Read CHAPTER XLI - AN HEIRESS of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

The winter had passed and March returned when one morning Albert received a bulky envelope bearing the Stockholm postmark, and containing numerous legal papers and a lengthy letter, all of which imparted information both surprising and pleasant. So interesting was it that he did not notice Frank when he came in, or even hear his greeting, and well might Albert be keenly absorbed in those documents, for they made him the emissary privileged to lay at the feet of the girl he loved-a fortune!

No more need she devote herself to her foster-parents for many years to come, and no more need Uncle Terry putter over lobster traps in rain or shine, or good, patient Aunt Lissy bake, wash, and mend, year in and year out.

Here was enough and more than they could spend in all the years that were left them, and what a charming privilege it would be to him to place in her loving hand the means to make glad and bless those kindly people who, all unasked, had cared for her as their own; and what a sweet door of hope it opened for him! He could hardly wait for the moment when he should say to her, “Here is the golden key that unlocks the world for you and yours.”

Then for the first time he noticed Frank watching him with smiling interest.

“Well,” remarked that cheerful young man, “I’m glad to see you emerge from your trance and return to earth again. I’ve said good morning twice, and watched you for half an hour, and you didn’t even know I was in the room.”

When Frank had perused the most interesting of the documents he gave a low whistle, and with his rather startling faculty for jumping at conclusions, said:

“Now, methinks, somebody will be taking a wedding-trip to the Land of the Midnight Sun in the near future. I congratulate you, my dear boy, and you can have the ‘Gypsy’ when you are ready.” Then he added shyly, “Maybe it can be arranged so that there can be four in the party.”

The next morning Albert, bearing the legal evidence of Telly’s heritage, and with buoyant heart, left for Southport. The day was dark, and when, late in the afternoon, the little boat bearing him as sole passenger halted at the head of the island and he saw the smiling face and muffled form of Uncle Terry standing on the wharf alone, he could hardly wait to leap ashore.

“Bless yer heart, Mr. Page,” exclaimed Uncle Terry, grasping both of Albert’s hands in his, “but the sight o’ ye is good fur sore eyes.”

“And how are Aunt Lissy and Telly?” responded Albert, smiling into the glowing face of the old man.

“Oh, they’re purty middlin’, an’ they’ll be powerful glad to see ye, too. It’s been a long time since ye left us.”

And how vividly at this moment came to Albert every detail of his last parting from Telly, framed as she was then in a background of scarlet and brown foliage! He could see her as he last saw her, standing there with bowed head and tear-wet face, and feel a tinge of the keen pain that pulled at his own heart-strings then. He could almost hear the sad rustle of the autumn winds in the dry leaves all about that had added a pathos to their parting.

And now only a few miles separated them!

But the way was long and Uncle Terry’s old horse slow, and the road in the hollows a quagmire of half-frozen mud. Gone were all the leaves of the scrub oaks, and beneath the thickets of spruce still remained a white pall of snow. A half gale was blowing over the island, and when they reached the hilltop that overlooked the Cape, it was so dark that only scattered lights showed where the houses were. When they halted in front of Uncle Terry’s home the booming of the giant billows filled the night air, and by the gleam of the lighthouse rays Albert could see the spray tossed high over the point rocks.

“Go right in,” said Uncle Terry, “an’ don’t stop ter knock; ye’ll find the wimmin folks right glad ter see ye, an’ I’ll take keer o’ the hoss.”

With Telly it had been a long, dreary, desolate, monotonous winter. Her only consolation had been the few letters from the one and only man who had ever uttered a word of love to her, and how eagerly they had been read again and again, and then treasured as priceless keepsakes, he little realized. Neither did he know how many times she had lived over each and every hour they had passed together, and recalled every word and look and smile.

At times, when the cold desolation of winter was at its worst, she had half regretted the sacrifice she had made, and only maidenly reserve had kept her from writing him that her loneliness and heart-hunger were more than she could bear.

She had no inkling of his coming on that dark and tempestuous evening, and when Uncle Terry bade him enter the house, she was alone in the sitting-room laying the table, while Aunt Lissy was in the kitchen cooking supper. And then, just as she paused to listen to the thunder of the giant waves, so near, she heard the click of the front door latch, and stepping quickly into the little hall, as the door slowly opened, she met the man who for five long months had never been absent from her thoughts one moment.

A glad cry escaped her, and then-

But such a moment is too sacred for words; only it must be said it was fortunate for both that Aunt Lissy was in the kitchen.

When that worthy soul came in and greeted Albert as cordially almost as a mother, if she noticed Telly’s red face and neck no one was the wiser, and maybe it was due to the cheerful open fire after all.

And what a happy little party that was when Uncle Terry came in, and after Telly, as usual, had brought his house coat and slippers, and they were seated at the table! What mattered that the ocean surges thundered so near, and at times tossed their angry tears against the windows! Inside was light, and warmth, and love, and trust, and all that is holiest and best in human emotions.

And when the meal was eaten, Uncle Terry and Albert smoked and talked while the fire burned bright, and the little clock on the mantel ticked the time away as clocks are bound to do, no matter how content we are.

