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Title: Hunter's Marjory - A Story for Girls
Author: Clarke, Margaret Bruce
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hunter's Marjory - A Story for Girls" ***

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[Illustration: "My dear child, what is wrong?"]



  Hunter's Marjory

  A STORY FOR GIRLS


  BY

  MARGARET BRUCE CLARKE

 _Author of "The Little Heiress," etc., etc._


  THOMAS NELSON AND SONS
 _London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and New York_
  1907



  CONTENTS.

  _I. Tears,_                                                     9
  _II. A Friend in Need,_                                        23
  _III. Uncle and Niece,_                                        38
  _IV. Tea at Hunters' Brae,_                                    52
  _V. A Visit to the Low Farm,_                                  66
  _VI. Confidences,_                                             79
  _VII. Marjory's Apology,_                                      94
  _VIII. The Secret Chamber,_                                   108
  _IX. Peter's Story,_                                          124
  _X. Marjory's Birthday,_                                      144
  _XI. The Mysterious Stranger,_                                160
  _XII. Marjory keeps a Secret,_                                175
  _XIII. The Old Chest,_                                        188
  _XIV. The Prophecies,_                                        202
  _XV. Twelfth Night,_                                          218
  _XVI. Miss Waspe gives Good Advice,_                          232
  _XVII. On the Loch,_                                          246
  _XVIII. The Stranger Returns,_                                259
  _XIX. Important Letters,_                                     274
  _XX. The Doctor's Disappointment,_                            288
  _XXI. Hopes Realized,_                                        300



HUNTER'S MARJORY.



CHAPTER I.

TEARS.

  "A maid whom there were none to praise,
    And very few to love."--WORDSWORTH.


Marjory was lying under a tree in the wood beyond her uncle's garden;
her head was hidden in the long, soft coat of a black retriever, and she
was crying--sobbing bitterly as if her heart would break, and as if
nothing could ever comfort her again.

"O Silky," she moaned, "if you only knew, you would be so sorry for me."

The faithful dog knew that something very serious was the matter with
his young mistress, but he could only lick her hands and wag his tail as
well as he was able with her weight upon his body.

A fresh burst of grief shook the girl; and Silky, puzzled by this
unusual behaviour on Marjory's part, began to make little low whines
himself. Suddenly the whines were changed to growls, the dog shook
himself free from the girl's clasping arms and stood erect, staring into
the wood beyond.

Marjory was too much overcome by her grief to notice Silky's doings, and
it was not until she heard a voice quite close to her saying, "You poor
little thing, what is the matter?" that she realized that she was not
alone.

She looked up, startled, wondering who this stranger could be making
free of her uncle's woods. She saw a lady, tall and fair, looking kindly
at her, and a girl who might have stepped out of a picture, so sweet and
fresh and pretty she looked in her white frock and shady hat.

For one minute Marjory gazed at her in admiration, and then, conscious
of her tear-stained face and tumbled dress, let her head droop again and
sobbed afresh.

The lady spoke again: "My dear child, what is wrong?"

"Nothing," sobbed Marjory--"nothing that I can tell you."

She felt ashamed of being seen in such a plight, and had an instinctive
dislike of showing her feelings to a stranger, for Marjory was an
extremely shy girl.

"But, my dear," remonstrated the lady, "I cannot leave you like this;
besides," with a smile most winning, if only Marjory could have seen it,
"I believe you are trespassing upon our newly-acquired property."

Marjory raised her head at this, and said quickly, and perhaps just a
little proudly,--

"Oh no, I'm not; this is my uncle's ground."

"Oh dear; then Blanche and I are the trespassers, though quite innocent
ones. And you must be Marjory Davidson, I think--Dr. Hunter's niece; and
if so, I know a great deal about you, and we are going to be friends,
and you must let me begin by helping you now."

So saying, the lady seated herself on the ground beside Marjory, her
daughter looking on, at the same time stroking and patting Silky, who
seemed much more disposed to be friendly than his mistress.

"Can't you tell me what the trouble is, Marjory? I am Mrs. Forester, and
this is my daughter Blanche. We have just come to live at Braeside. Your
uncle called on us to-day, and told us about you. Blanche and I have
been looking forward to seeing you and making friends.--Haven't we,
Blanche?"

"Yes, I've thought of nothing else since I heard about you," said the
girl, rather shyly, the colour coming into her face as she spoke.

Marjory stole another glance at her, and she thought she had never seen
or imagined any one so sweet and pretty as this girl.

"Blanche," she thought--"that means white; I know it from the names of
roses and hyacinths. I've seen it on the labels. And she is just like
her name--like a beautiful white rose with the tiniest bit of pink in
it."

"Come now, Marjory dear," coaxed Mrs. Forester; "won't you take us for
friends, and tell me a little about this trouble of yours? Won't you let
me try to help you out of it?"

"No, you can't help me; nobody can. It's very kind of you," stammered
Marjory, "but it's no use."

"Suppose you tell me, and let me judge whether I can help you or not."
And Mrs. Forester took hold of one of Marjory's little brown hands and
stroked it gently.

The soft touch and the gentle voice won Marjory's heart at last, and she
said brokenly, between her sobs,--

"It's about--learning things--and going to school--and uncle--won't let
me, and--and he won't tell me about my father, and I don't belong to
anybody."

"Poor child, poor little one, don't cry so. Try to tell me all about it.
I don't quite understand, but I am sure I shall be able to help you."

Bit by bit the story came out. The poor little heart unburdened itself
to sympathetic ears, and the girl could hardly believe that it was
she--Marjory Davidson--who was talking like this to a stranger. She felt
for the first time in her life the relief of confiding in some one who
really understands, and she experienced the comfort that sympathy can
give. She felt as though she were dreaming, and that this gentle woman,
whose touch was so loving and whose voice was so tender, might be the
mother whom, alas! she had never seen but in her dreams.

Marjory's mother had died when her baby was only a few days old, and all
that the child had ever been told about her father was that he was away
in foreign parts at the time of her mother's death, and that he had
never been seen or heard of since. Many and many a time did she think of
this unknown father. Was he still alive? Did he never give a thought to
his little girl? Would he ever come home to see her?

The true story was this: Dr. Hunter had been devotedly fond of his
sister Marjory--the only one amongst several brothers and sisters who
had lived to grow up. Many years younger than himself, she had been more
like a daughter to him than a sister. On the death of their parents he
had been left her sole guardian, and she had lived with him and been the
light and joy of his home. The doctor might seem hard and cold to
outsiders, wrapped up in his scientific studies and pursuits, giving
little thought or care to any other affairs, but he had an intense
capacity for loving, and he lavished his affection upon his young
sister, leaving nothing undone that might increase her happiness or her
comfort.

All went well until she married Hugh Davidson, handsome, careless, and
of a roving disposition, as the doctor pronounced him to be. They loved
each other, and the doctor had to take the second place.

Mr. and Mrs. Davidson made their home in England for a few months after
their marriage; then he received an imperative summons from the other
side of the world requiring his presence. He was needed to look after
some mining property in the far away North-West in the interests of a
company to which he belonged. He bade a hurried farewell to his wife,
promising to be back in six months. She went home to her brother at
Hunters' Brae, and lived with him until her death. She never recovered
from the shock of the parting. Her husband's letters were of necessity
few and far between. She had no idea of the difficulties and hardships
of his life, and although she defended his long silences when the doctor
made comment upon them, still she felt it was very hard that he should
write so seldom, and when he did write that the letters should be so
short. Could she have seen him struggling through an ice-bound country,
enduring hardships and even privations such as are unknown to the
traveller of to-day; could she have seen all this, she could never have
blamed him, she could only have praised him for his faithful service to
those who had sent him, and the cheerful tone of his letters to her,
with no word of personal complaint.

But Mrs. Davidson slowly lost her strength. She faded away as a
beautiful fragile lily might, and Hunters' Brae was once more left
desolate--yet not quite desolate, for there was the baby girl; and,
thinking of her, the doctor resolved that she should take her mother's
place with him. He would devote himself to her, he would try to avoid
all the mistakes he had made with his sister, and, above all, her father
should not even know of her existence. He would keep her all to himself,
she should know no other care but his, and thus her whole affection
should be his alone.

It must be owned that jealousy had blinded Dr. Hunter to his
brother-in-law's good qualities. He had never troubled to inquire into
the circumstances of his going abroad. Enough for him that the man had
left his wife alone only a few months after their marriage, and he
obstinately refused to hear one word in his defence, and would believe
no good of him. He was quite honest in his desire to do the best that
was possible for the child, and in the feeling that it would be better
to keep all knowledge of her father from her. He looked upon Hugh
Davidson as a black sheep. A black sheep could do no good to any one;
therefore, he argued, he should not come near this precious child.

Acting upon this determination, he wrote a very curt note to Mr.
Davidson, acquainting him with the fact of his wife's death, and telling
him that it was entirely his fault--that he had practically killed her
by leaving her alone--but making no mention of the child.

Poor Mr. Davidson received this letter just at a time when he dared to
hope that his work was nearly done and he could allow himself to think
of going home, and his grief was pitiable. He had no near relatives,
having been the only child of his parents, who had been dead many years.
His wandering life had cut him adrift from the acquaintances and
surroundings of his youth. He and his wife had lived in a world of their
own during those few short months, and she had been his only
correspondent in the old country when he left it. Thus it came about
that there was no one to give him the information which Dr. Hunter
withheld; and the poor man, thinking himself alone in the world, with no
ties, no friends, never had the heart to return home to the scenes of
his former happiness; and thus it was that he never knew, never thought
of his little girl growing up in that remote Scottish home, lonely like
himself, longing for and dreaming of things that seemed beyond her
reach.

In the first weeks after his sister's death Dr. Hunter derived much
consolation from the thought of the child. He had named her Marjory
after her mother, and took it for granted that she would be just such
another Marjory--fair-haired and blue-eyed--and he pictured her growing
up gentle and quiet, as her mother had been. Certainly the infant's
eyes were blue at first, and there was no hair to be seen on her head to
trouble the doctor's visions by its unexpected colour; but slowly and
surely it showed itself dark--black as night--crisp, and curly like her
father's. The eyes deepened and deepened till they too were dark,
liquid, and shining, with a look of appeal in them, even in those early
days.

To say that Dr. Hunter was disappointed would be a most inadequate
description of his feelings. He was dismayed at first when he realized
the total reversal of his expectations, and finally enraged to think
that this living image of the man he disliked, and whom his conscience
at times would insist he had wronged, would be constantly before him to
remind him of things he would prefer to forget.

But these feelings passed, and the child soon found her way into her
uncle's heart--the heart that was really so big and so loving, though
the way to it might be hard and rough. The little toddling child knew no
fear of her stern old uncle; it was only as she grew up that shyness,
restraint, and awkwardness in his presence took possession of Marjory.

Dr. Hunter had looked after her education himself. She had been a
delicate little child, and he had not troubled about any lessons in the
ordinary sense of the word for some years. He wished her body to grow
strong first, so she had spent her days in the garden, on the hills, or
on the lake with him; she had learned the ways of birds and flowers and
animals, and meanwhile had grown sturdy and healthy. Her uncle had not
allowed her to make friends with any of the children in the
neighbourhood; he himself was intimate with none of his neighbours
except the minister, Mr. Mackenzie, and the doctor, Dr. Morison. The
minister had no children, and the doctor's two boys were at school, so
that Marjory only saw them occasionally in the holidays. She had no
playmates of her own age, and the children of the village looked upon
her as an alien amongst them, regarding her almost with dislike,
although it was not her fault that she was obliged to hold aloof from
them.

Dr. Hunter had a theory that his sister had been too dreamy and
romantic; that he had petted her and given in to her too much, instead
of insisting upon her learning to be more practical. He blamed the fairy
tales of her childhood, the influence of her school companions, the
poetry and novels of later years as the chief causes of what he called
her dreamy ways and romantic nonsense, and he determined that Marjory
should be very differently brought up. She must learn to cook and to sew
and to be useful in the house. She should not be allowed to read fairy
tales or poetry, nor should she be sent to school; he himself would
teach her what it was necessary for her to learn; he would be very
careful before allowing her to make any friendships; and with all these
precautionary measures he felt that she must grow into a good, strong,
sensible, capable girl.

So Lisbeth the housekeeper was ordered to teach the child to dust and to
sew and other useful things; and Peter, her husband, must teach her to
hoe and to rake, to sow seeds in her little garden and keep it tidy. The
doctor's own part in the programme was to teach her to read and write
and cast up figures. That would be enough, he considered, for the
present. Music, languages, and poetry were to be left out as being
likely to lead to romantic ideas and dreams and unrealities. "Time
enough for them when she is older," he decided. "When the foundation of
common-sense has been laid, there will be no danger. Till then I shall
keep her to facts and nothing else."

The doctor did his best to carry out these plans, which he honestly
believed to be for the child's good in every possible way. Lisbeth and
Peter, grown old in service at Hunters' Brae, were warned on no account
to talk to Marjory about her father or old times, or to encourage her in
doing so; and they tried hard to do as their master bade them, though it
was difficult sometimes to resist those pleading eyes when the child
would say, "Won't you tell me about my father, Lisbeth dear?" or "Peter
darling," as the case might be. Peter was a gardener and
man-of-all-work, and his hands were sometimes very dirty, but he was a
darling all the same to Marjory, and indeed he was a good old man. If he
and his wife had known the truth, that Mr. Davidson had never been told
about his child, it is likely that Peter's strict sense of justice would
have prompted him to right that wrong. But, like every one else, he took
it for granted that the news had gone to Mr. Davidson, and in his kind
old heart was often tempted to blame the seemingly careless father.

"Could he but see the bonnie lamb," he would say sometimes to his wife,
"the vera picter o' himsel', he wouldna hae the heart to leave her. I've
wondered whiles if the doctor wouldna send him a bit photograph, just to
show him what like she is."

Lisbeth would reply, "Peter, it's just nae manner o' use thinkin' o' ony
sic a thing. The doctor he's that set against Mr. Davidson that ye micht
as weel try to move Ben Lomond itsel' as to move him."

These conversations usually ended in an admonition from Lisbeth to Peter
to eat his meat and no blether. The suggestion was never made to the
doctor, no word ever reached Mr. Davidson, and things went on much in
the same way year after year; and although at times the doctor would
question the efficacy of his plans for Marjory's education, on the
whole he was fairly satisfied with them.

The day on which this story opens had seen the doctor take a most
unusual step. Hearing from an old acquaintance in London--a scientific
man and student like himself whose opinion he considered worth
something--that some friends of his had bought Braeside, the property
adjoining Hunters' Brae, he determined to do his duty as a neighbour,
and go to welcome the newcomers as soon as they arrived. His friend had
written, "Mrs. Forester is a most charming woman, Forester himself a
thoroughly good fellow, and their little girl Blanche one of the
sweetest children I have ever seen. She will make a good companion for
your niece, poor little thing."

This letter had set the doctor thinking. First, he was nettled by his
friend's use of the words "poor little thing." Why should Marjory be
pitied as a poor little thing? Had he not done everything he possibly
could for her? Then came one of those painful stabs of conscience which
insisted now and then on being felt. What about her father? Have you
done right in that matter?

He salved his conscience for the time being by making up his mind to go
and see the Foresters, and if they were indeed all that his friend had
said, there could be no reason why he should not encourage a friendship
between the two girls. Marjory certainly had been very quiet and
inclined to mope of late, and it would be a good thing for her to be
roused by this new interest. The child was seldom out of his thoughts
for long together; he loved her as his own; and yet Marjory was not
happy--she was lonely, she did not understand her uncle and misjudged
him, and he found her cold and unresponsive. There was something wanting
between them; both were conscious of this want, yet neither knew how to
supply it and so mend matters.



CHAPTER II.

A FRIEND IN NEED.

  "Have hope, though clouds environ now,
    And gladness hides her face in scorn;
  Put thou the shadow from thy brow--
    No night but has its morn."--SCHILLER.


Things had come to a climax that afternoon. Marjory had driven by
herself to the village to get some things that Lisbeth wanted, and also
to buy some stamps for her uncle. Peter usually accompanied her on these
expeditions, but to-day he was busy in the vine-house, and excused
himself from attending upon his little mistress. She was quite
accustomed to driving, however, and Brownie, the pony, was a very
steady, well-behaved little animal, and a great pet of Marjory's; so she
started off in good spirits, Silky running beside the cart as usual. She
did her errands in the village, finishing up at the post office, which
was also the bakery and the most important building in the place. Mrs.
Smylie, the baker's wife and postmistress, served her with the stamps,
and Marjory was about to say good-afternoon and leave the shop, when
Mrs. Smylie opened a door and called out,--

"Mary Ann, here's Hunter's Marjory; maybe ye'd like to see her." And
turning to Marjory, she explained, "Mary Ann's just hame frae the schule
for a wee bit."

The Smylies were the most important people in the village of
Heathermuir. Their mills supplied the countryside with flour, and their
bakery was the only one of any size in the district. They had built
their own house; it had a garden attached to it and a greenhouse; and,
to crown all, their only child Mary Ann was to be brought up as a lady.
With this object in view, the ambitious parents had sent the girl to a
"Seminary for Young Ladies" at Morristown, some twenty miles away, and
were greatly pleased with the result, feeling that Mary Ann was really
quite a lady. That young person was delighted to come home and be
worshipped by her admiring parents; and their idea that a real lady
should never soil her fingers by household work, or indeed by work of
any kind, suited her very well.

Mrs. Smylie, bursting with pride as her daughter appeared, watched the
meeting between the two girls. Mary Ann's dress was very much
overtrimmed, her hair was frizzed into a spiky bush across her forehead,
and her somewhat freckled face was composed into an expression of serene
self-complacency. She was the only girl in the village who was at a
boarding-school; not even Hunter's Marjory, with all her airs, could
boast this advantage, she thought; and Mary Ann felt her superiority,
and gloried in it.

Mrs. Smylie noted with great pride that the hand her daughter held out
to Marjory was white and delicate--in great contrast to Marjory's brown
one. "But then," she reflected, "the puir bairn hasna got her mither to
watch her like oor Mary Ann has. Bless me! how the lassie glowers! Mary
Ann has the biggest share o' manners onyways."

It must be confessed that Marjory was "glowering." She regarded the
overdressed girl with aversion, answered her mincingly-spoken "How do
you do, Marjory?" very curtly, and continued to "glower," as Mrs. Smylie
described it, without saying another word.

"Won't you come into the house?" asked Mary Ann, and Marjory went.

She did not care about these people; she had never liked Mary Ann, and
could hardly bear to look at her now, or listen to her affected way of
talking. Still, she did not wish to be rude, so she followed Mary Ann
through the shop into the house, and was ushered into the sitting-room,
or parlour as it was called. The room was like Mary Ann's dress--full of
all sorts of bright colours and gaudy ornaments of poor quality.

There was one thing about Mary Ann which interested Marjory profoundly,
and that was her school experience. She felt that she would like to
question the girl about it, and yet was too proud to betray her
curiosity by bringing up the subject. Mary Ann, however, saved her the
trouble, for as soon as they were seated she began at once,--

"Why don't your uncle send you to school? Any one would think a great
girl like you ought to be sent to school. Why don't he send you?"

"Uncle doesn't wish me to go to school."

"Maybe he don't want to pay the fees," said Mary Ann.

Marjory said nothing.

"I learn French and German and music. I'm getting on fine with the
piano, and papa's going to buy me one of my own soon. You haven't got a
piano at Hunters' Brae, have you?"

"No," said Marjory shortly.

As a matter of fact there was a piano at Hunters' Brae, but it was kept
in the room that had been her mother's--a room that Marjory was not
allowed to enter. For reasons of his own the doctor had forbidden
Marjory to go into it. She should do so on her fifteenth birthday, but
not before. Lisbeth went in once a week with pail, broom, and duster,
but she always carefully locked the door behind her, and Marjory knew
nothing of the room or its contents. "Some bonnie day," was all that the
old woman would say when she questioned her.

Mary Ann continued,--

"It seems a shame you can't be made a lady of too."

"I can be a lady without going to school," said Marjory sulkily.

The other looked at her in surprise.

"Oh no, you can't. Who is there to teach you? You have to learn manners
and deportment and accomplishments and all that sort of thing first. I
don't see that you've got any chance here, you poor little thing,"
patronizingly.

"I don't care," said Marjory, knowing in her heart that she did care
beyond everything, and that her greatest desire was to learn all sorts
of things. "I don't care a pin," she repeated.

"Yes, you do, or you wouldn't get so red," said Mary Ann provokingly.
Then she continued, "Your uncle's queer, isn't he?"

"What do you mean by 'queer'?"

"Well--queer--in his head, you know. People say he is, and, anyhow, he
does queer things--keeping that room shut up, and all that. I should say
he _must_ be a little bit mad."

"He _isn't_," indignantly. "He's a very clever, celebrated man."

Mary Ann went off into peals of laughter.

"Oh dear! who told you that?" she cried at last.

"Lisbeth," defiantly.

Another peal of laughter greeted this statement.

"It really is too funny; you little simpleton, to believe such a thing.
Why, if he was celebrated, he would be rich enough to send you to
school, and he wouldn't let you sew and dust the way you do, just like
any village girl. I _never_ dust; mamma doesn't wish me to." And Mary
Ann looked at her white hands admiringly, and shot a glance, which
Marjory felt rather than saw, at the brown ones nervously clasping and
unclasping themselves.

"I wonder," continued her tormentor, "that you don't insist on being
sent to school, so that you could learn to earn your own living. I've
heard mamma say your uncle gets no money for your keep; no letters ever
come from foreign parts from your father. It must be strange to have a
father you've never seen. It must be horrid to be like you, because,
really, when you come to think of it, you are no better off than a
charity child, are you?"

But Mary Ann had gone too far. A tempest was raging in Marjory's heart,
and as soon as she could find her voice, which seemed suddenly to have
deserted her, she cried,--

"You are a beast, Mary Ann Smylie, and I hate you; and although I
haven't been to school, I don't say 'if he was,' and 'don't' instead of
doesn't." And with this parting shot Marjory rushed through the shop and
jumped into the cart; and Brownie, infected by his mistress's
excitement, galloped nearly all the way home, his unusual haste and
Silky's sympathetic barking causing quite a commotion in the sleepy,
quiet village.

Arrived home, Marjory ran to her uncle's study, knocked loudly at the
door, and hardly waiting for permission, went in, leaving Silky,
breathless and panting, outside.

The doctor was sitting in his armchair in his favourite attitude--his
legs crossed, the tips of his fingers meeting, his eyes fixed upon them,
but his thoughts far away. As a matter of fact he was thinking of
Marjory at this very moment, of his visit to the Foresters, and the
plans they had been making for the two girls.

"Well, Marjory, what is it?" he asked kindly, as the excited girl stood
before him. She was trembling with agitation, her cheeks were scarlet,
and her dark eyes flashed upon her uncle as she replied,--

"I want you to send me to school. I don't want to live on your charity
any longer. I never knew I was till to-day," with a sob; then,
piteously, "Won't you send me to school, Uncle George?"

"My dear child!" exclaimed the doctor, "what is all this? Who has been
talking to you and putting such nonsense into your head?" looking at his
niece in astonishment.

The quiet, usually almost sullen girl was transformed into a passionate
little fury for the time being, and her uncle hardly recognized her. She
burst out again,--

"Mary Ann Smylie looks down on me because I don't go to school. She says
I can't ever be a lady; and she says that you get no money for my keep,
and that I am no better than a charity child. I want to learn what other
girls learn. I want you to send me to school, and I want you to tell me
about my father, and to let me go into my mother's room!"

The child almost screamed these last words, and stamped upon the floor
to emphasize them.

The doctor, now thoroughly aroused, rose from his chair, saying very
sternly,--

"Marjory, I cannot alter my decision upon these matters. I do not wish
you to go to school. I refuse to tell you any more than you have already
been told about your father. I have promised that you shall go into your
mother's room and take possession of it on your fifteenth birthday. That
is enough. I am grieved that you should have listened to vulgar gossip
about our affairs; but I may tell you that your mother left money to
provide for you ten times over, if need be."

"Then you are unkind and cruel not to use it to send me to school and
let me have what other girls have," cried Marjory passionately.

"Marjory," said her uncle quietly, "I cannot listen to you while you are
in this mood. You had better go, and come back again when you can talk
more reasonably."

"Yes, I will go, and I wish I need never come back. I hate everything,
and I wish I were dead."

With these words she flung out of the room, rushed blindly through the
house into the garden and on into the wood, where she threw herself down
under a tree, and sobbed out her grief to the faithful Silky until Mrs.
Forester found her.

Dr. Hunter was very much troubled and puzzled by his niece's behaviour.
Never before had she given way to such an outburst. He had not believed
her capable of such a storm of passion, and felt himself quite at a
loss. He was grieved and shocked beyond measure by Marjory's words.
"Unkind, cruel," he muttered to himself. "Surely not. I love the little
thing as though she were my own." And while Marjory was weeping bitterly
under the tree in the wood, her uncle, very sorrowful and thoughtful,
was pacing up and down his study wondering what he could do for the
best. It seemed all the more grievous as, only that afternoon, he had
been making plans for Marjory with Mrs. Forester--that she should share
Blanche's lessons and enjoy her companionship.

Mrs. Forester had heard much of the doctor and his niece from the mutual
friend in London who had written to the doctor, and she knew exactly how
to manage things, so that in the course of one short hour plans were
made which were to alter Marjory's whole existence.

But she, poor child, knew nothing of this, and her grief was bitter--the
more so as she slowly realized that she had been wrong to give way to
her passion. First, she had called Mary Ann Smylie a beast. Well, she
had been very much shocked once to hear a child in the street use that
word to another, but she herself had used it quite easily, and still
felt as if she would like to use it again; but, worst of all, she had
called her uncle unkind and cruel. Thinking over the scene in the study,
she remembered the look on his face as she said these words. "It was as
if I had struck him," she thought; and then came more tears and sobs.

Mrs. Forester's motherly heart yearned over the girl as she made her
confession. Brokenly and with many tears the story was told, and relief
came to Marjory in the telling of it. Blanche, with instinctive tact,
had walked away a little distance with Silky, so that Marjory should
feel free to talk to her mother. When the recital was over, Mrs.
Forester said cheerfully, "I told you I thought I should be able to help
you. First of all, I have got some delightful news for you. Only to-day
your uncle and I have been making plans for you to share in Blanche's
lessons. You are to learn everything that she does, _including_ French
and music," with a smile at the recollection of her battle against the
doctor's prejudices.

A breathless "oh" was all that Marjory could say.

Mrs. Forester continued,--

"Blanche has a very good, kind governess. Unfortunately, she has rather
an ugly name, and it may make you smile. It is Waspe--W, a, s, p,
e--not pretty, is it? But she is as sweet as she can be, and very
accomplished, and Blanche gets on nicely with her. It will be much more
interesting for Blanche to have some one to share her lessons with, and
good for you too, won't it?"

"Oh, indeed it will!" replied Marjory, bewildered by this wonderful
piece of news.

"And in return for this I want you to teach Blanche all you can."

"I?" asked Marjory in surprise.

"Yes, you," with a smile at the girl's puzzled expression. "Blanche is a
little too much like her name at present; she isn't very strong. Living
in London didn't suit her, and it is for her sake that we have come to
live here. I want you to show her all your favourite nooks and corners,
to teach her all you know about the birds and flowers, and to let her
help you in your garden. Will you do this, and keep her out of doors as
much as you can?"

"I shall love it!" cried Marjory emphatically. "It's like a dream, and
seems too good to be true."

"Now, my child," continued Mrs. Forester seriously, "listen to me. I
think you have been doing your uncle a great injustice. You say you
called him unkind and cruel; he is neither the one nor the other."

"I know," replied Marjory in a low voice.

"He is very fond of you," said Mrs. Forester.

Marjory looked up quickly.

"He never says so," she objected.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Forester, "now we have got to the root of the whole
matter. So, then, just because her uncle doesn't say, 'Marjory, I am
very fond of you,' therefore Marjory thinks that he doesn't care for her
very much."

Marjory nodded.

"My dear child, you never made a greater mistake. It is not in your
uncle's nature to say much; he is content with doing things for you.
This afternoon he talked of nothing but his plans for you, his ideas for
your education--how his first care has been that you should grow strong
and healthy amongst those outdoor things that you love. For your sake he
has been content to stay in this obscure place, when he would receive
the recognition he is entitled to if he went more into the world. His
very meals he takes at times which he considers best for you. Look at
your frock. Perhaps you don't think much of it, but let me tell you it
is made of the very best tweed that Scotland can produce. Your boots are
strong and sensible-looking, but they are of the finest quality of
leather; your stockings are the best that money can buy. Let me see your
handkerchief. Ah! I thought so," as Marjory obediently produced from her
pocket the little hard, wet ball her tears had made. "This is a plain
handkerchief, but so fine that it is fit for a princess to use. I don't
suppose you ever thought about these things; but it must mean a great
deal of trouble and care to your uncle to get them for you. He told me
he looks after your wardrobe himself. Now, haven't I proved that he
thinks about you a great deal?"

Marjory nodded.

"Don't you believe that, even if your mother had not left you provided
for, your uncle would have been glad to keep you--that he would never
have felt you a burden?"

"I don't know," said Marjory slowly. She was beginning to see her uncle
in a new light, but she could not see him as he really was just yet.

"Well, you will know some day. There are many things which you are too
young to understand, and you must try to trust in your uncle's knowing
what is best for you in the matter of your father, who will return to
you some day, I hope."

"Oh! do you really think that is possible?" cried Marjory. "Could it
ever happen?"

"Certainly it might. I don't see any reason at all why you shouldn't
hope for his coming. And if you will promise to be very patient, and to
hope for the best, I will tell you something very nice that I heard said
about your father a little while ago."

Marjory's eyes grew big with wonder. "Oh, _do_ tell me. Indeed I will
try to be patient."

"Well, an old friend of mine in London, who knows your uncle, and met
your father long ago, said to me, 'A fine fellow was Hugh Davidson. I
always feel that he may turn up again some day.'"

Mrs. Forester did not repeat other words said at the same time--namely,
that "Hunter was always jealous, and would see no good in him;" but she
felt justified in telling Marjory what she did, for she well knew how
the girl would treasure the words, and how they might often comfort and
encourage her.

"Oh! that _is_ good," said Marjory. "I do thank you for telling me." And
she squeezed her friend's hand.

"Now you must try to be very patient and hopeful. If God sees fit, be
sure that He will give your father to you for your very own some day. In
the meantime you must do all you can to be the sort of girl that a
father would be proud of; and, Marjory, I have been thinking that your
uncle might say the same of you as you do of him. You are fond of him,
really, aren't you?"

"Yes, of course," assented Marjory.

"Well, do you ever tell him so?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Oh, I shouldn't dare to."

"Nonsense! I suppose you would quite like it if he were to put his arms
round you and call you his dear little Marjory?"

"Yes." Marjory was quite sure that she would like it very much, but she
could hardly imagine such a thing happening.

"Well, do you ever go near enough to him to let him do it if he wanted
to, or do you simply give him your cheek to kiss, morning and evening,
and nothing more?"

"Yes, that's just what I do," confessed Marjory, laughing.

"Then perhaps your poor uncle thinks that you consider yourself too big
to be kissed and hugged, and so he doesn't do it. You can't blame him,
you know; if you just give him a little peck, and run away, you don't
give him a chance. You take my advice: try to be a little more loving in
your manner towards him, and it will soon make a difference. Perhaps you
don't like a stranger to speak so plainly to you, but I have heard so
much about you that I don't feel like a stranger at all. But I must be
going now. Dr. Hunter has invited Blanche to come to tea with you
to-morrow, and I hope this will be the beginning of a brighter life for
you, my child. Good-bye, dear," kissing her.--"Come, Blanche; we must be
going now."

The girls bade each other good-bye somewhat shyly, while Silky looked on
approvingly, wagging his tail, as if he knew that in some way these
strangers had been good to his mistress; and when they were gone he
turned to Marjory and rubbed his soft, wet nose against her hand as if
to say, "It's all right now, isn't it?" Marjory returned the dog's
caress, and walked slowly and thoughtfully towards the house.



CHAPTER III.

UNCLE AND NIECE.

  "If thou art worn and hard beset
  With troubles that thou wouldst forget,
  Go to the woods and hills! No tears
  Dim the sweet look that nature wears."

  LONGFELLOW.


One thing showed itself very clearly to Marjory's mind--she must tell
her uncle at once that she was sorry for what she had said, though how
she was to bring herself to do so she did not know. She had never had to
do such a thing before, and now that she was calm again it seemed
impossible that she could have spoken those wild words. She realized how
these feelings against her uncle had been gathering force for a long
time. Very slowly, very gradually they had grown, to arrive at their
full strength as she listened to Mary Ann Smylie's tormenting
suggestions. She had grown to hate even the name by which she was known
in and about Heathermuir. Why did people call her "Hunter's Marjory"?
Why couldn't they give her her own name--her father's name? Some of
these feelings still rankled in her heart; but she was truly sorry for
her outburst, and made up her mind to tell her uncle so. She determined
to go at once to his study; and, once inside it and in his presence,
perhaps she would know what to say and do. So accordingly she went and
knocked at the study door. There was no answer. She knocked again
louder, and still there was no answer. Then she opened the door
cautiously and looked in, thinking her uncle might be asleep; but
no--the room was empty. Disappointed, she turned away, and going towards
the kitchen, called,--

"Lisbeth, where's Uncle George?"

The reply came in shouts from the distant kitchen,--

"He's awa to the doctor's. He winna be in to supper the nicht, and ye're
to gang awa early to yer bed."

The shouts came nearer as Lisbeth, wiping her floury hands on the large
apron she always wore when cooking, came bustling along the passage.

"Gude save us!" she cried, when she saw Marjory's face; "what's wrang
wi' the bairn--eyes red and face peekit like a wet hen? Come yer ways
in, lambie, an' Lisbeth'll gie ye some nice supper, for nae tea ye've
had. But I've got scones just newly bakit, an' I'll mak ye a cup o' fine
coffee. Come awa."

"Dear old Lisbeth," cried Marjory, "I would kiss you if you weren't so
floury. But I'm really quite happy, except that I wanted to see Uncle
George to tell him something."

"Weel, if yon's the way ye look when ye're quite happy, I wunner how
ye'll look when ye're quite meeserable. Havers," said the old woman
contemptuously, "_somebuddy's_ been tormentin' ye. Come awa."

The good cheer which Lisbeth provided was much appreciated by Marjory,
who did ample justice to the scones and cookies. She had been without
food for several hours, and was really quite hungry now that she had got
over the worst of her trouble. She listened to Lisbeth's cheerful
chatter as she bustled about the room, encouraging her "bairn" to try a
piece of this, a "wee bit scrappie" of that, till Marjory told her that
she simply couldn't eat any more.

"I'm going out to say good-night to Peter, and to give Silky his supper,
and then I'm going to bed," she announced.

"Peter, indeed!" said the old woman wrathfully. "It's little I've seen
o' him the day. Mony's the wee bit job I've wanted him to dae; but na,
na, no the day, he must be lookin' after the vine, he says." And Lisbeth
tossed her head.

"Well, you know, Peter isn't as young as he once was, and when he has to
climb up the steps to reach the top bits of the vine, it takes him a
long time," said Marjory, with a view to calming the old woman's wrath.

Lisbeth flounced round. "Don't you go for to say my Peter's slow at his
work. It's little ye ken how hard he's at it, nicht an' day, slavin' for
you an' the doctor, miss; and he's nane sae auld neither, an' ye needna
be ca'in' him an auld rheumaticky body that canna climb a lether."

"O Lisbeth, I _didn't_," reproachfully.

"You did so."

"I did nothing of the kind; I tried to make excuses for him because you
were so cross with him."

"_Me_ cross! Me cross wi' Peter!" ejaculated Lisbeth. "Me that's never
been cross wi' my man in a lifetime o' years! What next?"

"Just that you're a dear, funny old thing, and I'm going to bed."

"Ye're a peart-mouthed lassie, that's what ye are. Ye'd best get awa to
yer bed."

It was always thus with Lisbeth and Peter. Did any one cast the
slightest shadow of blame on either, the other was up in arms at once;
and though each might blame the other for some omission or commission,
as soon as any third person agreed in laying blame, that person found
himself in very hot water indeed.

Marjory went out to give Silky his supper. He always had his food in the
stable, but his bed was on a mat outside Marjory's bedroom door. Then
she went down the garden to find Peter.

She found him just putting away his tools for the night.

"Good-night, Peter," she said. "I just came to tell you I've got a
friend, and also that Lisbeth's cross."

"_She_ cross! Na, na; that canna be, Miss Marjory. Weary maybe wi' her
cookin' an' siclike for you an' the doctor, but no cross; na, na."

"Well, but, Peter, didn't you hear me say I've found a friend? Aren't
you glad?"

"Glad indeed I am. That's a bonnie bit news. An' what like is she?"

"She's the sweetest, prettiest girl you ever saw," said Marjory
enthusiastically.

"Ay, maybe she's that," replied the old man doubtfully, looking
significantly at Marjory.

"But I tell you she _is_, Peter, and her mother is so kind and gentle.
Their name is Forester, and they've just come to live at Braeside."

"Oh, _they_," said the old man.

The Foresters, being newcomers, did not hold a very high place in
Peter's estimation as yet.

"That's quick wark, Miss Marjory," he continued; and then, as if to
atone for his want of enthusiasm, "I'm glad to hear it, for whiles it
must be a bit lonesome here for a lassie the likes o' you."

"And, Peter darling, you'll be good to her, like you are to me, won't
you? And you'll show her the birds' eggs, and where to look for nests;
and you'll tell us stories on wet days, won't you?"

Peter looked guilty. He knew his master disapproved of fairy stories;
and his tales, although he would declare they were true ones and was
always careful to point them with an excellent moral, dealt largely with
the old Scottish fairy folk, and with the many superstitions handed down
from generation to generation amongst the peasantry.

"Na, na, Miss Marjory; ye're gettin' ower auld for Peter's stories; they
are but bairnie's tales."

"Now, Peter, you mustn't be obstinate. You must try to remember some
nice new ones."

"Aweel, gin I must, I must," said the old man, with a twinkle in his
eye, for if there was one thing he enjoyed above another, it was to see
Marjory sitting wide-eyed and open-mouthed drinking in some tale of
olden times.

"That's a good Peter. Now, remember, the first wet day that comes you're
engaged to us in the wood-shed. Good-night."

It was a beautiful still evening. July was not yet ended, and roses,
lilies, and mignonette breathed their fragrance upon the air. Overhead
one clear star was shining; like the star of promise that shone of old,
it seemed to Marjory an omen of a new life for her. Peace entered into
her soul as she gazed upwards. Away to the west the last lingering
tints of a late sunset were still to be seen; the whole world seemed at
rest. She, too, would lie down and sleep, calm after the storm, and
to-morrow she would begin a new day. She would tell her uncle she was
sorry, and would try to follow Mrs. Forester's advice. Loving words that
she would say to the doctor came into her mind, and she fell asleep
thinking of him with tenderness and gratitude.

When the morrow came, Marjory awoke with a confused sense that something
unusual was to happen that day. She gradually remembered her resolution
of the night before; but the loving words she had planned to say seemed
frozen inside her, and she felt as if she did not dare to speak to her
uncle.

She went down to breakfast dreading the meeting with him; but Dr. Hunter
said good-morning as usual, just as if nothing had happened. Marjory
noticed, with a pang of self-reproach, that he looked tired, and that
his eyes had a weary expression that was not usually there. He ate his
breakfast in silence, but that was nothing out of the common, for they
often sat through a meal with little or no conversation. Marjory hated
this state of things, and yet she had never had the courage to try to
alter it. She would sit and rack her brains for something to say, and
then decide that it was impossible that anything she could say would
interest a grown-up man, and a man so stern and silent as Uncle George.
Lately she had actually come to dreading meal-times, and would be
thankful when they were over and she could escape. All this was very
foolish on her part, no doubt, but it arose entirely from her
misunderstanding of her uncle.

Contrary to her usual custom, she hovered about the dining-room after
breakfast was over that morning, trying to make up her mind to speak.
She watched her uncle wind the clock on the mantelpiece, saying to
herself that she would speak when he left off turning the key, but she
let the opportunity slip by. Then the doctor gathered up his letters and
papers and went to his study without a word or a look in her direction.
In fact, he was quite unconscious of her presence for the time being; he
was thinking deeply over a scientific problem which absorbed his whole
attention.

Marjory despised herself for being so weak and timid, and at last
scolded herself into a determination to go and knock boldly at the study
door. She would be obliged to go in then; there could be no turning back
or putting off.

Her heart beating very quickly, she went and knocked at the door; and in
response to her uncle's "Come in," she opened it and walked across to
the table at which the doctor was sitting.

