It was Hiram Higgins who introduced Helena Vail to Madison, two days later. Madison had led the Patriarch outside the door of the cottage as the sound of wheels announced the expected arrival, and was waiting for her as Mr. Higgins drove up in the democrat. Helena, marvelously garbed, in the extreme of fashion, was demurely surveying her surroundings; while Mr. Higgins was very evidently excited and not a little flustered. A huge trunk and two smaller ones occupied the rear of the democrat, with the dismantled back seat lashed on top of them.

Madison, leaving the Patriarch, hastened forward politely.

"Mr. Madison," said Hiram Higgins importantly, "this be the Patriarch's grand-niece come to stay with him."

From under a picture hat, Helena's eyes smiled down at Madison.

"Oh, I am so glad to meet you, Mr. Madison," she said cordially. "Mr. Higgins has been telling me about you, and how good you have been to my—my grand-uncle."

"You are very kind to say so, Miss Vail," responded Madison modestly. "May I help you down?"

She gave him a daintily gloved hand, exposed a daintily stockinged ankle as she placed her foot a little hesitantly on the wheel, and jumped lightly to the ground.

"That," she said quickly and a little anxiously for Mr. Higgins' ears, indicating the Patriarch, "that is my grand-uncle there, I am sure."

"Yes," said Madison, leading her toward the Patriarch. "And he has been looking forward very anxiously all day to your arrival—it seemed as though the afternoon would never come for him."

"Gee!" said Helena under her breath. "I had the rubes in the village on the run—you ought to have seen them stare as the chariot drove along."

"I don't wonder," said Madison softly. "The sun's rather strong down here, Helena, and if you're not careful you'll scorch your neck with those burning-glasses you've got in your ears."

"Don't I look nice?" demanded Helena, with a pout.

"You bet you do!" said Madison earnestly. "You've got the swellest thing on Broadway beaten from Forty-Second Street to the Battery. Now, here you are"—they had halted before the Patriarch.

The venerable face was turned toward them, as though by instinct the Patriarch knew that they were there—and his hands were held out in greeting.

Helena clasped them firmly, and submitted sweetly as the Patriarch drew her into his arms.

The Patriarch released her after an instant, and his hands, in lieu of eyes, reaching out to search her face, came bewilderingly in contact with the picture hat.

Helena, a little uncertainly, looked at Madison.

"Is he all blind?" she whispered.

"Quite blind," said Madison sadly.

Helena's face clouded a little, and into the brown eyes crept a strange, sudden, sympathetic look.

"Doc," she said, "it—it isn't fair. It's a shame—he can't fight back."

"One error to you, Miss Vail," said Madison pleasantly. "Eliminate the 'Doc.' Don't shed tears, you're down here to be sweet to him, aren't you—well, get into the game."

Helena turned from Madison, and, impulsively taking the Patriarch's groping hands, guided them to her cheeks and held them there.

"Lucky dog!" observed Madison; then, raising his voice: "I am sure you would like to be alone together, Miss Vail—perhaps you will take him into the cottage. If you will excuse me, I'll help Mr. Higgins with the trunks."

Madison turned and walked over to where Mr. Higgins, beside the democrat with a handful of chin whiskers, was observing the scene.

"Fine girl!" declared Mr. Higgins, as Helena, with the Patriarch's arm in hers, disappeared inside the cottage. "'Pears she must have money, an' I'm right glad 'count of the Patriarch—said her father an' mother was dead an' she was alone in the world—them jewels she wore must have cost a pile. Reckon she's been used to livin' kinder different from the way folks down here do—hope 'tain't goin' to be so hard on her she won't want to stay."

"I was thinking about that myself," said Madison gravely, knotting his brows as he nodded his head. "There's no doubt it will be a big change for her, but I imagine she had some sort of an idea what to expect—it is certainly greatly to her credit that she would give up her own interests unselfishly and come here to devote her life to the care of a relative whom she had never seen before. I've an idea that the girl who would do that is the kind of a girl who's got grit enough to see it through."

"So she be," said Mr. Higgins heartily. "Ain't every one 'ud do it—not by a heap!"

"I'll give you a hand with the trunks," said Madison thoughtfully.

They carried the large trunk between them into the cottage and, as Helena called to them, down the little hallway past what Madison knew to be the Patriarch's bedroom, and stopped before the next door, which was open. Madison remembered the room, when nearly two weeks ago now the Patriarch had shown him through the cottage, as a sort of store-room full of odds and ends. Mr. Higgins, too, evidently had known it only in that guise, for he whistled softly and reached for his whiskers.

"Well now, if that ain't right smart of the Patriarch!" he exclaimed. "Real set he must have been on makin' you feel to home, Miss Vail—an' never said a word to no one, neither."

"Yes," said Helena, "isn't it pretty? And did he really fix this up for me all by himself?"—she was looking at Madison, as she stood in the center of the room beside the Patriarch.

"Must have," said Madison, surveying the room.

It wasn't luxurious, the little chamber, nor was there over much of furniture, nor was that even of a high order—there was a bed with a red-checkered crazy-quilt; a washstand with severe, heavy white crockery; a rocking chair, homemade, of hickory; a rag mat, round, many-colored; and white muslin curtains on the windows. It wasn't luxurious, the little chamber—it was fresh and sweet and clean.

