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´╗┐Title: Janet's Love and Service
Author: Robertson, Margaret M. (Margaret Murray), 1821-1897
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Janet's Love and Service" ***

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Janet's Love and Service, by Margaret M Robertson.

________________________________________________________________________
The set of page scans that was used to create this version of the book
was as dirty as it is possible to be, while still making it just about
possible to do the OCR and subsequent editing.  This latter was very
hard work.  The scans came from the Canadiana Online collection.  No
doubt there is a reason for this lack of quality.  But there was a
reason for persevering with the editing process, endless as it seemed to
be for several weeks, and that was that I do believe this book to be
very great literature, even though it has not hitherto been recognised
as such by the world in general.

To be truthful, the book's first quarter, and perhaps the last quarter,
are more dramatic than the two middle quarters.  But it is all well
worth reading and thinking about, for there are many things in the book
that we should all think deeply about, living as we do in a very
different world than the one that surrounded the author and her
fictional characters almost a hundred and fifty years ago.  That the
author had very great skill is undoubted, and can be seen from her other
works.

I hope you will read it and see if you agree with me that the hard work
involved on bringing this book to the web has been worthwhile.  NH.

________________________________________________________________________
JANET'S LOVE AND SERVICE, BY MARGARET M ROBERTSON.



CHAPTER ONE.

The longest day in all the year was slowly closing over the little
village of Clayton.  There were no loiterers now at the corners of the
streets or on the village square--it was too late for that, though
daylight still lingered.  Now and then the silence was broken by the
footsteps of some late home-comer, and over more than one narrow close,
the sound of boyish voices went and came, from garret to garret, telling
that the spirit of slumber had not yet taken possession of the place.
But these soon ceased.  The wind moved the tall laburnums in the lane
without a sound, and the murmur of running water alone broke the
stillness, as the gurgle of the burn, and the rush of the distant
mill-dam met and mingled in the air of the summer night.

In the primitive village of Clayton, at this midsummer time, gentle and
simple were wont to seek their rest by the light of the long gloaming.
But to-night there was light in the manse--in the minister's study, and
in other parts of the house as well.  Lights were carried hurriedly past
uncurtained windows, and flared at last through the open door, as a
woman's anxious face looked out.

"What can be keeping him?" she murmured, as she shaded the flickering
candle and peered out into the gathering darkness.  "It's no' like him
to linger at a time like this.  God send he was at home."

Another moment of eager listening, and then the anxious face was
withdrawn and the door closed.  Soon a sound broke the stillness of the
village street; a horseman drew up before the minister's house, and the
door was again opened.

"Well, Janet?" said the rider, throwing the reins on the horse's neck
and pausing as he went in.  The woman curtseyed with a very relieved
face.

"They'll be glad to see you up the stairs, sir.  The minister's no' long
home."

She lighted the doctor up the stairs, and then turned briskly in another
direction.  In a minute she was kneeling before the kitchen hearth, and
was stirring up the buried embers.

"Has my father come, Janet?" said a voice out of the darkness.

"Yes, he's come.  He's gone up the stairs.  I'll put on the kettle.  I
dare say he'll be none the worse of a cup of tea after his ride."

Sitting on the high kitchen dresser, her cheek close against the
darkening window, sat a young girl, of perhaps twelve or fourteen years
of age.  She had been reading by the light that lingered long at that
western window, but the entrance of Janet's candle darkened that, and
the book, which at the first moment of surprise had dropped out of her
hand, she now hastily put behind her out of Janet's sight.  But she need
not have feared a rebuke for "blindin' herself" this time, for Janet was
intent on other matters, and pursued her work in silence.  Soon the
blaze sprung up, and the dishes and covers on the wall shone in the
firelight.  Then she went softly out and closed the door behind her.

The girl sat still on the high dresser, with her head leaning back on
the window ledge, watching the shadows made by the firelight, and
thinking her own pleasant thoughts the while.  As the door closed, a
murmur of wonder escaped her, that "Janet had'na sent her to her bed."

"It's quite time I dare say," she added, in a little, "and I'm tired,
too, with my long walk to the glen.  I'll go whenever papa comes down."

She listened for a minute.  Then her thoughts went away to other
things--to her father, who had been away all day; to her mother, who was
not quite well to-night, and had gone up-stairs, contrary to her usual
custom, before her father came home.  Then she thought of other things--
of the book she had been reading, a story of one who had dared and done
much in a righteous cause--and then she gradually lost sight of the tale
and fell into fanciful musings about her own future, and to the building
of pleasant castles, in which she and they whom she loved were to dwell.
Sitting in the firelight, with eyes and lips that smiled, the pleasant
fancies came and went.  Not a shadow crossed her brow.  Not a fear came
to dim the light by which she gazed into the future that she planned.
So she sat till her dream was dreamed out, and then, with a sigh, in
which there was no echo of care or pain, she woke to the present, and
turned to her book again.

"I might see by the fire," she said, and in a minute she was seated on
the floor, her head leaning on her hands, and her eye fastened on the
open page.

"Miss Graeme," said Janet, softly coming in with a child in her arms,
"your mamma's no' weel, and here's wee Rosie wakened, and wantin' her.
You'll need to take her, for I maun awa'."

The book fell from the girl's hand, as she started up with a frightened
face.

"What ails mamma, Janet?  Is she very ill?"

"What should ail her but the one thing?" said Janet, impatiently.
"She'll be better the morn I hae nae doubt."

Graeme made no attempt to take the child, who held out her hands toward
her.

"I must go to her, Janet."

"Indeed, Miss Graeme, you'll do nothing o' the kind.  Mrs Burns is with
her, and the doctor, and it's little good you could do her just now.
Bide still where you are, and take care o' wee Rosie, and hearken if you
hear ony o' the ither bairns, for none o' you can see your mamma the
night."

Graeme took her little sister in her arms and seated herself on the
floor again.  Janet went out, and Graeme heard her father's voice in the
passage.  She held her breath to listen, but he did not come in as she
hoped he would.  She heard them both go up-stairs again, and heedless of
the prattle of her baby sister, she still listened eagerly.  Now and
then the sound of footsteps overhead reached her, and in a little Janet
came into the kitchen again, but she did not stay to be questioned.
Then the street door opened, and some one went out, and it seemed to
Graeme a long time before she heard another sound.  Then Janet came in
again, and this time she seemed to have forgotten that there was any one
to see her, for she was wringing her hands, and the tears were streaming
down her cheeks.  Graeme's heart stood still, and her white lips could
scarcely utter a sound.

"Janet!--tell me!--my mother."

"Save us lassie!  I had no mind of you.  Bide still, Miss Graeme.  You
munna go there," for Graeme with her little sister in her arms was
hastening away.  "Your mamma's no waur than she's been afore.  It's only
me that doesna ken about the like o' you.  The minister keeps up a gude
heart.  Gude forgie him and a' mankind."

Graeme took a step toward the door, and the baby, frightened at Janet's
unwonted vehemence, sent up a shrill cry.  But Janet put them both
aside, and stood with her back against the door.

"No' ae step, Miss Graeme.  The auld fule that I am; 'gin the lassie had
been but in her bed.  No, I'll no' take the bairn, sit down there,
you'll be sent for if you're needed.  I'll be back again soon; and
you'll promise me that you'll no leave this till I bid you.  Miss
Graeme, I wouldna deceive you if I was afraid for your mamma.  Promise
me that you'll bide still."

Graeme promised, awed by the earnestness of Janet, and by her own vague
terror as to her mother's mysterious sorrow, that could claim from one
usually so calm, sympathy so intense and painful.  Then she sat down
again to listen and to wait.  How long the time seemed!  The lids fell
down over the baby's wakeful eyes at last, and Graeme, gathering her own
frock over the little limbs, and murmuring loving words to her darling,
listened still.

The flames ceased to leap and glow on the hearth, the shadows no longer
danced upon the wall, and gazing at the strange faces and forms that
smiled and beckoned to her from the dying embers, still she listened.
The red embers faded into white, the dark forest with its sunny glades
and long retreating vistas, the hills, and rocks, and clouds, and
waterfalls, that had risen among them at the watcher's will, changed to
dull grey ashes, and the dim dawn of the summer morning, gleamed in at
last upon the weary sleeper.  The baby still nestled in her arms, the
golden hair of the child gleaming among the dark curls of the elder
sister as their cheeks lay close together.  Graeme moaned and murmured
in her sleep, and clasped the baby closer, but she did not wake till
Janet's voice aroused her.  There were no tears on her face now, but it
was very white, and her voice was low and changed.

"Miss Graeme, you are to go to your mamma; she's wantin' you.  But mind
you are to be quiet, and think o' your father."

Taking the child in her arms, she turned her back upon the startled
girl.  Chilled and stiff from her uneasy posture, Graeme strove to rise,
and stumbling, caught at Janet's arm.

"Mamma is better Janet," she asked eagerly.  Janet kept her working face
out of sight, and, in a little, answered hoarsely,--

"Ay, she'll soon be better, whatever becomes of the rest of us.  But,
mind, you are to be quiet, Miss Graeme."

Chilled and trembling, Graeme crept up-stairs and through the dim
passages to her mother's room.  The curtains had been drawn back, and
the daylight streamed into the room.  But the forgotten candles still
glimmered on the table.  There were several people in the room, standing
sad and silent around the bed.  They moved away as she drew near.  Then
Graeme saw her mother's white face on the pillow, and her father bending
over her.  Even in the awe and dread that smote on her heart like death,
she remembered that she must be quiet, and, coming close to the pillow,
she said softly,--

"Mother."

The dying eyes came back from their wandering, and fastened on her
darling's face, and the white lips opened with a smile.

"Graeme--my own love--I am going away--and they will have no one but
you.  And I have so much to say to you."

So much to say!  With only strength to ask, "God guide my darling ever!"
and the dying eyes closed, and the smile lingered upon the pale lips,
and in the silence that came next, one thought fixed itself on the heart
of the awe-stricken girl, never to be effaced.  Her father and his
motherless children had none but her to care for them now.



CHAPTER TWO.

"It's a' ye ken!  Gotten ower it, indeed!" and Janet turned her back on
her visitor, and went muttering about her gloomy kitchen: "The minister
no' being one to speak his sorrow to the newsmongering folk that
frequent your house, they say he has gotten ower it, do they?  It's a'
they ken!"

"Janet, woman," said her visitor, "I canna but think you are
unreasonable in your anger.  I said nothing derogatory to the minister;
far be it from me!  But we can a' see that the house needs a head, and
the bairns need a mother.  The minister's growing gey cheerful like, and
the year is mair than out; and--"

"Whisht, woman.  Dinna say it.  Speak sense if ye maun speak," said
Janet, with a gesture of disgust and anger.

"Wherefore should I no' say it?" demanded her visitor.  "And as to
speaking sense--.  But I'll no' trouble you.  It seems you have friends
in such plenty that you can afford to scorn and scoff at them at your
pleasure.  Good-day to you," and she rose to go.

But Janet had already repented her hot words.

"Bide still, woman!  Friends dinna fall out for a single ill word.  And
what with ae thing and anither I dinna weel ken what I'm saying or doing
whiles.  Sit down: it's you that's unreasonable now."

This was Mistress Elspat Smith, the wife of a farmer--"no' that ill
aff," as he cautiously expressed it--a far more important person in the
parish than Janet, the minister's maid-of-all-work.  It was a
condescension on her part to come into Janet's kitchen, under any
circumstances, she thought; and to be taken up sharply for a friendly
word was not to be borne.  But they had been friends all their lives;
and Janet "kenned hersel' as gude a woman as Elspat Smith, weel aff or
no' weel aff;" so with gentle violence she pushed her back into her
chair, saying:

"Hoot, woman!  What would folk say to see you and me striving at this
late day?  And I want to consult you."

"But you should speak sense yourself, Janet," said her friend.

"Folk maun speak as it's given them to speak," said Janet; "and we'll
say nae mair about it.  No' but that the bairns might be the better to
have some one to be over them.  She wouldna hae her sorrow to seek, I
can tell you.  No that they're ill bairns--"

"We'll say no more about it, since that is your will," said Mrs Smith,
with dignity; and then, relenting, she added,--

"You have a full handfu' with the eight of them, I'm sure."

"Seven only," said Janet, under her breath.  "She got one of them safe
home with her, thank God.  No' that there's one ower many," added she
quickly; "and they're no' ill bairns."

"You have your ain troubles among them, I dare say, and are muckle to be
pitied--"

"Me to be pitied!" said Janet scornfully, "there's no fear o' me.  But
what can the like o' me do?  For ye ken, woman, though the minister is a
powerful preacher, and grand on points o' doctrine, he's a verra bairn
about some things.  _She_ aye keepit the siller, and far did she make it
gang--having something to lay by at the year's end as well.  Now, if we
make the twa ends meet, it's mair than I expect."

"But Miss Graeme ought to have some sense about these things.  Surely
she takes heed to the bairns?"

"Miss Graeme's but a bairn herself, with little thought and less
experience; and its no' to be supposed that the rest will take heed to
her.  The little anes are no' so ill to do with; but these twa laddies
are just spirits o' mischief, for as quiet as Norman looks; and they
come home from the school with torn clothes, till Miss Graeme is just
dazed with mending at them.  And Miss Marian is near as ill as the
laddies; and poor, wee Rosie, growing langer and thinner every day, till
you would think the wind would blow her awa.  Master Arthur is awa at
his eddication: the best thing for a' concerned.  I wish they were a'
safe unto man's estate," and Janet sighed.

"And is Miss Graeme good at her seam?" asked Mistress Elspat.

"Oh ay; she's no' that ill.  She's better at her sampler and at the
flowering than at mending torn jackets, however.  But there's no fear
but she would get skill at that, and at other things, if she would but
hae patience with herself.  Miss Graeme is none of the common kind."

"And has there been no word from _her_ friends since?  They say her
brother has no bairns of his own.  He might well do something for hers."

Janet shook her head.

"The minister doesna think that I ken; but when Mr Ross was here at the
burial, he offered to take two of the bairns, Norman or Harry, and wee
Marian.  She's likest her mamma.  But such a thing wasna to be thought
of; and he went awa' no' weel pleased.  Whether he'll do onything for
them in ony ither way is more than I ken.  He might keep Master Arthur
at the college and no' miss it.  How the minister is ever to school the
rest o' them is no' easy to be seen, unless he should go to America
after all."

Mistress Smith lifted her hands.

"He'll never surely think o' taking these motherless bairns to yon
savage place!  What could ail him at Mr Ross's offer?  My patience! but
folk whiles stand in their ain light."

"Mr Ross is not a God-fearing man," replied Janet, solemnly.  "It's no'
what their mother would have wished to have her bairns brought up by
him.  The minister kenned her wishes well on that point, you may be
sure.  And besides, he could never cross the sea and leave any of them
behind."

"But what need to cross the sea?" cried Mrs Smith; "It's a pity but
folk should ken when they're weel aff.  What could the like o' him do in
a country he kens nothing about, and with so many bairns?"

"It's for the bairns' sake he's thinking of it.  They say there's fine
land there for the working, and no such a thing as payin' rent, but
every man farming his own land, with none to say him nay.  And there's
room for all, and meat and clothes, and to spare.  I'm no' sure but it's
just the best thing the minister can do.  They had near made up their
minds afore, ye ken."

"Hoot, woman, speak sense," entreated her friend.  "Is the minister to
sell rusty knives and glass beads to the Indians?  That's what they do
in yon country, as I've read in a book myself.  Whatna like way is that
to bring up a family?"

"Losh, woman, there's other folk there beside red Indians; folk that
dinna scruple to even themselves with the best in Britain, no' less.
You should read the newspapers, woman.  There's one John Caldwell there,
a friend o' the minister's, that's something in a college, and he's aye
writing him to come.  He says it's a wonderful country for progress; and
they hae things there they ca' institutions, that he seems to think
muckle o', though what _they_ may be I couldna weel make out.  The
minister read a bit out o' a letter the ither night to Miss Graeme and
me."

"Janet," said her friend, "say the truth at once.  The minister is bent
on this fule's errand, and you're encouraging in it."

"Na, na!  He needs na encouragement from the like o' me.  I would gie
muckle, that hasna muckle to spare, gin he were content to bide where he
is, though it's easy seen he'll hae ill enough bringing up a family
here, and these laddies needing more ilka year that goes o'er their
heads.  And they say yon's a grand country, and fine eddication to be
got in it for next to nothing.  I'm no sure but the best thing he can do
is to take them there.  I ken the mistress was weel pleased with the
thought," and Janet tried with all her might, to look hopeful; but her
truth-telling countenance betrayed her.  Her friend shook her head
gravely.

"It might have done, with her to guide them; but it's very different
now, as you ken yourself, far better than I can tell you.  It would be
little else than a temptin' o' Providence to expose these helpless
bairns, first to the perils o' the sea, and then to those o' a strange
country.  He'll never do it.  He's restless now; and unsettled; but when
time, that cures most troubles, goes by, he'll think better of it, and
bide where he is."

Janet made no reply, but in her heart she took no such comfort.  She
knew it was no feeling of restlessness, no longing to be away from the
scene of his sorrow that had decided the minister to emigrate, and that
he had decided she very well knew.  These might have hastened his plans,
she thought, but he went for the sake of his children.  They might make
their own way in the world, and he thought he could better do this in
the New World than in the Old.  The decision of one whom she had always
reverenced for his goodness and wisdom must be right, she thought; yet
she had misgivings, many and sad, as to the future of the children she
had come to love so well.  It was to have her faint hope confirmed, and
her strong fears chased away, that she had spoken that afternoon to her
friend; and it was with a feeling of utter disconsolateness that, she
turned to her work again, when, at last, she was left alone.

For Janet had a deeper cause for care than she had told, a vague feeling
that the worldly wisdom of her friend could not help her here, keeping
her silent about it to her.  That very morning, her heart had leaped to
her lips, when her master in his grave, brief way, had asked,--

"Janet, will you go with us, and help me to take care of her bairns?"

And she had vowed to God, and to him, that she would never leave them
while they needed the help that a faithful servant could give.  But the
after thought had come.  She had other ties, and cares, and duties,
apart from these that clustered so closely round the minister and his
motherless children.

A mile or two down the glen stood the little cottage that had for a long
time been the home of her widowed mother, and her son.  More than half
required for their maintenance Janet provided.  Could she forsake them?
Could any duty she owed to her master and his children make it right for
her to forsake those whose blood flowed in her veins?  True, her mother
was by no means an aged woman yet, and her son was a well-doing helpful
lad, who would soon be able to take care of himself.  Her mother had
another daughter too, but Janet knew that her sister could never supply
her place to her mother.  Though kind and well-intentioned, she was easy
minded, not to say thriftless, and the mother of many bairns besides,
and there could neither be room nor comfort for her mother at her
fireside, should its shelter come to be needed.

Day after day Janet wearied herself going over the matter in her mind.
"If it were not so far," she thought, or "if her mother could go with
her."  But this she knew, for many reasons, could never be, even if her
mother could be brought to consent to such a plan.  And Janet asked
herself, "What would my mother do if Sandy were to die?  And what would
Sandy do if my mother were to die?  And what would both do if sickness
were to overtake them, and me far-away?" till she quite hated herself
for ever thinking of putting the wide sea, between them and her.

There had been few pleasures scattered over Janet's rough path to
womanhood.  Not more than two or three mornings since she could remember
had she risen to other than a life of labour.  Even during the bright
brief years of her married-life, she had known little respite from toil,
for her husband had been a poor man, and he had died suddenly, before
her son was born.  With few words spoken, and few tears shed, save what
fell in secret, she had given her infant to her mother's care, and gone
back again to a servant's place in the minister's household.  There she
had been for ten years the stay and right hand of her beloved friend and
mistress, "working the work of two," as they told her, who would have
made her discontented in her lot, with no thought from year's end to
year's end, but how she might best do her duty in the situation in which
God had placed her.

But far-away into the future--it might be years and years hence--she
looked to the time when in a house of her own, she might devote herself
entirely to the comfort of her mother and her son.  In this hope she was
content to strive and toil through the best years of her life, living
poorly and saving every penny, to all appearance equally indifferent to
the good word of those who honoured her for her faithfulness and patient
labour, and to the bad word of those who did not scruple to call her
most striking characteristics by less honourable names.  She had never,
during all these years, spoken, even to her mother, of her plans, but
their fulfilment was none the less settled in her own mind, and none the
less dear to her because of that.  Could she give this up?  Could she go
away from her home, her friends, the land of her birth, and be content
to see no respite from her labour till the end?  Yes, she could.  The
love that had all these years been growing for the children she had
tended with almost a mother's care, would make the sacrifice possible--
even easy to her.  But her mother?  How could she find courage to tell
her that she must leave her alone in her old age?  The thought of
parting from her son, her "bonny Sandy," loved with all the deeper
fervour that the love was seldom spoken--even this gave her no such pang
as did the thought of turning her back upon her mother.  He was young,
and had his life before him, and in the many changes time might bring,
she could at least hope to see him again.  But her mother, already
verging on the three-score, she could never hope to see more, when once
the broad Atlantic rolled between them.

And so, no wonder if in the misery of her indecision, Janet's words grew
fewer and sharper as the days wore on.  With strange inconsistency she
blamed the minister for his determination to go away, but suffered no
one else to blame him, or indeed to hint that he could do otherwise than
what was wisest and best for all.  It was a sore subject, this
anticipated departure of the minister, to many a one in Clayton besides
her, and much was it discussed by all.  But it was a subject on which
Janet would not be approached.  She gave short answers to those who
offered their services in the way of advice.  She preserved a scornful
silence in the presence of those who seemed to think she could forsake
her master and his children in their time of need, nor was she better
pleased with those who thought her mother might be left for their sakes.
And so she thought, and wished, and planned, and doubted, till she
dazed herself with her vain efforts to get light, and could think and
plan no more.

"I'll leave it to my mother herself to decide," she said, at last;
"though, poor body, what can she say, but that I maun do what I think is
my duty, and please myself.  The Lord above kens I hae little thought o'
pleasin' myself in this matter."  And in her perplexity Janet was ready
to think her case an exception to the general rule, and that contrary to
all experience and observation, duty pointed two ways at once.



CHAPTER THREE.

The time came when the decision could no longer be delayed.  The
minister was away from home, and before his return it would be made
known formally to his people that he was to leave them, and after that
the sooner his departure took place it would be the better for all
concerned, and so Janet must brace herself for the task.

So out of the dimness of her spotless kitchen she came one day into the
pleasant light of May, knowing that before she entered it again, she
would have made her mother's heart as sore as her own.  All day, and for
many days, she had been planning what she should say to her mother, for
she felt that it must be farewell.

"If you know not of two ways which to choose, take that which is
roughest and least pleasing to yourself, and the chances are it will be
the right one," said she to herself.  "I read that in a book once, but
it's ill choosing when both are rough, and I know not what to do."

Out into the brightness of the Spring day she came, with many misgivings
as to how she was to speed in her errand.

"It's a bonny day, bairns," said she, and her eye wandered wistfully
down the village street, and over the green fields, to the hills that
rose dimly in the distance.  The mild air softly fanned her cheek,
pleasant sights were round her everywhere, and at the garden gate she
lingered, vaguely striving under their influence to cast her burden from
her.

"I mun hae it ower," she muttered to herself as she went on.  In each
hand she held firmly the hand of a child.  Marian and little Will were
to go with her for safe keeping; the lads were at the school, and in her
absence Graeme was to keep the house, and take care of little Rose.

"Oh, Janet!" she exclaimed, as she went down the lane a bit with them;
"I wish I were going with you, it's such a bonny day."

But Janet knew that what she had to say, would be better said without
her presence, so she shook her head.

"You know Miss Graeme, my dear, you mun keep the house, and we would
weary carrying wee Rosie, and she could never go half the distance on
her feet; and mind, if ony leddies call, the short bread is in the ben
press, and gin they begin with questions, let your answers be short and
ceevil, like a gude bairn, and take gude care o' my bonny wee lily,"
added she, kissing the pale little girl as she set her down.  "But I
needna tell you that, and we'll soon be back again."

The children chattered merrily all the way, and busy with her own
thoughts, Janet answered them without knowing what she said.  Down the
lane, and over the burn, through green fields, till the burn crossed
their path again they went, "the near way," and soon the solitary
cottage in the glen was in sight.  It was a very humble home, but very
pleasant in its loneliness, Janet thought, as her eye fell on it.  The
cat sat sunning herself on the step, and through the open door came the
hum of the mother's busy wheel.  Drawing a long breath, Janet entered.

"Weel, mother," said she.

"Weel, Janet, is this you, and the bairns?  I doubt you hadna weel
leavin' hame the day," said her mother.

"I had to come, and this day's as good as another.  It's a bonny day,
mother."

"Ay, its a bonny day, and a seasonable, thank God.  Come in by, bairns,
I sent Sandy over to Fernie a while syne.  It's near time he were hame
again.  I'll give you a piece, and you'll go down the glen to meet him,"
and, well pleased, away they went.

"I dare say you'll be none the waur of your tea, Janet, woman," said her
mother, and she put aside her wheel, and entered with great zeal into
her preparations.  Janet strove to have patience with her burden a
little longer, and sat still listening to her mother's talk, asking and
answering questions on indifferent subjects.  There was no pause.  Janet
had seldom seen her mother so cheerful, and in a little she found
herself wondering whether she had not been exaggerating to herself her
mother's need of her.

"The thought ought to give me pleasure," she reasoned, but it did not,
and she accused herself of perversity, in not being able to rejoice,
that her mother could easily spare her to the duties she believed
claimed her.  In the earnestness of her thoughts, she grew silent at
last, or answered her mother at random.  Had she been less occupied, she
might have perceived that her mother was not so cheerful as she seemed
for many a look of wistful earnestness was fastened on her daughter's
face, and now and then a sigh escaped her.

They were very much alike in appearances, the mother and daughter.  The
mother had been "bonnier in her youth, than ever Janet had," she used to
say herself, and looking at her still ruddy cheeks, and clear grey eyes,
it was not difficult to believe it.  She was fresh-looking yet, at
sixty, and though the hair drawn back under her cap was silvery white,
her teeth for strength and beauty, might have been the envy of many a
woman of half her years.  She was smaller than Janet, and her whole
appearance indicated the possession of more activity and less strength
of body and mind than her daughter had, but the resemblance between them
was still striking.  She had seen many trials, as who that has lived for
sixty years, has not? but she had borne them better than most, and was
cheerful and hopeful still.  When they were fairly seated, with the
little table between them, she startled Janet, by coming to the point at
once.

"And so they say the minister is for awa' to America after all.  Is that
true?"

"Oh, ay! it is true, as ill news oftenest is," said Janet, gravely.  "He
spoke to me about it before he went away.  It's all settled, or will be
before he comes hame the morn."

"Ay, as you say, it's ill news to them that he's leaving.  But I hope it
may be for the good o' his young family.  There's many a one going that
road now."

"Ay, there's more going than will better themselves by the change, I
doubt.  It's no like that all the fine tales, we hear o' yon country can
be true."

"As you say.  But, it's like the minister has some other dependence,
than what's ca'ed about the country for news.  What's this I hear about
a friend o' his that's done weel there?"

Janet made a movement of impatience.

"Wha' should he be, but some silly, book-learned body that bides in a
college there awa'.  I dare say there would be weel pleased in any
country, where he could get plenty o' books, and a house to hold them
in.  But what can the like o' him ken o' a young family and what's
needed for them.  If he had but held his peace, and let the minister
bide where he is, it would hae been a blessing, I'm sure."

Janet suddenly paused in confusion, to find herself arguing on the wrong
side of the question.  Her mother said nothing, and in a minute she
added,--

"There's one thing to be said for it, the mistress aye thought weel o'
the plan.  Oh! if she had been but spared to them," and she sighed
heavily.

"You may weel say that," said her mother, echoing her sigh.  "But I'm no
sure but they would miss her care as much to bide here, as to go there.
And Janet, woman, there's aye a kind Providence.  He that said, `Leave
thy fatherless children to me,' winna forsake the motherless.  There's
no fear but they'll be brought through."

"I hae been saying that to myself ilka hour of the day, and I believe it
surely.  But oh, mother," Janet's voice failed her.  She could say no
more.

"I ken weel, Janet," continued her mother, gravely, "it will be a great
charge and responsibility to you, and I dare say whiles you are ready to
run away from it.  But you'll do better for them than any living woman
could do.  The love you bear them, will give you wisdom to guide them,
and when strength is needed, there's no fear but you'll get it.  The
back is aye fitted for the burden.  Let them gang or let them bide, you
canna leave them now."

She turned her face away from her mother, and for her life Janet could
not have told whether the tears that were streaming down her cheeks,
were falling for joy or for sorrow.  There was to be no struggle between
her and her mother.  That was well; but with the feeling of relief the
knowledge brought, there came a pang--a foretaste of the home-sickness,
which comes once, at least, to every wanderer from his country.  By a
strong effort she controlled herself, and found voice to say,--

"I shall never leave them while they need me.  I could be content to
toil for them always.  But, ah! mother, the going awa' over the sea--"

Her voice failed her for a minute, then she added,--

"I hae wakened every mornin' with this verse of Jeremiah on my mind:
`Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him, but weep sore for him
that goeth away, for he shall return no more nor see his native
country.'"  Janet made no secret of her tears now.

"Hoot fie, Janet, woman," said her mother, affecting anger to hide far
other feelings.  "You are misapplyin' Scripture altogether.  That was
spoken o' them that were to be carried away captive for their sins, and
no' o' honest folk, followin' the leadings o' Providence.  If there's
ony application it's to me, I'm thinkin'.  It's them that bide at hame
that are bidden weep sore;" and she seemed much inclined to follow the
injunction.  She recovered in a minute, however, and added,--

"But I'm no' going to add to your trouble.  You dinna need me to tell
you I'll have little left when you're awa'.  But, if it's your duty to
go with them, it canna be your duty to bide with me.  You winna lose
your reward striving in behalf o' these motherless bairns, and the Lord
will hae me and Sandy in his keeping, I dinna doubt."

There was a long silence after this.  Each knew what the other suffered.
There was no need to speak of it, and so they sat without a word;
Janet, with the quiet tears falling now and then over her cheeks; her
mother, grave and firm, giving no outward sign of emotion.  Each shrunk,
for the other's sake, from putting their fears for the future into
words; but their thoughts were busy.  The mother's heart ached for the
great wrench that must sever Janet from her child and her home, and
Janet's heart grew sick with the dread of long weary days and nights her
mother might have to pass, with perhaps no daughter's hand to close her
eyes at last, till the thoughts of both changed to supplication, fervent
though unuttered; and the burden of the prayer of each was, that the
other might have strength and peace.

The mother spoke first.  "When will it be?"

"It canna be long now.  The sooner the better when once it's really
settled.  There are folk in the parish no weel pleased at the minister,
for thinking to go."

"It's for none to say what's right, and what's wrang, in the matter,"
said the mother, gravely.  "I hae nae doubt the Lord will go with him;
but it will be a drear day for plenty besides me."

"He's bent on it.  Go he will, and I trust it may be for the best," but
Janet sighed drearily.

"And how are the bairns pleased with the prospect?" asked her mother.

"Ah! they're weel pleased, bairn-like, at any thought o' a change.  Miss
Graeme has her doubts, I whiles think, but that shouldna count; there
are few things that look joyful to her at the present time.  She's ower
like her father with her ups and downs.  She hasna her mother's cheerful
spirit."

"Her mother's death was an awfu' loss to Miss Graeme, poor thing," said
the mother.

"Aye, that it was--her that had never kent a trouble but by readin' o'
them in printed books.  It was an awfu' wakening to her.  She has never
been the same since, and I doubt it will be long till she has the same
light heart again.  She tries to fill her mother's place to them all,
and when she finds she canna do it, she loses heart and patience with
herself.  But I hae great hope o' her.  She has the `single eye,' and
God will guide her.  I hae nae fear for Miss Graeme."

And then they spoke of many things--settling their little matters of
business, and arranging their plans as quietly as though they looked
forward to doing the same thing every month during the future years as
they had done during the past.  Nothing was forgotten or omitted; for
Janet well knew that all her time and strength would be needed for the
preparations that must soon commence, and that no time so good as the
present might be found for her own personal arrangements.  Her little
savings were to be lodged in safe hands for her mother's use, and if
anything were to happen to her they were to be taken to send Sandy over
the sea.  It was all done very quietly and calmly.  I will not say that
Janet's voice did not falter sometimes, or that no mist came between the
mother's eyes and the grave face on the other side of the table.  But
there was no sign given.  A strong sense of duty sustained them.  A firm
belief that however painful the future might be, they were doing right
in this matter, gave them power to look calmly at the sacrifice that
must cost them so much.

At length the children's voices were heard, and at the sound, Janet's
heart leaped up with a throb of pain, but in words she gave no utterance
to the pang.

"Weel, Sandy, lad, is this you," said she, as with mingled shyness and
pleasure the boy came forward at his grandmother's bidding.  He was a
well-grown and healthy lad, with a frank face, and a thick shock of
light curls.  There was a happy look in his large blue eyes, and the
smile came very naturally to his rather large mouth.  To his mother, at
the moment, he seemed altogether beautiful, and her heart cried out
against the great trial that was before her.  Sandy stood with his hand
in hers, while his grandmother questioned him about the errand on which
he had been sent, and she had time to quiet herself.  But there was a
look on her face as she sat there, gently stroking his fair hair with
her hand, that was sad to see.  Marian saw it with momentary wonder, and
then coming up to her, she laid her arm gently over her neck and
whispered,--

"Sandy is going with us too, Janet.  There will be plenty of room for us
all."

"I've been telling Menie that I canna leave grannie," said Sandy,
turning gravely to his mother.  "You'll hae Norman and Harry, and them
a', but grannie has none but me."

"And wouldna you like to go with us too, Sandy, man?" asked his mother,
with a pang.

"To yon fine country John Ferguson tells us about?" said Sandy, with
sparkling eyes.  "That I would, but it wouldna be right to leave
grannie, and she says she's ower old to go so far-away--and over the
great sea too."

"Nae, my lad, it wouldna be right to leave grannie by herself, and
you'll need to bide here.  Think aye first of what is right, and there
will be no fear of you."

"And are you goin' mother?" asked Sandy, gravely.

"I doubt I'll need to go, Sandy lad, with the bairns.  But I think less
of it, that I can leave you to be a comfort to grannie.  I'm sure I
needna bid you be a good and obedient laddie to her, when--"

It needed a strong effort on her part to restrain the bitter cry of her
heart.

"And will you never come back again, mother?"

"I dinna ken, Sandy.  Maybe no.  But that's no' for us to consider.  It
is present duty we maun think o'.  The rest is in the Lord's hands."

What else could be said?  That was the sum.  It was duty and the Lord
would take care of the rest.  And so they parted with outward calm; and
her mother never knew that that night, Janet, sending the children home
before her, sat down in the lane, and "grat as if she would never greet
mair."  And Janet never knew, till long years afterwards, how that
night, and many a night, Sandy woke from the sound sleep of childhood to
find his grandmother praying and weeping, to think of the parting that
was drawing near.  Each could be strong to help the other, but alone, in
silence and darkness, the poor shrinking heart had no power to cheat
itself into the belief that bitter suffering did not lie before it.



CHAPTER FOUR.

It was worship time, and the bairns had gathered round the table with
their books, to wait for their father's coming.  It was a fair sight to
see, but it was a sad one too, for they were motherless.  It was all the
more sad, that the bright faces and gay voices told how little they
realised the greatness of the loss they had sustained.  They were more
gay than usual, for the elder brother had come home for the summer,
perhaps for always; for the question was being eagerly discussed whether
he would go back to the college again, or whether he was to go with the
rest to America.

Arthur, a quiet, handsome lad of sixteen, said little.  He was sitting
with the sleepy Will upon his knee, and only put in a word now and then,
when the others grew too loud and eager.  He could have set them at rest
about it; for he knew that his father had decided to leave him in
Scotland till his studies were finished at the college.

"But there's no use to vex the lads and Graeme to-night," he said to
himself; and he was right, as he had not quite made up his mind whether
he was vexed himself or not.  The thought of the great countries on the
other side of the globe, and of the possible adventures that might await
them there, had charms for him, as for every one of his age and spirit.
But he was a sensible lad, and realised in some measure the advantage of
such an education as could only be secured by remaining behind, and he
knew in his heart that there was reason in what his father had said to
him of the danger there was that the voyage and the new scenes in a
strange land might unsettle his mind from his books.  It cost him
something to seem content, even while his father was speaking to him,
and he knew well it would grieve the rest to know he was to be left
behind, so he would say nothing about it, on this first night of his
home-coming.

There was one sad face among them; for even Arthur's home-coming could
not quite chase the shadow that had fallen on Graeme since the night a
year ago while she sat dreaming her dreams in the firelight.  It was
only a year or little more, but it might have been three, judging from
the change in her.  She was taller and paler, and older-looking since
then.  And yet it was not so much that as something else that so changed
her, Arthur thought, as he sat watching her.  The change had come to her
through their great loss, he knew; but he could not have understood,
even if it had been told him, how much this had changed life to Graeme.
He had suffered too more than words could ever tell.  Many a time his
heart had been ready to burst with unspeakable longing for his dead
mother's loving presence, her voice, her smile, her gentle chiding, till
he could only cast himself down and weep vain tears upon the ground.

Graeme had borne all this, and what was worse to her, the hourly missing
of her mother's counsel and care.  Not one day of all the year but she
had been made to feel the bitterness of their loss; not one day but she
had striven to fill her mother's place to her father and them all, and
her nightly heartbreak had been to know that she had striven in vain.
"As how could it be otherwise than vain," she said often to herself, "so
weak, so foolish, so impatient."  And yet through all her weakness and
impatience, she knew that she must never cease to try to fill her
mother's place still.

Some thought of all this came into Arthur's mind, as she sat there
leaning her head on one hand, while the other touched from time to time
the cradle at her side.  Never before had he realised how sad it was for
them all that they had lost their mother, and how dreary life at home
must have been all the year.

"Poor Graeme! and poor wee Rosie!" he says to himself, stooping over the
cradle.

"How old is Rosie?" asked he, suddenly.

"Near three years old," said Janet.

"She winna be three till August," said Graeme in the same breath, and
she turned beseeching eyes on Janet.  For this was becoming a vexed
question between them--the guiding of poor wee Rosie.  Janet was a
disciplinarian, and ever declared that Rosie "should go to her bed like
ither folk;" but Graeme could never find it in her heart to vex her
darling, and so the cradle still stood in the down-stairs parlour for
Rosie's benefit, and it was the elder sister's nightly task to soothe
the fretful little lady to her unwilling slumbers.

But Graeme had no need to fear discussion to-night.  Janet's mind was
full of other thoughts.  One cannot shed oceans of tears and leave no
sign; and Janet, by no means sure of herself, sat with her face turned
from the light, intently gazing on the very small print of the Bible in
her hand.  On common occasions the bairns would not have let Janet's
silence pass unheeded, but to-night they were busy discussing matters of
importance, and except to say now and then, "Whist, bairns! your father
will be here!" she sat without a word.

There was a hush at last, as a step was heard descending the stairs, and
in a minute their father entered.  It was not fear that quieted them.
There was no fear in the frank, eager eyes turned toward him, as he sat
down among them.  His was a face to win confidence and respect, even at
the first glance, so grave and earnest was it, yet withal so gentle and
mild.  In his children's hearts the sight of it stirred deep love, which
grew to reverence as they grew in years.  The calm that sat on that
high, broad brow, told of conflicts passed, and victory secure, of weary
wandering through desert places, over now and scarce remembered in the
quiet of the resting-place he had found.  His words and deeds, and his
chastened views of earthly things told of a deep experience in "that
life which is the heritage of the few--that true life of God in the soul
with its strange, rich secrets, both of joy and sadness," whose peace
the world knoweth not of, which naught beneath the sun can ever more
disturb.

"The minister is changed--greatly changed."  Janet had said many times
to herself and others during the last few months, and she said it now,
as her eye with the others turned on him as he entered.  But with the
thought there came to-night the consciousness that the change was not
such a one as was to be deplored.  He had grown older and graver, and
more silent than he used to be, but he had grown to something higher,
purer, holier than of old, and like a sudden gleam of light breaking
through the darkness, there flashed into Janet's mind the promise, "All
things shall work together for good to them that love God."  Her lips
had often spoken the words before, but now her eyes saw the fulfilment,
and her failing faith was strengthened.  If that bitter trial, beyond
which she had vainly striven to see aught but evil, had indeed wrought
good, for her beloved friend and master; need she fear any change or any
trial which the future might have in store for her?

"It will work for good, this pain and separation," murmured she.  "I'm
no' like the minister, but frail and foolish, and wilful too whiles, but
I humbly hope that I am one of those who love the Lord."

"Well, bairns!" said the father.  There was a gentle stir and movement
among them, though there was no need, for Graeme had already set her
father's chair and opened the Bible at the place.  She pushed aside the
cradle a little that he might pass, and he sat down among them.

"We'll take a Psalm, to-night," said he, after a minute's turning of the
leaves from a "namey chapter" in Chronicles, the usual place.  He chose
the forty-sixth.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

"Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, though the
mountains be cast into the midst of the sea."

And thus on through the next.

"He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob, whom
he loved."

And still on through the next till the last verse,--

"This God is our God for ever and ever.  He will be our guide, even unto
death," seemed like the triumphant ending of a song of praise.

Then there was a momentary hush and pause.  Never since the mother's
voice had grown silent in death had the voice of song risen at worship
time.  They had tried it more than once, and failed in bitter weeping.
But Janet, fearful that their silence was a sin, had to-night brought
the hymn-books which they always used, and laid them at Arthur's side.
In the silence that followed the reading Graeme looked from him to them,
but Arthur shook his head.  He was not sure that his voice would make
its way through the lump that had been gathering in his throat while his
father read, and he felt that to fail would be dreadful, so there was
silence still--

There was a little lingering round the fire after worship was over, but
when Arthur went quietly away the boys soon followed.  Graeme would fain
have stayed to speak a few words to her father, on this first night of
his return.  He was sitting gazing into the fire, with a face so grave
that his daughter's heart ached for his loneliness.  But a peevish voice
from the cradle admonished her that she must to her task again, and so
with a quiet "good-night, papa," she took her little sister in her arms.
Up-stairs she went, murmuring tender words to her "wee birdie," her
"bonny lammie," her "little gentle dove," more than repaid for all her
weariness and care, by the fond nestling of the little head upon her
bosom; for her love, which was more a mother's than a sister's, made the
burden light.

The house was quiet at last.  The boys had talked themselves to sleep,
and the minister had gone to his study again.  This had been one of
Rosie's "weary nights."  The voices of her brothers had wakened her in
the parlour, and Graeme had a long walk with the fretful child, before
she was soothed to sleep again.  But she did sleep at last, and just as
Janet had finished her nightly round, shutting the windows and barring
the doors, Graeme crept down-stairs, and entered the kitchen.  The red
embers still glowed on the hearth, but Janet was in the very act of
"resting the fire" for the night.

"Oh!  Janet," said Graeme, "put on another peat.  I'm cold, and I want
to speak to you."

"Miss Graeme!  You up at this time o' the night!  What ails yon cankered
fairy now?"

"Oh, Janet!  She's asleep long ago, and I want to speak to you."  And
before Janet could remonstrate, one of the dry peats set ready for the
morning fire was thrown on the embers, and soon blazed brightly up.
Graeme crouched down before it, with her arm over Janet's knee.

"Janet, what did your mother say?  And oh!  Janet, Arthur says my
father--" Turning with a sudden movement, Graeme let her head fall on
Janet's lap, and burst into tears.  Janet tried to lift her face.

"Whist!  Miss Graeme!  What ails the lassie?  It's no' the thought of
going awa', surely?  You hae kenned this was to be a while syne.  You
hae little to greet about, if you but kenned it--you, who are going
altogether."

"Janet, Arthur is to bide in Scotland."

"Well, it winna be for long.  Just till he's done at the college.  I
dare say it is the best thing that can happen him to bide.  But who told
you?"

"Arthur told me after we went up-stairs to-night.  And, oh!  Janet! what
will I ever do without him?"

"Miss Graeme, my dear!  You hae done without him these two years already
mostly, and even if we all were to bide in Scotland, you would hae to do
without him still.  He could na' be here and at the college too.  And
when he's done with that he would hae to go elsewhere.  Families canna
aye bide together.  Bairns maun part."

"But, Janet, to go so far and leave him!  It will seem almost like
death."

"But, lassie it's no' death.  There's a great difference.  And as for
seeing him again, that is as the Lord wills.  Anyway, it doesna become
you to cast a slight on your father's judgment, as though he had decided
unwisely in this matter.  Do you no' think it will cost him something to
part from his first-born son?"

"But, Janet, why need he part from him?  Think how much better it would
be for him, and for us all, if Arthur should go with us.  Arthur is
almost a man."

"Na, lass.  He'll no' hae a man's sense this while yet.  And as for his
goin' or bidin', it's no' for you or me to seek for the why and the
wherefore o' the matter.  It might be better--more cheery--for you and
us all if your elder brother were with us, but it wouldna be best for
him to go, or your father would never leave him, you may be sure o'
that."

There was a long silence.  Graeme sat gazing into the dying embers.
Janet threw on another peat, and a bright blaze sprang up again.

"Miss Graeme, my dear, if it's a wise and right thing for your father to
take you all over the sea, the going or the biding o' your elder brother
can make no real difference.  You must seek to see the rights o' this.
If your father hasna him to help him with the bairns and--ither things,
the more he'll need you, and you maun hae patience, and strive no' to
disappoint him.  You hae muckle to be thankful for--you that can write
to ane anither like a printed book, to keep ane anither in mind.
There's nae fear o' your growin' out o' acquaintance, and he'll soon
follow, you may be sure.  Oh, lassie, lassie! if you could only ken!"

Graeme raised herself up, and leaned both her arms on Janet's lap.

"Janet, what did your mother say?"

Janet gulped something down, and said, huskily,--

"Oh! she said many a thing, but she made nae wark about it.  I told your
father I would go, and I will.  My mother doesna object."

"And Sandy?" said Graeme, softly, for there was something working in
Janet's face, which she did not like to see.

"Sandy will aye hae my mother, and she'll hae Sandy.  But, lassie, it
winna bear speaking about to-night.  Gang awa' to your bed."

Graeme rose; but did not go.

"But couldna Sandy go with us?  It would only be one more.  Surely,
Janet--"

Janet made a movement of impatience, or entreaty, Graeme did not know
which, but it stopped her.

"Na, na!  Sandy couldna leave my mother, even if it would be wise for me
to take him.  There's no more to be said about that."  And in spite of
herself, Janet's tears gushed forth, as mortal eyes had never seen them
gush before, since she was a herd lassie on the hills.  Graeme looked
on, hushed and frightened, and in a little, Janet quieted herself and
wiped her face with her apron.

"You see, dear, what with one thing and what with another, I'm weary,
and vexed to-night, and no' just myself.  Matters will look more
hopeful, both to you and to me, the morn.  There's one thing certain.
Both you and me hae much to do that maun be done, before we see saut
water, without losing time in grumblin' at what canna be helped.  What
with the bairns' clothes and ither things, we winna need to be idle; so
let us awa' to our beds that we may be up betimes the morn."

Graeme still lingered.

"Oh, Janet! if my mother were only here!  How easy it all would be."

"Ay, lass!  I hae said that to myself many a time this while.  But He
that took her canna do wrong.  There was some need for it, or she would
hae been here to-night.  You maun aye strive to fill her place to them
all."

Graeme's tears flowed forth afresh.

"Oh, Janet!  I think you're mocking me when you say that.  How could _I_
ever fill her place?"

"No' by your ain strength and wisdom surely my lammie.  But it would be
limiting His grace to say He canna make you all you should be--all that
she was, and that is saying muckle; for she was wise far by the common.
But now gang awa' to your bed, and dinna forget your good words.
There's no fear but you will be in God's keeping wherever you go."

Janet was right; they had need of all their strength and patience during
the next two months.  When Janet had confidence in herself, she did what
was to be done with a will.  But she had little skill in making
purchases, and less experience, and Graeme was little better.  Many
things must be got, and money could not be spent lavishly, and there was
no time to lose.

But, with the aid of Mrs Smith and other kind friends, their
preparations were got through at last.  Purchases were made, mending and
making of garments were accomplished, and the labour of packing was got
through, to their entire satisfaction.

The minister said good-bye to each of his people separately, either in
the kirk, or in his own home or theirs; but he shrunk from last words,
and from the sight of all the sorrowful faces that were sure to gather
to see them go; so he went away at night, and stayed with a friend, a
few miles on their way.  But it was the fairest of summer mornings--the
mist just lifting from the hills--and the sweet air filled with the
laverock's song, when Janet and the bairns looked their last upon their
home.



CHAPTER FIVE.

They found themselves on board the "Steadfast" at last.  The day of
sailing was bright and beautiful, a perfect day for the sea, or the land
either; but the wind rose in the night and the rain came on, and a very
dreary morning broke on them as the last glimpse of land was fading in
the distance.

"Oh! how dismal!" murmured Graeme, as in utter discomfort she seated
herself on the damp deck, with her little sister in her arms.  All the
rest, excepting her father, and not excepting Janet, were down with
sea-sickness, and even Norman and Harry had lost heart under its
depressing influence.  Another hour in the close cabin, and Graeme felt
she must yield too--and then what would become of Rose?  So into a mist
that was almost rain she came, as the day was breaking, and sat down
with her little sister upon the deck.  For a minute she closed her eyes
on the dreariness around, and leaned her head on a hencoop at her side.
Rose had been fretful and uneasy all night, but now well pleased with
the new sights around her, she sat still on her sister's lap.  Soon the
cheerful voice of the Captain, startled Graeme.

"Touch and go with you I see, Miss Elliott.  I am afraid you will have
to give in like the rest."

Graeme looked up with a smile that was sickly enough.

"Not if I can help it," said she.

"Well, you are a brave lass to think of helping it with a face like
that.  Come and take a quick walk up and down the deck with me.  It will
do you good.  Set down the bairn," for Graeme was rising with Rose in
her arms.  "No harm will come to her, and you don't look fit to carry
yourself.  Sit you there, my wee fairy, till we come back again.  Here,
Ruthven," he called to a young man who was walking up and down on the
other side of the deck, "come and try your hand at baby tending.  That
may be among the work required of you in the backwoods of Canada, who
knows?"

The young man came forward laughing, and Graeme submitted to be led
away.  The little lady left on the deck seemed very much inclined to
resent the unceremonious disposal of so important a person, as she was
always made to feel herself to be.  But she took a look into the face of
her new friend and thought better of it.  His face was a good one, frank
and kindly, and Rose suffered herself to be lifted up and placed upon
his knee, and when Graeme came back again, after a brisk walk of fifteen
minutes, she found the little one, usually so fretful and "ill to do
with," laughing merrily in the stranger's arms.  She would have taken
her, but Rose was pleased to stay.

"You are the very first stranger that ever she was willing to go to,"
said she, gratefully.  Looking up, she did not wonder at Rosie's fancy
for the face that smiled down upon her.

"I ought to feel myself highly honoured," said he.

"I think we'll give him the benefit of little Missy's preference," said
Captain Armstrong, who had been watching Graeme with a little amused
anxiety since her walk was ended.  The colour that the exercise had
given her was fast fading from her face, till her very lips grew white
with the deadly sickness that was coming over her.

"You had best go to the cabin a wee while.  You must give up, I think,"
said he.

Graeme rose languidly.

"Yes, I'm afraid so.  Come Rosie."

"Leave the little one with me," said Mr Ruthven.  And that was the last
Graeme saw of Rosie for the next twelve hours, for she was not to escape
the misery that had fallen so heavily upon the rest, and very wearily
the day passed.  It passed, however, at last, and the next, which was
calm and bright as heart could wish, saw them all on deck again.  They
came with dizzy heads and uncertain steps it is true, but the sea air
soon brought colour to their cheeks, and strength to their limbs, and
their sea life fairly began.

But alas! for Janet.  The third day, and the tenth found her still in
her berth, altogether unable to stand up against the power that held
her.  In vain she struggled against it.  The "Steadfast's" slightest
motion was sufficient to overpower her quite, till at last she made no
effort to rise, but lay there, disgusted with herself and all the world.
On the calmest and fairest days they would prevail on her to be helped
up to the deck, and there amid shawls and pillows she would sit,
enduring one degree less of misery than she did in the close cabin
below.

"It was just a judgment upon her," she said, "to let her see what a poor
conceited body she was.  She, that had been making muckle o' herself, as
though the Lord couldna take care o' the bairns without her help."

It was not sufficient to be told hourly that the children were well and
happy, or to see it with her own eyes.  This aggravated her trouble.
"Useless body that I am."  And Janet did not wait for a sight of a
strange land, to begin to pine for the land she had left, and what with
sea-sickness and home-sickness together, she had very little hope that
she would ever see land of any kind again.

The lads and Marian enjoyed six weeks of perfect happiness.  Graeme and
their father at first were in constant fear of their getting into
danger.  It would only have provoked disobedience had all sorts of
climbing been forbidden, for the temptation to try to outdo each other
in their imitation of the sailors, was quite irresistible; and not a
rope in the rigging, nor a corner in the ship, but they were familiar
with before the first few days were over.  "And, indeed, they were
wonderfully preserved, the foolish lads," their father acknowledged, and
grew content about them at last.

Before me lies the journal of the voyage, faithfully kept in a big book
given by Arthur for the purpose.  A full and complete history of the six
weeks might be written from it, but I forbear.  Norman or Harry, in
language obscurely nautical, notes daily the longitude or the latitude,
and the knots they make an hour.  There are notices of whales, seen in
the distance, and of shoals of porpoises seen near at hand.  There are
stories given which they have heard in the forecastle, and hints of
practical jokes and tricks played on one another.  The history of each
sailor in the ship is given, from "handsome Frank, the first Yankee, and
the best-singer" the boys ever saw, to Father Abraham, the Dutchman,
"with short legs and shorter temper."

Graeme writes often, and daily bewails Janet's continued illness, and
rejoices over "wee Rosie's" improved health and temper.  With her
account of the boys and their doings, she mingles emphatic wishes "that
they had more sense," but on the whole they are satisfactory.  She has
much to say of the books she has been reading--"a good many of Sir
Walter Scott's that papa does not object to," lent by Allan Ruthven.
There are hints of discussions with him about the books, too; and Graeme
declares she "has no patience" with Allan.  For his favourites in Sir
Walter's books are seldom those who are persecuted for righteousness'
sake; and there are allusions to battles fought with him in behalf of
the good name of the Old Puritans--men whom Graeme delights to honour.
But on the whole it is to be seen, that Allan is a favourite with her
and with them all.

The beautiful Bay of Boston was reached at last, and with an interest
that cannot be told, the little party--including the restored Janet--
regarded the city to which they were drawing near.  Their ideas of what
they were to see first in the new world had been rather indefinite and
vague.  Far more familiar with the early history of New England--with
such scenes as the landing of the pilgrims, and the departure of Roger
Williams to a still more distant wilderness, than with the history of
modern advance, it was certainly not such a city they had expected to
see.  But they gazed with ever increasing delight, as they drew nearer
and nearer to it through the beautiful bay.

"And this is the wonderful new world, that promises so much to us all,"
said Allan.

  "They have left unstained what there they found.
  Freedom to worship God,"

murmured Graeme, softly.  "I'm sure I shall like the American people."

But Allan was taking to heart the thought of parting from them all, more
than was at all reasonable, he said to himself, and he could not answer
her with a jest as he might at another time.

"You must write and tell me about your new home," said he.

"Yes--the boys will write; we will all write.  I can hardly believe that
six weeks ago we had never seen you.  Oh!  I wish you were going with
us," said Graeme.

"Allan will see Arthur when he comes.  Arthur will want to see all the
country," said Norman.

"And maybe he will like the Queen's dominions best, and wish to settle
there," said Allan.

"Oh! but we shall see you long before Arthur comes," said Graeme.  "Is
it very far to Canada?"

"I don't know--not very far, I suppose.  I don't feel half so hopeful
now that I am about to know what my fate is to be.  I have a great dread
on me.  I have a mind not to go to my uncle at all, but seek my fortune
here."

"But your mother wouldna be pleased," said Graeme, gravely.

"No.  She has great hopes of what my uncle may do for me.  But it would
be more agreeable to me not to be confined to one course.  I should like
to look about me a little, before I get fairly into the treadmill of
business."

In her heart Graeme thought it an excellent thing for Allan that he had
his uncle to go to.  She had her own ideas about young people's looking
about them, with nothing particular to do, and quite agreed with Janet
and Dr Watts as to the work likely to be found for them to do.  But she
thought it would be very nice for them all, if instead of setting off at
once for Canada, Allan might have gone with them for a little while.
Before she could say this, however, Janet spoke.

"Ay, that's bairn-like, though you hae a man's stature.  I dare say you
would think it a braw thing to be at naebody's bidding; but, my lad,
it's ae' thing to hae a friend's house, and a welcome waiting you in a
strange land like this, and it's anither thing to sit solitary in a bare
lodging, even though you may hae liberty to come and go at your ain
will.  If you're like the lads that I ken' maist about, you'll be none
the worse of a little wholesome restraint.  Be thankful for your
mercies."

Allan laughed good-humouredly.

"But really, Mrs Nasmyth, you are too hard on me.  Just think what a
country this is.  Think of the mountains, and rivers and lakes, and of
all these wonderful forests and prairies that Norman reads about, and is
it strange that I should grudge myself to a dull counting-room, with all
these things to enjoy?  It is not the thought of the restraint that
troubles me.  I only fear I shall become too soon content with the
routine, till I forget how to enjoy anything but the making and counting
of money.  I am sure anything would be better than to come to that."

"You'll hae many things between you and the like o' that, if you do your
duty.  You have them you are going to, and them you hae left--your
mother and brother.  And though you had none o' them, you could aye find
some poor body to be kind to, to keep your heart soft.  Are you to bide
in your uncle's house?"

"I don't know.  Mrs Peter Stone, that was home last year, told us that
my uncle lives in the country, and his clerks live in the town anywhere
they like.  I shall do as the rest do I suppose.  All the better--I
shall be the more able to do what I like with my leisure."

"Ay, it's aye liberty that the like o' you delight in.  Weel, see that
you make a good use of it, that's the chief thing.  Read your Bible and
gang to the kirk, and there's no fear o' you.  And dinna forget to write
to your mother.  She's had many a weary thought about you 'ere this
time, I'll warrant."

"I daresay I shall be content enough.  But it seems like parting from
home again, to think of leaving you all.  My bonnie wee Rosie, what
shall I ever do without you?" said Allan, caressing the little one who
had clambered on his knee.

"And what shall we do without you?" exclaimed a chorus of voices; and
Norman added,--

"What is the use of your going all the way to Canada, when there's
enough for you to do here.  Come with us, Allan, man, and never mind
your uncle."

"And what will you do for him, in case he should give his uncle up for
you?" demanded Janet, sharply.

"Oh! he'll get just what we'll get ourselves, a chance to make his own
way, and I doubt whether he'll get more where he's going.  I've no faith
in rich uncles."  Allan laughed.

"Thank you, Norman, lad.  I must go to Canada first, however, whether I
stay there or not.  Maybe you will see me again, sooner than I think
now.  Surely, in the great town before us, there might be found work,
and a place for me."

Far-away before them, stretched the twinkling lights of the town, and
silence fell upon them as they watched them.  In another day they would
be among the thousands who lived, and laboured, and suffered in it.
What awaited them there?  Not that they feared the future, or doubted a
welcome.  Indeed, they were too young to think much of possible evils.
A new life was opening before them, no fear but it would be a happy one.
Graeme had seen more trouble than the rest, being older, and she was
naturally less hopeful, but then she had no fear for them all, only the
thought that they were about to enter on a new, untried life, made her
excited and anxious, and the thought of parting with their friend made
her sad.

As for Janet, she was herself again.  Her courage returned when the
sea-sickness departed, and now she was ready "to put a stout heart to a
stiff brae" as of old.  "Disjaskit looking" she was, and not so strong
as she used to be, but she was as active as ever, and more than thankful
to be able to keep her feet again.  "She had been busy all the morning,"
overhauling the belongings of the family, preparatory to landing, much
to the discomfort of all concerned.  All the morning Graeme had
submitted with a passably good grace to her cross-questionings as to the
"guiding" of this and that, while she had been unable to give personal
supervision to family matters.  Thankful to see her at her post again,
Graeme tried to make apparent her own good management of matters in
general, during the voyage, but she was only partially successful.
There were far more rents and stains, and soiled garments, than Janet
considered at all necessary, and besides many familiar articles of
wearing apparel were missing, after due search made.  In vain Graeme
begged her never to mind just now.  They were in the big blue chest, or
the little brown one, she couldna just mind where she had put them, but
of course they would be found, when all the boxes were opened.

"Maybe no," said Janet.  "There are some long fingers, I doubt, in the
steerage yonder.  Miss Graeme, my dear, we would need to be carefu'.  If
I'm no' mistaken, I saw one o' Norman's spotted handkerchiefs about the
neck o' yon lang Johnny Heeman, and yon little Irish lassie ga'ed past
me the day, with a pinafore very like one o' Menie's.  I maun ha' a look
at it again."

"Oh, Janet! never mind.  I gave wee Norah the pinafore, and the old
brown frock besides.  She had much need of them.  And poor Johnny came
on board on the pilot boat you ken, and he hadna a change, and Norman
gave him the handkerchief and an old waistcoat of papa's,--and--"

Janet's hands were uplifted in consternation.

"Keep's and guide's lassie--that I should say such a word.  Your papa
hadna an old waistcoat in his possession.  What for did you do the like
o' that?  The like o' Norman or Menie might be excused, but you that I
thought had some sense and discretion.  Your father's waistcoat!  Heard
anybody ever the like?  You may be thankful that you hae somebody that
kens the value of good clothes, to take care of you and them--"

"Oh!  I'm thankful as you could wish," said Graeme, laughing.  "I would
rather see you sitting there, in the midst of those clothes, than to see
the Queen on her throne.  I confess to the waistcoat, and some other
things, but mind, I'm responsible no longer.  I resign my office of
general caretaker to you.  Success to you," and Graeme made for the
cabin stairs.  She turned again, however.

"Never heed, Janet, about the things.  Think what it must be to have no
change, and we had so many.  Poor wee Norah, too.  Her mother's dead you
ken, and she looked so miserable."

Janet was pacified.

"Weel, Miss Graeme, I'll no' heed.  But my dear, it's no' like we'll
find good clothes growing upon trees in this land, more than in our own.
And we had need to be careful.  I wonder where a' the strippet pillow
slips can be?  I see far more of the fine ones dirty than were needed,
if you had been careful, and guarded them."

But Graeme was out of hearing before she came to this.

They landed at last, and a very dreary landing it was.  They had waited
for hours, till the clouds should exhaust themselves, but the rain was
still falling when they left the ship.  Eager and excited, the whole
party were, but not after the anticipated fashion.  Graeme was
surprised, and a little mortified, to find no particular emotions
swelling at her heart, as her feet touched the soil which the Puritans
had rendered sacred.  Indeed, she was too painfully conscious, that the
sacred soil was putting her shoes and frock in jeopardy, and had too
much trouble to keep the umbrella over Marian and herself, to be able to
give any thanks to the sufferings of the Pilgrim fathers, or mothers
either.  Mr Elliott had been on shore in the morning, and had engaged
rooms for them in a quiet street, and thither Allan Ruthven, carrying
little Rose, was to conduct them, while he attended to the proper
bestowment of their baggage.

This duty Janet fain would have shared with him.  Her reverence for the
minister, and his many excellencies, did not imply entire confidence in
his capacity, for that sort of business, and when he directed her to go
with the bairns, it was with many misgivings that she obeyed.  Indeed,
as the loaded cart took its departure in another direction, she
expressed herself morally certain, that they had seen the last of it,
for she fully believed that, "yon sharp-looking lad could carry it off
from beneath the minister's nose."

Dread of more distant evils was, however, driven from her thoughts by
present necessities.  The din and bustle of the crowded wharf, would
have been sufficient to "daze" the sober-minded country-woman, without
the charge of little Will, and unnumbered bundles, and the two "daft
laddies forby."  On their part, Norman and Harry scorned the idea of
being taken care of, and loaded with baskets and other movables, made
their way through the crowd, in a manner that astonished the bewildered
Janet.

"Bide a wee, Norman, man.  Harry, you daft laddie, where are you going?
Now dinna throw awa' good pennies for such green trash."  For Harry had
made a descent on a fruit stall, and his pockets were turned inside out
in a twinkling.

"Saw ever anybody such cheatry," exclaimed Janet, as the dark lady
pocketed the coins with a grin, quite unmindful of her expostulations.
"Harry lad, a fool and his money is soon parted.  And look! see here,
you hae set down the basket in the dubs, and your sister's bed gowns
will be all wet.  Man! hae you no sense?"

"Nae muckle, I doubt, Janet," said Harry, with an exaggerated gesture of
humility and penitence, turning the basket upside down, to ascertain the
extent of the mischief.  "It's awfu' like Scotch dubs, now isn't it?
Never mind, I'll give it a wash at the next pump, and it 'ill he none
the worse.  Give me Will's hand, and I'll take care of him."

"Take care o' yourself, and leave Will with me.  But, dear me, where's
Mr Allan?"  For their escort had disappeared, and she stood alone, with
the baskets and the boys in the rainy street.  Before her consternation
had reached a climax, however, Ruthven reappeared, having safely
bestowed the others in their lodgings.  Like a discreet lad, as Janet
was inclined to consider him, he possessed himself of Will, and some of
the bundles, and led the way.  At the door stood the girls, anxiously
looking out for them.

If their hostess had, at first, some doubt as to the sanity of her new
lodgers, there was little wonder.  Such a confusion of tongues her
American ears had not heard before.  Graeme condoled with Will, who was
both wet and weary.  Janet searched for missing bundles, and bewailed
things in general.  Marian was engaged in a friendly scuffle for an
apple, and Allan was tossing Rosie up to the ceiling, while Norman,
perched on the bannisters high above them all, waved his left hand,
bidding farewell, with many words, to an imaginary Scotland, while with
his right he beckoned to the "brave new world" which was to be the scene
of his wonderful achievements and triumphs.

The next day rose bright and beautiful.  Mr Elliott had gone to stay
with his friend Mr Caldwell, and Janet was over head and ears in a
general "sorting" of things, and made no objections when it was proposed
that the boys and Graeme should go out with Allan Ruthven to see the
town.  It is doubtful whether there was ever so much of Boston seen in
one day before, without the aid of a carriage and pair.  It was a day
never to be forgotten by the children.  The enjoyment was not quite
unmixed to Graeme, for she was in constant fear of losing some of them.
Harry was lost sight of for a while, but turned up again with a chapter
of adventures at his finger ends for their amusement.

The crowning enjoyment of the day was the treat given by Allan Ruthven
on their way home.  They were very warm and tired, and hungry too, and
the low, cool room down some steps into which they were taken, was
delightful.  There was never such fruit--there were never such cakes as
these that were set before them.  As for the ice cream, it was--
inexpressible.  In describing the feast afterwards, Marian could never
get beyond the ice cream.  She was always at a loss for adjectives to
describe it.  It was like the manna that the Children of Israel had in
the wilderness, she thought, and surely they ought to have been content
with it.

Graeme was the only one who did not enjoy it thoroughly.  She had an
idea that there were not very many guineas left in Allan's purse, and
she felt bound to remonstrate with him because of his extravagance.

"Never mind, Graeme, dear," said Norman; "Allan winna have a chance to
treat us to manna this while again; and when I am Mayor of Boston, I'll
give him manna and quails too."

They came home tired, but they had a merry evening.  Even Graeme
"unbent," as Harry said, and joined in the mirth; and Janet had enough
to do to reason them into quietness when bed-time came.

"One would think when Mr Allan is going away in the morning, you might
have the grace to seem sorry, and let us have a while's peace," said
she.

If the night was merry, the morning farewells were sad indeed, and long,
long did they wait in vain for tidings of Allan Ruthven.



CHAPTER SIX.

"But where's the town?"

The bairns were standing on the highest step of the meeting-house,
gazing with eyes full of wonder and delight on the scene before them.
The meeting-house stood on a high hill, and beyond a wide sloping field
at the foot of the hill, lay Merleville pond, like a mirror in a frame
of silver and gold.  Beyond, and on either side, were hills rising
behind hills, the most distant covered with great forest trees, "the
trees under which the red Indians used to wander," Graeme whispered.
There were trees on the nearer hills too, sugaries, and thick pine
groves, and a circle of them round the margin of the pond.  Over all the
great Magician of the season had waved his wand, and decked them in
colours dazzling to the eyes accustomed to the grey rocks and purple
heather, and to the russet garb of autumn in their native land.

There were farm-houses too, and the scattered houses along the village
street looking white and fair beneath crimson maples and yellow
beech-trees.  Above hung a sky undimmed by a single cloud, and the air
was keen, yet mild with the October sunshine.  They could not have had a
lovelier time for the first glimpse of their new home, yet there was an
echo of disappointment in Harry's voice as he asked,--

"Where's the town?"

They had been greatly impressed by the description given them of
Merleville by Mr Sampson Snow, in whose great wagon they had been
conveyed over the twenty miles of country roads that lay between the
railway and their new home.

"I was the first white child born in the town," said Sampson.  "I know
every foot of it as well as I do my own barn, and I don't want no better
place to live in than Merleville.  It don't lack but a fraction of being
ten miles square.  Right in the centre, perhaps a _leetle_ south,
there's about the prettiest pond you ever saw.  There are some
first-rate farms there, mine is one of them, but in general the town is
better calculated for pasturage than tillage.  I shouldn't wonder but it
would be quite a manufacturing place too after a spell, when they've
used up all the other water privileges in the State.  There's quite a
fall in the Merle river, just before it runs into the pond.  We've got a
fullin'-mill and a grist-mill on it now.  They'd think everything of it
in your country."

"There's just one meetin'-house in it.  That's where your pa'll preach
if our folks conclude to hire him a spell.  The land's about all taken
up, though it hain't reached the highest point of cultivation yet.  The
town is set off into nine school-districts, and I consider that our
privileges are first-rate.  And if it's nutting and squirrel-hunting
you're after, boys, all you have to do is to apply to Uncle Sampson, and
he'll arrange your business for you."

"Ten miles square and nine school-districts!"  Boston could be nothing
to it, surely, the boys thought.  The inconsistency of talking about
pasturage and tillage, nutting and squirrel-hunting in the populous
place which they imagined Merleville to be, did not strike them.  This
was literally their first glimpse of Merleville, for the rain had kept
them within doors, and the mist had hidden all things the day before and
now they looked a little anxiously for the city they had pictured to
themselves.

"But Norman!  Harry!  I think this is far better than a town," said
Marian, eagerly.  "Eh, Graeme, isna yon a bonny water?"

"Ay, it's grand," said Graeme.  "Norman, this is far better than a
town."

The people were beginning to gather to service by this time; but the
children were too eager and too busy to heed them for a while.  With an
interest that was half wonder, half delight, Graeme gazed to the hills
and the water and the lovely sky.  It might be the "bonny day"--the mild
air and the sunshine, and the new fair scene before her, or it might be
the knowledge that after much care, and many perils, they were all safe
together in this quiet place where they were to find a home; she scarce
knew what it was, but her heart felt strangely light, and lips and eyes
smiled as she stood there holding one of Marian's hands in hers, while
the other wandered through the curls of Will's golden hair.  She did not
speak for a long time; but the others were not so quiet, but whispered
to each other, and pointed out the objects that pleased them most.

"Yon's Merle river, I suppose, where we see the water glancing through
the trees."

"And yonder is the kirkyard," said Marian, gravely.  "It's no' a bonny
place."

"It's bare and lonely looking," said Harry.

"They should have yew trees and ivy and a high wall, like where mamma
is," said Marian.

"But this is a new country; things are different here," said Norman.

"But surely they might have trees."

"And look, there are cows in it.  The gate is broken.  It's a pity."

"Look at yon road that goes round the water, and then up between the
hills through the wood.  That's bonny, I'm sure."

"And there's a white house, just where the road goes out of sight.  I
would like to live there."

"Yes, there are many trees about it, and another house on this side."

And so they talked on, till a familiar voice accosted them.  Their
friend Mr Snow was standing beside them, holding a pretty, but delicate
little girl, by the hand.  He had been watching them for some time.

"Well how do you like the looks of things?"

"It's bonny here," said Marian.

"Where's the town?" asked Harry, promptly.

Mr Snow made a motion with his head, intended to indicate the scene
before them.

"Lacks a fraction of being ten miles square."

"It's all trees," said little Will.

"Wooden country, eh, my little man?"

"Country! yes, it's more like the country than like a town," said Harry.

"Well, yes.  On this side of the water, we can afford to have our towns,
as big as some folks' countries," said Mr Snow, gravely.

"But it's like no town I ever saw," said Norman.  "There are no streets,
no shops, no market, no anything that makes a town."

"There's freedom on them hills," said Mr Snow, waving his hand with an
air.

During the journey the other day, Mr Snow and the lads had discussed
many things together; among the rest, the institutions of their
respective countries, and Mr Snow had, as he expressed it, "Set their
British blood to bilin'," by hints about "aristocracy", "despotism," and
so on.  "He never had had such a good time," he said, afterwards.  They
were a little fiery, but first-rate smart boys, and as good natured as
kittens, and he meant to see to them.  He meant to amuse himself with
them too, it seemed.  The boys fired up at once, and a hot answer was
only arrested on their lips, by the timely interference of Graeme.

"Whist, Norman.  Harry, mind it is the Sabbath-day, and look yonder is
papa coming up with Judge Merle," and turning smilingly to Mr Snow, she
added, "We like the place very much.  It's beautiful everywhere.  It's
far bonnier than a town.  I'm glad there's no town, and so are the boys,
though they were disappointed at first."

"No town?" repeated Mr Snow.

But there was no time for explanations.  Their father had reached the
steps, and the children were replying to the greeting of the Judge.
Judge Merle, was in the opinion of the majority, the greatest man in
Merleville, if not in the country.  The children had made his
acquaintance on Saturday.  He had brought them with his own hands,
through the rain, a pail of sweet milk, and another of hominy, a
circumstance which gave them a high idea of his kindness of heart, but
which sadly overturned all their preconceived notions with regard to the
dignity of his office.  Janet, who looked on the whole thing as a proper
tribute of respect to the minister, augured well from it, what he might
expect in his new parish, and congratulated herself accordingly.  The
children were glad to see him, among the many strangers around them, and
when Mr Snow gave him a familiar nod, and a "Morning Judge," Graeme
felt a little inclined, to resent the familiarity.  The Judge did not
resent it, however.  On the contrary, when Mr Snow, nodding sideways
toward the minister, said, "He guessed the folks would get about fitted
this time," he nodded as familiarly back, and said, "He shouldn't wonder
if they did."

There are no such churches built in New England now, as that into which
the minister and his children were led by the Judge.  It was very large
and high, and full of windows.  It was the brilliant light that struck
the children first, accustomed as they had been to associate with the
Sabbath worship, the dimness of their father's little chapel in Clayton.
Norman the mathematician was immediately seized with a perverse desire
to count the panes, and scandalised Graeme by communicating to her the
result of his calculation, just as her father rose up to begin.

How many people there were in the high square pews, and in the
galleries, and even in the narrow aisles.  So many, that Graeme not
dreaming of the quiet nooks hidden among the hills she had thought so
beautiful, wondered where they all could come from.  Keen, intelligent
faces, many of them were, that turned toward the minister as he rose; a
little hard and fixed, perhaps, those of the men, and far too delicate,
and care-worn, those of the women, but earnest, thoughtful faces, many
of them were, and kindly withal.

Afterwards--years and years afterwards, when the bairns had to shut
their eyes to recall their father's face, as it gleamed down upon them
from that strange high pulpit, the old people used to talk to them of
this first sermon in Merleville.  There was a charm in the Scottish
accent, and in the earnest manner of the minister, which won upon these
people wonderfully.  It was heart speaking to heart, an earnest, loving,
human heart, that had sinned and had been forgiven, that had suffered
and had been comforted; one who, through all, had by God's grace
struggled upwards, speaking to men of like passions and necessities.  He
spoke as one whom God had given a right to warn, to counsel, to console.
He spoke as one who must give account, and his hearers listened
earnestly.  So earnestly that Deacon Fish forgot to hear for Deacon
Slowcome, and Deacon Slowcome forgot to hear for people generally.
Deacon Sterne who seldom forgot anything which he believed to be his
duty, failed for once to prove the orthodoxy of the doctrine by
comparing it with his own, and received it as it fell from the
minister's lips, as the very word of God.

"He means just as he says," said Mr Snow to young Mr Greenleaf, as he
overtook him in going home that afternoon.  "He wasn't talking just
because it was his business to.  When he was a telling us what mighty
things the grace of God can do, he believed it himself, I guess."

"They all do, don't they?" said Mr Greenleaf.

"Well, I don't know.  They all say they do.  But there's Deacon Fish
now," said Mr Snow, nodding to that worthy, as his wagon whirled past,
"he don't begin to think that grace or anything else, could make _me_
such a good man as he is."

Mr Greenleaf laughed.

"If the vote of the town was taken, I guess it would be decided that
grace wouldn't have a great deal to do."

"Well, the town would make a mistake.  Deacon Fish ain't to brag of for
goodness, I don't think; but he's a sight better than I be.  But see
here, Squire, don't you think the new minister'll about fit?"

"He'll fit _me_," said the Squire.  "It is easy to see that he is not a
common man.  But he won't fit the folks here, or they won't fit him.  It
would be too good luck if he were to stay here."

"Well, I don't know about that.  There are folks enough in the town that
know what's good when they hear it, and I guess they'll keep him if they
can.  And I guess he'll stay.  He seems to like the look of things.  He
is a dreadful mild-spoken man, and I guess he won't want much in the way
of pay.  I guess you had better shell out some yourself, Squire.  _I_
mean to."

"You are a rich man, Mr Snow.  You can afford it."

"Come now, Squire, that's good.  I've worked harder for every dollar
I've got, than you've done for any ten you ever earned."

The Squire shook his head.

"You don't understand my kind of work, or you wouldn't say so.  But
about the minister?  If I were to pledge myself to any amount for his
support, I should feel just as though I were in a measure responsible
for the right arrangement of all things with regard to his salary, and
the paying of it.  Anything I have to do with, I want to have go right
along without any trouble, and unless Merleville folks do differently
than they have so far, it won't be so in this matter."

"Yes, I shouldn't wonder if there would be a hitch before long.  But I
guess you'd better think before you say no.  I guess it'll pay in the
long run."

"Thank you, Mr Snow.  I'll take your advice and think of it," said Mr
Greenleaf, as Sampson stopped at his own gate.  He watched him going up
the hill.

"He's goin' along up to the widow Jones' now, I'll bet.  I shouldn't
wonder if he was a goin' to lose me my chance of getting her place.  It
kind o' seems as though I ought to have it; it fits on so nice to mine.
And they say old Skinflint is going to foreclose right off.  I'll have
to make things fit pretty tight this winter, if I have to raise the
cash.  But it does seem as if I ought to have it.  Maybe it's Celestia
the Squire wants, and not the farm."

He came back to close the gate which, in his earnestness, he had
forgotten, and leaned for a moment over it.

"Well, now, it does beat all.  Here have I been forgetting all about
what I have heard over yonder to the meeting-house.  Deacon Sterne
needn't waste no more words, to prove total depravity to me.  I've got
to know it pretty well by this time;" and, with a sigh, he turned toward
the house.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

The next week was a busy one to all.  Mr Elliott, during that time,
took up his residence at Judge Merle's, only making daily visits to the
little brown house behind the elms where Janet and the bairns were
putting things to rights.  There was a great deal to be done, but it was
lovely weather, and all were in excellent spirits, and each did
something to help.  The lads broke sticks and carried water, and Janet's
mammoth washing was accomplished in an incredibly short time; and before
the week was over the little brown house began to look like a home.

A great deal besides was accomplished this week.  It was not all devoted
to helping, by the boys.  Norman caught three squirrels in a trap of his
own invention, and Harry shot as many with Mr Snow's wonderful rifle.
They and Marian had made the circuit of the pond, over rocks, through
bushes and brambles, over brooks, or through them, as the case might be.
They came home tired enough, and in a state which naturally suggested
thoughts of another mammoth washing, but in high spirits with their
trip, only regretting that Graeme and Janet had not been with them.  It
was Saturday night, after a very busy week, and Janet had her own ideas
about the enjoyment of such a ramble, and was not a little put out with
them for "their thoughtless ruining of their clothes and shoon."  But
the minister had come home, and there was but a thin partition between
the room that must serve him for study and parlour, and the general room
for the family, and they got off with a slight reprimand, much to their
surprise and delight.  For to tell the truth, Janet's patience with the
bairns, exhaustless in most circumstances, was wont to give way in the
presence of "torn clothes and ruined shoon."

The next week was hardly so successful.  It was cold and rainy.  The
gold and crimson glories of the forest disappeared in a night, and the
earth looked gloomy and sad under a leaden sky.  The inconveniences of
the little brown house became more apparent now.  It had been declared,
at first sight, the very worst house in Merleville, and so it was, even
under a clear sky and brilliant sunshine.  A wretched place it looked.
The windows clattered, the chimney smoked, latches and hinges were
defective, and there were a score of other evils, which Janet and the
lads strove to remedy without vexing their father and Graeme.  A very
poor place it was, and small and inconvenient besides.  But this could
not be cured, and therefore must be endured.  The house occupied by Mr
Elliott's predecessor had been burned down, and the little brown house
was the only unoccupied house in the village.  When winter should be
over something might be done about getting another, and in the meantime
they must make the best of it.

The people were wonderfully kind.  One man came to mend windows and
doors, another to mend the chimney.  Orrin Green spent two days in
banking up the house.  Deacons Fish and Slowcome sent their men to bring
up wood; and apples and chickens, and pieces of beef were sent in by
some of the village people.

There were some drawbacks.  The wood was green, and made more smoke than
heat; and Janet mortally offended Mr Green by giving him his dinner
alone in the kitchen.  Every latch and hinge, and pane of glass, and the
driving of every nail, was charged and deducted from the half year's
salary, at prices which made Janet's indignation overflow.  This latter
circumstance was not known, however, till the half year was done; and in
the meantime it helped them all through this dreary time to find their
new friends so kind.

In the course of time, things were put to rights, and the little bare
place began to look wonderfully comfortable.  With warm carpets on the
floors, and warm curtains on the windows, with stools and sofas, and
tables made out of packing boxes, disguised in various ways, it began to
have a look of home to them all.

The rain and the clouds passed away, too, and the last part of November
was a long and lovely Indian-summer.  Then the explorations of the boys
were renewed with delight.  Graeme and Rosie and Will went with the
rest, and even Janet was beguiled into a nutting excursion one
afternoon.  She enjoyed it, too, and voluntarily confessed it.  It was a
fair view to look over the pond and the village lying so quietly in the
valley, with the kirk looking down upon it from above.  It was a fine
country, nobody could deny; but Janet's eyes were sad enough as she
gazed, and her voice shook as she said it, for the thought of home was
strong at her heart.

In this month they made themselves thoroughly acquainted with the
geography of the place, and with the kindly inmates of many a farm-house
besides.  And a happy month it was for them all.  One night they watched
the sun set between red and wavering clouds, and the next day woke to
behold "the beauty and mystery of the snow."  Far-away to the highest
hill-top; down to the very verge of pond and brook; on every bush, and
tree, and knoll, and over every silent valley, lay the white garment of
winter.  How strange! how wonderful! it seemed to their unaccustomed
eyes.

"It 'minds me of white grave-clothes," said Marian, with a shudder.

"Whist, Menie," said her sister.  "It makes me think, of how full the
air will be of bonnie white angels at the resurrection-day.  Just watch
the flakes floating so quietly in the air."

"But, Graeme, the angels will be going up, and--"

"Well, one can hardly tell by looking at them, whether the snow-flakes
are coming down or going up, they float about so silently.  They mind me
of beautiful and peaceful things."

"But, Graeme, it looks cold and dreary, and all the bonnie flowers are
covered in the dark."

"Menie!  There are no flowers to be covered now, and the earth is weary
with her summer work, and will rest and sleep under the bonnie white
snow.  And, dear, you mustna think of dreary things when you look out
upon the snow, for it will be a long time before we see the green grass
and the bonnie flowers again," and Graeme sighed.

But it was with a shout of delight that the boys plunged headlong into
it, rolling and tumbling and tossing it at one another in a way that was
"perfect ruination to their clothes;" and yet Janet had not the heart to
forbid it.  It was a holiday of a new kind to them; and their enjoyment
was crowned and completed when, in the afternoon, Mr Snow came down
with his box-sleigh and his two handsome greys to give them a
sleigh-ride.  There was room for them all, and for Mr Snow's little
Emily, and for half a dozen besides had they been there; so, well
wrapped up with blankets and buffalo-robes, away they went.  Was there
ever anything so delightful, so exhilarating?  Even Graeme laughed and
clapped her hands, and the greys flew over the ground, and passed every
sleigh and sledge on the road.

"The bonnie creatures!" she exclaimed; and Mr Snow, who loved his
greys, and was proud of them, took the oft repeated exclamation as a
compliment to himself, and drove in a way to show his favourites to the
best advantage.  Away they went, up hill and down, through the village
and over the bridge, past the mill to the woods, where the tall hemlocks
and cedars stood dressed in white "like brides."  Marian had no thought
of sorrowful things in her heart now.  They came home again the other
way, past Judge Merle's and the school-house, singing and laughing in a
way that made the sober-minded boys and girls of Merleville, to whom
sleigh-riding was no novelty, turn round in astonishment as they passed.
The people in the store, and the people in the blacksmith's shop, and
even the old ladies in their warm kitchens, opened the door and looked
out to see the cause of the pleasant uproar.  All were merry, and all
gave voice to their mirth except Mr Snow's little Emily, and she was
too full of astonishment at the others to think of saying anything
herself.  But none of them enjoyed the ride more than she, though it was
not her first by many.  None of them all remembered it so well, or spoke
of it so often.  It was the beginning of sleigh-riding to them, but it
was the beginning of a new life to little Emily.

"Isna she a queer little creature?" whispered Harry to Graeme, as her
great black eyes turned from one to another, full of grave wonder.

"She's a bonnie little creature," said Graeme, caressing the little hand
that had found its way to hers, "and good, too, I'm sure."

"Grandma don't think so," said the child, gravely.

"No!" exclaimed Harry.  "What bad things do you do?"

"I drop stitches and look out of the window, and I hate to pick over
beans."

Harry whistled.

"What an awful wee sinner!  And does your grandma punish you ever?  Does
she whip you?"

The child's black eyes flashed.

"She daren't.  Father wouldn't let her.  She gives me stints, and sends
me to bed."

"The Turk!" exclaimed Harry.  "Run away from her, and come and bide with
us."

"Hush, Harry," said Graeme, softly, "grandma is Mr Snow's mother."

There was a pause.  In a little Emily spoke for the first time of her
own accord.

"There are no children at our house," said she.

"Poor wee lammie, and you are lonely sometimes," said Graeme.

"Yes; when father's gone and mother's sick.  Then there's nobody but
grandma."

"Have you a doll?" asked Menie.

"No: I have a kitten, though."

"Ah! you must come and play with my doll.  She is a perfect beauty, and
her name is Flora Macdonald."

Menie's doll had become much more valuable in her estimation since she
had created such a sensation among the little Merleville girls.

"Will you come?  Mr Snow," she said, climbing upon the front seat which
Norman shared with the driver, "won't you let your little girl come and
see my doll?"

"Well, yes; I guess so.  If she's half as pretty as you are, she is well
worth seeing."

Menie was down again in a minute.

"Yes, you may come, he says.  And bring your kitten, and we'll play all
day.  Graeme lets us, and doesna send us to bed.  Will you like to
come?"

"Yes," said the child, quickly, but as gravely as ever.

They stopped at the little brown house at last, with a shout that
brought their father and Janet out to see.  All sprang lightly down.
Little Emily stayed alone in the sleigh.

"Is this your little girl, Mr Snow?" said Mr Elliott, taking the
child's hand in his.  Emily looked in his face as gravely and quietly as
she had been looking at the children all the afternoon.

"Yes; she's your Marian's age, and looks a little like her, too.  Don't
you think so Mrs Nasmyth?"

Janet, thus appealed to, looked kindly at the child.

"She might, if she had any flesh on her bones," said she.

"Well, she don't look ragged, that's a fact," said her father.

The cold, which had brought the roses to the cheeks of the little
Elliotts, had given Emily a blue, pinched look, which it made her
father's heart ache to see.

"The bairn's cold.  Let her come in and warm herself," said Janet,
promptly.  There was a chorus of entreaties from the children.

"Well, I don't know as I ought to wait.  My horses don't like to stand
much," said Mr Snow.

"Never mind waiting.  If it's too far for us to take her home, you can
come down for her in the evening."

Emily looked at her father wistfully.

"Would you like to stay, dear?" asked he.

"Yes, sir."  And she was lifted out of the sleigh by Janet, and carried
into the house, and kissed before she was set down.

"I'll be along down after dark, sometime," said Mr Snow, as he drove
away.

Little Emily had never heard so much noise, at least so much pleasant
noise, before.  Mr Elliott sat down beside the bright wood fire in the
kitchen, with Marian on one knee and the little stranger on the other,
and listened to the exclamations of one and all about the sleigh-ride.

"And hae you nothing to say, my bonnie wee lassie?" said he pushing back
the soft, brown hair from the little grave face.  "What is your name,
little one?"

"Emily Snow Arnold," answered she, promptly.

"Emily Arnold Snow," said Menie, laughing.

"No; Emily Snow Arnold.  Grandma says I am not father's own little girl.
My father is dead."

She looked grave, and so did the rest.

"But it is just the same.  He loves you."

"Oh, yes!"  There was a bright look in the eyes for once.

"And you love him all the same?"

"Oh, yes."

So it was.  Sampson Snow, with love enough in his heart for half a dozen
children, had none of his own, and it was all lavished on this child of
his wife, and she loved him dearly.  But they did not have "good times"
up at their house the little girl confided to Graeme.

"Mother is sick most of the time, and grandma is cross always; and, if
it wasn't for father, I don't know what we _should_ do."

Indeed, they did not have good times.  Old Mrs Snow had always been
strong and healthy, altogether unconscious of "nerves," and she could
have no sympathy and very little pity for his son's sickly wife.  She
had never liked her, even when she was a girl, and her girlhood was
past, and she had been a sorrowful widow before her son brought her home
as his wife.  So old Mrs Snow kept her place at the head of the
household, and was hard on everybody, but more especially on her son's
wife and her little girl.  If there had been children, she might have
been different; but she almost resented her son's warm affection for his
little step-daughter.  At any rate she was determined that little Emily
should be brought up as children used to be brought up when _she_ was
young, and not spoiled by over-indulgence as her mother had been; and
the process was not a pleasant one to any of them, and "good times" were
few and far between at their house.

Her acquaintance with the minister's children was the beginning of a new
life to Emily.  Her father opened his eyes with astonishment when he
came into Janet's bright kitchen that night and heard his little girl
laughing and clapping her hands as merrily as any of them.  If anything
had been needed to deepen his interest in them all, their kindness to
the child would have done it; and from that day the minister, and his
children, and Mrs Nasmyth, too, had a firm and true friend in Mr Snow.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

From the time of their arrival, the minister and his family excited
great curiosity and interest among the good people of Merleville.  The
minister himself, as Mr Snow told Mrs Nasmyth, was "popular."  Not,
however, that any one among them all thought him faultless, unless Mr
Snow himself did.  Every old lady in the town saw something in him,
which she not secretly deplored.  Indeed, they were more unanimous, with
regard to the minister's faults, than old ladies generally are on
important subjects.  The matter was dispassionately discussed at several
successive sewing-circles, and when Mrs Page, summing up the evidence,
solemnly declared, "that though the minister was a good man, and a good
preacher, he lacked considerable in some things which go to make a man a
good pastor," there was scarcely a dissenting voice.

Mrs Merle had ventured to hint that, "they could not expect everything
in one man," but her voice went for nothing, as one of the minister's
offences was, having been several times in at the Judge's, while he
sinfully neglected others of his flock.

"It's handy by," ventured Mrs Merle, again.  But the Judge's wife was
no match for the blacksmith's lady, and it was agreed by all, that
whatever else the minister might be, he was "no hand at visiting."  True
he had divided the town into districts, for the purpose of regularly
meeting the people, and it was his custom to announce from the pulpit,
the neighbourhood in which, on certain days, he might be expected.  But
that of course, was a formal matter, and not at all like the
affectionate intercourse that ought to exist between a pastor and his
people.  "He might preach like Paul," said Mrs Page, "but unless on
week days he watered the seed sown, with a word in season, the harvest
would never be gathered in.  The minister's face ought to be a familiar
sight in every household, or the youth would never be brought into the
fold," and the lady sighed, at the case of the youth, scattered over the
ten miles square of Merleville.  The minister was not sinning in
ignorance either, for she herself, had told him his duty in this
respect.

"And what did he say?" asked some one.

"Oh! he didn't say much, but I could see that his conscience wasn't
easy.  However, there has been no improvement yet," she added, with
grave severity.

"He hain't got a horse, and I've heard say, that deacon Fish charges him
six cents a mile for his horse and cutter, whenever he has it.  He
couldn't afford to ride round much at that rate, on five hundred dollars
a year."

This bold speech was ventured by Miss Rebecca Pettimore, Mrs Captain
Liscome's help, who took turns with that lady, in attending the
sewing-circle.  But it was well known, that she was always "on the off
side," and Mrs Page deigned no reply.  There was a moment's silence.

"Eli heard Mr Snow say so, in Page's shop yesterday," added Rebecca,
who always gave her authority, when she repeated an item of news.  Mrs
Fish took her up sharply.

"Sampson Snow had better let the minister have his horse and cutter, if
he can afford to do it for nothing.  Mr Fish can't."

"My goodness, Mis' Fish, I wouldn't have said a word, if I'd thought you
were here," said Rebecca, with an embarrassed laugh.

"Mr Snow often drives the minister, and thinks himself well paid, just
to have a talk with him," said a pretty black-eyed girl, trying to cover
Rebecca's retreat.  But Rebecca wouldn't retreat.

"I didn't mean any offence, Mis' Fish, and if it ain't so about the
deacon, you can say so now, before it goes farther."

But it was not to be contradicted, and that Mrs Fish well knew, though
what business it was of anybody's, and why the minister, who seemed to
be well off, shouldn't pay for the use of a horse and cutter, she
couldn't understand.  The subject was changed by Mrs Slowcome.

"He must have piles and piles of old sermons.  It don't seem as though
he needs to spend as much time in his study, as Mrs Nasmyth tells
about."

Here there was a murmur of dissent.  Would sermons made for the British,
be such as to suit free-born American citizens? the children of the
Puritans?  The prevailing feeling was against such a supposition.

"Old or new, I like them," said Celestia Jones, the pretty black-eyed
girl, who had spoken before.  "And so do others, who are better judges
than I."

"Squire Greenleaf, I suppose," said Ruby Fox, in a loud whisper.  "He
was up there last Sunday night; she has been aching to tell it all the
afternoon."

Celestia's black eyes flashed fire at the speaker, and the sly Ruby said
no more.  Indeed, there was no more said about the sermons, for that
they were something for the Merleville people to be proud of, all
agreed.  Mr Elliott's preaching had filled the old meeting-house.
People who had never been regular churchgoers came now; some from out of
the town, even.  Young Squire Greenleaf, who seemed to have the prospect
of succeeding Judge Merle, as the great man of Merleville, had brought
over the judges from Rixford, and they had dined at the minister's, and
had come to church on Sunday.  Young Squire Greenleaf was a triumph of
himself.  He had never been at meeting "much, if any," since he had
completed his legal studies.  If he ever did go, it was to the Episcopal
church at Rixford, which, to the liberal Mrs Page, looked considerably
like coquetting with the scarlet woman.  Now, he hardly ever lost a
Sunday, besides going sometimes to conference meetings, and making
frequent visits to the minister's house.  Having put all these things
together, and considered the matter, Mrs Page came to the conclusion,
that the squire was not in so hopeless a condition as she had been wont
to suppose, a fact which, on this occasion, she took the opportunity of
rejoicing over.  The rest rejoiced too.  There was a murmur of dissent
from Miss Pettimore, but it passed unnoticed, as usual.  There was a
gleam which looked a little like scorn, in the black eyes of Miss
Celestia, which said more plainly than Miss Pettimore's words could have
done, that the squire was better now, than the most in Merleville, but
like a wise young person as she was, she expended all her scornful
glances on the shirt sleeve she was making, and said nothing.

The minister was then allowed to rest a little while, and the other
members of the family were discussed, with equal interest.  Upon the
whole, the conclusion arrived at was pretty favourable.  But Mrs Page
and her friends were not quite satisfied with Graeme.  As the minister's
eldest daughter, and "serious," they were disposed to overlook her
youthfulness, and give her a prominent place in their circle.  But
Graeme hung back, and would not be prevailed upon to take such honour to
herself, and so some said she was proud, and some said she was only shy.
But she was kindly dealt with, even by Mrs Page, for her loving care
of the rest of the children had won for her the love of many a motherly
heart among these kind people.  And she was after all but a child,
little more than fifteen.

There were numberless stories afloat about the boys,--their mirth, their
mischief, their good scholarship, their respect and obedience to their
father, which it was not beneath the dignity of the ladies assembled to
repeat and discuss.  The boys had visited faithfully through the parish,
if their father had not, and almost everywhere they had won for
themselves a welcome.  It is true, there had been one or two rather
serious scrapes, in which they had involved themselves, and other lads
of the village; but kind-hearted people forgot the mischief sooner than
the mirth, and Norman and Harry were very popular among old and young.

But the wonder of wonders, the riddle that none could read, the anomaly
in Merleville society was Janet, or Mrs Nasmyth, as she was generally
called.  In refusing one of the many invitations which she had shared
with the minister and Graeme, she had thought fit to give society in
general a piece of her mind.  She was, she said, the minister's servant,
and kenned her place better than to offer to take her tea with him in
any strange house; she was obliged for the invitation all the same.

"Servant!" echoed Mrs Sterne's help, who was staying to pass the
evening, while her mistress went home, "to see about supper."

And, "servant!" echoed the young lady who assisted Mrs Merle in her
household affairs.

"I'll let them see that I think myself just as good as Queen Victoria,
if I do live out," said another dignified auxiliary.

"She must be a dreadful mean-spirited creature."

"Why, they do say she'll brush them great boys' shoes.  I saw her
myself, through the study-door, pull off Mr Elliott's boots as humble
as could be."

"To see that little girl pouring tea when there's company, and Mrs
Nasmyth not sitting down.  It's ridiculous."

"I wouldn't do so for the President!"

"Well, they seem to think everything of her," said Miss Pettimore,
speaking for the first time in this connection.

"Why, yes, she does just what she has a mind to about house.  And the
way them children hang about her, and fuss over her, I never see.  They
tell her everything, and these boys mind her, as they do their father."

"And if any one comes to pay his minister's tax, it's always, `ask Mrs
Nasmyth,' or, `Mrs Nasmyth will tell you.'"

"They couldn't get along without her.  If I was her I'd show them that I
was as good as them, and no servant."

"She's used to it.  She's been brought up so.  But now that she's got
here, I should think she'd be sick of it."

"I suppose `servant' there, means pretty much what `help' does here.
There don't seem to be difference enough to talk about," said Rebecca.

"I see considerable difference," said Mrs Merle's young lady.

"It beats all," said another.

Yes, it did beat all.  It was incomprehensible to these dignified
people, how Janet could openly acknowledge herself a servant, and yet
retain her self-respect.  And that "Mrs Nasmyth thought considerable of
herself," many of the curious ladies of Merleville had occasion to know.
The relations existing between her and "the bairns," could not easily
be understood.  She acknowledged herself their servant, yet she reproved
them when they deserved it, and that sharply.  She enforced obedience to
all rules, and governed in all household matters, none seeking to
dispute her right.  They went to her at all times with their troubles
and their pleasures, and she sympathised with them, advised them, or
consoled them, as the case might need.  That they were as the very apple
of her eye, was evident to all, and that they loved her dearly, and
respected her entirely, none could fail to see.

There were stories going about in the village to prove that she had a
sharp tongue in her head, and this her warmest friends did not seek to
deny.  Of course, it was the duty of all the female part of the
congregation to visit at the minister's house, and to give such advice
and assistance, with regard to the arrangements, as might seem to be
required of them.  It is possible they took more interest in the matter
than if there had been a mistress in the house.  "More liberties," Janet
indignantly declared, and after the first visitation or two she
resolutely set her face against what she called the answering of
impertinent questions.  According to her own confession, she gave to
several of them, whose interest in their affairs was expressed without
due discretion, a "downsetting," and Graeme and the boys, and even Mr
Elliott, had an idea that a downsetting from Janet must be something
serious.  It is true her victims' ignorance of the Scottish tongue must
have taken the edge a little off her sharp words, but there was no
mistaking her indignant testimony, as regarding "upsettin' bodies," and
"meddlesome bodies," that bestowed too much time on their neighbours'
affairs, and there was some indignation felt and expressed on the
subject.

But she had her friends, and that not a few, for sweet words and soft
came very naturally to Janet's lips when her heart was touched, and this
always happened to her in the presence of suffering and sorrow, and many
were the sad and sick that her kind words comforted, and her willing
hands relieved.  For every sharp word brought up against her, there
could be told a kindly deed, and Janet's friends were the most numerous
at the sewing-circle that night.

Merleville was by no means on the outskirts of civilisation, though
viewed from the high hill on which the old meeting-house stood, it
seemed to the children to be surrounded with woods.  But between the
hills lay many a fertile valley.  Except toward the west, where the
hills became mountains, it was laid out into farms, nearly all of which
were occupied, and very pleasant homes some of these farm-houses were.
The village was not large enough to have a society within itself
independent of the dwellers on these farms, and all the people, even to
the borders of the "ten miles square," considered themselves neighbours.
They were very socially inclined, for the most part, and Merleville was
a very pleasant place to live in.

Winter was the time for visiting.  There was very little formality in
their entertainments.  Nuts and apples, or doughnuts and cheese, was
usually the extent of their efforts in the way of refreshments, except
on special occasions, when formal invitations were given.  Then, it must
be confessed, the chief aim of each housekeeper seemed to be to surpass
all others in the excellence and variety of the good things provided.
But for the most part no invitations were given or needed, they dropped
in on one another in a friendly way.

The minister's family were not overlooked.  Scarcely an evening passed
but some of their neighbours came in.  Indeed, this happened too
frequently for Janet's patience, for she sorely begrudged the time taken
from the minister's books, to the entertainment of "ilka idle body that
took leave to come in."  It gave her great delight to see him really
interested with visitors, but she set her face against his being
troubled at all hours on every day in the week.

"If it's anything particular I'll tell the minister you're here," she
used to say; "but he bade the bairns be quiet, and I doubt he wouldna
like to be disturbed.  Sit down a minute, and I'll speak to Miss Graeme,
and I dare say the minister will be at leisure shortly."

Generally the visitor, by no means displeased, sat down in her bright
kitchen for a chat with her and the children.  It was partly these
evening visits that won for Mrs Nasmyth her popularity.  Even in her
gloomy days--and she had some days gloomy enough about this time--she
would exert herself on such an occasion, and with the help of the young
people the visitor was generally well entertained.  Such singing of
songs, such telling of tales, such discussions as were carried on in the
pleasant firelight!  There was no such thing as time lagging there, and
often the nine o'clock worship came before the visitor was aware.

Even Judge Merle and young Squire Greenleaf were sometimes detained in
the kitchen, if they happened to come in on a night when the minister
was more than usually engaged.

"For you see, sir," said she, on one occasion, "what with ae thing and
what with anither, the minister has had so many interruptions this week
already, that I dinna like to disturb him.  But if you'll sit down here
for a minute or two, I daresay he'll be ben and I'll speak to Miss
Graeme."

"Mr Elliott seems a close student," said the Judge, as he took the
offered seat by the fire.

"Ay, is he.  Though if you are like the lave o' the folk, you'll think
no more o' him for that.  Folk o' my country judge o' a minister by the
time he spends in his study; but here he seems hardly to be thought to
be in the way of his duty, unless he's ca'ing about from house to house,
hearkening to ilka auld wife's tale."

"But," said the Judge, much amused, "the minister has been studying all
his life.  It seems as though he might draw on old stores now."

"Ay, but out o' the old stores he must bring new matter.  The minister's
no one that puts his people off with `cauld kail het again,' and he
canna make sermons and rin here and there at the same time."

"And he can't attend to visitors and make sermons at the same time.
That would be to the point at present," said the Judge, laughing, "I
think I'll be going."

"'Deed, no, sir," said Janet, earnestly, "I didna mean you.  I'm aye
glad to see you or any sensible person to converse with the minister.
It cheers him.  But this week it's been worse than ever.  He has hardly
had an unbroken hour.  But sit still, sir.  He would be ill-pleased if
you went away without seeing him."

"I'll speak to papa, Judge Merle," said Graeme.

"Never mind, my dear.  Come and speak to me yourself.  I think Mrs
Nasmyth is right.  The minister ought not to be disturbed.  I have
nothing particular to say to him.  I came because it's a pleasure to
come, and I did not think about its being so near the end of the week."

Graeme looked rather anxiously from him to Janet.

"My dear, you needna trouble yourself.  It's no' folk like the Judge and
young Mr Greenleaf that will be likely to take umbrage at being kept
waiting a wee while here.  It's folk like the 'smith yonder, or Orrin
Green, the upsettin' body.  But you can go in now and see if your papa's
at leisure, and tell him the Judge is here."

"We had Mr Greenleaf here awhile the ither night," she continued, as
Graeme disappeared.  "A nice, pleasant spoken gentleman he is, an no' ae
bit o' a Yankee."

