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CHAPTER XXI. THE BT,IH1> GIRL. In compliment to the great poet of his nation, Herr Schwartz dignified his English heme with the name of Goethe Cottage. It was a one- storyed house of no great size, buiit somewhat in the style of a bungalow, and st. nding in a fairly large garden, at the bottom of a rural cllt de sac, termed Alma-road. Shoitly after his visit to the lawyer Dr. Ellis callt d at this place, and having advised Schwartz of his coming, found the German and Captain Garret awaiting his arrival. So eager were they to welcome him, that they appeared at the gate before the bell .ceased to jingle. "Mine goot doctor," cried Schwartz, beaming, with outstretched hands, "you haf gome at last to zee boor lidale Hilda!" "Glad to see you, Dr. Ellis," said Garret, jerking out his words in abrupt military style. "We have long expected your visit. Come in." The three walked towards the house through a theatrical-looking garden, with many coloured glass balls ranged on squat pedestals along the borders of the flower-beds. There was also a tiny fountain, in which a small Triton spouted a smaller stream of water out of a conch-shell, an arbour fiery red with Virginia creeper, and wide walks of white pebbles which threw back a glare, even under the pale rays of the late autumn sun. The house was surrounded by a wide verandah with gaily striped red and white sun-blinds, cane lounging- chairs and marble-topped iron tables. Within Ellis found the place luxuriously furnished, but also theatrical in taste, and he was shewn into a drawing-room where intrusive colours of scarlet and magenta inflicted torture on a sensitive eye. Schwartz had money and a love of comfort; but the complacent way in which he looked round this terrible apartment shewed that he was absolutely without the artistic sense. A woman might have softened the general glaring effect of the room but the onlpwoiiian in the house was blind, and could have no idea of the crude ill-matched colouring by which she was surrounded. When they sat down Ellis looked at his com- 'panions, and was astonished how ill Schwartz appeared to be. Garret, as formerly, was haggard, lean and gentlemanly, with the same .9 military bearing and bored expression. Evi- dently he was a man who had, as the saying is, "gone the pace," and now, in his middle age—he was between forty and fifty-lacked vitality and zest. As usual he was carefully dressed, and looked eminently well-bred and evell-groomed beside his patron and friend. Schwartz himself was less complacent and jolly, also he was lean in comparison with his former portly figure, and his clothes hung loosely on his limbs. Instead of his face being smooth and red it was now pallid and wrinkled, and although he attempted to be his usual happy self, the attempt was an obvious effort. Occa- sionally he stole a troubled glance at the Cap- tain, but that gentleman hardly looked at him and manifested supreme indifference. Only when the conversation 'had to do with Hilda, did he wake up and take any interest in what was going on. "You are not looking well yourself, Herr Schwartz," said Ellis, when the trio were seated Rnd refreshments had been produced by the hospitable German. 11 Ach I 1 am ferry veil," replied Schwartz, hastily. "The hot dimes of the zun haf made nle thin, and I haf moch thinking apout the liddle Hilda." "Oh, you must keep up your spirits about that. I may be able to restore her sight. Was she born blind ? j "No," interposed Garret. "Took notice like other children for a few weeks, but afterwards the sight went. Do you think you can cure her I I "1 must make an examination first. It is impossible for me to give an opinion before I then." ] "Das is right, doctor. You vill zee the liddle Hilda at vonce. I would gif all my moneys if I you could make her zee. I "You are very fond of her, Herr Schwartz ? Tears came into the German's eyes, for after the manner of his nation he was emotional and sentimental and easily touched. "The liddle Hilda is the light of mine life," he said, in tones of deep feeling. "I haf lofed her for years, and she is to me mine own child. I am her zecond vater." "Father and mother and everything else," jerked Garret. "Much better than a scamp like me." "No. no," protested Schwartz, but with a ring I of insincerity in his voice, which Ellis at once detected. "You are a goot man, mcin friend." i Can I see Miss Garret-now ? j "Dis ferry moment," cried the German, j getting up in a violent hurry. "Will you gome with me, doctor ? And you, Garrret- "I shall stay here, Schwartz. Better have as few in the room as possible, or Hilda will be nervous." Ach! is dat zo ? Then 1 vill not sday. J Gome, doctor. The room at the back of the house into which Schwartz introduced Ellis, was like a fairy palace. A large, airy, high-roofed apart- ment, decked and furnished with rainbow hues. Chinese paper of the willow-plate pattern figured on the walls, curtains blue as a mid- summer sky draped the French windows, the carpet was of the same cerulean tint, and the furniture was upholstered in azure and white. Hot-house flowers were placed in every corner, there was a grand piano, and many birds in gilded cages made the room re-echo with tuneful strains. The windows were many and large, admitting ample l.ight, and looking out on to a velvet lawn bounded by a tall hedge of laurel. Ellis had never seen a more pretty or cheerful apartment, and felt sad at the irony which placed amidst all this beauty and light so attractive to the eye a blind girl. She was seated at the piano, when they entered, but rose when she heard the door open. Hilda Garret was tall for her age, in spite of the tender diminutive bestowed on her by Schwartz. Her face was as pale as marble, and as beautiful as that of the Venus de Medici. Indeed, in her white robe, with pallid face and still looks, she was not unlike a statue. The lack of eyesight took away all expression, and she lived and moved in a world of shadows. Ellis was profoundly touched by her beauty and helplessness and by the tender