When Albert had asked about the Widow Leach and Bascom, Deacon Oaks and Mandy, heard all the little gossip of the Cape, and given his isolated friends a brief synopsis of current events in the great world of which they could hardly be considered a part, and the evening was two-thirds past, he said:

“Now, my good friends, I have a little surprise in store for you,” and drawing from an inside pocket a bulky envelope, rising and crossing the room to where Telly sat, he handed it to her with the remark:

“I have the honor and exquisite pleasure of presenting to you, Miss Etelka Peterson, sole surviving heiress and descendant of one Eric Peterson, of Stockholm, your paternal grandfather, these legal documents certifying to your inheritance of about one hundred and thirty thousand dollars, besides various pieces of real estate as yet unappraised.”

The effect of this announcement upon the three listeners was unique and not exactly what Albert had anticipated. For an instant they seemed dazed, and Telly, holding the big envelope gingerly, as if it might bite her, stared at Albert with a look of fright. Aunt Lissy was the first to speak, and “Good Lord-a-massy” came from her in an awed whisper.

“Thank God, little girlie, you’ve got yer dues at last,” was Uncle Terry’s remark, and then, as the probable end of Telly’s life with them cast its shadow athwart his vision, he bowed his face upon his hands and added in a pained voice: “I knowed it’ud come an’ we’d lose ye, soon or late.”

The pathos of his act and words, with the overwhelming disclosure, seemed to force upon Telly the belief that in some unknown way it meant the ending of her present home life. For one instant she looked at him, and then the tide of emotion swept her to his side and kneeling there she thrust the envelope into his hands and clasped his arm.

“I won’t take it, father,” she said quickly, “not one penny of it! It’s all yours, and I’ll never leave you so long as you live, and no one can make me!” Then as the tide ebbed, her head sank upon his knee and she began to sob.

“Thar ain’t no cause fur worryin’ ’bout that yit, girlie,” he answered, placing one hand on her bowed head, “an’ no need fur ye to leave us ’thout ye mind to. We want ye allus, long as we kin keep ye, make sure.” Then noting the dumfounded look on Albert’s face he added, “Ye mustn’t mind Telly’s ways, Mr. Page, it’s upset her a little an’ made her histeriky. She don’t quite understand, yit, what it all means. She ain’t much used ter havin’ a fortin drapped in her lap.”

To Albert the climax was not what he anticipated. If this heritage did not relieve her sense of filial duty, he thought, what chance would his love have? But Uncle Terry was wiser than the rest.

“Don’t mind what I said, girlie,” he continued, stroking her bowed head and looking into the slowly dying fire as if it contained a prophecy. “It was an inadvartance.” And then rising and lifting the girl tenderly, he added, “We’d best go to bed now, Lissy, an’ mebbe Mr. Page, bein’ a lawyer, can ’splain matters to Telly.”

When they had left the room Albert seated himself on the sofa to which the girl had gone, and said: “I am a trifle puzzled and a little disappointed, Telly, at the way you feel about this inheritance. It is rightfully yours and will enable you to do much for the future comfort of those you are devoted to. I had hoped, also, it would relieve your feeling of obligation a little.”

“No money can do that,” she answered quickly, “and all this won’t be worth to father the care he has grown accustomed to from me. It was his feeling that I was likely to leave him, though, that upset me, and then that name you called me by hurt a little.”

“Still the same Chinese wall of filial duty,” thought Albert, and growing desperate at the prospect of possible years of waiting and heart-hunger he continued:

“But won’t this money do more for them than you can, Telly? Is there any need of his remaining here to putter over lobster traps and drive a wagon, rain or shine? He is getting too old for that, anyway. Why not build a home for them in Boston, or better still, share ours there?”

It was the first suggestion of what was nearest his heart, and a flush came over Telly’s face.

“We haven’t a home there yet,” she answered, turning her face away.

“But we will have, darling,” he answered quickly, seizing the opening, “and as soon as you consent I shall begin to make it ready. It is folly,” he added hurriedly, as if to forestall any negation, “for us to go on this way any longer. I want you, darling, and I want a home. Life to me, with you buried here, is only desolation, and how much so to you, the past five months can only tell. I know how you feel toward these good people, and your care for them shall be my care.”

Once more Telly hid her face behind her hands, the better to think, perhaps, or to hide rebellious tears. And now she felt herself gathered within strong arms and a hand making both hers prisoners, and as she yielded a little to his clasp he whispered: “Do not say ‘no’ again, Telly! Do not rob yourself and me of love and home and happiness any longer! Make what plans for them you wish; do as you will with your heritage; all I plead for is you. Must I be deprived of my hoped-for happiness.” It was an eloquent plea, and the last suggestion of the morrow’s parting won the victory, for as he paused, holding her close while he waited for her answer, only listening love heard it whispered.

And outside, the billows that years before tossed her ashore, and had woven their monotone of sadness into her life, still tolled their requiem, but she heard them not. She had entered the enchanted castle of illusions.