Regenia and Lucile were cosily situated at Breeze Nook. The freedom from care, together with the salt-laden sea breeze, had not been long in bringing the roses back to Regenia's cheeks. Lucile, too, had been benefited by her sojourn at Breeze Nook.
Clement had kept them in touch with the affair which was nearest Regenia's heart. The successful termination of Dr. Stone's stay in the convict camp, contributed in no small way to the robust health the Regenia had lately regained. Peace of mind is always conducive to a well ordered physical condition. The young women had lived much in the open air. They had paid little heed to the effect this change was producing in their complexions. What did they care if they were as brown as berries, so they ate heartily and slept soundly? Every morning they walked on the beach and more than a score of times had seen the ruddy face of Phoebus dripping with golden perspiration, rise like a fire king from beneath the ever restless waves. At eleven they took their daily plunge in the foaming surf, in the evening they walked on the beach, sat down in the white sand, and through all this programme they talked of Lotus and Clement. They did not join in the busy whirl everywhere buzzing around them. While the social world of Breeze Nook feasted and danced, these two friends in pursuit of health (how commonplace) simply slept.
Breeze Nook was the place to meet fashionable Afro-America. Here gathered the departmental clerk from Washington, frittering away that part of this thirty days' vacation not already used; the solid man from the city in pursuit of health or long-delayed pleasure; school teachers from the far away South or West; the porter of the flat with the dress and airs of a millionaire; the "dude" and "dudess" from nowhere in particular but everywhere in general; the minister whose congregation has granted him a well earned vacation; the editor seeking a rest from the arduous duties of hunting his subscription money; the student seeking work to help him through college; all kinds, all classes of men and women of high and low degree flock to Breeze Nook for at least a day or two during the "heated term." It was amusing to Regenia and Lucile to observe these people in their efforts to assume airs of importance. Want of sociability is rare in Afro-America. Breeze Nook in this respect was an exception. It seemed to our friends that Miss "A," fearful that a little courtesy would in the estimation of Miss "B," detract from Miss "A's" social standing, made Miss "A," who at home was a friendly somebody, at Breezy Nook a disgusting little snob.
Regenia and Lucile, having no particular social standard to keep up, were content to act abroad as they did at home, with becoming consideration for all they chanced to meet. They did not think it necessary to act the lady, they found it far simpler to be ladies. Their unassuming ways made them liked by all.
The day Mrs. Levitt was brought back to Mt. Clare, Clement had telegraphed the good news to Lucile. Regenia had been down to the beach alone that morning, and when she returned Lucile met her at the gate. "Guess what has happened?" she said slipping her arm around Regenia's waist.
"I never was good at guessing, tell me," said Regenia.
"I received a letter from Clement," said Lucile with tantalizing deliberation.
"Are they coming down?"
"Yes, all three of them."
"Three," exclaimed Regenia, "and who is the third one, pray?"
"The third is a woman."
Regenia stopped a moment, and looking into Lucile's eyes, said: "Have they found her?"
Lucile nodded, "Yes, and I have just sent them a telegram to repair at once to Breeze Nook."
"Where did they find her? Did the telegram say how she was?"
"Now, do you know what you are saying? What do you want anyway in twenty-five cents' worth of electricity? I think they will be here by Friday or Saturday. Let me see—this is Thursday—yes, they ought to get here by Saturday, anyway. Until then, have patience," she said, as she tripped lightly up the steps to the house.
True to the prediction of Mrs. St. John, Saturday brought Clement, Mrs. Levitt and Lotus. Regenia and Lucile were seated on the broad veranda when the cab drove up. The driver had hardly opened the carriage door and assisted Mrs. Levitt to alight, before Regenia had bounded down the steps and with her arms around Mrs. Levitt's neck, was covering her face with kisses.
"You dear old mamma, you, how glad I am to see you again." Careless of the lookers-on, forgetful of Lotus and Mr. St. John, Regenia clung to her foster mother as if she expected every moment some unkind fate would spring up to separate them.
"How I have missed you," she continued.
"And I have missed you, too, dear," said Mrs. Levitt speaking through her tears.
Lucile had kissed her husband and given Mr. Stone a rousing welcome, and stood waiting for Regenia to give Mrs. Levitt a moment's cessation, so she could speak to her.
Clement at last broke the awkward silence. "I suppose you are not going to share your greeting with us less important folks."