Interested as he was in his work, when he saw who was the cause of this
unusual disturbance, he smiled at her, asking,--

"Well, Marjory, what is it?"

The girl turned white to the lips and said, her voice low and
trembling,--

"I am very sorry about yesterday; will you forgive me?"

"Of course I will, and gladly," said the doctor heartily. "My dear
child, you didn't understand; you don't know that I only wish to do what
is for your good. I may have made mistakes. I was told yesterday that I
have made some big ones," sadly, "but I intend to try to rectify them
now. Things are going to be different, little one. You are to have a
companion, and you are to learn some of the things you are so anxious
about. Will that please you?"

"Oh yes," eagerly.

"And you take back those words, 'unkind and cruel'? I never thought to
hear my dear sister's child use such words to me."

Marjory's answer was a storm of tears.

"There, there, my child; don't cry. You won't think so hardly of me
again. Come, let us forget all our troubles." And the doctor took out
his handkerchief, and began to dry Marjory's tears, clumsily, it must be
owned, but with the kindest intention.

"See, Marjory, the sun is shining, and everything out of doors looks
bright and happy; you must be happy too. Follow the example of the
flowers. They droop under a storm of rain, but when the rain leaves off
and the sun begins to shine, they hold up their heads as straight as
ever."

"Yes; but they aren't wicked like people are; they haven't got things to
be sorry for."

"Tut, tut, child; now you want to argue. That opens up a very large
field for discussion, and little girls have no business arguing. Run
away into the garden and play with Peter or Silky, or both, for both
dearly love an excuse for a game."

Marjory obeyed, saying to herself as she went, "Why will he always treat
me as such a child? I'm nearly thirteen, and I want to know about
things. I should like to know why people were made so that they can so
easily be naughty, and so suddenly too, without really wanting to." And
she thought of yesterday. "I suppose Uncle George knows everything; but
grown-up people always say that you wouldn't understand, and they won't
tell you anything. I wonder if trees and flowers are really as good as
they look. I know birds and insects, and even little tiny ants, are
naughty, because I've seen them quarrelling. I do wonder about the
flowers, because they are just as much alive as people or animals."

Turning over this problem in her mind, she went slowly down the garden
to Peter, who was at work again in his beloved vinery.

"Peter," she said, "do you think that flowers and trees and vegetables
are ever naughty?"

The old man paused in his work and scratched his head thoughtfully.

"Aweel, Miss Marjory," he said, "I'm thinkin' not. Seems to me that the
bonnie flowers hae been gien us for a gude example. They aye bloom as
best they can. Sunshine an' shade, rain an' wind, they tak them a' as
God Almichty sends them, an' are aye sweet, an' aye content just to dae
their best. I dinna ken for certain, Miss Marjory, but that's what I'm
thinkin'."

"I think so too, Peter. They certainly don't look as if they were ever
naughty. My new friend is just like a lovely white rose, and she doesn't
look as if she could ever be naughty either."

"H'm," remarked Peter, "she's no mortal, lassie, then."

"Peter, you're not a bit nice about the Foresters. I tell you they are
just as sweet as they can be, both Blanche and her mother."

"It's just this," replied Peter, thus admonished. "I'm no a man that can
gae heid ower ears a' in a meenit; I must prove folks first. These
Foresters, they're English for ae thing, an' maybe they'll bring new
fangles to Braeside, which, bein' a Scotsman, I canna gie my approbation
to. I'm no sayin' they _wull_, but they _micht_. Na, na, Miss Marjory; I
maun prove them first."

"You're an obstinate old thing; but you can begin proving, as you call
it, this very afternoon, for Blanche is coming to tea; and I say,
Peter, will you spare time to take us down to the Low Farm after tea?
Blanche comes from London, and I'm sure she would love to see over it."

"_London_," muttered Peter in a voice that meant volumes of disapproval.

"Now, _do_ be nice, and promise," coaxed Marjory. "I'm going to ask
Lisbeth a favour too, and I'm sure _she'll_ say yes."

Not to be outdone in good nature by his wife, the old man at last gave
his promise.

"Gin the doctor can spare me," he said.

Marjory smiled, for she well knew that Peter had had his own way at
Hunters' Brae for many a long year, and the doctor had very little to do
with the disposal of his time; but Peter was faithful to the smallest
detail, his duty was his life, and the doctor could trust him.

Marjory then betook herself to the kitchen to try her powers of
persuasion upon Lisbeth.

The kitchen at Hunters' Brae was a picture to see. A large room, bright
and airy, plates in orderly rows upon the dresser, copper pans that
shone like mirrors, spotless table and spotless floor, a big open fire
throwing out a cheerful glow--such was Lisbeth's domain. To complete the
picture, there was Lisbeth herself, a most wholesome hearty-looking old
lady, with rosy cheeks and kindly eyes. Her dress was made of
lilac-coloured print, and her apron was an immense size. She wore a
round cap with a goffered frill and strings which tied under her chin.
She was firmly convinced that no finer family than the Hunters of
Hunters' Brae ever existed, and that the world did not contain such
another man as her Peter--two beliefs which went a long way towards
maintaining that domestic peace which was the rule at Hunters' Brae.

"Weel, Marjory, what is't?" she asked, as Marjory entered the kitchen.
Lisbeth had never adopted the formal "Miss" in her mode of addressing
Marjory, the baby she had seen grow up. She had determined that when the
"bairn" should reach the age of fifteen, then would be time enough to
begin it.

"I want to ask you a favour," said Marjory.

"Ask awa," replied Lisbeth, her arms akimbo.

"Will you do it?"

"No till I hear what it is."

"Well, I want you to make some shortbread for tea."

"Shortbread the day?" asked the old woman in surprise; "the morn's no
the Sawbath."

"I know; but Blanche Forester, my new friend, is coming to tea, and I
want her to taste it. You know very well that you make the best
shortbread and wear the biggest aprons in Heathermuir. You will make us
some, won't you? Peter has promised to do what I asked him," added
naughty Marjory.

"I suppose I micht just as weel, though there's scones and cookies
enough for a regiment only bakit yesterday."

"That's a good Lisbeth," said Marjory, delighted with the result of her
mission, and feeling that the success of the afternoon's entertainment
was assured.



CHAPTER IV.

TEA AT HUNTERS' BRAE.

  "They looked upon me from the pictured wall;
  They--the great dead--
  Stood still upon the canvas while I told
  The glorious memories to their ashes wed."

  E. B. BROWNING.


The day passed very slowly for Marjory until four o'clock, which was the
time appointed for the arrival of her visitor. She wondered whether
Uncle George would have tea with them, and, it must be confessed, she
secretly hoped that he would not, telling herself that it would be much
nicer without him, because Blanche and she would then feel free to talk
to each other. It must not be supposed that a better understanding of
her uncle could be reached by leaps and bounds. The change from the
confidence of the baby child to the constraint and awkwardness of the
older girl had been gradual, and the return to that fearless confidence
must be gradual too; but Marjory had taken a step in the right direction
that morning, and she really meant to try hard.

The girl had never had a friend of her own age to tea in her life, and
she felt how delightful it would be if they could be alone together.

There were occasional tea-parties at Hunters' Brae, but they were
dreaded rather than looked forward to by Marjory. The company usually
consisted of the minister and his wife and the doctor and his wife, and
it seemed to Marjory that these parties had been exactly the same in
every detail for years. The guests made the same flattering remarks
about Lisbeth's scones, cookies, and shortbread; they told the same
tales, and they put Marjory through the same catechism. How old was she
now? How was she getting on with her lessons? Could she sew her seam
nicely? Could she turn the heel of a sock? When these questions were
asked and answered, there would be long silences, broken only by the
crunching of shortbread and the swallowing of tea. To Marjory these
silences caused the most acute pain. She felt helpless and inclined to
run away, or scream, or do something to create a diversion. She would
watch the hands of the clock, hoping that each minute might bring a
remark from somebody. But the other people did not seem to mind the lack
of conversation; and once she counted ten whole minutes during which no
one said anything except what was necessary in passing and handing
eatables! How different her tea-party might be, she thought, if
only--But then she stopped, thinking of her new resolves. Still, it was
a great relief when the doctor said,--

"I'm going to Morristown this afternoon, Marjory, so you must entertain
your visitor yourself. Do you think you can manage it?"

There was a twinkle of mischief in the doctor's eyes as he asked the
question, but Marjory did not see it. She was looking at the ground,
blushing rather guiltily as she realized how pleased she was to hear of
this plan.

"Oh yes," she replied, "I shall manage quite well, Uncle George."

"Then just go and tell Peter I want him at once to drive me to the
station."

"Oh, mayn't I drive you?" asked Marjory eagerly.

"Of course you may," replied the doctor, looking at his niece in some
surprise. This was the first time she had ever suggested such a thing,
and he was more pleased than he cared to own even to himself. As for
Marjory, the words had slipped out almost before she knew what she was
saying; and when she had spoken them she felt half afraid of their
effect, and wholly surprised at herself.

The doctor, who did nothing by halves, had planned this trip to
Morristown for himself, so as to leave the coast quite clear for the two
girls to enjoy themselves in their own way. It was a most considerate
action on his part, for he disliked railway travelling, and at that time
was much engrossed in the study of the scientific problem before
mentioned. He told himself that if he were to stay anywhere in the
neighbourhood of Heathermuir he would not be able to keep away from his
study for long, so he decided to banish himself to Morristown.

Marjory drove her uncle to the station, and was back in plenty of time
to prepare for the reception of her guest. She could see the house at
Braeside very well from her bedroom, and, perched on the window-sill,
she watched for Blanche's coming. At last she saw two figures--a small
one and a tall one--coming out of the house. The tall one was a man, and
must be Mr. Forester she decided; and in that case she would not go to
meet them--she felt too shy. She watched them coming across the park
which surrounded their house; then they were lost to sight in the wood
which was at the end of the Hunters' Brae garden. The doctor must have
told them to come this way, as it was much nearer than coming by the
road.

Marjory was rather relieved to see that when at last the garden gate
opened Blanche was alone. She rushed downstairs and through the garden,
eager to welcome her visitor; but when she reached Blanche she felt
almost tongue-tied, and all she could say was, "How do you do?" which
sounded very stiff and formal, compared with what she felt.

But Blanche was equal to the occasion.

"How nice of you to come and meet me!" she said. "Dr. Hunter told us we
might come this way, as it is so much nearer. But how did you know just
when to come?"

"I was watching from my bedroom window."

"Then I believe we can see each other's bedroom windows, because mine
looks to the front of the house. How lovely! We shall be able to signal
to each other. Won't that be fun?"

"Yes, indeed it will. We shall be able to say 'good-night' and
'good-morning' to each other, and all sorts of things." And Marjory's
busy brain at once began to devise methods of signalling.

"What a lovely garden!" exclaimed Blanche as they walked towards the
house. "Ours is all weeds and rubbish, it has been left alone so long.
Nobody seems to have bothered about the garden while the house was
empty."

"It will soon begin to look nice, now you've come," said Marjory
consolingly; and, indeed, it seemed to her as if the very flowers in the
garden must grow to greet the coming of her friend.

"What a lot there is to see here!" said Blanche enthusiastically. "Where
shall we begin?"

"Well, let's have tea first," suggested Marjory. "Then we can go over
the house, then the garden; and then Peter has promised to take us to
the Low Farm--that is, if you would like it," she added, looking shyly
at her companion.

"I shall simply love it all," Blanche replied emphatically; and then,
in a burst of confidence, "I say, I'm awfully glad you haven't got on
your best frock--at least," quickly, "it's the same one you had on
yesterday. Mother said she didn't think I need put mine on; that we
might be in the garden, perhaps, and I should enjoy it better if I
didn't have to think about my frock."

"I never put my best one on unless I'm obliged to," said Marjory. "I
always feel so boxed up in it, and it always reminds me of sermons and
tea-parties."

Blanche laughed merrily. "Oh!" she cried, "are the sermons very long
here?"

"Well," laughing too, "they are not very short; but that's not why I
dislike them. It's because uncle likes me to write them down
afterwards."

"Oh, how _dreadful_! And do you manage to do it?"

"I try to. Sometimes it's easier than others; but sometimes there are so
many firstlies and secondlies divided into other firstlies and
secondlies that I get into a regular muddle. Uncle always says that it's
a very good exercise for the memory, as well as teaching me about Church
things. Sometimes Mr. Mackenzie preaches a sermon for children in the
afternoon, and then it's quite different; I could remember every word.
But the funny thing is that uncle never wants me to write them!"

"Too easy, I suppose!"

Blanche laughed again, such a joyous laugh that Marjory was infected by
it and laughed too. Blanche was a child of most unusual beauty, though
she herself seemed quite unconscious of it. Her face in repose wore an
expression of innocent loveliness which went straight to the heart. Her
skin was fair and soft, her eyes large and dark and of an indescribable
colour, neither brown nor gray, and her hair was like burnished copper,
with pretty waves in it, and the dearest little fine tendrils curling
about her neck and ears. Her childhood had been very happy. Surrounded
and protected by the loving care of devoted parents, she had grown to
look out upon the world with happy eyes, and her sunshiny disposition
made pleasure for herself and for others. Marjory had fallen in love
with her at first sight, and felt that she could never tire of looking
at her friend's sweet face.

They found tea laid for them in the dining-room. It was a pleasant room,
long and low-ceilinged, with oak beams and high panelled doors. At one
end of it stood an old-fashioned dresser, its shelves decorated with
precious china and silver. On the walls were pictures of bygone Hunters
in various costumes, Marjory's favourite being a dashing young cavalier,
with hat and feather, collar and frills of costly lace, and all the
other appointments of the period. Marjory used to amuse herself trying
to imagine her Uncle George dressed in such a style. There was the
admiral in cocked hat and gold lace; the minister in black gown and
orthodox white bands; there was the brave young soldier who had died for
Prince Charlie; and there were many others, most of them celebrated in
some way, for the Hunters had been a race of strong men.

Lisbeth, resplendent in a black silk dress, with muslin apron and cap in
honour of the occasion, stood at the door to meet the girls. On such a
day as this, Jean, the young maid, gave place to her superior.

"This is Blanche Forester," said Marjory by way of introduction; and
turning to Blanche, "This is dear old Lisbeth."

"I'm pleased to see ye," said the old lady graciously, nodding with
satisfaction, her eyes fixed upon Blanche's flower-like face. "Ye're a
bit ower white like for health," she remarked.

Shyness was not a failing that afflicted either Lisbeth or Peter: they
were both apt to say exactly what they thought, regardless of time,
place, or person.

Marjory was delighted by Lisbeth's evident approval of her friend, and
felt very grateful to the old woman for putting on her "silk," which
only came out on great occasions; and when she saw the table daintily
spread with all sorts of good things, her satisfaction was complete.

"If ye want onything, just ring the bell and I'll come," said Lisbeth,
and she rustled slowly out of the room. That was what Marjory called
Lisbeth's "silk walk." Dressed in her ordinary gown she bustled and
clattered about, but in the silk she was as stately and dignified as a
duchess.

"I _am_ glad it isn't a ladies' tea," said Blanche as they took their
seats, Marjory at the head of the table to "pour out."

Marjory looked at her questioningly.

"I mean where there's nothing to sit up to--no place to put your cup and
plate except your own knee; and if you want to blow your nose or cough,
you're sure to spill your tea; and the bread and butter is always so
thin that it drops to pieces before you can fold it up. But this is
_lovely_; and it is so nice to have it all to ourselves!" And she
settled herself comfortably in her chair.

Marjory felt quite at her ease by this time, and the two girls chattered
gaily while they disposed of Lisbeth's good things.

Tea over, they started on a tour of inspection round the house. It had
been built by a Hunter long ago, and Hunters had lived in it ever since,
and had added to it in many ways; but there was still part of the
original building left--an old wing which was now unused. There were
various stories told in the village about this old part of the house.
Footsteps were heard sometimes, it was said, and lights had been seen in
the night by belated passers-by. Lisbeth and Peter knew of the tales
and wild rumours that were current in the neighbourhood, but they were
careful to say nothing to Marjory or the doctor, and also very careful
to lock themselves in at night, as they were by no means free from
foolish fears and superstitions.

First of all, the girls examined the portraits in the dining-room.
Blanche inquired why there were no ladies amongst them.

"Don't they count as ancestors?" she asked.

"Oh yes," replied Marjory, laughing, "but they are all in the
drawing-room. I've often thought it would be much nicer to hang them up
in pairs, but Uncle George won't hear of it. He says they always have
been kept separate, and he doesn't like to have anything altered. Come
and see the ladies."

To the drawing-room accordingly they went. It was a large room, and
contained many treasures in the way of beautiful and valuable old
furniture and china. As a rule it was kept shrouded in dust-sheets, but
to-day Lisbeth had uncovered everything in preparation for the visitor.
There was a faint, delicious scent of potpourri about the room, the
recipe of which had been handed down from one generation of Hunter
ladies to the next, and was a speciality of the house. On the walls hung
the portraits of these same ladies, smiling serenely down upon the room
they had known so well. On the rare occasions when Marjory spent any
time in this room, she used to study the faces of these dames, and try
to trace some likeness to herself amongst them; but not one of them had
the curly hair and dark eyes that were her portion, and the child
sometimes felt sad to think that she was so unlike all the rest of her
family.

Blanche was delighted, and studied all the portraits to the last
one--that of Marjory's grandmother.

"But isn't there one of your mother?" she asked.

Marjory blushed. "Yes, there is one," she replied, "but it's in another
room."

Somehow she felt ashamed of that shut-up, silent room with its hidden
treasures that she had never seen.

"But," she continued, "I've got a picture of her when she was a girl,
inside this locket." And she unfastened a small, old-fashioned trinket
which she wore on a fine gold chain round her neck.

"Oh, how pretty!" cried Blanche; "but not a bit like you, is she?" And
then, somewhat confused lest Marjory should misunderstand her, she
continued, "I don't mean that you're not pretty, because you are; only
it's so funny that you are so dark and your mother was so fair."

"I often and often wish I were fair," said Marjory wistfully. "I should
love to be."

"Oh, but your hair is so curly and nice, it's just as good as fair hair.
Mother always says that all young girls are pretty so long as they keep
themselves tidy and fresh and try to be good. I used to be very cross
with my hair, especially when boys in London would call 'carrots' after
me, until at last mother made me understand that it is really quite
wrong not to be pleased with whatever hair or eyes God has given us, and
now I'm more content with it."

"It is lovely hair, and I would kick any boy that called it carrots,"
cried Marjory stoutly; and she took hold of a strand of it and kissed it
impulsively. "Oh, I do think you're such a darling!" she said. "I'm
going to be so happy now I've got you!"

This from quiet, self-contained Marjory! Here indeed was a revelation.

Marjory was just putting her locket back inside the neck of her dress,
where she always kept it hidden, when Blanche's attention was attracted
by something else which hung on the chain.

"What's this silver thing?" she asked; and Marjory explained that it was
the half of a sixpence with a hole in it. "Lisbeth says my mother wore
it for luck, so I always wear it too."

"How interesting! I wonder where the other half is."

"Lisbeth doesn't know; she says she never saw or heard of the other
half."

"If you were in a fairy tale, you'd make all the knights that wanted to
marry you go all over the world to find the other half; and then most
likely the person that had it would turn out to be a king's son, and he
would marry you, and you would be a queen, and be happy ever after."

Marjory laughed. "You shall make a story of it and tell it to me some
day; but come now and see my bedroom."

On the way to Marjory's bedroom they had to pass the locked chamber, and
of course Blanche had to inquire what it was, and Marjory had to
explain, which she did in an apologetic, shamefaced way.

"But how romantic--much better than a fairy tale! How you must long to
be fifteen and go in and see it!"

"Yes, I do. I wish it every day. But it takes such a lot of days to make
a year, and there are still two more years to come." And Marjory sighed.

"Oh, they'll soon go," said Blanche cheerfully, "now that you've got to
have lessons and be so busy."

When they reached the bedroom the girls went straight to the window, and
were delighted to find that Blanche's room could be seen from it, so
that the proposed signalling could easily be managed. They arranged that
it should be done by waving white handkerchiefs. Four waves were to mean
"Can you come out?" One wave in reply was to mean "No," and a lot of
little waves "Yes." If either had to go out elsewhere, or should be
prevented in any way from waiting till the other appeared at her window,
the handkerchief was to be hung on a nail outside. They agreed that
they would always go to signal directly after breakfast every morning.

All this took some time to plan, and Marjory said that if they were to
see the garden and the farm they must leave the old part of the house
till another day. Blanche agreed, and they went out into the garden.



CHAPTER V.

A VISIT TO THE LOW FARM.

                    "The blossom's scent
  Floated across the fresh grass, and the bees
  With low, vexed song from rose to lily went;
  A gentle wind was in the heavy trees."

  W. MORRIS.


The garden at Hunters' Brae was a charming place. Like the house, it had
been the care and pleasure of generations of the Hunters. Its lawns were
soft and velvety. The impertinent daisy and the pushing dandelion had
never been allowed their way amongst the tender grass, and it was smooth
and springy to walk on. It was Peter's pride that no such lawns could be
shown anywhere in or around Heathermuir. There was nothing stiff or
formal in this garden, no chessboard patterns or stripes of colour round
the borders, but there were lovely masses of luxuriant blooms, radiant
colourings, delicious scents, and all in such harmony that the result
was a charm which no more regular arrangement could have produced.

One of Marjory's favourite walks was a narrow grass path bordered on
each side by stately hollyhocks. When she was a little girl she used to
wonder how long it would be before she grew as tall as they were. This
walk led to the rose garden, which had always had a great attraction for
the lonely child. A real rose garden it was, with low stone walls, gold
and green with the mossy growth of many years. There was a sundial in
the centre of it, which had seen many a sunny day since it had been set
up to mark the passing of time for the visitors to the rose garden. Here
were roses of many sorts and colours, some rare, some common, but all
sweet, as only roses can be. Peter knew their secrets--knew just how to
treat these lovely queens among flowers--knew, too, that, above all,
they like to have undisputed possession of the ground, for they are
exclusive these royal ladies, and do not care to share with all and
sundry; and they rewarded the old man's care and consideration by
blooming early and late and in the most wonderful profusion.

It would take many pages to tell of all the delights of the Hunters'
Brae garden, with its unexpected turns and nooks and corners, its rustic
seats in shady places for hot days, in sunny places for cold ones, and
even in many pages it would be impossible to convey the old-world charm
pervading it, its stately dignity and the aspect of long-established
well-being over all. Peter seemed to know every inch of it, every plant
in it was as a child to him, and not the tiniest seedling was
overlooked, for--

  "The gardener, in his old brown hands,
    Turns over the brown earth
  As if he loves and understands
    The flowers before their birth;
  The fragile, childish little strands
    He buries in the earth."

Dr. Hunter was often quite astonished at the amount of work the old man
would get through. Certainly he had two or three assistants, but they
were young and raw and had to be watched and told what to do; but Peter
always said he preferred them young, because "They didna hae quite sic a
gude conceit o' theirsels," and any young man who could get his training
under Peter thought himself very fortunate. Everything with him was done
in due season and for love of his work; there was no rushing or
hurrying--it was indeed a garden of peace.

Marjory loved the garden. It was here that the happiest hours of her
life had been spent; here that she had watched the ways of birds and
flowers and insects; here that she had listened to Peter's tales of
olden times; and here that she had dreamed dreams of her father, and
built many a castle in the air. She was glad when she saw that this
beloved garden was casting its charm upon her friend. It was looking
very lovely in the afternoon sunshine. Butterflies were flitting
amongst the flowers, and the hum of bees and many insects made the air
musical with sound of happy life. A gorgeous dragon-fly sailed past
them, wheeling round as if to show its wonderful glittering colours to
the best advantage in the sunshine. Blanche had never seen such a thing
in her life, and after it had gone she lingered many minutes hoping that
it might pass back again. But it did not come, and the time was slipping
away. Marjory spied the bent back of Peter in the distance, and the two
girls went towards him, Marjory calling to him to come and take them to
the farm.

Peter was not to be hurried; he was tying up a carnation plant, and he
continued his job with only a nod at the girls. He finished the last
knot just as they reached him, and straightening himself and raising his
hat, he said, "I'm ready noo."

Marjory said to Blanche, "This is Peter;" and then turning to Peter,
"This is Miss Forester. Aren't you pleased to see her?"

"I am that," replied the old man, looking at Blanche for the first time;
and then, as if satisfied with what he saw, he repeated much more
enthusiastically, "'Deed an' I am that," with a nod and a smile at
Blanche.

Marjory felt great satisfaction in the assurance that her friend had
found favour in the eyes of the two very important personages in the
Brae household--Lisbeth and Peter.

The girls chatted gaily to the old man as they went down the hill on the
other side of the wood to Low Farm.

Marjory never liked to go to the farm without Peter or Lisbeth or her
uncle, for she was a little afraid of the woman who managed it. Mrs.
Shaw was very tall and strongly built, with black hair turning gray
about the temples, and dark, deep-set, piercing eyes, and eyebrows which
Marjory always thought looked long enough to comb. This gave Mrs. Shaw,
as she was called, a somewhat forbidding look, and, added to her quick,
decided, almost rough way of speaking, made her more feared than loved.
No one knew anything of her life before she came to Heathermuir; but the
story went that her husband had gone away to foreign parts and never
come back again, and that her temper was soured in consequence. Be that
as it might, she was an excellent manager; everything at the Low Farm
was in spick-and-span order, and fit for inspection at any time of the
day. Maids and men alike knew that they must do their work, or Alison
Shaw would demand the reason of any neglect or unpunctuality; and with
those black eyes fixed upon them it was impossible to prevaricate or
offer excuses.

The young ladies' visit must have been expected, for when they were
ushered by Mrs. Shaw into the little parlour, there was a tray on the
table with glasses on it, and a bottle of gooseberry wine and a cake of
shortbread.

Mrs. Shaw poured out some wine for each of the girls, eyeing them
critically as she did so. When at last she spoke it was not with the
broad accent usual amongst the people of Heathermuir--a fact which in
itself proclaimed her as not one of them, and added not a little to
their respect for her, and to the mystery which surrounded her.

"So you've come to see the farm, Miss Forester," she said in her deep
but musical voice. "What do you wish to see first?"

Blanche, conscious of the earnest scrutiny of those dark eyes, blushed
rosy red, and, bewildered by this sudden question, looked appealingly at
Marjory, who, unfortunately, had a mouthful of shortbread at that
moment; then, feeling that she must say something, Blanche stammered,
"Oh, I don't know--er--have you any pigs?" She did not in the least wish
to see pigs more than any other animal, but they were the only living
things she could think of at the moment as appropriate to a farm.

Marjory laughed, but Mrs. Shaw did not move a muscle.

"Yes," she said, "we have pigs; you shall see them first if you please."

"Thank you," said Blanche; and then, thinking that she ought to try to
be polite and friendly, "What very nice wine this is!"

"Yes, it is," responded Mrs. Shaw. "I made it myself."

Blanche was somewhat abashed by the reply, and could think of no further
remark. She did not yet know that there was not a shadow of pretence
about Mrs. Shaw. Her reply had no savour of conceit; it was honest, that
was all. She knew the wine was good, because she had made it herself and
could vouch for it; therefore, why should she deny or disclaim it?

Blanche would have liked to linger in the little parlour to examine some
of the curiosities which had caught her eye. Pieces of dried seaweed,
scraps of coral, strings of queer-looking beads, and even dried and
stuffed fish, were arranged on the mantelpiece and on every available
bracket and shelf. She was eager to know where all these treasures had
come from, and how they had found their way to the Low Farm, but she did
not dare to question Mrs. Shaw. All Marjory knew about them was, as she
told Blanche afterwards, that it was said they came from "foreign
parts," which was the general term applied by the people of Heathermuir
to any country outside of the British Isles. It was said that a
mysterious parcel came regularly every Christmas to Mrs. Shaw, that she
never spoke of its contents to any one, but that the collection of
curiosities grew larger every year.

Mrs. Shaw was ready for the business of the moment, and as soon as the
girls had finished their refreshment, she led the way out of the house
into the little garden which surrounded it, where Peter and Silky were
patiently waiting for them. Silky was quite to be trusted in the
farmyard; he had paid many visits to it, and always behaved as a pattern
of propriety.

The first things to attract Blanche's attention were three pretty straw
beehives. Mrs. Shaw was proud of her honey and fond of her bees, and
seemed to understand them in some curious, sympathetic way. It was her
boast that she had never been stung; and as she was a very honest
person, there is no reason to doubt her word.

The hives stood at some distance from the house, at the end of the farm
garden, and there were beds of lemon, thyme, sage, mignonette, and other
sweet flowers near the hives for the bees to feed on; and a border of
tall sunflowers along the garden path seemed to be very much appreciated
by them too.

Mrs. Shaw was very much pleased by Blanche's interest in her bees, and
she actually gave an invitation to the two girls to come again when it
was time to take the honey, and she would tell them all about it. This
was a most unusual action on her part, for, although she was always
ready to receive visitors, she was seldom known to invite them. Peter's
face wore a curious smile as he heard the invitation given and
accepted.

But they must pass the bees and go on to something else. Mrs. Shaw led
the way, remarking to Peter,--

"Miss Forester wishes to see the pigs; we'll go to them first."

Peter's smile broadened into a grin, and he stole a glance at Blanche
which caused her to laugh outright. Marjory joined in, and, wonderful to
relate, even Mrs. Shaw smiled. Blanche tried to explain.

"Mrs. Shaw asked me what I would like to see, and I could only think of
pigs just then," she said, blushing and laughing.

"'Deed, then, an' Mrs. Shaw's pigs are a bonnie lot, I can tell ye, an'
worth seein', Miss Blanche," said Peter.

They soon arrived at the sties, and although they were all that they
should be--and no doubt the pigs were well-bred and well-conducted
animals--Blanche did not take to them with much enthusiasm, except in
the case of one perky little black-and-white fellow, who seemed to be
the life and soul of the family party.

They next went to the poultry-yard, where there were many varieties of
fowls, and one or two families of charming little yellow balls of
chickens promenading the yard with their proud mothers.

It was getting near milking time, and the sleek, well-fed cows were
sauntering one by one into the yard. They scarcely needed any driving:
a man stood at the yard gate, whistling a long, peculiar note, and the
animals knew what to do, though they never hurried themselves in the
doing of it.

Blanche had never been quite so near to cows before, and it must be
admitted that she felt a little frightened of them; their horns looked
so very large and pointed, now that they were so close! Marjory, of
course, was quite accustomed to them, and had no idea that they were a
real terror to her town-bred friend.

One great beast, bearing the innocent name of Daisy, but with an immense
pair of horns, and eyes that seemed to Blanche to be rolling with fury
directed towards herself, came through the gate, and she instinctively
went closer to Mrs. Shaw for protection. Quick as thought, the woman
caught her hand and gently led her farther away.

"They won't hurt you," she whispered. "Daisy's as gentle as she can be.
You must come again and make friends with her."

Blanche gave Mrs. Shaw a grateful look, and squeezed the hand that held
hers. The pressure was returned, and any one who had happened to look at
Mrs. Shaw at that moment would have seen a suspicious moisture in the
black eyes and a little quiver on the set lips; for Mrs. Shaw had a
heart, and Blanche had somehow found her way into it.

A dairymaid came to ask if the young ladies would be waiting for a
drink of the new milk. Marjory said, "Yes, please," at once. She liked
the new milk, frothy and warm. But Blanche said quickly,--

"Oh no, thank you; I would really rather not. You're very kind, but I'm
sure I shouldn't like it."

"It would be good for ye, Miss Blanche," remarked Peter, "and maybe help
to put some colour into yon white cheeks o' yours."

The cheeks were rosy red for a minute as Blanche repeated her refusal.
She did not want to be rude, but, oh dear! could she ever bring herself
to drink milk like that? She did not think she possibly could.

"Never mind; she shan't be bothered," said Mrs. Shaw, to Blanche's
relief. "She shall come to the dairy and have some curds and cream--I've
some nicely set--or a drink of the other milk, if she likes that
better." And, still holding Blanche's hand, she led the way to the
dairy, across the yard and along a shady path.

What a refreshingly cool place the dairy was, with its rows of shining
white pans, and its tiled walls and floor! Everything looked so fresh
and spotless, it was a pleasure to see it.

Blanche was glad to have a glass of the milk here. It was very
different, ladled out of one of those beautiful white pans with a nice
white ladle!

Mrs. Shaw showed them the churn and the pats of yellow butter. There
were cheeses too, and pots of cream--one and all of the best and
freshest.

The dairy was the last sight; and the girls, very much pleased with all
they had seen, said good-bye to Mrs. Shaw, receiving a hearty invitation
to come again soon--in fact, to come any time they liked.

Marjory walked with Blanche from the farm to a small gate which led into
the Braeside park, Peter watching them, waiting for Marjory's return,
and then walking home with her.

"She's a bonnie lassie yon," said Peter, as he walked stiffly up the
hill beside Marjory. "I'm weel pleased wi' her."

"Yes, isn't she a darling, Peter? I do feel so happy now I've got a
friend, and such a friend. Did you notice how Mrs. Shaw kept looking at
her?"

"Ay," replied Peter, "I did that."

Dr. Hunter was at home when they arrived. They found him sitting on one
of the garden seats smoking.

"I'm taking a holiday too, you see," he called to Marjory. "Come and
tell me about yours."

Marjory obeyed, and was surprised that she felt able to tell her uncle
quite freely about what she and Blanche had been doing; and he, on his
part, was glad to see the light in Marjory's eyes, and to hear the ring
of pleasure in her voice, both of which had been rare of late.

As for Marjory, she went to bed full of contentment, and with a sense
of general well-being. Often she had got up in the morning with a
feeling of dullness, as if there were nothing to look forward to. She
was sure that such a feeling would never come to her again, now that she
had some one to share her days, to share her pleasures and her
troubles--for even girls have troubles of their own, and very real ones
sometimes.

"Everything will be different now," was her thought as she lay down to
sleep. "I shall be glad when to-morrow comes."



CHAPTER VI.

CONFIDENCES.

  "'Tis the Land of Little People, where the happy children play,
  And the things they know and see there are so wonderful and grand--
  Things that wiser, older folks cannot know or understand.
  In the woods they meet the fairies, find the giants in their caves,
  See the palaces of cloudland, and the mermen in the waves,
  Know what all the birdies sing of, hear the secrets of the flowers--
  For the Land of Little People is another world than ours."

  ANON.


So this is the little gypsy Blanche has been telling me about!"

Such was Mr. Forester's greeting to Marjory when she went to Braeside on
a return visit.

Marjory was not sure that she liked being called a gypsy. That dark hair
of hers was always a sore point, but she was quite certain that she did
not like the kiss which Mr. Forester bestowed upon her in all kindness
of heart. To begin with, she did not like being kissed by strangers; and
secondly, if the said strangers happened to possess moustaches, it made
their offence the greater. Mr. Forester was a stranger, and, moreover,
was the proud owner of a long and silky moustache, so Marjory felt that
she had some excuse for her resentment.

"'Don't like being called a gypsy, and don't like being kissed' written
large all over her face--eh, Blanche?" said Mr. Forester mischievously.

"Papa, you are a horrid tease. Go away and leave us in peace. I don't
wonder Marjory doesn't like your nasty, tickly kisses."

"Oh dear, please don't send me away," he said in mock dismay. "Mayn't I
stay if I promise to be very, very good?"

"You must ask Marjory."

Marjory's reply was to burst out laughing.

"Ah, that's better," said Mr. Forester. "Now we're all quite happy. Sit
down, both of you, and listen to me."

The girls obeyed, and Mr. Forester continued,--

"Guess what I brought from Morristown to-day?"

"Sweets!" cried Blanche.

"No. Guess again."

"Anything to eat?"

"I should be very sorry to eat it, but some people might like to."

"Lesson books," hazarded Marjory.

"No; nothing so useful, I'm afraid."

"Does mother know?"

"No. Nobody knows but me."

"Oh, do tell us, papa."

"Well, you are a pair of duffers. I thought you would have been sure to
guess, but I'll go and fetch it."

Mr. Forester returned carrying a small hamper. There was straw poking
out of it in places, and it was labelled, "This side up, with care."

"Oh, it's a new tea-set for the schoolroom," cried Blanche. "Mother said
we needed one."

"No, it's not a new tea-set for the schoolroom, Miss Clever. There's a
new pupil, and that's quite enough for any schoolroom. You're no good as
a guesser, and yet you've been worrying my life out for weeks about this
very thing."

Mr. Forester meanwhile was untying the string which fastened down the
lid of the hamper. He slowly raised it, and there, curled up in the
straw, lay a little black retriever puppy, its baby face puckered up
partly in fear and partly in interest over this new experience.

"What a perfect little darling!" cried Blanche. "Oh, isn't he sweet? But
how could you say some people might like to eat him, papa?"

"Well, I've heard of the Chinese eating puppy-dog stew; it comes after
birds'-nest soup, you know."

"Papa!" indignantly.

Mr. Forester lifted the little fellow out of the basket and set him on
the floor. He began running along with such a queer little waddle that
they all laughed. Then he stopped and contemplated them questioningly,
as much as to say, "What are you laughing at?"

"There, Miss Blanche," said her father, "you've got your work cut out
for you to train that small person in the way he should go. Don't make a
fool of him, dear; love him as much as you like, but make him obey
orders. He's a game little beggar, isn't he?"

Blanche was delighted. "O papa, thank you a thousand times. Is he really
for my very own, like Marjory has Silky? Oh, I am so glad to have him!
You darling!" she cried, catching up the dog and hugging him close.

"I thought _I_ was the darling," said Mr. Forester comically. "In fact,
I'm sure I am, for thinking of it all myself."

"So you are--the dearest, darlingest papa in all the world." And the
girl sprang into her father's arms.

This scene made Marjory a little bit sad.

"If only I had my father too, how happy I should be!" she thought. "But
I don't even know if I've got one." And she sighed.

Blanche noticed the cloud on her friend's face, and instinctively felt
what had caused it. Tears of sympathy rushed to her eyes, and she picked
up the puppy and put him into Marjory's arms.

"Now," she said, with a look which Marjory understood, it was so full
of sympathy, "you must christen him."

Marjory looked attentively at the little fat ball of a dog, and then
said thoughtfully,--

"What would you think of 'Curly'? He is one of the curly kind, different
from Silky."

"Yes, that will do beautifully. We'll call him Curly. Do you agree,
papa?"

"Right you are," replied Mr. Forester. "But it doesn't matter so much
what you call him as whether he comes when he's called; that's the chief
thing." And so saying he left the girls to enjoy the new treasure by
themselves.

Marjory was quite as enthusiastic as Blanche. She was passionately fond
of animals, and the young ones always charmed her. She was able to give
Blanche instructions as to how Curly should be fed; and they made a set
of very strict rules for his training, which was to begin at once.

Their consultation was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Forester. She
had been out driving, and was very beautifully dressed. Marjory thought
she had never seen such a lovely lady before. She kissed the girl
tenderly, and, putting her arms round her, said,--

"I am very glad to welcome you here, little Marjory, and I hope this
will soon feel like a second home to you. Now," brightly, "I've got a
great piece of news for you. Miss Waspe writes that she would be very
glad to have an extra week's holidays till the eighteenth of September.
What do you say?"

Blanche clapped her hands. "Oh, how jolly! a whole week more to do as we
like! Do let her have it, mother."

Mrs. Forester laughed. "Yes, I think we must let her have it. She will
be just as pleased as you, no doubt. Well, then, you will begin lessons
on the eighteenth of September.--Will that suit you, Marjory?"

"Oh yes, it's my birthday."

"In that case, wouldn't you rather wait until the next day, dear? It
won't make any difference to us."

"Oh no, thank you. I think it would be splendid to begin on my birthday.
I've wanted to learn things for such a long time, it will be a kind of
present," said Marjory.

"How funny you are!" cried Blanche. "I should hate to have lessons on my
birthday. I always have a holiday. Mine is in June, and Waspy and I
always have a treat of some kind."

"Miss Waspe also says, Marjory, that she is very glad indeed that you
are going to be her pupil, and is looking forward to the term's work
with two of you to teach."

Marjory blushed with pleasure. "She is very kind. I am looking forward
too."

Mrs. Forester turned to go, saying that she hoped the girls would enjoy
their tea and have a nice time. Marjory followed her as she left the
room, and when they were outside the door asked,--

"Do you think I ought to say I'm sorry for calling Mary Ann Smylie a
beast?"

Mrs. Forester smiled in spite of herself at Marjory's solemn face.

"Do you feel sorry?" she asked.