The Judge opened his eyes.  It was rather an equivocal compliment,
considering the person to whom she spoke.  But he was not one of the
kind to take offence, as Janet justly said.



CHAPTER NINE.

Other favourites of Mrs Nasmyth's were Mr Snow and the schoolmaster,
and the secret of her interest in them was their interest in the bairns,
and their visits were made as often to the kitchen as to the study.  Mr
Snow had been their friend from the very first.  He had made good his
promise as to nutting and squirrel-hunting.  He had taught them to
skate, and given them their first sleigh-ride; he had helped them in the
making of sleds, and never came down to the village but with his pockets
full of rosy apples to the little ones.  They made many a day pleasant
for his little girl, both at his house and theirs; and he thought
nothing too much to do for those who were kind to Emily.

Janet's kind heart had been touched, and her unfailing energies
exercised in behalf of Mr Snow's melancholy, nervous wife.  In upon the
monotony of her life she had burst like a ray of wintry sunshine into
her room, brightening it to at least a momentary cheerfulness.  During a
long and tedious illness, from which she had suffered, soon after the
minister's arrival in Merleville, Janet had watched with her a good many
nights, and the only visit which the partially-restored invalid made
during the winter which stirred so much pleasant life among them, was at
the minister's, where she was wonderfully cheered by the kindness of
them all.  But it was seldom that she could be prevailed upon to leave
her warm room in wintry weather, and Sampson's visits were made alone,
or in company with little Emily.

The schoolmaster, Mr Isaac Newton Foster, came often, partly because he
liked the lads, and partly because of his fondness for mathematics.  The
night of his visit was always honoured by the light of an extra candle,
for his appearance was the signal for the bringing forth of slates and
books, and it was wonderful what pleasure they all got together from the
mysterious figures and symbols, of which they never seemed to grow
weary.

Graeme, from being interested in the progress of her brothers, soon
became interested in their studies for their own sake, and Mr Foster
had not a more docile or successful pupil than she became.  Janet had
her doubts about her "taking up with books that were fit only for
_laddies_," but Mr Foster proved, with many words, that her ideas were
altogether old-fashioned on the subject, and as the minister did not
object, and Graeme herself had great delight in it, she made no
objections.  Her first opinion on the schoolmaster had been that he was
a well-meaning, harmless lad, and it was given in a tone which said
plainer than words, that little more could be put forth in his favour.
But by and by, as she watched him, and saw the influence for good which
he exerted over the lads, keeping them from mischief, and really
interesting them in their studies, she came to have a great respect for
Mr Foster.

But all the evenings when Mr Foster was with them were not given up to
lessons.  When, as sometimes happened, Mr Snow or Mr Greenleaf came
in, something much more exciting took the place of Algebra.  Mr
Greenleaf was not usually the chief speaker on such occasions, but he
had the faculty of making the rest speak, and having engaged the lads,
and sometimes even Graeme and Janet, in the discussion of some exciting
question, often the comparative merits of the institutions of their
respective countries, he would leave the burden of the argument to the
willing Mr Foster, while he assumed the position of audience, or put in
a word now and then, as the occasion seemed to require.  They seldom
lost their tempers when he was there, as they sometimes did on less
favoured occasions.  For Janet and Janet's bairns were prompt to do
battle where the honour of their country was concerned, and though Mr
Foster was good nature itself, he sometimes offended.  He could not
conscientiously withhold the superior light which he owed to his birth
and education in a land of liberty, if he might dispel the darkness of
old-world prejudice in which his friends were enveloped.  Mr Snow was
ready too with his hints about "despotism" and "aristocracy," and on
such occasions the lads never failed to throw themselves headlong into
the thick of the battle, with a fierce desire to demolish things in
general, and Yankee institutions in particular.  It is to be feared the
disputants were not always very consistent in the arguments they used;
but their earnestness made up for their bad logic, and the hot words
spoken on both sides were never remembered when the morrow came.

A chance word of the master's had set them all at it, one night when Mr
Snow came in; and books and slates were forgotten in the eagerness of
the dispute.  The lads were in danger of forgetting the respect due to
Mr Foster, as their teacher, at such times; but he was slow to resent
it, and Mr Snow's silent laughter testified to his enjoyment of this
particular occasion.  The strife was getting warm when Mr Greenleaf's
knock was heard.  Norman was in the act of hurling some hundred
thousands of black slaves at the schoolmaster's devoted head, while Mr
Foster strove hard to shield himself by holding up "Britain's wretched
operatives and starving poor."

"Come along, Squire," said Mr Snow.  "We want you to settle this little
difficulty.  Mrs Nasmyth ain't going to let you into the study just
now, at least she wouldn't let me.  The minister's busy to-night."

Mr Greenleaf, nothing loth, sat down and drew Marian to his knee.

Neither Norman nor Mr Foster was so eager to go on as Mr Snow was to
have them; but after a little judicious stirring up on his part, they
were soon in "full blast," as he whispered to his friend.  The
discussion was about slavery this time, and need not be given.  It was
not confined to Norman and Mr Foster.  All the rest had something to
say; even Janet joined when she thought a side thrust would be of use.
But Norman was the chief speaker on his side.  The subject had been
discussed in the village School Lyceum, and Norman had distinguished
himself there; not exactly by the clearness or the strength of his
arguments--certainly not by their originality.  But he thundered forth
the lines beginning "I would not have a slave," etcetera, to the intense
delight of his side, and to at least the momentary discomfiture of the
other.

To-night he was neither very logical nor very reasonable, and Mr Foster
complained at last.

"But, Norman, you don't keep to the point."

"Talks all round the lot," said Mr Snow.

"I'm afraid that is not confined to Norman," said Mr Greenleaf.

"Norman is right, anyway," pronounced Menie.

"He reasons in a circle," said the master.  "And because slavery is the
only flaw in--"

"The only flaw!" said Norman, with awful irony.

"Well, yes," interposed Mr Snow.  "But we have had enough of the
Constitution for to-night.  Let's look at our country.  _It_ can't be
beaten any way you take it.  Physically or morally," pursued he, with
great gravity, "it can't be beaten.  There are no such mountains,
rivers, nor lakes as ours are.  Our laws and our institutions generally
are just about what they ought to see.  Even foreigners see that, and
prove it, by coming to share our privileges.  Where will you find such a
general diffusion of knowledge among all classes?  Classes?  There is
only one class.  All are free and equal."

"Folk thinking themselves equal doesna make them equal," said Mrs
Nasmyth, to whom the last remark had been addressed.  "For my part, I
never saw pride--really to call pride--till I saw it in this fine
country o' yours--ilka ane thinking himself as good as his neighbour."

"Well--so they be.  Liberty and equality is our ticket."

"But ye're no' a' equal.  There's as muckle difference among folks here
as elsewhere, whatever be your ticket.  There are folk coming and going
here, that in my country I would hate sent round to the back door; but
naething short of the company of the minister himself will serve them.
Gentlemen like the Judge, or like Mr Greenleaf here, will sit and bide
the minister's time; but upsettin' bodies such as I could name--"

"Well, I wouldn't name them, I guess.  General principles are best in
such a case," said Mr Snow.  "And I am willing to confess there is
among us an aristocracy of merit.  Your friend the Judge belongs to that
and your father, Miss Graeme; and I expect Squire Greenleaf will, too,
when he goes to Congress.  But no man is great here just because his
father was before him.  Everybody has a chance.  Now, on your side of
the water, `a man must be just what his father was.'  Folks must stay
just there.  That's a fact."

"You seem to be weel informed," said Janet drily.

"Ah! yes; I know all about it.  Anybody may know anything and everything
in this country.  We're a great people.  Ain't that so, Mr Foster?"

"It must be granted by all unprejudiced minds, that Britain has produced
some great men," said Mr Foster, breaking out in a new spot as Mr Snow
whispered to the Squire.

"Surely that would be granting too much," said Norman.

"But," pursued Mr Foster, "Britons themselves confess that it is on
this Western Continent that the Anglo-Saxon race is destined to triumph.
Descended from Britons, a new element has entered into their blood,
which shall--which must--which--"

"Sounds considerable like the glorious Fourth, don't it?" whispered Mr
Snow.

"Which hasna put muckle flesh on their bones as yet," said the literal
Mrs Nasmyth.

"I was about to say that--that--"

"That the British can lick all creation, and we can lick the British,"
said Mr Snow.

"Any crisis involving a trial of strength, would prove our superiority,"
said Mr Foster, taking a new start.

"That's been proved already," said Mr Snow, watching the sparkle in
Graeme's eye.  She laughed merrily.

"No, Mr Snow.  They may fight it out without me to-night."

"I am glad you are growing prudent.  Mrs Nasmyth, you wouldn't believe
how angry she was with me one night."

"Angry!" repeated Graeme.  "Ask Celestia."

"Well, I guess I shouldn't have much chance between Celestia and you.
But I said then, and I say now, you'll make a first-rate Yankee girl
yourself before seven years."

"A Yankee!" repeated her brothers.

"A Yankee," echoed Menie.

"Hush, Menie.  Mr Snow is laughing at us," said Graeme.

"I would rather be just a little Scotch lassie, than a Yankee Queen,"
said Menie, firmly.

There was a laugh, and Menie was indignant at her brothers for joining.

"You mean a president's wife.  We don't allow queens here--in this free
country," said Mr Snow.

"But it is dreadful that you should hate us so," said the Squire.

"I like you, and the Judge.  And I like Mrs Merle."

"And is that all?" asked Mr Snow, solemnly.

"I like Emily.  And I like you when you don't vex Graeme."

"And who else?" asked Mr Greenleaf.

"I like Celestia.  She's nice, and doesna ask questions.  And so does
Graeme.  And Janet says that Celestia is a lady.  Don't you like her?"
asked Menie, thinking her friend unresponsive.

"You seem to be good at asking questions yourself, Menie, my woman,"
interposed Mrs Nasmyth.  "I doubt you should be in your bed by this
time."  But Mr Snow caused a diversion from anything so melancholy.

"And don't Cousin Celestia like me?" asked he.

"Yes; she said you were a good friend of hers; but is she your cousin?"

"Well, not exactly--we're not very near cousins.  But I see to her some,
and mean to.  I like her."

The study-door opened, and there was no time for an answer from any one;
but as Mr Snow went up the hill he said to himself: "Yes, I shall see
to her.  She is smart enough and good enough for him if he does expect
to go to Congress."



CHAPTER TEN.

"I like the wood fires," said Graeme.  "They are far clearer than the
peat fires at home."

They were sitting, Graeme and Janet, according to their usual custom, a
little after the others had all gone to bed.  The study-door was closed,
though the light still gleamed beneath it; but it was getting late, and
the minister would not be out again.

Graeme might well admire such a wood fire as that before which they were
sitting: The fore-stick had nearly burned through, and the brands had
fallen over the andirons, but the great back-log glowed with light and
heat, though only now and then a bright blaze leapt up.  It was not very
warm in the room, however, except for their faces, and Graeme shivered a
little as she drew nearer to the fire, and hardly heeding that Janet did
not answer her, fell to dreaming in the firelight.

Without, the rude March winds were roaring, and within, too, for that
matter.  For though carpets, and curtains, and listings nailed over
seams might keep out the bitter frost when the air was still, the east
winds of March swept in through every crack and crevice, chilling them
to the bone.  It roared wildly among the boughs of the great elms in the
yard, and the tall well-sweep creaked, and the bucket swung to and fro
with a noise that came through Graeme's dream and disturbed it at last.
Looking up suddenly she became aware that the gloom that had been
gathering over Janet for many a day hung darkly round her now.  She drew
near to her, and laying her arms down on her lap in the old fashion,
said softly:

"The winter's near over now, Janet."

"Ay, thank the Lord for that, any way," said Janet.  She knew that
Graeme's words and movement were an invitation to tell her thoughts, so
she bent forward to collect the scattered brands and settle the
fore-stick, for she felt that her thoughts were not of the kind to bear
telling to Graeme or to any one.  As she gathered them together between
the andirons, she sighed a sigh of mingled sorrow and impatience.  And
the light that leapt suddenly up made the cloud on her brow more
visible.  For the winter that had been so full of enjoyment to all the
rest had been a time of trial to Janet.

To the young people, the winter had brought numberless pleasures.  The
lads had gone to the school, where they were busy and happy, and the
little ones had been busy and happy at home.  None had enjoyed the
winter more than Graeme.  The change had been altogether beneficial to
Rose; and never since their mother's death had the elder sister been so
much at ease about her.  There was little to be done in the way of
making or mending, and, with leisure at her disposal, she was falling
into her old habits of reading and dreaming.  She had been busy teaching
the little ones, too, and at night worked with her brothers at their
lessons, so that the winter had been profitable as well as pleasant to
her.  At all times in his study, amid the silent friends that had become
so dear to him, Mr Elliott could be content; and in his efforts to
become acquainted with his people, their wants and tastes, he had been
roused to something like the cheerfulness of former years.

But to Janet the winter had been a time of conflict, a long struggle
with unseen enemies; and as she sat there in the dim firelight, she was
telling herself sorrowfully that she would be worsted by them at last.
Home-sickness, blind and unreasoning, had taken possession of her.
Night by night she had lain down with the dull pain gnawing at her
heart.  Morning by morning she had risen sick with the inappeasable
yearning for her home, a longing that would not be stilled, to walk
again through familiar scenes, to look again on familiar faces.

The first letters from home, so longed for by all, so welcomed and
rejoiced over by the rest, brought little comfort to her.  Arthur's
letters to his father and Graeme, so clear and full of all they wished
to hear about, "so like a printed book," made it all the harder for her
to bear her disappointment over Sandy's obscure, ill-spelt and
indifferently-written letter.  She had of old justly prided herself on
Sandy's "hand o' write;" but she had yet to learn the difference between
a school-boy's writing, with a copper-plate setting at the head of the
page, and that which must be the result of a first encounter with the
combined difficulties of writing, spelling and composition.

Poor Sandy!  He had laboured hard, doubtless, and had done his best, but
it was not satisfactory.  In wishing to be minute, he had become
mysterious, and, to the same end, the impartial distribution through all
parts of the letter of capitals, commas and full stops, had also tended.
There was a large sheet closely written, and out of the whole but two
clear ideas could be gathered!  Mr More of the parish school was dead,
and they were to have a new master, and that Mrs Smith had changed her
mind, and he was not to be at Saughless for the winter after all.

There were other troubles too, that Janet had to bear alone.  The cold,
that served to brace the others, chilled her to the bone.  Unaccustomed
to any greater variation of temperature than might be very well met by
the putting on or taking off of her plaid, the bitter cold of the New
England winter, as she went out and in about her work, was felt keenly
by her.  She could not resist it, nor guard herself against it.
Stove-heat was unbearable to her.  An hour spent in Mrs Snow's hot room
often made her unfit for anything for hours after; and sleigh-riding,
which never failed to excite the children to the highest spirits, was as
fatal to her comfort as the pitching of the "Steadfast" had been.  To
say that she was disappointed with herself in view of all this, is, by
no means, saying enough.  She was angry at her folly, and called herself
"silly body" and "useless body," striving with all her might to throw
the burden from her.

Then, again, with only a few exceptions, she did not like the people.
They were, in her opinion, at the same time, extravagant and penurious,
proud and mean, ignorant, yet wise "above what is written,"
self-satisfied and curious.  The fact was, her ideas of things in
general were disarranged by the state of affairs in Merleville.  She
never could make out "who was somebody and who was naebody;" and what
made the matter more mysterious, they did not seem to know themselves.

Mrs Judge Merle had made her first visit to the minister's in company
with the wife of the village blacksmith, and if there was a lady between
them Mrs Page evidently believed it to be herself.  Mrs Merle was a
nice motherly body, that sat on her seat and behaved herself, while Mrs
Page went hither and thither, opening doors and spying fairlies,
speiring about things she had no concern with, like an ill-bred woman as
she is; and passing her remarks on the minister and the preaching, as if
she were a judge.  Both of them had invited her to visit them very
kindly, no doubt; but Janet had no satisfaction in this or in anything
that concerned them.  She was out of her element.  Things were quite
different from anything she had been used with.  She grew depressed and
doubtful of herself, and no wonder that a gloom was gathering over her.

Some thought of all this came into Graeme's mind, as she sat watching
her while she gathered together the brands with unsteady hands, and with
the thought came a little remorse.  She had been thinking little of
Janet and her trials all these days she had been passing so pleasantly
with her books, in the corner of her father's study.  She blamed herself
for her thoughtlessness, and resolved that it should not be so in
future.  In the mean time, it seemed as though she must say something to
chase the shadow from the kind face.  But she did not know what to say.
Janet set down the tongs, and raised herself with a sigh.  Graeme drew
nearer.

"What is it, Janet?" asked she, laying her hand caressingly on hers.
"Winna you tell me?"

Janet gave a startled look into her face.

"What is what, my dear?"

"Something is vexing you, and you winna tell me," said Graeme,
reproachfully.

"Hoot, lassie! what should ail me.  I'm weel enough."

"You are wearying for a letter, maybe.  But it's hardly time yet,
Janet."

"I'm no wearyin' the night more than usual.  And if I got a letter, it
mightna give me muckle comfort."

"Then something ails you, and you winna tell me," said Graeme again, in
a grieved voice.

"My dear, I hae naething to tell."

"Is it me, Janet?  Hae I done anything?  You ken I wouldna willingly do
wrong?" pleaded Graeme.

Janet put her fingers over the girl's lips.

"Whist, my lammie.  It's naething--or naething that can be helpit," and
she struggled fiercely to keep back the flood that was swelling in her
full heart.  Graeme said nothing, but stroked the toil-worn hand of her
friend, and at last laid her cheek down upon it.

"Lassie, lassie!  I canna help it," and the long pent up flood gushed
forth, and the tears fell on Graeme's bent head like rain.  Graeme
neither moved nor spoke, but she prayed in her heart that God would
comfort her friend in her unknown sorrow; and by the first words she
spoke she knew that she was comforted.

"I am an auld fule, I believe, or a spoiled bairn, that doesna ken it's
ain mind, and I think I'm growing waur ilka day," and she paused to wipe
the tears from her face.

"But what is it, Janet?" asked Graeme, softly.

"It's naething, dear, naething that I can tell to mortal.  I dinna ken
what has come ower me.  It's just as if a giant had a gripe o' me, and
move I canna.  But surely I'll be set free in time."

There was nothing Graeme could say to this; but she laid her cheek down
on Janet's hand again, and there were tears upon it.

"Now dinna do that, Miss Graeme," cried Janet, struggling with another
wave of the returning flood.  "What will come o' us if you give way.
There's naething ails me but that I'm an auld fule, and I canna help
that, you ken."

"Janet, it was an awful sacrifice you made, to leave your mother and
Sandy to come with us.  I never thought till to-night how great it must
have been."

"Ay, lassie.  I'll no deny it, but dinna think that I grudge it now.  It
wasna made in a right sperit, and that the Lord is showing me.  I
thought you couldna do without me."

"We couldna, Janet."

"And I aye thought if I could be of any use to your father and your
father's bairns, and could see them contented, and well in a strange
land, that would be enough for me.  And I hae gotten my wish.  You're a'
weel, and weel contented, and my heart is lying in my breast as heavy as
lead, and no strength of mine can lift the burden.  God help me."

"God will help you," said Graeme, softly.  "It is the sore
home-sickness, like the captives by Babel stream.  But the Lord never
brought you here in anger, and, Janet, it will pass away."

"Weel, it may be.  That's what my mother said, or something like it.  He
means to let me see that you can do without me.  But I'll bide still
awhile, anyway."

Graeme's face was fall of dismay.

"Janet! what could we ever do without you?"

"Oh, you could learn.  But I'm not going to leave you yet.  The giant
shallna master me with my will.  But, oh! lassie, whiles I think the
Lord has turned against me for my self-seeking and pride."

"But, Janet," said Graeme, gravely, "the Lord never turns against his
own people.  And if anybody in the world is free from self-seeking it is
you.  It is for us you are living, and not for yourself."

Janet shook her head.

"And, Janet, when the bonny spring days come, the giant will let you go.
The weight will be lifted off, I'm sure it will.  And, Janet, about
Sandy--.  You may be sure o' him.  If you had been there to guide him,
he might have been wilful, and have gone astray, like others.  But now
the Lord will have him in His keeping, for, Janet, if ever a fatherless
child was left to the Lord, you left Sandy for our sakes, and He will
never forsake him--never, _never_!"

Janet's tears were falling softly now, like the bright drops after the
tempest is over, and the bow of promise is about to span the heavens.

"And, Janet, we all love you dearly."  Graeme had risen, and put her
arms round her neck by this time.  "Sometimes the boys are rough, and
don't seem to care, but they do care; and I'm thoughtless, too, and
careless," she added, humbly, "but I was that with my mother, whiles,
and you ken I loved her dearly."  And the cry of pain that came with the
words, told how dearly her mother was remembered still.  Janet held her
close.

"And, Janet, you must 'mind me of things, as my mother used to do.  When
I get a book, you ken I forget things, and you winna let me do wrong for
my mother's sake.  We have no mother, Janet, and what could we do
without you?  And all this pain will pass away, and you will grow
light-hearted again."

And so it was.  The worst was over after that night.  Much more was said
before they separated, and Graeme realised, for the first time, some of
the discomforts of their present way of living, as far as Janet was
concerned.  Housekeeping affairs had been left altogether in her hands,
and everything was so different from all that she had been accustomed
to, and she was slow to learn new ways.  The produce system was a great
embarrassment to her.  This getting "a pickle meal" from one, and "a
corn tawties" from another, she could not endure.  It was "living from
hand to mouth" at best, to say nothing of the uncomfortable doubts now
and then, as to whether the articles brought were intended as presents,
or as the payment of the "minister's tax," as the least delicate among
the people called it.

"And, my dear, I just wish your father would get a settlement with them,
and we would begin again, and put aething down in a book.  For I hae my
doubts as to how we are to make the two ends meet.  Things mount up you
ken, and we maun try and guide things."

Graeme looked grave.  "I wonder what my father thinks," said she.  Janet
shook her head.

"We mauna trouble your father if we can help it.  The last minister they
had had enough ado to live, they say, and he had fewer bairns.  I'm no'
feared but we'll be provided for.  And, Miss Graeme, my dear, you'll
need to begin and keep an account again."

Janet's voice had the old cheerful echo in it by this time, and Graeme
promised, with good heart, to do all she could to keep her father's mind
easy, and the household accounts straight.

Weeks passed on, and even before the bonny spring days had come, the
giant had let Janet go, and she was her own cheerful self again.  The
letter that Harry brought in with a shout before March was over, was a
very different letter from the one that had caused Janet to shed such
tears of disappointment on that sad November, though Sandy was the
writer still.  The two only intelligible items of news which the last
one had conveyed, were repeated here, and enlarged upon, with reason.  A
new master had come to the school, who was taking great pains with all
the lads, and especially with Sandy, "as you will see by this letter,
mother," he wrote, "I hope it will be better worth reading than the
last."

If Mrs Smith had changed her mind, it was all for good.  Janet was no
more to think of her mother as living by herself, in the lonely cot in
the glen, but farther up in another cottage, within sight of the door of
Saughless.  And Sandy was to go to the school a while yet and there was
no fear but something would be found for him to do, either on the farm,
or in the garden.  And so his mother was to set her heart at rest about
them.

And her heart was set at rest; and Janet sang at her work again, and
cheered or chid the bairns according as they needed, but never more,
though she had many cares, and troubles not a few, did the giant hold
her in his grasp again.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

"Miss Graeme," said Janet, softly opening the study-door, and looking
in.  Graeme was at her side in a moment.

"Never mind putting by your book, I only want to tell you, that I'm
going up the brae to see Mrs Snow awhile.  It's no' cold, and I'll take
the bairns with me.  So just give a look at the fire now and then, and
have the kettle boiling gin tea time.  I winna bide late."

Graeme put down her book, and hastened the preparations of the little
ones.

"I wish I could up with you, Janet.  How mild and bright it is to-day."

"But your papa mustna be left to the keeping of fires, and the
entertainment of chance visitors.  You winna think long with your book,
you ken, and we'll be home again before it's dark."

"Think long!" echoed Graeme.  "Not if I'm left at peace with my book--I
only hope no one will come."

"My dear!" remonstrated Janet, "that's no' hospitable.  I daresay if
anybody comes, you'll enjoy their company for a change.  You maun try
and make friends with folk, like Menie here."

Graeme laughed.  "It's easy for Menie, she's a child.  But I have to
behave myself like a grown woman, at least, with most folk.  I would far
rather have the afternoon to myself."

She watched them down the street, and then betook herself to her book,
and her accustomed seat at the study window.  Life was very pleasant to
Graeme, these days.  She did not manifest her light-heartedness by
outward signs; she was almost always as quiet as sorrow and many cares
had made her, since her mother's death.  But it was a quiet always
cheerful, always ready to change to grave talk with Janet, or merry play
with the little ones.  Janet's returning cheerfulness banished the last
shade of anxiety from her mind, and she was too young to go searching
into the future for a burden to bear.

She was fast growing into companionship with her father.  She knew that
he loved and trusted her entirely, and she strove to deserve his
confidence.  In all matters concerning her brothers and sisters, he
consulted her, as he might have consulted her mother, and as well as an
elder sister could, she fulfilled a mother's duty to them.  In other
matters, her father depended upon her judgment and discretion also.
Often he was beguiled into forgetting what a child she still was, while
he discussed with her subjects more suited for one of maturer years.

And it was pleasant to be looked upon with respect and consideration, by
the new friends they had found here.  She was a little more than a child
in years, and shy and doubtful of herself withal, but it was very
agreeable to be treated like a woman, by the kind people about her.  Not
that she would have confessed this.  Not that she was even conscious of
the pleasure it gave her.  Indeed, she was wont to declare to Janet, in
private, that it was all nonsense, and she wished that people would not
speak to her always, as though she were a woman of wisdom and
experience.  But it was agreeable to her all the same.

She had her wish that afternoon.  Nobody came to disturb them, till the
failing light admonished her that it was time to think of Janet, and the
tea-kettle.  Then there came a knock at the door, and Graeme opened it
to Mr Greenleaf.  If she was not glad to see him, her looks belied her.
He did not seem to doubt a welcome from her, or her father either, as
he came in.

What the charm was, that beguiled Mr Greenleaf into spending so many
hours in the minister's study, the good people of Merleville found it
difficult to say.  The squire's ill-concealed indifference to the
opinions of people generally, had told against him always.  For once,
Mrs Page had been too charitable.  He was not in a hopeful state, at
least, in her sense of the term, and it might be doubted, whether
frequent intercourse with the minister, would be likely to encourage the
young man to the attainment of Mrs Page's standard of excellence.  But
to the study he often came, and he was never an unwelcome guest.

"If I am come at a wrong time, tell me so," said he, as he shook hands
with Mr Elliott, over a table covered with books and papers.

"You can hardly do that," said the minister, preparing to put the books
and papers away.  "I am nearly done for the night.  Excuse me, for a
minute only."

Graeme lingered talking to their visitor, till her father should be
quite at liberty.

"I have something for you," said Mr Greenleaf, in a minute.  Graeme
smiled her thanks, and held out her hand for the expected book, or
magazine.  It was a note this time.

"From Celestia!" she exclaimed, colouring a little.

Graeme did not aspire to the honour of Celestia's confidence in all
things, but she knew, or could guess enough, about the state of affairs
between her friend and Mr Greenleaf, to be wonderfully interested in
them, and she could not help feeling a little embarrassed, as she took
the note, from his hands.

"Read it," said he.

Graeme stooped down to catch the firelight.  The note was very brief.
Celestia was going away, and wished Graeme to come and see her,
to-morrow.  Mr Greenleaf would fetch her.

"Celestia, going away!" she exclaimed, raising herself up.

"Yes," said he, "have you not heard it?"

"I heard the farm was to be sold, but I hoped they would still stay in
Merleville."

"So did I," said Mr Greenleaf, gravely.

"When will they go?"

"Miss Jones is to be a teacher, in the new seminary at Rixford.  They
are going to live there, and it cannot be very long before they go."

"To her uncle?"

"No, Celestia thinks her mother would not be happy there.  They will
live by themselves, with the children."

"How sorry Celestia will be to go away," said Graeme, sadly.

"She will not be persuaded to stay," said Mr Greenleaf.

Graeme darted a quick, embarrassed look at him, as much as to say, "Have
you asked her?"  He answered her in words.

"Yes, I have tried, and failed.  She does not care to stay."

There was only sadness in his voice; at least, she detected nothing
else.  There was none of the bitterness which, while it made Celestia's
heart ache that afternoon, had made her all the more determined to do
what she believed to be right.

"Oh! it's not that," said Graeme, earnestly, "I'm sure she cares.  I
mean if she goes, it will be because she thinks it right, not because
she wishes it."

"Is it right to make herself and me unhappy?"

"But her mother and the rest.  They are in trouble; it would seem like
forsaking them."

"It need not.  They might stay with her."

"I think, perhaps--I don't think--" Graeme hesitated, and then said
hurriedly,--

"Are you rich, Mr Greenleaf?"  He laughed.

"I believe you are one of those who do not compute riches by the number
of dollars one possesses.  So I think, to you I may safely answer, yes.
I have contentment with little, and on such wealth one pays no taxes."

"Yes; but--I think,--oh, I can't say what I think; but I'm sure Celestia
is right.  I am quite sure of that."

Mr Greenleaf did not look displeased, though Graeme feared he might, at
her bold speech.

"I don't believe I had better take you to see her to-morrow.  You will
encourage her to hold out against me."

"Not against you.  She would never do that.  And, besides, it would make
no difference.  Celestia is wise and strong, and will do what she
believes to be right."

"Wise and strong," repeated Mr Greenleaf, smiling, but his face grew
grave in a minute again.  Mr Elliott made a movement to join them, and
Graeme thought of her neglected tea-kettle, and hastened away.

"Never mind," she whispered, "it will all end well.  Things always do
when people do right."

Mr Greenleaf might have some doubt as to the truth of this comforting
declaration in all cases, but he could have none as to the interest and
good wishes of his little friend, so he only smiled in reply.  Not that
he had really many serious doubts as to its ending well.  He had more
than once that very afternoon grieved Celestia by saying that she did
not care for him; but, if he had ever had any serious trouble on the
subject, they vanished when the first touch of anger and disappointment
had worn away, giving him time to acknowledge and rejoice over the
"strength and wisdom" so unhesitatingly ascribed by Graeme to her
friend.  So that it was not at all in a desponding spirit that he turned
to reply, when the minister addressed him.

They had scarcely settled down to one of their long, quiet talks, when
they were summoned to tea by Graeme, and before tea was over, Janet and
the bairns came home.  The boys had found their way up the hill when
school was over, and they all came home together in Mr Snow's sleigh.
To escape from the noise and confusion which they brought with them, Mr
Greenleaf and the minister went into the study again.

During the silence that succeeded their entrance, there came into Mr
Greenleaf's mind a thought that had been often there before.  It was a
source of wonder to him that a man of Mr Elliott's intellectual power
and culture should content himself in so quiet a place as Merleville,
and to-night he ventured to give expression to his thoughts.  Mr
Elliott smiled.

"I don't see that my being content to settle down here for life, is any
more wonderful than that you should have done so.  Indeed, I should say,
far less wonderful.  You are young and have the world before you."

"But my case is quite different.  I settle here to get a living, and I
mean to get a good one too, and besides," added he, laughing,
"Merleville is as good a place as any other to go to Congress from;
there is no American but may have that before him you know."

"As for the living, I can get here such as will content me.  For the
rest, the souls in this quiet place are as precious as elsewhere.  I am
thankful for my field of labour."

Mr Greenleaf had heard such words before, and he had taken them "for
what they were worth," as a correct thing for a minister to say.  But
the quiet earnestness and simplicity of Mr Elliott's manner struck him
as being not just a matter of course.

"He is in earnest about it, and does not need to use many words to prove
it.  There must be something in it."  He did not answer him, however.

"There is one thing which is worth consideration," continued Mr
Elliott, "you may be disappointed, but I cannot be so, in the nature of
things."

"About getting a living?" said Mr Greenleaf, and a vague remembrance of
Deacons Fish and Slowcome made him move uneasily in his chair.

"That is not what I was thinking of, but I suppose I may be sure of
that, too.  `Your bread shall be given you, and your water sure.'  And
there is no such thing as disappointment in that for which I really am
labouring, the glory of God, and the good of souls."

"Well," said Mr Greenleaf, gravely, "there must be something in it that
I don't see, or you will most assuredly be disappointed.  It is by no
means impossible that I may have my wish, men of humbler powers than
mine--I may say it without vanity--have risen higher than to the
Congress of our country.  I don't look upon mine as by any means a
hopeless ambition.  But the idea of your ever seeing all the crooked
natures in Merleville made straight!  Well, to say the least, I don't
see how you can be very sanguine about it."

"Well, I don't say that even that is beyond my ambition, or beyond the
power of Him whom I serve to accomplish.  But though I may never see
this, or the half of this accomplished, it does not follow that I am to
be disappointed, more than it follows that your happiness will be
secured when you sit in the Congress of this great nation, or rule in
the White House even, which is not beyond your ambition either, I
suppose.  You know how a promise may be `kept to the ear and broken to
the heart,' as somebody says."

"I know it is the fashion to speak in that way.  We learn, in our school
books, all about the folly of ambition, and the unsatisfying nature of
political greatness.  But even if the attainment must disappoint, there
is interest and excitement in the pursuit.  And, if you will allow me to
say so, it is not so in your case, and to me the disappointment seems
even more certain."

Mr Elliott smiled.

"I suppose the converse of the poet's sad declaration may be true.  The
promise may be broken to the eye and ear, and yet fulfilled divinely to
the heart.  I am not afraid."

"And, certainly," thought the young man, "he looks calm and hopeful
enough."

"And," added Mr Elliott, "as to the interest of the pursuit, if that is
to be judged by the importance of the end to be attained, I think mine
may well bear comparison to yours."

"Yes, in one sense, I suppose--though I don't understand it.  I can
imagine an interest most intense, an engagement--a happiness altogether
absorbing in such a labour of love, but--I was not looking at the matter
from your point of view."

"But from no other point of view can the subject be fairly seen," said
Mr Elliott, quietly.

"Well, I have known few, even among clergymen, who have not had their
eyes turned pretty frequently to another side of the matter.  One ought
to be altogether above the necessity of thinking of earthly things, to
be able to enjoy throwing himself wholly into such a work, and I fancy
that can be said of few."

"I don't understand you," said Mr Elliott.  "Do you mean that you doubt
the sincerity of those to whom you refer."

"By no means.  My thoughts were altogether in another direction.  In
fact, I was thinking of the great `bread and butter' struggle in which
ninety-nine out of every hundred are for dear life engaged; and none
more earnestly, and few with less success, than men of your profession."

Mr Elliott looked as though he did not yet quite understand.  Mr
Greenleaf hesitated, slightly at a loss, but soon went on.

"Constituted as we are, I don't see how a man can wholly devote himself
to a work he thinks so great, and yet have patience to struggle with the
thousand petty cares of life.  The shifts and turnings to which
insufficient means must reduce one, cannot but vex and hurt such a
nature, if it does not change it at last.  But I see I fail to make
myself understood by you; let me try again.  I don't know how it may be
in your country, but here, at least as far as my personal observation
has extended, the remuneration received by ministers is insufficient,
not to say paltry.  I don't mean that in many cases they and their
families actually suffer, but there are few of them so situated as
regards income, that economy need not be the very first consideration in
all their arrangements.  Comparing them with other professional men they
may be called poor.  Such a thing as the gratification of taste is not
to be thought of in their case.  There is nothing left after the bare
necessaries are secured.  It is a struggle to bring up their children, a
struggle to educate them, a struggle to live.  And what is worse than
all, the pittance, which is rightly theirs, comes to them often in a way
which, to say the least, is suggestive of charity given and received.
No, really, I cannot look on the life of a minister as a very attractive
one."

"I should think not, certainly, if such are your views of it," said Mr
Elliott.

"I wish I could have the comfort of doubting their justness, but I
cannot, unless the majority of cases that have fallen under my
observation are extreme ones.  Why, there are college friends of mine
who, in any other profession, might have distinguished themselves--might
have become wealthy at least, who are now in some out of the way parish,
with wives and little children, burdened with the cares of life.  How
they are to struggle on in the future it is sad to think of.  They will
either give up the profession or die, or degenerate into very
commonplace men before many years."

"Unless they have some charm against it--which may very well be," said
Mr Elliott, quietly.

"I see you do not agree with me.  Take yourself for instance, or rather,
let us take your predecessor.  He was a good man, all say who knew him
well, and with time and study he might have proved himself a great man.
But if ever a man's life was a struggle for the bare necessaries of
life, his was, and the culpable neglect of the people in the regular
payment of his very small salary was the cause of his leaving them at
last.  He has since gone West, I hear, to a happier lot, let us hope.
The circumstances of his predecessor were no better.  He died here, and
his wife broke down in a vain effort to maintain and educate his
children.  She was brought back to Merleville and laid beside her
husband less than a year ago.  There is something wrong in the matter
somewhere."

There was a pause, and then Mr Greenleaf continued.

"It may seem an unkindly effort in me to try to change your views of
your future in Merleville.  Still, it is better that you should be in
some measure prepared, for what I fear awaits you.  Otherwise, you might
be disgusted with us all."

"I shall take refuge in the thought that you are showing me the dark
side of the picture," said Mr Elliott.

"Pray do.  And, indeed, I am.  I may have said more than enough in my
earnestness.  I am sure when you really come to know our people, you
will like them notwithstanding things that we might wish otherwise."

"I like you already," said Mr Elliott, smiling.  "I assure you I had a
great respect for you as the children of the Puritans, before ever I saw
you."

"Yes, but I am afraid you will like us less; before you like us better.
We are the children of the Puritans, but very little, I daresay, like
the grave gentlemen up on your shelves yonder.  Your countrymen are, at
first, generally disappointed in us as a people.  Mind, I don't allow
that we are in reality less worthy of respect than you kindly suppose us
to be for our fathers' sakes.  But we are different.  It is not so much
that we do not reach so high a standard, as that we have a different
standard of excellence--one that your education, habits, and
prepossessions as a people, do not prepare you to appreciate us."

"Well," said Mr Elliott, as his friend paused.

"Oh!  I have little more to say, except, that what is generally the
experience of your countrymen will probably be yours in Merleville.  You
have some disappointing discoveries to make among us, you who are an
earnest man and a thinker."

"I think a want of earnestness can hardly be called a sin of your
countrymen," said the minister.

"Earnestness!" said Mr Greenleaf.  "No, we are earnest enough here in
Merleville.  But the most of even the good men among us seem earnest,
only in the pursuit of that, in comparison to which my political
aspirations seem lofty and praiseworthy.  It is wealth they seek.  Not
that wealth which will result in magnificent expenditure, and which, in
a certain sense, may have a charm for even high-minded men, but
money-making in its meanest form--the scraping together of copper coins
for their own sakes.  At least one might think so, for any good they
ever seem to get of it."

"You are severe," said the minister, quietly.

"Not too severe.  This seems to be the aim of all of us, whether we are
willing to acknowledge it or not.  And such a grovelling end will
naturally make a man unscrupulous as to the means to attain it.  There
are not many men among us here--I don't know more than two or three--who
would not be surprised if you told them, being out of the pulpit, that
they had not a perfect right to make the very most out of their
friends--even by shaving closely in matters of business."

"And yet you say their standard is a high one?"

"High or not, the religious people among us don't seem to doubt their
own Christianity on account of these things.  And what is more, they
don't seem to lose faith in each other.  But how it will all seem to you
is another matter."

"How does it seem to you?"

"Oh, I am but a spectator.  Being not one of the initiated, I am not
supposed to understand the change they profess to have undergone; and
so, instead of being in doubt about particular cases, I am disposed to
think little of the whole matter.  With you it is different."

"Yes, with me it is indeed different," said the minister, gravely--so
gravely, that Mr Greenleaf almost regretted having spoken so freely,
and when he spoke again it was to change the subject.

"It must have required a great wrench to break away from your people and
country and old associations," said he, in a little.  Mr Elliott
started,--

"No, the wrench came before.  It would have cost me more to stay and
grow old in my own land than it did to leave it, than it ever can do to
live and die among strangers."

Fearful that he had awakened painful thoughts, Mr Greenleaf said no
more.  In a little Mr Elliott went on,--

"It was an old thought, this wishing to find a home for our children in
this grand new world.  We had always looked forward to it sometime.  And
when I was left alone, the thought of my children's future, and the
longing to get away--anywhere--brought me here."

He paused, and when he spoke again it was more calmly.

"Perhaps it was cowardly in me to flee.  There was help for me there, if
my faith had not failed.  I thought it would be better for my children
when I left them to leave them here.  But God knows it was no desire to
enrich myself that brought me to America."

"We can live on little.  I trust you will be mistaken in your fears.
But if these troubles do come, we must try, with God's grace, and Mrs
Nasmyth's help, to get through them as best we can.  We might not better
ourselves by a change, as you seem to think the evil a national one."

"The love and pursuit of the `almighty dollar,' is most certainly a
national characteristic.  As to the bearing it may have in church
matters in other places, of course I have not the means of judging.
Here I know it has been bad enough in the past."

"Well, I can only say I have found the people most kind and liberal
hitherto," said Mr Elliott.

"Have you had a settlement with them since you came?" asked the squire;
the remembrance of various remarks he had heard of late coming
unpleasantly to his mind.

"No, I have not yet.  But as the half-year is nearly over, I suppose it
will come soon.  Still I have no fears--I think I need have none.  It is
not _theirs_ but _them_ I seek."

"Do you remember the Sabbath I first came among you?  I saw you there
among the rest.  If my heart rose up in thankfulness to God that day, it
was with no thought of gold or gear.  God is my witness that I saw not
these people as possessors of houses and lands, but of precious souls--
living souls to be encouraged--slumbering souls to be aroused--dead
souls to be made alive in Christ, through His own Word, spoken by me and
blessed by Him.

"No, I do not think I can possibly be disappointed in this matter.  I
may have to bear trial, and it may come to me as it oftenest comes to
God's people, in the very way that seems hardest to bear, but God _will
bless his Word_.  And even if I do not live to see it, I can rest in the
assurance that afterward, `both he that soweth and he that reapeth shall
rejoice together.'"

He paused.  A momentary gleam of triumph passed over his face and left
it peaceful.

"The peace that passeth understanding," thought the young man, with a
sigh.  For he could not quite satisfy himself by saying, that Mr
Elliott was no man of business, an unworldly man.  It came into his mind
that even if the minister were chasing a shadow, it was a shadow more
satisfying than his possible reality of political greatness.  So he
could not but sigh as he sat watching that peaceful face.  The minister
looked up and met his eye.

"And so, my friend, I think we must end where we begun.  You may be
disappointed even in the fulfilment of your hopes.  But for me, all must
end well--let the end be what it may."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

The time of settlement came at last.  The members of the church and
congregation were requested to bring to Deacon Sterne and his coadjutors
an account of money and produce already paid by each, and also a
statement of the sum they intended to subscribe for the minister's
support during the ensuing half year.  After a delay which, considering
all things, was not more than reasonable, this was done, and the
different accounts being put into regular form by the proper persons,
they were laid before the minister for his inspection and approval.

This was done by Deacons Fish and Slowcome alone.  Deacon Sterne, as his
brethren in office intimated to Mrs Nasmyth, when she received them,
having just then his hands fall of his own affairs.  Deacon Fish
"expected" that brother Sterne had got into trouble.  It had been coming
on for some time.  His son, the only boy he had left, had been over to
Rixford, and had done something dreadful, folks said, he did not exactly
know what, and the deacon had gone over to see about it.  Deacon Sterne
was Janet's favourite among the men in office, and apart from her regret
that he should not be present on an occasion so important, she was
greatly concerned for him on his own account.

"Dear me!" said she, "I saw him at the kirk on the Sabbath-day, looking
just as usual."

"Well, yes, I expect so," said Mr Fish.  "Brother Sterne looks always
pretty much so.  He ain't apt to show his feelin's, if he's got any.
He'll have something to suffer with his son William, I guess, whether he
shows it or not."

Janet liked both father and son, though it was well known in the town
that there was trouble between them; so instead of making any answer,
she hastened to usher them into the study.  The minister awaited them,
and business began.  First was displayed the list of subscriptions for
the coming half-year.  This was quite encouraging.  Three hundred and
fifty and odd dollars.  This looked well.  There had never been so much
subscribed in Merleville before.  The deacons were elated, and evidently
expected that the minister should be so, too.  He would be well off now,
said they.  But the minister was always a quiet man, and said little,
and the last half-year's settlement was turned to.

There were several sheets of it.  The minister in danger of getting
bewildered among the items, turned to the sum total.  "Two hundred and
seventy-two dollars, sixty-two and a-half cents."  He was a little
mystified still, and looked so.

"If there is anything wrong, anything that you object to, it must be put
right," said Deacon Slowcome.

Deacon Fish presumed, "that when Mr Elliott should have compared it
with the account which he had no doubt kept, it would be found to be all
right."

Mr Elliott had to confess that no such account had been kept.  He
supposed it was all it should be.  He really could say nothing with
regard to it.  He left the management of household affairs entirely to
his daughter and Mrs Nasmyth.  It was suggested that Mrs Nasmyth
should be called in, and the deacon cleared his voice to read it to her.

"If there's anything you don't seem to understand or remember," prefaced
the accommodating Deacon Slowcome, "don't feel troubled about saying so.
I expect we'll make things pretty straight after a while."

Mrs Nasmyth looked at the minister, but the minister did not look at
her, and the reading began.  After the name of each person, came the
days' work, horse hire, loads of firewood, bushels of corn, pounds of
butter and cheese, sugar and dried apples, which he or she had
contributed.  Deacon Fish's subscription was chiefly paid by his horse
and his cow.  The former had carried the minister on two or three of his
most distant visits, and the latter had supplied a quart or two of milk
daily during a great part of the winter.  It was overpaid indeed by just
seventeen and a-half cents, which, however, the deacon seemed inclined
to make light of.

"There ain't no matter about it.  It can go right on to the next half
year.  It ain't no matter about it anyhow," said he, in liberal mood.

He had an attentive listener.  Mrs Nasmyth listened with vain efforts
not to let her face betray her utter bewilderment at the whole
proceeding, only assenting briefly when Mr Slowcome interrupted the
reading, now and then, to say interrogatively,--

"You remember?"

It dawned upon her at last that these were the items that made up the
subscription for the half year that was over; but except that her face
changed a little, she gave no sign.  It is possible the deacon had had
some slight misgiving as to how Mrs Nasmyth might receive the
statement; certainly his voice took a relieved tone as he drew near the
end, and at last read the sum total: "Two hundred and seventy-two
dollars sixty-two and a-half cents."

Again Janet's eye sought the minister's, and this time he did not avoid
her look.  The rather pained surprise had all gone out of his face.
Intense amusement at Janet's changing face, on which bewilderment,
incredulity and indignation were successively written, banished, for a
moment, every other feeling.  But that passed, and by the look that
followed Janet knew that she must keep back the words that were rising
to her lips.  It required an effort, however, and a rather awkward
silence followed.  Deacon Slowcome spoke first:

"Well, I suppose, we may consider that it stands all right.  And I, for
one, feel encouraged to expect great things."

"I doubt, sirs," said Janet in a voice ominously mild and civil, "there
are some things that haena been put down on yon paper.  There was a cum
apples, and a bit o' unco spare rib, and--"

"Well, it's possible there are some folks ain't sent in their accounts
yet.  That can be seen to another time."

Janet paid no attention to the interruption.

"There were some eggs from Mrs Sterne--a dozen and three, I think--and
a goose at the New Year from somebody else; and your wife sent a
pumpkin-pie; and there was the porridge and milk that Judge Merle
brought over when first we came here--"

"Ah! the pie was a present from my wife," said Deacon Fish, on whom Mrs
Nasmyth's awful irony was quite lost.

"And I presume Judge Merle didn't mean to charge for the porridge, or
hominy, or whatever it was," said Deacon Slowcome.

"And what for no'?" demanded Janet, turning on him sharply.  "I'm sure
we got far more good and pleasure from it than ever we got o' your
bloody fore-quarter of beef, that near scunnered the bairns ere we were
done with it.  Things should stand on your papers at their true value."

Deacon Slowcome was not, in reality, more surprised at this outbreak
than he had been when his "fore-quarter of bloody beef" had been
accepted unchallenged, but he professed to be so; and in his elaborate
astonishment allowed Janet's remarks about a slight mistake she had
made, and about the impropriety of "looking a gift horse in the mouth"
to pass unanswered.

"You were at liberty to return the beef if you didn't want it," said he,
with an injured air.

"Weel, I'll mind that next time," said she in a milder tone, by no means
sure how the minister might approve of her plain speaking.  Deacon Fish
made a diversion in favour of peace, by holding up the new
subscription-list, and asking her triumphantly if that "didn't look
well."

"Ay, on paper," said Janet, dryly.  "Figures are no' dollars.  And if
your folk have been thinking that the minister and his family hae been
living only on the bits o' things written down on your paper you are
mistaken.  The gude money that has helped it has been worth far more
than the like o' that, as I ken weel, who hae had the spending o' it;
but I daresay you're no' needing me longer, sir," she added, addressing
the minister, and she left the room.

This matter was not alluded to again for several days, but it did Janet
a deal of good to think about it.  She had no time to indulge in
homesick musings, with so definite a subject of indignant speculation as
the meanness of the deacons.  She "was nettled at herself beyond all
patience" that she should have allowed herself, to fancy that so many of
the things on the paper had been tokens of the people's good-will.

"Two hundred and seventy dollars and more," she repeated.  "Things mount
up, I ken weel; but I maun take another look at it.  And I'll hae more
sense anither time, I'm thinking."

She did not speak to Graeme.  There would be no use to vex her; but she
would fain have had a few words with the minister, but his manner did
not encourage her to introduce the subject.  A circumstance soon
occurred which gave her an opening, and the subject, from first to last,
was thoroughly discussed.

March was nearly over.  The nights were cold still, but the sun was
powerful during the day, and there were many tokens that the earth was
about to wake from her long sleep and prepare for the refreshment of her
children.  "And time for her," sighed Janet, taking a retrospective view
of all that had happened since she saw her face.

The boys had been thrown into a state of great excitement by a proposal
made to them by their friend Mr Snow.  He had offered to give them
sixty of the best trees in his sugar place, with all the articles
necessary to the making of sugar, on terms that, to them, seemed easy
enough.  They were to make their own preparations, gather the sap, cut
their own wood, in short, carry on the business entirely themselves;
and, nothing daunted, they went the very first fine day to see the
ground and make a beginning.  Graeme and the other girls went with them
as far as Mr Snow's house, and Janet was left alone.  The minister was
in his study as usual, and when they were all gone, uncomfortable with
the unaccustomed quietness of the house, she arose and went to the door
and looked rather sadly down the street.  She had not long to indulge
her feelings of loneliness, however.  A sleigh came slowly grating along
the half-bare street, and its occupant, Mr Silas Spears, not one of her
favourites, stopped before the door, and lost no time in "hitching" his
horse to the post.  Janet set him a chair, and waited for the accustomed
question whether the minister was at home, and whether he could see him.

"The body has some sense and discretion," said Janet to herself, as he
announced instead that he "wa'ant a going to stay but a minute, and it
wouldn't be worth while troubling the minister."  He did stay, however,
telling news and giving his opinion on matters and things in general in
a way which was tolerable to Janet in her solitude.  He rose to go at
last.

"I've got a bucket of sugar out here," said he.  "Our folks didn't seem
to want it, and I thought I'd fetch it along down.  I took it to Cook's
store, but they didn't want it, and they didn't care enough about it at
Sheldon's to want to pay for it, so I thought I might as well turn it in
to pay my minister's tax."

So in he came within a minute.

"There's just exactly twenty-nine pounds with the bucket.  Sugar's been
sellin' for twelve and a-half this winter, and I guess I ought to have
that for it, then we'll be about even, according to my calculation."

"Sugar!" ejaculated Janet, touching the solid black mass with her
finger.  "Call you _that_ sugar?"

"Why, yes, I call it sugar.  Not the best, maybe, but it's better than
it looks.  It'll be considerable whiter by the time you drain it off, I
expect."

"And weigh considerable lighter, I expect," said Mrs Nasmyth,
unconsciously imitating Mr Spears' tone and manner in her rising wrath.
"I'm very much obliged to you, but we're in no especial need o' sugar
at this time, and we'll do without a while before we spend good siller
on staff like that."

"Well I'll say eleven cents, or maybe ten, as sugarin' time is 'most
here.  It _ain't_ first-rate," he added, candidly.  "It mightn't just do
for tea, but it's as good as any to sweeten pies and cakes."

"Many thanks to you.  But we're no' given to the makin' o' pies and
cakes in this house.  Plain bread, or a sup porridge and milk does for
us, and it's mair than we're like to get, if things dinna mend with us.
So you'll just take it with you again."

"Well," said Mr Spears, slightly at a loss, "I guess I'll leave it.  I
ain't particular about the price.  Mr Elliott can allow me what he
thinks it worth, come to use it.  I'll leave it anyhow."

"But you'll no' leave it with my consent.  Deacon Slowcome said the
minister wasna needing to take anything he didna want, and the like o'
that we could make no use of."

"The deacon might have said that in a general kind of way, but I rather
guess he didn't mean you to take him up so.  I've been calculating to
pay my minister's tax with that sugar, and I don't know as I've got
anything else handy.  I'll leave it, and if you don't conclude to keep
it, you better speak to the deacon about it, and maybe he'll give you
the money for it.  I'll leave it anyhow."

"But you'll no leave it here," exclaimed Mrs Nasmyth, whose patience
was not proof against his persistence, and seizing the bucket, she
rushed out at the door, and depositing it in the sleigh, was in again
before the astonished Mr Spears quite realised her intention.

"You'll no' find me failing in my duty to the minister, as I hae done
before," exclaimed she, a little breathless with the exertion.  "If the
minister canna hae his stipend paid in good siller as he has been used
wi', he shall at least hae nae trash like yon.  So dinna bring here
again what ither folk winna hae from you, for I'll hae none o' it."

"I should like to see the minister a minute," said Mr Spears, seating
himself with dignity.  "I don't consider that you are the one to settle
this business."

"There's many a thing that you dinna consider that there's sense in,
notwithstanding.  It's just me that is to decide this business, and a'
business where the minister's welfare, as regards meat and drink, is
concerned.  So dinna fash yourself and me mair about it."

"I'd like to see him, anyhow," said he, taking a step towards the
study-door.

"But you'll no' see him about any such matter," and Janet placed herself
before him.  "I'm no' to hae the minister vexed with the like o' that
nonsense to-night, or any night.  I wonder you dinna think shame, to
hold up your face to me, forby the minister.  What kens the minister
about the like o' that?  He has other things to think about.  It's weel
that there's aye me to stand between him and the like o' your `glegs and
corbies'."--And Janet, as her manner was when excited, degenerated into
Scotch to such a degree, that her opponent forgot his indignation in
astonishment, and listened in silence.  Janet was successful.  Mr
Spears was utterly nonplussed, and took his way homeward, by no means
sure that he hadn't been abused!  "Considerable beat, anyhow."

Scarcely had he taken his departure, when Mr Elliott made his
appearance, having had some idea that something unusual had been going
on.  Though loth to do so, Janet thought best to give a faithful account
of what had taken place.  He laughed heartily at her success and Mr
Spears' discomfiture, but it was easy to see he was not quite at his
ease about the matter.

"I am at a loss to know how all this will end," he said, gravely, after
a minute.

"Indeed, sir, you need be at no loss about that.  It will end in a `toom
pantry' for us, and that before very long."

This was the beginning of a conversation with regard to their affairs,
that lasted till the children came home.  Much earnest thought did the
minister bestow on the subject for the next three days, and on the
evening of the fourth, at the close of a full conference meeting, when
most of the members of the church were present, the result of his
meditations was given to the public.  He did not use many words, but
they were to the point.

He told them of the settlement for the past, and the prospect for the
future.  He told them that the value to his family of the articles
brought in, was not equal to their value, as named in the
subscription-lists, their real value he supposed.  They could not live
in comfort on these terms, and they should never try it.  He had a
proposal to make to them.  The deacon had estimated that an annual
amount equal to seven hundred dollars could be raised.  Let each
subscriber deduct a seventh part of what he had promised to pay, and let
the remainder be paid in money to the treasurer, so that he might
receive his salary in quarterly payments.  This would be the means of
avoiding much that was annoying to all parties, and was the only terms
on which he would think it wise to remain in Merleville.

He alluded to a report that had lately reached him, as to his having
money invested in Scotland.  In the hand of a friend he had deposited
sufficient to defray the expenses of his eldest son, until his education
should be completed.  He had no more.  The comfort of his family must
depend upon his salary; and what that was to be, and how it was to be
paid, must be decided without loss of time.

He said just two or three words about his wish to stay, about the love
he felt for many of them, and of his earnest desire to benefit them all.
He had no other desire than to cast in his lot with theirs, and to live
and die among them.  But no real union or confidence could be maintained
between them, while the matter of support was liable at any moment to
become a source of discomfort and misunderstanding to all concerned.  He
added, that as so many were present, perhaps no better time than
to-night could be found for arranging the matter, and so he left them.

There was quite a gathering that night.  Judge Merle was there, and the
deacons, and the Pages, and Mr Spears, and a great many besides.
Behind the door, in a corner seat, sat Mr Snow, and near him, Mr
Greenleaf.  He evidently felt he was not expected to remain, and made a
movement to go, but Sampson laid his hand on his arm.

"Hold on, Squire," he whispered; "as like as not they'd spare us, but
I'm bound to see this through."

There was a long pause.  Then Deacon Fish got up and cleared his throat,
and "felt as though he felt," and went over much ground, without
accomplishing much.  Deacon Slowcome did pretty much the same.  Judge
Merle came a little nearer the mark, and when he sat down, there was a
movement behind the door, and Sampson Snow rose, and stepped out.  He
laid his hand on the door latch, and then turned round and opened his
lips.

"I expect you'll all think it ain't my place to speak in meetin', and I
ain't goin' to say a great deal.  It's no more than two hours or so
since I got home from Rixford, and Squire Stone, he told me that their
minister had given notice that he was goin' to quit.  Goin' to Boston, I
guess.  And the Squire, says he to me, `We've a notion of talking a
little to your Mr Elliott,' and says he, `We wouldn't begrudge him a
thousand dollars cash down, and no mistake.'  So now don't worry any
about the minister.  _He's_ all right, and worth his pay any day.
That's all I've got to say," and Mr Snow opened the door and walked
out.

Sampson's speech was short, but it was the speech of the evening, and
told.  That night, or within a few days, arrangements were made for the
carrying out of the plan suggested by Mr Elliott, with this difference,
that the seventh part was not to be deducted because of money payment.
And the good people of Merleville did not regret their promptitude, when
the very next week there came a deputation from Rixford, to ascertain
whether Mr Elliott was to remain in Merleville, and if not, whether he
would accept an invitation to settle in the larger town.

Mr Elliott's answer was brief and decided.  He had no wish to leave
Merleville while the people wished him to remain.  He hoped never to
leave them while he lived.  And he never did.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

Spring came and went.  The lads distinguished themselves both for the
quantity and quality of their sugar, and highly enjoyed the work
besides.  The free out-of-door life, the camping in the woods beside a
blazing fire, and the company of the village lads who daily and nightly
crowded around them, charmed them from all other pursuits.  Mr Foster
and his mathematics were sadly neglected in these days.  In future they
were to devote themselves to agriculture.

In vain Janet hinted that "new things aye pleased light heads," and
warned them that they were deciding too soon.  In vain Mr Snow said
that it was not sugaring time all the year; and that they should summer
and winter among the hills before they committed themselves to a
farmer's life.  Harry quoted Cincinnatus, and Norman proved to his own
satisfaction, if not to Mr Snow's, that on scientific principles every
farm in Merleville could be cultivated with half the expense, and double
the profits.  Even their father was carried away by their enthusiasm;
and it is to be feared, that if he had had a fortune to invest, it would
have been buried for ever among these beautiful hills of Merleville.

An opportunity to test the strength of the lads' determination, came in
a manner which involved less risk than a purchase would have done.
Early in May a letter was received from Mr Ross, in which he offered to
take the charge of Arthur's education on himself, and, as he was well
able to do so, Mr Elliott saw no reason for refusing the offer.  The
money, therefore, that he had set apart for his son's use, returned to
his hands, and he did a wiser thing than to invest it either in mountain
or valley.

It came, about this time, to the worst, with Mrs Jones and her daughter
Celestia.  The mortgage on the farm could not be paid, even the interest
had fallen far behind, and Squire Skinflint had foreclosed.  Nothing
remained for the widow, but to save what she could from the wreck of a
property that had once been large, and go away to seek a new home for
herself and her children.  On the homestead she was about to leave, the
heart and eyes of Mr Snow had long been fixed.  As a relation of the
widow, he had done what could be done, both by advice and assistance, to
avert the evil day; but the widow was no farmer, and her boys were
children, and the longer she kept the place, the more she must involve
herself; and now that the land must pass from her hands, Sampson would
fain have it pass into his.  But the only condition of sale was for
ready money, and this without great sacrifice he could not obtain.
Meanwhile, others were considering the matter of the purchase, and the
time was short; for there had been some failure in Squire Skinflint's
Western land speculation, and money must be had.  If the widow could
have held it still, Mr Snow would never have desired to have the land;
but what with the many thoughts he had given to it, and the fear of
getting bad neighbours, he had about come to the conclusion that it was
not worth while to farm at all, unless he could have the two farms put
into one.

Just at this juncture, the minister surprised him greatly by asking his
advice about the investment of the money which his brother-in-law's
generosity had placed at his disposal.  A very few words settled the
matter.  The minister lent the money to Mr Snow, and for the annual
interest of the same, he was to have the use of the farm-house and the
ten acres of meadow and pasture land, that lay between it and the pond.
The arrangement was in all respects advantageous to both parties, and
before May was out, the little brown house behind the elms was left in
silence, to await the coming of the next chance tenants; and the
pleasurable excitement of settling down in their new home, filled the
minds of Janet and the bairns.

And a very pleasant home it promised to be.  Even in that beautiful land
of mountain and valley they would have sought in vain for a lovelier
spot.  Sheltered by high hills from the bleak winds of the north and
east, it was still sufficiently elevated to permit a wide view of the
farms and forests around it.  Close below, with only a short, steep
bank, and a wide strip of meadow land between, lay Merle pond, the very
loveliest of the many lovely lakelets, hidden away among these
mountains.  Over on the rising ground beyond the pond stood the
meeting-house, and scattered to the right and left of it were the white
houses of the village, half-hidden by the tall elms and maples that
fringed the village street.  Close by the farm-house, between it and the
thick pine grove on the hill, ran Carson's brook, a stream which did not
disappear in summer-time, as a good many of these hill streams are apt
to do, and which, for several months in the year was almost as worthy of
the name of river as the Merle itself.  Before the house was a large
grassy yard, having many rose-bushes and lilac trees scattered along the
fences and the path that led to the door.  There were shade trees, too.
Once they had stood in regular lines along the road, and round the large
garden.  Some of these had been injured because of the insufficient
fences of late years; but those that remained were trees worthy of the
name of trees.  There were elms whose branches nearly touched each
other, from opposite sides of the wide yard; and great maples that grew
as symmetrically in the open space, as though each spring they had been
clipped and cared for by experienced hands.  There had been locusts
once, but the old trees had mostly died, and there were only a few young
ones springing up here and there, but they were trees before the
children went away from the place which they were now beginning to look
upon as home.

Formerly, there had been a large and handsome garden laid out at the end
of the house, but since trouble had come on the family, its cultivation
had been considered too much expense, and the grass was growing green on
its squares and borders now.  There were a few perennials easy to
cultivate; and annuals such as sow themselves, marigolds and pansies.
There was balm in abundance, and two or three gigantic peonies, in their
season the admiration of all passers by; and beds of useful herbs,
wormwood and sage, and summer savory.  But, though it looked like a
wilderness of weeds the first day they came to see it, Janet's quick eye
foresaw a great deal of pleasure and profit which might be got for the
bairns out of the garden, and, as usual, Janet saw clearly.

There was a chance to find fault with the house, if anyone had at this
time been inclined to find fault with anything.  It was large and
pleasant, but it was sadly out of repair.  Much of it had been little
used of late, and looked dreary enough in its dismantled state.  But all
this was changed after a while, and they settled down very happily in
it, without thinking about any defect it might have, and these
disappeared in time.

For, by and by, all necessary repairs were made by their provident
landlord's own hands.  He had no mind to pay out money for what he could
do himself; and many a wet afternoon did he and his hired man devote to
the replacing of shingles, the nailing on of clapboards, to puttying,
painting, and other matters of the same kind.  A good landlord he was,
and a kind neighbour too; and when the many advantages of their new home
were being told over by the children, the living so near to Mr Snow and
little Emily was never left till the last.

A very pleasant summer thus began to them all.  It would be difficult to
say which of them all enjoyed their new life the most.  But Janet's
prophecy came true.  The _newness_ of farming proved to be its chief
charm to the lads; and if it had been left entirely to them to plant and
sow, and care for, and gather in the harvest, it is to be feared there
would not have been much to show for the summer's work.  But their
father, who was by no means inexperienced in agricultural matters, had
the success of their farming experiment much at heart, and with his
advice and the frequent expostulations and assistance of Mr Snow,
affairs were conducted on their little farm on the whole prosperously.

Not that the lads grew tired of exerting themselves.  There was not a
lazy bone in their bodies, Mr Snow declared, and no one had a better
opportunity of knowing than he.  But their strength and energy were not
exerted always in a direction that would _pay_, according to Mr Snow's
idea of remuneration.  Much time and labour were expended on the
building of a bridge over Carson's brook, between the house and Pine
Grove Hill, and much more to the making of a waterfall above it.  Even
Mr Snow, who was a long time in coming to comprehend why they should
take so much trouble with what was no good but to look at, was carried
away by the spirit of the affair at last, and lent his oxen, and used
his crowbar in their cause, conveying great stones to the spot.  When
the bridge and the waterfall were completed, a path was to be made round
the hill, to the pine grove at the top.  Then, among the pines, there
was a wonderful structure of rocks and stones, covered with mosses and
creeping plants.  The Grotto, the children called it, Mr Snow called it
the Cave.  A wonderful place it was, and much did they enjoy it.  To be
sure, it would not hold them all at once, but the grove would, and the
grotto looked best on the outside, and much pleasure did they get out of
their labours.

The lads did not deserve all the credit of these great works.  The girls
helped, not only with approving eyes and lips, but with expert hands as
well.  Even Graeme grew rosy and sunburnt by being out of doors so much
on bright mornings and evenings, and if it had been always summer-time,
there might have been some danger that even Graeme would not very soon
have come back to the quiet indoor enjoyment of work and study again.

As for Janet, her home-sickness must have been left in the little brown
house behind the elms, for it never troubled her after she came up the
brae.  With the undisputed possession of poultry, pigs and cows, came
back her energy and peace of mind.  The first basket of eggs collected
by the children, the first churning of golden butter which she was able
to display to their admiring gaze, were worth their weight in gold as
helps to her returning cheerfulness.  Not that she valued her dumb
friends for their usefulness alone, or even for the comforts they
brought to the household.  She had a natural love for all dependent
creatures, and petted and provided for her favourites, till they learned
to know and love her in return.  All helpless creatures seemed to come
to her naturally.  A dog, which had been cruelly beaten by his master,
took refuge with her; and being fed and caressed by her hand, could
never be induced to leave her guardianship again.  The very bees, at
swarming time, did not sting Janet, though they lighted in clouds on her
snowy cap and neckerchief; and the little brown sparrows came to share
with the chickens the crumbs she scattered at the door.  And so, hens
and chickens, and little brown sparrows did much to win her from a
regretful remembrance of the past, and to reconcile her to what was
strange--"unco like" in her new home.

Her cows were, perhaps, her prime favourites.  Not that she would
acknowledge them at all equal to "Fleckie" or "Blackie," now, probably,
the favourites of another mistress on the other side of the sea.  But
"Brindle and Spottie were wise-like beasts, with mair sense and
discretion than some folk that she could name," and many a child in
Merleville got less care than she bestowed on them.  Morning and night,
and, to the surprise of all the farmers' wives in Merleville, at noon
too, when the days were long she milked them with her own hands, and
made more and better butter from the two, than even old Mrs Snow, who
prided herself on her abilities in these matters, made from any three on
her pasture.  And when in the fall Mr Snow went to Boston with the
produce of his mother's dairy, and his own farm, a large tub of Janet's
butter went too, for which was to be brought back "tea worth the
drinking, and at a reasonable price," and other things besides, which at
Merleville and at Merleville prices, could not be easily obtained.

The Indian-summer had come again.  Its mysterious haze and hush were on
all things under the open sky, and within the house all was quiet, too.
The minister was in the study, and the bairns were in the pine grove, or
by the water side, or even farther away; for no sound of song or
laughter came from these familiar places.  Janet sat at the open door,
feeling a little dreary, as she was rather apt to do, when left for
hours together alone by the bairns.  Besides, there was something in the
mild air and in the quiet of the afternoon, that "'minded" her of the
time a year ago, when the bairns, having all gone to the kirk on that
first Sabbath-day, she had "near grat herself blind" from utter
despairing home-sickness.  She could now, in her restored peace and
firmness, afford to to feel a little contemptuous of her former self,
yet a sense of sadness crept over her, at the memory of the time, a
slight pang of the old malady stirred at her heart.  Even now, she was
not quite sure that it would be prudent to indulge herself in thoughts
of the old times, lest the wintry days, so fast hastening, might bring
back the old gloom.  So she was not sorry when the sound of footsteps
broke the stillness, and she was pleased, for quite other reasons, when
Mr Snow appeared at the open door.  He did not accept her invitation to
enter, but seated himself on the doorstep.

"Your folks are all gone, are they?" asked he.

"The minister is in his study, and Miss Graeme and the bairns are out
by, some way or other.  Your Emily's with them."

"Yes, I reckoned so.  I've just got home from Rixford.  It wouldn't
amount to much, all I could do to-night, so I thought I'd come along up
a spell."

Janet repeated her kindly welcome.

"The minister's busy, I presume," said he.

"Yes,--as it's Saturday,--but he winna be busy very long now.  If you'll
bide a moment, he'll be out, I daresay."

"There's no hurry.  It's nothing particular."

But Mr Snow was not in his usual spirits evidently, and watching him
stealthily, Janet saw a care-worn anxious expression fastening on his
usually, cheerful face.

"Are you no' weel the night?" she asked.

"Sartain.  I never was sick in my life."

"And how are they all down-by?" meaning at Mr Snow's house, by
"down-by."

"Well, pretty much so.  Only just middling.  Nothing to brag of, in the
way of smartness."

There was a long silence after that.  Mr Snow sat with folded arms,
looking out on the scene before them.

"It's kind o' pleasant here, ain't it?" said he, at last.

"Ay," said Janet, softly, not caring to disturb his musings.  He sat
still, looking over his own broad fields, not thinking of them as his,
however, not calculating the expense of the new saw-mill, with which he
had been threatening to disfigure Carson's brook, just at the point
where its waters fell into the pond.  He was looking far-away to the
distant hills, where the dim haze was deepening into purple, hiding the
mountain tops beyond.  But it could not be hills, nor haze, nor hidden
mountain tops, that had brought that wistful longing look into his eyes,
Janet thought, and between doubt as to what she ought to say, and doubt
as to whether she should say anything at all, she was for a long time
silent.  At last, a thought struck her.

"What for wasna you at the Lord's table, on the Sabbath-day?" asked she.

Sampson gave her a queer look, and a short amused laugh.

"Well, I guess our folks would ha' opened their eyes, if I had undertook
to go there."

Janet looked at him in some surprise.

"And what for no?  I ken there are others of the folk, that let strifes
and divisions hinder them from doing their duty, and sitting down
together.  Though wherefore the like of these things should hinder them
from remembering their Lord, is more than I can understand.  What hae
you been doing, or what has somebody been doing to you?"

There was a pause, and then Sampson looked up and said, gravely.

"Mis' Nasmyth, I ain't a professor.  I'm one of the world's people
Deacon Fish tells about."

Janet looked grave.

"Come now, Mis' Nasmyth, you don't mean to say you thought I was one of
the good ones?"

"You ought to be," said she, gravely.

"Well,--yes, I suppose I ought to.  But after all, I guess there ain't a
great sight of difference between folks,--leastways, between Merleville
folks.  I know all about _them_.  I was the first white child born in
the town, I was raised here, and in some way or other, I'm related to
most folks in town, and I ought to know them all pretty well by this
time.  Except on Sundays, I expect they're all pretty much so.  It
wouldn't do to tell round, but there are some of the world's people,
that I'd full as lief do business with, as with most of the professors.
Now that's a fact."

"You're no' far wrong _there_, I daresay," said Janet, with emphasis.
"But that's neither here nor there, as far as your duty is concerned, as
you weel ken."

"No,--I don't know as it is.  But it kind o' makes me feel as though
there wasn't much in religion, anyway."

Janet looked mystified.  Mr Snow continued.

"Well now, see here, I'll tell you just how it is.  There ain't one of
them that don't think I'm a sinner of the worst kind--gospel hardened.
They've about given me up, I know they have.  Well now, let alone the
talk, I don't believe there's a mite of difference, between me, and the
most of them, and the Lord knows I'm bad enough.  And so you see, I've
about come to the conclusion, that if there is such a thing as religion,
I haven't never come across the real article."

"That's like enough," said Janet, with a groan.  "I canna say that I
have seen muckle o' it myself in this town, out of our own house.  But I
canna see that that need be any excuse to you.  You have aye the word."

"Well, yes.  I've always had the Bible, and I've read it considerable,
but I never seem to get the hang of it, somehow.  And it ain't because I
ain't tried, either.  There was one spell that I was dreadful down, and
says I to myself, if there's comfort to be got out of that old book, I'm
bound to have it.  So I began at the beginning about the creation, and
Adam and Eve, but I didn't seem to get much comfort there.  There was
some good reading, but along over a piece, there was a deal that I could
see nothing to.  Some of the Psalms seemed to kind o' touch the spot,
and the Proverbs _are_ first-rate.  I tell _you_ he knew something of
human nature, that wrote _them_."

"There's one thing you might have learned, before you got far over in
Genesis," said Mrs Nasmyth, gravely, "that you are a condemned sinner.
You should have settled that matter with yourself, before you began to
look for comfort."

"Yes.  I knew that before, but I couldn't seem to make it go.  Then I
thought, maybe I didn't understand it right, so I talked with folks and
went to meeting, and did the best I could, thinking surely what other
folks had got, and I hadn't, would come sometime.  But it didn't.  The
talking, and the going to meeting, didn't help me.

"Now there's Deacon Sterne; he'd put it right to me.  He'd say, says he,
`Sampson, you're a sinner, you know you be.  You've got to give up, and
bow that stiff neck o' your'n to the yoke.'  Well, `I'd say, I'd be glad
to, if I only knew how to.'  Then he'd say, `But you can't do it
yourself, no how.  You're clay in the hands of the potter, and you'll
have to perish, if the Lord don't take right hold to save you.'  Then
says I, `I wish to mercy He would.'  Then he'd talk and talk, but it all
came to about that, `I must, and I couldn't,' and it didn't help me a
mite.

"That was a spell ago, after Captain Jennings' folks went West.  I
wanted to go awfully, but father he was getting old, and mother she
wouldn't hear a word of it.  I was awful discontented, and then, after a
spell, worse came, and I tell _you_, I'd ha' given most anything, to
have got religion, just to have had something to hold on to."

Mr Snow paused.  There was no doubting his earnestness now.  Janet did
not speak, and in a little while he went on again.

"I'd give considerable, just to be sure there's anything in getting
religion.  Sometimes I seem to see that there is, and then again I
think, why don't it help folks more.  Now, there's Deacon Sterne, he's
one of the best of them.  He wouldn't swerve a hair, from what he
believed to be right, not to save a limb.  He is one of the real old
Puritan sort, not a mite like Fish and Slowcome.  But he ain't one of
the meek and lowly, I can tell you.  And he's made some awful mistakes
in his lifetime.  He's been awful hard and strict in his family.  His
first children got along pretty well.  Most of them were girls, and
their mother was a smart woman, and stood between them and their
father's hardness.  And besides, in those days when the country was new,
folks had to work hard, old and young, and that did considerable towards
keeping things straight.  But his boys never thought of their father,
but to fear him.  They both went, as soon as ever they were of age.
Silas came home afterwards, and died.  Joshua went West, and I don't
believe his father has heard a word from him, these fifteen years.  The
girls scattered after their mother died, and then the deacon married
again, Abby Sheldon, a pretty girl, and a good one; but she never ought
to have married him.  She was not made of tough enough stuff, to wear
along side of him.  She has changed into a grave and silent woman, in
his house.  Her children all died when they were babies, except William,
the eldest,--wilful Will, they call him, and I don't know but he'd have
better died too, for as sure as the deacon don't change his course with
him, he'll drive him right straight to ruin, and break his mother's
heart to boot.  Now, what I want to know is--if religion is the powerful
thing it is called, why don't it keep folks that have it, from making
such mistakes in life?"

Janet did not have her answer at her tongue's end, and Sampson did not
give her time to consider.

"Now there's Becky Pettimore, she's got religion.  But it don't keep her
from being as sour as vinegar, and as bitter as gall--"

"Whist, man!" interrupted Janet.  "It ill becomes the like o' you to
speak that way of a poor lone woman like yon--one who never knew what it
was to have a home, but who has been kept down with hard work and little
sympathy, and many another trial.  She's a worthy woman, and her deeds
prove it, for all her sourness.  There's few women in the town that I
respect as I do her."

"Well, that's so.  I know it.  I know she gets a dollar a week the year
round at Captain Liscome's, and earns it, too; and I know she gives half
of it to her aunt, who never did much for her but spoil her temper.  But
it's an awful pity her religion don't make her pleasant."

"One mustna judge another," said Mrs Nasmyth, gently.

"No, and I don't want to.  Only I wish--but there's no good talking.
Still I must say it's a pity that folks who have got religion don't take
more comfort out of it.  Now there's mother; she's a pillar in the
church, and a good woman, I believe, but she's dreadful crank sometimes,
and worries about things as she hadn't ought to.  Now it seems to me, if
I had all they say a Christian has, and expects to have, I'd let the
rest go.  They don't half of them live as if they took more comfort than
I do, and there are spells when I don't take much."

Janet's eyes glistened with sympathy.  There was some surprise in them,
too.  Mr Snow continued--

"Yes, I do get pretty sick of it all by spells.  After father died--and
other things--I got over caring about going out West, and I thought it
as good to settle down on the old place as any where.  So I fixed up,
and built, and got the land into prime order, and made an orchard, a
first-rate one, and made believe happy.  And I don't know but I should
have stayed so, only I heard that Joe Arnold had died out West--he had
married Rachel Jennings, you know; so I got kind of unsettled again, and
went off at last.  Rachel had changed considerable.  She had seen
trouble, and had poor health, and was kind o' run down, but I brought
her right home--her and little Emily.  Well--it didn't suit mother.  I
hadn't said anything to her when I went off.  I hadn't anything to say,
not knowing how things might be with Rachel.  Come to get home, things
didn't go smooth.  Mother worried, and Rachel worried, and life wasn't
what I expected it was going to be, and I worried for a spell.  And Mis'
Nasmyth, if there had been any such thing as getting religion, I should
have got it then, for I tried hard, and I wanted something to help me
bad enough.  There didn't seem to be anything else worth caring about
any way.

"Well, that was a spell ago.  Emily wasn't but three years old when I
brought them home.  We've lived along, taking some comfort, as much as
folks in general, I reckon.  I had got kind of used to it, and had given
up expecting much, and took right hold to make property; and have a good
time, and here is your minister has come and stirred me up, and made me
as discontented with myself and everything else as well."

"You should thank the Lord for that," interrupted Janet, devoutly.

"Well, I don't know about that.  Sometimes when he has been speaking, I
seem to see that there is something better than just to live along and
make property.  But then again, I don't see but it's just what folks do
who have got religion.  Most of the professors that I know--"

"Man!" exclaimed Janet, hotly, "I hae no patience with you and your
professors.  What need you aye to cast them up?  Canna you read your
Bible?  It's that, and the blessing that was never yet withheld from any
one that asked it with humility, that will put you in the way to find
abiding peace, and an abiding portion at the last."

"Just so, Mis' Nasmyth," said Mr Snow, deprecatingly, and there was a
little of the old twinkle in his eye.  "But it does seem as though one
might naturally expect a little help from them that are spoken of as the
lights of the world; now don't it?"

"There's no denying that, but if you must look about you, you needna
surely fix your eyes on such crooked sticks as your Fishes and your
Slowcomes.  It's no breach o' charity to say that _they_ dinna adorn the
doctrine.  But there are other folk that I could name, that are both
light and salt on the earth."

"Well, yes," admitted Sampson; "since I've seen your folks, I've about
got cured of one thing.  I see now there is something in religion with
some folks.  Your minister believes as he says, and has a good time,
too.  He's a good man."

"You may say that, and you would say it with more emphasis if you had
seen him as I have seen him for the last two twelve-months wading
through deep waters."

"Yes, I expect he's just about what he ought to be.  But then, if
religion only changes folks in one case, and fails in ten."

"Man! it never fails!" exclaimed Janet, with kindling eye.  "It never
failed yet, and never will fail while the heavens endure.  And lad! take
heed to yourself.  That's Satan's net spread out to catch your unwary
soul.  It may serve your turn now to jeer at professors, as you call
them, and at their misdeeds that are unhappily no' few; but there's a
time coming when it will fail you.  It will do to tell the like of me,
but it winna do to tell the Lord in `that day.'  You have a stumbling
block in your own proud heart that hinders you more than all the Fishes
and Slowcomes o' them, and you may be angry or no' as you like at me for
telling you."

Sampson opened his eyes.

"But you don't seem to see the thing just as it is exactly.  I ain't
jeering at professors or their misdeeds, I'm grieving for myself.  If
religion ain't changed them, how can I expect that it will change me;
and I need changing bad enough, as you say."

"If it hasna changed them, they have none of it," said Mrs Nasmyth,
earnestly.  "A Christian, and no' a changed man!  Is he no' a sleeping
man awakened, a dead man made alive--born again to a new life?  Has he
not the Spirit of God abiding in him?  And no' changed!--No' that I wish
to judge any man," added she, more gently.  "We dinna ken other folk's
temptations, or how small a spark of grace in the heart will save a man.
We have all reason to be thankful that it's the Lord and no' man that
is to be our judge.  Maybe I have been over hard on those men."

Here was a wonder!  Mrs Nasmyth confessing herself to have been hard
upon the deacons.  Sampson did not speak his thoughts, however.  He was
more moved by his friend's earnestness than he cared to show.

"Well, I expect there's something in it, whether I ever see it with my
own eyes or not," said he, as he rose to go.

"Ay, is there," said Mrs Nasmyth, heartily; "and there's no fear but
you'll see it, when you ask in a right spirit that your eyes may be
opened."

"Mis' Nasmyth," said Sampson, quietly and solemnly, "I may be deceiving
myself in this matter.  I seem to get kind o' bewildered at times over
these things.  But I do think I am in earnest.  Surely I'll get help
some time?"

"Ay--that you will, as God is true.  But oh man! go straight to _Him_.
It's between you and Him, this matter.  But winna you bide still?  I
daresay the minister will soon be at leisure now."

"I guess not.  I hadn't much particular to say to him.  I can just as
well come again."  And without turning his face toward her, he went
away.

Janet looked after him till the turn of the road hid him, saying to
herself,--

"If the Lord would but take him in hand, just to show what He could make
of him.  Something to His praise, I hae no doubt--Yankee though he be.
God forgive me for saying it.  I daresay I hae nae all the charity I
might hae for them, the upsettin' bodies."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

Even in quiet country places, there are changes many and varied wrought
by the coming and going of seven years, and Merleville has had its share
of these since the time the minister's children looked upon the pleasant
place with the wondering eyes of strangers.  Standing on the
church-steps, one looks down on the same still hamlet, and over the same
hills and valleys and nestling farm-houses.  But the woods have receded
in some places, and up from the right comes the sound of clashing
machinery, telling that the Merle river is performing its mission at
last, setting in motion saws and hammers and spindles, but in so
unpretending a manner that no miniature city has sprung up on its banks
as yet; and long may that day be distant.

The trees in the grave-yard cast a deeper shadow, and the white
grave-stones seem to stand a little closer than of old.  The tall, rank
grass has many times been trodden by the lingering feet of the
funeral-train, and fresh sods laid down above many a heart at rest
forever.  Voices beloved, and voices little heeded, have grown silent
during these seven years.  Some have died and have been forgotten; some
have left a blank behind them which twice seven years shall have no
power to fill.

The people have changed somewhat, some for the better, some for the
worse.  Judge Merle has grown older.  His hair could not be whiter than
it was seven years ago, but he is bent now, and never forgets his staff
as he takes his daily walk down the village street; but on his kindly
face rests a look of peace, deeper and more abiding than there used to
be.  His kind and gentle wife is kind and gentle still.  She, too, grows
old, with a brightening face, as though each passing day were bringing
her nearer to her hope's fulfilment.

Deacon Sterne is growing older; his outward man gives no token thereof.
His hair has been iron-grey, at least since anybody in Merleville can
remember, and it is iron-grey still.  He looks as if seven times seven
years could have no power to make his tall form less erect, or to soften
the lines on his dark, grave face.  And yet I am not sure.  They say his
face is changing, and that sometimes in the old meeting-house on Sabbath
afternoons, there has come a look over it as though a bright light fell
on it from above.  It comes at other times, too.  His patient wife,
pretending to look another way as he bends over the cradle of his wilful
William's little son, yet turns stealthily to watch for the coming of
the tender smile she has so seldom seen on her husband's face since the
row of little graves was made in the church-yard long ago.  By the
deacon's fireside sits a pale, gentle woman, Will's bride that was,
Will's sorrowing widow now.  But though the grave has closed over him,
whom his stern father loved better than all the world beside, there was
hope in his death, and the mourner is not uncomforted; and for the
deacon there are happier days in store than time has brought him yet.

Deacon Slowcome has gone West, but, "yearning for the privileges he left
behind,"--or not successful in his gains-getting, is about to return.
Deacon Fish has gone West and has prospered.  Content in his heart to
put the wonderful wheat crops in place of school and meeting, he yet
deplores aloud, and in doleful terms enough, the want of these, and
never ends a letter to a Merleville crony without an earnest adjuration
to "come over and help us."  But on the whole, it is believed that, in
his heart, Deacon Fish will not repine while the grain grows and the
markets prosper.

Mr Page is growing rich, they say, which is a change indeed.  His
nephew, Timothy, having invented a wonderful mowing or reaping-machine,
Mr Page has taken out a patent for the same, and is growing rich.  Mrs
Page enjoys it well, and goes often to Rixford, where she has her gowns
and bonnets made now; and patronises young Mrs Merle, and young Mrs
Greenleaf, and does her duty generally very much to her own
satisfaction, never hearing the whispered doubts of her old friends--
which are audible enough, too--whether she is as consistent as she ought
to be, and whether, on the whole, her new prosperity is promoting her
growth in grace.

Becky Pettimore has got a home of her own, and feels as if she knows how
to enjoy it.  And so she does, if to enjoy it means to pick her own
geese, and spin her own wool, and set her face like a flint against the
admission of a speck of dirt within her own four walls.  But it is
whispered among some people, wise in these matters, that there is
something going to happen in Becky's home, which may, sometime or other,
mar its perfect neatness, without, however, marring Becky's enjoyment of
it.  It may be so, for hidden away in the corner of one of her many
presses, is a little pillow of down, upon which no mortal head has ever
rested, and which no eyes but Becky's own have ever seen; and they fill
with wonder and tenderness whenever they fall upon it; and so there is a
chance that she may yet have more of home's enjoyments than geese or
wool or dustless rooms can give.

Behind the elms, where the old brown house stood, stands now a
snow-white cottage, with a vine-covered porch before it.  It is neat
without and neat within, though often there are children's toys and
little shoes upon the floor.  At this moment there is on the floor a row
of chairs overturned, to make, not horses and carriages as they used to
do in my young days, but a train of cars, and on one of them sits Arthur
Elliott Greenleaf, representing at once engine, whistle, conductor and
freight.  And no bad representative either, as far as noise is
concerned, and a wonderful baby that must be who sleeps in the cradle
through it all.  Beside the window, unruffled amid the uproar, sits
Celestia with her needle in her hand--a little paler, a little thinner
than she used to be, and a little care-worn withal.  For Celestia is
"ambitious," in good housewife phrase, and thereto many in Merleville
and beyond it who like to visit at her well-ordered home.

The squire's newspaper nestles as peacefully amid the din as it used to
do in the solitude of his little office seven years ago.  He is thinner,
too, and older, and more care-worn, and there is a look in his face
suggestive of "appeals" and knotty points of law; and by the wrinkles on
his brow and at the corners of his eyes, one might fancy he is looking
out for the Capitol and the White House in the distance still.  "He is
growing old while he is young," as Mrs Nasmyth says, "Yankees have a
knack of doing--standing still at middle age and never changing more."
But despite the wrinkles, the squire's face is a pleasant one to see,
and he has a way of turning back a paragraph or two to read the choice
bits to Celestia, which proves that he is not altogether absorbed in law
or politics, but that he enjoys all he has, and all he hopes to be, the
more that he has Celestia to enjoy it with him.

As for her, seven years have failed to convince her that Mr Greenleaf
is not the gentlest, wisest, best in all the world.  And as her opinion
has survived an attack of dyspepsia, which for months held the squire in
a giant's gripe, and the horrors of a contested election, in which the
squire was beaten, it is to be supposed it will last through life.  At
this very moment her heart fills to the brim with love and wonder as he
draws his chair a little nearer and says:

"See, here, Celestia.  Listen to what Daniel Webster says," and then
goes on to read.

"Now, what do you think of that?" he asks, with sparkling eyes.  Hers
are sparkling too, and she thinks just as he does, you may be sure,
whatever that may be.  Not that she has a very clear idea of what has
been read, as how could she amid rushing engines and railroad whistles,
and the energetic announcement of the conductor that "the cars have got
to Boston."

"See here, Elliott, my son.  Ain't you tired riding?" asks papa, gently.

"Ain't you afraid you'll wake sister?" says mamma.  "I wouldn't make
quite so much noise, dear."

"Why, mother, I'm the cars," says Elliott.

"But hadn't you better go out into the yard?  Carlo!  Where's Carlo?  I
haven't seen Carlo for a long time.  Where's Carlo?"

It is evident Solomon is not in the confidence of these good people.
Moral suasion is the order of the day.  They often talk very wisely to
each other, about the training of their children, and gravely discuss
the prescriptions given long ago, for the curing of evils which come
into the world with us all.  They would fain persuade themselves that
there is not so much need for them in the present enlightened age.  They
do not quite succeed, however, and fully intend to commence the training
process soon.  Celestia, especially, has some misgivings, as she looks
into the face of her bold, beautiful boy, but she shrinks from the
thought of severe measures, and hopes that it will all come out right
with him, without the wise king's medicine; and if mother's love and
unfailing patience will bring things out right, there need be no fear
for little Elliott.

It is a happy home, the Greenleaf's.  There are ease and comfort without
luxury; there is necessity for exertion, without fear of want.  There
are many good and pretty things in the house, for use and ornament.
There are pictures, books and magazines in plenty, and everything within
and without goes to prove the truth of Mr Snow's declaration, that "the
Greenleafs take their comfort as they go along."

But no change has come to anyone in Merleville, so great as the change
that has come to Mr Snow himself.  Death has been in his dwelling
once--twice.  His wife and his mother have both found rest, the one from
her weary waiting, the other from her cares.  The house to which Sampson
returns with lagging footsteps, is more silent than ever now.

But a change greater than death can make, had come to Sampson first,
preparing him for all changes.  It came to him as the sight of rushing
water comes to the traveller who has been long mocked with the sound of
it.  It came, cleansing from his heart and from his life the dust and
dimness of the world's petty cares, and vain pursuits.  It found him
weary of gains-getting, weary of toiling and moiling amid the dross of
earth for that which could not satisfy, and it gave him for his own, the
pearl which is above all price.  Weary of tossing to and fro, it gave
him a sure resting-place, "a refuge whereunto he may continually
resort," a peace that is abiding.  With its coming the darkness passed
away, and light to cheer and guide was his for evermore.  Behind the
closed blinds of his deserted house, he was not alone.  The promise,
made good to so many in all ages, was made good to him.

"He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and We will come and
make our abode with him."

That wonderful change has come to him, which the world would fain deny--
the change which so many profess to have experienced, but which so few
manifest in their lives.  He has learned of the "meek and lowly."  He is
a Christian at last.  He has "experienced religion," the neighbours say,
looking on with varied feelings to see what the end may be.

Sampson Snow never did anything like anybody else, it was said.  He
"stood it" through "a season of interest," when Deacons Fish and
Slowcome had thought it best to call in the aid of the neighbouring
ministers, to hold "a series of meetings."  Good, prudent men these
ministers were, and not much harm was done, and some good.  Some were
gathered into the Church from the world; some falling back were
restored; some weak ones were strengthened; some sorrowing ones
comforted.  And through all, the interested attention of Mr Snow never
flagged.  He attended all the meetings, listened patiently to the
warnings of Deacon Fish, and the entreaties of Deacon Slowcome.  He
heard himself told by Mr Page that he was on dangerous ground, "within
a few rods of the line of demarcation."  He was formally given up as a
hopeless case, and "left to himself", by all the tender-hearted old
ladies in Merleville, and never left the stand of a spectator through it
all.  Then when Deacons Fish and Slowcome, and all Merleville with them,
settled down into the old gloom again, his visits to the minister became
more frequent, and more satisfactory, it seemed, for in a little time,
to the surprise of all, it was announced in due form, that Sampson Snow
desired to be admitted into fellowship with the Church of Merleville.

After that time his foes watched for his halting in vain.  Different
from other folks before, he was different from them still.  He did not
seem to think his duty for the week was done, when he had gone twice to
meeting on the day time, and had spoken at conference on the Sunday
evening.  Indeed, it must be confessed, that he was rather remiss with
regard to the latter duty.  He did not seem to have the gift of speech
on those occasions.  He did not seem to have the power of advising or
warning, or even of comforting, his neighbours.  His gift lay in helping
them.

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, My brethren, ye
have done it unto Me," were words that Sampson seemed to believe.

"He does folks a good turn, as though he would a little rather do it
than not," said the widow Lovejoy, and no one had a better right to
know.

As for the poor, weak, nervous Rachel, who could only show her love for
her husband, by casting all the burden of her troubles, real and
imaginary, upon him, she could hardly love and trust him more than she
had always done, but he had a greater power of comforting her now, and
soon the peace that reigned in his heart influenced hers a little, and
as the years went on, she grew content, at last, to bear the burdens God
had laid upon her, and being made content to live and suffer on, God
took her burden from her and laid her to rest, where never burden
presses more.

If his mother had ever really believed that no part of her son's
happiness was made by his peevish, sickly wife, she must have
acknowledged her mistake when poor Rachel was borne away forever.  She
must have known it by the long hours spent in her silent room, by the
lingering step with which he left it, by the tenderness lavished on
every trifle she had ever cared for.

"Sampson seemed kind o' lost," she said; and her motherly heart, with
all its worldliness, had a spot in it which ached for her son in his
desolation.  She did not even begrudge his turning to Emily with a
tender love.  She found it in her heart to rejoice that the girl had
power to comfort him as she could not.  And little Emily, growing every
day more like the pretty Rachel who had taken captive poor Sampson's
youthful fancy, did what earnest love could do to comfort him.

But no selfishness mingled with her stepfather's love for Emily.  It
cost him much to decide to send her from him for a while, but he did
decide to do so.  For he could not but see that Emily's happiness was
little cared for by his mother, even yet.  She could not now, as in the
old time, take refuge in her mother's room.  She was helpful about the
house too, and could not often be spared to her friends up the hill, or
in the village; for old Mrs Snow, much as she hated to own it, could no
longer do all things with her own hands, as she used to do.  To be sure,
she could have had help any day, or every day in the year; but it was
one of the old lady's "notions" not to be able "to endure folks around
her."  And, besides, "what was the use of Emily Arnold?"  And so, what
with one thing and another, little Emily's cheek began to grow pale; and
the wilful gaze with which she used to watch her father's home-coming,
came back to her eyes again.

"There is no kind o' use for Emily's being kept at work," said her
father.  "She ain't strong; and there's Hannah Lovejoy would be glad to
come and help, and I'd be glad to pay her for it.  Emily may have a good
time as well as not."

But his mother was not to be moved.

"Girls used to have a good time and work too, when I was young.  Emily
Arnold is strong enough, if folks would let her alone, and not put
notions in her head.  And as for Hannah, I'll have none of her."

So Mr Snow saw that if Emily was to have a good time it must be
elsewhere; and he made up his mind to the very best thing he could have
done for her.  He fitted her out, and sent her to Mount Holyoke
seminary; that school of schools for earnest, ambitions New England
girls.  And a good time she had there, enjoying all that was pleasant,
and never heeding the rest.  There were the first inevitable pangs of
home-sickness, making her father doubt whether he had done best for his
darling after all.  But, in a little, her letters were merry and
healthful enough.  One would never have found out from them anything of
the hardships of long stairs and the fourth storey, or of extra work on
recreation day.  Pleasantly and profitably her days passed, and before
she returned home at the close of the year, Mrs Snow had gone, where
the household work is done without weariness.  Her father would fain
have kept her at home then, but he made no objections to her return to
school as she wished, and he was left to the silent ministrations of
Hannah Lovejoy in the deserted home again.

By the unanimous voice of his brethren in the church, he was, on the
departure of Deacons Fish and Slowcome, elected to fill the place of one
of them, and in his own way he magnified the office.  He was "lonesome,
awful lonesome," at home; but cheerfulness came back to him again, and
there is no one more gladly welcomed at the minister's house, and at
many another house, than he.

There have been changes in the minister's household, too.  When his
course in college was over, Arthur came out to the rest.  He lingered
one delightful summer in Merleville, and then betook himself to Canada,
to study his profession of the law.  For Arthur, wise as the Merleville
people came to think him, was guilty of one great folly in their eye.
He could never, he said, be content to lose his nationality and become a
Yankee; so, for the sake of living in the Queen's dominions, he went to
Canada; a place, in their estimation, only one degree more desirable as
a place of residence than Greenland or Kamtschatka.

That was five years ago.  Arthur has had something of a struggle since
then.  By sometimes teaching dull boys Latin, sometimes acting as
sub-editor for a daily paper, and at all times living with great
economy, he has got through his studies without running much in debt;
and has entered his profession with a fair prospect of success.  He has
visited Merleville once since he went away, and his weekly letter is one
of the greatest pleasures that his father and sisters have to enjoy.

Norman and Harry have both left home, too.  Mr Snow did his best to
make a farmer first of the one and then of the other, but he failed.  To
college they went in spite of poverty, and having passed through
honourably, they went out into the world to shift for themselves.
Norman writes hopefully from the far West.  He is an engineer, and will
be a rich man one day he confidently asserts, and his friends believe
him with a difference.

"He will make money enough," Janet says, "but as to his keeping it,
that's another matter."

Harry went to Canada with the intention of following Arthur's example
and devoting himself to the law, but changed his mind, and is now in the
merchant's counting-room; and sends home presents of wonderful shawls
and gowns to Janet and his sisters, intending to impress them with the
idea that he is very rich indeed.

Those left at home, are content now to be without the absent ones;
knowing that they are doing well their share in the world's work, and
certain that whatever comes to them in their wanderings, whether
prosperity to elate, or adversity to depress them, their first and
fondest thought is, and ever will be, of the loving and beloved ones at
home.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

The Indian-summer-time was come again.  The gorgeous glory of the autumn
was gone, but so, for one day, at least, was its dreariness.  There was
no "wailing wind" complaining among the bare boughs of the elms.  The
very pines were silent.  The yellow leaves, still lingering on the
beech-trees in the hollow, rustled, now and then, as the brown nuts
fell, one by one, on the brown leaves beneath.  The frosts, sharp and
frequent, had changed the torrent of a month ago into a gentle rivulet,
whose murmur could scarce be heard as far as the gate over which Graeme
Elliott leaned, gazing dreamily upon the scene before her.

She was thinking how very lovely it was, and how very dear it had become
to her.  Seen through "the smoky light," the purple hills beyond the
water seemed not so far-away as usual.  The glistening spire of the
church on the hill, and the gleaming grave-stones, seemed strangely
near.  It looked but a step over to the village, whose white houses were
quite visible among the leafless trees, and many farm-houses, which one
could never see in summer for the green leaves, were peeping out
everywhere from between the hills.

"There is no place like Merleville," Graeme thinks in her heart.  It is
home to them all now.  There were few but pleasant associations
connected with the hills, and groves, and homesteads over which she was
gazing.  It came very vividly to her mind, as she stood there looking
down, how she had stood with the bairns that first Sabbath morning on
the steps of the old meeting-house; and she strove to recall her feeling
of shyness and wonder at all that she saw, and smiled to think how the
faces turned to them so curiously that day were become familiar now, and
some of them very dear.  Yes; Merleville was home to Graeme.  Not that
she had forgotten the old home beyond the sea.  But the thought of it
came with no painful longing.  Even the memory of her mother brought now
regret, indeed, and sorrow, but none of the loneliness and misery of the
first days of loss, for the last few years had been very happy years to
them all.

And yet, as Graeme stood gazing over to the hills and the village, a
troubled, vexed look came over her face, and, with a gesture of
impatience, she turned away from it all and walked up and down among the
withered leaves outside the gate with an impatient tread.  Something
troubled her with an angry trouble that she could not forget; and though
she laughed a little, too, as she muttered to herself, it was not a
pleasant laugh, and the vexed look soon came back again, indeed, it
never went away.

"It is quite absurd," she murmured, as she came within the gate, and
then turned and leaned over it.  "I won't believe it; and yet--oh, dear!
what shall we ever do if it happens?"

"It's kind o' pleasant here, ain't it?" said a voice behind her.  Graeme
started more violently than there was any occasion for.  It was only Mr
Snow who had been in the study with her father for the last hour, and
who was now on his way home.  Graeme scarcely answered him, but stood
watching him, with the troubled look deepening on her face, as he went
slowly down the road.

Mr Snow had changed a good deal within these few years.  He had grown a
great deal greyer and graver, and Graeme thought, with a little pang of
remorse, as she saw him disappear round the turn of the road, that she
had, by her coldness, made him all the graver.  And yet she only half
regretted it; and the vexed look came back to her face again, as she
gathered up her work that had fallen to the ground and turned toward the
house.

There was no one in the usual sitting-room, no one in the bright kitchen
beyond, and, going to the foot of the stairs, Graeme raises her voice,
which has an echo of impatience in it still, and calls:

"Mrs Nasmyth."

For Janet is oftener called Mrs Nasmyth than the old name, even by the
bairns now, except at such times as some wonderful piece of coaxing is
to be done, and then she is Janet, the bairn's own Janet still.  There
was no coaxing echo in Graeme's voice, however, but she tried to chase
the vexed shadow from her face as her friend came slowly down the
stairs.

"Are you not going to sit down?" asked Graeme, as she seated herself on
a low stool by the window.  "I wonder where the bairns are?"

"The bairns are gone down the brae," said Mrs Nasmyth; "and I'm just
going to sit down to my seam a wee while."

But she seemed in no hurry to sit down, and Graeme sat silent for a
little, as she moved quietly about the room.

"Janet," said she, at last, "what brings Deacon Snow so often up here of
late?"

Janet's back was toward Graeme, and, without turning round, she
answered:

"I dinna ken that he's oftener here than he used to be.  He never stayed
long away.  He was ben the house with the minister.  I didna see him."
There was another pause.

"Janet," said Graeme again, "what do you think Mrs Greenleaf told me
all Merleville is saying?"

Janet expressed no curiosity.

"They say Deacon Snow wants to take you down the brae."

Still Mrs Nasmyth made no answer.

"He hasna ventured to hint such a thing?" exclaimed Graeme
interrogatively.

"No' to me," said Janet, quietly, "but the minister."

"The minister!  He's no' blate!  To think of him holding up his face to
my father and proposing the like of that!  And what did my father say?"

"I dinna ken what he said to him; but to me he said he was well pleased
that it should be so, and--"

"Janet!"  Graeme's voice expressed consternation as well as indignation,
Mrs Nasmyth took no notice, but seated herself to her stocking-darning.

"Janet!  If you think of such a thing for a moment, I declare I'll take
second thoughts and go away myself."

"Weel, I aye thought you might have done as weel to consider a wee afore
you gave Mr Foster his answer," said Janet, not heeding Graeme's
impatient answer.

"Janet!  A sticket minister!"

"My dear, he's no' a sticket minister.  He passed his examinations with
great credit to himself.  You hae your father's word for that, who was
there to hear him.  And he's a grand scholar--that's weel kent; and
though he mayna hae the gift o' tongues like some folk, he may do a
great deal of good in the world notwithstanding.  And they say he has
gotten the charge of a fine school now, and is weel off.  I aye thought
you might do worse than go with him.  He's a good lad, and you would
have had a comfortable home with him."

"Thank you.  But when I marry it won't be to get a comfortable home.
I'm content with the home I have."

"Ay, if you could be sure of keeping it," said Janet, with a sigh; "but
a good man and a good home does not come as an offer ilka day."

"The deacon needna be feared to leave his case in your hands, it seems,"
said Graeme, laughing, but not pleasantly.

"Miss Graeme, my dear," said Mrs Nasmyth, gravely, "there's many a
thing to be said of that matter; but it must be said in a different
spirit from what you are manifesting just now.  If I'm worth the keeping
here, I'm worth the seeking elsewhere, and Deacon Snow has as good a
right as another."

