Chapter XXVI. Reenter Mr. Stanley G. Fulton
 

In the library of Mrs. Thomas Tyndall's Chicago home Mr. Stanley G. Fulton was impatiently awaiting the appearance of Miss Maggie Duff. In a minute she came in, looking charmingly youthful in her new, well- fitting frock.

The man, quickly on his feet at her entrance, gave her a lover's ardent kiss; but almost instantly he held her off at arms' length.

"Why, dearest, what's the matter?" he demanded.

"W-what do you mean?"

"You look as if--if something had happened--not exactly a bad something, but--What is it?"

Miss Maggie laughed softly.

"That's one of the very nicest things about you, Mr. Stanley-G.- Fulton-John-Smith," she sighed, nestling comfortably into the curve of his arm, as they sat down on the divan;--"that you notice things so.. And it seems so good to me to have somebody--notice."

"Poor lonely little woman! And to think of all these years I've wasted!"

"Oh, but I shan't be lonely any more now. And, listen--I'll tell you what made me look so funny. I've had a letter from Flora. You know I wrote them--about my coming marriage."

"Yes, yes," eagerly. "Well, what did they say?"

Miss Maggie laughed again.

"I believe--I'll let you read the letter for yourself, Stanley. It tells some things, toward the end that I think you'll like to know," she said, a little hesitatingly, as she held out the letter she had brought into the room with her.

"Good! I'd like to read it," cried Fulton, whisking the closely written sheets from the envelope.

MY DEAR MAGGIE (Flora had written): Well, mercy me, you have given us a surprise this time, and no mistake! Yet we're all real glad, Maggie, and we hope you'll be awfully happy. You deserve it, all right. Poor Maggie! You've had such an awfully hard time all your life!

Well, when your letter came, we were just going out to Jim's for an old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner, so I took it along with me and read it to them all. I kept it till we were all together, too, though I most bursted with the news all the way out.

Well, you ought to have heard their tongues wag! They were all struck dumb first, for a minute, all except Mellicent. She spoke up the very first thing, and clapped her hands.

"There." she cried. "What did I tell you? I knew Aunt Maggie was good enough for anybody!"

To explain that I'll have to go back a little. We were talking one day about you--Jane and Mellicent and me--and we said you were a saint, only not a marrying saint. But Mellicent thought you were, and it seems she was right. Oh, of course, we'd all thought once Mr. Smith might take a fancy to you, but we never dreamed of such a thing as this--Mr. Stanley G. Fulton! Sakes alive--I can hardly sense it yet!

Jane, for a minute, forgot how rich he was, and spoke right up real quick--"It's for her money, of course. I knew some one would marry her for that fifty thousand dollars!" But she laughed then, right off, with the rest of us, at the idea of a man worth twenty millions marrying anybody for fifty thousand dollars.

Benny says there ain't any man alive good enough for his Aunt Maggie, so if Mr. Fulton gets to being too highheaded sometimes, you can tell him what Benny says.

But we're all real pleased, honestly, Maggie, and of course we're terribly excited. We're so sorry you're going to be married out there in Chicago. Why can't you make him come to Hillerton? Jane says she'd be glad to make a real nice wedding for you--and when Jane says a thing like that, you can know how much she's really saying, for Jane's feeling awfully poor these days, since they lost all that money, you know.

And we'd all like to see Mr. Fulton, too--"Cousin Stanley," as Hattie always calls him. Please give him our congratulations--but there, that sounds funny, doesn't it? (But the etiquette editors in the magazines say we must always give best wishes to the bride and congratulations to the groom.) Only it seems funny here, to congratulate that rich Mr. Fulton on marrying you. Oh, dear! I didn't mean it that way, Maggie. I declare, if that sentence wasn't 'way in the middle of this third page, and so awfully hard for me to write, anyway, I'd tear up this sheet and begin another. But, after all, you'll understand, I'm sure. You know we all think the world of you, Maggie, and that I didn't mean anything against you. It's just that--that Mr. Fulton is--is such a big man, and all--But you know what I meant.

Well, anyway, if you can't come here to be married, we hope you'll bring him here soon so we can see him, and see you, too. We miss you awfully, Maggie,--truly we do, especially since Jim's folks went, and with Mr. Smith gone, too, Jane and I are real lonesome.

Jim and Hattie like real well where they are. They've got a real pretty home, and they're the biggest folks in town, so Hattie doesn't have to worry for fear she won't live quite so fine as her neighbors-- though really I think Hattie's got over that now a good deal. That awful thing of Fred's sobered her a lot, and taught her who her real friends were, and that money ain't everything.

