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Title: Rose in Bloom
       A Sequel to "Eight Cousins"
Author: Louisa May Alcott




Preface

As authors may be supposed to know better than anyone else what
they intended to do when writing a book, I beg leave to say that
there is no moral to this story. Rose is not designed for a model
girl, and the Sequel was simply written in fulfillment of a promise,
hoping to afford some amusement, and perhaps here and there a
helpful hint, to other roses getting ready to bloom.

L. M. Alcott

September 1876



Contents
Chapter  1. Coming Home 
Chapter  2.  Old Friends with New Faces 
Chapter  3.  Miss Campbell 
Chapter  4.  Thorns Among the Roses 
Chapter  5.  Prince Charming 
Chapter  6.  Polishing Mac 
Chapter  7.  Phebe 
Chapter  8.  Breakers Ahead 
Chapter  9.  New Year's Calls 
Chapter  10.  The Sad and Sober Part 
Chapter  11.  Small Temptations 
Chapter  12.  At Kitty's Ball 
Chapter  13.  Both Sides 
Chapter  14.  Aunt Clara's Plan 
Chapter  15.  Alas for Charlie! 
Chapter  16.  Good Works 
Chapter  17.  Among the Haycocks 
Chapter  18.  Which Was It? 
Chapter  19.  Behind the Fountain 
Chapter  20.  What Mac Did 
Chapter  21.  How Phebe Earned Her Welcome 
Chapter  22.  Short and Sweet 




Chapter 1 COMING HOME

Three young men stood together on a wharf one bright October
day awaiting the arrival of an ocean steamer with an impatience
which found a vent in lively skirmishes with a small lad, who
pervaded the premises like a will-o'-the-wisp and afforded much
amusement to the other groups assembled there.

"They are the Campbells, waiting for their cousin, who has been
abroad several years with her uncle, the doctor," whispered one
lady to another as the handsomest of the young men touched his
hat to her as he passed, lugging the boy, whom he had just rescued
from a little expedition down among the piles.

"Which is that?" asked the stranger.

"Prince Charlie, as he's called a fine fellow, the most promising of
the seven, but a little fast, people say," answered the first speaker
with a shake of the head.

"Are the others his brothers?"

"No, cousins. The elder is Archie, a most exemplary young man.
He has just gone into business with the merchant uncle and bids
fair to be an honor to his family. The other, with the eyeglasses
and no gloves, is Mac, the odd one, just out of college."

"And the boy?"

"Oh, he is Jamie, the youngest brother of Archibald, and the pet of
the whole family. Mercy on us he'll be in if they don't hold on to
him!"

The ladies' chat came to a sudden end just there, for by the time
Jamie had been fished out of a hogshead, the steamer hove in sight
and everything else was forgotten. As it swung slowly around to
enter the dock, a boyish voice shouted, "There she is! I see her and
Uncle and Phebe! Hooray for Cousin Rose!" And three small
cheers were given with a will by Jamie as he stood on a post
waving his arms like a windmill while his brother held onto the
tail of his jacket.

Yes, there they were Uncle Alec swinging his hat like a boy, with
Phebe smiling and nodding on one side and Rose kissing both
hands delightedly on the other as she recognized familiar faces and
heard familiar voices welcoming her home.

"Bless her dear heart, she's bonnier than ever! Looks like a
Madonna doesn't she? with that blue cloak round her, and her
bright hair flying in the wind!" said Charlie excitedly as they
watched the group upon the deck with eager eyes.

"Madonnas don't wear hats like that. Rose hasn't changed much,
but Phebe has. Why, she's a regular beauty!" answered Archie,
staring with all his might at the dark-eyed young woman with the
brilliant color and glossy black braids shining in the sun.

"Dear old Uncle! Doesn't it seem good to have him back?" was all
Mac said, but he was not looking at "dear old uncle" as he made
the fervent remark, for he saw only the slender blond girl nearby
and stretched out his hands to meet hers, forgetful of the green
water tumbling between them.

During the confusion that reigned for a moment as the steamer
settled to her moorings, Rose looked down into the four faces
upturned to hers and seemed to read in them something that both
pleased and pained her. It was only a glance, and her own eyes
were full, but through the mist of happy tears she received the
impression that Archie was about the same, that Mac had
decidedly improved, and that something was amiss with Charlie.
There was no time for observation, however, for in a moment the
shoreward rush began, and before she could grasp her traveling
bag, Jamie was clinging to her like an ecstatic young bear. She was
with difficulty released from his embrace to fall into the gentler
ones of the elder cousins, who took advantage of the general
excitement to welcome both blooming girls with affectionate
impartiality. Then the wanderers were borne ashore in a triumphal
procession, while Jamie danced rapturous jigs before them even on
the gangway.

Archie remained to help his uncle get the luggage through the
Custom House, and the others escorted the damsels home. No
sooner were they shut up in a carriage, however, than a new and
curious constraint seemed to fall upon the young people, for they
realized, all at once, that their former playmates were men and
women now. Fortunately, Jamie was quite free from this feeling of
restraint and, sitting bodkinwise between the ladies, took all sorts
of liberties with them and their belongings.

"Well, my mannikin, what do you think of us?" asked Rose, to
break an awkward pause.

"You've both grown so pretty, I can't decide which I like best.
Phebe is the biggest and brightest-looking, and I was always fond
of Phebe, but somehow you are so kind of sweet and precious, I
really think I must hug you again," and the small youth did it
tempestuously.

"If you love me best, I shall not mind a bit about your thinking
Phebe the handsomest, because she is. Isn't she, boys?" asked
Rose, with a mischievous look at the gentlemen opposite, whose
faces expressed a respectful admiration which much amused her.

"I'm so dazzled by the brilliancy and beauty that has suddenly burst
upon me, I have no words to express my emotions," answered
Charlie, gallantly dodging the dangerous question.

"I can't say yet, for I have not had time to look at anyone. I will
now, if you don't mind." And, to the great amusement of the rest,
Mac gravely adjusted his eyeglasses and took an observation.

"Well?" said Phebe, smiling and blushing under his honest stare,
yet seeming not to resent it as she did the lordly sort of approval
which made her answer the glance of Charlie's audacious blue eyes
with a flash of her black ones.

"I think if you were my sister, I should be very proud of you,
because your face shows what I admire more than its beauty truth
and courage, Phebe," answered Mac with a little bow full of such
genuine respect that surprise and pleasure brought a sudden dew to
quench the fire of the girl's eyes and soothe the sensitive pride of
the girl's heart.

Rose clapped her hands just as she used to do when anything
delighted her, and beamed at Mac approvingly as she said: "Now
that's a criticism worth having, and we are much obliged. I was
sure you'd admire my Phebe when you knew her, but I didn't
believe you would be wise enough to see it at once, and you have
gone up many pegs in my estimation, I assure you."

"I was always fond of mineralogy you remember, and I've been
tapping round a good deal lately, so I've learned to know precious
metals when I see them," Mac said with his shrewd smile.

"That is the latest hobby, then? Your letters have amused us
immensely, for each one had a new theory or experiment, and the
latest was always the best. I thought Uncle would have died of
laughter over the vegetarian mania it was so funny to imagine you
living on bread and milk, baked apples, and potatoes roasted in
your own fire," continued Rose, changing the subject again.

"This old chap was the laughingstock of his class. They called him
Don Quixote, and the way he went at windmills of all sorts was a
sight to see," put in Charlie, evidently feeling that Mac had been
patted on the head quite as much as was good for him.

"But in spite of that the Don got through college with all the
honors. Oh, wasn't I proud when Aunt Jane wrote to us about it and
didn't she rejoice that her boy kept at the head of his class and won
the medal!" cried Rose, shaking Mac by both hands in a way that
caused Charlie to wish "the old chap" had been left behind with
Dr. Alec.

"Oh, come, that's all Mother's nonsense. I began earlier than the
other fellows and liked it better, so I don't deserve any praise.
Prince is right, though. I did make a regular jack of myself, but on
the whole I'm not sure that my wild oats weren't better than some
I've seen sowed. Anyway, they didn't cost much, and I'm none the
worse for them," said Mac placidly.

"I know what 'wild oats' means. I heard Uncle Mac say Charlie was
sowing 'em too fast, and I asked Mama, so she told me. And I
know that he was suspelled or expended, I don't remember which,
but it was something bad, and Aunt Clara cried," added Jamie all
in one breath, for he possessed a fatal gift of making malapropos
remarks, which caused him to be a terror to his family.

"Do you want to go on the box again?" demanded Prince with a
warning frown.

"No, I don't."

"Then hold your tongue."

"Well, Mac needn't kick me, for I was only..." began the culprit,
innocently trying to make a bad matter worse.

"That will do," interrupted Charlie sternly, and James subsided, a
crushed boy, consoling himself with Rose's new watch for the
indignities he suffered at the hands of the "old fellows" as he
vengefully called his elders.

Mac and Charlie immediately began to talk as hard as their
tongues could wag, bringing up all sorts of pleasant subjects so
successfully that peals of laughter made passersby look after the
merry load with sympathetic smiles.

An avalanche of aunts fell upon Rose as soon as she reached
home, and for the rest of the day the old house buzzed like a
beehive. Evening found the whole tribe collected in the drawing
rooms, with the exception of Aunt Peace, whose place was empty
now.

Naturally enough, the elders settled into one group after a while,
and the young fellows clustered about the girls like butterflies
around two attractive flowers. Dr. Alec was the central figure in
one room and Rose in the other, for the little girl, whom they had
all loved and petted, had bloomed into a woman, and two years of
absence had wrought a curious change in the relative positions of
the cousins, especially the three elder ones, who eyed her with a
mixture of boyish affection and manly admiration that was both
new and pleasant.

Something sweet yet spirited about her charmed them and piqued
their curiosity, for she was not quite like other girls, and rather
startled them now and then by some independent little speech or
act which made them look at one another with a sly smile, as if
reminded that Rose was "Uncle's girl."

Let us listen, as in duty bound, to what the elders are saying first,
for they are already building castles in air for the boys and girls to
inhabit.

"Dear child how nice it is to see her safely back, so well and happy
and like her sweet little self!" said Aunt Plenty, folding her hands
as if giving thanks for a great happiness.

"I shouldn't wonder if you found that you'd brought a firebrand into
the family, Alec. Two, in fact, for Phebe is a fine girl, and the lads
have found it out already if I'm not mistaken," added Uncle Mac,
with a nod toward the other room.

All eyes followed his, and a highly suggestive tableau presented
itself to the paternal and maternal audience in the back parlor.

Rose and Phebe, sitting side by side on the sofa, had evidently
assumed at once the places which they were destined to fill by
right of youth, sex, and beauty, for Phebe had long since ceased to
be the maid and become the friend, and Rose meant to have that
fact established at once.

Jamie occupied the rug, on which Will and Geordie stood at ease,
showing their uniforms to the best advantage, for they were now in
a great school, where military drill was the delight of their souls.
Steve posed gracefully in an armchair, with Mac lounging over the
back of it, while Archie leaned on one corner of the low
chimneypiece, looking down at Phebe as she listened to his chat
with smiling lips and cheeks almost as rich in color as the
carnations in her belt.

But Charlie was particularly effective, although he sat upon a
music stool, that most trying position for any man not gifted with
grace in the management of his legs. Fortunately Prince was, and
had fallen into an easy attitude, with one arm over the back of the
sofa, his handsome head bent a little, as he monopolized Rose,
with a devoted air and a very becoming expression of contentment
on his face.

Aunt Clara smiled as if well pleased; Aunt Jessie looked
thoughtful; Aunt Jane's keen eyes went from dapper Steve to
broad-shouldered Mac with an anxious glance; Mrs. Myra
murmured something about her "blessed Caroline"; and Aunt
Plenty said warmly, "Bless the dears! Anyone might be proud of
such a bonny flock of bairns as that."

"I am all ready to play chaperon as soon as you please, Alec, for I
suppose the dear girl will come out at once, as she did not before
you went away. My services won't be wanted long, I fancy, for
with her many advantages she will be carried off in her first season
or I'm much mistaken," said Mrs. Clara, with significant nods and
smiles.

"You must settle all those matters with Rose. I am no longer
captain, only first mate now, you know," answered Dr. Alec,
adding soberly, half to himself, half to his brother, "I wonder
people are in such haste to 'bring out' their daughters, as it's called.
To me there is something almost pathetic in the sight of a young
girl standing on the threshold of the world, so innocent and
hopeful, so ignorant of all that lies before her, and usually so ill
prepared to meet the ups and downs of life. We do our duty better
by the boys, but the poor little women are seldom provided with
any armor worth having, and sooner or later they are sure to need
it, for every one must fight her own battle, and only the brave and
strong can win."

"You can't reproach yourself with neglect of that sort, Alec, for
you have done your duty faithfully by George's girl, and I envy you
the pride and happiness of having such a daughter, for she is that
to you," answered old Mac, unexpectedly betraying the paternal
sort of tenderness men seldom feel for their sons.

"I've tried, Mac, and I am both proud and happy, but with every
year my anxiety seems to increase. I've done my best to fit Rose
for what may come, as far as I can foresee it, but now she must
stand alone, and all my care is powerless to keep her heart from
aching, her life from being saddened by mistakes, or thwarted by
the acts of others. I can only stand ready to share her joy and
sorrow and watch her shape her life."

"Why, Alec, what is the child going to do that you need look so
solemn?" exclaimed Mrs. Clara, who seemed to have assumed a
sort of right to Rose already.

"Hark! And let her tell you herself," answered Dr. Alec, as Rose's
voice was heard saying very earnestly, "Now, you have all told
your plans for the future, why don't you ask us ours?"

"Because we know that there is only one thing for a pretty girl to
do break a dozen or so hearts before she finds one to suit, then
marry and settle," answered Charlie, as if no other reply was
possible.

"That may be the case with many, but not with us, for Phebe and I
believe that it is as much a right and a duty for women to do
something with their lives as for men, and we are not going to be
satisfied with such frivolous parts as you give us," cried Rose with
kindling eyes. "I mean what I say, and you cannot laugh me down.
Would you be contented to be told to enjoy yourself for a little
while, then marry and do nothing more till you die?" she added,
turning to Archie.

"Of course not that is only a part of a man's life," he answered
decidedly.

"A very precious and lovely part, but not all," continued Rose.
"Neither should it be for a woman, for we've got minds and souls
as well as hearts; ambition and talents as well as beauty and
accomplishments; and we want to live and learn as well as love
and be loved. I'm sick of being told that is all a woman is fit for! I
won't have anything to do with love till I prove that I am
something besides a housekeeper and baby-tender!"

"Heaven preserve us! Here's woman's rights with a vengeance!"
cried Charlie, starting up with mock horror, while the others
regarded Rose with mingled surprise and amusement, evidently
fancying it all a girlish outbreak.

"Ah, you needn't pretend to be shocked you will be in earnest
presently, for this is only the beginning of my strong-mindedness,"
continued Rose, nothing daunted by the smiles of good-natured
incredulity or derision on the faces of her cousins. "I have made up
my mind not to be cheated out of the real things that make one
good and happy and, just because I'm a rich girl, fold my hands
and drift as so many do. I haven't lived with Phebe all these years
in vain. I know what courage and self-reliance can do for one, and
I sometimes wish I hadn't a penny in the world so that I could go
and earn my bread with her, and be as brave and independent as
she will be pretty soon."

It was evident that Rose was in earnest now, for as she spoke she
turned to her friend with such respect as well as love in her face
that the look told better than any words how heartily the rich girl
appreciated the virtues hard experience had given the poor girl,
and how eagerly she desired to earn what all her fortune could not
buy for her.

Something in the glance exchanged between the friends impressed
the young men in spite of their prejudices, and it was in a perfectly
serious tone that Archie said, "I fancy you'll find your hands full,
Cousin, if you want work, for I've heard people say that wealth has
its troubles and trials as well as poverty."

"I know it, and I'm going to try and fill my place well. I've got
some capital little plans all made, and have begun to study my
profession already," answered Rose with an energetic nod.

"Could I ask what it is to be?" inquired Charlie in a tone of awe.

"Guess!" and Rose looked up at him with an expression
half-earnest, half-merry.

"Well, I should say that you were fitted for a beauty and a belle,
but as that is evidently not to your taste, I am afraid you are going
to study medicine and be a doctor. Won't your patients have a
heavenly time though? It will be easy dying with an angel to
poison them."

"Now, Charlie, that's base of you, when you know how well
women have succeeded in this profession and what a comfort Dr.
Mary Kirk was to dear Aunt Peace. I did want to study medicine,
but Uncle thought it wouldn't do to have so many M.D.'s in one
family, since Mac thinks of trying it. Besides, I seem to have other
work put into my hands that I am better fitted for."

"You are fitted for anything that is generous and good, and I'll
stand by you, no matter what you've chosen," cried Mac heartily,
for this was a new style of talk from a girl's lips, and he liked it
immensely.

"Philanthropy is a generous, good, and beautiful profession, and
I've chosen it for mine because I have much to give. I'm only the
steward of the fortune Papa left me, and I think, if I use it wisely
for the happiness of others, it will be more blest than if I keep it all
for myself."

Very sweetly and simply was this said, but it was curious to see
how differently the various hearers received it.

Charlie shot a quick look at his mother, who exclaimed, as if in
spite of herself, "Now, Alec, are you going to let that girl squander
a fine fortune on all sorts of charitable nonsense and wild schemes
for the prevention of pauperism and crime?"

"'They who give to the poor lend to the Lord,' and practical
Christianity is the kind He loves the best," was all Dr. Alec
answered, but it silenced the aunts and caused even prudent Uncle
Mac to think with sudden satisfaction of certain secret investments
he had made which paid him no interest but the thanks of the poor.

Archie and Mac looked well pleased and promised their advice
and assistance with the enthusiasm of generous young hearts.
Steve shook his head, but said nothing, and the lads on the rug at
once proposed founding a hospital for invalid dogs and horses,
white mice, and wounded heroes.

"Don't you think that will be a better way for a woman to spend her
life than in dancing, dressing, and husband-hunting, Charlie?"
asked Rose, observing his silence and anxious for his approval.

"Very pretty for a little while, and very effective too, for I don't
know anything more captivating than a sweet girl in a meek little
bonnet going on charitable errands and glorifying poor people's
houses with a delightful mixture of beauty and benevolence.
Fortunately, the dear souls soon tire of it, but it's heavenly while it
lasts."

Charlie spoke in a tone of mingled admiration and contempt, and
smiled a superior sort of smile, as if he understood all the innocent
delusions as well as the artful devices of the sex and expected
nothing more from them. It both surprised and grieved Rose, for it
did not sound like the Charlie she had left two years ago. But she
only said, with a reproachful look and a proud little gesture of
head and hand, as if she put the subject aside since it was not
treated with respect: "I am sorry you have so low an opinion of
women. There was a time when you believed in them sincerely."

"I do still, upon my word I do! They haven't a more devoted
admirer and slave in the world than I am. Just try me and see,"
cried Charlie, gallantly kissing his hand to the sex in general.

But Rose was not appeased, and gave a disdainful shrug as she
answered with a look in her eyes that his lordship did not like,
"Thank you. I don't want admirers or slaves, but friends and
helpers. I've lived so long with a wise, good man that I am rather
hard to suit, perhaps, but I don't intend to lower my standard, and
anyone who cares for my regard must at least try to live up to it."

"Whew! Here's a wrathful dove! Come and smooth her ruffled
plumage, Mac. I'll dodge before I do further mischief," and Charlie
strolled away into the other room, privately lamenting that Uncle
Alec had spoiled a fine girl by making her strong-minded.

He wished himself back again in five minutes, for Mac said
something that produced a gale of laughter, and when he took a
look over his shoulder the "wrathful dove" was cooing so
peacefully and pleasantly he was sorely tempted to return and
share the fun. But Charlie had been spoiled by too much
indulgence, and it was hard for him to own himself in the wrong
even when he knew it. He always got what he wanted sooner or
later, and having long ago made up his mind that Rose and her
fortune were to be his, he was secretly displeased at the new plans
and beliefs of the young lady, but flattered himself that they would
soon be changed when she saw how unfashionable and
inconvenient they were.

Musing over the delightful future he had laid out, he made himself
comfortable in the sofa corner near his mother till the appearance
of a slight refection caused both groups to melt into one. Aunt
Plenty believed in eating and drinking, so the slightest excuse for
festivity delighted her hospitable soul, and on this joyful occasion
she surpassed herself.

It was during this informal banquet that Rose, roaming about from
one admiring relative to another, came upon the three younger
lads, who were having a quiet little scuffle in a secluded corner.

"Come out here and let me have a look at you," she said enticingly,
for she predicted an explosion and public disgrace if peace was not
speedily restored.

Hastily smoothing themselves down, the young gentlemen
presented three flushed and merry countenances for inspection,
feeling highly honored by the command.

"Dear me, how you two have grown! You big things how dare you
get head of me in this way!" she said, standing on tiptoe to pat the
curly pates before her, for Will and Geordie had shot up like
weeds, and now grinned cheerfully down upon her as she surveyed
them in comic amazement.

"The Campbells are all fine, tall fellows, and we mean to be the
best of the lot. Shouldn't wonder if we were six-footers like
Grandpa," observed Will proudly, looking so like a young
Shanghai rooster, all legs and an insignificant head, that Rose kept
her countenance with difficulty.

"We shall broaden out when we get our growth. We are taller than
Steve now, a half a head, both of us," added Geordie, with his nose
in the air.

Rose turned to look at Steve and, with a sudden smile, beckoned to
him. He dropped his napkin and flew to obey the summons, for she
was queen of the hour, and he had openly announced his deathless
loyalty.

"Tell the other boys to come here. I've a fancy to stand you all in a
row and look you over, as you did me that dreadful day when you
nearly frightened me out of my wits," she said, laughing at the
memory of it as she spoke.

They came in a body and, standing shoulder to shoulder, made
such an imposing array that the young commander was rather
daunted for a moment. But she had seen too much of the world
lately to be abashed by a trifle, and the desire to see a girlish test
gave her courage to face the line of smiling cousins with dignity
and spirit.

"Now, I'm going to stare at you as you stared at me. It is my
revenge on you seven bad boys for entrapping one poor little girl
and enjoying her alarm. I'm not a bit afraid of you now, so tremble
and beware!"

As she spoke, Rose looked up into Archie's face and nodded
approvingly, for the steady gray eyes met hers fairly and softened
as they did so a becoming change, for naturally they were rather
keen than kind.

"A true Campbell, bless you!" she said, and shook his hand heartily
as she passed on.

Charlie came next, and here she felt less satisfied, though scarcely
conscious why, for, as she looked, there came a defiant sort of
flash, changing suddenly to something warmer than anger, stronger
than pride, making her shrink a little and say, hastily, "I don't find
the Charlie I left, but the Prince is there still, I see."

Turning to Mac with a sense of relief, she gently took off his
"winkers," as Jamie called them, and looked straight into the
honest blue eyes that looked straight back at her, full of a frank
and friendly affection that warmed her heart and made her own
eyes brighten as she gave back the glasses, saying, with a look and
tone of cordial satisfaction, "You are not changed, my dear old
Mac, and I'm so glad of that!"

"Now say something extra sweet to me, because I'm the flower of
the family," said Steve, twirling the blond moustache, which was
evidently the pride of his life.

Rose saw at a glance that Dandy deserved his name more than
ever, and promptly quenched his vanities by answering, with a
provoking laugh, "Then the name of the flower of the family is
Cockscomb."

"Ah, ha! who's got it now?" jeered Will.

"Let us off easy, please," whispered Geordie, mindful that their
turn came next.

"You blessed beanstalks! I'm proud of you only don't grow quite
out of sight, or even be ashamed to look a woman in the face,"
answered Rose, with a gentle pat on the cheek of either bashful
young giant, for both were red as peonies, though their boyish eyes
were as clear and calm as summer lakes.

"Now me!" and Jamie assumed his manliest air, feeling that he did
not appear to advantage among his tall kinsmen. But he went to
the head of the class in everyone's opinion when Rose put her arms
around him, saying, with a kiss, "You must be my boy now, for all
the others are too old, and I want a faithful little page to do my
errands for me."

"I will, I will I'll marry you too, if you'll just hold on till I grow
up!" cried Jamie, rather losing his head at this sudden promotion.

"Bless the baby, what is he talking about?" laughed Rose, looking
down at her little knight as he clung about her with grateful ardor.

"Oh, I heard the aunts say that you'd better marry one of us, and
keep the property in the family, so I speak first, because you are
very fond of me, and I do love curls."

Alas for Jamie! This awful speech had hardly left his innocent lips
when Will and Geordie swept him out of the room like a
whirlwind, and the howls of that hapless boy were heard from the
torture hall, where being shut into the skeleton case was one of the
mildest punishments inflicted upon him.

Dismay fell upon the unfortunates who remained, but their
confusion was soon ended, for Rose, with a look which they had
never seen upon her face before, dismissed them with the brief
command, "Break ranks the review is over," and walked away to
Phebe.

"Confound that boy! You ought to shut him up or gag him!" fumed
Charlie irritably.

"He shall be attended to," answered poor Archie, who was trying to
bring up the little marplot with the success of most parents and
guardians.

"The whole thing was deuced disagreeable," growled Steve, who
felt that he had not distinguished himself in the late engagement.

"Truth generally is," observed Mac dryly as he strolled away with
his odd smile.

As if he suspected discord somewhere, Dr. Alec proposed music at
this crisis, and the young people felt that it was a happy thought.

"I want you to hear both my birds, for they have improved
immensely, and I am very proud of them," said the doctor, twirling
up the stool and pulling out the old music books.

"I had better come first, for after you have heard the nightingale
you won't care for the canary," added Rose, wishing to put Phebe
at her ease, for she sat among them looking like a picture, but
rather shy and silent, remembering the days when her place was in
the kitchen.

"I'll give you some of the dear old songs you used to like so much.
This was a favorite, I think," and sitting down she sang the first
familiar air that came, and sang it well in a pleasant, but by no
means finished, manner.

It chanced to be "The Birks of Aberfeldie," and vividly recalled the
time when Mac was ill and she took care of him. The memory was
sweet to her, and involuntarily her eye wandered in search of him.
He was not far away, sitting just as he used to sit when she soothed
his most despondent moods astride of a chair with his head down
on his arms, as if the song suggested the attitude. Her heart quite
softened to him as she looked, and she decided to forgive him if no
one else, for she was sure that he had no mercenary plans about
her tiresome money.

Charlie had assumed a pensive air and fixed his fine eyes upon her
with an expression of tender admiration, which made her laugh in
spite of all her efforts to seem unconscious of it. She was both
amused and annoyed at his very evident desire to remind her of
certain sentimental passages in the last year of their girl- and
boy-hood, and to change what she had considered a childish joke
into romantic earnest. Rose had very serious ideas of love and had
no intention of being beguiled into even a flirtation with her
handsome cousin.

So Charlie attitudinized unnoticed and was getting rather out of
temper when Phebe began to sing, and he forgot all about himself
in admiration of her. It took everyone by surprise, for two years of
foreign training added to several at home had worked wonders,
and the beautiful voice that used to warble cheerily over pots and
kettles now rang out melodiously or melted to a mellow music that
woke a sympathetic thrill in those who listened. Rose glowed with
pride as she accompanied her friend, for Phebe was in her own
world now a lovely world where no depressing memory of
poorhouse or kitchen, ignorance or loneliness, came to trouble her,
a happy world where she could be herself and rule others by the
magic of her sweet gift.

Yes, Phebe was herself now, and showed it in the change that
came over her at the first note of music. No longer shy and silent,
no longer the image of a handsome girl but a blooming woman,
alive and full of the eloquence her art gave her, as she laid her
hands softly together, fixed her eye on the light, and just poured
out her song as simply and joyfully as the lark does soaring toward
the sun.

"My faith, Alec that's the sort of voice that wins a man's heart out
of his breast!" exclaimed Uncle Mac, wiping his eyes after one of
the plaintive ballads that never grow old.

"So it would!" answered Dr. Alec delightedly.

"So it has," added Archie to himself; and he was right, for just at
that moment he fell in love with Phebe. He actually did, and could
fix the time almost to a second, for at a quarter past nine, he
merely thought her a very charming young person; at twenty
minutes past, he considered her the loveliest woman he ever
beheld; at five and twenty minutes past, she was an angel singing
his soul away; and at half after nine he was a lost man, floating
over a delicious sea to that temporary heaven on earth where
lovers usually land after the first rapturous plunge.

If anyone had mentioned this astonishing fact, nobody would have
believed it; nevertheless, it was quite true, and sober, businesslike
Archie suddenly discovered a fund of romance at the bottom of his
hitherto well-conducted heart that amazed him. He was not quite
clear what had happened to him at first, and sat about in a dazed
sort of way, seeing, hearing, knowing nothing but Phebe, while the
unconscious idol found something wanting in the cordial praise so
modestly received because Mr. Archie never said a word.

This was one of the remarkable things which occurred that
evening. Another was that Mac paid Rose a compliment, which
was such an unprecedented fact, it produced a great sensation,
though only one person heard it.

Everybody had gone but Mac and his father, who was busy with
the doctor. Aunt Plenty was counting the teaspoons in the dining
room, and Phebe was helping her as of old. Mac and Rose were
alone he apparently in a brown study, leaning his elbows on the
chimneypiece, and she lying back in a low chair looking
thoughtfully at the fire. She was tired, and the quiet was grateful to
her, so she kept silence and Mac respectfully held his tongue.
Presently, however, she became conscious that he was looking at
her as intently as eyes and glasses could do it, and without stirring
from her comfortable attitude, she said, smiling up at him, "He
looks as wise as an owl I wonder what he's thinking about?"

"You, Cousin."

"Something good, I hope?"

"I was thinking Leigh Hunt was about right when he said, 'A girl is
the sweetest thing God ever made.'"

"Why, Mac!" and Rose sat bolt upright with an astonished face this
was such an entirely unexpected sort of remark for the philosopher
to make.

Evidently interested in the new discovery, Mac placidly continued,
"Do you know, it seems as if I never really saw a girl before, or
had any idea what agreeable creatures they could be. I fancy you
are a remarkably good specimen, Rose."

"No, indeed! I'm only hearty and happy, and being safe at home
again may make me look better than usual perhaps, but I'm no
beauty except to Uncle."

"'Hearty and happy' that must be it," echoed Mac, soberly
investigating the problem. "Most girls are sickly or silly, I think I
have observed, and that is probably why I am so struck with you."

"Of all the queer boys you are the queerest! Do you really mean
that you don't like or notice girls?" asked Rose, much amused at
this new peculiarity of her studious cousin.

"Well, no, I am only conscious of two sorts noisy and quiet ones. I
prefer the latter, but, as a general thing, I don't notice any of them
much more than I do flies, unless they bother me, then I'd like to
flap them away, but as that won't do, I hide."

Rose leaned back and laughed until her eyes were full. It was so
comical to hear Mac sink his voice to a confidential whisper at the
last words and see him smile with sinful satisfaction at the
memory of the tormentors he had eluded.

"You needn't laugh it's a fact, I assure you. Charlie likes the
creatures, and they spoil him. Steve follows suit, of course. Archie
is a respectful slave when he can't help himself. As for me, I don't
often give them a chance, and when I get caught I talk science and
dead languages till they run for their lives. Now and then I find a
sensible one, and then we get on excellently."

"A sad prospect for Phebe and me," sighed Rose, trying to keep
sober.

"Phebe is evidently a quiet one. I know she is sensible, or you
wouldn't care for her. I can see that she is pleasant to look at, so I
fancy I shall like her. As for you, I helped bring you up, therefore I
am a little anxious to see how you turn out. I was afraid your
foreign polish might spoil you, but I think it has not. In fact, I find
you quite satisfactory so far, if you don't mind my saying it. I don't
quite know what the charm is, though. Must be the power of
inward graces, since you insist that you have no outer ones."

Mac was peering at her with a shrewd smile on his lips, but such a
kindly look behind the glasses that she found both words and
glance very pleasant and answered merrily, "I am glad you approve
of me, and much obliged for your care of my early youth. I hope to
be a credit to you and depend on your keeping me straight, for I'm
afraid I shall be spoilt among you all."

"I'll keep my eye on you upon one condition," replied the youthful
mentor.

"Name it."

"If you are going to have a lot of lovers around, I wash my hands
of you. If not, I'm your man."

"You must be sheep dog and help keep them away, for I don't want
any yet awhile and, between ourselves, I don't believe I shall have
any if it is known that I am strong-minded. That fact will scare
most men away like a yellow flag," said Rose, for, thanks to Dr.
Alec's guardianship, she had wasted neither heart nor time in the
foolish flirtations so many girls fritter away their youth upon.

"Hum! I rather doubt that," muttered Mac as he surveyed the
damsel before him.

She certainly did not look unpleasantly strong-minded, and she
was beautiful in spite of her modest denials. Beautiful with the
truest sort of beauty, for nobility of character lent its subtle charm
to the bloom of youth, the freshness of health, the innocence of a
nature whose sweet maidenliness Mac felt but could not describe.
Gentle yet full of spirit, and all aglow with the earnestness that
suggests lovely possibilities and makes one hope that such human
flowers may have heaven's purest air and warmest sunshine to
blossom in.

"Wait and see," answered Rose; then, as her uncle's voice was
heard in the hall, she held out her hand, adding pleasantly, "The
old times are to begin again, so come soon and tell me all your
doings and help me with mine just as you used to do."

"You really mean it?" And Mac looked much pleased.

"I really do. You are so little altered, except to grow big, that I
don't feel at all strange with you and want to begin where we left
off."

"That will be capital. Good night, Cousin," and to her great
amazement, he gave her a hearty kiss.

"Oh, but that is not the old way at all!" cried Rose, stepping back
in merry confusion while the audacious youth assumed an air of
mild surprise as he innocently asked: "Didn't we always say good
night in that way? I had an impression that we did and were to
begin just as we left off."

"Of course not. No power on earth would have bribed you to do it,
as you know well enough. I don't mind the first night, but we are
too old for that sort of thing now."

"I'll remember. It was the force of habit, I suppose, for I'm sure I
must have done it in former times, it seemed so natural. Coming,
Father!" and Mac retired, evidently convinced he was right.

"Dear old thing! He is as much a boy as ever, and that is such a
comfort, for some of the others have grown up very fast," said
Rose to herself, recalling Charlie's sentimental airs and Archie's
beatified expression while Phebe sang.




Chapter 2 OLD FRIENDS WITH NEW FACES

"It is so good to be home again! I wonder how we ever made up
our minds to go away!" exclaimed Rose as she went roaming about
the old house next morning, full of the satisfaction one feels at
revisiting familiar nooks and corners and finding them unchanged.

"That we might have the pleasure of coming back again,"
answered Phebe, walking down the hall beside her little mistress,
as happy as she.

"Everything seems just as we left it, even to the rose leaves we
used to tuck in here," continued the younger girl, peeping into one
of the tall India jars that stood about the hall.

"Don't you remember how Jamie and Pokey used to play Forty
Thieves with them, and how you tried to get into that blue one and
got stuck, and the other boys found us before I could pull you out?"
asked Phebe, laughing.

"Yes, indeed, and speaking of angels, one is apt to hear the rustling
of their wings," added Rose, as a shrill whistle came up the avenue
accompanied by the clatter of hoofs.

"It is the circus!" cried Phebe gaily as they both recalled the red
cart and the charge of the clan.

There was only one boy now, alas, but he made noise enough for
half a dozen, and before Rose could run to the door, Jamie came
bouncing in with a "shining morning face," a bat over his shoulder,
a red and white jockey cap on his head, one pocket bulging with a
big ball, the other overflowing with cookies, and his mouth full of
the apple he was just finishing off in hot haste.

"Morning! I just looked in to make sure you'd really come and see
that you were all right," he observed, saluting with bat and doffing
the gay cap with one effective twitch.

"Good morning, dear. Yes, we really are here, and getting to rights
as fast as possible. But it seems to me you are rather gorgeous,
Jamie. What do you belong to a fire company or a jockey club?"
asked Rose, turning up the once chubby face, which now was
getting brown and square about the chin.

"No, ma'am! Why, don't you know? I'm captain of the Base Ball
Star Club. Look at that, will you?" And, as if the fact were one of
national importance, Jamie flung open his jacket to display upon
his proudly swelling chest an heart-shaped red flannel shield
decorated with a white cotton star the size of a tea plate.

"Superb! I've been away so long I forgot there was such a game.
And you the captain?" cried Rose, deeply impressed by the high
honor to which her kinsman had arrived.

"I just am, and it's no joke you'd better believe, for we knock our
teeth out, black our eyes, and split our fingers almost as well as the
big fellows. You come down to the Common between one and two
and see us play a match, then you'll understand what hard work it
is. I'll teach you to bat now if you'll come out on the lawn," added
Jamie, fired with a wish to exhibit his prowess.

"No, thank you, captain. The grass is wet, and you'll be late at
school if you stay for us."

"I'm not afraid. Girls are not good for much generally, but you
never used to mind a little wet and played cricket like a good one.
Can't you ever do that sort of thing now?" asked the boy, with a
pitying look at these hapless creatures debarred from the joys and
perils of manly sports.

"I can run still and I'll get to the gate before you, see if I don't."
And, yielding to the impulse of the moment, Rose darted down the
steps before astonished Jamie could mount and follow.

He was off in a moment, but Rose had the start, and though old
Sheltie did his best, she reached the goal just ahead, and stood
there laughing and panting, all rosy with fresh October air, a pretty
picture for several gentlemen who were driving by.

"Good for you, Rose!" said Archie, jumping out to shake hands
while Will and Geordie saluted and Uncle Mac laughed at Jamie,
who looked as if girls had risen slightly in his opinion.

"I'm glad it is you, because you won't be shocked. But I'm so happy
to be back I forgot I was not little Rose still," said Atalanta,
smoothing down her flying hair.

"You look very like her, with the curls on your shoulders in the old
way. I missed them last night and wondered what it was. How are
Uncle and Phebe?" asked Archie, whose eyes had been looking
over Rose's head while he spoke toward the piazza, where a female
figure was visible among the reddening woodbines.

"All well, thanks. Won't you come up and see for yourselves?"

"Can't, my dear, can't possibly. Business, you know, business. This
fellow is my right-hand man, and I can't spare him a minute.
Come, Arch, we must be off, or these boys will miss their train,"
answered Uncle Mac, pulling out his watch.

With a last look from the light-haired figure at the gate to the
dark-haired one among the vines, Archie drove away and Jamie
cantered after, consoling himself for his defeat with apple number
two.

Rose lingered a moment, feeling much inclined to continue her run
and pop in upon all the aunts in succession, but, remembering her
uncovered head, was about to turn back when a cheerful "Ahoy!
ahoy!" made her look up to see Mac approaching at a great pace,
waving his hat as he came.

"The Campbells are coming, thick and fast this morning, and the
more the merrier," she said, running to meet him. "You look like a
good boy going to school, and virtuously conning your lesson by
the way," she added, smiling to see him take his finger out of the
book he had evidently been reading, and tuck it under his arm, just
as he used to do years ago.

"I am a schoolboy, going to the school I like best," he answered,
waving a plumy spray of asters as if pointing out the lovely autumn
world about them, full of gay hues, fresh airs, and mellow
sunshine.

"That reminds me that I didn't get a chance to hear much about
your plans last night the other boys all talked at once, and you only
got a word now and then. What have you decided to be, Mac?"
asked Rose as they went up the avenue side by side.

"A man first, and a good one if possible. After that, what God
pleases."

Something in the tone, as well as the words, made Rose look up
quickly into Mac's face to see a new expression there. It was
indescribable, but she felt as she had often done when watching
the mists part suddenly, giving glimpses of some mountaintop,
shining serene and high against the blue.

"I think you will be something splendid, for you really look quite
glorified, walking under this arch of yellow leaves with the
sunshine on your face," she exclaimed, conscious of a sudden
admiration never felt before, for Mac was the plainest of all the
cousins.

"I don't know about that, but I have my dreams and aspirations,
and some of them are pretty high ones. Aim at the best, you know,
and keep climbing if you want to get on," he said, looking at the
asters with an inward sort of smile, as if he and they had some
sweet secret between them.

"You are queerer than ever. But I like your ambition, and hope you
will get on. Only mustn't you begin at something soon? I fancied
you would study medicine with Uncle that used to be our plan, you
know."

"I shall, for the present at least, because I quite agree with you that
it is necessary to have an anchor somewhere and not go floating
off into the world of imagination without ballast of the right sort.
Uncle and I had some talk about it last night and I'm going to begin
as soon as possible, for I've mooned long enough," and giving
himself a shake, Mac threw down the pretty spray, adding half
aloud:

    "Chide me not, laborious band,
      For the idle flowers I brought:

    Every aster in my hand
      Goes home laden with a thought."

Rose caught the words and smiled, thinking to herself, "Oh, that's
it he is getting into the sentimental age and Aunt Jane has been
lecturing him. Dear me, how we are growing up!"

"You look as if you didn't like the prospect very well," she said
aloud, for Mac had rammed the volume of Shelley into his pocket
and the glorified expression was so entirely gone, Rose fancied she
had been mistaken about the mountaintop behind the mists.

"Yes, well enough I always thought the profession a grand one,
and where could I find a better teacher than Uncle? I've got into
lazy ways lately, and it is high time I went at something useful, so
here I go," and Mac abruptly vanished into the study while Rose
joined Phebe in Aunt Plenty's room.

The dear old lady had just decided, after long and earnest
discussion, which of six favorite puddings should be served for
dinner, and thus had a few moments to devote to sentiment, so
when Rose came in she held out her arms, saying fondly: "I shall
not feel as if I'd got my child back again until I have her in my lap
a minute. No, you're not a bit too heavy, my rheumatism doesn't
begin much before November, so sit here, darling, and put your
two arms round my neck."

Rose obeyed, and neither spoke for a moment as the old woman
held the young one close and appeased the two years' longing of a
motherly heart by the caresses women give the creatures dearest to
them. Right in the middle of a kiss, however, she stopped suddenly
and, holding out one arm, caught Phebe, who was trying to steal
away unobserved.

"Don't go there's room for both in my love, though there isn't in my
lap. I'm so grateful to get my dear girls safely home again that I
hardly know what I'm about," said Aunt Plenty, embracing Phebe
so heartily that she could not feel left out in the cold and stood
there with her black eyes shining through the happiest tears.

"There, now I've had a good hug, and feel as if I was all right
again. I wish you'd set that cap in order, Rose I went to bed in such
a hurry, I pulled the strings off it and left it all in a heap. Phebe,
dear, you shall dust round a mite, just as you used to, for I haven't
had anyone to do it as I like since you've been gone, and it will do
me good to see all my knickknacks straightened out in your tidy
way," said the elder lady, getting up with a refreshed expression on
her rosy old face.

"Shall I dust in here too?" asked Phebe, glancing toward an inner
room which used to be her care.

"No, dear, I'd rather do that myself. Go in if you like, nothing is
changed. I must go and see to my pudding." And Aunt Plenty
trotted abruptly away with a quiver of emotion in her voice which
made even her last words pathetic.

Pausing on the threshold as if it was a sacred place, the girls
looked in with eyes soon dimmed by tender tears, for it seemed as
if the gentle occupant was still there. Sunshine shone on the old
geraniums by the window; the cushioned chair stood in its
accustomed place, with the white wrapper hung across it and the
faded slippers lying ready. Books and basket, knitting and
spectacles, were all just as she had left them, and the beautiful
tranquility that always filled the room seemed so natural, both
lookers turned involuntarily toward the bed, where Aunt Peace
used to greet them with a smile. There was no sweet old face upon
the pillow now, yet the tears that wet the blooming cheeks were
not for her who had gone, but for her who was left, because they
saw something which spoke eloquently of the love which outlives
death and makes the humblest things beautiful and sacred.

A well-worn footstool stood beside the bed, and in the high-piled
whiteness of the empty couch there was a little hollow where a
gray head nightly rested while Aunt Plenty said the prayers her
mother taught her seventy years ago.

Without a word, the girls softly shut the door. And while Phebe put
the room in the most exquisite order, Rose retrimmed the plain
white cap, where pink and yellow ribbons never rustled now, both
feeling honored by their tasks and better for their knowledge of the
faithful love and piety which sanctified a good old woman's life.

"You darling creature, I'm so glad to get you back! I know it's
shamefully early, but I really couldn't keep away another minute.
Let me help you I'm dying to see all your splendid things. I saw the
trunks pass and I know you've quantities of treasures," cried
Annabel Bliss all in one breath as she embraced Rose an hour later
and glanced about the room bestrewn with a variety of agreeable
objects.

"How well you are looking! Sit down and I'll show you my lovely
photographs. Uncle chose all the best for me, and it's a treat to see
them," answered Rose, putting a roll on the table and looking
about for more.

"Oh, thanks! I haven't time now one needs hours to study such
things. Show me your Paris dresses, there's a dear I'm perfectly
aching to see the last styles," and Annabel cast a hungry eye
toward certain large boxes delightfully suggestive of French finery.

"I haven't got any," said Rose, fondly surveying the fine
photographs as she laid them away.

"Rose Campbell! You don't mean to say that you didn't get one
Paris dress at least?" cried Annabel, scandalized at the bare idea of
such neglect.

"Not one for myself. Aunt Clara ordered several, and will be
charmed to show them when her box comes."

"Such a chance! Right there and plenty of money! How could you
love your uncle after such cruelty?" sighed Annabel, with a face
full of sympathy.

Rose looked puzzled for a minute, then seemed to understand, and
assumed a superior air which became her very well as she said,
good-naturedly opening a box of laces, "Uncle did not forbid my
doing it, and I had money enough, but I chose not to spend it on
things of that sort."

"Could and didn't! I can't believe it!" And Annabel sank into a
chair, as if the thought was too much for her.

"I did rather want to at first, just for the fun of the thing. In fact, I
went and looked at some amazing gowns. But they were very
expensive, very much trimmed, and not my style at all, so I gave
them up and kept what I valued more than all the gowns Worth
every made."

"What in the world was it?" cried Annabel, hoping she would say
diamonds.

"Uncle's good opinion," answered Rose, looking thoughtfully into
the depths of a packing case, where lay the lovely picture that
would always remind her of the little triumph over girlish vanity,
which not only kept but increased "Uncle's good opinion."

"Oh, indeed!" said Annabel blankly, and fell to examining Aunt
Plenty's lace while Rose went on with a happy smile in her eyes as
she dived into another trunk.

"Uncle thinks one has no right to waste money on such things, but
he is very generous and loves to give useful, beautiful, or curious
gifts. See, all these pretty ornaments are for presents, and you shall
choose first whatever you like."

"He's a perfect dear!" cried Annabel, reveling in the crystal,
filigree, coral, and mosaic trinkets spread before her while Rose
completed her rapture by adding sundry tasteful trifles fresh from
Paris.

"Now tell me, when do you mean to have your coming-out party? I
ask because I've nothing ready and want plenty of time, for I
suppose it will be the event of the season," asked Annabel a few
minutes later as she wavered between a pink coral and a blue lava
set.

"I came out when I went to Europe, but I suppose Aunty Plen will
want to have some sort of merry-making to celebrate our return. I
shall begin as I mean to go on, and have a simple, sociable sort of
party and invite everyone whom I like, no matter in what 'set' they
happen to belong. No one shall ever say I am aristocratic and
exclusive so prepare yourself to be shocked, for old friends and
young, rich and poor, will be asked to all my parties."

"Oh, my heart! You are going to be odd, just as Mama predicted!"
sighed Annabel, clasping her hands in despair and studying the
effect of three bracelets on her chubby arm in the midst of her
woe.

"In my own house I'm going to do as I think best, and if people call
me odd, I can't help it. I shall endeavor not to do anything very
dreadful, but I seem to inherit Uncle's love for experiments and
mean to try some. I daresay they will fail and I shall get laughed at.
I intend to do it nevertheless, so you had better drop me now
before I begin," said Rose with an air of resolution that was rather
alarming.

"What shall you wear at this new sort of party of yours?" asked
Annabel, wisely turning a deaf ear to all delicate or dangerous
topics and keeping to matters she understood.

"That white thing over there. It is fresh and pretty, and Phebe has
one like it. I never want to dress more than she does, and gowns of
that sort are always most becoming and appropriate to girls of our
age."

"Phebe! You don't mean to say you are going to make a lady of
her!" gasped Annabel, upsetting her treasures as she fell back with
a gesture that made the little chair creak again, for Miss Bliss was
as plump as a partridge.

"She is one already, and anybody who slights her slights me, for
she is the best girl I know and the dearest," cried Rose warmly.

"Yes, of course I was only surprised you are quite right, for she
may turn out to be somebody, and then how glad you'll feel that
you were so good to her!" said Annabel, veering around at once,
seeing which way the wind blew.

Before Rose could speak again, a cheery voice called from the
hall, "Little mistress, where are you?"

"In my room, Phebe, dear," and up came the girl Rose was going to
"make a lady of," looking so like one that Annabel opened her
china-blue eyes and smiled involuntarily as Phebe dropped a little
curtsey in playful imitation of her old manner and said quietly:
"How do you do, Miss Bliss?"

"Glad to see you back, Miss Moore," answered Annabel, shaking
hands in a way that settled the question of Phebe's place in her
mind forever, for the stout damsel had a kind heart in spite of a
weak head and was really fond of Rose. It was evidently "Love me,
love my Phebe," so she made up her mind on the spot that Phebe
was somebody, and that gave an air of romance even to the
poorhouse.

She could not help staring a little as she watched the two friends
work together and listened to their happy talk over each new
treasure as it came to light, for every look and word plainly
showed that years of close companionship had made them very
dear to one another. It was pretty to see Rose try to do the hardest
part of any little job herself still prettier to see Phebe circumvent
her and untie the hard knots, fold the stiff papers, or lift the heavy
trays with her own strong hands, and prettiest of all to hear her say
in a motherly tone, as she put Rose into an easy chair: "Now, my
deary, sit and rest, for you will have to see company all day, and I
can't let you get tired out so early."

"That is no reason why I should let you either. Call Jane to help or
I'll bob up again directly," answered Rose, with a very bad
assumption of authority.

"Jane may take my place downstairs, but no one shall wait on you
here except me, as long as I'm with you," said stately Phebe,
stooping to put a hassock under the feet of her little mistress.

"It is very nice and pretty to see, but I don't know what people will
say when she goes into society with the rest of us. I do hope Rose
won't be very odd," said Annabel to herself as she went away to
circulate the depressing news that there was to be no grand ball
and, saddest disappointment of all, that Rose had not a single Paris
costume with which to refresh the eyes and rouse the envy of her
amiable friends.

"Now I've seen or heard from all the boys but Charlie, and I
suppose he is too busy. I wonder what he is about," thought Rose,
turning from the hall door, whither she had courteously
accompanied her guest.

The wish was granted a moment after, for, going into the parlor to
decide where some of her pictures should hang, she saw a pair of
brown boots at one end of the sofa, a tawny-brown head at the
other, and discovered that Charlie was busily occupied in doing
nothing.

"The voice of the Bliss was heard in the land, so I dodged till she
went upstairs, and then took a brief siesta while waiting to pay my
respects to the distinguished traveler, Lady Hester Stanhope," he
said, leaping up to make his best bow.

"The voice of the sluggard would be a more appropriate quotation,
I think. Does Annabel still pine for you?" asked Rose, recalling
certain youthful jokes upon the subject of unrequited affections.

"Not a bit of it. Fun has cut me out, and the fair Annabella will be
Mrs. Tokio before the winter is over if I'm not much mistaken."

"What, little Fun See? How droll it seems to think of him grown up
and married to Annabel of all people! She never said a word about
him, but this accounts for her admiring my pretty Chinese things
and being so interested in Canton."

"Little Fun is a great swell now, and much enamored of our fat
friend, who will take to chopsticks whenever he says the word. I
needn't ask how you do, Cousin, for you beat that Aurora all
hollow in the way of color. I should have been up before, but I
thought you'd like a good rest after your voyage."

"I was running a race with Jamie before nine o'clock. What were
you doing, young man?"

"'Sleeping I dreamed, love, dreamed, love, of thee,'" began
Charlie, but Rose cut him short by saying as reproachfully as she
could, while the culprit stood regarding her with placid
satisfaction: "You ought to have been up and at work like the rest
of the boys. I felt like a drone in a hive of very busy bees when I
saw them all hurrying off to their business."

"But, my dear girl, I've got no business. I'm making up my mind,
you see, and do the ornamental while I'm deciding. There always
ought to be one gentleman in a family, and that seems to be rather
my line," answered Charlie, posing for the character with an
assumption of languid elegance which would have been very
effective if his twinkling eyes had not spoilt it.

"There are none but gentlemen in our family, I hope," answered
Rose, with the proud air she always wore when anything was said
derogatory to the name of Campbell.

