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"Only," said Miss Asia, with a pang of mingled pity and alarm, "if that poor young thing Ves married shouldn't really prove to be "she shrank from the hard word "dead," but Ves was so peculiar, and he hadn't said just where she had gone. To be sure, people did not always feel quite certain of that, but Miss Asia instantly followed such traces as remained, and the result dismissed her uneasiness, and left only pity in the pang. King was hers, and had been ever since, with never one cloud to mar the sunshine of the reign, until that strange sickness came in a year ago. The sickness had vanished again, a long time now, and yet, as the letter said, King wouldn't get well. Her reclining-chair stood sometimes in the shelter of the vine on the old stone-floored porch, sometimes under the crossbeams she had carved, but the hands that had always been so busy drooped listlessly still, and the flush the letter had called up had given Miss Asia's heart a jump, it was so long since she had seen any color in King's cheeks.

But those steamers! New and untried, and never yet proved to be safe! There was where the necessity for action was coming in.

"I must see about that," said Miss Asia, and drawing a sheet of paper toward her, she ran rapidly across the page:

"DEAR PHILOMELA: If you will come down and stay with King, I will try the new line this week. It will not be necessary to go all the way, and I shall be here again in plenty of time."

"Ten or twelve days will take us across," she said, as she shook an envelope from the pack and wrote the address. "I can find out about everything in that time, and they'll soon make some landing where they can let me off."

usual swiftness of dispatch, and from that hour the plume had seemed to mock at the changes of this life. There was the same purple-black tinge in Miss Asia's hair, the same Grecian elegance in its sweep, and the plume drooped over all with no variation beyond a substituted shade or color according to the day. It had been lavender most of the time since King had been out of sorts, for reasons perfectly settled in Miss Asia's own mind, and King opened her brown eyes wide at the sudden blaze of the change.

"Yellow?" she asked, with a little start and a laugh.

Miss Asia nodded. King must know yellow as the symbol of wisdom, as well as she did herself.

The next day the lavender plume was exchanged for one of a golden shade. Miss Asia had always worn an ostrich plume in her hair since a day, indefinite years ago, when she happened to notice that style as ordered for drawing-rooms at St. James.

"But what if they would not prove to hold well in their place?" she said.

There was but one way to answer the question, and Miss Asia took it with her

"There are some things to think of today," she said. "Phil will be coming tomorrow, of course, and the steamer is advertised for the next afternoon."

Miss Asia's thoughts were all successfully taken, and so was her state-room for the trip, before the day was done; nothing was forgotten, and she crossed the stone porch, when the time came, with a sense that the household was left peacefully in train.

"I'll be back very soon," she said, over her shoulder, as she stepped out. "I've asked Europe to look in now and then, and Africa, you know, is close by."

Miss Asia was not especially fond of figs, and neither the isles of Greece nor the Mediterranean shore could tempt her, under the circumstances, to delay. For the first two weeks she made diligent use of her time, and as they drew to a close the yellow plume gave way to a delicate shade of blue; for Miss Asia felt that she had most satisfactorily arrived at the truth.

The steamer touched at its first port the next day, and Miss Asia's baggage was foremost to go ashore. It was only a little run over to the Channel then, and in ten days more she stepped through the quivering vine-tapestry at her own door.

Miss Asia possessed eyes that were starry gray whenever you called them black, and black as night as soon as confessed to be gray; but no one would have ventured to say what color they were when she felt herself squeezing King in her arms once more.

"The first time she ever left her in her life," Phil was saying under her breath, but Miss Asia had put King away again with a little laugh.

"You can go, girls, if you like! It is all right," she said.


And the shade of pink that flashed into | smile was the brightest of all, Miss Asia King's cheeks this time sent her hurrying thought, and as for music, Beethoven and out of the room. She must see about Chopin were well enough, but her low, rich King's trunks, at once. She hoped the laugh was worth all they ever wrote. Miss keys would prove to be safe in their locks. Asia did not even know when winter set "Four months!" exclaimed Phil, when the in; it seemed all spring-time yet. But springtrunks were packed. "They'll be only a wink." days are fickle, alas, after all, and by the "Such a wink as those dry old creatures time the real outdoor season had set in, somein the Pyramids take for their naps," thought thing seemed wrong inside. An indefinable Miss Asia, as she saw the party off and came sense of chill began to creep through the house, back to the empty rooms, the first time she that Miss Asia felt but could not understand. had sat there alone in twenty years.

But the Pyramids themselves began to look small compared to the piling up of the days while King was gone; the very summer seemed to have turned mummy, and promise never to pass away. But its dust scattered at last, and a cool autumn breeze rustled the last letter King was to write, as Miss Asia sat holding it in her hand.