"Right, indeed!  Nobody has any right to you but ourselves.  You are
ours, and we'll never, never let you go."

"It's no' far down the brae," said Janet, gently.

"Janet!  You'll never think of going!  Surely, surely, you'll never
leave us now.  And for a stranger, too!  When you gave up your own
mother and Sandy, and the land you loved so well, to come here with
us--!"  Graeme could not go on for the tears that would not be kept
back.

"Miss Graeme, my dear bairn, you were needing me then.  Nae, hae
patience, and let me speak.  You are not needing me now in the same way.
I sometimes think it would be far better for you if I wasna here."

Graeme dissented earnestly by look and gesture, but she had no words.

"It's true though, my dear.  You can hardly say that you are at the head
of your father's house, while I manage all things, as I do."

But Graeme had no desire to have it otherwise.

"You can manage far best," said she.

"That's no to be denied," said Mrs Nasmyth, gravely; "but it ought not
to be so.  Miss Graeme, you are no' to think that I am taking upon
myself to reprove you.  But do you think that your present life is the
best to fit you for the duties and responsibilities that, sooner or
later, come to the most of folk in the world?  It's a pleasant life, I
ken, with your books and your music, and your fine seam, and the
teaching o' the bairns; but it canna last; and, my dear, is it making
you ready for what may follow?  It wouldna be so easy for you if I were
away, but it might be far better for you in the end!"

There was nothing Graeme could answer to this, so she leaned her head
upon her hand, and looked out on the brown leaves lying beneath the
elms.

"And if I should go," continued Janet, "and there's many an if between
me and going--but if I should go, I'll be near at hand in time of
need--"

"I know I am very useless," broke in Graeme.  "I don't care for these
things as I ought--I have left you with too many cares, and I don't
wonder that you want to go away."

"Whist, lassie.  I never yet had too much to do for your mother's
bairns; and if you have done little it's because you havena needed.  And
if I could aye stand between you and the burdens of life, you needna
fear trouble.  But I canna.  Miss Graeme, my dear, you were a living
child in your mother's arms before she was far past your age, and your
brother was before you.  Think of the cares she had, and how she met
them."

Graeme's head fell lower, as she repeated her tearful confession of
uselessness, and for a time there was silence.

"And, dear," said Janet, in a little, "your father tells me that Mr
Snow has offered to send for my mother and Sandy.  And oh! my bairn, my
heart leaps in my bosom at the thought of seeing their faces again."
She had no power to add more.

"But, Janet, your mother thought herself too old to cross the sea when
we came, and that is seven years ago."

"My dear, she kenned she couldna come, and it was as well to put that
face on it.  But she would gladly come now, if I had a home to give
her."

There was silence for a while, and then Graeme said,--

"It's selfish in me, I know, but, oh!  Janet, we have been so happy
lately, and I canna bear to think of changes coming."

Mrs Nasmyth made no answer, for the sound of the bairns' voices came in
at the open door, and in a minute Marian entered.

"Where have you been, dear?  I fear you have wearied yourself," said
Janet, tenderly.

"We have only been down at Mr Snow's barn watching the threshing.  But,
indeed, I have wearied myself."  And sitting down on the floor at
Janet's feet, she laid her head upon her lap.  A kind, hard hand was
laid on the bright hair of the bonniest of a' the bairns.

"You mustna sit down here, my dear.  Lie down on the sofa and rest
yourself till the tea be ready.  Have you taken your bottle to-day?"

Marian made her face the very picture of disgust.

"Oh!  Janet, I'm better now.  I dinna need it.  Give it to Graeme.  She
looks as if she needed something to do her good.  What ails you,
Graeme?"

"My dear," remonstrated Janet, "rise up when I bid you; and go to the
sofa, and I'll go up the stair for the bottle."

Marian laid herself wearily down.  In a moment Mrs Nasmyth reappeared
with a bottle and spoon in one hand, and a pillow in the other, and when
the bitter draught was fairly swallowed, Marian was laid down and
covered and caressed with a tenderness that struck Graeme as strange;
for though Janet loved them all well, she was not in the habit of
showing her tenderness by caresses.  In a little, Marian slept.  Janet
did not resume her work immediately, but sat gazing at her with eyes as
full of wistful tenderness as ever a mother's could have been.  At
length, with a sigh, she turned to her basket again.

"Miss Graeme," said she, in a little, "I dinna like to hear you speak
that way about changes, as though they did not come from God, and as
though He hadna a right to send them to His people when He pleases."

"I canna help it, Janet.  No change that can come to us can be for the
better."

"That's true, but we must even expect changes that are for the worse;
for just as sure as we settle down in this world content, changes will
come.  You mind what the Word says, `As an eagle stirreth up her nest.'
And you may be sure, if we are among the Lord's children, He'll no leave
us to make a portion of the rest and peace that the world gives.  He is
kinder to us than we would be to ourselves."

A restless movement of the sleeper by her side, arrested Janet's words,
and the old look of wistful tenderness came back into her eyes as she
turned toward her.  Graeme rose, and leaning over the arm of the sofa,
kissed her softly.

"How lovely she is!" whispered she.

A crimson flush was rising on Marian's cheeks as she slept.

"Ay, she was aye bonny," said Janet, in the same low voice, "and she
looks like an angel now."

Graeme stood gazing at her sister, and in a little Janet spoke again.

"Miss Graeme, you canna mind your aunt Marian?"

No, Graeme could not.

"Menie is growing very like her, I think.  She was bonnier than your
mother even, and she kept her beauty to the very last.  You ken the
family werena well pleased when your mother married, and the sisters
didna meet often till Miss Marian grew ill.  They would fain have had
her away to Italy, or some far awa' place, but nothing would content her
but just her sister, her sister, and so she came home to the manse.
That was just after I came back again, after Sandy was weaned; and kind
she was to me, the bonny, gentle creature that she was.

"For a time she seemed better, and looked so blooming--except whiles,
and aye so bonny, that not one of them all could believe that she was
going to die.  But one day she came in from the garden, with a bonny
moss-rose in her hand--the first of the season--and she said to your
mother she was wearied, and lay down; and in a wee while, when your
mother spoke to her again, she had just strength to say that she was
going, and that she wasna feared, and that was all.  She never spoke
again."

Janet paused to wipe the tears from her face.

"She was good and bonny, and our Menie, the dear lammie, has been
growing very like her this while.  She 'minds me on her now, with the
long lashes lying over her cheeks.  Miss Marian's cheeks aye reddened
that way when she slept.  Her hair wasna so dark as our Menie's, but it
curled of itself, like hers."

Mrs Nasmyth turned grave pitying eyes toward Graeme, as she ceased
speaking.  Graeme's heart gave a sudden painful throb, and she went very
pale.

"Janet," said she, with difficulty, "there is not much the matter with
my sister, is there?  It wasna that you meant about changes!  Menie's
not going to die like our bonny Aunt Marian!"  Her tones grew shrill and
incredulous as she went on.

"I cannot tell.  I dinna ken--sometimes I'm feared to think how it may
end.  But oh!  Miss Graeme--my darling--"

"But it is quite impossible--it can't be, Janet," broke in Graeme.

"God knows, dear."  Janet said no more.  The look on Graeme's face
showed that words would not help her to comprehend the trouble that
seemed to be drawing near.  She must be left to herself a while, and
Janet watched her as she went out over the fallen leaves, and over the
bridge to the pine grove beyond, with a longing pity that fain would
have borne her trouble for her.  But she could not bear it for her--she
could not even help her to bear it.  She could only pray that whatever
the end of their doubt for Marian might be, the elder sister might be
made the better and the wiser for the fear that had come to her to-day.

There are some sorrows which the heart refuses to realise or
acknowledge, even in knowing them to be drawing near.  Possible danger
or death to one beloved is one of these; and as Graeme sat in the shadow
of the pines shuddering with the pain and terror which Janet's words had
stirred, she was saying it was impossible--it could not be true--it
could never, _never_ be true, that her sister was going to die.  She
tried to realise the possibility, but she could not.  When she tried to
pray that the terrible dread might be averted, and that they might all
be taught to be submissive in God's hands, whatever His will might be,
the words would not come to her.  It was, "No, no! no, no! it cannot
be," that went up through the stillness of the pines; the cry of a heart
not so much rebellious as incredulous of the possibility of pain so
terrible.  The darkness fell before she rose to go home again, and when
she came into the firelight to the sound of happy voices, Menie's the
most mirthful of them all, her terrors seemed utterly unreasonable, she
felt like one waking from a painful dream.

"What could have made Janet frighten herself and me so?" she said, as
she spread out her cold hands to the blaze, all the time watching her
sister's bright face.

"Graeme, tea's over.  Where have you been all this time?" asked Rose.

"My father was asking where you were.  He wants to see you," said Will.

"I'll go ben now," said Graeme, rising.

The study lamp was on the table unlighted.  The minister was sitting in
the firelight alone.  He did not move when the door opened, until Graeme
spoke.

"I'm here, papa.  Did you want me?"

"Graeme, come in and sit down.  I have something to say to you."

She sat down, but the minister did not seem in haste to speak.  He was
looking troubled and anxious, Graeme thought; and it suddenly came into
her mind as she sat watching him, that her father was growing an old
man.  Indeed, the last seven years had not passed so lightly over him as
over the others.  The hair which had been grey on his temples before he
reached his prime, was silvery white now, and he looked bowed and weary
as he sat there gazing into the fire.  It came into Graeme's mind as she
sat there in the quiet room, that there might be other and sadder
changes before them, than even the change that Janet's words had
implied.

"My dear," said the minister, at last, "has Mrs Nasmyth been speaking
to you?"

"About--" Menie, she would have asked, but her tongue refused to utter
the word.

"About Mr Snow," said her father, with a smile, and some hesitation.
Graeme started.  She had quite forgotten.

"Mrs Greenleaf told me something--and--"

"I believe it is a case of true love with him, if such a thing can come
to a man after he is fifty--as indeed why should it not?" said the
minister.  "He seems bent on taking Janet from us, Graeme."

"Papa! it is too absurd," said Graeme, all her old vexation coming back.
Mr Elliott smiled.

"I must confess it was in that light I saw it first, and I had well nigh
been so unreasonable as to be vexed with our good friend.  But we must
take care, lest we allow our own wishes to interfere with what may be
for Mrs Nasmyth's advantage."

"But, papa, she has been content with us all these years.  Why should
there be a change now?"

"If the change is to be for her good, we must try to persuade her to it,
however.  But, judging from what she said to me this afternoon, I fear
it will be a difficult matter."

"But, papa, why should we seek to persuade her against her own
judgment."

"My dear, we don't need to persuade her against her judgment, but
against her affection for us.  She only fears that we will miss her
sadly, and she is not quite sure whether she ought to go and leave us."

"But she has been quite happy with us."

"Yes, love--happy in doing what she believed to be her duty--as happy as
she could be so far separated from those whom she must love better than
she loves us even.  I have been thinking of her to-night, Graeme.  What
a self-denying life Janet's has been!  She must be considered first in
this matter."

"Yes, if it would make her happier--but it seems strange that--"

"Graeme, Mr Snow is to send for her mother and her son.  I could see
how her heart leapt up at the thought of seeing them, and having them
with her again.  It will be a great happiness for her to provide a home
for her mother in her old age.  And she ought to have that happiness
after such a life as hers."

Graeme sighed, and was silent.

"If we had golden guineas to bestow on her, where we have copper coins
only, we could never repay her love and care for us all; and it will be
a matter of thankfulness to me to know that she is secure in a home of
her own for the rest of her life."

"But, papa, while we have a home, she will never be without one."

"I know, dear, while we have a home.  You need not tell me that; but
Graeme, there is only my frail life between you and homelessness.  Not
that I fear for you.  You are all young and strong, and the God whom I
have sought to serve, will never leave my children.  But Janet is
growing old, Graeme, and I do think this way has been providentially
opened to her."

"If it were quite right to marry for a home, papa--" Graeme hesitated
and coloured.  Her father smiled.

"Mrs Nasmyth is not so young as you, my dear.  She will see things
differently.  And besides, she always liked and respected Mr Snow.  I
have no doubt she will be very happy with him."

"We all liked him," said Graeme, sighing.  "But oh!  I dread changes.  I
can't bear to break up our old ways."

"Graeme," said her father, gravely, "changes must come, and few changes
can be for the better, as far as we are concerned.  We have been very
happy of late--so happy that I fear we were in danger of sitting down
contented with the things of this life, and we need reminding.  We may
think ourselves happy if no sadder change than this comes to us."

The thought of Menie came back to Graeme, with a pang, but she did not
speak.

"I know, dear," said her father, kindly, "this will come hardest upon
you.  It will add greatly to your cares to have Mrs Nasmyth leave us,
but you are not a child now, and--"

"Oh, papa! it is not that--I mean it is not that altogether, but--"
Graeme paused.  She was not sure of her voice, and she could not bear to
grieve her father.  In a little, she asked.

"When is it to be?"

"I don't know, indeed, but soon, I suppose; and my dear child, I trust
to you to make smooth much that might otherwise be not agreeable in this
matter to us all.  The change you dread so much, will not be very great.
Our kind friend is not going very far-away, and there will be pleasant
things connected with the change.  I have no doubt, it will be for the
best."

"Shall I light your lamp, papa?" said Graeme, in a little while.

"No, love, not yet.  I have no mind for my book to-night."

Graeme stirred the fire, and moved about the room a little.  When she
opened the door, the sound of the children's voices came in merrily, and
she shrunk from going out into the light.  So she sat down in her
accustomed place by the window, and thought, and listened to the sighs,
that told her that her father was busy with anxious thoughts, too.

"Only my frail life between my children and homelessness," he had said.
It seemed to Graeme, as she sat there in the darkness, that since the
morning, everything in the world had changed.  They had been so at rest,
and so happy, and now it seemed to her, that they could never settle
down to the old quiet life again.

"As an eagle stirreth up her nest," she murmured to herself.  "Well, I
ought no' to fear the changes He brings--But, oh!  I am afraid."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

The rest of the bairns received the tidings of the change that was going
to take place among them, in a very different way from Graeme.  Their
astonishment at the idea of Janet's marriage was great, but it did not
equal their delight.  Graeme was in the minority decidedly, and had to
keep quiet.  But then Janet was in the minority, too, and Mr Snow's
suit was anything but prosperous for some time.  Indeed, he scarcely
ventured to show his face at the minister's house, Mrs Nasmyth was so
evidently out of sorts, anxious and unhappy.  Her unhappiness was
manifested by silence chiefly, but the silent way she had of ignoring
Sampson and his claims, discouraging all approach to the subject, that
lay so near the good deacon's heart, was worse to bear than open rebuff
would have been; and while Mrs Nasmyth's silence grieved Mr Snow, the
elaborate patience of his manner, his evident taking for granted that
"she would get over it," that "it would all come right in the end," were
more than she could sometimes patiently endure.

"He's like the lave o' them," said she to Graeme one day, after having
closed the door, on his departure, with more haste than was at all
necessary.  "Give a man an inch, and he'll take an ell.  Because I didna
just set my face against the whole matter, when the minister first spoke
about it, he's neither to hold nor bind, but `when will it be?' and
`when will it be?' till I have no peace of my life with him."

Graeme could not help laughing at her excitement.

"But, when will it be?" asked she.

"My dear, I'm no sure that it will ever be."

"Janet!" exclaimed Graeme.  "What has happened?"

"Nothing has happened; but I'm no' sure but I ought to have put a stop
to the matter at the very first.  I dinna weel ken what to do."

"Janet," said Graeme, speaking with some embarrassment, "my father
thinks it right, and it does not seem so--so strange as it did at
first--and you should speak to Mr Snow about it, at any rate."

"To put him out o' pain," said Janet, smiling grimly.  "There's no fear
o' him.  But I'll speak to him this very night."

And so she did, and that so kindly, that the deacon, taking heart,
pleaded his own cause, with strong hopes of success.  But Janet would
not suffer herself to be entreated.  With tearful eyes, she told him of
her fears for Marian, and said, "It would seem like forsaking the bairns
in their trouble, to leave them now."  Mr Snow's kind heart was much
shocked at the thought of Marian's danger.  She had been his favourite
among the bairns, and Emily's chief friend from the very first, and he
could not urge her going away, now that there was so sorrowful a reason
for her stay.

"So you'll just tell the minister there is to be no more said about it.
He winna ask any questions, I dare say."

But in this Janet was mistaken.  He did ask a great many questions, and
failing to obtain satisfactory answers, took the matter into his own
hands, and named an early day for the marriage.  In vain Janet protested
and held back.  He said she had been thinking of others all her life,
till she had forgotten how to think of herself, and needed some one to
think and decide for her.  As to Marian's illness being an excuse, it
was quite the reverse.  If she was afraid Marian would not be well cared
for at home, she might take her down the brae; indeed, he feared there
was some danger that he would be forsaken of all his children when she
went away.  And then he tried to thank her for her care of his
motherless bairns, and broke down into a silence more eloquent than
words.

"And, my dear friend," said he, after a little, "I shall feel, when I am
to be taken away, I shall not leave my children desolate, while they
have you to care for them."

So for Mrs Nasmyth there was no help.  But on one thing she was
determined.  The day might be fixed, but it must be sufficiently distant
to permit the coming home of the lads, if they could come.  They might
come or not, as it pleased them, but invited they must be.  She would
fain see them all at home again, and that for a better reason than she
gave the minister.  To Mr Snow, who doubted whether "them boys" would
care to come so far at such expense, she gave it with a sadder face than
he had ever seen her wear.

"If they are not all together soon, they may never be together on earth
again; and it is far better that they should come home, and have a few
blithe days to mind on afterward, than that their first home-coming
should be to a home with the shadow of death upon it.  They must be
asked, any way."

And so they were written to, and in due time there came a letter, saying
that both Harry and Arthur would be home for a week at the time
appointed.  From Norman there came no letter, but one night, while they
were wondering why, Norman came himself.  His first greeting to Janet
was in words of grave expostulation, that she should think of forsaking
her "bairns" after all these years; but when he saw how grave her face
became, he took it all back, and declared that he had been expecting it
all along, and only wondered that matters had not been brought to a
crisis much sooner.  He rejoiced Mr Snow's heart, first by his hearty
congratulations, and then by his awful threats of vengeance if Mrs Snow
was not henceforth the happiest woman in Merleville.

Norman was greatly changed by his two years' absence, more than either
of his brothers, the sisters thought.  Arthur was just the same as ever,
though he was an advocate and a man of business; and Harry was a boy
with a smooth chin and red cheeks, still.  But, with Norman's brown,
bearded face the girls had to make new acquaintance.

But, though changed in appearance, it was in appearance only.  Norman
was the same mirth-loving lad as ever.  He was frank and truthful, too,
if he was still thoughtless; and Graeme told herself many a time, with
pride and thankfulness, that as yet, the world had not changed for the
worse, the brother for whom she had dreaded its temptations most of all.

Norman's letters had always been longest and most frequent; and yet, it
was he who had the most to tell.  If his active and exposed life as an
engineer at the West had anything unpleasant in it, this was kept out of
sight at home, and his adventures never wearied the children.  His "once
upon a time" was the signal for silence and attention among the little
ones; and even the older ones listened with interest to Norman's
rambling stories.  Nor did their interest cease when the sparkle in
Norman's eye told that his part in the tale was ended; and the
adventures of an imaginary hero begun.

There was one story which they were never tired of hearing.  It needed
none of Norman's imaginary horrors to chase the blood from the cheeks of
his sisters, when it was told.  It was the story of the burning
steamboat, and how little Hilda Bremer had been saved from it; the only
one out of a family of eight.  Father, mother, brothers, all perished
together; and she was left alone in a strange land, with nothing to keep
here from despair but the kind words of strangers, uttered in a tongue
that she could not understand.  It would, perhaps, have been wiser in
Norman to have given her up to the kind people who had known her parents
in their own land; but he had saved the child's life, and when she clung
to him in her sorrow, calling him dear names in her own tongue, he could
not bear to send her away.

"These people were poor, and had many children of their own," said
Norman.  "I would have thought it a hard lot for Menie or Rosie to go
with them; and when she begged to stay with me, I could not send her
with them.  If it had not been so far, I would have sent her to you,
Graeme.  But as I could not do that, I kept her with me while I stayed
in C, and there I sent her to school.  They say she bids fair to be a
learned lady some day."

This was an item of news that Norman's letters had not conveyed.  They
only knew that he had saved Hilda from the burning boat, and that he had
been kind to her afterwards.

"But Norman, man, the expense!" said the prudent Mrs Nasmyth, "you
havena surely run yourself in debt?"  Norman laughed.

"No; but it has been close shaving sometimes.  However, it would have
been that anyway.  I am afraid I have not the faculty for keeping money,
and I might have spent it to worse purpose."

"And is the little thing grateful?" asked Graeme.

"Oh! yes; I suppose so.  She is a good little thing, and is always glad
to see me in her quiet way."

"It's a pity she's no' bonny," said Marian.

"Oh! she is bonny in German fashion; fair and fat."

"How old is she?" asked Mrs Nasmyth.

Norman considered.

"Well, I really can't say.  Judging by her inches, I should say about
Rosie's age.  But she is wise enough and old-fashioned enough to be
Rosie's grandmother.  She's a queer little thing."

"Tell us more," said Rose; "do you go to see her often?"

"As often as I can.  She is very quiet; she was the only girl among the
eight, and a womanly little thing even then.  You should hear her talk
about her little business matters.  My dear Mrs Nasmyth, you need not
be afraid of my being extravagant, with such a careful little woman to
call me to account.

"I have a great mind to send her home to you in the spring, Graeme.  It
seems very sad for a child like her to be growing up with no other home
but a school.  She seems happy enough, however."

"And would she like to come?"

"She says she wouldn't; but, of course, she would like it, if she were
once here.  I must see about it in the spring."

The wedding-day came, and in spite of many efforts to prevent it, it was
rather a sad day to them all.  It found Janet still "in a swither."  She
could not divest herself of the idea that she was forsaking "the
bairns."

"And, Oh!  Miss Graeme, my dear, if it werena for the thought of seeing
my mother and Sandy, my heart would fail me quite.  And are you quite
sure that you are pleased now, dear?"

"Janet, it was because I was selfish that I wasna pleased from the very
first; and you are not really going away from us, only just down the
brae."

Graeme did not look very glad, however.  But if the wedding-day was
rather sad, Thanksgiving-day, that soon followed, was far otherwise.  It
was spent at the Deacon's.  Miss Lovejoy distinguished herself forever
by her chicken-pies and fixings.  Mr and Mrs Snow surpassed themselves
as host and hostess; and even the minister was merry with the rest.
Emily was at home for the occasion; and though at first she had been at
a loss how to take the change, Menie's delight decided her, and she was
delighted, too.

They grew quiet in the evening but not sad.  Seated around the fire in
the parlour, the young people spoke much of the time of their coming to
Merleville.  And then, they went further back, and spoke about their old
home, and their mother, and their long voyage on the "Steadfast."

"I wonder what has become of Allan Ruthven," said Marian.  "It's strange
that you have never seen him, Arthur."

"I may have seen him twenty times without knowing him.  You mind, I was
not on the `Steadfast' with you."

"But Harry saw him; and, surely, he could not have changed so much but
that he would know him now if he saw him."

"And do you know no one of the name?" asked Graeme.

"I have heard of several Ruthvens in Canada West.  And the house of
Elphinstone and Gilchrist have a Western agent of that name.  Do you
know anything about him, Harry?  Who knows but he may be Allan Ruthven
of the `Steadfast.'"

"No, I thought he might be, and made inquiries," said Harry.  "But that
Ruthven seems quite an old fogey.  He has been in the employment of that
firm ever since the flood,--at least, a long time.  Do you mind Allan
Ruthven, Menie?"

"Mind him!"  That she did.  Menie was very quiet to-night, saying
little, but listening happily as she lay on the sofa, with her head on
Graeme's knee.

"Allan was the first one I heard say our Menie was a beauty," said
Norman.  "Menie, do you mind?"

Menie laughed.  "Yes, I mind."

"But I think Rosie was his pet.  Graeme, don't you mind how he used to
walk up and down the deck, with Rosie in his arms?"

"But that was to rest Graeme," said Harry.  "Miss Rosie was a small
tyrant in those days."

Rosie shook her head at him.

"Eh! wasna she a cankered fairy?" said Norman, taking Rosie's fair face
between his hands.  "Graeme had enough ado with you, I can tell you."

"And with you, too.  Never heed him, Rosie," said Graeme, smiling at her
darling.

"I used to admire Graeme's patience on the `Steadfast'," said Harry.

"I did that before the days of the `Steadfast,'" said Arthur.

Rosie pouted her pretty lips.

"I must have been an awful creature."

"Oh! awful," said Norman.

"A spoilt bairn, if ever there was one," said Harry.  "I think I see you
hiding your face, and refusing to look at any of us."

"I never thought Graeme could make anything of you," said Norman.

"Graeme has though," said the elder sister, laughing.  "I wouldna give
my bonny Scottish Rose, for all your western lilies, Norman."

And so they went on, jestingly.

"Menie," said Arthur, suddenly, "what do you see in the fire?"

Menie was gazing with darkening eyes, in among the red embers.  She
started when her brother spoke.

"I see--Oh! many things.  I see our old garden at home,--in Clayton, I
mean--and--"

"It must be an imaginary garden, then.  I am sure you canna mind that."

"Mind it! indeed I do.  I see it as plainly as possible, just as it used
to be.  Only somehow, the spring and summer flowers all seem to be in
bloom together.  I see the lilies and the daisies, and the tall white
rose-bushes blossoming to the very top."

"And the broad green walk," said Harry.

"And the summer-house."

"And the hawthorn hedge."

"And the fir trees, dark and high."

"And the two apple trees."

"Yes,--the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
I used to think them," said Norman.

"And I, too," said Menie.  "Whenever I think of the garden of Eden, I
fancy it like our garden at home."

"Your imagination is not very brilliant, if you can't get beyond _that_
for Paradise," said Arthur, laughing.

"Well, maybe not, but I always do think of it so.  Oh! it was a bonny
place.  I wish I could see it again."

"Well, you must be ready to go home with me, in a year or two," said
Norman.  "You needna laugh, Graeme, I am going home as soon as I get
rich."

"In a year or two! you're nae blate!"

"Oh! we winna need a great fortune, to go home for a visit.  We'll come
back again.  It will be time enough to make our fortune then.  So be
ready, Menie, when I come for you."

"Many a thing may happen, before a year or two," said Marian, gravely.

"Many a thing, indeed," said Graeme and Norman, in a breath.  But while
Graeme gazed with sudden gravity into her sister's flushed face, Norman
added, laughingly.

"I shouldn't wonder but you would prefer another escort, before that
time comes.  I say, Menie, did anybody ever tell you how bonny you are
growing?"

Menie laughed, softly.

"Oh! yes.  Emily told me when she came home; and so did Harry.  And you
have told me so yourself to-day, already."

"You vain fairy! and do you really think you're bonny?"

"Janet says, I'm like Aunt Marian, and she was bonnier even than mamma."

"Like Aunt Marian!"  Graeme remembered Janet's words with a pang.  But
she strove to put the thought from her; and with so many bright faces
round her, it was not difficult to do to-night.  Surely if Marian were
ill, and in danger, the rest would see it too.  And even Janet's anxiety
had been at rest for a while.  Menie was better now.  How merry she had
been with her brothers for the last few days.  And though she seemed
very weary to-night, no wonder.  So were they all.  Even Rosie, the
tireless, was half asleep on Arthur's knee, and when all the pleasant
bustle was over, and they were settled down in their old quiet way, her
sister would be herself again.  Nothing so terrible could be drawing
near, as the dread which Janet had startled herewith that day.

"Emily," said Harry, "why do you persist in going back to that horrid
school?  Why don't you stay at home, and enjoy yourself?"

"I'm not going to any horrid school," said Emily.

"You can't make me believe that you would rather be at school than at
home, doing as you please, and having a good time with Rose and Menie
here."

Emily laughed.  "I would like that; but I like going back to school
too."

"But you'll be getting so awfully wise that there will be no talking to
you, if you stay much longer."

"In that case, it might do you good to listen," said Emily, laughing.

"But you are altogether too wise already," Harry persisted.  "I really
am quite afraid to open my lips in your presence."

"We have all been wondering at your strange silence, and lamenting it,"
said Arthur.

"But, indeed, I must have a word with the deacon about it," said Harry.
"I can't understand how he has allowed it so long already.  I must bring
my influence to bear on him."

"You needn't," said Emily.  "I have almost prevailed upon Graeme, to let
Menie go back with me.  There will be two learned ladies then."

Graeme smiled, and shook her head.

"Not till summer.  We'll see what summer brings.  Many things may happen
before summer," she added, gravely.

They all assented gravely too, but not one of them with any anxious
thought of trouble drawing near.  They grew quiet after that, and each
sat thinking, but it was of pleasant things mostly; and if on anyone
there fell a shadow for a moment, it was but with the thought of the
morrow's parting, and never with the dread that they might not all meet
on earth again.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

They all went away--the lads and Emily, and quietness fell on those that
remained.  The reaction from the excitement in which they had been
living for the last few weeks was very evident in all.  Even Will and
Rosie needed coaxing to go back to the learning of lessons, and the
enjoyment of their old pleasures; and so Graeme did not wonder that
Marian was dull, and did not care to exert herself.  The weather had
changed, too, and they quite agreed in thinking it was much nicer to
stay within doors than to take their usual walks and drives.  So Marian
occupied the arm-chair or the sofa, with work in her hand, or without
it, as the case might be, and her sister's fears with regard to her
were, for a time, at rest.  For she did not look ill; she was as
cheerful as ever, entering into all the new arrangements which Janet's
departure rendered necessary with interest, and sharing with Graeme the
light household tasks that fell to her lot when the "help" was busy with
heavier matters.

There was not much that was unpleasant, for the kind and watchful eyes
of Mrs Snow were quite capable of keeping in view the interests of two
households, and though no longer one of the family, she was still the
ruling spirit in their domestic affairs.  With her usual care for the
welfare of the bairns, she had sent the experienced Hannah Lovejoy up
the brae, while she contented herself with "breaking in" Sephronia,
Hannah's less helpful younger sister.  There was a great difference
between the service of love that had all their life long shielded them
from trouble and annoyance, and Miss Lovejoy's abrupt and rather
familiar ministrations.  But Hannah was faithful and capable, indeed, "a
treasure," in these days of destitution in the way of help; and if her
service was such as money could well pay, she did not grudge it, while
her wages were secure; and housekeeping and its responsibilities were
not so disagreeable to Graeme as she had feared.  Indeed, by the time
the first letter from Norman came, full of mock sympathy for her under
her new trials, she was quite as ready to laugh at herself as any of the
rest.  Her faith in Hannah was becoming fixed, and it needed some
expostulations from Mrs Snow to prevent her from letting the supreme
power, as to household matters, pass into the hands of her energetic
auxiliary.

"My dear," said she, "there's many a thing that Hannah could do well
enough, maybe better than you could, for that matter; but you should do
them yourself, notwithstanding.  It's better for her, and it's better
for you, too.  Every woman should take pleasure in these household
cares.  If they are irksome at first they winna be when you are used to
them; and, my dear, it may help you through many an hour of trouble and
weariness to be able to turn your hand to these things.  There is great
comfort in it sometimes."

Graeme laughed, and suggested other resources that might do as well to
fall back upon in a time of trouble, but Mrs Snow was not to be moved.

"My dear, that may be all true.  I ken books are fine things to keep
folk from thinking, for a time; but the trouble that is put away that
way comes back on one again; and it's only when folk are doing their
duty that the Lord gives them abiding comfort.  I ken by myself.  There
have been days in my life when my heart must have been broken, or my
brain grown crazed, if I hadna needed to do this and to do that, to go
here and to go there.  My dear, woman's work, that's never done, is a
great help to many a one, as well as me.  And trouble or no trouble, it
is what you ought to know and do in your father's house."

So Graeme submitted to her friend's judgment, and conscientiously tried
to become wise in all household matters, keeping track of pieces of beef
and bags of flour, of breakfasts, dinners and suppers, in a way that
excited admiration, and sometimes other feelings, in the mind of the
capable Hannah.

So a very pleasant winter wore on, and the days were beginning to grow
long again, before the old dread was awakened in Graeme.  For only in
one way was Marian different from her old self.  She did not come to
exert herself.  She was, perhaps, a little quieter, too, but she was
quite cheerful, taking as much interest as ever in home affairs and in
the affairs of the village.  Almost every day, after the sleighing
became good, she enjoyed a drive with Graeme or her father, or with Mr
Snow in his big sleigh after the "bonny greys."  They paid visits, too,
stopping a few minutes at Judge Merle's or Mr Greenleaf's, or at some
other friendly home in the village; and if their friends' eyes grew
grave and very tender at the sight of them, it did not for a long time
come into Graeme's mind that it was because they saw something that was
invisible as yet to hers.  So the time wore on, and not one in the
minister's happy household knew that each day that passed so peacefully
over them was leaving one less between them and a great sorrow.

The first fear was awakened in Graeme by a very little thing.  After
several stormy Sabbaths had kept her sister at home from church, a mild,
bright day came, but it did not tempt her out.

"I am very sorry not to go, Graeme," said she; "but I was so weary last
time.  Let me stay at home to-day."

So she stayed; and all the way down the hill and over the valley the
thought of her darkened the sunlight to her sister's eyes.  Nor was the
shadow chased away by the many kindly greetings that awaited her at the
church door; for no one asked why her sister was not with her, but only
how she seemed to-day.  It was well that the sunshine, coming in on the
corner where she sat, gave her an excuse for letting fall her veil over
her face, for many a bitter tear fell behind it.  When the services were
over, and it was time to go home, she shrunk from answering more
inquiries about Marian, and hastened away, though she knew that Mrs
Merle was waiting for her at the other end of the broad aisle, and that
Mrs Greenleaf had much ado to keep fast hold of her impatient boy till
she should speak a word with her.  But she could not trust herself to
meet them and to answer them quietly, and hurried away.  So she went
home again, over the valley and up the hill with the darkness still
round her, till Menie's bright smile and cheerful welcome chased both
pain and darkness away.

But when the rest were gone, and the sisters were left to the Sabbath
quiet of the deserted home, the fear came back again, for in a little
Marian laid herself down with a sigh of weariness, and slept with her
cheek laid on the Bible that she held in her hand.  As Graeme listened
to her quick breathing, and watched the hectic rising on her cheek, she
felt, for the moment, as though all hope were vain.  But she put the
thought from her.  It was too dreadful to be true; and she chid herself
for always seeing the possible dark side of future events, and told
herself that she must change in this respect.  With all her might she
strove to reason away the sickening fear at her heart, saying how
utterly beyond belief it was that Menie could be going to die--Menie,
who had always been so well and so merry.  She was growing too fast,
that was all; and when the spring came again, they would all go to some
quiet place by the sea-shore, and run about among the rocks, and over
the sands, till she should be well and strong as ever again.

"If spring were only come!" she sighed to herself.  But first there were
weeks of frost and snow, and then weeks of bleak weather, before the
mild sea-breezes could blow on her drooping flower, and Graeme could not
reason her fears away; nor when the painful hour of thought was over,
and Menie opened her eyes with a smile, did her cheerful sweetness chase
it away.

After this, for a few days, Graeme grow impatient of her sister's
quietness, and strove to win her to her old employments again.  She
would have her struggle against her wish to be still, and took her to
ride and to visit, and even to walk, when the day was fine.  But this
was not for long.  Menie yielded always, and tried with all her might to
seem well and not weary; but it was not always with success; and Graeme
saw that it was in vain to urge her beyond her strength; so, in a
little, she was allowed to fall back into her old ways again.

"I will speak to Doctor Chittenden, and know the worst," said Graeme, to
herself, but her heart grew sick at the thought of what the worst might
be.

By and by there came a mild bright day, more like April than January.
Mr Elliott had gone to a distant part of the parish for the day, and
had taken Will and Rosie with him, and the sisters were left alone.
Graeme would have gladly availed herself of Deacon Snow's offer to lend
them grey Major, or to drive them himself for a few miles.  The day was
so fine, she said to Menie; but she was loth to go.  It would be so
pleasant to be a whole day quite alone together.  Or, if Graeme liked,
they might send down for Janet in the afternoon.  Graeme sighed, and
urged no more.

"We can finish our book, you know," went on Menie.  "And there are the
last letters to read to Mrs Snow.  I hope nobody will come in.  We
shall have such a quiet day."

But this was not to be.  There was the sound of sleigh-bells beneath the
window, and Graeme looked out.

"It is Doctor Chittenden," said she.

Marian rose from the sofa, trying, as she always did, when the Doctor
came, to look strong and well.  She did not take his visits to herself.
Doctor Chittenden had always come now and then to see her father, and if
his visits had been more frequent of late they had not been more formal
or professional than before.  Graeme watched him as he fastened his
horse, and then went to the door to meet him.

"My child," said he, as he took her hand, and turned her face to the
light, "are you quite well to-day?"

"Quite well," said Graeme; but she was very pale, and her cold hand
trembled in his.

"You are quite well, I see," said he, as Marian came forward to greet
him.

"I ought to be," said Marian, laughing and pointing to an empty bottle
on the mantelpiece.

"I see.  We must have it replenished."

"Don't you think something less bitter would do as well?" said Marian,
making a pitiful face.  "Graeme don't think it does me much good."

"Miss Graeme had best take care how she speaks disrespectfully of my
precious bitters.  But, I'll see.  I have some doubts about them myself.
You ought to be getting rosy and strong upon them, and I'm afraid you
are not," said he, looking gravely into the fair pale face that he took
between his hands.  He looked up, and met Graeme's look fixed anxiously
upon him.  He did not avert his quickly as he had sometimes done on such
occasions.  The gravity of his look deepened as he met hers.

"Where has your father gone?" asked he.

"To the Bell neighbourhood, for the day.  The children have gone with
him, and Graeme and I are going to have a nice quiet day," said Marian.

"_You_ are going with me," said the doctor.

"With you!"

"Yes.  Have you any objections?"

"No.  Only I don't care to ride just for the sake of riding, without
having anywhere to go."

"But, I am going to take you somewhere.  I came for that purpose.  Mrs
Greenleaf sent me.  She wants you to-day."

"But, I can go there any time.  I was there, not long ago; I would
rather stay at home to-day with Graeme, thank you."

"And what am I to say to Mrs Greenleaf?  No, I'm not going without you.
So, get ready and come with me."

Menie pouted.  "And Graeme had just consented to my staying at home
quietly for the day."

"Which does not prove Miss Graeme's wisdom," said the doctor.  "Why,
child, how many April days do you think we are going to have in January?
Be thankful for the chance to go out; for, if I am not much mistaken,
we are to have a storm that will keep us all at home.  Miss Graeme, get
your sister's things.  It is health for her to be out in such a day."

Graeme went without a word, and when she came back the doctor said,--

"There is no haste.  I am going farther, and will call as I come back.
Lie down, dear child, and rest just now."

Graeme left the room, and as the doctor turned to go out, she beckoned
him into the study.

"You don't mean to tell me that Menie is in danger?" said she, with a
gasp.

"I am by no means sure what I shall say to you.  It will depend on how
you are likely to listen," said the doctor, gravely.

Graeme strove to command herself and speak calmly.

"Anything is better than suspense."  Then, laying her hand on his arm,
she added, "She is not worse!  Surely you would have told us!--"

"My dear young lady, calm yourself.  She is not worse than she has been.
The chances of recovery are altogether in her favour.  The indications
of disease are comparatively slight--that is, she has youth on her side,
and a good constitution.  If the month of March were over, we would have
little to fear with another summer before us.  Your mother did not die
of consumption?"

"No, but--" The remembrance of what Janet had told her about their
"bonny Aunt Marian" took away Graeme's power to speak.

"Well, we have everything to hope if we can see her safely through the
spring without taking cold, and you must keep her cheerful."

"She is always cheerful."

"Well--that's well.  You must not let her do anything to weary herself.
I don't like the stove-heat for her.  You should let her sleep in the
other room where the fireplace is.  When the days are fine, she must be
well wrapped up and go out, and I will send her something.  My dear, you
have no occasion for despondency.  The chances are all in her favour."

He went toward the door, but came back again, and after walking up and
down the room for a little, he came close to Graeme.

"And if it were not so, my child, you are a Christian.  If the
possibility you have been contemplating should become a reality, ought
it to be deplored?"

A strong shudder passed over Graeme.  The doctor paused, not able to
withstand the pain in her face.

"Nay, my child--if you could keep her here and assure to her all that
the world can give, what would that be in comparison with the `rest that
remaineth?'  For her it would be far better to go, and for you--when
your time comes to lie down and die--would it sooth you then to know
that she must be left behind, to travel, perhaps, with garments not
unspotted, all the toilsome way alone?"

Graeme's face drooped till it was quite hidden, and her tears fell fast.
Her friend did not seek to check them.

"I know the first thought is terrible.  But, child! the grave is a safe
place in which to keep our treasures.  Mine are nearly all there.  I
would not have it otherwise--and they are safe from the chances of a
changeful world.  You will be glad for yourself by and by.  You should
be glad for your sister now."

"If I were sure--if I were quite sure," murmured Graeme through her
weeping.

"Sure that she is going home?" said the doctor, stooping low to whisper
the words.  "I think you may be sure--as sure as one can be in such a
case!  It is a great mystery.  Your father will know best.  God is good.
Pray for her."

"My father!  He does not even think of danger."  Graeme clasped her
hands with a quick despairing motion.

"Miss Graeme," said the doctor, hastily, "you must not speak to your
father yet.  Marian's case is by no means hopeless, and your father must
be spared all anxiety at present.  A sudden shock might--" He paused.

"Is not my father well?  Has he not quite recovered?" asked Graeme.

"Quite well, my dear, don't be fanciful.  But it will do no good to
disturb him now.  I will speak to him, or give you leave to speak to
him, if it should become necessary.  In the meantime you must be
cheerful.  You have no cause to be otherwise."

It was easy to say "be cheerful."  But Graeme hardly hoped for her
sister, after that day.  Often and often she repeated to herself the
doctor's words, that there was no immediate danger, but she could take
no comfort from them.  The great dread was always upon her.  She never
spoke of her fears again, and shrank from any allusion to her sister's
state, till her friends--and even the faithful Janet, who knew her so
well--doubted whether she realised the danger, which was becoming every
day more apparent to them all.  But she knew it well, and strove with
all her power, to look calmly forward to the time when the worst must
come; and almost always, in her sister's presence, she strove
successfully.  But these quiet, cheerful hours in Marian's room, were
purchased by hours of prayerful agony, known only to Him who is full of
compassion, even when His chastisements are most severe.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

No.  None knew so well as Graeme that her sister was passing away from
among them; but even she did not dream how near the time was come.  Even
when the nightly journey up-stairs was more than Marian could
accomplish, and the pretty parlour, despoiled of its ornaments, became
her sick-room, Graeme prayed daily for strength to carry her through the
long months of watching, that she believed were before her.  As far as
possible, everything went on as usual in the house.  The children's
lessons were learned, and recited as usual, generally by Marian's side
for a time, but afterwards they went elsewhere, for a very little thing
tired her now.  Still, she hardly called herself ill.  She suffered no
pain, and it was only after some unusual exertion that she, or others,
realised how very weak she was becoming day by day.  Her work-basket
stood by her side still, for though she seldom touched it now, Graeme
could not bear to put it away.  Their daily readings were becoming brief
and infrequent.  One by one their favourite books found their accustomed
places on the shelves, and remained undisturbed.  Within reach of her
hand lay always Menie's little Bible, and now and then she read a verse
or two, but more frequently it was Graeme's trembling lips, that
murmured the sweet familiar words.  Almost to the very last she came out
to family worship with the rest, and when she could not, they went in to
her.  And the voice, that had been the sweetest of them all, joined
softly and sweetly still in their song of praise.

Very quietly passed these last days and nights.  Many kind inquiries
were made, and many kind offices performed for them, but for the most
part the sisters were left to each other.  Even the children were
beguiled into frequent visits to Mrs Snow and others, and many a
tranquil hour did the sisters pass together.  Tranquil only in outward
seeming many of these hours were to Graeme, for never a moment was the
thought of the parting, that every day brought nearer, absent from her,
and often when there were smiles and cheerful words upon her lips, her
heart was like to break for the desolation that was before them.

"Graeme," said Marian, one night, as the elder sister moved restlessly
about the room, "you are tired to-night.  Come and lie down beside me
and rest, before Will and Rosie come home."

Weary Graeme was, and utterly despondent, with now and then such bitter
throbs of pain, at her heart, that she felt she must get away to weep
out her tears alone.  But she must have patience a little longer, and
so, lying down on the bed, she suffered the wasted arms to clasp
themselves about her neck, and for a time the sisters lay cheek to cheek
in silence.

"Graeme," said Marian, at last, "do you think papa kens?"

"What love?"

"That I am going soon.  You know it, Graeme?"

Graeme's heart stirred with a sudden throb of pain.  There was a rushing
in her ears, and a dimness before her eyes, as though the dreaded enemy
had already come, but she found voice to say, softly,--

"You're no' feared, Menie?"

"No," said she, quickly, then raising herself up, and leaning close
over, so as to see her sister's face, she added, "Do you think I need to
fear, Graeme?"

If she had had a thousand worlds to give, she would have given all to
know that her little sister, standing on the brink of the river of
death, need not fear to enter it.

"None need fear who trust in Jesus," said she, softly.

"No.  And I do trust Him.  Who else could I trust, now that I am going
to die?  I know He is able to save."

"All who come to him," whispered Graeme.  "My darling, have you come?"

"I think he has drawn me to Himself.  I think I am His very own.
Graeme, I know I am not wise like you--and I have not all my life been
good, but thoughtless and wilful often--but I know that I love Jesus,
and I think He loves me, too."

She lay quietly down again.

"Graeme, are you afraid for me?"

"I canna be afraid for one who trusts in Jesus."

It was all she could do to say it, for the cry that was rising to her
lips from her heart, in which sorrow was struggling with joy.

"There is only one thing that sometimes makes me doubt," said Marian,
again.  "My life has been such a happy life.  I have had no tribulation
that the Bible speaks of--no buffetting--no tossing to and fro.  I have
been happy all my life, and happy to the end.  It seems hardly fair,
Graeme, when there are so many that have so much suffering."

"God has been very good to you, dear."

"And you'll let me go willingly, Graeme?"

"Oh!  Menie, must you go.  Could you no' bide with us a little while?"
said Graeme, her tears coming fast.  A look of pain came to her sister's
face.

"Graeme," said she, softly; "at first I thought I couldna bear to go and
leave you all.  But it seems easy now.  And you wouldna bring back the
pain, dear?"

"No, no! my darling."

"At first you'll all be sorry, but God will comfort you.  And my father
winna have long to wait, and you'll have Rosie and Will--and, Graeme,
you will tell papa?"

"Yes, I will tell him."

"He'll grieve at first, and I could not bear to see him grieve.  After
he has time to think about it, he will be glad."

"And Arthur, and all the rest--" murmured Graeme.

A momentary shadow passed over Marian's face.

"Oh!  Graeme, at first I thought it would break my heart to leave you
all--but I am willing now.  God, I trust, has made me willing.  And
after a while they will be happy again.  But they will never forget me,
will they, Graeme?"

"My darling! never!"

"Sometimes I wish I had known--I wish I had been quite sure, when they
were all at home.  I would like to have said something.  But it doesna
really matter.  They will never forget me."

"We will send for them," said Graeme, through her tears.

"I don't know.  I think not.  It would grieve them, and I can bear so
little now.  And we were so happy the last time.  I think they had best
not come, Graeme."

But the words were slow to come, and her eyes turned, oh! so wistfully,
to her sister's face, who had no words with which to answer.

"Sometimes I dream of them, and when I waken, I do so long to see them,"
and the tears gathered slowly in her eyes.  "But it is as well as it is,
perhaps.  I would rather they would think of me as I used to be, than to
see me now.  No, Graeme, I think I will wait."

In the pause that followed, she kissed her sister softly many times.

"It won't be long.  And, Graeme--I shall see our mother first--and you
must have patience, and wait.  We shall all get safe home at last--I am
quite, _quite_ sure of that."

A step was heard at the door, and Mrs Snow entered.

"Weel, bairns!" was all she said, as she sat down beside them.  She saw
that they were both much moved, and she laid her kind hand caressingly
on the hair of the eldest sister, as though she knew she was the one who
needed comforting.

"Have the bairns come?" asked Menie.

"No, dear, I bade them bide till I went down the brae again.  Do you
want them home?"

"Oh no!  I only wondered why I didna hear them."

The wind howled drearily about the house, and they listened to it for a
time in silence.

"It's no' like spring to-night, Janet," said Menie.

"No, dear, it's as wintry a night as we have had this while.  But the
wind is changing to the south now, and we'll soon see the bare hills
again."

"Yes; I hope so," said Menie, softly.

"Are you wearying for the spring, dear?"

"Whiles I weary."  But the longing in those "bonny e'en" was for no
earthly spring, Janet well knew.

"I aye mind the time when I gathered the snowdrops and daisies, and the
one rose, on my mother's birthday.  It was long before this time of the
year--and it seems long to wait for spring."

"Ay, I mind; but that was in the sheltered garden at the Ebba.  There
were no flowers blooming on the bare hills in Scotland then more than
here.  You mustna begin to weary for the spring yet.  You'll get down
the brae soon, maybe, and then you winna weary."

Menie made no answer, but a spasm passed over the face of Graeme.  The
same thought was on the mind of all the three.  When Menie went down the
brae again, it must be with eyelids closed, and with hands folded on a
heart at rest forever.

"Janet, when will Sandy come?  Have you got a letter yet?"

"Yes; I got a letter to-day.  It winna be long now."

"Oh!  I hope not.  I want to see him and your mother.  I want them to
see me, too.  Sandy would hardly mind me, if he didna come till
afterwards."

"Miss Graeme, my dear," said Mrs Snow, hoarsely, "go ben and sit with
your father a while.  It will rest you, and I'll bide with Menie here."

Graeme rose, and kissing her sister, softly went away.  Not into the
study, however, but out into the darkness, where the March wind moaned
so drearily among the leafless elms, that she might weep out the tears
which she had been struggling with so long.  Up and down the
snow-encumbered path she walked, scarce knowing that she shivered in the
blast.  Conscious only of one thought, that Menie must die, and that the
time was hastening.

Yes.  It was coming very near now.  God help them all.  Weary with the
unavailing struggle, weary to faintness with the burden of care and
sorrow, she had borne through all these months of watching, to-night she
let it fall.  She bowed herself utterly down.

"So let it be!  God's will be done!"

And leaning with bowed head and clasped hands over the little gate,
where she had stood in many a changing mood, she prayed as twice or
thrice in a lifetime.  God gives power to his children to pray--face to
face--in His very presence.  Giving her will and wish up quite, she lay
at his feet like a little child, chastened, yet consoled, saying not
with her lips, but with the soul's deepest breathing, "I am Thine.  Save
me."  Between her and all earthly things, except the knowledge that her
sister was dying, a kindly veil was interposed.  No foreshadowing of a
future more utterly bereaved than Menie's death would bring, darkened
the light which this momentary glimpse of her Lord revealed.  In that
hour she ate angel's food, and from it received strength to walk through
desert places.

She started as a hand was laid upon her shoulder, but her head drooped
again as she met Mr Snow's look, so grave in its kindliness.

"Miss Graeme, is it best you should be out here in the cold?"

"No," said Graeme, humbly.  "I am going in."  But she did not move even
to withdraw herself from the gentle pressure of his hand.

"Miss Graeme," said he, as they stood thus with the gate between them,
"hadn't you better give up now, and let the Lord do as He's a mind to
about it?"

"Yes," said Graeme, "I give up.  His will be done."

"Amen!" said her friend, and the hand that rested on her shoulder was
placed upon her head, and Graeme knew that in "the golden vials full of
odours" before the throne, Deacon Snow's prayer for her found a place.

She opened the gate and held it till he passed through, and then
followed him up the path into Hannah's bright kitchen.

"Will you go in and see papa, or in there?" asked she, glancing towards
the parlour door, and shading her eyes as she spoke.

"Well, I guess I'll sit down here.  It won't be long before Mis' Snow'll
be going along down.  But don't you wait.  Go right in to your father."

Graeme opened the study-door and went in.

"I will tell him to-night," said she.  "God help us."

Her father was sitting in the firelight, holding an open letter in his
hand.

"Graeme," said he, as she sat down, "have you seen Janet?"

"Yes, papa.  I left her with Marian, a little ago."

"Poor Janet!" said her father, sighing heavily.  No one was so
particular as the minister in giving Janet her new title.  It was always
"Mistress Snow" or "the deacon's wife" with him, and Graeme wondered
to-night.

"Has anything happened?" asked she.

"Have you not heard?  She has had a letter from home.  Here it is.  Her
mother is dead."

The letter dropped from Graeme's outstretched hand.

"Yes," continued her father.  "It was rather sudden, it seems--soon
after she had decided to come out here.  It will be doubly hard for her
daughter to bear on that account.  I must speak to her, poor Janet!"

Graeme was left alone to muse on the uncertainly of all things, and to
tell herself over and over again, how vain it was to set the heart on
any earthly good.  "Poor Janet!" well might her father say; and amid her
own sorrow Graeme grieved sincerely for the sorrow of her friend.  It
was very hard to bear, now that she had been looking forward to a happy
meeting, and a few quiet years together after their long separation.  It
did seem very hard, and it was with a full heart that in an hour
afterward, when her father returned, she sought her friend.

Mr Snow had gone home and his wife was to stay all night, Graeme found
when she entered her sister's room.  Marian was asleep, and coming close
to Mrs Snow, who sat gazing into the fire, Graeme knelt down beside her
and put her arm's about her neck without a word.  At first Graeme
thought she was weeping.  She was not; but in a little she said, in a
voice that showed how much her apparent calmness cost her, "You see, my
dear, the upshot of all our fine plans."

"Oh, Janet!  There's nothing in all the world that we can trust in."

"Ay, you may weel say that.  But it is a lesson that we are slow to
learn; and the Lord winna let us forget."

There was a pause.

"When was it?" asked Graeme, softly.

"Six weeks ago this very night, I have been thinking, since I sat here.
Her trouble was short and sharp, and she was glad to go."

"And would she have come?"

"Ay, lass, but it wasna to be, as I might have kenned from the
beginning.  I thought I asked God's guiding, and I was persuaded into
thinking I had gotten it.  But you see my heart was set on it from the
very first--guiding or no guiding--and now the Lord has seen fit to
punish me for my self-seeking."

"Oh, Janet!" said Graeme, remonstratingly.

"My dear, it's true, though it sets me ill to vex you with saying it
now.  I have more need to take the lesson to heart.  May the Lord give
me grace to do it."

Graeme could say nothing, and Janet continued--

"It's ill done in me to grieve for her.  She is far better off than ever
I could have made her with the best of wills, and as for me--I must
submit."

"You have Sandy still."

"Aye, thank God.  May He have him in His keeping."

"And he will come yet."

"Yes, I have little doubt.  But I'll no' set myself to the hewing out of
broken cisterns this while again.  The Lord kens best."

After that night Mrs Snow never left the house for many hours at a time
till Menie went away.  Graeme never told her father of the sorrow that
was drawing near.  As the days went on, she saw by many a token, that he
knew of the coming parting, but it did not seem to look sorrowful to
him.  He was much with her now, but all could see that the hours by her
bedside were not sorrowful ones to him or to her.  But to Graeme he did
not speak of her sister's state till near the very last.

They were sitting together in the firelight of the study, as they seldom
sat now.  They had been sitting thus a long time--so long that Graeme,
forgetting to wear a cheerful look in her father's presence, had let her
weary eyes close, and her hands drop listlessly on her lap.  She looked
utterly weary and despondent, as she sat there, quite unconscious that
her father's eyes were upon her.

"You are tired to-night, Graeme," said he, at last.  Graeme started, but
it was not easy to bring her usual look back, so she busied herself with
something at the table and did not speak.  Her father sighed.

"It will not be long now."

Graeme sat motionless, but she had no voice with which to speak.

"We little thought it was our bonny Menie who was to see her mother
first.  Think of the joy of that meeting, Graeme!"

Graeme's head drooped down on the table.  If she had spoken a word, it
must have been with a great burst of weeping.  She trembled from head to
foot in her effort to keep herself quiet.  Her father watched her for a
moment.

"Graeme, you are not grudging your sister to such blessedness?"

"Not now, papa," whispered she, heavily.  "I am almost willing now."

"What is the happiest life here--and Menie's has been happy--to the
blessedness of the rest which I confidently believe awaits her, dear
child?"

"It is not that I grudge to let her go, but that I fear to be left
behind."

"Ay, love!  But we must bide God's time.  And you will have your
brothers and Rose, and you are young, and time heals sore wounds in
young hearts."

Graeme's head drooped lower.  She was weeping unrestrainedly but quietly
now.  Her father went on--

"And afterwards you will have many things to comfort you.  I used to
think in the time of my sorrow, that its suddenness added to its
bitterness.  If it had ever come into my mind that your mother might
leave me, I might have borne it better, I thought.  But God knows.
There are some things for which we cannot prepare."

There was a long silence.

"Graeme, I have something which I must say to you," said her father, and
his voice showed that he was speaking with an effort.  "If the time
comes--when the time comes--my child, I grieve to give you pain, but
what I have to say had best be said now; it will bring the time no
nearer.  My child, I have something to say to you of the time when we
shall no longer be together--" Graeme did not move.

"My child, the backward look over one's life, is so different from the
doubtful glances one sends into the future.  I stand now, and see all
the way by which God has led me, with a grieved wonder, that I should
ever have doubted his love and care, and how it was all to end.  The
dark places, and the rough places that once made my heart faint with
fear, are, to look back upon, radiant with light and beauty--Mounts of
God, with the bright cloud overshadowing them.  And yet, I mind groping
about before them, like a bond man, with a fear and dread unspeakable.

"My child, are you hearing me?  Oh! if my experience could teach you!  I
know it cannot be.  The blessed lesson that suffering teaches, each must
bear for himself; and I need not tell you that there never yet was
sorrow sent to a child of God, for which there is no balm.  You are
young; and weary and spent as you are to-night, no wonder that you think
at the sight, of the deep wastes you may have to pass, and the dreary
waters you may have to cross.  But there is no fear that you will be
alone, dear, or that He will give you anything to do, or bear, and yet
withhold the needed strength.  Are you hearing me, my child?"

Graeme gave a mute sign of assent.

"Menie, dear child, has had a life bright and brief.  Yours may be long
and toilsome, but if the end be the same, what matter! you may desire to
change with her to-night, but we cannot change our lot.  God make us
patient in it,--patient and helpful.  Short as your sister's life has
been, it has not been in vain.  She has been like light among us, and
her memory will always be a blessedness--and to you Graeme, most of
all."

Graeme's lips opened with a cry.  Turning, she laid her face down on her
father's knee, and her tears fell fast.  Her father raised her, and
clasping her closely, let her weep for a little.

"Hush, love, calm yourself," said he, at last.  "Nay," he added, as she
would have risen, "rest here, my poor tired Graeme, my child, my best
comforter always."

Graeme's frame shook with sobs.

"Don't papa--I cannot bear it--"

She struggled with herself, and grew calm again.

"Forgive me, papa.  I know I ought not.  And indeed, it is not because I
am altogether unhappy, or because I am not willing to let her go--"

"Hush, love, I know.  You are your mother's own patient child.  I trust
you quite, Graeme, and that is why I have courage to give you pain.  For
I must say more to-night.  If anything should happen to me--hush, love.
My saying it does not hasten it.  But when I am gone, you will care for
the others.  I do not fear for you.  You will always have kind friends
in Janet and her husband, and will never want a home while they can give
you one, I am sure.  But Graeme, I would like you all to keep together.
Be one family, as long as possible.  So if Arthur wishes you to go to
him, go all together.  He may have to work hard for a time, but you will
take a blessing with you.  And it will be best for all, that you should
keep together."

The shock which her father's words gave, calmed Graeme in a moment.

"But, papa, you are not ill, not more than you have been?"

"No, love, I am better, much better.  Still, I wished to say this to
you, because it is always well to be prepared.  That is all I had to
say, love."

But he clasped her to him for a moment still, and before he let her go,
he whispered, softly,--

"I trust you quite, love, and you'll bring them all home safe to your
mother and me."

It was not very long after this, a few tranquil days and nights only,
and the end came.  They were all together in Marian's room, sitting
quietly after worship was over.  It was the usual time for separating
for the night, but they still lingered.  Not that any of them thought it
would be to-night.  Mrs Snow might have thought so, for never during
the long evening, had she stirred from the side of the bed, but watched
with earnest eyes, the ever changing face of the dying girl.  She had
been slumbering quietly for a little while, but suddenly, as Mrs Snow
bent over her more closely, she opened her eyes, and seeing something in
her face, she said, with an echo of surprise in her voice,--

"Janet, is it to be to-night?  Are they all here?  Papa, Graeme.  Where
is Graeme?"

They were with her in a moment, and Graeme's cheek was laid on her
sister's wasted hand.

"Well, my lammie!" said her father, softly.

"Papa! it is not too good to be true, is it?"

Her father bent down till his lips touched her cheek.

"You are not afraid, my child?"

Afraid! no, it was not fear he saw in those sweet triumphant eyes.  Her
look never wandered from his face, but it changed soon, and he knew that
the King's messenger was come.  Murmuring an inarticulate prayer, he
bowed his head in the awful presence, and when he looked again, he saw
no more those bonny eyes, but Janet's toil-worn hand laid over them.

Graeme's cheek still lay on her sister's stiffening hand, and when they
all rose up, and her father, passing round the couch put his arm about
her, she did not move.

"There is no need.  Let her rest! it is all over now, the long watching
and waiting! let the tired eyelids close, and thank God for the
momentary forgetfulness which He has given her."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

That night, Graeme slept the dreamless sleep of utter exhaustion, and
the next day, whenever her father or Mrs Snow stole in to look at her,
she slept or seemed to sleep still.

"She is weary," they said, in whispers.  "Let her rest."  Kind
neighbours came and went, with offers of help and sympathy, but nothing
was suffered to disturb the silence of the now darkened chamber.  "Let
her rest," said all.

But when the next night passed, and the second day was drawing to a
close, Mrs Snow became anxious, and her visits were more frequent.
Graeme roused herself to drink the tea that she brought her, and to Mrs
Snow's question whether she felt rested, she said, "Oh! yes," but she
closed her eyes, and turned her face away again.  Janet went out and
seated herself in the kitchen, with a picture of utter despondency.
Just then, her husband came in.

"Is anything the matter?" asked he, anxiously.

"No," said his wife, rousing herself.  "Only, I dinna ken weel what to
do."

"Is Miss Graeme sick? or is she asleep?"

"I hope she's no' sick.  I ken she's no sleeping.  But she ought to be
roused, and when I think what she's to be roused to--.  But, if she
wants to see her sister, it must be before--before she's laid in--"

A strong shudder passed over her.

"Oh! man! it's awful, the first sight of a dear face in the coffin--"

"Need she see her again?" asked Mr Snow.

"Oh! yes, I doubt she must.  And the bairns too, and it will soon be
here, now."

"Her father," suggested Mr Snow.

"He has seen her.  He was there for hours, both yesterday and to-day.
But he is asleep now, and he has need of rest.  I canna disturb him."

"Couldn't you kind of make her think she was needed--to her father or
the little ones?  She would rouse herself if they needed her."

"That's weel said," said Mrs Snow, gratefully.  "Go you down the brae
for the bairns, and I'll go and speak to her again."

"Miss Graeme, my dear," said she, softly; "could you speak to me a
minute?"

Her manner was quite calm.  It was so like the manner in which Graeme
had been hundreds of times summoned to discuss domestic matters, that
without seeming to realise that there was anything peculiar in the time
or circumstances, she opened her eyes and said, quietly,--

"Well, what is it, Janet?"

"My dear, it is the bairns.  There is nothing the matter with them,"
added she hastily, as Graeme started.  "They have been down the brae
with Emily all the day, but they are coming home now; and, my dear, they
havena been ben yonder, and I think they should see her before--before
she's moved, and I dinna like to disturb your father.  My bairn, are you
able to rise and take Will and wee Rosie ben yonder."

Graeme raised herself slowly up.

"Janet, I have been forgetting the bairns."

Mrs Snow had much ado to keep back her tears; but she only said
cheerfully:

"My dear, you were weary, and they have had Emily."

She would not be tender with her, or even help her much in her
preparations; though her hands trembled, and she touched things in a
vague, uncertain way, as though she did not know what she was doing.
Janet could not trust herself to do what she would like to have done;
she could only watch her without appearing to do so, by no means sure
that she had done right in rousing her.  She was ready at last.

"Are they come?" asked Graeme, faintly.

"No, dear.  There's no haste.  Rest yourself a wee while.  My dear, are
you sure you are quite able for it?" added she, as Graeme rose.

"Yes, I think so.  But I would like to go alone, first."

"My poor lamb!  If I were but sure that I have been right," thought
Janet, as she sat down to wait.

An hour passed, and when the door opened, and Graeme came out again, the
fears of her faithful friend were set at rest.

"She hasna' been alone all this time, as I might have known," said Janet
to herself, with a great rush of hidden tears.  "I'm faithless, and sore
beset myself whiles, but I needna fear for them.  The worst is over
now."

And was the worst over?  After that was the covering of the beloved
forever from their sight, and the return to the silent and empty home.
There was the gathering up of the broken threads of their changed life;
the falling back on their old cares and pleasures, all so much the same,
and yet so different.  There was the vague unbelief in the reality of
their sorrow, the momentary forgetfulness, and then the pang of sudden
remembrance,--the nightly dreams of her, the daily waking to find her
gone.

By and by, came letters from the lads; those of Norman and Harry full of
bitter regrets, which to Graeme seemed almost like reproaches, that they
had not been sent for before the end; and the grief of those at home
came back strong and fresh again.

The coming of the "bonny spring days" for which Norman had so wished,
wakened "vain longings for the dead."  The brooks rose high, and the
young leaves rustled on the elms; and all pleasant sounds spoke to them
with Menie's voice.  The flowers which she had planted,--the May-flower
and the violets by the garden path, looked at them with Menie's eyes.
The odour of the lilacs, by the gate, and of the pine trees on the hill
came with that mysterious power to awaken old associations, bringing
back to Graeme the memory of the time when they first came to the house
on the hill, when they were all at home together, and Menie was a happy
child.  All these things renewed their sorrow, but not sharply or
bitterly.  It was the sorrow of chastened and resigned hearts, coming
back with hopeful patience to tread the old paths of their daily life,
missing the lost one, and always with a sense of waiting for the time
when they shall meet again, but quite content.

And Mrs Snow, watching both the minister and Graeme, "couldna be
thankful enough" for what she saw.  But as the weeks passed on there
mingled with her thankfulness an anxiety which she herself was inclined
to resent.  "As though the Lord wasna bringing them through their
troubles in a way that was just wonderful," she said to herself, many a
time.  At last, when the days passed into weeks, bringing no colour to
the cheeks, and no elasticity to the step of Graeme, she could not help
letting her uneasiness be seen.

"It's her black dress that makes her look so pale, ain't it?" said Mr
Snow, but his face was grave, too.

"I dare say that makes a difference, and she is tired to-day, too.  She
wearied herself taking the flowers and things over yonder," said Mrs
Snow, glancing towards the spot where the white grave-stones gleamed out
from the pale, green foliage of spring-time.  "And no wonder.  Even
Emily was over tired, and hasna looked like herself since.  I dare say
I'm troubling myself when there is no need."

"The children, Will, and Rosie, don't worry her with their lessons, do
they?"

"I dinna ken.  Sometimes I think they do.  But she would weary far more
without them.  We must have patience.  It would never do to vex the
minister with fears for her."

"No, it won't do to alarm him," said Mr Snow, with emphasis; and he
looked very grave.  In a little he opened his lips as if to say more,
but seemed to change his mind.

"It ain't worth while to worry her with it.  I don't more than half
believe it myself.  Doctors don't know everything.  It seems as though
it couldn't be so--and if it is so, it's best to keep still about it--
for a spell, anyhow."

And Mr Snow vaguely wished that Doctor Chittenden had not overtaken him
that afternoon, or that they had not talked so long and so gravely
beneath the great elms.

"And the doctor ain't given to talking when he had ought to keep still.
Can't nothing be done for him?  I'll have a talk with the squire,
anyhow."

That night Mr and Mrs Snow were startled by a message from Graeme.
Her father had been once or twice before sharply and suddenly seized
with illness.  The doctor looked very grave this time, but seeing
Graeme's pale, anxious face, he could not find it in his heart to tell
her that this was something more than the indigestion which it had been
called--severe but not dangerous.  The worst was over for this time, and
Graeme would be better able to bear a shock by and by.

The minister was better, but his recovery was very slow--so slow, that
for the first time during a ministry of thirty years he was two Sabbaths
in succession unable to appear in his accustomed place in the pulpit.
It was this which depressed him and made him grow so grave and silent,
Graeme thought, as they sat together in the study as it began to grow
dark.  She roused herself to speak cheerfully, so as to win him from the
indulgence of his sad thoughts.

"Shall I read to you, papa?  You have hardly looked at the book that Mr
Snow brought.  I am sure you will like it.  Shall I read awhile."

"Yes, if you like; by and by, when the lamp is lighted.  There is no
haste.  I have been thinking as I sat here, Graeme--and I shall find no
better time than this to speak of it to you--that--"

But what he had been thinking Graeme was not to hear that night, for a
hand was laid on the study-door, and in answer to Graeme's invitation,
Mr and Mrs Snow came in, "just to see how the folks were getting
along," said Mr Snow, as Graeme stirred the fire into a blaze.  But
there was another and a better reason for the visit, as he announced
rather abruptly after a little.

"They've been talking things over, down there to the village, and
they've come to the conclusion that they'd better send you off--for a
spell--most anywhere--so that you come back rugged again.  Some say to
the seaside, and some say to the mountains, but _I_ say to Canada.  It's
all fixed.  There's no trouble about ways and means.  It's in gold, to
save the discount," added he, rising, and laying on the table something
that jingled.  "For they do say they are pretty considerable careful in
looking at our bills, up there in Canada, and it is all the same to our
folks, gold or paper," and he sat down again, as though there was enough
said, and then he rose as if to go.  Graeme was startled, and so was her
father.

"Sit down, deacon, and tell me more.  No, I'm not going to thank you--
you need not run away.  Tell me how it happened."

"They don't think papa so very ill?" said Graeme, alarmed.

"Well--he ain't so rugged as he might be--now is he?" said Mr Snow,
seating himself.  "But he ain't so sick but that he can go away a spell,
with you to take care of him--I don't suppose he'd care about going by
himself.  And Mis' Snow, and me--we'll take care of the children--"

"And what about this, deacon?" asked Mr Elliott, laying his hand on the
purse that Sampson had placed on the table.

But Mr Snow had little to say about it.  If he knew where the idea of
the minister's holidays originated, he certainly did not succeed in
making it clear to the minister and Graeme.

"But that matters little, as long as it is to be," said Mrs Snow,
coming to the deacon's relief.  "And it has all been done in a good
spirit, and in a proper and kindly manner, and from the best of
motives," added she, looking anxiously from Graeme to her father.

"You need not be afraid, my kind friends," said Mr Elliott, answering
her look, while his voice trembled.  "The gift shall be accepted in the
spirit in which it is offered.  It gives me great pleasure."

"And, Miss Graeme, my dear," continued Mrs Snow, earnestly, "you needna
look so grave about it.  It is only what is right and just to your
father--and no favour--though it has been a great pleasure to all
concerned.  And surely, if I'm satisfied, you may be."

Sampson gave a short laugh.

"She's changed her mind about us Merleville folks lately--"

"Whist, man!  I did that long ago.  And, Miss Graeme, my dear, think of
seeing your brothers, and their friends, and yon fine country, and the
grand river that Harry tells us of!  It will be almost like seeing
Scotland again, to be in the Queen's dominions.  My dear, you'll be
quite glad when you get time to think about it."

"Yes--but do they really think papa is so ill?"

She had risen to get a light, and Mrs Snow had followed her from the
room.

"Ill? my dear, if the doctor thought him ill would he send him from
home?  But he needs a rest, and a change--and, my dear, you do that
yourself, and I think it's just providential.  Not but that you could
have gone without their help, but this was done in love, and I would
fain have you take pleasure in it, as I do."

And Graeme did take pleasure in it, and said so, heartily, and "though
it wasna just the thing for the Sabbath night," as Janet said, they
lingered a little, speaking of the things that were to be done, or to be
left undone, in view of the preparations for the journey.  They returned
to the study with the light just as Mr Elliott was saying,--

"And so, I thought, having the prospect of but few Sabbaths, I would
like to spend them all at home."

Janet's first impulse was to turn and see whether Graeme had heard her
father's words.  She evidently had not, for she came in smiling, and set
the lamp on the table.  There was nothing reassuring in the gravity of
her husband's face, Mrs Snow thought, but his words were cheerful.

"Well, yes, I vote for Canada.  We ain't going to believe all the boys
say about it, but it will be a cool kind of place to go to in summer,
and it will be a change, to say nothing of the boys."

Graeme laughed softly.  The boys would not have been the last on her
list of good reasons, for preferring Canada as the scene of their summer
wanderings.  She did not join in the cheerful conversation that
followed, however, but sat thinking a little sadly, that the meeting
with the boys, in their distant home, would be sorrowful as well as
joyful.

If Mrs Snow had heard anything from her husband, with regard to the
true state of the minister's health, she said nothing of it to Graeme,
and she went about the preparations for their journey cheerfully though
very quietly.  Indeed, if her preparations had been on a scale of much
greater magnificence, she needed not have troubled herself about them.
Ten pairs of hands were immediately placed at her disposal, where half
the number would have served.  Her affairs were made a personal matter
by all her friends.  Each vied with the others in efforts to help her
and save her trouble; and if the reputation of Merleville, for all
future time, had depended on the perfect fit of Graeme's one black silk,
or on the fashion of her grey travelling-dress, there could not, as Mrs
Snow rather sharply remarked, "have been more fuss made about it."  And
she had a chance to know, for the deacon's house was the scene of their
labours of love.  For Mrs Snow declared "she wouldna have the minister
and Miss Graeme fashed with nonsense, more than all their proposed jaunt
would do them good, and so what couldna be redone there needna be done
at all."

But Mrs Snow's interest and delight in all the preparations were too
real and manifest, to permit any of the willing helpers to be offended
at her sharpness.  In her heart Mrs Snow was greatly pleased, and owned
as much in private, but in public, "saw no good in making a work about
it," and, on behalf of the minister and his daughter, accepted the
kindness of the people as their proper right and due.  When Mrs Page
identified herself with their affairs, and made a journey to Rixford for
the purpose of procuring the latest Boston fashion for sleeves, before
Graeme's dress should be made, she preserved the distant civility of
manner, with which that lady's advances were always met; and listened
rather coldly to Graeme's embarrassed thanks, when the same lady
presented her with some pretty lawn handkerchiefs; but she was warm
enough in her thanks to Becky Pettimore--I beg her pardon, Mrs Eli
Stone--for the soft lamb's wool socks, spun and knitted for the minister
by her own hands, and her regrets that her baby's teeth would not permit
her to join the sewing parties, were far more graciously received than
were Mrs Page's profuse offers of assistance.

On the whole, it was manifest that Mrs Snow appreciated the kindness of
the people, though she was not quite impartial in her bestowment of
thanks; and, on the whole, the people were satisfied with the "deacon's
wife," and her appreciation of them and their favours.  Nothing could be
more easily seen, than that the deacon's wife had greatly changed her
mind about many things, since the minister's Janet used "to speak her
mind to the Merleville folk," before they were so well known to her.

As for Graeme, her share in the business of preparation was by no means
arduous.  She was mostly at home with the bairns, or sharing the visits
of her father to the people whom he wished to see before he went away.
It was some time before Will and Rosie could be persuaded that it was
right for Graeme to leave them, and that it would be altogether
delightful to live all the time at Mr Snow's, and go to school in the
village--to the fine new high-school, which was one of the evidences of
the increasing prosperity of Merleville.  But they were entirely
persuaded of it at last, and promised to become so learned, that Graeme
should afterward have nothing to teach them.  About the little ones, the
elder sister's heart was quite at rest.  It was not the leaving them
alone, for they were to be in the keeping of the kind friend, who had
cared for them all their lives.

Graeme never ceased to remember those happy drives with her father, on
his gentle ministrations to the sick and sorrowful of his flock, in
those days.  She never thought of the cottage at the foot of the hill,
but she seemed to see the suffering face of the widow Lovejoy, and her
father's voice repeating,--

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."  Long
afterwards, when the laughter of little children rose where the widow's
groans had risen, Graeme could shut her eyes and see again the suffering
face--the dooryard flowers, the gleaming of the sunlight on the pond--
the very shadows of the maples on the grass.  Then it was her sorrowful
delight to recall those happy hours of quiet converse, the half sad,
half joyful memories which her father loved to dwell upon--the firm and
entire trust for the future, of which his words assured her.

Afterwards it came to her, that through all this pleasant time, her
father was looking at a possibility to which her eyes were shut.  He had
spoke of her mother as he had seldom spoken even to Graeme, of the early
days of their married-life--of all she had been to him, of all she had
helped him to be and to do.  And more than once he said,--

"You are like your mother, Graeme, in some things, but you have not her
hopeful nature.  You must be more hopeful and courageous, my child."

He spoke of Marian, Graeme remembered afterward.  Not as one speaks of
the dead, of those who are hidden from the sight, but as of one near at
hand, whom he was sure to meet again.  Of the lads far-away, he always
spoke as "your brothers, Graeme."  He spoke hopefully, but a little
anxiously, too.

"For many a gallant bark goes down when its voyage is well nigh over;
and there is but one safe place of anchorage, and I know not whether
they have all found it yet.  Not that I am afraid of them.  I believe it
will be well with them at last.  But in all the changes that may be
before you, you will have need of patience.  You must be patient with
your brothers, Graeme; and be faithful to them, love, and never let them
wander unchecked from what is right, for your mother's sake and mine."

He spoke of their leaving home, and very thankfully of the blessings
that had followed them since then; of the kindness of the people, and
his love to them; and of the health and happiness of all the bairns, "of
whom one has got home before me, safely and soon."

"We might have come here, love, had your mother lived.  And yet, I do
not know.  The ties of home and country are strong, and there was much
to keep us there.  Her departure made all the rest easy for me, and I am
quite convinced our coming was for the best.  There is only one thing
that I have wished, and I know it is a vain thing."  He paused a moment.

"Of late I have sometimes thought--I mean the thought has sometimes come
to me unbidden--that I would like to rest beside her at last.  But it is
only a fancy.  I know it will make no difference in the end."

If Graeme grew pale and trembled as she listened, it was with no dread
that she could name.  If it was forced upon her that the time must come
when her father must leave them, it lay in her thoughts, far-away.  She
saw his grave dimly as a place of rest, when the labours of a long life
should be ended; she had no thought of change, or separation, or of the
blank that such a blessed departure must leave.  The peace, which had
taken possession of his mind had its influence on hers, and she "feared
no evil."

Afterwards, when the thought of this time and of these words came back
she chid herself with impatience, and a strange wonder, that she should
not have seen and understood all that was in his thought--forgetting in
her first agony how much better was the blessed repose of these moments,
than the knowledge of her coming sorrow could have made them.

They all passed the rides and visits and the happy talks together.  The
preparations for the journey were all made.  The good-byes were said to
all except to Mrs Snow and Emily.  The last night was come, and Graeme
went round just as she always did, to close the doors and windows before
she went to bed.  She was tired, but not too tired to linger a little
while at the window, looking out upon the scene, now so familiar and so
dear.  The shadows of the elms lay dark on the town, but the moonlight
gleamed bright on the pond, and on the white houses of the village, and
on the white stones in the grave-yard, grown precious to them all as
Menie's resting-place.  How peaceful it looked!  Graeme thought of her
sister's last days, and joyful hope, and wondered which of them all
should first be called to lie down by Menie's side.  She thought of the
grave far-away on the other side of the sea, where they had laid her
mother with her baby on her breast; but her thoughts were not all
sorrowful.  She thought of the many happy days that had come to them
since the time that earth had been left dark and desolate by their
mother's death, and realised for the moment how true it was, as her
father had said to her, that God suffers no sorrow to fall on those who
wait on Him, for which He does not also provide a balm.

"I will trust and not be afraid," she murmured.

She thought of her brothers and of the happy meeting that lay before
them, but beyond their pleasant holiday she did not try to look; but
mused on till her musings lost themselves in slumber, and changed to
dreams.

At least, she always thought she must have fallen asleep, and that it
was the sudden calling of her name, that awakened her with a start.  She
did not hear it when she listened for it again.  She did not think of
Rosie or Will, but went straight to her father's room.  Through the
half-open door, she saw that the bed was undisturbed, and that her
father sat in the arm-chair by the window.  The lamp burned dimly on the
table beside him, and on the floor lay an open book, as it had fallen
from his hand.  The moonlight shone on his silver hair, and on his
tranquil face.  There was a smile on his lips, and his eyes were closed,
as if in sleep; but even before she touched his cold hand, Graeme knew
that from that sleep her father would never waken more.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

It was a very changed life that opened before the bairns when Arthur
took them home with him to Montreal.  A very dismal change it seemed to
them all, on the first morning when their brothers left them alone.
Home!  Could it ever seem like home to them?  Think of the dwellers
among the breezy hills of Merleville shut up in a narrow brick house in
a close city street.  Graeme had said that if they could all keep
together, it did not so much matter how or where; but her courage almost
failed as she turned to look out of the window that first morning.

Before her lay a confined, untidy yard, which they were to share with
these neighbours; and beyond that, as far as could be seen, lay only
roofs and chimneys.  From the room above the view was the same, only the
roofs and chimneys stretched farther away, and here and there between
them showed the dusty bough of a maple or elm, or the ragged top of a
Lombardy poplar, and, in the distance, when the sun shone, lay a bright
streak, which they came at last to know as Harry's grand river.  On the
other side, toward the street, the window looked but on a brick wall,
over which hung great willow-boughs shading half the street.  The brick
wall and the willows were better than the roofs and chimney-tops, Rosie
thought; but it was a dreary sort of betterness.  From Graeme's room
above were seen still the wall and the willows, but over the wall and
between the willows was got a glimpse of a garden--a very pretty garden.
It was only a glimpse--a small part of a circular bit of green grass
before the door of a handsome house, and around this, and under the
windows, flowers and shrubs of various kinds.  There was a conservatory
at one end, but of that they saw nothing but a blinding glare when the
sun shone on it--many panes of glass when the sun was gone.  The garden
seemed to extend behind the house; but they could only see a smooth
gravel walk with an edge of green.  Clumps of evergreens and
horse-chestnuts hid all the rest.  But even these were very beautiful;
and this glimpse of a rich man's garden, from an upper window, was the
redeeming feature in their new home.

For it was summer--the very prime of summer-time--and except for that
little glimpse of garden, and the dusty maple boughs, and the ragged
tops of the poplars, it might just as well have been winter.  There was
nothing to remind them of summer, but the air hanging over them hot and
close, or sweeping in sudden dust-laden gusts down the narrow street.
Yes; there was the long streak of blue, which Harry called the river,
seen from the upper window; but it was only visible in sunny days, at
least it only gleamed and sparkled then; it was but a dim, grey line at
other times.

How changed their life was; how they drooped and pined for the sights
and sounds and friends of Merleville.

"If there were but a green field in sight, or a single hill," said
Rosie; but she always added, "how nice it is to have the willow trees
and the sight of the garden."

For Rose was by no means sure that their longing for green fields and
hills and woods was not wrong.  It seemed like ingratitude to Arthur,
this pining for the country and their old home; and these young girls
from the very first made a firm stand against the home-sickness that
came upon them.  Not that home-sickness is a sickness that can be cured
by struggling against it; but they tried hard to keep the knowledge of
it from their brothers.  Whatever happened during the long days, they
had a pleasant breakfast-hour and a pleasant evening together.  They
seldom saw their brothers at other times during the first few months.
Harry's hours were long, and Arthur's business was increasing so as to
require close attention.  This was a matter of much rejoicing to Graeme,
who did not know that all Arthur's business was not strictly
professional--that it was business wearisome enough, and sometimes
bringing in but little, but absolutely necessary for that little's sake.

Graeme and Rosie were at home alone, and they found the days long and
tedious often, though they conscientiously strove to look at all things
from their best and brightest side.  For a while they were too busy--too
anxious for the success of their domestic plans, to have time for
home-sickness.  But when the first arrangements were made--when the
taste and skill of Graeme, and the inexhaustible strength of their new
maid, Nelly Anderson, had changed the dingy house into as bright and
pleasant a place as might well be in a city street, then came the long
days and the weariness.  Then came upon Graeme that which Janet had
predicted, when she so earnestly set her face against their going away
from Merleville till the summer was over.  Her fictitious strength
failed her.  The reaction from all the exertion and excitement of the
winter and spring came upon her now, and she was utterly prostrate.  She
did not give up willingly.  Indeed, she had no patience with herself in
the miserable state into which she had fallen.  She was ashamed and
alarmed at her disinclination to exert herself--at her indifference to
everything; but the exertion she made to overcome the evil only
aggravated it, and soon was quite beyond her power.  Her days were
passed in utter helplessness on the sofa.  She either denied herself to
their few visitors, or left them to be entertained by Rose.  All her
strength and spirits were needed for the evening when her brothers were
at home.

Some attention to household affairs was absolutely necessary, even when
the time came, that for want of something else to do Nelly nodded for
hours in the long afternoons over the knitting of a stocking.  For
though Nelly could do whatever could be accomplished by main strength,
the skill necessary for the arrangement of the nicer matters of their
little household was not in her, and Graeme was never left quite at rest
as to the progress of events in her dominions.  It was a very fortunate
chance that had cast her lot with theirs soon after their arrival,
Graeme knew and acknowledged; but after the handiness and immaculate
neatness of Hannah Lovejoy, it was tiresome to have nothing to fall back
upon but the help of the untaught Nelly.  Her willingness and
kind-heartedness made her, in many respects, invaluable to them; but her
field of action had hitherto been a turnip-field, or a field in which
cows were kept; and though she was, by her own account, "just wonderfu'
at the making of butter," she had not much skill at anything else.  If
it would have brought colour to the cheek, or elasticity to the step of
her young mistress, Nelly would gladly have carried her every morning in
her arms to the top of the mountain; but nothing would have induced her,
daring these first days, to undertake the responsibility of breakfast or
dinner without Graeme's special overlooking.  She would walk miles to do
her a kindness; but she could not step lightly or speak softly, or shut
the door without a bang, and often caused her torture when doing her
very best to help or cheer her.

But whatever happened through the day, for the evening Graeme exerted
herself to seem well and cheerful.  It was easy enough to do when Harry
was at home, or when Arthur was not too busy to read to them.  Then she
could still have the arm-chair or the sofa, and hear, or not hear, as
the case might be.  But when any effort was necessary--when she must
interest herself, or seem to interest herself in her work, or when
Arthur brought any one home with him, making it necessary for Graeme to
be hospitable and conversational, then it was very bad indeed.  She
might get through very well at the time with it all, but a miserable
night was sure to follow, and she could only toss about through the slow
hours exhausted yet sleepless.

Oh, how miserable some of these sultry August nights were, when she lay
helpless, her sick fancy changing into dear familiar sounds the hum that
rose from the city beneath.  Now it was the swift spring-time rush of
Carson's brook, now the gentle ripple of the waters of the pond breaking
on the white pebbles of the beach.  The wind among the willow-boughs
whispered to her of the pine grove and the garden at home, till her
heart grew sick with longing to see them again.  It was always the same.
If the bitter sorrow that bereavement had brought made any part of what
she suffered now; if the void which death had made deepened the
loneliness of this dreary time, she did not know it.  All this weariness
of body and sinking of heart might have come though she had never left
Merleville, but it did not seem so to her.  It was always of _home_ she
thought.  She rose up and lay down with longing for it fresh and sore.
She started from troubled slumber to break into passionate weeping when
there was no one to see her.  She struggled against the misery that lay
so heavily upon her, but not successfully.  Health and courage failed.

Of course, this state of things could not continue long.  They must get
either better or worse, Graeme thought, and worse it was.  Arthur and
Harry coming home earlier than usual found her as she had never allowed
them to find her before, lying listlessly, almost helplessly on the
sofa.  Her utmost effort to appear well and cheerful at the sight of
them failed this once.  She rose slowly and leaned back again almost
immediately, closing her eyes with a sigh.

"Graeme!" exclaimed Harry, "what ails you!  Such a face!  Look here, I
have something for you.  Guess what."

"A letter," said Rose.  "Oh!  Graeme look!"

But Graeme was past looking by this time.  Her brothers were startled
and tried to raise her.

"Don't, Arthur," said Rose; "let her lie down.  She will be better in a
little.  Harry get some water."

Poor, wee Rosie!  Her hands trembled among the fastenings of Graeme's
dress, but she knew well what to do.

"You don't mean that she has been like this before?" said Arthur, in
alarm.

"Yes, once or twice.  She is tired, she says.  She will soon be better,
now."

In a minute Graeme opened her eyes, and sat up.  It was nothing, she
said, and Arthur was not to be frightened; but thoroughly frightened
Arthur was, and in a little while Graeme found herself placed in the
doctor's hands.  It was a very kind, pleasant face that bent over her,
but it was a grave face too, at the moment.  When Graeme repeated her
assurance that she was not ill, but only overcome with the heat and
weariness, he said these had something to do with it, doubtless, and
spoke cheerfully about her soon being well again; and Arthur's face
quite brightened, as he left the room with him.  Rose followed them, and
when her brother's hand was on the door, whispered,--

"Please, Arthur, may I say something to the doctor?  I think it is
partly because Graeme is homesick."

"Homesick!" repeated the doctor and Arthur in a breath.

"Perhaps not homesick exactly," said Rose, eagerly addressing her
brother.  "She would not go back again you know; but everything is so
different--no garden, no hills, no pond.  And oh!  Arthur, don't be
vexed, but we have no Janet nor anything here."

Rosie made a brave stand against the tears and sobs that were rising in
spite of her, but she was fain to hide her face on her brother's arm as
he drew her toward him, and sat down on the sofa.  The doctor sat down,
too.

"Why, Rosie!  My poor, wee Rosie! what has happened to my merry little
sister?"

"I thought the doctor ought to know, and you must not tell Graeme.  She
does not think that I know."

"Know what?" asked Arthur.

"That she is so sad, and that the time seems long.  But I have watched
her, and I know."

"Well, I fear it is not a case for you, doctor," said Arthur, anxiously.

But the doctor thought differently.  There was more the matter with
Graeme than her sister knew, though the home-sickness may have something
to do with it; and then he added,--

"Her strength must have been severely tried to bring her to this state
of weakness."

Arthur hesitated a moment.

"There was long illness in the family--and then death--my sister's
first, and then my father's.  And then I brought the rest here."

It was not easy for Arthur to say all this.  In a little he added with
an effort,--

"I fear I have not done well in bringing them.  But they wished to come,
and I could not leave them."

"You did right, I have no doubt," said the doctor.  "Your sister might
have been ill anywhere.  She might have been worse without a change.
The thing is to make her well again--which, I trust, we can soon do--
with the help of Miss Rosie, who will make a patient and cheerful nurse,
I am sure."

"Yes," said Rose, gravely.  "I will try."

Arthur said something about taking them to the country, out of the dust
and heat of the town.

"Yes," said the doctor.  "The heat is bad.  But it will not last long
now, and on the whole, I think she is better where she is, at present.
There is no danger.  She will soon be as well as usual, I think."

But it was not very soon.  Indeed, it was a long time before Graeme was
as well as usual; not until the leaves on the willows had grown withered
and grey, and the summer had quite gone.  Not until kind Doctor
McCulloch had come almost daily for many weeks--long enough for him to
become much interested in both patient and nurse.

A wonderful nurse Rose proved herself to be.  At first something was
said about introducing a more experienced person into Graeme's chamber,
but both Rose and Nelly Anderson objected so decidedly to this, and
aided and abetted one another so successfully in their opposition to it,
that the design was given up on condition that Rosie kept well and
cheerful to prove her claim to the title of nurse.  She kept cheerful,
but she grew tall and thin, and a great deal too quiet to be like
herself, her brothers thought; so whatever was forgotten or neglected
during the day, Rosie must go out with one of them for a long walk while
the other stayed with Graeme, and by this means the health and spirits
of the anxious little lady were kept from failing altogether.  For
indeed the long days and nights might well be trying to the child, who
had never needed to think twice about her own comfort all her life, and
who was now quite too acutely sensible, how much the comfort of all the
rest depended upon her.  But she bore the trial well, and indeed came to
the conclusion, that it was quite as pleasant to be made useful, to be
trusted and consulted, and depended upon, as to be petted and played
with by her brothers.  She quite liked the sense of responsibility,
especially when Graeme began to get well again, and though she got tired
very often, and grew pale now and then, they all agreed afterward that
this time did Rose no harm, but a great deal of good.

As for Nelly Anderson, circumstances certainly developed her powers in a
most extraordinary manner--not as a nurse, however.  Her efforts in that
line were confined to rambling excursions about the sick-room in her
stockinged-feet, and to earnest entreaties to Graeme not to lose heart.
But in the way of dinners and breakfasts, she excited the astonishment
of the household, and her own most of all.  When Arthur had peremptorily
forbidden that any reference should be made to Graeme in household
matters, Nelly had helplessly betaken herself to Rose, and Rose had as
helplessly betaken herself to "Catherine Beecher."  Nothing short of the
state of absolute despair in which she found herself, would have induced
Nelly to put faith in a "printed book," in any matter where the labour
of her hands was concerned.  But her accomplishments as a cook did not
extend the making of "porridge" or the "choppin' of potatoes," and more
was required.  So with fear and trembling, Rose and she "laid their
heads together," over that invaluable guide to inexperienced
housekeepers, and the result was success--indeed a series of successes.
For emboldened by the favourable reception of their efforts, Nelly want
on and prospered; and Rose, content that she should have all the honour
of success, permitted her to have all the responsibility also.

Almost every morning Rose had a walk, either with Harry to his office,
or with Will, to the school, while Arthur stayed with Graeme.  The walk
was generally quick enough to bring a bright colour to her cheeks, and
it was always a merry time if Harry was with her, and then she was ready
for her long day at home.  She sometimes lingered on the way back.  On
the broad shady pavements of the streets she used to choose, when she
was alone, she made many a pause to watch the little children at their
play.  She used to linger, too, wherever the ugly brick walls had been
replaced by the pretty iron railings, with which every good rich man
will surround his gardens, in order that they who have no gardens of
their own may have a chance to see something beautiful too.  And
whenever she came to an open gate, the pause was long.  She was in
danger then of forgetting her womanliness and her gravity, and of
exclaiming like a little girl, and sometimes she forgot herself so far
as to let her feet advance farther up the gravel walk than in her sober
moments she would have considered advisable.

One bright morning, as she returned home, she found herself standing
before the large house on the other side of the street.  For the first
time she found the large gate wide open.  There was no one in sight, and
taking two steps forward, Rose saw more of the pretty garden within than
she had ever seen before.  She had often been tempted to walk round the
smooth broad walks of other gardens, but second thoughts had always
prevented her.  This time she did not wait for second thoughts, but
deliberately determined to walk round the carriage way without leave
asked or given.

The garden belonged to Mr Elphinstone, a great man--at least a great
merchant in the eyes of the world.  One of Rose's amusements during the
time she was confined in her sister's sick-room was to watch the comings
and goings of his only child, a girl only a little older than Rose
herself.  Sometimes she was in a little pony-carriage, which she drove
herself; sometimes she was in a large carriage driven by a grave-looking
coachman with a very glossy hat, and very white gloves.  Rosie used to
envy her a little when she saw her walking about in the garden gathering
the flowers at her own will.

"How happy she must be!" she thought now, as she stood gazing about her.
"If she is a nice young lady, as I am almost sure she is, she would
rather that I enjoyed her flowers than not.  At any rate I am going to
walk round just once--and then go."

But it was not an easy matter to get round the circle.  It was not a
very large one, but there were flowers all round it, and Rosie passed
slowly on lost in wonder and delights as some strange blossom presented
itself.  It took a long time to pass quite round, and before this was
accomplished, her footsteps were arrested by a splendid cardinal flower,
that grow within the shadow of the wall.  It was not quite a stranger.
She had gathered a species of it often in the low banks of the pond; and
as she bent over it with delight, a voice startled her--

"You should have soon it a while ago.  It is past its best now."

Rose turning saw the gardener, and hastily stammering an excuse,
prepared to go.  But he did not seem to understand that she was an
intruder.

"If you'll come, round this way I'll show you flowers that are worth
looking at," said he.

"He thinks I am a visitor," said Rose to herself.  "I'm sure I admire
his flowers as much as any of them can do.  It won't trouble him much to
show them to me, and I'll just go with him."

So picking up her bonnet that had fallen on the walk, she followed him,
a little frightened at her own boldness, but very much elated.  She did
not think the garden grew prettier as they went on, and her conductor
hurried her past a great many pretty squares and circles without giving
her time to admire them.  He stopped at last before a long, narrow bed,
where the flowers were growing without regard to regularity as to
arrangement; but oh!  Such colouring!  Such depth and richness!  What
verbenas and heliotropes!--what purples--crimsons--scarlets!  Rose could
only gaze and wonder and exclaim, while her friend listened, and was
evidently well pleased with her delight.

At last it was time to go, and Rose sighed as she said it.  But she
thanked him with sparkling eyes for his kindness, and added
deprecatingly--

"I am not a visitor here.  I saw the gate open and came in.  I couldn't
help it."

It was a small matter to her new friend whether she were a visitor at
the great house or not.

"You ken a flower when you see it," said he, "and that's more than can
be said of some of the visitors here."

He led the way round the garden till they came to a summer-house covered
with a flowering vine, which was like nothing ever Rose had seen before.

"It was just like what a bower ought to be," she told Graeme,
afterwards.  "It was just like a lady's bower in a book."

There was a little mound before it, upon which and in the borders close
by grew a great many flowers.  Not rare flowers, such as she had just
been admiring, but flowers sweet and common, pansies and thyme, sweet
peas and mignonette.  It was Miss Elphinstone's own bower, the gardener
said, and these were her favourite flowers.  Rose bent over a pale
little blossom near the path--

"What is this?" asked she; and then she was sorry, fearing to have it
spoiled by some long unpronounceable name.

"Surely you have seen that--and you from Scotland?  That's a gowan."

"A gowan!"  She was on her knees beside it in a moment.  "Is it the real
gowan, `that glints on bank and brae'?  No, I never saw one; at least I
don't remember.  I was only a child when I came away.  Oh! how Graeme
would like to see them.  And I must tell Janet.  A real gowan!  `Wee,
modest, crimson-tipped flower'--you mind?  And here is a white one,
`With silver crest and golden eye.'  Oh! if Graeme could only see them!
Give me just one for my sister who is ill.  She has gathered them on the
braes at home."

"Ahem!  I don't know," said her friend, in a changed voice.  "These are
Miss Elphinstone's own flowers.  I wouldna just like to meddle with
them.  But you can ask her yourself."

Rose turned.  The pretty young lady of the pony-carriage, was standing
beside her.  Rose's confusion was too deep for words.  She felt for a
minute as though she must run away, but thought better of it, and
murmured something about the flowers being so beautiful, and about not
wishing to intrude.  The young lady's answer was to stoop down and
gather a handful of flowers, gowans, sweet peas, violets and mignonette.
When she gave them into Rose's hand she asked,--

"Is your sister very ill?  I have seen the doctor going often to your
house."

"She is getting better now.  She has been very ill.  The doctor says she
will soon be well."

"And have you taken care of her all the time?  Is there no one else?"

"I have taken care of her, Nelly Anderson and I, all the day, and our
brothers are home at night."

"I am glad she is getting better.  Is she fond of flowers.  Mr Stirling
is thinking I haven't arranged mine nicely, but you can do that when you
put them in water, you know."

"Oh! thank you.  They are beautiful.  Yes, Graeme is very fond of
flowers.  This will be like a bit of summer to her, real summer in the
country, I mean.  And besides, she has gathered gowans on the braes at
home."

"I am a Canadian," said the young lady.  "I never saw the `gowany
braes,' but I shall see them soon."

They had reached the gate by this time.

"Come again, soon.  Come into the garden, whenever you like.  I am sure
Mr Stirling will like to show you his flowers, you are so fond of them.
I think a few of his would improve your bouquet."

Mr Stirling touched his hat to his young lady.

"I shall be proud to show the flowers to Miss Rose, and I shall have the
honour of making her a bouquet soon."  The young lady laughed.

"You are to be a favourite.  Is your name Rose," added she, lingering by
the gate.

"Yes, Rose Elliott.  I am the youngest.  We all live over there, my
brothers, and Graeme and I.  It would be a dreary place, if it were not
for the glimpse we get of your garden.  Look, there is Nelly looking for
me.  I am afraid I have hindered Arthur.  Thank you very much, and
good-bye."

Rose shyly put forth her hand.  The young lady took it in both hers, and
drawing her within the gate again, kissed her softly, and let her go.

"Stirling," said she, as she turned toward the house, "how did you know
the young lady's name is Rose? is she a friend of yours?  Do you know
her?"

"I know her face, that is all I have seen her for hours together,
looking in on the garden from that upper window.  And whiles she looks
through the gate.  I heard her brothers calling her Rose.  She's a bonny
lassie, and kens a flower when she sees it."

That night, Nelly was startled into a momentary forgetfulness of her
thick shoes, and her good manners, and came rushing into Graeme's room,
where they were all sitting after tea, bearing a bouquet, which a man,
"maybe a gentleman," Nelly seemed in doubt, had sent in with his
compliments to Miss Rose Elliott.  A bouquet! it would have won the
prize at any floral exhibition in the land, and never after that, while
the autumn frosts spared them, were they without flowers.  Even when the
autumn beauties hung shrivelled and black on their stems, and
afterwards, when the snows of winter lay many feet above the pretty
garden beds, many a rare hot-house blossom brightened the little
parlour, where by that time Graeme was able to appear.

"For," said Mr Stirling, to the admiring Nelly, "such were Miss
Elphinstone's directions before she went away, and besides, directions
or no directions, the flowers are well bestowed on folk that take real
pleasure in their beauty."

The autumn and winter passed pleasantly away.  As Graeme grew strong,
she grew content.  The children were well and happy, and Arthur's
business was prospering in a wonderful way, and all anxiety about ways
and means, might be put aside for the present.  They often heard from
Norman, and from their friends in Merleville, and Graeme felt that with
so much to make her thankful and happy, it would be ungrateful indeed to
be otherwise.

In the spring, they removed to another house.  It was in town, but
compared with the only one they had left, it seemed to be quite in the
country.  For the street was not closely built up, and it stood in the
middle of a little garden, which soon became beautiful under the
transforming hands of Rose and her brothers.  There was a green field
behind the house too, and the beautiful mountain was plainly visible
from it; and half an hour's walk could take them to more than one place,
where there was not a house to be seen.  The house itself, seemed like a
palace, after the narrow brick one they had just left.  It was larger
than they needed, Graeme thought, and the rent was higher than they
could well afford, but the garden was enough to content them with
everything else.  It was a source of health, if not of wealth, to them
all, and a never failing source of delight besides.  Their new home was
quite away from Mr Stirling's end of town, but he found time to come
and look at their garden every week or two; and his gifts of roots, and
seeds, and good advice were invaluable.

This was a short and pleasant summer to them all.  It is wonderful how
much pleasure can be made out of the quiet every-day duties of life, by
young and happy people on the watch for pleasant things.  To Will and
Rosie everything was delightful.  The early marketing with Nelly, to
which Graeme and Arthur, and sometimes even Harry was beguiled, never
lost its charm for them.  Harry had lived in town, long enough, to
permit himself to be a little scornful of the pleasure which the rest
took, in wandering up and down among the vegetables and fruits, and
other wares in the great market, and made himself merry over Rosie's
penchant for making acquaintance with the old French woman and little
children whom they met.  He mystified Rose and her friends by his free
interpretation of both French and English, and made the rest merry too;
so it was generally considered a great thing when he could be induced to
rise early enough to go with them.

Sometimes they went in the early boats to the other side of the river, a
pleasure to be scorned by none on lovely summer mornings; and they would
return home with appetites ready to do honour to the efforts of Nelly
and Miss Beecher.  Sometimes when a holiday came, it was spent by the
whole family, Nelly and all, at Lachine or the Back River, or on the top
of the mountain.  All this may seem stupid enough to them who are in the
habit of searching long, and going far for pleasure, but with the help
of books and pencils, and lively conversation, the Elliotts were able to
find a great deal of enjoyment at such holiday times.

They had pleasures of another kind, too.  Arthur's temporary connection
with one of the city newspapers, placed at their disposal magazines, and
a new book now and then, as well as tickets for lectures and concerts,
and there was seldom a treat of the kind but was highly enjoyed by one
or other of them.

They had not many acquaintances at this time.  In Janet's estimation,
the averseness of Graeme to bring herself in contact with strangers, had
been a serious defect in her character.  It was easier to avoid this in
the town than it used to be in the country, Graeme found.  Besides, she
had no longer the sense of parish responsibilities as a minister's
daughter, and was inclined for quietness.  Once or twice she made a
great effort, and went with an acquaintance to the "sewing meetings" of
the ladies of the church which they attended; but it cost her a great
deal of self-denial to very little purpose, it seemed to her, and so she
compromised the matter with her conscience, by working for, and being
very kind indeed, to a family of little motherless girls, who lived in a
lane near their house, and stayed at home.  She was by no means sure
that she did right.  For everybody knows, or ought to know, how
praiseworthy is the self-denial which is willing to give up an afternoon
every week, or every second week, to the making of pincushions, and the
netting of tidies, which are afterwards to appear in the form of
curtains or pulpit covers, or organs, or perhaps in the form of garments
for those who have none.  But then, though the "sewing-circle" is the
generally approved and orthodox outlet for the benevolent feelings and
efforts of those dear ladies who _love to do good_, but who are apt to
be bored by motherless little girls, and other poor people, who live in
garrets, and out of the way places, difficult of access, it is just
possible that direct efforts in their behalf may be accepted too.  One
thing is certain, though Graeme did not find it easy for a while to
satisfy herself, as to the "moral quality" of the motive which kept her
at home, the little Finlays were all the happier and better for the time
she conscientiously bestowed on them and their affairs.