"Of course, of course. I should have said gentleman of leisure. You
see it is against my principles to slave as Archie does. What's the
use? Don't need the money, got plenty, so why not enjoy it and
keep jolly as long as possible? I'm sure cheerful people are public
benefactors in this world of woe."

It was not easy to object to this proposition, especially when made
by a comely young man who looked the picture of health and
happiness as he sat on the arm of the sofa smiling at his cousin in
the most engaging manner. Rose knew very well that the
Epicurean philosophy was not the true one to begin life upon, but
it was difficult to reason with Charlie because he always dodged
sober subjects and was so full of cheery spirits, one hated to lessen
the sort of sunshine which certainly is a public benefactor.

"You have such a clever way of putting things that I don't know
how to contradict you, though I still think I'm right," she said
gravely. "Mac likes to idle as well as you, but he is not going to do
it because he knows it's bad for him to fritter away his time. He is
going to study a profession like a wise boy, though he would much
prefer to live among his beloved books or ride his hobbies in
peace."

"That's all very well for him, because he doesn't care for society
and may as well be studying medicine as philandering about the
woods with his pockets full of musty philosophers and
old-fashioned poets," answered Charlie with a shrug which plainly
expressed his opinion of Mac.

"I wonder if musty philosophers, like Socrates and Aristotle, and
old-fashioned poets, like Shakespeare and Milton, are not safer
company for him to keep than some of the more modern friends
you have?" said Rose, remembering Jamie's hints about wild oats,
for she could be a little sharp sometimes and had not lectured "the
boys" for so long it seemed unusually pleasant.

But Charlie changed the subject skillfully by exclaiming with an
anxious expression: "I do believe you are going to be like Aunt
Jane, for that's just the way she comes down on me whenever she
gets the chance! Don't take her for a model, I beg she is a good
woman but a mighty disagreeable one in my humble opinion."

The fear of being disagreeable is a great bugbear to a girl, as this
artful young man well knew, and Rose fell into the trap at once,
for Aunt Jane was far from being her model, though she could not
help respecting her worth.

"Have you given up your painting?" she asked rather abruptly,
turning to a gilded Fra Angelico angel which leaned in the sofa
corner.

"Sweetest face I ever saw, and very like you about the eyes, isn't
it?" said Charlie, who seemed to have a Yankee trick of replying to
one question with another.

"I want an answer, not a compliment," and Rose tried to look
severe as she put away the picture more quickly than she had taken
it up.

"Have I given up painting? Oh, no! I daub a little in oils, slop a
little in watercolors, sketch now and then, and poke about the
studios when the artistic fit comes on."

"How is the music?"

"More flourishing. I don't practice much, but sing a good deal in
company. Set up a guitar last summer and went troubadouring
round in great style. The girls like it, and it's jolly among the
fellows."

"Are you studying anything?"

"Well, I have some lawbooks on my table good, big, wise-looking
chaps and I take a turn at them semioccasionally when pleasure
palls or parents chide. But I doubt if I do more than learn what 'a
allybi' is this year," and a sly laugh in Charlie's eye suggested that
he sometimes availed himself of this bit of legal knowledge.

"What do you do then?"

"Fair catechist, I enjoy myself. Private theatricals have been the
rage of late, and I have won such laurels that I seriously think of
adopting the stage as my profession."

"Really!" cried Rose, alarmed.

"Why not? If I must go to work, isn't that as good as anything?"

"Not without more talent than I think you possess. With genius one
can do anything without it one had better let the stage alone."

"There's a quencher for the 'star of the goodlie companie' to which
I belong. Mac hasn't a ray of genius for anything, yet you admire
him for trying to be an M.D.," cried Charlie, rather nettled at her
words.

"It is respectable, at all events, and I'd rather be a second-rate
doctor than a second-rate actor. But I know you don't mean it, and
only say so to frighten me."

"Exactly. I always bring it up when anyone begins to lecture and it
works wonders. Uncle Mac turns pale, the aunts hold up their
hands in holy horror, and a general panic ensues. Then I
magnanimously promise not to disgrace the family and in the first
burst of gratitude the dear souls agree to everything I ask, so peace
is restored and I go on my way rejoicing."

"Just the way you used to threaten to run off to sea if your mother
objected to any of your whims. You are not changed in that
respect, though you are in others. You had great plans and projects
once, Charlie, and now you seem to be contented with being a
'jack of all trades and master of none'".

"Boyish nonsense! Time has brought wisdom, and I don't see the
sense of tying myself down to one particular thing and grinding
away at it year after year. People of one idea get so deucedly
narrow and tame, I've no patience with them. Culture is the thing,
and the sort one gets by ranging over a wide field is the easiest to
acquire, the handiest to have, and the most successful in the end.
At any rate, it is the kind I like and the only kind I intend to bother
myself about."

With this declaration, Charlie smoothed his brow, clasped his
hands over his head, and, leaning back, gently warbled the chorus
of a college song as if it expressed his views of life better than he
could:

    "While our rosy fillets shed
    Blushes o'er each fervid head,
    With many a cup and many a smile
    The festal moments we beguile."

"Some of my saints here were people of one idea, and though they
were not very successful from a worldly point of view while alive,
they were loved and canonized when dead," said Rose, who had
been turning over a pile of photographs on the table and just then
found her favorite, St. Francis, among them.

"This is more to my taste. Those worn-out, cadaverous fellows
give me the blues, but here's a gentlemanly saint who takes things
easy and does good as he goes along without howling over his own
sins or making other people miserable by telling them of theirs."
And Charlie laid a handsome St. Martin beside the brown-frocked
monk.

Rose looked at both and understood why her cousin preferred the
soldierly figure with the sword to the ascetic with his crucifix. One
was riding bravely through the world in purple and fine linen, with
horse and hound and squires at his back; and the other was in a
lazar-house, praying over the dead and dying. The contrast was a
strong one, and the girl's eyes lingered longest on the knight,
though she said thoughtfully, "Yours is certainly the pleasantest
and yet I never heard of any good deed he did, except divide his
cloak with a beggar, while St. Francis gave himself to charity just
when life was most tempting and spent years working for God
without reward. He's old and poor, and in a dreadful place, but I
won't give him up, and you may have your gay St. Martin if you
want him."

"No, thank you, saints are not in my line but I'd like the
golden-haired angel in the blue gown if you'll let me have her. She
shall be my little Madonna, and I'll pray to her like a good
Catholic," answered Charlie, turning to the delicate, deep-eyed
figure with the lilies in its hand.

"With all my heart, and any others that you like. Choose some for
your mother and give them to her with my love."

So Charlie sat down beside Rose to turn and talk over the pictures
for a long and pleasant hour. But when they went away to lunch, if
there had been anyone to observe so small but significant a trifle,
good St. Francis lay face downward behind the sofa, while gallant
St. Martin stood erect upon the chimneypiece.




Chapter 3 MISS CAMPBELL

While the travelers unpack their trunks, we will pick up, as briefly
as possible, the dropped stitches in the little romance we are
weaving.

Rose's life had been a very busy and quiet one for the four years
following the May day when she made her choice. Study, exercise,
housework, and many wholesome pleasures kept her a happy,
hearty creature, yearly growing in womanly graces, yet always
preserving the innocent freshness girls lose so soon when too early
set upon the world's stage and given a part to play.

Not a remarkably gifted girl in any way, and far from perfect; full
of all manner of youthful whims and fancies; a little spoiled by
much love; rather apt to think all lives as safe and sweet as her
own; and, when want or pain appealed to her, the tender heart
overflowed with a remorseful charity which gave of its abundance
recklessly. Yet, with all her human imperfections, the upright
nature of the child kept her desires climbing toward the just and
pure and true, as flowers struggle to the light; and the woman's
soul was budding beautifully under the green leaves behind the
little thorns.

At seventeen, Dr. Alec pronounced her ready for the voyage
around the world, which he considered a better finishing off than
any school could give her. But just then Aunt Peace began to fail
and soon slipped quietly away to rejoin the lover she had waited
for so long. Youth seemed to come back in a mysterious way to
touch the dead face with lost loveliness, and all the romance of her
past to gather around her memory. Unlike most aged women, her
friends were among the young, and at her funeral the grayheads
gave place to the band of loving girls who made the sweet old
maiden ready for her rest, bore her pall, and covered her grave
with the white flowers she had never worn.

When this was over poor Aunt Plenty seemed so lost without her
lifelong charge that Dr. Alec would not leave her, and Rose gladly
paid the debt she owed by the tender service which comforts
without words. But Aunt Plenty, having lived for others all her
days, soon rebelled against this willing sacrifice, soon found
strength in her own sincere piety, solace in cheerful occupation,
and amusement in nursing Aunt Myra, who was a capital patient,
as she never died and never got well.

So at last the moment came when, with free minds, the travelers
could set out, and on Rose's eighteenth birthday, with Uncle Alec
and the faithful Phebe, she sailed away to see and study the big,
beautiful world which lies ready for us all if we only know how to
use and enjoy it.

Phebe was set to studying music in the best schools, and while she
trained her lovely voice with happy industry, Rose and her uncle
roamed about in the most delightful way till two years were gone
like a dream and those at home clamored for their return.

Back they came, and now the heiress must make ready to take her
place, for at twenty-one she came into possession of the fortune
she had been trying to learn how to use well. Great plans
fermented in her brain, for, though the heart was as generous as
ever, time had taught her prudence and observation shown her that
the wisest charity is that which helps the poor to help themselves.

Dr. Alec found it a little difficult to restrain the ardor of this young
philanthropist who wanted to begin at once to endow hospitals,
build homes, adopt children, and befriend all mankind.

"Take a little time to look about you and get your bearings, child.
The world you have been living in is a much simpler, honester one
than that you are now to enter. Test yourself a bit and see if the old
ways seem best after all, for you are old enough to decide, and
wise enough to discover, what is for your truest good, I hope," he
said, trying to feel ready to let the bird escape from under his wing
and make little flights alone.

"Now, Uncle, I'm very much afraid you are going to be
disappointed in me," answered Rose with unusual hesitation yet a
very strong desire visible in her eyes. "You like to have me quite
honest, and I've learned to tell you all my foolish thoughts so I'll
speak out, and if you find my wish very wrong and silly, please say
so, for I don't want you to cast me off entirely, though I am grown
up. You say, wait a little, test myself, and try if the old ways are
best. I should like to do that, and can I in a better way than leading
the life other girls lead? Just for a little while," she added, as her
uncle's face grew grave.

He was disappointed, yet acknowledged that the desire was natural
and in a moment saw that a trial of this sort might have its
advantages. Nevertheless, he dreaded it, for he had intended to
choose her society carefully and try to keep her unspoiled by the
world as long as possible, like many another fond parent and
guardian. But the spirit of Eve is strong in all her daughters
forbidden fruit will look rosier to them than any in their own
orchards, and the temptation to take just one little bite proves
irresistible to the wisest. So Rose, looking out from the safe
seclusion of her girlhood into the woman's kingdom which she was
about to take possession of, felt a sudden wish to try its pleasures
before assuming its responsibilities, and was too sincere to hide
the longing.

"Very well, my dear, try it if you like, only take care of your health
be temperate in your gaiety and don't lose more than you gain, if
that is possible," he added under his breath, endeavoring to speak
cheerfully and not look anxious.

"I know it is foolish, but I do want to be a regular butterfly for a
little while and see what it is like. You know I couldn't help seeing
a good deal of fashionable life abroad, though we were not in it,
and here at home the girls tell me about all sorts of pleasant things
that are to happen this winter, so if you won't despise me very
much, I should like to try it."

"For how long?"

"Would three months be too long? New Year is a good time to take
a fresh start. Everyone is going to welcome me, so I must be gay in
spite of myself, unless I'm willing to seem very ungrateful and
morose," said Rose, glad to have so good a reason to offer for her
new experiment.

"You may like it so well that the three months may become years.
Pleasure is very sweet when we are young."

"Do you think it will intoxicate me?"

"We shall see, my dear."

"We shall!" And Rose marched away, looking as if she had taken a
pledge of some sort, and meant to keep it.

It was a great relief to the public mind when it became known that
Miss Campbell was really coming out at last, and invitations to
Aunt Plenty's party were promptly accepted. Aunt Clara was much
disappointed about the grand ball she had planned, but Rose stood
firm, and the dear old lady had her way about everything.

The consequence was a delightfully informal gathering of friends
to welcome the travelers home. Just a good, old-fashioned,
hospitable housewarming, so simple, cordial, and genuine that
those who came to criticize remained to enjoy, and many owned
the charm they could neither describe nor imitate.

Much curiosity was felt about Phebe, and much gossip went on
behind fans that evening, for those who had known her years ago
found it hard to recognize the little housemaid in the handsome
young woman who bore herself with such quiet dignity and
charmed them all with her fine voice. "Cinderella has turned out a
princess," was the general verdict, and Rose enjoyed the little
sensation immensely, for she had had many battles to fight for her
Phebe since she came among them, and now her faith was
vindicated.

Miss Campbell herself was in great demand and did the honors so
prettily that even Miss Bliss forgave her for her sad neglect of
Worth, though she shook her head over the white gowns, just alike
except that Phebe wore crimson and Rose, blue trimmings.

The girls swarmed eagerly around their recovered friend, for Rose
had been a favorite before she went away and found her throne
waiting for her now. The young men privately pronounced Phebe
the handsomest "But then you know there's neither family nor
money, so it's no use." Phebe, therefore, was admired as one of the
ornamental properties belonging to the house and left respectfully
alone.

But bonny Rose was "all right," as these amiable youths expressed
it, and many a wistful eye followed the bright head as it flitted
about the rooms as if it were a second Golden Fleece to be won
with difficulty, for stalwart kinsmen hedged it round, and watchful
aunts kept guard.

Little wonder that the girl found her new world an enchanting one
and that her first sip of pleasure rather went to her head, for
everybody welcomed and smiled on her, flattered and praised,
whispered agreeable prophecies in her ear, and looked the
compliments and congratulations they dared not utter till she felt
as if she must have left her old self somewhere abroad and
suddenly become a new and wonderfully gifted being.

"It is very nice, Uncle, and I'm not sure I mayn't want another three
months of it when the first are gone," she whispered to Dr. Alec as
he stood watching the dance she was leading with Charlie in the
long hall after supper.

"Steady, my lass, steady, and remember that you are not really a
butterfly but a mortal girl with a head that will ache tomorrow," he
answered, watching the flushed and smiling face before him. 
"I almost wish there wasn't any tomorrow, but that tonight would
last forever it is so pleasant, and everyone so kind," she said with a
little sigh of happiness as she gathered up her fleecy skirts like a
white bird pluming itself for flight.

"I'll ask your opinion about that at two A.M.," began her uncle with
a warning nod.

"I'll give it honestly," was all Rose had time to say before Charlie
swept her away into the particolored cloud before them.

"It's no use, Alec train a girl as wisely as you choose, she will
break loose when the time comes and go in for pleasure as eagerly
as the most frivolous, for ''tis their nature to,'" said Uncle Mac,
keeping time to the music as if he would not mind "going in" for a
bit of pleasure himself.

"My girl shall taste and try, but unless I'm much mistaken, a little
bit of it will satisfy her. I want to see if she will stand the test,
because if not, all my work is a failure and I'd like to know it,"
answered the doctor with a hopeful smile on his lips but an
anxious look in his eyes.

"She will come out all right bless her heart! so let her sow her
innocent wild oats and enjoy herself till she is ready to settle down.
I wish all our young folks were likely to have as small a crop and
get through as safely as she will," added Uncle Mac with a shake
of the head as he glanced at some of the young men revolving
before him.

"Nothing amiss with your lads, I hope?"

"No, thank heaven! So far I've had little trouble with either, though
Mac is an odd stick and Steve a puppy. I don't complain, for both
will outgrow that sort of thing and are good fellows at heart,
thanks to their mother. But Clara's boy is in a bad way, and she
will spoil him as a man as she has as a boy if his father doesn't
interfere."

"I told brother Stephen all about him when I was in Calcutta last
year, and he wrote to the boy, but Clara has got no end of plans in
her head and so she insisted on keeping Charlie a year longer when
his father ordered him off to India," replied the doctor as they
walked away.

"It is too late to 'order' Charlie is a man now, and Stephen will find
he has been too easy with him all these years. Poor fellow, it has
been hard lines for him, and is likely to be harder, I fancy, unless
he comes home and straightens things out."

"He won't do that if he can help it. He has lost all his energy living
in that climate and hates worry more than ever, so you can imagine
what an effort it would be to manage a foolish woman and a
headstrong boy. We must lend a hand, Mac, and do our best for
poor old Steve."

"The best we can do for the lad is to marry and settle him as soon
as possible."

"My dear fellow, he is only three and twenty," began the doctor, as
if the idea was preposterous. Then a sudden change came over him
as he added with a melancholy smile, "I forget how much one can
hope and suffer, even at twenty-three."

"And be all the better for, if bravely outlived," said Uncle Mac,
with his hand on his brother's shoulder and the sincerest approval
in his voice. Then, kindly returning to the younger people, he went
on inquiringly, "You don't incline to Clara's view of a certain
matter, I fancy?"

"Decidedly not. My girl must have the best, and Clara's training
would spoil an angel," answered Dr. Alec quickly.

"But we shall find it hard to let our little Rose go out of the family.
How would Archie do? He has been well brought up and is a
thoroughly excellent lad."

The brothers had retired to the study by this time and were alone,
yet Dr. Alec lowered his voice as he said with a tender sort of
anxiety pleasant to see: "You know I do not approve of cousins
marrying, so I'm in a quandary, Mac, for I love the child as if she
were my own and feel as if I could not give her up to any man
whom I did not know and trust entirely. It is of no use for us to
plan, for she must choose for herself yet I do wish we could keep
her among us and give one of our boys a wife worth having."

"We must, so never mind your theories but devote yourself to
testing our elder lads and making one of them a happy fellow. All
are heart-whole, I believe, and, though young still for this sort of
thing, we can be gently shaping matters for them, since no one
knows how soon the moment may come. My faith it is like living
in a powder mill to be among a lot of young folks nowadays! All
looks as calm as possible till a sudden spark produces an
explosion, and heaven only knows where we find ourselves after it
is over."

And Uncle Mac sat himself comfortably down to settle Rose's fate
while the doctor paced the room, plucking at his beard and knitting
his brows as if he found it hard to see his way.

"Yes, Archie is a good fellow," he said, answering the question he
had ignored before. "An upright, steady, intelligent lad who will
make an excellent husband if he ever finds out that he has a heart.
I suppose I'm an old fool, but I do like a little more romance in a
young man than he seems to have more warmth and enthusiasm,
you know. Bless the boy! He might be forty instead of three or four
and twenty, he's so sober, calm, and cool. I'm younger than he is,
and could go a-wooing like a Romeo if I had any heart to offer a
woman."

The doctor looked rather shamefaced as he spoke, and his brother
burst out laughing. "See here, Alec, it's a pity so much romance
and excellence as yours should be lost, so why don't you set these
young fellows an example and go a-wooing yourself? Jessie has
been wondering how you have managed to keep from falling in
love with Phebe all this time, and Clara is quite sure that you
waited only till she was safe under Aunt Plenty's wing to offer
yourself in the good old-fashioned style."

"I!" And the doctor stood aghast at the mere idea, then he gave a
resigned sort of sigh and added like a martyr, "If those dear women
would let me alone, I'd thank them forever. Put the idea out of
their minds for heaven's sake, Mac, or I shall be having that poor
girl flung at my head and her comfort destroyed. She is a fine
creature and I'm proud of her, but she deserves a better lot than to
be tied to an old fellow like me whose only merit is his fidelity."

"As you please, I was only joking," and Uncle Mac dropped the
subject with secret relief. The excellent man thought a good deal
of family and had been rather worried at the hints of the ladies.
After a moment's silence he returned to a former topic, which was
rather a pet plan of his. "I don't think you do Archie justice, Alec.
You don't know him as well as I do, but you'll find that he has
heart enough under his cool, quiet manner. I've grown very fond of
him, think highly of him, and don't see how you could do better for
Rose than to give her to him."

"If she will go," said the doctor, smiling at his brother's
businesslike way of disposing of the young people.

"She'll do anything to please you," began Uncle Mac in perfect
good faith, for twenty-five years in the society of a very prosaic
wife had taken nearly all the romance out of him.

"It is of no use for us to plan, and I shall never interfere except to
advise, and if I were to choose one of the boys, I should incline to
my godson," answered the doctor gravely.

"What, my Ugly Duckling!" exclaimed Uncle Mac in great
surprise.

"The Ugly Duckling turned out a swan, you remember. I've always
been fond of the boy because he's so genuine and original. Crude
as a green apple now, but sound at the core, and only needs time to
ripen. I'm sure he'll turn out a capital specimen of the Campbell
variety."

"Much obliged, Alec, but it will never do at all. He's a good fellow,
and may do something to be proud of by and by, but he's not the
mate for our Rose. She needs someone who can manage her
property when we are gone, and Archie is the man for that, depend
upon it."

"Confound the property!" cried Dr. Alec impetuously. "I want her
to be happy, and I don't care how soon she gets rid of her money if
it is going to be a millstone round her neck. I declare to you, I
dreaded the thought of this time so much that I've kept her away as
long as I could and trembled whenever a young fellow joined us
while we were abroad. Had one or two narrow escapes, and now
I'm in for it, as you can see by tonight's 'success' as Clara calls it.
Thank heaven I haven't many daughters to look after!"

"Come, come, don't be anxious take Archie and settle it right up
safely and happily. That's my advice, and you'll find it sound,"
replied the elder conspirator, like one having experience.

"I'll think of it, but mind you, Mac, not a word of this to the sisters.
We are a couple of old fools to be matchmaking so soon but I see
what is before me and it's a comfort to free my mind to someone."

"So it is. Depend on me not a breath even to Jane," answered
Uncle Mac, with a hearty shake and a sympathetic slap on the
shoulder.

"Why, what dark and awful secrets are going on here? Is it a
Freemason's Lodge and those the mystic signs?" asked a gay voice
at the door; and there stood Rose, full of smiling wonder at the
sight of her two uncles hand in hand, whispering and nodding to
one another mysteriously.

They stared like schoolboys caught plotting mischief and looked
so guilty that she took pity on them, innocently imagining the
brothers were indulging in a little sentiment on this joyful
occasion, so she added quickly, as she beckoned, without crossing
the threshold, "Women not allowed, of course, but both of you
dear Odd Fellows are wanted, for Aunt Plenty begs we will have
an old-fashioned contra dance, and I'm to lead off with Uncle Mac.
I chose you, sir, because you do it in style, pigeon wings and all.
So, please come and Phebe is waiting for you, Uncle Alec. She is
rather shy you know, but will enjoy it with you to take care of her."

"Thank you, thank you!" cried both gentlemen, following with
great alacrity.

Unconscious, Rose enjoyed that Virginia reel immensely, for the
pigeon wings were superb, and her partner conducted her through
the convolutions of the dance without a fault, going down the
middle in his most gallant style. Landing safely at the bottom, she
stood aside to let him get his breath, for stout Uncle Mac was
bound to do or die on that occasion and would have danced his
pumps through without a murmur if she had desired it.

Leaning against the wall with his hair in his eyes, and a decidedly
bored expression of countenance, was Mac, Jr., who had been
surveying the gymnastics of his parent with respectful
astonishment.

"Come and take a turn, my lad. Rose is fresh as a daisy, but we old
fellows soon get enough of it, so you shall have my place," said his
father, wiping his face, which glowed like a cheerful peony.

"No, thank you, sir I can't stand that sort of thing. I'll race you
round the piazza with pleasure, Cousin, but his oven is too much
for me," was Mac's uncivil reply as he backed toward the open
window, as if glad of an excuse to escape.

"Fragile creature, don't stay on my account, I beg. I can't leave my
guests for a moonlight run, even if I dared to take it on a frosty
night in a thin dress," said Rose, fanning herself and not a bit
ruffled by Mac's refusal, for she knew his ways and they amused
her.

"Not half so bad as all this dust, gas, heat, and noise. What do you
suppose lungs are made of?" demanded Mac, ready for a
discussion then and there.

"I used to know, but I've forgotten now. Been so busy with other
things that I've neglected the hobbies I used to ride five or six years
ago," she said, laughing.

"Ah, those were times worth having! Are you going in for much of
this sort of thing, Rose?" he asked with a disapproving glance at
the dancers.

"About three months of it, I think."

"Then good-bye till New Year." And Mac vanished behind the
curtains.

"Rose, my dear, you really must take that fellow in hand before he
gets to be quite a bear. Since you have been gone he has lived in
his books and got on so finely that we have let him alone, though
his mother groans over his manners. Polish him up a bit, I beg of
you, for it is high time he mended his odd ways and did justice to
the fine gifts he hides behind them," said Uncle Mac, scandalized
at the bluntness of his son.

"I know my chestnut burr too well to mind his prickles. But others
do not, so I will take him in hand and make him a credit to his
family," answered Rose readily.

"Take Archie for your model he's one of a thousand, and the girl
who gets him gets a prize, I do assure you," added Uncle Mac, who
found matchmaking to his taste and thought that closing remark a
deep one.

"Oh, me, how tired I am!" cried Rose, dropping into a chair as the
last carriage rolled away somewhere between one and two.

"What is your opinion now, Miss Campbell?" asked the doctor,
addressing her for the first time by the name which had been
uttered so often that night. 

"My opinion is that Miss Campbell is likely to have a gay life if
she goes on as she has begun, and that she finds it very delightful
so far," answered the girl, with lips still smiling from their first
taste of what the world calls pleasure.




Chapter 4 THORNS AMONG THE ROSES

For a time everything went smoothly, and Rose was a happy girl.
The world seemed a beautiful and friendly place, and fulfillment
of her brightest dreams appeared to be a possibility. Of course this
could not last, and disappointment was inevitable, because young
eyes look for a Paradise and weep when they find a workaday
world which seems full of care and trouble till one learns to
gladden and glorify it with high thoughts and holy living.

Those who loved her waited anxiously for the disillusion which
must come in spite of all their cherishing, for till now Rose had
been so busy with her studies, travels, and home duties that she
knew very little of the triumphs, trials, and temptations of
fashionable life. Birth and fortune placed her where she could not
well escape some of them, and Dr. Alec, knowing that experience
is the best teacher, wisely left her to learn this lesson as she must
many another, devoutly hoping that it would not be a hard one.

October and November passed rapidly, and Christmas was at hand,
with all its merry mysteries, home gatherings, and good wishes.

Rose sat in her own little sanctum, opening from the parlor, busily
preparing gifts for the dear five hundred friends who seemed to
grow fonder and fonder as the holidays drew near. The drawers of
her commode stood open, giving glimpses of dainty trifles, which
she was tying up with bright ribbons.

A young girl's face at such moments is apt to be a happy one, but
Rose's was very grave as she worked, and now and then she threw
a parcel into the drawer with a careless toss, as if no love made the
gift precious. So unusual was this expression that it struck Dr. Alec
as he came in and brought an anxious look to his eyes, for any
cloud on that other countenance dropped its shadow over his.

"Can you spare a minute from your pretty work to take a stitch in
my old glove?" he asked, coming up to the table strewn with
ribbon, lace, and colored papers.

"Yes, Uncle, as many as you please."

The face brightened with sudden sunshine; both hands were put
out to receive the shabby driving glove, and the voice was full of
that affectionate alacrity which makes the smallest service sweet.

"My Lady Bountiful is hard at work, I see. Can I help in any way?"
he asked, glancing at the display before him.

"No, thank you, unless you can make me as full of interest and
pleasure in these things as I used to be. Don't you think preparing
presents a great bore, except for those you love and who love
you?" she added in a tone which had a slight tremor in it as she
uttered the last words.

"I don't give to people whom I care nothing for. Can't do it,
especially at Christmas, when goodwill should go into everything
one does. If all these 'pretties' are for dear friends, you must have a
great many."

"I thought they were friends, but I find many of them are not, and
that's the trouble, sir."

"Tell me all about it, dear, and let the old glove go," he said, sitting
down beside her with his most sympathetic air.

But she held the glove fast, saying eagerly, "No, no, I love to do
this! I don't feel as if I could look at you while I tell what a bad,
suspicious girl I am," she added, keeping her eyes on her work.

"Very well, I'm ready for confessions of any iniquity and glad to
get them, for sometimes lately I've seen a cloud in my girl's eyes
and caught a worried tone in her voice. Is there a bitter drop in the
cup that promised to be so sweet, Rose?"

"Yes, Uncle. I've tried to think there was not, but it is there, and I
don't like it. I'm ashamed to tell, and yet I want to, because you
will show me how to make it sweet or assure me that I shall be the
better for it, as you used to do when I took medicine."

She paused a minute, sewing swiftly; then out came the trouble all
in one burst of girlish grief and chagrin. 

"Uncle, half the people who are so kind to me don't care a bit for
me, but for what I can give them, and that makes me unhappy,
because I was so glad and proud to be liked. I do wish I hadn't a
penny in the world, then I should know who my true friends were."

"Poor little lass! She has found out that all that glitters is not gold,
and the disillusion has begun," said the doctor to himself, adding
aloud, smiling yet pitiful, "And so all the pleasure is gone out of
the pretty gifts and Christmas is a failure?"

"Oh, no not for those whom nothing can make me doubt! It is
sweeter than ever to make these things, because my heart is in
every stitch and I know that, poor as they are, they will be dear to
you, Aunty Plen, Aunt Jessie, Phebe, and the boys."

She opened a drawer where lay a pile of pretty gifts, wrought with
loving care by her own hands, touching them tenderly as she spoke
and patting the sailor's knot of blue ribbon on one fat parcel with a
smile that told how unshakable her faith in someone was. "But
these," she said, pulling open another drawer and tossing over its
gay contents with an air half sad, half scornful, "these I bought and
give because they are expected. These people care only for a rich
gift, not one bit for the giver, whom they will secretly abuse if she
is not as generous as they expect. How can I enjoy that sort of
thing, Uncle?"

"You cannot, but perhaps you do some of them injustice, my dear.
Don't let the envy or selfishness of a few poison your faith in all.
Are you sure that none of these girls care for you?" he asked,
reading a name here and there on the parcels scattered about.

"I'm afraid I am. You see I heard several talking together the other
evening at Annabel's, only a few words, but it hurt me very much,
for nearly everyone was speculating on what I would give them
and hoping it would be something fine. 'She's so rich she ought to
be generous,' said one. 'I've been perfectly devoted to her for weeks
and hope she won't forget it,' said another. 'If she doesn't give me
some of her gloves, I shall think she's very mean, for she has
heaps, and I tried on a pair in fun so she could see they fitted and
take a hint,' added a third. I did take the hint, you see." And Rose
opened a handsome box in which lay several pairs of her best
gloves, with buttons enough to satisfy the heart of the most
covetous.

"Plenty of silver paper and perfume, but not much love went into
that bundle, I fancy?" And Dr. Alec could not help smiling at the
disdainful little gesture with which Rose pushed away the box.

"Not a particle, nor in most of these. I have given them what they
wanted and taken back the confidence and respect they didn't care
for. It is wrong, I know, but I can't bear to think all the seeming
goodwill and friendliness I've been enjoying was insincere and for
a purpose. That's not the way I treat people."

"I am sure of it. Take things for what they are worth, dear, and try
to find the wheat among the tares, for there is plenty if one knows
how to look. Is that all the trouble?"

"No, sir, that is the lightest part of it. I shall soon get over my
disappointment in those girls and take them for what they are
worth as you advise, but being deceived in them makes me
suspicious of others, and that is hateful. If I cannot trust people I'd
rather keep by myself and be happy. I do detest maneuvering and
underhanded plots and plans!"

Rose spoke petulantly and twitched her silk till it broke, while
regret seemed to give place to anger as she spoke.

"There is evidently another thorn pricking. Let us have it out, and
then I'll kiss the place to make it well as I used to do when I took
the splinters from the fingers you are pricking so unmercifully,"
said the doctor, anxious to relieve his pet patient as soon as
possible.

Rose laughed, but the color deepened in her cheeks as she
answered with a pretty mixture of maidenly shyness and natural
candor.

"Aunt Clara worries me by warning me against half the young men
I meet and insisting that they want only my money. Now that is
dreadful, and I won't listen, but I can't help thinking of it
sometimes, for they are very kind to me and I'm not vain enough to
think it is my beauty. I suppose I am foolish, but I do like to feel
that I am something besides an heiress."

The little quiver was in Rose's voice again as she ended, and Dr.
Alec gave a quick sigh as he looked at the downcast face so full of
the perplexity ingenuous spirits feel when doubt first mars their
faith and dims the innocent beliefs still left from childhood. He
had been expecting this and knew that what the girl just began to
perceive and try modestly to tell had long ago been plain to
worldlier eyes. The heiress was the attraction to most of the young
men whom she met. Good fellows enough, but educated, as nearly
all are nowadays, to believe that girls with beauty or money are
brought to market to sell or buy as the case may be.

Rose could purchase anything she liked, as she combined both
advantages, and was soon surrounded by many admirers, each
striving to secure the prize. Not being trained to believe that the
only end and aim of a woman's life was a good match, she was a
little disturbed, when the first pleasing excitement was over, to
discover that her fortune was her chief attraction.

It was impossible for her to help seeing, hearing, guessing this
from a significant glance, a stray word, a slight hint here and there,
and the quick instinct of a woman felt even before it understood
the self-interest which chilled for her so many opening friendships.
In her eyes love was a very sacred thing, hardly to be thought of till
it came, reverently received and cherished faithfully to the end.
Therefore, it is not strange that she shrank from hearing it
flippantly discussed and marriage treated as a bargain to be
haggled over, with little thought of its high duties, great
responsibilities, and tender joys. Many things perplexed her, and
sometimes a doubt of all that till now she had believed and trusted
made her feel as if at sea without a compass, for the new world
was so unlike the one she had been living in that it bewildered
while it charmed the novice.

Dr. Alec understood the mood in which he found her and did his
best to warn without saddening by too much worldly wisdom.

"You are something besides an heiress to those who know and love
you, so take heart, my girl, and hold fast to the faith that is in you.
There is a touchstone for all these things, and whatever does not
ring true, doubt and avoid. Test and try men and women as they
come along, and I am sure conscience, instinct, and experience
will keep you from any dire mistake," he said, with a protecting
arm about her and a trustful look that was very comforting.

After a moment's pause she answered, while a sudden smile
dimpled around her mouth and the big glove went up to hide her
telltale cheeks: "Uncle, if I must have lovers, I do wish they'd be
more interesting. How can I like or respect men who go on as
some of them do and then imagine women can feel honored by the
offer of their hands? Hearts are out of fashion, so they don't say
much about them."

"Ah, ha! That is the trouble, is it? And we begin to have delicate
distresses, do we?" said Dr. Alec, glad to see her brightening and
full of interest in the new topic, for he was a romantic old fellow,
as he had confessed to his brother.

Rose put down the glove and looked up with a droll mixture of
amusement and disgust in her face. "Uncle, it is perfectly
disgraceful! I've wanted to tell you, but I was ashamed, because I
never could boast of such things as some girls do, and they were so
absurd I couldn't feel as if they were worth repeating even to you.
Perhaps I ought, though, for you may think it proper to command
me to make a good match, and of course I should have to obey,"
she added, trying to look meek.

"Tell, by all means. Don't I always keep your secrets and give you
the best advice, like a model guardian? You must have a confidant,
and where find a better one than here?" he asked, tapping his
waistcoat with an inviting gesture.

"Nowhere so I'll tell all but the names. I'd best be prudent, for I'm
afraid you may get a little fierce you do sometimes when people
vex me," began Rose, rather liking the prospect of a confidential
chat with Uncle, for he had kept himself a good deal in the
background lately.

"You know our ideas are old-fashioned, so I was not prepared to
have men propose at all times and places with no warning but a
few smiles and soft speeches. I expected things of that sort would
be very interesting and proper, not to say thrilling, on my part but
they are not, and I find myself laughing instead of crying, feeling
angry instead of glad, and forgetting all about it very soon. Why,
Uncle, one absurd boy proposed when we'd met only half a dozen
times. But he was dreadfully in debt, so that accounted for it
perhaps." And Rose dusted her fingers, as if she had soiled them.

"I know him, and I thought he'd do it," observed the doctor with a
shrug.

"You see and know everything, so there's no need of going on, is
there?"

"Do, do! Who else? I won't even guess."

"Well, another went down upon his knees in Mrs. Van's
greenhouse and poured forth his passion manfully, with a great
cactus pricking his poor legs all the while. Kitty found him there,
and it was impossible to keep sober, so he has hated me ever
since."

The doctor's "Ha! Ha!" was good to hear, and Rose joined him, for
it was impossible to regard these episodes seriously, since no true
sentiment redeemed them from absurdity.

"Another sent me reams of poetry and went on so Byronically that
I began to wish I had red hair and my name was Betsy Ann. I burnt
all the verses, so don't expect to see them, and he, poor fellow, is
consoling himself with Emma. But the worst of all was the one
who would make love in public and insisted on proposing in the
middle of a dance. I seldom dance round dances except with our
boys, but that night I did because the girls laughed at me for being
so 'prudish,' as they called it. I don't mind them now, for I found I
was right, and felt that I deserved my fate."

"Is that all?" asked her uncle, looking "fierce," as she predicted, at
the idea of his beloved girl obliged to listen to a declaration,
twirling on the arm of a lover.

"One more but him I shall not tell about, for I know he was in
earnest and really suffered, though I was as kind as I knew how to
be. I'm young in these things yet, so I grieved for him, and treat his
love with the tenderest respect."

Rose's voice sank almost to a whisper as she ended, and Dr. Alec
bent his head, as if involuntarily saluting a comrade in misfortune.
Then he got up, saying with a keen look into the face he lifted by a
finger under the chin: "Do you want another three months of this?"

"I'll tell you on New Year's Day, Uncle."

"Very well. Try to keep a straight course, my little captain, and if
you see dirty weather ahead, call on your first mate."

"Aye, aye, sir. I'll remember."




Chapter 5 PRINCE CHARMING

The old glove lay upon the floor forgotten while Rose sat musing,
till a quick step sounded in the hall and a voice drew near,
tunefully humming.

    "As he was walkin' doun the street
    The city for to view,
    Oh, there he spied a bonny lass,
    The window lookin' through."

    "Sae licht he jumpèd up the stair,
    And tirled at the pin;
    Oh, wha sae ready as hersel'
    To let the laddie in?"

sang Rose as the voice paused and a tap came at the door.

"Good morning, Rosamunda, here are your letters, and your most
devoted ready to execute any commissions you may have for him,"
was Charlie's greeting as he came in looking comely, gay, and
debonair as usual.

"Thanks. I've no errands unless you mail my replies, if these need
answering, so by your leave, Prince," and Rose began to open the
handful of notes he threw into her lap.

"Ha! What sight is this to blast mine eyes?" ejaculated Charlie, as
he pointed to the glove with a melodramatic start, for, like most
accomplished amateur actors, he was fond of introducing private
theatricals into his daily talk and conversation.

"Uncle left it."

"'Tis well. Methought perchance a rival had been here," and,
picking it up, Charlie amused himself with putting it on the head
of a little Psyche which ornamented the mantelpiece, softly singing
as he did so, another verse of the old song:

    "He set his Jenny on his knee,
    All in his Highland dress;
    For brawly well he kenned the way
    To please a bonny lass."

Rose went on reading her letters, but all the while was thinking of
her conversation with her uncle as well as something else
suggested by the newcomer and his ditty.

During the three months since her return she had seen more of this
cousin than any of the others, for he seemed to be the only one
who had leisure to "play with Rose," as they used to say years ago.
The other boys were all at work, even little Jamie, many of whose
play hours were devoted to manful struggles with Latin grammar,
the evil genius of his boyish life. Dr. Alec had many affairs to
arrange after his long absence; Phebe was busy with her music;
and Aunt Plenty still actively superintended her housekeeping.
Thus it fell out, quite naturally, that Charlie should form the habit
of lounging in at all hours with letters, messages, bits of news, and
agreeable plans for Rose. He helped her with her sketching, rode
with her, sang with her, and took her to parties as a matter of
course, for Aunt Clara, being the gaiest of the sisters, played
chaperon on all occasions.

For a time it was very pleasant, but, by and by, Rose began to wish
Charlie would find something to do like the rest and not make
dawdling after her the business of his life. The family was used to
his self-indulgent ways, and there was an amiable delusion in the
minds of the boys that he had a right to the best of everything, for
to them he was still the Prince, the flower of the flock, and in time
to be an honor to the name. No one exactly knew how, for, though
full of talent, he seemed to have no especial gift or bias, and the
elders began to shake their heads because, in spite of many grand
promises and projects, the moment for decisive action never came.

Rose saw all this and longed to inspire her brilliant cousin with
some manful purpose which should win for him respect as well as
admiration. But she found it very hard, for though he listened with
imperturbable good humor, and owned his shortcomings with
delightful frankness, he always had some argument, reason, or
excuse to offer and out-talked her in five minutes, leaving her
silenced but unconvinced.

Of late she had observed that he seemed to feel as if her time and
thoughts belonged exclusively to him and rather resented the
approach of any other claimant. This annoyed her and suggested
the idea that her affectionate interest and efforts were
misunderstood by him, misrepresented and taken advantage of by
Aunt Clara, who had been most urgent that she should "use her
influence with the dear boy," though the fond mother resented all
other interference. This troubled Rose and made her feel as if
caught in a snare, for, while she owned to herself that Charlie was
the most attractive of her cousins, she was not ready to be taken
possession of in this masterful way, especially since other and
sometimes better men sought her favor more humbly.

These thoughts were floating vaguely in her mind as she read her
letters and unconsciously influenced her in the chat that followed.

"Only invitations, and I can't stop to answer them now or I shall
never get through this job," she said, returning to her work.

"Let me help. You do up, and I'll direct. Have a secretary, do now,
and see what a comfort it will be," proposed Charlie, who could
turn his hand to anything and had made himself quite at home in
the sanctum.

"I'd rather finish this myself, but you may answer the notes if you
will. Just regrets to all but two or three. Read the names as you go
along and I'll tell you which."

"To hear is to obey. Who says I'm a 'frivolous idler' now?" And
Charlie sat down at the writing table with alacrity, for these hours
in the little room were his best and happiest.

"Order is heaven's first law, and the view a lovely one, but I don't
see any notepaper," he added, opening the desk and surveying its
contents with interest.

"Right-hand drawer violet monogram for the notes, plain paper for
the business letter. I'll see to that, though," answered Rose, trying
to decide whether Annabel or Emma should have the laced
handkerchief.

"Confiding creature! Suppose I open the wrong drawer and come
upon the tender secrets of your soul?" continued the new secretary,
rummaging out the delicate notepaper with masculine disregard of
order.

"I haven't got any," answered Rose demurely.

"What, not one despairing scrawl, one cherished miniature, one
faded floweret, etc., etc.? I can't believe it, Cousin," and he shook
his head incredulously.

"If I had, I certainly should not show them to you, impertinent
person! There are a few little souvenirs in that desk, but nothing
very sentimental or interesting."

"How I'd like to see 'em! But I should never dare to ask," observed
Charlie, peering over the top of the half-open lid with a most
persuasive pair of eyes.

"You may if you want to, but you'll be disappointed, Paul Pry.
Lower left-hand drawer with the key in it."

"'Angel of goodness, how shall I requite thee? Interesting moment,
with what palpitating emotions art thou fraught!'" And, quoting
from the "Mysteries of Udolpho," he unlocked and opened the
drawer with a tragic gesture.

"Seven locks of hair in a box, all light, for 'here's your straw color,
your orange tawny, your French crown color, and your perfect
yellow' Shakespeare. They look very familiar, and I fancy I know
the heads they thatched."

"Yes, you all gave me one when I went away, you know, and I
carried them round the world with me in that very box."

"I wish the heads had gone too. Here's a jolly little amber god with
a gold ring in his back and a most balmy breath," continued
Charlie, taking a long sniff at the scent bottle.

"Uncle brought me that long ago, and I'm very fond of it."

"This now looks suspicious man's ring with a lotus cut on the stone
and a note attached. I tremble as I ask, who, when, and where?"

"A gentleman, on my birthday, in Calcutta."

"I breathe again it was my sire?"

"Don't be absurd. Of course it was, and he did everything to make
my visit pleasant. I wish you'd go and see him like a dutiful son,
instead of idling here."

"That's what Uncle Mac is eternally telling me, but I don't intend to
be lectured into the treadmill till I've had my fling first," muttered
Charlie rebelliously.

"If you fling yourself in the wrong direction, you may find it hard
to get back again," began Rose gravely.

"No fear, if you look after me as you seem to have promised to do,
judging by the thanks you get in this note. Poor old governor! I
should like to see him, for it's almost four years since he came
home last and he must be getting on."

Charlie was the only one of the boys who ever called his father
"governor," perhaps because the others knew and loved their
fathers, while he had seen so little of his that the less respectful
name came more readily to his lips, since the elder man in truth
seemed a governor issuing requests or commands, which the
younger too often neglected or resented.

Long ago Rose had discovered that Uncle Stephen found home
made so distasteful by his wife's devotion to society that he
preferred to exile himself, taking business as an excuse for his
protracted absences.

The girl was thinking of this as she watched her cousin turn the
ring about with a sudden sobriety which became him well; and,
believing that the moment was propitious, she said earnestly: "He
is getting on. Dear Charlie, do think of duty more than pleasure in
this case and I'm sure you never will regret it."

"Do you want me to go?" he asked quickly.

"I think you ought."

"And I think you'd be much more charming if you wouldn't always
be worrying about right and wrong! Uncle Alec taught you that
along with the rest of his queer notions."

"I'm glad he did!" cried Rose warmly, then checked herself and
said with a patient sort of sigh, "You know women always want
the men they care for to be good and can't help trying to make
them so."

"So they do, and we ought to be a set of angels, but I've a strong
conviction that, if we were, the dear souls wouldn't like us half as
well. Would they now?" asked Charlie with an insinuating smile.

"Perhaps not, but that is dodging the point. Will you go?" persisted
Rose unwisely.

"No, I will not."

That was sufficiently decided and an uncomfortable pause
followed, during which Rose tied a knot unnecessarily tight and
Charlie went on exploring the drawer with more energy than
interest.

"Why, here's an old thing I gave you ages ago!" he suddenly
exclaimed in a pleased tone, holding up a little agate heart on a
faded blue ribbon. "Will you let me take away the heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh?" he asked, half in earnest, half in
jest, touched by the little trinket and the recollections it awakened.

"No, I will not," answered Rose bluntly, much displeased by the
irreverent and audacious question.

Charlie looked rather abashed for a moment, but his natural
lightheartedness made it easy for him to get the better of his own
brief fits of waywardness and put others in good humor with him
and themselves.

"Now we are even let's drop the subject and start afresh," he said
with irresistible affability as he coolly put the little heart in his
pocket and prepared to shut the drawer. But something caught his
eye, and exclaiming, "What's this? What's this?" he snatched up a
photograph which lay half under a pile of letters with foreign
postmarks.

"Oh! I forgot that was there," said Rose hastily.

"Who is the man?" demanded Charlie, eyeing the good-looking
countenance before him with a frown.

"That is the Honorable Gilbert Murray, who went up the Nile with
us and shot crocodiles and other small game, being a mighty
hunter, as I told you in my letters," answered Rose gaily, though ill
pleased at the little discovery just then, for this had been one of the
narrow escapes her uncle spoke of.

"And they haven't eaten him yet, I infer from the pile of letters?"
said Charlie jealously.

"I hope not. His sister did not mention it when she wrote last."

"Ah! Then she is your correspondent? Sisters are dangerous things
sometimes." And Charlie eyed the packet suspiciously.

"In this case, a very convenient thing, for she tells me all about her
brother's wedding, as no one else would take the trouble to do."

"Oh! Well, if he's married, I don't care a straw about him. I fancied
I'd found out why you are such a hard-hearted charmer. But if there
is no secret idol, I'm all at sea again." And Charlie tossed the
photograph into the drawer as if it no longer interested him.

"I'm hard-hearted because I'm particular and, as yet, do not find
anyone at all to my taste."

"No one?" with a tender glance.

"No one" with a rebellious blush, and the truthful addition "I see
much to admire and like in many persons, but none quite strong
and good enough to suit me. My heroes are old-fashioned, you
know."

"Prigs, like Guy Carleton, Count Altenberg, and John Halifax I
know the pattern you goody girls like," sneered Charlie, who
preferred the Guy Livingston, Beauclerc, and Rochester style.

"Then I'm not a 'goody girl,' for I don't like prigs. I want a
gentleman in the best sense of the word, and I can wait, for I've
seen one, and know there are more in the world."

"The deuce you have! Do I know him?" asked Charlie, much
alarmed.

"You think you do," answered Rose with a mischievous sparkle in
her eye.

"If it isn't Pem, I give it up. He's the best-bred fellow I know."

"Oh, dear, no! Far superior to Mr. Pemberton and many years
older," said Rose, with so much respect that Charlie looked
perplexed as well as anxious.

"Some apostolic minister, I fancy. You pious creatures always like
to adore a parson. But all we know are married."

"He isn't."

"Give a name, for pity's sake I'm suffering tortures of suspense,"
begged Charlie.

"Alexander Campbell."

"Uncle? Well, upon my word, that's a relief, but mighty absurd all
the same. So, when you find a young saint of that sort, you intend
to marry him, do you?" demanded Charlie much amused and rather
disappointed.

"When I find any man half as honest, good, and noble as Uncle, I
shall be proud to marry him if he asks me," answered Rose
decidedly.

"What odd tastes women have!" And Charlie leaned his chin on his
hand to muse pensively for a moment over the blindness of one
woman who could admire an excellent old uncle more than a
dashing young cousin.

Rose, meanwhile, tied up her parcels industriously, hoping she had
not been too severe, for it was very hard to lecture Charlie, though
he seemed to like it sometimes and came to confession voluntarily,
knowing that women love to forgive when the sinners are of his
sort.

"It will be mail time before you are done," she said presently, for
silence was less pleasant than his rattle.

Charlie took the hint and dashed off several notes in his best
manner. Coming to the business letter, he glanced at it and asked,
with a puzzled expression: "What is all this? Cost of repairs, etc.,
from a man named Buffum?"

"Never mind that I'll see to it by and by."

"But I do mind, for I'm interested in all your affairs, and though
you think I've no head for business, you'll find I have if you'll try
me."

"This is only about my two old houses in the city, which are being
repaired and altered so that the rooms can be let singly."

"Going to make tenement houses of them? Well, that's not a bad
idea such places pay well, I've heard."

"That is just what I'm not going to do. I wouldn't have a tenement
house on my conscience for a million dollars not as they are now,"
said Rose decidedly.

"Why, what do you know about it, except that people live in them
and the owners turn a pretty penny on the rents?"

"I know a good deal about them, for I've seen many such, both here
and abroad. It was not all pleasure with us, I assure you. Uncle was
interested in hospitals and prisons, and I sometimes went with
him, but they made me sad so he suggested other charities that I
could be of help about when we came home. I visited infant
schools, working women's homes, orphan asylums, and places of
that sort. You don't know how much good it did me and how glad I
am that I have the means of lightening a little some of the misery
in the world."

"But, my dear girl, you needn't make ducks and drakes of your
fortune trying to feed and cure and clothe all the poor wretches
you see. Give, of course everyone should do something in that line
and no one likes it better than I. But don't, for mercy's sake, go at it
as some women do and get so desperately earnest, practical, and
charity-mad that there is no living in peace with you," protested
Charlie, looking alarmed at the prospect.

"You can do as you please. I intend to do all the good I can by
asking the advice and following the example of the most 'earnest,'
'practical,' and 'charitable' people I know so, if you don't approve,
you can drop my acquaintance," answered Rose, emphasizing the
obnoxious words and assuming the resolute air she always wore
when defending her hobbies.

"You'll be laughed at."

"I'm used to that."

"And criticized and shunned."

"Not by people whose opinion I value."

"Women shouldn't go poking into such places."

"I've been taught that they should."

"Well, you'll get some dreadful disease and lose your beauty, and
then where are you?" added Charlie, thinking that might daunt the
young philanthropist.

But it did not, for Rose answered, with a sudden kindling of the
eyes as she remembered her talk with Uncle Alec: "I shouldn't like
it. But there would be one satisfaction in it, for when I'd lost my
beauty and given away my money, I should know who really cared
for me."

Charlie nibbled his pen in silence for a moment, then asked,
meekly, "Could I respectfully inquire what great reform is to be
carried on in the old houses which their amiable owner is
repairing?"

"I am merely going to make them comfortable homes for poor but
respectable women to live in. There is a class who cannot afford to
pay much, yet suffer a great deal from being obliged to stay in
noisy, dirty, crowded places like tenement houses and cheap
lodgings. I can help a few of them and I'm going to try."

"May I humbly ask if these decayed gentlewomen are to inhabit
their palatial retreat rent-free?"