"To think that the Syren and we are to follow in two days!" it said. "I hope the vine-leaves haven't fallen yet; I want to paint their shadows on the floor of the porch." And then followed a postscript from Phil.

"You wont know King's cheeks from the October maples when we get home," it said. 66 They have put our Nile trip entirely out of sight. Papa says there's not one of us who needs it, and he can't give another day to such stalwart souls. Thursday, you know, we're to come."

But what if that Thursday never should happen to dawn! The elements were to melt with fervent heat, and the heavens to roll together as a scroll, some day; Miss Asia's faith was firm as a rock on that point, and her heart stood still as she asked what assurance she had of their waiting to let her have King once more. But, when Wednesday night came at last, she went resolutely to sleep.

"That is the quickest way to see how it will prove," she said, and not even a dream had disturbed her before the skies were ruby with dawn, and a carriage rolled into the yard, with one long curl fluttering from the window, alive with those sparkling glints the sun always flashed out of King's hair.

"And so you are quite well?" asked Miss Asia, holding King off for a look.

"Oh, so well! The old house can't offer me enough to do! Just four o'clock, you remember, when the shadows make that picture at the south end," and when the hour struck, King was there with her paintbox, fastening them to the gray old floor.

Pictures of all sorts thickened about the house as the autumn went on, but King's

What was the matter with King? Was there anything the matter, at all? There certainly was a very strange look in her eyes, and one by one the gay doings about the house were dropped, and the recliningchair came out of its corner and into more and more frequent use.

"If King should prove to be losing all she has gained!" said Miss Asia, and at last, as spring opened, she caught up her pen and dispatched a vigorous note:

"DEAR PHILOMELA : Can you come over and stay with us awhile? If you can't persuade King to do better than this, I shall have to send you both off again to stay twice as long as before."


Why, what can the matter be?" asked Phil, in mysterious consultation with Miss Asia, when she arrived; but as soon as the door of her own room was closed, she laughed.

"The little goose!" she said. “I told her she ought to have let him write. I wish the Syren would ever come in again."

There was no immediate prospect of that, however; but at last, one day, there came a sudden cry from Phil, as she sat, newspaper in hand.

"Here's the Syren come in, after all this ridiculous time. And gone into dry-dock for repairs. A barnacle growing on her keel, or something of the sort. I ought to go home and ask the Captain to the house. He was so kind to us all, though King, of course, as the invalid, got the lion's share. That was half the secret of getting her well so fast."

"The Captain was kind to King! Why didn't you tell me before? You needn't go home, then. He can be asked to come here."

Phil sent a swift shot from under her eyelashes, and met a look of entreaty on King's face, but Miss Asia had vanished from the room, and before she returned, the letter was written and dispatched. The Captain must have the compliment, at least, and how else could Miss Asia prove whether he would come?

"Didn't I tell you he would?" whispered

Phil, as she slipped in from the porch the next evening, leaving a manly figure just visible in the moonlight, a trifle removed from King's chair.

"I hope he wont find it prove unbearably dull," answered Miss Asia, with a peep through the sash, and drawing Phil's arm into her own, she went out to make sure that the Captain was entertained. A masculine visitor was a and rather curious innovation under Miss Asia's roof, and aside from Europe, Africa, and Vespucius, a booted step was rarely heard in her halls,-never in the upper one since King's memory could record, and when the Captain had said good-night, at last, and his footsteps had died away in his room, Miss Asia sat down in the parlor to gather herself up. The state of things was so entirely new, and perhaps the most bewildering part of it was that the evening had been so extraordinarily pleasant on the old porch.

"Didn't I tell you how it would be ?" asked Phil again, after a while." And didn't I say he was handsome, and a gentleman every inch?


Miss Asia did not reply. The plume wore the daintiest peach-bloom of pink, to-night, though not even King would have ventured to ask whether it hinted a maiden blush, and it waved just perceptibly as she went on with her thoughts aloud.

"We'll take him a drive in the morning, if the weather proves to be fine. I ordered a carriage at ten o'


The "clock" died on Miss Asia's tongue, and the peach-blossom plume shook with a sudden start, for the Captain's door had opened softly on its hinges, and a strange and mysterious double thump was heard in the upper hall.

Miss Asia gazed into King's face without a word. Her knowledge of what men, under given circumstances, were likely to do, was limited to a degree; but still, what could King possibly know about it more than herself?


the parlor again, "he has put his boots outside of his door to be blacked!"

There was only a moment given to doubt, however, and Miss Asia rose with determination from her chair.