Marjory looked down. Her conscience had pricked her several times about
it, but she could not honestly say that she felt really sorry. In fact,
she felt quite sure that if Mary Ann were to say the same thing again,
she would feel inclined to call her names again.

"I see," said Mrs. Forester, "you don't feel very sorry. Well, do you
think it was a nice, lady-like way to speak?"

"Oh no," replied Marjory quickly.

"Then you are sorry that you used an unbecoming word, but you still
think Mary Ann richly deserved some punishment for her unkind words?"

"Yes, that's just it," said Marjory, wondering how it was that Mrs.
Forester understood her so well.

"But you still feel uncomfortable when you think about Mary Ann?"

"Yes."

"Well, if I were you, I should go to Mary Ann and say, 'I am sorry I
used an ugly word to you, but I still think you were very unkind in what
you said.' Then, if she is a nice girl, she will say she wishes she
hadn't said what she did; and if not--well, you must just leave it,
dear. I will go with you if you like. We can all drive to the village
to-morrow afternoon."

"Oh, how good of you! Thank you so much." And Marjory, much relieved,
went back to Blanche.

As a matter of fact Mrs. Forester had her own reasons for going herself
with Marjory, for that very afternoon Mrs. Smylie, by way of
ingratiating herself with the newcomer, had been making unkind remarks
about Marjory and her bringing-up, and warning Mrs. Forester that she
would not be a suitable companion for her daughter. Mrs. Forester had
known very well how to reply to these statements, but she thought it
would be a very good thing to show the Smylies that their spiteful,
unkind words had no weight with her.

Mrs. Smylie's ambition knew no bounds as far as her daughter was
concerned. She was conscious of the fact that she herself was a plain,
ordinary, country woman, and would never be anything else; but with her
daughter it was different. With her looks and education she ought to be
able to associate with the best of people. Such was this foolish
mother's dream, and she had thought to curry favour with the lady of
Braeside by her remarks on what she considered should be the behaviour
of a well-brought-up young lady, and what she had always aimed at in the
education of her daughter. Mary Ann would have laughed could she have
read her mother's mind and seen to what heights her ambition rose.

Marjory forgot about her for the time being. Blanche had so many
treasures to show her and so much to say to her that the afternoon
passed all too quickly.

They had tea by themselves in the room Mrs. Forester had chosen as a
schoolroom--comfortable and cheerful, with windows looking over the
garden. A new set of shelves had been put up, and all Blanche's books
were arranged on them--her story books on the top and her lesson books
on the lower shelves.

Marjory feasted her eyes upon the collection. Here were Blanche's old
favourites, amongst them Grimm's "Fairy Tales," and Hans Andersen's,
"Alice in Wonderland," "Black Beauty," and many others. One after
another she took them down to show to Marjory.

"You must read every one of them," she said, "and then your mind inside
will be just like mine."

"I should love to read them all, but I wouldn't be allowed to read the
fairy tales," with a sigh.

"Why not?"

"Uncle doesn't approve of them."

"What a pity!" cried Blanche. "I wonder why. Do you think he would let
you if I were to ask him? I could take him my 'Grimm' and show him what
splendid tales they are."

"Would you dare to?" asked Marjory, awestruck by her friend's bold plan.

"Dare to? Of course I should. I can't think why you are so frightened of
Dr. Hunter, he looks such a dear old thing. If he were a cow or a bull
it would be different," laughing; "but you don't seem a bit afraid of
them, with their great horns and bulging, glaring eyes."

"That's just where we're different," said Marjory, laughing too. "You're
afraid of animals and not of people, and I'm afraid of people and not of
animals."

"Well, anyway, I'm not afraid to ask about the fairy tales. I shall tell
him that of course we don't really believe in them in our everyday
heads, but they are nice to think about, and to think perhaps some day a
fairy thing might happen."

Marjory laughed. "Isn't that believing in them?"

"No, not really. I can't quite explain what I mean."

"I've made fairies for myself," said Marjory. "There are plenty of them
in the garden, and I understand what they say. They know me quite well,
and I only have to sit very quietly and hardly breathe, and I can hear
them. They live in the flowers, and you can hear them ringing their tiny
little bells and talking to one another, so low that it is only just a
whisper."

"Do go on," urged Blanche.

"I don't know if you would be able to hear them. Peter says he can't;
but then he's old and deaf, and he says he never thought of listening
when he was young."

"What made you think of it?"

"Nothing; it just came. I seem to have known about the flower fairies
all my life. I miss them so in the winter, when they all go away under
the ground to their winter palace, and I am always so happy when I see
the first snowdrop come. I always go and kiss her, and tell her how glad
I am to see her, and how brave I think she is to be the first to come;
and I promise her that if a hard frost comes I will put some nice leaves
round her to keep her warm."

"Why, this _is_ a fairy tale. What does your uncle say?"

"I have never told him; it wouldn't be any good. He would only tell me
to sew my seam, or knit my stocking, or do something useful."

"But couldn't you make him understand?"

Marjory shook her head. "I don't think so."

"Do tell me some more," said Blanche.

"Well, there are all sorts of fairies that belong to the different kinds
of flowers. The head one of all, who is great queen, arranges everything
for them, and tells each one exactly how long she may stay; and they
come up out of the winter palace through the ground inside the buds,
and they live in the flowers until they begin to fade, and then they go
back again and wait for the next flower time. The fairies bring the
sweet scents with them. They have to see that their flower houses are
shut up in good time at night, and in the daytime they have to be kind
in receiving the bees and insects that fly into them, and give them what
they can. They have to try to keep away bad insects and worms and
caterpillars that do harm, and before they go they have to see that
everything is ready for the seeds to form, because they mean homes for
the fairies when the next year comes. So they are really quite busy all
the time. I'm always so glad to think that the fairies are all girls,
and yet how important they are! Not like us human beings: boys are
always most wanted and most important with us. I heard Dr. Morison say
to Uncle George one day, 'It's a pity she wasn't a boy; she might have
been such a help to you.' Of course that meant that I wasn't a help at
all. The doctor has two boys. I don't like them much; they seem to think
such a lot of themselves, and they never believe that I can do anything,
because I'm a girl; but I can do most things that boys do."

"I'm very glad you're not a boy," said Blanche. "You're just as good as
one in being strong and knowing how to do things, but you're much nicer
than a boy." And she gave her friend a loving hug; then continuing, "I
don't suppose the fairies would talk to a boy like they do to you."

"No, they say that they only talk to people who believe in them,"
laughing, and looking at Blanche.

"I say, Marj," said Blanche suddenly, "do you believe in ghosts?"

"No. Why?"

"Because," lowering her voice and speaking in a low, mysterious tone,
"Crossley--that's our maid--told me that the people in the village say
your house is haunted, that a light comes there in the middle of the
night, and moves about in the old part. Have you ever seen it?"

"No; the old part is always shut up. I never heard about any light."

"Wouldn't it be fun if we could find out about it?" said Blanche
excitedly.

"Yes. But how could you be there in the middle of the night? I might go
and look some night."

"Not by yourself; you _couldn't_. Besides, it would be much jollier to
be together. It would be so exciting finding out what it is, and so
romantic. Mother says that all such stories can generally be explained
by some quite ordinary thing; but still it's fun finding out, isn't it?"

Marjory agreed, but her busy little brain was trying to discover some
possible explanation of the mysterious lights. She had no fears of the
darkness. Her simple faith taught her that she was as safe in the dark
as in the daylight, but she had many fancies--fancies that had come to
her as she lay alone in her little bed watching the moonbeams playing
across her windows, and listening to the whispering of the leaves
outside. The darkness was full of mystery and charm to the lonely child,
but fear had no place in her thoughts concerning it. What could these
lights be--lights that moved about when every one else was asleep? Could
they be the will-o'-the-wisp that Peter had told her about? Could they
perhaps be angels with beautiful white wings and stars on their
foreheads--guardian angels watching over the house while its inmates
slept peacefully?

"Oh, I _should_ like to see what it is!" she cried. "We _must_ try some
night, if only you could come and stay with me!"

"If mother and dad ever have to go to London for anything, then I
might--that is, if Waspy isn't here."

"Oh, I do wish they would go! Wouldn't it be lovely if they did, and you
came to stay?" And Marjory drew a long breath of delight at the thought
of such a pleasure.

The girls had been talking so eagerly that they had not noticed the
passing of the time, and it was quite a shock to them when a maid came
to say that Dr. Hunter had come for Miss Marjory, and would she please
to go at once.

Marjory gave Curly an affectionate good-night hug, and rushed
downstairs with Blanche, afraid that her uncle might be angry with her
for staying so long, it seemed such an unusual thing for him to come to
fetch her. To her relief, however, he was all smiles when she appeared,
and seemed quite interested in her account of the afternoon's doings as
they went home.



CHAPTER VII.

Marjory's apology.

  "Fix in your minds--or rather ask God to fix in your minds--this
  one idea of an absolutely good God."--KINGSLEY.


Marjory did not sleep very much that night, her thoughts were so busy.
The events of the day kept crowding in upon her, the story of the lights
in the old wing, and running through all was the disquieting thought
that to-morrow she must go to the baker's daughter and say that she was
sorry. It seemed to Marjory that it would be very hard, and yet she felt
sure that it was the right thing to do. Had not Mrs. Forester said so?
and had not her own conscience told her so? Still, she dreaded the doing
of it, for Marjory was proud as well as very shy, and Mary Ann's unkind
words still rankled in her memory. She had yet to learn that the
punishment of offences against us, great or small, lies in other hands
than ours, and that absolute justice is watching over the affairs of
men--that each action, good or evil, bears its own fruit. Thinking over
Mrs. Forester's words, a dim realization came to her of that great
truth, which, once grasped, brings calm trust and faith--the truth which
promises that obedience to the voice of conscience keeps the soul in
harmony with its Creator, so that outward circumstances cannot really
harm or hurt. Marjory was but a young girl, with no experience, yet she
knew this voice--she knew that obedience to it or disobedience meant
either happiness or unhappiness inside herself, as she expressed it; but
to-night, for the first time, she felt something of that trust in
perfect justice which gives peace within, and she gradually began to
lose the feeling of resentment against Mary Ann, and to feel that what
she had to think of, and was responsible for, was her own behaviour--she
must answer for her own thoughts and words.

She set out bravely the next day with Mrs. Forester and Blanche. Her
heart beat very quickly as the carriage stopped at the post office.

"Why, Mary Ann, if this is no Hunter's Marjory in the carriage with thae
new folks frae Braeside," exclaimed Mrs. Smylie to her daughter as she
saw the party arrive. "After a' I telt the leddy yesterday too."

Marjory came into the post office alone.

"Good-afternoon, Mrs. Smylie," she said shyly. "Can I see Mary Ann?"

Mrs. Smylie did not return her greeting, and without looking up from
the stamp desk called to Mary Ann.

"What is it?" cried Mary Ann from the parlour behind the shop.

"Come an' see," was her mother's reply. "_I_ canna tell ye."

Mary Ann came sauntering into the shop. When she saw Marjory she stopped
and stared.

"Hallo!" she said mockingly. "Want some more of what you had last time?"

Marjory flushed, and then with an effort, and speaking very quickly, she
said,--

"I've come to say I'm sorry I called you an ugly name, but I think you
were unkind in what you said."

"Do you suppose I care whether you call me names or not?" And the girl
gave a hard laugh.

"No; but I care. I am ashamed of myself."

Mrs. Smylie looked on and listened, curious to see how the affair would
end.

"You are a queer little kid," said Mary Ann. "Any one can see you
haven't been to school. No girl in our school would come and eat humble
pie like this. Well, I believe I did say a lot of stuff just to rub you
up, and if you're sorry I'm sorry too, so we'll shake hands--eh?"

The girls shook hands, and Marjory, again saying good-afternoon to Mrs.
Smylie, left the shop.

Mrs. Smylie replied by a nod. She was a little disappointed at the turn
things had taken. She rather enjoyed having a grievance, and Hunter's
Marjory and her "tantrums" had been a fertile subject for gossip during
the last few days.

"Ye needna hae gien in sae sune," she remarked to her daughter when the
carriage had driven off.

"That was my business," replied Mary Ann, with a toss of her head.

"Hoots, lassie, ye needna haud yer head sae high wi' yer mither. I was
but thinkin' ye micht hae held it higher wi' yon chit."

"I'll never be like her, not if I live to be a hundred and go to fifty
schools--so there." And Mary Ann banged out of the shop, leaving her
mother silent with amazement.

Mary Ann had something to think about. She had been quite taken aback by
Marjory's apology, and for a little while the real Mary Ann had shown
herself. She was not a bad-hearted girl in reality, but she had been
spoiled by those who should have known better; and although every now
and then, at moments such as this, her better nature would assert
itself, it was gradually becoming choked and crushed by selfishness,
conceit, and carelessness. Marjory had been inclined to envy the baker's
daughter her privileges, but in reality Mary Ann was to be pitied rather
than envied, for she had no one to guide and help her. Her parents'
chief care was that she should be better dressed and better educated
than her neighbours. This they felt they could accomplish; and having
done so, they were content, and satisfied that they had done their duty
by their daughter.

The days were full of pleasure for Marjory and Blanche. When the garden
had been thoroughly explored, there were many beautiful places for
Marjory to show her friend. She must go to the woods, to the moors, and
to the loch. Dr. Hunter had a pretty little sailing-boat, and Marjory
was an expert sailor, and was allowed to go out on fine days by herself,
though never without permission, in case she should be overtaken by a
sudden storm. The doctor made a study of the weather day by day, and was
able to foretell it to a certain extent. Sometimes, on a day which
looked to Marjory to be quite fine, he would forbid her going on the
loch, and she would find that he had been right.

The days were not long enough for all the delights the girls would have
crowded into them. Marjory always remembered the first Sunday after her
meeting with the Foresters. It came round in due course, and she did not
greet it with much pleasure at first.

First of all came clean clothes, and amongst them a stiffly-starched
petticoat. This was one of Marjory's pet aversions. It crackled as she
walked and made her feel self-conscious. Then there was the best frock
to be put on, which always seemed several degrees tighter than the
everyday ones. Then came breakfast, an hour later on Sundays, to
distinguish it from week days. Another distinguishing mark was the
absence of the usual porridge and the presence of a plate of drop
scones, a favourite dainty of Marjory's which Lisbeth always made for
Sunday.

Dr. Hunter always devoted himself to his niece on Sunday mornings. He
did not usually have much to say at breakfast during the week, but on
Sundays he always made a point of inquiring about her doings, her
garden, her pets, her sewing, and anything else he could think of. He
always came down in his black clothes, and they had a slight odour of
camphor, which the careful Lisbeth used to preserve them from moths.
Marjory ever afterwards associated the smell of camphor with Sunday
mornings at Hunters' Brae. The doctor, like Marjory, never wore his best
clothes unless he felt absolutely obliged to, and sometimes for months
together they only came out once a week. There was camphor in Marjory's
wardrobe too, but she was careful to keep as many bags of lavender as
she could amongst her clothes, to fight the camphor, as she told
Lisbeth; and on the whole the lavender had the best of it.

Seated at the breakfast-table, Marjory always knew what was coming. As
soon as they each had a cup of coffee and something to eat, the doctor
would say, "Well, Marjory, how's things?"

It was always the same question, and it usually received the same
answer. Marjory would feel very shy and awkward, and say, "All right,
thank you," and nothing more. She never could think of anything that she
felt would be interesting to her uncle. Week after week she would
resolve to try to be less awkward, but when the time came it was usually
only by a long list of questions that her uncle could get any
information from her. On this particular Sunday morning she sat waiting
for the inevitable question. It soon came. "Well, Marjory, how's
things?"

Marjory made a valiant effort, and at last she gave her uncle a
different reply. She looked up and said, "Better, thank you, uncle."

"Better, eh?" he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "That's good, if
better _can_ be good!"

"Everything's so different since Blanche came," Marjory went on, "and
now that I'm going to have real lessons."

"It certainly has been an exciting week for you. First you quarrelled
with that frizzle-pated Smylie girl, then with your old good-for-nothing
of an uncle, then you met Blanche, then you made up your quarrels,
Blanche came here, you went there, and so on." And the doctor smiled.

Marjory answered the smile, thinking how nice her uncle looked when he
smiled, and wishing that he would do it oftener.

The smile was simply a response to her own effort in trying to
understand her uncle better. She had been blaming him for his seeming
indifference to her, when in reality she herself had been very much at
fault. Of late the doctor had begun to feel that it was no use trying to
win Marjory's confidence, she seemed to keep herself so aloof from him;
but since she had faced him in the study, first like a little fury
demanding to be sent to school, then pale and trembling, asking for his
pardon, he had felt that he knew something more of the real Marjory, and
he, too, had determined to try to preserve this better understanding.

Soon after breakfast they started off to church. It was a walk of about
a mile, and Marjory and the doctor always went together. Silky always
knew when Sunday came round. He would sit quite still by the gate and
watch them with serious, longing eyes, but he never offered to accompany
them. He made it a rule, however, to go to meet them on the way back. He
always sat waiting by a certain milestone, and as soon as they turned
the bend of the road beyond it, he would go bounding towards them,
frisking and wagging his tail, and barking excitedly.

The walks to church were not altogether pleasant ones for Marjory, as a
rule. Her best clothes were always rather a worry to her, and she was
obliged to wear gloves. Lisbeth was in the habit of seeing them start
off. She took great pride in the doctor's appearance on the "Sawbath,"
and surveyed him critically from the crown of his shining silk hat to
the sole of his well-polished boots. She never failed to set Marjory's
hat straight, to give sundry little pats to her frock, and to what she
called "sort" her hair. Marjory wore it in a plait all the week, but on
Sunday it was allowed to hang at its will, and Lisbeth loved to see the
wavy black mass which reached to the girl's waist, though she would not
for worlds have told Marjory so, in case it might encourage her in the
sin of vanity!

Another bugbear of Marjory's was the little bag which Lisbeth always
insisted upon her carrying. Everybody had a bag for their books, she
said, so Marjory must have one too; and Sunday after Sunday in they
went, with a clean handkerchief and, it must be confessed, a sweetie.
These sweeties were kept in a bottle in the study, of all places. It was
never allowed to get empty, and Marjory often wondered if the doctor
took them to church too. There was a certain moment, when the
congregation was settling itself to listen to the sermon and there was a
general rustling of clothes and clattering of feet, when the sweetie
found its way to Marjory's mouth. She would begin by determining to make
it last as long as the sermon, but, alas! it would become thinner and
thinner, and finally disappear altogether before Mr. Mackenzie had got
to "thirdly."

Besides the drawbacks of the best clothes and the bag there were
usually many admonitions from her uncle, such as, "Marjory, turn out
your toes. Hold up your head, child. Turn out your toes, I say," or, "O
Marjory, do not swing that bag"--all very necessary, no doubt, but they
had the effect of making the girl self-conscious. Thinking about her
head, she would forget about her toes, and _vice versâ_, and her uncle
would be apt to think that it was obstinacy on her part and to tell her
so, and then there would be sullen silence till the church door was
reached. But to-day it was not so. Half-way to church they joined the
Foresters, and Marjory and Blanche walked together behind their elders,
so that their deportment could not be criticised.

Blanche gave Marjory the cheerful news that as there was to be a
children's service in the afternoon, Mrs. Forester was going to beg for
Marjory to be let off writing the morning sermon if she wrote the
afternoon one instead.

"I don't suppose uncle will say yes, though," objected Marjory.

"Oh yes, he will; people always do to mother."

"How different it would be!" sighed Marjory. "I'm sure I could
understand it better if I didn't have to keep thinking about writing it
out."

"And mother's going to ask Dr. Hunter to come to tea, and you will come
home from church with us. Won't it be nice?"

"Yes; but I don't believe he will let me." Blanche's face clouded.
"Oh," she said, disappointment in her tone, "why not?"

"I've never been out anywhere on Sunday."

"But this is different--it isn't like going to a party; and we have such
nice Sundays, and I do want you to come. I love Sundays, and I always
look forward to them; don't you?"

"No," replied Marjory candidly, "not much."

Blanche looked sympathetically at her friend.

"Well, of course yours don't seem to be quite so nice as ours; but
you'll see they'll be different now."

Blanche was right. Mrs. Forester won the day, and to Marjory's intense
satisfaction, as they went in at the churchyard gate her uncle told her
that she need not write the morning sermon if she would do the afternoon
one, and that she was to be allowed to go to tea at Braeside after the
service.

The Heathermuir church was an old one; its pews were of the straight,
high-backed kind, and once inside them their occupants could see little
of their surroundings except the minister, whose desk was raised above
the level of the floor. With no temptations to look about her, and
relieved of her weekly task, Marjory gave her whole attention to Mr.
Mackenzie, trying to understand his meaning instead of mechanically
taxing her memory, parrot-like, with his words. She watched the noble
old face with its lines of kindliness and patience, the eyes now liquid
with pity for the sorrowful wrongdoer, now flashing with indignation as
he spoke of the unrepentant and the careless, then softening again as he
expressed the hope that their hearts might be touched, and the belief
that they too would win forgiveness from a loving Father.

Parts of the sermon were not to be understood by a child such as
Marjory--it was addressed to men and women--yet her eyes never left the
preacher's face, the sweetie had been quite forgotten, and she carried
away with her a mind-picture of a Being full of love, sorry when His
children do wrong, just in His punishments, but all-forgiving when they
are truly repentant and try to make amends.

In the afternoon Marjory sat in the Braeside pew with Mrs. Forester and
Blanche. Again the preacher's theme was love--"the greatest thing in the
world"--love to the Creator, and, through it, love to all His creatures
great and small. The old man told how love can smooth rough places, can
right wrong, can win battles; how love and kindness attract love and
kindness in return, and how a loving thought, word, or action is never
lost. The words she heard that day sank deeply into Marjory's mind. They
were full of hope and encouragement for all, and she felt something of
that spirit which prompted the poet to sing so joyously,--

  "God's in His heaven; all's right with the world."

Service over, they walked back to Braeside. It was a pretty walk across
a bit of moorland, through the heather and bracken, here and there a
moss-grown rock, here and there across the path a tiny trickling stream
with stepping-stones.

"Did you have to ask the doctor very hard to make him let Marjory come,
mother?" asked Blanche as they walked along.

"Not very hard," replied her mother, smiling. "I explained to him that
we always keep our Sundays quietly, enjoying the day of rest, but that
at the same time we like it to be bright and happy; and when I told him
that the pleasure of our friends' company would greatly add to the
brightness and happiness, he said 'yes' for Marjory, and promised to
come himself."

When they arrived at Braeside they found the doctor already there. Mr.
Forester and he had established themselves under a shady tree on the
lawn, both looking the picture of comfort, smoking their pipes, and
talking together like old friends.

Marjory felt almost bewildered by the turn things had taken. Truly they
were different, both for herself and for her uncle.

Tea was brought into the garden, and they all had it together, the girls
waiting upon their elders. It was all so peaceful and happy that Marjory
found it hard to tear herself away when the time came, but she consoled
herself with the thought that there was to-morrow to look forward to
now. Hitherto she had always disliked Monday. It was the day for the
washing to be counted, for one thing, and Lisbeth was always rather
flustered in consequence, although the counting of it was all she had to
do, as a woman from the village came to do the actual washing. Then
there was the sermon to write and her wardrobe and drawers to tidy.
Lisbeth was very strict about the tidying. All these things gave Monday
an atmosphere prosaic in the extreme in Marjory's opinion. Now it would
be different; she could look forward to it because there would be
Blanche to compare notes with. She would make haste and finish her
duties, and then they could go off into the woods or on to the moor, as
free as air, and with no one to interfere with them. She went to bed
full of these plans, and feeling her heart overflowing with gratitude to
the great and loving Father who had given her such happiness.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE SECRET CHAMBER.

  "'Tis now the very witching hour of night."

  SHAKESPEARE.


Next morning, directly after breakfast, Marjory went as usual to her
room to signal to Blanche. Blanche was already at her window, waving
wildly with a handkerchief in each hand, which meant might she come up
at once. Marjory, all eagerness and excitement, waved back "yes,"
wondering what could be the reason for such an early visit. She was just
going to run down the garden to meet Blanche when she heard Lisbeth's
voice calling, "Hae ye coontit yer claes, Marjory? Jessie's waitin'."
She hastily collected her things together, and wrote, not in her best
writing, the list which Lisbeth always insisted upon, and which Marjory
always argued was quite unnecessary, as the clothes were washed at home,
and there was no other girl of her size at Hunters' Brae. Lisbeth
remained firm, and every week the list was made. Marjory was just adding
the last item when she heard Blanche's voice downstairs asking
breathlessly where she was. "Coming!" she cried, and rushed downstairs,
two steps at a time, to find Blanche capering up and down with
excitement.

"Such news!" she cried. "Something so exciting to tell you. You'll never
guess."

"What is it? Please don't make me guess. I can't wait." And Marjory
caught hold of her friend's arm, trying to make her stand still and tell
her news--a difficult task, for Blanche was almost beside herself with
excitement, and was also bent upon tantalizing Marjory. But Marjory's
arms were stronger than Blanche's, and she succeeded in making her stop
dancing about.

"There now, tell me," she cried, when Blanche was fairly pinioned
between her arms. "I shan't let you go till you do."

"Oh dear; then I must tell you, I suppose. Well, Marjory, what do you
think?" very slowly and provokingly. "Mother--says--that--"

A shake from Marjory produced the end of the sentence more quickly.

"Oh!" and Blanche's laugh rang out; "don't, Marjory. Mother and father
want to go to London for a few days, so can I come and stay here?"

A shriek of delight was Marjory's reply, and the two girls were
executing a kind of war-dance round the hall, when suddenly the study
door opened, and the doctor put his head out. He had a book in his hand,
and was wearing his spectacles, which always made him look more
formidable. Marjory wished that the floor might open and swallow her;
but it was no use--they were fairly caught.

"Dear me," said the doctor when he saw them, "what is all this
disturbance about?"

Blanche ran forward.

"Please don't scold Marjory," she said; "it is all my fault. I came to
tell her something very exciting, and we were both so pleased that we
quite forgot we oughtn't to make a noise. You see, there isn't anybody
learned like you in our house, so I haven't got into the way of
remembering not to disturb you. I am very sorry." And Blanche looked
confidingly at the doctor.

He smiled and pushed his spectacles up on his forehead.

"You haven't told me this exciting piece of news, though--the wonderful
information that was the cause of this disturbance of the peace."

"Mother was coming to tell you--that is, to ask you about it. It depends
on you, you see." And Blanche looked up into the doctor's face.

Marjory stood by, a silent listener. She quite expected a scolding, and
was amazed at Blanche's boldness.

"Well, suppose _you_ tell me, now you are here."

Blanche looked again at the doctor. She was afraid that this might not
be a very good time to make her request. She could not quite tell by
his face what he was thinking, but she took courage and said,--

"Father wants mother to go to London with him for a few days, and she
says she will if you will be so good as to let me come and stay with
Marjory."

"What! A noisy little person like you!" The doctor was only in fun, but
Blanche's face fell, and her eyes slowly filled with tears.

Marjory spoke up. "O uncle, she isn't really noisy. I made just as much
noise as she did; and if only you will say yes, we will promise to be
very quiet.--Won't we, Blanche?"

"Yes," faltered Blanche.

"Tut, tut," said the doctor; "I don't want you to be quiet; it isn't
natural for young things. Yes, my child; come and stay as long as you
like, and make as much noise as you like. I was only teasing you, but
you didn't like my little joke," laughing.

"Oh, how good you are!" cried Blanche, and she put her arms round the
doctor's neck and kissed him, her tears leaving little wet places on his
cheeks.

Marjory looked on in wonder. How could Blanche dare to be so familiar
with her uncle? she thought; and, stranger and still more unexpected
than that, her uncle seemed to like it. She watched him take out his
handkerchief and wipe the wet places, also his own eyes, and then take
off his spectacles and polish them vigorously, asking Blanche meanwhile
which day her parents would be leaving. It would be the next day,
Tuesday, she replied; and the doctor told Marjory she had better see
Lisbeth at once, and ask her to make the necessary preparations. Marjory
gave her uncle a grateful look, which was meant to make up for the
formal "Thank you, uncle," which was all that she could find to say.

The girls went to the kitchen, where Lisbeth was working. Lisbeth having
set the laundrymaid to work, was once more her usual smiling self, and
was quite pleased to hear the news. She made no difficulties, and
promised that Jean should put a second bed into Marjory's room, as that
was what they said they would like best.

As they left the kitchen Lisbeth called to Marjory to be sure and not
forget to tidy her wardrobe and drawers, and to see that there was room
for Miss Blanche's things.

"Isn't she a dear old thing?" exclaimed Blanche, when they were out of
hearing. "She seemed quite pleased for me to come. Some servants are so
cross if there is anything extra, that it makes you feel quite
uncomfortable."

"Lisbeth's not a bit like that. Besides, anybody would be glad to have
you," said Marjory, looking at her friend with intense admiration, of
which Blanche seemed quite unconscious.

"Yes," she said, "people are very kind. Mother says there are far more
kind people in the world than unkind ones."

Marjory looked at the sweet face beside her, and thought that it would
be a very unkind person indeed who could be unkind to Blanche. Then she
said, rather sadly,--

"Uncle George seems quite a different person with you."

"O Marj, he's a dear old thing. I felt sure he was directly I saw him. I
can't think why you are so afraid of him."

"I am," with a sigh.

"I'm sure you needn't be. Think of him just now. He was busy in his
study, and we made all that noise, and he wasn't a bit cross. Most
people would have been, even if they had only been writing a letter; and
daddy says that Dr. Hunter's work is most important and valuable, and
that he is a great man. You must be very proud of him, aren't you?"

"Yes; only I don't quite know what it is that he does."

"Neither do I; but, anyway, he is very clever. Daddy says so, and he
says he considers himself very fortunate in being able to know Dr.
Hunter."

This was quite a new aspect of affairs to Marjory. She had been used to
the idea that she and her uncle were rather shunned than otherwise by
other people, that her uncle was a stern old man with whom no one wanted
to be friendly. But now that a man like Mr. Forester, from the great
far-away world of London, should consider her uncle's acquaintance a
privilege--this was indeed something new, and it gave Marjory food for
thought and speculation.

Mr. and Mrs. Forester went to London, and Blanche to Hunters' Brae.
Marjory and Peter fetched her in the pony-cart, and she brought Curly
with her, as she could not bear to leave him for other people to look
after. Silky was delighted with the puppy, and allowed the little fellow
to take all sorts of liberties with him. It was a pretty picture--the
big dog fondling the small one and playing with him.

Lisbeth had done as she had promised, and a second bed had been put up
in Marjory's room. Such a pretty room it was--the best in the house, and
looking out upon the garden. It was pretty by reason of its shape--long
and low, with beams across the ceiling, and casement windows--and not
from any extra decoration or those many knick-knacks which most girls
contrive to collect around them. There were dainty white muslin curtains
and covers, everything was spotless, but there were no ornaments or
trifles lying about. On the bookshelf were Marjory's Bible and
Psalm-book and a copy of the "Pilgrim's Progress"--no other books. These
were all that the doctor considered it necessary for Marjory to have.
There was a glass bowl on the chest of drawers, which was kept filled
with flowers all the year round, and that was the only ornament in the
room. Some might have thought it bare, but it had a simple charm of its
own, with its spotless whiteness and its faint odour of lavender,
stronger when the wardrobe or the drawers were open.

Marjory had been struck by the difference between Blanche's bedroom and
hers when she had paid her first visit to Braeside. There the walls were
covered with pictures of all sorts and sizes, the table was littered
with silver toilet articles, photographs and trinkets, and the bookshelf
was filled with books. Most of these things were presents from her
father and mother, or from relations or acquaintances, and spoke for
themselves of the difference in the lives of the two girls--the one
solitary and simple in a remote country place, the other in the midst of
friends and relations in the rush and hurry of a great city.

"How sweet your room is!" said Blanche as they went in.

"It isn't like yours, though," replied Marjory doubtfully. "You have
such a lot of pretty things."

"Oh, but I love this!" cried Blanche enthusiastically, sniffing the
lavender-scented air and walking to the window; "and what a lovely view!
I could sit and look out all day."

They decided to wait till the next night to watch for the ghost, for
they thought it would be better to pay a visit to the old wing in the
daylight first, and to explore it thoroughly, so that they should both
be well acquainted with the staircases and the various rooms. They spent
some time in discussing their plans, and Blanche's cheeks flushed and
her eyes grew bright as they talked them over.

"Isn't it exciting?" she cried. "I do hope the light will come, so that
we shall be able to see it. I hope I shan't feel frightened when the
time comes, but I don't think I shall with you, Marj. You don't seem to
be afraid of anything."

"Except Uncle George," amended Marjory.

"Yes; and I can't think why. Fancy being less afraid of a thing that
might be a ghost than you are of a real flesh-and-blood uncle, who is
really quite a dear old man!"

"It does seem silly," admitted Marjory, "but it's no good pretending it
isn't true, because it is."

They went to the old wing next morning. It consisted of a large square
hall, from which led a wide staircase to a gallery above, and two or
three other rooms on the ground floor. From the gallery led several
narrow corridors, with many turns and corners, steps up and steps down,
which were traps for the unwary visitor. It was seldom that any one came
to the old wing; its tenants were rats and spiders. Birds built their
nests in the crumbling walls, and it smelt damp and musty, as if it had
seen no sunlight for many a day.

The girls' footsteps and voices echoed through the empty rooms and
passages. The old place had a fascination for Marjory, and yet she could
never go through it without a shiver of something like awe. What had
these mouldering walls seen? What tales could they tell if they could
speak? Then her heart would swell with pride at the thought that she
came of a long line of Hunters who had lived here and made the name
famous. She, too, must do her part. Sometimes she would wish that she
bore the old name; then she would rebuke herself for the thought, which
was like treason to that unknown father of hers.

They went carefully through each room. There was nothing unusual in any
of them; old boxes, pieces of broken furniture, rusty bits of iron
strewed the place. One thing took Blanche's fancy. It was in a tiny room
opening out of one of the large ones, and was so big that it almost
filled it. It was an immense chest, studded with nails, and ornamented
with handsome brass hasps.

"It's like the chest in the 'Mistletoe Bough,'" cried Blanche. "Do let's
try to open it."

But try as they would, they could make no impression upon it. It was
locked, and to break it open would require greater strength than theirs.

"I do wish we could get it open," said Blanche, when at last they gave
up trying. "Do you think Peter could do it?"

"He doesn't much like coming here," was the reply. "He always says the
old walls might fall in at any time; but since you told me about the
lights being seen, I've been thinking that perhaps he has heard about
them too, and that's why he won't come here if he can help it. But we
can ask him. What is the 'Mistletoe Bough'? Is it a story about a
chest?"

"Haven't you heard it?" asked Blanche, surprised. "I believe I can
repeat it to you. Let's sit on the old box and pretend it is the one."

They scrambled up on to the chest, regardless of dust and cobwebs, and
Blanche began,--

  "'The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,'"--

and went on through the ballad.

Marjory sat entranced, listening to the story of Lord Lovel and his
bride, and the fateful game of hide-and-seek, which ended in the lovely
lady being shut into the old oak chest, which none of the distracted
seekers thought of opening, and which did not disclose its grim secret
until many years afterwards, when at last it was opened.

"How _dreadful_!" exclaimed Marjory. "Fancy being shut up in a box like
this! I wonder if this one has a spring lock. I wish we knew what is
inside it."

They made up their minds to ask Dr. Hunter about it, and went on with
their investigation of the rooms, until both felt that they knew every
door and passage in the place.

Blanche was of the opinion that it would be of no use going to look for
the ghost until after midnight. The time passed very slowly after they
went to bed. They talked in whispers, Blanche telling all the ghost
stories she had ever heard, which came chiefly from servants and from
her young cousins in London.

"But mother says," she repeated several times, as if to reassure both
herself and Marjory, "that there is nothing more to do us harm at night
than there is in the daytime; that everything belongs to God, and so we
are just as safe in the dark as in the light. But I don't feel the same
at night as I do in the daylight; do you?"

"Well, I'm not afraid of the dark," said Marjory, and this was quite
true. She was fearless with regard to all natural things; storms, gales,
all Nature's moods she could meet without flinching. Animals of all
kinds had no terrors for her; neither had the dark--that land of
blackness peopled with horrors for so many children. It was only in her
dealings with her fellows that fear entered, and with her uncle
especially.

They listened to the church clock at Heathermuir chiming the hours and
half-hours. They watched the moon rising, glorious in its fullness, till
it flooded their room with light. At last the clock boomed out its
twelve echoing strokes. The time had come!

Each put on a dressing-gown and slippers, and then they started upon
their enterprise. Marjory went in front, carrying a lighted candle.
Very gently she opened the bedroom door and stood listening. There was
not a sound to be heard. Silky looked questioningly at his mistress, as
if wondering what her business could be at this time of night, and why
she was thus disturbing his slumbers. Marjory beckoned to Blanche, and
as she came out of the room, pushed the dog in, whispering, "Good dog,
Silky. Be quiet and keep watch till we come back." Then she cautiously
shut the door.

They crept along the corridor on tiptoe, every creak of the boards as
they went causing their hearts to beat quickly. They had to pass Dr.
Hunter's bedroom, and Marjory fancied that she could hear some movement
within. Full of apprehension, she hurried on, Blanche following close at
her heels.

Once in the old part of the house, they could breathe more freely,
feeling safe from discovery by any of the other inmates.

The deserted hall looked shadowy and mysterious as they passed through
it, the pale moonlight casting weird shapes across its walls. Blanche
caught Marjory's sleeve. "Look!" she whispered, pointing to a window
where something like an arm and hand, with fingers outstretched, was
waving up and down.

"It's only the branch of a tree," Marjory whispered back.

Everything looked so eerie and unfamiliar in the moonlit darkness that
Blanche began to wish she had not come; but as the expedition had been
her suggestion from the first, she felt in honour bound to proceed.

Up the stairs they went, and round the gallery. Not a sign of anything
unusual did they discover. There was no light, no sound of any kind.
Something flitted across Blanche's face; she gave a little stifled
scream.

"Oh! what can that be?" she panted.

Marjory turned and held up the candle. It came again, and she saw what
it was.

"It's only a bat," she said reassuringly; "it won't hurt you."

"A bat!" echoed Blanche. "Oh, how horrible! They bite, don't they?"

"Oh no, they are quite harmless. Dear little soft things they are when
you see them in the daylight, although they aren't pretty."

"O Marj, I don't like it; you won't let it come near me, will you?" And
Blanche clung to her friend.

"No, you needn't be frightened; I'll keep it away."

Marjory could not exactly understand Blanche's fears, but she saw that
they were real. She could see nothing to be afraid of in a tiny little
bat, but the feeling that she was able to protect some one weaker than
herself made her very tender towards her friend.

"We'll go back if you like," she whispered.

"No, no," replied Blanche breathlessly; "let's go on, now we've come so
far."

On they went. They passed the door of the room which contained the old
chest. Nothing was to be seen; but, turning a sharp corner at the end of
one passage leading to another which was apparently a blind alley, they
stopped suddenly.

There before them, at the end of this passage, was a faint seam of
light, hardly perceptible. There it was, looking as if it came from
under a door, but they knew that no door was there. Where could it come
from? They looked all round, but could find no clue to the mystery.
Marjory shaded the candle with her hand, in case the light might in some
way be reflected from it; but no--there was the straight narrow seam,
shining as before.

They crept along the passage until they stood in front of the wall. They
felt cautiously for a handle, but there was none--no sign of anything in
the shape of a door or entrance of any kind.

A thought struck Blanche.

"Perhaps it's a secret sliding panel," she whispered. "I've read about
them in books. They go by a spring in some way. You have to press in one
place, and it slides back. Shall we try?" she said, breathing fast, her
eyes large with mingled fear and excitement.

"Yes, if you're quite sure you're not frightened. It might do you harm
to be frightened," said Marjory, whispering very softly. "I could take
you back and come again by myself."

"No, I'm not frightened--at least, not much--and we _must_ try. What
_can_ it be?"

They began to press cautiously against the wall above the crack which
showed the light. They tried for some time--it seemed hours to
them--when suddenly, neither of them knowing who had touched the spring,
there was a sharp _click_, the panel flew back, and a flood of light
shone out upon them. Blanche's theory had been correct. It was a secret
door, designed by some bygone Hunter in dangerous times.



CHAPTER IX.

PETER'S STORY.

  "We spur to a land of no name, outracing the storm wind;
  We leap to the infinite dark, like the sparks from the anvil.
  Thou leadest, O God: all's well with Thy troopers that follow."

  LOUISE IMOGEN GUINEY.