"That was my first plan, but Uncle showed me that it was wiser not
make genteel paupers of them, but let them pay a small rent and
feel independent. I don't want the money, of course, and shall use
it in keeping the houses tidy or helping other women in like case,"
said Rose, entirely ignoring her cousin's covert ridicule.

"Don't expect any gratitude, for you won't get it; nor much comfort
with a lot of forlornities on your hands, and be sure that when it is
too late you will tire of it all and wish you had done as other
people do."

"Thanks for your cheerful prophecies, but I think I'll venture."

She looked so undaunted that Charlie was a little nettled and fired
his last shot rather recklessly: "Well, one thing I do know you'll
never get a husband if you go on in this absurd way, and by Jove!
you need one to take care of you and keep the property together!"

Rose had a temper, but seldom let it get the better of her; now,
however, it flashed up for a moment. Those last words were
peculiarly unfortunate, because Aunt Clara had used them more
than once when warning her against impecunious suitors and
generous projects. She was disappointed in her cousin, annoyed at
having her little plans laughed at, and indignant with him for his
final suggestion.

"I'll never have one, if I must give up the liberty of doing what I
know is right, and I'd rather go into the poorhouse tomorrow than
'keep the property together' in the selfish way you mean!"

That was all but Charlie saw that he had gone too far and hastened
to make his peace with the skill of a lover, for, turning to the little
cabinet piano behind him, he sang in his best style the sweet old
song:

    "Oh were thou in the cauld blast,"

dwelling with great effect, not only upon the tender assurance that
"My plaid should shelter thee,"

but also that, even if a king,

    "The brightest jewel in my crown
    Wad be my queen, wad be my queen."

It was very evident that Prince Charming had not gone
troubadouring in vain, for Orpheus himself could not have restored
harmony more successfully. The tuneful apology was accepted
with a forgiving smile and a frank "I'm sorry I was cross, but you
haven't forgotten how to tease, and I'm rather out of sorts today.
Late hours don't agree with me."

"Then you won't feel like going to Mrs. Hope's tomorrow, I'm
afraid," and Charlie took up the last note with an expression of
regret which was very flattering.

"I must go, because it is made for me, but I can come away early
and make up lost sleep. I do hate to be so fractious," and Rose
rubbed the forehead that ached with too much racketing.

"But the German does not begin till late I'm to lead and depend
upon you. Just stay this once to oblige me," pleaded Charlie, for he
had set his heart on distinguishing himself.

"No I promised Uncle to be temperate in my pleasures and I must
keep my word. I'm so well now, it would be very foolish to get ill
and make him anxious not to mention losing my beauty, as you are
good enough to call it, for that depends on health, you know."

"But the fun doesn't begin till after supper. Everything will be
delightful, I assure you, and we'll have a gay old time as we did
last week at Emma's."

"Then I certainly will not, for I'm ashamed of myself when I
remember what a romp that was and how sober Uncle looked as he
let me in at three in the morning, all fagged out my dress in rags,
my head aching, my feet so tired that I could hardly stand, and
nothing to show for five hours' hard work but a pocketful of
bonbons, artificial flowers, and tissue-paper fool's caps. Uncle said
I'd better put one on and go to bed, for I looked as though I'd been
to a French bal masque. I never want to hear him say so again, and
I'll never let dawn catch me out in such a plight anymore."

"You were all right enough, for mother didn't object and I got you
both home before daylight. Uncle is notional about such things, so
I shouldn't mind, for we had a jolly time and we were none the
worse for it."

"Indeed we were, every one of us! Aunt Clara hasn't gotten over
her cold yet. I slept all the next day, and you looked like a ghost,
for you'd been out every night for weeks, I think."

"Oh, nonsense! Everyone does it during the season, and you'll get
used to the pace very soon," began Charlie, bent on making her go,
for he was in his element in a ballroom and never happier than
when he had his pretty cousin on his arm.

"Ah! But I don't want to get used to it, for it costs too much in the
end. I don't wish to get used to being whisked about a hot room by
men who have taken too much wine, to turn day into night,
wasting time that might be better spent, and grow into a
fashionable fast girl who can't get along without excitement. I don't
deny that much of it is pleasant, but don't try to make me too fond
of gaiety. Help me to resist what I know is hurtful, and please don't
laugh me out of the good habits Uncle has tried so hard to give
me."

Rose was quite sincere in her appeal, and Charlie knew she was
right, but he always found it hard to give up anything he had set his
heart on, no matter how trivial, for the maternal indulgence which
had harmed the boy had fostered the habit of self-indulgence,
which was ruining the man. So when Rose looked up at him, with
a very honest desire to save him as well as herself from being
swept into the giddy vortex which keeps so many young people
revolving aimlessly, till they go down or are cast upon the shore,
wrecks of what they might have been, he gave a shrug and
answered briefly: "As you please. I'll bring you home as early as
you like, and Effie Waring shall take your place in the German.
What flowers shall I send you?"

Now, that was an artful speech of Charlie's, for Miss Waring was a
fast and fashionable damsel who openly admired Prince Charming
and had given him the name. Rose disliked her and was sure her
influence was bad, for youth made frivolity forgivable, wit hid
want of refinement, and beauty always covers a multitude of sins
in a man's eyes. At the sound of Effie's name, Rose wavered, and
would have yielded but for the memory of the "first mate's" last
words. She did desire to "keep a straight course"; so, though the
current of impulse set strongly in a southerly direction, principle,
the only compass worth having, pointed due north, and she tried to
obey it like a wise young navigator, saying steadily, while she
directed to Annabel the parcel containing a capacious pair of
slippers intended for Uncle Mac: "Don't trouble yourself about me.
I can go with Uncle and slip away without disturbing anybody."

"I don't believe you'll have the heart to do it," said Charlie
incredulously as he sealed the last note.

"Wait and see."

"I will, but I shall hope to the last." And kissing his hand to her, he
departed to post her letters, quite sure that Miss Waring would not
lead the German.

It certainly looked for a moment as if Miss Campbell would,
because she ran to the door with the words "I'll go" upon her lips.
But she did not open it till she had stood a minute staring hard at
the old glove on Psyche's head; then like one who had suddenly
gotten a bright idea, she gave a decided nod and walked slowly out
of the room. 




Chapter 6 POLISHING MAC

"Please could I say one word?" was the question three times
repeated before a rough head bobbed out from the grotto of books
in which Mac usually sat when he studied.

"Did anyone speak?" he asked, blinking in the flood of sunshine
that entered with Rose.

"Only three times, thank you. Don't disturb yourself, I beg, for I
merely want to say a word," answered Rose as she prevented him
from offering the easy chair in which he sat.

"I was rather deep in a compound fracture and didn't hear. What
can I do for you, Cousin?" And Mac shoved a stack of pamphlets
off the chair near him with a hospitable wave of the hand that sent
his papers flying in all directions.

Rose sat down, but did not seem to find her "word" an easy one to
utter, for she twisted her handkerchief about her fingers in
embarrassed silence till Mac put on his glasses and, after a keen
look, asked soberly: "Is it a splinter, a cut, or a whitlow, ma'am?"

"It is neither. Do forget your tiresome surgery for a minute and be
the kindest cousin that ever was," answered Rose, beginning rather
sharply and ending with her most engaging smile.

"Can't promise in the dark," said the wary youth.

"It is a favor, a great favor, and one I don't choose to ask any of the
other boys," answered the artful damsel.

Mac looked pleased and leaned forward, saying more affably,
"Name it, and be sure I'll grant it if I can."

"Go with me to Mrs. Hope's party tomorrow night."

"What!" And Mac recoiled as if she had put a pistol to his head.

"I've left you in peace a long time, but it is your turn now, so do
your duty like a man and a cousin."

"But I never go to parties!" cried the unhappy victim in great
dismay.

"High time you began, sir."

"But I don't dance fit to be seen."

"I'll teach you."

"My dress coat isn't decent, I know."

"Archie will lend you one he isn't going."

"I'm afraid there's a lecture that I ought not to cut."

"No, there isn't I asked Uncle."

"I'm always so tired and dull in the evening."

"This sort of thing is just what you want to rest and freshen up your
spirits."

Mac gave a groan and fell back vanquished, for it was evident that
escape was impossible.

"What put such a perfectly wild idea into your head?" he
demanded, rather roughly, for hitherto he had been left in peace
and this sudden attack decidedly amazed him.

"Sheer necessity, but don't do it if it is so very dreadful to you. I
must go to several more parties, because they are made for me, but
after that I'll refuse, and then no one need be troubled with me."

Something in Rose's voice made Mac answer penitently, even
while he knit his brows in perplexity. "I don't mean to be rude, and
of course I'll go anywhere if I'm really needed. But I don't
understand where the sudden necessity is, with three other fellows
at command, all better dancers and beaus than I am."

"I don't want them, and I do want you, for I haven't the heart to
drag Uncle out anymore, and you know I never go with any
gentleman but those of my own family."

"Now look here, Rose if Steve has been doing anything to tease
you, just mention it and I'll attend to him," cried Mac, plainly
seeing that something was amiss and fancying that Dandy was at
the bottom of it, as he had done escort duty several times lately.

"No, Steve has been very good, but I know he had rather be with
Kitty Van, so of course I feel like a marplot, though he is too polite
to hint it."

"What a noodle that boy is! But there's Archie he's steady as a
church and has no sweetheart to interfere," continued Mac, bound
to get at the truth and half suspecting what it was.

"He is on his feet all day, and Aunt Jessie wants him in the
evening. He does not care for dancing as he used, and I suppose he
really does prefer to rest and read." Rose might have added, "And
hear Phebe sing," for Phebe did not go out as much as Rose did,
and Aunt Jessie often came to sit with the old lady when the young
folks were away and, of course, dutiful Archie came with her, so
willingly of late!

"What's amiss with Charlie? I thought he was the prince of
cavaliers. Annabel says he dances 'like an angel,' and I know a
dozen mothers couldn't keep him at home of an evening. Have you
had a tiff with Adonis and so fall back on poor me?" asked Mac,
coming last to the person of whom he thought first but did not
mention, feeling shy about alluding to a subject often discussed
behind her back.

"Yes, I have, and I don't intend to go with him any more for some
time. His ways do not suit me, and mine do not suit him, so I want
to be quite independent, and you can help me if you will," said
Rose, rather nervously spinning the big globe close by.

Mac gave a low whistle, looking wide awake all in a minute as he
said with a gesture, as if he brushed a cobweb off his face: "Now,
see here, Cousin, I'm not good at mysteries and shall only blunder
if you put me blindfold into any nice maneuver. Just tell me
straight out what you want and I'll do it if I can. Play I'm Uncle and
free your mind come now."

He spoke so kindly, and the honest eyes were so full of merry
goodwill, that Rose thought she might confide in him and
answered as frankly as he could desire: "You are right, Mac, and I
don't mind talking to you almost as freely as to Uncle, because you
are such a reliable fellow and won't think me silly for trying to do
what I believe to be right. Charlie does, and so makes it hard for
me to hold to my resolutions. I want to keep early hours, dress
simply, and behave properly no matter what fashionable people do.
You will agree to that, I'm sure, and stand by me through thick and
thin for principle's sake."

"I will, and begin by showing you that I understand the case. I don't
wonder you are not pleased, for Charlie is too presuming, and you
do need someone to help you head him off a bit. Hey, Cousin?"

"What a way to put it!" And Rose laughed in spite of herself,
adding with an air of relief, "That is it, and I do want someone to
help me make him understand that I don't choose to be taken
possession of in that lordly way, as if I belonged to him more than
to the rest of the family. I don't like it, for people begin to talk, and
Charlie won't see how disagreeable it is to me."

"Tell him so," was Mac's blunt advice.

"I have, but he only laughs and promises to behave, and then he
does it again when I am so placed that I can't say anything. You
will never understand, and I cannot explain, for it is only a look, or
a word, or some little thing but I won't have it, and the best way to
cure him is to put it out of his power to annoy me so."

"He is a great flirt and wants to teach you how, I suppose. I'll speak
to him if you like and tell him you don't want to learn. Shall I?"
asked Mac, finding the case rather an interesting one.

"No, thank you that would only make trouble. If you will kindly
play escort a few times, it will show Charlie that I am in earnest
without more words and put a stop to the gossip," said Rose,
coloring like a poppy at the recollection of what she heard one
young man whisper to another as Charlie led her through a
crowded supper room with his most devoted air, "Lucky dog! He is
sure to get the heiress, and we are nowhere."

"There's no danger of people gossiping about us, is there?" And
Mac looked up with the oddest of all his odd expressions.

"Of course not you're only a boy."

"I'm twenty-one, thank you, and Prince is but a couple of years
older," said Mac, promptly resenting the slight put upon his
manhood.

"Yes, but he is like other young men, while you are a dear old
bookworm. No one would ever mind what you did, so you may go
to parties with me every night and not a word would be said or, if
there was, I shouldn't mind since it is 'only Mac,'" answered Rose,
smiling as she quoted a household phrase often used to excuse his
vagaries.

"Then I am nobody?" he said, lifting his brows as if the discovery
surprised and rather nettled him.

"Nobody in society as yet, but my very best cousin in private, and
I've just proved my regard by making you my confidant and
choosing you for my knight," said Rose, hastening to soothe the
feelings her careless words seemed to have ruffled slightly.

"Much good that is likely to do me," grumbled Mac.

"You ungrateful boy, not to appreciate the honor I've conferred
upon you! I know a dozen who would be proud of the place, but
you only care for compound fractures, so I won't detain you any
longer, except to ask if I may consider myself provided with an
escort for tomorrow night?" said Rose, a trifle hurt at his
indifference, for she was not used to refusals.

"If I may hope for the honor." And, rising, he made her a bow
which was such a capital imitation of Charlie's grand manner that
she forgave him at once, exclaiming with amused surprise: "Why,
Mac! I didn't know you could be so elegant!"

"A fellow can be almost anything he likes if he tries hard enough,"
he answered, standing very straight and looking so tall and
dignified that Rose was quite impressed, and with a stately
courtesy she retired, saying graciously: "I accept with thanks. Good
morning, Dr. Alexander Mackenzie Campbell."

When Friday evening came and word was sent up that her escort
had arrived, Rose ran down, devoutly hoping that he had not come
in a velveteen jacket, top-boots, black gloves, or made any trifling
mistake of that sort. A young gentleman was standing before the
long mirror, apparently intent upon the arrangement of his hair,
and Rose paused suddenly as her eye went from the glossy
broadcloth to the white-gloved hands, busy with an unruly lock
that would not stay in place.

"Why, Charlie, I thought " she began with an accent of surprise in
her voice, but got no further, for the gentleman turned and she
beheld Mac in immaculate evening costume, with his hair parted
sweetly on his brow, a superior posy at his buttonhole, and the
expression of a martyr on his face.

"Ah, don't you wish it was? No one but yourself to thank that it
isn't he. Am I right? Dandy got me up, and he ought to know what
is what," demanded Mac, folding his hands and standing as stiff as
a ramrod.

"You are so regularly splendid that I don't know you."

"Neither do I."

"I really had no idea you could look so like a gentleman," added
Rose, surveying him with great approval.

"Nor that I could feel so like a fool."

"Poor boy! He does look rather miserable. What can I do to cheer
him up in return for the sacrifice he is making?"

"Stop calling me a boy. It will soothe my agony immensely and
give me courage to appear in a low-necked coat and curl on my
forehead, for I'm not used to such elegancies and I find them no
end of a trial."

Mac spoke in such a pathetic tone, and gave such a gloomy glare at
the aforesaid curl, that Rose laughed in his face and added to his
woe by handing him her cloak. He surveyed it gravely for a
minute, then carefully put it on wrong side out and gave the
swan's-down hood a good pull over the head, to the utter
destruction of all smoothness to the curls inside.

Rose uttered a cry and cast off the cloak, bidding him learn to do it
properly, which he meekly did and then led her down the hall
without walking on her skirts more than three times on the way.
But at the door she discovered that she had forgotten her furred
overshoes and bade Mac get them.

"Never mind it's not wet," he said, pulling his cap over his eyes and
plunging into his coat, regardless of the "elegancies" that afflicted
him.

"But I can't walk on cold stones with thin slippers, can I?" began
Rose, showing him a little white foot.

"You needn't, for there you are, my lady." And, unceremoniously
picking her up, Mac landed her in the carriage before she could say
a word.

"What an escort!" she exclaimed in comic dismay, as she rescued
her delicate dress from a rug in which he was about to tuck her up
like a mummy.

"It's 'only Mac,' so don't mind," and he cast himself into an
opposite corner with the air of a man who had nerved himself to
the accomplishment of many painful duties and was bound to do
them or die.

"But gentlemen don't catch up ladies like bags of meal and poke
them into carriages in this way. It is evident that you need looking
after, and it is high time I undertook your society manners. Now,
do mind what you are about and don't get yourself or me into a
scrape if you can help it," besought Rose, feeling that on many
accounts she had gone further and fared worse.

"I'll behave like a Turveydrop see if I don't."

Mac's idea of the immortal Turveydrop's behavior seemed to be a
peculiar one; for, after dancing once with his cousin, he left her to
her own devices and soon forgot all about her in a long
conversation with Professor Stumph, the learned geologist. Rose
did not care, for one dance proved to her that that branch of Mac's
education had been sadly neglected, and she was glad to glide
smoothly about with Steve, though he was only an inch or two
taller than herself. She had plenty of partners, however, and plenty
of chaperons, for all the young men were her most devoted, and all
the matrons beamed upon her with maternal benignity.

Charlie was not there, for when he found that Rose stood firm, and
had moreover engaged Mac as a permanency, he would not go at
all and retired in high dudgeon to console himself with more
dangerous pastimes. Rose feared it would be so, and even in the
midst of the gaiety about her an anxious mood came over her now
and then and made her thoughtful for a moment. She felt her
power and wanted to use it wisely, but did not know how to be
kind to Charlie without being untrue to herself and giving him
false hopes. 

"I wish we were all children again, with no hearts to perplex us
and no great temptations to try us," she said to herself as she rested
a minute in a quiet nook while her partner went to get a glass of
water. Right in the midst of this half-sad, half-sentimental reverie,
she heard a familiar voice behind her say earnestly: "And allophite
is the new hydrous silicate of alumina and magnesia, much
resembling pseudophite, which Websky found in Silesia."

"What is Mac talking about!" she thought, and, peeping behind a
great azalea in full bloom, she saw her cousin in deep conversation
with the professor, evidently having a capital time, for his face had
lost its melancholy expression and was all alive with interest,
while the elder man was listening as if his remarks were both
intelligent and agreeable.

"What is it?" asked Steve, coming up with the water and seeing a
smile on Rose's face.

She pointed out the scientific tete-a-tete going on behind the
azalea, and Steve grinned as he peeped, then grew sober and said
in a tone of despair: "If you had seen the pains I took with that
fellow, the patience with which I brushed his wig, the time I spent
trying to convince him that he must wear thin boots, and the fight I
had to get him into that coat, you'd understand my feelings when I
see him now."

"Why, what's the matter with him?" asked Rose.

"Will you take a look and see what a spectacle he has made of
himself. He'd better be sent home at once or he will disgrace the
family by looking as if he'd been in a row."

Steve spoke in such a tragic tone that Rose took another peep and
did sympathize with Dandy, for Mac's elegance was quite gone.
His tie was under one ear, his posy hung upside down, his gloves
were rolled into a ball, which he absently squeezed and pounded as
he talked, and his hair looked as if a whirlwind had passed over it,
for his ten fingers set it on end now and then, as they had a habit of
doing when he studied or talked earnestly. But he looked so happy
and wide awake, in spite of his dishevelment, that Rose gave an
approving nod and said behind her fan: "It is a trying spectacle,
Steve yet, on the whole, I think his own odd ways suit him best and
I fancy we shall be proud of him, for he knows more than all the
rest of us put together. Hear that now." And Rose paused that they
might listen to the following burst of eloquence from Mac's lips:
"You know Frenzal has shown that the globular forms of silicate of
bismuth at Schneeburg and Johanngeorgenstadt are not isometric,
but monoclinic in crystalline form, and consequently he separates
them from the old eulytite and gives them the new name
Agricolite."

"Isn't it awful? Let us get out of this before there's another
avalanche or we shall be globular silicates and isometric crystals
in spite of ourselves," whispered Steve with a panic-stricken air,
and they fled from the hailstorm of hard words that rattled about
their ears, leaving Mac to enjoy himself in his own way.

But when Rose was ready to go home and looked about for her
escort, he was nowhere to be seen, for the professor had departed,
and Mac with him, so absorbed in some new topic that he entirely
forgot his cousin and went placidly home, still pondering on the
charms of geology. When this pleasing fact dawned upon Rose her
feelings may be imagined. She was both angry and amused it was
so like Mac to go mooning off and leave her to her fate. Not a hard
one, however; for, though Steve was gone with Kitty before her
plight was discovered, Mrs. Bliss was only too glad to take the
deserted damsel under her wing and bear her safely home.

Rose was warming her feet and sipping the chocolate which Phebe
always had ready for her, as she never ate supper, when a hurried
tap came at the long window whence the light streamed and Mac's
voice was heard softly asking to be let in "just for one minute."

Curious to know what had befallen him, Rose bade Phebe obey his
call and the delinquent cavalier appeared, breathless, anxious, and
more dilapidated than ever, for he had forgotten his overcoat; his
tie was at the back of his neck now; and his hair as rampantly erect
as if all the winds of heaven had been blowing freely through it, as
they had, for he had been tearing to and fro the last half hour,
trying to undo the dreadful deed he had so innocently committed.

"Don't take any notice of me, for I don't deserve it. I only came to
see that you were safe, Cousin, and then go hang myself, as Steve
advised," he began in a remorseful tone that would have been very
effective if he had not been obliged to catch his breath with a
comical gasp now and then.

"I never thought you would be the one to desert me," said Rose
with a reproachful look, thinking it best not to relent too soon,
though she was quite ready to do it when she saw how sincerely
distressed he was.

"It was that confounded man! He was a regular walking
encyclopedia, and, finding I could get a good deal out of him, I
went in for general information, as the time was short. You know I
always forget everything else when I get hold of such a fellow."

"That is evident. I wonder how you came to remember me at all,"
answered Rose, on the brink of a laugh it was so absurd.

"I didn't till Steve said something that reminded me then it burst
upon me, in one awful shock, that I'd gone and left you, and you
might have knocked me down with a feather," said honest Mac,
hiding none of his iniquity.

"What did you do then?"

"Do! I went off like a shot and never stopped till I reached the
Hopes'"

"You didn't walk all the way?" cried Rose.

"Bless you, no I ran. But you were gone with Mrs. Bliss, so I pelted
back again to see with my own eyes that you were safe at home,"
answered Mac with a sigh of relief, wiping his hot forehead.

"But it is three miles at least each way, and twelve o'clock, and
dark and cold. Oh, Mac! How could you!" exclaimed Rose,
suddenly realizing what he had done as she heard his labored
breathing, saw the state of the thin boots, and detected the absence
of an overcoat.

"Couldn't do less, could I?" asked Mac, leaning up against the door
and trying not to pant.

"There was no need of half killing yourself for such a trifle. You
might have known I could take care of myself for once, at least,
with so many friends about. Sit down this minute. Bring another
cup, please, Phebe this boy isn't going home till he is rested and
refreshed after such a run as that," commanded Rose.

"Don't be good to me I'd rather take a scolding than a chair, and
drink hemlock instead of chocolate if you happen to have any
ready," answered Mac with a pathetic puff as he subsided onto the
sofa and meekly took the draft Phebe brought him.

"If you had anything the matter with your heart, sir, a race of this
sort might be the death of you so never do it again," said Rose,
offering her fan to cool his heated countenance.

"Haven't got any heart."

"Yes, you have, for I hear it beating like a trip-hammer, and it is
my fault I ought to have stopped as we went by and told you I was
all right."

"It's the mortification, not the miles, that upsets me. I often take
that run for exercise and think nothing of it but tonight I was so
mad I made extra-good time, I fancy. Now don't you worry, but
compose your mind and 'sip your dish of tea,' as Evelina says,"
answered Mac, artfully turning the conversation from himself.

"What do you know about Evelina?" asked Rose in great surprise.

"All about her. Do you suppose I never read a novel?"

"I thought you read nothing but Greek and Latin, with an
occasional glance at Websky's pseudophites and the monoclinics
of Johanngeorgenstadt."

Mac opened his eyes wide at this reply, then seemed to see the
joke and joined in the laugh with such heartiness that Aunt Plenty's
voice was heard demanding from above with sleepy anxiety: "Is
the house afire?"

"No, ma'am, everything is safe, and I'm only saying good night,"
answered Mac, diving for his cap.

"Then go at once and let that child have her sleep," added the old
lady, retiring to her bed.

Rose ran into the hall, and catching up her uncle's fur coat, met
Mac as he came out of the study, absently looking about for his
own.

"You haven't any, you benighted boy! So take this, and have your
wits about you next time or I won't let you off so easily," she said,
holding up the heavy garment and peeping over it, with no sign of
displeasure in her laughing eyes.

"Next time! Then you do forgive me? You will try me again, and
give me a chance to prove that I'm not a fool?" cried Mac,
embracing the big coat with emotion.

"Of course I will, and, so far from thinking you a fool, I was much
impressed with your learning tonight and told Steve that we ought
to be proud of our philosopher."

"Learning be hanged! I'll show you that I'm not a bookworm but as
much a man as any of them, and then you may be proud or not, as
you like!" cried Mac with a defiant nod that caused the glasses to
leap wildly off his nose as he caught up his hat and departed as he
came.

A day or two later Rose went to call upon Aunt Jane, as she
dutifully did once or twice a week. On her way upstairs she heard a
singular sound in the drawing room and involuntarily stopped to
listen.

"One, two, three, slide! One, two, three, turn! Now, then, come
on!" said one voice impatiently.

"It's very easy to say 'come on,' but what the dickens do I do with
my left leg while I'm turning and sliding with my right?"
demanded another voice in a breathless and mournful tone.

Then the whistling and thumping went on more vigorously than
before, and Rose, recognizing the voices, peeped through the
half-open door to behold a sight which made her shake with
suppressed laughter. Steve, with a red tablecloth tied around his
waist, languished upon Mac's shoulder, dancing in perfect time to
the air he whistled, for Dandy was proficient in the graceful art
and plumed himself upon his skill. Mac, with a flushed face and
dizzy eye, clutched his brother by the small of his back, vainly
endeavoring to steer him down the long room without entangling
his own legs in the tablecloth, treading on his partner's toes, or
colliding with the furniture. It was very droll, and Rose enjoyed the
spectacle till Mac, in a frantic attempt to swing around, dashed
himself against the wall and landed Steve upon the floor. Then it
was impossible to restrain her laughter any longer and she walked
in upon them, saying merrily: "It was splendid! Do it again, and I'll
play for you."

Steve sprang up and tore off the tablecloth in great confusion,
while Mac, still rubbing his head, dropped into a chair, trying to
look quite calm and cheerful as he gasped out: "How are you,
Cousin? When did you come? John should have told us."

"I'm glad he didn't, for then I should have missed this touching
tableau of cousinly devotion and brotherly love. Getting ready for
our next party, I see."

"Trying to, but there are so many things to remember all at once
keep time, steer straight, dodge the petticoats, and manage my
confounded legs that it isn't easy to get on at first," answered Mac
with a sigh of exhaustion, wiping his hot forehead.

"Hardest job I ever undertook and, as I'm not a battering ram, I
decline to be knocked round any longer," growled Steve, dusting
his knees and ruefully surveying the feet that had been trampled on
till they tingled, for his boots and broadcloth were dear to the heart
of the dapper youth.

"Very good of you, and I'm much obliged. I've got the pace, I think,
and can practice with a chair to keep my hand in," said Mac with
such a comic mixture of gratitude and resignation that Rose went
off again so irresistibly that her cousins joined her with a hearty
roar.

"As you are making a martyr of yourself in my service, the least I
can do is lend a hand. Play for us, Steve, and I'll give Mac a lesson,
unless he prefers the chair." And, throwing off her hat and cloak,
Rose beckoned so invitingly that the gravest philosopher would
have yielded.

"A thousand thanks, but I'm afraid I shall hurt you," began Mac,
much gratified, but mindful of past mishaps.

"I'm not. Steve didn't manage his train well, for good dancers
always loop theirs up. I have none at all, so that trouble is gone and
the music will make it much easier to keep step. Just do as I tell
you, and you'll go beautifully after a few turns."

"I will, I will! Pipe up, Steve! Now, Rose!" And, brushing his hair
out of his eyes with an air of stern determination, Mac grasped
Rose and returned to the charge bent on distinguishing himself if
he died in the attempt.

The second lesson prospered, for Steve marked the time by a series
of emphatic bangs; Mac obeyed orders as promptly as if his life
depended on it; and, after several narrow escapes at exciting
moments, Rose had the satisfaction of being steered safely down
the room and landed with a grand pirouette at the bottom. Steve
applauded, and Mac, much elated, exclaimed with artless candor:
"There really is a sort of inspiration about you, Rose. I always
detested dancing before, but now, do you know, I rather like it."

"I knew you would, only you mustn't stand with your arm round
your partner in this way when you are done. You must seat and fan
her, if she likes it," said Rose, anxious to perfect a pupil who
seemed so lamentably in need of a teacher.

"Yes, of course, I know how they do it." And, releasing his cousin,
Mac raised a small whirlwind around her with a folded newspaper,
so full of zeal that she had not the heart to chide him again.

"Well done, old fellow. I begin to have hopes of you and will order
you a new dress coat at once, since you are really going in for the
proprieties of life," said Steve from the music stool, with the
approving nod of one who was a judge of said proprieties. "Now,
Rose, if you will just coach him a little in his small talk, he won't
make a laughingstock of himself as he did the other night," added
Steve. "I don't mean his geological gabble that was bad enough,
but his chat with Emma Curtis was much worse. Tell her, Mac,
and see if she doesn't think poor Emma had a right to think you a
first-class bore."

"I don't see why, when I merely tried to have a little sensible
conversation," began Mac with reluctance, for he had been
unmercifully chaffed by his cousins, to whom his brother had
betrayed him.

"What did you say? I won't laugh if I can help it," said Rose,
curious to hear, for Steve's eyes were twinkling with fun.

"Well, I knew she was fond of theaters, so I tried that first and got
on pretty well till I began to tell her how they managed those
things in Greece. Most interesting subject, you know?"

"Very. Did you give her one of the choruses or a bit of
Agamemnon, as you did when you described it to me?" asked
Rose, keeping sober with difficulty as she recalled that serio-comic
scene.

"Of course not, but I was advising her to read Prometheus when
she gaped behind her fan and began to talk about Phebe. What a
'nice creature' she was, 'kept her place,' dressed according to her
station, and that sort of twaddle. I suppose it was rather rude, but
being pulled up so short confused me a bit, and I said the first
thing that came into my head, which was that I thought Phebe the
best-dressed woman in the room because she wasn't all fuss and
feathers like most of the girls."

"Oh, Mac! That to Emma, who makes it the labor of her life to be
always in the height of fashion and was particularly splendid that
night. What did she say?" cried Rose, full of sympathy for both
parties.

"She bridled and looked daggers at me."

"And what did you do?"

"I bit my tongue and tumbled out of one scrape into another.
Following her example, I changed the subject by talking about the
charity concert for the orphans, and when she gushed about the
'little darlings,' I advised her to adopt one and wondered why
young ladies didn't do that sort of thing, instead of cuddling cats
and lapdogs."

"Unhappy boy! Her pug is the idol of her life, and she hates
babies," said Rose.

"More fool she! Well, she got my opinion on the subject, anyway,
and she's very welcome, for I went on to say that I thought it would
not only be a lovely charity, but excellent training for the time
when they had little darlings of their own. No end of poor things
die through the ignorance of mothers, you know," added Mac, so
seriously that Rose dared not smile at what went before.

"Imagine Emma trotting round with a pauper baby under her arm
instead of her cherished Toto," said Steve with an ecstatic twirl on
the stool.

"Did she seem to like your advice, Monsieur Malapropos?" asked
Rose, wishing she had been there.

"No, she gave a little shriek and said, 'Good gracious, Mr.
Campbell, how droll you are! Take me to Mama, please,' which I
did with a thankful heart. Catch me setting her pug's leg again,"
ended Mac with a grim shake of the head.

"Never mind. You were unfortunate in your listener that time.
Don't think all girls are so foolish. I can show you a dozen sensible
ones who would discuss dress reform and charity with you and
enjoy Greek tragedy if you did the chorus for them as you did for
me," said Rose consolingly, for Steve would only jeer.

"Give me a list of them, please, and I'll cultivate their
acquaintance. A fellow must have some reward for making a
teetotum of himself."

"I will with pleasure; and if you dance well they will make it very
pleasant for you, and you'll enjoy parties in spite of yourself."

"I cannot be a 'glass of fashion and a mold of form' like Dandy
here, but I'll do my best: only, if I had my choice, I'd much rather
go round the streets with an organ and a monkey," answered Mac
despondently.

"Thank you kindly for the compliment," and Rose made him a low
courtesy, while Steve cried, "Now you have done it!" in a tone of
reproach which reminded the culprit, all too late, that he was
Rose's chosen escort.

"By the gods, so I have!" And casting away the newspaper with a
gesture of comic despair, Mac strode from the room, chanting
tragically the words of Cassandra, "'Woe! woe! O Earth! O
Apollo! I will dare to die; I will accost the gates of Hades, and
make my prayer that I may receive a mortal blow!'"




Chapter 7 PHEBE

While Rose was making discoveries and having experiences,
Phebe was doing the same in a quieter way, but though they
usually compared notes during the bedtime tete-a-tete which
always ended their day, certain topics were never mentioned, so
each had a little world of her own into which even the eye of
friendship did not peep.

Rose's life just now was the gaiest but Phebe's the happiest. Both
went out a good deal, for the beautiful voice was welcomed
everywhere, and many were ready to patronize the singer who
would have been slow to recognize the woman. Phebe knew this
and made no attempt to assert herself, content to know that those
whose regard she valued felt her worth and hopeful of a time when
she could gracefully take the place she was meant to fill.

Proud as a princess was Phebe about some things, though in most
as humble as a child; therefore, when each year lessened the
service she loved to give and increased the obligations she would
have refused from any other source, dependence became a burden
which even the most fervent gratitude could not lighten. Hitherto
the children had gone on together, finding no obstacles to their
companionship in the secluded world in which they lived. Now
that they were women their paths inevitably diverged, and both
reluctantly felt that they must part before long.

It had been settled, when they were abroad, that on their return
Phebe should take her one gift in her hand and try her fortunes. On
no other terms would she accept the teaching which was to fit her
for the independence she desired. Faithfully had she used the
facilities so generously afforded both at home and abroad and now
was ready to prove that they had not been in vain. Much
encouraged by the small successes she won in drawing rooms, and
the praise bestowed by interested friends, she began to feel that she
might venture on a larger field and begin her career as a concert
singer, for she aimed no higher.

Just at this time much interest was felt in a new asylum for orphan
girls, which could not be completed for want of funds. The
Campbells well had borne their part and still labored to
accomplish the much-needed charity. Several fairs had been given
for this purpose, followed by a series of concerts. Rose had thrown
herself into the work with all her heart and now proposed that
Phebe should make her debut at the last concert, which was to be a
peculiarly interesting one, as all the orphans were to be present and
were expected to plead their own cause by the sight of their
innocent helplessness as well as touch hearts by the simple airs
they were to sing.

Some of the family thought Phebe would object to so humble a
beginning, but Rose knew her better and was not disappointed, for
when she made her proposal Phebe answered readily: "Where
could I find a fitter time and place to come before the public than
here among my little sisters in misfortune? I'll sing for them with
all my heart only I must be one of them and have no flourish made
about me."

"You shall arrange it as you like, and as there is to be little vocal
music but yours and the children's, I'll see that you have everything
as you please," promised Rose.

It was well she did, for the family got much excited over the
prospect of "our Phebe's debut" and would have made a flourish if
the girls had not resisted. Aunt Clara was in despair about the
dress because Phebe decided to wear a plain claret-colored merino
with frills at neck and wrists so that she might look, as much as
possible, like the other orphans in their stuff gowns and white
aprons. Aunt Plenty wanted to have a little supper afterward in
honor of the occasion, but Phebe begged her to change it to a
Christmas dinner for the poor children. The boys planned to throw
bushels of flowers, and Charlie claimed the honor of leading the
singer in. But Phebe, with tears in her eyes, declined their kindly
offers, saying earnestly: "I had better begin as I am to go on and
depend upon myself entirely. Indeed, Mr. Charlie, I'd rather walk
in alone, for you'd be out of place among us and spoil the pathetic
effect we wish to produce." And a smile sparkled through the tears
as Phebe looked at the piece of elegance before her and thought of
the brown gowns and pinafores.

So, after much discussion, it was decided that she should have her
way in all things and the family content themselves with
applauding from the front.

"We'll blister our hands every man of us, and carry you home in a
chariot and four see if we don't, you perverse prima donna!"
threatened Steve, not at all satisfied with the simplicity of the
affair.

"A chariot and two will be very acceptable as soon as I'm done. I
shall be quite steady till my part is all over, and then I may feel a
little upset, so I'd like to get away before the confusion begins.
Indeed, I don't mean to be perverse, but you are all so kind to me,
my heart is full whenever I think of it, and that wouldn't do if I'm
to sing," said Phebe, dropping one of the tears on the little frill she
was making.

"No diamond could have adorned it better," Archie thought as he
watched it shine there for a moment, and felt like shaking Steve
for daring to pat the dark head with an encouraging "All right. I'll
be on hand and whisk you away while the rest are splitting their
gloves. No fear of your breaking down. If you feel the least bit like
it, though, just look at me and I'll glare at you and shake my fist,
since kindness upsets you."

"I wish you would, because one of my ballads is rather touching
and I always want to cry when I sing it. The sight of you trying to
glare will make me want to laugh and that will steady me nicely,
so sit in front, please, ready to slip out when I come off the last
time."

"Depend upon me!" And the little man departed, taking great
credit to himself for his influence over tall, handsome Phebe.

If he had known what was going on in the mind of the silent young
gentleman behind the newspaper, Steve would have been much
astonished, for Archie, though apparently engrossed by business,
was fathoms deep in love by this time. No one suspected this but
Rose, for he did his wooing with his eyes, and only Phebe knew
how eloquent they could be. He had discovered what the matter
was long ago had made many attempts to reason himself out of it,
but, finding it a hopeless task, had given up trying and let himself
drift deliciously. The knowledge that the family would not approve
only seemed to add ardor to his love and strength to his purpose,
for the same energy and persistence which he brought to business
went into everything he did, and having once made up his mind to
marry Phebe, nothing could change this plan except a word from
her.

He watched and waited for three months, so that he might not be
accused of precipitation, though it did not take him one to decide
that this was the woman to make him happy. Her steadfast nature,
quiet, busy ways, and the reserved power and passion betrayed
sometimes by a flash of the black eyes, a quiver of the firm lips,
suited Archie, who possessed many of the same attributes himself.
The obscurity of her birth and isolation of her lot, which would
have deterred some lovers, not only appealed to his kindly heart,
but touched the hidden romance which ran like a vein of gold
through his strong common sense and made practical, steady-going
Archie a poet when he fell in love. If Uncle Mac had guessed what
dreams and fancies went on in the head bent over his ledgers, and
what emotions were fermenting in the bosom of his staid
"right-hand man," he would have tapped his forehead and
suggested a lunatic asylum. The boys thought Archie had sobered
down too soon. His mother began to fear that the air of the
counting room did not suit him, and Dr. Alec was deluded into the
belief that the fellow really began to "think of Rose," he came so
often in the evening, seeming quite content to sit beside her
worktable and snip tape or draw patterns while they chatted.

No one observed that, though he talked to Rose on these occasions,
he looked at Phebe, in her low chair close by, busy but silent, for
she always tried to efface herself when Rose was near and often
mourned that she was too big to keep out of sight. No matter what
he talked about, Archie always saw the glossy black braids on the
other side of the table, the damask cheek curving down into the
firm white throat, and the dark lashes, lifted now and then,
showing eyes so deep and soft he dared not look into them long.
Even the swift needle charmed him, the little brooch which rose
and fell with her quiet breath, the plain work she did, and the tidy
way she gathered her bits of thread into a tiny bag. He seldom
spoke to her; never touched her basket, though he ravaged Rose's if
he wanted string or scissors; very rarely ventured to bring her some
curious or pretty thing when ships came in from China only sat and
thought of her, imagined that this was his parlor, this her
worktable, and they two sitting there alone a happy man and wife.

At this stage of the little evening drama he would be conscious of
such a strong desire to do something rash that he took refuge in a
new form of intoxication and proposed music, sometimes so
abruptly that Rose would pause in the middle of a sentence and
look at him, surprised to meet a curiously excited look in the
usually cool gray eyes.

Then Phebe, folding up her work, would go to the piano, as if glad
to find a vent for the inner life which she seemed to have no power
of expressing except in song. Rose would follow to accompany
her, and Archie, moving to a certain shady corner whence he could
see Phebe's face as she sang, would give himself up to unmitigated
rapture for half an hour. Phebe never sang so well as at such times,
for the kindly atmosphere was like sunshine to a bird, criticisms
were few and gentle, praises hearty and abundant, and she poured
out her soul as freely as a spring gushes up when its hidden source
is full.

In moments such as these Phebe was beautiful with the beauty that
makes a man's eye brighten with honest admiration and fills his
heart with a sense of womanly nobility and sweetness. Little
wonder, then, that the chief spectator of this agreeable tableau
grew nightly more enamored, and while the elders were deep in
whist, the young people were playing that still more absorbing
game in which hearts are always trumps.

Rose, having Dummy for a partner, soon discovered the fact and
lately had begun to feel as she fancied Wall must have done when
Pyramus wooed Thisbe through its chinks. She was a little startled
at first, then amused, then anxious, then heartily interested, as
every woman is in such affairs, and willingly continued to be a
medium, though sometimes she quite tingled with the electricity
which seemed to pervade the air. She said nothing, waiting for
Phebe to speak, but Phebe was silent, seeming to doubt the truth
till doubt became impossible, then to shrink as if suddenly
conscious of wrongdoing and seize every possible pretext for
absenting herself from the "girls' corner," as the pretty recess was
called.

The concert plan afforded excellent opportunities for doing this,
and evening after evening she slipped away to practice her songs
upstairs while Archie sat staring disconsolately at the neglected
work basket and mute piano. Rose pitied him and longed to say a
word of comfort, but felt shy he was such a reserved fellow so left
him to conduct his quiet wooing in his own way, feeling that the
crisis would soon arrive.

She was sure of this as she sat beside him on the evening of the
concert, for while the rest of the family nodded and smiled, chatted
and laughed in great spirits, Archie was as mute as a fish and sat
with his arms tightly folded, as if to keep in any unruly emotions
which might attempt to escape. He never looked at the program,
but Rose knew when Phebe's turn came by the quick breath he
drew and the intent look, so absent before, that came into his eyes.

But her own excitement prevented much notice of his, for Rose
was in a flutter of hope and fear, sympathy and delight, about
Phebe and her success. The house was crowded; the audience
sufficiently mixed to make the general opinion impartial; and the
stage full of little orphans with shining faces, a most effective
reminder of the object in view.

"Little dears, how nice they look!" "Poor things, so young to be
fatherless and motherless." "It will be a disgrace to the city if those
girls are not taken proper care of." "Subscriptions are always in
order, you know, and pretty Miss Campbell will give you her
sweetest smile if you hand her a handsome check." "I've heard this
Phebe Moore, and she really has a delicious voice such a pity she
won't fit herself for opera!" "Only sings three times tonight; that's
modest, I'm sure, when she's the chief attraction, so we must give
her an encore after the Italian piece." "The orphans lead off, I see.
Stop your ears if you like, but don't fail to applaud or the ladies
will never forgive you."

Chat of this sort went on briskly while fans waved, programs
rustled, and ushers flew about distractedly, till an important
gentleman appeared, made his bow, skipped upon the leader's
stand, and with a wave of his baton caused a general uprising of
white pinafores as the orphans led off with that much-enduring
melody "America" in shrill small voices, but with creditable
attention to time and tune. Pity and patriotism produced a generous
round of applause, and the little girls sat down, beaming with
innocent satisfaction.

An instrumental piece followed, and then a youthful gentleman,
with his hair in picturesque confusion, and what his friends called
a "musical brow," bounded up the steps and, clutching a roll of
music with a pair of tightly gloved hands, proceed to inform the
audience, in a husky tenor voice, that "It was a lovely violet."

What else the song contained in the way of sense or sentiment it
was impossible to discover as the three pages of music appeared to
consist of variations upon that one line, ending with a prolonged
quaver which flushed the musical brow and left the youth quite
breathless when he made his bow.

"Now she's coming! Oh, Uncle, my heart beats as if it were
myself!" whispered Rose, clutching Dr. Alec's arm with a little
gasp as the piano was rolled forward, the leader's stand pushed
back, and all eyes turned toward the anteroom door.

She forgot to glance at Archie, and it was as well perhaps, for his
heart was thumping almost audibly as he waited for his Phebe. Not
from the anteroom, but out among the children, where she had sat
unseen in the shadow of the organ, came stately Phebe in her
wine-colored dress, with no ornament but her fine hair and a white
flower at her throat. Very pale, but quite composed, apparently, for
she stepped slowly through the narrow lane of upturned faces,
holding back her skirts lest they should rudely brush against some
little head. Straight to the front she went, bowed hastily, and, with
a gesture to the accompanist, stood waiting to begin, her eyes fixed
on the great gilt clock at the opposite end of the hall.

They never wandered from that point while she sang, but as she
ended they dropped for an instant on an eager, girlish countenance
bending from a front seat; then, with her hasty little bow, she went
quickly back among the children, who clapped and nodded as she
passed, well pleased with the ballad she had sung.

Everyone courteously followed their example, but there was no
enthusiasm, and it was evident that Phebe had not produced a
particularly favorable impression.

"Never sang so badly in her life," muttered Charlie irefully.

"She was frightened, poor thing. Give her time, give her time,"
said Uncle Mac kindly.

"I know she was, and I glared like a gorgon, but she never looked
at me," added Steve, smoothing his gloves and his brows at the
same time.

"That first song was the hardest, and she got through much better
than I expected," put in Dr. Alec, bound not to show the
disappointment he felt.

"Don't be troubled. Phebe has courage enough for anything, and
she'll astonish you before the evening's over," prophesied Mac with
unabated confidence, for he knew something the rest did not.

Rose said nothing, but under cover of her burnous gave Archie's
hand a sympathetic squeeze, for his arms were unfolded now, as if
the strain was over, and one lay on his knee while with the other he
wiped his hot forehead with an air of relief.

Friends about them murmured complimentary fibs and affected
great delight and surprise at Miss Moore's "charming style,"
"exquisite simplicity," and "undoubted talent." But strangers freely
criticized, and Rose was so indignant at some of their remarks, she
could not listen to anything on the stage, though a fine overture
was played, a man with a remarkable bass voice growled and
roared melodiously, and the orphans sang a lively air with a chorus
of "Tra, la, la," which was a great relief to little tongues unused to
long silence.

"I've often heard that women's tongues were hung in the middle
and went at both ends now I'm sure of it," whispered Charlie,
trying to cheer her up by pointing out the comical effect of some
seventy-five open mouths in each of which the unruly member was
wagging briskly.

Rose laughed and let him fan her, leaning from his seat behind
with the devoted air he always assumed in public, but her wounded
feelings were not soothed and she continued to frown at the stout
man on the left who had dared to say with a shrug and a glance at
Phebe's next piece, "That young woman can no more sing this
Italian thing than she can fly, and they ought not to let her attempt
it."

Phebe did, however, and suddenly changed the stout man's opinion
by singing it grandly, for the consciousness of her first failure
pricked her pride and spurred her to do her best with the calm sort
of determination which conquers fear, fires ambition, and changes
defeat to success. She looked steadily at Rose now, or the flushed,
intent face beside her, and throwing all her soul into the task, let
her voice ring out like a silver clarion, filling the great hall and
setting the hearers' blood a-tingle with the exulting strain.

That settled Phebe's fate as a cantatrice. The applause was genuine
and spontaneous this time and broke out again and again with the
generous desire to atone for former coldness. But she would not
return, and the shadow of the great organ seemed to have
swallowed her up, for no eye could find her, no pleasant clamor
win her back.

"Now I can die content," said Rose, beaming with heartfelt
satisfaction while Archie looked steadfastly at his program, trying
to keep his face in order, and the rest of the family assumed a
triumphant air, as if they had never doubted from the first.

"Very well, indeed," said the stout man with an approving nod.
"Quite promising for a beginner. Shouldn't wonder if in time they
made a second Cary or Kellogg of her."

"Now you'll forgive him, won't you?" murmured Charlie in his
cousin's ear.

"Yes, and I'd like to pat him on the head. But take warning and
never judge by first appearances again," whispered Rose, at peace
now with all mankind.

Phebe's last song was another ballad; she meant to devote her
talent to that much neglected but always attractive branch of her
art. It was a great surprise, therefore, to all but one person in the
hall when, instead of singing "Auld Robin Grey," she placed
herself at the piano, and, with a smiling glance over her shoulder
at the children, broke out in the old bird song which first won
Rose. But the chirping, twittering, and cooing were now the
burden to three verses of a charming little song, full of springtime
and the awakening life that makes it lovely. A rippling
accompaniment flowed through it all, and a burst of delighted
laughter from the children filled up the first pause with a fitting
answer to the voices that seemed calling to them from the vernal
woods.

It was very beautiful, and novelty lent its charm to the surprise, for
art and nature worked a pretty miracle and the clever imitation,
first heard from a kitchen hearth, now became the favorite in a
crowded concert room. Phebe was quite herself again; color in the
cheeks now; eyes that wandered smiling to and fro; and lips that
sang as gaily and far more sweetly than when she kept time to her
blithe music with a scrubbing brush.

This song was evidently intended for the children, and they
appreciated the kindly thought, for as Phebe went back among
them, they clapped ecstatically, flapped their pinafores, and some
caught her by the skirts with audible requests to "Do it again,
please; do it again."

But Phebe shook her head and vanished, for it was getting late for
such small people, several of whom "lay sweetly slumbering there"
till roused by the clamor round them. The elders, however, were
not to be denied and applauded persistently, especially Aunt
Plenty, who seized Uncle Mac's cane and pounded with it as
vigorously as "Mrs. Nubbles" at the play.

"Never mind your gloves, Steve; keep it up till she comes," cried
Charlie, enjoying the fun like a boy while Jamie lost his head with
excitement and, standing up, called "Phebe! Phebe!" in spite of his
mother's attempts to silence him.

Even the stout man clapped, and Rose could only laugh
delightedly as she turned to look at Archie, who seemed to have let
himself loose at last and was stamping with a dogged energy funny
to see.

So Phebe had to come, and stood there meekly bowing, with a
moved look on her face that showed how glad and grateful she
was, till a sudden hush came; then, as if inspired by the memory of
the cause that brought her there, she looked down into the sea of
friendly faces before her, with no trace of fear in her own, and
sang the song that never will grow old.

That went straight to the hearts of those who heard her, for there
was something inexpressibly touching in the sight of this
sweet-voiced woman singing of home for the little creatures who
were homeless, and Phebe made her tuneful plea irresistible by an
almost involuntary gesture of the hands which had hung loosely
clasped before her till, with the last echo of the beloved word, they
fell apart and were half outstretched, as if pleading to be filled.

It was the touch of nature that works wonders, for it made full
purses suddenly weigh heavily in pockets slow to open, brought
tears to eyes unused to weep, and caused that group of red-gowned
girls to grow very pathetic in the sight of fathers and mothers who
had left little daughters safe asleep at home. This was evident from
the stillness that remained unbroken for an instant after Phebe
ended; and before people could get rid of their handkerchiefs she
would have been gone if the sudden appearance of a mite in a
pinafore, climbing up the stairs from the anteroom with a great
bouquet grasped in both hands, had not arrested her.

Up came the little creature, intent on performing the mission for
which rich bribes of sugarplums had been promised, and trotting
bravely across the stage, she held up the lovely nosegay, saying in
her baby voice, "Dis for you, ma'am." Then, startled by the sudden
outburst of applause, she hid her face in Phebe's gown and began
to sob with fright.

An awkward minute for poor Phebe, but she showed unexpected
presence of mind and left behind her a pretty picture of the oldest
and youngest orphan as she went quickly down the step, smiling
over the great bouquet with the baby on her arm.

Nobody minded the closing piece, for people began to go, sleepy
children to be carried off, and whispers grew into a buzz of
conversation. In the general confusion Rose looked to see if Steve
had remembered his promise to help Phebe slip away before the
rush began. No, there he was putting on Kitty's cloak, quite
oblivious to any other duty. Turning to ask Archie to hurry out,
Rose found that he had already vanished, leaving his gloves behind
him.

