"My dear young man," said Mr. Rolphe
with warmth, advancing to where Willie stood, and taking both his hands in
his, "I would have sent for you sooner to speak of that terrible event,
but I could hardly trust myself to discuss it. The nervous strain I
underwent had completely shaken me. Helen is my only daughter, and had she
been lost, I cannot tell what would have become of her mother." Willie
stood silent, not knowing what to say.
"But for your bravery we should have
lost her. How you managed to do it, God only knows, and I can but ascribe
your success to His will and His mercy. However, you were the instrument,
and the debt we owe you cannot be measured."
"Please, Mr. Rolphe, donít think of
it in the way you speak," answered Willie. "Why should I not take the
risk, when the poor girlís life was in peril? Indeed, it wasnít so much,
after all, when you come to think how easy it was for me to climb."
"Mrs. Rolphe has asked me to bring
you home to dinner to-morrow evening," said Mr. Roiphe. "She is impatient
to meet you."
"Oh," said Willie, naturally
perturbed, and not knowing what to say. He wanted to decline.
"You must come," said Mr. Rolphe,
noticing Willieís hesitation. "Indeed, I should expect instructions to
bring you home by force, if you were to decline. Remember, to-morrow
evening! Mrs. Rolphe says she cannot wait any longer."
Willie left the presidentís office
feeling somewhat worried about the approaching visit, as he had been
accustomed, owing to the inferior nature of his own position, to regard
that of the president with awe, and he had always surrounded that
prominent official with a halo of importance.
When the next evening arrived,
Willie, who had "spruced himself up" for the occasion, waited in his
little office for the presidentís messenger. Presently he came, and Willie
following him, found Mr. Rolphe in the best of humours, ready to start. A
carriage was waiting at the door, and the youth entered it with shyness
As the vehicle rolled along
Broadway, towards the residential portion of the city, the boy fancied
that all eyes were riveted upon him, and he felt that every one was
wondering who that youth might be who was driving with the president. Mr.
Rolphe seemed to understand Willieís diffidence, and he talked kindly and
in the most familiar strain, seeking if possible to gain the ladís
confidence and put him at ease before the house was reached.
Mr. Rolphe lived in one of those
rambling old houses in the suburbs which were famous half a century ago
for their seclusion and roomy comfort. It was enclosed by trees, and had
ample grounds about it. The lawns were neatly kept, and there was a
pleasing air of order and discipline about the surroundings.
"And this is the lad that saved my
Helenís life!" were the words addressed to Willie, the moment he alighted
at the door, by a beautiful elderly woman, who stood waiting for the
carriage. With radiant face and tear-dimmed eyes she advanced towards
Willie, and taking his hand kindly, she bent forward and kissed him warmly
on the cheek.
Willie thought that, with the
exception of his mother (who, to him, was always the most beautiful woman
on earth), he never saw a kinder face or a grander looking person than
Mrs. Rolphe. She was tall and stately, but comfortable looking. Her hair
was prematurely white, and rolled back, exposing a forehead and face
instinct with intelligence and motherly affection. Her great blue eyes
beamed forth kindness. She put him at his ease at once by saying: "I want
you to take a walk with me in the garden to see the flowers and the trees,
and the fowls, and other things that will remind you of home, for Mr.
Rolphe tells me you were brought up on a farm."
Then, with her charming
conversational powers and her womanly instinct, she talked to Willie about
the garden, the flowers, the vegetables, and the dogs which came bounding
after them, until she realised that he was quite at ease. She also asked
him about his mother, and his brothers and sisters, and in a short time
she had the boy telling her all about the people at home, and the place
where he was brought up. She noted with a smile of approval and pleasure
Willieís reverence for his mother.
After this she adroitly directed the
conversation to the event that was uppermost in her mind, for she wanted
to hear the story from the lips of the rescuer himself. After she had
induced Willie to describe the rescue, which he did with more than
necessary modesty, she said impulsively, and with tears of emotion that
she could not restrain : ó"How can we ever be thankful enough to God for
sending you to save our child? I agree with my husband that it was a
miracle, but it was so awful. And to think that a strange boy from a
strange country should be present to save Helen! Indeed, my boy, I must
write to your mother. She is surely proud of a son like you."
And Mrs. Rolphe did write to Mrs.
McNabb a warm, kindly letter, filled with gratitude for the act of her
son. The reply received from the widow was characteristic. She wrote very
modestly about her sonís act, and expressed her devout thanks that he had
been the honoured instrument in Heavenís hands of saving the life of Mrs.
Rolpheís only daughter. She spoke of the temptations which beset boys in a
great city like New York, and expressed a wish that Mrs. Rolphe might give
her boy any such advice as he might stand in need of. No other reward, she
concluded, would so amply repay her for the service Willie had rendered.
Before Mrs. Rolphe had finished her
talk with Willie, a pleasant voice was heard from the direction of the
house calling "Mother ! Mother!"
"Thereís Helen looking for us," said
Mrs. Rolphe, and replying to her daughterís call, they walked towards the