They made some acquaintances that summer, and very pleasant ones, too.
Arthur used sometimes to bring home to their six o'clock dinner, a
friend or two of his clients from the country, or a young lawyer, or
lawyer's clerk, to whom the remembrance of his own first lonely days in
the city made him wish to show kindness.  There were two or three gay
French lads of the latter class who, strange to say, had taken a great
liking to the grave and steady Arthur, and who often came to pass an
evening at his pleasant fireside.  Graeme was shy of them for a while,
not being clear as to the principles and practice of the French as a
people, and as for Rose, the very sight of these polite moustached
gentlemen suggested historical names and events, which it was not at all
comfortable to think about.  But those light-hearted Canadian lads soon
proved themselves to be as worthy of esteem as though English had been
their mother tongue.  Very agreeable visitors they were, with their nice
gentlemanly manners, their good humour, and their music; and far better
subjects for the exercise of Rosie's French than the old market women
were, and in a little while they never came but they were kindly
welcomed.

This was a busy time, too.  Graeme taught Rosie English, and they
studied together French and German, and music; and were in a fair way,
Harry declared, of becoming a pair of very learned ladies indeed.  Very
busy and happy ladies they were, which was a matter of greater
importance.  And if sometimes it came into Graeme's mind that the life
they were living was too pleasant to last, the thought did not make her
unhappy, but humble and watchful, lest that which was pleasant in their
lot should make them forgetful of life's true end.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

"It is just three years to-night since we came to M.  Did you remember
it, Arthur?" said Graeme, looking up from her work.

"Is it possible that it can be three years?" said Arthur, in surprise.

"It has been a very happy time," said Graeme.

Rose left her book, and came and seated herself on the arm of her
brother's chair.  Arthur took the cigar from his lips, and gently puffed
the smoke into his sister's face.  Rose did not heed it.

"Three years!" repeated she.  "I was quite a child then."

The others laughed, but Rose went on without heeding.

"It rained that night, and then we had a great many hot, dusty days.
How well I remember the time!  Graeme was ill and homesick, and we
wished so much for Janet."

"That was only at first, till you proved yourself such a wonderful nurse
and housekeeper," said Graeme; "and you were not at all homesick
yourself, I suppose?"

"Perhaps just a little at first, in those hot, dreary days," said Rose,
gravely; "but I was not homesick very long."

"I am afraid there were a good many dreary days about that time--more
than you let me know about," said Arthur.

Graeme smiled and shook her head.

"I am afraid you had a good many anxious days about that time.  If I had
known how hard you would have to work, I think I would have stayed in
Merleville after all."

"Pooh!  Nonsense!  Hard work is wholesome.  And at the very worst time,
what with one thing and another, we had a larger income than my father
had in Merleville."

"But that was quite different--"

"Did I tell you that I have got a new client?  I have done business for
Mr Stone before, but to-day it was intimated to me, that henceforth I
am to be the legal adviser of the prosperous firm of `Grove & Stone.'
It will add something to our income, little woman."

Rose clapped her hands, and stooping down, whispered something in her
brother's ear.

"Don't be planning any extravagance, you two, on the strength of `Grove
& Stone.'  You know any superfluous wealth we may have, is already
appropriated," said Graeme.

"To the Merleville visit.  But this is not at all an extravagance, is
it, Arthur?" said Rose.

"That depends--.  I am afraid Graeme is the best judge.  But we won't
tell her to-night.  We must break the matter to her gently," said
Arthur.

"Graeme is so dreadfully prudent," sighed Rose.

Graeme laughed.

"It is well there is one prudent one among us."

"I don't believe she would at all approve of your smoking another cigar,
for instance.  They are nicer than usual, are they not?" said Rose,
inhaling the fragrance from her brother's case.

"Yes.  I treated myself to a few of the very best, on the strength of
Grove & Stone.  They are very nice.  Have one?"

Rose took it with great gravity.

"Suppose we take a little walk first, and smoke afterwards," said she,
coaxingly.

Arthur made a grimace.

"And where will you beguile me to, when you get me fairly out?"

"There is no telling, indeed," said Rose.  "Graeme, I am going to put on
my new hat.  When Mr Elliott honours us with his company, we must look
our very best, you know."

"But, Arthur, you have an engagement to-night.  Don't you remember?"
asked Graeme.

"To Mrs Barnes'," said Rose.  "Miss Cressly brought home my dress
to-day, and she told me all about it.  Her sister is nurse there.  The
party is to be quite a splendid affair.  It is given in honour of Miss
Grove, who has just come home.  I wish I were going with you."

"You may go without me!  I will give you my invitation.  It is a great
bore, and I don't believe I shall go.  I don't see the good of it."

"But you promised," said Graeme.

"Well, I suppose I must go for a while.  But it is very stupid."

"Just as if you could make us believe that.  It must be delightful.  I
think it's very stupid of you and Graeme, not to like parties."

"You forget.  I was not asked," said Graeme.

"But you might have been, if you had returned Mrs Barnes' call soon
enough.  How nice it would have been!  I wish I were Miss Grove, to have
a party given for me.  She is a beauty, they say.  You must notice her
dress, Arthur, and tell me all about it."

"Oh! certainly," said Arthur, gravely.  "I'll take particular notice.
But come, get your hats.  There is time enough for a walk before I go.
Haste, Rosie, before the finest of the evening is past.  Are you coming,
Will?  Man! you shouldna read by that light.  You will blind yourself.
Put away your book, you'll be all the better for a walk."

They lingered a moment at the gate.

"Here is Harry!" exclaimed Rose.  "And some one with him.  Charlie
Millar, I think."

"We will wait for them," said Arthur.

The look that came to Graeme's face, as she stood watching her brother's
coming, told that the shadow of a new care was brooding over her, and
the light talk of her brother and sister told that it was one they did
not see.  She stood back a little, while they exchanged greetings, and
looked at Harry with anxious eyes.

"Are you going out, Graeme?" asked he, coming within the gate.

"Only to walk.  Will you go with us?  Or shall I stay?"

"Miss Elliott," interposed Charlie Millar, "I beg you will not.  He
doesn't deserve it at your hands.  He is as cross as possible.  Besides,
we are going to D street, by invitation, to meet the new partner.  He
came yesterday.  Did Harry tell you?"

"Harry did not come home last night.  What kept you, Harry?" asked Rose.

"We were kept till a most unreasonable hour, and Harry stayed with me
last night," said Charlie.

"And of course Graeme stayed up till all hours of the night, waiting for
me," said Harry, with an echo of impatience in his voice.

"Of course she did no such foolish thing.  I saw to that," said Arthur.
"But which is it to be?  A walk, or a quiet visit at home?"

"Oh! a walk, by all means," said Charlie Millar.

"I have a great mind not to go," said Harry.

"Nonsense, man!  One would think you were about to receive the reward of
your evil deeds.  I refer to you, Miss Elliott.  Would it be respectful
to the new firm, if he were to refuse to go?"

"Bother the new firm," said Harry, impatiently.

"The new partner, you mean.  He has taken a most unreasonable dislike to
my brother at first sight--calls him proud, and a snob, because he
happens to be shy and awkward with strangers."

"Shy!  A six-footer, with a beard enough for three.  After that I'll
vanish," said Harry.

"I don't think Harry is very polite," said Rose.

"Never mind.  There are better things in the world than politeness.  He
will be more reasonable by and by," said Harry's friend.

"So your brother has come," said Graeme.  "How long is it since you have
seen him?"

"Oh! not for ten years.  He was home once after he came out here, but I
was away at school, and did not see him.  I remembered him quite well,
however.  He is not spoiled by his wanderings, as my mother used to fear
he might be;" then he added, as Harry reappeared, "the fact is, Miss
Elliott, he expected to be asked to dinner.  We must overlook his
ill-temper."

"By all means," said Graeme, laughing.

"Thank you," said Harry.  "And I'll try to be patient."

"Well, shall we go now?" said Arthur, who had been waiting patiently
through it all.  The others followed him and Will.

"Is your brother going to remain here?" asked Graeme.  "That will be
nice for you."

"Yes, on some accounts it would be nice.  But if they send Harry off to
fill his place at the West, I shall not like that, unless, indeed, they
send us both.  And I am not sure I should like that long."

"Send Harry!" exclaimed Graeme.

"Nonsense, Graeme!" said Harry.  "That is some of Charlie's stuff."

"I hope so; but we'll see," said Charlie.  "Miss Elliott, I had a letter
from my mother to-day."  The lad's eyes softened, as he turned them on
Graeme.

"Have you?" said Graeme, turning away from her own thoughts to interest
herself in his pleasure.  "Is she quite well?"

"Yes, she is much better than she was, and, Miss Elliott, she sends her
love to you, and her best thanks."

"For what?" said Graeme, smiling.

"Oh! you know quite well for what.  What should I have done, if it had
not been for you and Harry?  I mean if you had not let me come to your
house sometimes."

"Stuff!" said Harry.

"Truth!" said Charlie.  "I never shall forget the misery of my first
months, till Harry came into our office.  It has been quite different
since the night he brought me to your house, and you were so kind as to
ask me to come again."

"That was no great self-denial on our part," said Graeme, smiling.

"You minded Graeme on some one she used to know long ago," said Rose.
"And, besides, you are from Scotland."

Both lads laughed.

"And Graeme feels a motherly interest in all Scottish laddies, however
unworthy they may be," said Harry.

And so they rambled on about many things, till they came to the gate of
Mr Elphinstone's garden, beyond which Arthur and Will were loitering.

"How pretty the garden is!" said Rose.  "Look, Graeme, at that little
girl in the window.  I wonder whether the flowers give her as much
pleasure, as they used to give me."

"I am afraid she does not get so many of them as you used to get," said
Graeme.

"Come in and let me gather you some," said Charlie.

"No, indeed.  I should not venture.  Though I went in the first time
without an invitation.  And you dare not pick Mr Stirling's flowers."

"Dare I not?" said Charlie, reaching up to gather a large spray from a
climbing rose, that reached high above the wall.

"Oh! don't.  Oh! thank you," said Rose.

As far down as they could see for the evergreens and horse-chestnuts a
white dress gleamed, and close beside the little feet that peeped out
beneath it, a pair of shining boots crushed the gravel.

"Look," said Rose, drawing back.

"The new partner," said Harry, with a whistle.  "A double partnership--
eh, Charlie?"

"I shouldn't wonder," said Charlie, looking wise.

"He knows what he's about, that brother of yours.  He's cute.  He knows
a thing or two, I guess."

"Harry," said Rose, gravely, "don't talk slang.  And I don't think it
very polite to speak that way to Mr Millar about his brother."

"My dear Rosie, I am not talking slang, but the pure American language;
and I think you are more considerate about other people's brothers than
you are of your own.  Twice this night I have heard your brother called
cross and disagreeable, without rebuke."

"You deserved it," said Rose, laughing.

"Miss Rose," said Charlie, "let your smile beam on him for one moment,
and he can't look cross for the rest of the evening."

Rose turned her laughing face to her brother.

"Be a good boy, Harry.  Good bye."

As they returned, Will and Rose went on before, while Graeme lingered
with Arthur.

"Did you hear what Mr Millar said about the possibility of Harry's
being sent West?  It must be to take the new partner's place, I
suppose," said Graeme, after a little.

"No; did he say so?  It would be a capital good thing for Harry."

"Do you think so?  He would have to leave home."

"Yes; that would be a pity, of course; but the opening for him would be
a very good one.  I doubt whether there is much in it, however.  Harry
has been for so short a time in the employment of the firm, and he is
very young for a place so responsible.  Still, it may be.  I know they
have great confidence in him."

There was a pause, and they walked slowly on.

"Arthur," said Graeme, in a low voice.  "Do you think Harry is--quite
steady?"

"Steady," repeated Arthur in a surprised and shocked tone.  "Why should
you doubt it?"

Graeme strove to speak quietly, but her hand trembled on her brother's
arm, and he knew it cost her an effort.

"I dare say there is no cause for doubt.  Still, I thought I ought to
speak to you.  You will know better than I; and you must not think that
I am unkind in speaking thus about Harry."

"You unkind!  No; I should think two or three things before I thought
that.  But tell me why you have any fears?"

"You know, Arthur, Harry has been very late in coming home, a good many
times lately; and sometimes he has not come at all.  And once or twice--
more indeed--he has been excited, more than excited--and--"

Graeme could not go on.

"Still, Graeme, I do not think there is any real cause for apprehension.
He is young and full of spirit, and his society is sought after--too
much for his good, I dare say.  But he has too much sense to give us any
real cause for uneasiness on that ground.  Why, Graeme, in P street
Harry is thought much of for his sense and talent."

Graeme sighed.  There came into her mind something that her father had
once said, about gallant ships being wrecked at last.  But she did not
speak.

"Shall I speak to him, Graeme?  What would you like me to do?  I don't
think there is much to fear for him."

"Well, I will think so, too.  No; don't speak to him yet.  It was
hearing that he might be sent away, that made me speak to-night.  I dare
say I am foolish."

They walked on in silence for a little, and then Graeme said,--

"I hope it is only that I am foolish.  But we have been so happy lately;
and I mind papa and Janet both said to me--it was just when we were
beginning to fear for Menie--that just as soon as people were beginning
to settle down content, some change would come.  It proved so then."

"Yes; I suppose so," said Arthur, with a sigh.  "We must expect changes;
and scarcely any change would be for the better as far as we are
concerned.  But, Graeme, we must not allow ourselves to become fanciful.
And I am quite sure that after all your care for Harry, and for us all,
you will not have to suffer on his account.  That would be too sad."

They said no more till they overtook the children,--as Rose and Will
were still called in this happy household.

"I have a good mind not to go, after all.  I would much rather stay
quietly at home," said Arthur, sitting down on the steps.

"But you promised," said Graeme.  "You must go.  I will get a light, and
you need not stay long."

"You must go, of course," said Rose.  "And Graeme and I will have a nice
quiet evening.  I am going to practise the new music you brought home."

"A quiet evening," said Will.

"Yes; I have rather neglected my music of late, and other things, too.
I'm sure, I don't know where the time goes to.  I wish I were going with
you, Arthur."

"You are far better at home."

"Yes, indeed," said Graeme; and Will added,--

"A child like Rosie!"

"Well, be sure and look well at all the dresses, especially Miss
Grove's, and tell me all about them."

"Yes; especially Miss Grove, if I get a glimpse of her in the crowd,
which is doubtful."

"Well, good-night," said Rose.  "I don't believe there will be a
gentleman there to compare to you."

Arthur bowed low.

"I suppose I ought to say there will be no one there to compare with
you.  And I would, if I could conscientiously.  But `fine feathers make
fine birds,' and Miss Grove aspires to be a belle it seems,--and, many
who don't aspire to such distinction, will, with the help of the
dressmaker, eclipse the little Scottish Rose of our garden.  Good-night
to you all--and Graeme, mind you are not to sit up for me past your
usual time."

He went away, leaving Rose to her practising, Will to his books, and
Graeme to pace up and down the gallery in the moonlight, and think her
own thoughts.  They were not very sad thoughts, though Arthur feared
they might be.  Her brother's astonishment at her fears for Harry, had
done much to re-assure her with regard to him; for surely, if there were
danger for Harry, Arthur would see it; and she began to be indignant
with herself for having spoken at all.

"Arthur will think I am foolish.  He will think that I have lost
confidence in Harry, which is not true.  I wish I were more hopeful.  I
wish I did not take fright at the very first shadow.  Janet aye said
that the first gloom of the cloud, troubled me more than the falling of
the shower should do.  Such folly to suppose that anything could happen
to our Harry!  I won't think about it.  And even if Harry has to go
away, I will believe with Arthur, that will be for the best.  He will be
near Norman, at any rate, and that will be a great deal.  Norman will be
glad.  And I will not fear changes.  Why should I?  They cannot come to
us unsent.  I will trust in God."

But quite apart from the thought of Harry's temptation or prospects,
there was in Graeme's heart a sense of pain.  She was not quite
satisfied in looking back over these pleasant years.  She feared she had
been beginning to settle down content with their pleasant life,
forgetting higher things.  Except the thought about Harry, which had
come and gone, and come again a good many times within the last few
months, there had scarcely been a trouble in their life daring these two
years and more.  She had almost forgotten how it would seem, to waken
each morning to the knowledge that painful, self-denying duties lay
before her.  Even household care, Nelly's skill and will had put far
from her.

And now as she thought about all of this, it came into her mind how her
father and Janet had always spoken of life as a warfare--a struggle, and
the Bible so spoke of it, too.  She thought of Janet's long years of
self-denial, her toils, her disappointments; and how she had always
accepted her lot as no uncommon one, but as appointed to her by God.
She thought of her father--how, even in the most tranquil times of his
life--the time she could remember best, the peaceful years in
Merleville, he had given himself no rest, but watched for souls as one
who must give account.  Yes, life was a warfare.  Not always with
outward foes.  The struggle need not be one that a looker-on could
measure or see, but the warfare must be maintained--the struggle must
only cease with life.  It had been so with her father, she knew; and
through his experience, Graeme caught a glimpse of that wonderful
paradox of the life that is hid with Christ in God,--constant warfare--
and peace that is abiding; and could the true peace be without the
warfare? she asked herself.  And what was awaiting them after all these
tranquil days?

It was not the fear that this might be the lull before the storm that
pained her, so much as the doubt whether this quiet time had been turned
to the best account.  Had she been to her brothers all that father had
believed she would be?  Had her influence always been decidedly on the
side where her father's and her mother's would have been?  They had been
very happy together, but were her brothers really better and stronger
Christian men, because of her?  And if, as she had sometimes feared,
Harry were to go astray, could she be altogether free from blame?

The friends that had gathered around them during these years, were not
just the kind of friends they would have made, had her father instead of
her brother been at the head of the household; and the remembrance of
the pleasure they had taken in the society of some who did not think as
their father had done on the most important of all matters, came back to
her now like a sin.  And yet if this had worked for evil among them, it
was indirectly; for it was the influence of no one whom they called
their friend that she feared for Harry.  She always came back to Harry
in her thoughts.

"But I will not fear for him," she repeated often.  "I will trust God's
care for Harry and us all.  Surely I need not fear, I think I have been
beginning at the wrong end of my tangled thoughts to-night.  Outward
circumstances cannot make much difference, surely.  If we are humble and
trustful God will guide us."

And busy still with thoughts from which renewed trust had taken the
sting, Graeme sat still in the moonlight, till the sound of approaching
footsteps recalled her to the present.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

The shining boots crashed the gravel, and the white dress gleamed
through the darkness, some time after the young men were seated in Mr
Elphinstone's handsome drawing-room.  The master of the mansion sat
alone when they entered, gazing into a small, bright coal fire, which,
though it was not much past midsummer, burned in the grate.  For Mr
Elphinstone was an invalid, with little hope of being other than an
invalid all his life, though he was by no means an old man yet.

If he had been expecting visitors, he had forgotten it, for they had
come quite close to him before he looked up, and he quite started at the
sound of Mr Millar's voice.  He rose and received them courteously and
kindly, however.  Mr Elphinstone in his own drawing-room was a
different person, or rather, he showed a different manner from Mr
Elphinstone in his counting-room in intercourse with his clerks; and
Harry, who had had none but business intercourse with him, was struck
with the difference.  It required an effort for him to realise that the
bland, gentle voice was the same that he had so often heard in brief and
prompt command.

Business was to be ignored to-night, however.  Their talk was of quite
other matters.  There was an allusion to the new partnership, and to Mr
Millar's half-brother, the new partner, who at the moment, as they all
knew, was passing along the garden walk with a little white hand on his
coat-sleeve.  This was not alluded to, however, though each thought his
own thoughts about it, in the midst of their talk.  That those of Mr
Elphinstone were rather agreeable to himself, the lads could plainly
see.  He had no son, and that his partner and nephew should fall into a
son's place was an idea that pleased him well.  Indeed, it had cost him
some self-denial to-night not to intimate as much to him after the
pretty Lilias had withdrawn, and the smile that Harry was stealthily
watching on his face, was called up by the remembrance of the admiration
which his daughter had evidently called forth.  Harry watched the smile,
and in his heart called the new partner "lucky," and "cute," and looked
at Charlie's discontented face with a comic astonishment that would have
excited some grave astonishment to their host, if by any chance he had
looked up to see.  Though why Charlie should look discontented about it,
Harry could not well see.

They talked about indifferent matters with a little effort till the
white dress gleamed in the firelight, and a soft voice said--

"What, still in the dark, papa!"

The lights came in, and Harry was introduced to Miss Elphinstone.  He
had shared Rosie's interest in the lady of the pony-carriage, long ago,
and had sometimes seen and spoken with her in the garden in those days,
but he had not seen her since her return from Scotland, where her last
three years had been spent.  A very sweet-looking and graceful little
lady she was, though a little silent and shy at first, perhaps in
sympathy, Harry thought, with the tall, bearded gentleman who had come
in with her.

It was evidently Harry's interest to be on good terms with the new
partner, and common politeness might have suggested the propriety of
some appearance of interest in him and his conversation.  But he turned
his back upon the group by the fire, and devoted himself to the
entertainment of their young hostess who was by this time busy with her
tea-cups in another part of the room.  There was some talk about the
weather and the voyage and sea-sickness, and in the first little pause
that came, the young lady looked up and said,--

"You don't live in the house opposite now, I think."

It was the first voluntary remark she had made, and thankful for a new
opening, Harry said,--

"No; my sisters were never quite contented there.  We left it as soon as
possible; and we are quite at the other end of the town now."

"And is your little sister as fond of flowers as ever?"

"Rose?  Oh, yes!  She has a garden of her own now, and aspires to rival
the pansies and verbenas of Mr Stirling, even."

Miss Elphinstone smiled brightly.

"I remember the first time she came into the garden."

"Yes, that was a bright day in Rosie's life.  She has the gowans you
gave her still.  The garden was a great resource to her in those days."

"Yes; so she said.  I was very glad.  I never gathered gowans among the
hills at home, but I seemed to see that pretty shy face looking up at
me."

"Yes," said Harry, meditatively, "Rose was a very pretty child."

Mr Millar had drawn near by this time.  Indeed, the other gentlemen
were listening too, and when Miss Elphinstone looked up it was to meet a
very wondering look from the new partner.

"By the by, Mr Elliott," said her father, breaking rather suddenly into
the conversation, "whom did your elder brother marry?"

"Marry!" repeated Charles.

"He is not married," said Harry.

"No?  Well he is to be, I suppose.  I saw him walking the other day with
a young lady.  Indeed, I have often seen them together, and I thought--"

"It was my sister, I presume," said Harry.

"Perhaps so.  She was rather tall, with a pale, grave face--but pretty--
quite beautiful indeed."

"It was Graeme, I daresay.  I don't know whether other people think her
beautiful or not."

Harry did not say it, but he was thinking that his sister seemed
beautiful to them all at home, and his dark eyes took the tender look of
Graeme's own as he thought.  It vanished quickly as a heavy hand was
laid on his shoulder, and he turned to meet the look of the new partner.

"You don't mean that you are the Harry Elliott that sailed with me in
the `Steadfast,' ten years ago."

"Yes, I am Harry Elliott, and I crossed the sea in the `Steadfast' ten
years ago.  I knew _you_ at the first glance, Mr Ruthven."

"I never should have known you in the least," said Mr Ruthven.  "Why,
you were quite a little fellow, and now you can nearly look down on me."

"I never thought of that," said Harry, looking foolish.

"And you thought the new partner fancied himself too big a man to know
you," said Charlie.  "And that's the reason you took umbrage at him, and
told your sister he was--ahem, Harry?"

Miss Elphinstone's laugh recalled Charlie to a sense of propriety, and
Harry looked more foolish than ever.  But Mr Ruthven did not seem to
notice what they were saying.

"I never should have known you.  I see your father's look in you now--
and you have your elder sister's eyes.  Why did you not write to me as
you promised?"

"We did write--Norman and I both, and afterwards Graeme.  We never heard
a word from you."

"You forget, it was not decided where you were to settle when I left
you.  You promised to write and tell me.  I wrote several times to your
father's friend in C---, but I never heard from him."

"He died soon after we arrived," said Harry.

"And afterward I heard of a Reverend Mr Elliott in the western part of
New York, and went a day's journey thinking I had found you all at last.
But I found this Mr Elliott was a very young man, an Englishman--a
fine fellow, too.  But I was greatly disappointed."

Harry's eyes grew to look more like Graeme's than ever, as they met
Allan's downward gaze.

"I can't tell you how many Mr Elliotts I have written to, and then I
heard of your father's death, Harry, and that your sisters had gone home
again to Scotland.  I gave up all hope then, till last winter, when I
heard of a young Elliott, an engineer--Norman, too--and when I went in
search of him, he was away from home; then I went another fifty miles to
be disappointed again.  They told me he had a sister in a school at
C---, but Rose never could have grown into the fair, blue-eyed little
lady I found there, and I knew it could not be either of the others, so
I only said I was sorry not to see her brother, and went away."

Harry listened eagerly.

"I daresay it was our Norman, and the little girl you saw was his
adopted sister, Hilda.  If Norman had only known--" said Harry.  And
then he went on to tell of how Norman had saved the little girl from the
burning boat, and how he had cared for her since.  By and by they spoke
of other things and had some music, but the new partner said little, and
when it was time for the young men to go, he said he would walk down the
street with them.

"So, Charlie, you have found the friends who were so kind to me long
ago," said his brother, as they shut the gate.

"Yes," said Charlie, eagerly, "I don't know how I should have lived in
this strange land without them.  It has been a different place to me
since Harry came to our office, and took me home with him."

"And I suppose I am quite forgotten."

"Oh, no, indeed!" said Harry, and Charlie added--

"Don't you mind, Harry, your sister Rose said to-night that I reminded
Miss Elliott of some one she knew long ago.  It was Allan, I daresay,
she meant.  My mother used to say I looked as Allan did when he went
away."

They did not speak again till they came near the house.  Then Charlie
said,--

"It is not very late, Harry.  I wonder whether they are up yet.  There
is a light."

"Allan," said Harry, lingering behind, "Marian died before my father.
Don't speak of her to Graeme."

Graeme was still sitting on the steps.

"Miss Elliott," whispered Charlie, eagerly, "who is the new partner, do
you think?  Did I ever tell you my half-brother's name?  It is Allan
Ruthven."

Graeme gave neither start nor cry, but she came forward holding out her
hands to the tall figure who came forward with an arm thrown over
Harry's shoulder.  They were clasped in his.

"I knew you would come.  I was quite sure that some time we should see
you again," said Graeme, after a little.

"And I--I had quite lost hope of ever finding you," said Allan.  "I
wonder if you have missed me as I have missed you?"

"We have been very happy together since we parted from you," said
Graeme, "and very sorrowful, too.  But we never forgot you, either in
joy or sorrow; and I was always sure that we should see you again."

They went into the house together.  Rose, roused from the sleep into
which she had fallen, stood very much amazed beneath the chandelier.

"You'll never tell me that my wee white Rose has grown into a flower
like this!" said Allan.

It was a bold thing for him to do, seeing that Rose was nearly as tall
as her sister; but he clasped her in his arms and kissed her "cheek and
chin" as he had done that misty morning on the deck of the "Steadfast"
so many years ago.

"Rose," said Graeme, "it is Allan--Allan Ruthven.  Don't you remember.
I was always sure we should see him again."

They were very, very glad, but they did not say so to one another in
many words.  The names of the dead were on their lips, making their
voices trembling and uncertain.

"Arthur," said Rose, as they were all sitting together a day or two
after, "you have forgotten to tell us about the party."

"You have forgotten to ask me, you mean.  You have been so taken up with
your new hero that I have had few of your thoughts."

Mr Ruthven smiled at Rose from the other side of the table.

"Well, tell us about it now," said she.  "You must have enjoyed it
better than you expected, for more than one of the `small-hours' had
struck before you came home."

"Oh, yes, I enjoyed it very well.  I met young Storey, who has just
returned from Europe.  I enjoyed his talk very much.  And then Mrs
Gridley took me under her protection.  She is a clever woman, and
handsome, too."

"Handsome!" echoed Rose.  "Why she is an old woman, with grown-up
daughters.  And if you were to see her by daylight!"

They all laughed.

"Well, that might make a difference.  But she says very clever, or maybe
very sharp, things about her neighbours, and the time passed quickly
till supper.  It was rather late but I could not leave before supper--
the event of the evening."

"I should think not," said Harry.

"Well, we won't ask about the supper, lest it might make Harry
discontented with his own.  And what happened after supper?"

"Oh! after supper Mr Grove and his friend Barnes began to discuss the
harbour question, and I very foolishly allowed myself to be drawn into
the discussion.  Mr Green was there, the great western merchant.  He is
a long-headed fellow, that.  You must know him, Mr Ruthven."

"I know him well.  He is a remarkably clever business-man, and a good
fellow; though, I suppose, few know it so well as I do.  I had a long
illness in C once, and he nursed me as if I had been a brother.  I might
have known him for years in the way of business, without discovering his
many excellent qualities.  He has the name of being rather hard in the
way of business, I believe?"

"He has a clear head of his own," said Arthur; "I enjoyed a talk with
him very much.  He intends visiting Europe, he tells me."

"Well, what next?" said Rose, to whom Mr Green and his good qualities
were matters of indifference.

"Then I came home.  Mr Green walked down the street with me."

"And didn't you see Miss Grove, the belle of the evening!" exclaimed
Rose.

"Oh, yes!  I had the honour of an introduction to her.  She is a pretty
little thing."

"Pretty!  Is that all you can say for the belle?  How does she look?  Is
she fair or dark?  What colour are her eyes?"

"I can hardly say.  She would be called fair, I think.  I can't say
about her eyes.  She has a very pretty hand and arm, and--is aware of
it."

"Don't be censorious, Arthur!  Does she wear curls?  And what did she
say to you?"

"Curls!  I cannot say.  I have the impression of a quantity of hair, not
in the best order toward the end of the evening.  She seemed to be
dancing most of the time, and she dances beautifully."

"But she surely said something to you.  What did you talk about?"
demanded Rose, impatiently.

"She told that if she were to dance all the dances for which she was
engaged, she wouldn't get home till morning."

"You don't mean to say you asked her to dance?"

"Oh, no!  She volunteered the information.  I could have waited so long
as to have the honour."

"And, of course, you can't tell a word about her dress?"

"I beg your pardon," said Arthur, searching his pocket.  "It must be in
my other vest.  I asked Mrs Gridley what the young lady's dress was
made of, and put it down for your satisfaction.  Rosie, I hope I haven't
lost it."

"Arthur! what nonsense!" said Graeme, laughing.  "I am sure Mrs Gridley
was laughing in her sleeve at you all the time."

"She hadn't any sleeve to laugh in.  But when I told her that I was
doing it for the benefit of my little sister Rosie, she smiled in her
superior way."

"I think I see her," said Rosie, indignantly.  "But what was her dress,
after all?  Was it silk or satin?"

"No, nothing so commonplace as that.  I could have remembered silk or
satin.  It was--"

"Was it lace, or gauze, or crape?" suggested Rose.

"Or tarltan or muslin?" said Graeme, much amused.

"Or damask, or velvet, or cloth of gold, or linsey-woolsey?" said Harry.

Arthur assumed an air of bewilderment.

"It was gauze or crape, I think.  No; it had a name of three syllables
at least.  It was white or blue, or both.  But I'll write a note to Mrs
Gridley, shall I, Rosie?"

"It would be a good plan.  I wonder what is the use of your going to
parties?"

"So do I, indeed," said her brother.  "I am quite in the dark on the
subject.  But I was told in confidence that there are cards to be issued
for a great entertainment in Grove House, and I should not wonder if my
`accomplished sisters'--as Mrs Gridley in her friendly way calls them--
were to be visited in due form by the lady of the Grove preparatory to
an invitation to the same.  So be in readiness.  I think I should write
the note to Mrs Gridley, Rosie; you'll need a hint."

Graeme laughed, while Rose clapped her hands.

"I am not afraid of the call or the invitation," said Graeme.

But they came--first the call, which was duly returned, and then the
invitation.  That was quite informal.  Mrs Grove would be happy if Miss
Elliott and her sister would spend the evening at her house to meet a
few friends.  To their surprise, Harry, as well as Arthur, came home
with a little pink note to the same effect.

"I didn't know that you knew the Groves, Harry," said Arthur.

"Oh, yes, I know Mr Grove in a general way; but I am invited through a
mistake.  However, I shall go all the same.  I am not responsible for
other people's mistakes.  Nothing can be plainer than that."

"A mistake!" repeated several voices.

"Yes; Mrs Grove thinks I am a rising man, like the squire here; and why
undeceive her?  I shall add to the brilliancy of her party, and enjoy it
mightily myself.  Why undeceive her, I ask?"

"Don't be nonsensical, Harry," said Rose.

"How came Mrs Grove to make such an absurd mistake?" said Arthur,
laughing.

"She's _cute_, I know; still it was not surprising in the circumstances.
I met her on the street yesterday, and I saw the invitation in her eyes
as plainly as I see this little pink concern now;" and he tossed the
note to Rose.  "I think I should send the acceptance to Miss
Elphinstone.  It was she who obtained the invitation for me."

"Miss Elphinstone!"

"Yes, or Jack, or both, I should perhaps say.  For if Jack had been at
his post, I should not have been politely requested to call a carriage
for Miss Elphinstone, and Mrs Grove would not have seen me escorting
her down the street as she sat in her carriage at Alexander's door.  I
know she was thinking I was very bold to be walking on N Street with my
master's daughter.  Of course she didn't know that I was doing the work
of that rascal Jack.  And so I am going to the Grove party, unless,
indeed, there is any objection to our going _en masse_.  Eh, Graeme?"

"It is not a party, only a few friends," said Rose, eagerly.

"Certainly, we'll all go," said Arthur.  "If they had not wanted us all,
they would not have asked us.  Of course, we'll all go for once."

"But, Graeme," said Harry, coming back after he had left to go away,
"don't let the idea of `a few friends' delude you.  Make yourselves as
fine as possible.  There will be a great crowd, you may be sure.  Miss
Elphinstone and Mr Ruthven are invited, and they are not among the
intimate friends of such people as the Groves.  Shall I send you home a
fashion book, Rosie?"

"Or write a note to Mrs Gridley," said Arthur.

Rose laughed.  She was pleasantly excited at the prospect of her first
large party, there was no denying it.  Indeed, she did not seek to deny
it, but talked merrily on, not seeing, or not seeming to see, the
doubtful look on Graeme's face.  She alone, had not spoken during the
discussion.  She had not quite decided whether this invitation was so
delightful as Rosie thought, and in a little when her sister had left
the room, she said--

"Shall I accept the invitation then for Rose and me?"

"Have you not accepted yet? you need not of course, unless you wish.
But I think you will enjoy it, and Rosie, too."

"Yes, but I am by no means sure, that I like Mrs Grove," said she,
hesitating.

"Are you not?" said her brother, laughing.  "Well, I have got much
farther than you.  I am sure that I don't like her at all.  But, what of
that?"

"Only that I don't fancy accepting kindness, from a person I don't like,
and to whom I don't think it would be pleasant to repay in kind."

"Oh! nonsense.  The obligation is mutual.  Her kindness will be quite
repaid, by having a new face in her splendid rooms.  And as for repaying
her in kind, as you call it, that is quite out of the question.  There
are not a dozen people in town who do the thing on the scale the Groves
attempt.  And besides, Rosie would be disappointed."

Graeme did not believe that it was the best thing that could happen to
Rosie, to be gratified in this matter, but she did not say so.

"After all," thought she, "I daresay there is no harm in it.  I shall
not spoil the pleasure of the rest, by not seeming to enjoy it.  But I
don't like Mrs Grove."

The last words were emphatically repeated.  She did not like her.  She
did not wish to see her frequently, or to know her intimately.  She
wished she had neither called, nor invited them.  She wished she had
followed her first impulse, which had been to refuse at once without
referring to her brothers.  Now, however, she must go with a good grace.

So they all went, and enjoyed it very much, one and all, as they found
on comparing notes around the bright little fire, which Nelly had kept
burning, against their return.

"Only," said Rosie, with a little shamefacedness, "I am not sure that
Graeme liked me to dance quite so much."

Graeme was not sure either, but she did not think this the best time to
speak about it.  So she did not.

"But how you ever learned to dance is a mystery to me," said Arthur,
"and Harry too, I saw him carrying off Miss Elphinstone, with all the
coolness imaginable.  Really, the young people of the present day amaze
me."

"Oh! one can dance without learning," said Rose, laughing.  "The music
inspires it."

"And I have danced many a time before," said Harry.  "You are not sorry
you went, are you Graeme?"

"Sorry! no indeed!  I have had a very pleasant evening."

And so had they all.  Mrs Grove had made a great effort to get a great
many nice and clever people together, and she had succeeded.  It had
required an effort, for it was only lately, since his second marriage,
that Mr Grove had affected the society of clever people, or indeed, any
society at all.  There were people who fancied that he did not affect it
yet, and who pitied him, as he wandered about, or lingered in corners
among the guests, that his more aspiring wife managed to bring together.
He did not enjoy society much, but that was a small matter in the
opinion of his wife.  He was as little of a drawback to the general
enjoyment, as could be expected in the circumstances.  If he was not
quite at his ease, at least he was seldom in anybody's way, and Mrs
Grove was quite able to do the honours for both.  Mr Grove was a man
whom it was not difficult to ignore, even in his own dining-room.
Indeed, the greatest kindness that could be shown to the poor little man
in the circumstances, was to ignore him, and a great deal of this sort
of kind feeling was manifested towards him by his guests.

On the first entrance of Arthur and Graeme, their host fastened on the
former, renewing with great earnestness a conversation commenced in the
morning in the young man's office.  This did not last long, however.
The hostess had too high an opinion of Mr Elliott's powers of pleasing,
to permit them to be wasted on her husband, so she smilingly carried him
off, leaving Mr Grove, for the present, to the tender mercies of
Graeme.  He might have had a worse fate; for Graeme listened and
responded with a politeness and interest, to which he was little
accustomed from his wife's guests.  Before he became unbearably tedious,
she was rescued by Mr Ruthven, and Mr Grove went to receive Mr Elias
Green, the great western merchant, a guest far more worthy of his
attention than any of the fine ladies and gentlemen, who only knew him
in the character of feast-maker, or as the stupid husband of his
aspiring wife.

Graeme had seen Allan Ruthven often since that first night.  They had
spoken of the pleasant and painful things that had befallen them, since
they parted so long ago, or they might not have been able to walk so
quietly up and down the crowded rooms, as they did for a while.  Then
they found a quiet, or rather a noisy, corner in the music room, where
they pursued their conversation unmolested, till Harry brought Miss
Elphinstone to be introduced to Graeme.

This was a mutual pleasure, for Graeme wished to know the young lady who
had long been Rosie's ideal of all that was sweet and beautiful, and
Miss Elphinstone was as pleased to become the friend of one whom her
cousins Allan and Charlie admired so much.  And when she begged
permission to call upon her and Rose, what could Graeme do, but be
charmed more and more.  Then Miss Elphinstone was claimed for another
dance, and who should present himself again but their host, and with him
the guest of the evening, the great western merchant!  Then there were a
few minutes not so pleasant, and then Mr Green proposed that they
"should make the tour of the rooms."  But Graeme had not the courage for
such an ordeal, and smilingly begged to be excused; and so he sat down
beside her, and by and by, Graeme was surprised to find herself
interested in his conversation.  Before he had been a great merchant.
Mr Green had been a farmer's boy among the hills of Vermont, and when
he knew that Miss Elliott had passed seven happy years in a New England
village, he found enough to say to her; and Graeme listened and
responded, well pleased.

She had one uncomfortable moment.  It was when the supper movement began
to be made, and the thought flashed upon her, that she must be led to
the supper room, by this western giant.  Mr Ruthven saved her from
this, however, to the discontent of the giant, who had been so engaged
in talking and listening, as not to have perceived that something
interesting was about to take place.  The sight of the freely flowing
champagne gave Graeme a shock, but a glance at Harry reassured her.
There was no danger for him to-night.  Yes, they had all enjoyed it,
they acknowledged, as they lingered over the fire after their return.

"But, Arthur," said Graeme, "I was disappointed in Miss Grove.  She is
pretty, certainly, but there is something wanting--in expression I mean.
She looks good tempered, but not intellectual."

"Intellectual!" repeated Arthur.  "No.  One would hardly make use of
that word in describing her.  But she is almost the prettiest little
thing I ever saw, I think."

"And she certainly is the silliest little thing I ever saw," said Harry.
"Rosie, if I thought you capable of talking such stuff, as I heard from
her pretty lips to-night, _I_ would--"

Arthur laughed; less, it seemed, at what Harry had said, than at what it
recalled.

"She is not likely to astonish the world by her wisdom, I should think,"
said he, as he rose to go up-stairs.  "Nor Rosie either, for that
matter," he added, laughing, and looking back.

"None of us are giving great proof of wisdom just now, I think," said
Graeme.  "Come, Rosie, Nelly will lose patience if breakfast is kept
waiting.  Good-night, Harry.  Don't sit long."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

Whether Nelly lost her patience next morning or not, history does not
record; but it is a fact that breakfast was late, and late as it was,
Rosie did not make her appearance at it.  Graeme had still a very
pleasant remembrance of the evening; but it was not altogether unmixed.
The late breakfast, the disarrangement of household matters, Rosie's
lassitude, and her own disinclination to engage in any serious
occupation, was some drawback to the remembrance of her enjoyment.  All
were more or less out of sorts, some from one cause, some from another.

This did not last long, however.  The drawback was forgotten, the
pleasure was remembered, so that when a day or two afterward, a note
came from Mrs Gridley, begging the presence of the brothers and sisters
at a small party at her house, nothing was said about refusing.  Mrs
Gridley had promised some friends from Toronto, a treat of Scottish
music, and she would be inconsolable should they disappoint her.  But
the consolation of Mrs Gridley was not the chief reason of the
acceptance.  Arthur was to be out of town, but Will was to go in his
place.  They went, and enjoyed it well; indeed, it was very enjoyable.

Mrs Gridley was a serious person, said her friends, and some, who had
no claim to the title said the same--the tone and manner making all the
difference in the sense of the declaration.  She would not for much,
have been guilty of giving dancing or card parties in her own house,
though by some mysterious process of reasoning, she had convinced
herself that she could quite innocently make one of such parties in the
houses of other people.  So there was only music and conversation, and a
simple game or two for the very young people.  Graeme and Rosie, and
Will too, enjoyed it well.  Harry professed to have been bored.

Out of these parties sprang others.  Graeme hardly knew how it happened,
but the number of their acquaintances greatly increased about this time.
Perhaps it was partly owing to the new partnership entered into by
Arthur, with the long-established firm of Black & Company.  They
certainly owed to this, the sight of several fine carriages at their
door, and of several pretty cards in their receiver.  Invitations came
thick and fast, until an entire change came over their manner of life.
Regular reading was interfered with or neglected.  Household matters
must have fallen into confusion, if Nelly had not proved herself equal
to all emergencies.  The long quiet evening at home became the
exception.  They went out, or some one came in, or there was a lecture
or concert, or when the sleighing became good a drive by moonlight.
There were skating parties, and snow-shoeing parties, enough to tire the
strongest; and there was no leisure, no quiet time.

Graeme was not long in becoming dissatisfied with this changed,
unsettled life.  The novelty soon wore off for her, and she became
painfully conscious of the attendant evils.  Sadly disinclined herself
to engage in any serious occupation, she could not but see that with her
sister it was even worse.  Rose enjoyed all these gay doings much more,
and in a way quite different from her; and the succeeding lassitude and
depression were proportionably greater.  Indeed, lassitude and
depression were quite too gentle terms to apply to the child's
sensations, and her disinclination to occupation sometimes manifested
itself in an unmistakable approach to peevishness, unless, indeed, the
party of the evening was to be followed by the excursion of the day.
Then the evil effects were delayed, not averted.  For a time, Graeme
made excuses for her to herself and to her brothers; then she did what
was much wiser.  She determined to put a stop to the cause of so much
discomfort.  Several circumstances helped her to this decision, or
rather to see the necessity for it.  She only hesitated as to the manner
in which she was to make her determination known; and while she
hesitated, an opportunity to discuss their changed life occurred, and
she did not permit it to pass unimproved.

Christmas and New Year's Day had been past for some weeks, and there was
a pause in the festivities of their circle, when a billet of the usual
form and purport was left at the door by a servant in livery.  Rose, who
had seen him pass the window, had much to do to keep herself quiet, till
Nelly had taken it from his hand.  She just noticed that it was
addressed to Graeme, in time to prevent her from opening it.

"What is it, Graeme?" asked she, eagerly, as she entered the room where
her sister was writing.  "I am almost sure it was left by Mrs Roxbury's
servant.  See, there is their crest.  What is it?  An invitation?"

"Yes," said Graeme, quietly, laying down the note.  "For the
twenty-seventh."

"Such a long time!  It will be a grand affair.  We must have new
dresses, Graeme."

She took up the note and read:

"Mrs Roxbury's compliments to Miss Elliott."

"Miss Elliott!" she repeated.  "Why, Graeme!  I am not invited."

"So it seems; but never mind, Rosie.  I am not going to accept it."

Rose was indeed crestfallen.

"Oh, you must go, of course.  You must not stay at home on my account."

"No; certainly.  That is not the reason.  Your being invited would have
made no difference."

"I could hardly have gone without you," said Rose, doubtfully.

"Certainly not.  Neither of us would have gone.  If I don't accept this
invitation our acquaintance with the Roxburys will perhaps go no
further.  That would be a sufficient reason for my refusal, if there
were no others."

"A sufficient reason for not refusing, I should rather say," said Rose.

"No.  There is no good reason for keeping up an acquaintance with so
many people.  There is no pleasure in it; and it is a great waste of
time and strength, and money too, for that matter."

"But Arthur wishes it.  He thinks it right."

"Yes, to a certain extent, perhaps, but not at too great a cost.  I
don't mean of money, though in our circumstances that is something, too.
But so much going out has been at a great sacrifice of time and comfort
to us all.  I am tired of it.  We won't speak of it now, however; I must
finish my letter."  For to tell the truth, Rosie's face did not look
promising.

"Don't send a refusal till you have spoken to Arthur, Graeme.  If he
wishes you to go, you ought, you know."

"I am by no means sure of that.  Arthur does not very often go to these
large parties himself.  He does not enjoy them, and I see no reason why
I should deny myself, in so bad a cause."

"But Graeme, you have enjoyed some of them, at least.  I am sure I have
always enjoyed them."

"Yes, I have enjoyed some of them, but I am not sure that it is a right
kind of enjoyment.  I mean, it may be too dearly bought.  And besides,
it is not the party, as a party, that I ever enjoy.  I have had more
real pleasure in some of our quiet evenings at home, with only--only one
or two friends, than I ever had at a party, and--, but we won't talk
about it now," and she bent over her letter again.  She raised her head
almost immediately, however.

"And yet, Rosie, I don't know why this is not the best time to say what,
for a long time, I have meant to say.  We have not been living a good or
wise life of late.  Do you mind, love, what Janet said to us, the night
before we came away?  Do you mind the charge she gave us, to keep our
garments unspotted till we meet our father and mother again?  Do you
think, dear, the life of pleasure we have been living, will make us more
like what our mother was, more like what our father wished us to be--
more fit to meet them where they are?"

Graeme spoke very earnestly.  There were tears in her eyes.

"Graeme," said Rose, "do you think it wrong to go to parties--to dance?
Many good people do not."

"I don't know, love.  I cannot tell.  It might be right for some people,
and yet quite wrong for us.  Certainly, if it withdraws our minds from
things of importance, or is the cause of our neglecting duty, it cannot
be right for us.  I am afraid it has been doing this for us all lately."

Rosie looked grave, but did not reply.  In a little, Graeme added,--

"I am afraid our last letters have not given much satisfaction to Mrs
Snow, Rosie.  She seems afraid for us; afraid, lest we may become too
much engrossed with the pleasant things about us, and reminds us of the
care and watchfulness needed to keep ourselves unspotted from the
world."

"But, Graeme, everything is so different in Merleville, Janet cannot
know.  And, besides--"

"I know, dear; and I would not like to say that we have been doing
anything very wrong all this time, or that those who do the same are
doing wrong.  If we were wiser and stronger, and not so easily
influenced for evil, I daresay it would do us no harm.  But, Rosie, I am
afraid for myself, that I may come to like this idle gay life too much,
or, at least, that it may unfit me for a quiet useful life, as our
father would have chosen for us, and I am afraid for you, too, dear
Rose."

"I enjoy parties very much, and I can't see that there is any harm in
it," said Rosie, a little crossly.

"No, not in enjoying them, in a certain way, and to a certain extent.
But, Rose, think how dreadful, to become `a lover of pleasure.'  Is
there no danger do you think, love?"

Rose hung her head, and was silent.  Graeme went on,--

"My darling, there is danger for you--for me--for us all.  How can we
ever hope to win Harry from the society of those who do him harm, when
we are living only to please ourselves?"

"But, Graeme, it is better that we should all go together--I mean Harry
is more with us than he used to be.  It must be better."

"I don't know, dear.  I fear it is only a change of evils.  Harry's
temptation meets him even with us.  And, oh!  Rosie, if our example
should make it easier for Harry to go astray!  But we won't speak about
Harry.  I trust God will keep him safe.  I believe He will."

Though Graeme tried to speak calmly, Rose saw that she trembled and grew
very white.

"At any rate, Rose, we could not hope that God would hear our prayers
for Harry, or for each other, if we were living in a way displeasing to
Him.  For it is not well with us, dear.  We need not try to hide it from
ourselves.  We must forget the last few troubled months, and begin
again.  Yes, we must go farther back than that, Rosie," said Graeme,
suddenly rising, and putting her arms about her sister.  "Do you mind
that last night, beside the two graves?  How little worth all seemed to
us then, except to get safe home together.  Rosie!  I could not answer
for it to our father and mother if we were to live this troubled life
long.  My darling! we must begin again."

There were tears on Rose's cheeks, as well as Graeme's, by this time.
But in a little Graeme sat down again.

"It is I who have been most to blame.  These gay doings never should
have commenced.  I don't think Arthur will object to our living much
more quietly than we have done of late.  And if he does, we must try and
reconcile him to the change."

It was not difficult to reconcile Arthur to the change.  "Graeme must do
as she thought right," he said.  "It must be rather a troublesome thing
to keep up such a general acquaintance--a loss of time to little
purpose," and so it would have ended, as far as he was concerned, if
Harry had not discovered Mrs Roxbury's note.

"I declare Mrs Gridley is right," said he.  "We are a rising family.  I
hope you gave that lady a chance to peep into this note, when she was
here to-day.  But how is this?  Miss Elliott.  Have you one, Rosie?"

Rose shook her head.

"No.  Have you, Harry?"

"Have I?  What are you thinking of, Rose?  Do you suppose those lofty
portals would give admission to one who is only a humble clerk?  It is
only for such commercial successes as Mr Green, or Allan Ruthven, that
that honour is reserved.  But never mind, Rosie.  We shall find
something to amuse us that night, I have no doubt."

"Graeme is not going," said Rose.

"Not going!  Oh! she'll think better of it."

"No, she has sent her refusal."

"And why, pray?"

"Oh! one can't go everywhere, as Mrs Gridley says," replied Graeme,
thus appealed to.

"Yes; but Mrs Gridley said that with regard to a gathering of our good
friend, Willie Birnie, the tailor.  I can understand how she should not
find time to go there.  But how you should find time to shine on that
occasion, and have none to spare for Mrs Roxbury's select affair, is
more than I can comprehend."

"Don't be snobbish, Harry," said Will.

"I think the reasons are obvious," said Arthur.

"Yes," said Graeme, "we knew Willie Birnie when we were children.  He
was at the school with you all.  And I like his new wife very much, and
our going gave them pleasure, and, besides, I enjoyed it well."

"Oh! if you are going to take a sentimental view of the matter, I have
nothing to say.  And Willie is a fine fellow; I don't object to Willie,
or the new wife either--quite the contrary.  But of the two, people
generally would prefer to cultivate the acquaintance of Mrs Roxbury and
her set."

"Graeme is not like people generally," said Rose.

"I hope not," said Will.  "And, Harry, what do you suppose Mrs Roxbury
cares about any of us, after all?"

"She cares about Graeme going to her party, or she would not have asked
her."

"I am not sure of that," said Graeme, smiling at the eagerness of the
brothers.  "I suppose she asked me for the same reason that she called
here, because of the partnership.  They are connected with the Blacks,
in some way.  Now, that it is off her conscience, having invited me, I
daresay she will be just as well pleased that I should stay at home."

"That is not the least bit uncharitable, is it Graeme?"

"No.  I don't think so.  It certainly cannot make much difference to
her, to have one more or less at her house on the occasion.  I really
think she asks me from a sense of duty--or rather, I ought to say, from
a wish to be polite to her friends the Blacks.  It is very well that she
should do so, and if I cared to go, it would, of course, be agreeable to
her, but it will not trouble her in the least though I stay away."

"Well, I can't but say you have chosen an unfortunate occasion to begin
to be fastidious.  I should think the Roxbury's would be the very house
you would like to go to."

"Oh! one has to make a beginning.  And I am tired of so much gaiety.  It
makes no difference about its being Mrs Roxbury."

"Very well.  Please yourself and you'll please me," said Harry, rising.

"Are you going out to-night, Harry?" said Graeme, trying not to look
anxious.

"Yes; but pray don't wait for me if I should not be in early," said
Harry, rather hastily.

There was nothing said for some time after Harry went out.  Will went to
his books, and Rose went to the piano.  Graeme sewed busily, but she
looked grave and anxious.

"What can make Harry so desirous that you should go to Mrs Roxbury's?"
said Arthur, at last.  "Have you any particular reason for not wishing
to go?"

"Do you think Harry really cared?  No; I have no reason for not wishing
to go there.  But, Arthur, we have been going out too much lately.  It
is not good for Rosie, nor for me, either; and I refused this invitation
chiefly because she was not invited, I might not have had the courage to
refuse to go with her--as she would have been eager to go.  But it is
not good for her, all this party-going."

"I dare say you are right.  She is too young, and not by any means
beyond being spoiled.  She is a very pretty girl."

"Pretty!  Who can compare with her?" said Graeme.  "But she must not be
spoiled.  She is best at home."

"Proudfute tells me this is to be a reception in honour of your friend
Ruthven, and Miss Elphinstone," said Arthur.  "It seems the wedding is
to come off soon.  Proudfute is a relation of theirs, you know."

"No; I did not know it," said Graeme; and in a little she added, "ought
that to make any difference about my going?  My note is written but not
sent."

"I should think not.  You are not supposed to know anything about it.
It is very likely not true.  And it is nothing to us."

"No; that is true," said Graeme.  "Rosie, my dear, you are playing too
quickly.  That should be quite otherwise at the close," and rising, she
went to the piano and sat down beside her sister.  They played a long
time together, and it was Rose who was tired first `for a wonder.'

"Graeme, why did you not tell Harry the true reason that you did not
wish to go to Mrs Roxbury's?" said Rose, when they went up-stairs
together.

"The true reason?" repeated Graeme.

"I mean, why did you not speak to him as you spoke to me?"

"I don't know, dear.  Perhaps I ought to have done so.  But it is not so
easy to speak to others as it is to you.  I am afraid Harry would have
cared as little for the true reason as for the one I gave."

"I don't know, Graeme.  He was not satisfied; and don't you think it
would have been better just to say you didn't think it right to go out
so much--to large parties, I mean."

"Perhaps it would have been better," said Graeme, but she said no more;
and sat down in the shadow with her Bible in her hand for the nightly
reading.  Rose had finished her preparations for bed before she stirred,
and coming up behind her she whispered softly,--

"Graeme, you are not afraid for Harry now?  I mean not more afraid?"

Graeme started.  Her thoughts were painful, as her face showed; but they
were not of Harry.

"I don't know, love.  I hope not.  I pray God, no harm may come to
Harry.  Oh!  Rosie, Rosie, we have been all wrong this long, long time.
We have been dreaming, I think.  We must waken up, and begin again."



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

Graeme's first judgment of Allan Ruthven, had been, "how these ten years
have changed him;" but she quite forgot the first judgment when she came
to see him more, and meeting his kind eyes and listening to his kind
voice, in the days that followed she said to herself, "he is the same,
the very same."

But her first judgment was the true one.  He was changed.  It would have
been strange if the wear and tear of commercial life for ten years had
not changed him, and that not for the better.

In the renewal of intercourse with his old friends, and in the new
acquaintance he made with his brother Charlie, he came to know himself
that he had changed greatly.  He remembered sadly enough, the
aspirations that had died out of his heart since his youth, the
temptations that he had struggled against always, but which, alas! he
had not always withstood.  He knew now that his faith had grown weak,
that thoughts of the unseen and heavenly had been put far-away from him.

Yes; he was greatly changed since the night he had stood with the rest
an the deck of the "Steadfast," watching the gleaming lights of a
strange city.  Standing now face to face with the awakened remembrance
of his own ideal, he knew that he had fallen far short of its
attainment; and reading in Graeme's truthful eye "the same, the very
same," his own often fell with a sense of shame as though he were
deceiving her.

He was changed, and yet the wonder was, that the influences of these ten
years had not changed him more.  The lonely life he had pictured to his
friends, that last night on the "Steadfast," fell far short of the
reality that awaited him.  Removed from the kindly associations of home,
and the tranquil pursuits and pleasures of a country village, to the
turmoil of a Western city, and the annoyance of a subordinate in a
merchant's office, he shrunk, at first, in disgust from the life that
seemed opening before him.  His native place, humble as it was, had
lived in song and story for many centuries; and in this city which had
sprung up in a day, nothing seemed stable or secure.  A few months ago
the turf of the prairie had been undisturbed, where to-day its broad
streets are trodden by the feet of thousands.  Between gigantic blocks
of buildings rising everywhere, strips of the prairie turf lay
undisturbed still.  The air of newness, of incompleteness, of insecurity
that seemed to surround all things impressed him painfully; the sadden
prosperity seemed unreal and unnatural, as well it might, to one brought
up in a country where the first thought awakened by change or innovation
is one of mistrust and doubt.

All his preconceived ideas of business and a business-life, availed him
nothing in the new circumstances in which he found himself.  If business
men were guided in their mutual relations by any principle of faith or
honour, he failed in the first bitterness of his disgust to see it.
Business-life seemed but a scramble, in which the most alert seized the
greatest portion.  The feverish activity and energy which were fast
changing the prairie into a populous place seemed directed to one end--
the getting of wealth.  Wealth must be gotten by fair means or foul, and
it must be gotten suddenly.  There was no respite, no repose.  One must
go onward or be pushed aside, or be trodden under foot.  Fortune was
daily tempted, and the daily result was success, or utter failure, till
a new chance could be grasped at.

"Honest labour!  Patient toil!"  Allan wondered within himself if the
words had ever reached the inward sense of these eager, anxious men,
jostling each other in their never-ceasing struggle.

Allan watched, and wondered, and mused, trying to understand, and to
make himself charitable over the evil, by calling it a national one, and
telling himself that these men of the new world were not to be judged by
old laws, or measured by old standards.  But there were among the
swiftest runners of the race for gold men from all lands, men whose
boyish feet had wandered over English meadows, or trod the heather on
Scottish hills.  Men whose fathers had spent their lives content in
mountain sheilings, with no wish beyond their flocks and their native
glens; humble artisans, smiths, and masons, who had passed in their own
country for honest, patient, God-fearing men, grew as eager, as
unscrupulous, as swift as the fleetest in the race.  The very diggers of
ditches, and breakers of stone on the highway, the hewers of wood and
drawers of water; took with discontent that it was no more their daily
wages, doubled or tripled to them, since they set foot on the soil of
the new world.

That there might be another sort of life in the midst of this turmoil,
he did not consider.  He never could associate the idea of home or
comfort with those dingy brick structures, springing up in a day at
every corner.  He could not fancy those hard voices growing soft in the
utterance of loving words, or those thin, compressed lips gladly meeting
the smiling mouth of a little child.  Home!  Why, all the world seemed
at home in those vast hotels; the men and women greeting each other
coldly, in these great parlours, seemed to have no wants that a black
man, coming at the sound of a bell, might not easily supply.  Even the
children seemed at ease and self-possessed in the midst of the crowd.
They troubled no one with noisy play or merry prattle, but sat on chairs
with their elders, listening to, or joining in the conversation, with a
coolness and appropriateness painfully suggestive of what their future
might be.  Looking at these embryo merchants and fine ladies, from whose
pale little lips "dollar" and "change" fall more naturally than sweeter
words, Ruthven ceased to wonder at the struggle around him.  He fancied
he could understand how these little people, strangers, as it seemed to
him, to a home or even to a childhood, should become in time the eager,
absorbed, unscrupulous runners and wrestlers, jostling each other in the
daily strife.

Ruthven was very bitter and unjust in many of his judgments during the
first part of his residence in C.  He changed his opinions of many
things afterwards, partly because he became wiser, partly because he
became a little blind, and, especially, because he himself became
changed at last.  By and by his life was too busy to permit him to watch
those about him, or to pronounce judgment on their aims or character.
Uncongenial as he had at first found the employment which his uncle had
provided for him, he pursued it with a patient steadiness, which made it
first endurable, then pleasant to him.  At first his duties were merely
mechanical; so much writing, so much computing each day, and then his
time was his own.  But this did not continue long.  Trusted always by
the firm, he was soon placed in a position where he was able to do good
service to his employers.  His skill and will guided their affairs
through more than one painful crisis.  His integrity kept their good
name unsullied at a time when too many yielding to what seemed
necessity, were betaking themselves to doubtful means to preserve their
credit.  He thoroughly identified himself with the interests of the
firm, even when his uncle was a comparative stranger to him.  He did his
duty in his service as he would have done it in the service of another,
constantly and conscientiously, because it was right to do so.  So
passed the first years of his commercial life.

In default of other interests, he gave himself wholly up to business
pursuits, till no onlooker on the busy scene in which he was taking part
would have thought of singling him out as in any respect different from
those who were about him.  Those who came into close contact with him
called him honourable and upright, indeed, over scrupulous in many
points; and he, standing apart from them, and in a certain sense above
them, was willing so to be called.  But as one cannot touch pitch
without being defiled, so a man must yield in time to the influences in
the midst of which he has voluntarily placed himself.  So it came to
pass that, as the years went on, Allan Ruthven was greatly changed.

It need not have been so.  It doubtless was far otherwise with some who,
in his pride and ignorance, he had called earth-worms and worshippers of
gold; for though, in the first bitterness of his isolation, he was slow
to discover it, there were in the midst of the turmoil and strife of
that new city warm hearts and happy homes, and the blessed influence of
the Christian faith and the Christian life.  There were those over whom
the gains-getting demon of the place had no power, because of a talisman
they held, the "constraining love of Christ," in them.  Those walked
through the fire unscathed, and, in the midst of much that is defiling,
kept their garments clean.  But Ruthven was not one of them.  He had the
name of the talisman on his lips, but he had not its living power in his
heart.  He was a Christian only in name; and so, when the influence of
early associations began to grow weak, and he began to forget, as men
will for a time, his mother's teachings "in the house, and by the way,"
at the "lying down and the rising up," no wonder that the questionable
maxims heard daily from the lips of the worldly-wise should come to have
weight with him at last.

Not that in those days he was, in any sense, a lover of gold for its own
sake.  He never sank so low as that.  But in the eagerness with which he
devoted himself to business, he left himself no time for the performance
of other and higher duties, or for the cultivation of those principles
and affections which can alone prevent the earnest business-man from
degenerating into a character so despicable.  If he was not swept away
by the strong current of temptation, it was because of no wisdom or
strength or foresight of his.  Another ten years of such a life would
have made him, as it has made many another, a man outwardly worthy of
esteem, but inwardly selfish, sordid, worldly--all that in his youth he
had most despised.

This may seem a hard judgment, but it is the judgement he passed on
himself, when there came a pause in his busy life, and he looked back
over those years and felt that he did not hold the world loosely--that
he could not open his hand and let it go.  He had been pleasing himself
all along with the thought that he was not like the men about him--
content with the winning of wealth and position in the world; but there
came a time when it was brought sharply home to him that without these
he could not be content.  It was a great shock and surprise to him to be
forced to realise how far he had drifted on with the current, and how
impossible it had become to get back to the old starting-place again,
and in the knowledge he did not spare himself, but used harder and
sterner words of self-contempt than any that are written here.

Ruthven's intercourse with his uncle's family, though occurring at long
intervals, had been of a very pleasant kind, for he was a great
favourite with his aunt and his cousin Lilias, who was then a child.
Indeed, she was only a child when her mother died; and when there fell
into his hands a letter written by his aunt to his mother, during one of
his first visits to M, in which half seriously, half playfully, was
expressed a wish that the cousins might one day stand in a nearer and
dearer relation to one another, he was greatly surprised and amused.  I
am afraid it was only the thought that the hand that had penned the wish
was cold in death, that kept him from shocking his mother by laughing
outright at the idea.  For what a child Lilias must have been when that
was written, thought he! what a child she was still!

But the years went on, and the child grew into a beautiful woman, and
the remembrance of his aunt's wish was pleasant to Allan Ruthven,
because of his love and admiration for his cousin, and because of other
things.  He could not be blind to the advantages that such a connection
would ensure to him.  The new partnership was anticipated and entered
upon, on very different terms from those which might have been, but for
the silent understanding with regard to Lilias that existed between the
uncle and nephew.  It was no small matter that the young merchant should
find himself in a position to which the greater number attain only after
half a lifetime of labour.  He was at the head of a lucrative business,
conscious of possessing skill and energy to conduct it well--conscious
of youth and health and strength to enjoy the future opening before him.
Nor was there anything wrong in this appreciation of the advantages of
his position.  He knew that this wealth had not bought him.  He loved
his cousin Lilias, or he thought he loved her; and though up to this
time, and after this time their intercourse was only after a cousinly
sort, he believed she loved him.  The thought _did_ come into his mind
sometimes whether his cousin was all to him that a woman might be, but
never painfully.  He did not doubt that, as years went on, they would be
very happy together after a quiet, rational fashion, and he smiled, now
and then, at the fading remembrance of many a boyish dream as to how his
wife was to be wooed and won.

He was happy--they were all happy; and the tide of events flowed quietly
on the the night when Allan clasped the trembling hand of Graeme
Elliott.  Indeed, it flowed quietly on long after that, for in the charm
that, night after night, drew him into the happy circle of the Elliotts,
he recognised only the pleasure that the renewal of old friendships and
the awakening of old associations gave him.  The pleasure which his
cousin took in the society of these young people was scarcely less than
his own.  Around the heiress and only child of Mr Elphinstone there
soon gathered a brilliant circle of admirers, the greater part of whom
would hardly have recognised the Elliotts as worthy of sharing the
honour with them.  But there was to the young girl, who had neither
brother nor sister, something better than brilliancy or fashion in
Graeme's quiet parlour.  The mutual love and confidence that made their
home so happy, filled her with wonder and delight, and there were few
days, for several pleasant months, in which they did not meet.

The pleasant intercourse was good for Lilias.  She brightened under it
wonderfully, and grew into a very different creature from the pale,
quiet, little girl, who used to sit so gravely at her father's side.
Her father saw the change and rejoiced over it, and though at first he
was not inclined to be pleased with the intimacy that had sprung up so
suddenly, he could not but confess that the companionship of one like
Rose Elliott must be good for her.  Graeme he seldom saw.  The long
morning calls, and spending of days with her friend, which were Rosie's
delight, Graeme seldom shared.  But she was quite as much the friend of
Lilias as was her livelier sister, and never did his cousin seem so
beautiful to Allan, never was she so dear, as when, with pretty
willfulness; she hung about Graeme, claiming a right to share with Rose
the caresses or gentle reproofs of the elder sister.  He did not think
of danger to himself in the intercourse which Lilias shared so happily.
He was content with the present, and did not seek to look into the
future.

But he was not quite free from troubled thoughts at this time.  In the
atmosphere in which he lived things wore a new aspect to him.  Almost
unconsciously to himself at first, he began to judge of men, and
motives, and actions, by a new rule--or rather, he came back to the old
rule, by which he had measured all things in his youthful days.  These
days did not seem so far removed from him now as they used to do, and
sometimes he found himself looking back over the last ten years, with
the clear truthful eyes of eighteen.  It was not always a pleasant
retrospect.  There were some things covered up by that time, of which
the review could not give unmingled pleasure.  These were moments when
he could not meet Graeme's truthful eyes, as with "Don't you remember?"
she recalled his own words, spoken long ago.  He knew, though she did
not, how his thoughts of all things had changed since then; and though
the intervening years had made him a man of wealth and note, there came
to him, at such moments, a sense of failure and regret, as though his
manhood had belied the promise of his youth--a strong desire to begin
anew--a longing after a better life than these ten years had witnessed.

But these pleasant days came to an end.  Business called Allan, for a
time, to his old home in C, and to his uncongenial life there.  It was
not pleasant business.  There was a cry, louder than usual, of "hard
times" through the country, and the failure of several houses, in which
he had placed implicit confidence, threatened, not, indeed, to endanger
the safety, but greatly to embarrass the operations of the new firm.
Great losses were sustained, and complicated as their affairs at the
West had become, Allan began to fear that his own presence there would
for some time be necessary.  He was surprised and startled at the pain
which the prospect gave him, and before he had time to question himself
as to why it should be so, the reason was made plain to him.

A letter written by his uncle immediately after a partial recovery from
an illness, a return of which, his physicians assured him, must prove
fatal, set the matter before him in its true light.  The letter was
brief.  Knowing little of the disorder into which recent events had
thrown their affairs, he entreated Allan's immediate return, for his
sake, and for the sake of Lilias, whom it distressed him to think of
leaving till he should see her safe with one who should have a husband's
right to protect and console her.  It was simply and frankly said, as
one might speak of a matter fully understood and approved of by all
concerned.  But the words smote on Allan's heart with sharp and sudden
pain, and he knew that something had come into his life, since the time
when he had listened in complacent silence to Mr Elphinstone's
half-expressed ideas, concerning Lilias and her future.  There was
pleasure in the pain, sharp and sweet while it lasted, for with the
knowledge that came to him, that he loved Graeme Elliott, there came
also the hope, that there was something more than gentle friendliness in
the feelings with which she regarded him.  But the pleasure passed, and
the pain remained, growing sharper and deeper as he looked the future in
the face.

It was not a hopeful future.  As for his cousin, there had passed
between them no words or tokens of affection, that cousins might not
very well exchange; at least, he was willing to believe so now; and
judging her feelings, partly by his own, and partly by the remembrance
of many a chance word and action of the last few months, he said to
himself, the happiness of her life would not be marred though they might
never be more than cousins to each other.  But this did not end his
doubts as to the course that lay before him, and every day that he
lingered in miserable indecision, made more evident to him the
difficulties of his position.  He knew it was a son's place that he had
got in the firm.  He could only claim it as a son.  If his relations to
Lilias and her father were changed, it seemed to him that he could not
honourably claim a position which had been urged upon him, and which he
had gladly accepted with a view to these relations.  The past ten years
must be as nothing to him, except for the experience they had given him,
the good name they had won for him.  He must begin life again a poor
man.

But let me not be unjust to him.  It was not this that made all the
misery of his indecision.  Had all this come in a time of prosperity, or
when Mr Elphinstone had strength and courage to meet disaster unmoved,
it would have been different.  But now, when all things looked
threatening, when certain loss--possible ruin--lay before them, when the
misfortunes of some, and the treachery of others were making the very
ground beneath their feet insecure, could he leave the feeble old man to
struggle through these difficult and dangerous times alone?  He knew his
uncle too well to believe that he would willingly accept help from him,
their relations being changed, and he knew that no skill and knowledge
but his own, could conduct to a successful issue, enterprises undertaken
under more favourable circumstances.

He was very wretched.  He could not put away the discomfort of his
indecision by permitting time and circumstances to decide in the course
which he must take.  Whatever was done must be done by him, and at once.
There was no respite of time or chance to fall back upon, in the strait
in which he found himself.  He did not hasten home.  He had cause enough
to excuse the delay to himself, and he threw himself into the
increasingly painful details of business, with an energy that, for the
time, left no room for painful thoughts.  But it was only for the time.
He knew that his lingering was useless, in view of what the end must be,
and he despised himself for his indecision.

If his choice had been altogether between poverty and wealth, it would
have been easy to him, he thought, though it forced itself upon him with
intense bitterness during these days, how the last ten years had changed
the meaning of the word to him.  But his honour was involved--his honour
as a man, and as a merchant.  He could not leave his uncle to struggle
with misfortune in his old age.  He could not let the name, so long
honoured and trusted in the commercial world, be joined with the many
which during the last few months had been coupled with ruin, and even
with shame.  He was responsible for the stability or the failure of the
house, which for thirty years had never given cause for doubt or fear.
More than this.  His own reputation as a wise and successful man of
business, if not even his personal honour was at stake, to make it
impossible for him to separate himself from the affairs of the firm at a
juncture so perilous.

And then, Lilias.  Nothing but her own spoken word could free him from
the tacit engagement that existed between them.  In honour he could
never ask her to speak that word.

Through his long journey of days and nights he pondered it all, making
no decision as to what was to be done or said, but growing gradually
conscious as he drew near home, that the life of the last few months,
was coming to seem more and more like a pleasant dream that must be
forgotten in the future.  He met his uncle's eager greeting with no word
of change.  His face was pale and very grave when he met his cousin, but
not more so than hers.  But that might very well be said each of the
other.  Lilias knew more of the losses which the firm had sustained than
her father knew; and Allan might well look grave, she thought, and the
watching and anxiety for her father's sake might well account to him for
her sad looks.  After the first clasp of their hands he knew that the
vows hitherto unspoken, must now be fulfilled.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

Graeme did go to Mrs Roxbury's party, and it happened in this way.  The
invitations had been sent out before Mr Elphinstone's short, sharp
illness, and Lilias had been made very useful by her aunt on the
occasion.  She had not been consulted about the sending of Graeme's
invitation, or probably Rose would have had one too, but by good
fortune, as she declared, Graeme's refusal came first to her hand, and
the little lady did a most unprecedented thing.  She put it quietly into
her pocket, and going home that night by the Elliott's, ventured to
expostulate.

"First, you must promise not to be vexed," and then she showed the note.
Graeme looked grave.

"Now you must not be angry with me.  Rosie, tell her not to be vexed,
because, you know you can write another refusal, if you are determined.
But I am sure you will not be so cruel.  I can't tell you any reason,
except that I have set my heart on your being there, and you'll come to
please me, will you not?"

"To please you, ought to be sufficient reasons, I know," said Graeme,
smiling.  And Lilias knew she had prevailed with her friend.  She saw
the acceptance written, and carried it off to place it with dozens of
others, in the hands of Mrs Roxbury.  She did not say much to Graeme
about it, but to Rosie, she triumphed.

"I want Aunt Roxbury to see Graeme looking her very best.  Graeme will
look like a queen among us.  Aunt will see that Allan and I have good
reasons for our admiration.  Fancy any of these trumpery people
patronising Graeme!  But you are not to tell her what I say.  You don't
think she was really vexed with me, do you?  And she must wear her new
peach-blossom silk.  I am so glad."

But poor little Lilias went through deep waters, before the
peach-blossom silk was worn by Graeme.  Mr Elphinstone was brought very
near the gates of death, and anxious days and nights were passed by his
daughter at his bedside.  Mrs Roxbury would have recalled her
invitations, and Lilias' soul sickened at the thought of the
entertainment; but when the immediate danger was over, events fell into
their usual channel, and though she gave no more assistance, either by
word or deed, her aunt counted on her presence on the occasion, and even
her father insisted that it was right for her to go.

"And so, my love," said Mrs Roxbury, "as your father and I see no
impropriety in your coming, there can be none, and you will enjoy it,
indeed you will.  You are tired now."

"Impropriety! it is not that I don't wish to go.  I cannot bear the
thought of going."

"Nonsense! you are overtired, that is all.  And Mr Ruthven will be here
by that time, and I depend on you to bring him."

But if Allan's presence had depended on Lilias, Mrs Roxbury would not
have seen him in her splendid rooms that night.  It was Mr Elphinstone
that reminded her of the note that awaited the return of her cousin, and
it was he who insisted that they should appear, for at least an hour or
two, at the party.  And they went together, a little constrained and
uncomfortable, while they were alone, but to all appearance at their
ease, and content with one another when they entered the room.  Graeme
saw them the moment they came in, and she saw, too, many a significant
glance exchanged, as they made their way together to Mrs Roxbury.

Lilias saw Graeme almost as soon.  She was standing near the
folding-doors, seemingly much interested in what Mr Proudfute, her
brother's friend, was saying to her.

"There, aunt," said Lilias, eagerly, when the greetings were over, "did
I not tell you that my friend Miss Elliott would eclipse all here
to-night?  Look at her now."

"My dear," said her aunt, "she does better than that.  She is very
lovely and lady-like, and tries to eclipse no one, and so wins all
hearts."

Lilias' eyes sparkled as she looked at her cousin, but he did not catch
her look.

"My dear," continued Mrs Roxbury, "I have news for you, but perhaps it
is no news to you.  Ah! he has found her."

Mr Elias Green was at the moment, making his bow to Graeme.

"There was no truth in the rumour, about him and little Miss Grove.  Mr
Green has more sense.  Your friend is fortunate, Lilias."

Lilias looked at her aunt in astonishment, but nothing more could be
said, for there were more arrivals, and her attention was claimed.

"Aunt Roxbury does not know what she is talking about," said she, to her
cousin, as he led her away.  "The idea of Mr Green's daring to lift his
eyes to Graeme Elliott.  She would not look at him."

"Mr Green is a great man in his own circle, I can assure you," said Mr
Ruthven.  "Miss Elliott will be thought fortunate by people generally."

"Do you think so?  You know very little about her, if you think that,"
said Lilias, impatiently.

"I know Mr Green better than most people do, and I respect him--and he
is very rich--"

"Oh! don't talk folly," cried Lilias.  "I have no patience with people
who think, because a man is rich--.  But you don't know Graeme, cousin
Allan--I thought--"

They were very near Graeme by this time.  She turned at the moment, and
greeted them frankly enough, as far as any one could see.  She noticed
the cloud on Lilias' face, and asked her if she was quite well; she
expressed pleasure at the return of Mr Ruthven too, but she did not
meet his eye, though he told her he had seen her brother Norman at a
station by the way, and detained her to give her a message that he had
sent.  He had schooled himself well, if he was really as unmoved by the
words of Mrs Roxbury and Lilias, as to his cousin he appeared to be.
But he was not a man who let his thoughts write themselves on his face,
and she might easily be deceived.  It was not a pleasant moment, it was
a very bitter moment indeed, to him, when with a smile to them, Graeme
placed her hand on the willing arm of Mr Green, and walked away "like a
queen," he said to himself, but to his cousin he said--

"My friend will be a very happy man, and _your_ friend may be happy too,
let us hope."

But Lilias never answered a word.  She followed them, with her eyes,
till they disappeared through the door that led to the room beyond; and
then she said only,--

"I have made a great mistake."

Had she made a mistake or had he?  A mistake never to be undone, never
outlived--a mistake for Graeme, for himself, perhaps for Lilias too.  It
was not a thought to be borne, and he put it from him sternly, saying it
could not have been otherwise--nothing could be changed now; and he was
very gentle and tender with his little cousin that night and afterwards,
saying to himself that she, at least, should have no cause to grieve in
the future, if his loving care for her could avail.

About this time Will was threatened with a serious illness.  It did not
prove so serious as they at first feared, but it was long and tedious,
and gave his eldest sister an excuse for denying herself to many who
called, and accounted for her pale looks to those whom she was obliged
to see.  In the silence of her brother's sick-room, Graeme looked a
great sorrow in the face.  In other circumstances, with the necessity
laid upon her to deceive others, she might for a time have deceived
herself; for the knowledge that one's love has been given unsought, is
too bitter to be accepted willingly.  But the misery of those long
silent nights made plain to her what the first sharp pang had failed to
teach her.

In the first agony of her self-scorn, she saw herself without excuse.
She was hard and bitter to herself.  She might have known, she thought,
how it was with Allan and his cousin.  During all those years in which
she had been a stranger to them both, they had loved each other; and
now, with no thought of her, they loved each other still.  It was
natural that it should be so, and right.  What was she, to think to come
between them with her love?

She was very bitter to herself and unjust in her first misery, but her
feeling changed.  Her heart rebelled against her own verdict.  She had
not acted an unmaidenly part in the matter.  She had never thought of
harm coming to her, or to anyone, out of the pleasant intercourse of
these months--the renewal of their old friendship.  If she had sinned
against Lilias, it had been unconsciously.  She had never thought of
these things in those days.

If she had only known him sooner, she thought, or not so soon, or not at
all!  How should she ever be able to see them again in the old
unrestrained way?  How should she be able to live a life changed and
empty of all pleasure?

Then she grew bitter again, and called herself hard names for her folly,
in thinking that a change in one thing must change all her life.  Would
not the passing away of this vain dream leave her as rich in the love of
brothers and sister, as ever?  Hitherto their love had sufficed for her
happiness, and it should still suffice.  The world need not be changed
to her, because she had wished for one thing that she could not have.
She could be freed from no duty, absolved from no obligation because of
this pain; it was a part of her life, which she must accept and make the
best of, as she did of all other things that came upon her.

As she sat one night thinking over the past and the future, wearily
enough, but without the power to withdraw her mind from what was sad in
them, there suddenly came back to her one of Janet's short, sharp
speeches, spoken in answer to a declaration half vexed, half mirthful,
made by her in the days when the mild Mr Foster had aspired to be more
to her than a friend.

"My dear," she had said, "bide till your time comes.  You are but a
woman like the lave, and you maun thole the brunt of what life may
bring.  Love!  Ay will you, and that without leave asked or given.  And
if you get love for love, you'll thank God humbly for one of his best
gifts; and if you do not well, He can bring you through without it, as
He has done many a one before.  But never think you can escape your
fate, and make the best of it when it comes."

"And so my fate has found me," murmured Graeme to herself.  "This is
part of my life, and I must make the best of it.  Well, he can bring me
through, as Janet said."

"Graeme," said Will suddenly, "what are you thinking about?"

Graeme started painfully.  She had quite forgotten Will.  Those bright,
wakeful eyes of his had been on her many a time when she thought he was
asleep.

"What were you thinking about?  You smiled first, then you sighed."

"Did I?  Well, I was not aware that I was either smiling or sighing.  I
was thinking about Janet, and about something that she said to me once."

She rose and arranged the pillows, stooping down to kiss her brother as
she did so, and then she said sadly,--

"I am afraid you are not much better to-night, Will."

"Yes; I think I am better.  My head is clearer.  I have been watching
your face, Graeme, and thinking how weary and ill you look."

"I am tired, Will, but not ill."  Graeme did not like the idea of her
face having been watched, but she spoke cheerfully.

"I have been a great trouble to you," said Will.

"Yes, indeed! a dreadful trouble.  I hope you are not going to try my
patience much longer."

"I don't know.  I hope not, for your sake."  And then in a little Will
added, "Do you know, Graeme, I am beginning to be glad of this illness
after all."

Graeme laughed.

"Well, if you are glad of it, I will try and bear it patiently a little
longer.  I daresay we are taking the very best means to prolong it
chattering at this unreasonable hour."

"I am not sleepy," said Will, "and I am not restless either.  I think I
am really better, and it will do me good to have a little talk; but you
are tired."

"I am tired, but I am not sleepy.  Besides, if you are really better, I
can sleep for a week, if I like.  So, if it be a pleasure to you, speak
on."

"What was it that Janet said that made you sigh so drearily just now?"
asked Will.

Graeme would have liked the conversation to take any other turn rather
than that, but she said, gently,--

"I think my smile must have been for what Janet said.  I am sure I
laughed heartily enough when she said it to me so long ago.  I suppose I
sighed to think that what she said has come true."

"What was it, Graeme?"

"Oh!  I can hardly tell you--something about the changes that come to us
as we grow older, and how vain it is to think we can avoid our fate."

"Our fate?" repeated Will.

"Oh, yes!  I mean there are troubles--and pleasures, too, that we can't
foresee--that take us at unawares, and we have just to make the best of
them when they come."

"I don't think I quite understand you, Graeme."

"No, I daresay not; and it is not absolutely necessary that you
should,--in the connection.  But I am sure a great many pleasant things
that we did not expect, have happened to us since we came here."

"And was it thinking of these pleasant things that made you sigh?" asked
Will.

"No.  I am afraid I was thinking of the other kind of surprises; and I
daresay I had quite as much reason to smile as to sigh.  We can't tell
our trials at first sight, Will, nor our blessings either.  Time changes
their faces wonderfully to us as the years go on.  At any rate, Janet's
advice is always appropriate; we must make the best of them when they
come."

"Yes;" said Will, doubtfully; he did not quite understand yet.

"For instance, Will, you were disconsolate enough when the doctor told
you you must give up your books for an indefinite time, and now you are
professing yourself quite content with headache and water-gruel--glad
even at the illness that at first was so hard to bear."

Will made a face at the gruel she presented.

"I dare say it is good for me, though I can't say I like it, or the
headache.  But, Graeme, I did not get this check before I needed it.  It
is pleasant to be first, and I was beginning to like it.  Now this
precious month taken from me, at the time I needed it most, will put me
back.  To be sure," added he, with a deprecating glance, "it is not much
to be first among so few.  But as Janet used to say, Pride is an ill
weed and grows easily--flourishes even on a barren soil; and in the
pleasure and excitement of study, it is not difficult to forget that it
is only a means to an end."

"Yes," said Graeme, "it is easy to forget what we ought to remember."

But it came into Will's mind that her sympathy did not come so readily
as usual, that her thoughts were elsewhere, and he had a feeling that
they were such as he was not to be permitted to share.  In a little he
said,--

"Graeme; I should like very much to go home to Scotland."

Graeme roused herself and answered cheerfully,--

"Yes, I have never quite given up the hope of going home again; but we
should find sad changes, I doubt."

"But I mean I should like to go home soon.  Not for the sake of Clayton
and our friends there.  I would like to go to fit myself better for the
work I have to do in the world."

"You mean, you would like to go home to study."

"Yes.  One must have a far better opportunity there, and it is a grand
thing to be `thoroughly furnished'."  There was a pause, and then he
added, "If I go, I ought to go soon--within a year or two, I mean."

"Oh, Will, how could I ever let you go away?"

"Why, Graeme! that is not at all like you; you could let me go if it
were right.  But I have not quite decided that it is not selfish in me
to wish to go."

"But why?" asked Graeme.

"Partly because it would be so pleasant.  Don't you remember how Janet
used to say, we are not so likely to see all sides of what we desire
very much.  Perhaps I desire it more for the pleasure it would give me,
than for the benefit it might be to me.  And then the expense.  It would
be too much to expect from Arthur."

"But there is the Merleville money.  It was meant for Arthur's
education, and as he did not need it, it is yours."

"No, that belongs to you and Rose.  It would not be right to take that."

"Nonsense, Will.  What is ours is yours; if the expense were all!  But I
cannot bear to think of you going away, and Harry, too, perhaps."

"Rose tells me that Harry is more bent on going West than ever."

"Yes, within a few days he has become quite eager about it.  I cannot
understand why he should be so.  Oh, I cannot feel hopeful about it."

"Arthur thinks it may be a good thing for Harry," said Will.

"Yes, for some things I suppose so.  But, oh!  Will, I could not let
Harry go as I could let you, sure that he would be kept safe till--"

Graeme laid her head down on her brother's pillow, and the tears she had
been struggling with for so long a time burst forth.  She had never
spoken to Will of her fears for Harry, but he knew that they all had had
cause for anxiety on his account, so instead of speaking he laid his arm
over his sister's neck.  She struggled with herself a moment, unable to
speak.

"Graeme," said Will, softly, "we cannot keep Harry safe from evil, and
He who can is able to keep him safe there as well as here."

"I know it; I say it to myself twenty times a day.  That is, I say it in
words; but I do not seem to get the comfort I might from them."

"But, Graeme, Harry has been very little away this winter, and I had
thought--"

"I know, dear, and I have been quite hopeful about him till lately.
But, oh, Will! it won't bear talking about.  We can only wait
patiently."

"Yes, Graeme, we can pray and trust, and you are exaggerating to
yourself Harry's danger, I think.  What has happened to make you so
faint-hearted, dear?"

"What should have happened, Will?  I am tired--for one thing--and
something is wrong I know."

She paused to struggle with her tears.

"Somehow, I don't feel so anxious about Harry as you do, Graeme.  He
will come back again.  I am sure this great sorrow is not waiting you."

He paused a moment, and then added, hesitatingly,--

"I have had many thoughts since I sat down here, Graeme.  I think one
needs--it does one good, to make a pause to have time to look back and
to look forward.  Things change to us; we get clearer and truer views of
life, alone in the dark, with nothing to withdraw our thoughts from the
right and the wrong of things, and we seem to see more clearly how true
it is, that though we change God never changes.  We get courage to look
our troubles fairly in the face, when we are alone with God and them."

Still Graeme said nothing, and Will added,--

"Graeme, you must take hope for Harry.  And there is nothing else, is
there?--nothing that you are afraid to look at--nothing that you cannot
bring to the one place for light and help?"

She did not answer for a minute.

"No, Will, I hope not.  I think not.  I daresay--I am quite sure that
all will be for the best, and I shall see at some time."

Not another word was said till Graeme rose and drawing aside the
curtains, let in on them the dim dawn of a bleak March morning.

In a few more days Will was down-stairs again.  Not in his accustomed
corner among his books, but in the arm-chair in the warmest place by the
fire, made much of by Rose and them all.  It seemed a long time since he
had been among them.  A good many things had happened during the month
that Graeme and he had passed together up-stairs.  March, that had come
in "like a lion" was hastening out "like a lamb;" the sky was clear and
the air was mild; spring was not far-away.  The snow lay still in
sullied ridges in the narrow streets where the sun had little power, and
the mud lay deep in the streets where the snow had nearly disappeared.
But the pavements were dry and clean, and in spite of dirty crossings
and mud bespattering carriages, they were thronged with gay promenaders,
eager to welcome the spring.  Those who were weatherwise shook their
heads, declaring that having April in March would ensure March weather
when April came, or it might be even in May.  So it might prove, but
there was all the more need, because of this, that the most should be
made of the sunshine and the mild air, and even their quiet sweet was
quite gay with the merry goers to and fro, and it seemed to Will and
Graeme that more than a month had passed since his illness began.

Harry had quite decided to go West now, and was as eager and impatient
to be gone as if he had all his life been dreaming of no other future
than that which awaited him there.  That he should be so glad to go,
pained his sister as much as the thought of his going.  That was at
first, for it did not take Graeme long to discover that Harry was not so
gay as he strove to appear.  But her misgivings as to his departure were
none the less sad on that account, and it was with a heavy heart that
she listened to his plans.

Perhaps it was in contrast to Harry's rather ostentations mirth that his
friend Charlie Millar seemed so very grave on the first night that Will
ventured to prolong his stay among them after the gas had been lighted.
Rose was grave, too, and not at ease, though she strove to hide it by
joining in Harry's mirth.  Charlie did not strive to hide his gravity,
but sat silent and thoughtful after his first greetings were over.  Even
Harry's mirth failed at last, and he leaned back on the sofa, shading
his face with his hands.

"I am afraid your brother would think us very ungrateful if he could see
how badly we are thanking him for his great kindness to Harry."

Graeme forced herself to say it.  Allan's name had not been mentioned
among them for days, and the silence, at first grateful, had come to
seem strange and unnatural, and it made Graeme's cheeks tingle to think
what might be the cause.  So, looking into Charlie's face with a smile,
she spoke to him about his brother.  But Charlie did not answer, or
Graeme did not hear, and in a little while she said again,--

"Is Mr Ruthven still in town?"

"Oh! yes.  It is not likely he will leave again soon."

"And your uncle is really recovering from his last attack?  What on
anxious time Miss Elphinstone must have had!"

"Yes, he seems better, and, contrary to all expectation, seems likely to
live for some time yet.  But his mind is much affected.  At least it
seems so to me."

"Poor Lilias!" said Graeme, "Is she still alone?"

"Oh, no.  There is a houseful of them.  Her aunt Mrs Roxbury is there,
and I don't know how many besides.  I declare, I think those women enjoy
it."

Graeme looked shocked.

"Charlie means the preparations for the wedding," said Rose.  "It is to
take place soon, is it not?"

"Within the month, I believe," said Charlie, gravely.

"So soon!" said Graeme; and in a little she added, "Is it not sudden?"

"No--yes, I suppose so.  They have been engaged, or something like it
for some time; but the haste is because of Mr Elphinstone.  He thinks
he cannot die happy till he sees his daughter safe under the care of her
husband.  Just as if Allan would not be her friend all the same.  It
seems to me like madness."

"And Lilias," said Rose, almost in a whisper, "is she content?"

"On the whole, I suppose so.  But this haste and her father being so
ill, and all these horrid preparations are too much for her.  She looks
ill, and anything but cheerful."

"We have not seen your brother for a long time," said Will.

"I have scarcely seen him, either.  He did not find matters much to his
mind in C, I fear.  Harry will have to keep his eyes open among those
people."

"How soon will Harry have to go?" asked Rose.

"The sooner the better, I suppose," said Charlie, rising and walking
about.  "Oh! dear me.  This is a miserable overturning that has come
upon us--and everything seemed to be going on so smoothly."

"Harry will not have to go before Arthur comes back, I hope," said Rose.

"I don't know, indeed.  When does he come?"

"Charlie, man," said Harry, rising suddenly, "did I not hear you
promising Crofts to meet him to-night?  It is eight o'clock."

"No.  I don't care if I never see Crofts, or any of his set again.  You
had much better stay where you are Harry."

"Charlie, don't be misanthropical.  I promised if you didn't.  Come
along.  No?  Well, good-night to you all.  Will, it is time you were in
bed, your eyes are like saucers.  Don't sit up for me, Graeme."

Graeme had no heart to remonstrate.  She felt it would do no good, and
he went away leaving a very silent party behind him.  Charlie lingered.
When Graeme came down-stairs after seeing Will in his room she found him
still sitting opposite Rose, silent and grave.  He roused himself as she
entered.  Graeme would gladly have excused him, but she took a seat and
her work, and prepared to be entertained.  It was not an easy matter,
though Charlie had the best will in the world to be entertaining, and
Graeme tried to respond.  She did not think of it at the time, but
afterwards, when Charlie was gone, she remembered the sad wistful look
with which the lad had regarded her.  Rose too, hung about her, saying
nothing, but with eyes full of something to which Graeme would not
respond.  One angry throb, stirred her heart, but her next thoughts were
not in anger.

"These foolish young people have been dreaming dreams about Allan and
me,--and I must undeceive them--or deceive them--"

"Graeme," said Rose, softly, "if either of us wait for Harry it must be
me, for you are very tired."

"Yes, I am very tired."

"Charlie said, perhaps he would take Harry home with him.  Should we
wait?" said Rose.

"No.  He may not come.  We will not wait.  I shall sleep near Will.  He
cannot spare me yet.  Now go, love."

She kissed the troubled face upturned to her, but would suffer no
lingering over the good-night.  She was in no haste to go herself,
however.  She did not mean to wait for Harry, but when two hours had
passed, she was still sitting where Rose had left her, and then Harry
came.

But oh! the misery of that home-coming.  Graeme must have fallen asleep,
she thought, for she heard nothing till the door opened, and then she
heard Harry's voice, thick and interrupted, thanking someone, and then
stupidly insisting on refusing all further help.

"Never mind, gentlemen--I can manage--thank you."

There were two persons with him, Charlie Millar was one of them.

"Hush, Harry.  Be quiet, man.  Are you mad?  You will waken your
sister."

The light which someone held behind them, flushed for a moment on
Graeme's pale face.

"Oh!  Miss Elliott," said Charles, "I tried to keep him with me.  He is
mad, I think.  Be quiet, Harry."

Harry quite incapable of walking straight, struggled to free himself and
staggered toward his sister.

"I knew you would sit up, Graeme--though I told you not--and so I came
home."

"Of course, you did right to come home.  But hush, Harry! you will waken
Will."

"Oh! yes!  Poor Will!" he mumbled.  "But Graeme, what ails you, that you
look at me with a face like that?"

"Miss Elliott," entreated Charlie, "leave him to us, you can do nothing
with him to-night."

She went up-stairs before them carrying the light, and held firmly the
handle of Will's door till they passed.  She stood there in the darkness
till they came out again and went down-stairs.  Poor Harry lay muttering
and mumbling, entreating Graeme to come and see him before she went to
bed.  When she heard the door close she went down again, not into the
parlour where a light still burned, but into the darkness of the room
beyond.

"Oh Harry!  Harry!  Harry!" she cried, as she sank on her knees and
covered her face.

It was a dark hour.  Her hope, her faith, her trust in God--all that had
been her strength and song, from day to day was forgotten.  The bitter
waters of fear and grief passed over her, and she was well nigh
overwhelmed.

"Oh papa! mamma!  Oh Harry!  Oh! my little brothers."

"Miss Elliott," said a voice that made her heart stand still, "Graeme,
you must let me help you now."

She rose and turned toward him.

"Mr Ruthven!  I was not aware--" said she, moving toward the door
through which light came from the parlour.

"Miss Elliott, forgive me.  I did not mean to intrude.  I met your
brother and mine by chance, and I came with them.  You must not think
that I--"

"Thank you, you are very kind."

Graeme was trembling greatly and sat down, but rose again immediately.

"You are very kind," repeated she, scarcely knowing what she said.

"Graeme," said Mr Ruthven, "you must let me help you in this matter.
Tell me what you wish.  Must Harry stay or go?"

Graeme sank down with a cry, wringing her hands.

"Oh!  Harry!  Harry!"

Mr Ruthven made one step toward her.

"Miss Elliott, I dare not say to you that you think too severely of
Harry's fault.  But he is young, and I do not really fear for him.  And
you have more cause to be hopeful than I.  Think of your father, and
your father's God.  Graeme, be sure Harry will come back to you again."

Graeme sat still with her head bowed down.

"Graeme--Miss Elliott.  Tell me what you would have me do?"

Graeme rose.

"You are very kind," she repeated.  "I cannot think to-night.  We must
wait--till Arthur comes home."

He went up and down the room several times, and then came and stood by
her side again.

"Graeme," said he, in a low voice, "let me hear you once say, that you
believe me to be your true and faithful friend."

"Why should I not say it, Allan.  You are my true and faithful friend,
as I am yours."

Her voice did not tremble, and for a moment she calmly met his eye.  He
turned and walked away, and when he came back again he held out his hand
and said,--

"Good-night."

"Good-night," said Graeme.

"And you will see about Harry--what you wish for him?"

"Yes.  Good-bye."

He raised the hand he held to his lips, and then said, "Good-bye."



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

The next few days were weary ones to all.  Will had reached that stage
of convalescence in which it was not easy to resign himself to utter
idleness, and yet he had not strength to be able to occupy himself long
without fatigue; and in the effort to amuse and interest him, Graeme's
spirits flagged sadly.  She looked so exhausted and ill one day when the
doctor came in, that he declared that Will must be left to the tender
mercies of Rose, while her sister went first for a walk in the keen
morning air, and then to her room for the rest of the day.  It is
possible that solitude and her own thoughts did Graeme less good than
attendance on Will would have done, but doctors cannot be supposed to
know everything; and even had he known all there was to account for her
hot hands and pale cheeks, it is doubtful whether his skill could have
suggested anything more to the purpose than his random prescription was.
At any rate, Graeme was thankful for a few days' quiet, whether it was
good for her or not; and in the mean time Rose and Will got on very well
without her.

And Harry--poor, unhappy, repentant Harry, trying under a mask of sullen
indifference to hide the shame and misery he felt at the remembrance of
that night--these were dreary days to him.  Graeme never spoke to him
about that night.  She had not the courage, even if she had felt hot
that it would be better not to do so.  The preparations for his
departure went on slowly, though it was becoming doubtful, whether he
should go West after all.  He said little about it himself, but that
little it was not pleasant for Graeme to hear.

Much to the surprise of everyone, and to the extreme indignation of
Harry, Mr Ruthven had again left town, saying nothing of his
destination or the length of his stay, only in very brief fashion,
telling him to make no further arrangements for his departure until his
return.

"He does not trust me.  He does not think me fit to take charge of his
affairs," said Harry to himself, with his vague remembrance of Allan's
share in the events of that miserable night, he could hardly wonder that
it should be so, and in his shame and impatience he was twenty times on
the point of breaking his connection with his employers, and going his
own way.  However, he forced himself to wait a little.

"If I am sent West after all, well and good.  If not I shall remain no
longer.  The change of arrangements will be sufficient excuse, at least
I will make it so.  I can't stay, and I won't.  If he would but come
back and put an end to it all."

And Harry was not the only one who was impatient under the unreasonable
absence of Mr Ruthven.  Poor Mr Elphinstone, ill and irritable,
suffered not an hour to pass without vexing himself and others,
wondering at, and lamenting, his delay.  Lilias had much ado to keep him
from saying angry and bitter things about his nephew, and exaggerated
the few details she had gathered with regard to their recent losses, in
order to account to him for Allan's untimely devotion to business.  Poor
girl, she looked sad and ill in these days, and grew irritable and
unreasonable amid the preparations of Mrs Roxbury, in a way that
shocked and alarmed that excellent and energetic lady.  She considered
it a very equivocal proof of Lilias' love to her father, that she should
be so averse to the carrying out of his express wishes.  There had been
nothing that is proper on such an occasion, and Mrs Roxbury seemed bent
on fulfilling his wishes to the very letter.  So, at last, Lilias was
fain for the sake of peace to grow patient and grateful, and stayed more
and more closely in her father's room, and her aunt had her will in all
things that concerned the wedding, that under such melancholy
circumstances was drawing near.

"Graeme," said Harry, one night, when they were sitting together after
the rest had all gone up-stairs, "don't you think we have been
uncomfortable long enough?  Don't you think you have given us enough of
that miserable, hopeless face for one occasion?  I think a change would
be agreeable to all concerned.  It would to me, at any rate."

Graeme was so startled at this speech, that for a little she could not
say a word.  Then she said something about being tired and not very
well--and about its being impossible always to help one's looks.

"Why don't you say at once that it is I who have made you so miserable
that you have lost all faith in me--that I am going straight to ruin.
That is what you mean to say--you know very well."

"Harry," said she, gently, "I did not mean to say anything unkind."

Harry left his seat, and threw himself on the sofa with a groan.

"If you would only rate a fellow soundly, Graeme!  If you would only
tell me at once, what a weak, pitiful wretch you think me!  I could bear
that; but your silence and that miserable face, I cannot bear."

"I cannot say I think you weak or pitiful, Harry.  It would not be true.
And I am afraid you would not like my rating better than my silence.  I
can only say, I have had less courage in thinking of your going away to
fill an important and responsible situation, since that night."

Harry groaned.

"Oh! well; don't bother yourself about my going away, and my
responsibilities.  The chances are some one else will have to fill the
important situation."

"Have you seen--has Mr Ruthven returned?"

"Mr Ruthven has returned, and I have seen him, but I have not spoken
with him.  It was not his will and pleasure to say anything to-night
about that which has been keeping me in such miserable suspense.  He was
engaged, forsooth, when a moment would have settled it.  Well, it does
not matter.  I shall take the decision into my own hands."

"What do you mean, Harry?"

"I mean, I shall give up my situation if he does not send me West--if he
hesitates a moment about sending me, I shall leave his employment."

"But why, Harry?"

"Because--because I am determined.  Ruthven does not think me fit to be
entrusted with the management of his affairs, I suppose."

"Harry," said his sister, gravely, "is it surprising if he does not?"

"Well, if I am not to be trusted there, neither am I to be trusted here,
and I leave.  Graeme, you don't know what you are talking about.  It is
quite absurd to suppose that what happened that night would make any
difference to Allan Ruthven.  You think him a saint, but trust me, he
knows by experience how to make allowance for that sort of thing.  If he
has nothing worse than that against any one in his employment, he may
think himself fortunate."

"Then, why do you say he does not trust you?"

"I shall call it sufficient evidence that he does not, if he draws back
in this.  Not that I care much.  I would rather be in the employment of
some one else.  I shall not stay here."

"Harry," said Graeme, coming quite close to the sofa on which he had
thrown himself, "what has happened between you and Allan Ruthven."

"Happened!  What should have happened?  What an absurd question to ask,
Graeme."

"Harry, why are you so determined to leave him?  It was not so a little
while ago."

"Was it not?  Oh, well!  I daresay not.  But one wants a change.  One
gets tired of the same dull routine, always.  Now, Graeme," added he, as
she made an incredulous gesture, "don't begin to fancy any mystery.
That would be too absurd, you know."

Graeme came and knelt close beside him.  His face was turned away so
that she could not see it.  Her own was very pale.

"Harry, speak to me.  Do you believe that Allan Ruthven is otherwise
than an honourable and upright gentleman in business and--in other
matters?  Tell me, Harry."

"Oh, yes! as gentlemen go.  No, Graeme, that is not right.  I believe
him in all things to be upright and honourable.  I think more highly of
him than I did at first.  It is not that."

The colour came slowly back to Graeme's face.  It was evident that Harry
had no foolish thoughts of her and Allan.  In a little she said,--

"And you, Harry--you have not--you are--"

"I hope I am an honourable man, Graeme," said Harry, gravely.  "There is
nothing between Mr Ruthven and me.  I mean, he does not wish me to
leave him.  But I must go, Graeme.  I cannot stay here."

