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Title: Wych Hazel
Author: Warner, Susan, 1819-1885, Warner, Anna Bartlett, 1824-1915
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 "Wych Hazel" ***

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Susan Warner, 1819-1885 & Anna Warner 1824-1915, Wych Hazel
(1876), Putnam's edition 1888



_Wych Hazel_ seen by _The Atlantic monthly_, Volume 38, Issue 227,
September 1876, pp. 368-369

"It may well be questioned whether the authors of the _Wide,
Wide World_ have added to their fame by this new novel. In the
first place, the story it tells is one of no marked merit or
originality, and the way in which it is told is in the highest
degree crabbed and unintelligible. There is such an air of
pertness about every one of the speakers, and the story is
told almost entirely by means of conversations, that the
reader gets the impression that all the characters are
referring to jests known only to themselves, as if he were
overhearing private conversations. As may be imagined, this
scrappy way of writing soon becomes very tiresome from the
difficulty the reader has in detecting the hidden meaning of
these curt sentences. The book tells the love of Rollo for
Wych Hazel, and indulges in gentle satire against parties,
round dances, etc. The love-story is made obscure, Rollo's
manners are called Spanish, and he is in many ways a peculiar
young man. We seem to be dealing much more with notes for a
novel than with the completed product."



WORKS BY


SUSAN AND ANNA WARNER.


WYCH HAZEL. Large 12mo, cloth extra $1 75

"If more books of this order were produced, it would elevate
the tastes and increase the desire for obtaining a higher
order of literature." --_The Critic_.

"We can promise every lover of fine fiction a wholesome feast
in the book." --_Boston Traveller_.


THE GOLD OF CHICKAREE. Large 12mo, cloth extra $1 75

"It would be impossible for these two sisters to write
anything the public would not care to read." --_Boston
Transcript_.

"The plot is fresh, and the dialogue delightfully vivacious."
--_Detroit Free Press_.


DIANA. 12mo, cloth $1 75

"For charming landscape pictures, and the varied influences of
nature, for analysis of character, and motives of action, we
have of late seen nothing like it." --_The Christian Register_.

" 'Diana' will be eagerly read by the author's large circle of
admirers, who will rise from its perusal with the feeling that
it is in every prospect worthy of her reputation." --_Boston
Traveller_.



WYCH HAZEL


BY


SUSAN AND ANNA WARNER

AUTHORS OF "WIDE, WIDE WORLD," "DIANA," "THE GOLD OF
CHICKAREE," ETC.


NEW YORK & LONDON

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

The Knickerbocker Press

1888


COPYRIGHT BY

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

1876


CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I. MR. FALKIRK


CHAPTER II. BEGINNING A FAIRY TALE


CHAPTER III. CORNER OF A STAGE-COACH


CHAPTER IV. FELLOW-TRAVELLERS


CHAPTER V. IN THE FOG


CHAPTER VI. THE RED SQUIRREL


CHAPTER VII. SMOKE


CHAPTER VIII. THE MILL FLOOR


CHAPTER IX. CATS


CHAPTER X. CHICKAREE


CHAPTER XI. VIXEN


CHAPTER XII. AT DR. MARYLAND'S


CHAPTER XIII. THE GREY COB


CHAPTER XIV. HOLDING COURT


CHAPTER XV. TO MOSCHELOO


CHAPTER XVI. FISHING


CHAPTER XVII. ENCHANTED GROUND


CHAPTER XVIII. COURT IN THE WOODS


CHAPTER XIX. SELF-CONTROL


CHAPTER XX. BOUQUETS


CHAPTER XXI. MOONSHINE


CHAPTER XXII. A REPORT


CHAPTER XXIII. KITTY FISHER


CHAPTER XXIV. THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS


CHAPTER XXV. IN THE GERMAN


CHAPTER XXVI. IN THE ROCKAWAY


CHAPTER XXVII. THE GERMAN AT OAK HILL


CHAPTER XXVIII. BREAKFAST FOR THREE


CHAPTER XXIX. JEANNIE DEANS


CHAPTER XXX. THE WILL


CHAPTER XXXI. WHOSE WILL?


CHAPTER XXXII. CAPTAIN LANCASTER'S TEAM


CHAPTER XXXIII. HITS AT CROQUET


CHAPTER XXXIV. FRIENDLY TONGUES


CHAPTER XXXV. FIGURES AND FAVOURS


CHAPTER XXXVI. THE RUNAWAY


CHAPTER XXXVII. IN A FOG


CHAPTER XXXVIII. DODGING


CHAPTER XXXIX. A COTTON MILL


CHAPTER XL. SOMETHING NEW


CHAPTER XLI. A LESSON


CHAPTER XLII. STUDY



CHAPTER I.

MR. FALKIRK.


"We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing."


When one has in charge a treasure which one values greatly,
and which, if once made known one is pretty sure to lose, I
suppose the impulse of most men would be towards a hiding-
place. So, at any rate, felt one of the men in this history.
Schools had done their secluding work for a time; tutors and
governors had come and gone under an almost Carthusian vow of
silence, except as to their lessons; and now with seventeen
years of inexperience on his hands, Mr. Falkirk's sensations
were those of the man out West, who wanted to move off
whenever another man came within twenty miles of him.