Upon the Patriarch's face was a sort of pleased expectancy, and Helena promptly took his arm and pressed it affectionately.

"Isn't it perfectly dear of him!" she said softly. "To think of him going to all this trouble for me when he could scarcely see!"

"Well, 'tain't no more'n you deserve," said Mr. Higgins gallantly, as he slewed the trunk around against the wall. "I'll lug them other trunks in myself, ain't but small ones, they ain't"—and he hurried from the room, as though fearful that Madison might secure a share in the honors.

"I guess you've made a hit with Mr. Higgins, Helena," observed Madison, with a grin.

"Have I?" returned Helena absently; then abruptly: "This is a real nice lay you've steered me into, John Madison."

"Yes; not bad," said Madison complacently. "Bring your uncle into the front room, Helena; and then you can get Hiram to show you the well and the old oaken bucket and where the pantries and cupboards are, he knows more about them than I do—it's pretty near time for you to be thinking about getting supper."

"Are you going to stay for it?" inquired Helena pertly.

"For the first attempt!" ejaculated Madison, with a wry face. "Good Heavens, no! I'm just convalescing from a serious illness."

In the front room Madison settled himself to a study of the Patriarch's beaming, happy face, while Helena under Mr. Higgins' attentive guidance explored the cottage.

"D'ye know, old chap," he said, and leaned across the table to touch the Patriarch's hand, "I feel like a blooming philanthropist. An outsider might think I was playing you pretty low and taking advantage of you, and even Helena's got a budding hunch that way it seems—but just think of the mess you'd have been in if it wasn't for me, just think of the good you're going to do, and just look at yourself and see how pleased and happy you look."

The Patriarch smiled responsively to the touch upon his hand.

"Of course you are," said Madison affably.

Presently there came the sound of an axe busily at work, and a moment later Helena came laughingly into the room.

"He's filling up the wood-box," she explained, and darting across to Madison put her arms around his neck. "Aren't you going to tell me you're glad to see me?" she whispered coyly. "Oh, I've been longing so for you! Kiss me"—she held out tempting little red lips, invitingly pursed up.

"Nix on that!" said Madison, smiling but firm, as he disengaged her arms. "Soft pedal, Helena, my dear."

"But he can't see or hear," pouted Helena.

"I should hope not!" said Madison, with a gasp. "But you never know who else might, or when they might—we begin right, and run no risks—see? People have a charming habit of dropping around informally here—everybody's at home."

"Don't you love me any more?" inquired Helena, unconvinced, and still pouting.

"Of course, I do!" asserted Madison, laughing at her. "Don't be a goose, Helena. You remember what I told you all in the Roost, don't you? Well, I haven't been living in a Maine village ten days or two weeks for nothing, and what I said then goes now more than ever. Now, don't get sore, kid—there's a big stake up, and if we're going to play the game we've got to play it to the limit. We live perfectly, ultra-proper, decent lives, mentally, morally, physically, till we beat it out of here for keeps."

"Ain't we going to have a nice time!" murmured Helena sarcastically.

"Oh, cheer up!" said Madison. "It may be quiet for a day or two—but not much longer than that. Now tell me about the Flopper and Pale Face before Higgins gets back—have they got things straight? And pat your uncle's hand while you talk, Helena—get the habit."

"I don't have to get the habit," said Helena a little crossly, perching herself on the arm of the Patriarch's chair and taking his hand. "I think he's a perfect dear, and for us to sit here and take advantage of him when he trusts us is—"

"Now cut that out," said Madison cheerfully. "Think of those gondolas in Venice when we get through with this—that'll make you feel better. Go on about the Flopper and Pale Face—can the Flopper speak any English yet?"

Helena laughed in spite of herself.

"I've had a dream of a time with him," she said. "He's broken his neck trying, at any rate; and he's not so bad as he was—quite."

"Good!" said Madison. "And?"

"I read them your last letter saying they were to come together and work the train on the way down," she continued. "The Flopper got the postmaster's letter, too."

"How did it size up as a testimonial?" inquired Madison.

Helena's dark eyes flashed with amusement.


"Too thick—fishy?" asked Madison.

"Oh, no," said Helena, "not if you have faith—just strong. It's all right, though; I told him he could use it—it's a drawing card in itself, for some of them would be curious enough to get off and see the finish. Everything is all fixed—they'll be here to-morrow."

"Good girl!" said Madison approvingly. "We'll pull it off out there on the lawn where all the multitude can see—you'll have to lead his nibs out and guide him to the Flopper while the hush falls and you look kind of scared—you know the lay. There's no one can touch you when it comes to playing up to the house. And now, there's just one thing more—you'll need some one around here to help you and keep an eye on the offerings when they begin to come in. Well, that's the Flopper's rôle in the second act—see? Overwhelmed with gratitude at his cure, he attaches himself to the Patriarch with dog-like fidelity—beautiful thought!—get the idea? And—"

"Hush!" cautioned Helena. "Here's Mr. Higgins coming."

"All right," said Madison, rising and moving to the door. "I'm going now, then—guess you understand. See you in the morning for the final touches. Tell Mr. Higgins I'm waiting outside for him to drive me home." He raised his voice. "Good afternoon, Miss Vail," he said, and stepped out onto the lawn.

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