Dazzled by the sudden blaze of light, the girls stood as if petrified.
All they could see at first was a tall figure dressed in what seemed to
be a long black gown, and wearing a cap on its head. It appeared to be
surrounded by a cloud of vapour which gave off a sickly odour. As the
mist cleared away, which it did in a few seconds, and as Marjory's eyes
became accustomed to the light, she saw, to her surprise and terror,
that the black figure was no other than her uncle, Dr. Hunter. Was he
indeed mad, as Mary Ann had told her? What could he be doing here in the
dead of night?

On a table in front of him lay piles of bones, some large, some small.
There were skulls too, of different shapes and sizes, and in one corner
of the room was a skeleton on a stand. What did it all mean?

[Illustration: Two queer little figures they looked.]

Instead of thinking about her own share in the escapade and its probable
consequences, Marjory's mind was occupied by speculations as to her
uncle. She felt Blanche's arms clinging round her, but was only roused
to the remembrance of herself when her uncle said, "What is the meaning
of this, Marjory?" His voice was cold and stern, and all her old fear of
him rushed upon Marjory with tenfold force.

"We--that is--I," she stammered.

"Speak out, child," said the doctor.

"We wanted to find out what the light was," she said, with a great
effort.

Blanche was sobbing by this time, and as she had not provided herself
with a handkerchief, she was hiding her face in Marjory's dressing-gown.
Two queer little figures they looked, their hair hanging about their
faces, and their bare ankles showing beneath their dressing-gowns.

Something in their appearance must have tickled the doctor's fancy, for
he actually laughed and said,--

"You're a pretty pair of monkeys, I must say, and you've just managed to
spoil an experiment I have been working on for weeks."

"O _uncle_!" cried Marjory in dismay.

"I'm"--sob--"very"--sob--"sorry" came from poor Blanche. This was a most
unexpected ending to their romantic expedition.

"Well, the only thing is for you two young people to come with me to my
study, and then I shall consider what is to be done with you."

The words were sternly said, but Blanche looked up and caught just the
suspicion of a twinkle in the doctor's eye, and, as he busied himself
putting away some of his apparatus, she whispered to Marjory, "He's not
cross."

Marjory, however, did not feel by any means reassured. How could he be
anything but angry? Had he not just told them that they had spoiled his
experiment? She dully wondered what their punishment would be--wondered
whether Blanche, being a guest, would share in it. Could a visitor be
punished?

"Now then, Mischief, in front," said the doctor, having put away his
things; "give me that candle."

Marjory delivered up the candle with trembling hands, and the two
delinquents passed out of the strange apartment, having no heart to look
round at its curious contents. The doctor held the candle high to light
the way, and they went in silence along the passages, down the wide
staircase into the old hall, and from thence to the study, a strange
little procession, the old man in dressing-gown and cap, and the two
girls in their night-clothes.

"Now then, sit down and tell me all about it," commanded the doctor when
they had reached the study. "Marjory, you're responsible; you must do
the talking."

Hurriedly and in a low voice Marjory told how Mrs. Forester's maid had
spread the story about the strange lights seen at Hunters' Brae; how
Blanche and she had determined to try to find out their cause and see
for themselves if there were indeed a ghost in the old wing; how they
had laid their plans beforehand, and how at last they had come upon the
lighted crack in the wall.

"Well," said the doctor, rubbing his hands, "you've found the ghost, and
he is a pretty substantial one, eh? Marjory, you deserve a whipping for
being so thoughtless as to bring a delicate little thing like Blanche
out of her bed at this time of night."

Marjory cowered in her chair. Would her uncle really resort to such
stern measures? Surely girls were never whipped!

But Blanche stood up and faced the doctor with flushed face and shining
eyes.

"You will be very unjust if you whip Marjory," she said. "It was all my
fault from the beginning. I told her what Crossley said about lights
being seen, and I suggested that we should try to see the ghost; and
then mother went away and I came here, and it all fitted in so nicely,
and--" Here Blanche broke down again. "Please, _please_ don't whip her;
I never thought you would be so cruel." And she put her arms round
Marjory as if to protect her from her uncle's vengeance.

The doctor could keep a straight face no longer.

"You foolish children," he said, laughing, "do you suppose for one
moment that I should be likely to whip either of you? Come here."

They went obediently and stood in front of him, and then, wonder of
wonders, he put an arm round each, and drew them down till he had one on
each knee.

"Now listen. I think it would have been wiser and better if you had told
me about the village tales. I could have explained them to you--at least
partly," he added with a smile. "I shouldn't have told you _all_ the
secrets that you have found out for yourselves. Instead of telling me,
however, you lie awake for hours, then you creep about, shivering and
shaking, half frightened out of your wits, perhaps catching colds and
coughs and all the rest of it, and you find that this wonderful ghost is
nothing but a foolish old man who thinks that he can do what better men
than he have failed in doing"--this with a sigh. "I will tell you why I
have kept that room and its contents a secret from the rest of the
household. One reason was that I didn't wish to frighten any one with my
skulls and skeletons, my bones and bottles. Another reason was that I
wished to be absolutely alone and uninterrupted when making my
experiments; and yet another reason--I wished no housemaid, zealous with
her duster, to enter my domain. When it is cleaned," with a smile, "I do
it myself. What, then, could be better for my purpose than the secret
chamber in the old wing? Hitherto I have been undiscovered; but now,"
in comical dismay, "two long tongues will be wagging over what they have
seen, and my secret is mine no longer. You've spoilt my secret, and I've
spoilt your ghost, so we're quits."

"We won't tell," said both the girls eagerly--"at least," added Blanche,
"I won't, if you'll let me tell mother. She keeps all my secrets, and
she's a very safe person."

"Very well; you can make amends by keeping what you know to yourselves.
Tell your mother, by all means, Blanche."

The doctor's arm tightened round Marjory. She, poor child, he thought,
has no mother in whom to confide. Marjory felt the pressure, and drew a
little closer to her uncle. It was very comfortable sitting on his knee.
She was tired and had been really frightened at the result of the
adventure, and she leaned contentedly against him. In a moment his lips
were on her hair and the protecting arm had drawn her very close.

"Dear little girl," he murmured--"my little Marjory."

Then for the first time Marjory began to cry.

"Oh dear," said the doctor, "more tears! What an old ogre I must be.
Don't cry, Marjory. Cheer up."

"I'm not crying," asserted Marjory, the tears streaming down her cheeks;
"I only feel nice."

"I think you each need a handkerchief," said the doctor mischievously;
and he went to a bureau which stood in a corner of the room, and took
out two handkerchiefs of a bright Oriental pattern. He presented one to
each of the girls.

"Gaudy, but not neat," he misquoted. "Still, you must own that they are
better than _nothing_," he said significantly. "Now, as you ladies have
invited yourselves, I think we'd better have a little supper
together--eh?"

So saying, the doctor went to a cupboard in the wall, and took out a
small spirit-lamp, on which he proceeded to set a kettle to boil. He
brought out cups and saucers of delicate china and an antique silver
teapot.

Marjory watched these operations in amazement. Next came milk and sugar
from the cupboard, and finally a tin box containing some of Lisbeth's
famous shortbread.

"I always keep supplies here," he explained, "because playing ghost is
hungry work. Now then, ladies, make yourselves at home. No, Marjory;
this is _my_ party. I prefer to make the tea myself, and to pour it out.
Let's play we're all dressed in our best, and let's enjoy ourselves as
we couldn't if we were."

The girls laughed, their recent tears were forgotten, and they did
justice to the doctor's impromptu banquet.

"I shall have to 'wash up' two of the cups and saucers," remarked the
doctor, with a smile, "or Lisbeth will hear of my party; but I'll do it
to-morrow when the coast is clear. Meanwhile, I'll lock them up in the
cupboard," which he thereupon proceeded to do.

"I have greatly enjoyed your company, young ladies, but I cannot
honestly say that I hope you will come again at one o'clock in the
morning. Now I'm going to escort you back to bed. Go very quietly, so as
not to wake anybody."

Thus ended the girls' search for the Hunters' Brae ghost. The adventure
had been an exciting one, though not quite in the way which they had
expected.

Her uncle's caress had been a revelation to Marjory, and she thought of
it again and again. How true Mrs. Forester's words had been! Had she not
said that the doctor would be sure to respond to any advance of
Marjory's if only she would try, and had he not kissed her and called
her his dear little girl, just as Mrs. Forester had suggested that he
might? Her uncle seemed to Marjory to have changed into a different
person, but in reality the change was in herself, for she was looking at
him in another light--she was trying to see him through love's
spectacles.

Mr. and Mrs. Forester were away for a few days only, and the time passed
very quickly for the girls, there was so much to see and to do at
Hunters' Brae. They summoned courage to ask the doctor about the key of
the old chest. He replied that he did not think he had it, and did not
suppose that there was anything inside the box, but he promised to look
amongst his keys for one that might fit. They were afraid he would
forget, but he was as good as his word, and gave them several old keys
to try, none of which, however, would open the mysterious box. Dr.
Hunter told them that it had been there ever since he could remember,
but no one had ever paid any particular attention to it. To him it was
merely an old box, valuable by reason of its age; but to the girls it
stood for romance and mystery, an oracle that might speak volumes of
past history could it only be opened.

They paid many visits to the old wing, and tried all means of opening
the chest, but to no purpose, and they were obliged to leave it for the
time being. Blanche boldly suggested a locksmith, but the doctor, unable
to see any necessity that the box should be opened, pooh-poohed the
idea.

"Nonsense," he said, rather sharply. "I won't have any workmen tampering
with it. Don't let me hear any more about it."

The doctor wanted to keep things as they had been, and did not approve
of any alterations in the house, and he was probably afraid that the box
might be injured by any attempts to open it forcibly. After this the
girls stopped talking about it, but continued to think about it a good
deal.

July slipped away and August came. Mr. Forester had invited some friends
for the shooting, and the Twelfth saw quite a large party assembled at
Braeside. Dr. Hunter forbade Marjory to go while the strangers were
there. He gave no reason for so doing. He did not wish her to go, and
that was enough. He expected Marjory's implicit obedience, without
question on her part or explanation on his. The truth was that the
doctor was afraid that some casual stranger, seeing Marjory, and perhaps
hearing her story, might put two and two together, as the saying is, and
convey to Mr. Davidson the information which had been so long and so
carefully withheld.

Marjory felt rebellion in her heart, and for a day or two returned to
her old sullen mood with her uncle. Blanche came and begged that her
friend might be allowed to go just once to a picnic luncheon on the
moor, but the doctor was firm in his refusal. He himself was invited to
dine at Braeside, but he declined the invitation, courteously but
firmly. So there was nothing to be done but to submit. Blanche came to
Hunters' Brae as often as she could, but Marjory was very glad when the
visitors went away, and she was able to go in and out at Braeside as
before.

These were the happiest weeks the girl had ever known. The two friends
spent long sunshiny days together, but though it was very delightful to
ramble about with Blanche, and to show the town-bred girl some of the
sights and pleasures of the country, Marjory secretly longed for the
eighteenth of September and the commencement of those lessons she so
ardently wished for. It was quite certain that Blanche had no such
longings, for she constantly expressed her satisfaction in the extra
week of holidays, and wished it were longer. Blanche was a good and
industrious scholar during lesson times, but she was honestly glad when
they were over, and sorry when they began again. She had not that thirst
for knowledge which was almost a pain to Marjory, and for her part she
was inclined to wish that these lovely summer days might last, if not
for ever, at least for a very, very long time. She would be quite
content to do nothing but roam with Marjory about the park and gardens,
to visit Mrs. Shaw at the Low Farm, and to wander about the house at
Hunters' Brae, examining its many treasures. There was the loch, too,
and its pleasures of boating and bathing. Every day she went with her
mother and Marjory to bathe in the cool, clear water, and Marjory was
teaching her to swim. Then, in the evenings, sometimes the doctor would
take them for a sail, and she would sit wondering at the clever way in
which Marjory carried out his orders, pulling this rope, slackening the
other. It all seemed most bewildering to Blanche, and she admired her
capable friend the more. These holidays were full of delight. Lesson
hours would come again all too soon for Blanche.

September set in wet. Leaden skies and steady rain enveloped Heathermuir
in a mantle of gray. Marjory, accustomed to all weathers, went out and
about as usual. The first wet morning when she signalled to Blanche, the
reply was, "Can't come; you come here." So she went down to Braeside and
tried to persuade Mrs. Forester to allow Blanche to come out, for they
had looked forward to hearing Peter's story on the first wet day. But
Mrs. Forester was just as firm as the doctor had been during the
visiting time; she would not allow Blanche to go out in such rain in
case she should catch cold. Marjory suggested goloshes and a waterproof,
but Mrs. Forester remained unpersuaded. It was not until the rain had
continued for several days, and Blanche had grown very weary of her
imprisonment, that at last her mother allowed her to go to Hunters'
Brae. It was decided that she must drive both ways, and if she went into
the garden, it must only be to the wood-shed and back, and she must
wear a cloak and goloshes. Blanche felt a little ashamed of all these
precautions before Marjory's sturdy independence of the weather, and was
rather afraid that her friend might laugh at her for a "mollycoddle."
But that spirit of protection, with which Blanche's delicacy had
inspired Marjory, prevented any such expression on her part, and made
her only anxious that Mrs. Forester's instructions should be carefully
carried out.

They gave Lisbeth a message for Peter, reminding him of his promise,
and saying that they would meet him in the wood-shed after dinner. When
they went there they found the old man sawing wood and apparently very
busy.

"You have dreadfully wet weather here, haven't you, Peter?" said
Blanche, by way of opening the conversation.

The old man stopped his sawing and looked at her.

"I wouldna exactly say it's dreadfully wet," he replied. "It's maybe
just a wee bittie saft, but no for to say _wet_."

"O _Peter_!" remonstrated Blanche. "Not wet, and it's been simply
pouring cats and dogs for four whole days, and mother wouldn't let me
come out. I hope it isn't often like this."

"Na, na, missie, only whiles."

"Well, I hope 'whiles' don't come very often, then," laughing.

"What are you going to tell us about to-day, Peter?" asked Marjory,
anxious to begin the business of the afternoon.

"Me tell ye? What hae I to tell?" And the old man began his sawing
again.

"Do be nice and begin, Peter darling," coaxed Marjory. "You promised,
you know."

"Ay, to be sure, I begin to mind something aboot some story ye was
wanting." Peter's eyes twinkled.

"Of course you remember. Now please begin, and don't let's waste any
more time."

"Gin I dae that I canna saw wood," objected Peter.

"Nobody wants you to saw wood; you can do that afterwards."

"Weel, weel, I suppose ye maun hae yer way."

The girls settled themselves on a wooden bench, Marjory with her arm
round Blanche; and Peter, turning a basket upside down, sat upon it,
laying the saw across his knees, and fingering its jagged edge as he
told his tale. His Scots was a little difficult to follow, and Marjory
whispered translations to Blanche every now and then.

Peter began: "This story is ca'd the 'Leddy's Grove,' an' it has twa
morals to it." Peter was always very careful to point out the morals to
his tales. "One is," he continued, "that revenge is no for us to meddle
wi'. 'Vengeance is mine,' says God Almichty. And the other is, that
though each day may be fu' o' unknown dangers, we maun go forward wi'
faith an' courage, an' a' will be weel wi' us. Noo I'll begin.

"Lang, lang syne, before ever there was Hunters at the Brae, so ye may
ken hoo lang it is, there was war atween England and Scotland. Lord
Ronald o' Glendown--which, as ye ken, Miss Marjory, lies no sae far frae
here--he an' his eldest son, the young Ronald, went awa to fecht,
leavin' his wife, the bonnie Leddy Flora, an' his youngest son at hame
i' the castle wi' but a few servants.

"For mony a day the leddy waited patiently, wi' mony prayers for the
safety o' her dear ones. At last a messenger brocht tidings o' a great
battle. He didna richtly ken whether the victory lay wi' us or wi' the
English; he only kenned o' mony fine men killed or sairly wounded.

"Hearin' this, the Leddy Flora gaed to the watch-tower i' the castle
keep, her son, the young Malcolm, beside her. Frae this tower they could
see a' round for mony miles. They watched an' waitit, an' at last they
spied a company o' men marchin' towards the castle. They were the men o'
Glendown, for their colours could be seen. The Leddy Flora sent a prayer
o' thanksgivin' to the skies, for weel she kenned that the men wouldna
come withoot their lord. Fu' o' joy, she hurried awa to gie her orders
for the reception o' the returnin' warriors. But, wae's me, what did she
see as she went to the castle door to welcome them? The men hadna come
back withoot their lord an' his son, but it was their deid bodies they
were carryin' hame. Eh, but it was a sair sicht to see the leddy weepin'
gin her heart wad break. E'en the great, rough men couldna hide their
tears; an' nae shame to them ava, for a strong heart should hae its saft
spot. Then, efter a while, the leddy raised her heid an' said, 'Men o'
Glendown, they hae dee'd a glorious death, fechtin' for his Majesty the
king an' for their country. 'Tis the death they wad hae chosen, fechtin'
face to foe. Let us a' be thankful for God's mercy. They micht hae been
cast into prison, an' put to a shamefu' death, but this is glory an'
honour to them.' An' again she wept, coverin' her face wi' her hands.
The young Malcolm, too, was weepin', no because his heart was afraid but
because it was sair.

"Then ane o' the men up an' spoke. 'Not so, my leddy. 'Twas a foul blow
that killed my lord an' his son, an' it was gien them by a hidden enemy.
We was marchin' hame victorious, Lord Ronald ridin' awa to the front,
wi' young Ronald by his side, when a' in a moment an airmed man on a
horse sprang frae a thicket an' thrust my lord i' the back wi' his
sword. He fell withoot a groan. Young Ronald, he drew his sword like a
flash o' licht, but it was too late; the murderer's knife plunged deep
into his brave young heart. We rushed to the spot, my leddy, but the
murderer had an unco swift horse, an' he rode awa like the deil towards
the Abbey o' Glendown. We could see that he wore a bit sprig o' green
oak i' his helmet, an' a scarlet ribbon round his airm.' The Leddy
Flora's eyes flashed fire as she heard the story, an' when it was dune
she cried, 'Which are o' ye a' will gang an' gie this coward his
deserts?'

"Nae man spoke till he wha had telt the tale said in a low voice, 'My
leddy, yon's a man possessed by the evil one, or he couldna ride sae
swiftly, an' his horse is as black as the very deil himsel'; no mortal
man could follow him.'

"The leddy wrung her hands, despairin'. Then young Malcolm said stoutly,
'Let me gang, my leddy mither; I'm no feared for man or deil. I will be
the avenger o' this cruel deed.'

"'Thou, my son?' questioned the leddy. 'Nay, thou art but a laddie. I
canna let thee gang, my only child.' An' she cast her airms aboot him.

"But the lad gently freed himsel' frae her loving airms, sayin', 'It is
my duty.' An' then he turned to the men an' commanded them to bring him
his feyther's sword an' shield, an' he askit his mither to gie him her
blessin'.

"Then the leddy cried, 'God bless thee, my son. Gae forth, Lord Malcolm
o' Glendown, an' avenge the death o' thy feyther an' thy brither. The
murderer's bluid be upo' his ain heid.'

"It was strange that sae gentle a woman should be sae set upo' bluid an'
revenge, but this was lang syne, when folks didna ken o' the justice o'
God, as we dae noo.

"Lord Malcolm set oot. He rode mony miles until he saw the black horse
at last, an' a man ridin' on it wi' a sprig o' green i' his helmet an' a
scarlet ribbon upo' his airm. The young lord spurred his horse, an'
pursued his enemy, an' was comin' up wi' him, when suddenly horse an'
rider sprang up i' the air, it seemed some distance, an' then doon to
the earth again. When he cam to the place young Malcolm was sair
dooncast to find before him a great, big, wide, yawnin' gulf, wi' a
roarin' torrent at the bottom, an' sheer rocky sides that nae human
bein' could scale.

"'Wae's me,' said the lad, 'for I canna follow him. An' what can I tell
my mither that she doesna ca' me a coward this day?'

"The young lad gazed across the chasm, an' as he looked he saw a
shinin', misty light, an' in it the form o' a beautiful woman, an' he
bared his heid an' bowed before this veesion.

"'Fear not,' cam a voice, clear and strong like the sound o' a
trumpet--'fear not to leap across this gulf. Faith an' a brave heart
will carry thee safely to this side. Come.' And she beckoned wi' her
hand.

"The lad set his horse to the leap. One moment an' he was i' the air,
anither an' he was safe upo' the ither side. Then the voice said,
'Whither awa sae swiftly?' An' the boy replied, 'I'm gaun to revenge the
murder o' my feyther an' my brither. I'm seekin' a black horse an' its
rider. Can ye tell me which way he went?'

"'He is gane where thy vengeance canna follow him,' replied the voice;
an' then the figure raised its airm, pointin' to the heavens, an' the
voice went on, 'I am Fate, a messenger o' Justice, to whom vengeance
belongs. I ca'd yon coward to the leap as I ca'd thee. He leaped to his
death, an' thou hast leaped to safety, but no to revenge; that is for
wiser hands than thine. Gang where his body lies, an' pluck the oak an'
the scarlet ribbon frae him to show thy mither.' The lad did as he was
bid, an' then the woman cam close to him an' laid her hand upo' his
brow, sayin', 'Thou art a brave lad, an' I, Fate, do promise thee that
thou shalt gang fearless a' thy days, an' they shall be mony.' I' a
moment she was gane, an' there was naething to be seen o' her, nor o'
the body o' the wicked man, nor the wide gulf; an' Lord Malcolm found
himsel' upo' the road to the Abbey o' Glendown, but he still carried the
sprig o' oak an' the scarlet ribbon. An' upo' the very spot whaur the
gulf had been there grew a wonderfu' grove o' hawthorn trees, the finest
i' the countryside. Folks ca' it the 'Leddy's Grove,' an' it is there
till this day for a' to see, an' on the coat o' airms o' the Glendown
family ye'll see the sprig o' oak an' the scarlet ribbon. Young Malcolm
galloped hame an' telt his tale to his mither just as I hae telt it to
you, young misses."

With appropriate looks and gestures the old man had told his story, his
listeners sitting as if spellbound, motionless except for a whispered
word of explanation here and there from Marjory. Both gave sighs of
regret as his last words died away, and Marjory cried,--

"O Peter, that is one of the best you've ever told; it is simply
splendid!"

"Do you think it's really true?" questioned Blanche eagerly. "Did such
things as these really happen long ago?"

"I'm tellin' ye the story as my mither telt it to me. Her feyther telt
it to her, an' wha's to ken whether it's true or whether it's no true."
And, as if to dismiss the subject, Peter got up from his basket and
resumed his sawing.



CHAPTER X.

MARJORY'S BIRTHDAY.

  "I wish her beauty
  That owes not all its duty
  To gaudy tire, or glist'ring shoe-tie."

  CRASHAW.


The eighteenth of September dawned at last. The sun shone in at
Marjory's window, waking her to her birthday, as if impatient for her to
begin this new year of her life.

She was soon up and dressed--dressed very carefully, in case the eyes of
the governess should find anything amiss; but she would have been
critical indeed could she have done so, for, when Marjory's toilet was
completed, she looked the pink of neatness: Her abundant dark hair was
plaited smoothly and tied with ribbon, new for the occasion, and she
wore a new frock of soft, warm material, for the autumn days were chilly
now and giving warning of the coming winter.

Marjory looked at herself in the glass very anxiously--a most unusual
proceeding on her part. As a rule she spent little thought upon her
personal appearance, but to-day things were different. She found
herself wondering what impression Miss Waspe was likely to have of her
at first sight. This was characteristic of Marjory, who was
over-sensitive with regard to other people and their opinions of her. In
this case it was not, "Shall I like Miss Waspe?" but, "Will Miss Waspe
like me?"

Marjory always looked forward to her birthday. Her uncle never forgot to
give her some gift in remembrance of the day; in fact, he made it a rule
to give her two presents. She often wondered why he did so, but had
never found courage to ask his reasons. The truth was that this was a
curious way the doctor had of trying to satisfy that conscience which
would continually prick him with regard to Mr. Davidson, and the second
gift represented Marjory's father.

To-day was no exception to the rule. As Marjory went half eagerly, half
shyly to the breakfast-table, there, by her place, were several parcels.
The first she opened was a nice leather satchel for carrying her books
to and from Braeside. This was from her uncle. Then came another with
the words "To Marjory" written on it in the doctor's handwriting. It
looked like a small square box, and as she took off the paper wrappings
it proved to be a leather case containing a pretty little gold watch and
chain. Her initials and the date were engraved on the back of it.

Dr. Hunter came in just as Marjory was examining this new treasure, and
as she ran forward to thank him he said,--

"Like it, Marjory? That's right. But I think I am a foolish old man to
give a watch to a young thing like you, for you'll only go and drop it
down the first rabbit-hole you and Silky go scratching into; but I
thought it might be useful in keeping you up to time with that governess
of yours. No excuse for being late, eh? The date too--an important one,
isn't it? Well, my child, I wish you many happy years."

Of the other parcels, one was raspberry toffee from Lisbeth, and the
other, a curiously shaped one, was from Peter, and contained a trowel.
Its somewhat prosaic appearance was relieved by the handle being
decorated with Marjory's initial inside a heart of uncertain
proportions, executed by poor old Peter's shaky hand with a red-hot
skewer.

"Dear old Peter!" exclaimed Marjory. "He must have noticed that my old
one is worn out. How good of him!"

"Come, child, eat your breakfast," was the doctor's only comment.
Marjory's enthusiasm was quenched in a moment, and she sat down in
silence. Dr. Hunter was anxious that Marjory should have a good
breakfast before starting for Braeside. He spoke abruptly, giving no
reason for his admonition, and Marjory thought he was cross--whether
with her or with Peter and his present she did not know; anyhow he was
cross, and her old thoughts and feelings against her uncle came crowding
in upon her. "Yet," the better voice whispered, "do not these gifts show
that he has thought of you and prepared for this day? Surely that was
good and kind of him."

Lisbeth and Peter were hovering about in order to see Marjory after
breakfast, anxious to know how their presents had been appreciated.
Marjory's thanks left no doubt upon the subject. Both the presents were
just what she liked and wanted.

Lisbeth eyed her critically.

"Yon's a fine new frock," she said. "But what way is't yer hair's no
hingin' the day? Are ye no gaun to yon governess leddy?"

"Yes, but I never thought of letting my hair loose; it isn't Sunday."

"Na, but I would hae thocht ye micht hae dune it just this first day,
an' yer birthday too. Yer hair's some bittie langer than Miss Blanche's,
I'm thinkin'," replied Lisbeth, with satisfaction in her tone.

"Aweel," remarked Peter, "it's no the ootside o' her heid Miss Marjory's
thinkin' o' the day, but the inside o't--to fill it up wi'
buik-larnin'."

"Puir bairnie, I just hope yon governess winna be ower strict wi' her at
the first.--Mind an' tell Peter an' Lisbeth if she's no kind to ye,"
said the old woman earnestly. She was more than half jealous of this
new authority over Marjory's doings.

The girl laughed joyously. "Don't you be afraid, you dear old things. I
want to learn lessons, and I'm quite sure Miss Waspe will be kind."

Dr. Hunter walked with Marjory to Braeside on this first morning. She
never forgot it. The slight chill of early autumn was in the air, here
and there the leaves were turning gold and red, and a faint mistiness
hung over the landscape. Here and there the gossamer threads so busily
woven since yesterday stretched across their path, and Marjory liked to
feel them touch her cheek as she broke through them. The doctor and she
walked in silence, Silky in attendance; and Marjory's heart was beating
quickly as they neared Braeside. This day of days, so eagerly longed
for, had come at last; but what would it bring with it? This feeling of
apprehension grew into an acute pain at last. Her ignorance of the
things which most girls of her age were well up in assumed the most
alarming proportions to poor Marjory, and she almost wished that her
heart's desire had not been granted, that she could have been content
with things as they were. She felt herself on the brink of a new world,
and she feared to take the step across. She remembered Peter's story,
and how the voice had called to young Malcolm that faith and a brave
heart would carry him across the yawning chasm. She, too, must be brave
and go to meet the unknown.

When they reached the gate at Braeside, Dr. Hunter said, "Well, Marjory,
you'll be all right now. Good-bye." And he stooped to kiss her.

Dismayed at the thought of going into the house and into that dreaded
schoolroom alone, she caught her uncle's hand and said pleadingly,
"Won't you come with me, Uncle George?"

Then for the first time the doctor noticed her pale face and
quick-coming breath, and he was touched by her confidence in him.

"Of course I will," he said heartily. "I'll go with you right into the
lion's den, or rather, in this case, it's the Waspe's nest, eh?"

Marjory laughed a little, which was just what the doctor wanted; and as
they walked across the park to the house he chatted and joked with her
until she felt much better.

Mrs. Forester and Blanche were at the door to meet them. Blanche, in
high spirits, skipped down the steps, calling out, "Many happy returns
of the day, without lessons. Come on upstairs to the schoolroom," she
cried, giving Marjory a hug, "and see what's there. I shall simply burst
if you don't come quickly."

"May I come too?" asked Dr. Hunter.

"Yes," said Blanche. "Father and mother are coming too."

The little party went upstairs to the schoolroom. Blanche threw open the
door with a flourish of triumph, and what Marjory saw caused her heart
to beat faster than ever. The doctor rubbed his eyes and asked
comically, "Am I dreaming? Is this a real schoolroom and a real
governess?"

It was indeed a pretty picture that the door had opened upon. There were
flowers in every available place in the room; and as Miss Waspe came
forward, smiling a welcome, the sun just caught her fair hair, turning
it to gold, and making her look like a spirit in a fairy bower. On the
table there were roses, and where the books ought to have been was
something which made Marjory's eyes grow big with wonder. It was nothing
less than a new saddle--a small side-saddle; and Marjory, fascinated,
watched Mr. Forester walk to the table and take it up; and then--oh!
what could it mean?--he came towards her, saying, "This is something for
you, Marjory, from Mrs. Forester and me. I hope you like it. Brownie
seems to approve of it."

Marjory felt as if she were dreaming. How often had she wished she might
learn to ride--more often than ever since Blanche's coming! She could
hardly find words to stammer out her thanks, but her kind friends could
see that she was surprised and delighted beyond measure.

Then Blanche came to her, holding out a dainty silver-topped
riding-whip.

"Here," she said; "this is my present. Only I don't believe you will
ever use it; it will only be for show. Won't it be lovely going for
rides together? Oh dear, _how_ thankful I am to-day has come at last!
This has been the very hardest secret I ever had to keep; and it's been
such a business, first getting Brownie measured and then breaking him in
to the saddle, all without you knowing. It was generally done while we
were bathing, and I used to be very slow dressing on purpose." And,
laughing merrily, she gave Marjory another hug.

"Let me too wish you many happy returns of the day," said Miss Waspe
kindly, "and many happy days in this room, which Dr. Hunter thinks is
not a real schoolroom," laughing. "It may not always look so festive as
it does to-day, but then this is a birthday, you see."

The dreaded moment was over, Marjory had entered the new world, and
never again would she regret the old one. She felt no fear when Blanche
and she were left alone with their governess, for something had told her
when she looked into Miss Waspe's eyes that she had no cause to be
afraid. Nor had she. Miss Waspe understood girls and their ways; she
loved them, and she had unlimited patience. Moreover, she was all
eagerness herself to begin to teach her new pupil, and she promised
herself many an interesting hour. She found that what Marjory had
learned she knew thoroughly. She could read fluently and with
intelligence, at figures she was quick and accurate, and she wrote a
good hand. A little judicious praise was a great encouragement to
Marjory, and the lessons begun that day were a source of delight to
governess and pupil alike. Nothing seemed to come amiss to Marjory, and
she progressed by leaps and bounds until Miss Waspe began to fear that
the busy brain might wear out the body, sturdy though it was. But the
girls had plenty of time for play and for exercise, and Marjory's
health, so far from being any the worse for her studies, seemed rather
the better.

Blanche had already learned to ride, and Marjory had little difficulty
after a few lessons from Mr. Forester's groom, so the girls had many a
lively gallop across the moor or along the country roads.

The weeks flew by, and very soon, as it seemed to Marjory, the Christmas
holidays began. None too soon for Blanche did they come, for she was by
no means so devoted to her studies as Marjory was, and, fond as she was
of her governess, she could watch her drive away to the station without
compunction, knowing that three short weeks would see her back again,
and lessons with her.

The friendship between the two girls had grown stronger every day. They
shared everything--hopes and fears, pleasures and pains--and they were
inseparable companions. Marjory's was the leading spirit. It was she
who planned their expeditions and proposed each day's doings. Blanche
looked up to her friend as being much stronger in every way than
herself, and admired her accordingly, while Marjory would have gone
through fire and water, as the saying is, for Blanche.

One day, soon after the holidays began, the girls went for a walk to a
pond about a mile out of Heathermuir, to see if it would bear for
skating. There had been continuous frost for some days, and as the pond
was a shallow one, Dr. Hunter thought it was quite safe for them to go.
Mrs. Forester could trust Marjory to take Blanche anywhere, but as she
had not yet learned to skate, the girls had promised that they would
only go to see in what condition the ice was. If it would bear, they
were to come back to Braeside for lunch, and afterwards Mr. Forester
would go with them and give Blanche her first lesson.

As they were walking along, a collie came bounding up to Silky, and then
to Marjory, wagging his tail, as if delighted to see her.

"That's the Morisons' dog," she said; "the boys must be home. Perhaps
they're coming to the pond too."

"Oh, bother," said Blanche; "it won't be a bit nice having strange boys
there while I'm learning. I don't like boys much, they are so rough and
rude. I do hope they won't stay all day on the pond."

Marjory stole a glance behind. Sure enough there was a boy, but only
one, coming along the road.

"It's Alan Morison, the youngest one, all by himself, and he's got
skates," she said, making a grimace at Blanche as she imparted the
information.

"Well, of course he has as much right on the pond as we have, and it's
horrid of me not to want him, but I don't. What is he like?"

"I haven't spoken to him much. He doesn't care for girls, and neither
does his brother; they both said so. They generally call out rude
remarks after me. They think all girls are silly."

"Well, we don't want them to like us, I'm sure," replied Blanche; "we
can do quite well without them; and these ones sound horrid from your
description."

Marjory, afraid she had said too much in disparagement of the boys,
hastened to say, "Oh, I don't suppose they would be rude to you; but
they've known me ever since I was a baby, you see."

Footsteps could be heard behind them now, and very soon a mocking voice
called, "Carrots, Car-rots." At first the girls took no notice, walking
along in their most dignified manner; but when the boy came quite close
and deliberately shouted "Carrots" into Blanche's ear, Marjory turned
upon him like a fury, crying, "Don't you dare to say that again, or I'll
knock you down."

The boy burst out laughing, and straightway repeated the objectionable
word. Marjory wheeled round in a moment. "Take that!" she said,
delivering a blow with her fist which sent Master Alan Morison flying.
He lost his balance and fell to the ground. He was up again in a moment,
blood flowing from a slight cut in his forehead. Marjory, aghast at what
she had done, stood rooted to the spot, expecting him to return the
attack; but, to her surprise, he looked at her admiringly and said, "I
say, you know, that was jolly good. I never thought a girl could hit
like that. I couldn't have done it better myself, and you're only
thirteen. I was fourteen last birthday."

Marjory began, "I'm so sorry," but Alan stopped her. "I tell you it was
jolly good. I'm glad you can hit; you don't seem so much like a girl.--I
say," turning to Blanche and blushing crimson under his freckles, "it
was beastly of me to call names after you." The boy shifted uneasily
from one foot to the other as he made his apology.

"Yes, it was rather," replied Blanche, "but it isn't the first time boys
have done it. I suppose my hair is carroty," ruefully, "but I think it
is rather mean to tease me about a thing I can't help."

"I say, I'm awfully sorry," said Alan, more shamefaced than ever.

"Never mind," said Blanche graciously; "I'll forgive you this once. Come
along; it's cold standing here apologizing and forgiving." And with a
merry laugh she started on.

Marjory, ashamed of her part in the quarrel, asked Alan if his forehead
hurt.

"No, it's nothing but a scratch, but I tell you," enthusiastically, "it
was a splendid hit. Any fellow would have done the same if another chap
had ragged his friend. I say," he continued bashfully, "would you two
chum up with me? It's beastly dull for me at home now."

"Where's Herbert?" asked Marjory.

"Oh, he's at home, but he's no good to me now," kicking a stone with his
foot, to the great satisfaction of the dogs; and then he continued,
"Since he went into the sixth, he thinks of nothing but the cut of his
coats and the shape of his collars, and whether girls think he's
better-looking than the other fellows. It's positively sickening. And
now we're at home he hangs about father, and won't do anything with me.
He called me a 'kid' this morning, young silly ass that he is." Another
stone went flying. "But look here," in a different tone and turning to
Marjory; "you're not a bit like a girl if you can hit like that, and I
should be awfully obliged to you if you would chum up with me. We could
have jolly fun if you would."

"All right," said Marjory, sorry for any one who was lonely; "we'll be
friends--that is, if Blanche wants to too; we always do everything
together." And she looked at her friend.

Blanche was too sweet-natured to be selfish over this proposal; besides,
she rather liked the look of this boy with his freckled face and honest
eyes, so she said, "Yes, let's have a Triple Alliance, like we've been
learning about in history, only much nicer," with a grimace; "it will be
awful fun." And thus the friendship was begun.

When they reached the pond it appeared to be quite fit for skating, and
Alan soon fastened on his skates and started off. They were pleased to
find that there was no one else skating; in fact, they had it all to
themselves. It was amusing to see the three dogs trying to follow Alan,
especially fat little Curly, who rolled over several times in his
frantic efforts to keep up with the grown-up dogs.

The girls watched Alan's movements with interest. He was a very good
skater, and could do all sorts of figures on the ice, seeming quite at
home upon it. He was shouting that he would teach them both all he knew,
when suddenly there was an ominous crackling on the other side of the
pond, and the dogs, who had gone over there unnoticed, began to bark and
whine excitedly.

"Where's Curly? I believe he's fallen in," screamed Blanche, and she
started to run across the ice.

"Go back!" shouted Alan. "Go round by the bank!" And in a moment he was
off at full speed across the pond.

Curly was nowhere to be seen, and Silky and Neil, the collie, were
barking furiously, leaping and splashing in and out of the water. Some
one evidently had been trying the ice, and it had broken away from the
edge, gradually cracking farther in. The big dogs had been able to
scramble to the shore, but the little one, frightened, no doubt, by his
unusual adventure, had been sucked in under the ice. The other dogs were
making frantic efforts to reach him, but the pieces of broken ice
prevented them, and poor little Curly was some distance in; and as the
pond was shallow, it would have been difficult for them to swim, even if
they could have got under the ice.

Alan saw at once what had happened, and judging by the dogs' efforts the
probable whereabouts of Curly, with a reassuring shout to the girls, he
began stamping in the ice, plunging knee-deep into the water each time.
In a few moments he pulled out poor little Curly--a helpless dripping
object, with no signs of life in him. Alan scrambled to the bank and
laid the dog on the grass. He tenderly wiped him as dry as he could with
his pocket handkerchief--a regular schoolboy's one of generous
proportions--and by the time the girls arrived, breathless after their
run, he was wrapping Curly in his coat.

"Is he dead?" cried Blanche, the tears streaming down her cheeks.--"Oh,
my darling little Curly, why did I let you out of my sight?"

"I dare say he won't die," said Alan, feigning a cheerfulness he did not
feel. "The first thing to do is to get him warm. Where's the nearest
house?"

"The Low Farm is the _nearest_," said Marjory doubtfully, "if Mrs.
Shaw--"

"Will let us in to make a mess of her kitchen," finished Alan. "She is a
bit of a cross-patch, but we'll _make_ her let us in. What's the good of
a Triple Alliance if we can't fight? Come on, girls. United we stand!"

They ran off as fast as they could towards the Low Farm, Alan carrying
Curly very close to him, so that the warmth from his own body might
revive the little dog. Blanche kept asking if he seemed better, but the
answer was always the same--he had not moved or shown any signs of life.

Once Marjory said, "I say, it was very good of you, Alan, and you're
soaking wet, and you must be cold without your coat."

"Rot!" replied Alan, and Marjory said no more.



CHAPTER XI.

THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER.

  "And thus the heart will break,
  Yet brokenly live on."--BYRON.


Mrs. Shaw saw the children coming, and wondered what could be the reason
of this unusual visit. She went to the garden gate to meet them, and saw
at once by Blanche's tear-stained face that something was wrong. They
told her what they wanted, and she invited them in without hesitation,
taking them straight to the kitchen, where a bright fire was blazing.

Alan unwrapped poor Curly, and Mrs. Shaw fetched a piece of blanket for
him to lie on, and gave him a spoonful of brandy, Blanche holding his
mouth open. They all watched him anxiously. He soon began to move a
little, and in a few minutes he got up, stretched and shook himself, and
then went to his mistress to be caressed.