"Have you lost anything?" asked Dr. Alec, catching a glimpse of
her face.

"No, sir, I've found something," she whispered back, giving him
the gloves to pocket along with her fan and glass, adding hastily as
the concert ended, "Please, Uncle, tell them all not to come with
us. Phebe has had enough excitement and ought to rest."

Rose's word was law to the family in all things concerning Phebe.
So word was passed that there were to be no congratulations until
tomorrow, and Dr. Alec got his party off as soon as possible. But
all the way home, while he and Aunt Plenty were prophesying a
brilliant future for the singer, Rose sat rejoicing over the happy
present of the woman. She was sure that Archie had spoken and
imagined the whole scene with feminine delight how tenderly he
had asked the momentous question, how gratefully Phebe had
given the desired reply, and now how both were enjoying that
delicious hour which Rose had been given to understand never
came but once. Such a pity to shorten it, she thought, and begged
her uncle to go home the longest way the night was so mild, the
moonlight so clear, and herself so in need of fresh air after the
excitement of the evening.

"I thought you would want to rush into Phebe's arms the instant she
got done," said Aunt Plenty, innocently wondering at the whims
girls took into their heads.

"So I should if I consulted my own wishes, but as Phebe asked to
be let alone I want to gratify her," answered Rose, making the best
excuse she could.

"A little piqued," thought the doctor, fancying he understood the
case.

As the old lady's rheumatism forbade their driving about till
midnight, home was reached much too soon, Rose thought, and
tripped away to warn the lovers the instant she entered the house.
But study, parlor, and boudoir were empty; and, when Jane
appeared with cake and wine, she reported that "Miss Phebe went
right upstairs and wished to be excused, please, being very tired."

"That isn't at all like Phebe I hope she isn't ill," began Aunt Plenty,
sitting down to toast her feet.

"She may be a little hysterical, for she is a proud thing and
represses her emotions as long as she can. I'll step up and see if she
doesn't need a soothing draft of some sort." And Dr. Alec threw off
his coat as he spoke.

"No, no, she's only tired. I'll run up to her she won't mind me and
I'll report if anything is amiss."

Away went Rose, quite trembling with suspense, but Phebe's door
was shut, no light shone underneath, and no sound came from the
room within. She tapped and receiving no answer, went on to her
own chamber, thinking to herself: "Love always makes people
queer, I've heard, so I suppose they settled it all in the carriage and
the dear thing ran away to think about her happiness alone. I'll not
disturb her. Why, Phebe!" said Rose, surprised, for, entering her
room, there was the cantatrice, busy about the nightly services she
always rendered her little mistress.

"I'm waiting for you, dear. Where have you been so long?" asked
Phebe, poking the fire as if anxious to get some color into cheeks
that were unnaturally pale.

The instant she spoke Rose knew that something was wrong, and a
glance at her face confirmed the fear. It was like a dash of cold
water and quenched her happy fancies in a moment; but being a
delicate-minded girl, she respected Phebe's mood and asked no
questions, made no comments, and left her friend to speak or be
silent as she chose.

"I was so excited I would take a turn in the moonlight to calm my
nerves. Oh, dearest Phebe, I am so glad, so proud, so full of
wonder at your courage and skill and sweet ways altogether that I
cannot half tell you how I love and honor you!" she cried, kissing
the white cheeks with such tender warmth they could not help
glowing faintly as Phebe held her little mistress close, sure that
nothing could disturb this innocent affection.

"It is all your work, dear, because but for you I might still be
scrubbing floors and hardly dare to dream of anything like this,"
she said in her old grateful way, but in her voice there was a thrill
of something deeper than gratitude, and at the last two words her
head went up with a gesture of soft pride as if it had been newly
crowned.

Rose heard and saw and guessed at the meaning of both tone and
gesture, feeling that her Phebe deserved both the singer's laurel and
the bride's myrtle wreath. But she only looked up, saying very
wistfully: "Then it has been a happy night for you as well as for
us."

"The happiest of my life, and the hardest," answered Phebe briefly
as she looked away from the questioning eyes.

"You should have let us come nearer and help you through. I'm
afraid you are very proud, my Jenny Lind."

"I have to be, for sometimes I feel as if I had nothing else to keep
me up." She stopped short there, fearing that her voice would
prove traitorous if she went on. In a moment she asked in a tone
that was almost hard: "You think I did well tonight?"

"They all think so, and were so delighted they wanted to come in a
body and tell you so, but I sent them home because I knew you'd
be tired out. Perhaps I ought not to have done it and you'd rather
have had a crowd about you than just me?"

"It was the kindest thing you ever did, and what could I like better
than 'just you,' my darling?"

Phebe seldom called her that, and when she did her heart was in
the little word, making it so tender that Rose thought it the
sweetest in the world, next to Uncle Alec's "my little girl." Now it
was almost passionate, and Phebe's face grew rather tragical as she
looked down at Rose. It was impossible to seem unconscious any
longer, and Rose said, caressing Phebe's cheek, which burned with
a feverish color now: "Then don't shut me out if you have a
trouble, but let me share it as I let you share all mine."

"I will! Little mistress, I've got to go away, sooner even than we
planned."

"Why, Phebe?"

"Because Archie loves me."

"That's the very reason you should stay and make him happy."

"Not if it caused dissension in the family, and you know it would."

Rose opened her lips to deny this impetuously, but checked herself
and answered honestly: "Uncle and I would be heartily glad, and
I'm sure Aunt Jessie never could object if you loved Archie as he
does you."

"She has other hopes, I think, and kind as she is, it would be a
disappointment if he brought me home. She is right, they all are,
and I alone am to blame. I should have gone long ago I knew I
should, but it was so pleasant, I couldn't bear to go away alone."

"I kept you, and I am to blame if anyone, but indeed, dear Phebe, I
cannot see why you should care even if Aunt Myra croaks and
Aunt Clara exclaims or Aunt Jane makes disagreeable remarks. Be
happy, and never mind them," cried Rose, so much excited by all
this that she felt the spirit of revolt rise up within her and was
ready to defy even that awe-inspiring institution "the family" for
her friend's sake.

But Phebe shook her head with a sad smile and answered, still
with the hard tone in her voice as if forcing back all emotion that
she might see her duty clearly: "You could do that, but I never can.
Answer me this, Rose, and answer truly as you love me. If you had
been taken into a house, a friendless, penniless, forlorn girl, and
for years been heaped with benefits, trusted, taught, loved, and
made, oh, so happy! could you think it right to steal away
something that these good people valued very much? To have
them feel that you had been ungrateful, had deceived them, and
meant to thrust yourself into a high place not fit for you when they
had been generously helping you in other ways, far more than you
deserved. Could you then say as you do now, 'Be happy, and never
mind them'?"

Phebe held Rose by the shoulders now and searched her face so
keenly that the other shrank a little, for the black eyes were full of
fire and there was something almost grand about this girl who
seemed suddenly to have become a woman. There was no need for
words to answer the question so swiftly asked, for Rose put herself
in Phebe's place in the drawing of a breath, and her own pride
made her truthfully reply: "No I could not!"

"I knew you'd say that, and help me do my duty." And all the
coldness melted out of Phebe's manner as she hugged her little
mistress close, feeling the comfort of sympathy even through the
blunt sincerity of Rose's words.

"I will if I know how. Now, come and tell me all about it." And,
seating herself in the great chair which had often held them both,
Rose stretched out her hands as if glad and ready to give help of
any sort.

But Phebe would not take her accustomed place, for, as if coming
to confession, she knelt down upon the rug and, leaning on the arm
of the chair, told her love story in the simplest words.

"I never thought he cared for me until a little while ago. I fancied it
was you, and even when I knew he liked to hear me sing I
supposed it was because you helped, and so I did my best and was
glad you were to be a happy girl. But his eyes told the truth. Then I
saw what I had been doing and was frightened. He did not speak,
so I believed, what is quite true, that he felt I was not a fit wife for
him and would never ask me. It was right I was glad of it, yet I was
proud and, though I did not ask or hope for anything, I did want
him to see that I respected myself, remembered my duty, and could
do right as well as he. I kept away. I planned to go as soon as
possible and resolved that at this concert I would do so well, he
should not be ashamed of poor Phebe and her one gift."

"It was this that made you so strange, then, preferring to go alone
and refusing every little favor at our hands?" asked Rose, feeling
very sure now about the state of Phebe's heart.

"Yes, I wanted to do everything myself and not owe one jot of my
success, if I had any, to even the dearest friend I've got. It was bad
and foolish of me, and I was punished by the first dreadful failure.
I was so frightened, Rose! My breath was all gone, my eyes so
dizzy I could hardly see, and that great crowd of faces seemed so
near, I dared not look. If it had not been for the clock I never
should have gotten through, and when I did, not knowing in the
least how I'd sung, one look at your distressed face told me I'd
failed."

"But I smiled, Phebe indeed I did as sweetly as I could, for I was
sure it was only fright," protested Rose eagerly.

"So you did, but the smile was full of pity, not of pride, as I wanted
it to be, and I rushed into a dark place behind the organ, feeling
ready to kill myself. How angry and miserable I was! I set my
teeth, clenched my hands, and vowed that I would do well next
time or never sing another note. I was quite desperate when my
turn came, and felt as if I could do almost anything, for I
remembered that he was there. I'm not sure how it was, but it
seemed as if I was all voice, for I let myself go, trying to forget
everything except that two people must not be disappointed,
though I died when the song was done."

"Oh, Phebe, it was splendid! I nearly cried, I was so proud and glad
to see you do yourself justice at last."

"And he?" whispered Phebe, with her face half hidden on the arm
of the chair.

"Said not a word, but I saw his lips tremble and his eyes shine and
I knew he was the happiest creature there, because I was sure he
did think you fit to be his wife and did mean to speak very soon."

Phebe made no answer for a moment, seeming to forget the small
success in the greater one which followed and to comfort her sore
heart with the knowledge that Rose was right.

"He sent the flowers, he came for me, and, on the way home,
showed me how wrong I had been to doubt him for an hour. Don't
ask me to tell that part, but be sure I was the happiest creature in
the world then."

And Phebe hid her face again, all wet with tender tears that fell
soft and sudden as a summer shower.

Rose let them flow undisturbed while she silently caressed the bent
head, wondering, with a wistful look in her own wet eyes, what
this mysterious passion was which could so move, ennoble, and
beautify the beings whom it blessed.

An impertinent little clock upon the chimneypiece striking eleven
broke the silence and reminded Phebe that she could not indulge in
love dreams there. She started up, brushed off her tears, and said
resolutely: "That is enough for tonight. Go happily to bed, and
leave the troubles for tomorrow."

"But, Phebe, I must know what you said," cried Rose, like a child
defrauded of half its bedtime story.

"I said, 'No.'"

"Ah! But it will change to 'yes' by and by, I'm sure of that so I'll let
you go to dream of him. The Campbells are rather proud of being
descendants of Robert the Bruce, but they have common sense and
love you dearly, as you'll see tomorrow."

"Perhaps." And with a good night kiss, poor Phebe went away, to
lie awake till dawn.




Chapter 8 BREAKERS AHEAD

Anxious to smooth the way for Phebe, Rose was up betimes and
slipped into Aunt Plenty's room before the old lady had gotten her
cap on.

"Aunty, I've something pleasant to tell you, and while you listen,
I'll brush your hair, as you like to have me," she began, well aware
that the proposed process was a very soothing one.

"Yes, dear only don't be too particular, because I'm late and must
hurry down or Jane won't get things straight, and it does fidget me
to have the saltcellars uneven, the tea strainer forgotten, and your
uncle's paper not aired," returned Miss Plenty, briskly unrolling the
two gray curls she wore at her temples.

Then Rose, brushing away at the scanty back hair, led skillfully up
to the crisis of her tale by describing Phebe's panic and brave
efforts to conquer it; all about the flowers Archie sent her; and
how Steve forgot, and dear, thoughtful Archie took his place. So
far it went well and Aunt Plenty was full of interest, sympathy, and
approbation, but when Rose added, as if it was quite a matter of
course, "So, on the way home, he told her he loved her," a great
start twitched the gray locks out of her hands as the old lady turned
around, with the little curls standing erect, exclaiming, in
undisguised dismay: "Not seriously, Rose?"

"Yes, Aunty, very seriously. He never jokes about such things."

"Mercy on us! What shall we do about it?"

"Nothing, ma'am, but be as glad as we ought and congratulate him
as soon as she says 'yes.'?

"Do you mean to say she didn't accept at once?"

"She never will if we don't welcome her as kindly as if she
belonged to one of our best families, and I don't blame her."

"I'm glad the girl has so much sense. Of course we can't do
anything of the sort, and I'm surprised at Archie's forgetting what
he owes to the family in this rash manner. Give me my cap, child I
must speak to Alec at once." And Aunt Plenty twisted her hair into
a button at the back of her head with one energetic twirl.

"Do speak kindly, Aunty, and remember that it was not Phebe's
fault. She never thought of this till very lately and began at once to
prepare for going away," said Rose pleadingly.

"She ought to have gone long ago. I told Myra we should have
trouble somewhere as soon as I saw what a good-looking creature
she was, and here it is as bad as can be. Dear, dear! Why can't
young people have a little prudence?"

"I don't see that anyone need object if Uncle Jem and Aunt Jessie
approve, and I do think it will be very, very unkind to scold poor
Phebe for being well-bred, pretty, and good, after doing all we
could to make her so."

"Child, you don't understand these things yet, but you ought to feel
your duty toward your family and do all you can to keep the name
as honorable as it always has been. What do you suppose our
blessed ancestress Lady Marget would say to our oldest boy taking
a wife from the poorhouse?"

As she spoke, Miss Plenty looked up, almost apprehensively, at
one of the wooden-faced old portraits with which her room was
hung, as if asking pardon of the severe-nosed matron who stared
back at her from under the sort of blue dish cover which formed
her headgear.

"As Lady Marget died about two hundred years ago, I don't care a
pin what she would say, especially as she looks like a very
narrow-minded, haughty woman. But I do care very much what
Miss Plenty Campbell says, for she is a very sensible, generous,
discreet, and dear old lady who wouldn't hurt a fly, much less a
good and faithful girl who has been a sister to me. Would she?"
entreated Rose, knowing well that the elder aunt led all the rest
more or less.

But Miss Plenty had her cap on now and consequently felt herself
twice the woman she was without it, so she not only gave it a
somewhat belligerent air by setting it well up, but she shook her
head decidedly, smoothed down her stiff white apron, and stood up
as if ready for battle.

"I shall do my duty, Rose, and expect the same of others. Don't say
any more now I must turn the matter over in my mind, for it has
come upon me suddenly and needs serious consideration."

With which unusually solemn address she took up her keys and
trotted away, leaving her niece to follow with an anxious
countenance, uncertain whether her championship had done good
or ill to the cause she had at heart.

She was much cheered by the sound of Phebe's voice in the study,
for Rose was sure that if Uncle Alec was on their side all would be
well. But the clouds lowered again when they came in to breakfast,
for Phebe's heavy eyes and pale cheeks did not look encouraging,
while Dr. Alec was as sober as a judge and sent an inquiring
glance toward Rose now and then as if curious to discover how she
bore the news.

An uncomfortable meal, though all tried to seem as usual and
talked over last night's events with all the interest they could. But
the old peace was disturbed by a word, as a pebble thrown into a
quiet pool sends telltale circles rippling its surface far and wide.
Aunt Plenty, while "turning the subject over in her mind," also
seemed intent on upsetting everything she touched and made sad
havoc in her tea tray; Dr. Alec unsociably read his paper; Rose,
having salted instead of sugared her oatmeal, absently ate it,
feeling that the sweetness had gone out of everything; and Phebe,
after choking down a cup of tea and crumbling a roll, excused
herself and went away, sternly resolving not to be a bone of
contention to this beloved family.

As soon as the door was shut Rose pushed away her plate and,
going to Dr. Alec, she peeped over the paper with such an anxious
face that he put it down at once.

"Uncle, this is a serious matter, and we must take our stand at
once, for you are Phebe's guardian and I am her sister," began Rose
with pretty solemnity. "You have often been disappointed in me,"
she continued, "but I know I never shall be in you because you are
too wise and good to let any worldly pride or prudence spoil your
sympathy with Archie and our Phebe. You won't desert them, will
you?"

"Never!" answered Dr. Alec with gratifying energy.

"Thank you! Thank you!" cried Rose. "Now, if I have you and
Aunty on my side, I'm not afraid of anybody."

"Gently, gently, child. I don't intend to desert the lovers, but I
certainly shall advise them to consider well what they are about.
I'll own I am rather disappointed, because Archie is young to
decide his life in this way and Phebe's career seemed settled in
another fashion. Old people don't like to have their plans upset,
you know," he added more lightly, for Rose's face fell as he went
on.

"Old people shouldn't plan too much for the young ones, then. We
are very grateful, I'm sure, but we cannot always be disposed of in
the most prudent and sensible way, so don't set your hearts on little
arrangements of that sort, I beg," And Rose looked wondrous wise,
for she could not help suspecting even her best uncle of "plans" in
her behalf.

"You are quite right-we shouldn't, yet it is very hard to help it,"
confessed Dr. Alec with a conscious air, and, returning hastily to
the lovers, he added kindly: "I was much pleased with the
straightforward way in which Phebe came to me this morning and
told me all about it, as if I really was her guardian. She did not
own it in words, but it was perfectly evident that she loves Archie
with all her heart, yet, knowing the objections which will be made,
very sensibly and bravely proposes to go away at once and end the
matter as if that were possible, poor child." And the tenderhearted
man gave a sigh of sympathy that did Rose good to hear and
mollified her rising indignation at the bare idea of ending Phebe's
love affairs in such a summary way.

"You don't think she ought to go, I hope?"

"I think she will go."

"We must not let her."

"We have no right to keep her."

"Oh, Uncle, surely we have! Our Phebe, whom we all love so
much."

"You forget that she is a woman now, and we have no claim on
her. Because we've befriended her for years is the very reason we
should not make our benefits a burden, but leave her free, and if
she chooses to do this in spite of Archie, we must let her with a
Godspeed."

Before Rose could answer, Aunt Plenty spoke out like one having
authority, for old-fashioned ways were dear to her soul and she
thought even love affairs should be conducted with a proper regard
to the powers that be.

"The family must talk the matter over and decide what is best for
the children, who of course will listen to reason and do nothing ill
advised. For my part, I am quite upset by the news, but shall not
commit myself till I've seen Jessie and the boy. Jane, clear away,
and bring me the hot water."

That ended the morning conference. And, leaving the old lady to
soothe her mind by polishing spoons and washing cups, Rose went
away to find Phebe while the doctor retired to laugh over the
downfall of brother Mac's matchmaking schemes.

The Campbells did not gossip about their concerns in public, but
being a very united family, it had long been the custom to "talk
over" any interesting event which occurred to any member thereof,
and everyone gave his or her opinion, advice, or censure with the
utmost candor. Therefore the first engagement, if such it could be
called, created a great sensation, among the aunts especially, and
they were in as much of a flutter as a flock of maternal birds when
their young begin to hop out of the nest. So at all hours the
excellent ladies were seen excitedly nodding their caps together as
they discussed the affair in all its bearings, without ever arriving at
any unanimous decision.

The boys took it much more calmly. Mac was the only one who
came out strongly in Archie's favor. Charlie thought the Chief
ought to do better and called Phebe "a siren who had bewitched
the sage youth." Steve was scandalized and delivered long orations
upon one's duty to society, keeping the old name up, and the
danger of mésalliances, while all the time he secretly sympathized
with Archie, being much smitten with Kitty Van himself. Will and
Geordie, unfortunately home for the holidays, considered it "a jolly
lark," and little Jamie nearly drove his elder brother distracted by
curious inquiries as to "how folks felt when they were in love."

Uncle Mac's dismay was so comical that it kept Dr. Alec in good
spirits, for he alone knew how deep was the deluded man's chagrin
at the failure of the little plot which he fancied was prospering
finely.

"I'll never set my heart on anything of the sort again, and the young
rascals may marry whom they like. I'm prepared for anything now--
so if Steve brings home the washerwoman's daughter, and Mac
runs away with our pretty chambermaid, I shall say, 'Bless you my
children,' with mournful resignation, for, upon my soul, that is all
that's left for a modern parent to do."

With which tragic burst, poor Uncle Mac washed his hands of the
whole affair and buried himself in the countinghouse while the
storm raged.

About this time Archie might have echoed Rose's childish wish,
that she had not quite so many aunts, for the tongues of those
interested relatives made sad havoc with his little romance and
caused him to long fervently for a desert island where he could
woo and win his love in delicious peace. That nothing of the sort
was possible soon became evident, since every word uttered only
confirmed Phebe's resolution to go away and proved to Rose how
mistaken she had been in believing that she could bring everyone
to her way of thinking.

Prejudices are unmanageable things, and the good aunts, like most
women, possessed a plentiful supply, so Rose found it like beating
her head against a wall to try and convince them that Archie was
wise in loving poor Phebe. His mother, who had hoped to have
Rose for her daughter not because of her fortune, but the tender
affection she felt for her put away her disappointment without a
word and welcomed Phebe as kindly as she could for her boy's
sake. But the girl felt the truth with the quickness of a nature made
sensitive by love and clung to her resolve all the more tenaciously,
though grateful for the motherly words that would have been so
sweet if genuine happiness had prompted them.

Aunt Jane called it romantic nonsense and advised strong
measures "kind, but firm, Jessie." Aunt Clara was sadly distressed
about "what people would say" if one of "our boys" married a
nobody's daughter. And Aunt Myra not only seconded her views by
painting portraits of Phebe's unknown relations in the darkest
colors but uttered direful prophecies regarding the disreputable
beings who would start up in swarms the moment the girl made a
good match.

These suggestions so wrought upon Aunt Plenty that she turned a
deaf ear to the benevolent emotions native to her breast and, taking
refuge behind "our blessed ancestress, Lady Marget," refused to
sanction any engagement which could bring discredit upon the
stainless name which was her pride.

So it all ended where it began, for Archie steadily refused to listen
to anyone but Phebe, and she as steadily reiterated her bitter "No!"
fortifying herself half unconsciously with the hope that, by and by,
when she had won a name, fate might be kinder.

While the rest talked, she had been working, for every hour
showed her that her instinct had been a true one and pride would
not let her stay, though love pleaded eloquently. So, after a
Christmas anything but merry, Phebe packed her trunks, rich in
gifts from those who generously gave her all but the one thing she
desired, and, with a pocketful of letters to people who could
further her plans, she went away to seek her fortune, with a brave
face and a very heavy heart.

"Write often, and let me know all you do, my Phebe, and
remember I shall never be contented till you come back again,"
whispered Rose, clinging to her till the last.

"She will come back, for in a year I'm going to bring her home,
please God," said Archie, pale with the pain of parting but as
resolute as she.

"I'll earn my welcome then perhaps it will be easier for them to
give and me to receive it," answered Phebe, with a backward
glance at the group of caps in the hall as she went down the steps
on Dr. Alec's arm.

"You earned it long ago, and it is always waiting for you while I
am here. Remember that, and God bless you, my good girl," he
said, with a paternal kiss that warmed her heart.

"I never shall forget it!" And Phebe never did.




Chapter 9 NEW YEAR'S CALLS

"Now I'm going to turn over a new leaf, as I promised. I wonder
what I shall find on the next page?" said Rose, coming down on
New Year's morning with a serious face and a thick letter in her
hand.

"Tired of frivolity, my dear?" asked her uncle, pausing in his walk
up and down the hall to glance at her with a quick, bright look she
liked to bring into his eyes.

"No, sir, and that's the sad part of it, but I've made up my mind to
stop while I can because I'm sure it is not good for me. I've had
some very sober thoughts lately, for since my Phebe went away
I've had no heart for gaiety, so it is a good place to stop and make a
fresh start," answered Rose, taking his arm and walking on with
him.

"An excellent time! Now, how are you going to fill the aching
void?" he asked, well pleased.

"By trying to be as unselfish, brave, and good as she is." And Rose
held the letter against her bosom with a tender touch, for Phebe's
strength had inspired her with a desire to be as self-reliant. "I'm
going to set about living in earnest, as she has; though I think it
will be harder for me than for her, because she stands alone and
has a career marked out for her. I'm nothing but a commonplace
sort of girl, with no end of relations to be consulted every time I
wink and a dreadful fortune hanging like a millstone round my
neck to weigh me down if I try to fly. It is a hard case, Uncle, and I
get low in my mind when I think about it," sighed Rose, oppressed
with her blessings.

"Afflicted child! How can I relieve you?" And there was
amusement as well as sympathy in Dr. Alec's face as he patted the
hand upon his arm.

"Please don't laugh, for I really am trying to be good. In the first
place, help me to wean myself from foolish pleasures and show me
how to occupy my thoughts and time so that I may not idle about
and dream instead of doing great things."

"Good! We'll begin at once. Come to town with me this morning
and see your houses. They are all ready, and Mrs. Gardner has half
a dozen poor souls waiting to go in as soon as you give the word,"
answered the doctor promptly, glad to get his girl back again,
though not surprised that she still looked with regretful eyes at the
Vanity Fair, always so enticing when we are young.

"I'll give it today, and make the new year a happy one to those poor
souls at least. I'm so sorry that it's impossible for me to go with
you, but you know I must help Aunty Plen receive. We haven't
been here for so long that she had set her heart on having a grand
time today, and I particularly want to please her because I have not
been as amiable as I ought lately. I really couldn't forgive her for
siding against Phebe."

"She did what she thought was right, so we must not blame her. I
am going to make my New Year's calls today and, as my friends
live down that way, I'll get the list of names from Mrs. G. and tell
the poor ladies, with Miss Campbell's compliments, that their new
home is ready. Shall I?"

"Yes, Uncle, but take all the credit to yourself, for I never should
have thought of it if you had not proposed the plan."

"Bless your heart! I'm only your agent, and suggest now and then.
I've nothing to offer but advice, so I lavish that on all occasions."

"You have nothing because you've given your substance all away
as generously as you do your advice. Never mind you shall never
come to want while I live. I'll save enough for us two, though I do
make 'ducks and drakes of my fortune.'"

Dr. Alec laughed at the toss of the head with which she quoted
Charlie's offensive words, then offered to take the letter, saying, as
he looked at his watch: "I'll post that for you in time for the early
mail. I like a run before breakfast."

But Rose held her letter fast, dimpling with sudden smiles, half
merry and half shy.

"No thank you, sir. Archie likes to do that, and never fails to call
for all I write. He gets a peep at Phebe's in return and I cheer him
up a bit, for, though he says nothing, he has a hard time of it, poor
fellow."

"How many letters in five days?"

"Four, sir, to me. She doesn't write to him, Uncle."

"As yet. Well, you show hers, so it's all right and you are a set of
sentimental youngsters." And the doctor walked away, looking as
if he enjoyed the sentiment as much as any of them.

Old Miss Campbell was nearly as great a favorite as young Miss
Campbell, so a succession of black coats and white gloves flowed
in and out of the hospitable mansion pretty steadily all day. The
clan was out in great force, and came by in installments to pay
their duty to Aunt Plenty and wish the compliments of the season
to "our cousin." Archie appeared first, looking sad but steadfast,
and went away with Phebe's letter in his left breast pocket feeling
that life was still endurable, though his love was torn from him, for
Rose had many comfortable things to say and read him delicious
bits from the voluminous correspondence lately begun.

Hardly was he gone when Will and Geordie came marching in,
looking as fine as gray uniforms with much scarlet piping could
make them and feeling peculiarly important, as this was their first
essay in New Year's call-making. Brief was their stay, for they
planned to visit every friend they had, and Rose could not help
laughing at the droll mixture of manly dignity and boyish delight
with which they drove off in their own carriage, both as erect as
ramrods, arms folded, and caps stuck at exactly the same angle on
each blond head.

"Here comes the other couple Steve, in full feather, with a big
bouquet for Kitty, and poor Mac, looking like a gentleman and
feeling like a martyr, I'm sure," said Rose, watching one carriage
turn in as the other turned out of the great gate, with its arch of
holly, ivy, and evergreen.

"Here he is. I've got him in tow for the day and want you to cheer
him up with a word of praise, for he came without a struggle
though planning to bolt somewhere with Uncle," cried Steve,
falling back to display his brother, who came in looking
remarkably well in his state and festival array, for polishing had
begun to tell.

"A happy New Year, Aunty, same to you, Cousin, and best wishes
for as many more as you deserve," said Mac, heeding Steve no
more than if he had been a fly as he gave the old lady a hearty kiss
and offered Rose a quaint little nosegay of pansies.

"Heart's-ease do you think I need it?" she asked, looking up with
sudden sobriety.

"We all do. Could I give you anything better on a day like this?"

"No thank you very much." And a sudden dew came to Rose's
eyes, for, though often blunt in speech, when Mac did do a tender
thing, it always touched her because he seemed to understand her
moods so well.

"Has Archie been here? He said he shouldn't go anywhere else, but
I hope you talked that nonsense out of his head," said Steve,
settling his tie before the mirror.

"Yes, dear, he came but looked so out of spirits I really felt
reproached. Rose cheered him up a little, but I don't believe he will
feel equal to making calls and I hope he won't, for his face tells the
whole story much too plainly," answered Aunty Plenty, rustling
about her bountiful table in her richest black silk with all her old
lace on.

"Oh, he'll get over it in a month or two, and Phebe will soon find
another lover, so don't be worried about him, Aunty," said Steve,
with the air of a man who knew all about that sort of thing.

"If Archie does forget, I shall despise him, and I know Phebe won't
try to find another lover, though she'll probably have them she is so
sweet and good!" cried Rose indignantly, for, having taken the pair
under her protection, she defended them valiantly.

"Then you'd have Arch hope against hope and never give up,
would you?" asked Mac, putting on his glasses to survey the thin
boots which were his especial abomination.

"Yes, I would, for a lover is not worth having if he's not in
earnest!"

"Exactly. So you'd like them to wait and work and keep on loving
till they made you relent or plainly proved that it was no use."

"If they were good as well as constant, I think I should relent in
time."

"I'll mention that to Pemberton, for he seemed to be hit the hardest,
and a ray of hope will do him good, whether he is equal to the ten
years' wait or not," put in Steve, who liked to rally Rose about her
lovers.

"I'll never forgive you if you say a word to anyone. It is only Mac's
odd way of asking questions, and I ought not to answer them. You
will talk about such things and I can't stop you, but I don't like it,"
said Rose, much annoyed.

"Poor little Penelope! She shall not be teased about her suitors but
left in peace till her Ulysses comes home," said Mac, sitting down
to read the mottoes sticking out of certain fanciful bonbons on the
table.

"It is this fuss about Archie which has demoralized us all. Even the
owl waked up and hasn't got over the excitement yet, you see. He's
had no experience, poor fellow, so he doesn't know how to
behave," observed Steve, regarding his bouquet with tender
interest.

"That's true, and I asked for information because I may be in love
myself someday and all this will be useful, don't you see?"

"You in love!" And Steve could not restrain a laugh at the idea of
the bookworm a slave to the tender passion.

Quite unruffled, Mac leaned his chin in both hands, regarding
them with a meditative eye as he answered in his whimsical way:
"Why not? I intend to study love as well as medicine, for it is one
of the most mysterious and remarkable diseases that afflict
mankind, and the best way to understand it is to have it. I may
catch it someday, and then I should like to know how to treat and
cure it."

"If you take it as badly as you did measles and whooping cough, it
will go hard with you, old fellow," said Steve, much amused with
the fancy.

"I want it to. No great experience comes or goes easily, and this is
the greatest we can know, I believe, except death."

Something in Mac's quiet tone and thoughtful eyes made Rose
look at him in surprise, for she had never heard him speak in that
way before. Steve also stared for an instant, equally amazed, then
said below his breath, with an air of mock anxiety: "He's been
catching something at the hospital, typhoid probably, and is
beginning to wander. I'll take him quietly away before he gets any
wilder. Come, old lunatic, we must be off."

"Don't be alarmed. I'm all right and much obliged for your advice,
for I fancy I shall be a desperate lover when my time comes, if it
ever does. You don't think it impossible, do you?" And Mac put the
question so soberly that there was a general smile.

"Certainly not you'll be a regular Douglas, tender and true,"
answered Rose, wondering what queer question would come next.

"Thank you. The fact is, I've been with Archie so much in his
trouble lately that I've gotten interested in this matter and very
naturally want to investigate the subject as every rational man
must, sooner or later, that's all. Now, Steve, I'm ready." And Mac
got up as if the lesson was over.

"My dear, that boy is either a fool or a genius, and I'm sure I should
be glad to know which," said Aunt Plenty, putting her bonbons to
rights with a puzzled shake of her best cap.

"Time will show, but I incline to think that he is not a fool by any
means," answered the girl, pulling a cluster of white roses out of
her bosom to make room for the pansies, though they did not suit
the blue gown half so well.

Just then Aunt Jessie came in to help them receive, with Jamie to
make himself generally useful, which he proceeded to do by
hovering around the table like a fly about a honey pot when not
flattening his nose against the windowpanes to announce excitedly,
"Here's another man coming up the drive!"

Charlie arrived next in his most sunshiny humor, for anything
social and festive was his delight, and when in this mood the
Prince was quite irresistible. He brought a pretty bracelet for Rose
and was graciously allowed to put it on while she chid him gently
for his extravagance.

"I am only following your example, for you know 'nothing is too
good for those we love, and giving away is the best thing one can
do,'" he retorted, quoting words of her own.

"I wish you would follow my example in some other things as well
as you do in this," said Rose soberly as Aunt Plenty called him to
come and see if the punch was right.

"Must conform to the customs of society. Aunty's heart would be
broken if we did not drink her health in the good old fashion. But
don't be alarmed I've a strong head of my own, and that's lucky, for
I shall need it before I get through," laughed Charlie, showing a
long list as he turned away to gratify the old lady with all sorts of
merry and affectionate compliments as the glasses touched.

Rose did feel rather alarmed, for if he drank the health of all the
owners of those names, she felt sure that Charlie would need a
very strong head indeed. It was hard to say anything then and there
without seeming disrespect to Aunt Plenty, yet she longed to
remind her cousin of the example she tried to set him in this
respect, for Rose never touched wine, and the boys knew it. She
was thoughtfully turning the bracelet, with its pretty device of
turquoise forget-me-nots, when the giver came back to her, still
bubbling over with good spirits.

"Dear little saint, you look as if you'd like to smash all the punch
bowls in the city, and save us jolly young fellows from tomorrow's
headache."

"I should, for such headaches sometimes end in heartaches, I'm
afraid. Dear Charlie, don't be angry, but you know better than I that
this is a dangerous day for such as you so do be careful for my
sake," she added, with an unwonted touch of tenderness in her
voice, for, looking at the gallant figure before her, it was
impossible to repress the womanly longing to keep it always as
brave and blithe as now.

Charlie saw that new softness in the eyes that never looked
unkindly on him, fancied that it meant more than it did, and, with a
sudden fervor in his own voice, answered quickly: "My darling, I
will!"

The glow which had risen to his face was reflected in hers, for at
that moment it seemed as if it would be possible to love this
cousin who was so willing to be led by her and so much needed
some helpful influence to make a noble man of him. The thought
came and went like a flash, but gave her a quick heartthrob, as if
the old affection was trembling on the verge of some warmer
sentiment, and left her with a sense of responsibility never felt
before. Obeying the impulse, she said, with a pretty blending of
earnestness and playfulness, "If I wear the bracelet to remember
you by, you must wear this to remind you of your promise."

"And you," whispered Charlie, bending his head to kiss the hands
that put a little white rose in his buttonhole.

Just at that most interesting moment they became aware of an
arrival in the front drawing room, whither Aunt Plenty had
discreetly retired. Rose felt grateful for the interruption, because,
not being at all sure of the state of her heart as yet, she was afraid
of letting a sudden impulse lead her too far. But Charlie, conscious
that a very propitious instant had been spoiled, regarded the
newcomer with anything but a benignant expression of
countenance and, whispering, "Good-bye, my Rose, I shall look in
this evening to see how you are after the fatigues of the day," he
went away, with such a cool nod to poor Fun See that the amiable
Asiatic thought he must have mortally offended him.

Rose had little leisure to analyze the new emotions of which she
was conscious, for Mr. Tokio came up at once to make his
compliments with a comical mingling of Chinese courtesy and
American awkwardness, and before he had got his hat on Jamie
shouted with admiring energy: "Here's another! Oh, such a swell!"

They now came thick and fast for many hours, and the ladies stood
bravely at their posts till late into the evening. Then Aunt Jessie
went home, escorted by a very sleepy little son, and Aunt Plenty
retired to bed, used up. Dr. Alec had returned in good season, for
his friends were not fashionable ones, but Aunt Myra had sent up
for him in hot haste and he had good-naturedly obeyed the
summons. In fact, he was quite used to them now, for Mrs. Myra,
having tried a variety of dangerous diseases, had finally decided
upon heart complaint as the one most likely to keep her friends in
a chronic state of anxiety and was continually sending word that
she was dying. One gets used to palpitations as well as everything
else, so the doctor felt no alarm but always went and prescribed
some harmless remedy with the most amiable sobriety and
patience.

Rose was tired but not sleepy and wanted to think over several
things, so instead of going to bed she sat down before the open fire
in the study to wait for her uncle and perhaps Charlie, though she
did not expect him so late.

Aunt Myra's palpitations must have been unusually severe, for the
clock struck twelve before Dr. Alec came, and Rose was preparing
to end her reverie when the sound of someone fumbling at the hall
door made her jump up, saying to herself: "Poor man! His hands
are so cold he can't get his latchkey in. Is that you, Uncle?" she
added, running to admit him, for Jane was slow and the night as
bitter as it was brilliant.

A voice answered, "Yes." And as the door swung open, in walked,
not Dr. Alec, but Charlie, who immediately took one of the hall
chairs and sat there with his hat on, rubbing his gloveless hands
and blinking as if the light dazzled him, as he said in a rapid,
abrupt sort of tone, "I told you I'd come left the fellows keeping it
up gloriously going to see the old year out, you know. But I
promised never break my word and here I am. Angel in blue, did
you slay your thousands?"

"Hush! The waiters are still about. Come to the study fire and
warm yourself, you must be frozen," said Rose, going before to roll
up the easy chair.

"Not at all never warmer looks very comfortable, though. Where's
Uncle?" asked Charlie, following with his hat still on, his hands in
his pockets, and his eye fixed steadily on the bright head in front of
him.

"Aunt Myra sent for him, and I was waiting up to see how she
was," answered Rose, busily mending the fire.

Charlie laughed and sat down upon a corner of the library table.
"Poor old soul! What a pity she doesn't die before he is quite worn
out. A little too much ether some of these times would send her off
quite comfortably, you know."

"Don't speak in that way. Uncle says imaginary troubles are often
as hard to bear as real ones," said Rose, turning around displeased.

Till now she had not fairly looked at him, for recollections of the
morning made her a little shy. His attitude and appearance
surprised her as much as his words, and the quick change in her
face seemed to remind him of his manners. Getting up, he hastily
took off his hat and stood looking at her with a curiously fixed yet
absent look as he said in the same rapid, abrupt way, as if, when
once started, he found it hard to stop, "I beg pardon only joking
very bad taste I know, and won't do it again. The heat of the room
makes me a little dizzy, and I think I got a chill coming out. It is
cold I am frozen, I daresay though I drove like the devil."

"Not that bad horse of yours, I hope? I know it is dangerous, so late
and alone," said Rose, shrinking behind the big chair as Charlie
approached the fire, carefully avoiding a footstool in his way.

"Danger is exciting that's why I like it. No man ever called me a
coward let him try it once. I never give in and that horse shall not
conquer me. I'll break his neck, if he breaks my spirit doing it. No I
don't mean that never mind it's all right," and Charlie laughed in a
way that troubled her, because there was no mirth in it.

"Have you had a pleasant day?" asked Rose, looking at him
intently as he stood pondering over the cigar and match which he
held, as if doubtful which to strike and which to smoke.

"Day? Oh, yes, capital. About two thousand calls, and a nice little
supper at the Club. Randal can't sing any more than a crow, but I
left him with a glass of champagne upside down, trying to give
them my old favorite:

"'Tis better to laugh than be sighing,"

and Charlie burst forth in that bacchanalian melody at the top of
his voice, waving an allumette holder over his head to represent
Randal's inverted wineglass.

"Hush! You'll wake Aunty," cried Rose in a tone so commanding
that he broke off in the middle of a roulade to stare at her with a
blank look as he said apologetically, "I was merely showing how it
should be done. Don't be angry, dearest look at me as you did this
morning, and I'll swear never to sing another note if you say so. I'm
only a little gay we drank your health handsomely, and they all
congratulated me. Told 'em it wasn't out yet. Stop, though I didn't
mean to mention that. No matter I'm always in a scrape, but you
always forgive me in the sweetest way. Do it now, and don't be
angry, little darling." And, dropping the vase, he went toward her
with a sudden excitement that made her shrink behind the chair.

She was not angry, but shocked and frightened, for she knew now
what the matter was and grew so pale, he saw it and asked pardon
before she could utter a rebuke.

"We'll talk of that tomorrow. It is very late. Go home now, please,
before Uncle comes," she said, trying to speak naturally yet
betraying her distress by the tremor of her voice and the sad
anxiety in her eyes.

"Yes, yes, I will go you are tired I'll make it all right tomorrow."
And as if the sound of his uncle's name steadied him for an instant,
Charlie made for the door with an unevenness of gait which would
have told the shameful truth if his words had not already done so.
Before he reached it, however, the sound of wheels arrested him
and, leaning against the wall, he listened with a look of dismay
mingled with amusement creeping over his face. "Brutus has
bolted now I am in a fix. Can't walk home with this horrid
dizziness in my head. It's the cold, Rose, nothing else, I do assure
you, and a chill yes, a chill. See here! Let one of those fellows
there lend me an arm no use to go after that brute. Won't Mother
be frightened though when he gets home?" And with that empty
laugh again, he fumbled for the door handle.

"No, no don't let them see you! Don't let anyone know! Stay here
till Uncle comes, and he'll take care of you. Oh, Charlie! How
could you do it! How could you when you promised?" And,
forgetting fear in the sudden sense of shame and anguish that came
over her, Rose ran to him, caught his hand from the lock, and
turned the key; then, as if she could not bear to see him standing
there with that vacant smile on his lips, she dropped into a chair
and covered up her face.

The cry, the act, and, more than all, the sight of the bowed head
would have sobered poor Charlie if it had not been too late. He
looked about the room with a vague, despairing look, as if to find
reason fast slipping from his control, but heat and cold, excitement
and reckless pledging of many healths had done their work too
well to make instant sobriety possible, and owning his defeat with
a groan, he turned away and threw himself face-downward on the
sofa, one of the saddest sights the new year looked upon as it came
in.

As she sat there with hidden eyes, Rose felt that something dear to
her was dead forever. The ideal, which all women cherish, look
for, and too often think they have found when love glorifies a
mortal man, is hard to give up, especially when it comes in the
likeness of the first lover who touches a young girl's heart. Rose
had just begun to feel that perhaps this cousin, despite his faults,
might yet become the hero that he sometimes looked, and the
thought that she might be his inspiration was growing sweet to her,
although she had not entertained it until very lately. Alas, how
short the tender dream had been, how rude the awakening! How
impossible it would be ever again to surround that fallen figure
with all the romance of an innocent fancy or gift it with the high
attributes beloved by a noble nature!

Breathing heavily in the sudden sleep that kindly brought a brief
oblivion of himself, he lay with flushed cheeks, disordered hair,
and at his feet the little rose that never would be fresh and fair
again a pitiful contrast now to the brave, blithe young man who
went so gaily out that morning to be so ignominiously overthrown
at night.

Many girls would have made light of a trespass so readily forgiven
by the world, but Rose had not yet learned to offer temptation with
a smile and shut her eyes to the weakness that makes a man a
brute. It always grieved or disgusted her to see it in others, and
now it was very terrible to have it brought so near not in its worst
form, by any means, but bad enough to wring her heart with shame
and sorrow and fill her mind with dark forebodings for the future.
So she could only sit mourning for the Charlie that might have
been while watching the Charlie that was with an ache in her heart
which found no relief till, putting her hands there as if to ease the
pain, they touched the pansies, faded but still showing gold among
the somber purple, and then two great tears dropped on them as
she sighed: "Ah, me! I do need heart's-ease sooner than I thought!"

Her uncle's step made her spring up and unlock the door, showing
him such an altered face that he stopped short, ejaculating in
dismay, "Good heavens, child! What's the matter?" adding, as she
pointed to the sofa in pathetic silence, "Is he hurt? ill? dead?"

"No, Uncle, he is--" She could not utter the ugly word but
whispered with a sob in her throat, "Be kind to him," and fled
away to her own room, feeling as if a great disgrace had fallen on
the house.




Chapter 10 THE SAD AND SOBER PART

"How will he look? What will he say? Can anything make us
forget and be happy again?" were the first questions Rose asked
herself as soon as she woke from the brief sleep which followed a
long, sad vigil. It seemed as if the whole world must be changed
because a trouble darkened it for her. She was too young yet to
know how possible it is to forgive much greater sins than this,
forget far heavier disappointments, outlive higher hopes, and bury
loves compared to which hers was but a girlish fancy. She wished
it had not been so bright a day, wondered how her birds could sing
with such shrill gaiety, put no ribbon in her hair, and said, as she
looked at the reflection of her own tired face in the glass, "Poor
thing! You thought the new leaf would have something pleasant on
it. The story has been very sweet and easy to read so far, but the
sad and sober part is coming now."

A tap at the door reminded her that, in spite of her afflictions,
breakfast must be eaten, and the sudden thought that Charlie might
still be in the house made her hurry to the door, to find Dr. Alec
waiting for her with his morning smile. She drew him in and
whispered anxiously, as if someone lay dangerously ill nearby, "Is
he better, Uncle? Tell me all about it I can bear it now."

Some men would have smiled at her innocent distress and told her
this was only what was to be expected and endured, but Dr. Alec
believed in the pure instincts that make youth beautiful, desired to
keep them true, and hoped his girl would never learn to look
unmoved by pain and pity upon any human being vanquished by a
vice, no matter how trivial it seemed, how venial it was held. So
his face grew grave, though his voice was cheerful as he answered:
"All right, I daresay, by this time, for sleep is the best medicine in
such cases. I took him home last night, and no one knows he came
but you and I."

"No one ever shall. How did you do it, Uncle?"

"Just slipped out of the long study window and got him cannily off,
for the air and motion, after a dash of cold water, brought him
around, and he was glad to be safely landed at home. His rooms
are below, you know, so no one was disturbed, and I left him
sleeping nicely."

"Thank you so much," sighed Rose. "And Brutus? Weren't they
frightened when he got back alone?"

"Not at all. The sagacious beast went quietly to the stable, and the
sleepy groom asked no questions, for Charlie often sends the horse
round by himself when it is late or stormy. Rest easy, dear no eye
but ours saw the poor lad come and go, and we'll forgive it for
love's sake."

"Yes, but not forget it. I never can, and he will never be again to
me the Charlie I've been so proud and fond of all these years. Oh,
Uncle, such a pity! Such a pity!"

"Don't break your tender heart about it, child, for it is not
incurable, thank God! I don't make light of it, but I am sure that
under better influences Charlie will redeem himself because his
impulses are good and this his only vice. I can hardly blame him
for what he is, because his mother did the harm. I declare to you,
Rose, I sometimes feel as if I must break out against that woman
and thunder in her ears that she is ruining the immortal soul for
which she is responsible to heaven!"

Dr. Alec seldom spoke in this way, and when he did it was rather
awful, for his indignation was of the righteous sort and such
thunder often rouses up a drowsy soul when sunshine has no
effect. Rose liked it, and sincerely wished Aunt Clara had been
there to get the benefit of the outbreak, for she needed just such an
awakening from the self-indulgent dream in which she lived.

"Do it, and save Charlie before it is too late!" she cried, kindling
herself as she watched him, for he looked like a roused lion as he
walked about the room with his hand clenched and a spark in his
eye, evidently in desperate earnest and ready to do almost
anything.

"Will you help?" he asked, stopping suddenly with a look that
made her stand up straight and strong as she answered with an
eager voice: "I will."

"Then don't love him yet."

That startled her, but she asked steadily, though her heart began to
beat and her color to come: "Why not?"

"Firstly, because no woman should give her happiness into the
keeping of a man without fixed principles; secondly, because the
hope of being worthy of you will help him more than any prayers
or preaching of mine. Thirdly, because it will need all our wit and
patience to undo the work of nearly four and twenty years. You
understand what I mean?"

"Yes, sir."

"Can you say 'no' when he asks you to say 'yes' and wait a little for
your happiness?"

"I can."

"And will you?"

"I will."

"Then I'm satisfied, and a great weight taken off my heart. I can't
help seeing what goes on, or trembling when I think of you setting
sail with no better pilot than poor Charlie. Now you answer as I
hoped you would, and I am proud of my girl!"

They had been standing with the width of the room between them,
Dr. Alec looking very much like a commander issuing orders,
Rose like a well-drilled private obediently receiving them, and
both wore the air of soldiers getting ready for a battle, with the
bracing of nerves and quickening of the blood brave souls feel as
they put on their armor. At the last words he went to her, brushed
back the hair, and kissed her on the forehead with a tender sort of
gravity and a look that made her feel as if he had endowed her
with the Victoria Cross for courage on the field.

No more was said then, for Aunt Plenty called them down and the
day's duties began. But that brief talk showed Rose what to do and
fitted her to do it, for it set her to thinking of the duty one owes
one's self in loving as in all the other great passions or experiences
which make or mar a life.

She had plenty of time for quiet meditation that day because
everyone was resting after yesterday's festivity, and she sat in her
little room planning out a new year so full of good works, grand
successes, and beautiful romances that if it could have been
realized, the Millennium would have begun. It was a great comfort
to her, however, and lightened the long hours haunted by a secret
desire to know when Charlie would come and a secret fear of the
first meeting. She was sure he would be bowed down with
humiliation and repentance, and a struggle took place in her mind
between the pity she could not help feeling and the disapprobation
she ought to show. She decided to be gentle, but very frank; to
reprove, but also to console; and to try to improve the softened
moment by inspiring the culprit with a wish for all the virtues
which make a perfect man.

The fond delusion grew quite absorbing, and her mind was full of
it as she sat watching the sun set from her western window and
admiring with dreamy eyes the fine effect of the distant hills clear
and dark against a daffodil sky when the bang of a door made her
sit suddenly erect in her low chair and say with a catch in her
breath: "He's coming! I must remember what I promised Uncle and
be very firm."

Usually Charlie announced his approach with music of some sort.
Now he neither whistled, hummed, nor sang, but came so quietly
Rose was sure that he dreaded this meeting as much as she did
and, compassionating his natural confusion, did not look around as
the steps drew near. She thought perhaps he would go down upon
his knees, as he used to after a boyish offense, but hoped not, for
too much humility distressed her, so she waited for the first
demonstration anxiously.

It was rather a shock when it came, however, for a great nosegay
dropped into her lap and a voice, bold and gay as usual, said
lightly: "Here she is, as pretty and pensive as you please. Is the
world hollow, our doll stuffed with sawdust, and do we want to go
into a nunnery today, Cousin?"

Rose was so taken aback by this unexpected coolness that the
flowers lay unnoticed as she looked up with a face so full of
surprise, reproach, and something like shame that it was
impossible to mistake its meaning. Charlie did not, and had the
grace to redden deeply, and his eyes fell as he said quickly, though
in the same light tone: "I humbly apologize for coming so late last
night. Don't be hard upon me, Cousin. You know America expects
every man to do his duty on New Year's Day."

"I am tired of forgiving! You make and break promises as easily as
you did years ago, and I shall never ask you for another," answered
Rose, putting the bouquet away, for the apology did not satisfy her
and she would not be bribed to silence.

"But, my dear girl, you are so very exacting, so peculiar in your
notions, and so angry about trifles that a poor fellow can't please
you, try as he will," began Charlie, ill at ease, but too proud to
show half the penitence he felt, not so much for the fault as for her
discovery of it.

"I am not angry I am grieved and disappointed, for I expect every
man to do his duty in another way and keep his word to the
uttermost, as I try to do. If that is exacting, I'm sorry, and won't
trouble you with my old-fashioned notions anymore."

"Bless my soul! What a rout about nothing! I own that I forgot I
know I acted like a fool and I beg pardon. What more can I do?"

"Act like a man, and never let me be so terribly ashamed of you
again as I was last night." And Rose gave a little shiver as she
thought of it.

That involuntary act hurt Charlie more than her words, and it was
his turn now to feel "terribly ashamed," for the events of the
previous evening were very hazy in his mind and fear magnified
them greatly. Turning sharply away, he went and stood by the fire,
quite at a loss how to make his peace this time, because Rose was
so unlike herself. Usually a word of excuse sufficed, and she
seemed glad to pardon and forget; now, though very quiet, there
was something almost stern about her that surprised and daunted
him, for how could he know that all the while her pitiful heart was
pleading for him and the very effort to control it made her a little
hard and cold?