"Harry, why?  Tell me."  Graeme laid her hand caressingly on his hair.

"It is nothing that I can tell," said Harry, huskily.

"Harry--even if I cannot help it, or remove it--it is better that I
should know what is making you so unhappy.  Harry, is it--it is not
Lilias?"

He did not answer her.

"Harry, Harry!  Do not say that this great sorrow has fallen upon us,
upon you, too."

She drew back that he might not feel how she was trembling.  In a little
she said,--

"Brother, speak to me.  What shall I say to you, my poor Harry?"

But Harry was not in a mood to be comforted.  He rose and confronted
her.

"I think the most appropriate remark for the occasion would be that I am
a fool, and deserve to suffer for my folly.  You had better say that to
me, Graeme."

But something in his sister's face stopped him.  His lips trembled, and
he said,--

"At any rate, it isn't worth your looking so miserable about."

"Hush, Harry," whispered she, and he felt her tears dropping on his
hands.  "And Lilias?"

"Graeme, I do not know.  I never spoke to her, but I hoped--I believed
till lately--."

He laid his head down on his sister's shoulder.  In a little he roused
himself and said,--

"But it is all past now--all past; and it won't bear talking about, even
with you, Graeme, who are the dearest and best sister that ever unworthy
brother had.  It was only a dream, and it is past.  But I cannot stay
here--at least it would be very much better--"

Graeme sighed.

"Yes, I can understand how it should seem impossible to you, and yet--
but you are right.  It won't bear talking about.  I have nothing to say
to comfort you, dear, except to wait, and the pain may grow less."

No, there was nothing that Graeme could say, even if Harry would have
listened to her.  Her own heart was too heavy to allow her to think of
comfort for him; and so they sat in silence.  It seemed to Graeme that
she had never been quite miserable until now.  Yesterday she had thought
herself wretched, and now her burden of care for Harry was pressing with
tenfold weight.  Why had this new misery come upon her?  She had been
unhappy about him before, and now it was worse with him than all her
fears.

In her misery she forgot many things that might have comforted her with
regard to her brother.  She judged him by herself, forgetting the
difference between the woman and the man--between the mature woman, who
having loved vainly, could never hope to dream the sweet dream again,
and the youth, hardly yet a man, sitting in the gloom of a first sorrow,
with, it might well be, a long bright future stretching before him.

Sharp as the pain at her own heart was, she knew she should not die of
it.  She took no such consolation to herself as that.  She knew she must
live the old common life, hiding first the fresh wound and then the
scar, only hoping that as the years went on the pain might grow less.
She accepted the lot.  She thought if the darkness of her life never
cast a shadow on the lives of those she loved, she would strive, with
God's help, to be contented.

But Harry--poor Harry! hitherto so careless and light-hearted, how was
he to bear the sorrow that had fallen upon him?  Perhaps it was as well
that in her love and pity for her brother, Graeme failed to see how
different it might be with him.  Harry would hardly have borne to be
told even by her that his sorrow would pass away.  The commonplaces
supposed to be appropriate about time and change and patience, would
have been unwelcome and irritating, even from his sister's lips, and it
was all the better that Graeme should sit there, thinking her own dreary
thoughts in silence.  After the momentary pain and shame which the
betrayal of his secret had caused him, there was a certain consolation
in the knowledge that he had his sister's sympathy, and I am afraid, if
the truth must be told, that Graeme that night suffered more for Harry
than Harry suffered for himself.  If she looked back with bitter regret
on the vanished dream of the last six months, it was that night at least
less for her own sake than for his.  If from the future that lay before
them she shrank appalled, it was not because the dreariness that must
henceforth be on her life, but because of something worse than
dreariness that might be on the life of her brother, unsettled, almost
reckless, as he seemed to be to-night.  She could not but see the danger
that awaited him, should he persist in leaving home, to cast himself
among strangers.  How gladly would she have borne his trouble for him.
She felt that going away now, he would have no shield against the
temptation that had of late proved too strong for him; and yet would it
be really better for him, could she prevail upon him to stay at home?
Remembering her own impulse to be away--anywhere--to escape from the
past and its associations, she could not wonder at his wish to go.  That
the bitterness of the pain would pass away, she hoped and believed, but
would he wait with patience the coming of content.  Alas! her fears were
stronger than her hopes.  Best give him into God's keeping and let him
go, she thought.

"But he must not leave Mr Ruthven.  That will make him no better, but
worse.  He must not go from us, not knowing whither.  Oh, I wish I knew
what to do!"

The next day the decision was made.  It would not be true to say that
Harry was quite calm and at his ease that morning, when he obeyed a
summons into Mr Ruthven's private room.  There was more need for
Charlie's "keep cool, old fellow," than Charlie knew, for Harry had that
morning told Graeme that before he saw her face again he would know
whether he was to go or stay.  In spite of himself he felt a little
soft-hearted, as he thought of what might be the result of his
interview, and he was glad that it was not his friend Allan, but Mr
Ruthven the merchant, brief and business-like in all he said, whom he
found awaiting him.  He was busy with some one else when Harry entered,
talking coolly and rapidly on business matters, and neither voice nor
manner changed as he turned to him.

There was a good deal said about matters that Harry thought might very
well have been kept till another time; there were notes compared and
letters read and books examined.  There were some allusions to past
transactions, inquiries and directions, all in the fewest possible
words, and in the quietest manner.  Harry, replied, assented and
suggested, making all the time the strongest effort to appear as there
was nothing, and could be nothing, beyond these dull details to interest
him.

There came a pause at last.  Mr Ruthven did not say in words that he
need not wait any longer, but his manner, as he looked up, and turned
over a number of letters that had just been brought in, said it plainly.
Indeed, he turned quite away from him, and seemed absorbed in his
occupation.  Harry waited till the lad that brought in the letters had
mended the fire, and fidgeted about the room, and gone out again; then
he said, in a voice that ought to have been quiet and firm, for he took
a great deal of pains to make it so,--

"Mr Ruthven, may I trespass a moment on your valuable time _now_?"

Mr Ruthven immediately laid his letters on the table, and turned round.
Harry thought, like a man who found it necessary to address himself,
once for all, to the performance of an unpleasant duty.  Certainly, he
had time to attend to anything of importance that Mr Elliott might have
to say.

"It is a matter of great importance to _me_, and I have been led to
suppose that it is of some consequence to you.  The Western agency--"

"You are right.  It is of great consequence to the firm.  There is,
perhaps, no immediate necessity for deciding--"

"I beg your pardon, sir, there is absolute necessity for my knowing at
once, whether it is your pleasure that I should be employed in it."

"Will a single day make much difference to you?" said Mr Ruthven,
looking gravely at the young man, who was certainly not so calm as he
meant to be.

"Excuse me, sir, many days have passed since.  But, Mr Ruthven, it is
better I should spare you the pain of saying that you no longer consider
me fit for the situation.  Allow me, then, to inform you that I wish--
that I no longer wish to remain in your employment."

"Harry," said Mr Ruthven, gravely, "does your brother--does your sister
know of your desire to leave me?  Would they approve, if you were sent
West?"

"Pardon me, Mr Ruthven, that question need not be discussed.  I must be
the best judge of the matter.  As for them, they were at least
reconciled to my going when you--drew back."

Mr Ruthven was evidently uncomfortable.  He took up his bundle of
letters again, murmuring something about their not wishing it now.

"I understand you, sir," said Harry, with a very pale face.  "Allow me
to say that as soon as you can supply my place--or at once, if you
like--I must go."

But Mr Ruthven was not listening to him.  He had turned over his
letters till a little note among them attracted his attention.  He broke
the seal, and read it while Harry was speaking.  It was very brief, only
three words and one initial letter.

"Let Harry go.  G."

He read it, and folded it, and laid it down with a sigh.  Then he turned
to Harry, just as he was laying his hand on the door.

"What is it, Harry?  I did not hear what you were saying."

"I merely said, sir," said Harry, turning round and facing him, "that as
soon as you can supply my place in the office, I shall consider myself
at liberty to go."

"But why should you wish to go?"

"There are several reasons.  One is, I shall never stay anywhere on
sufferance.  If I am not to be trusted at a distance, I shall certainly
not stay to give my employers the trouble of keeping an eye upon me."

His own eye flashed as he spoke.

"But, Harry, man, that is nonsense, you know."

It was not his master, but his friend, that spoke, and Harry was a
little thrown off his guard by the change in his tone.

"I do not think it is nonsense," said he.

"Harry, I have not been thinking of myself in all this, nor of the
interests of the firm.  Let me say, once for all, that I should consider
them perfectly safe in your hands, in all respects.  Harry, the world
would look darker to me the day I could not trust your father's son."

Harry made no answer.

"It is of you I have been thinking, in the hesitation that has seemed so
unreasonable to you.  Harry, when I think of the home you have here, and
of the wretched changed life that awaits you there, it seems selfish--
wrong to wish to send you away."

Harry made a gesture of dissent, and muttered something about the
impossibility of staying always at home.

"I know it, my lad, but the longer you can stay at home--such a home as
yours--the better.  When I think of my own life there, the first
miserable years, and all the evil I have seen since--.  Well, there is
no use in going over all that.  But, Harry, it would break your sister's
heart, were you to change into a hard, selfish, worldly man, like the
rest of us."

There was nothing Harry could say to this.

"So many fail in the struggle--so many are changed or ruined.  And, dear
lad, you have one temptation that never was a temptation to me.  Don't
be angry, Harry," for Harry started and grew red.  "Even if that is not
to be feared for you, there is enough besides to make you hesitate.  I
have known and proved the world.  What we call success in life, is not
worth one approving smile from your sister's lips.  And if you should
fall, and be trodden down, how should I ever answer to her?"

He walked up and down the room two or three times.

"Don't go, Harry."  For Harry had risen as though he thought the
interview was at on end.  "You said, just now, that you must decide for
yourself, and you shall do so.  But, consider well, and consult your
brother and sister.  As for the interests of the firm, I have no fear."

"I may consider it settled then," said Harry, huskily.  "Arthur was
always of opinion that I should go, and Graeme is willing now.  And the
sooner the better, I suppose?"

"The sooner the better for us.  But there is time enough.  Do not be
hasty in deciding."

"I have decided already, I thank you, sir--" He hesitated, hardly
knowing what to say more.

"I hope it will prove that you will have good reason to thank me.
Remember, Harry, whatever comes out of this, you left us with my full
and entire confidence.  I do not believe I shall have cause to regret
it, or that you will fail me or disappoint me."

Harry grasped the hand held out to him without a word, but inwardly he
vowed, that come what might, the confidence so generously expressed
should never, for good cause, be withdrawn.

And so the decision was made.  After this the preparations did not
occupy a long time.  The second day found Harry ready for departure.

"Graeme," said Harry, "I cannot be content to take away with me such a
melancholy remembrance of your face.  I shall begin to think you are not
willing that I should go after all."

"You need not think so, Harry.  I am sure it is best since you are
determined.  But I cannot but look melancholy at the necessity.  You
would not have me look joyful, when I am going to lose my brother?"

"No--if that were all.  But you have often said how impossible it was
that we should always keep together.  It is only what we have been
expecting, and we might have parted in much more trying circumstances.
I shall be home often--once a year at the least; perhaps oftener."

"Yes, dear, I know."

"Well, then, I think there is no cause for grief in my going, even if I
were worthy of it, which I very much doubt."

Graeme's face did not brighten.  In a little while her tears were
falling fast.

"Graeme, what is it?  There is some other reason for your tears, besides
my going away.  You do not trust me, Graeme, you are afraid."

Graeme made an effort to quiet herself.

"Yes, Harry, I am a little afraid, since you give me the opportunity to
say so.  You have hardly been our own Harry for a while, as you know,
dear.  And what will you be when you are far from us all?  I am afraid
to let you go from me, Harry, far more afraid than I should be for
Will."

Harry rose and walked about a while, with an air that seemed to be
indignant; but if he was angry, he thought better of it, and in a little
he came and sat down beside his sister again.

"I wish I could make you quite satisfied about me, Graeme."

"I wish you could, dear.  I will try to be so.  I daresay you think me
unreasonable, Harry.  I know I am tired, and foolish, and all wrong,"
said she, trying in vain to keep back her tears.

"You look at this moment as though you had very little hope in
anything," said Harry, with a touch of bitterness.

"Do I?  Well, I am all wrong, I know.  There ought to be hope and
comfort too, if I sought them right.  I will try to leave you in God's
keeping, Harry, the keeping of our father's and our mother's God."

Harry threw himself on his knees beside her.

"Graeme, you are making yourself unhappy without cause.  If you only
knew!  Such things are thought nothing of.  If I disgraced myself the
other night, there are few young men of our acquaintance who are not
disgraced."

Graeme put her hand upon his lips.

"But, Graeme, it is true.  I must speak, I can't bear to have you
fretting, when there is no cause.  Even Allan Ruthven thought nothing of
it, at least, he--"

"Hush, Harry, you do not need Mr Ruthven to be a conscience to you.
And it is not of the past I am thinking, but the future!  How can I bear
to think of you going the way so many have gone, knowing the danger all
the greater because you feel yourself so safe.  I am afraid for you,
Harry."

It was useless to speak, she knew that quite well.  The words of another
can never make danger real, to those who are assailed with poor Harry's
temptation.  So she shut her lips close, as he rose from her side, and
sat in silence; while he walked up and down the room.  By and by he came
back to her side, again.

"Graeme," said he, gravely.  "Indeed, you may trust me.  The shame of
that night shall never be renewed.  You shall never have the same cause
to be sorry for me, or ashamed of me again."

She put her arms round his neck, and laid her head down on his shoulder,
but she did not speak.  It was not that she was altogether hopeless
about her brother, but Harry understood it so.

"Graeme, what shall I say to you?  How shall I give you courage--faith
to trust me?  Graeme, I promise, that till I see you again I shall not
taste nor touch that which so degraded me in your eyes.  I solemnly
promise before God, Graeme."

"Harry," said his sister, "it is a vow--an oath, that you have taken."

"Yes, and it shall be kept as such.  Do you trust me, Graeme?  Give me
that comfort before I go away."

"I trust you, Harry," was all she had voice to say.  She clasped him and
kissed him, and by and by she prayed God to bless him, in words such as
his mother might have used.  And Harry vowed, with God's help, to be
true to himself and her.  He did not speak the words again, but none the
less was the vow registered in Heaven.

That was the real farewell between the brother and sister.  Next morning
there was little said by any one, and not a word by Graeme, but the last
glimpse Harry had of home, showed his eldest sister's face smiling and
hopeful, saying as plainly as her words had said before,--

"Harry, I trust you quite."



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

The brilliant sunlight of a September morning was shining full into the
little breakfast-room, where Graeme sat at the head of the table,
awaiting the coming of the rest.  The morning paper was near her, but
she was not reading; her hands were clasped and rested on the table, and
she was looking straight before her, seeing, probably, further than the
pale green wall, on which the sunshine fell so pleasantly.  She was
grave and quiet, but not in the least sad.  Indeed, more than once, as
the voices of Rose and Arthur came sounding down-stairs, a smile of
unmistakable cheerfulness overspread her face.  Presently, Arthur
entered, and Graeme made a movement among her cups and saucers.

"Your trip has done you good, Graeme," said Arthur, as he sat down
opposite to her.

"Yes, indeed.  There is nothing like the sea-breezes, to freshen one.  I
hardly know myself for the tired, exhausted creature you sent away in
June."

Graeme, Rose, and Will, had passed the summer at Cacouna.  Nelly had
gone with them as housekeeper, and Arthur had shut the house, and taken
lodgings a little out of town for the summer.

"I am only afraid," added Graeme, "that all our pleasure has been at the
expense of some discomfort to you."

"By no means, a change is agreeable.  I have enjoyed the summer very
much.  I am glad to get home again, however."

"Yes, a change does one good.  If I was only quite at ease about one
thing, we might have gone to Merleville, instead of Cacouna, and that
would have given Janet and a good many others pleasure."

"Oh!  I don't know," said Arthur.  "The good people there must have
forgotten us by this time, I fancy.  There are no sea-breezes there, and
they were what you needed."

"Arthur!  Janet forgotten us!  Never, I am quite sure of that.  But at
the time it seemed impossible to go, to make the effort, I mean.  I
quite shrunk from the thought of Merleville.  Indeed, if you had not
been firm, I fear I should not have had the sea-breezes."

"Yes.  You owe me thanks.  You needed the change.  What with Will's
illness, and Harry's going away, and one thing and another; you were
quite in need of a change."

"I was not well, certainly," said Graeme.  "Will has gone to the post, I
suppose?"

"Yes," said Rose, who entered at the moment.  "I see him coming up the
street."

"As for Rosie," said Arthur, looking at her gravely, as she sat down.
"She has utterly ruined her complexion.  Such freckles! such sunburning!
and how stout she has grown!"

Rose laughed.

"Yes, I know I'm a fright.  You must bring me something, Arthur.
Toilette vinegar, or something."

"Oh! it would not signify.  You are quite beyond all that."

"Here comes Will, with a letter for each of us, I declare."

Arthur's letter was soon despatched, a mere business missive.  Graeme's
was laid down beside her, while she poured Will's coffee.  Rose read
hers at once, and before she was well down the first page, she uttered a
cry of delight.

"Listen all.  No, I won't read it just yet.  Arthur, don't you remember
a conversation that you and I had together, soon after Sandy was here?"

"Conversation," repeated Arthur.  "We have talked, that is, you have
talked, and I have listened, but as to conversation:--"

"But Arthur, don't you remember saying something about Emily, and I did
not agree with you?"

"I have said a great many times, that I thought Emily a very pretty
little creature.  If you don't agree, it shows bad taste."

"I quite agree.  I think her beautiful.  She is not very little,
however.  She is nearly as tall as I am."

"What is it, Rose?" asked Graeme, stretching out her hand for the
letter.

"You'll spoil your news, with your long preface," said Will.

"No, but I want Arthur to confess that I am wisest."

"Oh!  I can do that, of course, as regards matters in general; but I
should like to hear of this particular case."

"Well, don't you remember saying that you did not think Sandy and Emily
would ever fall in love?"

"I remember no such assertion, on my part.  On the contrary, I remember
feeling pretty certain that the mischief was done already, as far as
Sandy was concerned, poor fellow; and I remember saying, much to your
indignation, more's the pity."

"Yes; and I remember you said it would be just like a sentimental little
blue, like Emily, to slight the handsome, hearty young farmer, and marry
some pale-faced Yankee professor."

"You put the case a little strongly, perhaps," said Arthur, laughing.
"But, on the whole, that is the way the matter stood.  That was my
opinion, I confess."

"And they are going to be married!" exclaimed Graeme and Will in a
breath.  "How glad Janet will be!"

"Emily does not say so, in so many words.  It won't be for a long time
yet, they are so young.  But I am to be bridesmaid when the time comes."

"Well, if that is not saying it!" said Will laughing.  "What would you
have, Rosie?"

Graeme opened and read her letter, and laid it down beside her, looking
a little pale and anxious.

"What is it, Graeme?  Nothing wrong, I hope."

"No; I hope not.  I don't know, I am sure.  Norman says he is going to
be married."

"Married!" cried Rose and Will.

"To Hilda?" said Arthur.

"Yes; but how could you have guessed?" said Graeme, bewildered.

"I did not guess.  I saw it.  Why it was quite easy to be seen that
events have been tending toward it all these years.  It is all very
fine, this brother and sister intercourse; but I have been quite sure
about them since Harry wrote about them."

"Well, Norman seems surprised, if you are not.  He says, `You will be
very much astonished at all this; but you cannot be more astonished than
I was myself.  I did not think of such a thing; at least, I did not know
that I was thinking of such a thing till young Conway, my friend, asked
permission to address my sister.  I was very indignant, though, at
first, I did not, in the least, know why.  However, Hilda helped me to
find out all about it.  At first I meant she should spend the winter
with you all I want very much that you should know each other.  But, on
the whole, I think I can't spare her quite so long.  Expect to see us
therefore in November--one flesh!'"  There was much more.

"Well done, Norman!" cried Arthur.  "But, Graeme, I don't see what there
is to look grave about.  She seems to be a nice little thing, and Norman
ought to know his own mind by this time."

"She's a great deal more than a nice little thing," said Graeme
earnestly.  "If one can judge by her letters and by Harry's description
of her--to say nothing of Norman's opinion--she must be a very superior
person, and good and amiable besides.  But it seems so strange, so
sudden.  Why, it seems only the other day since Norman was such a mere
boy.  I wish she could have passed the winter with us.  I think,
perhaps, I should write and say so."

"Yes, if you like.  But Norman must judge.  I think it is the wisest
thing for him.  He will have a settled home."

"I do believe it is," said Graeme, earnestly.  "I am very glad--or I
shall be in a little.  But, just at first, it seems a little as though
Norman would not be quite so much one of us--you know--and besides there
really is something odd in the idea of Norman's being married; now, is
there not?"

"I confess I fail to see it," said Arthur, a little sharply.  Graeme had
hardly time to notice his tone.  An exclamation from Will startled her.

"What is it, Will?" said Rose: "Another wedding?"

"You'll never guess, Rosie.  Never.  You need not try."

"Is it Harry this time?" said Arthur, looking in from the hall with his
hat on.

"No.  Listen, Arthur!  Harry says, `What is this that Mr Green has been
telling me about Arthur and little Miss Grove?  I was greatly amused at
the idea _their_ mutual admiration.  Mr Green assures me that he has
the best authority for saying that Arthur is to carry off the heiress.
Charlie, too, has hinted something of the same kind.  Tell Graeme, when
that happens, I shall expect her to come and keep my house.'"

"They said Mr Green was going to carry off the heiress himself!"
exclaimed Rose.

"Listen!" continued Will.  "`Unless, indeed, Graeme should make up her
mind to smile on Mr Green and take possession of the "palatial
residence," of which he has just laid the foundation near C---.'"

"Here is a bit for you, Graeme.  Nobody is to be left out, it seems.  It
will be your turn next, Rosie," said Arthur, as he went away laughing.

"But that is all nonsense about Arthur and little Miss Grove?" said
Rose, half questioningly.

"I should think so, indeed!  Fancy Arthur coming to that fate," said
Graeme.  "That would be too absurd."

And yet the thought came uncalled several times that day, and her
repetitions of "too absurd," became very energetic in her attempts to
drive it quite away.  The thought was unpleasantly recalled to her when,
a day or two after, she saw her brother, standing beside the Grove
carriage, apparently so interested in his conversation with the pretty
Fanny that she and Rose passed quite close to them unobserved.  It was
recalled more unpleasantly still, by the obliging care of Mrs Gridley,
who was one of their first visitors after their return.  The Grove
carriage passed as she sat with them, and, nodding significantly toward
it, she said:

"I don't know whether I ought to congratulate you or sympathise with
you."

Graeme laughed, but she was very much afraid she changed colour, too, as
she answered:

"There is no haste.  When you make up your mind as to which will be most
appropriate, you will be in time."

"Ah! you are not to commit yourself, I see.  Well, you are quite right.
She is a harmless little person, I believe, and may turn out very well
if withdrawn from the influence of her stepmother."

Something in Graeme's manner stopped the voluble lady more effectually
than words could have done, and a rather abrupt turn was given to the
conversation.  But Graeme could not forget it.  Not that she believed in
the truth of what Mrs Gridley had hinted at, yet she could not help
being annoyed at it.  It was rather foolish, she thought, for Arthur to
give occasion for such gossip.  It was so unlike him, too.  And yet so
little was enough to raise a rumour like that, especially with so kind a
friend as Mrs Gridley to keep the ball rolling.  Very likely Arthur
knew nothing at all about this rumour, and, as the thought passed
through her mind, Graeme determined to tell him about it.

But she did not; she could not do so--though why she could not was a
mystery to herself.  Sometimes she fancied there was that in Arthur's
manner which prevented her from pursuing the subject, when an
opportunity seemed to offer.  When he was not there, she was quite sure
it was only her own fancy, but no sooner was the name of Grove
mentioned; than the fancy returned, till the very sight of the Grove
carriage made her uncomfortable at last, especially if the lady of the
mansion was in it.  She never failed to lean forward and bow to them
with the greatest interest and politeness; and more than once Graeme was
left standing looking in at a shop-window, while Arthur obeyed the
beckoning hand of the lady, and went to speak to her.  Sometimes the
pretty Fanny was there; sometimes she was not.  But her absence did not
set Graeme's uncomfortable feelings at rest with regard to her brother.

And yet, why should she be uncomfortable? she asked herself, a thousand
times.  What right had she to interfere, even in thought, with her
brother's friendship?  If he admired Miss Grove, if even he were
attached to her, or engaged to her, it was nothing with which she could
interfere--nothing to which she could even allude--until he should speak
first.  But then, of course, that was quite absurd!  Miss Grove, though
very pretty, and the daughter of a man who was reported to be rich, was
no more worthy to be Arthur's wife--than--

Oh! of course it was all nonsense.  No one had ever heard three words of
common sense from those pretty lips.  She had heard Arthur say as much
as that himself.  Miss Grove could dance and flirt and sing a little;
that was all that could be said for her, and to suppose that Arthur
would ever--

And yet Graeme grew a little indignant standing there looking at, but
scarcely seeing the beautiful things in Savage's window, and she
inwardly resolved that never again should she wait for the convenience
of the free-and-easy occupant of the carriage standing a few doors down
the street.  She had time to go over the same thoughts a good many
times, and the conclusion always was that it was exceedingly impertinent
of Mrs Grove, and exceedingly foolish of Arthur, and exceedingly
disagreeable to herself, before she was recalled by her brother's voice
from her enforced contemplation of the beautiful things before her.

"Mrs Grove wanted to speak to you, Graeme," said he, with a little
embarrassment.

"I could hardly be expected to know that by intuition," said Graeme,
coldly.

"She beckoned.  Did you not see?"

"She beckoned to you; she would hardly venture on such a liberty with
me.  There is not the slightest approach to intimacy between us, and
never will be, unless I have greatly mistaken her character."

"Oh, well, you may very easily have done that, you know very little
about her.  She thinks very highly of you, I can assure you."

"Stuff!" pronounced Graeme, with such emphasis that she startled
herself, and provoked a hearty laugh from her brother.

"I declare, Graeme, I thought for the moment it was Harry that spoke for
Mrs Gridley in one of her least tolerant moods.  It did not sound the
least like you."

Graeme laughed, too.

"Well, I was thinking of Harry at the minute, and as for Mrs Gridley--I
didn't mean to be cross, Arthur, but something disagreeable that she
once said to me did come into my mind at the moment, I must confess."

"Well, I wish you a more pleasant subject for meditation on your way
home," said Arthur.  "Wait till I see if there are any letters.  None, I
believe.  Good-bye."

Mrs Gridley did not occupy Graeme's thoughts on her way home, yet they
were not very pleasant.  All the way along the sunny streets she was
repeating to herself, "so absurd", "so foolish", "so impertinent of Mrs
Grove", "so disagreeable to be made the subject of gossip," and so on,
over and over again, till the sight of the obnoxious carriage gave her a
fresh start again.  The lady did not beckon this time, she only bowed
and smiled most sweetly.  But her smiles did not soothe Graeme's ruffled
temper, and she reached home at last quite ashamed of her folly.  For,
after all, it was far less disagreeable to call herself silly than to
call Arthur foolish, and Mrs Grove impertinent, and she would not think
about it any more.  So she said, and so she repeated, still thinking
about it more than was either pleasant or needful.

One night, Charlie Millar paid them a visit.  He made no secret of his
delight at their return home, declaring that he had not known what to do
with himself in their absence, and that he had not been quite content or
at his ease since he sat in Graeme's arm-chair three months ago.

"One would not think so from the visits you have made us since we came
home," said Graeme, smiling.  "You have only looked in upon us.  We were
thinking you had forsaken us, or that you had found a more comfortable
arm-chair, at a pleasanter fireside."

"Business, business," repeated Charlie, gravely.  "I assure you that
Harry out there, and I here, have had all that we have been able to
attend to during the last three months.  It is only to the unexpected
delay of the steamer that I owe the leisure of this evening."

"You expect us to believe all that, I suppose," said Graeme, laughing.

"Indeed, you may believe me, Miss Elliott.  It is quite true.  I can't
understand how it is that my wise brother can stay away so long just
now.  If he does not know how much he is needed it is not for want of
telling, I assure you."

"You hear often from him, I suppose?"

"Yes.  I had a note from Lilias the other day, in a letter I got from my
mother.  She sent `kind regards' to the Misses Elliott, which I take the
present opportunity of delivering."

"Business having hitherto prevented," said Rose.

"You don't seem to have faith in my business engagements, Miss Rose; but
I assure you that Harry and I deserve great credit for having carried on
the business so successfully for the last three months."

"Where is Mr Gilchrist?" asked Arthur.

"Oh, he's here, there, and everywhere.  But Mr Gilchrist is an `old
fogey,' and he has not helped but hindered matters, now and then.  It is
not easy getting on with those slow-going, obstinate old gentlemen; I
can't understand how Allan used to manage him so well.  However, he had
unbounded confidence in Allan's powers, and let him do as he pleased."

"And the obstinate old gentleman has not unbounded confidence in the
powers of you and Harry?" said Arthur, laughing.  "Upon the whole I
think, in the absence of your brother, it is as well, that you two lads
should have some check upon you, now and then."

"Not at all, I assure you," said Charlie.  "As for Harry--Miss Elliott,
I wish I could tell you half the kind things I hear about Harry from our
correspondents out there."

Graeme smiled brightly.  She was permitting herself to rely entirely
upon Harry now.

"But, Charlie," said Will from his corner, "what is this nonsense you
have been telling Harry about Arthur and the beautiful Miss Grove?"

Charlie started and coloured, and so did Graeme, and both glanced
hastily at Arthur, who neither started nor coloured, as Graeme was very
glad to perceive.

"Nonsense!" said Charlie, with a great show of astonishment and
indignation.  "I don't understand you, Will."

"Will," said Rose, laughing, "you are mistaken.  It was Mr Green who
had been hinting to Harry something you remember; you read it to us the
other morning."

"Yes, but Harry said that Charlie had been saying something of the same
kind," persisted simple Will, who never dreamed of making any one feel
uncomfortable.

"Hinting!" repeated Charlie.  "I never hint.  I leave that to Mrs
Gridley and her set.  I think I must have told Harry that I had seen
Arthur in the Grove carriage one morning, and another day standing
beside it talking to Miss Fanny, while her mamma was in ordering nice
things at Alexander's."

Graeme laughed, she could not help it.

"Oh, that terrible carriage!" said Rose.

"A very comfortable and convenient carriage I found it, many a time,
when I was staying at Mrs Smith's," said Arthur, coolly.  "Mrs Grove
was so polite as to invite me to take a seat in it more than once, and
much obliged I was to her, some of those warm August mornings."

"So you see, Will," said Charlie, triumphantly, "I was telling Harry the
simple truth, and he was mean to accuse me of hinting `nonsense,' as you
call it."

"I suppose that is what Mrs Gridley meant the other day when she nodded
so significantly toward the Grove carriage, and asked whether she was to
congratulate us."

Rose spoke with a little hesitation.  She was not sure that her brother
would be quite pleased by Mrs Gridley's congratulations, and he was
not.

"Oh! if we are to have Mrs Gridley's kind concern and interest in our
affairs, we shall advance rapidly," said he, a little crossly.  "It
would of course be very desirable to discuss our affairs with that
prudent and charitable lady."

"But as I did not suppose there was on that occasion any matters to
discuss there was no discussion," said Graeme, by no means unwilling
that her brother should see that she was not pleased by his manner and
tone to Rose.

"Oh! never mind, Graeme," said Rose, laughing, "we shall have another
chance of being congratulated, and I only hope Arthur may be here
himself.  Mrs Gridley was passing when the Grove carriage stood at our
door this morning.  I saw her while I was coming up the street.  She
will be here in a day or two to offer again her congratulations or her
sympathy."

"Was Mrs Grove here this morning?" enquired Arthur.  "She must have
given you her own message then, I suppose."

"She was at the door, but she did not get in.  I was out, and Graeme was
busy, and sent her word that she was engaged."

"Yes," said Graeme, "I was helping Nelly, and I was in my old blue
wrapper."

"Now, Graeme," said Will, "that is not the least like you.  What about a
wrapper?"

"Nothing, of course.  But a call at that hour is not at all times
convenient, unless from once intimate friends, and we are not intimate."

"But perhaps she designs to honour you with her intimate friendship,"
said Charlie.

Graeme laughed.

"I am very much obliged to her.  But I think we could each make a
happier choice of friends."

"She is a very clever woman, though, let me tell you," said Arthur; "and
she can make herself very agreeable, too, when she chooses."

"Well, I cannot imagine ever being charmed by her," said Graeme,
hastily.  "There is something--a feeling that she is not sincere--that
would spoil all her attempts at being agreeable, as far as I am
concerned."

"Smooth and false," said Charlie.

"No, Charlie.  You are much too severe," said Arthur.  "Graeme's idea of
insincerity is better, though very severe for her.  And, after all, I
don't think that she is consciously insincere.  I can scarcely tell what
it is that makes the dear lady other than admirable.  I think it must be
her taste for management, as Miss Fanny calls it.  She does not seem to
be able to go straight to any point, but plans and arranges, and thinks
herself very clever when she succeeds in making people do as she wishes,
when in nine cases out of ten, she would have succeeded quite as well by
simply expressing her desires.  After all, her manoeuvring is very
transparent, and therefore very harmless."

"Transparent!  Harmless!" repeated Charlie.  "You must excuse me if I
say I think you do the lady's talents great injustice.  Not that I have
any personal knowledge of the matter, however: and if I were to repeat
the current reports, Miss Elliott would call them gossip and repudiate
them, and me too, perhaps.  She has the reputation of having the `wisdom
of the serpent;' the slyness of the cat, I think."

They all laughed, for Charlie had warmed as he went on.

"I am sure it must be very uncomfortable to have anything to do with
such a person," said Rose.  "I should feel as though I must be always on
the watch for something unexpected."

"To be always on the watch for something unexpected, would be rather
uncomfortable--`for a continuance,' as Janet would say.  But I don't see
the necessity of that with Mrs Grove.  I think it must be rather
agreeable to have everything arranged for one, with no trouble.  You
should hear Miss Fanny, when in some difficult conjunction of
circumstances--she resigns herself to superior guidance.  `Mamma will
manage it.'  Certainly she does manage some difficult matters."

There was the faintest echo of mimicry in Arthur's tone, as he repeated
Miss Fanny's words, which Graeme was quite ashamed of being glad to
hear.

"It was very stupid of me, to be sure!  Such folly to suppose that
Arthur would fall into that shallow woman's snares.  No; Arthur's wife
must be a very different woman from pretty little Fanny Grove.  I wish I
knew anyone good enough and lovely enough for him.  But there is no
haste about it.  Ah, me!  Changes will come soon enough, we need not
seek to hasten them.  And yet, we need not fear them whatever they may
be.  I am very sure of that.  But I am very glad that there is no harm
done."

And yet, the harm that Graeme so much dreaded, was done before three
months were over.  Before that time she had it from Arthur's own lips,
that he had engaged himself to Fanny Grove; one who, to his sisters,
seemed altogether unworthy of him.  She never quite knew how to receive
his announcement, but she was conscious at the time of feeling thankful;
and she was ever afterwards thankful, that she had not heard it a day
sooner, to mar the pleasure of the last few hours of Norman's stay.

For Norman came with his bride even sooner than they had expected.
Graeme was not disappointed in her new sister, and that is saying much,
for her expectations had been highly raised.  She had expected to find
her an intellectual and self-reliant woman, but she had not expected to
see so charming and lovable a little lady.  They all loved her dearly
from the very first; and Graeme satisfied Norman by her unfeigned
delight in her new sister, who was frank, and natural and childlike, and
yet so amiable and wise as well.

And Graeme rejoiced over Norman even more than over Hilda.  He was just
what she had always hoped he might become.  Contact with the world had
not spoiled him.  He was the same Norman; perhaps a little graver than
he used to be in the old times, but in all things true, and frank, and
earnest, as the Merleville school-boy had been.

How they lived over those old times!  There was sadness in the pleasure,
for Norman had never seen the two graves in that quiet church-yard; and
the names of the dead were spoken softly.  But the bitterness of their
grief had long been past, and they could speak cheerfully and hopefully
now.

There was a great deal of enjoyment crowded into the few weeks of their
stay.  "If Harry were only here!" was said many times.  But Harry was
well, and well content to be where he was, and his coming home was a
pleasure which lay not very far before them.  Their visit came to an end
too soon for them all; but Norman was a busy man, and they were to go
home by Merleville, for Norman declared he should not feel quite assured
of the excellence of his wife till Janet had pronounced upon her.
Graeme was strongly tempted to yield to their persuasions, and go to
Merleville with them; but her long absence during the summer, and the
hope that they might go to Emily's wedding soon, decided her to remain
at home.

Yes; they had enjoyed a few weeks of great happiness; and the very day
of their departure brought upon Graeme the pain which she had almost
ceased to fear.  Arthur told her of his engagement to Miss Grove.  His
story was very short, and it was told with more shamefacedness than was
at all natural for a triumphant lover.  It did not matter much, however,
as there was no one to take note of the circumstances.  From the first
shock of astonishment and pain which his announcement gave her, Graeme
roused herself to hear her brother say eagerly, even a little
impatiently--

"Of course, this will make no difference with us at home?  You will
never _think_ of going away because of this, Rose and you?"

By a great effort Graeme forced herself to speak--

"Of course not, Arthur.  What difference could it make?  Where could we
go?"

When Arthur spoke again, which he did not do for a moment, his tone
showed how much he was relieved by his sister's words.  It was very
gentle and tender too, Graeme noticed.

"Of course not.  I was quite sure this would make no change.  Rather
than my sisters should be made unhappy by my--by this affair--I would go
no further in it.  My engagement should be at an end."

"Hush, Arthur!  It is too late to say that now."

"But I was quite sure you would see it in the right way.  You always do,
Graeme.  It was not my thought that you would do otherwise.  And it will
only be a new sister, another Rosie to care for, and to love, Graeme.  I
know you will be such a sister to my wife, as you have ever been to Rose
and to us all."

Graeme pressed the hand that Arthur laid on hers, but she could not
speak.  "If it had been any one else but that pretty, vain child,"
thought she.  She almost fancied she had spoken her thought aloud, when
Arthur said,--

"You must not be hard on her, Graeme.  You do not know her yet.  She is
not so wise as you are, perhaps, but she is a gentle, yielding little
thing; and removed from her stepmother's influence and placed under
yours, she will become in time all that you could desire."

She would have given much to be able to respond heartily and cheerfully
to his appeal, but she could not.  Her heart refused to dictate hopeful
words, and her tongue could not have uttered them.  She sat silent and
grave while her brother was speaking, and when he ceased she hardly knew
whether she were glad or not, to perceive that, absorbed in his own
thoughts, he did not seem to notice her silence or miss her sympathy.

That night Graeme's head pressed a sleepless pillow, and among her many,
many thoughts there were few that were not sad.  Her brother was her
ideal of manly excellence and wisdom, and no exercise of charity on her
part could make the bride that he had chosen seem other than weak,
frivolous, vain.  She shrank heartsick from the contemplation of the
future, repeating rather in sorrow and wonder, than in anger, "How could
he be so blind, so mad?"  To her it was incomprehensible, that with his
eyes open he could have placed his happiness in the keeping of one who
had been brought up with no fear of God before her eyes--one whose
highest wisdom did not go beyond a knowledge of the paltry fashions and
fancies of the world.  He might dream, of happiness now, but how sad
would be the wakening.

If there rose in her heart a feeling of anger or jealousy against her
brother's choice, if ever there came a fear, that the love of years
might come to seem of little worth beside the love of a day, it was not
till afterwards.  None of these mingled with the bitter sadness and
compassion of that night.  Her brother's doubtful future, the mistake he
had made, and the disappointment that must follow, the change that might
be wrought in his character as they went on; all these came and went,
chasing each other through her mind, till the power of thought was well
nigh lost.  It was a miserable night to her, but out of the chaos of
doubts and fears and anxieties, she brought one clear intent, one firm
determination.  She repeated it to herself as she rose from her sister's
side in the dawn of the dreary autumn morning, she repeated it as part
of her tearful prayer, entreating for wisdom and strength to keep the
vow she vowed, that whatever changes or disappointments or sorrows might
darken her brother's future, he should find her love and trust unchanged
for ever.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

Arthur Elliott was a young man of good intellect and superior
acquirements, and he had ever been supposed to possess an average amount
of penetration, and of that invaluable quality not always found in
connection with superior intellect--common sense.  He remembered his
mother, and worshipped her memory.  She had been a wise and
earnest-minded woman, and one of God's saints besides.  Living for years
in daily intercourse with his sister Graeme, he had learnt to admire in
her the qualities that made her a daughter worthy of such a mother.  Yet
in the choice of one who was to be "till death did them part" more than
sister and mother in one, the qualities which in them were his pride and
delight, were made of no account.  Flesh of his flesh, the keeper of his
honour and his peace henceforth, the maker or marrer of his life's
happiness, be it long or short, was this pretty unformed, wayward child.

One who has made good use of long opportunity for observation, tells me
that Arthur Elliott's is by no means a singular case.  Quite as often as
otherwise, men of high intellectual and moral qualities link their lot
with women who are far inferior to them in these respects; and not
always unhappily.  If, as sometimes happens, a woman lets her heart slip
from her into the keeping of a man who is intellectually or morally her
inferior, happiness is far more rarely the result.  A woman, may, with
such help as comes to her by chance, keep her _solitary_ way through
life content.  But if love and marriage, or the ties of blood, have
given her an arm on which she has a right to lean, a soul on whose
guidance she has a right to trust, it is sad indeed if these fail her.
For then she has no right to walk alone, no power to do so happily.  Her
intellectual and social life must grow together, or one must grow awry.
What God has joined cannot be put asunder without suffering or loss.

But it _is_ possible for a man to separate his intellectual life from
the quiet routine of social duties and pleasures.  It is not always
necessary that he should have the sympathy of his housekeeper, or even
of the mother of his children, in those higher pursuits and enjoyments,
which is the true life.  The rising doubt, whether the beloved one have
eyes to see what is beautiful to him in nature and art, may come with a
chill and a pang; the certain knowledge of her blindness must come with
a shock of pain.  But when the shudder of the chill and the shock of the
pain are over, he finds himself in the place he used to occupy before a
fair face smiled down on him from all high places, or a soft voice
mingled with all harmonies to his entranced ear.  He grows content in
time with his old solitary place in the study, or with striving upward
amid manly minds.  When he returns to the quiet and comfort of his
well-arranged home, the face that smiles opposite to him is none the
less beautiful because it beams only for home pleasures and humble
household successes.  The voice that coos and murmurs to his baby in the
cradle, that recounts as great events the little varieties of kitchen
and parlour life, that tells of visits made and received, with items of
harmless gossip gathered up and kept for his hearing, is none the less
dear to him now that it can discourse of nothing beyond.  The tender
care that surrounds him with quiet and comfort in his hours of leisure,
in a little while contents him quite, and he ceases to remember that he
has cares and pains, aspirations and enjoyments, into which she can have
no part.

But this is a digression, and I daresay there are many who will not
agree with all this.  Indeed, I am not sure that I quite agree with all
my friend said on this subject, myself.  There are many ways of looking
at the same thing, and if all were said that might be said about it, it
would appear that an incapacity on the part of the wife to share, or at
least to sympathise with all the hopes, pursuits, and pleasures of her
husband, causes bitter pain to both; certainly, he who cannot assure
himself of the sympathy of the woman he loves, when he would pass beyond
the daily routine of domestic duties and pleasures, fails of obtaining
the highest kind of domestic happiness.

Charlie Millar's private announcement to his friend Harry of his brother
Arthur's engagement, was in these words:

"The efforts of the maternal Grove have been crowned with success.  Your
brother is a captive soon to be chained--"

Charlie was right.  His clear eye saw, that of which Arthur himself
remained in happy unconsciousness.  And what Charlie saw other people
saw also, though why the wise lady should let slip through her expert
fingers the wealthy Mr Green, the great Western merchant, and close
them so firmly on the comparatively poor and obscure young lawyer, was a
circumstance that could not so easily be understood.  Had the
interesting fact transpired, that the great Elias had not so much
slipped through her fingers, as, to use his own forcible and elegant
language, "wriggled himself clear," it might have been satisfactory to
the world in general.  But Mr Green was far-away intent on more
important matters, on the valuation and disposal of fabulous quantities
of pork and wheat, and it is not to be supposed that so prudent a
general as Mrs Grove would be in haste to proclaim her own defeat.  She
acted a wiser part; she took the best measures for covering it.

When the pretty Fanny showed an inclination to console herself for the
defection of her wealthy admirer by making the most of the small
attentions of the handsome young lawyer, her mamma graciously smiled
approval.  Fanny might do better she thought, but then she might do
worse.  Mr Elliott was by no means Mr Green's equal in the great
essentials of wealth won, and wealth in prospect, still he was a rising
man as all might see; quite presentable, with no considerable
connections,--except perhaps his sisters, who could easily be disposed
of.  And then Fanny, though very pretty, was "a silly little thing," she
said to herself with great candour.  Her beauty was not of a kind to
increase with years, or even to continue long.  The chances were, if she
did not go off at once, she would stay too long.  Then there were her
sisters growing up so fast, mamma's own darlings; Charlotte twelve and
Victoria seven, were really quite tall and mature for their years, and
at any rate, it would be a relief to have Fanny well away.

And so the unsuspecting youth enjoyed many a drive in the Grove
carriage, and ate many a dinner in the Grove mansion, and roamed with
the fair Fanny by daylight and by moonlight among the flowers and fruits
of the Grove gardens, during the three months that his brother and
sisters passed at the seaside.  He made one of many a pleasant driving
or riding party.  There were picnics at which his presence was claimed
in various places.  Not the cumbrous affairs which called into
requisition all the baskets, and boxes, and available conveyances of the
invited guests--parties of which the aim seems to be, to collect in one
favoured spot in the country, all the luxuries, and airs, and graces of
the town--but little impromptu efforts in the same direction in which
Mrs Grove had all the trouble, and her guests all the pleasure.  Very
charming little fetes her guests generally pronounced them to be.
Arthur enjoyed them vastly, and all the more that it never entered into
his head, that he was in a measure the occasion of them all.  He enjoyed
the companionship of pleasant people, brought together in those pleasant
circumstances.  He enjoyed the sight of the green earth, and the blue
water, the sound of the summer winds among the hills, the songs of birds
amid rustling leaves and waving boughs, until he came to enjoy, at last
the guardianship of the fair Fanny, generally his on those occasions;
and to associate her pretty face and light laughter with his enjoyment
of all those pleasant things.

Everything went on naturally and quietly.  There was no open throwing
them together to excite speculation in the minds of beholders, or
uncomfortable misgivings in the minds of those chiefly concerned.  Quite
the contrary.  If any watchful fairy had suggested to Arthur the
possibility of such a web, as the skillful mamma was weaving around him,
he would have laughed at the idea as the suggestion of a very
ill-natured, evil-minded sprite indeed.  Did not mamma keep watchful
eyes on Fanny always?  Had she not many and many a time, interrupted
little confidences on the part of the young lady, at the recollection of
which he was sometimes inclined to smile?  Had she not at all times, and
in all places, acted the part of a prudent mamma to her pretty
step-daughter, and of a considerate hostess to him, her unworthy guest?

And if the fairy, in self-justification, had ventured further to
insinuate, that there is more than one kind of prudence, and that the
prudence of Mrs Grove was of another and higher kind, than a simple
youth could be supposed to comprehend, his enlightenment might not yet
have been accomplished.  If it had been averred that mamma's faith, in
her daughter's tact and conversational powers was not sufficient to
permit her to allow them to be too severely tried, he might have paused
to recall her little airs and gestures, and to weigh the airy nothings
from those pretty lips, and he could not but have acknowledged that
mamma's faithlessness was not surprising.  As to the ultimate success of
the sprite in opening his eyes, or in breaking the invisible meshes
which were meant to hold the victim fast, that is quite another matter.

But there was no fairy, good or bad, to mingle in their affairs, and
they flowed smoothly on, to the content of all concerned, till Graeme
came home from Cacouna, to play, in Mrs Grove's opinion, the part of a
very bad fairy indeed.  She was mistaken, however.  Graeme took no part
in the matter, either to make or to mar.  Even had she been made aware
of all the possibilities that might arise out of her brother's short
intimacy with the Groves, she never could have regarded the matter as
one in which she had a right to interfere.  So, if there came a pause in
the lady's operations, if Arthur was more seldom one of their party,
even when special pains had been taken to secure him, it was owing to no
efforts of Graeme.  If he began to settle down into the old quiet home
life, it was because the life suited him; and Graeme's influence was
exerted and felt, only as it had ever been in a silent, sweet, sisterly
fashion, with no reference to Mrs Grove, or her schemes.

But that there came a pause in the effective operations of that clever
lady, soon became evident to herself.  She could not conceal from
herself or Miss Fanny, that the beckonings from the carriage window were
not so quickly seen, or so promptly responded to as of old.  Not that
this defection on Arthur's part was ever discussed between them.  Mrs
Grove had not sufficient confidence in her daughter to admit of this.
Fanny was not reliable, mamma felt.  Indeed, she was very soon taking
consolation in the admiration excited by a pair of shining epaulets,
which began about this time to gleam with considerable frequency in
their neighbourhood.  But mamma did not believe in officers, at least
matrimonially speaking, and as to the consolation to be derived from a
new flirtation, it was but doubtful and transitory at the best.  Besides
she fancied that Mr Elliott's attentions had been observed, and she was
quite sure that his defection would be so, too.  Two failures succeeding
each other so rapidly, would lay her skill open to question, and "mar
dear Fanny's prospects."

And so Mrs Grove concentrated all her forces to meet the emergency.
Another invitation was given, and it was accepted.  In the single minute
that preceded the entrance into the dining-room, the first of a series
of decisive measures was carried into effect.  With a voice that
trembled, and eyes that glistened with grateful tears, the lady thanked
her "dear friend" for the kind consideration, the manly delicacy that
had induced him to withdraw himself from their society, as soon as he
had become aware of the danger to her sweet, but too susceptible Fanny.

"Fanny does not dream that her secret is suspected.  But oh!  Mr
Elliott, when was a mother at fault when the happiness of her too
sensitive child was concerned?"

In vain Arthur looked the astonishment he felt.  In vain he attempted to
assure her in the strongest terms, that he had had no intention of
withdrawing from their society--that he did not understand--that she
must be mistaken.  The tender mother's volubility was too much for him.
He could only listen in a very embarrassed silence as she went on.

Mr Elliott was not to suppose that she blamed him for the unhappiness
he had caused.  She quite freed him from all intention of wrong.  And
after all, it might not be so bad.  A mother's anxiety might exaggerate
the danger; she would try and hope for the best.  Change of scene must
be tried; in the meantime, her fear was, that pique, or wounded pride,
or disappointed affection might induce the unhappy child to--in short
Mr Elliott must understand--.  And Mrs Grove glanced expressively
toward the wearer of the shining epaulets, with whom Arthur being
unenlightened, might have fancied that the unhappy child was carrying on
a pretty energetic and prosperous flirtation.

But "pique and wounded pride!"  He had never in all his life experienced
a moment of such intense uncomfortableness as that in which he had the
honour to hand the lady of the house to her own well-appointed table.
Indignation, vexation, disbelief of the whole matter spoiled his dinner
effectually.  Mrs Grove's exquisite soup might have been ditch-water
for all he knew to the contrary.  The motherly concern so freely
expressed, looked to him dreadfully like something not so praiseworthy.
How she could look her dear Fanny in the face, and talk, so softly on
indifferent subjects, after having so--so unnecessarily, to say the
least, betrayed her secret, was more than he could understand.  If,
indeed, Miss Fanny had a secret.  He wished very much not to believe it.
Secret or not, this was a very uncomfortable ending to a pleasant three
months' acquaintance, and he felt very much annoyed, indeed.

Not till course after course had been removed, and the dessert had been
placed on the table, did he summon resolution to withdraw his attention
from the not very interesting conversation of his host, and turn his
eyes to Miss Grove and the epaulets.  The result of his momentary
observation was the discovery that the young lady was looking very
lovely, and not at all miserable.  Greatly relieved, he ventured an
appropriate remark or two, on the subject under discussion.  He was
listened to with politeness, but not with Miss Fanny's usual amiability
and interest, that was evident.

By and by the gentlemen followed the ladies into the drawing-room, and
here Miss Fanny was distant and dignified still.  She gave brief answers
to his remarks, and glanced now and then toward the epaulets, of whom
Mrs Grove had taken possession, and to whom she was holding forth with
great energy about something she had found in a book.  Arthur approached
the centre-table, but Mrs Grove was too much occupied with Captain
Starr to include him in the conversation.  Mr Grove was asleep in the
dining-room still, and Arthur felt there was no help for him.  Miss
Fanny was left on his hands; and after another vain attempt at
conversation, he murmured something about music, and begged to be
permitted to hand her to the piano.  Miss Grove consented, still with
more than her usual dignity and distance, and proposed to sing a new
song that Captain Starr had sent her.  She did sing it, very prettily,
too.  She had practised it a great deal more than was necessary, her
mamma thought, within the last few days.  Then she played a brilliant
piece or two; then Mrs Grove, from the centre-table, proposed a sweet
Scottish air, a great favourite of hers, and, as it appeared, a great
favourite of Mr Elliott's, also.  Then there were more Scottish airs,
and French airs, and then there was a duet with Captain Starr, and mamma
withdrew Mr Elliott to the centre-table, and the book, and did not in
the least resent the wandering of his eyes and his attention to the
piano, where the Captain's handsome head was at times in close proximity
with that of the fair musician.  Then, when there had been enough of
music, Miss Grove returned to her embroidery, and Captain Starr held her
cotton and her scissors, and talked such nonsense to her, that Arthur
hearing him now and then in the pauses of the conversation, thought him
a great simpleton; and firmly believed that Miss Fanny listened from
"pique or wounded pride," or something else, not certainly because she
liked it.  Not but that she seemed to like it.  She smiled and responded
as if she did, and was very kind and gracious to the handsome soldier,
and scarcely vouchsafed to Mr Elliott a single glance.

By and by Mr Grove came in and withdrew Mr Elliott to the discussion
of the harbour question, and as Arthur knew everything that could
possibly be said on that subject, he had a better opportunity still of
watching the pair on the other side of the table.  It was very absurd of
him, he said to himself, and he repeated it with emphasis, as the young
lady suddenly looking up, coloured vividly as she met his eye.  It was
very absurd, but, somehow, it was very interesting, too.  Never, during
the whole course of their acquaintance, had his mind been so much
occupied with the pretty, silly little creature.

It is very likely, the plan of piers and embankments, of canals and
bridges, which Miss Fanny's working implements were made to represent,
extending from an imaginary Point Saint Charles, past an imaginary
Griffintown, might have been worthy of being laid before the town
council, or the commissioner for public works.  It is quite possible
that Mr Grove's explanations and illustrations of his idea of the new
harbour, by means of the same, might have set at rest the doubts and
fears of the over-cautious, and proved beyond all controversy, that
there was but one way of deciding the matter, and of securing the
prosperity of Mount Royal City, and of Canada.  And if Mr Grove had
that night settled the vexed question of the harbour to the satisfaction
of all concerned, he would have deserved all the credit, at least his
learned and talented legal adviser would have deserved none of it.

It was very absurd of him, he said again, and yet the interest grew more
absorbing every moment, till at last he received a soft relenting glance
as he bowed over Miss Fanny's white hand when he said good-night.  He
had one uncomfortable moment.  It was when Mrs Grove hoped aloud that
they should see him often, and then added, for his hearing alone,--

"It would look so odd, you know, to forsake us quite."

He was uncomfortable and indignant, too, when the captain, as they
walked down the street together, commented in a free and easy manner on
Miss Grove's "good points," and wondered "whether the old chap had tin
enough to make it worth a fellow's pains to follow up the impression he
seemed certain he had made."  He was uncomfortable when he thought about
it afterward.  What if "pique, or wounded pride, or disappointed
affection" should tempt the poor little girl to throw herself away on
such an ass!  It would be sad, indeed.

And then he wondered if Miss Grove really cared for him in that way.
Surely her stepmother would not have spoken as she had done to him on a
mere suspicion.  As he kept on thinking about it, it began to seem more
possible to him, and then more pleasant, and what with one thing, and
what with another, Miss Fanny began to have a great many of his thoughts
indeed.  He visited Grove House a good many times--not to seem odd--and
saw a good deal of Miss Fanny.  Mamma was prudent still, and wise, and
far-seeing, and how it came about I cannot tell, but the result of his
visits, and the young lady's smiles, and the old lady's management was
the engagement of these two; and the first intimation that Graeme had of
it was given by Arthur on the night that Norman went away.

Time passed on.  The wedding day was set, but there were many things to
be brought to pass before it should arrive.  Graeme had to finish the
task she had set for herself on the night, when Arthur had bespoken her
love and care for a new sister.  She had to reconcile herself fully to
the thought of the marriage, and truly the task did not seem to her
easier as time went on.  There were moments when she thought herself
content with the state of affairs, when, at least, the coming in among
them of this stranger did not seem altogether like the end of their
happy life, when Miss Grove seemed a sweet and lovable little thing, and
Graeme took hope for Arthur.  This was generally on those occasions when
they were permitted to have Fanny all to themselves, when she would come
in of her own accord, in the early part of the day, dressed in her
pretty morning attire, without her company manners or finery.  At such
times she was really very charming, and flitted about their little
parlour, or sat on a footstool chattering with Rose in a way that quite
won her heart, and almost reconciled the elder sister to her brother's
choice.

But there were a great many chances against the pleasure lasting beyond
the visit, or even to the end of it.  On more than one occasion Graeme
had dispatched Nelly as a messenger to Arthur, to tell him that Fanny
was to lunch with them, though her magnanimity involved the necessity of
her preparing the greater part of that pleasant meal with her own hands;
but she was almost always sorry for it afterward.  For Fanny never
appeared agreeable to her in Arthur's presence; and what was worse to
bear still, Arthur never appeared to advantage, in his sister's eyes, in
the presence of Miss Grove.  The coquettish airs, and pretty tyrannical
ways assumed by the young lady toward her lover, might have excited only
a little uncomfortable amusement in the minds of the sisters, to see
Arthur yielding to all her whims and caprices, not as one yields in
appearance, and for a time, to a pretty spoiled child, over whom one's
authority is only delegated and subject to appeal, but _really_ as
though her whims were wisdom, and her caprices the result of mature
deliberation, was more than Graeme could patiently endure.  It was
irritating to a degree that she could not always control or conceal.
The lovers were usually too much occupied with each other to notice the
discomfort of the sisters, but this indifference did not make the folly
of it all less distasteful to them: and at such times Graeme used to
fear that it was vain to think of ever growing content with the future
before them.

And almost as disagreeable were the visits which Fanny made with her
stepmother.  These became a great deal more frequent, during the last
few months, than Graeme thought at all necessary.  They used to call on
their way to pay visits, or on their return from shopping expeditions,
and the very sight of their carriage of state, and their fine array,
made Graeme and Rose uncomfortable.  The little airs of superiority,
with which Miss Fanny sometimes favoured them, were only assumed in the
presence of mamma, and were generally called forth by some allusion made
by her to the future, and they were none the less disagreeable on that
account.  How would it be when Fanny's marriage should give her
stepmother a sort of right to advise and direct in their household?  At
present, her delicate attempts at patronage, her hints, suggestive or
corrective, were received in silence, though resented in private with
sufficient energy by Rose, and sometimes even by Graeme.  But it could
not be so always, and she should never be able to tolerate the
interference of that vain, meddlesome, superficial woman, she said to
herself many a time.

It must be confessed that Graeme was a little unreasonable in her dread
and dislike of Fanny's clever stepmother.  Sometimes she was obliged to
confess as much to herself.  More than once, about this time, it was
brought home to her conscience that she was unjust in her judgment of
her, and her motives, and she was startled to discover the strength of
her feelings of dislike.  Many times she found herself on the point of
dissenting from opinions, or opposing plans proposed by Mrs Grove, with
which she might have agreed had they come from any one else.  It is true
her opinions and plans were not generally of a nature to commend
themselves to Graeme's judgment, and there was rather apt to be more
intended by them than at first met the eye and ear.  As Miss Fanny said
on one occasion, "One could never tell what mamma meant by what she
said," and the consequence often was an uncomfortable state of
expectation or doubt on the part of those who were included in any
arrangement dependent on mamma.  Yet, her schemes were generally quite
harmless.  They were not so deep as to be dangerous.  The little
insincerities incident to their almost daily intercourse, the small
deceits made use of in shopping, marketing, making visits, or sending
invitations, were no such mighty matters as to jeopardise the happiness,
or even the comfort of any one with eyes keen enough to detect, and with
skill and will to circumvent them.  So Graeme said to herself many a
time, and yet, saying it she could not help suffering herself to be made
uncomfortable still.

The respect and admiration which Mrs Grove professed for Miss Elliott
might have failed to propitiate her, even had she given her credit for
sincerity.  They were too freely expressed to be agreeable under any
circumstances.  Her joy that the Elliotts were still to form one
household, that her dear thoughtless Fanny was to have the benefit of
the elder sister's longer experience and superior wisdom, was great, and
her surprise was great also, and so was her admiration.  It was so dear
in Miss Elliott to consent to it.  Another person might have resented
the necessity of having to take the second place, where she had so long
occupied the first in her brother's house.  And then to be superceded by
one so much younger than herself, one so much less wise, as all must
acknowledge her dear Fanny to be, was not, could not, be pleasant.  Miss
Elliott must be a person possessing extraordinary qualities, indeed.
How could she ever be grateful enough that her wayward child was to have
the advantage of a guardianship so gentle and so judicious as hers was
sure to be!  She only hoped that Fanny might appreciate the privilege,
and manifest a proper and amiable submission in the new circumstances in
which she was to be placed.

Graeme might well be uncomfortable under all this, knowing as she did,
that mamma's private admonitions to her "wayward daughter" tended rather
to the encouragement of a "judicious resistance" than of "a proper and
amiable submission" to the anticipated rule.  But as a necessary
abdication of all household power made no part of Graeme's trouble,
except as she might sometimes doubt the chances of a prosperous
administration for her successor, she was able to restrain all outward
evidence of discomfort and indignation.  She was the better able to do
this, as she saw that the clever lady's declaration of her sentiments on
this subject, made Arthur a little uncomfortable too.  He had a vague
idea that the plan as to their all continuing to live together, had not
at first been so delightful to Mrs Grove.  He had a remembrance that
the doubts as to how his sisters might like the idea of his intended
marriage, had been suggested by her, and that these doubts had been
coupled with hints as to the proper means to be taken in order that the
happiness of her dear daughter might be secured, he remembered very
well; and that she had expected and desired no assistance from his
sisters to this end, he was very well assured.

"However, it is all right now," said Arthur, congratulating himself.
"Graeme has too much sense to be put about by mamma's twaddle, and there
is no fear as far as Fanny and she are concerned."

The extent to which "mamma's twaddle" and other matters "put Graeme
about" at this time she concealed quite, as far as Arthur was concerned.
The best was to be made of things now; and though she could not help
wishing that his eyes might be more useful to him on some occasions, she
knew that it would not have mended matters could he have been induced to
make use of her clearer vision, and so her doubts and fears were kept to
herself, and they did not grow fewer or less painful as time went on.

But her feelings changed somewhat.  She did not cease to grieve in
secret over what she could not but call Arthur's mistake in the choice
he had made.  But now, sometimes anger, and sometimes a little bitter
amusement mingled with her sorrow.  There seemed at times something
ludicrous in bestowing her pity on one so content with the lot he had
chosen.  She was quite sure that Arthur would have smiled at the little
follies and inconsistencies of Miss Grove, had he seen them in any one
else.  She remembered that at their first acquaintance he had smiled at
them in her.  _Now_ how blind he was!  All her little defects of
character, so painfully apparent to his sisters were quite invisible to
him.  She was very amiable and charming in his eyes.  There were times
when one might have supposed that he looked upon her as the wisest and
most sensible of women; and he began to listen to her small views and
assent to her small opinions, in a way, and to an extent that would have
been amusing if it had not been painful and irritating to those looking
on.

Graeme tried to believe that she was glad of all this--that it was
better so.  If it was so that these two were to pass their lives
together, it was well that they should be blind to each other's faults.
Somehow married people seemed to get on together, even when their
tastes, and talents, and tempers differed.  If they loved one another
that was enough, she supposed; there must be something about it that she
did not understand.  At any rate, there was no use vexing herself about
Arthur now.  If he was content, why should not she be so?  Her brother's
happiness might be safer than she feared, but whether or not, nothing
could be changed now.

But as her fears for her brother were put from her, the thought of what
the future might bring to Rose and her, came oftener, and with a sadder
doubt.  She called herself foolish and faithless--selfish even, and
scolded herself vigorously many a time; but she could not drive away her
fears, or make herself cheerful or hopeful in looking forward.  When
Arthur should come quite to see with Fanny's eyes, and hear with her
ears, and rely upon her judgment, would they all live as happily
together as they had hitherto done?  Fanny, kept to themselves, she
thought she would not fear, but influenced by her stepmother, whose
principles and practice were so different from all they had been taught
to consider right, how might their lives be changed!

And so the wedding-day was drawing nigh.  As a part of her
marriage-portion, Mr Grove was to present to his daughter one of the
handsome new houses in the neighbourhood of Columbus Square, and there
the young lady's married-life was to commence.  The house was quite a
little fortune in itself, Mrs Grove said, and she could neither
understand nor approve of the manner in which her triumphant
announcement of its destination was received by the Elliotts.  It is
just possible that Arthur's intimate knowledge of the state of his
future father-in-law's affairs, might have had something to do with his
gravity on the occasion.  The troubles in the mercantile world, that had
not left untouched the long-established house of Elphinstone & Company,
had been felt more seriously still by Mr Grove, and a doubt as to
whether he could, with justice to all concerned, withdraw so large an
amount from his business, in order to invest it for his daughter's
benefit, could not but suggest itself to Arthur.  He was not mercenary;
it would not be true to say he had not felt a certain degree of
satisfaction in knowing that his bride would not be altogether
undowered.  But the state of Mr Grove's affairs, was, to say the least,
not such as to warrant a present withdrawal of capital from his
business, and Arthur might well look grave.

Not that he troubled himself about it, however.  He had never felt so
greatly elated at the prospect of marrying an heiress, as to feel much
disappointed when the prospect became doubtful.  He knew that Miss Grove
had a right to something which she had inherited from her mother, but he
said to himself that her right should be set aside, rather than that
there should be any defilement of hands in the transfer.  So, if to Mrs
Grove's surprise and disgust, he remained silent when she made known the
munificent intentions of Fanny's father, it was not for a reason that he
chose to discuss with her.  His remarks were reserved for Mr Grove's
private ear, and to him they were made with sufficient plainness.

As for Graeme, she could not but see that their anticipated change of
residence might help to make certainties of all her doubts and fears for
their future.  If she had dreaded changes in their manner of life
before, how much more were they to be dreaded now?  They might have
fallen back, after a time, into their old, quiet routine, when Fanny had
quite become one of them, had they been to remain still in the home
where they had all been so happy together.  But there seemed little hope
of anything so pleasant as that now, for Fanny's handsome house was in
quite a fashionable neighbourhood, away from their old friends, and that
would make a sad difference in many ways, she thought; and all this
added much to her misgivings for the future.

"Fanny's house!" could it ever seem like home to them?  Her thoughts
flew back to Janet and Merleville, and for a little, notwithstanding all
the pain she knew the thought would give her brother, it seemed
possible--nay best and wisest, for her and Rose to go away.

"However, we must wait a while; we must have patience.  Things may
adjust themselves in a way that I cannot see just now."

In the lesson, which with tears and prayers and a good-will Graeme had
set herself to learn, she had got no farther than this, "We must wait--
we must have patience."  And she had more cause to be content with the
progress she had made than she thought; for, amid all the cures for the
ills of life, which wisdom remembers, and which folly forgets, what
better, what more effectual than "patient waiting?"



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

"Are you quite sure that you are glad, Graeme."

"I am very glad, Will.  Why should you doubt it?  You know I have not so
heartsome a way of showing my delight as Rosie has."

"No.  I don't know any such thing.  I can't be quite glad myself, till I
am sure that you are glad, too."

"Well, you may be quite sure, Will.  It is only my old perverse way of
looking first at the dark side of things, and this matter has a dark
side.  It will seem less like home than ever when you are gone, Will."

"Less like home than ever!" repeated Will.  "Why, Graeme, that sounds as
if you were not quite contented with the state of affairs."

"Does it?" said Graeme, laughing, but not pleasantly.

"But, Graeme, everything has turned out better than we expected.  Fanny
is very nice, and--"

"Yes, indeed," said Graeme, heartily.  "Everything has turned out much
better than we used to fear.  I remember the time when I was quite
afraid of Fanny and her fine house--my old perversity, you see."

"I remember," said Will, gravely.

"I was quite morbid on the subject, at one time.  Mamma Grove was a
perfect night-mare to me.  And really, she is well! she is not a very
formidable person, after all."

"Well, on the whole, I think we could dispense with mamma Grove," said
Will, with a shrug.

"Oh! that is because she is down upon you in the matter of Master Tom.
You will have to take him, Will."

"Of course.  But then, I would do a great deal more than that for
Fanny's brother, without all this talk."

"But then, without `all this talk,' as you call it, you might not have
discovered that the favour is done you, nor that the letter to her
English friend will more than compensate you, for going fifty miles out
of your way for the boy."

"Oh! well, it is her way, and a very stupid way.  Let her rest."

"Yes, let her rest.  And, Will, you are not to think I am not glad that
you are going home.  I would choose no other lot for you, than the one
that is before you, an opportunity to prepare yourself for usefulness,
and a wide field to labour in.  Only I am afraid I would stipulate that
the field should be a Canadian one."

"Of course.  Canada is my home."

"Or Merleville.  Deacon Snow seems to think you are to be called to that
field, when you are ready to be called."

"But that is a long day hence.  Perhaps, the deacon may change his mind,
when he hears that I am going home to learn from the `British.'"

"There is no fear.  Sandy has completed the work which my father and
Janet began.  Mr Snow is tolerant of the North British, at any rate.
What a pleasant life our Merleville life was.  It seems strange that
none of us, but Norman, has been back there.  It won't belong now,
however."

"I am afraid I cannot wait for Emily's wedding.  But I shall certainly
go and see them all, before I go to Scotland."

"If you do, I shall go with you, and spend the summer there."

"And leave Rose here?" said Will, in some surprise.

"No.  I wish to go for Rose's sake, as much as for my own.  It seems as
though going to Merleville and Janet, would put us all right again."

"I hope you may both be put right, without going so far," said Will.

"Do you know, Will, I sometimes wonder whether I can be the same person
who came here with Rose and you?  Circumstances do change people,
whether they will or not.  I think I should come back to my old self
again, with Janet to take me to task, in her old sharp, loving way."

"I don't think I understand you, Graeme."

"Don't you?  Well, that is evidence that I have changed; and that I have
not improved.  But I am not sure that I understand myself."

"What is wrong with you, Graeme."

"I cannot tell you, Will.  I don't know whether the wrong is with me, or
with matters and things in general.  But there is no good in vexing you,
unless you could tell me how to help it."

"If I knew what is wrong I might try," said Will, gravely.

"Then, tell me, what possible good I shall be able to do in the world,
when I shall no longer have you to care for?"

"If you do no good, you will fall far short of your duty."

"I know it, Will.  But useless as my way of life is, I cannot change it.
Next year must be like this one, and except nursing you in your
illness, and Fanny in hers, I have done nothing worth naming as work."

"That same nursing was not a little.  And do you call the housekeeping
nothing?  It is all very well, Fanny's jingling her keys, and playing
lady of the house, but we all know who has the care and trouble.  If
last year has nothing to show for work, I think you may make the same
complaint of all the years that went before.  It is not that you are
getting weary of the `woman's work, that is never done,' is it, dear?"

"No, Will.  I hope not.  I think not.  But this last year has been very
different from all former years.  I used to have something definite to
do, something that no one else could do as well.  I cannot explain it.
You would laugh at the trifles that make the difference."

"I see one difference," said Will.  "You have the trouble, and Fanny has
the credit."

"No, Will.  Don't say that I don't think that troubles me.  It ought
not; but it is not good for Fanny, to allow her to suppose she has the
responsibility and care, when she has not really.  And it is not fair to
her.  When the time comes that she must have them, she will feel the
trouble all the more for her present delusion.  And she is learning
nothing.  She is utterly careless about details, and complicates matters
when she thinks she is doing most, though, I must say, Nelly is very
tolerant of the `whims' of her young mistress, and makes the best of
everything.  But Will, all this must sound to you like finding fault
with Fanny, and indeed, I don't wish to do anything so disagreeable."

"I am sure you do not, Graeme.  I think I can understand your troubles,
but I am afraid I cannot tell you how to help them."

"No, Will.  The kind of life we are living is not good for any of us.
What I want for myself is some kind of real work to do.  And I want it
for Rose."

"But, Graeme, you would never surely think of going away,--I mean, to
stay always?"

"Why not?  We are not needed here, Rose and I.  No, Will, I don't think
it is that I am growing tired of `woman's work.'  It was very simple,
humble work I used to do, trifles, odds and ends of the work of life;
stitching and mending, sweeping and dusting, singing and playing,
reading and talking, each a trifling matter, taken by itself.  But of
such trifles is made up the life's work of thousands of women, far wiser
and better than I am; and I was content with it.  It helped to make a
happy home, and that was much."

"You have forgotten something in your list of trifles, Graeme,--your
love and care for us all."

"No, Will.  These are implied.  It is the love and care that made all
these trifles really `woman's work.'  A poor dreary work it would be
without these."

"And, Graeme, is there nothing still, to sanctify your daily labour, and
make it work indeed?" said Will.

"There is, indeed, Will.  If I were only sure that it is my work.  But,
I am not sure.  And it seems as though--somewhere in the world, there
must be something better worth the name of work, for me to do."  And
letting her hands fall in her lap, she looked away over the numberless
roofs of the city, to the grey line of the river beyond.

"Oh!  Will," she went on in a little, "you do not know.  You who have
your life's work laid out before you, can never understand how it is
with me.  You know the work before you is your work--given you by God
himself.  You need have no misgivings, you can make no mistake.  And
look at the difference.  Think of all the years I may have to spend,
doing the forgotten ends of another's duty, filling up the time with
trifles, visits, frivolous talk, or fancy work, or other things which do
good to no one.  And all the time not knowing whether I ought to stay in
the old round, or break away from it all--never sure but that elsewhere,
I might find wholesome work for God and man."

Very seldom did Graeme allow herself to put her troubled thoughts into
words, and she rose now and went about the room, as if she wished to put
an end to their talk.  But Will said,--

"Even if it were true and real, all you say, it may not be for long.
Some day, you don't know how soon, you may have legitimate `woman's
work' to do,--love, and sympathy, and care, and all the rest, without
encroaching on Fanny's domain."

He began gravely, but blushed and stammered; and glanced with laughing
deprecation at his sister, as he ended.  She did not laugh.

"I have thought of that, too.  It seems so natural and proper, and in
the common course of things, that a woman should marry.  And there have
been times, during this last year, when, just to get away from it all, I
have thought that any change would be for the better.  But it would not
be right, unless--" she hesitated.

"No, unless it was the right person, and all that, but may we not
reasonably hope that the right person may come?"

"We won't talk about it, Will.  There must be some other way than that.
Many women find an appropriate work to do without marrying.  I wish I
could do as the Merleville girls used to do, spin and weave, or keep a
school."

"But they don't spin and weave now, since the factories have been built.
And as for school-keeping--"

"It would be work, good wholesome work, in which, with God's help, I
might try to do as our father and mother did, and leave the world better
for my labour."

"But you could not part from Rose, and Arthur could never be made to see
it right that you should go away," said Will.

"Rose should go with me.  And Arthur would not like it at first, nor
Fanny, but they would reconcile themselves to it in time.  And as to the
school, that is only one kind of work, though there are few kinds left
for a woman to do, the more's the pity."

"There is work enough of the best kind.  It is the remuneration that is
scant.  And the remuneration could not be made a secondary
consideration; if you left home."

"In one sense, it ought to be secondary.  But I think it must be
delightful to feel that one is `making one's living,' as Mr Snow would
say.  I _should_ like to know how it feels to be quite independent,
Will, I must confess."

"But Graeme, there is no need; and it would make Arthur quite unhappy,
if he were to hear you speak in that way.  Even to me, it sounds a
little like pride, or discontent."

"Does it, Will.  That is dreadful.  It is quite possible that these evil
elements enter into my vexed thoughts.  We won't speak any more about
it, Will."

"But, why should we not speak about it?  You may be quite right.  At any
rate, you are not likely to set yourself right, by keeping your vexed
thoughts to yourself."

But, if Graeme had been ever so willing, there was no more time just
now.  There was a knock at the door, and Sarah, the housemaid, presented
herself.

"If you please, Miss Graeme, do you think I might go out as usual.  It
is Wednesday, you know."

Wednesday was the night of the weekly lecture, in Sarah's kirk.  She was
a good little girl, and a worshipper in a small way of a popular young
preacher of the day.

"If Nelly thinks she can manage without you," said Graeme.

"It was Nelly proposed it.  She can do very well, unless Mrs Elliott
brings home some one with her, which is unlikely so late."

"Well, go then, and don't be late.  And be sure you come home with the
Shaws' Sarah," said Miss Elliott.

"They are late," said Will.  "I am afraid I cannot wait for dinner.  I
promised to be with Doctor D at seven."

They went down-stairs together.  Nelly remonstrated, with great
earnestness against Will's "putting himself off with bread and cheese,
instead of dinner."

"Though you need care the less about it, that the dinner's spoiled
already.  The fowls werena much to begin with.  It needs sense and
discretion to market, as well as to do most things, and folk that winna
come home at the right hour, must content themselves with things
overdone, or else in the dead thraw."

"I am very sorry Will should lose his dinner," said Graeme; "but they
cannot be long in coming now."

"There's no saying.  They may meet in with folk that may keep them to
suit their ain convenience.  It has happened before."

More than once, when Fanny had been out with her mother, they had gone
for Arthur and dined at Grove house, without giving due notice at home,
and the rest, after long waiting, had eaten their dinner out of season.
To have a success in her department rendered vain by careless or
culpable delay, was a trial to Nelly at any time.  And if Mrs Grove had
anything to do with causing it, the trial was all the greater.

For Nelly--to use her own words--had no patience with that "meddlesome
person."  Any interference on her part in household matters, was
considered by her a reflection on the housekeeping of her young ladies
before Mrs Arthur came among them, and was resented accordingly.  All
hints, suggestions, recipes, or even direct instructions from her, were
utterly ignored by Nelly, when it could be done without positive
disobedience to Miss Graeme or Mrs Elliott.  If direct orders made it
necessary for her to do violence to her feelings to the extent of
availing herself of Mrs Grove's experience, it was done under protest,
or with an open incredulousness as to results, at the same time
irritating and amusing.

She had no reason to suppose that Mrs Grove had anything to do with her
vexation to-night, but she chose to assume it to be so, and following
Graeme into the dining-room, where Will sat contentedly eating his bread
and cheese, she said,--

"As there is no counting on the time of their home-coming, with other
folks' convenience to consult, you had best let me bring up the dinner,
Miss Graeme."

"We will wait a few minutes longer.  There is no haste," said Graeme,
quietly.

Graeme sat a long time looking out of the window before they came--so
long that Nelly came up-stairs again intending to expostulate still, but
she did not; she went down again, quietly, muttering to herself as she
went,--

"I'll no vex her.  She has her ain troubles, I daresay, with her young
brother going away, and many another thing that I ken nothing about.  It
would ill set me to add to her vexations.  She is not at peace with
herself, that's easy to be seen."



CHAPTER THIRTY.

Graeme was not at peace with herself and had not been so for a long
time, and to-night she was angry with herself for having spoiled Will's
pleasure, by letting him see that she was ill at ease.

"For there is no good vexing him.  He cannot even advise me; and,
indeed, I am afraid I have not the courage really to go away."

But she continued to vex herself more than was wise, as she sat there
waiting for the rest in the gathering darkness.

They came at last, but not at all as they ought to have come, with the
air of culprits, but chatting and laughing merrily, and quite at their
leisure, accompanied--to Nelly's indignant satisfaction--by Mrs Grove.
Graeme could hardly restrain an exclamation of amusement as she hastened
toward the door.  Rose came first, and her sister's question as to their
delay was stopped by a look at her radiant face.

"Graeme, I have something to tell you.  What is the most delightful, and
almost the most unlikely thing that could happen to us?"

Graeme shook her head.

"I should have to consider a while first--I am not good at guessing.
But won't it keep?  Nelly is out of all patience."

But Rose was too excited to heed her.

"No; it won't keep.  Guess who is coming--Janet!"

Graeme uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"Arthur got a letter from Mr Snow to-day.  Read it."

Graeme read, Rose looking over her shoulder.

"I am very glad.  But, Rosie, you must make haste.  Fanny will be down
in a minute, and Nelly is impatient."

"No wonder!  But I must tell her about Mrs Snow."

And with her bonnet in her hand, she went dancing down the kitchen
stairs.  Nelly would have been in an implacable humour, indeed, if the
sight of her bright face had not softened her.  Regardless of the risk
to muslins and ribbons, she sprang at once into the midst of the delayed
preparations.

"Nelly!  Who do you think is coming?  You will never guess.  I may as
well tell you.  Mrs Snow!"

"Eh, me!  That's news, indeed.  Take care of the gravy, Miss Rose, dear.
And when is she coming?"

There was not the faintest echo of rebuke in Nelly's tone.  There was no
possibility of refusing to be thus included in the family joy, even in
the presence of overdone fowls and ruined vegetables.  Besides, she had
the greatest respect for the oldest friend of the family, and a great
desire to see her.  She looked upon her as a wonderful person, and
aspired in a humble way to imitate her virtues, so she set the
gravy-dish on the table to hear more.

"And when will she be coming?" she asked.

"Some time in June.  And, Nelly, such preparations as we shall have!
But it is a shame, we kept dinner waiting.  We could not help it,
indeed."

"You dinna need to tell me that.  I heard who came with you.  Carry you
up the plates, and the dinner will be up directly."

"And so your old nurse is coming?" said Mrs Grove, after they had been
some time at the table.  "How delightful!  You look quite excited, Rose.
She is a very nice person, I believe, Miss Elliott."  Graeme smiled.
Mrs Grove's generally descriptive term hardly indicated the manifold
virtues of their friend; but, before she could say so, Mrs Grove
continued.

"We must think of some way of doing her honour.  We must get up a little
_fete_--a pic-nic or something.  Will she stay here or at Mr Birnie's.
She is a friend of his, I suppose, as Rose stopped him in the street to
tell him she is coming.  It is rather awkward having such people staying
in the house.  They are apt to fancy, you know; and really, one cannot
devote all one's time--"

Rose sent her a glance of indignation; Graeme only smiled.  Arthur had
not heard her last remark, so he answered the first.

"I doubt such things would hardly be in Mrs Snow's way.  Mrs Grove
could hardly make a lion of our Janet, I fancy, Graeme."

"I fancy not," said Graeme, quietly.

"Oh!  I assure you, I shall be willing to take any trouble.  I truly
appreciate humble worth.  We so seldom find among the lower classes
anything like the faithfulness, and the gratitude manifested by this
person to your family.  You must tell me all about her some day, Rose."

Rose was regarding her with eyes out of which all indignation had
passed, to make room for astonishment.  Mrs Grove went on.

"Didn't she leave her husband, or something, to come with you?
Certainly a lifetime of such devotion should be rewarded--"

"By a pic-nic," said Rose, as Mrs Grove hesitated.

"Rose, don't be satirical," said Arthur, trying not to laugh.

"I am sure you must be delighted, Fanny--Arthur's old nurse you know.
It need not prevent you going to the seaside, however.  It is not you
she comes to see."

"I am not so sure of that," said Arthur, smiling across the table to his
pretty wife.  "I fancy Fanny has as much to do with the visit as any of
us.  She will have to be on her good behaviour, and to look her
prettiest, I can assure her."

"And Janet was not Arthur's nurse," said Rose.  "Graeme was baby when
she came first."

"And I fancy nursing was but a small part of Janet's work in those
days," said Arthur.  "She was nurse, and cook, and housemaid, all in
one.  Eh, Graeme?"

"Ay, and more than that--more than could be told in words," said Graeme,
with glistening eyes.

"And I am sure you will like her," said Rose, looking straight into Mrs
Grove's face.  "Her husband is very rich.  I think he must be almost the
richest man in Merleville."

Arthur did not reprove Rose this time, though she well deserved it.  She
read her reproof in Graeme's look, and blushed and hung her head.  She
did not look very much abashed, however.  She knew Arthur was enjoying
the home thrust; but the subject was pursued no farther.

"Do you know, Fanny," said Mrs Grove, in a little, "I saw Mrs Tilman
this morning, and a very superior person she turns out to be.  She has
seen better days.  It is sad to see a lady--for she seems to have been
quite a lady--so reduced."

"And who is Mrs Tilman?" asked Arthur.

Fanny looked annoyed, but her mamma went on.

"She is a person Mrs Gridley was speaking to Fanny about--a very worthy
person indeed."

"She was speaking to you, you mean, mamma," said Fanny.

"Was it to me?  Well, it is all the same.  She is a widow.  She lived in
Q---a while and then came here, and was a housekeeper in Haughton Place.
I don't know why she left.  Some one married, I think.  Since then she
has been a sick nurse, but it didn't agree with her, and lately she has
been a cook in a small hotel."

"She seems to have experienced vicissitudes," said Arthur, for the sake
of saying something.

"Has she not?  And a very worthy person she is, I understand, and an
admirable cook.  She markets, too--or she did at Haughton House--and
that is such a relief.  She must be an invaluable servant."

"I should think so, indeed," said Arthur, as nobody else seemed inclined
to say anything.

Graeme and Rose were speaking about Janet and her expected visit, and
Fanny sat silent and embarrassed.  But Nelly, busy in taking away the
things, lost nothing of what was said; and Mrs Grove, strange to say,
was not altogether inattentive to the changing face of the energetic
table maid.  An uncomplimentary remark had escaped the lady, as to the
state of the overdone fowls, and Nelly "could put this and that together
as well as another."  The operation of removing the things could not be
indefinitely prolonged, however, and as Nelly shut the door Mrs Grove
said,--

"She is out of place now, Fanny, and would just suit you.  But you must
be prompt if you wish to engage her."

"Oh! there is no hurry about it, I suppose," said Fanny, glancing
uneasily at Graeme.  But Graeme took no notice.  Mrs Grove was rather
in the habit of discussing domestic affairs at the table, and of leaving
Graeme out of the conversation.  She was very willing to be left out.
Besides, she never thought of influencing Fanny in the presence of her
stepmother.

"Oh! but I assure you there is," said Mrs Grove.  "There are several
ladies wishing to have her.  Mrs Ruthven, among the rest."

"Oh! it is such a trouble changing," said Fanny, wearily, as if she had
had a trying experience and spoke advisedly.

"Not at all.  It is only changing for the worse that is so troublesome,"
said Mrs Grove, and she had a right to know.  "I advise you not to let
this opportunity pass."

"But, after all, Nelly does very well.  She is stupid sometimes and
cross, but they are all that, more or less, I suppose," said Fanny.

"You are quite right, Fanny," said Arthur, who saw that his wife was
annoyed without very well knowing why.  "I daresay Nelly is a better
servant--notwithstanding the unfortunate chickens of to-day, which was
our own fault, you know--than the decayed gentlewoman.  She will be a
second Janet, yet--an institution, an established fact in the history of
the family.  We couldn't do without Nelly.  Eh, Graeme?"

Graeme smiled, and said nothing.  Rose answered for her.

"No, indeed I am so glad Nelly will see Mrs Snow."

"Very well," said Mrs Grove.  "Since Miss Elliott seems to be satisfied
with Nelly, I suppose she must stay.  It is a pity you had not known
sooner, Fanny, so as to save me the trouble of making an appointment for
her.  But she may as well come, and you can see her at any rate."

Her carriage being at the door, she went away, and a rather awkward
silence followed her departure.

"What is it all about!  Who is Mrs Tilman?" asked Arthur.

"Some one Mrs Grove has seen," said Graeme, evasively.

"But what about Nelly?  Surely you are not thinking of changing
servants, Graeme?"

"Oh!  I hope not; but Nelly has been out of sorts lately--grumbled a
little--"

"Out of sorts, grumbled!" exclaimed Fanny, vexed that Mrs Grove had
introduced the subject, and more vexed still that Arthur should have
addressed his question to Graeme.  "She has been very disagreeable,
indeed, not to say impertinent, and I shall not bear it any longer."

Poor little Fanny could hardly keep back her tears.

"Impertinent to you, Fanny," cried Graeme and Arthur in a breath.

"Well, to mamma--and she is not very respectful to me, sometimes, and
mamma says Nelly has been long enough here.  Servants always take
liberties after a time; and, besides, she looks upon Graeme as mistress
rather than me.  She quite treats me like a child," continued Fanny, her
indignation increasing as she proceeded.

"And, besides," she added, after there had been a moment's uncomfortable
silence, "Nelly wishes to go."

"Is Barkis willing at last?" said Arthur, trying to laugh off the
discomfort of the moment.

Rose laughed too.  It had afforded them all much amusement to watch the
slow courtship of the dignified Mr Stirling.  Nelly always denied that
there was anything more in the gardener's attentions, than just the
good-will and friendliness of a countryman, and he certainly was a long
time in coming to the point they all acknowledged.

"Nonsense, Arthur!  That has nothing to do with it," said Fanny.

"Then, she must be going to her sister--the lady with a fabulous number
of cows and children.  She has spoken about that every summer, more or
less.  Her conscience pricks her, every new baby she hears of.  But she
will get over it.  It is all nonsense about her leaving."

"But it is not nonsense," said Fanny, sharply.  "Of course Graeme will
not like her to go, but Nelly is very obstinate and disagreeable, and
mamma says I shall never be mistress in my own house while she stays.
And I think we ought to take a good servant when we have the chance."

"But how good a servant is she?" asked Arthur.

"Didn't you hear what mamma said about her?  And, of course, she has
references and written characters, and all that sort of thing."

"Well, I think we may as well `sleep upon it,' as Janet used to say.
There will be time enough to decide after to-night," said Arthur, taking
up his newspaper, more annoyed than he was willing to confess.

The rest sat silent.  Rose was indignant, and it needed a warning
glance, from Graeme to keep her indignation from overflowing.  Graeme
was indignant, but not surprised.  Indeed, Nelly had given warning that
she was to leave; but she hoped and believed that she would think better
of it, and said nothing.

She was not indignant with Fanny, but with her mother.  She felt that
there was some truth in Fanny's declaration, that Nelly looked upon her
as a child.  She had Nelly's own word for that.  She considered her
young mistress a child to be humoured and "no' heeded" when any serious
business was going on.  But Fanny would not have found this out if left
to herself, at least she would not have resented it.

The easiest and most natural thing for Graeme, in the turn affairs had
taken, would be to withdraw from all interference, and let things take
their course; but just because this would be easiest and most agreeable,
she hesitated.  She felt that it would not be right to stand aside and
let Fanny punish herself and all the rest because of the meddlesome
folly of Mrs Grove.  Besides, it would be so ungrateful to Nelly, who
had served them so faithfully all those years.  And yet, as she looked
at Fanny's pouting lips and frowning brow, her doubts as to the
propriety of interference grew stronger, and she could only say to
herself, with a sigh,--

"We must have patience and wait."

And the matter was settled without her interference, though not to her
satisfaction.  Before a week, Nelly was on her way to the country to
make acquaintance of her sister's cows and children, and the estimable
Mrs Tilman was installed in her place.  It was an uncomfortable time
for all.  Rose was indignant, and took no pains to hide it.  Graeme was
annoyed and sorry, and, all the more, as Nelly did not see fit to
confine the stiffness and coldness of her leave-takings to Mrs Elliott
as she ought to have done.  If half as earnestly and frankly as she
expressed her sorrow for her departure, Graeme had expressed her
vexation at its cause, Nelly would have been content.  But Graeme would
not compromise Fanny, and she would not condescend to recognise the
meddlesomeness of Mrs Grove in their affairs.  And yet she could not
bear that Nelly should go away, after five years of loving service, with
such angry gloom in her kind eyes.

"Will you stay with your sister, Nelly, do you think? or will you come
back to town and take another place?  There are many of our friends who
would be very glad to get you."

"I'm no' sure, Miss Elliott.  I have grown so fractious and contrary
lately that maybe my sister winna care to have me.  And as to another
place--"

Nelly stopped suddenly.  If she had said her say, it would have been
that she could bear the thought of no other place.  But she said
nothing, and went away--ran away, indeed.  For when she saw the
sorrowful tears in Graeme's eyes, and felt the warm pressure of her
hand, she felt she must run or break out into tears; and so she ran,
never stopping to answer when Graeme said:

"You'll let us hear from you, Nelly.  You'll surely let us hear from you
soon?"

There was very little said about the new order of affairs.  The
remonstrance which Fanny expected from Graeme never came.  Mrs Grove
continued to discuss domestic affairs, and to leave Graeme out, and she
was quite willing to be left out, and, after a little, things moved on
smoothly.  Mrs Tilman was a very respectable-looking person.  A little
stout, a little red in the face, perhaps.  Indeed, very stout and very
red in the face; so stout that Arthur suggested the propriety of having
the kitchen staircase widened for her benefit; and so red in the face as
to induce Graeme to keep her eyes on the keys of the sideboard when
Fanny, as she was rather apt to do, left them lying about.  She was a
very good servant, if one might judge after a week's trial; and Fanny
might have triumphed openly if it had not been that she felt a little
uncomfortable in finding herself, without a struggle, sole ruler in
their domestic world.  Mrs Tilman marketed, and purchased the
groceries, and that in so dignified a manner that Fanny almost wondered
whether the looking over the grocer's book and the butcher's book might
not be considered an impertinent interference on her part.  Her remarks
and allusions were of so dignified a character as to impress her young
mistress wonderfully.  She was almost ashamed of their limited
establishment, in view of Mrs Tilman's magnificent experiences.  But
the dignified cook, or housekeeper, as she preferred being called, had
profited by the afflictive dispensations that seemed to have fallen upon
her, and resigned herself to the occupancy of her present humble sphere
in a most exemplary manner.

To be sure, her marketing and her shopping, interfered a little with her
less conspicuous duties, and a good deal more than her legitimate share
of work was left to Sarah.  But fortunately for her and the household
generally, Graeme was as ready as ever to do the odds-and-ends of other
people's duties, and to remember things forgotten, so that the domestic
machinery moved on with wonderful smoothness.  Not that Nelly's
departure was no longer regretted; but in her heart Graeme believed that
they would soon have her in her place again, and she was determined
that, in the meantime, all should be pleasant and peaceful in their
family life.

For Graeme had set her heart on two things.  First, that there should be
no drawback to the pleasure of Mrs Snow's visit; and second, that Mrs
Snow should admire and love Arthur's wife.  She had had serious doubts
enough herself as to the wisdom of her brother's choice, but she tried
to think herself quite contented with it now.  At any rate, she could
not bear to think that Janet should not be quite content.  Not that she
was very much afraid.  For Graeme's feelings toward Fanny had changed
very much since she had been one of them.  She was not very wise or
sensible, but she was very sweet-tempered and affectionate, and Graeme
had come to love her dearly, especially since the very severe illness
from which Fanny was not long recovered.  Her faults, at least many of
them, were those of education, which she would outlive, Graeme hoped,
and any little disagreeable display which it had been their misfortune
to witness during the year could, directly or indirectly, be traced to
the influence or meddlesomeness of her stepmother, and so it could
easily be overlooked.  This influence would grow weaker in time, and
Fanny would improve in consequence.  The vanity, and the carelessness of
the feelings of others, which were, to Graeme, her worst faults, were
faults that would pass away with time and experience, she hoped.
Indeed, they were not half so apparent as they used to be, and whether
the change was in Fanny or herself she did not stop to inquire.

But she was determined that her new sister should appear to the best
advantage in the eyes of their dear old friend, and to this end the
domestic sky must be kept clear of clouds.  So Mrs Tilman's
administration commenced under the most favourable circumstances, and
the surprise which all felt at the quietness with which this great
domestic revolution had been brought about was beginning to give place,
on Fanny's part, to a little triumphant self-congratulation which Rose
was inclined to resent.  Graeme did not resent it, and Rose was ready to
forgive Fanny's triumph, since Fanny was so ready to share her delight
at the thought of Mrs Snow's visit.  As for Will, he saw nothing in the
whole circle of events to disturb anybody's equanimity or to regret,
except, perhaps, that the attraction of the McIntyre children and cows
had proved irresistible to Nelly at last.  And Arthur congratulated
himself on the good sense and good management of his little wife, firmly
believing in the wisdom of the deluded little creature, never doubting
that her skill and will were equal to the triumphant encounter with any
possible domestic emergency.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

They came at last.  Arthur and Will met them on the other side of the
river, and Graeme and Rose would fain have done the same, but because of
falling rain, and because of other reasons, it was thought not best for
them to go.

It was a very quiet meeting--a little restrained and tearful just at
first; but that wore away, and Janet's eyes rested on the bairns from
whom she had been so long separated with love and wonder and earnest
scrutiny.  They had all changed, she said.  Arthur was like his father;
Will was like both father and mother.  As for Rosie--

"Miss Graeme, my dear," said Mrs Snow, "I think Rosie is nearly as
bonny as her sister Marian," and her eye rested on the girl's blushing
face with a tender admiration that was quite as much for the dead as for
the living.  Graeme had changed least of all, she said; and yet in a
little she found herself wondering whether, after all, Graeme had not
changed more than any of them.

As for Fanny she found herself in danger of being overlooked in the
general joy and excitement, and went about jingling her keys, and rather
ostentatiously hastening the preparations for the refreshment of the
travellers.  She need not have been afraid.  Her time was coming.  Even
now she encountered an odd glance or two from Mr Snow, who was walking
off his excitement in the hall.  That there was admiration mingled with
the curiosity they expressed was evident, and Fanny relented.  What
might soon have become a pout on her pretty lip changed to a smile.
They were soon on very friendly terms with each other, and before Janet
had got through with her first tremulous recognition of her bairns, Mr
Snow fancied he had made a just estimate of the qualities--good--and not
so good--of the pretty little housekeeper.

After dinner all were more at their ease.  Mr Snow walked up and down
the gallery, past the open window, and Arthur sat there beside him.
They were not so far withdrawn from the rest but that they could join in
the conversation that went on within.  Fanny, tired of the dignity of
housekeeping, brought a footstool and sat down beside Graeme; and Janet,
seeing how naturally and lovingly the hand of the elder sister rested on
the pretty bowed head, gave the little lady more of her attention than
she had hitherto done, and grew rather silent in the scrutiny.  Graeme
grew silent too.  Indeed she had been rather silent all the afternoon;
partly because it pleased her best to listen, and partly because she was
not always sure of her voice when she tried to speak.

She was not allowed to be silent long, however, or to fall into
recollections too tender to be shared by them all.  Rose's extraordinary
restlessness prevented that.  She seemed to have lost the power of
sitting still, and flitted about from one to another; now exchanging a
word with Fanny or Will, now joining in the conversation that was going
on between Mr Snow and Arthur outside.  At one moment she was hanging
over Graeme's chair, at the next, kneeling at Mrs Snow's side; and all
the time with a face so radiant that even Will noticed it, and begged to
be told the secret of her delight.

The truth was, Rose was having a little private jubilation of her own.
She would not have confessed it to Graeme, she was shy of confessing it
to herself, but as the time of Mrs Snow's visit approached, she had not
been quite free from misgivings.  She had a very distinct recollection
of their friend, and loved her dearly.  But she found it quite
impossible to recall the short active figure, the rather scant dress,
the never-tiring hands, without a fear that the visit might be a little
disappointing--not to themselves.  Janet would always be Janet to them--
the dear friend of their childhood, with more real worth in her little
finger than there was in ten such fine ladies as Mrs Grove.  But Rose,
grew indignant beforehand, as she imagined the supercilious smiles and
forced politeness of that lady, and perhaps of Fanny too, when all this
worth should appear in the form of a little, plain old woman, with no
claim to consideration on account of externals.

But that was all past now.  And seeing her sitting there in her full
brown travelling-dress, her snowy neckerchief and pretty quaint cap,
looking as if her life might have been passed with folded hands in a
velvet arm-chair, Rose's misgivings gave place to triumphant
self-congratulation, which was rather uncomfortable, because it could
not well be shared.  She had assisted at the arrangement of the contents
of the travelling trunk in wardrobe and bureau, and this might have
helped her a little.

"A soft black silk, and a grey poplin, and such lovely neckerchiefs and
handkerchiefs of lawn--is not little Emily a darling to make her mother
look so nice?  And such a beauty of a shawl!--that's the one Sandy
brought."

And so Rose came down-stairs triumphant, without a single drawback to
mar the pleasure with which she regarded Janet as she sat in the
arm-chair, letting her grave admiring glances fall alternately on Graeme
and the pretty creature at her feet.  All Rosie's admiration was for
Mrs Snow.

"Is she not just like a picture sitting there?" she whispered to Will,
as she passed him.

And indeed Rosie's admiration was not surprising; she was the very Janet
of old times; but she sat there in Fanny's handsome drawing-room, with
as much appropriateness as she had ever sat in the manse kitchen long
ago, and looked over the vases and elegant trifles on the centre-table
to Graeme with as much ease and self-possession as if she had been "used
with" fine things all her life, and had never held anxious counsels with
her over jackets and trowsers, and little half-worn stockings and shoes.

And yet there was no real cause for surprise.  For Janet was one of
those whose modest, yet firm self-respect, joined with a just
appreciation of all worldly things, leaves to changing circumstances no
power over their unchanging worth.

That Mr Snow should spend the time devoted to their visit within four
walls, was not to be thought of.  The deacon, who, in the opinion of
those who knew him best, "had the faculty of doing 'most anything," had
certainly not the faculty of sitting still in a chair like other people.
The hall or the gallery was his usual place of promenade, but when the
interest of the conversation kept him with the rest, Fanny suffered
constant anxiety as to the fate of ottomans, vases and little tables.  A
judicious, re-arrangement of these soon gave him a clearer space for his
perambulations; but a man accustomed to walk miles daily on his own
land, could not be expected to content himself long within such narrow
limits.  So one bright morning he renewed the proposal, made long
before, that Will should show him Canada.

Up to a comparatively recent period, all Mr Snow's ideas of the country
had been got from the careful reading of an old "History of the French
and Indian War."  Of course, by this time he had got a little beyond the
belief that the government was a military despotism, that the city of
Montreal was a cluster of wigwams, huddled together within a circular
enclosure of palisades, or that the commerce of the country consisted in
an exchange of beads, muskets, and bad whiskey for the furs of the
Aborigines.  Still his ideas were vague and indistinct, not to say
disparaging, and he had already quite unconsciously excited the
amusement of Will and the indignation of Rose, by indulging in remarks
indicative of a low opinion of things in general in the Queen's
dominions.  So when he proposed that Will should show him Canada, Rose
looked gravely up and asked,--

"Where will you go first, Will?  To the Red river or Hudson's Bay or to
Nova Scotia?  You must be back to lunch."

They all laughed, and Arthur said,--

"Oh, fie, Rosie! not to know these places are all beyond the limits of
Canada!--such ignorance!"

"They are in the Queen's dominions, though, and Mr Snow wants to see
all that is worth seeing on British soil."

"Well, I guess we can make out a full day's work in Canada, can't we?
It is best to take it moderate," said Mr Snow, smiling benignly on
Rose.  He was tolerant of the young lady's petulance, and not so ready
to excite it as he used to be in the old times, and generally listened
to her little sallies with a deprecating smile, amusing to see.

He was changed in other respects as well.  Indeed, it must be confessed
that just at first Arthur was a little disappointed in him.  He had only
a slight personal acquaintance with him, but he had heard so much of him
from the others that he had looked forward with interest to making the
acquaintance of the "sharp Yankee deacon."  For Harry had a good story
about "Uncle Sampson" ready for all occasions, and there was no end to
the shrewd remarks and scraps of worldly wisdom that he used to quote
from his lips.  But Harry's acquaintance had been confined to the first
years of their Merleville life, and Mr Snow had changed much since
then.  He saw all things in a new light.  Wisdom and folly had changed
their aspect to him.  The charity which "believeth and hopeth all
things," and which "thinketh no evil," lived within him now, and made
him slow to see, and slower still to comment upon the faults and foibles
of others with the sharpness that used to excite the mirth of the lads
long ago.  Not that he had forgotten how to criticise, and that severely
too, whatever he thought deserved it, or would be the better for it, as
Will had good reason to know before he had done much in the way of
"showing him Canada," but he far more frequently surprised them all by
his gentle tolerance towards what might be displeasing to him, and by
his quick appreciation of whatever was admirable in all he saw.

The first few days of sightseeing were passed in the city and its
environs.  With the town itself he was greatly pleased.  The great grey
stone structures suited him well, suggesting, as they often do to the
people accustomed to houses of brick or wood, ideas of strength and
permanence.  But as he was usually content with an outside view of the
buildings, with such a view as could be obtained by a slow drive through
the streets, the town itself did not occupy him long.  Then came the
wharves and ships; then they visited the manufactories and workshops,
lately become so numerous in the neighbourhood of the canal.  All these
pleased and interested him greatly, but he never failed, when
opportunity offered, to point out various particulars, in which he
considered the Montrealers "a _leetle_ behind the times."  On the whole,
however, his appreciation of British energy and enterprise was admiring
and sincere, and as warmly expressed as could be expected under the
circumstances.