Blanche hugged and kissed him with every expression of delight. She had
hardly realized how precious her little pet had become until she so
nearly lost him. But Curly had been in Mrs. Shaw's kitchen before, and
when he considered that he had received enough petting, he calmly
trotted off to a corner of the room where he had once had a very good
dinner, and began sniffing and nosing about. No dish was there this
time, and so he trotted back again and sat down, looking expectantly at
the group of amused watchers. Mrs. Shaw went and got some bread and milk
for him, and he was soon very busy with it, seeming none the worse for
his adventure.

"Well, I must be going," remarked Alan.

"Oh no," protested Blanche; "it's too late for you to go home to dinner
now. You must come to us. Marjory's coming."

"I meant to skate all day, and mother gave me some sandwiches."

"Sandwiches are but poor comfort on a cold day, Master Morison," said
Mrs. Shaw. "I should be proud if the young ladies and you would have
your dinner here--that is," she added, "if you don't mind having it in
the kitchen. The parlour fire isn't lighted yet. I can send a message
down to Braeside if you will stay." And she looked at the girls.

"It is very kind of you," said Blanche. "We should like to stay, if it
isn't too much bother for you.--Shouldn't we, Marj?"

"Yes," replied Marjory, much surprised by this unwonted friendliness on
Mrs. Shaw's part. "And don't you think Alan's clothes ought to be
dried?"

"Rot!" said Alan again.

But Mrs. Shaw was a managing person. She felt Alan's legs.

"My goodness!" she exclaimed, "he's wet through. Come with me at once,"
and she dragged the unwilling boy into another room. In a short time
they returned, Alan looking a comical figure, dressed in a pair of
knickerbockers many sizes too large for him, and a man's flannel shirt
and coat. Marjory at once decided that these garments must have belonged
to the mysterious husband in foreign parts.

Alan looked red and uncomfortable after Mrs. Shaw's ministrations, but
Marjory said, "That's better. Now come and sit by the fire," pretending
not to notice anything peculiar in his appearance. To tell the truth, he
was nothing loath to sit by the cheerful blaze, for he had begun to feel
cold and miserable as soon as Curly was all right, but he would have
done anything rather than say so.

Mrs. Shaw's kitchen was cleaner than some people's dining-rooms. There
was not a speck of dust anywhere, and not a thing out of its place. Her
guests were amused to see their dinner come straight from the various
pots and pans on the fire; but never was a meal eaten with a better
appetite, and after the first shyness wore off, the party was a very
merry one.

Marjory noticed that Mrs. Shaw looked often at Blanche, and with an
expression of tenderness which her face never wore for other people.
Half sad, half tender, the look was, and Marjory wondered what it could
mean.

After dinner was over, Blanche asked if they might go to the parlour and
see the curiosities.

"I wonder if you'll get anything this Christmas," she remarked.

"Maybe," was the short reply.

Nearly every part of the world was represented in this little farm
parlour. Here were corals and shells from the South Sea Islands;
wonderfully carved ivory from India and China; a tiny nugget of gold
from California; Indian arrow-heads, beads, and baskets. In fact, had
she known it, Mrs. Shaw really possessed a good and valuable collection.
Alan was handling what appeared to be a square block made of
beautifully-polished wood, and he asked what it was.

"It's only a specimen block of various Australian woods," was the reply.

"But see, they're not glued together in any way. Perhaps it's a puzzle,
and they all come apart." And he turned it over and over with boyish
curiosity and interest.

"No, it's nothing but samples of woods. I've got a list of their names
somewhere." And Mrs. Shaw went to a box to search for the paper.

Meanwhile Alan pulled and thumped, and at last one of the pieces
composing the box moved. The rest was easily done; one piece after
another came away, and there, right in the middle of the block, was a
small velvet case.

"Look! look!" he cried excitedly. "Come and see, Mrs. Shaw."

They all crowded round while Mrs. Shaw opened the case. Inside it was a
beautifully-painted head of a little girl.

"Why, it's Blanche when she was small!" exclaimed Marjory.

Mrs. Shaw stood as if turned to stone for a minute. Then she covered her
face with her hands and wept aloud. The children stood silent,
frightened by this outburst of grief, and not knowing what to do or say.

At last Blanche took courage, and gently touching the weeping woman's
arm, she said,--

"Please, don't cry. What is the matter? We are so sorry."

"Oh, my dear! my dear! that is the picture of my own little girl who
died long ago. I took to you from the first because of the likeness.
I've never seen her father since she died. It all happened long ago,
before I came here. She was a delicate little thing, and one day, while
her father was at home, I went away for the day to see my sister. The
child had a little cold, and I said to her father that she had better
not go out. But she begged so hard to go that he couldn't refuse her,
and they went out. They went into a shop for her father to buy some
tobacco. The child began playing with a kitten. She was very fond of
animals, and while her father's back was turned, she ran out into the
street after the kitten. She was knocked down and run over by a van, and
she only lived a few hours. Oh, my darling! my darling!" the poor woman
continued, unconscious of her listeners, "the light of my life went out
when you were taken, and I am only just beginning to learn the lesson of
my grief." Then returning to her story: "I blamed her poor father for
her death, and I sent him away. That was seven years ago. He has written
to me, and every year he sends me a parcel of things. He buys me
something at every port he touches--he's a sailor, you know, a captain
now--and I've never sent him a word of thanks, not one single word; and
now this! This little box came last year, and I never even troubled to
read this paper about it. Think how he planned it as a surprise for me,
and what he must have paid to have it done. God forgive me! for I've
been a wicked woman." And she wept afresh, rocking herself to and fro.

The children were awestruck by this recital. Alan took the paper from
Mrs. Shaw. On the front page was a list of the various woods, as she had
said, but inside were instructions for the opening of the puzzle box.

"What was your little girl's name?" Blanche ventured to ask.

"Rose," sobbed the woman; "and she was just as sweet as her name; but I
made an idol of my child, and that is why God took her away."

"Mother says," said Blanche shyly, "that when God takes little children
He makes them very, very happy--happier than their own fathers and
mothers could make them."

"Bless you, my dear, for your comforting words! Yes, I feel sure she is
happy, and I know she would wish me to forgive her father, but I never
could bring myself to do it till now. I'll write to him this very night,
and ask him to come home when he can. To think of him planning this box,
with her blessed picture inside it, all for me that's been so unkind and
cruel!" And Mrs. Shaw sobbed again.

"Please, Mrs. Shaw, don't cry any more," begged Marjory. "It will be
lovely when he comes home, and everything will be all right."

Mrs. Shaw pulled herself together, wiped her eyes, and stood up, saying,
"I am a foolish woman to worry you young folks with my troubles. Come
and look round the farm."

All thought of skating was given up for that day. Alan put on his own
clothes, which were dry again, and the party went out to explore the
farmyard. Silky and Neil were patiently waiting outside, and made a
great fuss when the children appeared, Blanche with Curly in her arms.
After thoroughly examining every hole and corner about the farm, the
members of the Triple Alliance said good-bye to Mrs. Shaw, thanking her
profusely for all her kindness, and then started homewards, going
together to the Braeside gate. Before they parted Alan said,--

"I say, look here, you two; should you mind if I asked you not to tell
about this morning? It was a jolly good hit, and all that, but I
shouldn't like Herbert to know about it. He'd chaff me so, and tell the
fellows." And his face flushed crimson at the thought.

"More secrets," said Blanche. "I'll promise not to tell any one but
mother. I simply can't keep a secret unless I tell her."

"Irishman!" cried Alan promptly. "Well, tell your mother if you like;
and Marjory can tell her uncle, and nobody else. Do you agree?"

"I don't know that I shall want to tell," remarked Marjory, flushing in
her turn. "It wasn't such a very nice thing for me to do."

"Well, I'm jiggered," said Alan inelegantly; "I thought the first thing
a girl would want to do would be to go and blab about it all over the
place." And he regarded Marjory as if she were a natural curiosity.

"And yet," she continued, "I suppose I ought to tell, because I think
you behaved so well about it, making friends after it. And then think
what you did for Curly."

"Ra--ats! Good-bye, and long live the T. A.!" cried Alan, running off
towards home.

It was nearly four o'clock when they said good-bye at the Braeside gate,
and it was rapidly getting dark. Marjory went quickly up the hill,
fearing a reprimand from her uncle for being out so late. The day had
been an eventful one, but its excitements were not yet over. As she
hurried through the wood, she heard a sudden crackling and rustling
amongst the fallen leaves and twigs, and a man came from behind a tree
and stood facing her.

"Don't be frightened, miss," he said in a low voice. "I'm a stranger
here, and I want to ask if you can tell me where Dr. Hunter lives."

"He lives in that house up there," replied Marjory, pointing towards
Hunters' Brae; "and this is his ground," she added, as much as to say,
"What are you doing here?" Then she continued, "Do you wish to see Dr.
Hunter?"

The man took no notice, and resumed his questioning.

"Isn't there a house on his property called the Low Farm? and can you
tell me who keeps it?"

Marjory wondered who this man could be. His manner was straightforward,
and from what she could see, his face was honest; still she felt
somewhat suspicious. There had been rumours lately of poachers being
about. Perhaps he was a thief, and would go to the Low Farm when all the
men had gone home from work, and Mrs. Shaw would be unprotected. She
reflected that if she withheld the information the man would probably
get it from some one else, and she decided that it would be better to
answer his questions, but to let him believe that Mrs. Shaw's husband
was at home, so she replied,--

"The Low Farm is down at the bottom of the hill, a little to the right,
and people of the name of Shaw keep it."

"Oh," said the man, as if taken aback, "there is a Mr. Shaw then?"

"Oh yes," replied Marjory, delighted that her bait had taken, as she
thought. Then she said quickly, "I must be going now."

"Good-night, miss, and thank you for the information. Please don't say
you've seen me, if you can help it."

Marjory thought that the man's voice sounded hard and fierce, and,
somewhat frightened, she hurried away without a look behind her. A
sudden thought struck her as she ran through the garden. Could this
stranger possibly be her father? Her absent father was continually in
her thoughts; often and often she pictured to herself various ways in
which he might return to her. This man had begun by asking for Dr.
Hunter. For one wild moment the impulse to turn back was upon her, and
then she told herself that it was impossible. She did not know many
people, but she felt sure that this man was not quite like her uncle, or
Mr. Forester, or Dr. Morison. Surely her father was not a rough-spoken
man like this! Besides, would she not have known him at once? No;
probably her first theory was the right one, and this was some poacher
or thief--and yet he did not seem quite like a bad man either. It was a
mystery, and she wished that Blanche or Alan had been with her.

Dr. Hunter was not at home for tea; he had gone to the minister's,
Lisbeth said, but would be back for supper.

When supper-time came Marjory gave her uncle an account of the day's
doings, but did not mention her encounter in the wood.

"You've had a most exciting day, on the whole," he said. "I didn't know
you could box, though; surely Miss Waspe doesn't teach you that as an
accomplishment!"

Marjory laughed rather shamefacedly.

"No," she replied; "Peter showed me, but only a little. He says he was
very good at it when he was a boy."

"So you knocked over this fourteen-year-old boy like a ninepin. Well, to
be sure, I _am_ surprised." And the doctor eyed his niece quizzically
over his spectacles. "You're quite a dangerous young person to meet on a
country road."

"Well, he called Blanche's hair 'carrots,'" said Marjory, flushing.

"Just like a boy. If he were a dozen years older he would be writing
sonnets to that same hair." And the doctor laughed.

Later on he said, "I heard from Mackenzie to-day that there is great
excitement in the neighbourhood about poachers. The men are going out
to-night to see if they can see anything of them. Mackenzie asked me to
join them, but I'm getting too old for that sort of thing. Mackenzie
isn't going himself, but I could see he was pretty keen about it. Of
course these fellows are a nuisance, and perhaps if I preserved I should
feel differently, but I must confess to a sneaking sympathy with them as
it is. Don't you tell Forester or Morison, Miss Marjory." And the doctor
laughed again.

But Marjory was thinking of the man in the wood What if he should be
suspected and taken? Somehow, although she had been suspicious of him,
there had been something in his manner, a true ring in his voice, which
belied her fears, and she felt that she would be sorry if he got into
any trouble. It was some hours since she had seen him, and he had
probably gone away by this time; but she felt uncomfortable about him,
and as soon as the doctor had finished his supper and gone to his study,
Marjory put on a cloak and slipped out.

It was a cold, frosty night, and there was no moon--just a night for
poaching work, Marjory decided. She had shut Silky in the house, in case
he might bark and attract attention, but once or twice she wished she
had brought him. She crept down the garden, and through the gate into
the wood, stopping now and then to listen. The night was intensely
still, and there were no signs of life; the silence was broken only by
the crunching of the frosty ground under her feet, until--listen!--what
was that? There was a sound as of some person or some animal in pain.
Oh, surely it was not some poor little rabbit or hare, or perhaps a dog,
caught in a trap! She must go nearer and see what it was. She walked on
in the direction whence the sounds proceeded, and there, lying on the
ground, was the figure of a man--the man she had spoken to that
afternoon. This was dreadful. Marjory had not known that a grown-up man
could cry; his whole frame was heaving with convulsive sobs, and he
murmured something she could not understand. She felt at a loss in the
presence of such bitter grief, and did not know what to do or what to
say. At last she took courage and said gently, "Can I do anything to
help you?"

The man sprang up, startled by Marjory's voice.

"Nothing can cure my trouble," he said bitterly. "But how come you out
here this cold, dark night? I can't see you, but I know by your voice
that you are the young lady I spoke to this afternoon."

"I came out to tell you that the keepers and some of the gentlemen are
out after poachers to-night, and I--I thought--" Marjory stammered.

"You thought I was one of them," finished the man, with a short laugh.
"No, I haven't come to that yet, but I thank you for your kind thought.
It's a long time since anybody troubled as to what would become of me."
And his tone was very bitter.

"But you must be hungry and cold. Won't you come and have some food?"

"No, and thank you kindly. I am lodging at Hillcrest village, a matter
of only two miles from here, and I'd best be getting back. But don't you
worry about me, miss. I'm a rough man, but, thank God, I've been able to
keep straight and honest. I'm in a tight place just now, but I'm sorry
you should have found me as you did."

"I was once very miserable here in this same place," said Marjory shyly,
"and then something happened which made my whole life different. Perhaps
it will be the same with you."

"I'm afraid not; but I mustn't keep you here in the cold. Thank you
kindly, miss, for what you've done for a stranger. May I ask you not to
mention having seen me here? I have a good reason."

Marjory could no longer feel suspicious of the man, but at the same time
she could not help wondering why he should wish to keep his movements
secret.

"Very well; I won't speak of it," she promised, wondering if she were
right in so doing.

"God bless you, miss, and good-night to you."

The man strode away. She could hear his footsteps crackling through the
undergrowth as she turned back towards home. Suddenly she was aware of
approaching steps; in a moment the wood seemed full of dark figures, and
she could hear men's heavy breathing. She started to run, but before she
could reach the gate strong arms caught hold of her, a lantern flashed
into her face, and the voice of Mr. Forester cried, "Hallo, Marjory!
what are you doing here?"



CHAPTER XII.

MARJORY KEEPS A SECRET.

  "She doeth little kindnesses
    Which most leave undone, or despise;
  For naught that sets one heart at ease,
  And giveth happiness or peace,
    Is low esteemed in her eyes."

  JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.


Marjory had not thought of the possibility of the search-party being so
near, and Mr. Forester's sudden appearance quite bewildered her for a
moment. The men came crowding up, looking curiously at her.

She tried to free herself from Mr. Forester's grasp.

"No, you don't, my lady," said he, laughing, and tightening his hold
upon her arm. "Having found you, I am responsible for you; besides, I
don't approve of girls wandering about in the dark like this without
giving an account of themselves."

"I'm not accountable to you, anyway," replied Marjory, her temper
rising.

"Highty-tighty! so we're going to ride the high horse, eh? Well, I
consider it my duty to take you home and report upon your unlawful
doings." And, still holding Marjory's arm, he began to walk towards the
house. Silky, hearing the strange footsteps and voices, barked angrily;
and Dr. Hunter, disturbed by the unusual commotion, came out of his
study. Seeing that the dog seemed anxious to go out by the garden door,
he opened it just as Mr. Forester and Marjory reached it.

Mr. Forester had only been teasing Marjory, and had not really meant to
get her into trouble. He had intended to see her safely home and then to
leave her, but it was too late now.

The doctor, much surprised, called out, "Hallo, Marjory! where have you
been, and who's this with you?--Why, Forester, how do you do? Come in.
But what is the meaning of it all?"

"The truth is," said Mr. Forester, laughing, "that I've been out with
the keepers after poachers, and this," pointing to Marjory, "is the only
one we've found."

"But what was she doing out by herself at this time of night?" asked the
doctor.

Marjory said nothing. Her uncle looked at her, and Mr. Forester,
thinking that he had better leave them together, passed on into the
dining-room.

"I should like to know," said the doctor sternly.

Marjory, pale and tearful, remained silent.

"Did you go out to see after Brownie, or any of the animals?"

"No."

"Come, Marjory, I insist upon knowing the reason for this freak. The
truth is, I have let you have too much liberty to come and go, and now
you will not give an account of yourself."

Marjory raised her head, and looking at her uncle with fearless eyes,
she said,--

"I would rather not tell you why I went, but I don't think you would be
angry if you knew; it wasn't anything wrong."

Dr. Hunter looked steadily at his niece, but she did not flinch. There
was a look in her eyes, half appeal, half defiant challenge, which
reminded him of her father. Just so had he looked during their last
stormy interview.

"Very well, my child; I believe you," said the doctor. He had never
known Marjory to tell a lie, and he could trust her. Still, he could not
help wondering what secret she was keeping from him.

He was turning away with a sigh, when suddenly he felt the girl's arms
about his neck, and her wet cheek pressed to his. "Thank you, uncle
dear," she murmured; "you are very good to me."

He returned the caress very heartily. Surely, indeed, if slowly, the
better understanding was growing. They went into the dining-room to
join Mr. Forester, the doctor's arm still round Marjory's waist.

"Smoothed it all over, eh?" asked Mr. Forester, smiling. "It's
extraordinary the way the girls have of making their own tales good;
isn't it, doctor? There's my Blanche now--she can simply twist me round
her little finger, and make me say yes when I mean no, little beggar
that she is," laughing.

"Blanche is a good girl, and so is Marjory," said the doctor.

"There now; didn't I say so? That young witch has simply made you think
that to slip out on a dark night, get caught for a poacher, and then
refuse to give any explanation, is the action of a pattern girl. Poor
deluded old man!" And Mr. Forester shook his head and spread out his
hands with a gesture of despair. "I tell you, these girls will make a
fellow believe that the blackest of black is in reality the whitest of
white, if only he will look at it in the right way--their way, of
course."

"Don't you mind, Marjory; he's only teasing. We understand each other,
don't we? Run away to bed and leave him to me. You have had an exciting
day, and you must be tired and sleepy."

Marjory was tired, but she could not go to sleep. She was unable to
forget that man and his trouble. What could it be? Then, too, there was
Mrs. Shaw. She had learned to-day the cause of the stern expression in
those dark eyes and of the sometimes bitter tongue. There must surely be
a great deal of trouble in the world. Marjory was very sensitive to the
pain of others; her heart went out at once to any one who was suffering;
no matter who or where, she felt she must try to help them.

As she lay thinking about the stranger, a sudden light flashed across
her brain. What if he were Mrs. Shaw's husband? He might have come just
to see the place his wife lived in and the sort of people she worked
for. Feeling sure that she would not forgive him, perhaps he would not
try to see her, not knowing how her feelings towards him had changed.
Marjory sat up in bed, her heart beating fast as in imagination she
traced out this theory. The longer she thought about it the more sure
she felt that it was the right one. It would explain the man's piteous
grief and his bitter cry that nothing could ever help him. What was to
be done?

It did not take her long to decide that she would go to Hillcrest
village the next day, see the man, and boldly ask if he were Mr. Shaw;
and then, if her theory proved correct, she would tell him what she
knew--namely, that his wife had determined to write and ask him to come
home. How she would love to play the good fairy to these people, and to
see them happy after all their troubles!

Then her thoughts turned to her own affairs. She never ceased to long
for her father, although her life was much brighter and happier than it
used to be. Night and morning she prayed that he might be given to her.
She would lie awake picturing their happy meeting, and sometimes the
visions that she conjured up in the night were so lifelike that she
would wake in the morning almost expecting them to prove realities. But
the days and weeks went by, and nothing happened to bring any nearer
that longed-for day when he should come.

Next morning Marjory signalled to Blanche that she would like to ride
with her, and the answer came that she would be ready at eleven. Marjory
asked Peter to saddle Brownie early, so that she would have time to go
to Hillcrest before calling at Braeside.

Arrived at the village, she rode up to the post office, as being the
most likely place at which to gain information with regard to a
stranger, and asked the woman if she knew of any one lodging in
Hillcrest. "Yes," was the reply; "there was a man staying at 'English
Mary's' down the street."

Arrived at "English Mary's," Marjory made her inquiries.

"Yes, miss," replied the woman, "I did 'ave a lodger 'ere yesterday, but
'e up an' went this mornin' bright and early. Most respectable 'e
seemed, miss; but 'e come in last night in a orful pickle, 'is clothes
torn an' 'is face bleedin'; you never saw sich a sight as 'e was, miss.
I was glad to get rid on 'im; the p'lice would 'ave bin the next thing,
I s'pose. Paid 'is way though, 'e did, and 'e didn't make no bones about
the bill."

"Did he leave his name and address?" asked Marjory, as soon as she could
get in a word.

"Bless you, miss, I didn't want no address; the less I knows about 'im
the better, strikes me. But 'is name was 'Iggs--so 'e said; but that
might 'ave bin a _halibi_, for all I can tell--you do read sich things
in the papers nowadays. Might I ask if you was wantin' any odd jobs
done, miss? My old man's out o' work, an'--"

"Oh no, thank you," said Marjory, cutting the woman short; "I only
wanted to inquire." And she turned Brownie's head in the direction of
Braeside. "Good-morning. I'm much obliged to you."

Marjory was bitterly disappointed at the failure of her peacemaking
mission, for she had set out almost certain of success. She wondered
whether the man was really a bad character, and whether he had been set
upon by the keepers, and so got his clothes torn. So it wasn't Mr. Shaw
after all. It was very disappointing, and Marjory sighed. She smiled,
however, as she thought over English Mary's voluble explanation and her
queer language. The King would hardly recognize it as his.

Marjory found the study of the King's English very interesting. As Miss
Waspe presented it to her, it was not contained in a lifeless
grammar-book, the terror of many schoolgirls' lives, but it was a
wonderful living medium of expression--a means by which she could
translate her ideas and imaginings into musical phrases, and which
enabled her to understand the spoken and written thoughts of others.
Miss Waspe had a way of dressing up hard facts and tiresome rules in the
most attractive clothing, and like the dog who unconsciously and
gratefully swallows a pill in a succulent tit-bit, her pupil assimilated
both with excellent results.

Blanche said to Marjory one day, "I _can't_ think how you can like that
horrid grammar. If I was a boy, or, according to _it_, _were_ I a boy, I
should call it a beastly grind; but as mother doesn't like me to use
boys' words, I have to call it a horrid nuisance or some other tame
thing like that. Anyway, I feel it is a b-e-a-s-t-l-y g-r-i-n-d, so
there."

"I don't wonder your mother doesn't like you to use boys' words; you're
much too pretty," replied Marjory. "They are far more suitable for me,
because I am big and rough-looking, like a boy, and you are just like a
piece of thin china--like that Dresden shepherdess in the drawing-room.
You couldn't imagine her saying anything ugly."

"Why do you always make out that you're not pretty?" asked Blanche
indignantly. "I think you're better than pretty, you're _grand_, with
those great big stormy-looking eyes and your lovely wavy hair. I've
never seen such long hair."

Marjory laughed. "And what about my wide mouth, and my long nose crooked
at the point?"

"Well," admitted Blanche, "your mouth may be large, but it is a nice
shape, and your lips are beautifully red, and your nose is really only a
very tiny bit crooked; and so, Miss Marjory," triumphantly, "there's no
reason at all why you should be allowed to use boys' words if I
mustn't."

"I don't really know many; you see, I've hardly spoken to any boys
except the Morisons."

"I knew lots in London."

"It does seem queer to think that you have lived in great big London and
know all about it, while I have never been farther away than
Morristown."

"Perhaps you'll come to London with us some day. Wouldn't it be fun? I
wonder how you would feel."

Marjory thought over this conversation as she rode down the hill towards
Braeside. She sometimes longed to go away and see something of that
great world she had begun to realize of late. Her lessons were enlarging
her ideas. Geography fired her imagination with its tales of far
countries--their tropical beauty, or, it might be, their ice-bound
grandeur, High mountains, terrible volcanoes, placid lakes,
swift-flowing rivers--all these spoke to her of a wonderful world
outside her own; and she longed to spread her wings and to fly out and
away into its vastness. She often wondered how her uncle, who knew about
all these things, could be content to stay year in and year out in one
place, spending nearly all his time within the four walls of his own
study, and her heart would go out to that unknown father of hers with
his roving disposition; how well she could understand it! She would
weave romances, with him as hero and herself as heroine--romances which
always had the same happy ending; and then she would finish up by
wondering if she would ever see him, and whether he would be the least
bit like her pictures of him.

Marjory's thoughts wandered back to the man, and the mystery surrounding
his appearance and disappearance. What did the woman mean by "_halibi_"?
She supposed it must be a slang word, so it would be no use looking in a
dictionary; perhaps it meant pretence.

She reached Braeside just as Blanche's pony was being taken round to the
door by the groom, and to her surprise Alan Morison was there too,
mounted on a horse which was rather too big for him. He rode towards
Marjory with a somewhat sheepish expression on his face.

"I say," he said, "I hope you don't mind my coming with you. I ran over
this morning to see what you were going to do, and Blanche said I might
come." And he looked doubtfully at Marjory.

"What Blanche says, I say," she replied heartily.

"Right you are, then." And Alan looked relieved.

Blanche soon came out, a trim little figure in her neat riding-habit.
She called out "good-morning," and waved her hand to Mrs. Forester, who
had come to see the start; but Marjory saw at once that there was
something wrong--she even fancied that there were traces of recent tears
on her friend's cheeks. Blanche in tears was a sight which put Marjory
up in arms at once, and she was prepared to do instant battle with their
cause, be it any person or any thing.

They started off in silence, after having agreed upon the direction of
their ride, Marjory waiting for the explanation which she hoped would
soon come, and furtively watching her friend. She was glad to see that
the pale cheeks were gradually gaining colour from the exercise in the
keen frosty air.

At last the explanation came.

"I say, isn't it perfectly horrid? Aunt Katharine and my cousin Maud are
coming to stay. They've invited themselves because Uncle Hilary is away.
They'll be here for Christmas; nothing will be a bit nice, and it'll
spoil all our fun. They're coming the day after to-morrow. Mother says
she is very sorry for me, but I mustn't be selfish. I don't like Maud
much; she is older than we are, and she's a stuck-up thing,"
vehemently.

Here indeed was a blow. The three had planned many a happy day together,
and this addition to the party seemed likely to be a disturbing one.

"How old is she?" asked Marjory.

"She's fifteen, but looks older."

"But will she want to come with us if she's as old as that?" suggested
Alan.

"Oh yes, that's just what she likes--to come and lord it over other
people, and have everything her way. Just because she's been on the
Continent and been to theatres she thinks she knows everything. Aunt
Katharine gives her anything she wants, and Maud makes other people do
it too."

"How _devilish_!" said Alan emphatically.

"O Alan, don't swear," said Blanche, aghast.

"_That's_ not swearing, bless you."

"I thought that anything about the devil was swearing."

"Oh no, I don't think so," put in Marjory. "Peter often talks about the
'deil,' and he's not a bad man."

"But somehow 'deil' doesn't sound as bad as devil," argued Blanche. "I
think it is a horrid word; it frightens me."

"Very well, I won't say it again," said Alan consolingly. "But look
here; we must make some plan of campaign as to our doings when this
cousin of yours comes poking her beastly nose in. If there's anything I
can do to annoy her, I'm your man. I'm a regular corker at all sorts of
tricks, from apple-pie beds to booby traps. A little ragging sometimes
takes all the side out of fellows at school, and it might work with her.
Anyway I'm at your service, and it would be a good thing if we could
turn her out a decent girl."

"We'll never do that," said Blanche decidedly.

"_We'll see_," replied Alan, with a world of determination in his tone;
and then they started off at such a gallop across the moor that all
disagreeables were forgotten for the time being.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE OLD CHEST.

  "What could be the wealth the casket held?...
  Perhaps the red gold nestled there,
    Loving and close as in the mine;
  Or diamonds lit the sunless air,
    Or rubies blushed like bridal wine.
  Some giant gem, like that which bought
    The half of a realm in Timour's day,
  Might here, beyond temptation's thought,
    Be hidden in safety; who could say?"

  HENRY MORFORD.


Marjory obtained permission from her uncle to invite Blanche and Alan to
spend the next day with her. It would be the last before the arrival of
the unwished-for visitors, and they wanted to make the most of it. They
decided to have a rat hunt in the morning, and in the afternoon Marjory
intended to ask the doctor if they might try again to open the old
chest. She thought Alan might be a help.

Marjory did not much like the idea of killing even a rat. She was not
quite sure that it was right, but Peter had no such compunctions.

"Vermin o' the land, an' mischeevious reptiles they are, an' the mair
deid rats we see the morn's mornin' the better pleased Peter'll be,"
said the old man as they were planning the hunt.

Alan kept a ferret, which he offered to bring, and he thought he could
borrow his brother Herbert's fox-terrier, which was a famous ratter.

"That's a' richt," agreed the old man. "An' I can get the loan o'
anither dog frae the village, an' atween them a' they should create a
bit disturbance amang they lang-tailed rascals."

Alan looked at Marjory and grinned, remembering yesterday's
conversation.

Poor Peter's heart had been sorely tried by the depredations of his
long-tailed enemies. The hen-house, the barn, even the apple storehouse
had been visited by them with disastrous results, so he rejoiced at the
prospect of the coming conflict. The next morning, a stout stick in his
hand and war in his eye, he stood awaiting the arrival of the party.
Silky had been tied up, so that the ratters might have a clear field for
action.

Marjory went down the hill to meet Blanche, and they arrived upon the
scene just as Alan, punctual to the appointed time, came up with his
ferret in a small bag, and his brother's dog, Jock, on a leash.

"He's awfully keen," Alan explained. "He only had half his usual last
night, and nothing this morning; so I put him on the leash in case he
might go tearing off after some rabbit, and I couldn't get him back
again."

There was some hitch about getting the other dog; it could not be found
when the time came. Alan was secretly pleased that Jock should have to
fight single-handed, for then all the honour and glory would fall to his
share.

As for Jock, he was indeed keen. He seemed to know that there was
excitement in store for him, and he was pulling and straining at the
leash, jumping up and down, and giving little short yelps and barks.

"We'll try the barn first," ordered Peter, the commander-in-chief.

Alan handed Jock over to Marjory, and they went to the barn as directed.
Alan put his ferret into a well-used hole.

"Let go!" he shouted to Marjory.

Jock was let loose, and the fun began. It was a most exciting
time--scratching, scrambling, racing, leaping. In and out of barns and
outbuildings went Jock, his heart in his work. The ferret, too, did his
duty quite nobly. The spectators, waving their sticks and shouting
encouragement, ran and scrambled too.

Old Peter, capless, his hair and beard streaming in the wind, danced and
capered like a boy whenever Jock appeared victoriously shaking a rat
between his teeth. The girls, too, kept in the thick of the fight,
Marjory forgetting all her doubts in the excitement of the moment.

One very large rat gave Jock a great deal of trouble. In and out of the
barn it went, Jock in full cry after it, through the hen-run, scattering
the flustered fowls screeching in all directions, round and round the
yard it leaped rather than ran. At last it ran up the side of a large
empty barrel and went over the edge in a second. Quick as thought Jock
sprang after it; then came a terrific scrambling and scratching, a
vicious scream from the rat, a yelp of pain from Jock, and, last, a
moment's silence before the scrambling was renewed. They all went and
peeped over the edge of the barrel, and there was Jock with the big rat
in his mouth, making frantic efforts to scale the sides of his prison.

"Well done," shouted Alan in delight. "Isn't he a game little beast?"
And he stretched over the top to give Jock a lift.

In his efforts to reach the dog he overbalanced, the barrel tipped over
and rolled from side to side, and for a few minutes all that could be
seen was a kicking tangle of boy, dog, and rat, for Jock would not let
go his prey.

Peter stood shouting with laughter, holding his sides, and quite
helpless, and the two girls were much in the same condition. Marjory was
just trying as best she could to stop the barrel rolling and to help
Alan out of it, though she was so weak with laughing that her hands
seemed to have no strength in them, when the doctor's voice said,
"Come, children, didn't you hear the dinner-bell?"

They all, including Peter, straightened up as if by magic. Dinner
already! They had never given it a thought. They stood irresolute, a
queer-looking company, while Jock glanced around the group, as much as
to say, "What's the matter with you all? Just look at my lovely rat."

The doctor stood leaning on his stick, contemplating his guests. Alan
was the worst. His face was scratched, and blood and dust together had
streaked it in a most unbecoming way; his clothes were torn, his cap was
gone, and his never very tidy hair stood in a shock above his forehead.
The girls, too, showed unmistakable signs of the fray. Their hair
ribbons were gone, wisps of straw and hay were sticking to their
clothes, and their cheeks were scarlet with exercise and excitement.
Even Jock had one eye bunged up, but he was the coolest and most
unconcerned of the party. He saved the situation by trotting across to
the doctor, laying the rat at his feet, and then looking up at him with
his only available eye, as if for approval.

The doctor could not resist this appeal. He stooped and patted the dog,
saying kindly, "Well done, little man." And then turning to the
children, "Now then, you three graces, be off with you. Go and wash
yourselves clean, if you can, and don't keep me waiting any longer for
my dinner. A hungry man's an angry man, you know." And he sent them off
with a flourish of his stick.

When they came to the dining-room the change in their appearance caused
the doctor's eyes to twinkle, but he made no remark. Alan's face
positively shone with soap, for though the application of it had made
his many scratches smart, he had manfully persisted in the most vigorous
cleansing operations. He had soaked his hair with water to make it lie
down, but there was one lock in the region of the crown of his head
which had refused to accept his ministrations. The girls, too, had
smoothed their hair, brushed their clothes, and composed their
countenances. All three looked as solemn as judges as they took their
seats.

Marjory was afraid that their unpunctuality boded ill for the chance of
getting the doctor's consent to their trying to open the old chest. They
sat demurely, taking their soup in silence. After a little while sounds
were heard like the fizzling of ginger beer in hot weather, and at last
Blanche burst into a peal of laughter. Marjory looked anxiously at Dr.
Hunter to see what he thought of this disturbance, but to her relief and
surprise he was laughing too. Really her Uncle George was getting much
nicer than he used to be, she thought.

"Well, Blanche, what's the joke?" he asked.

As soon as she could speak she replied,--

"It's Alan; he does look so _dreadfully_ funny--one bit of hair
sticking up, and the rest all plastered so smooth and meek-looking, and
his face--oh dear!" And she laughed again. "I'm sure he was never meant
to look so solemn."

Alan instinctively put up his hand to try to persuade the offending lock
of hair to keep its proper place, but as soon as he took away his hand
up jumped the hair again. He blushed deeply, realizing that the
attention of the party, and especially of the doctor, who, to him, was a
most awesome personage, was fixed upon himself; but in the end he joined
in the laugh against his appearance as heartily as the rest.

Thus the ice was broken, and conversation began to flow, soon developing
into a graphic account of the rat hunt.

"I saw Peter careering about like a youngster," said the doctor,
laughing. "He'll be sorry enough to-morrow when he's as stiff as a
board, but I believe he enjoyed the fun as much as any of you." And he
laughed again.

Marjory thought that this would be a good opportunity for her to make
her request.

"May we try again to open the chest, please, uncle?" she asked.

"What chest, child?"

"Why, the oak chest in the old wing. We do so want to see what's in it."

"Nonsense, Marjory. I tell you it has been there ever since I can
remember, and there's nothing in it as far as I know." Seeing the
disappointment in the young people's faces as he said this, he relented,
saying, "Well, well, I suppose I must let you have your way. You may try
if you like, but I won't have you using any tools. It's a fine old piece
of wood, and I don't want it spoiled."

They readily promised not to do any harm to the box, and as soon as
dinner was over they hurried off to the old part of the house, Alan
feeling rather flattered by Marjory's suggestion that he might be able
to find some way of opening the chest.

There was no sign of any lock except the one in front, which they had
tried before, and in which none of the keys would turn. The lid fitted
firmly and smoothly, and so tightly that its joining with the box was
hardly visible. It was a magnificent specimen of cabinet work.

"Of course it may have a spring," said Marjory, "if only we knew where
to find it."

At this suggestion they all set to work to push and thump and press, but
as before their efforts were of no avail.

Marjory wondered to herself whether the same ingenious person who had
contrived the secret door upstairs might have made this box.

"Suppose we turn it round, and see what the hinges look like," said
Alan.

They managed to drag it out from the wall, bringing with it masses of
black cobwebs and the dust of many years.

Alan's idea was a good one; but there were no hinges to be seen.

"I believe the lock and the hasps are nothing but false ones to put
people off the scent," said Alan. "What a beastly mess," rubbing the
cobwebs off his hands on to his knickerbockers. "I believe this is a
puzzle chest, and it opens in some secret way like Mrs. Shaw's box.
We're having quite a run of secrets."

How Blanche longed to tell Alan of the room upstairs! It was all she
could do to prevent herself from speaking of it.

Hot and breathless from their efforts in moving the box, the three sat
down to rest and to consult as to their next attempt.

"I don't believe there is a lock at all," Alan repeated, and he began
once more to examine the lid of the chest. After some little time he
suddenly exclaimed, "I believe I've got it; look here!" He showed the
girls that the construction of the lid at two of the corners was
slightly different from the other two. "It's something to do with these
corners, I'll be bound," he cried excitedly. "Here it comes!"

The girls looked on with intense interest. The big brass nails at the
two corners came out, it seemed, and one side of the lid came right off.
The row of nails all round the rest of it were long enough to go
through the depth of it, and they fitted into corresponding holes in the
box itself, so that once the one side was undone the whole thing simply
lifted off. It was a most ingenious contrivance, and calculated to
baffle even the most clever and curious person.

The girls danced with excitement when they saw that, far from being
empty, the trunk had all sorts of things in it. They had been very
neatly and carefully packed amongst layers of paper. First came some
dresses, amongst them a lilac-flowered muslin, which Marjory recognized
as the very one which her great-grandmother Hunter wore in the big
picture which hung in the drawing-room. It had probably been kept for
that reason. The dress did not seem to have suffered very much from its
long imprisonment. The ground of it had turned yellow, but the lilac
flowers were as fresh as ever. It was made entirely by hand, and it had
a very short-waisted bodice and a frilled skirt. Rolled up with it was a
pair of silk stockings and some dainty satin shoes, all yellow with age.

With a feeling of awe the girls unfolded these treasures of a bygone
day, as if they feared lest the owners of them might rise up and forbid
them to go on.

"Fancy uncle never knowing that all these lovely things were here!"
cried Marjory. "Oh, what's this?" as she lifted out a bundle wrapped in
linen.

"I believe it's somebody's wedding-dress," said Blanche, as she helped
to undo the wrappings.

It was a wedding dress, and there was a veil with it, and a wreath of
myrtle. Fastened to the wreath with white ribbon was a lace-edged paper,
with the following words written on it in a fine Italian hand, "Alison
Grant married John Hunter, October 15, 1843."

"That's my grandmother," said Marjory. "Uncle George says she was very
beautiful and very good. I expect she must have put all these things
here. It seems funny, though, that she put her wedding dress away when
it was quite fresh; it doesn't look as if it had been worn."

"Perhaps she meant to keep it for her daughter," suggested Blanche.
"Old-fashioned people used to do that. My mother didn't. She wore hers
when she went to parties, and then had it dyed and made into a
petticoat!"

"My mother was the only girl of the family who lived to grow up, and
grandmother died when she was a little girl, so of course nobody knew
about the dress being here."

Alan was more interested in the next find, which was a complete court
suit--silk stockings, buckled shoes, and all. Then came an old uniform,
moth-eaten long before Dame Alison's careful hands had folded it away.
Its gold lace was tarnished almost beyond recognition, and on it was a
label written in the same delicate handwriting, "Worn by General James
Hunter at the battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, where he was mortally
wounded."