As he stood there, restlessly fingering the ornaments upon the
chimneypiece, his eye brightened suddenly and, taking up the
pretty bracelet lying there, he went slowly back to her, saying in a
tone that was humble and serious enough now: "I will act like a
man, and you shall never be ashamed again. Only be kind to me.
Let me put this on, and promise afresh this time I swear I'll keep it.
Won't you trust me, Rose?"

It was very hard to resist the pleading voice and eyes, for this
humility was dangerous; and, but for Uncle Alec, Rose would have
answered "yes." The blue forget-me-nots reminded her of her own
promise, and she kept it with difficulty now, to be glad always
afterward. Putting back the offered trinket with a gentle touch, she
said firmly, though she dared not look up into the anxious face
bending toward her: "No, Charlie I can't wear it. My hands must be
free if I'm to help you as I ought. I will be kind, I will trust you, but
don't swear anything, only try to resist temptation, and we'll all
stand by you."

Charlie did not like that and lost the ground he had gained by
saying impetuously: "I don't want anyone but you to stand by me,
and I must be sure you won't desert me, else, while I'm mortifying
soul and body to please you, some stranger will come and steal
your heart away from me. I couldn't bear that, so I give you fair
warning, in such a case I'll break the bargain, and go straight to the
devil."

The last sentence spoiled it all, for it was both masterful and
defiant. Rose had the Campbell spirit in her, though it seldom
showed; as yet she valued her liberty more than any love offered
her, and she resented the authority he assumed too soon resented it
all the more warmly because of the effort she was making to
reinstate her hero, who would insist on being a very faulty and
ungrateful man. She rose straight out of her chair, saying with a
look and tone which rather startled her hearer and convinced him
that she was no longer a tenderhearted child but a woman with a
will of her own and a spirit as proud and fiery as any of her race:
"My heart is my own, to dispose of as I please. Don't shut yourself
out of it by presuming too much, for you have no claim on me but
that of cousinship, and you never will have unless you earn it.
Remember that, and neither threaten nor defy me anymore."

For a minute it was doubtful whether Charlie would answer this
flash with another, and a general explosion ensue, or wisely
quench the flame with the mild answer which turneth away wrath.
He chose the latter course and made it very effective by throwing
himself down before his offended goddess, as he had often done in
jest. This time it was not acting, but serious, earnest, and there was
real passion in his voice as he caught Rose's dress in both hands,
saying eagerly: "No, no! Don't shut your heart against me or I shall
turn desperate. I'm not half good enough for such a saint as you,
but you can do what you will with me. I only need a motive to
make a man of me, and where can I find a stronger one than in
trying to keep your love?"

"It is not yours yet," began Rose, much moved, though all the
while she felt as if she were on a stage and had a part to play, for
Charlie had made life so like a melodrama that it was hard for him
to be quite simple even when most sincere.

"Let me earn it, then. Show me how, and I'll do anything, for you
are my good angel, Rose, and if you cast me off, I feel as if I
shouldn't care how soon there was an end of me," cried Charlie,
getting tragic in his earnestness and putting both arms around her,
as if his only safety lay in clinging to this beloved fellow creature.

Behind footlights it would have been irresistible, but somehow it
did not touch the one spectator, though she had neither time nor
skill to discover why. For all their ardor the words did not ring
quite true. Despite the grace of the attitude, she would have liked
him better manfully erect upon his feet, and though the gesture
was full of tenderness, a subtle instinct made her shrink away as
she said with a composure that surprised herself even more than it
did him: "Please don't. No, I will promise nothing yet, for I must
respect the man I love."

That brought Charlie to his feet, pale with something deeper than
anger, for the recoil told him more plainly than the words how
much he had fallen in her regard since yesterday. The memory of
the happy moment when she gave the rose with that new softness
in her eyes, the shy color, the sweet "for my sake" came back with
sudden vividness, contrasting sharply with the now averted face,
the hand outstretched to put him back, the shrinking figure, and in
that instant's silence, poor Charlie realized what he had lost, for a
girl's first thought of love is as delicate a thing as the rosy morning
glory, which a breath of air can shatter. Only a hint of evil, only an
hour's debasement for him, a moment's glimpse for her of the
coarser pleasures men know, and the innocent heart, just opening
to bless and to be blessed, closed again like a sensitive plant and
shut him out perhaps forever.

The consciousness of this turned him pale with fear, for his love
was deeper than she knew, and he proved this when he said in a
tone so full of mingled pain and patience that it touched her to the
heart: "You shall respect me if I can make you, and when I've
earned it, may I hope for something more?"

She looked up then, saw in his face the noble shame, the humble
sort of courage that shows repentance to be genuine and gives
promise of success, and, with a hopeful smile that was a cordial to
him, answered heartily: "You may."

"Bless you for that! I'll make no promises, I'll ask for none only
trust me, Rose, and while you treat me like a cousin, remember
that no matter how many lovers you may have you'll never be to
any of them as dear as you are to me."

A traitorous break in his voice warned Charlie to stop there, and
with no other good-bye, he very wisely went away, leaving Rose to
put the neglected flowers into water with remorseful care and lay
away the bracelet, saying to herself: "I'll never wear it till I 
feel as I did before. Then he shall put it on and I'll say 'yes.'"




Chapter 11 SMALL TEMPTATIONS

"Oh, Rose, I've got something so exciting to tell you!" cried Kitty
Van Tassel, skipping into the carriage next morning when her
friend called for her to go shopping.

Kitty always did have some "perfectly thrilling" communication to
make and Rose had learned to take them quietly, but the next
demonstration was a new one, for, regardless alike of curious
observers outside and disordered hats within, Kitty caught Rose
around the neck, exclaiming in a rapturous whisper: "My dearest
creature, I'm engaged!"

"I'm so glad! Of course it is Steve?"

"Dear fellow, he did it last night in the nicest way, and Mama is so
delighted. Now what shall I be married in?" And Kitty composed
herself with a face full of the deepest anxiety.

"How can you talk of that so soon? Why, Kit, you unromantic girl,
you ought to be thinking of your lover and not your clothes," said
Rose, amused yet rather scandalized at such want of sentiment.

"I am thinking of my lover, for he says he will not have a long
engagement, so I must begin to think about the most important
things at once, mustn't I?"

"Ah, he wants to be sure of you, for you are such a slippery
creature he is afraid you'll treat him as you did poor Jackson and
the rest," interrupted Rose, shaking her finger at her prospective
cousin, who had tried this pastime twice before and was rather
proud than otherwise of her brief engagements.

"You needn't scold, for I know I'm right, and when you've been in
society as long as I have you'll find that the only way to really
know a man is to be engaged to him. While they want you they are
all devotion, but when they think they've got you, then you find out
what wretches they are," answered Kitty with an air of worldly
wisdom which contrasted oddly with her youthful face and giddy
manners.

"A sad prospect for poor Steve, unless I give him a hint to look
well to his ways."

"Oh, my dear child, I'm sure of him, for my experience has made
me very sharp and I'm convinced I can manage him without a bit
of trouble. We've known each other for ages" Steve was twenty
and Kitty eighteen "and always been the best of friends. Besides,
he is quite my ideal man. I never could bear big hands and feet,
and his are simply adorable. Then he's the best dancer I know and
dresses in perfect taste. I really do believe I fell in love with his
pocket handkerchiefs first, they were so enchanting I couldn't
resist," laughed Kitty, pulling a large one out of her pocket and
burying her little nose in the folds, which shed a delicious
fragrance upon the air.

"Now, that looks promising, and I begin to think you have got a
little sentiment after all," said Rose, well pleased, for the merry
brown eyes had softened suddenly and a quick color came up in
Kitty's cheek as she answered, still half hiding her face in the
beloved handkerchief: "Of course I have, lots of it, only I'm
ashamed to show it to most people, because it's the style to take
everything in the most nonchalant way. My gracious, Rose, you'd
have thought me a romantic goose last night while Steve proposed
in the back parlor, for I actually cried, he was so dreadfully in
earnest when I pretended that I didn't care for him, and so very
dear and nice when I told the truth. I didn't know he had it in him,
but he came out delightfully and never cared a particle, though I
dropped tears all over his lovely shirtfront. Wasn't that good of
him? For you know he hates his things to be mussed."

"He's a true Campbell, and has got a good warm heart of his own
under those fine fronts of his. Aunt Jane doesn't believe in
sentiment, so he has been trained never to show any, but it is there,
and you must encourage him to let it out, not foolishly, but in a
way to make him more manly and serious."

"I will if I can, for though I wouldn't own this to everybody, I like
it in him very much and feel as if Steve and I should get on
beautifully. Here we are now, be sure not to breathe a word if we
meet anyone. I want it to be a profound secret for a week at least,"
added Kitty, whisking her handkerchief out of sight as the carriage
stopped before the fashionable store they were about to visit.

Rose promised with a smile, for Kitty's face betrayed her without
words, so full was it of the happiness which few eyes fail to
understand whenever they see it.

"Just a glance at the silks. You ask my opinion about white ones,
and I'll look at the colors. Mama says satin, but that is out now,
and I've set my heart on the heaviest corded thing I can find,"
whispered Kitty as they went rustling by the long counters strewn
with all that could delight the feminine eye and tempt the feminine
pocket.

"Isn't that opal the loveliest thing you ever saw? I'm afraid I'm too
dark to wear it, but it would just suit you. You'll need a variety,
you know," added Kitty in a significant aside as Rose stood among
the white silks while her companion affected great interest in the
delicate hues laid before her.

"But I have a variety now, and don't need a new dress of any sort."

"No matter, get it, else it will be gone. You've worn all yours
several times already and must have a new one whether you need it
or not. Dear me! If I had as much pocket money as you have, I'd
come out in a fresh toilet at every party I went to," answered Kitty,
casting an envious eye upon the rainbow piles before her.

The quick-witted shopman saw that a wedding was afoot, for when
two pretty girls whisper, smile, and blush over their shopping,
clerks scent bridal finery and a transient gleam of interest
brightens their imperturbable countenances and lends a brief
energy to languid voices weary with crying, "Cash!" Gathering
both silks with a practiced turn of the hand, he held them up for
inspection, detecting at a glance which was the bride-elect and
which the friend, for Kitty fell back to study the effect of silvery
white folds with an absorbing interest impossible to mistake while
Rose sat looking at the opal as if she scarcely heard a bland voice
saying, with the rustle of silk so dear to girlish ears: "A superb
thing, just opened; all the rage in Paris; very rare shade; trying to
most, as the lady says, but quite perfect for a blonde."

Rose was not listening to those words but to others which Aunt
Clara had lately uttered, laughed at then, but thought over more
than once since.

"I'm tired of hearing people wonder why Miss Campbell does not
dress more. Simplicity is all very well for schoolgirls and women
who can't afford anything better, but you can, and you really ought.
Your things are pretty enough in their way, and I rather like you to
have a style of your own, but it looks odd and people will think
you are mean if you don't make more show. Besides, you don't do
justice to your beauty, which would be both peculiar and striking if
you'd devote your mind to getting up ravishing costumes."

Much more to the same effect did her aunt say, discussing the
subject quite artistically and unconsciously appealing to several of
Rose's ruling passions. One was a love for the delicate fabrics,
colors, and ornaments which refined tastes enjoy and whose
costliness keeps them from ever growing common; another, her
strong desire to please the eyes of those she cared for and gratify
their wishes in the smallest matter if she could. And last, but not
least, the natural desire of a young and pretty woman to enhance
the beauty which she so soon discovers to be her most potent
charm for the other sex, her passport to a high place among her
maiden peers.

She had thought seriously of surprising and delighting everyone by
appearing in a costume which should do justice to the loveliness
which was so modest that it was apt to forget itself in admiring
others what girls call a "ravishing" dress, such as she could
imagine and easily procure by the magic of the Fortunatus' purse in
her pocket. She had planned it all, the shimmer of pale silk
through lace like woven frostwork, ornaments of some classic
pattern, and all the dainty accessories as perfect as time, taste, and
money could make them.

She knew that Uncle Alec's healthful training had given her a
figure that could venture on any fashion and Nature blessed her
with a complexion that defied all hues. So it was little wonder that
she felt a strong desire to use these gifts, not for the pleasure of
display, but to seem fair in the eyes that seldom looked at her
without a tender sort of admiration, all the more winning when no
words marred the involuntary homage women love.

These thoughts were busy in Rose's mind as she sat looking at the
lovely silk and wondering what Charlie would say if she should
some night burst upon him in a pale rosy cloud, like the Aurora to
whom he often likened her. She knew it would please him very
much and she longed to do all she honestly could to gratify the
poor fellow, for her tender heart already felt some remorseful
pangs, remembering how severe she had been the night before. She
could not revoke her words, because she meant them every one,
but she might be kind and show that she did not wholly shut him
out from her regard by asking him to go with her to Kitty's ball and
gratify his artistic taste by a lovely costume. A very girlish but
kindly plan, for that ball was to be the last of her frivolities, so she
wanted it to be a pleasant one and felt that "being friends" with
Charlie would add much to her enjoyment.

This idea made her fingers tighten on the gleaming fabric so
temptingly upheld, and she was about to take it when, "If ye
please, sir, would ye kindly tell me where I'd be finding the flannel
place?" said a voice behind her, and, glancing up, she saw a meek
little Irishwoman looking quite lost and out of place among the
luxuries around her.

"Downstairs, turn to the left," was the clerk's hasty reply, with a
vague wave of the hand which left the inquirer more in the dark
than ever.

Rose saw the woman's perplexity and said kindly, "I'll show you
this way."

"I'm ashamed to be throublin' ye, miss, but it's strange I am in it,
and wouldn't be comin' here at all, at all, barrin' they tould me I'd
get the bit I'm wantin' chaper in this big shop than the little ones
more becomin' the like o' me," explained the little woman humbly.

Rose looked again as she led the way through a well-dressed
crowd of busy shoppers, and something in the anxious, tired face
under the old woolen hood the bare, purple hands holding fast a
meager wallet and a faded scrap of the dotted flannel little
children's frocks are so often made of touched the generous heart
that never could see want without an impulse to relieve it. She had
meant only to point the way, but, following a new impulse, she
went on, listening to the poor soul's motherly prattle about "me
baby" and the "throuble" it was to "find clothes for the growin'
childer when me man is out av work and the bit and sup
inconvaynient these hard times" as they descended to that
darksome lower world where necessities take refuge when luxuries
crowd them out from the gayer place above.

The presence of a lady made Mrs. Sullivan's shopping very easy
now, and her one poor "bit" of flannel grew miraculously into
yards of several colors, since the shabby purse was no lighter when
she went away, wiping her eyes on the corner of a big, brown
bundle. A very little thing, and no one saw it but a wooden-faced
clerk, who never told, yet it did Rose good and sent her up into the
light again with a sober face, thinking self-reproachfully, "What
right have I to more gay gowns when some poor babies have none,
or to spend time making myself fine while there is so much bitter
want in the world?"

Nevertheless the pretty things were just as tempting as ever, and
she yearned for the opal silk with a renewed yearning when she got
back. It is not certain that it would not have been bought in spite of
her better self if a good angel in the likeness of a stout lady with
silvery curls about the benevolent face, enshrined in a plain
bonnet, had not accosted her as she joined Kitty, still brooding
over the wedding gowns.

"I waited a moment for you, my dear, because I'm in haste, and
very glad to save myself a journey or a note," began the newcomer
in a low tone as Rose shook hands with the most affectionate
respect. "You know the great box factory was burned a day or two
ago and over a hundred girls thrown out of work. Some were hurt
and are in the hospital, many have no homes to go to, and nearly
all need temporary help of some sort. We've had so many calls this
winter I hardly know which way to turn, for want is pressing, and
I've had my finger in so many purses I'm almost ashamed to ask
again. Any little contribution ah, thank you, I was sure you
wouldn't fail me, my good child," and Mrs. Gardener warmly
pressed the hand that went so quickly into the little porte-monnaie
and came out so generously filled.

"Let me know how else I can help, and thank you very much for
allowing me to have a share in your good works," said Rose,
forgetting all about gay gowns as she watched the black bonnet go
briskly away with an approving smile on the fine old face inside it.

"You extravagant thing! How could you give so much?" whispered
Kitty, whose curious eye had seen three figures on the single bill
which had so rapidly changed hands.

"I believe if Mrs. Gardener asked me for my head I should give it
to her," answered Rose lightly, then, turning to the silks, she asked,
"Which have you decided upon, the yellow white or the blue, the
corded or the striped?"

"I've decided nothing; except that you are to have the pink and
wear it at my ahem! ball," said Kitty, who had made up her mind,
but could not give her orders till Mama had been consulted.

"No, I can't afford it just yet. I never overstep my allowance, and I
shall have to if I get any more finery. Come, we ought not to waste
time here if you have all the patterns you want." And Rose walked
quickly away, glad that it was out of her power to break through
two resolutions which hitherto had been faithfully kept one to
dress simply for example's sake, the other not to be extravagant for
charity's sake.

As Rosamond had her day of misfortunes, so this seemed to be one
of small temptations to Rose. After she had set Kitty down at home
and been to see her new houses, she drove about doing various
errands for the aunts and, while waiting in the carriage for the
execution of an order, young Pemberton came by.

As Steve said, this gentleman had been "hard hit" and still hovered
mothlike about the forbidden light. Being the most eligible parti of
the season, his regard was considered a distinction to be proud of,
and Rose had been well scolded by Aunt Clara for refusing so
honorable a mate. The girl liked him, and he was the suitor of
whom she had spoken so respectfully to Dr. Alec because he had
no need of the heiress and had sincerely loved Rose. He had been
away, and she hoped had gotten over his disappointment as happily
as the rest, but now when he saw her, and came hurrying up so
hungry for a word, she felt that he had not forgotten and was too
kind to chill him with the bow which plainly says "Don't stop."

A personable youth was Pemberton, and had brought with him
from the wilds of Canada a sable-lined overcoat which was the
envy of every masculine and the admiration of every feminine
friend he had, and as he stood at her carriage window Rose knew
that this luxurious garment and its stalwart wearer were objects of
interest to the passersby. It chanced that the tide of shoppers
flowed in that direction and, as she chatted, familiar faces often
passed with glances, smiles, and nods of varying curiosity,
significance, and wonder.

She could not help feeling a certain satisfaction in giving him a
moment's pleasure, since she could do no more, but it was not that
amiable desire alone which made her ignore the neat white parcels
which the druggist's boy deposited on the front seat and kept her
lingering a little longer to enjoy one of the small triumphs which
girls often risk more than a cold in the head to display. The sight
of several snowflakes on the broad shoulders which partially
obstructed her view, as well as the rapidly increasing animation of
Pemberton's chat, reminded her that it was high time to go.

"I mustn't keep you it is beginning to storm," she said, taking up
her muff, much to old Jacob's satisfaction, for small talk is not
exciting to a hungry man whose nose feels like an icicle.

"Is it? I thought the sun was shining." And the absorbed gentleman
turned to the outer world with visible reluctance, for it looked very
warm and cozy in the red-lined carriage.

"Wise people say we must carry our sunshine with us," answered
Rose, taking refuge in commonplaces, for the face at the window
grew pensive suddenly as he answered, with a longing look, "I
wish I could." Then, smiling gratefully, he added, "Thank you for
giving me a little of yours."

"You are very welcome." And Rose offered him her hand while
her eyes mutely asked pardon for withholding her leave to keep it.

He pressed it silently and, shouldering the umbrella which he
forgot to open, turned away with an "up again and take another"
expression, which caused the soft eyes to follow him admiringly.

"I ought not to have kept him a minute longer than I could help, for
it wasn't all pity; it was my foolish wish to show off and do as I
liked for a minute, to pay for being good about the gown. Oh, me!
How weak and silly I am in spite of all my trying!" And Miss
Campbell fell into a remorseful reverie, which lasted till she got
home.

"Now, young man, what brought you out in this driving storm?"
asked Rose as Jamie came stamping in that same afternoon.

"Mama sent you a new book thought you'd like it. I don't mind
your old storms!" replied the boy, wrestling his way out of his coat
and presenting a face as round and red and shiny as a well-polished
Baldwin apple.

"Much obliged it is just the day to enjoy it and I was longing for
something nice to read," said Rose as Jamie sat down upon the
lower stair for a protracted struggle with his rubber boots.

"Here you are, then no yes I do believe I've forgotten it, after all!"
cried Jamie, slapping his pockets one after the other with a
dismayed expression of countenance.

"Never mind, I'll hunt up something else. Let me help you with
those your hands are so cold." And Rose good-naturedly gave a tug
at the boots while Jamie clutched the banisters, murmuring
somewhat incoherently as his legs flew up and down: "I'll go back
if you want me to. I'm so sorry! It's very good of you, I'm sure.
Getting these horrid things on made me forget. Mother would
make me wear 'em, though I told her they'd stick like like
gumdrops," he added, inspired by recollections of certain dire
disappointments when the above-mentioned sweetmeat melted in
his pockets and refused to come out.

"Now what shall we do?" asked Rose when he was finally
extricated. "Since I've nothing to read, I may as well play."

"I'll teach you to pitch and toss. You catch very well for a girl, but
you can't throw worth a cent," replied Jamie, gamboling down the
hall in his slippers and producing a ball from some of the
mysterious receptacles in which boys have the art of storing
rubbish enough to fill a peck measure.

Of course Rose agreed and cheerfully risked getting her eyes
blackened and her fingers bruised till her young receptor gratefully
observed that "it was no fun playing where you had to look out for
windows and jars and things, so I'd like that jolly book about
Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, please."

Being gratified, he spread himself upon the couch, crossed his legs
in the air, and without another word dived Twenty Thousand
Leagues Under the Sea, where he remained for two mortal hours,
to the general satisfaction of his relatives.

Bereft both of her unexpected playfellow and the much desired
book, Rose went into the parlor, there to discover a French novel
which Kitty had taken from a library and left in the carriage among
the bundles. Settling herself in her favorite lounging chair, she
read as diligently as Jamie while the wind howled and snow fell
fast without.

For an hour nothing disturbed the cozy quiet of the house for Aunt
Plenty was napping upstairs and Dr. Alec writing in his own
sanctum; at least Rose thought so, till his step made her hastily
drop the book and look up with very much the expression she used
to wear when caught in mischief years ago.

"Did I startle you? Have a screen you are burning your face before
this hot fire." And Dr. Alec pulled one forward.

"Thank you, Uncle. I didn't feel it." And the color seemed to
deepen in spite of the screen while the uneasy eyes fell upon the
book in her lap.

"Have you got the Quarterly there? I want to glance at an article in
it if you can spare it for a moment," he said, leaning toward her
with an inquiring glance.

"No, sir, I am reading." And, without mentioning the name, Rose
put the book into his hand.

The instant his eye fell on the title he understood the look she wore
and knew what "mischief" she had been in. He knit his brows, then
smiled, because it was impossible to help it Rose looked so
conscience-stricken in spite of her twenty years.

"How do you find it? Interesting?"

"Oh, very! I felt as if I was in another world and forgot all about
this."

"Not a very good world, I fancy, if you were afraid or ashamed to
be found in it. Where did this come from?" asked Dr. Alec,
surveying the book with great disfavor. Rose told him, and added
slowly, "I particularly wanted to read it, and fancied I might,
because you did when it was so much talked about the winter we
were in Rome."

"I did read it to see if it was fit for you."

"And decided that it was not, I suppose, since you never gave it to
me!"

"Yes."

"Then I won't finish it. But, Uncle, I don't see why I should not,"
added Rose wistfully, for she had reached the heart of the romance
and found it wonderfully fascinating.

"You may not see, but don't you feel why not?" asked Dr. Alec
gravely.

Rose leaned her flushed cheek on her hand and thought a minute,
then looked up and answered honestly, "Yes, I do, but can't explain
it, except that I know something must be wrong, because I blushed
and started when you came in."

"Exactly." And the doctor gave an emphatic nod, as if the
symptoms pleased him.

"But I really don't see any harm in the book so far. It is by a
famous author, wonderfully well written, as you know, and the
characters so lifelike that I feel as if I should really meet them
somewhere."

"I hope not!" ejaculated the doctor, shutting the book quickly, as if
to keep the objectionable beings from escaping.

Rose laughed, but persisted in her defense, for she did want to
finish the absorbing story, yet would not without leave.

"I have read French novels before, and you gave them to me. Not
many, to be sure, but the best, so I think I know what is good and
shouldn't like this if it was harmful."

Her uncle's answer was to reopen the volume and turn the leaves
an instant as if to find a particular place. Then he put it into her
hand, saying quietly: "Read a page or two aloud, translating as you
go. You used to like that try it again."

Rose obeyed and went glibly down a page, doing her best to give
the sense in her purest English. Presently she went more slowly,
then skipped a sentence here and there, and finally stopped short,
looking as if she needed a screen again.

"What's the matter?" asked her uncle, who had been watching her
with a serious eye.

"Some phrases are untranslatable, and it only spoils them to try.
They are not amiss in French, but sound coarse and bad in our
blunt English," she said a little pettishly, for she felt annoyed by
her failure to prove the contested point.

"Ah, my dear, if the fine phrases won't bear putting into honest
English, the thoughts they express won't bear putting into your
innocent mind! That chapter is the key to the whole book, and if
you had been led up, or rather down, to it artfully and artistically,
you might have read it to yourself without seeing how bad it is. All
the worse for the undeniable talent which hides the evil so subtly
and makes the danger so delightful."

He paused a moment, then added with an anxious glance at the
book, over which she was still bending, "Finish it if you choose
only remember, my girl, that one may read at forty what is unsafe
at twenty, and that we never can be too careful what food we give
that precious yet perilous thing called imagination."

And taking his Review, he went away to look over a learned article
which interested him much less than the workings of a young mind
nearby.

Another long silence, broken only by an occasional excited bounce
from Jamie when the sociable cuttlefish looked in at the windows
or the Nautilus scuttled a ship or two in its terrific course. A bell
rang, and the doctor popped his head out to see if he was wanted.
It was only a message for Aunt Plenty, and he was about to pop in
again when his eye was caught by a square parcel on the slab.

"What's this?" he asked, taking it up.

"Rose wants me to leave it at Kitty Van's when I go. I forgot to
bring her book from Mama, so I shall go and get it as soon as ever
I've done this," replied Jamie from his nest.

As the volume in his hands was a corpulent one, and Jamie only a
third of the way through, Dr. Alec thought Rose's prospect rather
doubtful and, slipping the parcel into his pocket, he walked away,
saying with a satisfied air: "Virtue doesn't always get rewarded, but
it shall be this time if I can do it."

More than half an hour afterward, Rose woke from a little nap and
found the various old favorites with which she had tried to solace
herself replaced by the simple, wholesome story promised by Aunt
Jessie.

"Good boy! I'll go and thank him," she said half aloud, jumping up,
wide awake and much pleased.

But she did not go, for just then she spied her uncle standing on the
rug warming his hands with a generally fresh and breezy look
about him which suggested a recent struggle with the elements.

"How did this come?" she asked suspiciously.

"A man brought it."

"This man? Oh, Uncle! Why did you take so much trouble just to
gratify a wish of mine?" she cried, taking both the cold hands in
hers with a tenderly reproachful glance from the storm without to
the ruddy face above her.

"Because, having taken away your French bonbons with the
poisonous color on them, I wanted to get you something better.
Here it is, all pure sugar, the sort that sweetens the heart as well as
the tongue and leaves no bad taste behind."

"How good you are to me! I don't deserve it, for I didn't resist
temptation, though I tried. Uncle, after I'd put the book away, I
thought I must just see how it ended, and I'm afraid I should have
read it all if it had not been gone," said Rose, laying her face down
on the hands she held as humbly as a repentant child.

But Uncle Alec lifted up the bent head and, looking into the eyes
that met his frankly, though either held a tear, he said, with the
energy that always made his words remembered: "My little girl, I
would face a dozen storms far worse than this to keep your soul as
stainless as snow, for it is the small temptations which undermine
integrity unless we watch and pray and never think them too trivial
to be resisted."

Some people would consider Dr. Alec an overcareful man, but
Rose felt that he was right, and when she said her prayers that
night, added a meek petition to be kept from yielding to three of
the small temptations which beset a rich, pretty, and romantic girl
extravagance, coquetry, and novel reading.




Chapter 12 AT KITTY'S BALL

Rose had no new gown to wear on this festive occasion, and gave
one little sigh of regret as she put on the pale blue silk refreshed
with clouds of gaze de Chambéry. But a smile followed, very
bright and sweet, as she added the clusters of forget-me-not which
Charlie had conjured up through the agency of an old German
florist, for one part of her plan had been carried out, and Prince
was invited to be her escort, much to his delight, though he wisely
made no protestations of any sort and showed his gratitude by
being a model gentleman. This pleased Rose, for the late
humiliation and a very sincere desire to atone for it gave him an air
of pensive dignity which was very effective.

Aunt Clara could not go, for a certain new cosmetic, privately used
to improve the once fine complexion, which had been her pride till
late hours impaired it, had brought out an unsightly eruption,
reducing her to the depths of woe and leaving her no solace for her
disappointment but the sight of the elegant velvet dress spread
forth upon her bed in melancholy state.

So Aunt Jessie was chaperon, to Rose's great satisfaction, and
looked as "pretty as a pink," Archie thought, in her matronly
pearl-colored gown with a dainty trifle of rich lace on her still
abundant hair. He was very proud of his little mama, and as
devoted as a lover, "to keep his hand in against Phebe's return," she
said laughingly when he brought her a nosegay of blush roses to
light up her quiet costume.

A happier mother did not live than Mrs. Jessie as she sat
contentedly beside Sister Jane (who graced the frivolous scene in a
serious black gown with a diadem of purple asters nodding above
her severe brow), both watching their boys with the maternal
conviction that no other parent could show such remarkable
specimens as these. Each had done her best according to her light,
and years of faithful care were now beginning to bear fruit in the
promise of goodly men, so dear to the hearts of true mothers.

Mrs. Jessie watched her three tall sons with something like
wonder, for Archie was a fine fellow, grave and rather stately, but
full of the cordial courtesy and respect we see so little of nowadays
and which is the sure sign of good home training. "The cadets," as
Will and Geordie called themselves, were there as gorgeous as you
please, and the agonies they suffered that night with tight boots
and stiff collars no pen can fitly tell. But only to one another did
they confide these sufferings and the rare moments of repose when
they could stand on one aching foot with heads comfortably
sunken inside the excruciating collars, which rasped their ears and
made the lobes thereof a pleasing scarlet. Brief were these
moments, however, and the Spartan boys danced on with smiling
faces, undaunted by the hidden anguish which preyed upon them
"fore and aft," as Will expressed it.

Mrs. Jane's pair were an odd contrast, and even the stern
disciplinarian herself could not help smiling as she watched them.
Steve was superb, and might have been married on the spot, so
superfine was his broad-cloth, glossy his linen, and perfect the fit
of his gloves. While pride and happiness so fermented in his
youthful bosom, there would have been danger of spontaneous
combustion if dancing had not proved a safety valve, for his strong
sense of the proprieties would not permit him to vent his emotions
in any other way.

Kitty felt no such restraint, and looked like a blissful little gypsy,
with her brunet prettiness set off by a dashing costume of cardinal
and cream color and every hair on her head curled in a Merry
Pecksniffian crop, for youth was her strong point, and she much
enjoyed the fact that she had been engaged three times before she
was nineteen.

To see her and Steve spin around the room was a sight to bring a
smile to the lips of the crustiest bachelor or saddest spinster, for
happy lovers are always a pleasing spectacle, and two such merry
little grigs as these are seldom seen.

Mac, meantime, with glasses astride his nose, surveyed his
brother's performances "on the light fantastic" very much as a
benevolent Newfoundland would the gambols of a toy terrier,
receiving with thanks the hasty hints for his guidance which Steve
breathed into his ear as he passed and forgetting all about them the
next minute. When not thus engaged Mac stood about with his
thumbs in his vest pockets, regarding the lively crowd like a
meditative philosopher of a cheerful aspect, often smiling to
himself at some whimsical fancy of his own, knitting his brows as
some bit of ill-natured gossip met his ear, or staring with
undisguised admiration as a beautiful face or figure caught his eye.

"I hope that girl knows what a treasure she has got. But I doubt if
she ever fully appreciates it," said Mrs. Jane, bringing her
spectacles to bear upon Kitty as she whisked by, causing quite a
gale with her flying skirts.

"I think she will, for Steve has been so well brought up, she cannot
but see and feel the worth of what she has never had, and being so
young she will profit by it," answered Mrs. Jessie softly, thinking
of the days when she and her Jem danced together, just betrothed.

"I've done my duty by both the boys, and done it thoroughly, or
their father would have spoilt them, for he's no more idea of
discipline than a child." And Aunt Jane gave her own palm a smart
rap with her closed fan, emphasizing the word "thoroughly" in a
most suggestive manner.

"I've often wished I had your firmness, Jane but after all, I'm not
sure that I don't like my own way best, at least with my boys, for
plenty of love, and plenty of patience, seem to have succeeded
pretty well." And Aunt Jessie lifted the nosegay from her lap,
feeling as if that unfailing love and patience were already
blooming into her life as beautifully as the sweet-breathed roses
given by her boy refreshed and brightened these long hours of
patient waiting in a corner.

"I don't deny that you've done well, Jessie, but you've been let
alone and had no one to hold your hand or interfere. If my Mac had
gone to sea as your Jem did, I never should have been as severe as
I am. Men are so perverse and shortsighted, they don't trouble
about the future as long as things are quiet and comfortable in the
present," continued Mrs. Jane, quite forgetting that the
shortsighted partner of the firm, physically speaking at least, was
herself.

"Ah, yes! We mothers love to foresee and foretell our children's
lives even before they are born, and are very apt to be disappointed
if they do not turn out as we planned. I know I am yet I really have
no cause to complain and am learning to see that all we can do is
to give the dear boys good principles and the best training we may,
then leave them to finish what we have begun." And Mrs. Jessie's
eye wandered away to Archie, dancing with Rose, quite
unconscious what a pretty little castle in the air tumbled down
when he fell in love with Phebe.

"Right, quite right on that point we agree exactly. I have spared
nothing to give my boys good principles and good habits, and I am
willing to trust them anywhere. Nine times did I whip my Steve to
cure him of fibbing, and over and over again did Mac go without
his dinner rather than wash his hands. But I whipped and starved
them both into obedience, and now I have my reward," concluded
the "stern parent" with a proud wave of the fan, which looked very
like a ferule, being as big, hard, and uncompromising as such an
article could be.

Mrs. Jessie gave a mild murmur of assent, but could not help
thinking, with a smile, that in spite of their early tribulations the
sins for which the boys suffered had gotten a little mixed in their
result, for fibbing Steve was now the tidy one, and careless Mac
the truth teller. But such small contradictions will happen in the
best-regulated families, and all perplexed parents can do is to keep
up a steadfast preaching and practicing in the hope that it will bear
fruit sometime, for according to an old proverb,
Children pick up words as pigeons pease,
To utter them again as God shall please.

"I hope they won't dance the child to death among them, for each
one seems bound to have his turn, even your sober Mac," said Mrs.
Jessie a few minutes later as she saw Archie hand Rose over to his
cousin, who carried her off with an air of triumph from several
other claimants.

"She's very good to him, and her influence is excellent, for he is of
an age now when a young woman's opinion has more weight than
an old one's. Though he is always good to his mother, and I feel as
if I should take great comfort in him. He's one of the sort who will
not marry till late, if ever, being fond of books and a quiet life,"
responded Mrs. Jane, remembering how often her son had
expressed his belief that philosophers should not marry and
brought up Plato as an example of the serene wisdom to be
attained only by a single man while her husband sided with
Socrates, for whom he felt a profound sympathy, though he didn't
dare to own it.

"Well, I don't know about that. Since my Archie surprised me by
losing his heart as he did, I'm prepared for anything, and advise
you to do likewise. I really shouldn't wonder if Mac did something
remarkable in that line, though he shows no sign of it yet, I
confess," answered Mrs. Jessie, laughing.

"It won't be in that direction, you may be sure, for her fate is
sealed. Dear me, how sad it is to see a superior girl like that about
to throw herself away on a handsome scapegrace. I won't mention
names, but you understand me." And Mrs. Jane shook her head, as
if she could mention the name of one superior girl who had thrown
herself away and now saw the folly of it.

"I'm very anxious, of course, and so is Alec, but it may be the
saving of one party and the happiness of the other, for some
women love to give more than they receive," said Mrs. Jessie,
privately wondering, for the thousandth time, why brother Mac
ever married the learned Miss Humphries.

"You'll see that it won't prosper, and I shall always maintain that a
wife cannot entirely undo a mother's work. Rose will have her
hands full if she tries to set all Clara's mistakes right," answered
Aunt Jane grimly, then began to fan violently as their hostess
approached to have a dish of chat about "our dear young people."

Rose was in a merry mood that night, and found Mac quite ready
for fun, which was fortunate, since her first remark set them off on
a droll subject.

"Oh, Mac! Annabel has just confided to me that she is engaged to
Fun See! Think of her going to housekeeping in Canton someday
and having to order rats, puppies, and bird's-nest soup for dinner,"
whispered Rose, too much amused to keep the news to herself.

"By Confucius! Isn't that a sweet prospect?" And Mac burst out
laughing, to the great surprise of his neighbors, who wondered
what there was amusing about the Chinese sage. "It is rather
alarming, though, to have these infants going on at this rate. Seems
to be catching, a new sort of scarlet fever, to judge by Annabel's
cheeks and Kitty's gown," he added, regarding the aforesaid ladies
with eyes still twinkling with merriment.

"Don't be ungallant, but go and do likewise, for it is all the fashion.
I heard Mrs. Van tell old Mrs. Joy that it was going to be a
marrying year, so you'll be sure to catch it," answered Rose,
reefing her skirts, for, with all his training, Mac still found it
difficult to keep his long legs out of the man-traps.

"It doesn't look like a painful disease, but I must be careful, for I've
no time to be ill now. What are the symptoms?" asked Mac, trying
to combine business with pleasure and improve his mind while
doing his duty.

"If you ever come back I'll tell you," laughed Rose as he danced
away into the wrong corner, bumped smartly against another
gentleman, and returned as soberly as if that was the proper figure.

"Well, tell me 'how not to do it,'" he said, subsiding for a
moment's talk when Rose had floated to and fro in her turn.

"Oh! You see some young girl who strikes you as particularly
charming whether she really is or not doesn't matter a bit and you
begin to think about her a great deal, to want to see her, and to get
generally sentimental and absurd," began Rose, finding it difficult
to give a diagnosis of the most mysterious disease under the sun.

"Don't think it sounds enticing. Can't I find an antidote somewhere,
for if it is in the air this year I'm sure to get it, and it may be fatal,"
said Mac, who felt pretty lively and liked to make Rose merry, for
he suspected that she had a little trouble from a hint Dr. Alec had
given him.

"I hope you will catch it, because you'll be so funny."

"Will you take care of me as you did before, or have you got your
hands full?"

"I'll help, but really with Archie and Steve and Charlie, I shall have
enough to do. You'd better take it lightly the first time, and so
won't need much care."

"Very well, how shall I begin? Enlighten my ignorance and start
me right, I beg."

"Go about and see people, make yourself agreeable, and not sit in
corners observing other people as if they were puppets dancing for
your amusement. I heard Mrs. Van once say that propinquity
works wonders, and she ought to know, having married off two
daughters, and just engaged a third to 'a most charming young
man.'?

"Good lack! The cure sounds worse than the disease. Propinquity,
hey? Why, I may be in danger this identical moment and can't flee
for my life," said Mac, gently catching her round the waist for a
general waltz.

"Don't be alarmed, but mind your steps, for Charlie is looking at
us, and I want you to do your best. That's perfect take me quite
round, for I love to waltz and seldom get a good turn except with
you boys," said Rose, smiling up at him approvingly as his strong
arm guided her among the revolving couples and his feet kept time
without a fault.

"This certainly is a great improvement on the chair business, to
which I have devoted myself with such energy that I've broken the
backs of two partners and dislocated the arm of the old rocker. I
took an occasional turn with that heavy party, thinking it good
practice in case I ever happen to dance with stout ladies." And
Mac nodded toward Annabel, pounding gaily with Mr. Tokio,
whose yellow countenance beamed as his beady eyes rested on his
plump fiancée.

Pausing in the midst of her merriment at the image of Mac and the
old rocking chair, Rose said reprovingly, "Though a heathen
Chinee, Fun puts you to shame, for he did not ask foolish questions
but went a-wooing like a sensible little man, and I've no doubt
Annabel will be very happy."

"Choose me a suitable divinity and I will try to adore. Can I do
more than that to retrieve my character?" answered Mac, safely
landing his partner and plying the fan according to instructions.

"How would Emma do?" inquired Rose, whose sense of the
ludicrous was strong and who could not resist the temptation of
horrifying Mac by the suggestion.

"Never! It sets my teeth on edge to look at her tonight. I suppose
that dress is 'a sweet thing just out,' but upon my word she reminds
me of nothing but a Harlequin ice," and Mac turned his back on
her with a shudder, for he was sensitive to discords of all kinds.

"She certainly does, and that mixture of chocolate, pea green, and
pink is simply detestable, though many people would consider it
decidedly 'chic,' to use her favorite word. I suppose you will dress
your wife like a Spartan matron of the time of Lycurgus," added
Rose, much tickled by his new conceit.

"I'll wait till I get her before I decide. But one thing I'm sure of she
shall not dress like a Greek dancer of the time of Pericles,"
answered Mac, regarding with great disfavor a young lady who,
having a statuesque figure, affected drapery of the scanty and
clinging description.

"Then it is of no use to suggest that classic creature, so as you
reject my first attempts, I won't go on but look about me quietly,
and you had better do the same. Seriously, Mac, more gaiety and
less study would do you good, for you will grow old before your
time if you shut yourself up and pore over books so much."

"I don't believe there is a younger or a jollier-feeling fellow in the
room than I am, though I may not conduct myself like a dancing
dervish. But I own you may be right about the books, for there are
many sorts of intemperance, and a library is as irresistible to me as
a barroom to a toper. I shall have to sign a pledge and cork up the
only bottle that tempts me my ink-stand."

"I'll tell you how to make it easier to abstain. Stop studying and
write a novel into which you can put all your wise things, and so
clear your brains for a new start by and by. Do I should so like to
read it," cried Rose, delighted with the project, for she was sure
Mac could do anything he liked in that line.

"First live, then write. How can I go to romancing till I know what
romance means?" he asked soberly, feeling that so far he had had
very little in his life.

"Then you must find out, and nothing will help you more than to
love someone very much. Do as I've advised and be a modern
Diogenes going about with spectacles instead of a lantern in
search, not of an honest man, but a perfect woman. I do hope you
will be successful." And Rose made her curtsey as the dance
ended.

"I don't expect perfection, but I should like one as good as they
ever make them nowadays. If you are looking for the honest man, I
wish you success in return," said Mac, relinquishing her fan with a
glance of such sympathetic significance that a quick flush of
feeling rose to the girl's face as she answered very low, "If honesty
was all I wanted, I certainly have found it in you."

Then she went away with Charlie, who was waiting for his turn,
and Mac roamed about, wondering if anywhere in all that crowd
his future wife was hidden, saying to himself, as he glanced from
face to face, quite unresponsive to the various allurements
displayed,

    "What care I how fair she be, 
    If she be not fair for me?"

Just before supper several young ladies met in the dressing room to
repair damages and, being friends, they fell into discourse as they
smoothed their locks and had their tattered furbelows sewed or
pinned up by the neat-handed Phillis-in-waiting.

When each had asked the other, "How do I look tonight, dear?"
and been answered with reciprocal enthusiasm, "Perfectly lovely,
darling!" Kitty said to Rose, who was helping her to restore order
out of the chaos to which much exercise had reduced her curls:
"By the way, young Randal is dying to be presented to you. May I
after supper?"

"No, thank you," answered Rose very decidedly.

"Well, I'm sure I don't see why not," began Kitty, looking
displeased but not surprised.

"I think you do, else why didn't you present him when he asked?
You seldom stop to think of etiquette why did you now?"

"I didn't like to do it till I had you are so particular I thought you'd
say 'no,' but I couldn't tell him so," stammered Kitty, feeling that
she had better have settled the matter herself, for Rose was very
particular and had especial reason to dislike this person because he
was not only a dissipated young reprobate himself but seemed
possessed of Satan to lead others astray likewise.

"I don't wish to be rude, dear, but I really must decline, for I cannot
know such people, even though I meet them here," said Rose,
remembering Charlie's revelations on New Year's night and
hardening her heart against the man who had been his undoing on
that as well as on other occasions, she had reason to believe.

"I couldn't help it! Old Mr. Randal and Papa are friends, and
though I spoke of it, brother Alf wouldn't hear of passing that bad
boy over," explained Kitty eagerly.

"Yet Alf forbade you driving or skating with him, for he knows
better than we how unfit he is to come among us."

"I'd drop him tomorrow if I could, but I must be civil in my own
house. His mother brought him, and he won't dare to behave here
as he does at their bachelor parties."

"She ought not to have brought him till he had shown some desire
to mend his ways. It is none of my business, I know, but I do wish
people wouldn't be so inconsistent, letting boys go to destruction
and then expecting us girls to receive them like decent people."
Rose spoke in an energetic whisper, but Annabel heard her and
exclaimed, as she turned round with a powder puff in her hand:
"My goodness, Rose! What is all that about going to destruction?"

"She is being strong-minded, and I don't very much blame her in
this case. But it leaves me in a dreadful scrape," said Kitty,
supporting her spirits with a sniff of aromatic vinegar.

"I appeal to you, since you heard me, and there's no one here but
ourselves do you consider young Randal a nice person to know?"
And Rose turned to Annabel and Emma with an anxious eye, for
she did not find it easy to abide by her principles when so doing
annoyed friends.

"No, indeed, he's perfectly horrid! Papa says he and Gorham are
the wildest young men he knows, and enough to spoil the whole
set. I'm so glad I've got no brothers," responded Annabel, placidly
powdering her pink arms, quite undeterred by the memory of
sundry white streaks left on sundry coat sleeves.

"I think that sort of scrupulousness is very ill-bred, if you'll excuse
my saying so, Rose. We are not supposed to know anything about
fastness, and wildness, and so on, but to treat every man alike and
not be fussy and prudish," said Emma, settling her many-colored
streamers with the superior air of a woman of the world, aged
twenty.

"Ah! But we do know, and if our silence and civility have no
effect, we ought to try something else and not encourage
wickedness of any kind. We needn't scold and preach, but we can
refuse to know such people and that will do some good, for they
don't like to be shunned and shut out from respectable society.
Uncle Alec told me not to know that man, and I won't." Rose
spoke with unusual warmth, forgetting that she could not tell the
real reason for her strong prejudice against "that man."

"Well, I know him. I think him very jolly, and I'm engaged to
dance the German with him after supper. He leads quite as well as
your cousin Charlie and is quite as fascinating, some people
think," returned Emma, tossing her head disdainfully, for Prince
Charming did not worship at her shrine and it piqued her vanity.

In spite of her quandary, Rose could not help smiling as she
recalled Mac's comparison, for Emma turned so red with spiteful
chagrin, she seemed to have added strawberry ice to the other
varieties composing the Harlequin.

"Each must judge for herself. I shall follow Aunt Jessie's advice
and try to keep my atmosphere as pure as I can, for she says every
woman has her own little circle and in it can use her influence for
good, if she will. I do will heartily, and I'll prove that I'm neither
proud nor fussy by receiving, here or at home, any respectable man
you like to present to me, no matter how poor or plain or
insignificant he may be."

With which declaration Rose ended her protest, and the four
damsels streamed downstairs together like a wandering rainbow.
But Kitty laid to heart what she had said; Annabel took credit
herself for siding with her; and Emma owned that she was not
trying to keep her atmosphere pure when she came to dance with
the objectionable Randal. So Rose's "little circle" was the better
for the influence she tried to exert, although she never knew it.

At suppertime Charlie kept near her, and she was quite content
with him, for he drank only coffee, and she saw him shake his
head with a frown when young Van beckoned him toward an
anteroom, from whence the sound of popping corks had issued
with increasing frequency as the evening wore on.

"Dear fellow, he does try," thought Rose, longing to show how she
admired his self-denial, but she could only say, as they left the
supper room with the aunts, who were going early: "If I had not
promised Uncle to get home as soon after midnight as possible, I'd
stay and dance the German with you, for you deserve a reward
tonight."

"A thousand thanks, but I am going when you do," answered
Charlie, understanding both her look and words and very grateful
for them.

"Really?" cried Rose, delighted.

"Really. I'll be in the hall when you come down." And Charlie
thought the Fra Angelico angel was not half so bright and beautiful
as the one who looked back at him out of a pale blue cloud as Rose
went upstairs as if on wings.

When she came down again Charlie was not in the hall, however,
and, after waiting a few minutes, Mac offered to go and find him,
for Aunt Jane was still hunting a lost rubber above.

"Please say I'm ready, but he needn't come if he doesn't want to,"
said Rose, not wishing to demand too much of her promising
penitent.

"If he has gone into that barroom, I'll have him out, no matter who
is there!" growled Mac to himself as he made his way to the small
apartment whither the gentlemen retired for a little private
refreshment when the spirit moved, as it often did.

The door was ajar, and Charlie seemed to have just entered, for
Mac heard a familiar voice call out in a jovial tone: "Come,
Prince! You're just in time to help us drink Steve's health with all
the honors."

"Can't stop, only ran in to say good night, Van. Had a capital time,
but I'm on duty and must go."

"That's a new dodge. Take a stirrup cup anyway, and come back in
time for a merry-go-rounder when you've disposed of the ladies,"
answered the young host, diving into the wine cooler for another
bottle.

"Charlie's going in for sanctity, and it doesn't seem to agree with
him," laughed one of the two other young men who occupied
several chairs apiece, resting their soles in every sense of the word.

"Apron strings are coming into fashion the bluer the better hey,
Prince?" added the other, trying to be witty, with the usual success.

"You'd better go home early yourself, Barrow, or that tongue of
yours will get you into trouble," retorted Charlie, conscious that he
ought to take his own advice, yet lingering, nervously putting on
his gloves while the glasses were being filled.

"Now, brother-in-law, fire away! Here you are, Prince." And Steve
handed a glass across the table to his cousin, feeling too much
elated with various pleasurable emotions to think what he was
doing, for the boys all knew Charlie's weakness and usually tried
to defend him from it.

Before the glass could be taken, however, Mac entered in a great
hurry, delivering his message in an abbreviated and rather
peremptory form: "Rose is waiting for you. Hurry up!"

"All right. Good night, old fellows!" And Charlie was off, as if the
name had power to stop him in the very act of breaking the
promise made to himself.

"Come, Solon, take a social drop, and give us an epithalamium in
your best Greek. Here's to you!" And Steve was lifting the wine to
his own lips when Mac knocked the glass out of his hand with a
flash of the eye that caused his brother to stare at him with his
mouth open in an imbecile sort of way, which seemed to excite
Mac still more, for, turning to his young host, he said, in a low
voice, and with a look that made the gentlemen on the chairs sit up
suddenly: "I beg pardon, Van, for making a mess, but I can't stand
by and see my own brother tempt another man beyond his strength
or make a brute of himself. That's plain English, but I can't help
speaking out, for I know not one of you would willingly hurt
Charlie, and you will if you don't let him alone."

"What do you pitch into me for? I've done nothing. A fellow must
be civil in his own house, mustn't he?" asked Van good-humoredly
as he faced about, corkscrew in hand.

"Yes, but it is not civil to urge or joke a guest into doing what you
know and he knows is bad for him. That's only a glass of wine to
you, but it is perdition to Charlie, and if Steve knew what he was
about, he'd cut his right hand off before he'd offer it."

"Do you mean to say I'm tipsy?" demanded Steve, ruffling up like a
little gamecock, for though he saw now what he had done and was
ashamed of it, he hated to have Mac air his peculiar notions before
other people.

"With excitement, not champagne, I hope, for I wouldn't own you
if you were," answered Mac, in whom indignation was
effervescing like the wine in the forgotten bottle, for the men were
all young, friends of Steve's and admirers of Charlie's. "Look here,
boys," he went on more quietly, "I know I ought not to explode in
this violent sort of way, but upon my life I couldn't help it when I
heard what you were saying and saw what Steve was doing. Since I
have begun, I may as well finish and tell you straight out that
Prince can't stand this sort of thing. He is trying to flee temptation,
and whoever leads him into it does a cowardly and sinful act, for
the loss of one's own self-respect is bad enough, without losing the
more precious things that make life worth having. Don't tell him
I've said this, but lend a hand if you can, and never have to
reproach yourselves with the knowledge that you helped to ruin a
fellow creature, soul and body."