Thus, in the forlorn hope of a retreat which yet he knew must
prove useless, Mr. Falkirk let the first March winds blow him
out of town; and at this present time was snugly hid away in a
remote village which nobody ever heard of, and where nobody
ever came.

So far so good: Mr. Falkirk rested and took breath.
Nevertheless the spring came, even there; and following close
in her train, the irrepressible conflict. Whoever succeeded in
running away from his duties--or his difficulties? There was a
flutter of young life within doors as without, and Mr. Falkirk
knew it: there were a hundred rills of music, a thousand
nameless flowers to which he could not close his senses. There
was a soft, indefinable stir and sweetness, that told of the
breaking of Winter bonds and the coming of Summer glories; and
he could not stay the progress of things in the one case more
than in the other.

Mr. Falkirk had always taken care of this girl--the few years
before his guardianship were too dim to look back to much.
From the day when she, a suddenly orphaned child, stood
frightened and alone among strangers, and he came in and took
her on his knee, and bade her "be a woman, and be brave." That
was his ideal of womanhood,--to that combination of strength
and weakness he had tried to bring Wych Hazel.

Yet though she had grown up in Mr. Falkirk's company, she
never thoroughly understood him: nature and circumstances had
made him a reserved man,--and her eyes were young. Of a piece
with his reserve was the peculiar fence of separation which he
built up between all his own concerns and those of his ward.
He was poor--she had a more than ample fortune; yet no
persuading would make him live with her. Had he been rich,
perhaps she might have lived with him; but as it was, unless
when lodgings were the rule, they lived in separate houses;
only his was always close at hand. Even when his ward was a
little child, living at Chickaree with her nurses and
housekeeper, Mr. Falkirk never spent a night in the house. He
formally bought and paid for a tiny cottage on the premises,
and there he lived: nothing done without his knowledge,
nothing undone without his notice. Not a creature came or went
unperceived by Mr. Falkirk. And yet this supervision was
generally pleasant. As he wrought, nothing had the air of
espionage--merely of care; and so I think, Wych Hazel liked it,
and felt all the more free for all sorts of undertakings,
secured against consequences. Sometimes, indeed, his quick
insight was so astonishing to the young mischief-maker, that
she was ready to cry out treachery!--and the suspected person
in this case was always Gotham. Yet when she charged upon
Gotham some untimely frost which had nipped her budding plans,
Gotham always replied--

'No, Miss 'Azel. I trust my 'onor is sufficient in his
respect.'

She and Gotham had a singular sort of league,--defensive of Mr.
Falkirk, offensive towards each other. She teased him, and
Gotham bore it mastiff-wise; shaking his head, and wincing,
and when he could bear it no longer going off. Wych Hazel?--
yes, she was that.

And how did she win her name? Well, in the first place, "the
nut-browne mayd" and she were near of kin. But whether her
parents, as they looked into the baby's clear dark eyes, saw
there anything weird or elfish,--or whether the name 'grew,'--of
that there remains no record. She had been a pretty quiet
witch hitherto; but now--

"Once git a scent o' musk into a drawer,
And it clings hold, like precerdents in law!"

--not Mr. Falkirk could get it out.


CHAPTER II.

BEGINNING A FAIRY TALE.


'Mr. Falkirk, I _must_ go and seek my fortune!'

Wych Hazel made this little remark, sitting on a low seat by
the fire, her arms crossed over her lap.

'Wherefore?' said her guardian.

'Because I want to, sir. I have no other than a woman's
reason.'

'The most potent of reasons!' said Mr. Falkirk. 'The rather,
because while professing to have no root, it hath yet a dozen.
How long ago did Jack show his lantern, my dear?'

'Lantern!' said the girl, rather piqued,--adding, under her
breath, 'I'm going to follow--Jack or no Jack! Why, Mr.
Falkirk, I never got interested a bit in a fairy tale, till I
came to--"And so they set out to seek their fortune." It's my
belief that I belong in a fairy tale somewhere.'

'Like enough,' said her guardian shortly.

'So you see it all fits,' said Wych Hazel, studying her future
fortunes in the fire.

'What fits?'

'My going to seek what I am sure to find.'

'That will ensure your missing what is coming to find you.'

'People in fairy tales never wait to see what will come, sir.'

'But, my dear, there is a difficulty in this case. Your
fortune is made already.'

'Provokingly true, sir. But after all, Mr. Falkirk, I was not
thinking of money.'

'A settlement, eh?' said Mr. Falkirk. 'My dear, when the
prince is ready, the fairy will bring him.'

'Now, Mr. Falkirk,' said the girl, with her cheeks aglow, 'you
know perfectly well I was not thinking of _that_.'

'Will you please to specify of what you were thinking, Miss
Hazel?'

Miss Hazel leaned her head on her hand and reflected.

'I don't believe I can, sir. It was a kind of indefinite
fortune,--a whole windfall of queer adventures and people and
things.'

Mr. Falkirk at this turned round from his papers and looked at
the girl. It was a pretty vision that he saw, and he regarded
it somewhat steadily; with a little break of the line of the
lips that yet was not merriment.