Fred is doing splendidly now, just as steady as a clock. It does my soul good to see him and his father together. They are just like chums. And Bessie--she isn't near so disagreeable and airy as she was. Hattie took her out of that school and put her into another where she's getting some real learning and less society and frills and dancing. Jim is doing well, and I think Hattie's real happy. Oh, of course, when we first heard that Mr. Fulton had got back, I think she was kind of disappointed. You know she always did insist we were going to have the rest of that money if he didn't show up. But she told me just Thanksgiving Day that she didn't know but 't was just as well, after all, that they didn't have the money, for maybe Fred'd go wrong again, or it would strike Benny this time. Anyhow, however much money she had, she said, she'd never let her children spend so much again, and she'd found out money didn't bring happiness, always, anyway,

Mellicent and Donald are going to be married next summer. Donald don't get a very big salary yet, but Mellicent says she won't mind a bit going back to economizing again, now that for once she's had all the chocolates and pink dresses she wanted. What a funny girl she is--but she's a dear girl, just the same, and she's settled down real sensible now. She and Donald are as happy as can be, and even Jane likes Donald real well now.

Jane's gone back to her tidies and aprons and skimping on everything. She says she's got to, to make up that forty thousand dollars. But she enjoys it, I believe. Honestly, she acts 'most as happy trying to save five cents as Frank does earning it in his old place behind the counter. And that's saying a whole lot, as you know. Jane knows very well she doesn't have to pinch that way. They've got lots of the money left, and Frank's business is better than ever. But she just likes to.

You complain because I don't tell you anything about myself in my letters, but there isn't anything to tell. I am well and happy, and I've just thought up the nicest thing to do. Mary Hicks came home from Boston sick last September, and she's been here at my house ever since. Her own home ain't no place for a sick person, you know, with all those children, and they're awfully poor, too. So I took her here with me. She's a real nice girl. She works in a department store and was all played out, but she's picked up wonderfully here and is going back next week.

Well, she was telling me about a girl that works with her at the same counter, and saying how she wished she had a place like this to go to for a rest and change, so I'm going to do it--give them one, I mean, she and the other girls. Mary says there are a dozen girls that she knows right there that are half-sick, but would get well in a minute if they only had a few weeks of rest and quiet and good food. So I'm going to take them, two at a time, so they'll be company for each other. Mary is going to fix it up for me down there, and pick out the girls, and she says she knows the man who owns the store will be glad to let them off, for they are all good help, and he's been afraid he'd lose them. He'd offered them a month off, besides their vacation, but they couldn't take it, because they didn't have any place to go or money to pay. Of course, that part will be all right now. And I'm so glad and excited I don't know what to do. Oh, I do hope you'll tell Mr. Fulton some time how happy he's made me, and how perfectly splendid that money's been for me.

Well, Maggie, this is a long letter, and I must close. Tell me all about the new clothes you are getting, and I hope you will get a lot. Lovingly yours,

FLORA.

P.S. Does Mr. Fulton look like his pictures? You know I've got one. F.

P.S. again. Maggie Duff, for pity's sake, never, never tell that man that I ever went into mourning for him and put flowers before his picture. I'd be mortified to death!

"Bless her heart!" With a smile Mr. Fulton folded the letter and handed it back to Miss Maggie.

"I didn't feel that I was betraying confidences--under the circumstances," murmured Miss Maggie.

"Hardly!"

"And there was a good deal in the letter that I did want you to see," added Miss Maggie.

"Hm-m; the congratulations, for one thing, of course," twinkled the man. "Poor Maggie!"

"I wanted you to see how really, in the end, that money was not doing so much harm, after all," asserted Miss Maggie, with some dignity, shaking her head at him reprovingly. "I thought you'd be glad, sir!"

"I am glad. I'm so glad that, when I come to make my will now, I shouldn't wonder if I remembered them all again--a little--that is, if I have anything left to will," he teased shamelessly. "Oh, by the way, that makes me think. I've just been putting up a monument to John Smith."

"Stanley!" Miss Maggie's voice carried genuine shocked distress.

"But, my dear Maggie, something was due the man," maintained Fulton, reaching for a small flat parcel near him and placing it in Miss Maggie's hands.

"But--oh, Stanley, how could you?" she shivered, her eyes on the words the millionaire had penciled on the brown paper covering of the parcel.

     Sacred to the memory of John Smith.

"Open it," directed the man.

With obvious reluctance Miss Maggie loosened the paper covers and peered within. The next moment she gave a glad cry.

In her hands lay a handsome brown leather volume with gold letters, reading:--

     The Blaisdell Family
           By
        John Smith

"And you--did that?" she asked, her eyes luminous.

"Yes. I shall send a copy each to Frank and Jim and Miss Flora, of course. That's the monument. I thought it due--Mr. John Smith. Poor man, it's the least I can do for him--and the most--unless--" He hesitated with an unmistakable look of embarrassment.

"Yes," prompted Miss Maggie eagerly. "Yes!"

"Well, unless--I let you take me to Hillerton one of these days and see if--if Stanley G. Fulton, with your gracious help, can make peace for John Smith with those--er--cousins of mine. You see, I still feel confoundedly like that small boy at the keyhole, and I'd like--to open that door! Could we do it, do you think?"

"Do it? Of course we could! And, oh, Stanley, it's the one thing needed to make me perfectly happy," she sighed blissfully.

THE END