Regenia, blushing with confusion, as she greeting Clement, said: "Oh, yes I am. I was so glad to see dear old mamma that for a moment I forgot my other dear friends. And you, Dr. Stone," she said, "are you quite as well as you were when I saw you last?"
"Yes, thanks to you and Clement, and you too, Mrs. St. John," he said, as she cast a saucy glance at him.
"I thought you were not going to leave me out. I was not in the forefront of battle, but I was a powerful reserve."
"Never fear, I would sooner leave myself out than to detract one jot or tittle from the obligation I feel toward all my friends."
"None of that Lotus. You are under no obligation to anybody," said Clement. "You can feel just as thankful as you please, but keep it to yourself. We were only too glad to be of service."
"Yes, indeed, and if you had not got out of that den as soon as you did, I fear it would have been the death of all of us," she said, laughing and looking at Regenia, who at that moment was busily talking to Mrs. Levitt.
That night and the next day were spent in hearing the experiences which each had passed through since last they were all together.
Monday at eleven they went bathing. Here, as everywhere else, discrimination exists. The Afro-Americans had their separate bath houses, and special part of the beach for bathing. Clement St. John found this arrangement something to be thankful for. He remarked to Lotus as they came out of the water, "My suit would make a good life preserver. It has been 'shingled' so often," referring to the numerous patches it contained, "I do not believe a fellow could sink in it if he tried."
Dr. Stone did not know whether to consider himself on the same terms with Regenia as when they had last met, or to commence over again. He was not long in determining, however. The evening after the day just spoken of, he invited Regenia to take a walk on the beach. By degrees he led up to the days at Grandville and the months of suffering which had passed for them both. They walked on in the moonlight, talking over the pleasures and sorrows.
"We had better turn back," said Regenia, "we have walked a long way."
They stopped and Lotus, taking her hand, said:
"Can you forget,
"No," she said, "I can not forget, I will not regret."
"It is all so different now. I am a convict and you an heiress."
"Have you changed? Is your heart the same as it was that happy night, followed so soon by months of sorrow?"
"My heart is the same, but what was admissible then, might be presumptuous now," he replied.
"If you were suddenly made rich," she said, "would you cease to love me?"
"I could not cease to love you, no matter what changes came," replied Lotus feelingly.
"Do you think me less constant than yourself? Do you think I would ever enjoy a penny of that money without you? Never call yourself a convict again. You are a nobleman upon whom fortune for a little while frowned. What is the money worth when compared with the service you rendered me? Saved my life. I have never forgotten that, and more, you offered me your love and I accepted it and returned it."
The rough rocks roared as the mad waves dash against them, the laughing whitecaps trembled and shook with suppressed merriment; the moon glimmered again and again from behind the cloud, but Lotus and Regenia recked them not as Cupid led them captive back to the cottage.
They sat on the veranda in the moonlight and talked it all over as lovers will. Regenia at last arose to go in, he still held her hands and sought to see once more in her big brown eyes, swimming in their liquid depths, that truth so sweet to know: "I love you."
As he leaned against the porch, still holding her hands, there was a scuffle, a scream and the report of a revolver.
Clement St. John came round the corner of the house holding his revolver in his hand. "Nothing to be afraid of, only my carelessness. I was changing this revolver from one hand to the other and it went off," he explained.
For once his story was not believed by Regenia. She had seen Dr. Leighton, as he raised his revolver, and in that awful moment had seen Clement brush it aside from its mark.
Dr. Leighton had deliberately attempted to murder Lotus, but Clement had saved him in the nick of time. It had only been the work of a moment to wrench the revolver from the would-be assassin's hand, and his first thought was to shoot him, but as Dr. Leighton leaped over the back fence, Clement lowered the smoking revolver and through the awful stillness he could hear "Thou shalt not kill."
Everybody about the house condemned Mr. St. John for his carelessness but Regenia. She alone knew the truth. Even Lotus was unaware how near he had been to eternity.
The morning paper described an accident which forever freed Regenia from the fear of Dr. Leighton. As he bounded over the fence that night and slunk away under cover of the darkness, he had to cross a dozen railroad tracks directly behind the cottage from which he was fleeing. Running out of the way of one engine he did not see another which passed over him, mangling his body beyond recognition. A card in his pocket told who he was.
Lucile remarked on hearing the account read aloud on the veranda the next morning, "And this is the reality of your dream, Regenia. Do you remember the big fish and incline car that mashed it into a thousand pieces?"
They gathered around while Lucile related the dream.
Chapter 31 -- Chapter 33