'My dear,' he said gravely, 'such birds seldom fly alone in a
high wind.'

'Well, sir, never mind. Could you be ready by Thursday, Mr.
Falkirk?'

'For what, Miss Hazel?'

'Dear me!' said the girl with a soft breath of impatience. 'To
set out, sir. I think I shall go then, and I wanted to know if
I am to have the pleasure of your company.'

'Do _I_ look like a fairy tale?' said Mr. Falkirk.

He certainly did not! A keen eye for practical realities, a
sober good sense that never lost its foothold of common
ground, were further unaccompanied by the graces and charms
wherewith fairy tales delight to deck their favourites.
Besides which, Mr. Falkirk probably knew what his fortune was
already, for the grey was abundantly mingled with the brown in
his eyebrows and hair. However, to do Miss Hazel's guardian
justice, if his face was not gracious, it was at least in some
respects fine. A man always to be respected, easily to be
loved, sat there at the table, at his papers.

As for the little 'nut-browne mayd' who studied destiny in the
fire, she merely glanced up at him in answer to this appeal;
and with a shake of the head as if fairy tales and he were
indeed hopelessly disconnected, returned to her musings. Then
suddenly burst forth--

'I am so puzzled about the colour of my new travelling dress!
"Contrasts," and "harmonies," and all that stuff, belong to
the pink and white people. But pink and brown--Mr. Falkirk, do
you suppose I can find anything browner than myself, that will
set me off, and do?--I can't travel in gold colour.'

'You want to have as much as possible the effect of a picture
in a frame?'

'Not at all, sir. That is just what I want to avoid. The dress
should be a part of the picture.'

'I don't doubt it will be!' said Mr. Falkirk sighing. 'Before
you set out, my dear, had you not better invest your property?
so that you could live upon the gathered interest if the
capital should fail.'

'I thought it was invested?' said the girl, looking up.

'Only a part of it,' replied Mr. Falkirk. 'Nothing but your
money.'

'Nothing but!' said Wych Hazel. 'Why what more have I, Mr.
Falkirk?'

'A young life,' said her guardian,--'a young and warm heart,--
good looks, an excellent constitution, a head and hands that
might do much. To which I might add,--an imagination.'

'My dear Mr. Falkirk,' said the girl laughing, 'I shall want
them all to pay my travelling expenses. All but the last--and
that is invested already, to judge by the interest.'

He smiled, a shaded smile, such as he often wore when she
danced away from his grave suggestions. He never pursued her.
But when she added,

'After all, sir, investments are your affair,'--

'My dear,' he said, 'a woman's jewels are in her own keeping--
unless indeed God keep them. Yet let her remember that they
are not hers to have and to hold, but to have and to use; a
mere life interest--nor always that.'

And then for a while silence fell.

'Will you think me _very_ extravagant if I get a new travelling
dress, sir?' the girl began again.

'I have not usually been the guardian of your wardrobe, Miss
Hazel.'

'No, sir, of course; but I wanted your opinion. You gave one
about my jewels. And by the way, Mr. Falkirk, won't you just
tell me the list over again?'

Mr. Falkirk turned round and bent his brows upon Wych Hazel
now, but without speaking.

'Well, sir?' she repeated, looking up at him, 'what are they,
if you please?'

'Two brilliants of the first water,' replied Mr. Falkirk
looking down into her eyes. 'To which some people add, two
fine bits of sardius.'

'And which some people say are set in bronze,'--said the young
lady, but with a pretty little laugh and flush.

'Where do you propose the search should begin?' said the
gentleman, disregarding this display.

'At Chickaree, sir. I should go down there at once, and so
start from home in proper style.'

'And your plan of operations?' pursued Mr. Falkirk.

'Perfectly simple, sir. Of two roads I should always take the
most difficult, and so on--ad infinitum.'

'Perfectly simple, indeed,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'Yet it might
lead to a complication. I'm afraid it would prove a Western
line of travel, my dear--end in a squirrel track, and run up a
tree.'

'What a lookout we shall have!' said Wych Hazel. 'But about
the dress, Mr. Falkirk--you know my last one is quite new--and I
do so want another!'

'Then get it,' he said with a smile. 'Though I am afraid, my
dear, it is hardly in keeping. Quickear began the search in
rags, and Cincerella in ashes, and the "Fair one with the
golden locks" had, I think, no other adornment. Puss in boots
was indeed new rigged--but Puss was only a deputy. What do you
say to sending me forth in boots, to seek a fortune for you?'

An irrepressible laugh rippled forth--sweet and sound, and, oh,
so heartwhole!

'Let me see,' she said; 'To-day is Monday. To-morrow I will
get the dress and distract my dressmaker. And next Monday we
will set out, and take Chickaree for our first stage. My dear
Mr. Falkirk--most potent, grave, and reverend sir,--if you sally
forth as Puss in boots, of course I shall at once turn into
the Marquis of Carrabas, which would not suit your notions at
all--confess!' she added, locking both hands round his arm, and
flashing the brilliants before his eyes.

'Next Monday we will take the first stage for Chickaree,' said
Mr. Falkirk in an unmoved manner. 'How many servants in your
train, Miss Hazel?'

