"That is the famous Seven Corners," remarked Regenia, as they drove past Dr. Leighton's office. "Seven Corners is not a new place, but I refer to the office in the center of the circle."
"A Specialist of Symptoms," repeated Lucile, slowly. "Is that not an innovation?" she asked.
"Yes, I believe it originated with Dr. Frank or, at least, it is being given its first trial under his direction," Regenia replied.
"He is a singular man," said Lucile, thoughtfully, "perhaps he is not so singular either," she added apologetically, "but he is not like other people. I am at a loss to classify him. What do you think of your cousin, anyway," she asked after a pause.
"I am not sure that I think of him at all. He is very fond of Mrs. Underwood and is so often at our house that his presence has ceased to arouse conjecture. He is very kind to me and I do not know that I find anything about him to especially dislike," Regenia replied.
"He is exceedingly polite, I admit, yet his very politeness causes me to mistrust him. His eyes always seem to be laughing at one," concluded Lucile.
"That is dear old Recreation Park," she cried, dropping Dr. Leighton and his peculiarities without another thought. "How forsaken it looks."
“Compare it to-day with the scenes transpiring there about this hour last Wednesday,” said Regenia, regretfully.
“What stirring events animated the dreamy old place indeed. The vast multitude, the gallant Knights, the inspiring music, the competition drill and the numberless other happy incidents that are ineffaceably engraved upon my memory in vivid association with the thoughts of Recreation Park,” said Lucile.
“One enjoys recalling happy incidents quite as much as experiencing them, I often think,” added Regenia.
“I enjoy the recollection of them decidedly more; the unpleasant incidents which often precede our supremely happy moments can be eliminated or at least minimized during the serene hour that memory unbars her secret chamber for the reception of the joyous past,” Lucile replied.
“How often,” said Regenia, “do we make of our by gone pleasures an Elysian shrine, to which the mind in moments of sorrow fondly turns? Our golden era is ever behind us.“
On a little eminence east of the park, Regenia drew rein and exclaimed: “See, over there among the trees is the very spot from which we observed the drill.”
“And without a very great stretch of imagination, I can see Mr. St. John presenting his friend, whose easy manners made us feel, after an hour’s acquaintance, we had known him for years,” replied Lucile with a smile as they drove on, leaving the park and its romantic associations slumbering in the receding distance.
“We are not far from the river; are you going to Melton Inn?” she asked after a long pause, during which both of them had been busily thinking of the very recent past.
“No,” answered Regenia. “We will drive down to the National pike, thence across to Shady Side and follow our old course to the city.”
“All right,” said Lucile. “I believe I will take the lines for the rest of the way.”
“Most people wear gloves when driving,” she remarked, as she deftly proceeded to strip hers off, “but I never could work in kids.”
A she put her gloves on the cushion between them and took the lines, Regenia noticed for the first time, gleaming from the third finger of Lucile’s left hand, a modest “solitaire.”
“What a pretty ring!” she exclaimed with girlish enthusiasm. “How long have you worn it? Why did you not show it to me before this?”
“One question at a time, please,” said Lucile, trying to speak with importance but to tell the truth, feeling very much confused.
“And it is a real diamond,” said Regenia, holding Lucile’s hand in a position to get a better light on the stone.
“I think it is ever so pretty,” said Lucile, modestly.
“I think it is beautiful,” Regenia said. “May I ask who gave it to you?”
“Certainly you may, but can you not guess?” asked Lucile.
“Mr. St. John?” Lucile nodded her assent.
“The darling,” said Regenia, throwing her arms around Lucile’s neck, and from some mysterious cause common to the sex, the girls dissolved this sweetest of all secrets in a flood of mutual tears.
The horse which drew the phaeton, either in dumb sympathy or from long acquaintance with the eccentricities of young women, stopped short in the middle of the road during this lachrymal performance.
“And when is it all to be?” asked Regenia her curiosity getting the better of the shock Lucile’s sudden revelation had occasioned. “No wonder you had so much faith in Mr. St. John,” she added laughingly.
As they drove back home, Lucile unfolded her plans. They were to be married in October and thereafter the typewriter was to be transferred from the office in which she is employed at present, to a less pretentious building controlled by the proprietor of “The Events.” To all of her plans Regenia gave her unqualified approval; not that she knew anything about them, but because they filled her friend’s ideal of happiness. Regenia was in no mood to criticise any measure this independent, successful girl proposed.
When they returned to the “Elms” they found that dinner had been awaiting them for some time.
“You must have taken a long drive,” said Mrs. Underwood, who met them at the door. “It is half past five – thirty minutes after the dinner hour, and you have not even been to luncheon. Lucile must be nearly famished. Regenia will starve you, dear. She seems to forget that her visitors might wish some times to stop listening to her talk and eat something.”
“Lucile can eat any time, but she will not have another opportunity to talk to me again soon, so we are obliged to improve every moment,” replied Regenia.
"No danger of starving in such a land of plenty," said Lucile, with a complaisant smile. "Your bread shall be given and your water shall be sure, we are taught. Is not that prophetic as well as proverbial, Regenia?"
"So Mr. St. John says, and of course there is nothing worth while knowing that he does not know," answered Regenia, as they sat down to dinner.
