT LAST,
N the afternoon of the day of my return from New York, I met Mrs. Danforth at the Sewing Society. She soon took occasion to lead me into a room apart.
"Well!" she began, "I wrote to Pearl,-or rather, to her mother, and she wrote back that Pearl was away visiting, and she had immediately forwarded the letter. Probably Pearl has received it, by this time, and I shall soon hear how she takes it. By the way, I hear that Rick Thorne is married, and that you had the honor of carrying home the unexpected bride. How does she look? Is she pretty?"
"Very pretty-a perfect little fairy."
"Where does she hail from?"
"Indeed! I have a large acquaintance there. What is-or what was-her name?"
Mrs. Danforth gave me one look of unqualified amazement. Then, she dropped into the nearest chair, and burst into a long, loud, ringing laugh,—yet a laugh that I never quite like to hear, because much too broad and noisy for a
"I do not see the joke," said I, rather severely.
"Don't you? My good gracious! it is too rich!-Daisy Dorn is "-and she went off into another peal.
I waited in silent disapproval.
"Is-is," she went on, catching her breath hysterically, "goodness alive! she is Pearl Danforth!"
"Impossible!" I exclaimed. "That child!"
"Child!" cried Mrs. Danforth, fairly screaming with mirth. "Bless your simple soul! she was of age two years ago. And she has the brain of a Machiavelli under those yellow curls of hers. I'll bet on her against Mrs. Thorne, two to one."
"But her name-Daisy Dorn."
"You persistent sceptic! Her name is Margaret: of course she is entitled to all its variations.
Chester called her Pearl, because, as he said, he had picked her up on the seashore. She assumes the others as the fit takes herDaisy, Madge, Greta, and I don't know what not. Lately, too, she has taken a fancy to resume the name of Dorn,— the name her father bore in Italy, and the only one Chester knew anything about;-no wonder he never found her friends!"
"And it is the German for Thorne!" said I.
"Exactly. The affair grows clearer every moment, you
"And Rick will get the property after all!"
"Umph! that's as Pearl pleases! She is of age, you know. Perhaps he will get as much of it as is good for him; he certainly will not get any more. He will find that his wife has a will of steel under her soft, cushiony exterior. By the way, I wonder what possessed her to marry him! I always thought her on the look-out for a rich husband, to be sure, she can afford to marry whom she pleases, now; but then, she did not know it when she did the deed! Can she really have fallen in love with his handsome face, and married him with her eyes shut to everything else, silly-girl fashion?
Remembering a look that she had given her husband, as he entered the depot, and another in the Bryer's parlor, I averred that I thought she had..
"Then," said Mrs. Danforth, "I should not wonder if she made him an excellent wife. She has brains enough for both; and artfulness enough to keep his simple head from suspecting half the crooks and corners of hers. She will manage him wholly, without his knowing that she does it. She will seem as transparent as a meadow-brook, when she is as deep as the sea. The more she loves him, the less will she allow him to see her as she is,—that is, until the softening influence of wifehood and motherhood have made her nearer to what she should be."
"And you call that an excellent wife! Poor Rick!"
Mrs. Danforth looked really abashed. "Miss Frost!" she exclaimed in a deprecating tone, "you surely know that I was not speaking abstractly, but relatively, for the present occasion. I do think that Frederick Thorne, with his temperament and characteristics, might have done much worse than to marry Pearl. For, after all, she is eccentric and secretive, rather than wicked. She is such a consummate actress, by nature, that she cannot help playing a part; and, loving her husband, she will play that of a good wife to perfection. Besides, I meant to imply, in the concluding clause of my unlucky speech, that I thought her likely to change very much for the better, in due time. But, my dear Miss Frost! pray do not think that I have no higher standard of womanhood than that!-none higher than I had when I came to Shiloh, three months ago! Is it possible you do not see that I am trying to lead a little higher life myself, even though I do still talk-and perhaps act-carelessly,—that being the 'natur of the critter,' as the farmers say?"
She ended "twixt a smile and a tear." My own eyes grew dim. I had seen the change in her-though far too subtile a thing to define in words--and rejoiced at it. I told her so, earnestly.
"As the angels in heaven do over a sinner that repenteth!" said she, with the same mixture of mirth and seri
ousness; which, I have learned, she uses instinctively as a mask to her deeper feelings. "Perhaps you'll never know, till you get there, how much you have had to do with it. Sunday School teachings sometimes rebound from the children and hit the parents. Seeing Gordon and Effie so earnestly trotting and tumbling heavenward, under your guidance, -I could not well help asking myself whither my own. ways tended. You may be sure that it has taken some of the conceit out of me, to find that what I did so unwil lingly, as a great favor to you and a wonderful condescension to the Sunday School cause in Shiloh, turns out to have been, humanly speaking, the salvation of my children and myself. To be sure, I was a Church member before, and active enough in Church work, after my fashion; but I suspect I had as little of the Christian spirit as any Hottentot."
I was dumb. Never did I feel so humbled. It was so plain to me that it was not "I," weakly and wearily oscillating between Bona and Mala, but the grace of God, that had done it! Mrs. Danforth had been very far from my thoughts, in my Sunday School work.
She wiped her eyes, and recurred to the preceding topic. "I suppose I must go and call on Pearl," said she, though she doesn't deserve it. To think that the little minx should have gone straight past my door with you, and not have stopped!-not even long enough for that sorely tried husband of hers to come up. But it is just like her! I know she enjoyed her sudden, single-handed descent upon those startled Bryers a great deal better than any more commonplace introduction. She fairly luxuri ated in that absurd scene. Well! I will go and see her this evening, and tell her of her good fortune, if such it is to be called."
The next morning, Mrs. Danforth knocked at the open door of the out-room, where Ruth and I were seated at the piano.
"I thought I would just stop in and tell you that I found only an empty nest," she said, as we shook hands. "The bird is flown."
"What-who!" I asked, bewildered.
"Who? Pearl-Daisy-Mrs. Frederick Thorne. have just come from the Bryers; I did not go up there last night, I had a sick headache. Meanwhile, Carrie had made Rick a statement of facts, as you requested her to do. He imparted them to his wife. The name of Chester Danforth made the whole thing clear to Pearl's very quick comprehension. Finale: she and Rick started for New Orleans at six o'clock this morning. Bon voyage!”