'None, sir. Mrs. Bywank is there already, and Mrs. Saddler can
"forward" me "with care." I'll pick up a new maid by the way.'

'Will you pick up a page too? or does Dingee keep his place?'

'If he can be said to have one. O, Dingee, of course.'

'Wych Hazel,' said Mr. Falkirk from under his brows, 'what is
your plan?--if you are capable of such a thing.'

'My plan is to unfold my capabilities, sir,--for your express
benefit, Mr. Falkirk. We will beat the bush in every
direction, and run down any game that offers.'

Mr. Falkirk turned his chair half away, and looked into the
fire. Then slowly, but with every effect of expression, he
repeated,--


'A creature bounced from the bush,
Which made them all to laugh,
"My lord," he cried, "A hare! a hare!"
But it proved an Essex calf.'


'Yes,' said Wych Hazel with excellent coolness,--'men do make
such little mistakes, occasionally. But this time I shall be
along. Good night, sir.'


CHAPTER III.

CORNER OF A STAGE COACH


'Miss Hazel!--Dear Miss Hazel!--Dear _me_, Miss Hazel!--here's the
morning, ma'am,--and Gotham, and Mr. Falkirk!'

So far the young eyes unclosed as to see that they could see
nothing--unless the flame of a wind-tossed candle,--then with a
disapproving frown they closed again.

'But Miss Hazel?' remonstrated Mrs. Saddler.

'Well?' said Wych Hazel with closed eyes.

'Mr. Falkirk's dressed, ma'am.'

'What is it to me if Mr. Falkirk chooses to get up over
night?'

'But the stage, ma'am!'

'The stage can wait.'

'The stage won't, Miss Hazel,' said Mrs. Saddler, earnestly.
'And Gotham says it's only a question of time whether we can
catch it now.'

Something in these last words had an arousing power, for the
girl laughed out.

'Mrs. Saddler, how _can_ one wake up, with the certainty of
seeing a tallow candle?'

'Dear me,' said Mrs. Saddler hurrying to light two tall
sperms, 'if _that's_ all, Miss Hazel--'

'That's not all. What's the matter with Mr. Falkirk this
morning?'

'Why nothing, ma'am. Only he said you wanted to take the first
stage to Chickaree.'

'Which I didn't, and don't.'

'And Gotham says,' pursued Mrs. Saddler, 'that if it is the
first, ma'am, we'll save a day to get to Chickaree on
Thursday.'

Whereupon, Wych Hazel sprung at once into a state of physical
and mental action which nearly blew Mrs. Saddler away.

'Look,' she said, tossing the curls over her comb,--'there's my
new travelling dress on the chair.'

'Another new travelling dress!' said Mrs. Saddler with
upraised hands.

'And the hat ribbands match,' said Wych Hazel, 'and the
gloves. And the veil is a shade lighter. Everything matches
everything, and everything matches me. You never saw my match
before, did you Mrs. Saddler?'

'Dear me! Miss Hazel,' said the good woman again. 'You do talk
so wonderful!'

It was splendid to see her look of dismay, and amusement, and
admiration, all in one, and to catch a glimpse of the other
face--fun and mischief and beauty, all in one too! To put on
the new dress, to fit on the new gloves,--Wych Hazel went down
to Mr. Falkirk in admirable spirits.

Mr. Falkirk looked gloomy. As indeed anything might, in that
hall; with the front door standing open, and one lamp burning
till day should come; and the chill air streaming in. Mr.
Falkirk paced up and down with the air of a man prepared for
the worst. He shook Wych Hazel grimly by the hand, and she
laughed out,

'How charming it is, sir? But where's breakfast?'

'Breakfast, Miss Hazel,' said her guardian solemnly, 'is
never, so far as I can learn, taken by people setting out to
seek their fortune. It is generally supposed that such people
rarely have breakfast at all.'

'Very well, sir,--I am ready,'--and in another minute they were
on their way, passing through the street of the little
village, and then out on the open road, until after a half-
hour's drive they entered another small settlement and drew up
before its chief inn. Bustle enough here,--lamps in the hall
and on the steps; lamps in the parlours; lamps running up and
down the yards and road and dimly disclosing the outlines of a
thorough bred stage coach and four horses, with the various
figures pertaining thereto. Steadily the dawn came creeping
up; the morning air--raw and damp--floated off the horses'
tails, and flickered the lights, and even handled Wych Hazel's
new veil. I think nothing but the new travelling dress kept
her from shivering, as they went up the inn steps. People
seeking their fortunes may at least _want_ their breakfast.

But Mr. Falkirk was perverse. As they entered the hall, a
waiter threw open the door into the long breakfast room--
delicious with its fire and lights and coffee--(neither did the
voices sound ill), but Mr. Falkirk stopped short.

'Is that the only fire you've got? I want breakfast in a
private room.'

Now Mr. Falkirk's tone was sometimes one that nobody would
think of answering in words,--of course, the waiter could do
nothing but wheel about and open another door next to the
first.

'Ah!' Mr. Falkirk said with immense satisfaction, as they
stepped in.