"Isn't it ripping?" exclaimed Alan. "I should have liked to see the old
chap who wore this."

At the bottom of the chest were some fencing-sticks, a couple of old
pistols, a box with some tarnished medals once the pride of a soldier's
heart, a bundle of letters, and, last of all, a worn portfolio tied with
ribbon; and inside was written, in the handwriting of Alison Hunter,
Marjory's grandmother, "Chronicles of the Hunter family." She had
evidently meant to arrange them in book form some day. There were old
letters, newspaper cuttings, and a genealogical tree traced in the same
fine hand. Inside the sheet of paper containing this there was another
paper which appeared to have verses of some sort written on it. The
light was growing dim, and Marjory could hardly decipher the words,
"Copied from the County Records at Corrisdale Castle, through the
kindness of Sir Alexander Reid, being ancient prophecies concerning the
Hunter family."

Here indeed was a find. This piece of paper appealed more to Marjory's
imagination than did the dresses or even the uniform. What a pity it was
getting so dark! It must be near tea-time, and they must put away the
things. They did so very reluctantly, laying them all back as they had
found them, with the exception of the portfolio, which Marjory
determined to carry off to her bedroom, where she could read its
contents at her leisure. Alan showed her how to fix the lid of the box
on again, and exactly how to undo the nails in order to take it off.
Regretfully they left their treasure trove and went to tea.

Dr. Hunter did not appear until Mr. Forester came to fetch Blanche; but
when he did come he was overwhelmed by excited descriptions of the
wonders that had been found in the old chest.

As he and Blanche were leaving, Mr. Forester remarked, "Our fellows had
a bit of a brush with a man the other night," with a meaning look at
Marjory; "but he managed to give them the slip somehow, and made off,
the thieving rascal."

Marjory coloured, but said nothing, and the doctor remarked cheerfully,
"Well, well, he'll live to fight another day."

"Yes, and to poach too," said Mr. Forester good-humouredly. "I begin to
think that Hunters' Brae favours these fellows," he called over his
shoulder as he left the house with Blanche and Alan.

"Perhaps he's right--eh, Marjory?" asked the doctor in a bantering tone
as he shut the door.

"He _wasn't_ a poacher," declared Marjory stoutly; and then, realizing
what a slip she had made, she bit her lip and coloured again.

"Oh, ho! then there _was_ a man," said her uncle quickly. "The cat's out
of the bag now. Ah, Marjory, there's no mistaking you for anything but
a Hunter; it's in the blood, my dear. Good-night." And he went laughing
to his study.

Marjory was very grateful to her uncle for his trust in her with regard
to her escapade, and felt much relieved that even to-night, when the
subject was revived by Mr. Forester, he had not questioned her. It made
her feel that she could never wish to deceive him or to abuse his
confidence.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE PROPHECIES.

  "According to Fates and Destinies and such odd sayings."

  SHAKESPEARE.


Marjory went to bed with a glow of happiness in her heart. Her uncle had
called her a true Hunter. How often had she brooded over those looks of
hers, which could not be said to resemble in any feature those of the
Hunters whose portraits hung on the walls of the old house! How many
times had she wished herself a boy who could carry out the traditions of
the family! Foolish troubles these were, no doubt, but they were real
enough to the lonely child, living with her own fancies for company.
True, she had not thought about them so much of late; but although they
were not uppermost in her mind, they were still there. And now those
words of the doctor's brought comfort for the memory of many a lonely
wakeful hour, when Marjory should have been sleeping the untroubled
sleep of childhood. A true Hunter!--in spite of that unknown father,
perhaps long dead; in spite of her ignorance; in spite of her looks. A
true Hunter! How her heart thrilled at the words!

Fired with these thoughts, she took out the old portfolio and began to
read the copy of the prophecies about her family. As she sat alone with
these old-time records, the candlelight flickering on their pages, she
felt almost as if she were in the presence of these ancestors of hers.

She found her grandmother's writing rather difficult to read, it was so
fine and delicate, and time had faded the ink to a pale gray.

As for the old prophecies, they were nothing but a set of doggerel
verses which any sensible person would probably have laughed at, but
they were made serious and impressive to Marjory by the fact that her
grandmother had thought it worth while to copy them, and had made notes
of her own as to the fulfilment of their predictions.

With great difficulty Marjory deciphered the following lines:--

  "Come list to me, whoe'er ye be,
    Who care for sayings true,
  For, sooth to say, me trust ye may--
    Prophesy these things I do:

  "Since days of old the Hunters bold
    Upon the muir held sway;
  The Hunters' line shall ne'er decline
    Till the muir doth pass away.

  "By land and sea these brave men free
    Their king shall nobly serve;
  Their blood shall flow, their riches go
    For the sovereign's cause they love.

  "When bright days shine, the Stuart line
    Shall hold these Hunters dear.
  Should storms befall, a Hunter shall
    Take his death-blow without fear.

     "_N.B._--Fulfilled after the battle of Culloden in 1746, when
     Colonel George Hunter was executed for his devotion to the cause of
     the Young Pretender.

  "In Church and State these Hunters great
    A foremost place shall take;
  With words as bold as theirs of old,
    They shall speak for conscience' sake.

     "_N.B._--Probably refers to speeches made by Alexander Hunter in
     the House of Commons against the taxation of the Colonies, in 1765,
     and to the Reverend John Hunter, a famous divine who lived in the
     reign of George the Second.

  "Should Hunter of this noble race
    Pride of his house forget,
  Ancestors grim shall punish him,
    Till his fault he doth regret.

     "_N.B._--Perhaps this refers to that James Hunter who, through his
     reckless extravagance, sank deeply into debt, and was confined for
     many months in the old Canongate Tolbooth in the city of Edinburgh,
     during the reign of George the Third. His debts were paid by his
     elder brother, who sold a great part of his property for that
     purpose--notably that portion of his lands to the south of the
     loch, and that on which the mansion of the Murray family now
     stands."

"Fancy that!" said Marjory to herself. "I never knew that all that land
once belonged to us. No wonder if the ancestors did punish James; they
wouldn't like to see their property disappearing."

Then came a verse which caused the girl's heart to beat fast and her
face to flush:--

  "The ladies fine of Hunter line
    Are fair as fair can be.
  Should tresses dark a maiden mark,
    Her beloved must cross the sea."

A note followed:--

     "It is a curious thing that among all the written descriptions and
     the paintings at my disposal I can find no record of a dark-haired
     daughter of the house; fair hair and blue eyes are the rule.--A. H."

It is easy to see that any one of these so-called predictions was more
than likely to be fulfilled under any circumstances, and that very
probably the whole thing was written in the first place as a joke.
Moreover, Marjory was not a Hunter by name, being the child of a
daughter of the house and not of a son. Still, she took this saying to
mean herself: she, Marjory Davidson, and no other, must be the
dark-haired maiden whose beloved must cross the sea. It must mean that,
sooner or later, her father would come to her across the sea.

It was little wonder, then, that she tossed and turned upon her pillow
that night, and that, when at last she did fall asleep, her dreams were
a confused mixture--rats flying from a terrier of impossible size,
shadowy processions of ancestors in their picture-frames, and a long row
of ladies with flaxen locks pointing at her and calling to her, "Tresses
dark a maiden mark."

Next morning, full of enthusiasm, she showed her uncle the portfolio,
directing his attention to the copied verses. Contrary to all her
expectations, he only laughed at them, and made no remark about the
dark-haired maiden. It was not that he did not notice that particular
verse, but he did not wish Marjory to think that there was any reason
why she should apply it to herself, and he did not wish her head to be
filled with romantic nonsense. So he took away the portfolio, much to
Marjory's disgust, for she had looked forward to showing it to Blanche
and Alan. Still, she had a good memory, and could repeat every word of
it by heart, and was not likely to forget it.

  "Should tresses dark a maiden mark,
    Her beloved must cross the sea."

The words repeated themselves over and over again in her head. She could
not get rid of them, or of the thoughts and fancies to which they gave
rise.

Marjory did not see the Braeside visitors till the Sunday morning, when
they met in the churchyard. Mrs. Hilary Forester was a very grand
personage, but looked good-natured. Her daughter Maud, whom she
considered to be little short of an angel, certainly did not look like
one just then. Something must have put her out that morning, for the
look she gave Marjory as the introductions were made was not by any
means calculated to make a good impression upon that young person,
already predisposed to dislike the new arrival.

Marjory saw the eyes of mother and daughter travel over her person from
head to foot--or rather, as she expressed it to herself, from hat to
shoes--and she felt as if that cold scrutiny would shrivel her up. She
herself, although she did not stare, quickly took in the details of Mrs.
Hilary Forester's very fashionable attire. She had never seen anything
like it in Heathermuir before. The ladies at Morristown always seemed to
her to be very grandly dressed, but nothing like this.

"I wonder if she is at all religious," was Marjory's mental comment. To
her mind, a display of finery was not compatible with what she called
religion.

Then her eyes fell upon Blanche's mother. She too was richly dressed,
but Marjory knew without being told that her clothes were in much better
taste than those of her visitor. Still, Marjory had never looked upon
Mrs. Forester as very religious; for the child had somehow come to
understand the word as being synonymous with sour looks, long faces,
unattractive clothes, and disapproval of most pleasant things. Mrs.
Forester was sweet and good and kind, and much nicer than any of the
people whom Lisbeth had pointed out to her as "releegious."

Marjory had yet to learn that religion is a life, not a profession; that
in its reality it is a wellspring of cheerfulness, of love and charity
for others, of praise and thanksgiving--a life which, instead of
holding itself aloof from the world as a wicked place, lives in it,
works for its good, believing that nothing which God has created can be
altogether wicked. Mrs. Forester and Miss Waspe were gradually
suggesting these new ideas to the girl, more perhaps by example than by
precept.

Marjory followed Miss Maud into church. She did not much like the look
of her, she decided. Waspy had said one must never judge hastily of
people, but she did not feel that she was going to like this girl; even
her back view looked stuck-up!

It really did; for Maud could never forget that she was Miss Hilary
Forester, and she gave a self-satisfied little waggle to her skirts as
she walked, which said very plainly, "Look at me! Don't I strike you as
being more attractive than most girls?"

This attitude on Maud's part was hardly to be wondered at, seeing that
she had been spoiled and petted all her life. Everything that she said
and did was extravagantly praised by her adoring mother, and she had
grown up with exaggerated ideas of her cleverness, her looks, and her
own importance. What wonder, then, that the poor child held her head
high and waggled her skirts? But Marjory knew nothing of these causes,
and, seeing only their effects, her feelings towards the newcomer had
not softened at all by the time church was over.

The three girls walked together as far as the turning to Braeside, and
conversation flagged considerably.

"Are there many parties here at Christmas?" asked Maud.

"I don't know," replied Blanche.--"Are there, Marjory?"

"Not that I know of."

"What a dead-and-alive place to live in!" exclaimed Maud.

"It isn't!" said Blanche, firing up.

"Don't be so touchy, Blanche," said her cousin. "You don't seem to be at
all improved since I saw you."

Just then Silky, who had been sitting by the milestone as usual,
watching for his mistress, bounded forward to meet her, jumping and
barking round her with every sign of delight. In so doing he brushed
against Maud, and she was not at all pleased.

"What a horrid, rough dog!" she cried. "Do send him off, one of you! I
hate a great lumbering beast like that!"

"He isn't either horrid or rough," said Marjory indignantly, "but I
think I'd better go. Good-bye, Miss Hilary Forester.--Good-bye,
Blanche.--Come, Silky darling." And she walked on.

Maud laughed. "'Love me, love my dog,'" she quoted loudly, so that
Marjory might hear. And then to Blanche, "This friend you talk so much
about seems to be somewhat of a savage. I shall try to tame her,
though, for I rather like the look of her."

Marjory marched on, very indignant. It was hateful, she thought, that
this outsider, with her smart frocks and her superior ways, should come
and spoil their good time. She allowed herself to think very hardly of
Maud, although Miss Waspe's warning against hasty judgments came into
her mind more than once.

Marjory walked on, forgetting to look behind to see if her uncle were
coming. Some one called suddenly, "Miss Marjory!" She turned quickly,
and saw that Mary Ann Smylie was trying to catch up with her; so she
slackened her pace, and waited for her old enemy, wondering what she
might want.

Mary Ann, still self-conscious, still overdressed, nevertheless showed a
difference in her manner to Marjory.

"I only wanted to tell you something I thought you would like to know,"
she said, panting after her quick walk.

"What is it?" asked Marjory, curious to know what this something might
be.

"Mother told me that your uncle had sent a letter to foreign parts; she
wouldn't say who to, because she's not supposed to tell anything about
post-office business, you know. It was last Thursday, when she was
stamping the letters for the evening mail, suddenly she said 'Hallo!'
very surprised like. When I asked her what it was, she said, 'Hunter's
Marjory would like to see this,' but she wouldn't tell me any more
except that it was a foreign letter. It must have been to your father, I
believe, though I always thought he must be dead. Of course, I don't
know for certain that it was to him, only I thought I'd tell you about
it." And Mary Ann looked at Marjory with a deprecating little smile, as
much as to say, "I am trying to make amends for what I once said to
you."

Marjory thanked her, and then, remembering her uncle, she said that she
must wait for him.

"In that case," remarked Mary Ann, "I'll be off; he gives me the
shivers. Mind you, I don't know for certain about that letter; I only
think," she called back.

Marjory had plenty to think about as she sauntered back in the direction
of the church to meet her uncle. Could it possibly be that he had heard
something of her father? If so, how very unkind not to tell her. She had
a right to know; she _would_ know; and she worked herself into a very
excited state.

When her uncle joined her, she gave very short replies to his questions
and remarks, and at last she burst out, "Uncle, do you know anything
about my father?" in a very peremptory tone.

The doctor started. "My dear child," he said testily, "haven't I told
you over and over again that I have not heard one single word from your
father since I wrote and told him of your mothers death? I do not know
whether he is alive or dead, but I know this--he is dead to you." And
his voice rose with passion. Then, after a pause, he said rather sadly,
"Can't you be content, Marjory? Have I not done my best for you? I had
hoped that you were happier lately."

Marjory was touched by the feeling in his voice. "So I am, uncle, much
happier; but I can't help thinking and wondering about things
sometimes," she said wistfully. "No one can be exactly like a real
father and mother--at least, not quite," she added quickly, fearing to
wound her uncle afresh.

They finished their walk in silence, each busy with thoughts which,
could they have read each other's minds, would have filled them with
astonishment. The little storm blew over as other storms had done, but
Marjory could not forget what Mary Ann had told her about the letter.

Next day, when she went to Braeside, Marjory spent rather a painful
quarter of an hour with Mrs. Hilary Forester. Blanche and Maud had gone
out for a walk, and Marjory was shown into the morning-room to wait for
them. There she found the lady, sitting in a capacious armchair by the
fire, toasting her feet upon the fender, displaying elaborately-embroidered
stockings and many rustling frills.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Forester," said Marjory shyly.

"Mrs. _Hilary_ Forester, dear child," amended the lady. "Blanche's
mother is _Mrs._ Forester, having married the eldest son, and one must
be exact, you know."

"I beg your pardon," said Marjory, covered with confusion.

Blanche's Aunt Katharine looked at her critically. "I suppose your
mother plaits your hair in that pigtail to save trouble, but they are
not worn in town, you know."

"My mother is dead," said Marjory stolidly.

"Dear, dear, yes, of course, now I remember Rose--that's Mrs. Forester,
you know--Rose did say something to that effect, but my memory fails me
so often; it is a great affliction. Well, it's a good thing your poor
father has you left to comfort him. My darling Maud is my one comfort,
I'm sure, while her father is away in those dreadful foreign places.
Perhaps I spoil her a little," complacently; "but then I dare say,"
playfully, "that your father spoils you."

"I haven't got a father either," said poor Marjory dully.

Mrs. Hilary carefully adjusted her gold-rimmed eyeglasses, and looked at
Marjory over the top of them.

"Well, to be sure, I certainly understood--at least I thought--but
there, my memory does fail me at times; still, I was certainly under the
impression that your father was Dr. Hunter--_the_ great Dr. Hunter."

"No, he is my uncle; my name is Davidson," explained Marjory.

"Oh yes, yes, to be sure, now I come to think of it, Rose did say
something about it, and I remember wondering whether you belonged to
_the_ Davidsons, you know."

"I don't know," said Marjory doubtfully, wishing that Blanche and Maud
would come to her rescue.

"I must look it up for you, dear child. It is such a comfort to know
that one belongs to _the_ branch of a family, you know. As I tell Maud,
it makes all the difference to a young girl in these days when mere
money, that root of all evil, is so much thought of; not but that it is
a comfort too, in its way--in its way," she continued thoughtfully; "but
at this time of year one ought to think of doing little kindnesses,
leaving money out of the question--I mean we should not let it be our
sole comfort at such a time, you understand."

Marjory did not understand, and as she did not know what to reply to
this harangue, she said nothing. But silence did not suit Mrs. Hilary.

"You are very quiet for a girl of your age," she said. "Now my Maud has
a continual flow of merry chatter, and I encourage the darling. I think
it is so nice for a young girl to have plenty to say, and to have her
own little opinions about things. For instance, Maudie chooses all her
own hats and frocks, and decides what we shall do and where we shall go.
It is perfectly delightful for me, and saves me so much thought and
worry; I suffer so with my bad memory, you know. Come now, can't you
chat to me? Any little village gossip or small happenings at home?"
("atome," as she pronounced it). "No? Well, dear me, what was it that
darling Maud said about you? I know she said something, but my memory is
_such_ a trial. Oh yes, there was something about a dog; and you called
Maud a savage, and she rather liked you for it. Dear child, she has such
a sweet, forgiving nature."

"I never called her a savage," protested Marjory. "I--"

At that moment Blanche and Maud came bursting into the room.

"What's that about calling names?" cried Maud. "I called _her_ a
savage," nodding at Marjory, "but I didn't mean any harm, and you've got
it all mixed up, you dear darling old muddle-head of a mother." And she
rushed upon Mrs. Hilary and hugged her until the poor lady had no breath
left with which to protest.

Marjory looked on in wonder. When Maud had done with her mother she
turned to Marjory.

"Now, _don't_ look at me like that," she said plaintively; "you're going
to like me in the end; I'm going to make you. I know just exactly what
you're thinking--that I'm a horrid, stuck-up, thoroughly spoilt and
disagreeable girl. So I am; but I'm all right when you know me, though
you've got to know me first, as the song says. True, I don't like
dogs--nasty lumbering things that spoil one's best clothes; but that's
not a crime--it's an opinion. I always have my own way, everybody gives
in to me, and so long as I can 'boss the show,' as our American cousins
say, I can be quite charming. Now you look as if you liked bossing shows
yourself, Miss Marjory--people with long noses always do; so one of us
will have to give in. I wonder which it will be. But I must have you
like me; I am perfectly miserable if people aren't fond of me." And she
looked at Marjory with a comic yet pathetic appeal in her eyes.

"Dear Maudie has such quaint little sayings," said her mother. "I don't
know how she can remember them all."

"Well, which is it to be?" demanded Maud, dramatically striking an
attitude. "Is it peace or war?"

"Oh, peace, I suppose," replied Marjory, laughing; and then as an
afterthought--"for the present."

This girl with her airs and graces and her comical ways was something
quite new to Marjory, and she stood contemplating this wonderful and
puzzling creature, when the creature suddenly seized her round the
waist, waltzing out of the room with her, and calling Blanche to come
too.

"Darling Maud has such wonderfully high spirits," murmured Mrs. Hilary
to the empty air. She had probably forgotten that there was no one left
in the room.



CHAPTER XV.

TWELFTH NIGHT.

  "And hopes, perfumed and bright,
  So lately shining wet with dew and tears,
      Trembling in the morning light--
  I saw them change to dark and anxious fears
      Before the night!"--ADELAIDE PROCTER.


Blanche had told her cousin something of Marjory's history, and Maud was
prepared to be much interested in her, for her life had been so unusual,
so different from that of ordinary girls.

"I've never met anybody just like you," she said to Marjory as they
walked across the park, "and I want to know all about you and your
belongings, and above all, I ache to find out what is in that forbidden
room, and why you mustn't go into it."

This was a sore subject with Marjory. She felt more than half ashamed of
her uncle's eccentricity in this matter.

"I don't think there is anything in it except my mother's things," she
replied. "Everything that belonged to her is there, except this chain
with the locket and coin on it that she said she wanted me to have and
to wear always. Lisbeth says I used to wear it when I was a tiny baby."
And she pulled the chain outside her coat to show it to Maud.

"Oh, how sweet!" cried Maud as she opened the locket and saw the face of
Marjory's mother. "How I wish you'd got her now!" impulsively squeezing
Marjory's arm. "And what's this?" looking at the other trinket which
hung on the chain.

"It's the half of a coin with a hole bored through it."

"So it is. And look, there's one-half of the date on it--87. Let's see.
This is 1902. That's" (and she counted rapidly on her fingers, contrary
to all approved systems of mental arithmetic) "fifteen years ago--before
you were born, and of course the very year I was born. It was the
Queen's Jubilee year, and that's why I was called Victoria--Maud
Victoria my name is. Think it's pretty?" she asked, with her head
coquettishly on one side.

"I like Maud," said Marjory. "Victoria sounds rather too grand for an
ordinary person."

"But I'm not an ordinary person. Well, don't mind me; let's think about
this coin. The question is, Where's the other half? Somebody must have
got it. More mystery. Why, Marjory, you are like a girl in a book where
all sorts of impossible things can happen. _I'm_ going to write a book
some day--from a girl's point of view--and I intend to make all parents
and guardians and governesses, _et cetera_, sit up. Why should boys
have everything jolly, while girls are made to be so prim and proper?
Read a boys' book and you will find it full of fun and adventures and
excitement, but girls are supposed to care about nothing but wish-wash,
about self-denial and being good, and all that. Course I know we ought
to try to be good, keep our promises, and never do mean things, or tell
stories; every decent girl tries; but we don't want it continually poked
down our throats till we're sick of it. My theory is that girls ought to
have just as good a time all round as boys, if not a better." And the
irrepressible Maud laughed merrily.

"Here comes Alan," said Blanche, secretly wondering what he would think
of the visitor. When she heard the announcement, Maud gave a tilt to her
hat and a toss to her hair, which she wore hanging, as if to prepare
herself for an encounter.

Alan approached the girls rather shyly, introductions were made, and
after a little consultation Maud decided that they would make an
expedition to the pond. Strange to say, by the time the pond was
reached, Alan had dismissed all thoughts of booby traps and apple-pie
beds, for Miss Maud had quite won him over by her expressions of opinion
upon things in general and upon boys in particular. He felt that it was
more than possible, without loss of dignity, to "chum up" with such a
girl. The only thing he did not like about her was the way she waggled
her skirts, and he decided that some one ought to tell her not to do it,
although he would have hesitated long had such a task devolved upon
himself.

So the Triple Alliance became a quadruple one, and on the whole things
went well with its members. It must be admitted that Marjory understood
Maud much better than did her cousin Blanche. Blanche was an
unimaginative, rather matter-of-fact little person, and was apt to take
all Maud's sayings literally. For instance, when her cousin said, as she
often did, "Don't I look sweet in this dress?" or "this hat?" as the
case might be, Blanche would think her vain and conceited, and feel
ashamed of her, whereas Marjory would know at once that it was only
Maud's fun, and would laugh at these sayings of hers.

As the days went by, Marjory found herself really liking this bright,
merry girl with all her airs and nonsense. She noticed her devotion to
her mother, and saw that in spite of her talk about always taking her
own way, she very seldom did anything that was really in opposition to
her mother's wishes. True, she laughed at her indulgent muddle-headed
parent; but though it shocked poor Blanche's ideas of what was fitting,
this laughter was nothing more than affectionate raillery and a sign in
itself of the excellent understanding which existed between mother and
daughter. "Mamma does forget so," she would say. "Papa says sometimes he
believes she forgets that he ever existed."

To Dr. Hunter, Maud was an entirely new phenomenon, and he studied her
with curiosity. He had not been much better pleased than the children
when he heard of the expected visitors, for he still wished to keep
Marjory away from strangers if possible; but he had not the heart to
separate her from her friend at Christmas time, and so he allowed her to
go to Braeside just as usual.

Maud conquered the doctor as she had conquered Alan. For calm
self-assurance, irrepressible spirits, and undoubted charm he thought he
had never seen her equal, and, compared with the girl of his former
experience, seemed an inhabitant of another world.

Mrs. Hilary, too, was quite a new specimen of womanhood to him,
good-natured incapacity personified, as she was. Sometimes, when she
made some more than usually foolish remark, the doctor would catch
Maud's eye, and they would enjoy the joke together. Then he would rebuke
himself and inform himself that it was altogether out of order that he
should countenance such disrespect, and, what was worse, that he should
thoroughly enjoy the fun himself.

On Christmas evening, when he was first introduced to Mrs. Hilary, he
was quite bewildered by the vagueness of her conversation. Endeavouring
to make himself agreeable, he began to make inquiries as to the
whereabouts of Mr. Hilary Forester, who was travelling abroad.

"Well, I had a letter from him two days ago," she replied, "from Texas,
or Mexico--those foreign names are so alike, and I never was good at
geography, and the letters take such a long time to come that by the
time they get here the place is different--I mean, he has gone somewhere
else, so that I really never know exactly where he is." The doctor
murmured something sympathetic, and Mrs. Hilary continued, "I hope Texas
or Mexico, which ever it is, is a British possession. I always feel
safer about Hilary when he is under his own country's protection, for
one never knows what foreigners are going to do, there are such dreadful
stories in the papers nowadays." And she beamed upon the bewildered man
of science. "And then there's the climate, too, to be considered," she
went on; "some of these foreign places have their winter while we have
summer, or is it the other way round? I never know, it is so dreadfully
confusing, especially to me with my bad memory; perhaps it is that they
have summer while we have winter, but anyway I think the English
arrangement is much to be preferred. I am a good Conservative, you know;
besides, I think it is so charming to love one's own country, and all
that. By the way, about that letter.--Maudie darling," she called to her
daughter, "just go and fetch me daddy's last letter; it's the top one on
the left-hand side of where the papers are--not the bill side, darling,
but the other one. You'll find it at the back, under my handkerchief
sachet; and mind, dearest, that you don't crush my lace collar; it's
just been cleaned--if it's there."

To the doctor's astonishment Maud went off obediently. Mrs. Hilary's
instructions had conveyed nothing to him.

"It is so much better to decide things at once," said that lady, with a
charming smile. "I shall feel quite worried now till I know whether
Hilary is in Mexico or Texas--at least, when the letter was written; one
can't expect to know where he is now," with a sigh. "I was so hoping
that the new postmaster-general might make some better arrangement;
but I dare say he is much worried, poor man, so we must hope and trust
for the best."

Maud returned with the letter, and the question was settled. Mr. Hilary
Forester had written from Galveston, Texas, and his wife was relieved
when the others laughingly assured her that he was not amongst savages
or wild beasts, and that the arrangement of the seasons was much the
same as in England.

There was to be a real party at Braeside on Twelfth Night. All the young
people of the neighbourhood had been invited, and after much persuasion
on Mrs. Forester's part, the doctor had consented to let Marjory go. She
looked forward to it with much pleasure, for she felt that with Blanche,
Maud, and Alan as allies she could face the strangers with confidence.
Mrs. Forester, with her usual tact, had asked her to arrange some of the
games for the younger children, so that she might feel that she was
being useful--a feeling which gives confidence to the shyest of girls.

The doctor had ordered her a new white frock for the occasion, with
stockings and shoes to match. Lisbeth was in raptures over it, and how
it would become her little mistress; and it must be confessed that
Marjory could not think of the fairy-like contents of a certain long
drawer without a thrill of pleasure.

The day came, and Lisbeth, who insisted that she must dress Marjory for
her first party, spread all the finery on the bed quite early in the
afternoon. She lighted the fire to make the room cheerful, and she
brought an extra pair of candles so that Marjory should have plenty of
light.

Poor Peter had been very bad with rheumatism the last day or two, and
could do nothing but sit in his armchair in the kitchen watching Lisbeth
or doing little jobs for her, such as cutting skewers or "sorting" her
string bag. He was much interested in the party, and Marjory promised to
go to the kitchen and show herself when she was all ready.

Lisbeth was much concerned to see her husband so crippled, but she would
not allow anything more than that he was "just a wee bit colded," and
blamed the weather as being the cause. She was afraid her master might
be inclined to find fault with Peter for his helplessness. "Rain and
snaw, and frost and fog, and wind like newly-sharpened knives--a body
doesna ken what's coming next," she said indignantly when she went to
tell the doctor about it. He reassured Lisbeth by his kindly sympathy,
and the old woman wept with joy when he told her that so long as he was
alive there would be a home for his faithful servants at Hunters' Brae,
whether they were past work or not.

The party was to begin at seven o'clock, and Mrs. Forester had promised
to send a carriage for Marjory at half-past six, so that she should be
there in good time and feel at home before the other guests arrived.

But things were to turn out very differently from all expectations.
Contrary to his usual habit, Dr. Hunter had not appeared at early dinner
that day, nor had he left any message; but it was concluded that he had
gone to the Morisons', or to the minister's, perhaps. He did not return
during the afternoon, and when tea-time came and still he did not
appear, Marjory began to feel anxious. He never went out for so long a
time without telling her or leaving a message.

Lisbeth asked the man who brought the afternoon's milk from the farm if
he would go to the doctor's and the minister's and inquire whether her
master were there, and he good-naturedly agreed to do so--perhaps with
visions of a reward in the shape of a good cup of tea in the Hunters'
Brae kitchen on his return.

He came back with no news of the doctor; he had not been seen out that
day.

Marjory had her tea alone, and a feeling of dread weighed upon her. It
seemed so strange for her uncle to be away so long, and on this
particular day too. He had been so interested about the party, and her
frock, and all the arrangements. What could it mean?

Suddenly, as she sat puzzling over it, a thought struck her. Quick as
lightning she ran to the hall, took up a candle, and went along the
passage to the old wing. It was about five o'clock, and the place was
dark as night. Her footsteps echoed through the empty rooms and passages
till she reached the place where the secret chamber was. Tremblingly she
felt along the wall. Would she be able to find the spring? She now felt
almost certain that she would find her uncle here. Perhaps he would be
angry with her for disturbing him; he might be finishing some very
important experiment. Should she go in? She hesitated, but only for a
moment; something seemed to urge her on. After some searching she found
the spring; the door flew open, and, holding her candle high, she went
in. She could not suppress a cry of terror when she saw that her uncle
lay stretched upon the floor. He moaned a little as she went towards
him, and she was thankful to hear his voice. Broken glass was strewed
upon the floor, and there was an unpleasant chemical odour in the room.
She knelt beside her uncle, and found that his head and face were cut,
that blood was flowing freely, and that his poor hands had suffered in
some dreadful way. She took her handkerchief and gently tried to wipe
his face. He murmured faintly, "Brandy--my cupboard--keys," and she
understood what he wished. She felt in his pocket for the keys, and,
saying that she would be back directly, she took the candle and went
quickly to the study, found the brandy, and got back again without being
seen. She did not call Lisbeth, as she felt sure that the doctor would
be very sorry if his hiding-place became known, and she hoped that he
might be able to get to his study before she gave the alarm.

Dr. Hunter swallowed some brandy, and it revived him. After a little
while Marjory asked him if he thought he could go to his study, and he
replied, "Yes, lassie; but you must help me."

Marjory's heart beat fast and her hands trembled as she assisted him to
rise. The least movement of his injured hands made him wince. Very
slowly and painfully the two made their way down the stairs and across
the old hall, till at last they reached the doctor's study. The exertion
had been too much for him, and he fainted. Marjory rushed to call
Lisbeth, saying that the doctor had come home, and that there had been
an accident.

Full of concern, the old lady bustled along from the kitchen. "Mercy on
us! what's this?" she cried when she saw her master. But she wasted no
time in words; she hurried away and soon returned with a basin of water
and a sponge, and a bottle of spirits, which she held under the doctor's
nose--an old-fashioned but often efficacious remedy.

"We maun hae Dr. Morison," she said; "an' how we're to come by him beats
me. Jean's awa to Braeside to help at the pairty, an' Peter he canna
walk a step; thae good-for-noughts" (which was her name for the garden
assistants) "is a' gane hame; an' as for me, I couldna get the length o'
Heathermuir on my ain feet."

"I'll go," said Marjory decidedly.

"What? An' walk twa mile at this time o' day, an' maybe more nor that if
the doctor's no at hame!"

"Well, I'll go on Brownie; then I can go after him wherever he is. O
Lisbeth dear, do you think uncle's very bad?" And Marjory looked
anxiously at the white face and still form on the couch.

"I canna say. Dinna tell Peter, but just gang yer ways the quickest that
ye can."

How thankful Marjory felt now that she had insisted upon Peter teaching
her how to saddle Brownie! She was soon on his back, off and away to
Heathermuir, glad to have something to do, her heart aching with anxiety
as to the seriousness of her uncle's injuries. The love for him which
had been steadily developing of late gained sudden force to-night, and
she felt how precious he was to her.

Never had Brownie indulged in such a mad gallop as this. His mistress
gave him his head, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He
flew like the wind, and clattered into the courtyard in front of Dr.
Morison's house.

The doctor was not there; he had been called to Hillcrest village, she
was told. Waiting to hear no more, Marjory started off again, and
Brownie felt that their mission was as yet unfulfilled. On he went
through the lanes, up hill and down, his hoofs striking fire as he tore
along. They passed the Braeside carriage going to fetch Marjory to the
party. The horses shied at the flying apparition. Marjory shouted, "I'm
not coming!" but did not slacken her pace.

The party! It seemed hours, days, since she had seen her white frock
lying on the bed, and had looked forward to wearing it. Instead of that,
here was she tearing madly across the country, her poor uncle lying, it
might be, at the point of death. Nothing was the same as it had been in
the morning. Would things ever be the same again? What if her uncle
should die? No, no, she would not allow herself to think of it; she must
not think, she must act, and she urged Brownie on.

At the top of the hill just out of Hillcrest, to her great relief, she
met Dr. Morison riding. She quickly explained her errand, and it was
now his turn to ride hard.

"Don't wait for me," said Marjory; "I'll follow."

Brownie had done his work well, and must be considered. Now that the
doctor was on his way to her uncle, she felt that she might slacken her
pace. Then she began to wonder as to the cause of the accident, but
could only suppose that the doctor had been trying some dangerous
experiment; and then, anxious and alone on the hillside in the darkness,
she sent up a real prayer to Heaven for the safety of her uncle, whom
she now knew to be very dear to her. Countless proofs of his goodness
and thoughtful kindness crowded upon her memory, and looking back over
the years, she saw his figure in its attitude of protection and care for
his dead sister's child. Then the reaction came, and Marjory wept
bitterly.



CHAPTER XVI.

MISS WASPE GIVES GOOD ADVICE.

  "Man's books are but man's alphabet.
    Beyond and on his lessons lie--
  The lessons of the violet,
    The large gold letters of the sky,
  The love of beauty, blossomed soil,
  The large content, the tranquil toil."

  JOAQUIN MILLER.


When Marjory reached home, finding that the doctor was still with her
uncle, she put Brownie into the stable, rubbed him down, and gave him a
good supper and much petting, which was highly approved of by the
affectionate little animal, for he rubbed his velvety nose up and down
Marjory's sleeve, as if to say, "Thank you; you are very kind."

Dr. Morison had got his patient into bed and comfortably settled there
by the time Marjory went back to the house. She lingered near the
bedroom door, so that she might catch him as he came out and hear what
he had to say. She thought he looked rather grave as he left the room,
but as soon as he saw her his face brightened, and he said
cheerfully,--

"Not so very bad. He must be kept very quiet, of course. I've told your
old woman what to do. I'll look in first thing to-morrow. How did it
happen?"

"I don't quite know," replied Marjory, afraid of a cross-examination,
"but I think he must have been trying some experiment."

"H'm!" said Dr. Morison. "Well, good-night, Marjory. Don't be
over-anxious; he'll do." And then, as if in answer to her unspoken
question, "You may go in and see him if you like."

Marjory went in, and found her uncle in bed, his head bandaged, and his
hands lying on a pillow in front of him and covered with wool dressings.
It made her feel, as she afterwards said to Blanche, quite faint and
fluttering inside to see him lying like that, so helpless. What could be
seen of his face was very pale, and his eyes looked unnaturally large
and bright.

Lisbeth was standing by the bed watching her master, on guard lest he
should move a muscle.

The doctor smiled as Marjory went towards him, and she stooped to kiss
him. He seemed very weak and soon closed his eyes.

Lisbeth fetched a chair, so that Marjory might sit beside him while she
went to the kitchen to prepare what was wanted, giving strict
injunctions that the patient must not move.

After a little while the doctor said in a low tone, "Marjory, did you
give me away?" a note of half-comic, half-pathetic inquiry in his voice.

"No, uncle; I only told Dr. Morison I thought you had been trying some
experiment, but I didn't say where. Nobody knows where I found you."

"Good little girl!" he said, closing his eyes again and smiling
contentedly. The thought that his den might have been discovered had
been worrying the doctor. Its secrecy had been one of its great charms
to the eccentric man, and the knowledge that it was no longer secret
would have been a real trouble to him.

He did not talk any more, and Marjory asked no questions, though she was
naturally very anxious to know exactly how the accident had happened.

Mr. Forester came up later in the evening to inquire how things were
going. Lisbeth had sent a message by the coachman who had come for
Marjory that there had been an accident to Dr. Hunter, and that she
would like Jean to come back at once unless she was very badly wanted.

Mr. Forester was very kind. He told Marjory how they had all missed her,
and promised that some day they would give another party expressly for
her. He did not tease her at all, and Marjory liked him better than she
ever had as yet. She could not have stood any teasing, poor child, after
all she had been through. The sight of her uncle, injured as he was,
hurt her sorely. She could not see suffering without feeling pain
herself, and it was a pale-faced girl, on the verge of tears, who
answered Mr. Forester's inquiries.

When Marjory went to her room her things for the party were still lying
on the bed. The sight of them struck a chill to her heart, for it made
her realize how little one can tell what a day may bring; how evening
may see changes undreamt of in the morning. The party which had seemed
all-important when she woke that day had dwindled away into nothing,
blotted out of sight by the happenings of the last few hours. Still, her
chief feeling was one of great thankfulness that the doctor thought her
uncle would get over this trouble; and that she had been of some use to
him was also a comforting thought. She fell asleep thinking how she
would try to nurse him and to take care of him until he was better.

When the doctor was able to talk more, he explained to Marjory that he
had been trying a dangerous experiment that day. He had heard the
dinner-bell ring, but was loath to leave his work, and in the end had
forgotten all about it, having become entirely absorbed in his
occupation. Something--perhaps a flaw in the glass--had caused one of
the tubes he was using to burst, and the chemicals burnt his hands. At
the sudden shock he started back, and in some way lost his balance and
fell, striking his head on a corner of the table and falling on to the
broken glass. He must have lost consciousness from the blow on his head,
and he could not tell how long he had lain as Marjory found him, but he
had felt so weak that every effort to rise made him faint again, and he
supposed he must have lain for a long time in a half-conscious
condition.

It was some weeks before he was quite himself again, and Marjory made a
most devoted nurse. She could hardly bear to leave him in case he might
want her when she was gone. Her feeling for him was a revelation to
herself, for she knew now that she really loved this uncle of hers whom
she had once thought to be hard and cruel and indifferent to her. She
considered him very much changed, but in reality the change was in
herself. Blanche's friendship, the kindness of the Foresters, Miss
Waspe's wise and careful teaching, had all combined to expand her really
warm and loving nature, which had threatened at one time to become
soured and warped for want of love's sunshine. Her uncle, as Mrs.
Forester had predicted on that memorable day in the plantation, had met
half-way any advances that she had made, and the result had been the
establishment of much happier relations between them. Now that he was
ill and dependent upon her, it was Marjory's delight to wait upon him,
and to fetch and carry for him, and her uncle was deeply touched by the
girl's whole-hearted devotion to him.

Marjory did not see so much of Blanche and the others after the doctor's
accident, for she did not join their expeditions, but she usually
managed to meet her friend once a day to exchange news. Herbert Morison
had now joined the company, and Alan was half inclined to resent this,
although the girls had made no objection. He came to see Marjory one
day--in fact, as soon as he thought he might venture to do so without
being in the way--and he freely expressed his opinion upon the subject
of the new member.