"Some one must see what it will prove," she said, and disappeared over the stairs, past the old clock, and noiselessly into the hall beyond. Then came silence, then returning footsteps, and a swift rustle of trailing silk as she swept along the carved balusters, dismay to its utmost depicted

on her face.

"Girls!" she exclaimed, as she reached

King stood up with an involuntary little gasp, and folded her hands before her in a gesture of mute despair. Simplicity reigned in the ordering of Miss Asia's house, and the one handmaiden who was gathering the dignity of years in its service had been wrapped in repose already for an hour and a half.

"But can't she do them in the morning?" asked Phil, in an innocent tone.

" Boots!" exclaimed Miss Asia, excitedly. "I don't suppose she ever saw a pair off in her life."

There was no question as to whether Miss Asia's eyes were black this time, as they looked the full situation into King's brown ones without a word. They were flashing Egyptian rays.

"There's only one thing to be done, then," answered Phil, quietly. "Come with me," and seizing a polished family candlestick, she led the way.

Not a step of the staircase creaked as they crept to the fated door. The boots had been no delusion; they stood there still. Gazing made them none the less real, and Miss Asia gathered her skirts back a little, in one hand.

"I believe it's the very pair he wore when he tramped half over Corfu to get a sago-palm branch for King," whispered Phil. "Just look at the arch of that instep, though! Now, if there is only such a thing as a blacking-box and a brush in the house."

"Africa left some, the last time he was here," answered Miss Asia, in the same ghostly tones. "I had them wrapped in several papers and locked away in a chest."

"Take this candlestick, then," and thrusting it into King's hand, Phil slipped two shapely fingers of her own through the straps, lifted the boots, and bore them away with a sweep.

"Now, where is that chest?" she asked, after another noiseless gliding over the stairs.

Miss Asia produced a key, and before she had time to know whether she dreamed, the central medallion of her parlor rug was settled as the point d'appui.

"But oh," began King, in a horrified whisper, as she watched Phil drop one faultless arm into mysterious leathery depths, while the other hand seized a brush, "wait, do wait till I get you a pair of gloves!"

"Gloves, to take a bull by the horns!" laughed Phil, with disdain. "Elbowsleeves, I admit, seem conveniently predestined to the hour."

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"But wait! You must wait! Give me the other brush! Do you think I'll let you do such ridiculous work alone?"

"You! His invalid! And oh, those roseate polished finger-tips!"

A quick flush rose to King's temples. She had her little French box of tools aux ongles, it is true, but so had Phil the very same thing of her own. "As if it were that!" and in another instant King stood close to the second boot, and was pushing the frill a little higher on her arm.

"Well, since you're determined, just lay on the color, if you like," said Phil, as, for one stolen respite of delay, King's brown eyes ventured a tremulous investigation down the leg," but the rubs are minepreëmpted, if that is the word. And this"

with one more fierce descent upon the heel-"this is for what he did when King wanted to taste a fresh fig."

"You shall carry them upstairs, if you like, when they're done," she added, with a little pause for breath; "but there's time enough. I've got Jaffa and those other places to pay for yet."

When the boots stood by the Captain's door once more, flashing back every ray of the candle Miss Asia held, she glided away to her room, with a sense that life brings strange and peculiar emergencies as it flies. "And what if he shouldn't prove to have been really asleep through it all!" she said. The weather left no room for a wish, when the next morning dawned, but Miss Asia forgot even its splendor in wondering how King had come to seem so much more like herself again. If she could only improve as surprisingly for a few days more but suddenly there was a little cry from King. My ring! The stone has certainly gone out of my ring!"



Miss Asia started toward her in alarm. was a grandmother diamond, too precious for any other hand in the world than King's. A search in full force began, and the eagle eye of the Captain pierced nooks and corners with a glance that left no escape; but not a gleam, not a prismatic ray, shot back, and King began to entreat:

"Don't! Don't take so much pains for a trifle!" but the Captain only bowed.

"I have always envied diamond-hunters," he said, "but here!" and then there were a few words that Miss Asia did not quite catch, as she moved away for another look in the hall. Something about the


Indies," and "a field trodden by King's foot," but Miss Asia could not stop to put sentences together, nor even to consider diamonds alone. The carriage was waiting, and guests must not be pressed upon by family affairs.

"It must be in the house, since you had it last night," she said. "I will have all the rooms swept, while we are away."

There was only one trouble in choosing the drive, and that was the fear of a still more delightful one being left out; and no shore the Syren had ever touched could offer a more enchanting spot for a lunch than the grove where Miss Asia at last ordered the carriage to stop.