'Ah!'--repeated his ward rather mockingly. 'Mr. Falkirk, this
room is cold.'

Mr. Falkirk took the poker and gave the fire such a punch that
it must have blazed uninterruptedly for half a day after.

'Cold, my dear?' he said beamingly--'no one can be cold long
before such a fire as that. And breakfast will be here in a
moment. If it comes before I get back, don't wait for me. How
well your dress looks!'

'And I?--Mr. Falkirk,' said Wych Hazel.

'Why that's a matter of taste, my dear, of course. Some people
you know are partial to black eyes--which yours are not. Others
again--Ah, here is breakfast,--Now my dear, eat as much as you
can,--you know we may not have any breakfast to-morrow. On a
search after fortune, you never can tell.'

And helping her to an extraordinary quantity of everything on
the tray, Mr. Falkirk at once went off and left her to dispose
of it all alone. And of course he went straight into the next
room. Didn't she know he would?--and didn't she hear the duo
that greeted him?--'What, Mr. Falkirk!'--'Sir, your most
obedient!'--and her guardian's double reply--'Back again, eh?'--
and 'Your most obedient, Mr. Kingsland.' Wych Hazel felt
provoked enough not to eat another mouthful. Then up came the
stage, rumbling along to the front door; and as it came, in
rushed Mr. Falkirk, poured out a cup of scalding coffee and
swallowed it without a moment's hesitation.

'Coach, sir!' said the waiter opening the door.

'Coach, my dear?' repeated her guardian, taking her arm and
whisking her down the hall and into the stage, before the
passengers in the long room could have laid down their knives.

'What is the use of being in such a hurry, Mr. Falkirk?' she
said at last; much tried at being tossed gently into the stage
like a brown parcel--(which to be sure she was, but that made
no difference).

'My dear,' said Mr. Falkirk, solemnly, "there is a tide in the
affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to
fortune.' "

And with that he drew off his glove, leaned back, and passed
his hand over his brow with the air of a man who had in some
shape achieved success.

By this time the stream of passengers began to pour forth; and
the coach creaked and swung to and fro, as trunk after trunk
and man after man found their way up to the roof. Then the
door was flung open, and other passengers tumbled in, the
lantern flashing dimly upon their faces and coats. Three and
three more,--and another, but his progress was stayed.

'Not in here, sir,' said Mr. Falkirk politely, 'I have paid
for three seats.'

'There ain't another seat,' says the driver,--'and he ain't a
big man, sir--guess maybe you'll let him have a corner--we'll
make it all right, sir.' He had a corner,--and so did our
heroine! The new dress! Never mind; the sooner this went the
sooner she would get another. And they rolled off, sweetly and
silently, upon the country road. The morning was lovely. Light
scarfs of fog floated about the mountain tops, light veils of
cloud just mystified the sky; the tree-tops glittered with
dew, the birds flew in and out; and through an open corner of
her leathern curtain Wych Hazel peered out, gazing at the new
world wherein she was going to seek her fortune.

'Spend the Summer at Chickaree, Mr. Falkirk?' said a voice
from the further end of the coach. Wych Hazel drew in her head
and her attention, and sat back to listen.

'I did not say I was going there,' said her guardian dryly.

'Two and two make four, my good sir. There's not even a sign
of a place of entertainment between Stone Bridge and Crocus,
and Stone Bridge you have confessed to.'

'You consider places of entertainment among the essentials
then?'

'Why, in some cases,' said the gentleman, with a suspicious
glance at Wych Hazel's brown veil.

'How long is it since you were there, Mr. Falkirk?' inquired
Mr. Kingsland's next neighbour.

The speaker was a younger man than Mr. Kingsland, and whereas
that gentleman was a dandy, this one's dress was just one
remove from that, and therefore faultless. About his face, so
far off as the other end of the stage, there seemed nothing
remarkable; it was grave, rather concise in its indications;
but the voice prepared you for what a smile declared,--a nature
joyous and unembittered; a spirit pure and honest and keen.
Even Wych Hazel's guardian softened at his look.

'Pray, Mr. Falkirk?' said the other stranger, 'what is
supposed to be the origin of the word "veil"?'

'I never heard,' said Mr. Falkirk dryly. 'Lost in the early
records of civilization.'

'My dear sir!--of Barbarism!'

'Civilization has never entirely got rid of barbarism, I
believe,' said Mr. Falkirk between his teeth; then out, 'By
what road are you going, Rollo?'

'I should be happy to act as guide, sir. I leave the direct
route.'

'Mr. Falkirk,' said Wych Hazel, 'just put your head a little
this way, and see the veil of mist thrown over the top of that
hill.'

Mr. Falkirk looked hastily, and resumed: 'You have lately
returned, I hear, from your long foreign stay?'

'It was time.'

'Mr. Falkirk,' said his ward, 'do you consider _that_ a remnant
of the dark ages?'

'It keeps its place too gracefully for that,' said her
guardian dropping his voice, as he looked across Wych Hazel
out of the coach window.

'Mr. Falkirk' (sotto voce), 'you are charming!--Between
ourselves, this is a hard place to keep gracefully. Please
take out your watch, sir.'