It was well for the success of Mac's first crusade that his hearers
were gentlemen and sober, so his outburst was not received with
jeers or laughter but listened to in silence, while the expression of
the faces changed from one of surprise to regret and respect, for
earnestness is always effective and championship of this sort
seldom fails to touch hearts as yet unspoiled. As he paused with an
eloquent little quiver in his eager voice, Van corked the bottle at a
blow, threw down the corkscrew, and offered Mac his hand, saying
heartily, in spite of his slang: "You are a first-class old brick! I'll
lend a hand for one, and do my best to back up Charlie, for he's the
finest fellow I know, and shan't go to the devil like poor Randal if I
can help it."

Murmurs of applause from the others seemed to express a general
assent to this vigorous statement, and, giving the hand a grateful
shake, Mac retreated to the door, anxious to be off now that he had
freed his mind with such unusual impetuosity.

"Count on me for anything I can do in return for this, Van. I'm
sorry to be such a marplot, but you can take it out in quizzing me
after I'm gone. I'm fair game, and Steve can set you going."

With that, Mac departed as abruptly as he had come, feeling that
he had "made a mess" of it, but comforting himself with the
thought that perhaps he had secured help for Charlie at his own
expense and thinking with a droll smile as he went back to his
mother: "My romance begins by looking after other girls' lovers
instead of finding a sweetheart for myself, but I can't tell Rose, so
she won't laugh at me."




Chapter 13 BOTH SIDES

Steve's engagement made a great stir in the family a pleasant one
this time, for nobody objected, everything seemed felicitous, and
the course of true love ran very smoothly for the young couple,
who promised to remove the only obstacle to their union by
growing old and wise as soon as possible. If he had not been so
genuinely happy, the little lover's airs would have been unbearable,
for he patronized all mankind in general, his brother and elder
cousins in particular.

"Now, that is the way to manage matters," he declared, standing
before the fire in Aunt Clara's billiard room a day or two after the
ball, with his hands behind his back. "No nonsense, no delay, no
domestic rows or tragic separations. Just choose with taste and
judgment, make yourself agreeable through thick and thin, and
when it is perfectly evident that the dear creature adores the
ground you walk on, say the word like a man, and there you are."

"All very easy to do that with a girl like Kitty, who has no
confounded notions to spoil her and trip you up every time you
don't exactly toe the mark," muttered Charlie, knocking the balls
about as if it were a relief to hit something, for he was in a
gloriously bad humor that evening, because time hung heavy on
his hands since he had forsworn the company he could not keep
without danger to himself.

"You should humor those little notions, for all women have them,
and it needs tact to steer clear of them. Kitty's got dozens, but I
treat them with respect, have my own way when I can, give in
without growling when I can't, and we get on like a couple of--"

"Spoons," put in Charlie, who felt that he had not steered clear and
so suffered shipwreck in sight of land.

Steve meant to have said "doves," but his cousin's levity caused
him to add with calm dignity, "reasonable beings," and then
revenged himself by making a good shot which won him the game.

"You always were a lucky little dog, Steve. I don't begrudge you a
particle of your happiness, but it does seem as if things weren't
quite fair sometimes," said Archie, suppressing an envious sigh,
for, though he seldom complained, it was impossible to contrast
his own and his cousin's prospects with perfect equanimity.

    "His worth shines forth the brightest who in hope
     Always confides: the Abject soul despairs,"

observed Mac, quoting Euripides in a conversational tone as he lay
upon a divan reposing after a hard day's work.

"Thank you," said Archie, brightening a little, for a hopeful word
from any source was very comfortable.

"That's your favorite Rip, isn't it? He was a wise old boy, but you
could find advice as good as that nearer home," put in Steve, who
just then felt equal to slapping Plato on the shoulder, so elated was
he at being engaged "first of all the lot," as he gracefully expressed
it.

"Don't halloo till you are out of the wood, Dandy Mrs. Kit has
jilted two men, and may a third, so you'd better not brag of your
wisdom too soon, for she may make a fool of you yet," said
Charlie, cynically, his views of life being very gloomy about this
time.

"No, she won't, Steve, if you do your part honestly. There's the
making of a good little woman in Kitty, and she has proved it by
taking you instead of those other fellows. You are not a Solomon,
but you're not spoilt yet, and she had the sense to see it," said Mac
encouragingly from his corner, for he and his brother were better
friends than even since the little scene at the Van Tassels'.

"Hear! Hear!" cried Steve, looking more than ever like a cheerful
young cockerel trying to crow as he stood upon the hearth rug with
his hands under his coat tails, rising and falling alternately upon
the toes and heels of his neat little boots.

"Come, you've given them each a pat on the head haven't you got
one for me? I need it enough, for if ever there was a poor devil
born under an evil star, it is C. C. Campbell," exclaimed Charlie,
leaning his chin on his cue with a discontented expression of
countenance, for trying to be good is often very hard work till one
gets used to it.

"Oh, yes! I can accommodate you." And, as if his words suggested
the selection, Mac, still lying flat upon his back, repeated one of
his favorite bits from Beaumont and Fletcher, for he had a
wonderful memory and could reel off poetry by the hour together.

    "Man is his own star; and the soul that can
    Render an honest and a perfect man
    Commands all light, all influence, all fate.
    Nothing to him falls early or too late.

    Our acts our angels are; or good or ill,
    Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."

"Confoundedly bad angels they are too," muttered Charlie ruefully,
remembering the one that undid him.

His cousins never knew exactly what occurred on New Year's
night, but suspected that something was amiss, for Charlie had the
blues, and Rose, though as kind as ever, expressed no surprise at
his long absences. They had all observed and wondered at this
state of things, yet discreetly made no remark till Steve, who was
as inquisitive as a magpie, seized this opportunity to say in a
friendly tone, which showed that he bore no malice for the dark
prophecy regarding his Kitty's faithfulness: "What's the trouble,
Prince? You are so seldom in a bad humor that we don't know
what to make of it and all feel out of spirits when you have the
blues. Had a tiff with Rose?"

"Never you mind, little boy, but this I will say the better women
are, the more unreasonable they are. They don't require us to be
saints like themselves, which is lucky, but they do expect us to
render an 'honest and a perfect man' sometimes, and that is asking
rather too much in a fallen world like this," said Charlie, glad to
get a little sympathy, though he had no intention of confessing his
transgressions.

"No, it isn't," said Mac, decidedly.

"Much you know about it," began Charlie, ill pleased to be so
flatly contradicted.

"Well, I know this much," added Mac, suddenly sitting up with his
hair in a highly disheveled condition. "It is very unreasonable in us
to ask women to be saints and then expect them to feel honored
when we offer them our damaged hearts or, at best, one not half as
good as theirs. If they weren't blinded by love, they'd see what a
mean advantage we take of them and not make such bad bargains."

"Upon my word, the philosopher is coming out strong upon the
subject! We shall have him preaching 'Women's Rights' directly,"
said Steve, much amazed at this outburst.

"I've begun, you see, and much good may it do you," answered
Mac, laying himself placidly down again.

"Well, but look here, man you are arguing on the wrong side," put
in Archie, quite agreeing with him, but feeling that he must stand
by his order at all costs.

"Never mind sides, uphold the right wherever you find it. You
needn't stare, Steve I told you I was going to look into this matter,
and I am. You think I'm wrapped up in books, but I see a great deal
more of what is going on around me than you imagine, and I'm
getting on in this new branch, let me tell you, quite as fast as is
good for me, I daresay."

"Going in for perfection, are you?" asked Charlie, both amused and
interested, for he respected Mac more than he owned even to
himself, and though he had never alluded to the timely warning,
neither forgot.

"Yes, I think of it."

"How will you begin?"

"Do my best all-round keep good company, read good books, love
good things, and cultivate soul and body as faithfully and wisely as
I can."

"And you expect to succeed, do you?"

"Please God, I will."

The quiet energy of Mac's last words produced a momentary
silence. Charlie thoughtfully studied the carpet; Archie, who had
been absently poking the fire, looked over at Mac as if he thanked
him again, and Steve, forgetting his self-conceit, began to wonder
if it was not possible to improve himself a little for Kitty's sake.
Only a minute, for young men do not give much time to thoughts
of this kind, even when love stirs up the noblest impulses within
them. To act rather than to talk is more natural to most of them, as
Charlie's next question showed, for, having the matter much at
heart, he ventured to ask in an offhand way as he laughed and
twirled his cue: "Do you intend to reach the highest point of
perfection before you address one of the fair saints, or shall you
ask her to lend a hand somewhere short of that?"

"As it takes a long lifetime to do what I plan, I think I shall ask
some good woman 'to lend a hand' when I've got anything worth
offering her. Not a saint, for I never shall be one myself, but a
gentle creature who will help me, as I shall try to help her, so that
we can go on together and finish our work hereafter, if we haven't
time to do it here."

If Mac had been a lover, he would not have discussed the subject
in this simple and sincere fashion, though he might have felt it far
more deeply, but being quite heart-free, he frankly showed his
interest and, curiously enough, out of his wise young head
unconsciously gave the three lovers before him counsel which they
valued, because he practiced what he preached.

"Well, I hope you'll find her!" said Charlie heartily as he went back
to his game.

"I think I shall." And while the others played, Mac lay staring at
the window curtain as contentedly as if, through it, he beheld "a
dream of fair women" from which to choose his future mate.

A few days after this talk in the billiard room, Kitty went to call
upon Rose, for as she was about to enter the family she felt it her
duty to become acquainted with all its branches. This branch,
however, she cultivated more assiduously than any other and was
continually running in to confer with "Cousin Rose," whom she
considered the wisest, dearest, kindest girl ever created. And Rose,
finding that, in spite of her flighty head, Kitty had a good heart of
her own, did her best to encourage all the new hopes and
aspirations springing up in it under the warmth of the first genuine
affection she had ever known.

"My dear, I want to have some serious conversation with you upon
a subject in which I take an interest for the first time in my life,"
began Miss Kitty, seating herself and pulling off her gloves as if
the subject was one which needed a firm grasp.

"Tell away, and don't mind if I go on working, as I want to finish
this job today," answered Rose, with a long-handled paintbrush in
her hand and a great pair of shears at her side.

"You are always so busy! What is it now? Let me help I can talk
faster when I'm doing something," which seemed hardly possible,
for Kitty's tongue went like a mill clapper at all hours.

"Making picture books for my sick babies at the hospital. Pretty
work, isn't it? You cut out, and I'll paste them on these squares of
gay cambric then we just tie up a few pages with a ribbon and
there is a nice, light, durable book for the poor dears to look at as
they lie in their little beds."

"A capital idea. Do you go there often? How ever do you find the
time for such things?" asked Kitty, busily cutting from a big sheet
the touching picture of a parent bird with a red head and a blue tail
offering what looked like a small boa constrictor to one of its
nestlings, a fat young squab with a green head, yellow body, and
no tail at all.

"I have plenty of time now I don't go out so much, for a party uses
up two days generally one to prepare for it and one to get over it,
you know."

"People think it is so odd of you to give up society all of a sudden.
They say you have 'turned pious' and it is owing to your peculiar
bringing-up. I always take your part and say it is a pity other girls
haven't as sensible an education, for I don't know one who is as
satisfactory on the whole as you are."

"Much obliged. You may also tell people I gave up gaiety because
I value health more. But I haven't forsworn everything of the kind,
Kit. I go to concerts and lectures, and all sorts of early things, and
have nice times at home, as you know. I like fun as well as ever,
but I'm getting on, you see, and must be preparing a little for the
serious part of life. One never knows when it may come," said
Rose, thoughtfully as she pasted a squirrel upside down on the
pink cotton page before her.

"That reminds me of what I wanted to say. If you'll believe me, my
dear, Steve has got that very idea into his head! Did you or Mac
put it there?" asked Kitty, industriously clashing her shears.

"No, I've given up lecturing the boys lately they are so big now
they don't like it, and I fancy I'd got into a way that was rather
tiresome."

"Well, then, he is 'turning pious' too. And what is very singular, I
like it. Now don't smile I really do and I want to be getting ready
for the 'serious part of life,' as you call it. That is, I want to grow
better as fast as I can, for Steve says he isn't half good enough for
me. Just think of that!"

Kitty looked so surprised and pleased and proud that Rose felt no
desire to laugh at her sudden fancy for sobriety but said in her
most sympathetic tone: "I'm very glad to hear it, for it shows that
he loves you in the right way."

"Is there more than one way?"

"Yes, I fancy so, because some people improve so much after they
fall in love, and others do not at all. Have you never observed
that?"

"I never learned how to observe. Of course I know that some
matches turn out well and some don't, but I never thought much
about it."

"Well, I have, for I was rather interested in the subject lately and
had a talk with Aunt Jessie and Uncle about it."

"Gracious! You don't talk to them about such things, do you?"

"Yes, indeed. I ask any questions I like, and always get a good
answer. It is such a nice way to learn, Kitty, for you don't have to
pore over books, but as things come along you talk about them and
remember, and when they are spoken of afterward you understand
and are interested, though you don't say a word," explained Rose.

"It must be nice, but I haven't anyone to do so for me. Papa is too
busy, and Mama always says when I ask question, 'Don't trouble
your head with such things, child,' so I don't. What did you learn
about matches turning out well? I'm interested in that, because I
want mine to be quite perfect in all respects."

"After thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that Uncle was
right, and it is not always safe to marry a person just because you
love him," began Rose, trying to enlighten Kitty without betraying
herself.

"Of course not if they haven't money or are bad. But otherwise I
don't see what more is needed," said Kitty wonderingly.

"One should stop and see if it is a wise love, likely to help both
parties and wear well, for you know it ought to last all one's
lifetime, and it is very sad if it doesn't."

"I declare it quite scares me to think of it, for I don't usually go
beyond my wedding day in making plans. I remember, though, that
when I was engaged the first time you don't know the man; it was
just after you went away, and I was only sixteen someone very
ill-naturedly said I should 'marry in haste and repent at leisure,' and
that made me try to imagine how it would seem to go on year after
year with Gustavus who had a dreadful temper, by the way and it
worried me so to think of it that I broke the engagement, and was
so glad ever afterward."

"You were a wise girl and I hope you'll do it again if you find, after
a time, that you and Steve do not truly trust and respect as well as
love one another. If you don't, you'll be miserable when it is too
late, as so many people are who do marry in haste and have a
lifetime to repent it. Aunt Jessie says so, and she knows."

"Don't be solemn, Rose. It fidgets me to think about life-times, and
respecting, and all those responsible things. I'm not used to it, and I
don't know how to do it."

"But you must think, and you must learn how before you take the
responsibility upon yourself. That is what your life is for, and you
mustn't spoil it by doing a very solemn thing without seeing if you
are ready for it."

"Do you think about all this?" asked Kitty, shrugging up her
shoulders as if responsibility of any sort did not sit comfortably on
them.

"One has to sometimes, you know. But is that all you wanted to
tell me?" added Rose, anxious to turn the conversation from
herself.

"Oh, dear, no! The most serious thing of all is this. Steve is putting
himself in order generally, and so I want to do my part, and I must
begin right away before my thoughts get distracted with clothes
and all sorts of dear, delightful, frivolous things that I can't help
liking. Now I wish you'd tell me where to begin. Shouldn't I
improve my mind by reading something solid?" And Kitty looked
over at the well-filled bookcase as if to see if it contained anything
large and dry enough to be considered "solid."

"It would be an excellent plan, and we'll look up something. What
do you feel as if you needed most?"

"A little of everything I should say, for when I look into my mind
there really doesn't seem to be much there but odds and ends, and
yet I'm sure I've read a great deal more than some girls do. I
suppose novels don't count, though, and are of no use, for,
goodness knows, the people and things they describe aren't a bit
like the real ones."

"Some novels are very useful and do as much good as sermons,
I've heard Uncle say, because they not only describe truly, but
teach so pleasantly that people like to learn in that way," said
Rose, who knew the sort of books Kitty had read and did not
wonder that she felt rather astray when she tried to guide herself by
their teaching.

"You pick me out some of the right kind, and I'll apply my mind to
them. Then I ought to have some 'serious views' and 'methods' and
'principles.' Steve said 'principles,' good firm ones, you know." And
Kitty gave a little pull at the bit of cambric she was cutting as
housewives pull cotton or calico when they want "a good firm
article."

Rose could not help laughing now, though much pleased, for Kitty
was so prettily in earnest, and yet so perfectly ignorant how to
begin on the self-improvement she very much needed, that it was
pathetic as well as comical to see and hear her.

"You certainly want some of those, and must begin at once to get
them, but Aunt Jessie can help you there better than I can, or Aunt
Jane, for she has very 'firm' ones, I assure you," said Rose, sobering
down as quickly as possible.

"Mercy on us! I should never dare to say a word about it to Mrs.
Mac, for I'm dreadfully afraid of her, she is so stern, and how I'm
ever to get on when she is my mother-in-law I don't know!" cried
Kitty, clasping her hands in dismay at the idea.

"She isn't half as stern as she looks, and if you go to her without
fear, you've no idea how sensible and helpful she is. I used to be
frightened out of my wits with her, but now I'm not a bit, and we
get on nicely. Indeed, I'm fond of her, she is so reliable and upright
in all things."

"She certainly is the straightest woman I ever saw, and the most
precise. I never shall forget how scared I was when Steve took me
up to see her that first time. I put on all my plainest things, did my
hair in a meek knob, and tried to act like a sober, sedate young
woman. Steve would laugh at me and say I looked like a pretty
nun, so I couldn't be as proper as I wished. Mrs. Mac was very
kind, of course, but her eye was so sharp I felt as if she saw right
through me, and knew that I'd pinned on my bonnet strings, lost a
button off my boot, and didn't brush my hair for ten minutes every
night," said Kitty in an awe-stricken tone.

"She likes you, though, and so does Uncle, and he's set his heart on
having you live with them by and by, so don't mind her eyes but
look straight up at her, and you'll see how kind they can grow."

"Mac likes me, too, and that did please me, for he doesn't like girls
generally. Steve told me he said I had the 'making of a capital little
woman in me.' Wasn't it nice of him? Steve was so proud, though
he does laugh at Mac sometimes."

"Don't disappoint them, dear. Encourage Steve in all the good
things he likes or wants, make friends with Mac, love Aunt Jane,
and be a daughter to Uncle, and you'll find yourself a very happy
girl."

"I truly will, and thank you very much for not making fun of me. I
know I'm a little goose, but lately I've felt as if I might come to
something if I had the right sort of help. I'll go up and see Aunt
Jessie tomorrow. I'm not a bit afraid of her, and then if you'll just
quietly find out from Uncle Doctor what I must read, I'll work as
hard as I can. Don't tell anyone, please, they'll think it odd and
affected, and I can't bear to be laughed at, though I daresay it is
good discipline."

Rose promised, and both worked in silence for a moment, then
Kitty asked rather timidly: "Are you and Charlie trying this plan
too? Since you've left off going out so much, he keeps away also,
and we don't know what to make of it."

"He has had what he calls an 'artistic fit' lately, set up a studio, and
is doing some crayon sketches of us all. If he'd only finish his
things, they would be excellent, but he likes to try a great variety at
once. I'll take you in sometime, and perhaps he will do a portrait of
you for Steve. He likes girls' faces and gets the likenesses
wonderfully well."

"People say you are engaged but I contradict it, because, of course,
I should know if you were."

"We are not."

"I'm glad of it, for really, Rose, I'm afraid Charlie hasn't got 'firm
principles,' though he is a fascinating fellow and one can't scold
him. You don't mind my saying so, do you, dear?" added Kitty, for
Rose did not answer at once.

"Not in the least, for you are one of us now, and I can speak
frankly and I will, for I think in one way you can help Steve very
much. You are right about Charlie, both as to the principles and
the fascination. Steve admires him exceedingly, and always from a
boy liked to imitate his pleasant ways. Some of them are very
harmless and do Steve good, but some are not. I needn't talk about
it, only you must show your boy that you depend on him to keep
out of harm and help him do it."

"I will, I will! And then perhaps, when he is a perfect model,
Charlie will imitate him. I really begin to feel as if I had a great
deal to do." And Kitty looked as if she was beginning to like it
also.

"We all have and the sooner we go to work the better for us and
those we love. You wouldn't think now that Phebe was doing
anything for Archie, but she is, and writes such splendid letters,
they stir him up wonderfully and make us all love and admire her
more than ever."

"How is she getting on?" asked Kitty, who, though she called
herself a "little goose," had tact enough to see that Rose did not
care to talk about Charlie.

"Nicely, for you know she used to sing in our choir, so that was a
good recommendation for another. She got a fine place in the new
church at L----, and that gives her a comfortable salary, though she
has something put away. She was always a saving creature and
kept her wages carefully. Uncle invested them, and she begins to
feel quite independent already. No fear but my Phebe will get on
she has such energy and manages so well. I sometimes wish I
could run away and work with her."

"Ah, my dear! We rich girls have our trials as well as poor ones,
though we don't get as much pity as they do," sighed Kitty.
"Nobody knows what I suffer sometimes from worries that I can't
talk about, and I shouldn't get much sympathy if I did, just because
I live in a big house, wear good gowns, and have lots of lovers.
Annabel used to say she envied me above all created beings, but
she doesn't now, and is perfectly absorbed in her dear little
Chinaman. Do you see how she ever could like him?"

So they began to gossip, and the sober talk was over for that time,
but when Kitty departed, after criticizing all her dear friends and
their respective sweethearts, she had a helpful little book in her
muff, a resolute expression on her bright face, and so many
excellent plans for self-improvement in her busy brain that she and
Steve bid fair to turn out the model couple of the century.




Chapter 14 AUNT CLARA'S PLAN

Being seriously alarmed by the fear of losing the desire of his
heart, Charlie had gone resolutely to work and, like many another
young reformer, he rather overdid the matter, for in trying to keep
out of the way of temptation, he denied himself much innocent
enjoyment. The "artistic fit" was a good excuse for the seclusion
which he fancied would be a proper penance, and he sat listlessly
plying crayon or paintbrush, with daily wild rides on black Brutus,
which seemed to do him good, for danger of that sort was his
delight.

People were used to his whims and made light of what they
considered a new one, but when it lasted week after week and all
attempts to draw him out were vain, his jolly comrades gave him
up and the family began to say approvingly, "Now he really is
going to settle down and do something." Fortunately, his mother
let him alone, for though Dr. Alec had not "thundered in her ear"
as he threatened, he had talked with her in a way which first made
her very angry, then anxious, and, lastly, quite submissive, for her
heart was set on the boy's winning Rose and she would have had
him put on sackcloth and ashes if that would have secured the
prize. She made light of the cause of Rose's displeasure,
considering her extremely foolish and straitlaced, "for all young
men of any spirit had their little vices, and came out well enough
when the wild oats were sowed." So she indulged Charlie in his
new vagary, as she had in all his others, and treated him like an
ill-used being, which was neither an inspiring nor helpful course
on her part. Poor soul! She saw her mistake by and by, and when
too late repented of it bitterly.

Rose wanted to be kind, and tried in various ways to help her
cousin, feeling very sure she should succeed as many another
hopeful woman has done, quite unconscious how much stronger an
undisciplined will is than the truest love, and what a difficult task
the wisest find it to undo the mistakes of a bad education. But it
was a hard thing to do, for at the least hint of commendation or
encouragement, he looked so hopeful that she was afraid of
seeming to promise too much, and, of all things, she desired to
escape the accusation of having trifled with him.

So life was not very comfortable to either just then; and while
Charlie was "mortifying soul and body" to please her, she was
studying how to serve him best. Aunt Jessie helped her very much,
and no one guessed, when they saw pretty Miss Campbell going up
and down the hill with such a serious face, that she was intent
upon anything except taking, with praiseworthy regularity, the
constitutionals which gave her such a charming color.

Matters were in this state when one day a note came to Rose from
Mrs. Clara.

MY SWEET CHILD, Do take pity on my poor boy and cheer him
up with a sight of you, for he is so triste it breaks my heart
to see him. He has a new plan in his head, which strikes me as an
excellent one, if you will only favor it. Let him come and take you
for a drive this fine afternoon and talk things over. It will do him a
world of good and deeply oblige
    Your ever loving
        AUNT CLARA.

Rose read the note twice and stood a moment pondering, with her
eyes absently fixed on the little bay before her window. The sight
of several black figures moving briskly to and fro across its frozen
surface seemed to suggest a mode of escape from the drive she
dreaded in more ways than one. "That will be safer and
pleasanter," she said, and going to her desk wrote her answer.

DEAR AUNTY, I'm afraid of Brutus, but if Charlie will go skating
with me, I should enjoy it very much and it would do us both good.
I can listen to the new plan with an undivided mind there, so give
him my love, please, and say I shall expect him at three.

Affectionately,
ROSE.

Punctually at three Charlie appeared with his skates over his arm
and with a very contented face, which brightened wonderfully as
Rose came downstairs in a sealskin suit and scarlet skirt, so like
the one she wore years ago that he involuntarily exclaimed as he
took her skates: "You look so like little Rose I hardly know you,
and it seems so like old times I feel sixteen again."

"That is just the way one ought to feel on such a day as this. Now
let us be off and have a good spin before anyone comes. There are
only a few children there now, but it is Saturday, you know, and
everybody will be out before long," answered Rose, carefully
putting on her mittens as she talked, for her heart was not as light
as the one little Rose carried under the brown jacket, and the boy
of sixteen never looked at her with the love and longing she read in
the eyes of the young man before her.

Away they went, and were soon almost as merry and warm as the
children around them, for the ice was in good condition, the
February sunshine brilliant, and the keen wind set their blood
a-tingle with a healthful glow.

"Now tell me the plan your mother spoke of," began Rose as they
went gliding across the wide expanse before them, for Charlie
seemed to have forgotten everything but the bliss of having her all
to himself for a little while.

"Plan? Oh, yes! It is simply this. I'm going out to Father next
month."

"Really?" and Rose looked both surprised and incredulous, for this
plan was not a new one.

"Really. You don't believe it, but I am, and mother means to go
with me. We've had another letter from the governor, and he says
if she can't part from her big baby to come along too, and all be
happy together. What do you think of that?" he asked, eyeing her
intently, for they were face to face as she went backward and he
held both of her hands to steer and steady her.

"I like it immensely, and do believe it now only it rather takes my
breath away to think of Aunty's going, when she never would hear
of it before."

"She doesn't like the plan very well now and consents to go only
on one condition."

"What is that?" asked Rose, trying to free her hands, for a look at
Charlie made her suspect what was coming.

"That you go with us." And, holding the hands fast, he added
rapidly, "Let me finish before you speak. I don't mean that
anything is to be changed till you are ready, but if you go, I am
willing to give up everything else and live anywhere as long as you
like. Why shouldn't you come to us for a year or two? We've never
had our share. Father would be delighted, mother contented, and I
the happiest man alive."

"Who made this plan?" asked Rose as soon as she got the breath
which certainly had been rather taken away by this entirely new
and by no means agreeable scheme.

"Mother suggested it I shouldn't have dared even to dream of such
richness. I'd made up my mind to go alone, and when I told her,
she was in despair till this superb idea came into her head. After
that, of course, it was easy enough for me to stick to the resolution
I'd made."

"Why did you decide to go, Charlie?" And Rose looked up into the
eyes that were fixed beseechingly on hers.

They wavered and glanced aside, then met hers honestly yet full of
humility, which made her own fall as he answered very low:
"Because I don't dare to stay."

"Is it so hard?" she said pitifully.

"Very hard. I haven't the moral courage to own up and face
ridicule, and it seems so mean to hide for fear of breaking my
word. I will keep it this time, Rose, if I go to the ends of the earth
to do it."

"It is not cowardly to flee temptation, and nobody whose opinion is
worth having will ridicule any brave attempt to conquer one's self.
Don't mind it, Charlie, but stand fast, and I am sure you will
succeed."

"You don't know what it is, and I can't tell you, for till I tried to
give it up I never guessed what a grip it had on me. I thought it was
only a habit, easy to drop when I liked, but it is stronger than I, and
sometimes I feel as if possessed of a devil that will get the better
of me, try as I may."

He dropped her hands abruptly as he said that, with the energy of
despair; and, as if afraid of saying too much, he left her for a
minute, striking away at full speed, as if in truth he would "go to
the ends of the earth" to escape the enemy within himself.

Rose stood still, appalled by this sudden knowledge of how much
greater the evil was than she had dreamed. What ought she to do?
Go with her cousin, and by so doing tacitly pledge herself as his
companion on that longer journey for which he was as yet so
poorly equipped? Both heart and conscience protested against this
so strongly that she put the thought away. But compassion pleaded
for him tenderly, and the spirit of self-sacrifice, which makes
women love to give more than they receive, caused her to feel as if
in a measure this man's fate lay in her hands, to be decided for
good or ill through her. How should she be true both to him and to
herself?

Before this question could be answered, he was back again,
looking as if he had left his care behind him, for his moods varied
like the wind. Her attitude, as she stood motionless and alone with
downcast face, was so unlike the cheerful creature who came to
meet him an hour ago, it filled him with self-reproach, and,
coming up, he drew one hand through his arm, saying, as she
involuntarily followed him, "You must not stand still. Forget my
heroics and answer my question. Will you go with us, Rose?"

"Not now that is asking too much, Charlie, and I will promise
nothing, because I cannot do it honestly," she answered, so firmly
that he knew appeal was useless.

"Am I to go alone, then, leaving all I care for behind me?"

"No, take your mother with you, and do your best to reunite your
parents. You could not give yourself to a better task."

"She won't go without you."

"I think she will if you hold fast to your resolution. You won't give
that up, I hope?"

"No I must go somewhere, for I can't stay here, and it may as well
be India, since that pleases Father," answered Charlie doggedly.

"It will more than you can imagine. Tell him all the truth, and see
how glad he will be to help you, and how sincerely he will respect
you for what you've done."

"If you respect me, I don't care much about the opinion of anyone
else," answered Charlie, clinging with a lover's pertinacity to the
hope that was dearest.

"I shall, if you go manfully away and do the duty you owe your
father and yourself."

"And when I've done it, may I come back to be rewarded, Rose?"
he asked, taking possession of the hand on his arm as if it was
already his.

"I wish I could say what you want me to. But how can I promise
when I am not sure of anything? I don't love you as I ought, and
perhaps I never shall so why persist in making me bind myself in
this way? Be generous, Charlie, and don't ask it," implored Rose,
much afflicted by his persistence.

"I thought you did love me it looked very like it a month ago,
unless you have turned coquette, and I can't quite believe that," he
answered bitterly.

"I was beginning to love you, but you made me afraid to go on,"
murmured Rose, trying to tell the truth kindly.

"That cursed custom! What can a man do when his hostess asks
him to drink wine with her?" And Charlie looked as if he could
have cursed himself even more heartily.

"He can say 'no.'"

"I can't."

"Ah, that's the trouble! You never learned to say it even to
yourself, and now it is so hard, you want me to help you."

"And you won't."

"Yes, I will, by showing you that I can say it to myself, for your
sake." And Rose looked up with a face so full of tender sorrow he
could not doubt the words which both reproached and comforted
him.

"My little saint! I don't deserve one half your goodness to me, but I
will, and go away without one complaint to do my best, for your
sake," he cried, touched by her grief and stirred to emulation by
the example of courage and integrity she tried to set him.

Here Kitty and Steve bore down upon them; and, obeying the
impulse to put care behind them, which makes it possible for
young hearts to ache one minute and dance the next, Rose and
Charlie banished their troubles, joined in the sport that soon turned
the lonely little bay into a ballroom, and enjoyed the splendors of a
winter sunset forgetful of separation and Calcutta.




Chapter 15 ALAS FOR CHARLIE!

In spite of much internal rebellion, Charlie held fast to his
resolution, and Aunt Clara, finding all persuasions vain, gave in
and in a state of chronic indignation against the world in general
and Rose in particular, prepared to accompany him. The poor girl
had a hard time of it and, but for her uncle, would have fared still
worse. He was a sort of shield upon which Mrs. Clara's
lamentations, reproaches, and irate glances fell unavailingly
instead of wounding the heart against which they were aimed.

The days passed very quickly now, for everyone seemed anxious to
have the parting over and preparations went on rapidly. The big
house was made ready to shut up for a year at least, comforts for
the long voyage laid in, and farewell visits paid. The general
activity and excitement rendered it impossible for Charlie to lead
the life of an artistic hermit any longer and he fell into a restless
condition which caused Rose to long for the departure of the Rajah
when she felt that he would be safe, for these farewell festivities
were dangerous to one who was just learning to say "no."

"Half the month safely gone. If we can only get well over these last
weeks, a great weight will be off my mind," thought Rose as she
went down one wild, wet morning toward the end of February.

Opening the study door to greet her uncle, she exclaimed, "Why,
Archie!" then paused upon the threshold, transfixed by fear, for in
her cousin's white face she read the tidings of some great
affliction.

"Hush! Don't be frightened. Come in and I'll tell you," he
whispered, putting down the bottle he had just taken from the
doctor's medicine closet.

Rose understood and obeyed, for Aunt Plenty was poorly with her
rheumatism and depended on her morning doze.

"What is it?" she said, looking about the room with a shiver, as if
expecting to see again what she saw there New Year's night.
Archie was alone, however, and, drawing her toward the closet,
answered with an evident effort to be quite calm and steady
"Charlie is hurt! Uncle wants more ether and the wide bandages in
some drawer or other. He told me, but I forget. You keep this place
in order find them for me. Quick!"

Before he had done, Rose was at the drawer, turning over the
bandages with hands that trembled as they searched.

"All narrow! I must make some. Can you wait?" And, catching up
a piece of old linen, she tore it into wide strips, adding, in the same
quick tone, as she began to roll them, "Now, tell me."

"I can wait those are not needed just yet. I didn't mean anyone
should know, you least of all," began Archie, smoothing out the
strips as they lay across the table and evidently surprised at the
girl's nerve and skill.

"I can bear it make haste! Is he much hurt?"

"I'm afraid he is. Uncle looks sober, and the poor boy suffers so, I
couldn't stay," answered Archie, turning still whiter about the lips
that never had so hard a tale to tell before.

"You see, he went to town last evening to meet the man who is
going to buy Brutus."

"And Brutus did it? I knew he would!" cried Rose, dropping her
work to wring her hands, as if she guessed the ending of the story
now.

"Yes, and if he wasn't shot already I'd do it myself with pleasure,
for he's done his best to kill Charlie," muttered Charlie's mate with
a grim look, then gave a great sigh and added with averted face, "I
shouldn't blame the brute, it wasn't his fault. He needed a firm
hand and--" He stopped there, but Rose said quickly: "Go on. I must
know."

"Charlie met some of his old cronies, quite by accident; there was
a dinner party, and they made him go, just for a good-bye, they
said. He couldn't refuse, and it was too much for him. He would
come home alone in the storm, though they tried to keep him, as
he wasn't fit. Down by the new bridge that high embankment, you
know the wind had put the lantern out he forgot or something
scared Brutus, and all went down together."

Archie had spoken fast and brokenly but Rose understood and at
the last word hid her face with a little moan, as if she saw it all.

"Drink this and never mind the rest," he said, dashing into the next
room and coming back with a glass of water, longing to be done
and away, for this sort of pain seemed almost as bad as that he had
left.

Rose drank, but held his arm tightly, as he would have turned
away, saying in a tone of command he could not disobey: "Don't
keep anything back tell me the worst at once."

"We knew nothing of it," he went on obediently. "Aunt Clara
thought he was with me, and no one found him till early this
morning. A workman recognized him and he was brought home,
dead they thought. I came for Uncle an hour ago. Charlie is
conscious now, but awfully hurt, and I'm afraid from the way Mac
and Uncle looked at one another that Oh! Think of it, Rose!
Crushed and helpless, alone in the rain all night, and I never knew,
I never knew!"

With that, poor Archie broke down entirely and, flinging himself
into a chair, laid his face on the table, sobbing like a girl. Rose had
never seen a man cry before, and it was so unlike a woman's
gentler grief that it moved her very much. Putting by her own
anguish, she tried to comfort his and, going to him, lifted up his
head and made him lean on her, for in such hours as this women
are the stronger. It was a very little to do, but it did comfort
Archie, for the poor fellow felt as if fate was very hard upon him
just then, and in this faithful bosom he could pour his brief but
pathetic plaint.

"Phebe's gone, and now if Charlie's taken, I don't see how I can
bear it!"

"Phebe will come back, dear, and let us hope poor Charlie isn't
going to be taken yet. Such things always seem worst at first, I've
heard people say, so cheer up and hope for the best," answered
Rose, seeking for some comfortable words to say and finding very
few.

They took effect, however, for Archie did cheer up like a man.
Wiping away the tears which he so seldom shed that they did not
know where to go, he got up, gave himself a little shake, and said
with a long breath, as if he had been underwater: "Now I'm all
right, thank you. I couldn't help it the shock of being waked
suddenly to find the dear old fellow in such a pitiful state upset
me. I ought to go are these ready?"

"In a minute. Tell Uncle to send for me if I can be of any use. Oh,
poor Aunt Clara! How does she bear it?"

"Almost distracted. I took Mother to her, and she will do all that
anybody can. Heaven only knows what Aunt will do if--"

"And only heaven can help her," added Rose as Archie stopped at
the words he could not utter. "Now take them, and let me know
often."

"You brave little soul, I will." And Archie went away through the
rain with his sad burden, wondering how Rose could be so calm
when the beloved Prince might be dying.

A long dark day followed, with nothing to break its melancholy
monotony except the bulletins that came from hour to hour
reporting little change either for better or for worse. Rose broke
the news gently to Aunt Plenty and set herself to the task of
keeping up the old lady's spirits, for, being helpless, the good soul
felt as if everything would go wrong without her. At dusk she fell
asleep, and Rose went down to order lights and fire in the parlor,
with tea ready to serve at any moment, for she felt sure some of the
men would come and that a cheerful greeting and creature
comforts would suit them better than tears, darkness, and
desolation.

Presently Mac arrived, saying the instant he entered the room:
"More comfortable, Cousin."

"Thank heaven!" cried Rose, unclasping her hands. Then seeing
how worn out, wet, and weary Mac looked as he came into the
light, she added in a tone that was a cordial in itself, "Poor boy,
how tired you are! Come here, and let me make you comfortable."

"I was going home to freshen up a bit, for I must be back in an
hour. Mother took my place, so I could be spared, and came off, as
Uncle refused to stir."

"Don't go home, for if Aunty isn't there it will be very dismal. Step
into Uncle's room and refresh, then come back and I'll give you
your tea. Let me, let me! I can't help in any other way, and I must
do something, this waiting is so dreadful."

Her last words betrayed how much suspense was trying her, and
Mac yielded at once, glad to comfort and be comforted. When he
came back, looking much revived, a tempting little tea table stood
before the fire and Rose went to meet him, saying with a faint
smile, as she liberally bedewed him with the contents of a cologne
flask: "I can't bear the smell of ether it suggests such dreadful
things."

"What curious creatures women are! Archie told us you bore the
news like a hero, and now you turn pale at a whiff of bad air. I
can't explain it," mused Mac as he meekly endured the fragrant
shower bath.

"Neither can I, but I've been imagining horrors all day and made
myself nervous. Don't let us talk about it, but come and have some
tea."

"That's another queer thing. Tea is your panacea for all human ills
yet there isn't any nourishment in it. I'd rather have a glass of milk,
thank you," said Mac, taking an easy chair and stretching his feet
to the fire.

She brought it to him and made him eat something; then, as he
shut his eyes wearily, she went away to the piano and, having no
heart to sing, played softly till he seemed asleep. But at the stroke
of six he was up and ready to be off again.

"He gave me that. Take it with you and put some on his hair. He
likes it, and I do so want to help a little," she said, slipping the
pretty flagon into his pocket with such a wistful look Mac never
thought of smiling at this very feminine request.

"I'll tell him. Is there anything else I can do for you, Cousin?" he
asked, holding the cold hand that had been serving him so
helpfully.

"Only this if there is any sudden change, promise to send for me,
no matter at what hour it is. I must say 'good-bye'".

"I will come for you. But, Rose, I am sure you may sleep in peace
tonight, and I hope to have good news for you in the morning."

"Bless you for that! Come early, and let me see him soon. I will be
very good, and I know it will not do him any harm."

"No fear of that. The first thing he said when he could speak was
'Tell Rose carefully,' and as I came away he guessed where I was
going and tried to kiss his hand in the old way, you know."

Mac thought it would cheer her to hear that Charlie remembered
her, but the sudden thought that she might never see the familiar
little gesture anymore was the last drop that made her full heart
overflow, and Mac saw the "hero" of the morning sink down at his
feet in a passion of tears that frightened him. He took her to the
sofa and tried to comfort her, but as soon as the bitter sobbing
quieted she looked up and said quite steadily, great drops rolling
down her cheeks the while: "Let me cry it is what I need, and I
shall be all the better for it by and by. Go to Charlie now and tell
him I said with all my heart, 'Good night!'?

"I will!" And Mac trudged away, marveling in his turn at the
curiously blended strength and weakness of womankind.

That was the longest night Rose ever spent, but joy came in the
morning with the early message: "He is better. You are to come by
and by." Then Aunt Plenty forgot her lumbago and arose; Aunt
Myra, who had come to have a social croak, took off her black
bonnet as if it would not be needed at present, and the girl made
ready to go and say "Welcome back," not the hard "Good-bye."

It seemed very long to wait, for no summons came till afternoon,
then her uncle arrived, and at the first sight of his face Rose began
to tremble.

"I came for my little girl myself, because we must go back at
once," he said as she hurried toward him hat in hand.

"I'm ready, sir." But her hands shook as she tried to tie the ribbons,
and her eyes never left the face that was full of tender pity for her.

He took her quickly into the carriage and, as they rolled away, said
with the quiet directness which soothes such agitation better than
any sympathetic demonstration: "Charlie is worse. I feared it when
the pain went so suddenly this morning, but the chief injuries are
internal and one can never tell what the chances are. He insists that
he is better, but he will soon begin to fail, I fear, become
unconscious, and slip away without more suffering. This is the
time for you to see him, for he has set his heart on it, and nothing
can hurt him now. My child, it is very hard, but we must help each
other bear it."

Rose tried to say, "Yes, Uncle" bravely, but the words would not
come, and she could only slip her hand into his with a look of
mute submission. He laid her head on his shoulder and went on
talking so quietly that anyone who did not see how worn and
haggard his face had grown with two days and a night of sharp
anxiety might have thought him cold.

"Jessie has gone home to rest, and Jane is with poor Clara, who
has dropped asleep at last. I've sent for Steve and the other boys.
There will be time for them later, but he so begged to see you now,
I thought it best to come while this temporary strength keeps him
up. I have told him how it is, but he will not believe me. If he asks
you, answer honestly and try to fit him a little for this sudden
ending of so many hopes."

"How soon, Uncle?"

"A few hours, probably. This tranquil moment is yours make the
most of it and, when we can do no more for him, we'll comfort one
another."

Mac met them in the hall, but Rose hardly saw him. She was
conscious only of the task before her and, when her uncle led her
to the door, she said quietly, "Let me go in alone, please."

Archie, who had been hanging over the bed, slipped away into the
inner room as she appeared, and Rose found Charlie waiting for
her with such a happy face, she could not believe what she had
heard and found it easy to say almost cheerfully as she took his
eager hand in both of hers: "Dear Charlie, I'm so glad you sent for
me. I longed to come, but waited till you were better. You surely
are?" she added, as a second glance showed to her the
indescribable change which had come upon the face which at first
seemed to have both light and color in it.

"Uncle says not, but I think he is mistaken, because the agony is all
gone, and except for this odd sinking now and then, I don't feel so
much amiss," he answered feebly but with something of the old
lightness in his voice.

"You will hardly be able to sail in the Rajah, I fear, but you won't
mind waiting a little while we nurse you," said poor Rose, trying to
talk on quietly, with her heart growing heavier every minute.

"I shall go if I'm carried! I'll keep that promise, though it costs me
my life. Oh, Rose! You know? They've told you?" And, with a
sudden memory of what brought him there, he hid his face in the
pillow.

"You broke no promise, for I would not let you make one, you
remember. Forget all that, and let us talk about the better time that
may be coming for you."

"Always so generous, so kind!" he murmured, with her hand
against his feverish cheek; then, looking up, he went on in a tone
so humbly contrite it made her eyes fill with slow, hot tears.

"I tried to flee temptation I tried to say 'no,' but I am so pitiably
weak, I couldn't. You must despise me. But don't give me up
entirely, for if I live, I'll do better. I'll go away to Father and begin
again."

Rose tried to keep back the bitter drops, but they would fall, to
hear him still speak hopefully when there was no hope. Something
in the mute anguish of her face seemed to tell him what she could
not speak, and a quick change came over him as he grasped her
hand tighter, saying in a sharp whisper: "Have I really got to die,
Rose?"

Her only answer was to kneel down and put her arms about him, as
if she tried to keep death away a little longer. He believed it then,
and lay so still, she looked up in a moment, fearing she knew not
what.

But Charlie bore it manfully, for he had the courage which can
face a great danger bravely, though not the strength to fight a
bosom sin and conquer it. His eyes were fixed, as if trying to look
into the unseen world whither he was going, and his lips firmly set
that no word of complaint should spoil the proof he meant to give
that, though he had not known how to live, he did know how to
die. It seemed to Rose as if for one brief instant she saw the man
that might have been if early training had taught him how to rule
himself; and the first words he uttered with a long sigh, as his eye
came back to her, showed that he felt the failure and owned it with
pathetic candor.

"Better so, perhaps; better go before I bring any more sorrow to
you and shame to myself. I'd like to stay a little longer and try to
redeem the past; it seems so wasted now, but if I can't, don't grieve,
Rose. I'm no loss to anyone, and perhaps it is too late to mend."

"Oh, don't say that! No one will find your place among us we never
can forget how much we loved you, and you must believe how
freely we forgive as we would be forgiven," cried Rose, steadied
by the pale despair that had fallen on Charlie's face with those
bitter words.

"'Forgive us our trespasses!' Yes, I should say that. Rose, I'm not
ready, it is so sudden. What can I do?" he whispered, clinging to
her as if he had no anchor except the creature whom he loved so
much.

"Uncle will tell you I am not good enough I can only pray for you."
And she moved as if to call in the help so sorely needed.

"No, no, not yet! Stay by me, darling read something there, in
Grandfather's old book, some prayer for such as I. It will do me
more good from you than any minister alive."

She got the venerable book given to Charlie because he bore the
good man's name and, turning to the "Prayer for the Dying," read it
brokenly while the voice beside her echoed now and then some
word that reproved or comforted.

"The testimony of a good conscience." "By the sadness of his
countenance may his heart be made better." "Christian patience
and fortitude." "Leave the world in peace." "Amen."

There was silence for a little; then Rose, seeing how wan he
looked, said softly, "Shall I call Uncle now?"

"If you will. But first don't smile at my foolishness, dear I want my
little heart. They took it off please give it back and let me keep it
always," he answered with the old fondness strong as ever, even
when he could show it only by holding fast the childish trinket
which she found and had given him the old agate heart with the
faded ribbon. "Put it on, and never let them take it off," he said,
and when she asked if there was anything else she could do for
him, he tried to stretch out his arms to her with a look which asked
for more.

She kissed him very tenderly on lips and forehead, tried to say
"good-bye," but could not speak, and groped her way to the door.
Turning for a last look, Charlie's hopeful spirit rose for a moment,
as if anxious to send her away more cheerful, and he said with a
shadow of the old blithe smile, a feeble attempt at the familiar
farewell gesture: "Till tomorrow, Rose."

Alas for Charlie! His tomorrow never came, and when she saw
him next, he lay there looking so serene and noble, it seemed as if
it must be well with him, for all the pain was past; temptation
ended; doubt and fear, hope and love, could no more stir his quiet
heart, and in solemn truth he had gone to meet his Father, and
begin again.




Chapter 16 GOOD WORKS

The Rajah was delayed awhile, and when it sailed poor Mrs. Clara
was on board, for everything was ready. All thought she had better
go to comfort her husband, and since her boy died she seemed to
care very little what became of her. So, with friends to cheer the
long voyage, she sailed away, a heavyhearted woman, yet not quite
disconsolate, for she knew her mourning was excessively
becoming and felt sure that Stephen would not find her altered by
her trials as much as might have been expected.


Then nothing was left of that gay household but the empty rooms,
silence never broken by a blithe voice anymore, and pictures full
of promise, but all unfinished, like poor Charlie's life.

There was much mourning for the bonny Prince, but no need to tell
of it except as it affected Rose, for it is with her we have most to
do, the other characters being of secondary importance.

When time had soothed the first shock of sudden loss, she was
surprised to find the memory of his faults and failings, short life
and piteous death, grew dim, as if a kindly hand had wiped out the
record and given him back to her in the likeness of the brave,
bright boy she had loved, not as the wayward, passionate young
man who had loved her.

This comforted her very much, and folding down the last blotted
leaf where his name was written, she gladly turned back to reopen
and reread the happier chapters which painted the youthful knight
before he went out to fall in his first battle. None of the bitterness
of love bereaved marred this memory for Rose, because she found
that the warmer sentiment, just budding in her heart, had died with
Charlie and lay cold and quiet in his grave. She wondered, yet was
glad, though sometimes a remorseful pang smote her when she
discovered how possible it was to go on without him, feeling
almost as if a burden had been lifted off, since his happiness was
taken out of her hands. The time had not yet come when the
knowledge that a man's heart was in her keeping would make the
pride and joy of her life, and while she waited for that moment she
enjoyed the liberty she seemed to have recovered.

Such being her inward state, it much annoyed her to be regarded as
a brokenhearted girl and pitied for the loss of her young lover. She
could not explain to all the world, so let it pass, and occupied her
mind with the good works which always lie ready to be taken up
and carried on. Having chosen philanthropy as her profession, she
felt that it was high time to begin the task too long neglected.

Her projects were excellent, but did not prosper as rapidly as she
hoped, for, having to deal with people, not things, unexpected
obstacles were constantly arising. The "Home for Decayed
Gentlewomen," as the boys insisted on calling her two newly
repaired houses, started finely and it was a pleasant sight to see the
comfortable rooms filled with respectable women busy at their
various tasks, surrounded by the decencies and many of the
comforts which make life endurable. But, presently, Rose was
disturbed to find that the good people expected her to take care of
them in a way she had not bargained for. Buffum, her agent, was
constantly reporting complaints, new wants, and general discontent
if they were not attended to. Things were very neglected, water
pipes froze and burst, drains got out of order, yards were in a mess,
and rents behind-hand. Worst of all, outsiders, instead of
sympathizing, only laughed and said, "We told you so," which is a
most discouraging remark to older and wiser workers than Rose.

Uncle Alec, however, stood by her staunchly and helped her out of
many of her woes by good advice and an occasional visit of
inspection, which did much to impress upon the dwellers there the
fact that, if they did not do their part, their leases would be short
ones.

"I didn't expect to make anything out of it, but I did think they
would be grateful," said Rose on one occasion when several
complaints had come in at once and Buffum had reported great
difficulty in collecting the low rents.

"If you do this thing for the sake of the gratitude, then it is a failure
but if it is done for the love of helping those who need help, it is a
success, for in spite of their worry every one of these women feel
what privileges they enjoy and value them highly," said Dr. Alec as
they went home after one of these unsatisfactory calls.

"Then the least they can do is to say 'thank you.' I'm afraid I have
thought more of the gratitude than the work, but if there isn't any, I
must make up my mind to go without," answered Rose, feeling
defrauded of her due.

"Favors often separate instead of attracting people nearer to one
another, and I've seen many a friendship spoilt by the obligation
being all on one side. Can't explain it, but it is so, and I've come to
the conclusion that it is as hard to give in the right spirit as it is to
receive. Puzzle it out, my dear, while you are learning to do good
for its own sake."

"I know one sort of people who are grateful and I'm going to
devote my mind to them. They thank me in many ways, and
helping them is all pleasure and no worry. Come into the hospital
and see the dear babies, or the Asylum, and carry oranges to
Phebe's orphans they don't complain and fidget one's life out, bless
their hearts!" cried Rose, cheering up suddenly.

After that she left Buffum to manage the "Retreat," and devoted
her energies to the little folks, always so ready to receive the
smallest gift and repay the giver with their artless thanks. Here she
found plenty to do, and did it with such sweet goodwill that she
won her way like sunshine, making many a little heart dance over
splendid dolls, gay picture books, and pots of flowers, as well as
food, fire, and clothes for the small bodies pinched with want and
pain.

As spring came new plans sprang up as naturally as dandelions.
The poor children longed for the country; and, as the green fields
could not come to them, Rose carried them to the green fields.
Down on the Point stood an old farmhouse, often used by the
Campbell tribe for summer holidays. That spring it was set to
rights unusually early, several women installed as housekeeper,
cook, and nurses, and when the May days grew bright and warm,
squads of pale children came to toddle in the grass, run over the
rocks, and play upon the smooth sands of the beach. A pretty sight,
and one that well repaid those who brought it to pass.

