An Invitation

It is a curious fact, and makes life very interesting, that generally speaking, none of us have any expectation that things are going to happen till the very moment when they do happen. We wake up some morning with no idea that a great happiness is at hand, and before night it has come, and all the world is changed for us; or we wake bright and cheerful, with never a guess that clouds of sorrow are lowering in our sky to put all the sunshine out for a while, and before noon all is dark. Nothing whispers of either the joy or the grief. No instinct bids us to delay or to hasten the opening of the letter or telegram, or the lifting of the latch of the door on which stands the messenger of good or ill. And because it may be, and often is, happy tidings that come, and joyful things which happen, each fresh day as it dawns upon us is like an unread story, full of possible interest and adventure, to be made ours as soon as we have cut the pages and begun to read.

Nothing whispered to Katy Carr, as she sat at the window mending a long rent in Johnnie's school coat and saw Mrs Ashe come in at the side gate and ring the office bell, that the visit had any special significance for her. Mrs Ashe often did come to the office to consult Dr Carr. Amy might not be quite well, Katy thought, or there might be a letter with something about Walter in it, or perhaps matters had gone wrong at the house, where paperers and painters were still at work. So she went calmly on with her darning, drawing the `ravelling' with which her needle was threaded carefully in and out, and taking nice even stitches without one prophetic thrill or tremor; if only she could have looked through the two walls and two doors which separated the room in which she sat from the office, and heard what Mrs Ashe was saying, the school coat would have been thrown to the winds, and for all her tall stature and propriety she would have been skipping with delight and astonishment. For Mrs Ashe was asking papa to let her do the very thing of all others that she most longed to do; she was asking him to let Katy go with her to Europe!

`I am not very well,' she told the doctor. `I got tired and run down while Walter was ill, and I don't seem to be able to throw it off as I hoped I should. I feel as if a change would do me good. Don't you think so yourself?'

`Yes, I do,' Dr Carr admitted.

`This idea of Europe is not altogether a new one, continued Mrs Ashe. `I have always meant to go some- time, and have put it off, partly because I dreaded going alone,' and didn't know anybody whom I exactly wanted to take with me. But if you will let me have Katy, Dr Carr, it will settle all my difficulties. Amy loves her dearly, and so do I; she is just the companion I need. If I have her with me, I shan't be afraid of anything. I do hope you will consent.'

`How long do you mean to be away?' asked Dr Carr, divided between pleasure at these compliments to Katy and dismay at the idea of losing her.

`About a year, I think. My plans are rather vague as yet. But my idea was to spend a few weeks in Scotland and England first - I have some cousins in London who will be good to us, and an old friend of mine married a gentleman who lives on the Isle of Wight; perhaps we might go there. Then we could cross over to France, and visit Paris and a few other places, and before it gets cold, go down to Nice, and from there to Italy. Katy would like to see Italy. Don't you think so?'

`I dare say she would,' said Dr Carr, with a smile. `She would be a queer girl if she didn't.'

`There is one reason why I thought Italy would be particularly pleasant this winter for me and for her too, went on Mrs Ashe, `and that is, because my brother will be there. He is a lieutenant in the navy, you know, and his ship, the Natchitoches, is one of the Mediterranean squadron. They will be in Naples by and by, and if we were there at the same time we should have Ned to go about with. He would take us to the receptions on the frigate, and everything, which would be a nice chance for Katy. Then towards spring I should like to go to Florence and Venice, and visit the Italian lakes and Switzerland in the early summer. But all this depends on your letting Katy go. If you decide against it, I shall give the whole thing up. But you won't decide against it' - coaxingly - you will be kinder than that. I will take the best

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