Which Mr. Falkirk did, and silently showed it. Forth to meet
his came a little gold hunting watch from behind the brown
veil.

'You are a minute slow, sir--as usual.' Then very softly,--'Mr.
Falkirk, what with being pressed and repressed, I am dying by
quarter inches! Just introduce me for your grandmother, will
you, and I will matronize the party.'

A request Mr. Falkirk complied with by entering forthwith into
a long business discussion with another occupant of the stage
coach, also known to him; in which stocks, commercial
regulations, political enterprises, and the relative bearings
of the same, precluded all reference to anything else
whatever. Nobody's grandmother could have had less (visible)
attention than Miss Hazel, up to the time when the coach
rolled up to the door of a wayside inn, and the party got out
to a luncheon or early dinner, as some of them would have
called it. Then indeed she had enough. Mr. Falkirk handed her
out and handed her in; straight to the gay carpeted "Ladies'
room;" shut the door carefully, and asked her what she would
have. No other lady was there to dispute possession.

'Only a broiled chicken, sir--and a soufflé--and potatoes à la
crême au gratin,' said Miss Hazel, throwing off her bonnet and
curling herself down on the arm of the sofa. 'Mr. Falkirk, all
my previous acquaintance with cushions was superficial!--And
could you just open the window, sir, and throw back the
blinds? last November is in this room, apples and all.'

Mr. Falkirk obeyed directions, remarking that people who
travel in search of their fortune must expect to meet with
November in unexpected places; and then went off into the
general eating-room, and by and by, from there or some other
insalubrious region came a servant, with half of an
imperfectly broiled fowl and muddy dish of coffee, flanked by
a watery pickled cucumbers. Mr. Falkirk himself presently
returned.

'How does it go?' he said.

'What, Mr. Falkirk?' the young lady was curled down in one
corner of the sofa, much like a kitten; a small specimen of
which animal purred complacently on her shoulder.

'Could you eat, Miss Hazel?'

'Truly, sir, I could. Mr. Falkirk--what a lovely kitten! Do you
remark her length of tail?'

Mr. Falkirk thought he had heard of "puss in boots" before,
but never had the full realization thereof till now.

'You have tasted nothing,' he said. 'What shall I get you? We
shall be off in a few minutes, and you will not have another
chance till we reach Hadyn's Dam.'

'Thank you, sir. A few minutes of undisturbed repose--with the
removal of those cucumbers--and the restoration of that chicken
to its other and I hope better half, is all that I require.'

'You will have rest at Hadyn's Dam,' said Mr. Falkirk with a
face more expressive than his words.--'The bridge there is
broken.'

'Queer place to rest, sir! Mr. Falkirk--there is Mr. Kingsland
wondering why you keep me here.'

'He's eating his dinner.'

'Is he? I am afraid there will be crumbs in the piazza,' said
Wych Hazel, closing her eyes. 'He says he don't wonder you are
kept.'

'What shall I get you, Wych? You cannot go from here to the
next stopping place without anything,' Mr. Falkirk said
kindly.

'If you could find me, sir, a basket that would just hold this
kitten'--

Mr. Falkirk wasted no more words, but went off, and came back
with a glass of milk and a plate of doubtful 'chunks' of cake.
The room was empty. Bonnet and veil were gone, and even the
kitten had disappeared. Meanwhile the stage coach rattled and
swung up to the piazza steps, where were presently gathered
the various travellers, one by one. 'Mr. Falkirk,' said Mr.
Kingsland, as that gentleman came out rather hastily to see if
his charge might be there, too, 'you are not surely--agoing on
alone?'

Back went Mr. Falkirk into the house again to look for his
missing ward, who had plainly been foraging. On the table was
a paper of crackers; two blue-eyed and blue-aproned youngsters
stood watching every motion as she swallowed the glass of
milk, and in her hand was a suspicious looking basket. Wych
Hazel set down her empty tumbler.

'My dear Mr. Falkirk, I was beginning to be concerned about
you!'

'What are you going to do with that basket, Miss Hazel?'

'Take it along, sir.'

'On your lap, I suppose!'

'Mr. Falkirk, the accuracy of your judgment is unparalleled.
Is that our coach at the door?'

'My dear, you will find plenty of cats at Chickaree,' said her
guardian, looking annoyed.

'Yes, sir--' said the young lady meekly, dropping her veil and
fitting on her gloves.

'All right, sir,' said the landlord appearing at the door.
'Roughish road, Mr. Falkirk--and t'other gents not enough
patience to divide among 'em and go half round--'

How much patience Mr. Falkirk carried to the general stock
does not appear. But presently, lifting one corner of her
basket lid, Wych Hazel drew forth a radiant spray of roses,
and laid them penitently upon the averted line of her
guardian's coatsleeve.

'Where did you get that?' he said. 'You had better put it in
the basket, my dear; it will stand a better chance to keep
fresh.'

'Do you prefer pinks, sir?--or here are bachelor's buttons--'

'They seem rather common things to me,' said Mr. Falkirk
slowly, yet with a somewhat pacified brow. There was no kitten
in the basket!

'I hadn't the heart to bring puss, as we are going to
Catskill,' whispered Miss Hazel.