Everyone took an interest in the "Rose Garden," as Mac named it,
and the womenfolk were continually driving over to the Point for
something for the "poor dears." Aunt Plenty sowed gingerbread
broadcast; Aunt Jessie made pinafores by the dozen while Aunt
Jane "kept her eye" on the nurses, and Aunt Myra supplied
medicines so liberally that the mortality would have been awful if
Dr. Alec had not taken them in charge. To him this was the most
delightful spot in the world and well it might be, for he suggested
the idea and gave Rose all the credit of it. He was often there, and
his appearance was always greeted with shrieks of rapture, as the
children gathered from all quarters creeping, running, hopping on
crutches, or carried in arms which they gladly left to sit on "Uncle
Doctor's" knee, for that was the title by which he went among
them.

He seemed as young as any of his comrades, though the curly head
was getting gray, and the frolics that went on when he arrived were
better than any medicine to children who had never learned to
play. It was a standing joke among the friends that the bachelor
brother had the largest family and was the most domestic man of
the remaining four, though Uncle Mac did his part manfully and
kept Aunt Jane in a constant fidget by his rash propositions to
adopt the heartiest boys and prettiest girls to amuse him and
employ her.

On one occasion Aunt Jane had a very narrow escape, and the
culprit being her son, not her husband, she felt free to repay herself
for many scares of this sort by a good scolding, which, unlike
many, produced excellent results.

One bright June day, as Rose came cantering home from the Point
on her pretty bay pony, she saw a man sitting on a fallen tree
beside the road and something in his despondent attitude arrested
her attention. As she drew nearer he turned his head, and she
stopped short, exclaiming in great surprise: "Why, Mac! What are
you doing here?"

"Trying to solve a problem," he answered, looking up with a
whimsical expression of perplexity and amusement in his face
which made Rose smile till his next words turned her sober in a
twinkling: "I've eloped with a young lady, and don't know what to
do with her. I took her home, of course, but mother turned her out
of the house, and I'm in a quandary."

"Is that her baggage?" asked Rose, pointing with her whip to the
large bundle which he held while the wild idea flashed through her
head that perhaps he really had done some rash deed of this sort.

"No, this is the young lady herself." And, opening a corner of the
brown shawl, he displayed a child of three so pale, so thin and tiny
that she looked like a small scared bird just fallen from the nest as
she shrank away from the light with great frightened eyes and a
hand like a little claw tightly clutched a button of Mac's coat.

"Poor baby! Where did it come from?" cried Rose, leaning down to
look.

"I'll tell you the story, and then you shall advise me what to do. At
our hospital we've had a poor woman who got hurt and died two
days ago. I had nothing to do with her, only took her a bit of fruit
once or twice, for she had big, wistful sort of eyes that haunted me.
The day she died I stopped a minute, and the nurse said she'd been
wanting to speak to me but didn't dare. So I asked if I could do
anything for her and, though she could hardly breathe for pain
being almost gone she implored me to take care of baby. I found
out where the child was, and promised I'd see after her for the poor
soul couldn't seem to die till I'd given her that comfort. I never can
forget the look in her eyes as I held her hand and said, 'Baby shall
be taken care of.' She tried to thank me, and died soon after quite
peacefully. Well, I went today and hunted up the poor little wretch.
Found her in a miserable place, left in the care of an old hag who
had shut her up alone to keep her out of the way, and there this
mite was, huddled in a corner, crying 'Marmar, marmar!' fit to
touch a heart of stone. I blew up at the woman and took the baby
straightaway, for she had been abused. It was high time. Look
there, will you?"

Mac turned the little skinny arm and showed a blue mark which
made Rose drop her reins and stretch out both hands, crying with a
tender sort of indignation: "How dared they do it? Give her to me,
poor little motherless thing!"

Mac laid the bundle in her arms, and Rose began to cuddle it in the
fond, foolish way women have a most comfortable and effective
way, nevertheless and baby evidently felt that things were
changing for the better when warm lips touched her cheeks, a soft
hand smoothed her tumbled hair, and a womanly face bent over
her with the inarticulate cooings and purrings mothers make. The
frightened eyes went up to this gentle countenance and rested there
as if reassured; the little claw crept to the girl's neck, and poor
baby nestled to her with a long sigh and a plaintive murmur of
"Marmar, marmar" that certainly would have touched a stony
heart.

"Now, go on. No, Rosa, not you," said the new nurse as the
intelligent animal looked around to see if things were all right
before she proceeded.

"I took the child home to mother, not knowing what else to do, but
she wouldn't have it at any price, even for a night. She doesn't like
children, you know, and Father has joked so much about 'the
Pointers' that she is quite rampant at the mere idea of a child in the
house. She told me to take it to the Rose Garden. I said it was
running over now, and no room even for a mite like this. 'Go to the
Hospital,' says she. 'Baby isn't ill, ma'am,' says I. 'Orphan Asylum,'
says she. 'Not an orphan got a father who can't take care of her,'
says I. 'Take her to the Foundling place, or Mrs. Gardener, or
someone whose business it is. I will not have the creature here,
sick and dirty and noisy. Carry it back, and ask Rose to tell you
what to do with it.' So my cruel parent cast me forth but relented as
I shouldered baby, gave me a shawl to put her in, a jumble to feed
her with, and money to pay her board in some good place.
Mother's bark is always worse than her bite, you know."

"And you were trying to think of the 'good place' as you sat here?"
asked Rose, looking down at him with great approval as he stood
patting Rosa's glossy neck.

"Exactly. I didn't want to trouble you, for you have your house full
already, and I really couldn't lay my hand on any good soul who
would be bothered with this little forlornity. She has nothing to
recommend her, you see not pretty; feeble; shy as a mouse; no end
of care, I daresay yet she needs every bit she can get to keep soul
and body together, if I'm any judge."

Rose opened her lips impulsively, but closed them without
speaking and sat a minute looking straight between Rosa's ears, as
if forcing herself to think twice before she spoke. Mac watched her
out of the corner of his eyes as he said, in a musing tone, tucking
the shawl around a pair of shabby little feet the while, "This seems
to be one of the charities that no one wants to undertake, yet I can't
help feeling that my promise to the mother binds me to something
more than merely handing baby over to some busy matron or
careless nurse in any of our overcrowded institutions. She is such a
frail creature she won't trouble anyone long, perhaps, and I should
like to give her just a taste of comfort, if not love, before she finds
her 'Marmar' again."

"Lead Rosa I'm going to take this child home, and if Uncle is
willing, I'll adopt her, and she shall be happy!" cried Rose, with the
sudden glow of feeling that always made her lovely. And gathering
poor baby close, she went on her way like a modern Britomart,
ready to redress the wrongs of any who had need of her.

As he led the slowly stepping horse along the quiet road, Mac
could not help thinking that they looked a little like the Flight into
Egypt, but he did not say so, being a reverent youth only glanced
back now and then at the figure above him, for Rose had taken off
her hat to keep the light from baby's eyes and sat with the sunshine
turning her uncovered hair to gold as she looked down at the little
creature resting on the saddle before her with the sweet
thoughtfulness one sees in some of Correggio's young Madonnas.

No one else saw the picture, but Mac long remembered it, and ever
after there was a touch of reverence added to the warm affection
he had always borne his cousin Rose.

"What is the child's name?" was the sudden question which
disturbed a brief silence, broken only by the sound of pacing hoofs,
the rustle of green boughs overhead, and the blithe caroling of
birds.

"I'm sure I don't know," answered Mac, suddenly aware that he had
fallen out of one quandary into another.

"Didn't you ask?"

"No, the mother called her 'Baby,' and the old woman, 'Brat.' And
that is all I know of the first name the last is Kennedy. You may
christen her what you like."

"Then I shall name her Dulcinea, as you are her knight, and call
her Dulce for short. That is a sweet diminutive, I'm sure," laughed
Rose, much amused at the idea.

Don Quixote looked pleased and vowed to defend his little lady
stoutly, beginning his services on the spot by filling the small
hands with buttercups, thereby winning for himself the first smile
baby's face had known for weeks.

When they got home Aunt Plenty received her new guest with her
accustomed hospitality and, on learning the story, was as warmly
interested as even enthusiastic Rose could desire, bustling about to
make the child comfortable with an energy pleasant to see, for the
grandmotherly instincts were strong in the old lady and of late had
been beautifully developed.

In less than half an hour from the time baby went upstairs, she
came down again on Rose's arm, freshly washed and brushed, in a
pink gown much too large and a white apron decidedly too small;
an immaculate pair of socks, but no shoes; a neat bandage on the
bruised arm, and a string of spools for a plaything hanging on the
other. A resigned expression sat upon her little face, but the
frightened eyes were only shy now, and the forlorn heart evidently
much comforted.

"There! How do you like your Dulce now?" said Rose, proudly
displaying the work of her hands as she came in with her habit
pinned up and carrying a silver porringer of bread and milk.

Mac knelt down, took the small, reluctant hand, and kissed it as
devoutly as ever good Alonzo Quixada did that of the Duchess
while he said, merrily quoting from the immortal story: "'High and
Sovereign Lady, thine till death, the Knight of the Rueful
Countenance.'"

But baby had no heart for play and, withdrawing her hand, pointed
to the porringer with the suggestive remark: "Din-din, now."

So Rose sat down and fed the Duchess while the Don stood by and
watched the feast with much satisfaction.

"How nice she looks! Do you consider shoes unhealthy?" he asked,
surveying the socks with respectful interest.

"No, her shoes are drying. You must have let her go in the mud."

"I only put her down for a minute when she howled, and she made
for a puddle, like a duck. I'll buy her some new ones clothes too.
Where do I go, what do I ask for, and how much do I get?" he said,
diving for his pocketbook, amiably anxious but pitiably ignorant.

"I'll see to that. We always have things on hand for the Pointers as
they come along and can soon fit Dulce out. You may make some
inquiries about the father if you will, for I don't want to have her
taken away just as I get fond of her. Do you know anything about
him?"

"Only that he is in State Prison for twenty-one years, and not likely
to trouble you."

"How dreadful! I really think Phebe was better off to have none at
all. I'll go to work at once, then, and try to bring up the convict's
little daughter to be a good woman so that she will have an honest
name of her own, since he has nothing but disgrace to give her."

"Uncle can show you how to do that if you need any help. He has
been so successful in his first attempt, I fancy you won't require
much," said Mac, picking up the spools for the sixth time.

"Yes, I shall, for it is a great responsibility, and I do not undertake
it lightly," answered Rose soberly, though the double-barreled
compliment pleased her very much.

"I'm sure Phebe has turned out splendidly, and you began very
early with her."

"So I did! That's encouraging. Dear thing, how bewildered she
looked when I proposed adopting her. I remember all about it, for
Uncle had just come and I was quite crazy over a box of presents
and rushed at Phebe as she was cleaning brasses. How little I
thought my childish offer would end so well!" And Rose fell
a-musing with a happy smile on her face while baby picked the last
morsels out of the porringer with her own busy fingers.

It certainly had ended well, for Phebe at the end of six months not
only had a good place as choir singer but several young pupils and
excellent prospects for the next winter.

"Accept the blessing of a poor young man,
Whose lucky steps have led him to your door,
and let me help as much as I can. 
Good-bye, my Dulcinea." 

And, with a farewell stroke of the smooth head, Mac went away to
report his success to his mother, who, in spite of her seeming
harshness, was already planning how she could best befriend this
inconvenient baby.




Chapter 17 AMONG THE HAYCOCKS

Uncle Alec did not object and, finding that no one had any claim
upon the child, permitted Rose to keep it for a time at least. So
little Dulce, newly equipped even to a name, took her place among
them and slowly began to thrive. But she did not grow pretty and
never was a gay, attractive child, for she seemed to have been born
in sorrow and brought up in misery. A pale, pensive little creature,
always creeping into corners and looking timidly out, as if asking
leave to live, and, when offered playthings, taking them with a
meek surprise that was very touching.

Rose soon won her heart, and then almost wished she had not, for
baby clung to her with inconvenient fondness, changing her former
wail of "Marmar" into a lament for "Aunty Wose" if separated
long. Nevertheless, there was great satisfaction in cherishing the
little waif, for she learned more than she could teach and felt a
sense of responsibility which was excellent ballast for her
enthusiastic nature.

Kitty Van, who made Rose her model in all things, was
immediately inspired to go and do likewise, to the great
amusement as well as annoyance of her family. Selecting the
prettiest, liveliest child in the Asylum, she took it home on trial for
a week. "A perfect cherub" she pronounced it the first day, but an
"enfant terrible" before the week was over, for the young hero
rioted by day, howled by night, ravaged the house from top to
bottom, and kept his guardians in a series of panics by his
hairbreadth escapes. So early on Saturday, poor exhausted Kitty
restored the "cherub" with many thanks, and decided to wait until
her views of education were rather more advanced.

As the warm weather came on, Rose announced that Dulce needed
mountain air, for she dutifully repeated as many of Dr. Alec's
prescriptions as possible and, remembering how much good Cozy
Corner did her long ago, resolved to try it on her baby. Aunt Jessie
and Jamie went with her, and Mother Atkinson received them as
cordially as ever. The pretty daughters were all married and gone,
but a stout damsel took their place, and nothing seemed changed
except that the old heads were grayer and the young ones a good
deal taller than six years ago.

Jamie immediately fraternized with neighboring boys and devoted
himself to fishing with an ardor which deserved greater success.
Aunt Jessie reveled in reading, for which she had no time at home,
and lay in her hammock a happy woman, with no socks to darn,
buttons to sew, or housekeeping cares to vex her soul. 
Rose went about with Dulce like a very devoted hen with one
rather feeble chicken, for she was anxious to have this treatment
work well and tended her little patient with daily increasing
satisfaction. Dr. Alec came up to pass a few days and pronounced
the child in a most promising condition. But the grand event of the
season was the unexpected arrival of Phebe.

Two of her pupils had invited her to join them in a trip to the
mountains, and she ran away from the great hotel to surprise her
little mistress with a sight of her, so well and happy that Rose had
no anxiety left on her account.

Three delightful days they spent, roaming about together, talking
as only girls can talk after a long separation, and enjoying one
another like a pair of lovers. As if to make it quite perfect, by one
of those remarkable coincidences which sometimes occur, Archie
happened to run up for the Sunday, so Phebe had her surprise, and
Aunt Jessie and the telegraph kept their secret so well, no one ever
knew what maternal machinations brought the happy accident to
pass.

Then Rose saw a very pretty, pastoral bit of lovemaking, and long
after it was over, and Phebe gone one way, Archie another, the
echo of sweet words seemed to linger in the air, tender ghosts to
haunt the pine grove, and even the big coffeepot had a halo of
romance about it, for its burnished sides reflected the soft glances
the lovers interchanged as one filled the other's cup at that last
breakfast.

Rose found these reminiscences more interesting than any novel
she had read, and often beguiled her long leisure by planning a
splendid future for her Phebe as she trotted about after her baby in
the lovely July weather.

On one of the most perfect days she sat under an old apple tree on
the slope behind the house where they used to play. Before her
opened the wide intervale, dotted with haymakers at their
picturesque work. On the left flowed the swift river fringed with
graceful elms in their bravest greenery; on the right rose the purple
hills serene and grand; and overhead glowed the midsummer sky,
which glorified it all.

Little Dulce, tired of play, lay fast asleep in the nest she had made
in one of the haycocks close by, and Rose leaned against the
gnarled old tree, dreaming daydreams with her work at her feet.
Happy and absorbing fancies they seemed to be, for her face was
beautifully tranquil, and she took no heed of the train which
suddenly went speeding down the valley, leaving a white cloud
behind. Its rumble concealed the sound of approaching steps, and
her eyes never turned from the distant hills till the abrupt
appearance of a very sunburned but smiling young man made her
jump up, exclaiming joyfully: "Why, Mac! Where did you drop
from?"

"The top of Mount Washington. How do you do?"

"Never better. Won't you go in? You must be tired after such a
fall."

"No, thank you. I've seen the old lady. She told me Aunt Jessie and
the boy had gone to town and that you were 'settin' round' in the
old place. I came on at once and will take a lounge here if you
don't mind," answered Mac, unstrapping his knapsack and taking a
haycock as if it were a chair.

Rose subsided into her former seat, surveying her cousin with
much satisfaction as she said: "This is the third surprise I've had
since I came. Uncle popped in upon us first, then Phebe, and now
you. Have you had a pleasant tramp? Uncle said you were off."

"Delightful! I feel as if I'd been in heaven, or near it, for about
three weeks, and thought I'd break the shock of coming down to
the earth by calling here on my way home."

"You look as if heaven suited you. Brown as a berry, but so fresh
and happy I should never guess you had been scrambling down a
mountain," said Rose, trying to discover why he looked so well in
spite of the blue flannel suit and dusty shoes, for there was a
certain sylvan freshness about him as he sat there full of reposeful
strength the hills seemed to have given, the wholesome cheerful
days of air and sunshine put into a man, and the clear, bright look
of one who had caught glimpses of a new world from the
mountaintop.

"Tramping agrees with me. I took a dip in the river as I came along
and made my toilet in a place where Milton's Sabrina might have
lived," he said, shaking back his damp hair and settling the knot of
scarlet bunchberries stuck in his buttonhole.

"You look as if you found the nymph at home," said Rose,
knowing how much he liked the "Comus."

"I found her here," and he made a little bow.

"That's very pretty, and I'll give you one in return. You grow more
like Uncle Alec every day, and I think I'll call you Alec, Jr."

"Alexander the Great wouldn't thank you for that," and Mac did
not look as grateful as she had expected.

"Very like, indeed, except the forehead. His is broad and
benevolent, yours high and arched. Do you know if you had no
beard, and wore your hair long, I really think you'd look like
Milton," added Rose, sure that would please him.

It certainly did amuse him, for he lay back on the hay and laughed
so heartily that his merriment scared the squirrel on the wall and
woke Dulce.

"You ungrateful boy! Will nothing suit you? When I say you look
like the best man I know, you gave a shrug, and when I liken you
to a great poet, you shout. I'm afraid you are very conceited, Mac."
And Rose laughed, too, glad to see him so gay.

"If I am, it is your fault. Nothing I can do will ever make a Milton
of me, unless I go blind someday," he said, sobering at the thought.

"You once said a man could be what he liked if he tried hard
enough, so why shouldn't you be a poet?" asked Rose, liking to trip
him up with his own words, as he often did her.

"I thought I was to be an M.D."

"You might be both. There have been poetical doctors, you know."

"Would you like me to be such a one?" asked Mac, looking at her
as seriously as if he really thought of trying it.

"No. I'd rather have you one or the other. I don't care which, only
you must be famous in either you choose. I'm very ambitious for
you, because, I insist upon it, you are a genius of some sort. I think
it is beginning to simmer already, and I've got a great curiosity to
know what it will turn out to be."

Mac's eyes shone as she said that, but before he could speak a little
voice said, "Aunty Wose!" and he turned to find Dulce sitting up in
her nest staring at the broad blue back before her with round eyes.

"Do you know your Don?" he asked, offering his hand with
respectful gentleness, for she seemed a little doubtful whether he
was a friend or stranger.

"It is 'Mat,'" said Rose, and that familiar word seemed to reassure
the child at once, for, leaning forward, she kissed him as if quite
used to doing it.

"I picked up some toys for her, by the way, and she shall have
them at once to pay for that. I didn't expect to be so graciously
received by this shy mouse," said Mac, much gratified, for Dulce
was very chary of her favors.

"She knew you, for I always carry my home album with me, and
when she comes to your picture she always kisses it, because I
never want her to forget her first friend," explained Rose, pleased
with her pupil.

"First, but not best," answered Mac, rummaging in his knapsack
for the promised toys, which he set forth upon the hay before
delighted Dulce.

Neither picture books nor sweeties, but berries strung on long
stems of grass, acorns, and pretty cones, bits of rock shining with
mica, several bluebirds' feathers, and a nest of moss with white
pebbles for eggs.

"Dearest Nature, strong and kind" knows what children love, and
has plenty of such playthings ready for them all, if one only knows
how to find them. These were received with rapture. And leaving
the little creature to enjoy them in her own quiet way, Mac began
to tumble the things back into his knapsack again. Two or three
books lay near Rose, and she took up one which opened at a place
marked by a scribbled paper.

"Keats? I didn't know you condescended to read anything so
modern," she said, moving the paper to see the page beneath.

Mac looked up, snatched the book out of her hand, and shook
down several more scraps, then returned it with a curiously
shamefaced expression, saying, as he crammed the papers into his
pocket, "I beg pardon, but it was full of rubbish. Oh, yes! I'm fond
of Keats. Don't you know him?"

"I used to read him a good deal, but Uncle found me crying over
the 'Pot of Basil' and advised me to read less poetry for a while or I
should get too sentimental," answered Rose, turning the pages
without seeing them, for a new idea had just popped into her head.

"'The Eve of St. Agnes' is the most perfect love story in the world,
I think," said Mac, enthusiastically.

"Read it to me. I feel just like hearing poetry, and you will do it
justice if you are fond of it," said Rose, handing him the book with
an innocent air.

"Nothing I'd like better, but it is rather long."

"I'll tell you to stop if I get tired. Baby won't interrupt; she will be
contented for an hour with those pretty things."

As if well pleased with his task, Mac laid himself comfortably on
the grass and, leaning his head on his hand, read the lovely story as
only one could who entered fully into the spirit of it. Rose watched
him closely and saw how his face brightened over some quaint
fancy, delicate description, or delicious word; heard how smoothly
the melodious measures fell from his lips, and read something
more than admiration in his eyes as he looked up now and then to
mark if she enjoyed it as much as he.

She could not help enjoying it, for the poet's pen painted as well as
wrote, and the little romance lived before her, but she was not
thinking of John Keats as she listened; she was wondering if this
cousin was a kindred spirit, born to make such music and leave as
sweet an echo behind him. It seemed as if it might be; and, after
going through the rough caterpillar and the pent-up chrysalis
changes, the beautiful butterfly would appear to astonish and
delight them all. So full of this fancy was she that she never
thanked him when the story ended but, leaning forward, asked in a
tone that made him start and look as if he had fallen from the
clouds: "Mac, do you ever write poetry?"

"Never."

"What do you call the song Phebe sang with her bird chorus?"

"That was nothing till she put the music to it. But she promised not
to tell."

"She didn't. I suspected, and now I know," laughed Rose, delighted
to have caught him.

Much discomfited, Mac gave poor Keats a fling and, leaning on
both elbows, tried to hide his face for it had reddened like that of a
modest girl when teased about her lover.

"You needn't look so guilty; it is no sin to write poetry," said Rose,
amused at his confession.

"It's a sin to call that rubbish poetry," muttered Mac with great
scorn.

"It is a greater sin to tell a fib and say you never write it."

"Reading so much sets one thinking about such things, and every
fellow scribbles a little jingle when he is lazy or in love, you
know," explained Mac, looking very guilty.

Rose could not quite understand the change she saw in him till his
last words suggested a cause which she knew by experience was
apt to inspire young men. Leaning forward again, she asked
solemnly, though her eyes danced with fun, "Mac, are you in
love?"

"Do I look like it?" And he sat up with such an injured and
indignant face that she apologized at once, for he certainly did not
look loverlike with hayseed in his hair, several lively crickets
playing leapfrog over his back, and a pair of long legs stretching
from tree to haycock.

"No, you don't, and I humbly beg your pardon for making such an
unwarrantable insinuation. It merely occurred to me that the
general upliftedness I observe in you might be owing to that, since
it wasn't poetry."

"It is the good company I've been keeping, if anything. A fellow
can't spend 'A Week' with Thoreau and not be the better for it. I'm
glad I show it, because in the scramble life is to most of us, even
an hour with such a sane, simple, and sagacious soul as his must
help one," said Mac, taking a much worn book out of his pocket
with the air of introducing a dear and honored friend.

"I've read bits, and like them they are so original and fresh and
sometimes droll," said Rose, smiling to see what natural and
appropriate marks of approbation the elements seemed to set upon
the pages Mac was turning eagerly, for one had evidently been
rained on, a crushed berry stained another, some appreciative
field-mouse or squirrel had nibbled one corner, and the cover was
faded with the sunshine, which seemed to have filtered through to
the thoughts within.

"Here's a characteristic bit for you: 'I would rather sit on a
pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet
cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an oxcart, with free
circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion
train, and breathe malaria all the way.' 

"I've tried both and quite agree with him," laughed Mac, and
skimming down another page, gave her a paragraph here and there.

"'Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read
them at all.'

"'We do not learn much from learned books, but from sincere
human books: frank, honest biographies.'

"'At least let us have healthy books. Let the poet be as vigorous as
the sugar maple, with sap enough to maintain his own verdure,
besides what runs into the trough; and not like a vine which, being
cut in the spring, bears no fruit, but bleeds to death in the endeavor
to heal its wounds.'"

"That will do for you," said Rose, still thinking of the new
suspicion which pleased her by its very improbability.

Mac flashed a quick look at her and shut the book, saying quietly,
although his eyes shone, and a conscious smile lurked about his
mouth: "We shall see, and no one need meddle, for, as my Thoreau
says,

    "Whate'er we leave to God, God does
    And blesses us: The work we choose should be our own
    God lets alone."

Rose sat silent, as if conscious that she deserved his poetical
reproof.

"Come, you have catechized me pretty well; now I'll take my turn
and ask you why you look 'uplifted,' as you call it. What have you
been doing to make yourself more like your namesake than ever?"
asked Mac, carrying war into the enemy's camp with the sudden
question.

"Nothing but live, and enjoy doing it. I actually sit here, day after
day, as happy and contented with little things as Dulce is and feel
as if I wasn't much older than she," answered the girl, feeling as if
some change was going on in that pleasant sort of pause but unable
to describe it.

"As if a rose should shut and be a bud again," murmured Mac,
borrowing from his beloved Keats.

"Ah, but I can't do that! I must go on blooming whether I like it or
not, and the only trouble I have is to know what leaf I ought to
unfold next," said Rose, playfully smoothing out the white gown,
in which she looked very like a daisy among the green.

"How far have you got?" asked Mac, continuing his catechism as if
the fancy suited him.

"Let me see. Since I came home last year, I've been gay, then sad,
then busy, and now I am simply happy. I don't know why, but seem
to be waiting for what is to come next and getting ready for it,
perhaps unconsciously," she said, looking dreamily away to the
hills again, is if the new experience was coming to her from afar.

Mac watched her thoughtfully for a minute, wondering how many
more leaves must unfold before the golden heart of this human
flower would lie open to the sun. He felt a curious desire to help in
some way, and could think of none better than to offer her what he
had found most helpful to himself. Picking up another book, he
opened it at a place where an oak leaf lay and, handing it to her,
said, as if presenting something very excellent and precious: "If
you want to be ready to take whatever comes in a brave and noble
way, read that, and the one where the page is turned down."

Rose took it, saw the words "Self-Reliance," and turning the
leaves, read here and there a passage which was marked: "'My life
is for itself, and not for a spectacle.'

"'Insist on yourself: never imitate. That which each can do best,
none but his Maker can teach him.'

"'Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope or dare
too much.'"

Then, coming to the folded page, whose title was "Heroism," she
read, and brightened as she read:

"'Let the maiden, with erect soul, walk serenely on her way;
accept the hint of each new experience; search in turn all the
objects that solicit her eye, that she may learn the power and the
charm of her newborn being.'

"'The fair girl who repels interference by a decided and proud
choice of influences inspires every beholder with something of her
own nobleness; and the silent heart encourages her. O friend, never
strike sail to a fear! Come into port greatly, or sail with God the
seas.'"

"You understand that, don't you?" asked Mac as she glanced up
with the look of one who had found something suited to her taste
and need.

"Yes, but I never dared to read these Essays, because I thought
they were too wise for me."

"The wisest things are sometimes the simplest, I think. Everyone
welcomes light and air, and cannot do without them, yet very few
could explain them truly. I don't ask you to read or understand all
of that don't myself but I do recommend the two essays I've
marked, as well as 'Love' and 'Friendship.' Try them, and let me
know how they suit. I'll leave you the book."

"Thanks. I wanted something fine to read up here and, judging by
what I see, I fancy this will suit. Only Aunt Jessie may think I'm
putting on airs if I try Emerson."

"Why should she? He has done more to set young men and women
thinking than any man in this century at least. Don't you be afraid
if it is what you want, take it, and go ahead as he tells you 

    "Without halting, without rest,
    Lifting Better up to Best."

"I'll try," said Rose meekly, feeling that Mac had been going ahead
himself much faster than she had any suspicion.

Here a voice exclaimed "Hallo!" and, looking around, Jamie was
discovered surveying them critically as he stood in an independent
attitude, like a small Colossus of Rhodes in brown linen, with a
bundle of molasses candy in one hand, several new fishhooks
cherished carefully in the other, and his hat well on the back of his
head, displaying as many freckles as one somewhat limited nose
could reasonably accommodate.

"How are you, young one?" said Mac, nodding.

"Tip-top. Glad it's you. Thought Archie might have turned up
again, and he's no fun. Where did you come from? What did you
come for? How long are you going to stay? Want a bit? It's jolly
good."

With which varied remarks Jamie approached, shook hands in a
manly way, and, sitting down beside his long cousin, hospitably
offered sticks of candy all around.

"Did you get any letters?" asked Rose, declining the sticky treat.

"Lots, but Mama forgot to give 'em to me, and I was rather in a
hurry, for Mrs. Atkinson said somebody had come and I couldn't
wait," explained Jamie, reposing luxuriously with his head on
Mac's legs and his mouth full.

"I'll step and get them. Aunty must be tired, and we should enjoy
reading the news together."

"She is the most convenient girl that ever was," observed Jamie as
Rose departed, thinking Mac might like some more substantial
refreshment than sweetmeats.

"I should think so, if you let her run your errands, you lazy little
scamp," answered Mac, looking after her as she went up the green
slope, for there was something very attractive to him about the
slender figure in a plain white gown with a black sash about the
waist and all the wavy hair gathered to the top of the head with a
little black bow.

"Sort of pre-Raphaelite, and quite refreshing after the furbelowed
creatures at the hotels," he said to himself as she vanished under
the arch of scarlet runners over the garden gate.

"Oh, well! She likes it. Rose is fond of me, and I'm very good to
her when I have time," continued Jamie, calmly explaining. "I let
her cut out a fishhook, when it caught in my leg, with a sharp
penknife, and you'd better believe it hurt, but I never squirmed a
bit, and she said I was a brave boy. And then, one day I got left on
my desert island out in the pond, you know the boat floated off,
and there I was for as much as an hour before I could make anyone
hear. But Rose thought I might be there, and down she came, and
told me to swim ashore. It wasn't far, but the water was horrid
cold, and I didn't like it. I started though, just as she said, and got
on all right, till about halfway, then cramp or something made me
shut up and howl, and she came after me slapdash, and pulled me
ashore. Yes, sir, as wet as a turtle, and looked so funny, I laughed,
and that cured the cramp. Wasn't I good to mind when she said,
'Come on'?"

"She was, to dive after such a scapegrace. I guess you lead her a
life of it, and I'd better take you home with me in the morning,"
suggested Mac, rolling the boy over and giving him a good-natured
pummeling on the haycock while Dulce applauded from her nest.

When Rose returned with ice-cold milk, gingerbread, and letters,
she found the reader of Emerson up in the tree, pelting and being
pelted with green apples as Jamie vainly endeavored to get at him.
The siege ended when Aunt Jessie appeared, and the rest of the
afternoon was spent in chat about home affairs.

Early the next morning Mac was off, and Rose went as far as the
old church with him.

"Shall you walk all the way?" she asked as he strode along beside
her in the dewy freshness of the young day.

"Only about twenty miles, then take car and whisk back to my
work," he answered, breaking a delicate fern for her.

"Are you never lonely?"

"Never. I take my best friends along, you know," and he gave a
slap to the pocket from which peeped the volume of Thoreau.

"I'm afraid you leave your very best behind you," said Rose,
alluding to the book he had lent her yesterday.

"I'm glad to share it with you. I have much of it here, and a little
goes a great way, as you will soon discover," he answered, tapping
his head.

"I hope the reading will do as much for me as it seems to have
done for you. I'm happy, but you are wise and good I want to be
also."

"Read away, and digest it well, then write and tell me what you
think of it. Will you?" he asked as they paused where the four
roads met.

"If you will answer. Shall you have time with all your other work?
Poetry I beg pardon medicine is very absorbing, you know,"
answered Rose mischievously, for just then, as he stood
bareheaded in the shadows of the leaves playing over his fine
forehead, she remembered the chat among the haycocks, and he
did not look at all like an M.D.

"I'll make time."

"Good-bye, Milton."

"Good-bye, Sabrina."




Chapter 18 WHICH WAS IT?

Rose did read and digest, and found her days much richer for the
good company she kept, for an introduction to so much that was
wise, beautiful, and true could not but make that month a
memorable one. It is not strange that while the young man most
admired "Heroism" and "Self-Reliance," the girl preferred "Love"
and "Friendship," reading them over and over like prose poems, as
they are, to the fitting accompaniment of sunshine, solitude, and
sympathy, for letters went to and fro with praiseworthy regularity.

Rose much enjoyed this correspondence, and found herself
regretting that it was at an end when she went home in September,
for Mac wrote better than he talked, though he could do that
remarkably well when he chose. But she had no chance to express
either pleasure or regret, for the first time she saw him after her
return the great change in his appearance made her forget
everything else. Some whim had seized him to be shaven and
shorn, and when he presented himself to welcome Rose, she hardly
knew him. The shaggy hair was nicely trimmed and brushed, the
cherished brown beard entirely gone, showing a well-cut mouth
and handsome chin and giving a new expression to the whole face.

"Are you trying to look like Keats?" she asked, after a critical
glance, which left her undecided whether the change was an
improvement or not.

"I am trying not to look like Uncle," answered Mac coolly.

"And why, if you please?" demanded Rose in great surprise.

"Because I prefer to look like myself, and not resemble any other
man, no matter how good or great he may be."

"You haven't succeeded then, for you look now very much like the
young Augustus," returned Rose, rather pleased on the whole to
see what a finely shaped head appeared after the rough thatch was
off.

"Trust a woman to find a comparison for everything under the
sun!" laughed Mac, not at all flattered by the one just made. "What
do you think of me, on the whole?" he asked a minute later, as he
found Rose still scrutinizing him with a meditative air.

"Haven't made up my mind. It is such an entire change, I don't
know you, and feel as if I ought to be introduced. You certainly
look much more tidy, and I fancy I shall like it when I'm used to
seeing a somewhat distinguished-looking man about the house
instead of my old friend Orson," answered Rose, with her head on
one side to get a profile view.

"Don't tell Uncle why I did it, please he thinks it was for the sake
of coolness and likes it, so take no notice. They are all used to me
now, and don't mind," said Mac, roving about the room as if rather
ashamed of his whim after all.

"No, I won't, but you mustn't mind if I'm not as sociable as usual
for a while. I never can be with strangers, and you really do seem
like one. That will be a punishment for your want of taste and love
of originality," returned Rose, resolved to punish him for the slight
put upon her beloved uncle.

"As you like. I won't trouble you much anyway, for I'm going to be
very busy. May go to L  this winter, if Uncle thinks best, and then
my 'originality' can't annoy you."

"I hope you won't go. Why, Mac, I'm just getting to know and
enjoy you, and thought we'd have a nice time this winter reading
something together. Must you go?" And Rose seemed to forget his
strangeness, as she held him still by one button while she talked.

"That would be nice. But I feel as if I must go my plans are all
made, and I've set my heart on it," answered Mac, looking so eager
that Rose released him, saying sadly: "I suppose it is natural for
you all to get restless and push off, but it is hard for me to let you
go one after the other and stay here alone. Charlie is gone, Archie
and Steve are wrapped up in their sweethearts, the boys away, and
only Jamie left to 'play with Rose.'?

"But I'll come back, and you'll be glad I went if I bring you my--"
began Mac with sudden animation, then stopped abruptly to bite
his lips, as if he had nearly said too much.

"Your what?" asked Rose curiously, for he neither looked nor
acted like himself.

"I forgot how long it takes to get a diploma," he said, walking
away again.

"There will be one comfort if you go you'll see Phebe and can tell
me all about her, for she is so modest, she doesn't half do it. I shall
want to know how she gets on, if she is engaged to sing ballads in
the concerts they talk of for next winter. You will write, won't
you?"

"Oh, yes! No doubt of that," and Mac laughed low to himself as he
stooped to look at the little Psyche on the mantelpiece. "What a
pretty thing it is!" he added soberly as he took it up.

"Be careful. Uncle gave it to me last New Year, and I'm very fond
of it. She is just lifting her lamp to see what Cupid is like, for she
hasn't seen him yet," said Rose, busy putting her worktable in
order.

"You ought to have a Cupid for her to look at. She has been
waiting patiently a whole year, with nothing but a bronze lizard in
sight," said Mac with the half-shy, half-daring look which was so
new and puzzling.

"Cupid fled away as soon as she woke him, you know, and she had
a bad time of it. She must wait longer till she can find and keep
him."

"Do you know she looks like you? Hair tied up in a knot, and a
spiritual sort of face. Don't you see it?" asked Mac, turning the
graceful little figure toward her.

"Not a bit of it. I wonder whom I shall resemble next! I've been
compared to a Fra Angelico angel, Saint Agnes, and now 'Syke,' as
Annabel once called her."

"You'd see what I mean, if you'd ever watched your own face when
you were listening to music, talking earnestly, or much moved,
then your soul gets into your eyes and you are like Psyche."

"Tell me the next time you see me in a 'soulful' state, and I'll look
in the glass, for I'd like to see if it is becoming," said Rose merrily
as she sorted her gay worsteds.

    "Your feet in the full-grown grasses,
    Moved soft as a soft wind blows;
    You passed me as April passes,
    With a face made out of a rose,"

murmured Mac under his breath, thinking of the white figure going
up a green slope one summer day; then, as if chiding himself for
sentimentality, he set Psyche down with great care and began to
talk about a course of solid reading for the winter.

After that, Rose saw very little of him for several weeks, as he
seemed to be making up for lost time and was more odd and
absent than ever when he did appear.

As she became accustomed to the change in his external
appearance, she discovered that he was altering fast in other ways
and watched the "distinguished-looking gentleman" with much
interest, saying to herself, when she saw a new sort of dignity
about him alternating with an unusual restlessness of manner, and
now and then a touch of sentiment, "Genius is simmering, just as I
predicted."

As the family were in mourning, there were no festivities on Rose's
twenty-first birthday, though the boys had planned all sorts of
rejoicings. Everyone felt particularly tender toward their girl on
that day, remembering how "poor Charlie" had loved her, and they
tried to show it in the gifts and good wishes they sent her. She
found her sanctum all aglow with autumn leaves, and on her table
so many rare and pretty things, she quite forgot she was an heiress
and only felt how rich she was in loving friends.

One gift greatly pleased her, though she could not help smiling at
the source from whence it came, for Mac sent her a Cupid not the
chubby child with a face of naughty merriment, but a slender,
winged youth leaning on his unstrung bow, with a broken arrow at
his feet. A poem, "To Psyche," came with it, and Rose was much
surprised at the beauty of the lines, for, instead of being witty,
complimentary, or gay, there was something nobler than mere
sentiment in them, and the sweet old fable lived again in language
which fitly painted the maiden Soul looking for a Love worthy to
possess it.

Rose read them over and over as she sat among the gold and
scarlet leaves which glorified her little room, and each time found
new depth and beauty in them, looking from the words that made
music in her ear to the lovely shapes that spoke with their mute
grace to her eye. The whole thing suited her exactly, it was so
delicate and perfect in its way, for she was tired of costly gifts and
valued very much this proof of her cousin's taste and talent, seeing
nothing in it but an affectionate desire to please her.

All the rest dropped in at intervals through the day to say a loving
word, and last of all came Mac. Rose happened to be alone with
Dulce, enjoying a splendid sunset from her western window, for
October gave her child a beautiful good night.

Rose turned around as he entered and, putting down the little girl,
went to him with the evening red shining on her happy face as she
said gratefully: "Dear Mac, it was so lovely! I don't know how to
thank you for it in any way but this." And, drawing down his tall
head, she gave him the birthday kiss she had given all the others.

But this time it produced a singular effect, for Mac turned scarlet,
then grew pale, and when Rose added playfully, thinking to relieve
the shyness of so young a poet, "Never again say you don't write
poetry, or call your verses rubbish I knew you were a genius, and
now I'm sure of it," he broke out, as if against his will: "No. It isn't
genius, it is love!" Then, as she shrank a little, startled at his
energy, he added, with an effort at self-control which made his
voice sound strange: "I didn't mean to speak, but I can't suffer you
to deceive yourself so. I must tell the truth, and not let you kiss me
like a cousin when I love you with all my heart and soul!"

"Oh, Mac, don't joke!" cried Rose, bewildered by this sudden
glimpse into a heart she thought she knew so well.

"I'm in solemn earnest," he answered steadily, in such a quiet tone
that, but for the pale excitement of his face, she might have
doubted his words. "Be angry, if you will. I expect it, for I know it
is too soon to speak. I ought to wait for years, perhaps, but you
seemed so happy I dared to hope you had forgotten."

"Forgotten what?" asked Rose sharply.

"Charlie."

"Ah! You all will insist on believing that I loved him better than I
did!" she cried, with both pain and impatience in her voice, for the
family delusion tried her very much at times.

"How could we help it, when he was everything women most
admire?" said Mac, not bitterly, but as if he sometimes wondered
at their want of insight.

"I do not admire weakness of any sort I could never love without
either confidence or respect. Do me the justice to believe that, for
I'm tired of being pitied."

She spoke almost passionately, being more excited by Mac's
repressed emotion than she had ever been by Charlie's most
touching demonstration, though she did not know why.

"But he loved you so!" began Mac, feeling as if a barrier had
suddenly gone down but not daring to venture in as yet.

"That was the hard part of it! That was why I tried to love him,
why I hoped he would stand fast for my sake, if not for his own,
and why I found it so sad sometimes not to be able to help
despising him for his want of courage. I don't know how others
feel, but, to me, love isn't all. I must look up, not down, trust and
honor with my whole heart, and find strength and integrity to lean
on. I have had it so far, and I know I could not live without it."

"Your ideal is a high one. Do you hope to find it, Rose?" Mac
asked, feeling, with the humility of a genuine love, that he could
not give her all she desired.

"Yes," she answered, with a face full of the beautiful confidence in
virtue, the instinctive desire for the best which so many of us lose
too soon, to find again after life's great lessons are well learned. "I
do hope to find it, because I try not to be unreasonable and expect
perfection. Smile if you will, but I won't give up my hero yet," and
she tried to speak lightly, hoping to lead him away from a more
dangerous topic.

"You'll have to look a long while, I'm afraid," and all the glow was
gone out of Mac's face, for he understood her wish and knew his
answer had been given.

"I have Uncle to help me, and I think my ideal grew out of my
knowledge of him. How can I fail to believe in goodness, when he
shows me what it can be and do?"

"It's no use for me to say any more, for I have very little to offer. I
did not mean to say a word till I earned a right to hope for
something in return. I cannot take it back, but I can wish you
success, and I do, because you deserve the very best." And Mac
moved as if he was going away without more words, accepting the
inevitable as manfully as he could.

"Thank you that makes me feel very ungrateful and unkind. I wish
I could answer you as you want me to for, indeed, dear Mac, I'm
very fond of you in my own way," and Rose looked up with such
tender pity and frank affection in her face, it was no wonder the
poor fellow caught at a ray of hope and, brightening suddenly, said
in his own odd way: "Couldn't you take me on trial while you are
waiting for a true hero? It may be years before you find him;
meantime, you could be practicing on me in ways that would be
useful when you get him."

"Oh, Mac! What shall I do with you?" exclaimed Rose, so
curiously affected by this very characteristic wooing that she did
not know whether to laugh or cry, for he was looking at her with
his heart in his eyes, though his proposition was the queerest ever
made at such a time.

"Just go on being fond of me in your own way, and let me love you
as much as I like in mine. I'll try to be satisfied with that." And he
took both her hands so beseechingly that she felt more ungrateful
than ever.

"No, it would not be fair, for you would love the most and, if the
hero did appear, what would become of you?"

"I should resemble Uncle Alec in one thing at least fidelity, for my
first love would be my last."

That went straight to Rose's heart, and for a minute she stood
silent, looking down at the two strong hands that held hers so
firmly yet so gently, and the thought went through her mind, "Must
he, too, be solitary all his life? I have no dear lover as my mother
had, why cannot I make him happy and forget myself?"

It did not seem very hard, and she owned that, even while she told
herself that compassion was no equivalent for love. She wanted to
give all she could, and keep as much of Mac's affection as she
honestly might, because it seemed to grow more sweet and
precious when she thought of putting it away.

"You will be like Uncle in happier ways than that, I hope, for you,
too, must have a high ideal and find her and be happy," she said,
resolving to be true to the voice of conscience, not be swayed by
the impulse of the moment.

"I have found her, but I don't see any prospect of happiness, do
you?" he asked wistfully.

"Dear Mac, I cannot give you the love you want, but I do trust and
respect you from the bottom of my heart, if that is any comfort,"
began Rose, looking up with eyes full of contrition for the pain her
reply must give.

She got no further, however, for those last words wrought a
marvelous change in Mac. Dropping her hands, he stood erect, as
if inspired with sudden energy and hope, while over his face there
came a brave, bright look, which for the moment made him a
nobler and comelier man than ever handsome Prince had been. 
"It is a comfort!" he said, in a tone of gratitude that touched her
very much. "You said your love must be founded on respect, and
that you have given me why can I not earn the rest? I'm nothing
now, but everything is possible when one loves with all his heart
and soul and strength. Rose, I will be your hero if a mortal man
can, even though I have to work and wait for years. I'll make you
love me, and be glad to do it. Don't be frightened. I've not lost my
wits I've just found them. I don't ask anything I'll never speak of
my hope, but it is no use to stop me. I must try it, and I will
succeed!"

With the last words, uttered in a ringing voice while his face
glowed, his eyes shone, and he looked as if carried out of himself
by the passion that possessed him, Mac abruptly left the room, like
one eager to change words to deeds and begin his task at once.

Rose was so amazed by all this that she sat down trembling a little,
not with fear or anger, but a feeling half pleasure, half pain, and a
sense of some new power subtle, strong, and sweet that had come
into her life. It seemed as if another Mac had taken the place of the
one she had known so long an ardent, ambitious man, ready for
any work now that the magical moment had come when everything
seems possible to love. If hope could work such a marvelous
change for a moment, could not happiness do it for a lifetime? It
would be an exciting experiment to try, she thought, remembering
the sudden illumination which made that familiar face both
beautiful and strange.

She could not help wondering how long this unsuspected
sentiment had been growing in his heart and felt perplexed by its
peculiar demonstration, for she had never had a lover like this
before. It touched and flattered her, nevertheless and she could not
but feel honored by a love so genuine and generous, for it seemed
to make a man of Mac all at once, and a manly man, too, who was
not daunted by disappointment but could "hope against hope" and
resolve to make her love him if it took years to do it.

There was the charm of novelty about this sort of wooing, and she
tried to guess how he would set about it, felt curious to see how he
would behave when next they met, and was half angry with herself
for not being able to decide how she ought to act. The more she
thought, the more bewildered she grew, for having made up her
mind that Mac was a genius, it disturbed all her plans to find him a
lover, and such an ardent one. As it was impossible to predict what
would come next, she gave up trying to prepare for it and, tired
with vain speculations, carried Dulce off to bed, wishing she could
tuck away her love troubles as quietly and comfortably as she did
her sleepy little charge.

Simple and sincere in all things, Mac gave Rose a new surprise by
keeping his promise to the letter asked nothing of her, said nothing
of his hope, and went on as if nothing had happened, quite in the
old friendly way. No, not quite, for now and then, when she least
expected it, she saw again the indescribable expression on his face,
a look that seemed to shed a sudden sunshine over her, making her
eyes fall involuntarily, her color rise, and her heart beat quicker for
a moment. Not a word did he say, but she felt that a new
atmosphere surrounded her when he was by, and although he used
none of the little devices most lovers employ to keep the flame
alight, it was impossible to forget that underneath his quietude
there was a hidden world of fire and force ready to appear at a
touch, a word from her.

This was rather dangerous knowledge for Rose, and she soon
began to feel that there were more subtle temptations than she had
expected, for it was impossible to be unconscious of her power, or
always to resist the trials of it which daily came unsought. She had
never felt this desire before, for Charlie was the only one who had
touched her heart, and he was constantly asking as well as giving,
and wearied her by demanding too much or oppressed her by
offering more than she could accept.

Mac did neither; he only loved her, silently, patiently, hopefully,
and this generous sort of fidelity was very eloquent to a nature like
hers. She could not refuse or chide, since nothing was asked or
urged; there was no need of coldness, for he never presumed; no
call for pity, since he never complained. All that could be done
was to try and be as just and true as he was, and to wait as
trustfully for the end, whatever it was to be.

For a time she liked the new interest it put into her life, yet did
nothing to encourage it and thought that if she gave this love no
food it would soon starve to death. But it seemed to thrive on air,
and presently she began to feel as if a very strong will was slowly
but steadily influencing her in many ways. If Mac had never told
her that he meant to "make her love him," she might have yielded
unconsciously, but now she mistook the impulse to obey this
undercurrent for compassion and resisted stoutly, not
comprehending yet the reason for the unrest which took possession
of her about this time.

She had as many moods as an April day, and would have much
surprised Dr. Alec by her vagaries had he known them all. He saw
enough, however, to guess what was the matter, but took no notice,
for he knew this fever must run its course, and much medicine
only does harm. The others were busy about their own affairs, and
Aunt Plenty was too much absorbed in her rheumatism to think of
love, for the cold weather set in early, and the poor lady kept her
room for days at a time with Rose as nurse.

Mac had spoken of going away in November, and Rose began to
hope he would, for she decided that this silent sort of adoration
was bad for her, as it prevented her from steadily pursuing the
employments she had marked out for that year. What was the use
of trying to read useful books when her thoughts continually
wandered to those charming essays on "Love" and "Friendship"?
To copy antique casts, when all the masculine heads looked like
Cupid and the feminine ones like the Psyche on her mantelpiece?
To practice the best music if it ended in singing over and over the
pretty spring song without Phebe's bird chorus? Dulce's company
was pleasantest now, for Dulce seldom talked, so much meditation
was possible. Even Aunt Plenty's red flannel, camphor, and Pond's
Extract were preferable to general society, and long solitary rides
on Rosa seemed the only thing to put her in tune after one of her
attempts to find out what she ought to do or leave undone.

She made up her mind at last, and arming herself with an unmade
pen, like Fanny Squeers, she boldly went into the study to confer
with Dr. Alec at an hour when Mac was usually absent. 
"I want a pen for marking can you make me one, Uncle?" she
asked, popping her head in to be sure he was alone.

"Yes, my dear," answered a voice so like the doctor's that she
entered without delay.

But before she had taken three steps she stopped, looking rather
annoyed, for the head that rose from behind the tall desk was not
rough and gray, but brown and smooth, and Mac, not Uncle Alec,
sat there writing. Late experience had taught her that she had
nothing to fear from a tete-a-tete and, having with difficulty taken
a resolution, she did not like to fail of carrying it out.

"Don't get up, I won't trouble you if you are busy, there is no
hurry," she said, not quite sure whether it were wiser to stay or run
away.

Mac settled the point by taking the pen out of her hand and
beginning to cut it, as quietly as Nicholas did on that "thrilling"
occasion. Perhaps he was thinking of that, for he smiled as he
asked, "Hard or soft?"

Rose evidently had forgotten that the family of Squeers ever
existed, for she answered: "Hard, please," in a voice to match. "I'm
glad to see you doing that," she added, taking courage from his
composure and going as straight to her point as could be expected
of a woman.

"And I am very glad to do it."

"I don't mean making pens, but the romance I advised," and she
touched the closely written page before him, looking as if she
would like to read it.

"That is my abstract on a lecture on the circulation of the blood,"
he answered, kindly turning it so that she could see. "I don't write
romances I'm living one," and he glanced up with the happy,
hopeful expression which always made her feel as if he was
heaping coals of fire on her head.

"I wish you wouldn't look at me in that way it fidgets me," she said
a little petulantly, for she had been out riding, and knew that she
did not present a "spiritual" appearance after the frosty air had
reddened nose as well as cheeks.

"I'll try to remember. It does itself before I know it. Perhaps this
may mend matters." And, taking out the blue glasses he sometimes
wore in the wind, he gravely put them on.

Rose could not help laughing, but his obedience only aggravated
her, for she knew he could observe her all the better behind his
ugly screen.

"No, it won't they are not becoming, and I don't want to look blue
when I do not feel so," she said, finding it impossible to guess
what he would do next or to help enjoying his peculiarities.