After dinner, and until a late hour that night, the girls passed the time out under the trees' Regenia asking questions concerning the coming wedding and Lucile gratifying her excusable curiosity by laying bare all of her intentions preparatory to this most important event. As it was Saturday evening, and Lucile must return to Minton the following night, the girls resolved to be us at an early hour the next morning in order to make the last day as long as possible. Agreeable to their resolution, they arose Sabbath morning long before Mrs. Levitt, who prided herself upon the fact that she awoke a little earlier upon God's day, as she called it, than on any other.
Lucile proposed that Regenia go with her to church, a proposal the latter accepted with eagerness. The Underwoods had always strictly adhered to the Episcopal church; Mrs. Levitt, reared as she was in Canada, was also a communicant of the Church of England. Regenia, therefore, had rarely attended any other service than those at St. Mark's, but a short distance from her own door.
If Lucile had belonged to the church toward which she was most inclined, she would have been an ardent church woman. She had often accompanied Regenia to St. Mark's and frequently regretted that her own people, as well as the majority of her friends, were satisfied with a less pretentious church and a simpler form of worship.
On this Sabbath morning, Regenia's anxiety to go was heightened by the incidents of the past week, and it will reveal no secret to suspect that thoughts of the future played no unimportant part. What woman lives who does not dream of some future in which an ideal man forms, at least a shadowy background?
The two friends were among the first to arrive at the place of worship. Although Regenia had been assured that services commenced a full half hour later than at St. Mark's, her constant fear of committing that most heinous breach of good form, tardiness at worship, caused her to quicken her pace sufficiently to be in her seat at the ringing of the first bell. Just as Regenia's patience was about exhausted, the organ voluntary, followed immediately by the minister taking his place in the pulpit, assured her that the service had begun. The music was simple, but Regenia thought it was sung with a pathetic sweetness unequaled in all her experience. After the reading, singing and prayer, the minister arose. He was tall and somewhat inclined to stoop. As black as ebony, his features were sharp and well proportioned, his hair as white as driven snow. Apparently old, judging from his white locks, his black eyes had lost none of their fire; his voice, none of its pathos. It was plain that nature had carved him for a ruler. His text was from the Psalms, his theme "God's Protecting Care." Regenia listened like one entranced. The minister stepping in front of the small stand, on which sat a glass of water beside the open Bible, spoke without notes. His voice, at first low, but wonderfully distinct, gained strength and power as the theme unfolded. He related incident after incident of God's protecting care. Regenia thought she could see his countenance soften, his eyes brighten and the very man himself gradually living through the scenes he so eloquently described. The auditors were wrapped in attention and it did not occur to her that an occasional "amen" from some of the older members marred the interest, but she felt rather thankful that someone had the forethought to express audible that approval in which her heart so readily acquiesced. When the minister had concluded, Regenia found herself wondering where this man obtained his unusual wisdom and fluency of speech. How, she thought, could a people whose aspirations had been beaten down beneath the earth, in a few short years rise from their degraded condition to such rapturous flights of burning, convincing thought? "Whence this power?" she asked herself. She took refuge in the oft-repeated Scripture: "God's ways are not our ways, verily out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise." What a long, weary way, she thought, from the slave pen to this pulpit; and yet this white-haired angel of God was there, and a consummate master of his position. Thus she sat musing until awakened from her reverie by the congregation rising to sing the closing hymn. Again Regenia was fortunate in seeing the Afro-American at his best. She was delighted with the service. She was as delighted with its simplicity as Lucile was with the solemn grandeur of the Episcopal forms. After the service, Lucile, at Regenia's request, introduced her to the minister. As they walked home, Regenia talked of nothing but the morning's experience, and again and again expressed her intentions, in the future, to hear the same kind of inspiring truth from the same pulpit.
Lucile was silent; but she thought how often in going home from St. Mark's she had wished that fortune had permitted her to attend such a service every Sabbath. After all, is it only the unusual which attracts?
Lucile, with many regrets and after many a "locked embrace," left for Minton on the evening boat. That night, after Mrs. Levitt and Regenia returned from the landing, they sat on the steps of the veranda and talked for hours before going into the house. It was a glorious night. The moonlight fell through the trees with a soft but broken radiance upon Regenia, seated at the feet of her foster-mother, her beautiful head resting child-like in the old woman's lap.
"Are you tired, my dear?" asked Mrs. Levitt, at the same time turning her face up to her own. "My, my, how your favor your mother. If you did not have your father's sad brown eyes, I would think you were that poor child risen from the dead," she continued thoughtfully.
"Am I so much like my mother? How I wish I could remember her," said Regenia sadly. "I miss her now more than ever before. It seems to me that the older I grow the more I long for mother."
"Well do I remember her," said Mrs. Levitt, slowly. "She was but a child, you might say, when she came to my house, though older than you; she had grown up in an atmosphere widely different from the one she had entered, yet through it all I believe she was happy. How she loved your father, and how he petted and spoiled her. I cooked their wedding dinner and lived in sight of them until she—" Mrs. Levitt hesitated and then in a broken voice continued, "until they brought you here. Before your mother died she put you in my arms and after kissing you, oh, so fondly, whispered, 'Be a mother to my baby.' After I had promised to do as she requested, she closed her eyes and breathed her last," said the old lady, wiping away the tears that chased each other down her wrinkled cheeks.
"It has been my prayer day and night," she said, after a pause, "that you may some day be as good a woman as your mother."
Regenia buried her head in Mrs. Levitt's lap and they wept together over the memories of the past.
After awhile, Mrs. Levitt put her arm around the young girl and lifting her to her feet, said: "Come, dear, it is time to go to bed."
Chapter 10 -- Chapter 12