'We!' ejaculated Mr. Falkirk.

'Nominative case, first person plural, sir.'

'And what's the definition of an adverb?'

'Something which qualifies your suffering--_n'est-ce pas_, Mr.
Falkirk?'

'Certainly, by its primary action upon your doing, Miss Hazel.
We are going to Chickaree.'

To which statement Miss Hazel for the present made no reply.
She retreated to the depths of her own corner and the brown
veil; fingering her roses now and then, and (apparently)
making endless mental 'studies' of the wayside. The coach
jogged lumberingly on: there was no relief to the tiresomeness
of the way. It was a long morning. Dusty and weary, the coach-
load was set down at last at another country inn; by the side
of a little river which had well filled its banks. The
travellers were not, it must be noted, upon any of the great
highways of passage, but had taken a cut across country, over
some of the spurs of the Catskill; where a railroad was not.
Mr. Falkirk brought his charge into the 'Ladies' parlour,' and
spoke in a tone of irritated business.

'This is Hadyn's Dam. You can have rest and dinner now.'


CHAPTER IV.

FELLOW TRAVELLERS.


'Dinner--and the rest of it,' translated Miss Hazel. 'Will it
be needful to make a grand toilette, sir? or shall I go to the
table as I am? If one may judge of the selectness of the
company by their conversation'--

'You'll see no more of the company,' said Mr. Falkirk; 'they
are going another way, and we have to wait here. The bridge
will be repaired to-morrow, I suppose.'

'Yes, sir. We don't dine upon the bridge, I presume?'

Mr. Falkirk went off, making sure that the door latched behind
him. In a quarter of an hour he came back, with an attendant
bearing a tray.

'At present fortune gives us nothing more remarkable than
fried ham,' he said,--'and that not of the most eatable, I
fear. She is a jade. But we'll get away to-morrow. I hope so.'

'My dear sir,' said Wych Hazel with a radiant face, 'we will
get away to-night. I find that the bridge is not on our road,
after all. So I said it was not worth while to get a room
ready for me,--and the baggage might be just transferred.'

'To what?'

'To the other stage, sir. Or indeed I believe it is some sort
of a baggage wagon--as the roads are heavy--not to speak of the
passengers. It has gone on up the mountain.'

'What has?' exclaimed Mr. Falkirk, whose face was a study.

'The wagon,' said Miss Hazel, seating herself by the table.
'More particularly, your one trunk and my six, sir.'

'Where has it gone?'

'Up the mountain, sir. They were afraid of making the stage
top heavy--the weight of intellect inside being small.'

'Do you mean, to Catskill?'

'Yes, sir. Poor little puss!--Does the vegetation hereabouts
support nothing but pigs?' said Miss Hazel, with a despairing
glance from the dish of ham to a yellow haired lassie in a
blue gown, who just then brought in a pitcher of water. Mr.
Falkirk waited till the damsel had withdrawn, and went to the
window and came back again before he spoke.

'You should have consulted me, Miss Hazel. You are bewildered.
It is not a good time to go up the mountain now.'

'Bewildered? I!' was Miss Hazel's only answer.

'Yes, you don't know what is good for you. I shall send for
those trunks, Wych.'

'Quite useless, sir. There is nothing else going up to the
Mountain House till we go ourselves. We will go for them--there
is nothing like doing your own business.'

'You will find that out one day,' muttered her guardian.

'Seeking my fortune, and wait for the mending of a bridge!'
Hazel went on. 'And then I said I was going to Catskill,--and
then you're the best guardian in the world, Mr. Falkirk, so
it's no use looking as if you were somebody else.'

'I shall be somebody else directly,' said Mr. Falkirk in a
cynical manner. 'But eat your dinner, Miss Hazel; you will not
have much time.'

A meal for which he did not seem to care himself, for there
was no perceivable time when he took it.

The stage coach into which the party presently stowed
themselves, held now but those four--Mr. Falkirk and his ward,
and two gentlemen who had declared themselves on the way to
the mountain. The former established themselves somewhat
taciturnly in the several corners of the back seat, and so
made the journey; that is to say, as much as possible, for Mr.
Falkirk being known to the other could not avoid now and then
being drawn into communication with them. One, indeed, Mr.
Kingsland, made many and divers overtures to that effect. His
elegance of person and costume was advantageously displayed in
an opposite corner, from whence he distributed civilities as
occasion offered. His book and his magazine were placed at the
brown veil's disposal; he stopped the coach to buy cherries
from a wayside farm, which cherries were in like manner laid
at Wych Hazel's feet; and his observations on the topics that
were available, demonstrated all his stores of wit and wisdom
equally at hand and ready for use. But brown veil would none
of them all. The daintiest of hands took two cherries and
signed away the rest; the sweetest of girl voices declined the
magazine or gave it over to Mr. Falkirk. If the eyes burned
brown lights (instead of blue) in their seclusion, if the
voice just didn't break with fun, perhaps only Mr. Falkirk
found it out, and he by virtue of previous knowledge. But in
fact, Miss Hazel gave the keenest attention to everybody and
everything.