"But you don't to me, for in spite of the goggles everything is
rose-colored now." And he pocketed the glasses without a murmur
at the charming inconsistency of his idol.

"Really, Mac, I'm tired of this nonsense, it worries me and wastes
your time."

"Never worked harder. But does it really trouble you to know I
love you?" he asked anxiously.

"Don't you see how cross it makes me?" And she walked away,
feeling that things were not going as she intended to have them at
all.

"I don't mind the thorns if I get the rose at last, and I still hope I
may, some ten years hence," said this persistent suitor, quite
undaunted by the prospect of a "long wait."

"I think it is rather hard to be loved whether I like it or not,"
objected Rose, at a loss how to make any headway against such
indomitable hopefulness.

"But you can't help it, nor can I so I must go on doing it with all
my heart till you marry, and then well, then I'm afraid I may hate
somebody instead," and Mac spoilt the pen by an involuntary slash
of his knife.

"Please don't, Mac!"

"Do which, love or hate?"

"Don't do either go and care for someone else; there are plenty of
nice girls who will be glad to make you happy," said Rose, intent
upon ending her disquiet in some way.

"That is too easy. I enjoy working for my blessings, and the harder
I have to work, the more I value them when they come."

"Then if I suddenly grew very kind, would you stop caring about
me?" asked Rose, wondering if that treatment would free her from
a passion which both touched and tormented her.

"Try and see." But there was a traitorous glimmer in Mac's eyes
which plainly showed what a failure it would be.

"No, I'll get something to do, so absorbing I shall forget all about
you."

"Don't think about me if it troubles you," he said tenderly.

"I can't help it." Rose tried to catch back the words, but it was too
late, and she added hastily, "That is, I cannot help wishing you
would forget me. It is a great disappointment to find I was
mistaken when I hoped such fine things of you."

"Yes, you were very sure that it was love when it was poetry, and
now you want poetry when I've nothing on hand but love. Will
both together please you?"

"Try and see."

"I'll do my best. Anything else?" he asked, forgetting the small task
she had given him in his eagerness to attempt the greater.

"Tell me one thing. I've often wanted to know, and now you speak
of it I'll venture to ask. Did you care about me when you read
Keats to me last summer?"

"No."

"When did you begin?" asked Rose, smiling in spite of herself at
his unflattering honesty.

"How can I tell? Perhaps it did begin up there, though, for that talk
set us writing, and the letters showed me what a beautiful soul you
had. I loved that first it was so quick to recognize good things, to
use them when they came, and give them out again as
unconsciously as a flower does its breath. I longed for you to come
home, and wanted you to find me altered for the better in some
way as I had found you. And when you came it was very easy to
see why I needed you to love you entirely, and to tell you so. That's
all, Rose."

A short story, but it was enough the voice that told it with such
simple truth made the few words so eloquent, Rose felt strongly
tempted to add the sequel Mac desired. But her eyes had fallen as
he spoke, for she knew his were fixed upon her, dark and dilated,
with the same repressed emotion that put such fervor into his quiet
tones, and just as she was about to look up, they fell on a shabby
little footstool. Trifles affect women curiously, and often most
irresistibly when some agitation sways them. The sight of the old
hassock vividly recalled Charlie, for he had kicked it on the night
she never liked to remember. Like a spark it fired a long train of
recollections, and the thought went through her mind: "I fancied I
loved him, and let him see it, but I deceived myself, and he
reproached me for a single look that said too much. This feeling is
very different, but too new and sudden to be trusted. I'll neither
look nor speak till I am quite sure, for Mac's love is far deeper than
poor Charlie's, and I must be very true."

Not in words did the resolve shape itself, but in a quick impulse,
which she obeyed certain that it was right, since it was hard to
yield to it. Only an instant's silence followed Mac's answer as she
stood looking down with fingers intertwined and color varying in
her cheeks. A foolish attitude, but Mac thought it a sweet picture
of maiden hesitation and began to hope that a month's wooing was
about to end in winning for a lifetime. He deceived himself,
however, and cold water fell upon his flame, subduing but by no
means quenching it, when Rose looked up with an air of
determination which could not escape eyes that were growing
wonderfully farsighted lately.

"I came in here to beg Uncle to advise you to go away soon. You
are very patient and forbearing, and I feel it more than I can tell.
But it is not good for you to depend on anyone so much for your
happiness, I think, and I know it is bad for me to feel that I have so
much power over a fellow creature. Go away, Mac, and see if this
isn't all a mistake. Don't let a fancy for me change or delay your
work, because it may end as suddenly as it began, and then we
should both reproach ourselves and each other. Please do! I respect
and care for you so much, I can't be happy to take all and give
nothing. I try to, but I'm not sure I want to think it is too soon to
know yet."

Rose began bravely, but ended in a fluttered sort of way as she
moved toward the door, for Mac's face though it fell at first,
brightened as she went on, and at the last word, uttered almost
involuntarily, he actually laughed low to himself, as if this order
into exile pleased him much.

"Don't say that you give nothing, when you've just shown me that
I'm getting on. I'll go; I'll go at once, and see if absence won't help
you 'to think, to know, and to be sure' as it did me. I wish I could
do something more for you. As I can't, good-bye."

"Are you going now?" And Rose paused in her retreat to look back
with a startled face as he offered her a badly made pen and opened
the door for her just as Dr. Alec always did; for, in spite of
himself, Mac did resemble the best of uncles.

"Not yet, but you seem to be."

Rose turned as red as a poppy, snatched the pen, and flew upstairs,
to call herself hard names as she industriously spoiled all Aunt
Plenty's new pocket handkerchiefs by marking them "A.M.C."

Three days later Mac said "good-bye" in earnest, and no one was
surprised that he left somewhat abruptly, such being his way, and a
course of lectures by a famous physician the ostensible reason for
a trip to L----. Uncle Alec deserted most shamefully at the last
moment by sending word that he would be at the station to see the
traveler off, Aunt Plenty was still in her room, so when Mac came
down from his farewell to her, Rose met him in the hall, as if
anxious not to delay him. She was a little afraid of another
tete-a-tete, as she fared so badly at the last, and had assumed a
calm and cousinly air which she flattered herself would plainly
show on what terms she wished to part.

Mac apparently understood, and not only took the hint, but
surpassed her in cheerful composure, for, merely saying
"Good-bye, Cousin; write when you feel like it," he shook hands
and walked out of the house as tranquilly as if only a day instead
of three months were to pass before they met again. Rose felt as if
a sudden shower bath had chilled her and was about to retire,
saying to herself with disdainful decision: "There's no love about it
after all, only one of the eccentricities of genius," when a rush of
cold air made her turn to find herself in what appeared to be the
embrace of an impetuous overcoat, which wrapped her close for an
instant, then vanished as suddenly as it had come, leaving her to
hide in the sanctum and confide to Psyche with a tender sort of
triumph in her breathless voice: "No, no, it isn't genius that must
be love!"




Chapter 19  BEHIND THE FOUNTAIN

Two days after Christmas a young man of serious aspect might
have been seen entering one of the large churches at L----. Being
shown to a seat, he joined in the services with praiseworthy
devotion, especially the music, to which he listened with such
evident pleasure that a gentleman who sat nearby felt moved to
address this appreciative stranger after church.

"Fine sermon today. Ever heard our minister before, sir?" he
began, as they went down the aisle together among the last, for the
young man had lingered as if admiring the ancient building.

"Very fine. No, sir, I have never had that pleasure. I've often
wished to see this old place, and am not at all disappointed. Your
choir, too, is unusually good," answered the stranger, glancing up
at several bonnets bobbing about behind the half-drawn curtains
above.

"Finest in the city, sir. We pride ourselves on our music, and
always have the best. People often come for that alone." And the
old gentleman looked as satisfied as if a choir of cherubim and
seraphim "continually did cry" in his organ loft.

"Who is the contralto? That solo was beautifully sung," observed
the younger man, pausing to read a tablet on the wall.

"That is Miss Moore. Been here about a year, and is universally
admired. Excellent young lady couldn't do without her. Sings
superbly in oratorios. Ever heard her?"

"Never. She came from X, I believe?

"Yes, highly recommended. She was brought up by one of the first
families there. Campbell is the name. If you come from X , you
doubtless know them."

"I have met them. Good morning." And with bows the gentlemen
parted, for at that instant the young man caught sight of a tall lady
going down the church steps with a devout expression in her fine
eyes and a prayer-book in her hand.

Hastening after her, the serious-minded young man accosted her
just as she turned into a quiet street.

"Phebe!"

Only a word, but it wrought a marvelous change, for the devout
expression vanished in the drawing of a breath, and the quiet face
blossomed suddenly with color, warmth, and "the light that never
was on sea or land" as she turned to meet her lover with an
answering word as eloquent as his.

"Archie!"

"The year is out today. I told you I should come. Have you
forgotten?"

"No I knew you'd come."

"And are you glad?"

"How can I help it?"

"You can't don't try. Come into this little park and let us talk." And
drawing her hand through his arm, Archie led her into what to
other eyes was a very dismal square, with a boarded-up fountain in
the middle, sodden grass plots, and dead leaves dancing in the
wintry wind.

But to them it was a summery Paradise, and they walked to and fro
in the pale sunshine, quite unconscious that they were objects of
interest to several ladies and gentlemen waiting anxiously for their
dinner or yawning over the dull books kept for Sunday reading. 
"Are you ready to come home now, Phebe?" asked Archie tenderly
as he looked at the downcast face beside him and wondered why
all women did not wear delightful little black velvet bonnets with
one deep red flower against their hair.

"Not yet. I haven't done enough," began Phebe, finding it very hard
to keep the resolution made a year ago.

"You have proved that you can support yourself, make friends, and
earn a name, if you choose. No one can deny that, and we are all
getting proud of you. What more can you ask, my dearest?"

"I don't quite know, but I am very ambitious. I want to be famous,
to do something for you all, to make some sacrifice for Rose, and,
if I can, to have something to give up for your sake. Let me wait
and work longer I know I haven't earned my welcome yet,"
pleaded Phebe so earnestly that her lover knew it would be in vain
to try and turn her, so wisely contented himself with half, since he
could not have the whole.

"Such a proud woman! Yet I love you all the better for it, and
understand your feeling. Rose made me see how it seems to you,
and I don't wonder that you cannot forget the unkind things that
were looked, if not said, by some of my amiable aunts. I'll try to be
patient on one condition, Phebe."

"And what is that?"

"You are to let me come sometimes while I wait, and wear this lest
you should forget me," he said, pulling a ring from his pocket and
gently drawing a warm, bare hand out of the muff where it lay
hidden.

"Yes, Archie, but not here not now!" cried Phebe, glancing about
her as if suddenly aware that they were not alone.

"No one can see us here I thought of that. Give me one happy
minute, after this long, long year of waiting," answered Archie,
pausing just where the fountain hid them from all eyes, for there
were houses only on one side.

Phebe submitted and never did a plain gold ring slip more easily to
its place than the one he put on in such a hurry that cold December
day. Then one hand went back into the muff red with the grasp he
gave it, and the other to its old place on his arm with a confiding
gesture, as if it had a right there.

"Now I feel sure of you," said Archie as they went on again, and no
one the wiser for that tender transaction behind the ugly pyramid
of boards. "Mac wrote me that you were much admired by your
church people, and that certain wealthy bachelors evidently had
designs on the retiring Miss Moore. I was horribly jealous, but now
I defy every man of them."

Phebe smiled with the air of proud humility that was so becoming
and answered briefly: "There was no danger kings could not
change me, whether you ever came or not. But Mac should not
have told you."

"You shall be revenged on him, then, for, as he told secrets about
you, I'll tell you one about him. Phebe, he loves Rose!" And Archie
looked as if he expected to make a great sensation with his news.

"I know it." And Phebe laughed at his sudden change of
countenance as he added inquiringly, "She told you, then?"

"Not a word. I guessed it from her letters, for lately she says
nothing about Mac, and before there was a good deal, so I
suspected what the silence meant and asked no questions."

"Wise girl! Then you think she does care for the dear old fellow?"

"Of course she does. Didn't he tell you so?"

"No, he only said when he went away, 'Take care of my Rose, and
I'll take care of your Phebe,' and not another thing could I get out
of him, for I did ask questions. He stood by me like a hero, and
kept Aunt Jane from driving me stark mad with her 'advice.' I don't
forget that, and burned to lend him a hand somewhere, but he
begged me to let him manage his wooing in his own way. And
from what I see, I should say he knew how to do it," added Archie,
finding it very delightful to gossip about love affairs with his
sweetheart.

"Dear little mistress! How does she behave?" asked Phebe, longing
for news, but too grateful to ask at headquarters, remembering how
generously Rose had tried to help her, even by silence, the greatest
sacrifice a woman can make at such interesting periods.

"Very sweet and shy and charming. I try not to watch but upon my
word I cannot help it sometimes, she is so 'cunning,' as you girls
say. When I carry her a letter from Mac she tries so hard not to
show how glad she is that I want to laugh and tell her I know all
about it. But I look as sober as a judge and as stupid as an owl by
daylight, and she enjoys her letters in peace and thinks I'm so
absorbed in my own passion that I'm blind to hers."

"But why did Mac come away? He says lectures brought him, and
he goes, but I am sure something else is in his mind, he looks so
happy at times. I don't see him very often, but when I do I'm
conscious that he isn't the Mac I left a year ago," said Phebe,
leading Archie away, for inexorable propriety forbade a longer
stay, even if prudence and duty had not given her a reminding
nudge, as it was very cold, and afternoon church came in an hour.

"Well, you see Mac was always peculiar, and he cannot even grow
up like other fellows. I don't understand him yet, and am sure he's
got some plan in his head that no one suspects, unless it is Uncle
Alec. Love makes us all cut queer capers, and I've an idea that the
Don will distinguish himself in some uncommon way. So be
prepared to applaud whatever it is. We owe him that, you know."

"Indeed we do! If Rose ever speaks of him to you, tell her I shall
see that he comes to no harm, and she must do the same for my
Archie."

That unusual demonstration of tenderness from reserved Phebe
very naturally turned the conversation into a more personal
channel, and Archie devoted himself to building castles in the air
so successfully that they passed the material mansion without
either being aware of it.

"Will you come in?" asked Phebe when the mistake was rectified
and she stood on her own steps looking down at her escort, who
had discreetly released her before a pull at the bell caused five
heads to pop up at five different windows.

"No, thanks. I shall be at church this afternoon, and the oratorio
this evening. I must be off early in the morning, so let me make the
most of precious time and come home with you tonight as I did
before," answered Archie, making his best bow, and quite sure of
consent.

"You may." And Phebe vanished, closing the door softly, as if she
found it hard to shut out so much love and happiness as that in the
heart of the sedate young gentleman who went briskly down the
street humming a verse of old "Clyde" like a tuneful bass viol:

    "Oh, let our mingling voices rise
    In grateful rapture to the skies,
    Where love has had its birth.

    Let songs of joy this day declare
    That spirits come their bliss to share
    With all the sons of earth." 

That afternoon Miss Moore sang remarkably well, and that
evening quite electrified even her best friends by the skill and
power with which she rendered "Inflammatus" in the oratorio.

"If that is not genius, I should like to know what it is?" said one
young man to another as they went out just before the general
crush at the end.

"Some genius and a great deal of love. They are a grand team, and,
when well driven, astonish the world by the time they make in the
great race," answered the second young man with the look of one
inclined to try his hand at driving that immortal span.

"Daresay you are right. Can't stop now she's waiting for me. Don't
sit up, Mac."

"The gods go with you, Archie."

And the cousins separated one to write till midnight, the other to
bid his Phebe good-bye, little dreaming how unexpectedly and
successfully she was to earn her welcome home.




Chapter 20 WHAT MAC DID

Rose, meantime, was trying to find out what the sentiment was
with which she regarded her cousin Mac. She could not seem to
reconcile the character she had known so long with the new one
lately shown her, and the idea of loving the droll, bookish,
absentminded Mac of former times appeared quite impossible and
absurd, but the new Mac, wide awake, full of talent, ardent and
high-handed, was such a surprise to her, she felt as if her heart was
being won by a stranger, and it became her to study him well
before yielding to a charm which she could not deny.

Affection came naturally, and had always been strong for the boy;
regard for the studious youth easily deepened to respect for the
integrity of the young man, and now something warmer was
growing up within her; but at first she could not decide whether it
was admiration for the rapid unfolding of talent of some sort or
love answering to love.

As if to settle that point, Mac sent her on New Year's Day a little
book plainly bound and modestly entitled Songs and Sonnets.
After reading this with ever-growing surprise and delight, Rose
never had another doubt about the writer's being a poet, for though
she was no critic, she had read the best authors and knew what was
good. Unpretentious as it was, this had the true ring, and its very
simplicity showed conscious power for, unlike so many first
attempts, the book was not full of "My Lady," neither did it indulge
in Swinburnian convulsions about

    "The lilies and languors of peace,
    The roses and raptures of love.";

or contain any of the highly colored medieval word pictures so
much in vogue. "My book should smell of pines, and resound with
the hum of insects," might have been its motto, so sweet and
wholesome was it with a springlike sort of freshness which plainly
betrayed that the author had learned some of Nature's deepest
secrets and possessed the skill to tell them in tuneful words. The
songs went ringing through one's memory long after they were
read, and the sonnets were full of the subtle beauty, insight, and
half-unconscious wisdom, which seem to prove that "genius is
divine when young."

Many faults it had, but was so full of promise that it was evident
Mac had not "kept good company, read good books, loved good
things, and cultivated soul and body as faithfully as he could" in
vain. It all told now, for truth and virtue had blossomed into
character and had a language of their own more eloquent than the
poetry to which they were what the fragrance is to the flower.
Wiser critics than Rose felt and admired this; less partial ones
could not deny their praise to a first effort, which seemed as
spontaneous and aspiring as a lark's song; and, when one or two of
these Jupiters had given a nod of approval, Mac found himself, not
exactly famous, but much talked about. One set abused, the other
set praised, and the little book was sadly mauled among them, for
it was too original to be ignored, and too robust to be killed by
hard usage, so it came out of the fray none the worse but rather
brighter, if anything, for the friction which proved the gold
genuine.

This took time, however, and Rose could only sit at home reading
all the notices she could get, as well as the literary gossip Phebe
sent her, for Mac seldom wrote, and never a word about himself,
so Phebe skillfully extracted from him in their occasional meetings
all the personal news her feminine wit could collect and faithfully
reported it.

It was a little singular that without a word of inquiry on either side,
the letters of the girls were principally filled with tidings of their
respective lovers. Phebe wrote about Mac; Rose answered with
minute particulars about Archie; and both added hasty items
concerning their own affairs, as if these were of little consequence.

Phebe got the most satisfaction out of the correspondence, for soon
after the book appeared Rose began to want Mac home again and
to be rather jealous of the new duties and delights that kept him.
She was immensely proud of her poet, and had little jubilees over
the beautiful fulfillment of her prophecies, for even Aunt Plenty
owned now with contrition that "the boy was not a fool." Every
word of praise was read aloud on the housetops, so to speak, by
happy Rose; every adverse criticism was hotly disputed; and the
whole family was in a great state of pleasant excitement over this
unexpectedly successful first flight of the Ugly Duckling, now
generally considered by his relatives as the most promising young
swan of the flock.

Aunt Jane was particularly funny in her new position of mother to
a callow poet and conducted herself like a proud but bewildered
hen when one of her brood takes to the water. She pored over the
poems, trying to appreciate them but quite failing to do so, for life
was all prose to her, and she vainly tried to discover where Mac
got his talent from. It was pretty to see the new respect with which
she treated his possessions now; the old books were dusted with a
sort of reverence; scraps of paper were laid carefully by lest some
immortal verse be lost; and a certain shabby velvet jacket fondly
smoothed when no one was by to smile at the maternal pride with
filled her heart and caused her once severe countenance to shine
with unwonted benignity.

Uncle Mac talked about "my son" with ill-concealed satisfaction,
and evidently began to feel as if his boy was going to confer
distinction upon the whole race of Campbell, which had already
possessed one poet. Steve exulted with irrepressible delight and
went about quoting Songs and Sonnets till he bored his friends
dreadfully by his fraternal raptures.

Archie took it more quietly, and even suggested that it was too
soon to crow yet, for the dear old fellow's first burst might be his
last, since it was impossible to predict what he would do next.
Having proved that he could write poetry, he might drop it for
some new world to conquer, quoting his favorite Thoreau, who,
having made a perfect pencil, gave up the business and took to
writing books with the sort of indelible ink which grows clearer
with time.

The aunts of course had their "views," and enjoyed much prophetic
gossip as they wagged their caps over many social cups of tea. The
younger boys thought it "very jolly," and hoped the Don would "go
ahead and come to glory as soon as possible," which was all that
could by expected of "Young America," with whom poetry is not
usually a passion.

But Dr. Alec was a sight for "sair een," so full of concentrated
contentment was he. No one but Rose, perhaps, knew how proud
and pleased the good man felt at this first small success of his
godson, for he had always had high hopes of the boy, because in
spite of his oddities he had such an upright nature, and promising
little, did much, with the quiet persistence which foretells a manly
character. All the romance of the doctor's heart was stirred by this
poetic bud of promise and the love that made it bloom so early, for
Mac had confided his hopes to Uncle, finding great consolation
and support in his sympathy and advice. Like a wise man, Dr. Alec
left the young people to learn the great lesson in their own way,
counseling Mac to work and Rose to wait till both were quite
certain that their love was built on a surer foundation than
admiration or youthful romance.

Meantime he went about with a well-worn little book in his
pocket, humming bits from a new set of songs and repeating with
great fervor certain sonnets which seemed to him quite equal, if
not superior, to any that Shakespeare ever wrote. As Rose was
doing the same thing, they often met for a private "read and
warble," as they called it, and while discussing the safe subject of
Mac's poetry, both arrived at a pretty clear idea of what Mac's
reward was to be when he came home.

He seemed in no hurry to do this, however, and continued to
astonish his family by going into society and coming out brilliantly
in that line. It takes very little to make a lion, as everyone knows
who has seen what poor specimens are patted and petted every
year, in spite of their bad manners, foolish vagaries, and very
feeble roaring. Mac did not want to be lionized and took it rather
scornfully, which only added to the charm that people suddenly
discovered about the nineteenth cousin of Thomas Campbell, the
poet. He desired to be distinguished in the best sense of the word,
as well as to look so, and thought a little of the polish society gives
would not be amiss, remembering Rose's efforts in that line. For
her sake he came out of his shell and went about seeing and testing
all sorts of people with those observing eyes of his, which saw so
much in spite of their nearsightedness. What use he meant to make
of these new experiences no one knew, for he wrote short letters
and, when questioned, answered with imperturbable patience:
"Wait till I get through; then I'll come home and talk about it."

So everyone waited for the poet, till something happened which
produced a greater sensation in the family than if all the boys had
simultaneously taken to rhyming.

Dr. Alec got very impatient and suddenly announced that he was
going to L  to see after those young people, for Phebe was rapidly
singing herself into public favor with the sweet old ballads which
she rendered so beautifully that hearers were touched as well as
ears delighted, and her prospects brightened every month.

"Will you come with me, Rose, and surprise this ambitious pair
who are getting famous so fast they'll forget their homekeeping
friends if we don't remind them of us now and then?" he said when
he proposed the trip one wild March morning.

"No, thank you, sir I'll stay with Aunty; that is all I'm fit for and I
should only be in the way among those fine people," answered
Rose, snipping away at the plants blooming in the study window.

There was a slight bitterness in her voice and a cloud on her face,
which her uncle heard and saw at once, half guessed the meaning
of, and could not rest till he had found out.

"Do you think Phebe and Mac would not care to see you?" he
asked, putting down a letter in which Mac gave a glowing account
of a concert at which Phebe surpassed herself.

"No, but they must be very busy," began Rose, wishing she had
held her tongue.

"Then what is the matter?" persisted Dr. Alec.

Rose did not speak for a moment, and decapitated two fine
geraniums with a reckless slash of her scissors, as if pent-up
vexation of some kind must find a vent. It did in words also, for, as
if quite against her will, she exclaimed impetuously: "The truth is,
I'm jealous of them both!"

"Bless my soul! What now?" ejaculated the doctor in great
surprise.

Rose put down her water pot and shears, came and stood before
him with her hands nervously twisted together, and said, just as
she used to do when she was a little girl confessing some misdeed:
"Uncle, I must tell you, for I've been getting very envious,
discontented, and bad lately. No, don't be good to me yet, for you
don't know how little I deserve it. Scold me well, and make me see
how wicked I am."

"I will as soon as I know what I am to scold about. Unburden
yourself, child, and let me see all your iniquity, for if you begin by
being jealous of Mac and Phebe, I'm prepared for anything," said
Dr. Alec, leaning back as if nothing could surprise him now.

"But I am not jealous in that way, sir. I mean I want to be or do
something splendid as well as they. I can't write poetry or sing like
a bird, but I should think I might have my share of glory in some
way. I thought perhaps I could paint, and I've tried, but I can only
copy I've no power to invent lovely things, and I'm so discouraged,
for that is my one accomplishment. Do you think I have any gift
that could be cultivated and do me credit like theirs?" she asked so
wistfully that her uncle felt for a moment as if he never could
forgive the fairies who endow babies in their cradles for being so
niggardly to his girl. But one look into the sweet, open face before
him reminded him that the good elves had been very generous and
he answered cheerfully: "Yes, I do, for you have one of the best
and noblest gifts a woman can possess. Music and poetry are fine
things, and I don't wonder you want them, or that you envy the
pleasant fame they bring. I've felt just so, and been ready to ask
why it didn't please heaven to be more generous to some people, so
you needn't be ashamed to tell me all about it."

"I know I ought to be contented, but I'm not. My life is very
comfortable, but so quiet and uneventful, I get tired of it and want
to launch out as the others have, and do something, or at least try.
I'm glad you think it isn't very bad of me, and I'd like to know what
my gift is," said Rose, looking less despondent already.

"The art of living for others so patiently and sweetly that we enjoy
it as we do the sunshine, and are not half grateful enough for the
great blessing."

"It is very kind of you to say so, but I think I'd like a little fun and
fame nevertheless." And Rose did not look as thankful as she
ought.

"Very natural, dear, but the fun and the fame do not last, while the
memory of a real helper is kept green long after poetry is forgotten
and music silent. Can't you believe that, and be happy?"

"But I do so little, nobody sees or cares, and I don't feel as if I was
really of any use," sighed Rose, thinking of the long, dull winter,
full of efforts that seemed fruitless.

"Sit here, and let us see if you really do very little and if no one
cares." And, drawing her to his knee, Dr. Alec went on, telling off
each item on one of the fingers of the soft hand he held.

"First, an infirm old aunt is kept very happy by the patient, cheerful
care of this good-for-nothing niece. Secondly, a crotchety uncle,
for whom she reads, runs, writes, and sews so willingly that he
cannot get on without her. Thirdly, various relations who are
helped in various ways. Fourthly, one dear friend never forgotten,
and a certain cousin cheered by praise which is more to him than
the loudest blast Fame could blow. Fifthly, several young girls find
her an example of many good works and ways. Sixthly, a
motherless baby is cared for as tenderly as if she were a little
sister. Seventhly, half a dozen poor ladies made comfortable; and,
lastly, some struggling boys and girls with artistic longings are put
into a pleasant room furnished with casts, studies, easels, and all
manner of helpful things, not to mention free lessons given by this
same idle girl, who now sits upon my knee owning to herself that
her gift is worth having after all."

"Indeed, I am! Uncle, I'd no idea I had done so many things to
please you, or that anyone guessed how hard I try to fill my place
usefully. I've learned to do without gratitude now I'll learn not to
care for praise, but to be contented to do my best, and have only
God know."

"He knows, and He rewards in His own good time. I think a quiet
life like this often makes itself felt in better ways than one that the
world sees and applauds, and some of the noblest are never known
till they end, leaving a void in many hearts. Yours may be one of
these if you choose to make it so, and no one will be prouder of
this success than I, unless it be Mac."

The clouds were quite gone now, and Rose was looking straight
into her uncle's face with a much happier expression when that last
word made it color brightly and the eyes glance away for a second.
Then they came back full of a tender sort of resolution as she said:
"That will be the reward I work for," and rose, as if ready to be up
and doing with renewed courage.

But her uncle held her long enough to ask quite soberly, though his
eyes laughed: "Shall I tell him that?"

"No, sir, please don't! When he is tired of other people's praise, he
will come home, and then I'll see what I can do for him," answered
Rose, slipping away to her work with the shy, happy look that
sometimes came to give to her face the charm it needed.

"He is such a thorough fellow, he never is in a hurry to go from
one thing to another. An excellent habit, but a trifle trying to
impatient people like me," said the doctor and, picking up Dulce,
who sat upon the rug with her dolly, he composed his feelings by
tossing her till she crowed with delight.

Rose heartily echoed that last remark, but said nothing aloud, only
helped her uncle off with dutiful alacrity and, when he was gone,
began to count the days till his return, wishing she had decided to
go too.

He wrote often, giving excellent accounts of the "great creatures,"
as Steve called Phebe and Mac, and seemed to find so much to do
in various ways that the second week of absence was nearly over
before he set a day for his return, promising to astonish them with
the account of his adventures.

Rose felt as if something splendid was going to happen and set her
affairs in order so that the approaching crisis might find her fully
prepared. She had "found out" now, was quite sure, and put away
all doubts and fears to be ready to welcome home the cousin
whom she was sure Uncle would bring as her reward. She was
thinking of this one day as she got out her paper to write a long
letter to poor Aunt Clara, who pined for news far away there in
Calcutta.

Something in the task reminded her of that other lover whose
wooing ended so tragically, and opening a little drawer of
keepsakes, she took out the blue bracelet, feeling that she owed
Charlie a tender thought in the midst of her new happiness, for of
late she had forgotten him.

She had worn the trinket hidden under her black sleeve for a long
time after his death, with the regretful constancy one sometimes
shows in doing some little kindness all too late. But her arm had
grown too round to hide the ornament, the forget-me-nots had
fallen one by one, the clasp had broken, and that autumn she laid
the bracelet away, acknowledging that she had outgrown the
souvenir as well as the sentiment that gave it.

She looked at it in silence for a moment, then put it softly back
and, shutting the drawer, took up the little gray book which was
her pride, thinking as she contrasted the two men and their
influence on her life the one sad and disturbing, the other sweet
and inspiring "Charlie's was passion Mac's is love."

"Rose! Rose!" called a shrill voice, rudely breaking the pensive
reverie, and with a start, she shut the desk, exclaiming as she ran
to the door: "They have come! They have come!"




Chapter 21 HOW PHEBE EARNED HER WELCOME

Dr. Alec had not arrived, but bad tidings had, as Rose guessed the
instant her eyes fell upon Aunt Plenty, hobbling downstairs with
her cap awry, her face pale, and a letter flapping wildly in her hand
as she cried distractedly: "Oh, my boy! My boy! Sick, and I not
there to nurse him! Malignant fever, so far away. What can those
children do? Why did I let Alec go?"

Rose got her into the parlor, and while the poor old lady lamented,
she read the letter which Phebe had sent to her that she might
"break the news carefully to Rose."

DEAR MISS PLENTY, Please read this to yourself first, and tell
my little mistress as you think best. The dear doctor is very ill, but
I am with him, and shall not leave him day or night till he is safe.
So trust me, and do not be anxious, for everything shall be done
that care and skill and entire devotion can do. He would not let us
tell you before, fearing you would try to come at the risk of your
health. Indeed it would be useless, for only one nurse is needed,
and I came first, so do not let Rose or anybody else rob me of my
right to the danger and the duty. Mac has written to his father, for
Dr. Alec is now too ill to know what we do, and we both felt that
you ought to be told without further delay. He has a bad malignant
fever, caught no one can tell how, unless among some poor
emigrants whom he met wandering about quite forlorn in a strange
city. He understood Portuguese and sent them to a proper place
when they had told their story. But I fear he has suffered for his
kindness, for this fever came on rapidly, and before he knew what
it was I was there, and it was too late to send me away.

Now I can show you how grateful I am, and if need be give my life
so gladly for this friend who has been a father to me. Tell Rose his
last conscious word and thought were for her. "Don't let her come;
keep my darling safe." Oh, do obey him! Stay safely at home and,
God helping me, I'll bring Uncle Alec back in time. Mac does all I
will let him. We have the best physicians, and everything is going
as well as can be hoped till the fever turns.

Dear Miss Plenty, pray for him and for me, that I may do this one
happy thing for those who have done so much for
Your ever dutiful and loving

PHEBE

As Rose looked up from the letter, half stunned by the sudden
news and the great danger, she found that the old lady had already
stopped useless bewailing and was praying heartily, like one who
knew well where help was to be found. Rose went and knelt down
at her knee, laying her face on the clasped hands in her lap, and for
a few minutes neither wept nor spoke. Then a stifled sob broke
from the girl, and Aunt Plenty gathered the young head in her
arms, saying, with the slow tears of age trickling down her own
withered cheeks: "Bear up, my lamb, bear up. The good Lord won't
take him from us I am sure and that brave child will be allowed to
pay her debt to him. I feel she will."

"But I want to help. I must go, Aunty, I must no matter what the
danger is," cried Rose, full of a tender jealousy of Phebe for being
first to brave peril for the sake of him who had been a father to
them both.

"You can't go, dear, it's no use now, and she is right to say, 'Keep
away.' I know those fevers, and the ones who nurse often take it,
and fare worse for the strain they've been through. Good girl to
stand by so bravely, to be so sensible, and not let Mac go too near!
She's a grand nurse Alec couldn't have a better, and she'll never
leave him till he's safe," said Miss Plenty excitedly.

"Ah, you begin to know her now, and value her as you ought. I
think few would have done as she has, and if she does get ill and
die, it will be our fault partly, because she'd go through fire and
water to make us do her justice and receive her as we ought," cried
Rose, proud of an example which she longed to follow.

"If she brings my boy home, I'll never say another word. She may
marry every nephew I've got, if she likes, and I'll give her my
blessing," exclaimed Aunt Plenty, feeling that no price would be
too much to pay for such a deed.

Rose was going to clap her hands, but wrung them instead,
remembering with a sudden pang that the battle was not over yet,
and it was much too soon to award the honors.

Before she could speak Uncle Mac and Aunt Jane hurried in, for
Mac's letter had come with the other, and dismay fell upon the
family at the thought of danger to the well-beloved Uncle Alec.
His brother decided to go at once, and Aunt Jane insisted on
accompanying him, though all agreed that nothing could be done
but wait, and leave Phebe at her post as long as she held out, since
it was too late to save her from danger now and Mac reported her
quite equal to the task.

Great was the hurry and confusion till the relief party was off.
Aunt Plenty was heartbroken that she could not go with them, but
felt that she was too infirm to be useful and, like a sensible old
soul, tried to content herself with preparing all sorts of comforts
for the invalid. Rose was less patient, and at first had wild ideas of
setting off alone and forcing her way to the spot where all her
thoughts now centered. But before she could carry out any rash
project, Aunt Myra's palpitations set in so alarmingly that they did
good service for once and kept Rose busy taking her last directions
and trying to soothe her dying bed, for each attack was declared
fatal till the patient demanded toast and tea, when hope was again
allowable and the rally began.

The news flew fast, as such tidings always do, and Aunt Plenty
was constantly employed in answering inquiries, for her knocker
kept up a steady tattoo for several days. All sorts of people came:
gentlefolk and paupers, children with anxious little faces, old
people full of sympathy, pretty girls sobbing as they went away,
and young men who relieved their feelings by swearing at all
emigrants in general and Portuguese in particular. It was touching
and comforting to see how many loved the good man who was
known only by his benefactions and now lay suffering far away,
quite unconscious how many unsuspected charities were brought
to light by this grateful solicitude as hidden flowers spring up
when warm rains fall.

If Rose had ever felt that the gift of living for others was a poor
one, she saw now how beautiful and blessed it was how rich the
returns, how wide the influence, how much more precious the
tender tie which knit so many hearts together than any breath of
fame or brilliant talent that dazzled but did not win and warm. In
after years she found how true her uncle's words had been and,
listening to eulogies of great men, felt less moved and inspired by
praises of their splendid gifts than by the sight of some good man's
patient labor for the poorest of his kind. Her heroes ceased to be
the world's favorites and became such as Garrison fighting for his
chosen people; Howe restoring lost senses to the deaf, the dumb,
and blind; Sumner unbribable, when other men were bought and
sold and many a large-hearted woman working as quietly as Abby
Gibbons, who for thirty years had made Christmas merry for two
hundred little paupers in a city almshouse, besides saving
Magdalens and teaching convicts.

The lesson came to Rose when she was ready for it, and showed
her what a noble profession philanthropy is, made her glad of her
choice, and helped fit her for a long life full of the loving labor and
sweet satisfaction unostentatious charity brings to those who ask
no reward and are content if "only God knows."

Several anxious weeks went by with wearing fluctuations of hope
and fear, for Life and Death fought over the prize each wanted, and
more than once Death seemed to have won. But Phebe stood at her
post, defying both danger and Death with the courage and devotion
women often show. All her soul and strength were in her work,
and when it seemed most hopeless, she cried out with the
passionate energy which seems to send such appeals straight up to
heaven: "Grant me this one boon, dear Lord, and I will never ask
another for myself!"

Such prayers avail much, and such entire devotion often seems to
work miracles when other aids are in vain. Phebe's cry was
answered, her self-forgetful task accomplished, and her long vigil
rewarded with a happy dawn. Dr. Alec always said that she kept
him alive by the force of her will, and that, during the hours when
he seemed to lie unconscious, he felt a strong, warm hand holding
his, as if keeping him away from the swift current trying to sweep
him away. The happiest hour of all her life was that in which he
knew her, looked up with the shadow of a smile in his hollow eyes,
and tried to say in his old cheery way: "Tell Rose I've turned the
corner, thanks to you, my child."

She answered very quietly, smoothed the pillow, and saw him drop
asleep again before she stole away into the other room, meaning to
write the good news, but could only throw herself down and find
relief for a full heart in the first tears she had shed for weeks. Mac
found her there, and took such care of her that she was ready to go
back to her place now indeed a post of honor while he ran off to
send home a telegram which made many hearts sing for joy and
caused Jamie, in his first burst of delight, to propose to ring all the
city bells and order out the cannon: "Saved thanks to God and
Phebe."

That was all, but everyone was satisfied, and everyone fell
a-crying, as if hope needed much salty water to strengthen it. That
was soon over, however, and then people went about smiling and
saying to one another, with handshakes or embraces, "He is better
no doubt of it now!" A general desire to rush away and assure
themselves of the truth pervaded the family for some days, and
nothing but awful threats from Mac, stern mandates from the
doctor, and entreaties from Phebe not to undo her work kept Miss
Plenty, Rose, and Aunt Jessie at home.

As the only way in which they could ease their minds and bear the
delay, they set about spring cleaning with an energy which scared
the spiders and drove charwomen distracted. If the old house had
been infected with smallpox, it could not have been more
vigorously scrubbed, aired, and refreshed. Early as it was, every
carpet was routed up, curtains pulled down, cushions banged, and
glory holes turned out till not a speck of dust, a last year's fly, or
stray straw could be found. Then they all sat down and rested in
such an immaculate mansion that one hardly dared to move for
fear of destroying the shining order everywhere visible.

It was late in April before this was accomplished, and the
necessary quarantine of the absentees well over. The first mild
days seemed to come early, so that Dr. Alec might return with
safety from the journey which had so nearly been his last. It was
perfectly impossible to keep any member of the family away on
that great occasion. They came from all quarters in spite of express
directions to the contrary, for the invalid was still very feeble and
no excitement must be allowed. As if the wind carried the glad
news, Uncle Jem came into port the night before; Will and
Geordie got a leave on their own responsibility; Steve would have
defied the entire faculty, had it been necessary; and Uncle Mac and
Archie said simultaneously, "Business be hanged today."

Of course the aunts arrived in all their best, all cautioning
everybody else to keep quiet and all gabbling excitedly at the least
provocation. Jamie suffered the most during that day, so divided
was he between the desire to behave well and the frantic impulse
to shout at the top of his voice, turn somersaults, and race all over
the house. Occasional bolts into the barn, where he let off steam by
roaring and dancing jigs, to the great dismay of the fat old horses
and two sedate cows, helped him to get through that trying period.

But the heart that was fullest beat and fluttered in Rose's bosom as
she went about putting spring flowers everywhere; very silent, but
so radiant with happiness that the aunts watched her, saying softly
to one another, "Could an angel look sweeter?"

If angels ever wore pale green gowns and snowdrops in their hair,
had countenances full of serenest joy, and large eyes shining with
an inward light that made them very lovely, then Rose did look
like one. But she felt like a woman and well she might, for was not
life very rich that day, when Uncle, friend, and lover were coming
back to her together? Could she ask anything more, except the
power to be to all of them the creature they believed her, and to
return the love they gave her with one as faithful, pure, and deep?
Among the portraits in the hall hung one of Dr. Alec, done soon
after his return by Charlie in one of his brief fits of inspiration.
Only a crayon, but wonderfully lifelike and carefully finished, as
few of the others were. This had been handsomely framed and now
held the place of honor, garlanded with green wreaths, while the
great Indian jar below blazed with a pyramid of hothouse flowers
sent by Kitty. Rose was giving these a last touch, with Dulce close
by, cooing over a handful of sweet "daffydowndillies," when the
sound of wheels sent her flying to the door. She meant to have
spoken the first welcome and had the first embrace, but when she
saw the altered face in the carriage, the feeble figure being borne
up the steps by all the boys, she stood motionless till Phebe caught
her in her arms, whispering with a laugh and a cry struggling in her
voice: "I did it for you, my darling, all for you!"

"Oh, Phebe, never say again you owe me anything! I never can
repay you for this," was all Rose had time to answer as they stood
one instant cheek to cheek, heart to heart, both too full of
happiness for many words.

Aunt Plenty had heard the wheels also and, as everybody rose en
masse, had said as impressively as extreme agitation would allow,
while she put her glasses on upside down and seized a lace tidy
instead of her handkerchief: "Stop! All stay here, and let me
receive Alec. Remember his weak state, and be calm, quite calm,
as I am.'

"Yes, Aunt, certainly," was the general murmur of assent, but it
was as impossible to obey as it would have been to keep feathers
still in a gale, and one irresistible impulse carried the whole
roomful into the hall to behold Aunt Plenty beautifully illustrating
her own theory of composure by waving the tidy wildly, rushing
into Dr. Alec's arms, and laughing and crying with a hysterical
abandonment which even Aunt Myra could not have surpassed.

The tearful jubilee was soon over, however, and no one seemed
the worse for it, for the instant his arms were at liberty, Dr. Alec
forgot himself and began to make other people happy by saying
seriously, though his thin face beamed paternally, as he drew
Phebe forward: "Aunt Plenty, but for this good daughter I never
should have come back to be so welcomed. Love her for my sake."

Then the old lady came out splendidly and showed her mettle, for,
turning to Phebe, she bowed her gray head as if saluting an equal
and, offering her hand, answered with repentance, admiration, and
tenderness trembling in her voice: "I'm proud to do it for her own
sake. I ask pardon for my silly prejudices, and I'll prove that I'm
sincere by where's that boy?"

There were six boys present, but the right one was in exactly the
right place at the right moment, and, seizing Archie's hand, Aunt
Plenty put Phebe's into it, trying to say something appropriately
solemn, but could not, so hugged them both and sobbed out: "If I
had a dozen nephews, I'd give them all to you, my dear, and dance
at the wedding, though I had rheumatism in every limb."

That was better than any oration, for it set them all to laughing,
and Dr. Alec was floated to the sofa on a gentle wave of
merriment. Once there, everyone but Rose and Aunt Plenty was
ordered off by Mac, who was in command now and seemed to
have sunk the poet in the physician.

"The house must be perfectly quiet, and he must go to sleep as
soon as possible after the journey, so all say 'good-bye' now and
call again tomorrow," he said, watching his uncle anxiously as he
leaned in the sofa corner, with four women taking off his wraps,
three boys contending for his overshoes, two brothers shaking
hands at short intervals, and Aunt Myra holding a bottle of strong
salts under his devoted nose every time there was an opening
anywhere.

With difficulty the house was partially cleared, and then, while
Aunt Plenty mounted guard over her boy, Rose stole away to see if
Mac had gone with the rest, for as yet they had hardly spoken in
the joyful flurry, though eyes and hands had met. 




Chapter 22 SHORT AND SWEET

In the hall she found Steve and Kitty, for he had hidden his little
sweetheart behind the big couch, feeling that she had a right there,
having supported his spirits during the late anxiety with great
constancy and courage. They seemed so cozy, billing and cooing in
the shadow of the gay vase, that Rose would have slipped silently
away if they had not seen and called to her. 
"He's not gone I guess you'll find him in the parlor," said Steve,
divining with a lover's instinct the meaning of the quick look she
had cast at the hat rack as she shut the study door behind her.

"Mercy, no! Archie and Phebe are there, so he'd have the sense to
pop into the sanctum and wait, unless you'd like me to go and
bring him out?" added Kitty, smoothing Rose's ruffled hair and
settling the flowers on the bosom where Uncle Alec's head had lain
until he fell asleep.

"No, thank you, I'll go to him when I've seen my Phebe. She won't
mind me," answered Rose, moving on to the parlor.

"Look here," called Steve, "do advise them to hurry up and all be
married at once. We were just ready when Uncle fell ill, and now
we cannot wait a day later than the first of May."

"Rather short notice," laughed Rose, looking back with the
doorknob in her hand.

"We'll give up all our splendor, and do it as simply as you like, if
you will only come too. Think how lovely! Three weddings at
once! Do fly round and settle things there's a dear," implored Kitty,
whose imagination was fired with this romantic idea.

"How can I, when I have no bridegroom yet?" began Rose, with
conscious color in her telltale face.

"Sly creature! You know you've only got to say a word and have a
famous one. Una and her lion will be nothing to it," cried Steve,
bent on hastening his brother's affair, which was much too dilatory
and peculiar for his taste.

"He has been in no haste to come home, and I am in no haste to
leave it. Don't wait for me, 'Mr. and Mrs. Harry Walmers, Jr.,' I
shall be a year at least making up my mind, so you may lead off as
splendidly as you like and I'll profit by your experience." And Rose
vanished into the parlor, leaving Steve to groan over the perversity
of superior women and Kitty to comfort him by promising to
marry him on May Day "all alone."

A very different couple occupied the drawing room, but a happier
one, for they had known the pain of separation and were now
enjoying the bliss of a reunion which was to last unbroken for their
lives. Phebe sat in an easy chair, resting from her labors, pale and
thin and worn, but lovelier in Archie's eyes than ever before. It was
very evident that he was adoring his divinity, for, after placing a
footstool at her feet, he had forgotten to get up and knelt there with
his elbow on the arm of her chair, looking like a thirsty man
drinking long drafts of the purest water.

"Shall I disturb you if I pass through?" asked Rose, loath to spoil
the pretty tableau.

"Not if you stop a minute on the way and congratulate me, Cousin,
for she says 'yes' at last!" cried Archie, springing up to go and bring
her to the arms Phebe opened as she appeared.

"I knew she would reward your patience and put away her pride
when both had been duly tried," said Rose, laying the tired head on
her bosom with such tender admiration in her eyes that Phebe had
to shake some bright drops from her own before she could reply in
a tone of grateful humility that showed how much her heart was
touched: "How can I help it, when they are all so kind to me? Any
pride would melt away under such praise and thanks and loving
wishes as I've had today, for every member of the family has taken
pains to welcome me, to express far too much gratitude, and to beg
me to be one of you. I needed very little urging, but when Archie's
father and mother came and called me 'daughter,' I would have
promised anything to show my love for them."

"And him," added Rose, but Archie seemed quite satisfied and
kissed the hand he held as if it had been that of a beloved princess
while he said with all the pride Phebe seemed to have lost: "Think
what she gives up for me fame and fortune and the admiration of
many a better man. You don't know what a splendid prospect she
has of becoming one of the sweet singers who are loved and
honored everywhere, and all this she puts away for my sake,
content to sing for me alone, with no reward but love."

"I am so glad to make a little sacrifice for a great happiness I never
shall regret it or think my music lost if it makes home cheerful for
my mate. Birds sing sweetest in their own nests, you know." And
Phebe bent toward him with a look and gesture which plainly
showed how willingly she offered up all ambitious hopes upon the
altar of a woman's happy love.

Both seemed to forget that they were not alone, and in a moment
they were, for a sudden impulse carried Rose to the door of her
sanctum, as if the south wind which seemed to have set in was
wafting this little ship also toward the Islands of the Blessed,
where the others were safely anchored now.

The room was a blaze of sunshine and a bower of spring freshness
and fragrance, for here Rose had let her fancy have free play, and
each garland, fern, and flower had its meaning. Mac seemed to
have been reading this sweet language of symbols, to have guessed
why Charlie's little picture was framed in white roses, why pansies
hung about his own, why Psyche was half hidden among feathery
sprays of maidenhair, and a purple passion flower lay at Cupid's
feet. The last fancy evidently pleased him, for he was smiling over
it, and humming to himself as if to beguile his patient waiting, the
burden of the air Rose had so often sung to him:

"Bonny lassie, will ye gang, will ye gang
To the birks of Aberfeldie?"

"Yes, Mac, anywhere!"

He had not heard her enter, and wheeling around, looked at her
with a radiant face as he said, drawing a long breath, "At last! You
were so busy over the dear man, I got no word. But I can wait I'm
used to it."

Rose stood quite still, surveying him with a new sort of reverence
in her eyes, as she answered with a sweet solemnity that made him
laugh and redden with the sensitive joy of one to whom praise
from her lips was very precious: "You forget that you are not the
Mac who went away. I should have run to meet my cousin, but I
did not dare to be familiar with the poet whom all begin to honor."

"You like the mixture, then? You know I said I'd try to give you
love and poetry together."

"Like it! I'm so glad, so proud, I haven't any words strong and
beautiful enough to half express my wonder and my admiration.
How could you do it, Mac?" And a whole face full of smiles broke
loose as Rose clapped her hands, looking as if she could dance
with sheer delight.

"It did itself, up there among the hills, and here with you, or out
alone upon the sea. I could write a heavenly poem this very
minute, and put you in as Spring you look like her in that green
gown with snowdrops in your bonny hair. Rose, am I getting on a
little? Does a hint of fame help me nearer to the prize I'm working
for? Is your heart more willing to be won?"

He did not stir a step, but looked at her with such intense longing
that his glance seemed to draw her nearer like an irresistible
appeal, for she went and stood before him, holding out both hands,
as if she offered all her little store, as she said with simplest
sincerity: "It is not worth so much beautiful endeavor, but if you
still want so poor a thing, it is yours."

He caught her hands in his and seemed about to take the rest of
her, but hesitated for an instant, unable to believe that so much
happiness was true.

"Are you sure, Rose very sure? Don't let a momentary admiration
blind you I'm not a poet yet, and the best are but mortal men, you
know."

"It is not admiration, Mac."

"Nor gratitude for the small share I've taken in saving Uncle? I had
my debt to pay, as well as Phebe, and was as glad to risk my life."

"No it is not gratitude."

"Nor pity for my patience? I've only done a little yet, and I am as
far as ever from being like your hero. I can work and wait still
longer if you are not sure, for I must have all or nothing."

"Oh, Mac! Why will you be so doubtful? You said you'd make me
love you, and you've done it. Will you believe me now?" And, with
a sort of desperation, she threw herself into his arms, clinging
there in eloquent silence while he held her close; feeling, with a
thrill of tender triumph, that this was no longer little Rose, but a
loving woman, ready to live and die for him.

"Now I'm satisfied!" he said presently, when she lifted up her face,
full of maidenly shame at the sudden passion which had carried
her out of herself for a moment. "No don't slip away so soon. Let
me keep you for one blessed minute and feel that I have really
found my Psyche."

"And I my Cupid," answered Rose, laughing, in spite of her
emotion, at the idea of Mac in that sentimental character.

He laughed, too, as only a happy lover could, then said, with
sudden seriousness: "Sweet soul! Lift up your lamp and look well
before it is too late, for I'm no god, only a very faulty man."

"Dear love! I will. But I have no fear, except that you will fly too
high for me to follow, because I have no wings."

"You shall live the poetry, and I will write it, so my little gift will
celebrate your greater one."

"No you shall have all the fame, and I'll be content to be known
only as the poet's wife."

"And I'll be proud to own that my best inspiration comes from the
beneficent life of a sweet and noble woman."

"Oh, Mac! We'll work together and try to make the world better by
the music and the love we leave behind us when we go."

"Please God, we will!" he answered fervently and, looking at her
as she stood there in the spring sunshine, glowing with the tender
happiness, high hopes, and earnest purposes that make life
beautiful and sacred, he felt that now the last leaf had folded back,
the golden heart lay open to the light, and his Rose had bloomed.



THE END





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