"It's all very fine," he said, "for Herbert to come tacking himself on
to my friends. I wasn't good enough for him before. He only makes an ass
of himself, and I'm sure Maud laughs at him. It all happened through him
going to the party. He said afterwards that she was ripping, and licked
all the others into fits; and now it's a new tie every day, and a polish
on his boots fit to dazzle you, so that he hates to get 'em muddy, and
always wants to go the easiest way everywhere. Rot, I call it. He asked
Maud yesterday if she liked his tie--silly booby!--and she said it was
useful as a danger-signal, cos you could see it a long way off. Crikey!
how red he got; and to-day he put on a very sad-looking gray one." And
Master Alan went off into fits of laughter at the recollection of his
brother's discomfiture.

"Oh, well," replied Marjory, always sorry for the man who is down, so
to speak, "he can see that Maud likes pretty things, and I suppose he
thought he was pleasing her."

"But that is just what I think is such rot," replied Alan emphatically.
"Why should a fellow try to please with his _ties_?" in a tone of
disgust. "He ought to _do_ things, and not be such a muff. Herbert
didn't use to be like that; he's got it from those beastly sixth
fellows. Course I know he's a good-looking chap. I don't mind saying so
to you, though I wouldn't to any of the fellows; 'tisn't the thing. I
shall never be like him; and of course the mater's awful proud of him."

There was just a suspicion of brightness in Alan's eyes just then which
Marjory did not fail to see, and she said quickly,--

"O Alan, I'm sure she's just as proud of you. Mothers are always proud
of their children."

"But I'm so short. She's always telling me I shall never be tall, like
Herbert," ruefully.

"But that doesn't matter a bit. Lots of little men get to be quite
famous. Think of Napoleon, and Moltke, and that dear German Emperor
Wilhelm--the old one, I mean. Miss Waspe said she saw the Kaiser Wilhelm
and General Moltke once when she was in Germany, and her recollection of
them is that neither of them was big; and anyway," she added
consolingly, "you're only fourteen, and you may grow a bit yet."

So Alan took comfort, for he had a high opinion of Marjory's wisdom.

"I say," he remarked, "I do think you know a lot, considering what a
short time it is since you began lessons. Fancy your knowing about those
men being small! I didn't." And he looked admiringly at Marjory.

"We have a rather nice lesson with Miss Waspe about famous men and
women, and she tells us stories about them, and describes them so
beautifully that I can see them quite plainly. It is so splendid to
think they were really alive and walked about just like ordinary
people."

Alan agreed, and there was a short silence. Marjory felt sure that the
boy had something else to say, for he seemed rather fidgety, and got up
and walked about the room, fingering things here and there, and clearing
his throat several times. She kept silent to give him an opportunity to
unburden himself. At last, rather red in the face, he said,--

"I say, you know, I felt beastly the other night when I heard about you
riding after father in the dark. If I'd only known, I would have done
it. It was awful rot me going to the party; I hated it when I knew."

"But I'm glad you went to the party. Blanche would have been very
disappointed if you hadn't gone."

There was still something else to come.

"I say, you'll let the Triple Alliance be on again next holidays, won't
you?" looking rather anxiously at Marjory.

"Yes, of course, and we shall have lots of fun." And Marjory's hearty
tone set all Alan's fears at rest.

The holidays came to an end. Maud and her mother went home, the Morison
boys returned to college, and Blanche and Marjory were to begin lessons
again.

Dr. Hunter was up and about by this time, and able to use his hands, so
that Marjory went back to her studies with a light heart.

When they had settled themselves in the schoolroom on the first day of
the new term, Miss Waspe said, "Now, children, I generally give what
Blanche calls a 'good talk' when we begin afresh, and I want to say a
few things to you to-day. If there is anything you want to know, tell
me, and I will try to help you if I can. First of all, I want you to
understand and to remember that you don't come here only to learn
lessons and repeat them. That is only a small part of your education,
and there is much besides. You have to learn to make the best of your
lives, to learn how to _live_; to be good girls, who will grow into good
women; to be true and honest, strong and fearless, thoughtful for
others--in fact, to be _gentlewomen_. All this is not easy--not nearly
so easy as learning a page of history, for instance, and then repeating
it to me. I want you to understand--and especially you, Marjory, who
have begun so-called lessons rather later in life than most girls--that
it is not the amount of information you possess and the studies you have
gone through that is the important thing; it is the way you have worked,
the sort of girl that you are, the life you are living, that matters. We
are beginning again to-day. Let us all do our very best, so that at the
end of the term we may have really gone forward. The lessons I have been
talking about are never finished; our education goes on as long as we
are alive. Now," with a bright smile, "my speech is done, and I hope it
hasn't been too long. It is your turn now. Have either of you any
problems for me?"

"I have," replied Marjory. "I want to know whether it is ever right to
tell a lie, or a kind of a one, for the sake of somebody else." And she
blushed very red.

Miss Waspe looked at her in surprise. Marjory had always seemed to her
to be so absolutely straightforward and honest that she could not
understand the reason for such a question.

"I don't believe in a 'kind of a lie,'" she replied, "A thing is either
true or untrue, and I don't think it could ever be right to tell an
untruth under any circumstances."

"Not if you can see quite well that if you tell this lie it will prevent
something bad happening to some one else?" asked Marjory appealingly.

"No," was the decided reply. "Tell the truth at all costs, and trust the
results to a higher power than yours. Wrong cannot make right."

Tears stood in Marjory's eyes, but she said no more, and Miss Waspe did
not question her. The truth was that ever since Marjory had told the man
in the plantation that "people" of the name of Shaw kept the Low Farm,
allowing him to think that the husband was at home, she had felt
uncomfortable about it. Certainly she had said it for Mrs. Shaw's sake,
to prevent a suspicious-looking person from going to the farm when its
mistress was alone; but she had not been able to silence her conscience,
and had at last determined to ask Miss Waspe what she thought. Her words
had only confirmed Marjory's uneasy feelings, and she could not give the
circumstances as an excuse without breaking her promise to the man.

"I've got a problem too," said Blanche, "and it's this: Is a secret a
proper secret if you tell only one person, and you are certain that
other person will never tell?"

The others laughed, and Miss Waspe said,--

"I don't quite know what you mean, dear."

Blanche explained. "Well, it's like this. I simply can't keep a secret.
I feel as if I shall burst if I don't tell somebody, so I always tell
mother, and then it's all right, and, of course, I never want to tell
anybody else. Do you think it is right for me to do that?"

Miss Waspe could not help smiling at this confession, and she replied,
"I think if you tell the person who wants to confide in you that you
must tell your mother, and the person still chooses to trust you with
the secret, then you are quite right to tell her."

"But supposing," argued Blanche, "that the person tells you the thing
before he or she says, 'Don't tell any one,' ought I to try to do
without telling mother? It would be an awful risk," she added solemnly.

"Well," replied Miss Waspe, "personally, I don't like secrets, except,
perhaps, about presents or pleasant surprises for people. I think I
should advise you, for the present, at any rate, to make the stipulation
that you be allowed to tell your mother anything and everything, but at
the same time you must learn to control yourself and keep your own
counsel so far as other people are concerned."

"I'll try," said Blanche, looking very solemn, "but I haven't much
hope."

After that the girls teased their good-natured governess with many other
"problems," as they called them, such as, "Whether would you choose to
be very pretty and very poor, or very rich and quite plain?" and
another, "Whether would you prefer to walk in a very fashionable place
with a person you love, who is so badly dressed as to attract attention,
or with a nicely-dressed person for whom you did not care so much?"

Miss Waspe rather encouraged the girls to give their opinions on all
sorts of subjects, as she liked them to think.

"Learn to think and to see," she would say. And one day she told them
how, when she was a girl, she had been made to learn some lines by
heart, which had helped her to begin thinking for herself. "I think they
frightened me into it," she said, laughing. "They were written by
Carlyle; you will know something of his works some day, I hope. This is
what he says: 'Not one in a thousand has the smallest turn for thinking;
only for passive dreaming, and hearsaying, and active babbling by rote.
Of the eyes that men do glare withal, so few can see.' It sounds rather
like a scolding, doesn't it? Well, I don't want you to be like that; I
want you both to think and to see, and you will find much happiness to
think about and many beauties to see."

Certainly Marjory's world had grown much wider and brighter by this
woman's thought. The romance and wonder of reality put before the girl
had opened up possibilities of interest in every direction to her who
was so eager to learn and so quick to see. To give an instance: it may
be remembered that in her days of loneliness Marjory had woven fairy
stories about the flowers and trees in the garden and the woods.
Knowledge had now replaced these fairy tales with facts far more
marvellous than any of her fancies had been.

These were happy hours spent in the schoolroom at Braeside. They never
became irksome to Marjory, but they made her long to see more of this
"great, wide, beautiful, wonderful world."

Two things were often in her mind at this time--the prophecy about the
dark-haired maiden, and the letter of which Mary Ann had told her. She
built many hopes upon that letter; night and day she prayed that her
father might be found and brought back to her.

The postman only came once a day to Hunters' Brae, and the letter-bag
was always taken straight to her uncle's study; so, although Marjory
watched carefully for any sign, she did not know whether a reply had
been received to that letter her uncle had sent to foreign parts.

One day, coming out of church, Mary Ann managed to whisper to her, "That
letter came back, so I expect your father's really dead."

This was a great blow to Marjory. She had hardly realized how much she
had hoped, and this bitter disappointment seemed to leave her nothing to
hope for. Still she refused to give up altogether, for there was just
the chance that the letter might not have been written to her father, as
Mary Ann had not actually seen the address on it. Marjory reasoned with
herself in this way, for she felt that her life would be strangely empty
without the hope of some day finding her father.



CHAPTER XVII.

ON THE LOCH.

  "Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod
  And waits to see it push away the clod,
  He trusts in God."--ANON.


The months went by, and Marjory and Blanche were happy together. They
watched the spring change to summer, and the summer to autumn, with the
greatest delight. It was the first time that Blanche had seen the
delicate shoots of the snowdrops and crocuses bravely pushing their way
through the hard earth, the first time that she had been able to watch
the miracle of seed and leaf and flower, and to trace the life of the
young birds from their hatching to their flying from the nest. These
were annual pleasures to Marjory, but they were much increased by the
sweetness of Blanche's companionship. How she delighted in showing her
friend where the first bluebells would be found in the wood, and in
taking her to search in the most likely places for birds' nests! In one
of these searches they found a great treasure. They were walking by the
loch, when, amongst the reeds which grew along the water's edge they saw
a reed-warbler's nest. What an ingenious construction it was--long and
deep and pointed, woven between the reeds, and so firmly fixed and of
such a shape that the eggs could not be shaken out, even by the roughest
of winds. Marjory was very anxious that Blanche should see a pewit's
nest. There were always a certain number of these birds about the moors,
and the girls spent a whole morning searching for a nest. But these
birds hide their nests so carefully that they are most difficult to
find. After much patience and walking up and down over the same ground,
causing great uneasiness to the parent birds who circled overhead,
crying mournfully, they at last discovered a nest. It was just a little
hollow in the ground with some grass in it, and there were the eggs,
four of them, so wonderfully speckled that they matched the colour of
the ground, and laid so neatly in an almost perfect circle, the large
ends outwards and the very narrowly-pointed ones meeting in the centre.

"Oh," cried Blanche, "I've seen eggs like these in London shops; they
call them plovers' eggs, and people eat them at dinner-parties."

"What a shame!" said Marjory indignantly.

"Well, you eat hens' eggs," argued Blanche.

"But they're quite different. Somebody feeds them every day, and they
don't even have to make their own nests; and then, when they do lay an
egg, they make a great noise to let everybody know about it. But these
dear birds do it all themselves, and they take such trouble to hide
their eggs, and are so worried if they think any one is too near them.
Oh, I simply _couldn't_ eat a plover's egg."

"I couldn't either, now that I have seen the nest," said Blanche.
"Somehow you don't think of all the trouble the birds have when you just
see the eggs in boxes in a shop window."

Time slipped away, the weeks bringing their share of lessons in term
time; of riding, boating, and pleasures of all sorts in the holidays.
Marjory's fourteenth birthday came and went, Christmas Day passed, and
another year began. This time the Twelfth Night party was a great
success, and both Marjory and her uncle went to it.

In spite of her happy life, Marjory never lost her longing for her
father. She dreamed of him, planned a future for herself in which he was
always the prominent figure, and determined that if she ever were her
own mistress she would travel from country to country in search of him,
for since the day when Mrs. Forester had quoted her old friend's words,
"A fine fellow Hugh Davidson was. I always feel that he may turn up
again some day," she had never quite lost hope.

Easter fell early that year; the season was very mild, and there were
lovely sunny days for being out of doors when the holidays began.

Maud Forester and her mother were at Braeside again, and the Morison
boys were at home, so the party was a merry one. Herbert's admiration
for Maud still flourished, and he joined the girls in all their doings.

All went well until one day when Alan was taken by his mother to
Morristown to be measured for some new clothes, much to his disgust, for
he would have preferred to sacrifice the clothes rather than one of his
precious holidays. Dr. Hunter had gone there too on business. Before
leaving in the morning he had charged Marjory not to go on the loch
during his absence--not that he expected bad weather, but he never felt
quite comfortable about her going out when he was away, although she was
quite capable of managing the boat. Many a time they had sailed from one
end of the loch to the other, and she had done everything from start to
finish as well as he could have done it himself.

Marjory readily promised; she had quite expected this, for her uncle
never left Heathermuir for a whole day without giving her this
injunction. She was to spend the day at Braeside, and she went down
there after driving her uncle to the station.

When she entered the morning-room she found Mrs. Hilary finishing a late
breakfast, with Mrs. Forester, Blanche, and Maud in attendance. Mrs.
Hilary was saying, "Yes, he's really coming home at last, after being
away more than a year, on the _Campania_, he says--the White Star Line,
you know, or is it the Cunard? I really never remember. One lot always
end in '_ic_,' and the other in '_ia_,' and it is so confusing. It would
be so much better if they didn't give them these long classical names,
wouldn't it? I never was good at the classics, you know. Ah, here's
Marjory. Good-morning, child; how rosy and healthy you look, quite a
picture, and your dark hair makes a nice contrast with the other girls."

Marjory became rosier still, and sat down as much out of sight as
possible.

"Yes, as I was saying," continued Mrs. Forester, thoughtfully gazing at
a piece of toast, "he's been to Brazil, and Morocco, and Mexico, and
Alaska, and all the well-known places that it's proper to go to, and all
through the United States too. He must be a regular walking geography by
this time, if he doesn't forget it all on that dreadful voyage. One gets
so confused with those foreign places--at least I do; and really, by the
time I've crossed from Calais to Dover, I've gone through such terrors
of mind and body that I'm quite upset, and I can hardly remember what
I've seen or where I've been. That's where I think a guide-book such a
comfort. One can put a mark against each place one goes to, and that
makes it quite certain, you know. I wonder if Hilary has a guide-book.
But men are different, I suppose," she said, with a sigh of resignation
at the superiority of the sterner sex.

The girls slipped away as soon as they conveniently could. They had no
very definite plans for the day, and one suggestion after another was
made as they walked towards the park.

Herbert Morison soon joined them, and they continued to stroll somewhat
aimlessly through the park, the dogs at their heels. There seemed to be
a spirit of depression upon them that morning, which was a most unusual
experience for them.

"We miss Alan, don't we?" remarked Maud, after one of the awkward
silences which seemed inevitable that morning.

The other girls agreed, but Herbert said nothing, as he did not quite
see what difference a "kid" like Alan could make.

Suddenly Maud clapped her hands. "I know," she cried; "we'll all go on
the loch; it'll be just lovely." She had caught sight of the water
shining silvery blue through the trees, and certainly it did look
inviting. "Come on," cried Maud excitedly; "you'll take us, won't you,
Marj?"

Marjory reddened. "I'm sorry I can't. I promised uncle that I wouldn't
go on the loch to-day."

"What rubbish! Why, it's as calm as a mill pond."

"Not quite; there's a bit of a wind; besides, uncle said I wasn't to."

"We needn't sail; we could row," suggested Herbert.

"Oh, rowing's no fun; besides, it's such hard work.--I'll make it all
right with the doctor, Marj. You see, he didn't know Herbert would be
here."

Herbert looked decidedly uncomfortable and as if he wished he were not
there. The truth was that he did not feel by any means at home in a
sailing-boat, and would have very much preferred to row, or, better
still, not to go on the water at all. However, if Maud wished it, there
was no more to be said. The Foresters had a rowing-boat which would
quite well have accommodated the party, but Maud had made up her mind
for a sail, and a sail she would have, or nothing.

Blanche felt very much divided between her duty to her guest and to her
friend. She was half ashamed that Maud should suggest taking possession
of Dr. Hunter's boat against his orders, and was inclined to wish that,
if Maud insisted upon going, Marjory would give in and go too.

"Come, Marjory," coaxed Maud, "don't be silly. It'll be all right, I
promise you."

"It's no use; I won't come," replied Marjory stoutly.

"Well, I call it very selfish of you," said Maud, her temper rising.
"And I'm sure the doctor never meant that you were not to go at all,
only that you were not to go alone; and I'm also quite sure that if he
were here he would let us have the boat this minute."

"Yes, if he were here and could go with you himself," retorted Marjory.

"Oh, very well, if you won't take us, Herbert will.--Won't you?" And
Maud turned appealingly to him.

Poor Herbert was in a tight place, as he would have expressed it. First
and foremost, he was anxious to please Maud and to stand well in her
estimation, but he had no confidence in his own powers of managing a
sailing-boat; besides, he knew something of the loch and its ways, and
how storms little and big could rise suddenly and without warning.
Another thing--he did not much like the idea of going off in Dr.
Hunter's boat without his permission, for although pretty, spoiled Maud
had no dread of the stern, eccentric doctor, Herbert did not by any
means share her fearless attitude towards him.

Poor Herbert was hesitating on the side of prudence, when Maud decided
matters by saying with a pout,--

"You don't seem very keen either. I must say I think it's awfully mean
of you two.--Come on, Blanche; you and I will go, and it'll be their
fault if we're drowned."

Thus hard pressed, Herbert said he would go. After all, it was a lovely
day, and the water looked calm enough. True, there was the little
breeze that Marjory had spoken of; but if it didn't come to any more,
he might pull through all right. Thus once again was illustrated the
truth of the old saying that "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
How many lives are lost through ignorance and foolhardiness!

Poor Marjory was in a state of mind bordering on distraction. Ought she
to disobey her uncle and go with them? She felt sure that, although he
would not confess it, Herbert was a novice in the art of sailing, and
she feared what might happen should the wind increase. She could only
hope that this would not be the case, that Maud would soon tire of her
whim, and that they would all come back safe and sound.

They started off gaily, Maud waving her hand to Marjory.

"Good-bye, you dear little monument of obedience," she cried. "You won't
enjoy your morning half as much as we shall."

Blanche looked inquiringly at Marjory, and for the first time in the
course of their friendship her look met with no answering smile. Marjory
was too anxious, and besides, she felt inclined to blame Blanche for
yielding to her cousin's persuasions; while Blanche, on her part,
thought that Marjory might have stretched a point and gone with them.

However, the start was made in fine style, and all went well at first.
The sun shone and the skies were blue; the fresh green of spring was
showing everywhere, and the young people's spirits rose as the pretty
little boat sped on.

Marjory walked slowly along by the loch, with Silky and Curly for
company. Had she done right or wrong? The question repeated itself over
and over again in her mind, until she felt too confused to think. Her
anxiety was growing. She would hardly admit it to herself, but she
feared that each quarter of an hour brought increased force to the
breeze that had been blowing when they started. She watched the white
sails getting smaller and smaller. How she wished that they would turn
back! Once when a bend of the shore hid the boat from sight, she turned
sick and faint with fear for its safety; and then, when it appeared
again, she scolded herself for being so foolish.

The wind was certainly rising. There was an angry-looking cloud on the
horizon, and the sunshine, once so brilliant, was now faint and fitful.

At last the boat turned, but with the turn Herbert's difficulties began.
Things were getting serious. Marjory watched Herbert's every movement
with eager anxiety. Would he do it? _Could_ he do it? She looked at her
watch. It was just half-past twelve, and all the men about Braeside
would have gone to their dinner; besides, it would take her some time to
run there for help. The Low Farm was perhaps a little nearer, but not
much, and something, she hardly dared to think what, might happen while
she was gone.

A sudden gust of wind lifted her hat from her head. This, at any other
time, would have been a mere frolic to this child of the moors, but now
it caused her real alarm. This same wind that played with her hat and
her hair, and that swept her petticoats about her, could do far more
mischief to the little boat with its flapping sails. It was nearly
opposite to her now, and still about half a mile from the landing-stage.
Marjory put her hands to her mouth.

"Shorten sail!" she called. "Shorten sail!"

Herbert appeared to be losing control of the boat and of his own wits,
and the boat seemed at the mercy of the wind.

Marjory called frantically to them to take in a certain sail and reef
another--directions which, even if they could have heard them, would
have been as Greek to the occupants of the boat; but the wind carried
her voice away, and she stood helpless, watching Herbert's bungling
attempts. Another moment, and the mast was broken, and in falling dealt
Herbert a blow on the head which stunned him for the time being.

Quick as thought, Marjory threw off her coat and boots and was in the
water, calling Silky to come too. Curly had been well trained, and was a
very clever, sensible dog by this time, and she ordered him to go home
and fetch his master, hoping that he might attract some one's notice.

Straining every nerve, Marjory swam towards the boat. "Throw out the
towline!" she screamed to the girls as soon as she was near enough for
them to hear her. Maud, now thoroughly frightened, did as she was bid,
and Marjory called to Silky, "Seize it, good dog! seize it!" The water
was not very rough, but she knew that it was deep in this particular
place, and the boat was being driven like a bird with a broken wing.

Silky, good dog that he was, got hold of the rope, which happily had
some floats attached to it, and began swimming steadily back towards his
mistress. Marjory caught the rope, and by its means drew herself to the
boat, carefully got into it, and in a very few minutes, having done what
was necessary, she took to the oars. Blanche was lying in Maud's arms,
overcome by terror, and Herbert was quite stupefied by the knock on his
head.

Help was nearer than Marjory had imagined. Looking to the shore to see
if she could put in at once without having to row against the wind all
the way to the landing-stage, she saw a man waving his arms as a signal
to her. She bent all her strength to her task, and it was no light one.

The man on shore, having taken off his coat and his boots, was wading
in, ready to receive the boat. The storm was coming on apace, great
drops of rain began to fall, and the sky was dark and lowering.

A few more strokes were all that was needed to bring them within reach
of strong arms; but why did Marjory feel so tired, and as if she could
not go on? She _must_ go on! How thankful she felt that there was some
one at hand if she should fail--if--One last stroke, and then a confused
sound of shouting, a grating noise as if some one were shooting a load
of stones. It must be Peter in the garden, and she was dreaming--dreaming.

Curly had trotted off obediently in the direction of Braeside. Mr.
Forester, strolling across the park, expecting to meet the girls
returning home for lunch, was very much surprised to meet the dog, who
behaved in such a way as to arouse his fears of something being wrong.
To begin with, Blanche and her dog were inseparable companions, as a
rule, and it was strange that Curly should come home alone. Besides, he
seemed in such an excited state; he kept jumping up at Mr. Forester, and
then running forward and barking as if he wished his master to follow.
Curious, and somewhat alarmed, Mr. Forester went after the dog, and
arrived upon the scene just in time to see the boat come in. An
exclamation of dismay broke from him as he saw the condition of its
occupants, and he rushed forward to help the man to draw it up on
shore.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE STRANGER RETURNS.

  "We fell out, my wife and I,
  And kissed again with tears."

  TENNYSON.


Marjory was the only one of the four who suffered seriously from that
day's doings. Blanche soon came to herself in her father's arms; Maud,
though thoroughly frightened, had kept her head, and escaped without
even a wetting; and Herbert's bruises, though painful, were nothing to
be alarmed about as soon as he had recovered from the stunning effect of
the blow on his head.

The stranger who had so unexpectedly come to their aid produced a flask
from his pocket, and Blanche and Marjory were each given a dose of
brandy.

Marjory thought she must still be dreaming when she opened her eyes and
saw her friend the tramp or poacher--for it was he--bending over her
anxiously.

To Mr. Forester's inquiries she replied that she felt all right now. He
wished to take Blanche home as quickly as possible, and the man assured
him that he and Herbert would see Marjory safely up to Hunters' Brae, at
the same time asking that a groom might be sent to fetch the doctor, as
he was sure one would be needed.

Mr. Forester thanked the man, promising to send for Dr. Morison, though
he thought it was hardly so serious as all that, for Marjory was such a
strong, sturdy girl, so different from his delicate little Blanche, he
thought, as he pressed his precious child closer to him. He bade Marjory
good-bye, saying that he must take Blanche home to her mother, and that
Maud had better come too. Maud would have liked to stay with Marjory,
but feeling that taking her own way had caused enough trouble already,
she reluctantly obeyed her uncle.

Although Marjory had said she felt all right, she found that when she
tried to stand up and walk she felt strangely weak, and there was a
sharp pain in her side, so that she was very glad to lean on the arm of
her mysterious friend. She was too tired to be curious, and she accepted
his help and kindness without question.

He and Herbert between them managed to get her home, and then handed her
over to Lisbeth's care. She, poor woman, was too much taken aback to ask
the stranger who he was, and he slipped away unnoticed and unthanked.

Herbert decided to wait until his father came, so that he might give him
an account of the true state of affairs; and it was well that he did
so, for, even had she been able, it is doubtful whether Marjory would
have been willing to say much about her own part in the day's
happenings.

Herbert did not spare himself to his father, but told the story as
quickly as he could, and then waited anxiously for the doctor to come
back from his patient.

"Well, my boy," he said, when at last he appeared, "I'm afraid she'll be
worse before she's better, as the saying is. Curious thing--an old
weakness of her childhood, which her uncle and I both thought she had
outgrown! That swim in her clothes, straining every nerve, then rowing
back, wind against her, four of you in the boat--too much--caused
strain. This will mean weeks of lying up, poor child; seems worried
too--wants to know if she did right. Bless her! she did more than fifty
girls in her place would have done. But come along, boy. It might have
been worse; she'll get over it all right. Come; you need a good square
meal after all this, and a little doctoring too." And he patted his son
on the shoulder affectionately, for he felt sorry for the boy's
distress.

He drove him home, and then, without waiting for anything to eat
himself, the good man was off again to Braeside to see if anything were
wanted there. He found that the girls were not much the worse for their
adventure--a little hysterical and excited, but that was all. He was
pleased to find that Maud, who had been the first cause of all the
mischief, had given a true and honest account of the whole thing, and
was now bitterly sorry for the part she had taken.

"Promise you won't scold Herbert," she pleaded; "it was all my fault. I
made him do it. He didn't want to himself; I know he didn't."

"Don't you worry about him; I've just taken him home to a good dinner,"
said the doctor, smiling. "And now I'm going back to dress those bruises
of his. He looks more like a defeated prize-fighter than the handsome,
elder son of a celebrated country practitioner that he was when he left
home this morning. I must do something for him before his poor mother
comes home," laughing, "or she won't recognize her son." And the genial
doctor hurried off again.

Dr. Hunter was surprised and disappointed when he saw that Peter had
come to the station to meet him, for he had expected Marjory; but when
he learned the reason, he was very much concerned--concerned and grieved
too, for he could not but gather from Peter's account that Marjory had
gone on the loch in spite of his prohibition. He remembered the girl's
face as she had given her promise--the dark eyes looking so honestly
into his, the expression of the mouth so firm and steadfast. He sighed,
and tried to make excuses for her in his own mind, but try as he would
he could only feel bitterly disappointed. He went straight to her room
when he arrived. Marjory met his look appealingly. "I couldn't help it,"
she murmured, as he sat down by the bedside and took her hand.

"Never mind to-night, child," he said gently, patting her hand; "you
shall tell me all about it to-morrow."

But Marjory, since her better understanding of her uncle, had grown very
sensitive to his moods and feelings, and she felt a shadow of
displeasure in spite of his caresses. She was too weak and tired to
talk, and after he left her she lay dreaming and thinking and wishing
that he knew. She thought of Blanche too, and the look that had passed
between them when the boat started. This was the first real trouble
there had been since their friendship began. How she wished that she
could explain everything!

But help came in the person of Dr. Morison, who called again in the
evening to see how his patient was getting on. He was able to tell the
doctor the whole story, with those particulars which poor old Peter did
not know. Marjory was greatly relieved when her uncle said to her, "Dr.
Morison has told me all about it. You're a good girl, Marjory, and I'm
proud of you."

Marjory was greatly soothed and comforted by these words, and though she
was very wakeful through the night, her mind was at rest.

Next morning Blanche and Maud came to see her, tearful and sorry for the
trouble they had thoughtlessly caused. Blanche admitted that at first
she had blamed Marjory and thought it selfish of her not to go with
them, but that she knew now that Marjory had been right in obeying her
uncle.

"But what I think so awfully hard is that we were the ones who deserved
to suffer, and yet you who were so good and brave have to be ill like
this." And Maud burst into tears. "It was only yesterday," she
continued, between her sobs, "that mother remarked how healthy and rosy
you looked, and now you are so pale; I can't bear it." And she hid her
face in her hands.

"Please don't cry," Marjory said. "I'm not very ill, you know; only Dr.
Morison says I shall have to lie down a lot until I get quite all right
again. Everybody is so kind to me, it's not a bit hard. Please don't
cry." And she stretched out her hand towards Maud, who seized it and
covered it with impulsive kisses.

"I hope I shall never, never do such a thing again," said Maud. "It was
all through me wanting my own way; it's like a sort of mania that gets
hold of me sometimes. Oh, I do feel such a beast, I can't bear myself;
and poor mother is so cut up about it, and talked to me so this morning.
She's awful sweet, my mother, really, though she does forget so, and
says such funny things."

The girls' visit did not last long, as Marjory was to be kept quiet for
a few days. They had all been wondering who the friendly stranger could
be who had helped them the day before, but no one had been able to give
any information about him.

Soon after the girls left, Dr. Hunter came into Marjory's room, his face
beaming with pleasure.

"There are visitors downstairs," he said, "but I'm afraid I mustn't let
them come to see you to-day; perhaps they could come again to-morrow.
Who do you think they are?"

Marjory suggested the Foresters, the Mackenzies, Mrs. Morison; but
no--it was none of these.

"Do tell me," she begged of the doctor.

"Well, it's Captain and Mrs. Shaw from the Low Farm. It was he who
carried you home yesterday. I declare it's quite a romance. Mrs. Shaw is
absolutely transformed; I never saw such a change in any one in such a
short time. Certainly happiness is a great beautifier."

"Oh, I _am_ glad. Then she's forgiven him? I expect that's what makes
her feel so happy."

Dr. Hunter looked serious. Perhaps he was thinking of some one else who
had nourished hard feelings against another for many years.

"Do ask them to come back to-morrow, uncle," said Marjory. "I should
love to see them."

Captain and Mrs. Shaw came again next day, and Marjory was allowed to
receive them. As her uncle had said, Mrs. Shaw was a very
different-looking woman from the one she had hitherto known. She came
into the room smiling, followed by her husband, who hung back, fearing
lest he should intrude.

"Please come in," said Marjory; "I do so want to talk to you. Please
tell me all about everything," she said, when they had finished their
inquiries as to herself, and she had thanked the captain for his timely
assistance.

"I've not got much to tell," began Mrs. Shaw. "I wrote to him to the
care of the company in Liverpool which he used to belong to, but the
letter didn't get there till he'd started on a long voyage. I didn't
write it that day I said I would. I couldn't make up my mind to do it
somehow. Well, the company forwarded the letter, and it followed him
from one place to another, and I heard nothing of him till he came to my
door the night before your accident, and glad I was to see him, as I
needn't tell you. The next day he was strolling about the place, waiting
for me to get ready to come up here, when he saw you in the water; and a
good thing he was there to see." And she beamed upon the captain.--"Now
it's your turn," she said.

"Well," said he, "that night after you left me, miss, I had a very
narrow shave. I was just upon caught for a poacher." And he laughed
heartily at the remembrance. "You see," he continued, "what put me
altogether out in my bearings was you saying that 'people' of the name
of Shaw kept the Low Farm; and when I said, 'There is a husband, then?'
you said 'Oh yes' so quick and pat that I made quite a mistake. Of
course you didn't say he was there, but I took it up so, and, like a
fool, I thought she'd forgot me and married again, as she hadn't seen me
for so many years. If it hadn't been for that I should have gone to her
then."

"I am so very sorry," said Marjory. "I thought you might be a--" She
hesitated, wondering what she could say, and how she could ever have
taken this man for anything but the honest British seaman that he was.

Captain Shaw laughed his big hearty laugh.

"Took me for a burglar--shouldn't wonder. I begin to see," as he noted
the flush on Marjory's cheek, "ha, ha, ha!" And he threw his head back
and thumped his knee. "Well, to be sure; so you thought I was a bad
character, and wanted to put me off the scent. Clear as daylight and
very cleverly done, but you made a little mistake, miss, as we're all
liable to do." And he laughed again. Then he continued, "It was very
good of you to come and give me warning about the keepers. I've often
thought about the sweet young lady who came out in the dark and the cold
to speak to me. I was very miserable then, and you wanted to do me a
good turn, though you had done me a bad one all unbeknown to yourself or
me either, and I want to thank you heartily, miss."

"I went to Hillcrest the next morning to see you," said Marjory shyly,
"for I suddenly thought perhaps you might be Mrs. Shaw's husband. I
can't think now why I didn't know it when I first met you. When I got
there you had gone away, and English Mary said your name was 'Iggs, and
she quite thought you were a poacher, although you did pay your bill!"

Captain Shaw laughed again.

"You see, miss," he explained, "I didn't want it to get about the place
that Captain Shaw was here, if Mrs. Shaw didn't feel inclined to take
any notice of him. Higgs was my mother's name and is my second one, so I
thought no harm, and it was to save her," nodding towards his wife. "But
did you indeed take all that trouble for a poor man you didn't know, and
had reason to believe was a suspicious character? Well, all I can say is
that my wife and I," looking at Mrs. Shaw, "are deeply grateful to you
for your goodwill."

"But you haven't finished your story, quite," suggested Marjory,
flushing at his praise.

"Well," he continued, "I'd made up my mind that if the wife would have
nothing to say to me, I'd take an offer I'd had--good ship, long voyage,
and three days to think it over. Off I went, and I didn't get her letter
for some time. When I did get it I didn't answer it--I don't quite know
why, except that I'm not much good when it comes to writing down my
feelings--and I thought the best answer would be myself at her door.
What with one thing and another, I was away longer than I expected. Then
we were quarantined for fourteen days--no end of a tiresome business.
But I got here at last, and found a warm welcome. 'All's well that ends
well,' miss, and now I'm sure we've bothered you long enough.--Come
along, missus."

"But you _must_ let me thank you for all you did for me; you were more
than kind."

Captain Shaw was marshalling his wife out of the room, and he turned and
said, "I don't want any thanks--it was little enough I did; besides, one
good turn deserves another, you know. Think of those keepers!" laughing
again at Marjory's poacher theory. "All we want is to see you up and
about again, miss; and the sooner we can welcome you at the Low Farm the
better pleased we'll be--eh, Alison?"

Left to herself, Marjory lay thinking. How happy these two seemed now
that they were together! How thankful she was that things had come right
for them in the end! She had so often reproached herself for that
suggestion of a lie. What very serious consequences it might have
had--indeed had, for it had added another year to the separation of
these two good people! Then she fell to musing over the great happenings
that may come from apparently small causes.

Marjory had plenty of time to think in those days. After the first week
she did not feel ill, only tired and rather weak, but she was ordered to
be continually on her back. A great doctor came from Edinburgh to see
her, and he only confirmed what Dr. Morison had said--that she would be
quite well in time, but that complete rest was the only cure; she must
not try to walk or move about.

Poor Marjory--she had begun very bravely, saying it was not at all hard,
but indeed she found it to be very hard, especially when she began to
feel much better and stronger, and still had to keep lying down.

Blanche had to begin her lessons alone this term, and she and Miss Waspe
missed Marjory very much; the schoolroom did not seem the same place
without her, they said. The governess loved Blanche, sweet-natured as
she was, and good and industrious too; but she did miss her other pupil,
with her bright, eager ways, and her intense interest in things. Miss
Waspe liked to watch the light of understanding flash into Marjory's
eyes as she explained some intricate question, and the instinctive
comprehension of something said or read which might have meant
difficulty to a slower mind.

At last, after much wheedling and coaxing, the doctor gave permission
for the lessons to be given at Hunters' Brae, Blanche and Miss Waspe
going up every morning. This arrangement was very satisfactory to all
parties, and Blanche remarked that, apart from the "jolliness" of being
together, she would have an easy time, because, as Marjory was an
invalid, there could be no scoldings.

Captain Shaw came frequently to see his little friend, and told her many
tales about his travels. It was he who helped the doctor to carry her
out into the garden on the great day when she was first allowed to go.
Peter, too, whiled away many an hour for the invalid with his stories
and old legends.

No father could have been more devoted than Dr. Hunter was to his niece
during this time. Anything and everything that he could do to brighten
the days for her was done; it was his greatest pleasure to grant her
slightest wish. It seemed as if he could not do enough for her. He
behaved like a delighted schoolboy the first time she was allowed to
walk a little.

During this time there had been frequent conferences between Mrs.
Forester and Dr. Hunter. Marjory felt rather curious to know what they
were about. She was soon to know, and the knowledge caused her some
dismay.

"Would you like to go to London, Marjory?" asked her uncle one day.

"To London?" echoed Marjory. "Not without you," decidedly.

"To London, and then to the seaside with the Foresters. You would like
to go with them, wouldn't you?"

"And leave you alone here? No, I don't want to go away," she pleaded.

"Dr. Morison thinks it would be good for you."

"Dr. Morison knows nothing at all about it," said naughty Marjory. "I
won't go. I don't want to go away from you."

Her uncle kissed her.

"My dear child," he said, "I am going away myself abroad, to America,
and these good people have promised to take care of you until I come
back." And he watched Marjory's face.

"To America!" she repeated, much surprised. "O uncle, what for?"

For one brief moment she thought of her father. Could the doctor be
going to find him? But the answer came,--

"There is a science congress to be held in New York which I should very
much like to attend; and there will be one or two men there who are
studying the same subjects as I am, with whom I wish to compare notes.
Will you allow me to go, little one?"

"I suppose I must," grudgingly.

"I thought you would have liked to see London and go to the seaside; you
used to be so anxious to travel."

"Yes, but I'd rather go to America with you," wistfully.

"That is out of the question," said the doctor decidedly, "on account
of your health; besides, what should I do with you while I went to my
meetings and sat on my commissions, _et cetera_? No, no; you must be
content, and perhaps you'll go next time." And he kissed Marjory,
feeling that the affair was settled.



CHAPTER XIX.

IMPORTANT LETTERS.

  "Circumstances are like clouds, continually gathering and
  bursting."

  KEATS.


The manager of the A1 Shipping and Transportation Company was sitting in
his office in the largest building in the main street of the town of
Skaguay in the far-away North-West. That office was the centre of the
business activities of an immense district, and the work of its manager
demanded much time and energy.

He was not an old man, but his hair was gray and his forehead lined and
furrowed. A pair of piercing dark eyes looked from beneath thick
grizzled eyebrows. It was a strong and striking face, severe in its
lines, but when lit up by one of its rare smiles the hardness
disappeared in a wonderful way. He was sitting at his desk apparently
studying some papers that lay before him, but there was a dreamy,
far-away look in his eyes which told that his thoughts had travelled
beyond the walls of his office and the business of the day.

"Two of them," he muttered, turning over the papers. He took one up and
began to read as follows:--

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR DAVIDSON,--You were good enough to say that you would be
glad to hear from me when I had reached home again, and the suggestion
was one more addition to the numerous kindnesses I received from you
during my visit to your part of the world, and for which I once more
thank you most heartily. Through your instrumentality I was enabled to
see into the life of the country and to catch the spirit of its people
in a way which I could not otherwise have done, and I am very grateful
to you.

"I do not intend to talk about myself, however, but about you. Do you
remember the one and only occasion on which you allowed me to see
something of the real man beneath the outer shell of the genial manager
of the A1 S. and T. Co.? Pardon me if I hurt your feelings by alluding
to a painful subject, but I have my reasons, as you will see later. On
that occasion I remember that I, like a blundering fool, got on to the
subject of my return home to my wife and child, and I began telling you
of my Maud--her sweet ways, her looks, her cleverness, and all that. You
had confessed to feeling a bit 'under the weather' that day, and I said,
'Why don't you take a holiday and pay a visit to the old country with
me?' 'The old country!' you said. 'Why, man, I haven't seen it for
fifteen years. It has no attractions for me now. If I had a child
living, I would be a different man.' And there was such a world of
sadness in your tone that I'm blest if I didn't have to get up and look
out of the window. Then you told me how your wife had died, back in the
old country, and how all your hopes had died with her; and from the way
you spoke I guessed that you were not in the habit of telling your
story, and I felt honoured by your confidence. Then you showed me a
locket with a picture of your wife inside it, and attached to the locket
was the half of a coin. 'We split this for luck when we were young and
foolish,' you said, and your laugh was one of the most heartbreaking
sounds I ever heard in my life. Well now, having got to my point at
last, it is my firm belief that you have a child living, and by all
accounts as sweet a little maiden as the heart of man could wish, and
the discovery came about in a very simple way.