"You've got a river, at any rate, that about comes up to one's ideas of
what a river ought to be--broad and deep and full," he said to Arthur
one day.  "It kind of satisfies one to stand and look at it, so grand
and powerful, and still always rolling on to the sea."

"Yes, it is like your Father of Waters," said Arthur, a little surprised
at his tone and manner.

"One wouldn't be apt to think of mills and engines and such things at
the first glimpse of that.  I didn't see it the day when I crossed it,
for the mist and rain.  To-day, as we stood looking down upon it, I
couldn't but think how it had been rolling on and on there, ever since
creation, I suppose, or ever since the time of Adam and Eve--if the date
ain't the same, as some folks seem to think."

"I always think how wonderful it must have seemed to Jacques Cartier and
his men, as they sailed on and on, with the never-ending forest on
either shore," said Rose.  "No wonder they thought it would never end,
till it bore them to the China seas."

"A wonderful highway of nations it is, though it disappointed them in
that," said Arthur.  "The sad pity is, that it is not available for
commerce for more than two-thirds of the year."

"If ever the bridge they talk about should be built, it will do
something towards making this a place of importance in this part of the
world, though the long winter is against, too."

"Oh! the bridge will be built, I suppose, and the benefit will not be
confined to us.  The Western trade will be benefited as well.  What do
you think of your Massachusetts men, getting their cotton round this
way?  This communication with the more northern cotton growing States is
more direct by this than any other way."

"Well, I ain't prepared to say much about it.  Some folks wouldn't think
much of that.  But I suppose you are bound to go ahead, anyhow."

But to the experienced eye of the farmer, nothing gave so much pleasure
as the cultivated country lying around the city, and beyond the
mountain, as far as the eye could reach.  Of the mountain itself, he was
a little contemptuous in its character of mountain.

"A mountain with smooth fields, and even orchards, reaching almost to
the top of it!  Why, our sheep pasture at Merleville is a deal more like
a mountain than that.  It is only a hill, and moderate at that.  You
must have been dreadful hard up for mountains, to call _that_ one.
You've forgotten all about Merleville, Rosie, to be content with that
for a mountain."

While, he admired the farms, he did not hesitate to comment severely on
the want of enterprise shown by the farmers, who seemed to be content
"to putter along" as their fathers had done, with little desire to avail
themselves of the many inventions and discoveries which modern science
and art had placed at the disposal of the farmer.  In Merleville, every
man who owned ten, or even five acres of level land, had an interest in
sowing and mowing machines, to say nothing of other improvements, that
could be made available on hill or meadow.  If the strength and patience
so freely expended among the stony New England hills, could but be
applied to the fertile valley of the Saint Lawrence, what a garden it
might become!  And the Yankee farmer grew a little contemptuous of the
contented acquiescence of Canadians to the order of affairs established
by their fathers.

One afternoon he and Will went together to the top of the mountain
toward the western end.  They had a fair day for a fair sight, and when
Mr Snow looked down on the scene, bounded by the blue hills beyond both
rivers, all other thoughts gave place to feelings of wondering
admiration.  Above was a sky, whose tender blue was made more lovely by
the snowy clouds that sailed now and then majestically across it, to
break into flakes of silver near the far horizon.

Beneath lay the valley, clothed in the numberless shades of verdure with
which June loves to deck the earth in this northern climate.  There were
no waste places, no wilderness, no arid stretches of sand or stone.  Far
as the eye could reach, extended fields, and groves, and gardens,
scattered through with clusters of cottages, or solitary farm-houses.

Up through the stillness of the summer air, came stealing the faint
sound of a distant bell, seeming to deepen the silence round them.

"I suppose the land that Moses saw from Pisgah, must have been like
this," said Mr Snow, as he gazed.

"Yes, the Promised Land was a land of hills, and valleys, and brooks of
water," said Will softly, never moving his eyes from the wonderful
picture.  Could they ever gaze enough?  Could they ever weary themselves
of the sight?  The shadows grew long; the clouds, that had made the
beauty of the summer sky, followed each other toward the west, and rose
in pinnacles of gold, and amber, and amethyst; and then they rose to go.

"I wouldn't have missed _that_ now, for considerable," said Mr Snow,
coming back with an effort to the realisation of the fact that this was
part of the sightseeing that he had set himself.  "No, I wouldn't have
missed it for considerable more than that miserable team'll cost," added
he, as he came in sight of the carriage, on whose uncomfortable seat the
drowsy driver had been slumbering all the afternoon.  Will smiled, and
made no answer.  He was not a vain lad, but it is just possible that
there passed through his mind a doubt whether the enjoyment of his
friend had been as real, as high, or as intense, as his had been all the
afternoon.  To Will's imagination, the valley lay in the gloom of its
primeval forests, peopled by heroes of a race now passed away.  He was
one of them.  He fought in their battles, triumphed in their victories,
panted in the eagerness of the chase.  In imagination, he saw the forest
fall under the peaceful weapons of the pale face; then wondered westward
to die the dreary death of the last of a stricken race.  Then his
thoughts come down to the present, and on into the future, in a vague
dream, which was half a prayer, for the hastening of the time when the
lovely valley should smile in moral and spiritual beauty too.  And
coming back to actual life, with an effort--a sense of pain, he said to
himself, that the enjoyment of his friend had been not so high and pure
as his.

But Will was mistaken.  In the thoughts of his friend, that summer
afternoon, patent machines, remunerative labour, plans of supply and
demand, of profit and loss, found no place.  He passed the pleasant hour
on that green hill-side, seeing in that lovely valley, stretched out
before them, a very land of Beulah.  Looking over the blue line of the
Ottawa, as over the river of Death, into a land visible and clear to the
eye of faith, he saw sights, and heard sounds, and enjoyed communion,
which, as yet, lay far in the future, as to the experience of the lad by
his side; and coming back to actual life, gave no sign of the Divine
Companionship, save that which afterward, was to be seen in a life,
growing liker every day to the Divine Exemplar.

Will thought, as they went home together, that a new light beamed, now
and then, over the keen but kindly face, and that the grave eyes of his
friend had the look of one who saw something beyond the beauty of the
pleasant fields, growing dim now in the gathering darkness; and the
lad's heart grew full and tender as it dawned upon him, how this was a
token of the shining of God's face upon his servant, and he longed for a
glimpse of that which his friend's eyes saw.  A word might have won for
him a glimpse of the happiness; but Will was shy, and the word was not
spoken; and, all unconscious of his longing, his friend sat with the
smile on his lips, and the light in his eye, no thought further from him
than that any experience of his should be of value to another.  And so
they fell quite into silence, till they neared the streets where the
lighted lamps were burning dim in the fading daylight.

That night, in the course of his wanderings up and down, Mr Snow,
paused, as he often did, before a portrait of the minister.  It was a
portrait taken when the minister had been a much younger man than Mr
Snow had ever known him.  It had belonged to a friend in Scotland, and
had been sent to Arthur, at his death, about a year ago.  The likeness
had been striking, and to Janet, the sight of it had been a great
pleasure and surprise.  She was never weary of looking at it, and even
Mr Snow, who had never known the minister but as a grey-haired man, was
strangely fascinated by the beauty of the grave smile that he remembered
so well on his face.  That night he stood leaning on the back of a
chair, and gazing at it, while the conversation flowed on as usual
around him.  In a little, Rose came and stood beside him.

"Do you think it is very like him?" asked she.

"Well," said Mr Snow, meditatively, "it's like him and it ain't like
him.  I love to look at it, anyhow."

"At first it puzzled me," said Rose.  "It seemed like the picture of
some one I had seen in a dream; and when I shut my eyes, and tried to
bring back my father's face as it used to be in Merleville, it would not
come--the face of the dream came between."

"Well, there is something in that," said Mr Snow, and he paused a
moment, and shut his eyes, as if to call back the face of his friend.
"No, it won't do that for me.  It would take something I hain't thought
of yet, to make me forget his face."

"It does not trouble me now," said Rose.  "I can shut my eyes, and see
him, Oh! so plainly, in the church, and at home in the study, and out
under the trees, and as he lay in his coffin--" She was smiling still,
but the tears were ready to gush over her eyes.  Mr Snow turned, and
laying his hand on her bright head, said softly,--

"Yes, dear, and so can I, If we didn't know that it must be right, we
might wonder why he was taken from us.  But I shall never forget him--
never.  He did too much for me, for that.  He was the best friend I ever
had, by all odds--the very best."

Rose smiled through her tears.

"He brought you Mrs Snow," said she, softly.

"Yes, dear.  That was much, but he did more than that.  It was through
him that I made the acquaintance of a better and dearer friend than even
_she_ is--and that is saying considerable," added he, turning his eyes
toward the tranquil figure knitting in the arm-chair.

"Were you speaking?" said Mrs Snow, looking up at the sound of his
voice.

"Yes, I was speaking to Rosie, here.  How do you suppose we can ever
persuade her to go back to Merleville with us?"

"She is going with us, or she will soon follow us.  What would Emily
say, if she didna come?"

"Yes, I know.  But I meant to stay for good and all.  Graeme, won't you
give us this little girl?"

Graeme smiled.

"Yes.  On one condition--if you will take me too."

Mr Snow shook his head.

"I am afraid that would bring us no nearer the end.  We should have
other conditions to add to that one."

"Yes," said Arthur, laughing.  "You would have to take Fanny and me, as
well, in that case.  I don't object to your having one of them at a
time, now and then, but both of them--that would never do."

"But it must be both or neither," said Graeme, eagerly, "I couldna'
trust Rosie away from me.  I havena these sixteen years--her whole life,
have I, Janet?  If you want Rosie, you must have me, too."

She spoke lightly, but earnestly; she meant what she said.  Indeed, so
earnest was she, that she quite flushed up, and the tears were not far
away.  The others saw it, and were silent, but Fanny who was not quick
at seeing things, said,--

"But what could we do without you both?  That would not be fair--"

"Oh! you would have Arthur, and Arthur would have you.  At any rate,
Rosie is mine, and I am not going to give her to any one who won't have
me, too.  She is all I shall have left when Will goes away."

"Graeme would not trust Rosie with Arthur and me," said Fanny, a little
pettishly.  "There are so many things that Graeme don't approve of.  She
thinks we would spoil Rose."

Janet's hand touched hers, whether by accident or design Graeme did not
know, but it had the effect of checking the response that rose to her
lips, and she only said, laughingly,--

"Mrs Snow thinks that you and Arthur are spoiling us both, Fanny."

Janet smiled fondly and gravely at the sisters, as she said, stroking
Graeme's bowed head,--

"I dare say you are no' past spoiling, either of you, but I have seen
worse bairns."

After this, Mr Snow and Will began the survey of Canada in earnest.
First they went to Quebec, where they lingered several days.  Then they
went farther down the river, and up the Saguenay, into the very heart of
the wilderness.  This part of the trip Will enjoyed more than his
friend, but Mr Snow showed no sign of impatience, and prolonged their
stay for his sake.  Then they went up the country, visiting the chief
towns and places of interest.  They did not confine themselves, however,
to the usual route of travellers, but went here and there in wagons and
stages, through a farming country, in which, though Mr Snow saw much to
criticise, he saw more to admire.  They shared the hospitality of many a
quiet farm-house, as freely as it was offered, and enjoyed many a
pleasant conversation with the farmers and their families, seated on
door-steps, or by the kitchen-fire.

Though the hospitality of the country people was, as a general thing,
fully and freely offered, it was sometimes, it must be confessed, not
without a certain reserve.  That a "live Yankee," cute, and able-bodied,
should be going about in these out-of-the-way parts, for the sole
purpose of satisfying himself as to the features, resources, and
inhabitants of the country, was a circumstance so rare, so unheard of,
indeed, in these parts, that the shrewd country people did not like to
commit themselves at the first glance.  Will's frank, handsome face, and
simple, kindly manners, won him speedily enough the confidence of all,
and Mr Snow's kindly advances were seldom long withstood.  But there
sometimes lingered an uneasy feeling, not to say suspicion, that when he
had succeeded in winning their confidence, he would turn round and make
some startling demand on their faith or their purses in behalf of some
patent medicine or new invention--perhaps one of those wonderful
labour-saving machines, of which he had so much to say.  As for himself,
if he ever observed their reserve or its cause, he never resented it, or
commented upon it, but entered at once into the discussion of all
possible subjects with the zest of a man determined to make the most of
the pleasant circumstances in which he found himself.  If he did not
always agree with the opinions expressed, or approve of the modes of
farming pursued, he at least found that the sturdy farmers of Glengarry
and the country beyond had more to say for their opinions and practice
than "so had their fathers said and done before them," and their
discussions ended, quite as frequently as otherwise, in the American
frankly confessing himself convinced that all the agricultural wisdom on
the continent did not lie on the south side of the line forty-five.

Will was greatly amused and interested by all this.  He was, to a
certain extent, able to look at the ideas, opinions, and prejudices of
each from the other's point of view, and so to enjoy with double zest
the discussion of subjects which could not fail to present such
dissimilar aspects to minds so differently constituted, and developed
under circumstances and influences so different.  This power helped him
to make the opinions of each more clear to the other, presenting to both
juster notions of each other's theory and practice than their own
explanations could have done.  By this means, too, he won for himself a
reputation for wisdom, about matters and things in general, which
surprised no one so much as himself.  They would have liked to linger
far longer, over this part of their trip, than they had time to do, for
the days were hastening.

Before returning home, they visited Niagara, that wonderful work of God,
too great and grand, as Mr Snow told Rosie, to be the pride of one
nation exclusively, and so it had been placed on the borders of the two
greatest nations in the world.  This part of the trip was for Will's
sake.  Mr Snow had visited them on his way West many years ago.
Indeed, there were other parts of the trip made for Will's benefit, but
those were not the parts which Mr Snow enjoyed least, as he said to his
wife afterwards.

"It paid well.  I had my own share of the pleasure, and Will's, too.  If
ever a lad enjoyed a holiday he enjoyed his.  It was worth going, just
to see his pleasure."

When the time allotted to their visit was drawing to a close, it was
proposed that a few days should be passed in that most beautiful part of
Canada, known as the Eastern Townships.  Arthur went with them there.
It was but a glimpse they could give it.  Passing in through Missisquoi
County to the head of the lovely lake Memphremagog, they spent a few
days on it, and along its shores.  Their return was by a circuitous
course across the country through the County of Stanstead, in the midst
of beautiful scenery, and what Mr Snow declared to be "as fine a
farming country as anybody need wish to see."

This "seeing Canada" was a more serious matter than he had at first
supposed, Mr Snow acknowledged to the delighted Rose.  It could not be
done justice to in a few days, he said; but he would try and reconcile
himself to the hastiness of his trip, by taking it for granted that the
parts he had not seen were pretty much like those he had gone through,
and a very fine country it was.

"Canada will be heard from yet, I expect," said he, one night when they
had returned home.  "By the time that you get some things done that you
mean to now, you'll be ready to go ahead.  I don't see but you have as
good a chance as ever we had--better, even.  You have got the same
elements of prosperity and success.  You have got the Bible and a free
press, and a fair proportion of good soil, and any amount of
water-power.  Then for inhabitants, you've got the Scotchman, cautious
and far-seeing; the Irishman, a little hot and heady, perhaps, but
earnest; you've got the Englishman, who'll never fail of his aim for
want of self-confidence, anyhow; you've got Frenchmen, Germans, and a
sprinkling of the dark element out west; and you've got what we didn't
have to begin with, you've got the Yankee element, and that is
considerable more than you seem to think it is, Rosie."

Rose laughed and shook her head.  She was not going to allow herself to
be drawn into a discussion of nationalities that night.

"Yes," continued he, "the real live Yankee is about as complete a man as
you'll generally meet anywhere.  He has the caution of the Scot, to
temper the fire of the Irishman, and he has about as good an opinion of
himself as the Englishman has.  He'll keep things going among you.
He'll bring you up to the times, and then he won't be likely to let you
fall back again.  Yes; if ever Canada is heard from, the Yankee will
have something to do with it, and no mistake."



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

In the mean time very quiet and pleasant days were passing over those
who were at home.  Fanny jingled her keys, and triumphed a little at the
continued success of affairs in Mrs Tilman's department.  Graeme took
no notice of her triumph, but worked away at odds and ends, remembering
things forgotten, smoothing difficulties, removing obstacles, and
making, more than she or any one knew, the happiness of them all.  Rose
sung and danced about the house as usual, and devoted some of her
superfluous energy to the embellishment of a cobweb fabric, which was,
under her skillful fingers, destined to assume, by and by, the form of a
wedding pocket handkerchief for Emily.  And through all, Mrs Snow was
calmly and silently pursuing the object of her visit to Canada.  Through
the pleasant hours of work and leisure, in all their talk of old times,
and of the present time, in all moods, grave and gay, she had but one
thought, one desire, to assure herself by some unfailing token that her
bairns were as good and happy as they ought to be.

The years that had passed since the bairns had been parted from her had
made Janet older than they ought to have done, Graeme thought.  It was
because she was not so strong as she used to be, she said herself; but
it was more than sickness, and more than the passing years that had
changed her.  The dreadful shock and disappointment of her mother's
death, followed so soon by the loss of Marian and the minister, had been
too much for Janet.  It might not have been, her strong patient nature
might have withstood it, if the breaking up of the beloved family
circle, the utter vanishing of her bairns from her sight, had not
followed so close upon it.  For weeks she had been utterly prostrate.
The letters, which told the bairns, in their Canadian home, that their
dear friend was ill, and "wearying" for them, told them little of the
terrible suffering of that time.  The misery that had darkened her first
winter in Merleville came upon her again with two-fold power.  Worse
than the home-sickness of that sad time, was the never-ceasing pain,
made up of sorrow for the dead, and inappeasable longing for the
presence of the living.  That she should have forsaken her darlings, to
cast in her lot with others--that between her and them should lie miles
and miles of mountain and forest, and barriers, harder to be passed than
these, it sickened her heart to know.  She knew it never could be
otherwise now; from the sentence she had passed upon herself she knew
there could be no appeal.  She knew that unless some great sorrow should
fall upon them, they could never have one home again; and that peace and
happiness could ever come to her, being separated from them, she neither
believed nor desired.  Oh! the misery of that time!  The fields and
hills, and pleasant places she had learnt to love, shrouded themselves
in gloom.  The very light grew hateful to her.  Her prayer, as she lay
still, while the bitter waters rolled over her, was less the prayer of
faith, than of despair.

And, through all the misery of that time, her husband waited and watched
her with a tender patience, beautiful to see; never, by word or deed,
giving token of aught but sympathy, and loving pity for the poor, sick,
struggling heart.  Often and often, during that dreary time, did she
wake to hear, in the stillness of the night, or of the early morning,
his whispered prayer of strong entreaty rising to Heaven, that the void
might be filled, that in God's good time and way, peace, and healing,
and content, might come back to the sick and sorrowful heart.

And this came after long waiting.  Slowly the bitter waters rolled away,
never to return.  Faith, that had seemed dead, looked up once more.  The
sick heart thrilled beneath the touch of the Healer.  Again the light
grew pleasant to her eyes, and Janet came back to her old household
ways, seeing in the life before her God-given work, that might not be
left undone.  But she was never quite the same.  There was never quite
the old sharp ring in her kindly voice.  She was not less cheerful,
perhaps, in time, but her cheerfulness was of a far quieter kind, and
her chidings were rare, and of the mildest, now.  Indeed, she had none
to chide but the motherless Emily, who needed little chiding, and much
love.  And much love did Janet give her, who had been dear to all the
bairns, and the especial friend of Marian, now in Heaven.  And so God's
peace fell on the deacon's quiet household, and the gloom passed away
from the fields and hills of Merleville, and its pleasant nooks and
corners smiled once more with a look of home to Janet, as she grew
content in the knowledge that her darlings were well and happy, though
she might never make them her daily care again.  But she never forgot
them.  Her remembrance of them never grew less loving, and tender, and
true.  And so, as the years passed, the old longing came back, and, day
by day, grew stronger in her heart the wish to know assuredly that the
children of her love were as good and happy as they ought to be.

Had her love been less deep and yearning she might have been more easily
content with the tokens of an innocent and happy life visible in their
home.  If happiness had been, in her estimation, but the enjoyment of
genial days and restful nights, with no cares to harass, and only
pleasant duties to perform; if the interchange of kindly offices, the
little acts of self-denial, the giving up of trifles, the taking
cheerfully of the little disappointments, which even their pleasant life
was subject to--if these had been to her sufficient tests of goodness,
she might have been satisfied with all she saw.

But she was not satisfied, for she knew that there are few hearts so
shallow as to be filled full with all that such a life of ease could
give.  She knew that the goodness, that might seem to suffice through
these tranquil and pleasant days, could be no defence against the strong
temptations that might beset them amid the cares of life.  "For," said
she to herself, "the burn runs smoothly on over the pebbles in its bed
without a break or eddy, till the pebbles change to rocks and stones,
and then it brawls, and murmurs, and dashes itself to foam among them--
and no help."  She was content with no such evidence of happiness or
goodness as lay on the surface of their pleasant life, so she waited,
and watched, seeing without seeming to see, many things that less loving
eyes might have overlooked.  She saw the unquiet light that gleamed at
times in Graeme's eyes, and the shadow of the cloud that now and then
rested on her brow, even in their most mirthful moments.  She smiled, as
they all did, at the lively sallies, and pretty wilfulness of Rose, but
she knew full well, that that which made mirth in the loving home
circle, might make sorrow for the household darling, when the charm of
love was no longer round her.  And so she watched them all, seeing in
trifles, in chance words and unconscious deeds, signs and tokens for
good or for evil, that would never have revealed themselves to one who
loved them less.

For Will she had no fear.  He was his father's own son, with his
father's work awaiting him.  All would be well with Will.  And for
Arthur, too, the kind and thoughtful elder brother--the father and
brother of the little household, both in one, her hopes were stronger
than her doubts or fears.  It would have given her a sore heart, indeed,
to believe him far from the way in which his father walked.

"He has a leaven of worldliness in him, I'll no deny," said she to her
husband one night, when they were alone in the privacy of their own
apartment.  "And there is more desire for wealth in his heart, and for
the honour that comes from man, than he himself kens.  He'll maybe get
them, and maybe no'.  But if he gets them, they'll no' satisfy him, and
if he gets them not, he'll get something better.  I have small fear for
the lad.  He minds his father's ways and walk too well to be long
content with his own halting pace.  It's a fine life just now, with folk
looking up to him, and patting trust in him, but he'll weary of it.
There is nothing in it to fill, for long, the heart of his father's
son."

And in her quiet waiting and watching, Janet grew assured for them all
at last.  Not that they were very wise or good, but her faith that they
were kept of God grew stronger every day; and to be ever in God's
keeping, meant to this humble, trustful, Christian woman, to have all
that even her yearning love could crave for her darlings.  It left her
nothing to fear for them, nothing to wish in their behalf; so she came
to be at peace about them all; and gently checked the wilful words and
ways of Rose, and waited patiently till Graeme, of her own accord,
should show her the cloud in the shadow of which she sometimes sat.

As to Fanny, the new claimant for her love and interest, she was for
from being overlooked all this time, and the pretty little creature
proved a far greater mystery to the shrewd, right-judging friend of the
family than seemed at all reasonable.  There were times when, had she
seen her elsewhere, she would not have hesitated to pronounce her
frivolous, vain, overbearing.  Even now, seeing her loved and cared for,
in the midst of the bairns, there were moments when she found herself
saying it in her heart.  A duller sense, and weaker penetration could
not have failed to say the same.  But Fanny was Arthur's wife, and
Arthur was neither frivolous, nor vain, nor overbearing, but on the
contrary, wise, and strong, and gentle, possessing all the virtues that
ever had made his father a model in Janet's admiring eyes, and it seemed
a bold thing, indeed, to think lightly of his wife.  So she mused, and
pondered, and watched, and put Fanny's beautiful face and winning
manners, and pretty, affectionate ways, against her very evident
defects, and said to herself, though Arthur's wife was not like Arthur's
mother, nor even like his sisters, yet there were varieties of
excellence, and surely the young man was better able to be trusted in
the choice of a life-long friend than on old woman like her could be;
and still she waited and pondered, and, as usual, the results of her
musings were given to her attentive husband, and this time with a little
impatient sigh.

"I needna wonder at it.  Love is blind, they say, and goes where it is
sent, and it is sent far more rarely to wisdom and worth, and humble
goodness, than to qualities that are far less deserving of the happiness
it brings; and Mr Arthur is no' above making a mistake.  Though how he
should--minding his mother as he does--amazes me.  But he's well
pleased, there can be no doubt of that, as yet, and Miss Graeme is no'
ill-pleased, and love wouldna blind her.  Still I canna but wonder after
all is said."

And she still wondered.  There were in her vocabulary no gentler names
for the pretty Fanny's defects, than just frivolity and vanity, and even
after a glimpse or two of her stepmother, Janet's candid,
straightforward nature could hardly make for those defects all the
allowance that was to be made.  She could not realise how impossible it
was, that a fashionable education, under such a teacher as Mrs Grove
should have made her daughter other than she was, and so not realising
that her worst faults were those of education, which time, and
experience, and the circumstances of her life must correct, she had, at
times, little hope of Fanny's future worth or wisdom.

That is, she would have had little hope but for one thing--Graeme had
faith in Fanny, that was clear.  Love might blind Arthur's eyes to her
faults, or enlighten them to see virtues invisible to other eyes, but it
would not do that for Graeme; and Graeme was tolerant of Fanny, even at
times when her little airs and exactions made her not quite agreeable to
her husband.  She was patient and forbearing towards her faults, and
smiled at the little housekeeping airs and assumptions, which Rose
openly, and even in Arthur's presence, never failed to resent.  Indeed,
Graeme refused to see Fanny's faults, or she refused to acknowledge that
she saw them, and treated her always with the respect due to her
brother's wife, and the mistress of the house, as, well as with the love
and forbearance due to a younger sister.

And that Fanny, with all her faults and follies, loved and trusted
Graeme was very evident.  There was confidence between them, to a
certain extent at any rate, and seeing these things, Janet took courage
to hope that there was more in the "bonny vain creature" than it was
given her to see, and to hope also that Arthur might not one day find
himself disappointed in his wife.  Her doubts and hopes on the matter
were all silent, or shared only with the worthy deacon, in the solitude
of their chamber.  She was slow to commit herself to Graeme, and Graeme
was in no haste to ask her friend's opinion of her brother's wife.

They had plenty of other subjects to discuss.  All their Merleville life
was gone over and over during these quiet summer days.

The talk was not always gay; sometimes it was grave enough, even sad,
but it was happy, too, in a way; at any rate they never grew weary of
it.  And Mrs Snow had much to tell them about the present state of
their old home; how the old people were passing away, and the young
people were growing up; how well the minister was remembered there
still, and how glad all would be to see the minister's bairns among them
again; and then Sandy and Emily, and the approaching wedding made an
endless subject of talk.  Rose and Fanny never wearied of that, and Mrs
Snow was as pleased to tell, as they were to hear.

And when Rose and Fanny were away, as they often were, and Graeme was
left alone with her friend, there were graver things discussed between
them.  Graeme told her more of their family life, and of their first
experiences than she had ever heard before.  She told her of her
illness, and home-sickness, and of the many misgivings she had had as to
whether it had been wise for them all to come to burden Arthur.  She
told her of Harry, and her old terrors on his account, and how all these
had given place to hope, that was almost certainty now, that she need
never fear for him for the same cause more.  They rejoiced together over
Hilda, and Norman, and recalled to one another their old pride in the
lad when he had saved the little German girl from the terrible fate that
had overtaken her family, and smiled at the misgivings they had had when
he refused to let her go with the friends who would have taken her.
This was all to be rejoiced over now.  No doubt the care and pains which
Norman had needed to bestow on his little adopted sister, had done much
to correct the native thoughtlessness of his character, and no doubt her
love and care would henceforth make the happiness of his life.  So they
said to one another with smiles, and not without grateful tears, in view
of the overruling love and care visible in all they had to remember of
one and all.

And Will, who seemed to be Graeme's own more than either of the other
brothers, because she had cared for him, and taught him, and watched
over him from the very first, she permitted herself to triumph a little
over him, in private with her friend, and Janet was nothing loth to hear
and triumph too, for in the lad his father lived again to her, and she
was not slow to believe in his sister's loving prophecy as to his
future.  Graeme could not conceal, indeed she did not try to conceal,
from her friend, how much she feared the parting from him, and though
Janet chid her for the tears that fell so fast, it was with a gentle
tenderness that only quickened their flow.

And now and then, in these long talks and frequent silence, Janet
fancied that she caught a glimpse of the cloud that had cast a shadow
over Graeme's life, but she was never sure.  It was not to be spoken
about, however, nothing could be clearer than that.

"For a cloud that can be blown away by a friend's word, will lift of
itself without help in a while.  And if it is no' a cloud of that kind,
the fewer words the better.  And time heals many a wound that the touch
of the kindest hand would hurt sorely.  And God is good."  But all this
was said in Janet's secret prayer.  Not even her husband shared her
thoughts about Graeme.

"What a dismal day it is!" said Fanny, as she stood at the window,
listening to the wind and watching the fall of the never-ceasing rain.

It was dismal.  It must have been a dismal day even in the country,
where the rain was falling on beautiful green things to their
refreshment; and in the city street, out upon which Fanny looked, it was
worse.  Now and then a milk cart, or a carriage with the curtains
closely drawn, went past; and now and then a foot passenger, doing
battle with the wind for the possession of his umbrella; but these did
not brighten the scene any.

It was dismal within doors, too, Fanny thought.  It was during the time
of Mr Snow and Will's first trip, and Arthur had gone away on business,
and was not expected home for a day or two, at least.  A household of
women is not necessarily a dismal affair, even on a rainy day, but a
household suddenly deprived of the male element, is apt to become so in
those circumstances, unless some domestic business supposed to be most
successfully accomplished at such a time is being carried on; and no
wonder that Fanny wandered from room to room, in an uncomfortable state
of mind.

Graeme and Rose were not uncomfortable.  Rose had a way of putting aside
difficult music to be practised on rainy days, and she was apt to become
so engrossed in her pleasant occupation, as to take little heed of what
was going on about her, and all Fanny's exclamations of discontent were
lost on her.  Graeme was writing letters in the back parlour, and Mrs
Snow was supposed to be taking her after-dinner's rest, up-stairs, but
she came into the room in time to hear Fanny exclaim petulantly,--

"And we were very foolish to have an early dinner.  That would have been
something to look forward to.  And no one can possibly call.  Even Mr
Green would be better than nobody--or even Charlie Millar."

"These gentlemen would be highly flattered if they heard you," said
Rose, laughing, as she rose to draw forward the arm-chair, to Mrs Snow.

"Are you not tired playing Rose," said Fanny, fretfully.

"By no means.  I hope my playing does not disturb you.  I think this
march is charming.  Come and try it."

"No, I thank you.  If the music does not disturb Mrs Snow, _I_ don't
mind it."

"I like it," said Mrs Snow.  "The music is cheerful this dull day.
Though I would like a song better."

"By and by you shall have a song.  I would just like to go over this two
or three times more."

"Two or three times!  Two or three hundred times, you mean," said Fanny.
"There's no end to Rose's playing when she begins."

Then she wandered into the back parlour again.

"Are you going to write all day, Graeme?"

"Not all day.  Has Mrs Snow come down?" asked she, coming forward.  "I
have been neglecting Harry lately, and I have so much to tell him, but
I'll soon be done now."

"My dear," said Mrs Snow, "dinna heed me; I have my knitting, and I
enjoy the music."

"Oh! dear!  I wish it didn't rain," said Fanny.

"My dear, the earth was needing it," said Mrs Snow, by way of saying
something, "and it will be beautiful when the rain is over."

"I believe Graeme likes a rainy day," said Fanny.  "It is very stupid, I
think."

"Yes, I sometimes like a rainy day.  It brings a little leisure, which
is agreeable."

Fanny shrugged her shoulders.

"It is rather dismal to-day, however," said Graeme.  "You look cold with
that light dress on, Fanny, why don't you go and change it?"

"What is the use?  I wish Arthur were coming home.  He might have come,
I'm sure."

"You may be sure he will not stay longer than he can help," said Graeme;
turning to her letter again.

"And my dear, might you no' take a seam?  It would pass the time, if it
did nothing else," said Mrs Snow.

But the suggestion was not noticed, and partly because she did not wish
to interfere, and partly because she had some curiosity to see how the
little lady would get out of her discomfort, Mrs Snow knitted on in
silence.

"Make something nice for tea," suggested Rose, glancing over her
shoulder.

"That is not necessary _now_," said Fanny, shortly.

"Oh!  I only suggested it for your sake--to pass the time," said Rose.

It lasted a good while longer.  It lasted till Graeme, catching Mrs
Snow's look, became suddenly aware that their old friend was thinking
her own thoughts about "Mrs Arthur."  She rose at once, and shutting
her desk, and going to the window where Fanny was standing, said with a
shiver:--

"It _is_ dismal, indeed.  Fanny, look at that melancholy cat.  She wants
to come in, but she is afraid to leave her present shelter.  Poor wee
pussy."

"Graeme, don't you wish Arthur were coming home," said Fanny, hanging
about her as she had a fashion of doing now and then.

"Yes, indeed.  But we must not tell him so.  It would make him vain if
he knew how much we missed him.  Go and change your dress, dear, and
we'll have a fire, and an early tea, and a nice little gossip in the
firelight, and then we won't miss him so much."

"Fire!" repeated Rose, looking disconsolately at the pretty ornaments of
the grate with which she had taken so much pains.  "Who ever heard of a
fire in a grate at this time of the year?"

But Rose was overruled.  They had a fire and an early tea, and then,
sitting in the firelight, they had a gossip, too; about many different
things.  Janet told them more than she had ever told them before, of how
she had "wearied for them" when they first left Merleville, and by and
by Rose said,--

"But that was all over when Sandy came."

"It was over before that, for his coming was long delayed, as you'll
mind yourselves.  I was quite content before that time, but of course it
was a great thing to me, the coming of my Sandy."

"Oh! how glad you must have been!" said Rose.  "I wish I had been there
to see.  Tell us what you said to him, and what he said to you."

"I dinna mind what I said to him, or if I said anything at all.  And he
just said, `Well, mother!' with his heartsome smile, and the shine of
tears in his bonny blue e'en," said Janet, with a laugh that might very
easily have changed to a sob; "and oh! bairns, if ever I carried a
thankful heart to a throne of grace, I did that night."

"And would you have known him?" asked Rose, gently.

"Oh! ay, would I.  No' but what he was much changed.  I wouldna have
_minded_ him, but I would have kenned him anywhere."

Janet sat silent with a moved face for a little, and then she went on.

"I had had many a thought about his coming, and I grew afraid as the
time drew near.  Either, I thought, he winna like my husband, or they
winna agree, or he will have forgotten me altogether, and winna find it
easy to call me his mother, or he'll disappoint me in some way, I
thought.  You see I had so set my heart on seeing him, that I was afraid
of myself, and it seemed to be more than I could hope that he should be
to me all that I desired.  But when he came, my fears were set at rest.
He is an honest, God fearing lad, my Sandy, and I need say nae mair
about him."

"And so clever, and handsome!  And what did Mr Snow say?"

"Oh! his heart was carried captive, from the very first, with Sandy's
heartsome, kindly ways.  It made me laugh to myself, many a time, to see
them together, and it made me greet whiles, as well.  All my fears were
rebuked, and it is the burden of my prayers from day to day, that I may
have a thankful heart."

"And how did Sandy like Merleville, and all the people?"

"Oh, he liked them well, you may be sure.  It would have been very
ungrateful if he had not, they made so much of him--Mr and Mrs
Greenleaf, especially, and the Merles, and plenty besides.  He made
himself very useful to Mr Greenleaf, in many ways, for he is a clever
lad, my Sandy.  It's on his business that he's West now.  But he'll soon
be home again."

"And Emily!  Tell us just what they said to each other at first, and
what they thought of each other."

"I canna do that, for I wasna there to hear.  Emily saw my Sandy before
I saw him myself, as you'll mind I told you before."

"And was it love at first sight?" asked Fanny.

"And did the course of true love for once run smooth," said Rose.  Mrs
Snow smiled at their eagerness.

"As for the love at first sight--it came very soon to my Sandy.  I am
no' sure about Emily.  As for its running smooth, there was a wee while
it was hindered.  They had their doubts and fears, as was natural, and
their misunderstandings.  But, oh! bairns, it was just wonderful to sit
by and look at them.  I saw their happy troubles coming on before they
saw it themselves, I think.  It was like a story out of a book, to watch
them; or like one of the songs folk used to sing when I was young--the
sweet old Scottish songs, that are passing out of mind now, I fear.  I
never saw the two together in our garden, but I thought of the song that
begins,--"

  "Ae simmer nicht when blobs o' dew,
  Garred ilka thing look bonny--"

"Ah!  Well, God has been good to them, and to us all."

"And Mr Snow was well pleased, of course," said Fanny.

"Pleased is hardly the word for it.  He had just set his heart on it
from the very first, and I had, whiles, much ado to keep him from
seeming to see things and to keep him from putting his hand to help them
a wee, which never does, you ken.  Folk must find out such things for
themselves, and the canniest hand may hinder, rather than help, with the
very best will.  Oh ay, he was well pleased."

"And it is so nice that they are to be so close beside you.  I daresay
we shall hardly know our old home, it will be so much improved."

"It is improved, but no' beyond your knowledge of it.  It was ay a bonny
place, you'll mind.  And it _is_ improved, doubtless, for her father
thinks there is nothing too good for Emily."

"And Oh! bairns, we have a reason to be thankful.  If we trust our
affairs in God's hand, He'll `bring it to pass,' as he has said.  And if
we are his, there is no' fear but the very best thing for us will happen
in the end."



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

"Who is is Mr Green, anyhow?"

The question was addressed by Mr Snow to the company generally, as he
paused in his leisurely walk up and down the gallery, and stood leaning
his elbow on the window, looking in upon them.  His manner might have
suggested the idea of some mystery in connection with the name he had
mentioned, so slowly and gravely did his eyes travel from one face to
another turned toward him.  As his question had been addressed to no one
in particular, no one answered for a minute.

"Who is Mr Green, that I hear tell so much about?" he repeated
impressively, fixing Will with his eye.

"Mr Green?  Oh! he is an American merchant from the West," said the
literal Will, not without a vague idea that the answer, though true and
comprehensive, would fail to convey to the inquiring mind of the deacon
all the information desired.

"He is a Green Mountain boy.  He is the most perfect specimen of a real
live Yankee ever encountered in these parts,--cool, sharp,
far-seeing,--"

Charlie Millar was the speaker, and he was brought up rather suddenly in
the midst of his descriptive eloquence by a sudden merry twinkle in the
eye of his principal listener; and his confusion was increased by a
touch from Rose's little hand, intended to remind him that real live
Yankees were not to be indiscreetly meddled with in the present company.

"Is that all you can say for your real live Yankee, Charlie, man?" said
Arthur, whose seat on the gallery permitted him to hear, but not to see,
all that was going on in the room.  "Why don't you add, he speculates,
he whittles, he chews tobacco, he is six feet two in his stockings, he
knows the market value of every article and object, animate and
inanimate, on the face of the earth, and is a living illustration of the
truth of the proverb, that the cents being cared for, no apprehension
need be entertained as to the safety of the dollars."

"And a living contradiction of all the stale old sayings about the
vanity of riches, and their inability to give even a transitory
content," said Charlie, with laughing defiance at Rose.

"Quite true, Charlie," said Arthur; "if Mr Green has ever had any
doubts about the almighty dollar being the `ultimate end,' he has nursed
or combated his doubts in secret.  Nothing has transpired to indicate
any such wavering of faith."

"Yes; it is his only standard of worth in all things material and
moral," said Charlie.  "When he enters a room, you can see by his look
that he is putting a price on all things in it--the carpet and
curtains--the books and pretty things--even the ladies--"

"Yes," continued Arthur; "if he were to come in here just now, it would
be--Mrs Snow worth so much--naming the sum; Miss Elliott so much more,
because she has on a silk gown; Mrs Elliott more still, because she is
somehow or other very spicy, indeed, to-night; he would appreciate
details that go beyond me!  As for Rosie, she would be the most valuable
of all, according to his estimate, because of the extraordinary shining
things on her head."

"The possibility of their being only imitations, might suggest itself,"
interposed Charlie.

"Yes, to be sure.  And imitation or not, they would indicate all the
same the young lady's love of finery, and suggest to his acute mind the
idea of danger to the purse of her future possessor.  No, Rosie wouldn't
have a chance with him.  You needn't frown, Rosie, you haven't.  Whether
it is the shining things on your head, or the new watch and chain, or
the general weakness in the matter of bonnets that has been developing
in your character lately, I can't say, but nothing can be plainer, than
the fact that hitherto you have failed to make the smallest impression
on him."

"A circumstance which cannot fail to give strength to the general
impression that he is made of cast iron," said Charlie.

"Arthur, I am shocked and astonished at you," said Rose, as soon as she
was permitted to speak.  "You have forgotten, Charlie, how kindly he
cared for your brother when he was sick, long ago.  And Harry says that
his hardness and selfishness is more in appearance, than real.  He has a
very kind heart."

"Oh! if you come to his heart, Miss Rose, I can't speak for that.  I
have never had an opportunity of satisfying myself as to that
particular.  I didn't know he had one, indeed, and should doubt it now,
if we had not Harry's authority and yours."

"You see, Rosie, when it comes to the discussion of hearts, Charlie gets
beyond his depth.  He has nothing to say."

"Especially tender hearts," said Charlie; "I have had a little
experience of a flinty article or two of that sort."

"Charlie, I won't have you two quarrelling," said Graeme, laughing.
"Rose is right.  There is just a grain or two of truth in what they have
been saying," she added, turning to Mr Snow.  "Mr Green is a real live
Yankee, with many valuable and excellent qualities.  A little hard
perhaps, a little worldly.  But you should hear him speak of his mother.
You would sympathise with him then, Charlie.  He told me all about his
mother, one evening that I met him at Grove House, I think.  He told me
about the old homestead, and his father's saw-mill, and the log
school-house; and his manner of speaking quite raised him, in my
opinion.  Arthur is wrong in saying he cares for nothing but money."

"But, who is he?" asked Mr Snow, with the air of one much interested;
His question was this time addressed to Fanny, who had seated herself on
the window seat close by her husband, and she replied eagerly,--

"Oh, he is a rich merchant--ever so rich.  He is going to give up
business, and travel in Europe."

"For the improvement of his mind," said Arthur.

"I don't know what he goes for, but he is very rich, and may do what he
likes.  He has built the handsomest house in the State, Miss Smith tells
me.  Oh! he is ever so rich, and he is a bachelor."

"I want to know?" said Mr Snow, accepting Fanny's triumphant climax, as
she gave it, with great gravity.

"He is a great friend of mine, and a great admirer of Miss Elliott,"
said Mrs Grove, with her lips intending that her face should say much
more.

"Do tell?" said Mr Snow.

"A singular and eccentric person you see he must be," said Will.

"A paradoxical specimen of a live Yankee.  Don't frown, Miss Rose.  Mrs
Grove's statement proves my assertion," said Charlie.

"If you would like to meet him, Mr Snow, dine with us on Friday," said
Mrs Grove.  "I am quite sure you will like and admire each other.  I
see many points of resemblance between you.  Well, then, I shall expect
you _all_.  Miss Elliott, you will not disappoint me, I hope."

"But so large a party!  Mrs Grove, consider how many there are of us,"
said Graeme, who knew as well as though she were speaking aloud, that
the lady was saying that same thing to herself, and that she was
speculating as to the necessity of enlarging the table.

"Pray, don't mention it.  We are to have no one else.  Quite a family
party.  I shall be quite disappointed if I don't see you all.  The
garden is looking beautifully now."

"And one more wouldn't make a bit of difference.  Miss Rose, can't you
speak a good word for me," whispered Charlie.

"Thank you," said Graeme, in answer to Mrs Grove.  "I have been longing
to show Mrs Snow your garden.  I hope the roses are not quite over."

"Oh, no!" said Arthur.  "There are any number left; and Charlie, man, be
sure and bring your flute to waken the echoes of the grove.  It will be
delightful by moonlight, won't it, Rosie?"

Mrs Grove gave a little start of surprise at the liberty taken by
Arthur.  "So unlike him," she thought.  Mr Millar's coming would make
the enlargement of the table absolutely necessary.  However, she might
ask one or two other people whom she ought to have asked before, "and
have it over," as she said.  So she smiled sweetly, and said,--

"Pray do, Mr Millar.  We shall expect you with the rest."

Charlie would be delighted, and said so.

"But the flute," added he to Rose.  "Well, for that agreeable fiction
your brother is responsible.  And a family party will be indeed
charming."

Dining at Grove House was not to any of them the pleasantest of affairs,
on those occasions when it was Mrs Grove's intention to distinguish
herself, and astonish other people, by what she called a state dinner.
Graeme, who was not apt to shirk unpleasant duties, made no secret of
her dislike to them, and caught at any excuse to absent herself with an
eagerness which Fanny declared to be anything but polite.  But, sitting
at table in full dress, among dull people, for an indefinite length of
time, for no good purpose that she had been able to discover, was a
sacrifice which neither Graeme nor any of the others felt inclined to
make often.

A dinner _en famille_, however, with the dining-room windows open, and
the prospect of a pleasant evening in the garden, was a very different
matter.  It was not merely endurable, it was delightful.  So Rose
arrayed herself in her pretty pink muslin, and then went to superintend
the toilette of Mrs Snow--that is, she went to arrange the folds of her
best black silk, and to insist on her wearing her prettiest cap--in a
state of pleasurable excitement that was infectious, and the whole party
set off in fine spirits.  Graeme and Rose exchanged doubtful glances as
they passed the dining-room windows.  There was an ominous display of
silver on the sideboard, and the enlargement of the table had been on an
extensive scale.

"If she has spoiled Janet's evening in the garden, by inviting a lot of
stupids, it will be too bad," whispered Rose.

It was not so bad as that, however.  Of the guests whose visits were to
be "put over," on this occasion, only Mr Proudfute, a very pleasant,
harmless gentleman, and Fanny's old admirer, Captain Starr, came.  As to
making it a state affair, and sitting two or three hours at table, such
a thing was not to be thought of.  Mr Snow could eat his dinner even in
the most unfavourable circumstances, in a tenth part of that time, and
so could Mr Green, for that matter; so within a reasonable period, the
ladies found themselves, not in the drawing-room, but on the lawn, and
the gentlemen soon followed.

It was the perfection of a summer evening, with neither dust nor insects
to be a drawback, with just wind enough to make tremulous the shadows on
the lawn, and to waft, from the garden above the house, the odours of a
thousand flowers.  The garden itself did not surpass, or even equal, in
beauty of arrangement, many of the gardens of the neighbourhood; but it
was very beautiful in the unaccustomed eyes of Mr and Mrs Snow, and it
was with their eyes that Graeme looked at it to-night.  They left the
others on the lawn, the gentlemen--some of them at least--smoking in the
shade of the great cedar, and Rose and Fanny making wreaths of the roses
the children were gathering for them.  The garden proper was behind the
house, and thither they bent their steps, Graeme inwardly congratulating
herself that she and Will were to have the pointing out of its beauties
to the friends all to themselves.  They did not need to be pointed out
to the keen, admiring eyes of Mr Snow.  Nothing escaped him, as he
walked slowly before them, looking over his shoulder now and then, to
remark on something that particularly interested him.  Mrs Snow's
gentle exclamations alone broke the silence for some time.  She lingered
with an interest, which to Graeme was quite pathetic, over flowers
familiar in her childhood, but strangers to her for many a year.

"It minds me of the Ebba Gardens," said she, after a little.  "Not that
it is like them, except for the flowers.  The Ebba Gardens were on a
level, not in terraces like this.  You winna mind the Ebba Gardens, Miss
Graeme."

They had reached by this time a summer-house, which commanded a view of
the whole garden, and of a beautiful stretch of country beyond, and here
they sat down to wait the coming of the others, whose voices they heard
below.

"No," said Graeme, "I was not at the Ebba often.  But I remember the
avenue, and the glimpse of the lake that comes so unexpectedly after the
first turning from the gate.  I am not sure whether I remember it, or
whether it is only fancy; but it must have been very beautiful."

"It is only fancy to you, I doubt, for we turned many a time after going
in at the gate, before the lake came in sight."

"Perhaps so.  But I don't think it can all be fancy.  I am sure I mind
the lake, with the swans sailing, on it, and the wee green islets, and
the branches of the birch trees drooping down into the water.  Don't you
mind?"

"Yes, I mind well.  It was a bonny place," said Janet, with a sigh.

"But, what a tiny lake it must have been!  I remember we could quite
well see the flowers on the other side.  It could not have been half so
large as Merleville Pond."

"It wasn't hardly worth while calling it a lake, was it?" said Mr Snow.

"It did for want of a bigger, you know," said Graeme, laughing.  "It
made up in beauty what it wanted in size."

"It was a bonny spot," said Mrs Snow.

"And the birds!  Whenever I want to imagine bird music in perfection, I
shut my eyes, and think of the birches drooping over the water.  I
wonder what birds they were that sang there?  I have never heard such
singing of birds since then."

"No, there are no such singing birds here," said Mrs Snow.  "I used to
miss the lark's song in the morning, and the evening voices of the
cushat and the blackbird.  There are no birds like them here."

"Ain't it just possible that the music may be fancy, too, Miss Graeme,"
said Mr Snow, who did not like to hear the regretful echo in his wife's
voice when she spoke of "home."  Graeme laughed, and Mrs Snow smiled,
for they both understood his feeling very well, and Mrs Snow said,--

"No, the music of the birds is no fancy, as you might know from Sandy.
There are no birds like them here; but I have learnt to distinguish many
a pleasant note among the American birds--not like our own linties at
home, but very sweet and cheerful notwithstanding."

"The birds were real birds, and the music was real music.  Oh!  I wonder
if I ever shall hear it again!" said Graeme, with a sigh.  "You will
hear it, Will, and see the dear old place.  Oh! how I wish you could
take me too."  Will smiled.

"I shall be glad to hear the birds and see the places again.  But I
don't remember the Ebba, or, indeed, any of the old places, except our
own house and garden, and your mother's cottage, Mrs Snow.  I mind the
last time we were there well."

"I mind it, too," said Mrs Snow, gravely.

"And yet, I should be almost sorry to go back again, lest I should have
my ideas disturbed by finding places and people different from what I
have been fancying them all this time.  All those old scenes are so many
lovely pictures to me, and it would be sad to go and find them less
lovely than they seem to me now.  I have read of such things," said
Graeme.

"I wouldna fear anything of that kind," said Mrs Snow; "I mind them all
so well."

"Do you ever think you would like to go back again?" said Will.  "Would
not you like to see the old faces and the old places once more?"

"No, lad," said Mrs Snow, emphatically.  "I have no wish ever to go
back."

"You are afraid of the sea?  But the steamers are very different from
the old `Steadfast'."

"I was not thinking of the sea, though I would dread that too.  But why
should I wish to go back?  There are two or three places I would like to
see the glen where my mother's cottage stood, and two or three graves.
And when I shut my eyes I can see them here.  No, I have no wish to go
back."

There was a moment's silence, and then Mrs Snow, turning her clear,
kind eyes on her husband, over whose face a wistful, expostulating look
was stealing, said,--

"I like to think about the dear faces, and the old places, sometimes,
and to speak about them with the bairns; it is both sad and pleasant now
and then.  But I am quite content with all things as they are.  I
wouldna go back, and I wouldna change my lot if I might.  I am quite
content."

Mr Snow smiled and nodded in his own peculiar fashion for reply.  There
could be no doubt of _his_ content, or Mrs Snow's either, Graeme
acknowledged, and then her thoughts went back to the time when Janet's
lot had been so different.  She thought of the husband of her youth, and
how long the grave had closed over him; she remembered her long years of
patient labour in the manse; the bitter home-sickness of the first
months in Merleville, and all the changes that had come since then.  And
yet, Janet was not changed.  She was the very same.  The qualities that
had made her invaluable to them all those years, made the happiness of
her husband and her home still, and after all the changes that life had
brought she was content.  No one could doubt that.  And Graeme asked
herself, would it ever be so with her?  Would she ever cease to regret
the irrevocable past and learn to grow happy in a new way?  She prayed
that it might be so.  She longed for the tranquil content of those old
days before her heart was startled from its girlhood's quiet.  How long
it seemed since she had been quite at peace with herself!  Would she
ever be so again?  It did not seem possible.  She tried in vain to fancy
herself among other scenes, with other hopes, and friends, and
interests.  And yet, here was Janet, not of a light or changeful nature;
how she had loved, and lost, and suffered!  And yet she had grown
content?

"What are you thinking about, Graeme?" said Will, who, as well as Mr
Snow, had been watching her troubled face, Graeme started.

"Oh! of a great many things.  I don't know why it should have come to my
mind just now, but I was thinking of a day in Merleville, long ago--an
Indian-summer day.  I remember walking about among the fallen leaves,
and looking over the pond to the hills beyond, wondering foolishly, I
suppose, about what the future might bring to us all.  How lovely it was
that day!"

"And then you came and stood within the gate, and hardly gave me a look
as I passed out.  I mind it, very well," said Mr Snow.

"I was not friends with you that day.  But how should you remember it?
How should you know it was that day, of which I was thinking?"

"I saw, by your face, you were thinking of old times, and of all the
changes that had come to you and yours; and it was on that day you first
heard of one of them.  That is how I came to think of it."

"And then you came into the house, and called me from the foot of the
stairs.  You werena well pleased with me, either, that day," said Mrs
Snow.

"Oh!  I was afraid; and you spoke to me of aunt Marian, and of our own
Menie, and how there might be sadder changes than even your going away.
Ah, me!  I don't think I have been quite at peace with myself since that
night."

"Miss Graeme! my dear," expostulated Mrs Snow.

"No, I have ay been afraid to find myself at peace.  But I am glad of
one thing, though I did not think that day it would ever make me glad.
Uncle Sampson, did I ever tell you--I am afraid I never did--how glad I
am now, that you were stronger than I was, and prevailed--in taking
Janet from us, I mean?"

She was standing behind him, so that he did not see her face.  He did
not turn round, or try to see it.  He looked towards his wife, with a
grave smile.

"I don't think you ever told me in words."

"No, because it is only a little while that I have been really glad; it
is only since your coming has made me sure she is happier--far happier
with you and Emily and Sandy, than ever we could make her now; almost as
happy as she deserves to be."

"I reckon, the happiness ain't all on one side of the house, by a great
deal," said Mr Snow, gravely.

"No, I know that--I am sure of that.  And I am glad--so glad, that it
reconciles me to the knowledge that we can never be quite the same to
her as we used to be, and that is saying much."

"Ain't you most afraid that it might hurt her to hear you say so?" said
Mr Snow, his eyes never leaving his wife's face.  They were quite alone
by this time.  Will had obeyed the call of the children, and was gone
away.

"No, I am not afraid.  She knows I would not hurt her willingly, by word
or deed, so you must let me say how very glad I am we lost her, for her
sake.  And when I remember all that she has lived through--all the
sorrow she has seen; knowing her steadfast, loving, heart, and how
little she is given to change, yet seeing her happy, and with power to
make others happy, it gives me courage to look into the future; it makes
me less afraid."

His eyes left his wife's face now, and turned, with a look of wonder, to
Graeme.

"What is it, dear?" he asked.  "Is there anything I may not know?"

"No.  Only I am glad for Janet's sake, and for yours, and for mine, too,
because--"

It would not have been easy to say more, and, besides, the others were
coming up the walk, and, partly because there were tears in her eyes,
and partly because she shrunk nervously from the excessive friendliness
with which it seemed to be Mrs Grove's intention on the occasion to
distinguish her, she turned, hoping to escape.  She did not succeed,
however, and stood still at the door, knowing very well what would be
Mrs Grove's first remark.

"Ah!  I see you have an eye for the beautiful."

She had heard her say it just as many times as she had stood with her on
that very beautiful spot; and she never expected to stand there without
hearing it, certainly not if, as on the present occasion, there were
strangers there too.  It was varied a little, this time.

"You see, Mr Green, Miss Elliott has an eye for the beautiful.  I knew
we should find her here, with her friends."

The rest was as usual.

"Observe how entirely different this is, from all the other views about
the place.  There is not a glimpse of the river, or of the mountains,
except that blue line of hills, very distant indeed.  The scene is quite
a pastoral one, you see.  Can you imagine anything more tranquil?  It
seems the very domain of silence and repose."

The last remark was not so effective as usual, because of the noise made
by Charlie Millar and Will, and the young Groves, as they ran along the
broad walk full in sight.

"It is a bonny, quiet place," said Mrs Snow.

"The garden is not seen at its best now," continued Mrs Grove.  "The
beauty of the spring flowers is over, and except the roses, we have not
many summer flowers; we make a better show later in the season."

"It looks first-rate," said Mr Snow.

"It costs a great deal of trouble and expense to keep it up as it ought
to be kept," continued Mrs Grove.  "I sometimes think it is not right
to spend so much time and money for what is a mere gratification to the
eye."

Mrs Grove was bent on being agreeable, to all present, and she thought
"the economical dodge" was as good as any, considering her audience.

"There is something in that," said Mr Snow, meditatively; "but a place
like this ought to be a great deal more than that, I think."

"Oh!  I expect it pays," said Mr Green.  "To people who are fond of
such things, I expect there is more pleasure to be got for the same
money from a garden than from 'most any other thing."

"To say nothing of the pleasure given to other folk--to one's friends,"
suggested Mrs Snow.

"I was calculating that, too," said Mr Green.  "The pleasure one's
friends get tells on one's own comfort; you feel better yourself, if the
folks about you feel well, especially if you have the doing of it.
_That_ pays."

"If we are travelling in the right road, the more we see of the
beautiful things God has made, the better and the happier we will be,"
said Mr Snow.  "It will pay in that way, I guess."

He turned an inquiring look on Mr Green, as he spoke, but that
gentleman, probably not being prepared to speak advisedly on the
subject, neither agreed nor dissented, and his eyes travelled on till
they rested on the face of his wife.

"Yes," said, she, softly, "the more we see of God's love and wisdom in
the beautiful things He has made, the more we shall love Him, and in
loving Him we shall grow like Him."

Mr Snow nodded.  Mr Green looked curiously from one to the other as
they spoke.

"I suppose we may expect something wonderful in the way of gardens and
pleasure-grounds, when you have completed your place, Mr Green," said
Mrs Grove, who did not care that the conversation should take a serious
turn on this occasion.  She flattered herself that she had already won
the confidence and admiration of Mr and Mrs Snow, by her
warmly-expressed sympathy with their "rather peculiar" views and
opinions.  Whether Mr Green would be so fortunate was questionable, so
she went on quickly,--

"Miss Elliott, Mr Green has been telling me about his place as we come
up the garden.  It must be very lovely, standing, as it does, on the
borders of one of those vast prairies that we all admire."

Thus appealed to, it was unpardonable in Graeme that she should respond
to the lady's admiring enthusiasm with only the doubtful assent implied
in a hesitating "Indeed;" but her enthusiasm was not to be damped.

"There must be something grand and elevating in the constant view of a
prairie.  It must tend to enlarge one's ideas, and satisfy one; don't
you think so, Miss Elliott?"

"I don't know," said Graeme, hesitatingly.  "For a place of residence, I
should suppose it might be a little dull, and unvaried."

"Of course, if there was nothing besides the prairie; but, with such a
residence as Mr Green's--I forget what style of architecture it is."

But Mr Green was not learned on the subject of architecture, and said
nothing about it.  He only knew that people called his house a very
handsome one, and that it had cost him a deal of money, and he said so,
emphatically, adding his serious doubts whether the investment would
"pay."

"Oh! you cannot tell yet," said Mrs Grove.  "That will depend
altogether on circumstances.  It is quite time that you were settling
down into a quiet family man.  You have been roaming about the world
quite long enough.  I don't at all approve of the European trip, unless,
indeed--"

She paused, and looked so exceedingly arch and wise, that Mr Green
looked a little puzzled and foolish by contrast, perhaps.

"Miss Elliott," continued Mrs Grove, bent on carrying out her laudable
intention of drawing Graeme into the conversation, "have you quite
decided on not accompanying your brother?"

"Accompanying Will?  Oh!  I have never for a moment thought of such a
thing.  The expense would put it quite out of the question, even if
there were no other reasons against it."

"Indeed, then I must have misunderstood you when I fancied I heard you
say how much you would like to go.  I thought you longed for a chance to
see Scotland again."

"I daresay you heard me say something of the kind.  I should like to
visit Scotland very much, and other countries, too.  And I intend to do
so when I have made my fortune," added she, laughing.

"Or, when some one has made it for you; that would do as well, would it
not?" asked Mrs Grove.

"Oh, yes! a great deal better.  When some one makes my fortune for me, I
shall visit Europe.  I think I may promise that."

"Have you ever been West, yet, Miss Elliott?  You spoke of going at one
time, I remember," said Mr Green.

"Never yet.  All my travelling has been done at the fireside.  I have
very much wished to visit my brother Norman.  I daresay Rose and I will
find ourselves there some day," added she, turning to Mr Snow.

"Unless we keep you in Merleville," said he, smiling.

"Oh! well, I am very willing to be kept there on certain conditions you
know."

"How do you suppose Fanny could ever do without you?" asked Mrs Grove,
reproachfully.

"Oh! she would miss us, I daresay.  But I don't think we are absolutely
necessary to her happiness."

"Of course, she will have to lose you one of these days.  We cannot
expect that you will devote yourself to your brothers always, I know."

"Especially as they don't stand in particular need of my devotion," said
Graeme stiffly, as she offered her arm to Mrs Snow.  "Let us walk,
again.  What can Will and the children be doing?  Something
extraordinary, if one may judge by the noise."

Mrs Grove rose to go with them, but lingered a moment behind to remark
to Mr Snow on the exceeding loveliness of Miss Elliott's disposition
and character, her great superiority to young ladies in general, and
especially on the devotion so apparent in all her intercourse with her
old friend.

"And with you, too," she added; "I scarcely can say which she honours
most, or on which she most relies for counsel."

"There," said she to herself, as she followed the others down the walk,
"I have given him an opening, if he only has the sense to use it.  One
can see what _he_ wants easily enough, and if he knows what is for his
advantage he will get the good word of his countryman, and he ought to
thank me for the chance."



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

Why Mrs Grove thought Mr Green might need an opening for anything he
had to say to Mr Snow did not appear, as he did not avail himself of
it.  It was Mr Snow who spoke first, after a short silence.

"Going to give up business and settle down.  Eh?"

"I have thought of it.  I don't believe I should enjoy life half as well
if I did, however."

"How much do you enjoy it now?" inquired Mr Snow.

"Well, not a great deal, that is a fact; but as well as folks generally
do, I reckon.  But, after all, I do believe to keep hard to work is
about as good a way as any to take comfort in the world."

Mr Green took a many-bladed knife from his pocket, and plucking a twig
from the root of a young cedar, began fashioning it into an instrument
slender and smooth.

"That is about the conclusion I have come to," repeated he; "and I
expect I will have to keep to work if I mean to get the good of life."

"There are a good many kinds of work to be done in the world," suggested
Mr Snow.

Mr Green gave him a glance curious and inquiring.

"Well, I suppose there are a good many ways of working in the world, but
it all comes to the same thing pretty much, I guess.  Folks work to get
a living, and then to accumulate property.  Some do it in a large way,
and some in a small way, but the end is the same."

"Suppose you should go to work to spend your money now?" suggested Mr
Snow, again.

"Well, I've done a little in that way, too, and I have about come to the
conclusion that that don't pay as well as the making of it, as far as
the comfort it gives.  I ain't a very rich man, not near so rich as
folks think; but I had got a kind of sick of doing the same thing all
the time, and so I thought I would try something else a spell.  So I
rather drew up, though I ain't out of business yet, by a great deal.  I
thought I would try and see if I could make a home, so I built.  But a
house ain't a home--not by a great sight.  I have got as handsome a
place as anybody need wish to have, but I would rather live in a hotel
any day than have the bother of it.  I don't more than half believe I
shall ever live there long at a time."

He paused, and whittled with great earnestness.

"It seems a kind of aggravating, now, don't it, when a man has worked
hard half his life and more to make property, that he shouldn't be able
to enjoy it when he has got it."

"What do you suppose is the reason?" asked Mr Snow, gravely, but with
rather a preoccupied air.  He was wondering how it was that Mr Green
should have been betrayed into giving his dreary confidences to a
comparative stranger.

"Well, I don't know," replied Mr Green, meditatively.  "I suppose, for
one thing, I have been so long in the mill that I can't get out of the
old jog easily.  I should have begun sooner, or have taken work and
pleasure by turns as I went along.  I don't take much comfort in what
seems to please most folks."

There was a pause; Mr Snow had nothing to say in reply, however, and in
a little Mr Green went on:

"I haven't any very near relations; cousins and cousin's children are
the nearest.  I have helped them some, and would rather do it than not,
and they are willing enough to be helped, but they don't seem very near
to me.  I enjoy well enough going to see them once in a while, but it
don't amount to much all they care about me; and, to tell the truth, it
ain't much I care about them.  If I had a family of my own, it would be
different.  Women folks and young folk enjoy spending money, and I
suppose I would have enjoyed seeing them do it.  But I have about come
to the conclusion that I should have seen to that long ago."

Without moving or turning his head, he gave his new friend a look out of
the corner of his eyes that it might have surprised him a little to see;
but Mr Snow saw nothing at the moment.  To wonder as to why this new
acquaintance should bestow his confidence on him, was succeeding a
feeling of pity for him--a desire to help him--and he was considering
the propriety of improving the opportunity given to drop a "word in
season" for his benefit.  Not that he had much confidence in his own
skill at this sort of thing.  It is to be feared the deacon looked on
this way of witnessing for the truth as a cross to be borne rather than
as a privilege to be enjoyed.  He was readier with good deeds than with
good words, and while he hesitated, Mr Green went on:

"How folks can hang round with nothing particular to do is what I can't
understand.  I never should get used to it, I know.  I've made
considerable property, and I expect I have enjoyed the making more than
I ever shall enjoy the spending of it."

"I shouldn't wonder if you had," said Mr Snow, gravely.

"I _have_ thought of going right slap into political life.  I might have
got into the Legislature, time and again; and I don't doubt but I might
find my way to Congress by spending something handsome.  That might be
as good a way to let off the steam as any.  When a man gets into
politics, he don't seem to mind much else.  He has got to drive right
through.  I don't know how well it pays."

"In the way of comfort, I'm afraid it _don't_ pay," said Mr Snow.

"I expect not.  I don't more than half think it would pay _me_.
Politics have got to be considerably mixed up in our country.  I don't
believe I should ever get to see my way clear to go all lengths; and I
don't believe it would amount to anything if I could.  Besides, if a man
expects to get very far along in _that_ road, he has got to take a fair
start in good season.  I learnt to read and cypher in the old log
school-house at home, and my mother taught me the catechism on Sunday
afternoons, and that is about all the book-learning I ever got.  I
shouldn't hardly have an even chance with some of those college-bred
chaps, though there are _some_ things I know as well as the best of
them, I reckon.  Have you ever been out West?"

"I was there once a good many years ago.  I had a great notion of going
to settle there when I was a young man.  I am glad I didn't, though."

"Money ain't to be made there anything like as fast as it used to be,"
said Mr Green.  "But there is chance enough, if a man has a head for
it.  I have seen some cool business done there at one time and another."

The chances in favour of Mr Snow's "word in season" were becoming
fewer, he saw plainly, as Mr Green wandered off from his
dissatisfaction to the varied remembrances of his business-life; so,
with a great effort, he said:

"Ain't it just possible that your property and the spending of it don't
satisfy you because it is not in the nature of such things to give
satisfaction?"

Mr Green turned and looked earnestly at him.

"Well, I have heard so, but I never believed it any more for hearing it
said.  The folks that say it oftenest don't act as if they believed it
themselves.  They try as hard for it as any one else, if they are to be
judged by their actions.  It is all right to say they believe it, I
suppose, because it is in the Bible, or something like it is."

"And you believe it, not because it is in the Bible, but because you are
learning, by your own experience, every day you live."

Mr Green whistled.

"Come, now; ain't that going it a little too strong?  I never said I
didn't expect to enjoy my property.  I enjoy it now, after a fashion.
If a man ain't going to enjoy his property, what is he to enjoy?"

"All that some people enjoy is the making of it.  You have done that,
you say.  There is less pleasure to be got from wealth, even in the most
favourable circumstances, than those who haven't got it believe.  They
who have it find that out, as you are doing.

"But I can fancy myself getting all the pleasure I want out of my
property, if only some things were different--if I had something else to
go with it.  Other folks seem to take the comfort out of theirs as they
go along."

"They seem to; but how can you be sure as to the enjoyment they really
have?  How many of your friends, do you suppose, suspect that you don't
get all the satisfaction out of yours that you seem to?  Do you suppose
the lady who was saying so much in praise of your fine place just now,
has any idea that it is only a weariness to you?"

"I was telling her so as we came along.  She says the reason I don't
enjoy it is because there is something else that I haven't got, that
ought to go along with it and I agreed with her there."

Again a furtive glance was sent towards Mr Snow's thoughtful face.  He
smiled and shook his head.

"Yes, it is something else you want.  It is always something else, and
ever will be till the end comes.  That something else, if it is ever
yours, will bring disappointment with it.  It will come as you don't
expect it or want it, or it will come too late.  There is no good
talking.  There is nothing in the world that it will do to make a
portion of."

Mr Green looked up at him with some curiosity and surprise.  This
sounded very much like what he used to hear in conference meeting long
ago, but he had an idea that such remarks were inappropriate out of
meeting, and he wondered a little what could be Mr Snow's motive for
speaking in that way just then.

"As to making a portion of it, I don't know about that; but I do know
that there is considerable to be got out of money.  What can't it get?
Or rather, I should say, what can be got without it?  I don't say that
they who have the most of it are always best off, because other things
come in to worry them, maybe; but the chances are in favour of the man
that has all he wants to spend.  You'll never deny that."

"That ain't just the way I would put it," said Mr Snow.  "I would say
that the man who expects his property to make him happy, will be
disappointed.  The amount he has got don't matter.  It ain't in it to
give happiness.  I know, partly because I have tried, and it has failed
me, and partly because I am told that `a man's life consisteth not in
the abundance of the things that he possesseth.'

"Well, now, if that is so, will you tell me why there ain't one man in
ten thousand who believes it, or at least who acts as if he believed it?
Why is all the world chasing after wealth, as if it were the one thing
for body and soul?  If money ain't worth having, why hasn't somebody
found it out, and set the world right about it before now?"

"As to money not being worth the having, I never said that.  What I say
is, that God never meant that mere wealth should make a man happy.  That
has been found out times without number; but as to setting the world
right about it, I expect that is one of the things that each man must
learn by experience.  Most folks do learn it after a while, in one way
or other."

"Well," said Mr Green, gravely, "you look as if you believed what you
say, and you look as if you enjoyed life pretty well too.  If it ain't
your property that makes you happy, what is it?"

"It ain't my property, _sartain_," said Mr Snow, with emphasis.  "I
know I shouldn't be any happier if I had twice as much.  And I am sure I
shouldn't be less happy if I hadn't half as much; my happiness rests on
a surer foundation than anything I have got."

He paused, casting about in his thoughts for just the right word to
say--something that might be as "a fire and a hammer" to the softening
and breaking of that world-hardened heart.

"He _does_ look as if he believed what he was saying," Mr Green was
thinking to himself.  "It is just possible he might give me a hint.  He
don't look like a man who don't practise as he preaches."  Aloud, he
said,--

"Come, now, go ahead.  What has cured one, may help another, you know.
Give us your idea as to what is a sure foundation for a man's
happiness."

Mr Snow looked gravely into his face and said,

"Blessed is the man who feareth the Lord."

"Blessed is the man whose trust the Lord is."

"Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is
covered."

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, in whose
spirit there is no guile."

Mr Green's eye fell before his earnest gaze.  It came into his mind
that if there was happiness to be found in the world, this man had found
it.  But it seemed a happiness very far-away from him--quite beyond his
reach--something that it would be impossible for him ever to find now.
The sound of his mother's voice, softly breaking the stillness of a
Sabbath afternoon, with some such words as these, came back to him, and
just for a moment he realised their unchangeable truth, and for that
moment he knew that his life had been a failure.  A pang of regret, a
longing for another chance, and a sense of the vanity of such a wish,
smote on his heart for an instant and then passed away.  He rose from
his seat, and moved a few paces down the walk, and when he came back he
did not sit down again.  His cedar twig was smoothed down at both ends
to the finest possible point, and after balancing it for a minute on his
forefingers, he tossed it over his shoulder, and shutting his knife with
a click, put it in his pocket before he spoke.

"Well, I don't know as I am much better off for that," said he,
discontentedly.  "I suppose you mean that I ought to get religion.  That
is no new idea.  I have heard _that_ every time I have gone to meeting
for the last thirty years, which hasn't been as often as it might have
been, but it has been often enough for all the good it has done me."  He
looked at Mr Snow as if he expected him to make some sort of a reply,
but he was silent.  He was thinking how vain any words of his would be
to convince him, or to show him a more excellent way.  He was thinking
of the old time, and of the talk wasted on him by the good people who
would fain have helped him.  At last he said, gravely:

"It wouldn't amount to much, all I could say to you, even if I was good
at talking, which I ain't.  I can only tell you that I never knew what
it was to be satisfied till I got religion, and I have never been
discontented since, and I don't believe I ever shall again, let what
will happen to me."

He paused a moment, and added,--

"I don't suppose anything I could say would help you to see things as I
wish you did, if I were to talk all night.  Talk always falls short of
the mark, unless the heart is prepared for it, and then the simplest
word is enough.  There are none better than the words I gave you a
minute ago; and when everything in the world seems to be failing you,
just you try what trust in the Lord will do."

Nothing more was said.  The sound of approaching footsteps warned them
that they were no longer alone, and in a little Mrs Elliott and Rose
were seen coming up the walk, followed by Arthur and Captain Starr.
They were discussing something that interested them greatly, and their
merry voices fell pleasantly on the ear.  Very pretty both young ladies
looked, crowned with the roses they had been weaving into wreaths.  The
grave look which had settled on Mr Green's face, passed away as he
watched their approach.

"Pretty creatures, both of them," remarked he.  "Mrs Elliott appears
well, don't she?  I never saw any one improve so much as she has done in
the last two years.  I used to think her--well not very superior."

"She is a pretty little thing, and good tempered, I think," said Mr
Snow, smiling.  "I shouldn't wonder if our folks made something of her,
after all.  She is in better keeping than she used to be, I guess."

"She used to be--well, a little of a flirt, and I don't believe she has
forgot all about it yet," said Mr Green, nodding in the direction of
Captain Starr, with a knowing look.  The possibility of a married
woman's amusing herself in that way was not among the subjects to which
Mr Snow had given his attention, so he had nothing to say in reply.

"And the other one--she understands a little of it, too, I guess."

"What, Rosie?  She is a child.  Graeme will teach her better than that.
She despises such things," said Mr Snow, warmly.

"She don't flirt any herself, does she?" asked Mr Green, coolly.  "Miss
Elliott, I mean."

Mr Snow turned on him astonished eyes.  "I don't know as I understand
what you mean by flirting.  I always supposed it was something wrong,
or, at least, something unbecoming in any woman, married or single.
Graeme ain't one of that sort."

Mr Green shrugged his shoulders incredulously.  "Oh! as to its being
wrong, and so forth, I don't know.  They all do it, I guess, in one way
or other.  I don't suppose Miss Graeme would go it so strong as that
little woman, but I guess she knows how."

The voice of Rose prevented Mr Snow's indignant reply.

"But, Arthur, you are not a disinterested judge.  Of course you would
admire Fanny's most, and as for Captain Starr, he is--"

"He is like the ass between two bundles of hay."

"Nonsense, Arthur.  Fanny, let us ask Mr Snow," said Rose, springing
forward, and slightly bending her head.  "Now, Uncle Sampson, which is
prettiest?  I'll leave the decision to you."

"Uncle Sampson" was a very pleasant sound in Mr Snow's ears, and never
more so, than when it came from the lips of Rose, and it was with a
loving as well as an admiring look that he answered--

"Well I can't say which is the prettiest.  You are both as pretty as you
need to be.  If you were as good as you are pretty!"

Rose pouted, impatient of the laughter which this speech excited.

"I mean our wreaths.  Look, mine is made of these dear little Scotch
roses, with here and there a moss-rose bud.  Fanny's, you see, are all
open roses, white and damask.  Now, which is the prettiest?"

She took her wreath from her head in her eagerness, and held it up,
admiringly.

"Yours ain't half so pretty as it was a minute ago.  I think, now, I
should admire Mrs Elliott's most," said Mr Green, gravely.

They both curtseyed to him.

"You see, Rosie, Mr Green has decided in my favour," said Fanny,
triumphantly.

"Yes, but not in favour of your wreath.  The others thought the same,
but I don't mind about that.  It is our wreaths I want to know about.
Let us ask Graeme."

But Graeme did not come alone.  The little Groves came with her, and
Will and Charlie followed, a rather noisy party.  The little girls were
delighted, and danced about, exclaiming at the beauty of the flowery
crowns; and in a little, Miss Victoria was wearing that of Rose, and
imitating the airs and graces of her elder sister in a way that must
have encouraged her mother's hopes as to her ultimate success in life.
The other begged piteously for Fanny's, but she was too well aware of
its charming effect on her own head to yield at once to her entreaties,
and, in the midst of the laughing confusion that accompanied the
carrying of the child's point, Graeme and Mrs Snow, who confessed
herself a little tired after her walk, entered the summer-house again.
Mrs Grove and Mr Proudfute entered with them, and the others disposed,
themselves in groups about the door.  Mr Green stood leaning on the
door-post looking in upon them.

"Miss Elliott," said Mr Proudfute, presently, "what has become of you
for a long time?  I have hardly seen you for years--for a year at
least--and we used to meet so often."  Graeme laughed.

"I have seen you a great many times within a year.  I am afraid my
society doesn't make the impression on you it ought.  Have you forgotten
your New Year's visit, and a visit or two besides, to say nothing of
chance meetings in the street and in the market?"

"Oh, but excuse me.  I mean we have not met in society.  You have been
making a hermit of yourself, which is not very kind or very
complimentary to your friends, I assure you."

"I am very glad to hear you say so," exclaimed Mrs Grove.  "That is a
subject on which Miss Elliott and I never agree--I mean the claims
society has upon her.  If she makes a hermit of herself, I assure you
she is not permitted to do so without remonstrance."

"Your ideas of a hermit's life differ from those generally held," said
Graeme, vexed at the personal turn of the conversation, and more vexed
still with Mrs Grove's interference.  "What does the ballad say?

  "`A scrip with fruits and herbs well stored,
  And water from the spring.'

"I am afraid a hermit's life would not suit me."

"Oh! of course, we are speaking of comparative seclusion," said Mrs
Grove.  "Still, as ladies are supposed to have a fancy for going to
extremes, Miss Elliott's taste for quietness is the most desirable
extreme of the two."

The remark was addressed to Mr Green, who was an interested listener,
but Mr Proudfute answered it.

"I am by no means sure of that, my dear madam.  I can understand how
those who have an opportunity of daily or frequent intercourse with Miss
Elliott should be content to think so; but that she should withdraw
herself altogether from society, should not be permitted.  What charming
parties, I remember, we used to enjoy."

"Mr Proudfute," said Graeme, gravely, "look at Mrs Snow's face.  You
are conveying to her the idea that, at one time, I was quite given up to
the pursuit of pleasure, and she is shocked, and no wonder.  Now, my own
impression is, that I was never very fond of going into society, as you
call it.  I certainly never met you more than two or three times--at
large parties, I mean."

Mr Proudfute bowed low.

"Well, that shows how profound was the impression which your society
made on me, for on looking back I uniformly associate you with all the
pleasant assemblies of the season.  You went with us to Beloeil, did you
not?"

Graeme shook her head.

"Well, no wonder I forget, it is so long ago, now.  You were at Mrs
Roxbury's great affair, were you not?  It happened not long before Mr
Elphinstone's death.  Yes, I remember you were there."

"Yes, I remember you were kind enough to point out to me the beauties of
that wonderful picture, in the little room up-stairs," said Graeme,
smiling.

"Yes, you were ill, or slightly unwell, I should say, for you recovered
immediately.  You were there, Mr Green, I remember.  It was a great
affair, given in honour of Miss Elphinstone and your friend Ruthven.
By-the-by, Miss Elliott, they lay themselves open to censure, as well as
you.  They rarely go out now, I hear."

"I am to be censured in good company, it seems," said Graeme, laughing.

"I suppose you see them often," continued he.  "You used to be quite
intimate with my pretty cousin--I call her cousin, though we are only
distantly connected.  She is a very nice little woman."

"Yes.  I believe you used to be very intimate with them both," said Mrs
Grove, "and there has hardly been any intercourse since Fanny's
marriage.  I have often wondered at and regretted it."

"Have you?" said Graeme, coldly.  "We have had little intercourse with
many old friends since then."

"Oh! yes, I daresay, but the Ruthvens are very different from most of
your old friends, and worth the keeping.  I must speak to Fanny about
it."

"We saw Miss Elphinstone often during the first winter after her return.
That was the winter that Mr Proudfute remembers as so gay," said
Graeme.  "Did I ever tell you about the beginning of Rosie's
acquaintance with her, long before that, when she wandered into the
garden and saw the gowans?"

"Yes, dear, you told me about it in a letter," said Mrs Snow.

"I never shall forget the first glimpse I got of that bunch of flowers,"
said Graeme, rather hurriedly.  "Rose has it yet among her treasures.
She must show it you."

But Mrs Grove did not care to hear about Rosie's flowers just then, and
rather perversely, as Graeme thought, reverted to the falling away of
their old intimacy with the Ruthvens, and to wonder at its cause; and
there was something in her tone that made Mrs Snow turn grave,
astonished eyes upon her, and helped Graeme to answer very quietly and
coldly to her remark:

"I can easily see how marriage would do something towards estranging
such warm friends, when only one of the parties are interested; but you
were very intimate with Mr Ruthven, as well, were you not?"

"Oh! yes; more so than with Miss Elphinstone.  Mr Ruthven is a very old
friend of ours.  We came over in the same ship together."

"I mind him well," interposed Mrs Snow; "a kindly, well-intentioned lad
he seemed to be.  Miss Rose, my dear, I doubt you shouldna be sitting
there, on the grass, with the dew falling, nor Mrs Arthur, either."

A movement was made to return to the house.

"Oh!  Janet," whispered Graeme, "I am afraid you are tired, mind as well
as body, after all this foolish talk."

"By no means, my dear.  It wouldna be very edifying for a continuance,
but once in a way it is enjoyable enough.  He seems a decent, harmless
body, that Mr Proudfute.  I wonder if he is any friend of Dr
Proudfute, of Knockie?"

"I don't know, indeed," said Graeme, laughing; "but if he is a great
man, or connected with great folk, I will ask him.  It will be an easy
way of giving him pleasure."

They did not make a long evening of it.  Mr Green was presented by Mrs
Grove with a book of plates, and Graeme was beguiled to a side-table to
admire them with him.  Mr Proudfute divided his attention between them
and the piano, to which Rose and Fanny had betaken themselves, till at
the suggestion of Mrs Grove, Arthur challenged him to a game of chess,
which lasted all the evening.  Mrs Grove devoted herself to Mrs Snow,
and surprised her by the significant glances she sent now and then in
the direction of Graeme and Mr Green; while Mr Grove got Mr Snow into
a corner, and enjoyed the satisfaction of pouring out his heart on the
harbour question to a new and interested auditor.

"Rose," said Fanny, as they sat together the next day after dinner,
"what do you think mamma said to me this morning?  Shall I tell you?"

"If it is anything particularly interesting you may," said Rose, in a
tone that implied a doubt.

"It was about you," said Fanny, nodding significantly.

"Well, the subject is interesting," said Rose, "whatever the remark
might be."

"What is it, Fanny?" said Arthur.  "Rose is really very anxious to know,
though she pretends to be so indifferent.  I daresay it was some
appropriate remark's on her flirtation with the gallant captain, last
night."

"Mamma didn't mention Captain Starr, but she said she had never noticed
before that Rose was so fond of admiration, and a little inclined to
flirt."

Rose reddened and bit her lips.

"I am much obliged to Mrs Grove, for her good opinion.  Were there any
other appropriate remarks?"

"Oh! yes; plenty more," said Fanny, laughing.  "I told mamma it was all
nonsense.  She used to say the same of me, and I reminded her of it.  I
told her we all looked upon Rose as a child, and that she had no idea of
flirting--and such things."

"I hope you did not do violence to your conscience when you said it,"
said Arthur, gravely.

"Of course not.  But still when I began to think about it, I could not
be quite sure."

"Set a thief to catch a thief," said her husband.

Fanny shook her finger at him.

"But it wasn't Captain Starr nor Charlie Millar mamma meant.  It was Mr
Green."

The cloud vanished from Rosie's face.  She laughed and clapped her
hands.  Her brothers laughed, too.

"Well done, Rosie," said Arthur.  "But from some manoeuvring I observed
last night, I was led to believe that Mrs Grove had other views for the
gentleman."

"So she had," said Fanny, eagerly.  "And she says Rose may spoil all if
she divides his attention.  It is just what a man of his years is likely
to do, mamma says, to fall in love with a young girl like Rosie, and
Graeme is so much more suitable.  But I told mamma Graeme would never
have him."

"Allow me to say, Fanny, that I think you might find some more suitable
subject for discussion with Mrs Grove," said Rose, indignantly.  Arthur
laughed.

"You ought to be very thankful for the kind interest taken in your
welfare, and for Graeme's, too.  I am sure Mr Green would be highly
flattered if he could be aware of the sensation he is creating among
us."

"Mr Green admires Graeme very much, he told mamma; and mamma says he
would have proposed to her, when he was here before, if it had not been
for Mr Ruthven.  You know he was very intimate here then, and everybody
said he and Graeme were engaged.  Mamma says it was a great pity he did
not.  It would have prevented the remarks of ill-natured people when Mr
Ruthven was married--about Graeme, I mean."

"It is be hoped no one will be ill-natured enough to repeat anything of
that sort in Graeme's hearing," said Arthur, very much annoyed.

"Oh! don't be alarmed.  Graeme is too well accustomed by this time, to
Mrs Grove's impertinences, to allow anything she says to trouble her,"
said Rose, with flashing eyes.

Mrs Snow's hand was laid softly on that of the young girl, who had
risen in her indignation.

"Sit down, my dear," she whispered.

"Nonsense, Rosie," said her brother; "there is nothing to be vexed
about.  How can you be so foolish?"

"Indeed," said Fanny, a little frightened at the excitement she had
raised, "mamma didn't mean anything that you wouldn't like.  She only
thought--"

"We had better say nothing more about it," said Arthur, interrupting
her.  "I dare say Graeme can manage her own affairs without help from
other people.  But there is nothing to be vexed about, Rosie.  Don't put
on a face like that about it, you foolish lassie."

"What is the matter here, good people?" said Graeme, entering at the
moment.  "What are you quarrelling about?  What ails Rosie?"

"Oh!  Mrs Grove has been giving her some good advice, which she don't
receive so meekly as she might," said Arthur.

"That is very ungrateful of you, Rosie," said her sister.  Mrs Grove's
interference didn't seem a sufficient matter to frown about.

"How is she now, my dear?" inquired Mrs Snow, by way of changing the
subject.

_She_ was Mrs Tilman, who had of late become subject to sudden attacks
of illness, "not dangerous, but severe," as she herself declared.  They
had become rather frequent, but as they generally came on at night, and
were over before morning, so that they did not specially interfere with
her work, they were not alarming to the rest of the household.  Indeed,
they seldom heard of them till they were over; for the considerate Mrs
Tilman was wont to insist to Sarah, that the ladies should not be
disturbed on her account.  But Sarah had become a little uncomfortable,
and had confessed as much to Graeme, and Graeme desired to be told the
next time she was ill, and so it happened that she was not present when
a subject so interesting to herself was discussed.

"Is Mrs Tilman ill again?" asked Fanny.  "How annoying!  She is not
very ill, I hope."

"No," said Graeme, quietly; "she will be better to-morrow."

That night, in the retirement of their chamber, Mr and Mrs Snow were
in no haste to begin, as was their custom, the comparing of notes over
the events of the day.  This was usually the way when anything not very
pleasant had occurred, or when anything had had been said that it was
not agreeable to recall.  It was Mr Snow who began the conversation.

"Well, what do you think of all that talk?" asked he, when his wife sat
down, after a rather protracted putting away of various articles in
boxes and drawers.

"Oh!  I think little of it--just what I have ay thought--that yon is a
meddlesome, short-sighted woman.  It is a pity her daughter hasna the
sense to see it."

"Oh!  I don't think the little thing meant any harm.  But Rosie flared
right up, didn't she?"

"I shouldna wonder but her conscience told her there was some truth in
the accusation--about her love of admiration, I mean.  But Mrs Arthur
is not the one that should throw stones at her for that, I'm thinking."

"But about Graeme!  She will never marry that man, will she?"

"He'll never ask her," said Mrs Snow, shortly.  "At least I think he
never will."

"Well, I don't know.  It looked a little like it, last night and come to
think of it, he talked a little like it, too."

"He is no' the man to ask any woman, till he is sure he will not ask in
vain.  He may, but I dinna think it."

"Well, perhaps not.  Of course, I could see last night, that it was all
fixed, their being together.  But I thought she stood it pretty well,
better than she would if she hadn't liked it."

"Hoot, man!  She thought nothing about it.  Her thoughts were far enough
from him, and his likes, and dislikes," said Mrs Snow, with a sigh.

"As a general thing, girls are quick enough to find out when a man cares
for them, and he showed it plainly to me.  I guess she mistrusts."

"No, a woman kens when a man his lost his heart to her.  He lets her see
it in many ways, when he has no thought of doing so.  But a woman is not
likely to know it, when a man without love wishes to marry her, till he
tells her in words.  And what heart has twenty years cheat'ry of his
fellow men left to yon man, that my bairn should waste a thought on a
worldling like him?"

Mr Snow was silent.  His wife's tone betrayed to him that something was
troubling her, or he would have ventured a word in his new friend's
defence.  Not that he was inclined to plead Mr Green's cause with
Graeme, but he could not help feeling a little compassion for him, and
he said:

"Well, I suppose I feel inclined to take his part, because he makes me
think of what I was myself once, and that not so long ago."

The look that Mrs Snow turned upon her husband was one of indignant
astonishment.

"Like you!  You dry stick!"

"Well, ain't he?  You used to think me a pretty hard case.  Now, didn't
you?"

"I'm no' going to tell you to-night what I used to think of you," said
his wife, more mildly.  "I never saw you on the day when you didna think
more of other folks' comfort than you thought of your own, and that
couldna be said of him, this many a year and day.  He is not a fit mate
for my bairn."

"Well--no, he ain't.  He ain't a Christian, and that is the first thing
she would consider.  But he ain't satisfied with himself, and if anybody
in the world could bring him to be what he ought to be, she is the one."
And he repeated the conversation that had taken place when they were
left alone in the summer-house.

"But being dissatisfied with himself, is very far from being a changed
man, and that work must be done by a greater than Graeme.  And besides,
if he were a changed man to-night, he is no' the man to win Miss
Graeme's heart, and he'll no ask her.  He is far more like to ask Rosie;
for I doubt she is not beyond leading him on for her own amusement."

"Oh!  Come now, ain't you a little too hard on Rosie," said Mr Snow,
expostulatingly.  He could not bear that his pet should be found fault
with.  "I call _that_ as cruel a thing as a woman can do, and Rosie
would never do it, I hope."

"Not with a conscious desire to give pain.  But she is a bonny creature,
and she is learning her own power, as they all do sooner or later; and
few make so good a use of such power as they might do;" and Mrs Snow
sighed.

"You don't think there is anything in what Mrs Grove said about Graeme
and her friend I have heard so much about?" asked Mr Snow, after a
pause.

"I dinna ken.  I would believe it none the readier that yon foolish
woman said it."

"She seems kind of down, though, these days, don't she?  She's graver
and quieter than she used to be," said Mr Snow, with some hesitation.
He was not sure how his remark would be taken.

"Oh! well, maybe.  She's older for one thing," said his wife, gravely.
"And she has her cares; some of them I see plainly enough, and some of
them, I daresay, she keeps out of sight.  But as for Allan Ruthven, it's
not for one woman to say of another that, she has given her heart
unsought.  And I am sure of her, that whatever befalls her, she is one
of those that need fear no evil."



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

"It is a wonder to me, Miss Graeme," said Mrs Snow, after one of their
long talks about old times--"it is a wonder to me, that minding
Merleville and all your friends there as well as you do, you should
never have thought it worth your while to come back and see us."

"Worth our while!" repeated Graeme.  "It was not indifference that
hindered us, you may be sure of that.  I wonder, myself, how it is we
have never gone back again.  When we first came here, how Will, and
Rosie, and I, used to plan and dream about it!  I may confess, now, how
very homesick we all were--how we longed for you.  But, at first, the
expense would have been something to consider, you know; and afterwards,
other things happened to prevent us.  We were very near going once or
twice."

"And when was that?" asked Mrs Snow, seemingly intent on her knitting,
but all the time aware that the old shadow was hovering over Graeme.
She did not answer immediately.

"Once was with Norman and Hilda.  Oh!  I did so long to go with them!  I
had almost made up my mind to go, and leave Rosie at home.  I was glad I
didn't, afterward."

"And why did you not?" demanded her friend.

"For one thing, we had been away a long time in the summer, and I did
not like to leave home again; Arthur did not encourage me to go.  It was
on the very night that Norman went away that Arthur told me of his
engagement."

"I daresay you did right to bide at home, then."

"Yes, I knew it was best, but that did not prevent me wishing very much
to go.  I had the greatest desire to go to you.  I had no one to speak
to.  I daresay it would not have seemed half so bad, if I could have
told you all about it."

"My dear, you had your sister."

"Yes, but Rosie was as bad as I was.  It seemed like the breaking up of
all things.  I know now, how wrong and foolish I was, but I could not
help being wretched then."

"It was a great change, certainly, and I dinna wonder that the prospect
startled you."

Mrs Snow spoke very quietly; she was anxious to hear more; and
forgetting her prudence in the pleasure it gave her to unburden her
heart to her friend, Graeme went on rapidly,--

"If it only had been any one else, I thought.  We didn't know Fanny very
well, then--hardly at all, indeed, and she seemed such a vain, frivolous
little thing, so different from what I thought Arthur's wife should be;
and I disliked her stepmother so much more than I ever disliked any one,
I think, except perhaps Mrs Page, when we first came to Merleville.  Do
you mind her first visit with Mrs Merle, Janet?"

"I mind it well," said Mrs Snow, smiling.  "She was no favourite of
mine.  I daresay I was too hard on her sometimes."

Graeme laughed at the remembrance of the "downsettings" which "the
smith's wife" had experienced at Janet's hands in those early days.  The
pause gave her time to think, and she hastened to turn the conversation
from Arthur and his marriage to Merleville and the old times.  Janet did
not try to hinder it, and answered her questions, and volunteered some
new items on the theme, but when there came a pause, she asked
quietly,--

"And when was the other time you thought of coming to see us all?"

"Oh! that was before, in the spring.  Arthur proposed that we should go
to Merleville, but we went to the seaside, you know.  It was on my
account; I was ill, and the doctor said the sea-breeze was what I
needed."

"The breezes among our hills would have been as good for you, I daresay.
I wonder you didn't come then."

"Oh!  I could not bear the thought of going then.  I was ill, and good
for nothing.  It would have been no pleasure for any one to see me then.
I think I should hardly have cared to go away anywhere, if Arthur had
not insisted, and the doctor too."

Unconsciously Graeme yielded to the impulse to say to her friend just
what was in her heart.

"But what ailed you?" asked Mrs Snow, looking up with astonished eyes,
that reminded Graeme there were some things that could not be told even
to her friend.

"What ailed you?" repeated Mrs Snow.

"I can't tell you.  An attack of the nerves, Nelly called it, and she
was partly right.  I was tired.  It was just after Will's long illness,
and Harry's going away, and other things."

"I daresay you were weary and sorrowful, too, and no wonder," said Mrs
Snow, tenderly.

"Yes, about Harry.  I was very anxious.  There were some doubts about
his going, for a while.  Mr Ruthven hesitated, and Harry chafed and
vexed himself and me, too, poor laddie; but we got through that time at
last," added Graeme, with a great sigh.

"Did Mr Ruthven ken of Harry's temptation?  Was it for that he
hesitated?" asked Mrs Snow.

"I cannot say.  Oh! yes, he knew, or he suspected.  But I don't think he
hesitated altogether because of that.  As soon as he knew that we were
quite willing--Arthur and I--he decided at once.  Mr Ruthven was very
kind and considerate through it all."

"Miss Graeme, my dear," said Mrs Snow, with some hesitation, "did you
ever think there was anything between your brother Harry and his
master's daughter--the young lady that Allan Ruthven married--or was it
only Sandy's fancy?"

Graeme's face grew white as she turned her startled eyes on her friend.

"Sandy!  Did he see it?  I did not think about it at the time; but
afterward I knew it, and, oh!  Janet, you cannot think how it added to
my wretchedness about Harry."

"My bairn!  There have been some rough bits on the road you have been
travelling.  No wonder your feet get weary, whiles."

Graeme rose, and, without speaking, came and laid her head upon her
friend's lap.  In a little she said,--

"How I longed for this place!  I had no one to speak to.  I used to
think you might have helped and comforted me a little."

She did not try to hide her tears; but they did not flow long.  Janet's
kind hand had not lost its old soothing power, and by and by Graeme
raised herself up, and, wiping away her tears, said, with a faint
smile,--

"And so Sandy saw poor Harry's secret?  I did not, at first.  I suppose
little Emily had sharpened his eyes to see such things, even then."

"Yes, Sandy saw it, and it was a great surprise to us all when there
came word of her marriage.  Sandy never thought of Allan Ruthven and his
cousin coming together."

Graeme rose and took her work again.  It was growing dark, and she
carried it to the window and bent over it.

"Was it for her money--or why was it?"

"Oh! no.  I never could think so.  She was a very sweet and lovely
creature; we loved her dearly, Rose and I.  They had been engaged a long
time, I believe, though the marriage was sudden at last.  That was
because of her father's illness.  He died soon after, you remember."

"Yes, I remember.  Well, I didna think that Allan Ruthven was one to let
the world get a firm grip of him.  But folk change.  I didna ken."

"Oh! no, it was not that," said Graeme, eagerly.  "Indeed, at that time
Mr Elphinstone's affairs were rather involved.  He had met with great
losses, Harry says, and Arthur thought that nothing but Mr Ruthven's
high character and great business talents could have saved the firm from
ruin.  Oh! no; it was not for money."

"Well, my dear, I am glad to hear you say it.  I am glad that Allan
Ruthven hasna changed.  I think you said he hasna changed?"

"At first I thought him changed, but afterwards I thought him just the
same."

"Maybe it was her that wanted the money?  If her father was in
trouble--"

"No, oh! no!  You could never have such a thought if you had ever seen
her face.  I don't know how it happened.  As all marriages happen, I
suppose.  It was very natural; but we won't speak about it."

"They seem to have forgotten their friends.  I think you said you seldom
see them now."

"We don't see them often.  They have been out of town a good deal, and
we have fallen a little out of acquaintance.  But we have done that with
many others; we have made so many new acquaintances since Arthur's
marriage--friends of Fanny's, you know; and, somehow, nothing seems
quite the same as it used to do.  If Mr Ruthven knew you were in town,
I am sure he would have been to see you before now."

"I am no' wearying to see him," said Mrs Snow, coldly.  "But, my dear,
is your work of more value than your eyes, that you are keeping at it in
the dark?"

Graeme laughed and laid it down, but did not leave the window, and soon
it grew so dark that she had no excuse for looking out.  So she began to
move about the room, busying herself with putting away her work, and the
books and papers that were scattered about.  Janet watched her silently.
The shadow was dark on her face, and her movements, as she displaced
and arranged and re-arranged the trifles on the table were quick and
restless.  When there seemed nothing more for her to do, she stood still
with an uneasy look on her face, as though she thought her friend were
watching her, and then moved to the other end of the room.

"My dear," said Mrs Snow, in a little, "how old are you now?"

Graeme laughed, and came and took her old seat.

"Oh!  Janet, you must not ask.  I have come to the point when ladies
don't like to answer that question, as you might very well know, if you
would stop to consider a minute."

"And what point may that be, if I may ask?"

"Oh! it is not to be told.  Do you know Fanny begins to shake her head
over me, and to call me an old maid."

"Ay! that is ay the way with these young wives," said Janet, scornfully.
"There must be near ten years between you and Rose."

"Yes, quite ten years, and she is almost a woman--past sixteen.  I _am_
growing old."

"What a wee white Rose she was, when she first fell to your care, dear.
Who would have thought then that she would ever have grown to be the
bonny creature she is to-day?"

"Is she not lovely?  And not vain or spoiled, though it would be no
wonder if she were, she is so much admired.  Do you mind what a cankered
wee fairy she used to be?"

"I mind well the patience that never wearied of her, even at the worst
of times," said Mrs Snow, laying her hand tenderly on Graeme's bowed
head.

"I was weary and impatient often.  What a long time it is since those
days, and yet it seems like yesterday."  And Graeme sighed.

"Were you sighing because so many of your years lie behind you, my
bairn?" said Mrs Snow, softly.

"No, rather because so many of them lie before me," said Graeme, slowly.
"Unless, indeed, they may have more to show than the years that are
past."

"We may all say that, dear," said Mrs Snow, gravely.  "None of us have
done all that we might have done.  But, my bairn, such dreary words are
not natural from young lips, and the years before you may be few.  You
may not have time to grow weary of them."

"That is true," said Graeme.  "And I ought not to grow weary, be they
many or few."

There was a long pause, broken at last by Graeme.

"Janet," said she, "do you think I could keep a school?"

"A school," repeated Mrs Snow.  "Oh, ay, I daresay you could, if you
put your mind to it.  What would binder you?  It would depend some on
what kind of a school it was, too, I daresay."

"You know, teaching is almost the only thing a woman can do to earn a
livelihood.  It is the only thing I could do.  I don't mean that I could
take charge of a school; I am afraid I am hardly fit for that.  But I
could teach classes.  I know French well, and music, and German a
little."

"My dear," said Mrs Snow, gravely, "what has put such a thought in your
head?  Have you spoken to your brother about it?  What does he say?"

"To Arthur?  No, I haven't spoken to him.  He wouldn't like the idea at
first, I suppose; but if it were best, he would reconcile himself to it
in time."

"You speak about getting your livelihood.  Is there any need for it?  I
mean, is there more need than there has been?  Is not your brother able,
and willing--"

"Oh! yes, it is not that I don't know.  Our expenses are greater than
they used to be--double, indeed.  But there is enough, I suppose.  It is
not that--at least it is not that only, or chiefly."

"What is it then, dear child?" asked her friend.

But Graeme could not answer at the moment.  There were many reasons why
she should not continue to live her present unsatisfying life, and yet
she did not know how to tell her friend.  They were all plain enough to
her, but some of them she could not put in words for the hearing of
Janet, even.  She had been saying to herself, all along, that it was
natural, and not wrong for her to grow tired of her useless, aimless
life, and to long for earnest, bracing work, such as many a woman she
could name was toiling bravely at.  But with Janet's kind hand on her
head, and her calm, clear eyes looking down upon her face, she was
constrained to acknowledge that, but for one thing, this restless
discontent might never have found her.  To herself she was willing to
confess it.  Long ago she had looked her sorrow in the face, and said,
"With God's help I can bear it."  She declared to herself that it was
well to be roused from sloth, even by a great sorrow, so that she could
find work to do.  But, that Janet should look upon her with pitying or
reproving eyes, she could not bear to think; so she sat at her feet,
having no power to open her lips, never thinking that by her silence,
and by the unquiet light in her downcast eyes, more was revealed to her
faithful old friend than spoken words could have told.

"What is it my dear?" said Mrs Snow.  "Is it pride or discontent, or is
it something worse?"  Graeme laughed a little bitterly.  "Can anything
be worse than these?"

"Is it that your brother is wearying of you?"

"No, no!  I could not do him the wrong to think that.  It would grieve
him to lose us, I know.  Even when he thought it was for my happiness to
go away, the thought of parting gave him pain."

"And you have more sense than to let the airs and nonsense of his
bairn-wife vex you?"

Graeme was silent a moment.  She did not care to enter upon the subject
of Arthur's wife just at this time.

"I don't think you quite understand Fanny, Janet," said she, hesitating.

"Weel, dear, maybe no.  The bairns that I have had to deal with have not
been of her kind.  I have had no experience of the like of her."

"But what I mean is that her faults are such as every one can see at a
glance, and she has many sweet and lovable qualities.  I love her
dearly.  And, Janet, I don't think it is quite kind in you to think that
I grudge Fanny her proper place in her own house.  I only wish that--"

"You only wish that she were as able to fill it with credit, as you are
willing to let her.  I wish that, too.  And I am very far from thinking
that you grudge her anything that she ought to have."

"Oh!  Janet," said Graeme, with a sigh, "I shall never be able to make
you understand."

"You might try, however.  You havena tried yet," said Janet, gently.
"It is not that you are growing too proud to eat bread of your brother's
winning, is it?"

"I don't think it is pride.  I know that Arthur considers that what
belongs to him belongs to us all.  But, even when that is true, it may
be better, for many reasons, that I should eat bread of my own winning
than of his.  Everybody has something to do in the world.  Even rich
ladies have their houses to keep, and their families to care for, and
the claims of society to satisfy, and all that.  An idle life like mine
is not natural nor right.  No wonder that I weary of it.  I ought not to
be idle."

"Idle!  I should lay that imputation at the door of anybody in the house
rather than at yours.  You used to be over fond of idle dreaming, but I
see none of it now.  You are ay busy at something."