"But this isn't precisely the point, after all," she said, as she looked about her with a disturbed expression on her face. "King, I've forgotten which way the path runs to the glen. Just follow and see, a few steps, if you please, while I rest."

The few steps seemed to lengthen into many, however, and then stretch to an uncounted number more, and still there was no return, and Miss Asia's "rest" roused into uneasiness at last, though Phil only looked more demure and contented, as the time went on.

"If the Captain hadn't gone with her, I should certainly think she was lost!" began Miss Asia, excitedly, and that was the very confession King had to make, as, just at that instant, she came in sight, with a blush in her eye that even the bewitching sweep of her hat couldn't manage to hide.

"So very careless and dull!" she said. "But we know all about it now, if you'll just let us lead you down."

Miss Asia's eyes happened to fall on the Captain's face as he helped her rise. She certainly never had seen a man look happier in her life, but there was a sharp little pinch, as if something were hurting him, after all.

"I'll overtake you in a moment, if you'll allow me," he said. "I think a small pebble must have worked its way into my boot," and when he rejoined them the pinch was gone, and only the satisfactory expression remained. "I found it," he said, quietly. "A very small, sharp-sided stone." The remainder of the week slipped delightfully away, in spite of the most minute sweeping having failed in the problem of the grandmother ring.

"And Asia had just been saying I must have it reset," said King; but even the diamond was forgotten in the shock of the Captain's preparing to take his leave.

"But you'll not sail without coming again for a day? Why, we're all invited to visit Africa next week!" Miss Asia said, and, when the time came, the Captain presented himself among the guests.

Somehow, Miss Asia could not really get a look under King's eyelids as the whole evening went on, but, even without it, appearances set her mind altogether at rest. There would be no need of giving her up for another dreadful four months away, and the only regret was that Phil could not be there to see. She had declared that imperative letters called her home, and had left them that very day.

It was a family party of very respectable size, and a few outside guests swelled the murmur beyond a hum, but at last a lull crept in, and every one seemed ready to listen to what some one else might say. The filmy dress in which King had been flitting about had vanished for half an hour, and the Captain had also mysteriously disappeared, but that would hardly account for the change. It was rather the result of life-long family ways, which had always encouraged a dreamy state as soon as the clock struck ten.

"A spinster, or an old maid?" some one was asking, at last, at the other side of the


"Is there any distinctive difference, that you know of?" asked Europe, turning around in his chair.


But when the sanctity of her own room stepped noiselessly in, with something glitwas reached, there was a knock, and King tering on the forefinger of her left-hand. lifted yet. See," she said, with her eyelids not fully ting for my stone. "He has brought me a new setHe found it the day we went walking in the glen."


"Certainly," Miss Asia replied, with a laugh that covered a little yawn. ster is a woman who remains single from "A spinher own deliberate choice, while an old maid -" but at that instant Miss Asia discovered that King was part of the double shadow promenading the lawn, and rose in dismay. Was the child crazed, to be risking all her improvement in ten-o'clock air! It was quite time to go.

Asia knew it too well for any question of It was the grandmother brilliant-Miss of the diamond paled into lead was bewilthat; but a discovery before which the rays dering her heart and her eyes.

"King!" she cried, with a slow, sharp she had gathered herself up. King's hapring of terrible pain; but the next moment last twenty years, and no agony of her own piness had been first in her thoughts for the should come in the way of it now.


My darling!" she said, and stooped for other instant, she started suddenly back. one long, passionate kiss; and then, in an"But what would ever become of us if he shouldn't prove to be good?"

What, indeed? There lay the question, mind, and only time and investigations, and there it continued to lie in Miss Asia's such as haste would never allow, could bring a reply.

first time in her life, Miss Asia withstood It was useless for King to plead; for the her like a rock.

him, in all those four long months ?" "But, Asia, dear Asia! Did I not prove

the Captain met with no better success, though But Miss Asia only shook her head; and coming up bravely, after each new repulse, requests, when his first were refused. His to the charge, and daring even greater ship was to sail, at the end of a month, for a still longer trip. If Miss Asia would let him take King, he would never ask such a grace at her hands again. An ocean life would live, for the future, wherever Miss was by no means essential to him; they Asia pleased.

same reply. Her treasure was hers, to be But entreaties and promises met with the guarded first of all. She could never intrust it to any man whom she had not had time to prove.

ever," she said, after fighting the battle once "I'm glad to have seen you to-day, howmore, "for this evening you would not have found me at home. Europe wants me people this time, so King will not go; but to meet an old family friend. Only elderly my carriage is ordered for half-past eight."

Twilight gathered in early that evening,

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