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The Awakening of Helena Richie   By: (1857-1945)

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[Illustration: He put his face close to hers, and stared into her eyes. Frontispiece Awakening of Helena Richie ]

THE AWAKENING OF HELENA RICHIE

By MARGARET DELAND

Author of "Dr Lavendar's People," "Old Cheater Tales," etc.

TO

LORIN DELAND

MAY 12, 1906

CHAPTER I

Dr. Lavendar and Goliath had toiled up the hill to call on old Mr. Benjamin Wright; when they jogged back in the late afternoon it was with the peculiar complacency which follows the doing of a disagreeable duty. Goliath had not liked climbing the hill, for a heavy rain in the morning had turned the clay to stiff mud, and Dr. Lavendar had not liked calling on Benjamin Wright.

"But, Daniel," said Dr. Lavendar, addressing a small old dog who took up a great deal more room on the seat of the buggy than he was entitled to, "Daniel, my boy, you don't consult your likings in pastoral calls." Then he looked out of the mud spattered window of the buggy, at a house by the roadside "The Stuffed Animal House," Old Chester children called it, because its previous owner had been a taxidermist of some little local renown. "That's another visit I ought to make," he reflected, "but it can wait until next week. G'long, Goliath!"

Goliath went along, and Mrs. Frederick Richie, who lived in the Stuffed Animal House, looking listlessly from an upper window, saw the hood of the buggy jogging by and smiled suddenly. "Thank Heaven!" she said.

Benjamin Wright had not thanked Heaven when Dr. Lavendar drove away. He had been as disagreeable as usual to his visitor, but being a very lonely old man he enjoyed having a visitor to whom to be disagreeable. He lived on his hilltop a mile out of Old Chester, with his "nigger" Simmons, his canary birds, and his temper. More than thirty years before he had quarrelled with his only son Samuel, and the two men had not spoken to each other since. Old Chester never knew what this quarrel had been about; Dr. Lavendar, speculating upon it as he and Goliath went squashing through the mud that April afternoon, wondered which was to blame. "Pot and kettle, probably," he decided. "Samuel's goodness is very irritating sometimes, and Benjamin's badness is well, it's not as distressing as it should be. But what a forlorn old critter he is! And this Mrs. Richie is lonely too a widow, with no children, poor woman! I must call next week. Goliath wouldn't like to turn round now and climb the hill again. Danny, I fear Goliath is very selfish."

Goliath's selfishness carried them home and landed Dr. Lavendar at his own fireside, rather tired and full of good intentions in regard to calls. He confided these intentions to Dr. William King who looked in after supper to inquire about his cold.

"Cold? I haven't any cold! You can't get a job here. Sit down and give me some advice. Hand me a match first; this ragamuffin Danny has gone to sleep with his head on my foot, and I can't budge."

The doctor produced the match; "I'll advise you not to go out in such weather. Promise me you won't go out to morrow."

"To morrow? Right after breakfast, sir! To make calls on the people I've neglected. Willy, how can I find a home for an orphan child? A parson up in the mountains has asked me to see if I can place a little seven year old boy. The child's sister who took care of him has just died. Do you know anybody who might take him?"

"Well," said Willy King, "there's Mrs. Richie."

Dr. Lavendar looked at him over his spectacles. "Mrs. Frederick Richie? though I understand she calls herself Mrs. Helena Richie. I don't like a young female to use her own name, William, even if she is a widow! Still, she may be a nice woman I suppose. Do you think a little boy would have a good home with her?"

"Well," the doctor demurred, "of course, we know very little about her. She has only been here six months. But I should think she was just the person to take him. She is mighty good looking, isn't she?"

"Yes," Dr... Continue reading book >>




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