"Yes, busy about something," repeated Graeme, a little scornfully.  "But
about things that might as well be left undone, or that another might do
as well."

"And I daresay some one could be found to do the work of the best and
the busiest of us, if we werena able to do it.  But that is no' to say
but we may be working to some purpose in the world for all that.  But it
is no' agreeable to do other folks' work, and let them get the wages,
I'll allow."

"Will said something like that to me once, and it is possible that I may
have some despicable feeling of that sort, since you and he seem to
think it," said Graeme, and her voice took a grieved and desponding
tone.

"My dear, I am bringing no such accusation against you.  I am only
saying that the like of that is not agreeable, and it is not profitable
to anybody concerned.  I daresay Mrs Arthur fancies that it is her, and
no' you that keeps the house in a state of perfection that it is a
pleasure to see.  She persuades her husband of it, at any rate."

"Fanny does not mean--she does not know much about it.  But that is one
more reason why I ought to go.  She ought to have the responsibility, as
well as to fancy that she has it; and they would get used to being
without us in time."

"Miss Graeme, my dear, I think I must have told you what your father
said to me after his first attack of illness, when he thought, maybe,
the end wasna far-away."

"About our all staying together while we could.  Yes, you told me."

"Yes, love, and how he trusted in you, that you would always be, to your
brothers and Rose, all that your mother would have been if she had been
spared; and how sure he was that you would ever think less of yourself
than of them.  My dear, it should not be a light thing that would make
you give up the trust your father left to you."

"But, Janet, it is so different now.  When we first came here, the
thought that my father wished us to keep together made me willing and
glad to stay, even when Arthur had to struggle hard to make the ends
meet.  I knew it was better for him and for Harry, as well as for us.
But it is different now.  Arthur has no need of us, and would soon
content himself without us, though he may think he would not; and it may
be years before this can be Will's home again.  It may never be his
home, nor Harry's either."

"My dear, it will be Harry's home, and Will's, too, while it is yours.
Their hearts will ay turn to it as home, and they wouldna do so if you
were only coming and going.  And as for Mr Arthur, Miss Graeme, I put
it to yourself, if he were left alone with that bonny, wee wife of his,
would his home be to him what it is now?  Would the companionship of yon
bairn suffice for his happiness?"

"It ought to do so.  A man's wife ought to be to him more than all the
rest of the world, when it is written, `A man shall leave all, and
cleave to his wife.'  Married people ought to suffice for one another."

"Well, it may be.  And if you were leaving your brother's house for a
house of your own, or if you were coming with us, as my husband seems to
have set his heart on, I would think it different.  Not that I am sure
of it myself, much as it would delight me to have you.  For your brother
needs you, and your bonny new sister needs you.  Have patience with her,
and with yourself, and you will make something of her in time.  She
loves you dearly, though she is not at all times very considerate of
you."

Graeme was silent.  What could she say after this, to prove that she
could not stay, that she must go away.  Where could she turn now?  She
rose with a sigh.

"It is growing dark.  I will get a light.  But, Janet, you must let me
say one thing.  You are not to think it is because of Fanny that I want
to go away.  At first, I was unhappy--I may say so, now that it is all
over.  It was less for myself and Rose than for Arthur.  I didn't think
Fanny good enough for him.  And then, everything was so different, for a
while it seemed impossible for me to stay.  Fanny was not so considerate
as she might have been, about our old friends, and about household
affairs, and about Nelly, and all that.  Arthur saw nothing, and Rosie
got vexed sometimes.  Will preached patience to us both; you know,
gentlemen cannot understand many things that may be vexatious to us; and
we were very uncomfortable for a while.  I don't think Fanny was so much
to blame; but her mother seemed to fancy that the new mistress of the
house was not to be allowed to have her place without a struggle.
Arthur saw nothing wrong.  It was laughable, and irritating, too,
sometimes, to see how blind he was.  But it was far better he did not.
I can see that now."

"Well, we went on in this way a while.  I daresay a good deal of it was
my fault.  I think I was patient and forbearing, and I am quite sure I
gave Fanny her own place from the very first.  But I was not cheerful,
partly because of the changes, and all these little things, and partly
for other reasons.  And I am not demonstrative in my friendliness, like
Rosie, you know.  Fanny soon came to be quite frank and nice with Rosie,
and, by and by, with me too.  And now, everything goes on just as it
ought with us.  There is no coldness between us, and you must not think
there is, or that it is because of Fanny I must go away."

She paused, and began to arrange the lamp.

"Never mind the light, dear, unless your work canna be left," said Mrs
Snow; and in a little Graeme came and sat down again.

"And about Fanny's not being good enough for Arthur," she went on.  "If
people really love one another, other things don't seem to make so much
difference.  Arthur is contented.  And Janet, I don't think I am
altogether selfish in my wish to go away.  It is not entirely for my own
sake.  I think it would be better, for them both to be left to each
other for a little while.  If Fanny has faults, it is better that Arthur
should know them for the sake of both--that he may learn to have
patience with them, and that she may learn to correct them.  It is
partly for them, as well as for Rose and me.  For myself, I must have a
change."

"You didna use to weary for changes.  What is the reason now?  You may
tell me, dear, surely.  There can be no reason that I may not know?"

Janet spoke softly, and laid her hand lovingly on that of Graeme.

"Oh!  I don't know: I cannot tell you," she cried, with a sudden
movement away from her friend.  "The very spirit of unrest seems to have
gotten possession of me.  I am tired doing nothing, I suppose.  I want
real earnest work to do, and have it I will."  She rose hastily, but sat
down again.

"And so you think you would like to keep a school?" said Mrs Snow,
quietly.

"Oh!  I don't know.  I only said that, because I did not know what else
I could do.  It would be work."

"Ay.  School-keeping is said to be hard work, and thankless, often.  And
I daresay it is no better than it is called.  But, my dear, if it is the
work you want, and not the wages, surely among the thousands of this
great town, you might find something to do, some work for the Lord, and
for his people.  Have you never thought about working in that way,
dear?"

Graeme had thought of it many a time.  Often had she grieved over the
neglected little ones, looking out upon her from narrow lanes and
alleys, with pale faces, and great hungry eyes.  Often had the fainting
hearts of toilers in the wretched places of the city been sustained and
comforted by her kind words and her alms-deeds.  There were many humble
dwellings within sight of her home, where her face came like sunlight,
and her voice like music.  But these were the pleasures of her life,
enjoyed in secret.  This was not the work that was to make her life
worthy, the work for God and man that was to fill the void in her life,
and still the pain in her heart.  So she only said, quietly,--

"It is not much that one can do.  And, indeed, I have little time that
is not occupied with something that cannot be neglected, though it can
hardly be called work.  I cannot tell you, but what with the little
things to be cared for at home, the visits to be made, and engagements
of one kind or other, little time is left.  I don't know how I could
make it otherwise.  My time is not at my own disposal."

Mrs Snow assented, and Graeme went on.

"I suppose I might do more of that sort of work--caring for poor people,
I mean, by joining societies, and getting myself put on committees, and
all that sort of thing, but I don't think I am suited for it, and there
are plenty who like it.  However, I daresay, that is a mere excuse.
Don't you mind, Janet, how Mrs Page used to labour with me about the
sewing meetings."

"Yes, I mind," said Mrs Snow, with the air of one who was thinking of
something else.  In a little she said, hesitatingly:

"Miss Graeme, my dear, you speak as though there were nothing between
living in your brother's house, and keeping a school.  Have you never
glanced at the possibility that sometime you may have a house of your
own to keep."

Graeme laughed.

"Will said that to me once.  Yes, I have thought about it.  But the
possibility is such a slight one, that it is hardly worth while to take
it into account in making plans for the future."

"And wherefore not?" demanded Mrs Snow.

"Wherefore not?" echoed Graeme.  "I can only say, that here I am at six
and twenty; and the probabilities as to marriage don't usually increase
with the years, after that.  Fanny's fears on my account have some
foundation.  Janet, do you mind the song foolish Jean used to sing?

  "`The lads that cast a glance at me
  I dinna care to see,
  And the lads that I would look at
  Winna look at me.'

"Well, dear, you mustna be angry though I say it, but you may be ower
ill to please.  I told you that before, you'll mind."

"Oh! yes, I mind.  But I convinced you of your error.  Indeed, I look
upon myself as an object for commiseration rather than blame; so you
mustna look cross, and you mustna look too pitiful either, for I am
going to prove to you and Fanny and all the rest that an old maid is, by
no means, an object of pity.  Quite the contrary."

"But, my dear, it seems strange-like, and not quite right for you to be
setting your face against what is plainly ordained as woman's lot.  It
is no' ay an easy or a pleasant one, as many a poor woman kens to her
sorrow; but--"

"But, Janet, you are mistaken.  I am not setting my face against
anything; but why should you blame me for what I canna help?  And,
besides, it is not ordained that every woman should marry.  They say
married-life is happier, and all that; but a woman may be happy and
useful, too, in a single life, even if the higher happiness be denied
her."

"But, my dear, what ailed you at him you sent away the other week--him
that Rosie was telling me of?"

"Rosie had little to do telling you anything of the kind.  Nothing
particular ailed me at him.  I liked him very well till--.  But we won't
speak of it."

"Was he not good enough?  He was a Christian man, and well off, and
well-looking.  What said your brother to your refusal?" persisted Janet.

"Oh! he said nothing.  What could he say?  He would have known nothing
about it if I had had my will.  A woman must decide these things for
herself.  I did what I thought right.  I could not have done otherwise."

"But, my love, you should consider--"

"Janet, I did consider.  I considered so long that I came very near
doing a wrong thing.  Because he was Arthur's friend, and because it
seems to be woman's lot, and in the common course of things, and because
I was restless and discontented, and not at peace with myself, and
nothing seemed to matter to me, I was very near saying `Yes,' and going
with him, though I cared no more for him than for half a dozen others
whom you have seen here.  What do you think of that for consideration?"

"That would have been a great wrong both to him and to yourself.  I
canna think you would ever be so sinful as to give the hand where the
heart is withheld.  But, my dear, you might mistake.  There are more
kinds of love than one; at least there are many manifestations of true
love; and, at your age, you are no' to expect to have your heart and
fancy taken utterly captive by any man.  You have too much sense for the
like of that."

"Have I?" said Graeme.  "I ought to have at my age."

It was growing quite dark--too dark for Mrs Snow to see Graeme's
troubled face; but she knew that it was troubled by the sound of her
voice, by the weary posture into which she drooped, and by many another
token.

"My dear," said her friend, earnestly, "the wild carrying away of the
fancy, that it is growing the fashion to call love, is not to be desired
at any age.  I am not denying that it comes in youth with great power
and sweetness, as it came to your father and mother, as I mind well, and
as you have heard yourself.  But it doesna always bring happiness.  The
Lord is kind, and cares for those who rush blindly to their fate; but to
many a one such wild captivity of heart is but the forerunner of bitter
pain, for which there is no help but just to `thole it,' as they say."

She paused a moment, but Graeme did not, by the movement of a finger,
indicate that she had anything to say in reply.

"Mutual respect, and the quiet esteem that one friend gives to another
who is worthy, is a far surer foundation for a lifetime of happiness to
those who have the fear of God before their eyes, and it is just
possible, my dear, that you may have been mistaken."

"It is just possible, and it is too late now, you see, Janet.  But I'll
keep all you have been saying in mind, and it may stand me in stead for
another time, you ken."

She spoke lightly, but there was in her voice an echo of bitterness and
pain that her friend could not bear to hear; and when she raised herself
up to go away, as though there were nothing more to be said, Janet laid
her hand lightly but firmly on her shoulder, and said,--

"My dear, you are not to be vexed with what I have said.  Do you think I
can have any wish but to see you useful and happy?  You surely dinna
doubt me, dear?"

"I am not vexed, Janet," said she.  "And who could I trust if I doubted
you?"

"And you are not to think that I am meaning any disrespect to your new
sister, if I say it is no wonder that I dinna find you quite content
here.  And when I think of the home that your mother made so happy, I
canna but wish to see you in a home of your own."

"But happiness is not the only thing to be desired in this world,"
Graeme forced herself to say.

"No, love, nor the chief thing--that is true," said Mrs Snow.

"And even if it were," continued Graeme, "there is more than one way to
look for happiness.  It seems to me the chances of happiness are not so
unequal in single and married-life as is generally supposed."

"You mayna be the best judge of that," said Mrs Snow, gravely.

"No, I suppose not," said Graeme, with a laugh.  "But I have no patience
with the nonsense that is talked about old maids.  Why! it seems to be
thought if a woman reaches thirty, still single, she has failed in life,
she has missed the end of her creation, as it were; and by and by people
begin to look upon her as an object of pity, not to say of contempt.  In
this very room I have heard shallow men and women speak in that way of
some who are doing a worthy work for God and man in the world."

"My dear, it is the way with shallow men and women to put things in the
wrong places.  Why should you be surprised at that?"

"But, Janet, more do it than these people.  Don't you mind, the other
day, when Mrs Grove was repeating that absurd story about Miss Lester,
and I said to her that I did not believe Miss Lester would marry the
best man on the face of the earth, you said in a way that turned the
laugh against me, that you doubted the best man on the face of the earth
wasna in her offer."

"But, Miss Graeme, I meant no reflection on your friend, though I said
that.  I saw by the shining of your eyes, and the colour on your cheek,
that you were in earnest, and I thought it a pity to waste good earnest
words on yon shallow woman."

"Well," said Graeme, with a long breath, "you left the impression on her
mind that you thought her right and me wrong."

"That is but a small matter.  And, my dear, I am no' sure, and you canna
be sure either, that Mrs Grove was altogether wrong.  If, in her youth,
some good man--not to say the best man on the face of the earth--had
offered love to your friend, are you sure she would have refused him?"

"There!--that is just what I dislike so much.  That is just what Mrs
Grove was hinting with regard to Miss Lester.  If a woman lives single,
it is from necessity--according to the judgment of a discriminating and
charitable world.  I _know_ that is not the case with regard to Miss
Lester.  But even if it were, if no man had ever graciously signified
his approbation of her--if she were an old maid from dire necessity--
does it follow that she has lost her chance in life?--that life has been
to her a failure?

"If she has failed in life; so do God's angels.  Janet, if I could only
tell you half that she has done!  I am not intimate with her, but I have
many ways of knowing about her.  If you could know all that she has done
for her family!  She was the eldest daughter, and her mother was a very
delicate, nervous woman, and the charge of the younger children fell to
her when she was quite a girl.  Then when her father failed, she opened
a school and the whole family depended on her.  She helped her sisters
till they married, and liberally educated her younger brothers, and now
she is bringing up the four children of one of them who died young.  Her
father was bedridden for several years before he died, and he lived in
her home, and she watched over him, and cared for him, though she had
her school.  And she has prepared many a young girl for a life of
usefulness, who but for her might have been neglected or lost.  Half of
the good she has done in this way will never be known on earth.  And to
hear women who are not worthy to tie her shoe, passing their patronising
or their disparaging remarks upon her!  It incenses me!"

"My dear, I thought you were past being incensed at anything yon shallow
woman can say."

"But she is not the only one.  Even Arthur sometimes provokes me.
Because she has by her laborious profession made herself independent, he
jestingly talks about her bank stock, and about her being a good
speculation for some needy old gentleman.  And because that beautiful,
soft grey hair of hers will curl about her pale face, it is hinted that
she makes the most of her remaining attractions, and would be nothing
loth.  It is despicable."

"But, my dear, it would be no discredit to her if it were proved that
she would marry.  She has a young face yet, though her hair is grey, and
she may have many years before her.  Why should she not marry?"

"Don't speak of it," said Graeme, with great impatience; "and yet, as
you say, why should she not?  But that is not the question.  What I
declare is, that her single life has been an honourable and an honoured
one--and a happy one too.  Who can doubt it?  There is no married woman
of my acquaintance whose life will compare with here.  And the high
place she will get in heaven, will be for no work she will do as Mrs
Dale, though she were to marry the Reverend Doctor to-night, but for the
blessed success that God has given her in her work as a single woman."

"I believe you, dear," said Mrs Snow, warmly.

"And she is not the only one I could name," continued Graeme.  "She is
my favourite example, because her position and talents, her earnest
nature and her piety, make her work a wonderful one.  But I know many,
and have heard of more, who in a quiet, unobtrusive way are doing a
work, not so great as to results, but as true and holy.  Some of them
are doing it as aunts or maiden sisters; some as teachers; some are only
humble needlewomen; some are servants in other people's kitchens or
nurseries--women who would be spoken of by the pitying or slighting name
of `old maid,' who are yet more worthy of respect for the work they are
doing, and for the influence they are exerting, than many a married
woman in her sphere.  Why should such a woman be pitied or despised, I
wonder?"

"Miss Graeme, you look as though you thought I was among the pitiers and
despisers of such women, and you are wrong.  Every word you say in their
praise and honour is truth, and canna be gainsaid.  But that doesna
prove what you began with, that the chances of happiness in married and
single life are equal."

"It goes far to prove it--the chances of usefulness, at any rate."

"No, my dear, because I dare say, on the other hand, many could be told
of who fail to do their work in single life, and who fail to get
happiness in it as well.  Put the one class over against the other, and
then consider the many, many women who marry for no other reason than
from the fear of living single, it will go far to account for the many
unhappy marriages that we see, and far to prove that marriage is the
natural and proper expectation of woman, and that in a sense she _does_
fail in life, who falls short of that.  In a certain sense, I say."

"But it does not follow from that that she is thenceforth to be an
object of pity or derision, a spectacle to men and angels!"

"Whist, my dear; no, that doesna follow of necessity.  That depends on
herself somewhat, though not altogether, and there are too many single
women who make spectacles of themselves in one way or other.  But, my
dear, what I say is this: As the world is, it is no easy thing for a
woman to warstle through it alone, and the help she needs she can get
better from her husband than from any other friend.  And though it is a
single woman's duty to take her lot and make the best of it, with God's
help, it is no' to be denied, that it is not the lot a woman would
choose.  My saying it doesna make it true, but ask you the women to whom
you justly give so high a place, how it was with them.  Was it their own
free choice that put them where they are?  If they speak the truth, they
will say `No.'  Either no man asked them--though that is rare--or else
in youth they have had their work laid ready to their hands.  They had a
father and mother, or brothers and sisters, that they could not forsake
for a stranger.  Or they gave their love unsought, and had none to give
when it was asked.  Or they fell out with their lovers, or another wiled
them away, or death divided them.  Sometimes a woman's life passes
quietly and busily away, with no thoughts of the future, till one day
she wakes up with a great start of surprise and pain, to the knowledge
that her youth is past--that she is an `old maid.'  And if a chance
offer comes then, ten to one but she shuts her eyes, and lays hold on
the hand that is held out to her--so feared is she of the solitary life
before her."

"And," said Graeme, in a low voice, "God is good to her if she has not a
sadder wakening soon."

"It is possible, my dear, but it proves the truth of what I was saying,
all the same; that it is seldom by a woman's free choice that she finds
herself alone in life.  Sometimes, but not often, a woman sits down and
counts the cost, and chooses a solitary path.  It is not every wise man
that can discern a strong and beautiful spirit, if it has its home in an
unlovely form, and many such are passed by with a slighting look, or are
never seen at all.  It is possible that such a woman may have the sense
to see, that a solitary life is happiness compared with the pain and
shame a true woman must feel in having to look down upon her husband;
and so when the wise and the worthy pass by, she turns her eyes from all
others, and says to herself and to the world, with what heart she may,
that she has no need of help.  But does that end the pain?  Does it make
her strong to say it?  May not the slight implied in being overlooked
rankle in her heart till it is changed and hardened?  I am afraid the
many single women we see and hear of, who live to themselves, giving no
sympathy and seeking none, proves it past all denying.  My dear, folk
may say what they like about woman's sphere and woman's mission--and
great nonsense they have spoken of late--but every true woman kens well
that her right sphere is a home of her own, and that her mission is to
find her happiness in the happiness of her husband and children.  There
are exceptional cases, no doubt, but that is the law of nature.  Though
why I should be saying all this to you, Miss Graeme, my dear, is mair
than I ken."

There was a long silence after this.  Mrs Snow knew well that Graeme
sat without reply because she would not have the conversation come back
to her, or to home affairs, again.  But her friend had something more to
say, and though her heart ached for the pain she might give, she could
not leave it unsaid.

"We were speaking about your friend and the work she has been honoured
to do.  It is a great work, and she is a noble woman.  God bless her!
And, dear, though I dinna like the thought of your leaving your
brother's house, it is not because I dinna think that you might put your
hand to the same work with the same success.  I am sure you could do, in
that way, a good work for God and man.  It is partly that I am shy of
new schemes, and partly because I am sure the restlessness that is
urging you to it will pass away; but it is chiefly because I think you
have good and holy work laid to your hand already.  Whatever you may
think now, dear, they are far better and happier here at home, and will
be all their lives, because of you.

"I'm no' saying but you might go away for a wee while.  The change would
do you good.  You will come with us, or you will follow after, if you
like it better; and then you might take your sister, and go and see your
brother Norman, and your wee nephew, as we spoke of the other day.  But
this is your home, love, and here lies your work, believe me.  And, my
bairn, the restless fever of your heart will pass away; not so soon,
maybe, as if it had come upon you earlier in life, or as if you were of
a lighter nature.  But it will pass.  Whist! my darling," for Graeme had
risen with a gesture of entreaty or denial.  "Whist, love; I am not
asking about its coming or its causes.  I am only bidding you have
patience till it pass away."

Graeme sat down again without a word.  They sat a long time quite
silent, and when Graeme spoke, it was to wonder that Arthur and the
others were not come home.

"They must have gone to the lecture, after all, but that must be over by
this time.  They will be as hungry as hawks.  I must go and speak to
Sarah."

And she went away, saying sadly and a little bitterly to herself, that
the friend on whose kindness and counsel she had relied, had failed her
in her time of need.

"But I must go all the same.  I cannot stay to die by slow degrees, of
sloth, or weariness, or discontent, whichever it may be.  Oh me!  And I
thought the worst was past, and Janet says it will never be quite past,
till I am grown old."

And Janet sat with reverent, half-averted eyes, seeing the sorrow, that
in trying to hide, the child of her love had so plainly revealed.  She
knew that words are powerless to help the soreness of such wounds, and
yet she chid herself that she had so failed to comfort her.  She knew
that Graeme had come to her in the vague hope for help and counsel, and
that she was saying now to herself that her friend had failed her.

"For, what could I say?  I couldna bid her go.  What good would that do,
when she carries her care with her?  And it is not for the like of her
to vex her heart out with bairns, keeping at a school.  I ken her better
than she kens herself.  Oh! but it is sad to think that the best comfort
I can give her, is to look the other way, and not seem to see.  Well,
there is One she winna seek to hide her trouble from, and He can comfort
her."



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

The only event of importance that occurred before Mrs Snow went away,
was the return of Nelly.  She came in upon them one morning, as they sat
together in the breakfast-room, with more shamefacedness than could be
easily accounted for at the first moment.  And then she told them she
was married.  Her sudden departure had been the means of bringing Mr
Stirling to a knowledge of his own mind on the matter of wedlock, and he
had followed her to her sister's, and "married her out of hand."  Of
course, she was properly congratulated by them all, but Rose was
inclined to be indignant.

"You promised that I was to be bridesmaid, and I think it is quite too
bad that you should disappoint me," said she.

"Yes, I know I promised, but it was with a long prospect of waiting.  I
thought your own turn might come first, Miss Rose, He didna seem in a
hurry about it.  But his leisure was over when I was fairly away out of
reach.  So he came after me to my sister's, and nothing would do, but
back I must go with him.  He couldna see what difference a month or two
could make in a thing that was to be for a lifetime; and my sister and
the rest up there--they sided with him.  And there was reason in it, I
couldna deny; so we just went down to the manse one morning, and had it
over, and me with this very gown on, not my best by two or three.  He
made small count of any preparations; so you see, Miss Rose, I couldna
well help myself; and I hope it will all be for the best."

They all hoped that, and, indeed, it was not to be doubted.  But, though
congratulating Mrs Stirling heartily, Graeme was greatly disappointed
for themselves.  She had been looking forward to the time when, Mrs
Tilman's temporary service over, they should have Nelly back in her old
place again; but the best must be made of it now, and Nelly's pleasure
must not be marred by a suspicion of her discontent.  So she entered,
with almost as much eagerness as Rose, into a discussion of the plans of
the newly married pair.

"And is the market garden secured?" asked she.  "Or is that to come
later?"

"It will not be for a while yet.  He is to stay where he is for the
present.  You will have heard that Mr Ruthven and his family are going
home for a while, and we are to stay in the house.  I am to have the
charge.  It will be something coming in through my own hands, which will
be agreeable to me," added the prudent and independent Nelly.

The meeting of Mrs Snow and Mrs Stirling was a great pleasure to them
both.  They had much to say to one another before the time of Mrs
Snow's departure came, and she heard many things about the young people,
their way of life, their love to each other, and their forbearance with
Fanny and her friends, which she would never have heard from them.  She
came to have a great respect for Mrs Stirling's sense and judgment, as
well as for her devotion to the interests of the young people.  One of
the few expeditions undertaken by her was to choose a wedding present
for the bride, and Rose had the satisfaction of helping her to decide
upon a set of spoons, useful and beautiful at the same time; and "good
property to have," as Mr Snow justly remarked, whether they used them
or not.

The day of departure came at last.  Will, Graeme, and Rose went with
them over the river, and Fanny would have liked to go, too, but she had
an engagement with Mrs Grove, and was obliged to stay at home.  Arthur
was to be at the boat to see them on, if it could be managed, but that
was doubtful, so he bade them good-bye in the morning before he went
away.  There was a crowd, as usual, on the boat, and Graeme made haste
to get a seat with Mrs Snow, in a quiet corner out of the way.

"Look, Graeme," said Rose.  "There is Mr Proudfute, and there are the
Roxburys, and ever so many more people.  And there is Mr Ruthven.  I
wonder if they are going away to-day."

"I don't know.  Don't let us get into the crowd," said Graeme, rather
hurriedly.  "We shall lose the good of the last minutes.  Stay here a
moment, Will, and see whether Arthur comes.  I will find a seat for Mrs
Snow.  Let us get out of the crowd."

It was not easy to do, however, and they were obliged to pass quite
close by the party towards which Rose had been looking, and which Graeme
had intended to avoid.

"Who is that pretty creature with the child on her lap?" asked Mrs
Snow, with much interest.  "You bowed to her, I think."

"Yes.  That is Mrs Ruthven.  I suppose they are going away to-day.  I
should like to say good-bye to her, but there are so many people with
her, and I am not sure that she knew me, though she bowed.  Ah! she has
seen Rosie.  They are coming over here."

She rose and went to meet them as they came near.

"You have never seen my baby," said Mrs Ruthven, eagerly.  "And I want
to see Mrs Snow."

Graeme took the little creature in her arms.

"No, we were unfortunate in finding you out when we called, more than
once--and now you are going away."

"Yes, we are going away for a little while.  I am so glad we have met
to-day.  I only heard the other day that Mrs Snow had come, and I have
not been quite strong, and they would not let me move about, I am so
very glad to see you," added she, as she took Janet's hand.  "I have
heard your name so often, that I seem to know you well."

Mrs Snow looked with great interest on the lovely, delicate face, that
smiled so sweetly up into hers.

"I have heard about you, too," said she, gravely.  "And I am very glad
that we chanced to meet to-day.  And you are going home to Scotland?"

"Yes, for a little while.  I have not been quite well, and the doctor
advises the voyage, but we shall be home again before winter, I hope, or
at the latest, in the spring."

There was not time for many words.  Arthur came at the last minute, and
with him Charlie Millar.  He held out his arms for the baby, but she
would not look at him, and clung to Graeme, who clasped her softly.

"She has discrimination, you see," said Charlie.  "She knows who is best
and wisest."

"She is very like what Rosie was at her age," said Mrs Snow.  "Don't
you mind, Miss Graeme?"

"Do you hear that, baby!" said Charlie.  "Take heart.  The wee white
Lily may be a blooming rose, yet--who knows?"

"You have changed," said Mrs Snow, as Mr Ruthven came up to her with
Will.

"Yes, I have changed; and not for the better, I fear," said he, gravely.

"I do not say that--though the world and it's ways do not often change a
man for the better.  Keep it out of your heart."

There was only time for a word or two, and Graeme would not lose the
last minutes with their friend.  So she drew her away, and turned her
face from them all.

"Oh, Janet!  Must you go?  Oh! if we only could go with you!  But that
is not what I meant to say.  I am so glad you have been here.  If you
only knew how much good you have done me!"

"Have I?  Well, I am glad if I have.  And my dear, you are soon to
follow us, you ken; and it will do you good to get back for a little
while to the old place, and the old ways.  God has been very good to you
all."

"Yes, and Janet, you are not to think me altogether unthankful.  Forget
all the discontented foolish things I have said.  God _has_ been very
good to us all."

"Yes, love, and you must take heart, and trust Him.  And you must watch
over your sister, your sisters, I should say.  And Rose, dear, you are
never to go against your sister's judgment in anything.  And my bairns,
dinna let the pleasant life you are living make you forget another life.
God be with you."

Mr Snow and Will made a screen between them and the crowd, and Janet
kissed and blessed them with a full heart.  There were only a few
confused moments after that, and then the girls stood on the platform,
smiling and waving their hands to their friends, as the train moved off.
And then Graeme caught a glimpse of the lovely pale face of Lilias
Ruthven, as she smiled, and bowed, and held up her baby in her arms; and
she felt as if that farewell was more for her, than any of the many
friends who were watching them as they went away.  And then they turned
to go home.  There was a crowd in the boat still, in the midst of which
the rest sat and amused themselves, during the few minutes sail to the
other side.  But Graeme stood looking away from them all, and from the
city and crowded wharf to which they were drawing near.  Her eyes were
turned to the far horizon toward which the great river flowed, and she
was saying to herself,--

"I _will_ take heart and trust Him, as Janet said.  He _has_ been good
to us all I will not be afraid even of the days that look so dull and
profitless to me.  God will accept the little I can do, and I _will_ be
content."

Will and Charlie Millar left them, after they had passed through a
street or two.

"We might just as well have gone to Merleville with them, for all the
difference in the time," said Rose.

"But then our preparations would have interfered with our enjoyment of
Janet's visit, and with her enjoyment, too.  It was a much better way
for us to wait."

"Yes.  And for some things it will be better to be there after the
wedding, rather than before.  But I don't at all like going back to an
empty house.  I don't like people going away."

"But people must go away, dear, if they come; and a quiet time will be
good for us both, before we go away," said Graeme.

But the quiet was not for that day.  On that day, two unexpected events
occurred.  That is, one of them was unexpected to Graeme, and the other
was unexpected to all the rest.  Mr Green proposed that Miss Elliott
should accompany him on his contemplated European tour; and Mrs
Tilman's time of service came to a sudden end.

As Graeme and Rose turned the corner of the street on their way home,
they saw the Grove carriage standing at their door.

"_That_ does not look much like quiet," said Rose.  "However, it is not
quite such a bugbear as it used to be; don't you remember, Graeme?"

Rose's fears were justified.  They found Fanny in a state of utter
consternation, and even Mrs Grove not quite able to conceal how much
she was put about.  Mrs Tilman had been taken suddenly ill again, and
even the undiscerning Fanny could not fail to understand the nature of
her illness, when she found her unable to speak, with a black bottle
lying on the bed beside her.  Mrs Grove was inclined to make light of
the matter, saying that the best of people might be overtaken in a
fault, on occasion; but Graeme put her very charitable suggestions to
silence, by telling the secret of the housekeeper's former illnesses.
This was not the first fault of the kind, by many.

There were a good many words spoken on this occasion, more than it would
be wise to record.  Mrs Grove professed indignation that the "mistress
of the house" should have been kept in ignorance of the state of
affairs, and resented the idea of Fanny's being treated as a child.  But
Fanny said nothing; and then her mother assured her, that in future she
would leave her to the management of her own household affairs; and
Graeme surprised them all, by saying, very decidedly, that in doing
this, she would be quite safe and right.

Of course, after all this, Fanny could not think of going out to pass
the afternoon, and Graeme had little quiet that day.  There were
strangers at dinner, and Arthur was busy with them for some time after;
and when, being at liberty at last, he called to Graeme that he wanted
to see her for a minute, it must be confessed that she answered with
impatience.

"Oh!  Arthur, I am very tired.  Won't it keep till morning?  Do let Mrs
Tilman and domestic affairs wait."

"Mrs Tilman!  What can you mean, Graeme?  I suppose Mrs Grove has been
favouring the household with some advice, has she?"

"Has not Fanny told you about it?" asked Graeme.

"No.  I saw Fanny was in tribulation of some kind.  I shall hear it all
in good time.  It is something that concerns only you that I wish to
speak about.  How would you like to visit Europe, Graeme?"

"In certain circumstances I might like it."

"Mr Green wished me to ask the question--or another--"

"Arthur, don't say it," said Graeme, sitting down and turning pale.
"Tell me that you did not expect this."

"I cannot say that I was altogether taken by surprise.  He meant to
speak to you himself, but his courage failed him.  He is very much in
earnest, Graeme, and very much afraid."

"Arthur," said his sister, earnestly, "you do not think this is my
fault?  If I had known it should never have come to this."

"He must have an answer now."

"Yes, you will know what to say to him.  I am sorry."

"But, Graeme, you should take time to think.  In the eyes of the world
this would be a good match for you."

Graeme rose impatiently.

"What has the world to do with it?  Tell me, Arthur, that you do not
think me to blame for this."

"I do not think you intended to give Mr Green encouragement.  But I
cannot understand why you should be so surprised.  I am not."

"You have not been seeing with your own eyes, and the encouragement has
not been from _me_.  It cannot be helped now.  You will know what to
say.  And, Arthur, pray let this be quite between you and me."

"Then, there is nothing more to be said?"

"Nothing.  Good-night."

Arthur was not surprised.  He knew quite well that Mr Green was not
good enough for Graeme.  But, then, who was?  Mr Green was very rich,
and it would have been a splendid settlement for her, and she was not
very young now.  If she was ever to marry, it was surely time.  And why
should she not?

He had intended to say something like this to her, but somehow he had
not found it easy to do.  Well, she was old enough and wise enough to
know her own mind, and to decide for herself; and, taken without the
help of his position and his great wealth, Mr Green was certainly not a
very interesting person; and probably Graeme had done well to refuse
him.  He pondered a long time on this question, and on others; but when
he went up-stairs, Fanny was waiting for him, wide awake and eager.

"Well, what did Graeme say?  Has she gone to bed?"

Arthur was rather taken aback.  He was by no means sure that it would be
a wise thing to discuss his sister's affairs with his wife.  Fanny would
never be able to keep his news to herself.

"You ought to be in bed," said he.

"Yes, I know I ought.  But is she not a wretch?"

"Graeme, a wretch!"

"Nonsense, Arthur!  I mean Mrs Tilman.  You know very well."

"Mrs Tilman!  What has she to do with it?"

"What! did not Graeme tell you?"

And then the whole story burst forth--all, and a good deal more than has
been told, for Fanny and Rose had been discussing the matter in private
with Sarah, and she had relieved her mind of all that had been kept
quiet so long.

"The wretch!" said Arthur.  "She might have burned us in our beds."

"Just what I said," exclaimed Fanny, triumphantly.  "But then, Sarah was
there to watch her, and Graeme knew about it and watched too.  It was
very good of her, I think."

"But why, in the name of common sense, did they think it necessary to
wait and watch, as you call it?  Why was she not sent about her
business?  Why was not I told?"

"Sarah told us, it was because Miss Elliott would not have Mrs Snow's
visit spoiled; and _Rose_ says she wanted everything to go smoothly, so
that she should think I was wise and discreet, and a good housekeeper.
I am very much afraid I am not."

Arthur laughed, and kissed her.

"Live and learn," said he.

"Yes, and I shall too, I am determined.  But, Arthur, was it not very
nice of Graeme to say nothing, but make the best of it?  Especially when
mamma had got Nelly away and all."

"It was very nice of her," said Arthur.

"And mamma was very angry to-day, and Graeme said--no, it was mamma who
said she would let me manage my own affairs after this, and Graeme said
that would be much the best way."

"I quite agree," said her husband, laughing.

"But, Arthur, I am afraid if it had not been for Graeme, things would
have gone terribly wrong all this time.  I am afraid, dear, I _am_
rather foolish."

"I am sure Graeme does not say so," said Arthur.

"No.  She does not say so.  But I am afraid it is true all the same.
But, Arthur, I do mean to try and learn.  I think Rose is right when she
says there is no one like Graeme."

Her husband agreed with her here, too, and he thought about these things
much more than he said to his wife.  It would be a different home to
them all.  Without his sister, he acknowledged, and he said to himself,
that he ought to be the last to regret Graeme's decision with regard to
Mr Green and his European tour.

In the meantime, Graeme, not caring to share her thoughts with her
sister just then, had stolen down-stairs again, and sat looking, with
troubled eyes, out into the night.  That was at first, while her
conversation with her brother remained in her mind.  She was annoyed
that Mr Green had been permitted to speak, but she could not blame
herself for it.  Now, as she was looking back, she said she might have
seen it coming; and so she might, if she had been thinking at all of Mr
Green and his hopes.  She saw now, that from various causes, with which
she had had nothing at all to do, they had met more frequently, and
fallen into more familiar acquaintanceship than she had been aware of
while the time was passing, and she could see where he might have taken
encouragement where none was meant, and she was grieved that it had been
so.  But she could not blame herself, and she could not bring herself to
pity him very much.

"He will not break his heart, if he has one; and there are others far
better fitted to please him, and to enjoy what he has to bestow, than I
could ever have done; and, so that Arthur says nothing about it, there
is no harm done."

So she put the subject from her as something quite past and done with.
And there was something else quite past and done with.

"I am afraid I have been very foolish and wrong," she said, letting her
thoughts go farther back into the day.  She said it over and over again,
and it was true.  She had been foolish, and perhaps a little wrong.
Never once, since that miserable night, now more than two years ago,
when he had brought Harry home, had Graeme touched the hand or met the
eye of Allan Ruthven.  She had frequently seen Lilias, and she had not
consciously avoided him, but it had so happened that they had never met.
In those old times she had come to the knowledge that, unasked, she had
given him more than friendship, and she had shrunk, with such pain and
shame, from the thought that she might still do so, that she had grown
morbid over the fear.  To-day she had seen him.  She had clasped his
hand, and met his look, and listened to his friendly words, and she knew
it was well with her.  They were friends whom time, and absence, and
perhaps suffering, had tried, and they would be friends always.

She did not acknowledge, in words, either her fear or her relief; but
she was glad with a sense of the old pleasure in the friendship of Allan
and Lilias; and she was saying to herself that she had been foolish and
wrong to let it slip out of her life so utterly as she had done.  She
told herself that true friendship, like theirs, was too sweet and rare a
blessing to be suffered to die out, and that when they came home again
the old glad time would come back.

"I am glad that I have seen them again, very glad.  And I am glad in
their happiness.  I know that I am glad now."

It was very late, and she was tired after the long day, but she lingered
still, thinking of many things, and of all that the past had brought, of
all that the future might bring.  Her thoughts were hopeful ones, and as
she went slowly up the stairs to her room, she was repeating Janet's
words, and making them her own.

"I will take heart and trust.  If the work I have here is God-given, He
will accept it, and make me content in it, be it great or little, and I
will take heart and trust."



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

If, on the night of the day when Janet went away, Graeme could have had
a glimpse of her outward life for the next two years, she might have
shrunk, dismayed, from the way that lay before her.  And yet when two
years and more had passed, over the cares, and fears, and
disappointments, over the change and separation which the time had
brought, she could look with calm content, nay, with grateful gladness.
They had not been eventful years--that is, they had been unmarked by any
of the especial tokens of change, of which the eye of the world is wont
to take note, the sadden and evident coming into their lives of good or
evil fortune.  But Graeme had only to recall the troubled days that had
been before the time when she had sought help and comfort from her old
friend, to realise that these years had brought to her, and to some of
those she loved, a change real, deep, and blessed, and she daily thanked
God, for contentment and a quiet heart.

That which outwardly characterised the time to Graeme, that to which she
could not have looked forward hopefully or patiently, but upon which she
could look back without regret, was her separation from her sister.  At
first all things had happened as had been planned.  They made their
preparations for their long talked of visit to Merleville; they enjoyed
the journey, the welcome, the wedding.  Will went away, and then they
had a few quiet, restful days with Janet; and then there came from home
sad tidings of Fanny's illness--an illness that brought her in a single
night very near to the gates of death, and Graeme did not need her
brother's agonised entreaties to make her hasten to her side.  The
summons came during a brief absence of Rose from Merleville, and was too
imperative to admit of Graeme's waiting for her return, so she was left
behind.  Afterwards, when Fanny's danger was over, she was permitted to
remain longer, and when sudden business brought their brother Norman
east, his determination to take her home with him, and her inclination
to go, prevailed over Graeme's unwillingness to consent, and the
sisters, for the first time in their lives, had separate homes.  The
hope of being able to follow her in the spring, had at first reconciled
Graeme to the thought, but when spring came, Fanny was not well enough
to be left, nor would Norman consent to the return of Rose; and so for
one reason or other, more than two years passed before the sisters met
again.  They were not unhappy years to Graeme.  Many anxious hours came
in the course of them, to her and to them all; but out of the cares and
troubles of the time came peace, and more than peace at last.

The winter that followed her return from Merleville, was rather a dreary
one.  The restraints and self-denials, which the delicate state of her
health necessarily imposed upon her, were very irksome to Fanny; and
Graeme's courage and cheerfulness, sometimes during these first months,
were hardly sufficient to answer the demands made upon her.  But all
this changed as the hour of Fanny's trial approached--the hour that was
to make her a proud and happy mother; or to quench her hope, perhaps,
her life, in darkness.  All this was changed.  Out of the entire trust
which Fanny had come to place in her sister Graeme, grew the knowledge
of a higher and better trust.  The love and care which, during those
days of sickness and suffering, and before those days, were made
precious and assured, were made the means of revealing to her a love
which can never fail to do otherwise than the very best for its object--
a care more than sufficient for all the emergencies of life, and beyond
life.  And so, as the days went on, the possibilities of the future
ceased to terrify her.  Loving life, and bound to it by ties that grew
stronger and closer every day, she was yet not afraid to know, that
death might be before her; and she grew gentle and quiet with a peace so
sweet and deep, that it sometimes startled Graeme with a sadden dread,
that the end might, indeed, be drawing near.

Graeme was set at rest about one thing.  If there had lingered in her
heart any fear lest her brother's happiness was not secure in Fanny's
keeping, or that his love for her would not stand the wear and tear of
common life, when the first charms of her youth and beauty, and her
graceful, winning ways were gone, that fear did not outlast this time.
Through the weariness and fretfulness of the first months of her
illness, he tended her, and hung about her, and listened to her
complaints with a patience that never tired; and when her fretful time
was over, and the days came when she lay hushed and peaceful, yet a
little awed and anxious, looking forward to she knew not what, he
soothed and encouraged her with a gentle cheerfulness, which was, to
Graeme, pathetic, in contrast with the restless misery that seemed to
take possession of him when he was not by her side.  One does not need
to be very good, or very wise, or even beautiful to win true love; and
Fanny was safe in the love of her husband, and to her sister's mind,
growing worthier of it every day.

Graeme would have hardly acknowledged, even to herself, how much Arthur
needed the discipline of this time, but afterwards she saw it plainly.
Life had been going very smoothly with him, and he had been becoming
content with its routine of business and pleasure.  The small successes
of his profession, and the consideration they won for him, were in
danger of being prized at more than their value, and of making him
forget things better worth remembering, and this pause in his life was
needed.  These hours in his wife's sick-room, apparently so full of rest
and peace, but really so anxious and troubled, helped him to a truer
estimate of the value of that which the world can bestow, and forced him
to compare them with those things over which the world has no power!
Fanny's eager, sometimes anxious questionings, helped to the same end.
The confidence with which she brought her doubts and difficulties to him
for solution, her evident belief in his superior wisdom and goodness,
her perfect trust in his power and skill to put her right about matters
of which until now she had never thought, were a reproach to him often.
Listening to her, and pondering on the questions which her words
suggested, he saw how far he had wandered from the paths which his
father had trod, how far he had fallen short of the standard at which he
had aimed, and the true object of life grew clearer to him during those
days.

They helped each other to the finding of the better way; she helped him
most, and Graeme helped them both.  These were anxious days to her, but
happy days, as well.  In caring for these two, so dear to her in seeking
for them the highest happiness, in striving, earnestly, that this time
might not be suffered to pass, without leaving a blessing behind, she
forgot herself and her own fears and cares and in seeking their
happiness found her own.

This quiet time came to an end.  The little life so longed for, so
precious, lingered with them but a day, and passed away.  Fanny hovered
for a time on the brink of the grave, but was restored again, to a new
life, better loved and more worthy of love than ever she had been
before.

That summer they went south, to the seaside, and afterwards before they
returned home, to Merleville, where Arthur joined them.  It was a time
of much pleasure and profit to them all.  It did Arthur good to stand
with his sister beside the two graves.  They spoke there more fully and
freely than they had ever spoken to each other before, of the old times,
of their father and mother, and of the work they had been honoured to do
in the world; and out of the memories thus awakened, came earnest
thoughts and high resolves to both.  Viewed in the light which shone
from his father's life and work, his own could not but seem to Arthur
mean and worthless.  Truths seen dimly, and accepted with reserve, amid
the bustle of business, and the influence of the world, presented
themselves clearly and fully here, and bowed both his heart and his
reason, and though he said little to his sister, she knew that life,
with its responsibilities and duties, would henceforth have a deeper and
holier meaning to him.

Janet never spoke to Graeme of her old troubled thoughts.  "It is all
coming right with my bairn," she said, softly, to herself, the very
first glimpse she got of her face, and seeing her and watching her
during these few happy days, she knew that she had grown content with
her life, and its work, and that the fever of her heart was healed.  And
as the days went on, and she saw Arthur more and more like his father,
in the new earnestness of his thoughts and hopes, and watched Fanny
gentle, and loving, mindful of others, clinging to Graeme, and trusting
and honouring her entirely,--a Fanny as different as could well be
imagined from the vain, exacting little housekeeper, who had so often
excited her indignation, a year ago, she repeated again and again.  "It
is coming right with them all."

Another year passed, bringing new cares, and new pleasures, and, to
Arthur and Fanny, the fulfilment of new hopes in the birth of a son.  To
Graeme, it brought many longings for the sight of her sister's face,
many half formed plans for going to her, or for bringing her home, but
Arthur's boy was three months old before she saw her sister.  Will was
still in Scotland, to stay for another year, at least Harry had been at
home several times since his first sorrowful departure, and now there
was a prospect that he would be at home always.  A great change had
taken place in his affairs.  The firm of Elphinstone and Company no
longer existed.  It was succeeded by one, which bade fair to be as
prosperous, and in time, as highly honoured as it had been, the firm of
Elliott, Millar and Company.  Mr Ruthven was still in the business,
that is, he had left in it the capital necessary to its establishment on
a firm basis, but he took no part in the management of its affairs.  He
lived in Scotland now, and had done so ever since the death of his wife,
which, had taken place soon after they had reached that country.  He had
since succeeded, on the death of his uncle, his father's brother, to the
inheritance of a small estate near his native place, and there, with his
mother and his little daughter, he resided.  Either, it was said, his
uncle had made his residence on the place a condition of possession, or
he had grown tired of a life of business, but he, evidently, did not
intend to return to Canada at present; even his half-brother, who deeply
regretted his early withdrawal from active life, and earnestly
remonstrated with him concerning it, knew little about his motives,
except that his health was not so firm as it used to be, and that he had
determined not to engage in business again.

Harry had changed much, during the years of his absence.  Up to the time
of his leaving home, he had retained his boyish frankness and love of
fun, more than is usual in one really devoted to business, and
successful in it.  When he came back, he seemed older than those years
ought to have made him.  He was no longer the merry, impulsive lad,
ready on the shortest notice, to take part in anything that promised
amusement for the moment, whatever the next might bring.  He was quiet
and observant now; hardly doing his part in general conversation,
holding his own views and opinions with sufficient tenacity when they
were assailed, but rather indifferent as to what might be the views and
opinions of others; as unlike as possible to the Harry who had been so
ready on all occasions, either in earnest or in sport, to throw himself
into the discussion of all manner of questions, with all kind of people.
Even in their own circle, he liked better to listen than to speak, but
he fell quite naturally and happily into his place at home, though it
was not just the old place.

Graeme thought him wonderfully improved, and made no secret of her pride
and delight in him.  Arthur thought him improved too, but he shocked his
sister dreadfully, by professing to see in him indications of character,
that suggested a future resemblance to their respected friend, Mr Elias
Green, in more than in success.

"He is rather too devoted to business, too indifferent to the claims of
society, and to the pursuits of the young swells of the day, to be
natural, I am afraid.  But it will pay.  In the course of fifteen or
twenty years, we shall have him building a `palatial residence', and
boring himself and other people, like our respected friend.  You seem to
be a little discontented with the prospect, Graeme."

"Discontented!" echoed Graeme.  "It is with you, that I am discontented.
How can you speak of anything so horrible?  You don't know Harry."

"I know what the result of such entire devotion to business must be,
joined to such talents as Harry's.  Success, of course, and a measure of
satisfaction with it, more or less, as the case maybe.  No, you need not
look at Harry's friend and partner.  He is `tarred with the same stick,'
as Mrs Snow would say."

Harry's friend and partner, laughed.

"Mrs Snow would never say that about Mr Millar," said Graeme
indignantly, "nor about Harry either; and neither of them will come to a
fate like that."

"They may fail, or they may marry.  I was only speaking of the natural
consequences of the present state of affairs, should nothing intervene
to prevent such a conclusion."

"Harry will never grow to be like Mr Green," said Fanny, gravely.
"Graeme will not let him."

"There is something in that," said Arthur.

"There is a great deal in that," said Mr Millar.

"There are a great many to keep Harry from a fate like that, besides
me," said Graeme, "even if there was any danger to one of his loving and
generous nature."

She was more in earnest than the occasion seemed to call for.

"Graeme," said Fanny, eagerly, "you don't suppose Arthur is in earnest.
He thinks there is no one like Harry."

Arthur laughed.

"I don't think there are many like him, certainly, but he is not beyond
spoiling, and Graeme, and you, too, make a great deal too much of him, I
am afraid."

"If that would spoil one, you would have been spoiled long ago," said
Graeme, laughing.

"Oh! that is quite another matter; but as to Harry, it is a good thing
that Rose is coming home, to divert the attention of you two from him a
while," added he, as his brother came into the room.  "And you will do
your best to spoil her, too, if some of the rest of us don't counteract
your influence."

"What is it all about?" said Harry.  "Are you spoiling your son, Fanny?
Is that the matter under discussion?"

"No.  It is you that we are spoiling, Graeme and I.  We admire you quite
too much, Arthur says, and he is afraid we shall do the same for Rose."

"As for Rose, I am afraid the spoiling process must have commenced
already, if admiration will do it," said Harry.  "If one is to believe
what Norman says, she has been turning a good many heads out there."

"So that her own head is safe, the rest cannot be helped," said Graeme,
with a little vexation.  It was not Harry's words, so much as his tone,
that she disliked.  He shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh! as to that, I am not sure.  I don't think she tried to help it.
Why should she?  It is her natural and proper sphere of labour--her
vocation.  I think she enjoyed it, rather."

"Harry, don't!  I can't bear to hear you speak of Rose in that way."

"Oh! my speaking of it can't make any difference, you know; and if you
don't believe me, you can ask Charlie.  He is my authority for the last
bit of news of Rosie."

Charlie looked up astonished and indignant, and reddened as he met
Graeme's eye.

"I don't understand you, Harry--the least in the world," said he.

"Do you mean to say you have forgotten the postscript I saw in Rowland's
letter about Mr Green and his hopes and intentions?  Come, now,
Charlie, that is a little too much."

"Mr Green!" repeated Arthur and Fanny, in a breath.

"Are we never to have done with that unhappy man?" said Graeme,
indignantly.

"The idea of Rose ever looking at him!" said Fanny.

"Oh! she might look at him without doing herself any harm," said Harry.
"She might even indulge in a little innocent flirtation--"

"Harry," said Fanny, solemnly, "if there is a word in the English
language that Graeme hates it is that.  Don't say it again, I beg."

Harry shrugged his shoulders.  Graeme looked vexed and anxious.

"Miss Elliott," said Charlie, rising, in some embarrassment, "I hope you
don't think me capable of discussing--or permitting--.  I mean, in the
letter to which Harry refers, your sister's name was not mentioned.  You
have received a wrong impression.  I am the last person in the world
that would be likely to offend in that way."

"Charlie, man! you are making much ado about nothing; and, Graeme, you
are as bad.  Of course, Rosie's name was not mentioned; but I know quite
well, and so do you, who `La belle Canadienne' was.  But no harm was
meant, and none was done."

"It would be rather a good joke if Rosie were to rule in the `Palatial
Residence' after all, wouldn't it?" said Arthur, laughing.

"Arthur, don't!  It is not nice to have the child's name coupled with--
with any one," said Graeme.

"It may not be nice, but it cannot be helped," said Harry.  "It is the
penalty that very pretty girls, like Rose, have to pay for their
beauty--especially when they are aware of it--as Rose has good right to
be by this time.  Small blame to her."

"And I don't see that there is really anything to be annoyed about,
Graeme," said Arthur.  "A great deal more than the coupling of names
might happen without Rosie being to blame, as no one should know better
than you."

"Of course.  We are not speaking of blame, and we will say no more about
it," said Graeme, rising; and nothing more was said.  By and by Harry
and his friend and partner rose to go.  They lived together, now, in the
house behind the willow trees, which Rose had taken such pleasure in
watching.  It was a very agreeable place of residence still, though a
less fashionable locality than it used to be; and they were fortunate
enough to have the efficient and kindly Nelly as housekeeper, and
general caretaker still, and she magnified her office.

Harry had some last words to exchange with Arthur, and then Mr Millar
approached Graeme and said, with a smile that was rather forced and
uncertain,--

"I ought to apologise for coming back to the subject again.  I don't
think you believe me likely to speak of your sister in a way that would
displease you.  Won't you just say so to me?"

"Charlie!  I know you could not.  You are one of ourselves."

Charlie's face brightened.  Of late it had been "Mr Millar," mostly--
not that Graeme liked him less than she used to do; but she saw him less
frequently, and he was no longer a boy, even to her.  But this time it
was, "Charlie," and he was very much pleased.

"You have been quite a stronger, lately," she went on; "but now that
Mrs Elliott is better and Rose coming home, we shall be livelier and
better worth visiting.  We cannot bring the old times quite back, even
with Harry and Rose, but we shall always be glad to see you."

She spoke cordially, as she felt, and he tried to answer in the same
way; but he was grave, and did not use many words.

"I hope there is nothing wrong," said Graeme, observing his changing
look.

"Nothing for which there is any help," said he.  "No there is nothing
wrong."

"I am ready, Charlie," said Harry, coming forward.  "And Graeme, you are
not to trouble yourself about Rose's conquests.  When she goes to her
own house--`palatial' or otherwise--and the sooner the better for all
concerned--you are coming to take care of Charlie and me."

"There may be two or three words to be said on that subject," said
Arthur, laughing.

"I am sure neither you nor Fanny will venture to object; you have had
Graeme all your life--at least for the last seven years.  I should like
to hear you, just.  I am not joking, Graeme."

Graeme laughed.

"There is no hurry about it, is there?  I have heard of people changing
their minds; and I won't set my heart on it, in case I should be
disappointed."



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

So Rose came home at last.  Not just the Rose who had left them, now
more than two years ago, even in the eyes of her sister.  Her brothers
thought her greatly changed and improved.  She was more womanly, and
dignified, and self-reliant, they said, and Graeme assented, wondering
and pleased; though it had been the desire of her heart that her sister
should come back to her just what she was when she went away.

She would probably have changed quite as much during those two years,
had they been passed at home, though they might not have seen it so
plainly.  But Arthur declared that she had become Americanised to an
astonishing degree, not making it quite clear whether he thought that an
improvement, indeed not being very clear about it himself.  Harry agreed
with him, without the reservation; for Harry admired the American
ladies, and took in good part Rose's hints and congratulations with
regard to a certain Miss Cora Snider, an heiress and a beauty of C---.
"A trifle older than Harry," explained she, laughing, aside to Graeme;
"but that, of course, is a small matter, comparatively, other things
`being agreeable.'"

"Of course," said Harry, with a shrug that set Graeme's fancy at rest
about Miss Cora Snider.

In less time than Graeme at first supposed possible, they fell back into
their old ways again.  Rose's dignity and self-reliance were for her
brothers and her friends generally.  With Graeme she was, in a day or
two, just what she had been before she went away--a dear child and
sister, to be checked and chided, now and then; to be caressed and cared
for always; growing, day by day, dearer and fairer to her sister's
loving eyes.  She was glad to be at home again.  She was very fond of
Norman and Hilda and their boys, and she had been very happy with them;
but there was no one like Graeme, and there was no place like home.  So
she fell into her old place and ways, and was so exactly the Rosie of
old times, that Graeme smiled in secret over the idea of her child
having been in danger of being spoiled by admiration or by a love of it.
It was quite impossible to believe that a love of pleasure would let
her be so content with their quiet life, their household occupations,
their unvaried round of social duties and pleasures.  Admired she might
have been, but it had not harmed her; she had come back to them quite
unspoiled, heart-free and fancy-free, Graeme said to herself, with a
sense of relief and thankfulness, that grew more assured as the time
went on.

"It amuses me very much to hear Arthur say I am changed," said Rose, one
day, when the sisters were sitting together.  "Why, if I had come home a
strong-minded woman and the president of a convention, it would have
been nothing to the change that has taken place in Fanny, which I
daresay he does not see at all, as a change; he always was rather blind
where she was concerned.  But what have you being doing to Fanny,
Graeme?"

"Rose, my dear," said Graeme, gravely, "Fanny has had a great deal of
sickness and suffering, and her change is for the better, I am sure;
and, besides, are you not speaking a little foolishly?"

"Well, perhaps so, but not unkindly, as far as Fanny is concerned.  For
the better!  I should think so.  But then I fancied that Fanny was just
the one to grow peevish in sickness, and ill to do with, as Janet would
say; and I confess, when I heard of the arrival of young Arthur, I was
afraid, remembering old times, and her little airs, that she might not
be easier to live with."

"Now, Rosie, that is not quite kind."

"But it is quite true.  That is just what I thought first, and what I
said to Norman.  I know you said how nice she was, and how sweet, and
all that, but I thought that was just your way of seeing things; you
never would see Fanny's faults, you know, even at the very first."

Graeme shook her head.

"I think you must have forgotten about the very first.  We were both
foolish and faithless, then.  It has all come right; Arthur is very
happy in his wife, though I never thought it could be in those days."

There was a long pause after that, and then Rose said,--

"You must have had a very anxious time, and a great deal to do, when she
was so long ill that first winter.  I ought to have been here to help
you, and I should have been, if I had known."

"I wished for you often, but I did not have too much to do, or to
endure.  I am none the worse for it all."

"No," said Rose, and she came over and kissed her sister, and then sat
down again.  Graeme looked very much pleased, and a little surprised.
Rose took up her work, and said, with a laugh that veiled something,--

"I think you have changed--improved--almost as much as Fanny, though
there was not so much need."

Graeme laughed, too.

"There was more need for improvement than you know or can imagine.  I am
glad you see any."

"I am anxious about one thing, however, and so is Fanny, I am sure,"
said Rose, as Fanny came into the room, with her baby in her arms.  "I
think I see an intention on your part to become stout.  I don't object
to a certain roundness, but it may be too decided."

"Graeme too stout!  How can you say such things, Rosie?" said Fanny,
indignantly.

"She is not so slender as when I went away."

"No, but she was too slender then.  Arthur thinks she is growing
handsomer, and so do I."

"Well, perhaps," said Rose, moving believe to examine Graeme critically;
"still I must warn her against future possibilities as to stoutness--and
other things."

"It is not the stoutness that displeases her, Fanny," said Graeme,
laughing; "it is the middle-aged look that is settling down upon me,
that she is discontented with."

"Fanny," said Rose, "don't contradict her.  She says that on purpose to
be contradicted.  A middle-aged look, is it?  I dare say it is!"

"A look of contentment with things as they are," said Graeme.  "There is
a look of expectation on most _young_ faces, you know, a hopeful look,
which too often changes to an anxious look, or look of disappointment,
as youth passes away.  I mean, of course, with single women.  I suppose
it is that with me; or, do I look as if I were settling down content
with things as they are?"

"Graeme," said her sister, "if some people were to speak like that in my
hearing, I should say it sounded a little like affectation."

"I hope it is not politeness, alone, which prevents you from saying it
to me?"

"But it is all nonsense, Graeme dear," said Fanny.

"How old are you, Graeme?" said Rose.  "Middle-aged, indeed!"

"Rosie, does not ten years seem a long time, to look forward to?  Shall
you not begin to think yourself middle-aged ten years hence?"

"Certainly not; by no means; I have no such intention, unless, indeed--.
But we won't speak about such unpleasant things.  Fanny, shan't I take
the baby while you do that?"

"If you would like to take him," said Fanny, with some hesitation.

Baby was a subject on which Rose and Fanny had not quite come to a
mutual understanding.  Rose was not so impressed with the wonderful
attractions of her son as Fanny thought she ought to be.  Even Graeme
had been surprised at her indifference to the charms of her nephew, and
expostulated with her on the subject.  But Rose had had a surfeit of
baby sweetness, and, after Hilda's strong, beautiful boys, Fanny's
little, delicate three months' baby was a disappointment to her, and she
made no secret of her amusement at the devotion of Graeme, and the
raptures of his mother over him.  But now, as she took him in her arms,
she astonished them with such eloquence of baby-talk as baby had never
heard before.  Fanny was delighted.  Happily Graeme prevented the
question that trembled on her lips as to the comparative merits of her
nephews, by saying,--

"Well done, Rosie!  If only Harry could hear you!"

"I have often wished that Hilda could see and hear you both over this
little mortal.  You should see Hilda.  Does not she preserve her
equanimity?  Fancy her walking the room for hours with any of her boys,
as you did the other night with this one.  Not she, indeed, nor any one
else, with her permission."

"I thought--I am sure you have always spoken about Hilda as a model
mother," said Fanny, doubtfully.

"And a fond mother," said Graeme.

"She _is_ a model mother; she is fond, but she is wise," said Rose,
nodding her head.  "I say no more."

"Fanny dear, we shall have to learn of Rose.  We are very inexperienced
people, I fear," said Graeme, smiling.

"Well, I daresay even I might teach you something.  But you should see
Hilda and her babies.  Her eldest son is three years old, and her second
will soon be two, and her daughter is four months.  Suppose she had
begun by walking all night with each of them, and by humouring every
whim?"

And then Rose began her talk with the baby again, saying all sorts of
things about the fond foolishness of his little mamma and his Aunt
Graeme, that it would not have been at all pretty, she acknowledged, to
say to themselves.  Graeme listened, smiling, but Fanny looked anxious.

"Rose," said she, "tell me about Hilda's way.  I want to have the very
best way with baby.  I know I am not very wise, but I do wish to learn
and to do right!"

Her words and her manner reminded Rose so forcibly, by contrast, of the
Fanny whose vanity and self-assertion had been such a vexation so often,
that, in thinking of those old times, she forgot to answer her, and sat
playing with the child's clasping fingers.

"She thinks I will never be like Hilda," said Fanny, dolefully, to
Graeme.

Rose shook her head.

"There are not many like Hilda; but I don't see any reason why you
should not be as good a mother as she is, and have as obedient children.
You have as good a teacher.  No, don't look at Graeme.  I know what you
mean.  She has taught you all the good that is in you.  There are more
of us who could say the same--except for making her vain.  It is this
young gentleman, I mean, who is to teach you."

And she began her extraordinary confidences to the child, till Graeme
and Fanny were both laughing heartily at her nonsense.

"I'll tell you what, Fanny," said she, looking up in a little.  "It is
the mother-love that makes one wise, and Solomon has something to do
with it.  You must take him into your confidence.  But, dear me!  Think
of my venturing to give you good advice, I might be Janet herself."

"But, Rosie, dear," said Graeme, still laughing, "Solomon has nothing to
say about such infants as this one."

"Has he not?  Well, that is Hilda's mistake, then.  She is responsible
for my opinions.  I know nothing.  The wisdom I am dispensing so freely
is entirely hers.  You must go and see Hilda and her babies, and you
will understand all about it."

"I mean to go and see her, not entirely for the sake of her wisdom,
however, though it must be wonderful to have impressed you so deeply."

"Yes, it _is_ wonderful.  But you will be in no hurry about going, will
you?  Two or three years hence will be time enough, I should think.  I
mean to content myself here for that time, and you are not going there,
or anywhere, without me.  That is quite decided, whatever arrangements
Norman may have made."

"I don't think he will object to your going with me, if Arthur doesn't,
and Fanny," said Graeme, smiling.

"Possibly not.  But I am not going yet.  And no plan that is meant to
separate you and me shall prosper," said Rose, with more heat than the
occasion seemed to call for, as though the subject had been previously
discussed in a manner not to her liking.  Graeme looked grave and was
silent a moment, then she said,--

"I remember saying almost these very words before we went to Merleville,
to Emily's wedding.  But you know how differently it turned out for you
and me.  We will keep together while we can, dear, but we must not set
our hearts upon it, or upon any other earthly good, as though we knew
best what is for our own happiness."

"Well, I suppose that is the right way to look at it.  But I am to be
your first consideration this winter, you must remember, and you are to
be mine."

"Graeme," said Fanny, earnestly, "I don't think Rose is spoiled in the
least."

Fanny made malapropos speeches sometimes still, but they were never
unkindly meant now, and she looked with very loving eyes from one sister
to the other.

"I hope you did not think Hilda was going to spoil me.  Did you?" said
Rose, laughing.

"No, not Hilda; and it was not I who thought so, nor Graeme.  But Harry
said you were admired more than was good for you, perhaps, and--"

Rose shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh!  Harry is too wise for anything.  I had a word or two with him on
that subject myself, the last time he was out at Norman's.  You must not
mind what Harry says about me, Fanny, dear."

"But, Rose, you are not to think that Harry said anything that was not
nice.  It was one night when Mr Millar was here, and there was
something said about Mr Green.  And he thought--one of them thought
that you--that he--I have forgotten what was said.  What was it, Graeme?
You were here as well as I."

"I am very sure there was nothing said that was not nice," said Graeme.
"I don't quite remember about it.  There was nothing worth remembering
or repeating."

"I daresay Harry told you I was a flirt.  He told me so, myself, once,"
said Rose, tossing her head in a way Graeme did not like to see.

"Hush, dear.  He said nothing unkind, you may be sure."

"And, now I remember, it was not Harry but Mr Millar who spoke about
Mr Green," said Fanny, "and about the `palatial residence,' and how
Rose, if she liked, might--"

Rose moved about impatiently.

"I must say I cannot admire the taste that would permit the discussion
of anything of that sort with a stranger," said she, angrily.

"My dear, you are speaking foolishly.  There was no such discussion.
And if you say anything more on the subject, I shall think that Harry
was right when he said you were fond of admiration, and that your
conscience is troubling you about something.  Here comes nurse for baby.
I suppose it is time for his bath, is it mamma?"

Fanny left the room with the child, and, after a few minutes' silence,
Rose said, with an effort,--

"Now, Graeme, please tell me what all this is about."

"Dear, there is nothing to tell.  I fancy Harry used to think that I was
too anxious and eager about your coming home, and wanted to remind me
that you were no longer a child, but a woman, who was admired, and who
might, by and by, learn to care for some one else, more than for your
sister and brothers.  But he did not seriously say anything that you
need care about.  It would have been as well, perhaps, not to have said
anything in Mr Millar's presence, since we seem to have fallen a little
out of acquaintance with him lately.  But Harry has not, and he did not
consider, and, indeed, there was nothing said that he might not very
well hear."

"It seems it was he who had most to say."

"No.  You are mistaken.  Fanny did not remember correctly.  It was
either Arthur or Harry who had something to say about Mr Green.  I
don't think Charlie had anything to say about it.  I am sure he would be
the last one willingly to displease me or you.  And, really, I don't see
why you should be angry about it, dear Rosie."

"I am not angry.  Why should I be angry?"  But she reddened as she met
Graeme's eye.  Graeme looked at her in some surprise.

"Harry is--is unbearable sometimes," said Rose.  "Fancy his taking me to
task about--about his friend--Oh! there is no use talking about it.
Graeme, are you going out?"

"Yes, if you like.  But, Rose, I think you are hard upon Harry.  There
must be some misunderstanding.  Why! he is as fond and as proud of you
as possible.  You must not be vain when I say so."

"That does not prevent his being very unreasonable, all the same.
However, he seems to have got over it, or forgotten it.  Don't let us
speak any more about it, Graeme, or think about it either."

But Graeme did think about it, and at first had thoughts of questioning
Harry with regard to Rose's cause of quarrel with him, but she thought
better of it and did not.  Nor did she ever speak about it again to
Rose; but it came into her mind often when she saw the two together, and
once, when she heard Harry say something to Rose about her distance and
dignity, and how uncalled for all that sort of thing was, she would have
liked to know to what he was referring to, but she did not ask, for,
notwithstanding little disagreements of this kind, they were evidently
excellent friends.

How exactly like the old time before Arthur's marriage, and before Will
or Harry went away, some of the days were, that followed the coming home
of Rose.  They seemed like the days even longer ago, Graeme felt, with a
sense of rest and peace at her heart unspeakable.  For the old content,
nay, something better and more abiding had come back to her.  The peace
that comes after a time of trouble, the content that grows out of sorrow
sanctified, are best.  Remembering what has gone before, we know how to
estimate the depth, and strength, and sweetness--the sharpness of past
pain being a measure for the present joy.  And, besides, the content
that comes to us from God, out of disappointment and sorrow, is ours
beyond loss, because it is God-given, and we need fear no evil.

So these were truly peaceful days to Graeme, untroubled by regret for
the past, or by anxious fears for the future.  They were busy days, too,
filled with the occupations that naturally sprung out of happy home
life, and agreeable social relations.  Rose had been honoured, beyond
her deserts, she said, by visits since she came home.  These had to be
returned, and Graeme, who had fallen off from the performance of such
duties, during Rose's absence, and Fanny's illness, took pleasure in
going with her.  She took real pleasure in many of these visits,
sometimes because of the renewal of friendly interest, sometimes for
other reasons.  The new way in which the character and manner of Rose
came out never failed to amuse her.  At home, and especially in her
intercourse with her, Rose was just what she had been as a child, except
the difference that a few added years must make.  But it was by no means
so in her intercourse with the rest of the world.  She had ideas and
opinions of her own, and she had her own way of making them known, or of
defending them when attacked.  There was not much opportunity for seeing
this during brief formal visits, but now and then Graeme got a glimpse
that greatly amused her.  The quiet self-possession with which she met
condescending advances, and accepted or declined compliments, the serene
air with which she ignored or rebuked the little polite impertinences,
not yet out of fashion in fine drawing-rooms, it was something to see.
And her perfect unconsciousness of her sister's amusement or its cause
was best of all to Graeme.  Arthur amused himself with this change in
her, also, and had a better opportunity to do so.  For Graeme seldom
went to large parties, and it was under the chaperonage of Mrs Arthur
that Rose, as a general thing, made her appearance in their large and
agreeable circle, on occasions of more than usual ceremony.  Not that
there were very many of these.  Fanny was perfectly well now, and
enjoyed these gay gatherings in moderation, but they were not so
necessary to her happiness as they used to be, and Rose, though she made
no secret of the pleasure she took in them, was not unreasonable in her
devotion to society.  So the winter was rather quiet than otherwise, and
Graeme and Rose found themselves with a good deal of leisure time at
their disposal.

For true to her first idea of what was for the happiness of her
brother's household, Graeme, as Fanny grew stronger, gradually withdrew
from the bearing of responsibility where household matters were
concerned, and suffered it to fall, as she felt it to be right, on
Arthur's wife.  Not that she refused to be helpful; either in word or in
deed, but it was as much as possible at the bidding of the mistress of
the house.  It was not always very easy to do, often not by any means so
easy as it would have been to go on in the old way, but she was very
much in earnest about this thing.  It was right that it should be so,
for many reasons.  The responsibilities, as well as the honour, due to
the mistress of the house, were Fanny's.  These could not, she being in
health and able to bear them, be assumed by her sister without mutual
injury.  The honour and responsibility could not be separated without
danger and loss.  All this Graeme tried to make Fanny see without using
many words, and she had a more docile pupil than she would have had
during the first year of her married-life.  For Fanny had now entire
confidence in the wisdom and love of her sister, and did her best to
profit by her teaching:

It was the same where the child was concerned.  While she watched over
both with loving care, she hesitated to interfere or to give advice,
even in small matters, lest she should lessen in the least degree the
young mother's sense of responsibility, knowing this to be the best and
surest guide to the wise and faithful performance of a mother's duties.
And every day she was growing happier in the assurance that all was
coming right with her sister, that she was learning the best of all
wisdom, the wisdom of gentleness and self-forgetfulness, and of devotion
to the welfare of others, and that all this was bearing fruit in the
greater happiness of the household.  And besides this, or rather as a
result of this, she bade fair to be a notable little house-mother also;
a little over-anxious, perhaps, and not very patient with her own
failures, or with the failures of others, but still in earnest to attain
success, and to be in all things what in the old times, she had only
cared to seem.

Though Harry did not now form one of the household, he was with them
very often.  Mr Millar did not quite fall into the place which Harry's
friend Charlie had occupied, but though he said less about his enjoyment
of the friendship of their circle, it was evident that it was not
because he enjoyed it less than in the old times.  He had only changed
since then by growing quieter and graver, as they all had done.  His
brother's determination not to return to Canada had been a great
disappointment to him at the time, and he still regretted it very much,
but he said little about it, less than was quite natural, perhaps,
considering that they had once been such friends.  Circumstances had
made the brothers strangers during the boyhood of the younger, and it
was hard that circumstances should separate them again, just as they had
been beginning to know and to value each other.  Charlie had hoped for a
long time that Allan might come back after a year or two; for his estate
was by no means a large one, and he believed that he would soon weary of
a life of inactivity, and return to business again.  He was still young,
and might, with his knowledge and experience, do anything he liked in
the way of making money, Charlie thought, and he could not be satisfied
with his decision.  But Will, who had visited Allan lately, assured
Charlie that his brother was settling down to the enjoyment of a quiet
country life, and that though he might visit Canada, there was little
chance of his ever making that country his home again.

"I should think not, indeed," said Arthur, one night, as they were
discussing the matter in connection with Will's last letter.  "You don't
display your usual good judgment, Charlie, man, where your brother is
concerned.  Why should he return?  He is enjoying now, a comparatively
young man, all that you and Harry expect to enjoy after some twenty or
thirty years of hard labour--a competency in society congenial to him.
Why should he wait for this longer than he need?"

"Twenty or thirty years!" said Harry.  "Not if I know it.  You are
thinking of old times.  But I must say I agree with Charlie.  It is
strange that Mr Ruthven should be content to sit down in comparative
idleness, for, of course, the idea of farming his own land is absurd.
And to tell you the truth, I never thought him one to be satisfied with
a mere competency.  I thought him at one time ambitious to become a
rich, man--a great merchant."

"It would not be safe or wise to disparage the life and aims of a great
merchant in your presence, Harry," said Rose, "but one would think the
life of a country gentleman preferable in some respects."

"I don't think Allan aspires to the position of a country gentleman--in
the dignified sense in which the term is used where he is.  His place is
very beautiful, but it is not large enough to entitle him to the
position of one of the great landed proprietors."

"Oh! as to that, the extent makes little difference.  It is the land
that his fathers have held for generations, and that is a thing to be
proud of, and to give position, Rose thinks," said Arthur.

"His father never owned it, and his grandfather did not hold it long.
It was lost to the name many years ago, and bought back again by Allan's
uncle within ten years."

"Yes, with the good money of a good merchant," said Harry.

"And did he make it a condition that he should live on it?" said Arthur.

"No, I think not.  Allan never has said any such thing as that to me, or
to my mother."

"Still he may think it his duty to live there."

"I don't know.  It is not as though it were a large estate, with many
tenants, to whom he owed duty and care and all that.  I think the life
suits him.  My mother always thought it was a great disappointment to
him to be obliged to leave home when he did to enter upon a life of
business.  He did not object decidedly.  There seemed at the time
nothing else for him to do.  So he came to Canada."

"I daresay his present life is just the very life he could enjoy most.
I wonder that you are so vexed about his staying at home, Charlie."

"I daresay it is selfishness in me.  And yet I don't think it is so
altogether.  I know, at least I am almost sure, that it would be better
for him to come here, at least for a time.  He might always have the
going home to look forward to."

"I cannot imagine how he can content himself there, after the active
life he lived on this side of the water; he will degenerate into an old
fogey, vegetating there," said Harry.

"But I think you are hard on yourself, Mr Millar, calling it
selfishness in you to wish your brother to be near you," said Graeme,
smiling.  "I could find a much nicer name for it than that."

"I would like him to come for his own sake," said Charlie.  "As for me,
I was just beginning to know him--to know how superior he is to most
men, and then I lost him."  He paused a moment--

"I mean, of course, we can see little of each other now, and we shall
find it much easier to forget one another than if we had lived together
and loved and quarrelled with each other as boys.  I shall see him if I
go home next summer, and I don't despair of seeing him here for a visit,
at least."

"Will says he means to come some time.  Perhaps he will come back with
you, or with Will himself, when he comes," said Rose.

"Oh! the voyage is nothing; a matter of ten days or less," said Arthur.
"It is like living next door neighbours, in comparison to what it was
when we came over.  Of course he may come any month.  I don't understand
your desolation, Charlie."

Charlie laughed.  "When is Will coming?"

"It does not seem to be decided yet," said Graeme.  "He may come in the
spring, but if he decides to travel first, as he seems to have an
opportunity to do, he will not be here till next autumn, at the soonest.
It seems a long time to put it off; but we ought not to grudge the
delay, especially as he may never get another chance to go so easily and
pleasantly."

"What if Will should think like Mr Ruthven, that a life at home is to
be desired?  How would you like that, girls?" said Harry.

"Oh! but he never could have the same reason for thinking so.  There is
no family estate in his case," said Rose, laughing.

"Who knows?" said Arthur.  "There may be a little dim kirk and a
low-roofed manse waiting him somewhere.  That would seem to be the most
appropriate inheritance for his father's youngest son.  What would you
say to that Graeme?"

"I would rather say nothing--think nothing about it," said Graeme,
hastily.  "It is not likely that could ever happen.  It will all be
arranged for us, doubtless."

"It was very stupid of you, Harry, to say anything of that sort to
Graeme," said Rose.  "Now, she will vex herself about her boy, as though
it were possible that he could stay there.  He never will, I know."

"I shall not vex myself, indeed, Rosie--at least I shall not until I
have some better reason for doing so, than Harry's foolish speeches.
Mr Millar, you said you might go home next summer.  Is that something
new?  Or is it only new to us?"

"It is possible that I may go.  Indeed, it is very likely.  I shall know
soon."

"It depends on circumstances over which he has no control," said Harry,
impressively.  "He has my best wishes, and he would have yours, Graeme,
I think, if you knew about it."

"He has them, though I don't know about it," said Graeme.  "I have
confidence in him that he deserves success."

"Yes, it is safe to wish him success--if not in one thing, in another.
I am not sure that he quite knows what he wants yet, but I think I know
what is good for him."

"Rosie," said Fanny, suddenly, "Mr Millar can set us right now.  I am
glad I thought of it.  Mr Millar, is Mrs Roxbury your aunt, or only
your brother's?"

"I am afraid it is only Allan who can claim so close a relationship as
that.  I don't think I can claim any relationship at all.  I should have
to consider, before I could make it clear even to myself, how we are
connected."

"It is much better not to consider the subject, then," said Arthur, "as
they are rather desirable people to have for relations; call them
cousins, and let it go."

"But at any rate she is not your aunt, and Amy Roxbury is not your
cousin, as some one was insisting over Rose and me the other day.  I
told you so, Rosie."

"Did you?" said Rose, languidly.  "I don't remember."

"It was Mrs Gridley, I think, and she said--no, it must have been some
one else--she said you were not cousins, but that it was a very
convenient relationship, and very pleasant in certain circumstances."

"Very true, too, eh, Charlie," said Arthur, laughing.

"I should scarcely venture to call Miss Roxbury cousin," said Charlie.

"She is very nice, indeed," pursued Fanny.  "Rose fell in love with her
at first sight, and the admiration was mutual, I think."

Rose shrugged her shoulders.

"That is, perhaps, a little strong, Fanny, dear.  She is very charming,
I have no doubt, but I am not so apt to fall into sudden admirations as
I used to be."

"But you admired her very much.  And you said she was very like Lily
Elphinstone, when you first saw her.  I am sure you thought her very
lovely, and so did Graeme."

"Did I?" said Rose.

"She is very like her," said Mr Millar.  "I did not notice it till her
mother mentioned it.  She is like her in other respects, too; but
livelier and more energetic.  She is stronger than Lily used to be, and
perhaps a little more like the modern young lady."

"Fast, a little, perhaps," said Arthur.

"Oh! no; not like one in the unpleasant sense that the word has.  She is
self-reliant.  She has her own ideas of men and things, and they are not
always the same as her mamma's.  But she is a dutiful daughter, and she
is charming with her little brothers and sisters.  Such a number there
are of them, too."

Charlie spoke eagerly, looking at Graeme.  "You seem deeply interested
in her," said Arthur, laughing.

Harry rose impatiently.

"We should have Mrs Gridley here.  I never think a free discussion of
our neighbours and their affairs can be conducted on proper principles
without her valuable assistance.  Your _cousin_ would be charmed to know
that you made her the subject of conversation among your acquaintance, I
have no doubt, Charlie."

"But she is not his cousin," said Fanny.  "And Harry, dear, you are
unkind to speak of us as mere acquaintances of Mr Millar.  Of course,
he would not speak of her everywhere; and you must permit me to say you
are a little unreasonable, not to say cross."  And Rose smiled very
sweetly on him as she spoke.

Harry did look cross, and Charlie looked astonished.  Graeme did not
understand it.

"Was that young Roxbury I saw you driving with the other day?" asked
Arthur.  "He is going into business, I hear."

"It was he," said Charlie.  "As to his going into business, I cannot
say.  He is quite young yet.  He is not of age.  Are you going, Harry?
It is not very late yet."

They did not go immediately, but they did not have much pleasure after
that.  He was very lively and amusing, and tried to propitiate Harry,
Graeme thought, but she was not quite sure; there were a good many
allusions to events and places and persons that she did not understand,
and nothing could be plainer than that she did not succeed.  Then they
had some music.  Rose sat at the piano till they went away, playing
pieces long, loud, and intricate; and, after they went away, she sat
down again, and played on still.

"What put Harry out of sorts to-night?" asked Arthur.

"Was he out of sorts?" asked Graeme, a little anxiously.

Rose laughed.

"I shall have to give Harry some good advice," said she; and that was
the last word she said, till she said "good-night."

"There is something wrong," said Graeme to herself, "though I am sure I
cannot tell what it is.  In old times, Rosie would have burst forth with
it all, as soon as we came up-stairs.  But it is nothing that can
trouble her, I am sure.  I hope it is nothing that will trouble her.  I
will not fret about it beforehand.  We do not know our troubles from our
blessings at first sight.  It ought not to be less easy to trust for my
darling than for myself.  But, oh!  Rosie, I am afraid I have been at my
old folly, dreaming idle dreams again."



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

Graeme had rejoiced over her sister's return, "heart-free and
fancy-free," rather more than was reasonable, seeing that the danger to
her freedom of heart and fancy was as great at home as elsewhere, and,
indeed, inevitable anywhere, and, under certain circumstances,
desirable, as well.  A very little thing had disturbed her sense of
security before many weeks were over, and then, amid the mingling of
anxiety and hope which followed, she could not but feel how vain and
foolish her feeling of security had been.  It was the look that had come
into Charlie Millar's face one day, as his eye fell suddenly on the face
of Rose.  Graeme's heart gave a sudden throb of pain and doubt, as she
saw it, for it told her that a change was coming over their quiet life,
and her own experience made it seem to her a change to be dreaded.

There had been a great snow-shoe race going on that day, in which they
were all supposed to be much interested, because Master Albert Grove was
one of the runners, and had good hope of winning a silver medal which
was to be the prize of the foremost in the race.  Graeme and Rose had
come with his little sisters to look, on, and Rose had grown as eager
and delighted as the children, and stood there quite unconscious of the
admiration in Charlie's eyes, and of the shock of pain that thrilled at
her sister's heart.  It was more than admiration that Graeme saw in his
eyes, but the look passed, and he made no movement through the crowd
toward them, and everything was just as it had been before, except that
the thought had come into Graeme's mind, and could not quite be
forgotten again.

After that the time still went quietly on, and Charlie came and went,
and was welcomed as before; but Graeme looking on him now with
enlightened eyes, saw, or thought she saw, more and more clearly every
day, the secret that he did not seem in haste to utter.  And every day
she saw it with less pain, and waited, at last, glad and wondering, for
the time when the lover's word should change her sister's shy and
somewhat stately courtesy into a frank acceptance of what could not but
be precious, Graeme thought, though still unknown or unacknowledged.
And then the mention of Amy Roxbury's name, and the talk that followed,
startled her into the knowledge that she had been dreaming.

"Rose," said she, after they had been up-stairs for some time, and were
about to separate for the night, "what was the matter with Harry this
evening?"

"What, indeed?" said Rose, laughing.  "He was quite out of sorts about
something."

"I did not think he knew the Roxburys.  He certainly has not known them
long," said Graeme.

"No, not very long--at least, not Miss Amy, who has only just returned
home, you know.  But I think she was not at the root of his trouble; at
least, not directly.  I think he has found out a slight mistake of his,
with regard to `his friend and partner.'  That is what vexed him," said
Rose.

"I don't know what you mean?" said Graeme, gravely.  "I should think
Harry could hardly be seriously mistaken in his friend by this time, and
certainly I should not feel inclined to laugh at him."

"Oh! no.  Not _seriously_ mistaken; and I don't think he was so much
vexed at the mistake, as that I should know it."

"I don't understand you," said Graeme.

"It does not matter, Graeme.  It will all come out right, I daresay.
Harry was vexed because he saw that I was laughing at him, and it is
just as well that he should be teased a little."

"Rose, don't go yet.  What is there between you and Harry that I don't
know about?  You would not willingly make me unhappy, Rose, I am sure.
Tell me how you have vexed each other, dear.  I noticed it to-night, and
I have several times noticed it before.  Tell me all about it, Rose."

"There is nothing to tell, Graeme, indeed.  I was very much vexed with
Harry once, but I daresay there was no need for it.  Graeme, it is silly
to repeat it," added Rose, reddening.

"There is no one to hear but me, dear."

"It was all nonsense.  Harry took it into his head that I had not
treated his friend well, when he was out West, at Norman's, I mean.  Of
course, we could not fall into home ways during his short visit there;
everything was so different.  But I was not `high and mighty' with him,
as Harry declared afterwards.  He took me to task, sharply, and accused
me of flirting, and I don't know what all, as though that would help his
friend's cause, even if his friend had cared about it, which he did not.
It was very absurd.  I cannot talk about it, Graeme.  It was all
Harry's fancy.  And to-night, when Mr Millar spoke so admiringly of Amy
Roxbury, Harry wasn't pleased, because he knew I remembered what he had
said, and he knew I was laughing at him.  And I fancy he admires the
pretty little thing, himself.  It would be great fun to see the dear
friends turn out rivals, would it not?" said Rose, laughing.

"But that is all nonsense, Rose."

"Of course, it is all nonsense, from beginning to end.  That is just
what I think, and what I have been saying to you.  So don't let us say
or think anything more about it.  Good-night."

"Good-night.  It will all come right, I daresay;" and Graeme put it out
of her thoughts, as Rose had bidden her do.

After this, Harry was away for a while, and they saw less of Mr Millar,
because of his absence, Graeme thought.  He must have more to do, as the
busy time of the coming and going of the ships was at hand.  So their
days passed very quietly, with only common pleasures to mark them, but
they were happy days for all that; and Graeme, seeing her sister's
half-veiled pleasure when Charlie came, and only half conscious
impatience when he stayed away, smiled to herself as she repeated, "It
will all come right."

It was a fair April day; a little colder than April days are generally
supposed to be, but bright and still--just the day for a long walk, all
agreed; and Rose went up-stairs to prepare to go out, singing out of a
light heart as she went.  Graeme hastened to finish something that she
had in her hand, that she might follow, and then a visitor came, and
before Rose came down with her hat on, another came; and the one that
came last, and stayed longest, was their old friend, and Harry's
aversion, Mrs Gridley.  Rose had reconciled herself to the loss of her
walk, by this time, and listened amused to the various subjects
discussed, laying up an item now and then, for Harry's special benefit.
There was variety, for this was her first visit for a long time.

After a good many interesting excursions among the affairs of their
friends and neighbours, she brought them back in her pleasant way to
their own.

"By the by, is it true that young Roxbury is going into business with
Mr Millar and your brother?"

"We have not bees informed of any such design," said Rose.

"Your brother is away just now, is he not?  Will he return?  Young men
who have done business elsewhere, are rather in the habit of calling our
city slow.  I hope your brother Harry does not.  Is young Roxbury to
take his place in the firm, or are all three to be together?"

"Harry does not make his business arrangements the subject of
conversation very often," said Graeme, gravely.

"He is quite right," said Mrs Gridley.  "And I daresay, young Roxbury
would not be a great acquisition to the firm, though his father's money
might.  However, some of _that_ may be got in a more agreeable way.  Mr
Millar is doing his best, they say.  But, Amy Roxbury is little more
than a child.  Still some very foolish marriages seem to turn out very
well.  Am I not to see Mrs Elliott, to-day?  She is a very devoted
mother, it seems."

"She would have been happy to see you, if she had been at home."

"And she is quite well again?  What a relief it must be to you," said
Mrs Gridley, amiably.  "And you are all quite happy together!  I
thought you were going to stay at the West, Rose?"

"I could not be spared any longer; they could not do without me."

"And are you going to keep house for Harry, at Elphinstone house, or is
Mr Millar to have that?"

And so on, till she was tired, at last, and went away.

"What nonsense that woman talks, to be sure!" said Rose.

"Worse than nonsense, I am afraid, sometimes," said Graeme.  "Really,
Harry's terror of her is not surprising.  Nobody seems safe from her
tongue."

"But don't let us lose our walk, altogether.  We have time to go round
the square, at any rate.  It is not late," said Rose.

They went out, leaving, or seeming to leave, all thought of Mrs Gridley
and her news behind them.  They met Fanny returning home, before they
had gone far down the street.

"Come with us, Fanny.  Baby is all right.  Are you tired?" said Rose.

"No, I am not tired.  But is it not almost dinner time?  Suppose we go
and meet Arthur."

"Well--only there is a chance of missing him; and it is much nicer up
toward S street.  However, we can go home that way.  There will be time
enough.  How delightful the fresh air is, after a whole day in the
house!"

"And after Mrs Gridley," said Graeme, laughing.

"Have you had Mrs Gridley?" said Fanny.

"Yes, and columns of news, but it will keep.  Is it not nice to be out?
I would like to borrow that child's skipping rope, and go up the street
as she does."

Fanny laughed.  "Wouldn't all the people be amazed?  Tell me what news
Mrs Gridley gave you."

Rose went over a great many items, very fast, and very merrily.

"All that, and more besides, which Graeme will give you, if you are not
satisfied.  There is your husband.  I hope he may be glad to see us
all."

"If he is not, he can go home by himself."

Arthur professed himself delighted, but suggested the propriety of their
coming one at a time, after that, so that the pleasure might last
longer.

"Very well, one at a time be it," said Rose.  "Come, Fanny, he thinks it
possible to have too much of a good thing.  Let him have Graeme,
to-night, and we will take care of ourselves."

They went away together, and Arthur and Graeme followed, and so it
happened that Graeme had lost sight of her sister; when she saw
something that brought some of Mrs Gridley's words unpleasantly to her
mind.  They had turned into S street, which was gay with carriages, and
with people riding and walking, and the others were at a distance before
them under the trees, when Arthur spoke to some one, and looking up, she
saw Miss Roxbury, on horseback, and at her side rode Mr Millar.  She
was startled, so startled that she quite forgot to return Miss Roxbury's
bow and smile, and had gone a good way down the street before she
noticed that her brother was speaking to her.  He was saying something
about the possible admission of young Roxbury into the new firm, apropos
of the encounter of Mr Millar and Amy.

"Harry is very close about his affairs," said Graeme, with a little
vexation.  "Mrs Gridley gave us that among other pieces of news,
to-day.  I am not sure that I did not deny it, decidedly.  It is rather
awkward when all the town knows of our affairs, before we know them
ourselves."

"Awkward, indeed!" said Arthur, laughing.  "But then this partnership is
hardly our affair, and Mrs Gridley is not all the town, though she is
not to be lightlified, where the spreading of news is concerned; and she
tells things before they happen, it seems, for this is not settled, yet,
and may never be.  It would do well for some things."

But Graeme could not listen to this, or to anything else, just then.
She was wondering whether Rose had seen Charles Millar and Miss Roxbury,
and hoping she had not.  And then she considered a moment whether she
might not ask Arthur to say nothing about meeting them; but she could
not do it without making it seem to herself that she was betraying her
sister.  And yet, how foolish such a thought was; for Rose had nothing
to betray, she said, a little anxiously, to herself.  She repeated it
more firmly, however, when they came to the corner of the street where
Fanny and Rose were waiting for them, and laughing and talking merrily
together.  If Rose felt any vexation, she hid it well.

"I will ask Fanny whom they met.  No, I will not," said Graeme, to
herself, again.  "Why should Rose care.  It is only I who have been
foolish.  They have known each other so long, it would have happened
long ago, if it had been to happen.  It would have been very nice for
some things.  And it might have been, if Rose had cared for him.  He
cared for her, I am quite sure.  Who would not?  But she does not care
for him.  I hope she does not care for him.  Oh!  I could not go through
all that again!  Oh, my darling, my darling!"

It was growing dark, happily, or her face might have betrayed what
Graeme was thinking.  She started a little when her sister said,--

"Graeme, do you think it would be extravagant in me to wish for a new
velvet jacket?"

"Not very extravagant just to wish for one," said Graeme, dubiously.
Rose laughed.

"I might as well wish for a gown, too, while I am wishing, I suppose,
you think.  No, but I do admire those little jackets so much.  I might
cut over my winter one, but it would be a waste of material, and
something lighter and less expensive would do.  It wouldn't take much,
they are worn so small.  What do you think about it, Graeme?"

"If you can afford it.  They are very pretty, certainly."

"Yes, are they not?  But, after all, I daresay I am foolish to wish for
one."

"Why, as to that, if you have set your heart on one, I daresay we can
manage it between us."

"Oh! as to setting my heart on it, I can't quite say that.  It is not
wise to set one's heart on what one is not sure of getting--or on things
that perish with the using--which is emphatically true of jackets.  This
one has faded a great deal more than it ought to have done, considering
the cost," added she, looking gravely down at her sleeve.

There was no time for more.

"Here we are," said Fanny, as they all came up to the door.  "How
pleasant it has been, and how much longer the days are getting.  We will
all come to meet you again, dear.  I only hope baby has been good."

"She did not see them," said Graeme, to herself, "or she does not care.
If she had seen them she would have said so, of course, unless--.  I
will watch her.  I shall see if there is any difference.  But she cannot
hide it from me, if she is vexed or troubled.  I am quite sure of that."

If there was one among them that night more silent than usual, or less
cheerful, it certainly was not Rose.  She was just what she always was.
She was not lively and talkative, as though she had anything to hide;
nor did she go to the piano, and play on constantly and noisily, as she
sometimes did when she was vexed or impatient.  She was just as usual.
She came into Graeme's room and sat down for a few minutes of quiet,
just as she usually did.  She did not stay very long, but she did not
hurry away as though she wished to be alone, and her mind was full of
the velvet jacket still, it seemed, though she did not speak quite so
eagerly about it as she had done at first.  Still it was an important
matter, beyond all other matters for the time, and when she went away
she laughingly confessed that she ought to be ashamed to care so much
about so small a matter, and begged her sister not to think her
altogether vain and foolish.  And then Graeme said to herself, again,
that Rose did not care, she was quite sure, and very glad and thankful.

Glad and thankful!  Yet, Graeme watched her sister next day, and for
many days, with eyes which even Fanny could see were wistful and
anxious.  Rose did not see it, or she did not say so.  She was not sad
in the least degree, yet not too cheerful.  She was just as usual,
Graeme assured herself many times, when anxious thoughts would come; and
so she was, as far as any one could see.

When Mr Millar called the first time after the night when Graeme had
met him with Miss Roxbury, Rose was not at home.  He had seen her going
into the house next door, as he was coming up the street, he told Mrs
Elliott, when she wondered what had become of her.  She did not come in
till late.  She had been beguiled into playing and singing any number of
duets and trios with the young Gilberts, she said, and she had got a new
song that would just suit Fanny's voice, and Fanny must come and try it.
And then, she appealed to Arthur, whether it was a proper thing for his
wife to give up all her music except nursery rhymes, and carried her in
triumph to the piano, where they amused themselves till baby wanted
mamma.  She was just as friendly as usual with Mr Millar during the
short time he stayed after that--rather more so, perhaps, for she
reminded him of a book which he had promised to bring and had forgotten.
He brought it the very next night, but Rose, unhappily, had toothache,
and could not come down.  She was not "making believe," Graeme assured
herself when she went up-stairs, for her face was flushed, and her hands
were hot, and she paid a visit to the dentist next morning.  In a day or
two Harry came home, and Mr Millar came and went with him as usual, and
was very quiet and grave, as had come to be his way of late, and to all
appearance everything went on as before.

"Graeme," said Fanny, confidentially, one night when all but Rose were
sitting together, "I saw the _prettiest_ velvet jacket to-day!  It was
trimmed in quite a new style, quite simply, too.  I asked the price."

"And were astonished at its cheapness," said Harry.

"For baby, I suppose?" said Arthur.

"For baby!  A velvet jacket!  What are you thinking of, Arthur?" said
Fanny, answering her husband first.  "No, Harry, I was not astonished at
the cheapness.  But it was a beauty, and not very dear, considering."

"And it is for baby's mamma, then," said Arthur, making believe to take
out his pocket book.  Fanny shook her head.

"I have any number of jackets," said she.

"But, then, you have worn them any number of times," said Harry.

"They are as good as new, but old-fashioned?  Eh, Fanny?" said her
husband.

"Three weeks behind the latest style," said Harry.

"Nonsense, Arthur!  What do you know about jackets, Harry?  But, Graeme,
Rosie ought to have it.  You know, she wants one so much."

"She spoke about it, I know; but I don't think she really cares for one.
At any rate, she has made up her mind to do without one."

"Of course, it would be foolish to care about what she could not get,"
said Fanny, wisely.  "But she would like it, all the same, I am sure."

The velvet jacket had been discussed between these two with much
interest; but Rose had given up all thought of it with great apparent
reluctance, and nothing had been said about it for some days.  Judging
from what her own feelings would have been in similar circumstances,
Fanny doubted the sincerity of Rose's resignation.

"I believe it is that which has been vexing her lately, though she says
nothing," continued she.

"Vexing her," repeated Graeme.  "What do you mean, Fanny?  What have you
seen?"

"Oh!  I have seen nothing that you have not seen as well.  But I know I
should be vexed if I wanted a velvet jacket, and could not get it; at
least I should have been when I was a young girl like Rose," added
Fanny, with the gentle tolerance of a young matron, who has seen the
folly of girlish wishes, but does not care to be hard on them.  The
others laughed.

"And even later than that--till baby came to bring you wisdom," said her
husband.

"And it would be nice if Rosie could have it before the Convocation,"
continued Fanny, not heeding him.  "It would just be the thing with her
new hat and grey poplin."

"Yes," said Graeme, "but I don't think Rosie would enjoy it unless she
felt that she could quite well afford it.  I don't really think she
cares about it much."

"I know what you mean, Graeme.  She would not like me to interfere about
it, you think.  But if Arthur or Harry would have the sense to make her
a present of it, just because it is pretty and fashionable, and not
because she is supposed to want it, and without any hint from you or me,
that would be nice."

"Upon my word, Fanny, you are growing as wise as your mamma," said
Harry.  "A regular manager."

Fanny pouted a little for she knew that her mamma's wisdom and
management were not admired.  Graeme hastened to interfere.

"It is very nice of you to care so much about it, Fanny.  You know Rose
is very determined to make her means cover her expenses; but still if,
as you say, Harry should suddenly be smitten with admiration for the
jacket, and present it to her, perhaps it might do.  I am not sure,
however.  I have my misgivings."

And not without reason.  Rose had an allowance, liberal enough, but not
too liberal; not so liberal but that taste, and skill, and care were
needed, to enable her to look as nice as she liked to look.  But more
than once she had failed to express, or to feel gratitude to Fanny, in
her attempts to make it easier for her, either by an appeal to her
brothers, or by drawing on her own means.  Even from Graeme, she would
only accept temporary assistance, and rather prided herself on the
little shifts and contrivances by which she made her own means go to the
utmost limit.

But there was no difficulty this time.  It all happened naturally
enough, and Rose thanked Harry with more warmth than was necessary, in
his opinion, or, indeed, in the opinion of Graeme.

"I saw one on Miss Roxbury," said Harry, "or, I ought to say, I saw Miss
Roxbury wearing one; and I thought it looked very well, and so did
Charlie."

"Oh!" said Rose, with a long breath.  "But then you know, Harry dear,
that I cannot pretend to such style as Miss Roxbury.  I am afraid you
will be disappointed in my jacket."

"You want me to compliment you, Rosie.  You know you are a great deal
prettier than little Amy Roxbury.  But she is very sweet and good, if
you would only take pains to know her.  You would win her heart
directly, if you were to try."

"But then I should not know what to do with it, if I were to win it,
unless I were to give it away.  And hearts are of no value when given by
a third person, as nobody should know better than you, Harry, dear.  But
I shall do honour to your taste all the same; and twenty more good
brothers shall present jackets to grateful sisters, seeing how well I
look in mine.  It is very nice, and I thank you very much."

But she did not look as though she enjoyed it very much, Graeme could
not help thinking.

"Of course, she did not really care much to have it.  She does not need
to make herself fine.  I daresay she will enjoy wearing it, however.  It
is well she can enjoy something else besides finery."

They all went to the Convocation, and Rose wore her new jacket, and her
grey poplin, and looked beautiful, the rest thought.  The ladies went
early with Arthur, but he was called away, and it was a little tedious
waiting, or it would have been, only it was very amusing to see so many
people coming in, all dressed in their new spring attire.  Fanny enjoyed
this part of the affair very much, and Rose said she enjoyed it, too,
quite as much as any part of the affair; and, by and by, Fanny whispered
that there was Harry, with Miss Roxbury.

"I thought Harry was not coming," said she.

"I suppose, he was able to get away after all," said Graeme, and she
looked round for Mr Millar.  He was not to be seen, but by and by Harry
came round to them, to say that there were several seats much better
than theirs, that had been reserved for the Roxbury party, because Mr
Roxbury had something to do with the College, and Mrs Roxbury wanted
them to come round and take them, before they were filled.

"Oh! how charming!" said Rose.  "If we only could.  We should be quite
among the great people, then, which is what I delight in."

"I thought you were not coming, Harry," said Graeme.

"I was afraid I could not get away, but I made out to do so.  No, not at
Charlie's expense.  There he is now, speaking to Mrs Roxbury, and
looking about for us, I daresay."

"Well, Fanny, you go on with Harry, and Graeme and I will follow," said
Rose.  "It would not do to separate, I suppose?  Are you sure there is
room for all, Harry?"

"Quite sure.  No fear; we will make room."

So Harry gave his arm to Fanny, and Graeme rose to follow them, though
she would much rather have stayed where she was.  When she reached the
other end of the long hall, she turned to look for her sister, but Rose
had not moved.  She could not catch her eye, for her attention was
occupied by some one who had taken the seat beside her, and Graeme could
not linger without losing sight of Harry and Fanny, for the people were
crowding up, now, and only the seats set apart for the students were
left vacant.  So she was obliged to hasten on.

"I will send Harry back for her," said Graeme, to herself.  "Or,
perhaps, when Arthur returns, she will cross the hall with him.  We have
made a very foolish move for all concerned, I think.  But Rosie seemed
to like the idea, and I did not care.  I only hope we are not separated
for the whole affair."

But separated for the whole affair they were.  Arthur returned, but it
was not easy for him to get through the crowd to the place where he had
left his wife and sisters, and when he reached it, he saw that it would
not be easy to get away again.  So as he could see and hear very well
where he was, and as Rose seemed quite satisfied with her place, and
with the companionship of her little friend, Miss Etta Goldsmith, he
contented himself where he was.

Miss Goldsmith had come to town to see her brother take his diploma as
doctor of medicine, and she was in a fever of anxiety till "dear Dick,"
had got his precious bit of parchment in his hands.  And after that,
till he had performed his duty as orator of his class, and had bidden
farewell to each and all, in English so flowing and flowery, that she
was amazed, as well as delighted, and very grateful to his classmates
for the applause, which they did not spare.  Rose sat beside the eager
little girl, so grave and pale, by contrast, perhaps, that Arthur leaned
over, and asked her if she were ill, or only very tired of it all.  Then
she brightened.

"There is great deal more of it, is there not?  I must not be tired yet.
Why don't you find your way over to Fanny and Graeme?"

"Where are they?  Ah! yes, I see them over there among the great folks--
and Harry, too, no less, and his friend and partner.  And that bonny
little Amy is not far-away, I'll venture to say.  No.  I shall stay
where I am for the present."