"Some two years ago my brother took a place in Scotland, at Heathermuir,
near Morristown. While I was on my travels my wife and daughter went up
there to visit them twice, and Maud made the acquaintance of a girl
named Marjory Davidson. She goes by the nickname of 'Hunter's
Marjory'--I suppose, because she lives with an old uncle at his place
called Hunters' Brae. I did not pay much attention to Maud's chatter,
for it was a great mixture of shut-up rooms, ghosts, old houses, oak
chests, boating, drowning, and all the rest of it. Of course I never
for one moment connected this child with you in any way--that is, not
until yesterday. There had been some talk about summer holiday plans,
and wonderings as to what my brother was going to do, for there had been
vague rumours of his coming south with his wife and girl.

"'By the way, Maud,' said my wife, 'before we leave town I want to buy a
really nice present for Marjory.'

"'A reward for saving my precious life, I suppose,' said mischievous
Maud. This Marjory did some very plucky thing when they were out boating
together. I don't quite know what it was, but it doesn't matter at
present.

"'No,' said my wife, 'not that exactly, but a little keepsake--something
that will last.'

"'You're afraid she'll forget, like you do, mother dear.'

"At this juncture, with a feeble attempt at correction, I intimated to
Miss Maud that she was impertinent to her mother.

"'Mother understands--don't you, darling?' was the reply; and mother was
immediately nearly hugged to death, and I got nothing but a crushing
look. But to resume.

"'What would you think of a gold chain?' asked my wife.

"'She's got one.'

"'I never saw her wear one.'

"'No; because she wears it inside her dress. She showed it to me once,
and there is a dear little locket on it, with a picture of her mother
inside, and a half coin with a hole in it--a Jubilee one.'

"I started up at this, and gave those two such a cross-examining as they
never had in their lives. They thought at first that I had taken leave
of my senses. But I've got the whole story now, and I am quite convinced
that this Marjory Davidson, whose father's name was Hugh, and who has
lived in hopes, ever since she could think, that her father might turn
up, is your daughter, though it is a mystery to me why you did not know
of her existence. But come and see for yourself. I made my wife and
daughter promise to say nothing. I gather that there was some trouble
between you and the old man, so it's best for us to keep our own counsel
for the present. I hope you won't think me an interfering ass, but I
haven't a doubt in my mind that it is as I say--you have got a child to
live for, and the sooner you come and see her the better. Let me know
when to expect you, and I'll come and look after you. Make your
headquarters with us as long as you like.--Believe me yours faithfully,

  HILARY FORESTER."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Davidson laid this letter aside and took up another one. It was
written in a large, irregular hand, and ran as follows:--

       *       *       *       *       *

  "THE LOW FARM, HEATHERMUIR,
  NORTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND.

"DEAR SIR,--I take the liberty of writing you this letter,
hoping it finds you well, as it leaves me at present. I wish to tell you
that it's all serene now with me and my wife, she having forgiven all
bygones and let them be. Your kindness to me whilst I was laid up at
your God-forsaken place--begging your pardon, sir, but I was anxious to
be off again, as you know--but your kindness, as I say, and good advice,
was such that I make bold to dare and ask you to forgive bygones, like
as my good wife has done. I'm sure your Miss Marjory is as sweet a young
lady as you could wish to see, and your living image, eyes and hair and
all. It is said about here--begging your pardon, sir--that, because the
old man was rough on you, you won't acknowledge or take notice of your
child. They say he's too proud to ask you to come home; and she, poor
lamb, don't even know that she has a father. Things ain't as they ought
to be altogether in this world, but you can do a deal to put some of
them straight, sir, if I may make bold to say so. It is some time since
I seen you, but directly my wife told me Miss Marjory's name and story,
I knew you was her father. I haven't breathed of this to any one, let
alone Miss Marjory herself, but I am sure that if you was to come you
would see that I am right. I do beg your pardon if anything I have
written is not as it should be betwixt you and me, sir; but I am now so
happy myself through the forgiving of old bygones that I am all for
trying to make things straight; which, hoping you will soon do, I am
your obedient servant,

  "SAMUEL HIGGS SHAW."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Davidson smiled as he put down Captain Shaw's letter. He had
received both the communications within a mail of each other, and one
supplied information that the other lacked. He had turned the matter
over in his mind this way and that, and he now felt very little doubt
that this Marjory Davidson was indeed his child. And yet why should the
fact that he had a child have been kept from him all these years? What
reason could his brother-in-law have had for withholding the knowledge
from him? It was all a mystery. He looked back over the lonely years
since his wife's death, remembering how in the bitterness of his grief
he had thrown himself heart and soul into his work, and had laid the
foundations of a fortune. He thought of the time when the rush of
gold-seekers to the Klondike had first started, and he had left the
company he then represented to start on his own account in the shipping
and transportation business, seeing at once that here was a certain road
to success. And so it had proved, for to-day his was the best-known and
most highly-respected name in all that broad region. But there had been
times such as that to which Mr. Hilary Forester had alluded in his
letter--when money, success, popularity, all seemed as nothing compared
with a wife, a home, a child to love him. He envied the poorest labourer
with these blessings. He now felt like a man in a dream. Fifteen years!
He saw in fancy the little child he would have loved to take upon his
knee; the growing girl learning her first lessons. How he would have
cared for her and watched over her, trying to be both father and mother
to the motherless child! Now she was growing quickly to womanhood, and
he knew nothing of her, nor she of him. A great wave of indignation
against his brother-in-law swept over him; it was a downright crime to
have kept him in ignorance all these years, and the man should be
brought to book. All the old bitterness against his wife's unreasonable
brother took hold of him, and Captain Shaw's suggestion as to the
forgetting of bygones seemed for a time little likely to be acted upon.
But this mood passed, and then a great tenderness towards this unknown
daughter of his welled up in his heart, and he made up his mind. He
would go as soon as he could, and find out the truth.

Other influences were at work to bring about this meeting of father and
child. Dr. Hunter, yielding at last to the voice of conscience, had
written to Hugh Davidson, but he had sent the letter to the care of the
company to which he had belonged in the old days. This company had since
gone out of existence, and the letter had come back, as Mary Ann had
told Marjory, and nothing more was done for a time.

Mrs. Forester, ever since the beginning of their acquaintance, had made
periodical attacks upon the doctor, declaring that it was his duty to
take steps to bring back Marjory's father. It must be remembered that
Mrs. Forester knew nothing of the part Dr. Hunter had played, and blamed
the cold-heartedness of a man who could leave his child unclaimed for
fifteen years.

While Marjory was ill, Mrs. Forester renewed the attack with many
arguments. At last one day, in a moment of expansion, the doctor
confessed what he had done. In the face of Mrs. Forester's amazed
displeasure, his reasons for his conduct seemed absurdly inadequate. She
told him in no measured terms exactly what she thought of him, and
indignantly reproached him for the course which he had taken. She quite
pooh-poohed the suggestion that Hugh Davidson might be dead, as the
letter had come back.

"I know he isn't dead," she protested. "I feel it as strongly as if he
were standing before me at this moment. _That child's father is alive_,
Dr. Hunter, and you have got to find him!"

The doctor made a mental reflection as to the "queerness" of women,
with their intuitions and unfounded assertions, without reason or logic
to guide them, but before he and Mrs. Forester parted that day he had
promised to take steps at once. In the end he decided to go to America
and meet face to face the man he had wronged, and ask his forgiveness.
It was the least he could do. One stipulation he made: Marjory must not
know the real object of his journey, in case nothing came of it.

The first step was to find out where Hugh Davidson was likely to be
found, if alive. Dr. Hunter felt as though he were beginning to search
for the proverbial needle in a haystack; but by Mrs. Forester's advice
he entrusted the matter to his lawyers, and in an incredibly short space
of time he heard from them that the man he wanted was now the manager of
the A1 Shipping and Transportation Company at Skaguay, Alaska, the
largest organization of its kind in that part of the world.

So the doctor made up his mind to go in search of his brother-in-law.
His friends the Foresters (he told no one else of his real intentions)
tried to dissuade him, representing to him the length of the journey and
its fatigues, the heat at that time of the year, and any and every
reason they could think of to alter his purpose. But the doctor did
nothing by halves, and having once realized the great wrong he had done,
he would not spare himself anything till he had tried to make
reparation, and it seemed that a personal meeting could do more in that
direction than any number of letters.

"Besides," he said, "it'll do me good. I begin to think that I've kept
myself and Marjory shut up too long. I shall never be anything but an
old fogey, but a little change and knocking about may make me a more
agreeable one."

The scientific meetings at New York served as a plausible excuse for his
going, and the Foresters kept his secret.

Marjory felt as if she were living in a dream, such impossible things
seemed to be happening. Could it be true that she was going to London,
and her uncle to New York? One thing she begged of the doctor: that they
might both be at home again in time for her birthday--that important
fifteenth one when she was to see and know so much; and her uncle
promised that it should be so if possible.

If the skies had suddenly fallen, Lisbeth and Peter could hardly have
been more surprised than they were when the doctor announced his plans
for his and Marjory's departure. Such a thing had never happened before,
and they felt doubtful that they would ever see their master again if he
went to "foreign parts." But when they became more accustomed to the
idea, it lost some of its terrors, and they began to take a keen
interest in the preparations for departure.

The house was to be left in charge of Lisbeth and Peter, who, as their
master knew, would take care of it as if it were their own.

"Look after Miss Marjory's room," he said to Lisbeth one day.

"Ay, an' I will that," responded the old woman. "It's to be Marjory's
ain come she's fifteen, an' that's no sae lang."

The doctor had always spoken of his sister as Miss Marjory; he had never
got into the habit of speaking of her as Mrs. Davidson to his servants,
and it was always "Miss Marjory's room" to them.

There was quite a little crowd at the station to see them off on the day
of their departure. The Foresters and Marjory and her uncle all went
together to Liverpool, so that Marjory might be able to see the doctor
start on his voyage.

It was a time of wonder to the country girl, who had never seen any
place larger than Morristown. The long journey, as it seemed to her, the
many crowded streets of the city, the noise and bustle of the docks,
bewildered her, and she hardly knew whether she enjoyed these new
sensations or not, they were so overpowering.

When at last it was time to say good-bye to her uncle, she clung to him,
begging him not to go and leave her. "Take me with you," she sobbed.
Poor Marjory! it was her first parting, and she had not realized what it
would mean. This great ship towering above her like a monster ready to
swallow her uncle out of her sight, the unknown miles of ocean that lay
between him and his destination--all this seemed terrible to the girl.
She could not let him go without her.

The doctor folded her in his arms, kissing her many times. "There,
there, my child; it won't be very long before I come back, and I hope
you will be very glad to see me. Be brave now, and wish me a good
voyage. Good-bye, my own little girl." And he was obliged to put her
from him. She was led down the gangway by Mr. Forester; blinded by her
tears, she could not see the way before her. People crowded behind them,
there was much shouting of good-byes, the clatter of gangways being
withdrawn, a straining and creaking of ropes, a throbbing of engines,
and the great ship began to move--stealthily, it seemed to Marjory, as
though it knew the heartaches it was causing, and felt ashamed of its
part in tearing so many people away from their friends.

"Come, cheer up, Marjory," urged Mrs. Forester. "Give your uncle a smile
to take with him. Wave your handkerchief--quick! they're off!"

Marjory's kind friends stayed with her until nothing more could be seen.
She watched the tall, bent figure standing at the rail until it merged
into the misty outline of the ship. She strained her eyes to the very
last, and then she turned away, white and trembling and tearful.

"I didn't know I should care so much," she whispered half apologetically
to Mrs. Forester.

"You see, you are such good friends with your uncle now, dear, that it
is very hard to part with him, I know; but cheer up, and look forward to
his coming home. It won't be very long."

Blanche had thoroughly enjoyed her visit to the docks. Mr. Forester had
taken her over the ship; she had seen the saloons and staterooms, and
had been on to the captain's bridge, and thought it great fun. She was
sorry for Marjory's trouble, but she could hardly see the reason for its
intensity. She had often been parted from her father for more than two
months, which was all the time the doctor expected to be away. Dr.
Hunter never made much fuss over Marjory that she could see--"Nothing
like daddy does over me," she reflected. Still, it was very sweet of
Marjory to care so much.

Yes, Marjory did care. She had grown to love dearly the silent, stern
man who had been father and mother to her. He was gone. Her life would
be strangely empty without him, and she would count the days until he
came back to her.



CHAPTER XX.

THE DOCTOR'S DISAPPOINTMENT.

  "Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
  Where most it promises."--SHAKESPEARE.


Dr. Hunter attended the most important meetings of the Congress of
Scientists which was being held in New York. He was quite unprepared for
the reception that was given him there. Of a very quiet and retiring
disposition, and having lived the life of a recluse for many years,
known to the world only by his writings, it never seemed to have
occurred to him that his name was a famous one in other countries as
well as his own. His first appearance was greeted with acclamation as
soon as his name was mentioned, and during his stay in New York
invitations were showered upon him, reporters called upon him at his
hotel, and paragraphs referring to him appeared in all the papers,
although he steadily refused to be interviewed.

He was thankful when the day of his departure came, as he shrank from so
much publicity. He remarked afterwards that he felt as a hunted
criminal might who saw in every casual passer-by a possible detective.

He was careful not to mention his destination to any one but the clerk
from whom he purchased his ticket, but next day in a paper which he
bought in the train he saw the inevitable paragraph,--

"Dr. Hunter, the famous scientist of London, England, left this city
to-day for Montreal, _en route_ for the North-West."

The learned gentleman might have been heard to mutter words not usually
included in his vocabulary when he read this. As he had only taken a
ticket to Montreal, the latter part of the announcement, although it
happened to be true, was an absolute invention on the part of the
light-hearted paragraphist who had penned it.

Escaped from New York and the social obligations his position had
entailed upon him, Dr. Hunter gave himself up to the enjoyment of his
trip. From Montreal he travelled on the wonderful Canadian Pacific
Railway, and he never ceased to wonder at its construction--the amazing
manner in which difficulties that appeared to be insuperable had been
overcome, and the way in which the brain of man had enabled him to carve
a path for himself up and through mighty mountains.

"To think that one can be climbing the Rockies and at the same time
partaking of an excellent dinner served as in a first-class hotel!" he
remarked to a fellow-traveller.

"Yes indeed, we make ourselves pretty comfortable in these times," was
the reply. "My father was a pioneer and crossed the plains in '47. He
has some rare tales to tell of roughing it in the old days." And the
friendly stranger entertained the doctor with an account of some of
those early experiences.

The doctor was struck by the geniality of his fellow-travellers for the
most part, and the very intelligent way in which they answered his
inquiries. He was able to say on his return that he had met with nothing
but kindness from beginning to end of his trip.

He was greatly looking forward to his meeting with Hugh Davidson. How
surprised he would be! The doctor's feelings had changed so completely
that a meeting with this man now seemed of all things the most
desirable. He had purposely refrained from sending any notice of his
visit beforehand, taking an almost childish delight in the idea of
suddenly and unexpectedly appearing before his brother-in-law.

At last the long journey was accomplished, and he found himself outside
the offices of the A1 Shipping and Transportation Company at Skaguay.

Stirred by unusual feelings, he went in rather nervously.

"Can I see the manager?" he inquired of a clerk who came forward. The
young man opened a door with a flourish and ushered him into the
manager's room.

A man rose from a desk, but it was not Hugh Davidson. This was a
youngish man, fair haired and clean shaven.

Much taken aback, the doctor murmured, "I beg your pardon; I expected to
find Mr. Davidson here."

"Mr. Davidson is not here at present," said the man courteously. "Is
there anything I can do for you in his place?"

"Oh no, thank you; my visit is purely a personal one. As a matter of
fact, I am his brother-in-law, and intended paying him a surprise visit.
Here is my card; perhaps you can tell me when he is likely to be in."

An expression of concern passed over the other man's face.

"I am exceedingly sorry," he said, "to inform you that Mr. Davidson
sailed from New York for England this very morning. You must have passed
each other on the way. _Most_ unfortunate," he added sympathetically.

The doctor was nonplussed for the moment. Here was an unexpected turn of
events; he had not contemplated such a possibility, and was undecided as
to his own best course of action. At last he said, with an attempt at a
smile, "Business, I suppose;" but the other replied, "No, I should
gather that it was principally upon private affairs that he has gone to
England; but Mr. Davidson is a very reticent man, and he gave me no
particulars. I represent him here until he returns, and beyond that it
is really no business of mine; but I certainly received the impression
that some personal matter was calling him."

Somewhat dismayed, the doctor asked himself if it were possible that
after all his brother-in-law had heard of his child's existence from an
outsider. In such a case his own conduct would appear blacker than ever.

The manager's representative was really sorry for the doctor's
disappointment. The old man seemed to him a pathetic figure, weary with
many days of travelling only to find that his journey had been taken in
vain, so far as its chief object was concerned. He suggested a cable
message. "You could send it from Victoria, to the care of the Steamship
Company, or to his private address in London--perhaps the latter would
be the better plan." And he took a paper from the desk and read, "Care
of Hilary Forester, Esq., 50 Royal Gate, London, S.W."

A smothered exclamation escaped the doctor. "I'll send a message," he
said. "When is there a steamer back to Victoria?"

"Well, if you don't much mind what you go in, there is one to-morrow,
but it won't travel quicker than eight knots an hour in smooth water,"
with a laugh.

"I'll take it," said Dr. Hunter decidedly. "It is important that I should
get back as soon as possible."

Poor old man, he had been so anxious to tell his tale himself to Hugh
Davidson, to throw himself upon the generosity of the man he had
injured. He had wished to entreat him not to tell Marjory of the part he
had played; he could not bear that her memory of him should be
embittered by the knowledge of that wrong--that wrong which by reason of
his biassed mind had seemed right, until the fearless words of a good
and gentle woman had aided the voice of his own conscience and
pronounced it wrong.

But now Marjory would hear the story from other lips, and what would he
seem in her eyes? Would she banish him from his place in her heart?
Would she think bitterly of him and reproach him with those fifteen
years of silence? Would she not blame him for keeping her away from the
world, even from the knowledge of the true personality of her mother,
into whose room he had not allowed her to penetrate, in case that what
she saw there might influence the childish mind in a way her uncle did
not wish. It was not to be expected that the girl should understand his
reasons.

He determined to start on his homeward journey the next day, and to
send the cable message from the first possible point.

Meanwhile his new friend offered the hospitality of his home to Dr.
Hunter, and the invitation was given in such a hearty way that it would
have seemed ungracious to refuse it. He thought that evening that many
people at home would open their eyes were they able to see the
well-appointed table at which he was a guest, and the charming and
cultured woman who presided over it, and he felt glad that he had been
allowed to have this glimpse of home life in that far-away corner of the
world. It was a peaceful home life, all the more attractive in that its
background was rough-and-ready Skaguay--a plain town enough to look at,
but one full of thrilling human interest, of tragedy and comedy. Through
its streets had passed a motley procession of men--some on their way to
fortune, some to disappointment, but all battling with the realities of
life. The doctor was struck by the simple and straightforward outlook of
these people, their sincerity, and the pleasure they found in their
life; far as it was from any of the great world centres, every hour of
every day seemed to be full of interest.

They spoke of Mr. Davidson, and there was nothing but praise of his
sterling integrity, his upright and honourable life, his unfailing
kindness and charity towards others.

"There's not a man in this town, or, for that matter, in the whole of
this vast district, who doesn't know and honour the name of Hugh
Davidson," said the manager's representative enthusiastically; "and as
for myself, sir," thumping the table with his closed fist, "I am proud
to be associated with such a man."

The doctor's heart smote him. This then was the black sheep--the man he
had not considered fit to have the care of his own child!

He started off again next morning, and the journey back seemed long and
tedious by reason of his impatience, although he could not but be struck
by the beauty of the scenery as the ship steamed slowly along, threading
its way amongst the many islands which lie across the course of the
inland passage, as it is called.

After the doctor had dispatched his message, his one thought was, Would
they wait for his return before telling Marjory what had happened? If
only they would. And yet, after his conduct in the past, he could hardly
expect any consideration from Hugh Davidson. To his great relief he
received a message at New York from Mr. Davidson saying that he would
await him in London.

Meanwhile Marjory, unconscious of the coming change in her fortunes, was
enjoying new sights and experiences. She was not yet allowed to walk
much or to exert herself in any way. They spent a week in London with
the Hilary Foresters before going to the seaside. Marjory felt a mild
surprise when she heard it remarked on all sides that "town was very
empty." To her it seemed full to overflowing, and more like one of the
anthills that were Peter's abhorrence in the garden than anything else.
The continuous stream of human beings flowing in all directions was a
never-ending source of wonder to her.

"Every single one of these people must have a story, you know," she said
to the others one day. "Some are good and some are wicked, I suppose."

"I think they're all much of a muchness," replied Maud thoughtfully.
"Good people can be bad, and bad people can be good. The best nurse I
ever had turned out to be a thief, and I was so sorry when she went
away. I tell you I loved that thief. You've no idea what a good, kind
nurse she was; and it was found that she stole for the sake of somebody
else who was poor."

"Well, but it can't be right to steal," argued Blanche.

"No, of course not, silly. But what I mean is that even wicked people
may have some good in them. I've always thought that there ought to be
something between sheep and goats--not quite so good and not quite so
bad as either; or they might have points, such as length of horn, or
silkiness of coat and thickness of fleece, and so on."

"Would an extra fine goat be an extra wicked person, or a shade better
than an ordinary goat?" asked Marjory, laughing.

"Of course he would be better. A wretched, thin, mangy animal would be
the worst, and they would gradually go on improving till the best goat
was just the next thing to the worst sheep." Maud laughed.

Blanche was rather shocked. "I don't think you ought to make fun of
those things, Maud," she said, reddening.

"I'm not making fun, my serious little cousin. I only mean to show that
I think it's very hard to decide where the good begins and the bad
leaves off, and that everybody has some of each. You see, I'm older than
you, and I do think sometimes, although you might not guess it to look
at me--eh?"

"Miss Waspe quoted some rather nice lines to us one day," said Marjory.
"They were by Robert Louis Stevenson, I think. I don't know if I can
remember them properly, but they were something like this,--

  'There's so much bad in the best of us,
  And so much good in the most of us,
  That it hardly becomes any of us
  To talk evil of the rest of us.'"

"Awfully jolly," agreed Maud. "I couldn't have put it better myself;
it's exactly what I think."

The passing crowd was a never-failing source of interest to Marjory, and
one of her favourite occupations was to go to Kensington Gardens or to
the Park and watch the people, weaving their life-stories in her
imagination. Driving about, shopping with Mrs. Forester in such shops as
threw the most important establishments in Morristown far into the
shade, in the streets, or even looking out of the windows at 50 Royal
Gate, there was this never-ending procession to speculate upon; so,
although the time was spent quietly, there was not a dull moment in that
week.

Then came another move, the excitement of another railway journey, and
then at last the sea. Marjory's wonder and delight were indescribable.
She had dreamed of the sea all her life. Her uncle had always promised
that some day he would take her to the seaside. He had always vaguely
said to himself that the child should be taken about when she was old
enough; but the years had slipped by until she was nearly fifteen, and
yet she had never seen the sea till now.

"Her beloved must cross the sea," she whispered to herself, as she stood
at the water's edge for the first time, looking over its shining
expanse, dancing and sparkling in the sun like myriads of diamonds in a
setting of blue. Nothing but the sea as far as the eye could reach--what
a sense of freedom and space and unbounded possibility! How she loved to
watch the rise and fall of the waves with their fringes of white, to
listen for the clatter of the shingle as it rushed along, keeping pace
with each receding wave! But, best of all, she loved to stand
barefooted on the shining sand when the tide was low, and to feel the
water lapping gently over her ankles.

The three girls (for Maud had begged her mother to spend at least half
their holiday at the little, unfashionable place Mrs. Forester had
chosen) spent long days by the sea--days of delight for all, and of the
gathering of health and strength for Marjory.

In the mornings the other two would usually bathe, Marjory looking on
from her deck-chair, and finding much amusement in the antics of the
bathers. She liked to watch Blanche in her pretty bathing suit, her hair
rippling over her shoulders, and Maud, too, with her coquettish little
cap amongst her fair curls. Thanks to her friend's tuition, Blanche was
now quite a good swimmer, and was endeavouring to teach Maud, and they
had great fun over it. Marjory herself was not allowed to bathe; she
might only wade sometimes at low tide.

The girl would lie and dream of what the sea might bring her if dreams
could ever come true, but her visions showed her nothing of a great ship
with precious freight for her on board which one day very soon was to
come from the New World to the Old, and make the old one new for her.
Marjory knew nothing of this, and yet she was strangely content and
happy in these days as she lay dreaming in the sunshine and listening to
the singing of the sea.



CHAPTER XXI.

HOPES REALIZED.

  "A kind, true heart, a spirit high,
    That would not fear and would not bow,
  Were written in his manly eye
    And on his manly brow."--BURNS.


Home again at last! How good it was to see the doctor at the station, to
drive with dear old Peter and Brownie along the familiar road, to
breathe the sweet pure air scented with pine and heather!

"After all," Marjory said to her uncle, "there can't be any place in the
world just like dear little old Heathermuir. I love every bit of it."

"'East, west, hame's best,'" quoted the doctor. "No, my dear, there's no
place like it, not even New York!" with a smile at the recollection of
his late experiences.

"What a lot you must have to tell me!" said Marjory. "And, uncle dear, I
hope you haven't forgotten that to-morrow is my fifteenth birthday, and
you've always promised to tell me everything I want to know on that
day."

"Yes, yes," replied the doctor evasively. "By the way, Marjory, you'll
find a surprise awaiting you at the Brae; we've a new member of our
household," smiling.

"Who can it be?"

"Wait and see. It's a kind of a sort of a birthday present, but I am not
sure that you will be altogether pleased."

Marjory laughed.

"It sounds as if it might be some sort of an animal. O _uncle_," in
dismay, "I _hope_ you haven't brought a monkey from America!"

"No," laughing.

"Perhaps it's a parrot, then, or--no--_surely_ not a nigger!"

"No; it's not a coloured gentleman or lady, as I have lately been taught
to call them."

"Oh dear, I do wonder what it is! But there's the house at last, and
dear old Lisbeth's round smiling face, and my darling Silky. Oh, it is
good to be at home again!" And Marjory nestled close to her uncle for a
moment, and then sprang out of the cart and began hugging Lisbeth in the
most boisterous fashion.

But who was this standing shyly in the background? Here was indeed a
surprise. This girl with the smooth sleek head, the neat gown and
spotless apron and cap, could it be Mary Ann Smylie, the rich miller's
daughter? Yes, indeed it was. But what could it mean? Quite bewildered,
Marjory held out her hand to the girl. "I am glad to see you, Mary Ann,"
she said.

Tears were in Mary Ann's eyes as she replied, "Thank you, Miss Marjory;
I'm very glad to be here." And she disappeared at once in the direction
of the kitchen.

"This _is_ a surprise," said Marjory, looking inquiringly at her uncle
and then at Lisbeth. Each seemed to expect the other to speak.

"Weel, it was this way," began Lisbeth. "Yon puir lassie's feyther, no
content wi' bein' just a plain man like ony ither miller, must needs try
to mak a big fortune, and some o' thae speculatin' deils--I canna ca'
them by ony ither name--got hand o' the auld man, an' ae fine day his
fortune's awa--the vera hoose he's livin' in no his ain, a' signed awa,
an' he in debt. His puir silly wife was clean dementit, an' this girl
wi' naething but her buik-learnin' an' sic like rubbish to stand by.
There was naebody wantit her to teach their bairns, and yon grandee o' a
schulemistress telt the puir lassie she wasna competent for teachin',
an' that efter a' the guid money her feyther had spent upo' her
learnin'. Weel, Mary Ann she comes to me, an' says, 'Will ye gie me wark
at Hunters' Brae?' says she. 'The doctor's awa,' says I, but she begged
that hard I couldna say no to the creature. 'I'm willin' to learn,' says
she, 'an' if so's I could wait upo' Miss Marjory I'd be more nor set
up.' She cried sae, and looked that peekit an' meeserable, I hadna the
heart to send her off, sae I e'en kept her here, thinkin' the doctor,
guid man, wouldna blame me for the bit she ate an' drank till he cam
hame."

"Yes," put in the doctor, "when I got back yesterday I found Mary Ann
comfortably settled. I suppose she thought that if she had won over
Lisbeth the rest was easy," laughing. "I'm sorry for the girl, and I
dare say she can be made useful here in many ways. As you are getting
on, Marjory, it will be nice for you to have a maid of your own to look
after your fallals; but the question is, Do you like the girl well
enough to have her about you? This is your home, and I don't want to
insist upon anything that would be unpleasant to you."

Marjory remembered her old grudge against Mary Ann, but she could hardly
connect the quiet, subdued person who had just disappeared, weeping,
with the frizzy-haired, overdressed, and affected girl at the post
office.

"Poor Mary Ann! Let her stay, uncle. I'm sure we shall get on quite
well."

"That's settled then," said the doctor, with relief. He had been a
little afraid that Lisbeth's philanthropy might not be quite to
Marjory's liking.

Dr. Hunter was strangely restless that evening--sad and merry by turns.
Marjory herself felt very excited as she thought of the morrow.

When she went to bid her uncle good-night, he drew her to him very
tenderly. "So you are really glad to be at home again, my child," he
said, stroking her hair.

"Very, very glad," was the reply, and the dark eyes shone with tears.

"You love the old place, then?"

"Oh yes, I do; but it wouldn't be the same without you." And she rubbed
her cheek against his.

"And you love your old uncle in spite of all his mistakes and queer
ways?"

"I love you better than any one else in the whole world," she said
simply.

He kissed her very tenderly, and then put her away from him with a sigh.
"Go, my child, sleep well; to-morrow is a new day, and begins a new life
for you."

"Better than any one else in the whole world," he repeated to himself
when Marjory had left him. This had been his heart's desire, his scheme
from the beginning--that his beloved sister's child should be his, and
that he should be her all, and first in her affections; and now had come
his punishment for that selfish wish. The child had made this open
avowal of her feeling for him on the eve of the very day on which he
must renounce her, must give her up to another with a better right than
he to that first place in her love. He had done wrong; he had made what
amends he could, and the rest was in God's hands. Would this girl,
growing sweeter and more lovable year by year, take away her affection
from the uncle and give it all to the father? Would she forget the old
man and all his care for her? Then he thought of the honest eyes as they
had looked into his, clear and steadfast. Surely he had caught a glimpse
of the loving, faithful heart within; surely that heart would prove
large enough for love of both. He could no longer expect to be first,
but surely he was wronging the child and all that he knew of her by the
mere suggestion that she would change towards him, and the memory of her
look and her caress comforted him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjory's fifteenth birthday had come at last, and she stood in her
mother's room.

The sunlight streamed across the faded hangings and the panelled walls,
flooding the place with brightness. It seemed hardly possible that it
had been unused for so many years. Lisbeth had worked in it so
faithfully week by week that, beyond the fading of the curtains and the
rugs which lay about the polished floor, there was nothing to indicate
that it had been unoccupied for so long.

There were flowers about the room; there was a work-basket on a small
table by the window; and an embroidery frame with a half-finished piece
of work in it stood near, just as if its owner might have been working
at it yesterday. It was altogether a dainty apartment, and bore evidence
in every corner of the girlish fancies of its former mistress. The
pictures on the walls were all of a romantic description; the books on
the shelves could almost have told the tale of Marjory Hunter's
childhood and girlhood. Fairy tales there were in plenty, and the rest
were of the tender, sentimental kind--love poems and the like. If
Blanche Forester had been describing the collection, she would have said
that there was not a single dry book amongst them--the word "dry" in her
vocabulary meaning anything from uninteresting to instructive! Had the
doctor only known it, he need not have feared the attraction of these
books for his niece. Marjory required something stronger and more active
in character--stories of great men and women, histories of the world and
its wonders, something stirring and stimulating.

Marjory stood in her mother's room--alone. Her feelings as she entered
this chamber of her dreams were those of awe and expectation of she knew
not what. She gave one quick glance around, but she had eyes for nothing
at present but a picture--a picture of a man with a strong, handsome
face, and dark hair and eyes which she knew resembled her own. Beside it
was another picture--that of a fair-haired girl, her mother. "How sweet
she must have been!" thought Marjory, and her eyes turned again to the
other picture.

That other picture, would the doctor have confessed it, was one of the
chief reasons why he did not wish Marjory to enter her mother's room.
With that speaking, impressive portrait of her father continually before
her eyes, could the child be taught to ignore and forget him? The doctor
had an almost superstitious dislike of having anything moved at Hunters'
Brae. His sister had ordered Hugh Davidson's portrait to be hung in her
room; there it must stay, but Marjory should not see it until he thought
fit.

Marjory now stood gazing at the picture. This, then, was the hero of her
dreams and hopes, that father who had been the central figure in many a
tale of stirring adventure, hairbreadth escape, and brave deed--tales
which she had told herself many a time. But this was a figure even more
splendid than that of her imagination. The strong, square chin and
determined mouth, the flashing, piercing eyes under the dark brows--all
spoke of the strength and courage of a Coeur de Lion or a Napoleon.

She could not take her eyes off the picture. How proud of him she would
have been! was her sad thought, but it seemed no use hoping any more.
She must begin afresh to-day, and try to be content without him. It
would be very hard, for the hope had been very dear to her.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door, and a strange voice called, "May
I come in, Marjory?"

Who could this be, calling her by her Christian name, and yet in a voice
she did not know? She must be dreaming; but no--the voice called again,
"May I come in, Marjory?"

"Come in," she said, turning towards the door with a puzzled and
inquiring expression on her face.

"I've brought you a large and handsome birthday present," said the
doctor's voice, as he almost pushed Mr. Davidson into the room. Then he
shut the door, and left the father and daughter confronting each other.

There was a moment's silence. Marjory looked at the tall man with the
noble gray head, the lined forehead that told of years of sorrow and
care. Time had set its marks upon the face, but it was the face of the
picture. At last--somehow, and from somewhere--her father had been
brought to her. The man held out his arms, and she crept into them,
sobbing with wonder and delight and other feelings to which she could
not have given a name, as he murmured, "My own little girl, come to me."

That moment seemed to sweep away all the sad memories of her longings
and yearnings. Never again would she feel that she was an orphan, really
belonging to nobody. Her father, her very own, had come to her at last.
How good it was!

It may well be imagined that these two had much to say to each other.
Mr. Davidson told his child of her sweet young mother, as he took her
round the room, showing her the various treasures, which were in their
places just as they had been in the old time when he knew that room so
well. In the work-basket was a dainty little garment which had been
intended for Marjory. It was not finished; the rusty needle, with its
thread yellow with age, was still in it, just as the worker had left it.
Mr. Davidson took up the little bundle of muslin and lace and reverently
kissed it.

"Thank God for you, my darling," he said, "and for this good day that
gives you to me!" And he kissed Marjory again.

Marjory showed her father the locket and chain which she always wore.
Yes, he knew it; it was one he had given to her mother. But he did not
add that at that time it had contained a picture of himself. And the
coin? Yes, he had the other half; and he told Marjory how he and that
other Marjory had split it for luck, and how each had promised to wear
it always.

There was much questioning and answering of questions between them, and
at last came the inevitable one which Mr. Davidson had expected and
dreaded,--

"Why did you never come before?"

He looked into his daughter's eyes.

"Can you trust me when I tell you that there was a reason I cannot
explain which made it impossible until now, and when I tell you that it
was not my fault, and that as soon as the reason was removed I came to
you? Will you be content to believe me, and ask no more questions?"

Marjory returned her father's look, a world of trust and confidence in
her eyes. "Yes," she replied; and from that moment they understood each
other.

And Marjory never knew the answer to that question. Mrs. Forester kept
her own counsel, and so did Mr. Hilary Forester, and they were the only
people besides the principals themselves who knew the truth.

"My beloved did cross the sea, after all," said Marjory to her uncle,
when they joined him later.

"Quite right; so he did," replied the doctor.

"And you believe the old prophecy now?" triumphantly.

The doctor laughed.

"I can hardly say that," he answered. "It has just happened so, that's
all."

The doctor had persuaded Mr. Davidson to wait until Marjory's birthday
before making himself known to her, in order that the day might be a
red-letter one in her life. The Foresters had kept the secret carefully,
Captain Shaw had kept his, and not a whisper had gone abroad of the
wonderful event about to happen, and all had fallen out just as the
doctor had planned and wished.

There were great rejoicings at Hunters' Brae that day, and in the
evening there was a large and merry birthday party. Mr. and Mrs.
Forester and Blanche, Mr. and Mrs. Hilary Forester and Maud, the
Morisons, with Herbert and Alan, all came with a welcome for Mr.
Davidson and congratulations for Marjory.

Earlier in the day, Captain and Mrs. Shaw had come together, as they had
done once before, to be congratulated on their own happy reunion.

"There's nothing like the forgetting of old bygones," said the captain,
as he wrung Mr. Davidson's hand, "and there's no happiness so sweet as
when it's been long in coming, sir. I wish you and dear Miss Marjory
many happy returns of the day."

The doctor had been wondering what Mr. Davidson's plans for the future
would be. Would it be part of his punishment that the father would take
his child to far-away Skaguay and keep her to himself? It would be
natural enough, perhaps, but he thought with a pang of the difference it
would make to him. Life at Hunters' Brae would be sad for him without
the girl. This matter weighed heavily upon his mind, but he dared not
speak upon the subject for fear of hastening a decision.

At last one day Mr. Davidson spoke his mind. He must go back to Alaska,
and would take Marjory with him, but--and here Dr. Hunter's heart almost
stopped beating--he would retire from business. He had enough and to
spare for Marjory and himself, and he looked forward to settling down at
home.

"Here, here!" interrupted the doctor then. "The Brae will eventually be
Marjory's. If you can forgive the past, Hugh, make this your home. You
shall not regret it, I promise you. I do believe I have laid that old
ghost of jealousy at last. All I have is to be Marjory's. My old age
would be comfortless indeed if I were doomed to spend it here alone.
Perhaps that is what I deserve, but do give the old place a trial. The
child loves it."

"It is associated in my mind with the happiest time of my life," replied
Mr. Davidson earnestly. "No other place could seem so like home to me."

And so it was settled. Marjory was delighted at the idea of travelling
with her father--of crossing that wonderful sea which had brought her
beloved. She was enchanted by the prospect, but, as she said, it would
not have been so delightful if she had not been able to look forward to
coming home again at the end of her travels--home to her uncle at
Hunters' Brae.

There was a certain clause in the doctor's will which he discussed with
his niece and her father before they started on their journey. He had
made the stipulation that, when the time came that Marjory should become
possessor of Hunters' Brae, and of all that he had to leave, she should
adopt the surname of Hunter. Marjory clapped her hands when she heard
this.

"There's the prophecy again," she cried, quoting,--

  "'The Hunters' line shall ne'er decline
    Till the muir doth pass away.'"

"Nonsense!" replied the doctor. "It is merely a question of title and
property. Had there been a male Hunter living, the Brae would have been
his; and it is stated in the original deeds that, in the event of the
sole descendant being a girl, she must take the family name, and give it
to her husband when she marries. The person who wrote that rubbish
probably knew of this when he scribbled his so-called prophecy."

"You are always so scornful about those prophecies, uncle dear," said
Marjory, laughing. "I think they are so interesting and so true. I shall
copy them out and put my notes to them, as my grandmother did."

So Marjory was quite happy at last. Her childhood had had its
troubles--very real ones while they lasted. Then friendship had come to
lighten them, and wise, loving words from a motherly woman, who had
taught her to look away from self, to find happiness in thinking of
others. In so doing, she had found her way into her uncle's heart, and
the finding of it had brought ample reward. And now had come this
crowning joy of all--the meeting with her father at last, the
realization that he was all and more than all her fancy had painted him.
She felt that her cup of happiness was full. Looking back over the
past, she could sing with the poet,--

  "What had I then? A hope that grew
    Each hour more bright and dear,
  The flush upon the eastern skies
    That showed the sun was near.
  Now night has faded far away,
  My sun has risen, and it is day."


THE END.


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