little cry she uttered when Schwartz took her hand. "Mine lofely laty, I haf prought Dr. Ellis to zee you. He is mine goot friend, and glever. He vill mak you to zee, mine heart." "Oh, doctor," said Hilda, clasping her hands, and speaking in a low, but musical voice, "can you give me back my sight ? That I cannot say as yet." replied Ellis. I cannot perform miracles. If your sight can be restored, 1 hope to restore it. But I must first ask you a few questions and examine your eyes." "Aha! I vill go away." "No, no, papa, you must stay. I wish my father would come in also.. I want him to hold my hand and give me courage." Zo! replied Schwartz, with a sad expres- sion at this preference. "Vait, mine liddle Hilda, I vill pring your vater to you." Hilda nodded and a charming smile over- spread her pale face. When Schwartz left the room she asked Ellis to let her pass her hand over his face as she wished to know his looks. Ellis readily consented, and Hilda, with the delicate touch of the blind, ran her fingers over his features. "You are nice-looking," she said, naively, when this was done. "I like nice- looking people. "Thank you," answered Ellis, laughing. "I am obliged for the compliment, Miss Garret. And now I must ask you a few questions." To this Hilda readily consented. It is not necessary to set forth the conversation or examination in extenso, as the questions were purely technical. Captain Garret entered, and held Hilda's hand while Ellis made an examination ofiher eyes. This took some time, but was unsatis- factory, as Ellis could not bring himself to pronounce an opinion. Privately he thought that he could cure the cataract by an operation; but lacking the self-confidence which a great man should have, he hesitated to express his private views. "i must make another examination," hb said, after an exhaustive conversation, "before I can commit myself to an opinion. Yet I think I can give you some hope." "0 father!" Hilda uttered the words in I a thrilling voice, and Ellis glanced at Captain Garret. He did not looked pleased; indeed, he frowned and withdrew his hand from that of his daughter. It occurred to Ellis that the Captain did not wish Hilda to see. The expression of anger was only a flash, but Ellis saw it, and gained the above im- pression. Had Schwartz been in the room, the Captain might have controlled himself better, but, Schwartz had not returned after Hilda's cry for her father. Even on his short acquain- tance, Ellis could not but think, how the good German must have suffered from his voluntary exclusion from his darling. However, Garret said nothing at the moment, and the doctor addressed himself to Hilda. I shall come and see you in two or three days," he said. "But you must keep yourself cheerful and not mope, Have you no com- panion ? "Schwartz and myself," put in Garret. "I mean no female companion? Janet Gordon comes to see me sometimes," said Hilda. "I am very fond of her. She is so kind and good. I wish she would come again." I "She shall come again, Miss Garret. I will speak to her myself. Garret uttered an exclamation. "Do you know her, doctor ? "Very well. She is staying at Myrtle Villa with her sister, Mrs. Moxton." "H'm!" said the Captain, with a glance at Hilda. "I don't know if Schwartz will like her to come here again." "Why not? "I will tell you outside, er perhaps Schwartz will tell you himself." But I want Janet to come," cried Hilda, I piteously. "I Jove her! Again the flash of anger passed over Garret's face, but he only patted her hand softly. "If Schwartz lets her come, she shall come" he said "and now, doctor, we had better go." "I think so. Good-bye, Miss Garret. I may be able to cure you, and if you want Miss Gordon, you shall have her for a companion." Thank ,you, doctor, thank you," and as they left the room Hilda began to play a triumphal march on the piano. The words of Ellis had inspired her with hope and corrfidence. Captain Garret immediately addressed the I doctor when they left the room. I could not speak to you plainly in there," he said, abruptly, "but I have the strongest objection to Miss Gordon coming here." I "On account of the murder ? "Yes. Hilda knows nothing of that; there- fore I did not explain. If Miss Gordon is her companion, she may hear of the crime; and J think of the shock it would be to her delicate nerves!" "She will never hear anything of the crime from Miss Gordon. That lady is most discreet." "She is clever, I don't deny, doctor-too clever, in my opinion. But she is shady. She sold programmes at the Merryman Music Hall; she is not the kind of companion I should II choose for my daughter." This came well from Captain Garret, who had been cashiered for cheating, who lived on another man's money, and who was an out- and-out adventurer. Ellis felt such a contempt for him that he did not argue the question. Let us hear what Schwartz has to say," he said. "Schwartz will be of my opinion," said the i Captain, gravely. ) But here, it appeard, Garret was wrong. Schwartz listened attentively to the recommen- datien of Ellis that Miss Gordon should be brought to Goethe Cottage as a companion for Hilda. His face grew a shade paler to the doctor's attentive eve. and he aDDeared to be uneasy. After a sharp-giance at Ellis, he maae up his mind and spoke it. "Miss Corton shall gome," he declared, de- cisively. "Schwartz! said Garret, in a warning tone, whereat the usually placid German flew into a rage. "I say she shall gome!" he cried, in his deepest tones. "Chanet is a goot girl; she vill not dalk of murders and wickednesses. She is glever Garret muttered something not precisely com- plimentary to Janet, and turned away. The German looked after him with an anxious expression but finally turned to Ellis, with a look of relief, "Dell Chanet to gome," he said; but she must zay notings of the murders." "I'll answer for her there," said Ellis, cheer- fully. And you can make right the liddle Hilda ? "I think so but I can answer you for certain next time I come. I shall bring Miss Gordon with me," and so, in spite of Captain Garret, it was arranged.