Miss Goldsmith did not feel bound to be specially interested in anybody
or anything, except her big brother and his bit of parchment.  And so,
when he had given her a nod and a smile, as he came down from the dais,
crumpling his papers in his big hands, she was ready to look about and
enjoy herself.  And to the unaccustomed eyes of the country girl, there
was a great deal worth seeing.

"How beautifully the ladies are dressed!  How pretty the spring fashions
are!  I feel like an old dowdy!  Who is that lady in blue?  What a love
of a hat!  And your jacket!  It is a beauty!"

It was through such a running fire of questions and exclamations that
Rose listened to all that was going on.  There was a good deal more to
be said, for the law students were addressed by a gentleman, whose boast
it seemed to be, that he had once been a law student himself.  Then they
had some Latin muttered over them, and their heads tapped by the
Principal, and some one else gave them their bits of parchment, and then
their orator spoke their farewell in flowing and flowery English.  And
"will it ever be done?" thought Rose, with a sigh.

It was not "just the thing," all this discussion of hats and fashions;
but little Miss Goldsmith spoke very softly, and disturbed no one,
breathed her questions almost, and Rose answered as silently, with a
nod, or a smile, or a turn of the eye; and, at any rate, they were not
the only people who were thus taking refuge from the dullness of the
Dean, and the prosing of the Chancellor, Rose thought to herself; as she
glanced about.  Arthur whispered that the Chancellor surpassed himself
on the occasion, and that even the Dean was not very prosy, and Rose did
not dissent, but she looked as if it was all a weariness to her?  She
brightened a little when it was all over, and they rose to go.

"Go and find Fanny and Graeme," said she to her brother.  "Dr Goldsmith
will take care of his sister and me."

Dr Goldsmith was nothing loth, and Rose was so engaged in offering her
congratulations, and in listening to his replies, and in responding to
the greetings of her many friends as she came down into the hall, that
she did not notice that Graeme and Mr Millar were waiting for her at
the head of the stairs.  There was a little delay at the outer door,
where there were many carriages waiting.  The Roxbury carriage was among
the rest, and Miss Roxbury was sitting in it, though Rose could not help
thinking she looked as though she would much rather have walked on with
the rest, as Harry was so bold as to propose.  They were waiting for Mr
Roxbury, it seemed, and our party lingered over their last words.

"I will walk on with the Goldsmiths.  I have something to say to Etta,"
said Rose, and before Graeme could expostulate, or, indeed, answer at
all, she was gone.  The carriage passed them, and Miss Roxbury leaned
forward and bowed and smiled, and charmed Miss Goldsmith with her pretty
manner and perfect hat.  In a little, Harry overtook them.  Rose
presented him to Miss Goldsmith, and walked on with the Doctor.  At the
gate of the college grounds, their ways separated.

"Mr Elliott," said Miss Goldsmith, "your sister has almost promised to
come and visit us when I go home.  I do so want papa and mamma to see
her.  Brother Dick goes home to-morrow, but I am going to stay a day or
two, and then I want Rose to go with me.  Do try and persuade Miss
Elliott to let her go."

Harry promised, with more politeness than sincerity, saying he had no
doubt Graeme would be happy to give Rose the pleasure, and then they got
away.

"Papa, and mamma, and brother Dick.  I declare it looks serious.  What
are you meditating, now, Rosie, if I may ask?"

"My dear Harry, if you think by chaff to escape the scolding you know
you deserve, you will find yourself mistaken.  The idea of your taking
Graeme and Fanny away, and leaving me there by myself!  I don't know
what I should have done if Arthur had not come back.  To be sure I had
Etta Goldsmith, who is a dear little thing.  I don't think her big
brother is so very ugly if he hadn't red hair.  And he must be clever,
or he would not have been permitted to make that speech.  His papa and
mamma must be delighted.  But it was very shabby of you, Harry, to go
and leave me alone; was it not, Arthur?"

"But, you might have come, too," said Fanny.  "I thought you were
following us."

"And so did I," said Graeme.

"Well, dear little Etta Goldsmith pounced upon me the moment you left,
and then it was too late.  I did not feel sufficiently strong-minded to
elbow my way through the crowd alone, or I might have followed you."

"I did not miss you at first," said Harry, "and then I wanted Charlie to
go for you, but--"

"He very properly refused.  Don't excuse yourself, Harry.  And I had set
my heart on comparing jackets with Miss Roxbury, too."

"Why did you not stay and speak to her at the door, then?" said Harry,
who had rather lost his presence of mind under his sister's reproaches.
He had hurried after her, fully intending to take her to task for being
so stiff and distant, and he was not prepared to defend himself,--

"Why didn't you wait and speak to her at the door?"

"Oh! you know, I could not have seen it well then, as she was in the
carriage.  It is very awkward looking up to carriage people, don't you
think?  And, besides, it would not have been quite polite to the
Goldsmiths," added she, severely.  "You know they befriended me when I
was left alone."

"Befriended you, indeed.  I expected every minute to see your feather
take fire as he bent his red head down over it.  I felt like giving him
a beating," said Harry, savagely.  Rose laughed merrily.

"My dear Harry!  You couldn't do it.  He is so much bigger than you.  At
least, he has greater weight, as the fighting people say."

"But it is all nonsense, Rose.  I don't like it.  It looked to me, and
to other people, too, very much like a flirtation on your part, to leave
the rest, and go away with that big--big--"

"Doctor," suggested Rose.

"And we shall have all the town, and Mrs Gridley, telling us next, that
you--"

"Harry, dear, I always know when I hear you mention Mrs Gridley's name,
that you are becoming incoherent.  _I_ leave _you_.  Quite the contrary.
And please don't use that naughty word in connection with my name
again, or I may be driven to defend myself in a way that might not be
agreeable to you.  Dear me, I thought you were growing to be reasonable
by this time.  Don't let Graeme see us quarrelling."

"You look tired, dear," said Graeme, as they went up-stairs together.

"Well, it was a little tedious, was it not?  Of course, it wouldn't do
to say so, you know.  However, I got through it pretty well, with little
Etta's help.  Did you enjoy the Roxbury party much?"

"I kept wishing we had not separated," said Graeme.  "Oh! yes, I enjoyed
it.  They asked us there to-night to meet some nice people, they said.
It is not to be a party.  Harry is to dine here, and go with us, and so
is Mr Millar."

"It will be very nice, I daresay, only I am so very tired.  However, we
need not decide till after dinner," said Rose.

After dinner she declared herself too sleepy for anything but bed, and
she had a headache, besides.

"I noticed you looked quite pale this afternoon," said Arthur.  "Don't
go if you are tired.  Graeme, what is the use of her going if she does
not want to?"

"Certainly, she ought not to go if she is not well.  But I think you
would enjoy this much, better than a regular party? and we might come
home early."

"Oh!  I enjoy regular parties only too well.  I will go if you wish it,
Graeme, only I am afraid I shall not shine with my usual brilliancy--
that is all!"

"I hope you are really ill," said Harry.  "I mean, I hope you are not
just making believe to get rid of it."

"My dear Harry!  Why, in all the world, should I make believe not well
`to get rid of it,' as you so elegantly express it?  Such great folks,
too!"

"Harry, don't be cross," said Fanny.  "I am sure I heard you say, a day
or two since, that Rose was looking thin."

"Harry, dear!" said Rose, with effusion, "give me your hand.  I forgive
you all the rest, for that special compliment.  I have had horrible
fears lately that I was getting stout--middle-aged looking, as Graeme
says.  Are you quite sincere in saying that, or are you only making
believe?"

"I didn't intend it as a compliment, I assure you.  I didn't think you
were looking very well."

"Did you not?  What would you advise?  Should I go to the country; or
should I put myself under the doctor's care?  Not our big friend, whom
you were going to beat," said Rose, laughing.

"I think you are a very silly girl," said Harry, with dignity.

"You told me that once before, don't you remember?  And I don't think
you are at all polite,--do you, Fanny?  Come up-stairs, Graeme, and I
will do your hair.  It would not be proper to let Harry go alone.  He is
in a dreadful temper, is he not?"  And Rose made a pretence of being
afraid to go past him.  "Mr Millar, cannot you do or say something to
soothe your friend and partner?"

Harry might understand all this, but Graeme could not, and she did not
like this mood of Rose at all.  However, she was very quiet; as she
dressed her sister's hair, and spoke of the people they had seen in the
afternoon, and of the exercises at the college, in her usual merry way.
But she did not wish to go out; she was tired, and had a headache,
listening to two or three things at one time, she said, and if Graeme
could only go this once without her, she would be so glad.  Graeme did
not try to persuade her, but said she must go to bed, and to sleep at
once, if she were left at home, and then she went away.

She did not go very cheerfully.  She had had two or three glimpses of
her sister's face, after she had gone to the other side of the hall with
Harry, before Miss Goldsmith had commenced her whispered confidences to
Rose, and she had seen there a look which brought back her old
misgivings that there was something troubling her darling.  She was not
able to put it away again.  The foolish, light talk between Rose and
Harry did not tend to re-assure her, and when she bade her sister
good-night, it was all that she could do not to show her anxiety by her
words.  But she only said, "good-night, and go to sleep," and then went
down-stairs with a heavy heart.  She wanted to speak with Harry about
the sharp words that had more than once passed between him and Rose of
late; but Mr Millar walked with them, and she could not do so, and it
was with an anxious and preoccupied mind that she entered Mr Roxbury's
house.

The drawing-room was very handsome, of course, with very little to
distinguish it from the many fine rooms of her friends.  Yet when Graeme
stood for a moment near the folding-doors, exchanging greetings with the
lady of the house, the remembrance of one time, when she had stood there
before, came sharply back to her, and, for a moment, her heart grew hot
with the angry pain and shame that had throbbed in it then.  It was only
for a moment, and it was not for herself.  The pain was crossed by a
thrill of gladness, for the more certain knowledge that came to her that
for herself she was content, that she wished nothing changed in her own
life, that she had outlived all that was to be regretted of that
troubled time.  She had known this before, and the knowledge came home
to her joyfully as she stood there, but it did not lighten her burden of
dread of what might lie in the future for her sister.

It did not leave her all the evening.  She watched the pretty, gentle
Amy, flitting about among her father's guests, with a feeling which, but
for the guileless sweetness of the girl's face, the innocent
unconsciousness of every look and movement, might have grown to
bitterness at last.  She watched her ways and words with Mr Millar,
wishing, in her look or manner, to see some demand for his admiration
and attention, that might excuse the wandering of his fancy from Rose.
But she watched in vain.  Amy was sweet and modest with him as with
others, more friendly and unreserved than with most, perhaps, but sweet
and modest, and unconscious, still.

"She is very like Lily Elphinstone, is she not?" said her brother Harry
in her ear.

She started at his voice; but she did not turn toward him, or remove her
eyes from the young girl's face.

"She is very like Lily--in all things," said Graeme; and to herself she
added, "and she will steal the treasure from my darling's life, as Lily
stole it from mine--innocently and unconsciously, but inevitably still--
and from Harry's, too, it may be."

And, with a new pang, she turned to look at her brother's face; but
Harry was no longer at her side.  Mr Millar was there, and his eyes had
been following hers, as Harry's had been.

"She is very sweet and lovely--very like Lily, is she not?" he
whispered.

"Very like her," repeated Graeme, her eyes closing with a momentary
feeling of sickness.

"You are very tired of all this, I am afraid," said he.

"Very tired!  If Harry only would take me home!"

"Shall I take you home?  At least, let me take you out of the crowd.
Have you seen the new picture they are all talking about?  Shall I take
you up-stairs for a little while."

Graeme rose and laid her hand on his arm, and went up-stairs in a dream.
It was all so like what had been before--the lights, and the music, and
the hum of voices, and the sick pain at her heart; only the pain was now
for Rose, and so much worse to bear.  Still in a dream, she went from
picture to picture, listening and replying to she knew not what; and she
sat down, with her eyes fixed on one beautiful, sad face, and prayed
with all her heart, for it was Rosie's face that looked down at her from
the canvas; it was Rosie's sorrow that she saw in those sweet, appealing
eyes.

"Anything but this great sorrow," she was saying in her heart,
forgetting all else in the agony of her entreaty; and her companion,
seeing her so moved, went softly away.  Not very far, however.  At the
first sound of approaching footsteps he was at her side again.

"That is a very sad picture, I think," she said, coming back with an
effort to the present.  "I have seen it once before."

Charlie did not look at the picture, but at her changing face.  An
impulse of sympathy, of admiration, of respect moved him.  Scarce
knowing what he did, he took her hand, and, before he placed it within
his arm, he raised it to his lips.

"Miss Elliott," murmured he, "_you_ will never take your friendship from
me, whatever may happen?"

She was too startled to answer for a moment, and then they were in the
crowd again.  What was he thinking of!  Of Allan and the past, or of
Rose and Amy and the future?  A momentary indignation moved her, but she
did not speak, and then little Amy was looking up in her face, rather
anxiously and wistfully, Graeme thought.

"You are not going away, Miss Elliott, are you?" said she.

"I am very tired," said Graeme.  "Oh! here is my brother.  I am very
sorry to take you away, Harry, but if you don't mind much, I should like
to go home.  Will you make my adieux to your mother, Miss Roxbury?--No,
please do not come up-stairs.  I would much rather you did not.
Good-night."

"You might at least have been civil to the little thing," growled Harry,
as she took his arm when they reached the street.  Graeme laughed.

"Civil!" she repeated and laughed again, a little bitterly.  "Oh!
Harry, dear! there are so many things that you cannot be supposed to
know.  But, indeed, I did not mean to be uncivil to the child."

"Then you were uncivil without meaning it," said Harry, sharply.

Graeme was silent a moment.

"I do not choose to answer a charge like that," said she.  "I beg your
pardon, Graeme, but--"

"Harry, hush!  I will not listen to you."

They did not speak again till they reached home.  Then Graeme said,--

"I must say something to you, Harry.  Let us walk on a little.  It is
not late.  Harry, what is the trouble between you and Rose?"

"Trouble!" repeated Harry, in amazement.  "Do you mean because she
fancied herself left alone this afternoon?"

"Of course I do not mean that.  But more than once lately you have
spoken to each other as though you were alluding to something of which I
am ignorant--something that must have happened when you were away from
home--at the West, I mean--something which I have not been told."

"Graeme, I don't understand what you mean.  What could possibly have
happened which has been concealed from you?  Why don't you ask Rose?"

"Because I have not hitherto thought it necessary to ask any one, and
now I prefer to ask you.  Harry, dear, I don't think it is anything very
serious.  Don't be impatient with me."

"Has Rose been saying anything to you?"

"Nothing that I have not heard you say yourself.  You accused her once
in my hearing of being too fond of admiration, of--of flirting, in
short--"

"My dear Graeme!  I don't think I ever made any such assertion--at least
in a way that you or Rose need to resent--or complain of."

"Rose does not complain of it, she laughs at it.  Harry, dear, what is
it?  Don't you remember one night when something was said about Mrs
Gridley--no, don't be impatient.  You were annoyed with Rose, then, and
it was not about anything that was said at the time, at least I thought
not.  I don't wish to seem prying or inquisitive, but what concerns Rose
is a great matter to me.  She is more to me than any one."

"Graeme," said Harry, gravely, "you don't suppose that I love Rose less
than you do.  I think I know what you mean, however.  I annoyed her once
by something I said about Charlie, but it was only for the moment.  I am
sure she does not care about that now."

"About Charlie!" repeated Graeme.

"Yes; you did not know it, I suppose, but it was a serious matter to
Charlie when you and Rose went away that time.  He was like a man lost.
And I do believe she cared for him, too--and I told him so--only she was
such a child."

"You told him so!" repeated Graeme, in astonishment.

"I could not help it, Graeme.  The poor fellow was in such a way, so--so
miserable; and when he went West last winter, it was more to see Rose
than for anything else.  But he came back quite downhearted.  She was so
much run after, he said, and she was very distant with him.  Not that he
said very much about it.  But when I went out there afterwards, I took
her to task sharply about it."

"Harry!  How could you?"

"Very easily.  It is a serious thing when a girl plays fast and loose
with a man's heart, and such a man as Charlie.  And I told her so
roundly."

"And how did she take it?" asked Graeme, in a maze between astonishment
and vexation.

"Oh! she was as high and mighty as possible, called my interference
rudeness and impertinence, and walked out of the room like an offended
princess--and I rather think I had the worst of it," added Harry,
laughing at the remembrance.  "But I don't bear malice, and I don't
think Rose does."

"Of course, she does not.  But Harry, dear, though I should not call
your interference impertinent in any bad sense, I must say it was not a
very wise thing to take her to task, as you call it.  I don't believe
Mr Millar ever said a word to her about--about his feelings, and you
don't suppose she was going to confess, or allow you to scold her
about--any one."

"Now; Graeme, don't be missish!  `Never said a word!'--Why, a blind man
might have seen it all along.  I know we all looked upon her as a child,
but a woman soon knows when a man cares for her."

"No wise woman will acknowledge it to another till she has been told so
in words; at least she ought not," said Graeme, gravely.

"Oh, well!--there is no use talking.  Perhaps I was foolish; but I love
Charlie, dearly.  I daresay Rose thinks herself too good for him,
because he does not pretend to be so wonderfully intellectual as some of
her admirers do, and you may agree with her.  But I tell you, Graeme,
Charlie is pure gold.  I don't know another that will compare with him,
for everything pure and good and high-minded--unless it is our own Will;
and it is so long since we have seen him, we don't know how he may be
changed by this time.  But I can swear for Charlie."

"You don't need to swear to me, Harry.  You know well I have always
liked Charlie."

"Well, it can't be helped now.  Charlie has got over it.  Men _do_ get
over these things, though it doesn't seem possible to them at the time,"
added Harry, meditatively.  "I was rather afraid of Rosie's coming home,
and I wanted Charlie to go to Scotland, then, but he is all right now.
Of course you are not to suppose that I blame Rose.  Such things will
happen, and it is well it is no worse.  It is the way with those girls
not to know or value true worth because they see it every day."

"Poor Charlie!" said Graeme, softly.

"Oh, don't fret about Charlie.  He is all right now.  He is not the man
to lose the good of his life because a silly girl doesn't know her own
mind.  `There's as good fish in the sea,' you know.  If you are going to
be sorry for any one, let it be for Rosie.  She has lost a rare chance
for happiness in the love of a good man."

"But it may not be lost," murmured Graeme.

"I am afraid it is," said Harry, gravely.  "It is not in Rose to do
justice to Charlie.  Even you don't do it, Graeme.  Because he lives
just a commonplace life, and buys and sells, and comes and goes, like
other men, you women have not the discrimination to see that he is one
of a thousand.  As for Rose, with her romance, and her nonsense, she is
looking for a hero and a paladin, and does not know a true heart when it
is laid at her feet.  I only hope she won't wait for the `hats till the
blue-bonnets go by,' as Janet used to say."

"As I have done, you would like to add," said Graeme, laughing, for her
heart was growing light.  "And Harry, dear, Rosie never had anybody's
heart laid at her feet.  It is you who are growing foolish and romantic,
in your love for your friend."

"Oh! well.  It doesn't matter.  She will never have it now.  Charlie is
all right by this time.  Her high and mighty airs have cured him, and
her flippancy and her love of admiration.  Fancy her walking off to-day
with that red-headed fool and quite ignoring Mrs Roxbury and her
daughter, when they--Miss Roxbury, at least--wanted to see her to engage
her for this evening."

"He is not a fool, and he cannot help his red hair," said Graeme,
laughing, though there was both sadness and vexation in her heart.  "The
Goldsmiths might have called her `high and mighty' if she had left them
and gone quite out of her way, as she must have done, to speak to those
`fine carriage people.'  She could only choose between the two parties,
and I think politeness and kindness suggested the propriety of going on
with her friends, not a love of admiration, as you seem determined to
suppose."

"She need not have been rude to the Roxburys, however.  Charlie noticed
it as well as I."

"I think you are speaking very foolishly, Harry," said Graeme.  "What do
the Roxburys care for any of us?  Do you suppose Mrs Roxbury would
notice a slight from a young girl like Rose.  And she was not rude."

"No, perhaps not; but she was polite in a way so distant and dignified,
so condescending, even, that I was amazed, and so was Charlie, I know,
though he did not say so."

"Nonsense, Harry!  Rose knows them, but very slightly.  And what has Mr
Millar to do with it?"

"Mr Millar!" exclaimed Harry.  "Do be reasonable, Graeme.  Is it not of
Mr Millar that we have been speaking all this time?  He has everything
to do with it.  And as for not knowing them.  I am sure Rose was at
first delighted with Miss Roxbury.  And Amy was as delighted with her,
and wanted to be intimate, I know.  But Rose is such a flighty, flippant
little thing, that--"

"That will do, Harry.  Such remarks may be reserved for Mr Millar's
hearing.  I do not choose to listen to them.  You are very unjust to
Rose."

"It is you who are unjust, Graeme, and unreasonable, and a little out of
temper, which does not often happen with you.  I am sure I don't
understand it."

Graeme laughed.

"Well, perhaps I am a little out of temper, Harry.  I know I am
dreadfully tired.  We won't say anything more about it to-night, except
that I don't like to have Rose misunderstood."

"I was, perhaps, a little hard on Rosie, once, but I don't think I
misunderstand her," said Harry, wisely.  "She is just like other girls,
I suppose; only, Graeme, you have got me into the way of thinking that
my sisters should not be just like other girls, but a great deal better
in every way.  And I shan't be hard on her any more, now that it is all
right with Charlie."

But was it all right with Charlie?  Graeme's talk with Harry had not
enlightened her much.  Had pretty, gentle Amy Roxbury helped Charlie "to
get over it;" as Harry's manner of speaking seemed to imply?  Or did
Charlie still care for Rose?  And had Rose ever cared for him "in that
way?"  Was Rose foolish, and flippant, and fond of admiration, as Harry
declared; and was she growing dissatisfied with their quiet, uneventful
life?  Was it this that had brought over her the change which could not
be talked about or noticed, which, at most times, could not be believed
in, but which, now and then, made itself evident as very real and very
sad?  Or was it something else that was bringing a cloud and a shadow
over the life of her young sister?  Even in her thoughts, Graeme shrunk
from admitting that Rose might be coming to the knowledge of her own
heart too late for her happiness.

"I will not believe that she has all that to pass through.  It cannot be
so bad as that.  I will have patience and trust.  I cannot speak to her.
It would do no good.  I will wait and trust."

Graeme sat long that night listening to the quiet breathing of her
sleeping sister; but all the anxious thoughts that passed through her
mind, could only end in this: "I will wait and trust."



CHAPTER FORTY.

Graeme awoke in the morning to wonder at all the doubts and anxieties
that had filled her mind in the darkness; for she was aroused by baby
kisses on her lips, and opened her eyes to see her sister Rose, with her
nephew in her arms, and her face as bright as the May morning, smiling
down upon her.  Rose disappointed and sad!  Rose hiding in her heart
hopes that were never to be realised!  She listened to her voice,
ringing through the house, like the voice of the morning lark, and
wondered at her own folly.  She laughed, as Rose babbled to the child in
the wonderful baby language in which she so excelled; but tears of
thankfulness rose to her eyes as she remembered the fears of the night,
and set them face to face with the joy of the morning.

"I could not have borne it," she said to herself.  "I am afraid I never
could have borne to see my darling drooping, as she must have done.  I
am content with my own lot.  I think I would not care to change anything
the years have brought to me.  But Rosie--.  Ah! well, I might have
known!  I know I ought to trust for Rosie, too, even if trouble were to
come.  But oh!  I am very glad and thankful for her sake."

She was late in the breakfast-room, and she found Harry there.

"`The early bird,' you know, Graeme," said he.  "I have been telling
Rosie what a scolding you were giving me last night on our way home."

"But he won't tell me what it was all about," said Rose.

"I cannot.  I don't know myself.  I have an idea that you had something
to do with it, Rosie.  But I can give no detailed account of the
circumstances, as the newspapers say."

"It is not absolutely necessary that you should," said Graeme, smiling.

"I hope you are in a much better humour this morning, Graeme."

"I think I am in a pretty good humour.  Not that I confess to being very
cross last night, however."

"It was he who was cross, I daresay," said Rose.  "You brought him away
before supper!  No wonder he was cross.  Are you going to stay very
long, Harry?"

"Why?  Have you any commands for me to execute?"

"No; but I am going to introduce a subject that will try your temper,
judging from our conduct yesterday.  I am afraid you will be threatening
to beat some one."

Harry shrugged his shoulders.

"Now, Graeme, don't you call that flippant?  Is it anything about the
big doctor, Rosie?"

"You won't beat him, will you Harry?  No.  It is only about his sister.
Graeme, Fanny has given me leave to invite her here for a few days, if
you have no objection.  She cannot be enjoying herself very much where
she is staying, and it will be a real holiday to the little thing to
come here for a while.  She is very easily amused.  She makes pleasure
out of everything.  Mayn't she come?"

"Certainly, if you would like her to come; I should like to know her
very much."

"And is the big brother to come, too?" asked Arthur.

"No.  He leaves town to-day.  Will you go with me, Harry, to fetch her
here?"

"But what about `papa and mamma,' to whom you were to be shown?  The
cunning, little thing has some design upon you, Rosie, or, perhaps, on
some of the rest of us."

Rose laughed.

"Don't be frightened, Harry.  You are safe, as you are not domesticated
with us.  And I intend to show myself to `papa and mamma' later, if you
don't object."

"There! look at Graeme.  She thinks you and I are quarrelling, Rosie.
She is as grave as a judge."

"Tell us about the party, Harry," said Fanny.

"It was very pleasant.  I don't think Graeme enjoyed it much, however.
I wonder, too, that she did not, for there were more nice people there
than we usually see at parties.  It was more than usually agreeable, I
thought."

"You are degenerating, Harry," said his brother.  "I thought you were
beyond all that sort of thing.  I should have thought you would have
found it slow, to say the least."

"And then to make him lose the supper!  It was too bad of you, Graeme,"
said Rose.

"Oh! she didn't.  I went back again."

They all exclaimed.  Only Harry laughed.

"Can I do anything for you and your friend, Rosie?" asked he.

"Yes, indeed you can.  I intend to make a real holiday for the little
thing.  We are open to any proposal in the way of pleasure, riding,
driving, boating, picnicking, one and all."

"It is very kind of you, Harry, to offer," said Graeme.

"Hem! not at all.  I shall be most happy," said Harry.

"Oh! we shall not be exacting.  We are easily amused, little Etta and
I."

Miss Goldsmith's visit was a success.  She was a very nice little girl,
whose life had been passed in the country--not in a village even, but
quite away from neighbours, on a farm, in which her father had rather
unfortunately invested the greater part of his means.  It might not
prove to be unfortunate in the end, Etta explained to them, because the
land was valuable, only in the meantime it seemed to take all the income
just to keep things going.  But by and by she hoped farming would pay,
and the place was beautiful, and they lived very happily there, if they
only had a little more money, Etta added gravely.

Dick was the hero who was to retrieve the fallen fortunes of the family,
Etta thought.  He was her only own brother.  All the rest of the
children were only her half-brothers and sisters.  But notwithstanding
the hard times to which Etta confessed, they were a very happy family,
it seemed.

Everything was made pleasure by this little girl.  It was pleasure just
to drive through the streets, to see the well-dressed people, to look in
at the shop-windows.  Shopping was pleasure, though she had little to
spend.  An hour in a bookseller's, or in a fancy shop, was pleasure.
The churches, old and new, were wonderful to her, some for one reason,
some for another.  Rose and she became independent and strong-minded,
and went everywhere without an escort.  They spent a day in wandering
about the shady walks of the new cemetery, and an afternoon gazing down
on the city from the cathedral towers.  They paid visits and received
them; and, on rainy days, worked and read together with great delight,
if not with much profit.  Rose, with both heart and hands, helped her
friend to make the most of her small allowance for dress; and contrived,
out of odds and ends, to make pretty, inexpensive ornaments for her, and
presents for her little brothers and sisters at home.  She taught her
new patterns in crochet, and new stitches in Berlin wool.  She even gave
her a music lesson, now and then, and insisted on her practising, daily,
that she might get back what she had lost since she left school, and so
be able the better to teach her little sisters when she went home.  In
short, she contrived to fill up the time with amusement, or with work of
some sort.  Not a moment but was occupied in some way.

Of course, Graeme was sometimes included in their plans for the day, and
so were Fanny and baby, but for the most part the young girls were
occupied with each other; and the visit, which was to have been for a
few days, lengthened out beyond the month, and might have been longer
than that, even, only Rose had a slight, feverish attack which confined
her to her room for a day or two, and then Etta could no longer hide
from herself that she ought to go home.

"I hope I shall not find that this pleasant time has spoiled me.  I
think papa and mamma are somewhat afraid.  I mean to be good, and
contented, and helpful; but I know I am only a silly little thing.  Oh!
Rosie! if you were only going home with me for a little while!"

"I should like it very much, indeed," said Rose.

"Of course, everything is very different at our house, but you wouldn't
mind that.  Miss Elliott, don't you think you could spare Rose to me for
a few days?"

Graeme shook her head.

"I think I have spared her to you a good many days.  I have seen very
little of her for a long time, I think."

Miss Goldsmith looked grieved and penitent.  "Nonsense, Etta," said
Rose; "she is only laughing at you.  She has had you and me, too.  And I
should like very much to go with you.  This is the nicest time of the
year to be in the country, I think.  What do you say, Graeme?"

Little Etta clasped her hands, and looked at Graeme so entreatingly,
that Rose laughed heartily.  But Graeme said nothing encouraging.
However, the very hottest days of the summer came that season among the
first June days, and, because of the heat, Graeme thought Rose did not
recover from her illness so quickly as she ought to have done.  She is
languid and pale, though pretty busy still, and cheerful, and Graeme
proposed that she should go with her friend for a few days, at least.
Etta was enchanted.

"I am afraid my resolutions about being good, and helping mamma, and
teaching the little ones, would have fallen through, for I know I am a
foolish girl.  But with Rose to help me, just at first, I shall succeed
I know."

"Don't be silly, Etta," said Rose.  "You are a great deal wiser and
better, and of a great deal more use in the world, than ever I was, or
am like to be.  All my wisdom is lip-wisdom, and my goodness
lip-goodness.  If they will help you, you shall have the benefit of
them; but pray don't make me blush before Graeme and Fanny, who know me
so well."

No time had to be lost in preparations.  The decision was made one day,
and they were to leave the next.  Harry, with his friend and partner,
came up one night to bid Miss Goldsmith good-bye, and heard for the
first time of Rose's intention to go with her.  Harry did not hear it
with pleasure, indeed; he made no secret of his vexation.  There was a
little bantering talk between them, in the style that Graeme disliked so
much, and then Rose went away for a few minutes.

"Graeme," said Harry, "what is all this about?  It seems to me Rose
ought to have had enough of her little friend by this time.  What freak
is this she has taken about the country, and a change of air, and
nonsense?"

"If it is a freak, it is mine," said Graeme, quietly.  "Rose needs a
change.  She is not ill, but still she is not quite well, and I am very
glad she is to go with Miss Goldsmith."

"A change," repeated Harry.  "Why could she not go with Fanny to the
seaside, if she needs a change?"

"But Fanny is not going for several weeks yet.  Rose will be home before
that time.  She will not be away more than a fortnight, I hope."

"A fortnight, indeed!  What has the time to do with it?  It is the going
at all that is so foolish: You astonish me, Graeme."

"You astonish me, Harry!  Really I cannot understand why you should care
so much about it."

"Well, well!  If you are pleased, and she is pleased, I need not trouble
myself about it," said Harry, sulkily.

"What has happened to you, Harry?" said Fanny.  "You are not like
yourself, to-night."

"He is a great deal more like the Harry of old times," said Graeme.
"Like the Harry you used to know long ago, Mr Millar, than like the
reasonable, dignified person we have had among us lately."

"I was just thinking so," said Mr Millar.

"Why should not Rosie go?" persisted Fanny.  "I think it must be a very
stupid place, from all that Etta says; still, if Rose wishes it, why
should she not go?"

"I believe it is the big brother Harry is afraid of," said Arthur,
laughing.  Graeme and Fanny laughed, too.

"I don't think it is a laughing matter," growled Harry.  "How would you
like it if she were to throw herself away on that red-headed giant?"

Arthur and Fanny laughed, still, but Graeme looked grave.  "It would be
just like a silly girl like Rose," continued Harry, gloomily.

"Harry," said Graeme, "I think you are forgetting what is due to your
sister.  You should be the last person to couple Rose's name with that
of any gentleman."

"Of course, it is only among ourselves; and, I tell you, Graeme, you are
spoiling Rosie--"

"Harry! be quiet.  I don't choose to listen to you on that subject."

"I declare, Harry, you are getting morbid on the subject of Rosie's
conquests.  It is the greatest folly imaginable," said Arthur.

"Well, it may be so.  At any rate, I shall say no more.  Are you coming,
Charlie?  I must go."

He went to the foot of the stairs, and called: "Rose, are you coming
down again?  I must go."

Rose came flying down.

"Must you go, Harry?  I am just done with what I needed to do.  Don't be
cross with me, Harry."  And greatly to his surprise, as she put her arms
around his neck, he felt her tears upon his cheek.

"Why, Rosie, what ails you?  I didn't mean to be cross, Rosie, my
darling."

But, in a minute, Rose was smiling through her tears.

"Rosie, dear," whispered her brother, "you are a very silly little girl.
I think you are the very silliest girl I know.  I wish--" Rose wiped
her eyes.

"Don't go yet, Harry.  I will come in immediately; and please don't tell
Graeme that I am so silly.  She wouldn't like it at all."

"Graeme is as silly as you are," growled Harry.

Rose laughed, and ran up-stairs, but came down in a minute with Miss
Goldsmith.  Harry had brought a great paper of sweets for the little
sisters at home, for which Etta thanked him very prettily, and then she
said:

"I hope you are not afraid to trust Rose with us?  We will take great
care of her, I assure you."

"Since I am too silly to take care of myself," said Rose.

They had a pleasant evening enough, all things considered, and it was
some time before Harry and his friend went away.

"I must say good-bye for a long time, Miss Rose," said Mr Millar.  "I
shall have sailed before you are home again, I suppose."

"You go in the first steamer, then?"

"I don't know, I am not quite sure yet.  I have not quite decided."

"Of course, he goes by the first steamer," said Harry.  "He should have
gone long ago.  There is no use dwelling longer over so simple a
matter."

Rose opened her eyes very wide.

"Is that the way you speak to your friend and partner?" said Fanny.

"Really, Harry, I am afraid your fine temper is being spoiled," said
Rose.  "I think Mr Millar is very good not to mind you."

"I understand Harry," said his friend.

"You don't understand yourself, nor what is good for you.  Good-bye,
dear, silly, little Rose."

"Good-bye, Harry.  Don't be cross."

"Rose," said Graeme, when they were up-stairs alone for the night, "I
think it is the big brother that put Harry out of temper to-night."
Rose laughed.

"He seems quite afraid of him," continued Graeme.

"And you are a little bit afraid of him, too, Graeme, or you never would
have told me about Harry."

"No.  But I am just a little afraid for him."

"You need not be.  Harry thinks my desire for admiration insatiable, I
know, but it is too bad of you, Graeme, to intimate as much.  I have a
great mind to tell you a secret, Graeme.  But you must promise not to
tell it again; at least, not yet."

"Well," said Graeme.

"If I should stay away longer than I mean to do at present, and Harry
should get very unhappy about me, perhaps you might tell him.  Harry
thinks I cannot manage my own affairs," added Rose, a vivid colour
rising on her cheeks.  "And he has a mind to help me.  He has not helped
me much, yet.  Ah! well, there is no use going over all that."

"What is the secret you are going to tell me?" asked Graeme.

"I don't know whether I ought to tell.  But it will be safe with you.
Graeme, the big doctor is engaged."

"Well," said Graeme.

"It is not all smooth sailing, yet.  I am afraid it may interfere
somewhat with his success in retrieving the fortunes of the family, as
Etta has always been hoping he might do.  But she is quite pleased for
all that, poor dear little thing.  See that you don't tell Harry."

"Well, is that all you have to say on the subject?" asked her sister.

"Graeme!  I do believe you are as bad as Harry.  Do you fancy that it is
I to whom Dr Goldsmith is engaged?  By no means.  I am afraid it is a
foolish affair; but it may fall through yet.  She is a young widow, and
has two children, and a little money.  No.  It is very foolish of Harry
to fancy things.  He is very stupid, I think.  But you are not to tell
him, because, really, the secret is not mine, and besides, I have
another reason.  Good-night, dear."

And so they went away in the morning.  Rose's visit to the country was
quite as agreeable as had been Miss Goldsmith's to the town, judging
from the time she stayed there, and from the letters she sent home.  The
country was lovely, and she wondered any one would live in the city who
could leave it.  She kept a journal for Graeme, and it was filled with
accounts of rides, and drives, and sails; with, now and then, hints of
work done, books read, of children's lessons, and torn frocks, of
hay-making, and butter-making; and if Graeme had any misgiving as to the
perfect enjoyment of her sister, it could not have been her letters that
had anything to do with it.

At last there came word of an expedition to be undertaken to a lake
far-away in the woods, where there were pond-lilies and lake trout in
abundance.  They were to carry a tent, and be out one night, perhaps
two, and Mr and Mrs Goldsmith were going with them, and all the
children as well.  This was the last letter.  Rose herself came soon
after, to find a very quiet house, indeed.  Fanny and her son had gone
to the seaside, whither Graeme and Rose, perhaps, might go, later.  Mr
Millar had gone, too, not by the first steamer, nor by the second,
however.  If Rose had been home two days sooner, she might have seen him
before he went, Harry told her; and Rose said, "What a pity!  If I had
only known, I could so easily have come!"  That was all.

How quiet the house was during those long summer days!  It was like the
coming again of the old time, when they and Nelly used to have the house
in the garden to themselves, with only Will coming and going, till night
brought the brothers home.

"What happy, happy days they were!" said Rose, with a sigh.

"They _were_ happy days," said Graeme.  "Very happy days."

She did not seem to hear the regretful echo in her sister's voice, nor
did she take her to task for the idle hands that lay folded on her lap,
nor disturb by word or look the times of silent musing, that grew longer
and more frequent as those uneventful days passed on.  What was to be
said?  The doubts and fears that had made her unhappy in the spring, and
even before the spring, were coming back again.  Rose was not at peace
with herself, nothing was easier to be seen than that; but whether the
struggle was with pride, or anger, or disappointment, or whether all
these and something more had to do with it, she could only wait till
time, or chance, or Rose of her own free will, should tell.

For Graeme could not bring herself to speak of the trouble which her
sister, sad and preoccupied, in so many nameless ways betrayed.  She
would not even seem to see it, and so strove to make it appear that it
was her own industry, her occupation with book, or pen, or needle, that
made the silence between them, on those days when Rose sat listless or
brooding, heedless of books, or work, or of whatever the day might
bring.  And when the fit of gloom wore over, or when, startled by some
sudden fear of being observed, she roused herself, and came back with an
effort to the things about her, Graeme was always ready, yet not too
eager, to make the most of excuses.  Either the heat made her languid,
or the rain made her dull, or the yesterday's walk had been exhausting;
and Graeme would assent, and warn or reprove, as the case seemed to
require, never intimating, by word or look, how clearly she saw through
it all, and how she grieved and suffered with her.

And, when seized upon by restlessness or impatience, she grew irritable
and exacting, and "ill to do with," as Janet would have said, Graeme
stood between her and the wonder and indignation, of her brothers, and,
which was harder to do, shielded her from her own anger and
self-contempt, when she came to herself again.  She went out with her
for long walks, and did what was kinder still, she let her go by
herself, to rest her mind by tiring out her body, at times when the
fever fit was on her, making her fret and chafe at trifles that would
have made her laugh if all had been well with her.

It was an anxious time to Graeme.  When their brothers were with them,
Rose was little different from the Rose of old, as far as they could
see; and, at such times, even Graeme would be beguiled into a momentary
belief that she had been letting her fears speak, when there was little
cause.  But another day would come, bringing the old listlessness or
restlessness, and Graeme could only watch and wait for the moment when a
cheerful word, or a chiding one, might be spoken for her sister's good,
or a movement of some kind made to beguile her into occupation or
pleasure for a little while.  But, through all her watching, and
waiting, and anxiety, Graeme spoke no word that might betray to her
sister her knowledge that something was amiss with her.

For, indeed, what could she say?  Even in her secret thoughts she had
shrunk from looking too closely on the cloud of trouble that had fallen
on the life of her young sister.  Was it misunderstanding, or wounded
pride, or disappointment?  Or was it something which time and change
might not so easily or so surely dispel?  There were no words to be
spoken, however it might be.  That was plain enough, Graeme said to
herself, remembering some years of her own experience, and the silent
life she had lived unsuspected among them all.

Not that any such trouble as had befallen her, had come upon Rose.  That
was never for a moment to be believed.  Nothing that had happened to
Rose, or was like to happen, could so change life to her as hers had
been changed.  Rose was wiser and stronger than she had been, and she
was younger, too, and, perhaps, as Janet had said, "of a lighter
nature."  Graeme comforted herself thus, saying to herself that the
cloud would pass away; and she waited and watched, and cared for her,
and soothed or chided, or shielded her still.  She did all this
sorrowfully enough at times, yet hopefully, too, for she knew that
whatever the trouble might be that, for the present, made the summer
days a weariness to the desponding girl, it would pass away; and so she
waited, and had patience, and prayed that, out of it all, she might come
wiser and stronger, and more fitted for the work that was awaiting her
somewhere in the world.

"Graeme," said her sister, one day when they had been sitting for a long
time silent together, "suppose we were to go and see Norman and Hilda
this fall, instead of in the spring, as they propose."

"Would you like it?" asked Graeme, a little surprised.

"Yes.  For some things I would like it;" and Graeme fancied there was
suppressed eagerness in her manner.  "It is a better season to go, for
one thing--a better season for health, I mean.  One bears the change of
climate better, they say."

"But you have been here so short a time.  What would Arthur say, and
Fanny?  It would look as if you only thought yourself a visitor here--as
if your home was with Norman."

Rose shrugged her shoulders.

"Well! neither Arthur nor Fanny would be inconsolable.  The chances are
it may be my home.  It is worth taking into consideration.  Indeed, I
have been considering the matter for some time past."

"Nonsense!  Don't talk foolishly, Rose.  It is not long since you wished
me to promise that we should always remain together, and I have no
thought of going West to stay very long."

"And why not?  I am sure Norman has a right to grumble at our being here
so long."

"Not at you, Rosie."

"No.  Not at me.  And, besides, I was not thinking of Norman,
altogether.  I was thinking of making a home for myself out there.  Why
not?"

Graeme looked up, a little startled.

"I don't understand you, Rose."

Rose laughed.

"No, you don't.  But you think you do.  Of course, there is only one way
in which a woman can have a home according, to the generally received
opinion.  It must be made for her.  But one might fancy you should be
beyond that by this time, Graeme," added Rose, a little scornfully.

Graeme said nothing, and Rose went on.

"It would not be easy here, I know; but out there you and I could make a
home to ourselves, and be independent, and have a life of our own.  It
is so different there.  You ought to go there just to understand how
very different it is."

"If we needed a home," said Graeme.  "But, Rose, I am content with the
home we have."

"Content!" repeated Rose, impatiently.  "There is surely something
better than content to be looked for in the world;" and she rose and
walked about the room.

"Content is a very good thing to have," said Graeme, quietly.

"Yes, if one could have it.  But now, Graeme, do tell me what is the
good of such a life as we are living now?--as I am living, I ought to
say.  Your life and work are worth a great deal to the rest of us;
though you must let me say I often wonder it contents you.  Think of it,
Graeme!  What does it all amount to, as far as I am concerned, I mean?
A little working, and reading, and music; a little visiting and
housekeeping, if Fanny be propitious--coming, and going, and smiling,
and making believe enjoy it, when one feels ready to fly.  I am sick of
the thought of it all."

Graeme did not answer her.  She was thinking of the time when she had
been as impatient of her daily life as this, and of how powerless words,
better than she could hope to speak, had been to help her; and though
she smiled and shook her head at the young girl's impetuous protest
against the uselessness of her life, her eyes, quite unconsciously, met
her sister's with a look of wistful pity, that Rose, in her youthful
impatience and jealousy, was quick to resent.

"Of course, the rest would make an outcry and raise obstacles--that is,
if they were to be consulted at all," she went on.  "But _you_ ought to
know better, Graeme," added she, in a voice that she made sharp, so that
her sister need not know that it was very near being tearful.

"But, Rose, you have not told me yet what it is you would do, if you
could have your own way.  And what do you mean by having a life of your
own, and being independent?  Have you any plan?"

Rose sat down, with a little sigh of impatience.

"There is surely something that we could do, you and I together.  I can
have no plan, you know quite well; but you might help me, instead of--"
Instead of laughing at me, she was going to say, but she stopped, for
though Graeme's lips were smiling, her eyes had a shadow in them that
looked like coming tears; and the gaze, that seemed resting on the
picture on the wall, went farther, Rose knew; but whether into the past
or the future, or whether it was searching into the reason of this new
eagerness of hers to be away and at work, she could not tell.  However
it might be, it vexed and fretted her, and she showed it by sudden
impatient movements, which recalled her sister's thoughts.

"What is it, Rose?  I am afraid I was thinking about something else.  I
don't think I quite understand what you were saying last," said Graeme,
taking up her work as a safe thing on which to fix her eyes.

"For I must not let her see that I know there must be a cause for this
sudden wish for a new life," said she to herself.  If she had done what
she longed to do, she would have taken the impatient, troubled child in
her arms, and whispered, as Janet had whispered to her that night, so
long ago, that the restless fever of her heart would pass away; she
would have soothed and comforted her, with tender words, as Janet had
not dared to do.  She would have bidden her wait, and have patience with
herself and her life, till this cloud passed by--this light cloud of her
summer morning, that was only mist to make the rising day more
beautiful, and not the sign of storm and loss, as it looked to her
young, affrighted eyes.

But this she could not do.  Even with certain knowledge of the troubles
which she only guessed, she knew it would be vain to come to her with
tender, pitying words, and worse than vain to try to prove that nothing
had happened to her, or was like to happen, that could make the breaking
up of her old life, and the beginning of a new one, a thing to be
thought of by herself or those who loved her.  So, after a few stitches
carefully taken, for all her sister could see, she said,--

"And, then, there are so few things that a woman can do."

The words brought back so vividly that night in the dark, when she had
said them out of a sore heart to her friend, that her work fell on her
lap again, and she met her sister's eye with a look that Rose could not
understand.

"You are not thinking of what I have been saying.  Why do you look at me
in that strange way?" said she, pettishly.

"I am thinking of it, indeed.  And I did not know that I was looking any
other than my usual way.  I was saying to myself, `Has the poor child
got to go through all that for herself, as I have done?'  Oh!  Rosie,
dear! if I could only give you the benefit of all my vexed thoughts on
that very subject!"

"Well, why not?  That is just what I want.  Only, don't begin in that
discouraging way, about there being so few things a woman can do.  I
know all that, already."

"We might go to Norman for a while together, at any rate," said Graeme,
feeling how impossible it would be to satisfy one another by what might
be said, since all could not be spoken between them.

"Yes.  That is just what I said, at first.  And we could see about it
there.  We could much more easily make our plans, and carry them out
there, than here.  And, in the meantime, we could find plenty to do in
Hilda's house with the children and all the rest.  I wish we could go
soon."

And then she went over what she had often gone over before, the way of
life in their brother Norman's house--Hilda's housekeeping, and her way
with her children, and in society, and so on, Graeme asking questions,
and making remarks, in the hope that the conversation might not, for
this time, come back to the vexed question, of what women may do in the
world.  It grew dark in the meantime, but they were waiting for Harry
and letters, and made no movement; and, by and by, Rose said, suddenly:

"I am sure you used to think about all this, Graeme--about woman's work,
and how stupid it is to live on in this way, `waiting at the pool,' as
Hannah Lovejoy used to say.  I declare it is undignified, and puts
thoughts into people's heads, as though--.  It would be different, if we
were living in our father's house, or, even, if we had money of our own.
You used to think so, yourself, Graeme.  Why should Arthur and Harry do
everything for us?"

"Yes, I remember.  When Fanny first came, I think I had as many thoughts
about all this as you have now.  I was very restless, and discontented,
and determined to go away.  I talked to Janet about it one night."

"And she convinced you that you were all wrong, I suppose," said Rose.
"And you were content ever after."

"No.  I don't think she helped me much, at the time.  But her great
doctrine of patience and quiet waiting, and circumstances together,
convinced me, afterward, that I did not need to go in search of my work,
as seemed to me then the thing to do.  I found it ready at my hand,
though I could not see it then.  Her wisdom was higher than mine.  She
said that out of it all would come content, and so it has."

"That was not saying much!" said Rose.

"No.  It did not seem to me, much, when she said it.  But she was right,
all the same, and I was wrong.  And it has all happened much better than
if I had got my own way."

"But, Graeme, all that would not apply in the case of women, generally.
That is begging the question, as Harry would say."

"But I am not speaking of women in general; I am speaking about myself,
and my own work; and I say Janet was wise, though I was far from
thinking it that night, as I mind well."

There was a pause, and then Rose said, in a low voice.

"It may have been right for you to stay at home then, and care for the
rest of us, but it would be quite different now, with me, and I think
with you, too.  And how many women have to go and make a way of life for
themselves.  And it is right that it should be so; and Graeme, we might
try."

Instead of answering her directly, Graeme said, after a little while,--

"Did I ever tell you Rose, dear, about that night, and all that Janet
said to me?  I told her how I wished to get out of my useless,
unsatisfactory life, just as you have been telling me.  Did I ever tell
you all she said to me?  I don't think I ever did.  I felt then, just as
you do now.  I think I can understand your feeling, better than you
suppose; and I opened my heart to Janet--I mean, I told her how sick I
was of it all, and how good-for-nothing I felt myself to be, and how it
all might be changed, if only I could find real work to do--"

And Graeme went on to tell much that had been said between them that
night, about woman's work, and about old maids, and a little about the
propriety of not setting one's face against the manifest lot of woman;
and when she came to this part of it, she spoke with an attempt at
playfulness, meant to cover, a little, the earnestness of all that went
before.  But neither in this nor in the rest, did she speak as though
she meant Rose to take the lesson to herself, or as though it meant very
much to either of them now; but rather implied by her words and manner,
and by many a pathetic touch here and there, that she was dwelling on it
as a pleasant reminiscence of the dear old friend, whose quaint sayings
were household words among them, because of their wisdom, and because of
the honour and the love they gave her.  Her earnestness increased, as,
by and by, she saw the impatience pass out of her sister's face and
manner; and it never came into her mind that she was turning back a page
in her own experience, over which Rose had long ago pondered with wonder
and sadness.

"I could not make Janet see the necessity that seemed so clear to me,"
she went on.  "I could not make her understand, or, at least, I thought
she could not understand, for she spoke as though she thought that
Fanny's coming, and those old vexations, made me wish to get away, and
it was not easy to answer her when she said that my impatience and
restlessness would all pass away, and that I must fulfil papa's last
wish, and stay with the rest.  I thought the time had come when the
necessity for that was over, and that another way would be better for
_me_, certainly; and I thought for Arthur and Fanny, too, and for you,
Rosie.  But, Oh! how much wiser Janet was than I, that night.  But I did
not think so at the time.  I was wild to be set free from the present,
and to have my own will and go away.  It was well that circumstances
were too strong for me.  It has come true, as Janet said.  I think it is
better for us all that I have been at home all those years.  Fanny and I
have done each other good.  It has been better for us all."

She paused a moment, and then added,--

"Of course, if it had been necessary that I should go out into the
world, and make my own way, I might have done as others have done, and
won, at least, a measure of success.  And so we might still, you and I
together, Rose, if it were necessary, but that makes all the difference.
There is no question of necessity for us, dear, at present, and as for
God's work, and work for our fellow creatures, we can find that at home.
Without separating from the others, I mean."

But Rose's face clouded again.

"There need be no question of separating from the others, Graeme.
Norman is out there, and there are hundreds of women who have their own
place and work in the world, who have not been driven by necessity to
look for them--the necessity of making a living, I mean.  There are
other necessities that a woman must feel--some more than others, I
suppose.  It is an idle, foolish, vain life that I am living.  I know
that I have not enough to fill my life, Graeme.  I know it, though I
don't suppose I can make you understand it.  I am past the age now to
care for being petted, and amused, and made much of by the rest of you.
I mean, I am too old now to feel that enough for my satisfaction.  It is
different with you, who really are good for something, and who have done
so much, for Arthur and Fanny, and us all.  And, besides, as you say,
you are content; but as for me--oh!  I know there is no use talking.  I
could never make you understand--There, I don't want to be naughty, and
vex you--and we will say no more to-night.  Shall I get a light?"

She stooped over her sister, and kissed her, and Graeme, putting her
arms round her, said softly,--

"Only one word more, Rosie.  I think I can understand you better than
you believe, as Janet understood me that night, though I did not see it
then, and you must just let me say one thing.  My darling, I believe all
that is troubling you, now, will pass away; but, if I am wrong, and if
it be best that you have your own way about this work of yours--I mean,
if it is right--circumstances will arrange themselves to that end, and
it will all come easy for you, and me, too.  We shall keep together, at
any rate, and I am not afraid.  And, love, a year or two does make a
difference in people's feelings about things, though there is no good in
my saying it to you, now, I know.  But we will wait till Will comes
home.  We must be here to welcome him, even if his coming should be
delayed longer than we hope now.  I don't like to think of any plan for
you and me, out of which Will must be left.  And so many things may
happen before a year is over.  I remember how restless and troubled I
was at that time.  I don't like to think of it even now--and it is all
past--quite past.  And we will stay together, whatever happens, if we
can, and, darling, you must have patience."

All this was said with many a caressing pause between, and then Rose
said,--

"Well--yes--I suppose we must wait for Will."

But she did not say it cheerfully, and Graeme went on, after a little:

"And, dear, I have noticed more than once in my life that when a quiet
time like this has come, it has come as a time of preparation for work
of some sort; for the doing, or the bearing of God's will in some
peculiar way; and we must not lose the good of these quiet days by being
anxious about the future, or regretful over the past.  It will all come
right, love, you may be sure of that."

The last words were spoken hastily, for Harry's voice was heard, and
Rose went softly out at one door, as he came in at the other; and when,
in a little, he called from the foot of the stairs, as he always did,
when he did not find her in her parlour, she came down, affecting
surprise.

"So you are here at last, Harry?  Are there any letters to-night?"

Yes, there were letters.  Harry had read his, and gave them the news
with a little grumbling, while the gas was being lighted.  His friend
and partner seemed intent on making the most of his long delayed
holiday, and was going to lengthen it a little, by taking a run to
Paris, perhaps even to Rome.

"With whom do you think, Graeme?" added he, his face clearing up
suddenly.  "With his brother Allan, and our Will.  Won't they help one
another to have a good time?  Charlie takes it quite coolly, however, I
must say.  It was an even chance, at one time, whether he would go at
all, and now, there is no telling when he will be back again.  That is
always the way.  I wonder when I shall have my holiday?  `The willing
horse,' you know, Rosie."

"It is very hard on you, Harry, dear.  But I fancied you had a little
trip yourself, lately, and enjoyed it, too.  Was that in the interest of
your friend?"

"Hem!  Yes--indirectly.  I did enjoy it.  Fanny says she has had a very
pleasant summer; and, if you are going down at all, Rosie, it is time
you were going.  They seem to have a very nice set of people there.  I
think if you were to go at once, I would take a run down with you--next
week, perhaps.  I think you would enjoy it."

"I thank you, Harry, dear.  But, you know, Fanny's taste and mine are
different.  I don't always fancy _her_ pleasant people.  And I should
not think of taking you away on my account."

"Not at all.  I shall go, at any rate.  But I want you to go, Rosie, for
a reason I have.  And I promise you won't regret it.  I wish Graeme
would go, too."

"It would be charming if we could all go together," said Rose.  "But it
would be hardly worth while, we could make so short a stay, now."

"I enjoyed it very much," said Harry.  "One gets to know people so much
better in such a place, and I am sure you would like the Roxburys,
Rosie, if you would only take pains to know them."

"My dear Harry! think what you are saying!  Would they take pains to
know me?  They are Fanny's nice people, are they?  Yes, I suppose so.
However, I don't believe Graeme will care to go."

Graeme uttered an exclamation over her letter.

"It is from.  Mr Snow," said she, with a pale face.

"Bad news?" asked Harry.

It was bad news, indeed.  It told, in Mr Snow's brief way, that, within
a few days, the illness, from which his wife had been suffering for some
time, had taken a dangerous turn, rendering an operation necessary; and
the letter was sent to prepare them for a possible fatal result.

"It gives her a chance, and that is all the doctors will say.  _She_
says it will be all right whichever way it turns.  God bless you all.
Emily will tell you more."

"Harry," said Graeme, as he laid down the letter.  "I must go to Janet."

"It would be a comfort to her if you could," said Harry, gravely.

"And to me," said Graeme.  "I shall go early to-morrow."

There was not much more said about it.  There was a little discussion
about the trains, and the best way to take, and then Harry went away.
Rose had not spoken a word while he was there, but the moment the door
closed after him, she said, softly,--

"Harry does not think that I am going; but, dear, you promised that,
whatever happened, we should keep together.  And, Graeme, the quiet time
has been to prepare you for this; and we are sure it will all be right,
as Janet says.  You will let me go with you, Graeme?" she pleaded; "you
will never go and leave me here?"

So whatever Harry thought, Graeme could do nothing but yield; and the
next morning the sisters were speeding southward, with fear in their
hearts, but with peace and hope in them, also; for they knew, and they
said to one another many times that day, that the words of their dear
old friend would come true, and that in whatever way the trouble that
had fallen on her might end, it would be for her all well.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

September was nearly over; there were tokens of the coming Autumn on the
hills and valleys of Merleville, but the day was like a day in the prime
of summer, and the air that came in through the open windows of the
south room fell on Mrs Snow's pale cheeks as mild and balmy as a breeze
of June.  The wood-covered hills were unfaded still, and beautiful,
though here and there a crimson banner waved, or a pillar of gold rose
up amid the greenness.  Over among the valleys, were sudden, shifting
sparkles from half-hidden brooks, and the pond gleamed in the sunshine
without a cloud to dim its brightness.  In the broken fields that sloped
towards it, and in the narrow meadows that skirted that part of the
Merle river which could be seen, there were tokens of life and busy
labour--dark stretches of newly-turned mould alternating with the green
of the pastures, or the bleached stubble of the recent harvest.  There
were glimpses of the white houses of the village through the trees, and,
now and then, a traveller passed slowly along the winding road, but
there was nothing far or near to disturb the sweet quiet of the scene
now so familiar and so dear, and Mrs Snow gazed out upon it with a
sense of peace and rest at her heart which showed in her quiet face and
in her folded hands.

It showed in Mr Snow's face, too, as he glanced now and then over the
edge of the newspaper he was holding in his hand.  He was reading, and
she was supposed to be listening, to one of the excellent articles which
weekly enriched the columns of _The Puritan_, but the look that was
coming and going on his wife's face was not just the look with which she
was wont to listen to the doings of the County Association of ministers,
Mr Snow thought, and, in a little, he let the paper drop from his hand.

"Well, and how did they come on with their discussions?" said Mrs Snow,
her attention recalled by the silence.

Mr Snow smiled.

"Oh! pretty much so.  Their discussions will keep a spell, I guess,"
said he, taking off his spectacles, and changing his seat so as to look
out of the window.

"It is a bonny day," said Mrs Snow, softly.

"Yes, it is kind of pleasant."

There was nothing more said for a long time.  Many words were not needed
between these two by this time.  They had been passing through weeks of
sore trial; the shadow of death had seemed to be darkening over them,
and, worse to bear even than the prospect of death, had been the
suffering which had brought it near.  Worse for her, for she had drawn
very near to the unseen world--so near that the glory had been visible,
and it had cost her a struggle to be willing to come back again; and
worse for him, too, whose heart had grown sick at the sight of the slow,
wearing pain, growing sharper every day.

But that was past now.  Very slowly, but still surely, health was coming
back to the invalid, and the rest from long pain, and the consciousness
of returning strength, were making the bright day and the fair scene
more beautiful to her.  As for him, he could only look at her with
thankful joy.

"I never saw this bonny place bonnier than it is to-day, and so sweet,
and quiet, and homelike.  We live in a fair world, and, on a day like
this, one is ready to forget that there is sin or trouble in it."

"It is good to see you sitting there," said Mr Snow, for answer.

"Well, I am content to be sitting here.  I doubt I shall do little else
for the rest of my life.  I must be a useless body, I'm afraid," added
she, with a sigh.

Mr Snow smiled.

"You know better than that," said he.  "I don't suppose it seems much to
you to get back again; but it is a great deal for the rest of us to have
you, if it is only to look at."

"I am content to bide my time, useless or useful, as God wills," said
his wife, gravely:

"I was willing you should go--yes, I do think I was willing you should
go.  It was the seeing you suffer that seemed to take the strength out
of me," said he, with a shudder.  "It makes me kind of sick to think
about it," added he, rising and moving about.  "I believe I was willing,
but I am dreadful glad to see you sitting there."

"I am glad to be here, since it is God's will.  It is a wonderful thing
to stand on the very brink of the river of death, and then to turn back
again.  I think the world can never look quite the same to eyes that
have looked beyond it to the other side.  But I am content to be here,
and to serve Him, whether it be by working or by waiting."

"On the very brink," repeated Mr Snow, musingly.  "Well, it _did_ look
like that, one while.  I wonder if I was really willing to have you go.
It don't seem now as if I could have been--being so glad as I am that
you did not go, and so thankful."

"I don't think the gladness contradicts the willingness; and knowing you
as I do, and myself as well, I wonder less at the willingness than at
the gladness."

This needed further consideration, it seemed, for Mr Snow did not
answer, but sat musing, with his eyes fixed on the distant hills, till
Mrs Snow spoke again.

"I thought at first, when the worst was over, it was only a respite from
pain before the end; but, to-day, I feel as if my life was really coming
back to me, and I am more glad to live than I have been any day yet."

Mr Snow cleared his throat, and nodded his head a great many times.  It
was not easy for him to speak at the moment.

"If it were only May, now, instead of September!  You always did find
our winters hard; and it is pretty tough being hived up so many months
of the year.  I do dread the winter for you."

"Maybe it winna be so hard on me.  We must make the best of it anyway.
I am thankful for ease from pain.  That is much."

"Yes," said Mr Snow, with the shudder that always came with the
remembrance of his wife's sufferings, "thank God for that.  I ain't a
going to fret nor worry about the winter, if I can help it.  I am going
to live, if I can, from hour to hour, and from day to day, by the grace
that is given me; but if I _could_ fix it so that Graeme would see it
best to stop here a spell longer, I should find it considerable easier,
I expect."

"But she has said nothing about going away yet," said Mrs Snow, smiling
at his way of putting it.  "You must take the grace of her presence, day
by day, as you do the rest, at least till she shows signs of departure."

"We never can tell how things are going to turn," said Mr Snow,
musingly.  "There is that good come out of your sickness.  They are both
here, and, as far as I see, they are content to be here.  If we could
prevail on Will to see it his duty to look toward this field of labour,
now, I don't doubt but we could fix it so that they should make their
home, here always--right here in this house, I mean--only it would be
'most too good a thing to have in this world, I'm afraid."

"We must wait for the leadings of Providence," said his wife.  "This
field, as you call it, is no' at Will's taking yet.  What would your
friend, Mr Perry, think if he heard you?  And as for the others, we
must not be over-anxious to keep them beyond what their brothers would
like.  But, as you say, they seem content; and it is a pleasure to have
them here, greater than I can put in words; and I know you are as
pleased as I am, and that doubles the pleasure to me," added Mrs Snow,
looking gratefully toward her husband.  "It might have been so
different."

"Oh! come, now.  It ain't worth while, to put it in that way at this
time of day.  I don't know as you'd allow it exactly; but I do think
they are about as nigh to me as they are to you.  I really do."

"That's saying much, but I'll no' gainsay it," said Mrs Snow, smiling.
"They are good bairns, and a blessing wherever they may go.  But I doubt
we canna hope to keep them very long with us."

"It is amazing to me.  I can't seem to understand it, or reconcile it
to--."

Mr Snow paused and looked at his wife in the deprecating manner he was
wont to assume when he was not quite sure whether or not she would like
what he was going to say, and then added:

"However, she don't worry about it.  She is just as contented as can be,
and no mistake; and I rather seem to remember that you used to worry a
little about her when they were here last."

"About Miss Graeme, was it?" said Mrs Snow, with a smile; "maybe I did.
I was as good at that as at most things.  Yes, she is content with
life, now.  God's peace is in her heart, and in her life, too.  I need
not have been afraid."

"Rosie's sobered down some, don't you think?" said Mr Snow, with some
hesitation.  "She used to be as lively as a cricket.  Maybe it is only
my notion, but she seems different."

"She's older and wiser, and she'll be none the worse to take a soberer
view of life than she used to do," said Mrs Snow.  "I have seen nothing
beyond what was to be looked for in the circumstances.  But I have been
so full of myself, and my own troubles of late, I may not have taken
notice.  Her sister is not anxious about her; I would have seen that.
The bairn is gathering sense--that is all, I think."

"Well! yes.  It will be all right.  I don't suppose it will be more than
a passing cloud, and I might have known better than to vex you with it."

"Indeed, you have not vexed me, and I am not going to vex myself with
any such thought.  It will all come right, as you say.  I have seen her
sister in deeper water than any that can be about her, and she is on dry
land now.  `And hath set my feet upon a rock, and established my
goings,'" added Mrs Snow, softly.  "That is the way with my bairn, I
believe.  Thank God.  And they'll both be the better for this quiet
time, and we'll take the good of it without wishing for more than is
wise, or setting our hearts on what may fail.  See, they are coming down
the brae together.  It is good to see them."

The first weeks of their stay in Merleville had been weeks of great
anxiety.  Long after a very difficult and painful operation had been
successfully performed, Mrs Snow remained in great danger, and the two
girls gave themselves up to the duty of nursing and caring for her, to
the exclusion of all other thoughts and interests.  To Mr Snow it
seemed that his wife had been won back to life by their devotion, and
Janet herself, when her long swoon of exhaustion and weakness was over,
remembered that, even at the worst time of all, a dim consciousness of
the presence of her darlings had been with her, and a wish to stay, for
their sakes, had held her here, when her soul seemed floating away to
unseen worlds.

By a change, so gradual as scarcely to be perceptible, from day to day,
she came back to a knowledge of their loving care, and took up the
burden of her life again.  Not joyfully, perhaps, having been so near to
the attaining of heavenly joy, but still with patience and content,
willing to abide God's time.

After that the days followed one another quietly and happily, with
little to break the pleasant monotony beyond the occasional visits of
the neighbours from the village, or the coming of letters from home.  To
Graeme it was a very peaceful time.  Watching her from day to day, her
old friend could not but see that she was content with her life and its
work, now; that whatever the shadow had been which had fallen on her
earlier days, it had passed away, leaving around her, not the brightness
of her youth, but a milder and more enduring radiance.  Graeme was, in
Janet's eyes, just what the daughter of her father and mother ought to
be.  If she could have wished anything changed, it would have been in
her circumstances, not in herself.  She was not satisfied that to her
should be denied the higher happiness of being in a home of her own--the
first and dearest to some one worthy of her love.

"And yet who knows?" said she to herself.  "One can never tell in which
road true happiness lies; and it is not for me, who can see only a
little way, to wish for anything that God has not given her.  `A
contented mind is a continual feast,' says the Book.  She has that.  And
`Blessed are the meek, and the merciful, and the pure in heart.'  What
would I have?  I'll make no plans, and I'll make no wishes.  It is all
in good hands, and there is nothing to fear for her, I am sure of that.
As for her sister--.  Well, I suppose there will ay be something in the
lot of those we love, to make us mindful that they need better help than
ours.  And it is too far on in the day for me to doubt that good
guidance will come to her as to the rest."

Still, after her husband's words, Mrs Snow regarded Rose's movements
with an earnestness that she was not quite willing to acknowledge even
to herself.  It was rather unreasonable of him, she thought at first, to
be otherwise than content with the young girl in her new sedateness.
She was not quite so merry and idle as during her last visit; but that
was not surprising, seeing she was older and wiser, and more sensible of
the responsibilities that life brings to all.  It was natural that it
should be so, and well that it should be so.  It was matter for
thankfulness that the years were bringing her wisdom, and that, looking
on life with serious eyes, she would not expect too much from it, nor be
so bitterly disappointed at its inevitable failures.  She was quieter
and graver, but surely no fault was to be found with that, seeing there
had been sickness and anxiety in the house.

She was cheerful and busy too, Mrs Snow saw, accomplishing wonderful
things in the way of learning to do housework, and dairy work, under the
direction of Hannah, and comporting herself generally in a way that was
winning the good opinion of that experienced and rather exacting
housekeeper.  She took great interest in out-of-door affairs, going
daily with the deacon to the high sheep pasture, or to the clearing
beyond the swamp, or wherever else his oversight of farming matters led
him, which ought to have contented Mr Snow, his wife thought, and which
might have done so if he had been quite sure that her heart was in it
all.

By and by Mrs Snow wearied a little for the mirthfulness and laughter
that had sometimes needed to be gently checked during her former visit.
More than once, too, she fancied she saw a wistful look in Graeme's eyes
as they followed her sister's movements, and she had much ado to keep
from troubling herself about them both.

They were sitting one day together in the south room which looked out
over the garden and the orchard and the pond beyond.  Rose was in the
garden, walking listlessly up and down the long paths between the
flower-beds, and Mrs Snow, as she watched her, wondered within herself
whether this would be a good time to speak to Graeme about her sister.
Before she had time to decide, however, they were startled by Hannah's
voice coming round the corner--

"Rose," it said, "hadn't you just as leives do your walking right
straight ahead?  'Cause, if you had, you might take a pitcher and go
over to Emily's and borrow some yeast.  I don't calculate, as a general
thing, to get out of yeast, or any thing else, but the cat's been and
keeled the jug right down, and spilled the last drop, and I want a
little to set some more to rising."

"Hannah," said Rose, with a penitent face, "I am afraid it was my fault.
I left the jug on the corner of the shelf, instead of putting it away
as I ought.  I am very sorry."

"Well, I thought pretty likely it might be you, seeing it wasn't me,"
said Hannah, grimly.  "That jug has held the yeast in this house since
Grandma Snow's time, and now it's broke to forty pieces."

"Oh, I am so sorry!" said Rose.

"Well, I guess it don't matter a great sight.  Nobody will worry about
it, if I don't, and it's no use crying over spilt milk.  But I guess
you'd better tell Emily how it happened.  I'd a little rather what
borrowing there is between the two houses should be on t'other side.  I
wouldn't have asked you, only I thought you'd rather go than not.  That
walking up and down is about as shiftless a business as ever you
undertook.  But don't you go if you don't want to."

Rose shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh!  I'll go, and I'll tell Mrs Nasmyth how it happened, and that it
was my fault and the cat's.  Mrs Snow," said she, presenting herself at
the window, "did you hear what Hannah has been saying?  I have broken
Grandma Snow's yeast jug into forty pieces, and I am to go and confess
to Emily, and get some yeast."

"I thought it was the cat that did it; though, doubtless, it was your
fault not putting it in its place.  However, there is no great harm
done, so that you get more yeast to Hannah."

"And let Emily know that it is my fault and not Hannah's that more yeast
is needed.  Graeme, will you come and have a walk this bonny day?"

"You can go and do Hannah's errand, now, and I will stay with Mrs Snow,
and we will walk together later," said Graeme.

"And you might bring wee Rosie home with you, if her mother will spare
her, and if she wants to come.  But there is no doubt of her wishing to
come with you."

"Is anything the matter with your sister, that you follow her with such
troubled e'en?" asked Mrs Snow, after a moment's silence.

"Troubled e'en!" repeated Graeme.  "No, I don't think there is anything
the matter with her.  Do you?  Why should you think there is anything
the matter with her, Janet?"

"My dear, I was only asking you; and it was because of the look that you
sent after her--a look that contradicts your words--a thing that doesna
often happen with you, be it said."

"Did I look troubled?  I don't think there is any reason for it on
Rosie's account--any that can be told.  I mean I can only guess at any
cause of trouble she may have.  Just for a minute, now and then, I have
felt a little anxious, perhaps; but it is not at all because I think
there is anything seriously wrong with Rosie, or indeed anything that
will not do her good rather than harm.  But oh, Janet! it is sad that we
cannot keep all trouble away from those we love."

"I canna agree with you, my dear.  It would be ill done to keep anything
from her that will do her good and not evil, as you say yourself.  But
well or ill, you canna do it, and it is foolish and wrong of you to vex
yourself more than is needful."

"But I do not, indeed.  Just now it was her restless, aimless walking up
and down that vexed me.  I am foolish, I suppose, but it always does."

"I daresay it may tell of an uneasy mind, whiles," said Mrs Snow,
gravely.  "I mind you used to be given to it yourself in the old times,
when you werena at ease with yourself.  But if you don't like it in your
sister, you should encourage her to employ herself in a purpose-like
manner."

"Hannah has done it for me this time--I am not sure, however."  For
Rosie was standing still at the gate looking away down the hill towards
the village, "thinking her own thoughts, doubtless," Graeme said to
herself.

"She's waiting for some one, maybe.  I daresay Sandy has sent some one
down to the village for the papers, as this is the day they mostly
come."

"Miss Graeme, my dear," continued Mrs Snow, in a little, "it is time
you were thinking of overtaking all the visiting you'll be expected to
do, now that I am better.  It will be a while, before you'll get over
all the places where they will expect to see you, for nobody will like
to be overlooked."

"Oh, I don't know!" said Graeme.  "It is not just like last time, when
we were strangers and new to the people.  And we have seen almost
everybody already.  And I like this quiet time much best."

"But, my dear, it is too late to begin to think first of your own likes
and dislikes now.  And it will be good for Rosie, and you mustna tell me
that you are losing interest in your Merleville friends, dear!  That
would be ungrateful, when they all have so warm an interest in you."

"No, indeed!  I have not lost interest in my Merleville friends.  There
will never be any place just like Merleville to me.  Our old life here
always comes back to me like a happy, happy dream.  I can hardly
remember any troubles that came to us all those seven years, Janet--till
the very end."

"My dear, you had your troubles, plenty of them, or you thought you had;
but the golden gleam of youth lies on your thoughts of that time, now.
There was the going away of the lads, for one thing.  I mind well you
thought those partings hard to bear."

"Yes, I remember," said Graeme, gravely, "but even then we hoped to meet
again, and life lay before us all; and nothing had happened to make us
afraid."

"My dear, nothing has happened yet that need make you afraid.  If you
mean for Rosie, she must have her share of the small tribulations that
fall to the lot of most women, at one time or other of their lives; but
she is of a cheerful nature, and not easily daunted; and dear, _you_
have come safely over rougher bits of road than any that are like to lie
before her, and she ay will have you to guide her.  And looking at you,
love, and knowing that the `great peace,' the Book speaks about, is in
your heart and in your life, I have no fear for your sister, after all
that has come and gone to you."

Graeme leaned back in her chair, silent for a moment, then she said,
gently,--

"I am not afraid.  I cannot think what I have said, Janet, to make you
think I am afraid for Rosie."

"My dear, you have said nothing.  It was the wistful look in your e'en
that made me speak to you about her.  And besides, I have noticed Rosie
myself.  She is not so light of heart as she used to be.  It may be the
anxious time you have had with me, or it may be the added years, or it
may be something that it may be wiser for you and me not to seem to see.
But whatever it is, I am not afraid for Rose.  I am only afraid that
you may vex yourself about her, when there is no need.  There can be no
good in that, you know well."

"But I am not vexing myself, Janet, indeed.  I will tell you what I know
about it.  Do you mind that restless fit that was on me long ago, when
you came to see us, and how it seemed to me that I must go away?  Well,
Rose has come to the same place in her life, and she would like to have
work, real work, to do in the world, and she has got impatient of her
useless life, as she calls it.  It has come on her sooner than it came
on me, but that is because the circumstances are different, I suppose,
and I hope it may pass away.  For, oh!  Janet, I shrink from the
struggle, and the going away from them all; and I have got to that time
when one grows content with just the little things that come to one's
hand to do, seeing they are sent by God, as well as nobler work.  But it
is not so with Rose, and even if this wears over, as it did with me,
there are weary days before her; and no wonder, Janet, that I follow her
with anxious eyes."

There was no more said for a moment.  They were both watching Rose, who
still stood at the gate, shading her eyes, and looking down the hill.

"She doesna look like one that has much the matter with her," said Mrs
Snow.  "Miss Graeme, my dear, do you ken what ails your sister?  Why has
this feverish wish to be away and at work come upon her so suddenly, if
it is a question that I ought to ask?"

"Janet, I cannot tell you.  I do not know.  I can but guess at it
myself, and I may be all wrong.  And I think, perhaps, the best help we
can give her, is not to seem to see, as you said a little ago.
Sometimes I have thought it might all be set right, if Rose would only
speak; but one can never be sure, and I think, Janet, we can only wait
and see.  I don't believe there is much cause for fear, if only Rose
will have patience."

"Then, wherefore should you look so troubled?  Nothing but wrong-doing
on your sister's part should make you look like that."  For there were
tears in Graeme's eyes as she watched her sister, and she looked both
anxious and afraid.

"Wrong-doing," repeated she, with a start.  Then she rose impatiently,
but sat down again in a moment.  Was it "wrong-doing" in a woman to let
her heart slip unawares and unasked from her own keeping?  If this was
indeed the thing that had happened to Rose?  Or was it "wrong-doing" to
come to the knowledge of one's heart too late, as Harry had once hinted
might be the end of Rosie's foolish love of admiration?

"Wrong-doing," she repeated again, with a sudden stir of indignation at
her heart.  "No, that must never be said of Rose.  It must be one of the
small tribulations that sooner or later fall to the lot of most women,
as you said yourself Janet, a little ago.  And it won't do to discuss
it, anyway.  See, Rose has opened the gate for some one.  Who is coming
in?"

"My dear," said Mrs Snow, gravely, "it was far from my thought to wish
to know about anything that I should not.  It is Sandy she is opening
the gate for, and wee Rosie.  He has been down for the papers, it seems,
and he may have gotten letters as well."

"But, Janet," said Graeme, eagerly, "you know I could not mean that I
could not tell you if I were ever so willing.  I do not know.  I can
only guess; but as for `wrong-doing'--"

"My dear, you needna tell me that.  Sandy, man, it must seem a
strange-like thing to the folk in the village to see you carrying the
child that way on your horse before you--you that have wagons of one
kind or another, and plenty of them, at your disposal.  Is it safe for
the bairn, think you?  Do you like that way of riding, my wee Rosie?"

"Yes, gamma, I 'ike it," lisped the two years old Rosie, smiling
brightly.

"It is safe enough, mother, you may be sure of that.  And as for what
the village folk may think, that's a new thing for you to ask.  It is
the best and pleasantest way in the world for both Rosie and me."  And
looking at the proud, young father and the happy child sitting before
him, it was not to be for a moment doubted.

"It must be delightful," said Rose, laughing.  "I should like a ride
myself, wee Rosie."

"And why not?" said Mrs Snow.  "Sandy, man, it is a wonder to me that
you havena thought about it before.  Have you your habit here, my dear?
Why should you no' bring young Major or Dandy over, saddled for Miss
Rose?  It would do her all the good in the world to get a gallop in a
day like this."

"There is no reason in the world why I should not, if Miss Rose, would
like it."

"I would like it very much.  Not that I need the good of it especially,
but I shall enjoy the pleasure of it.  And will you let wee Rosie come
with me."

"If grandma has no objections," said Sandy, laughing.  "But it must be
_old_ Major, if you take her."

"Did ever anybody hear such nonsense?" said Mrs Snow, impatiently.
"But you'll need to haste, Sandy, man, or we shall be having visitors,
and then she winna get away."

"Yes, I should not wonder.  I saw Mr Perry coming up the way with a
book in his hand.  But I could bring young Major and Dandy too, and Miss
Rose needn't be kept at home then."

Rose laughed merrily.

"Who?  The minister?  Oh! fie, Sandy man, you shouldna speak such
nonsense.  Wee Rosie, are you no' going to stay the day with Miss Graeme
and me?" said Mrs Snow.

Graeme held up her arms for the little girl, but she did not offer to
move.

"Will you bide with grannie, wee Rosie?" asked her father, pulling back
her sun-bonnet, and letting a mass of tangled, yellow curls fall over
her rosy face.

"Tum adain Grannie," said the little girl, gravely.  She was too well
pleased with her place to wish to leave it.  Her father laughed.

"She shall come when I bring over Dandy for Miss Rose.  In the meantime,
I have something for some one here."

"Letters," said Graeme and Rose, in a breath.

"One a piece.  Good news, I hope.  I shall soon be back again, Miss
Rose, with Dandy."

Graeme's letter was from Will, written after having heard of his sisters
being in Merleville, before he had heard of Mrs Snow's recovery.  He
had thought once of coming home with Mr Millar, he said, but had
changed his plans, partly because he wished to accept an invitation he
had received from his uncle in the north, and partly for other reasons.
He was staying at present with Mrs Millar, who was "one of a thousand,"
wrote Will, with enthusiasm, "and, indeed, so is, her son, Mr Ruthven,
but you know Allan, of old."  And then he went on to other things.

Graeme read the letter first herself, and then to Mrs Snow and Rose.
In the midst of it Mr Snow came in.  Rose had read hers, but held it in
her hand still, even after they had ceased to discuss Will's.

"It is from Fanny," said she, at last.  "You can read it to Mrs Snow,
if you like, Graeme.  It is all about baby and his perfections; or
nearly all.  I will go and put on my habit for my ride.  Uncle Sampson
come with me, won't you?  Have you anything particular to do to-day?"

"To ride?" said Mr Snow.  "I'd as lieve go as not, and a little
rather--if you'll promise to take it moderate.  I should like the chaise
full better than the saddle, I guess, though."

Rose laughed.

"I will promise to let _you_ take it moderate.  I am not afraid to go
alone, if you don't want to ride.  But I shouldn't fancy the chaise
to-day.  A good gallop is just what I want, I think."

She went to prepare for her ride, and Graeme read Fanny's letter.  It
was, as Rose had said, a record of her darling's pretty sayings and
doings, and gentle regrets that his aunts could not have the happiness
of being at home to watch his daily growth in wisdom and beauty.  Then
there were a few words at the end.

"Harry is properly indignant, as we all are, at your hint that you may
see Norman and Hilda, before you see home again.  Harry says it is quite
absurd to speak of such a thing, but we have seen very little of him of
late.  I hope we may see more of him now that his friend and partner has
returned.  He has been quite too much taken up with his little Amy, to
think of us.  However, I promised Mr Millar I would say nothing of that
bit of news.  He must tell you about it himself.  He has a great deal of
Scottish news, but I should only spoil it by trying to tell it; and I
think it is quite possible that Harry may fulfil his threat, and come
for you himself.  But I suppose he will give you fair warning," and so
on.

Graeme closed the letter, saying nothing.

"It is not just very clear, I think," said Mrs Snow.

"Is it not?" said Graeme.  "I did not notice.  Of course, it is all
nonsense about Harry coming to take us home."

"And who is little Miss Amy, that she speaks of?  Is she a friend of
your brother Harry?  Or is she Mr Millar's friend?  Mrs Arthur doesna
seem to make it clear?"

"Miss Amy Roxbury," said Graeme, opening her letter again.  "Does she
not make it plain?  Oh, well! we shall hear more about it, she says.  I
suppose Harry has got back to his old fancy, that we are to go and live
with him if Mr Millar goes elsewhere.  Indeed, I don't understand it
myself; but we shall hear more soon, I daresay.  Ah! here is Rosie."

"And here is Dandy," said Rose, coming in with her habit on.  "And here
is wee Rosie come to keep you company while I am away.  And here is Mr
Snow, on old Major.  Don't expect us home till night.  We shall have a
day of it, shall we not?"

They had a very quiet day at home.  Wee Rosie came and went, and told
her little tales to the content of her grandmother and Graeme, who made
much of the little girl, as may well be supposed.  She was a bonny
little creature, with her father's blue eyes and fair curls, and showing
already some of the quaint, grave ways that Graeme remembered in her
mother as a child.

In the afternoon, Emily came with her baby, and they were all happy and
busy, and had no time for anxious or troubled thoughts.  At least, they
never spoke a word that had reference to anything sad.  But, when Graeme
read the letters again to Emily, Mrs Snow noticed that she did not read
the part about their going West, or about little Amy, or about Harry's
coming to take them home.  But her eye lingered on the words, and her
thoughts went back to some old trouble, she saw by her grave look, and
by the silence that fell upon her, even in the midst of her pretty
child's play with the little ones.  But never a word was spoken about
anything sad.  And, by and by, visitors came, and Mrs Snow, being
tired, went to lie down to rest for a while.  But when Rose and Mr Snow
came home, they found her standing at the gate, ready to receive them.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

"I want to know!  Now do tell; if there ain't mother standing at the
gate, and opening it for us, too," exclaimed Mr Snow, in astonishment
and delight.  "That is the farthest she's been yet, and it begins to
look a little like getting well, now, don't it?"

"I hope nothing has happened," said Rose, a little anxiously.

"I guess not--nothing to fret over.  Her face don't look like it.  Well,
mother, you feel pretty smart to-night, don't you?  You look
first-rate."

"I am just as usual," said Mrs Snow, quietly.  "But what has kept you
so long?  We were beginning to wonder about you."

"Has anything happened?" said Rose, looking over Mrs Snow's head, at a
little crowd of people coming out at the door.

"We have visitors, that is all.  The minister is here, and a friend of
yours--your brother Harry's partner.  He has brought news--not bad news,
at least he doesna seem to think so, nor Miss Graeme.  I have hardly
heard it myself, yet, or seen the young man, for I was tired and had to
lie down.  But you'll hear it yourself in due time."

Rose reined her horse aside.

"Take care, dear," said Mrs Snow, as she sprung to the ground without
assistance.  "There is no need for such haste.  You might have waited
for Sandy or some one to help you, I think."

"What is it, Graeme?" said Rose, for her sister looked flashed and
excited, and there were traces of tears on her cheeks she was sure.  But
she did not look anxious--certainly not unhappy.

"Rosie, dear, Charlie has come."

"Oh!  Charlie has come, has he?  That is it, is it?" said Rose, with a
long breath.

Yes, there was Mr Millar, offering his hand and smiling--"exactly like
himself," Rose thought, but she could not tell very well, for her eyes
were dazzled with the red light of the setting sun.  But she was very
glad to see him, she told him; and she told the minister she was very
glad to see _him_, too, in the very same tone, the next minute.  There
was not much time to say anything, however, for Hannah--whose patience
had been tried by the delay--announced that tea was on the table, in a
tone quite too peremptory to be trifled with.

"Rose, you are tired, I am sure.  Never mind taking off your habit till
after tea."

Rose confessed herself tired after her long and rapid ride.

"For I left Mr Snow at Major Spring's, and went on a long way by
myself, and it is just possible, that, after all, you are right, and I
have gone too far for the first ride; for see, I am a little shaky,"
added she, as the teacup she passed to Mr Snow trembled in her hand.

Then she asked Mr Millar about the news he had brought them, and
whether all were well, and a question or two besides; and then she gave
herself up to the pleasure of listening to the conversation of the
minister, and it came into Graeme's mind that if Harry had been there he
would have said she was amusing herself with a little serious
flirtation.  Graeme did not think so, or, if she did, it did not make
her angry as it would have made Harry; for though she said little,
except to the grave wee Rosie Nasmyth, whom she had taken under her
care, she looked very bright and glad.  Rose looked at her once or
twice, a little startled, and after a while, in watching her, evidently
lost the thread of the minister's entertaining discourse, and answered
him at random.

"I have a note from Harry," said Graeme, as they left the tea-table.
"Here it is.  Go and take off your habit.  You look hot and tired."

In a little while the visitors were gone and Mr Millar was being put
through a course of questions by Mr Snow.  Graeme sat and listened to
them, and thought of Rose, who, all the time, was sitting up-stairs with
Harry's letter in her hand.

It was not a long letter.  Rose had time to read it a dozen times over,
Graeme knew, but still she lingered, for a reason she could not have
told to any one, which she did not even care to make very plain to
herself.  Mr Snow was asking, and Mr Millar was answering, questions
about Scotland, and Will, and Mr Ruthven, and every word that was said
was intensely interesting to her; and yet, while she listened eagerly,
and put in a word now and then that showed how much she cared, she was
conscious all the time, that she was listening for the sound of a
movement overhead, or for her sister's footstep on the stair.  By and
by, as Charlie went on, in answer to Mr Snow's questions, to tell about
the state of agriculture in his native shire, her attention wandered
altogether, and she listened only for the footsteps.

"She may perhaps think it strange that I do not go up at once.  I
daresay it is foolish in me.  Very likely this news will be no more to
her than to me."

"Where is your sister?" said Mrs Snow, who, as well as Graeme, had been
attending to two things at once.  "I doubt the foolish lassie has tired
herself with riding too far."

"I will go and see," said Graeme.

Before she entered her sister's room Rose called to her.

"Is it you, Graeme?  What do you think of Harry's news?  He has not lost
much time, has he?"

"I was surprised," said Graeme.

Rose was busy brushing her hair.

"Surprised!  I should think so.  Did you ever think such a thing might
happen, Graeme?"

This was Harry's letter.

  "My Dear Sisters,--I have won my Amy!  You cannot be more astonished
  than I am.  I know I am not good enough for her, but I love her
  dearly, and it will go hard with me if I don't make her happy.  I only
  want to be assured that you are both delighted, to make my happiness
  complete."

Throwing her hair back a little, Rose read it again.  This was not quite
all.  There was a postscript over the page, which Rose had at first
overlooked, and she was not sure that Graeme had seen it.  Besides, it
had nothing to do with the subject matter of the note.

"Did the thought of such a thing ever come into your mind?" asked she
again, as she laid the letter down.

"Yes," said Graeme, slowly.  "It did come into my mind more than once.
And, on looking back, I rather wonder that I did not see it all.  I can
remember now a good many things that looked like it, but I never was
good at seeing such affairs approaching, you know."

"Are you glad, Graeme?"

"Yes, I am glad.  I believe I shall be very glad when I have had time to
think about it."

"Because Harry's happiness won't be complete unless you are, you know,"
said Rose, laughing.

"I am sure Harry is quite sincere in what he says about it," said
Graeme.

"It is not to be doubted.  I daresay she is a nice little thing; and,
after all, it won't make the same difference to us that Fanny's coming
did."

"No, if we are to consider it with reference to ourselves.  But I think
I am very glad for Harry's sake."

"And that is more than we could have said for Arthur.  However, there is
no good going back to that now.  It has all turned out very well."

"Things mostly do, if people will have patience," said Graeme, "and I am
sure this will, for Harry, I mean.  I was always inclined to like little
Amy, only--only, we saw very little of her you know--and--yes, I am sure
I shall love her dearly."

"Well, you must make haste to tell Harry so, to complete his happiness.
And he is very much astonished at his good fortune," said Rose, taking
up the letter again.  "`Not good enough for her,' he says.  That is the
humility of true love, I suppose; and, really, if he is pleased, we may
be.  I daresay she is a nice little thing."

"She is more than just a nice little thing.  You should hear what Mr
Millar says of her."

"He ought to know!  `Poor Charlie,' as Harry calls him in the pride of
his success.  Go down-stairs, Graeme, and I will follow in a minute; I
am nearly ready!"

The postscript which Rose was not sure whether Graeme had seen, said,
"poor Charlie," and intimated that Harry's sisters owed him much
kindness for the trouble he was taking in going so far to carry them the
news in person.  Not Harry's own particular news, Rose supposed, but
tidings of Will, and of all that was likely to interest them from both
sides of the sea.

"I would like to know why he calls him `poor Charlie,'" said Rose, with
a shrug.  "I suppose, however, we must all seem like objects of
compassion to Harry, at the moment of his triumph, as none of us have
what has fallen to him."

Graeme went down without a word, smiling to herself as she went.  She
had seen the postscript, and she thought she knew why Harry had written
"poor Charlie," but she said nothing to Rose.  The subject of
conversation had changed during her absence, it seemed.

"I want to know!  Do tell!"  Mr Snow was saying.  "I call that
first-rate news, if it is as you say, Mr Millar.  Do the girls know it?
Graeme, do you know that Harry is going to be married."

"Yes, so Harry tells me."

"And who is the lady?  Is it anyone we know about?  Roxbury," repeated
Mr Snow, with a puzzled look.  "But it seems to me I thought I heard
different.  I don't seem to understand."

He looked anxiously into the face of his wife as though she could help
him.

"That's not to be wondered at," said she, smiling.  "It seems Miss
Graeme herself has been taken by surprise.  But she is well pleased for
all that.  Harry has been in no great hurry, I think."

"But that ain't just as I understood it," persisted Mr Snow.  "What
does Rose say?  She told me this afternoon, when we were riding,
something or other, but it sartain wa'n't that."

"It could hardly be that, since the letter came when you were away, and
even Miss Graeme knew nothing of it till she got the letter," said Mrs
Snow, with some impatience.

"Rosie told me," went on Mr Snow.  "Here she is.  What was it you were
telling me this afternoon about--about our friend here?"

"Oh!  I told you a great many things that it would not do to repeat,"
and though Rose laughed, she reddened, too, and looked appealingly at
Graeme.

"Wasn't Roxbury the name of the lady, that you told me was--"

"Oh!  Uncle Sampson!  Never mind."

"Dear me," said Mrs Snow, "what need you make a mystery out of such
plain reading.  Miss Graeme has gotten a letter telling her that her
brother Harry is going to be married; and what is there so wonderful
about that?"

"Just so," said Mr Snow.  He did not understand it the least in the
world, but he understood that, for some reason or other, Mrs Snow
wanted nothing more said about it, so he meant to say no more; and,
after a minute, he made Rose start and laugh nervously by the energy
with which he repeated, "Just so;" and still he looked from Graeme to
Mr Millar, as though he expected them to tell him something.

"Harry's letter gives the news, and that is all," said Graeme.

"But I cannot understand your surprise," said Mr Millar, not to Mr
Snow, but to Graeme.  "I thought you must have seen it all along."

"Did you see it all along?" asked Mr Snow, looking queer.

"I was in Harry's confidence; but even if I had not been, I am sure I
must have seen it.  I almost think I knew what was coming before he knew
it himself, at the very first."

"The very first?" repeated Graeme.  "When was that?  In the spring?
Before the time we went to Mrs Roxbury's, on the evening of the
Convocation?"

"Oh! yes! long before that--before Miss Rose came home from the West.
Indeed, I think it was love at first sight, as far as Harry was
concerned," added Mr Millar, with an embarrassed laugh, coming suddenly
to the knowledge of the fact that Mr Snow was regarding him with
curious eyes.  But Mr Snow turned his attention to Rose.

"What do _you_ say to that?" asked he.

"I have nothing to say," said Rose, pettishly.  "I was not in Harry's
confidence."

"So it seems," said Mr Snow, meditatively.

"I am sure you will like her when you know her better," said Mr Millar.

"Oh! if Harry likes her that is the chief thing," said Rose, with a
shrug.  "It won't matter much to the rest of us--I mean to Graeme and
me."

"It will matter very much to us," said Graeme, "and I know I shall love
her dearly, and so will you, Rosie, when she is our sister, and I mean
to write to Harry to-morrow--and to her, too, perhaps."

"She wants very much to know you, and I am sure you will like each
other," said Mr Millar looking deprecatingly at Rose, who was not easy
or comfortable in her mind any one could see.

"Just tell me one thing, Rose," said Mr Snow.  "How came you to suppose
that--"

But the question was not destined to be answered by Rose, at least not
then.  A matter of greater importance was to be laid before her, for the
door opened suddenly, and Hannah put in her head.

"Where on earth did you put the yeast-jug, Rose?  I have taken as many
steps as I want to after it; if you had put it back in its place it
would have paid, I guess.  It would have suited _me_ better, and I guess
it would have suited better all round."

Her voice betrayed a struggle between offended dignity and decided
crossness.  Rose was a little hysterical, Graeme thought, or she never
would have laughed about such an important matter in Hannah's face.  For
Hannah knew her own value, which was not small in the household, and she
was not easily propitiated when a slight was given or imagined, as no
one knew better than Rose.  And before company, too!--company with whom
Hannah had not been "made acquainted," as Hannah, and the sisterhood
generally in Merleville, as a rule, claimed to be.  It was dreadful
temerity on Rose's part.

"Oh!  Hannah, I forgot all about it."

But the door was suddenly closed.  Rose hastened after her in haste and
confusion.

Mr Snow had been deeply meditating, and he was evidently not aware that
anything particular had been happening, for he turned suddenly to Mr
Millar, and said,--

"I understood that it was you who was--eh--who was--keeping company with
Miss Roxbury?"

"Did you think so, Miss Elliott," said Charlie, in some astonishment.

"Mr Snow," said his wife, in a voice that brought him to her side in an
instant.  "You may have read in the Book, how there is a time to keep
silence, as well as a time to speak, and the bairn had no thought of
having her words repeated again, though she might have said that to
you."

She spoke very softly, so that the others did not hear, and Mr Snow
would have looked penitent, if he had not looked so bewildered.  Raising
her voice a little, she added,--

"You might just go out, and tell Hannah to send Jabez over to Emily's
about the yeast, if she has taken too many steps to go herself; for Miss
Rose is tired, and it is growing dark;--and besides, there is no call
for her to go Hannah's messages--though you may as well no' say that to
her, either."

But the door opened, and Rose came in again.

"I can't even find the jug," she said, pretending great consternation.
"And this is the second one I have been the death of.  Oh! here it is.
I must have left it here in the morning, and wee Rosie's flowers are in
it!  Oh! yes, dear, I must go.  Hannah is going, and I must go with her.
She is just a little bit cross, you know.  And, besides, I want to tell
her the news," and she went away.

Mr Snow, feeling that he had, in some way, been compromising himself,
went and sat down beside his wife, to be out of the temptation to do it
again, and Mr Millar said again, to Graeme, very softly this time,--

"Did you think so, Miss Elliott?"

Graeme hesitated.

"Yes, Charlie.  I must confess, there did, more than once, come into my
mind the possibility that Harry and his friend and partner might find
themselves rivals for the favour of the sweet little Amy.  But you must
remember, that--"

But Charlie interrupted her, eagerly.

"And did--did your sister think so, too?  No, don't answer me--" added
he, suddenly rising, and going first to the window to look out, and
then, out at the door.  In a little Graeme rose, and went out too, and
followed him down the path, to the gate, over which he was leaning.
There was no time to speak, however, before they heard the voices of
Rose and Hannah, coming toward them.  Hannah was propitiated, Graeme
knew by the sound of her voice.  Mr Millar opened the gate for them to
pass, and Graeme said, "You have not been long, Rosie."

"Are you here, Graeme," said Rose, for it was quite dark, by this time.
"Hannah, this is Mr Millar, my brother Harry's friend and partner."
And then she added, with great gravity, according to the most approved
Merleville formula of introduction, "Mr Millar, I make you acquainted
with Miss Lovejoy."

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr Millar.  I hope I see you
wed," said Miss Lovejoy, with benignity.  If Mr Millar was not quite
equal to the occasion, Miss Lovejoy was, and she said exactly what was
proper to be said in the circumstances, and neither Graeme nor Rose
needed to say anything till they got into the house again.

"There! that is over," said Rose, with a sigh of relief.

"The getting of the yeast?" said Graeme, laughing.

"Yes, and the pacification of Miss Lovejoy."

It was not quite over, however, Graeme thought in the morning.  For Rose
seemed to think it necessary to give a good deal of her time to
household matters, whether it was still with a view to the good humour
of Hannah or not, was not easy to say.  But she could only give a
divided attention to their visitor, and to the account of all that he
and Will had done and enjoyed together.  Graeme and he walked up and
down the garden for a while, and when Mrs Snow had risen, and was in
the sitting-room, they came and sat down beside her, and, after a time,
Rose came too.  But it was Graeme who asked questions, and who drew Mr
Millar out, to tell about their adventures, and misadventures, and how
Will had improved in all respects, and how like his father all the old
people thought him.  Even Mrs Snow had more to say than Rose,
especially when he went on to tell about Clayton, and the changes that
had taken place there.

"Will fancied, before he went, that he remembered all the places
distinctly; and was very loth to confess that he had been mistaken.  I
suppose, that his imagination had had as much to do with his idea of his
native place, as his memory, and when, at last, we went down the glen
where your mother used to live, and where he distinctly remembered going
to see her with you, not long before you all came away, he acknowledged
as much.  He stepped across the burn at the widest part, and then he
told me, laughing, that he had always thought of the burn at that place,
as being about as wide as the Merle river, just below the mill bridge,
however wide that may be.  It was quite a shock to him, I assure you.
And then the kirk, and the manse, and all the village, looked old, and
small, and queer, when he came to compare them with the pictures of them
he had kept in his mind, all these years.  The garden he remembered, and
the lane beyond it, but I think the only things he found quite as he
expected to find them, were the laburnum trees, in that lane," and on
Charlie went, from one thing to another, drawn on by a question, put now
and then by Graeme, or Mrs Snow, whenever he made a pause.

But all that was said need not be told here.  By and by, he rose and
went out, and when he came back, he held an open book on his hand, and
on one of its open pages lay a spray of withered ivy, gathered, he said,
from the kirkyard wall, from a great branch that hung down over the spot
where their mother lay.  And when he had laid it down on Graeme's lap,
he turned and went out again.

"I mind the spot well," said Mrs Snow, softly.

"I mind it, too," said Graeme.

Rose did not "mind" it, nor any other spot of her native land, nor the
young mother who had lain so many years beneath the drooping ivy.  But
she stooped to touch with her lips, the faded leaves that spoke of her,
and then she laid her cheek down on Graeme's knee, and did not speak a
word, except to say that she had quite forgotten all.

By and by, Mr Snow came in, and something was said about showing
Merleville to their visitor, and so arranging matters that time should
be made to pass pleasantly to him.

"Oh! as to that, he seems no' ill to please," said Mrs Snow.  "Miss
Graeme might take him down to the village to Mr Greenleaf's and young
Mr Merle's, if she likes; but, as to letting him see Merleville, I
think the thing that is of most importance is, that all Merleville
should see him."

"There is something in that.  I don't suppose Merleville is any more to
him than any other place, except that Harry and the rest had their home
here, for a spell.  But all the Merleville folks will want to see _him_,
I expect."

Rose laughingly suggested that a town meeting should be called for the
purpose.

"Well, I calculate that won't be necessary.  If he stays over Sunday, it
will do as well.  The folks will have a chance to see him at meeting,
though, I suppose it won't be best to tell him so, before he goes.  Do
you suppose he means to stay over Sunday, Rosie?"

"I haven't asked him," said Rose.

"It will likely depend on how he is entertained, how long he stays,"
said Mrs Snow.  "I daresay he will be in no hurry to get home, for a
day or two.  And Rosie, my dear, you must help your sister to make it
pleasant for your brother's friend."

"Oh! he's no' ill to please, as you said yourself," answered Rose.

It was well that he was not, or her failure to do her part in the way of
amusing him, might have sooner fallen under general notice.  They walked
down to the village in the afternoon, first to Mr Merle's, and then to
Mr Greenleaf's.  Here, Master Elliott at once took possession of Rose,
and they went away together, and nothing more was seen of them, till tea
had been waiting for some time.  Then they came in, and Mr Perry came
with them.  He stayed to tea, of course, and made himself agreeable, as
he always did, and when they went home, he said he would walk with them
part of the way.  He had most of the talk to himself, till they came to
the foot of the hill, when he bade them, reluctantly, good-night.  They
were very quiet the rest of the way, and when they reached home, the
sisters went up-stairs at once together, and though it was quite dark,
neither of them seemed in a great hurry to go down again.

"Rose," said Graeme, in a little, "where ever did you meet Mr Perry
this afternoon?  And why did you bring him to Mr Greenleaf's with you?"

"I did not bring him to Mr Greenleaf's.  He came of his own free will.
And I did not meet him anywhere.  He followed us down past the mill.  We
were going for oak leaves.  Elliott had seen some very pretty ones
there, and I suppose Mr Perry had seen them, too.  Are you coming down,
Graeme?"

"In a little.  Don't wait for me, if you wish to go."

"Oh!  I am in no haste," said Rose, sitting down by the window.  "What
are you going to say to me, Graeme?"

But if Graeme had anything to say, she decided not to say it then.

"I suppose we ought to go down."

Rose followed her in silence.  They found Mr and Mrs Snow alone.

"Mr Millar has just stepped out," said Mr Snow.  "So you had the
minister to-night, again, eh, Rosie?  It seems to me, he is getting
pretty fond of visiting, ain't he?"

Rose laughed.

"I am sure that is a good thing.  The people will like that, won't
they?"

"The people he goes to see will, I don't doubt."

"Well, we have no reason to complain.  He has given us our share of his
visits, always," said Mrs Snow, in a tone that her husband knew was
meant to put an end to the discussion of the subject.  Graeme was not so
observant, however.

"It was hardly a visit he made at Mr Greenleaf's to-night.  He came in
just, before tea, and left when we left, immediately after.  He walked
with us to the foot of the hill."

"He was explaining to Elliott and me the chemical change that takes
place in the leaves, that makes the beautiful autumn colours we were
admiring so much," said Rose.  "He is great in botany and chemistry,
Elliott says."

And then it came out how he had crossed the bridge, and found them under
the oak trees behind the mill, and what talk there had been about the
sunset and the leaves, and a good deal more.  Mr Snow turned an amused
yet doubtful look from her to his wife; but Mrs Snow's closely shut
lips said so plainly, "least said soonest mended," that he shut his
lips, too.

It would have been as well if Graeme had done so, also she thought
afterwards; but she had made