A contrast to Mr. Kingsland was their other fellow-traveller.
Mr. Rollo occupying the place in front of Mr. Falkirk, made
himself as much as possible at ease on the middle seat, with
his back upon the persons who engaged Mr. Kingsland's
attention; but he did not thereby escape theirs. When a
society is so small, the members of it almost of necessity
take note of one another. The little brown-veiled figure could
not help noticing what a master he was in the art of making
himself comfortable; how skilfully shawls were disposed; how
easily hand and foot, back and head, took the best position
for jolting up the hill. It amused her as something new; for
Mr. Falkirk belonged to that type of manhood which rather
delights in being uncomfortable whenever circumstances permit;
and other men she had seen few. Mr. Rollo had a book too,
which he did not offer to lend; and he gave his lazy attention
to nothing else--unless when a bright glance of eye went over
to Mr. Kingsland. He was as patient as any of the party; as
truly he had good reason, being by several degrees the most
comfortable. But Mr. Falkirk moved now and then unrestingly,
and the back seat was hot and cramped,--and Wych found the
jolts and heavings of the coach springs a thing to be borne.
And that swinging and swaying middle seat, with its one
occupant came so close upon her premises, that she dared not
adventure the least thing, even to Mr. Falkirk. If the
momentary relief of turning that grey travelling shawl into a
pincushion, occurred to her, nothing came of it; the thick
folds were untouched by one of her little fingers. She put her
face as nearly out of the coach as she could, and perhaps
enjoyed the scenery, if anyone did. Mr. Falkirk gave no sign
of enjoyment, mental or physical, and Mr. Kingsland would
certainly have been asleep, but for losing sight of the brown
veil--and of possible something it might do. Yet now and then
there were fine reaches for the eye, beautiful knolly
indications of a change of surface, which gave picturesque
lights and shades on their soft green. Or a lonely valley,
with smooth fields and labourers at work, tufty clumps of
vegetation, and a line of soft willows by a watercourse,
varied the picture. Then the ascent began in good earnest, and
trees shut it in, and there was everywhere the wild leafy
smell of the woods. Night began to shut it in too, for the sun
was early hidden from the travellers; the gloom, or the
fatigue of the way, gathered inside the coach as well, on all
except the occupant of the middle seat. Some time before this
his ease-seeking had displayed itself in a new way; and
letting himself out of the coach door he had kept up a
progress of his own by the side of the vehicle, which quite
distanced its slow and toilsome method of advance. For Rollo
was not only getting on with a light step up the road, but
making acquaintance with every foot of it; gathering flowers,
pocketing stones, and finding time to fling others, which
rebounded with a racketty hop, skip and jump, down the side of
the deep ravine on the edge of which the way was coasting.
Then making up for his delay by a mode of locomotion which
seemed to speak him kindred to the squirrels, he swung himself
over difficult places by the help of hanging branches of
trees, and bounded from rock to rock, till he was again far
ahead of the horses, and of the road too, lost out of sight in
another direction. Now and then a few rich notes of a German
air came down, or up, to the coach tantalizingly. Certainly
Mr. Rollo was enjoying himself; and it was made more
indubitably certain to the poor plodders along inside the
coach, by the faint fumes of an excellent cigar which 'whiles'
made themselves perceptible.

Now to say the truth, it was all tantalizing to Wych Hazel. In
the first place she was, as she had said, 'cramped to death,'
physically and mentally,--both parts of her composition just
spoiling for a fight; and whereas she had hitherto kept her
face well out of the window, now she drew it resolutely
within, for with somebody to look at, it did not suit Miss
Hazel's ideas to be looking. She could not tease Mr. Falkirk,
who had gone to sleep; Mr. Kingsland was absolutely beyond
reach, except of rather thorny wishes; and when at length the
dilettante cigar perfumes began to assert themselves, Wych
Hazel flung the rest of her patience straight out of the
window, and looked after it. The coach was stopping just then
by another wayside inn, to exchange mail-bags and water the
horses, and favoured by the gathering dusk, a sharp business
transaction at once went into effect between the young lady
within and some one without; wherof nothing at first
transpired. Mr. Kingsland knew only that on one side the tones
might rival a mountain brook for their soft impetuosity. There
was 'a show of hands' too, and then the coach jolted on and
Mr. Falkirk woke up; but not till the tired horses had gone
down one pitch and up another, did he hear a faint 'mew' which
raised its voice at his elbow.

'What have you got there?' he said hastily.

'A pair of whiskers, sir.'

'Where did you get that thing?' was the next demand, made with
considerable disgust.

'Really, sir--whiskers not being contraband--'

Mr. Falkirk was a patient man; at least Wych Hazel generally
found him so; and at present he merely fell back into his
corner, without making his thoughts any further apparent than
the gesture made them. He offered no remark, not even when the
dismayed condition of the whiskers aforesaid suggested sundry
earnest and energetic efforts at escape, with demonstrations
that called up Miss Hazel from the quietude of her corner to
be earnest and active in her turn. Frightened, not sure of the
kind attentions of the little hands that kept such firm hold,--
the kitten struggled and growled, and at last sent forth its
feelings in a series of mews, sostenuto and alto to an
alarming degree. Mr. Kingsland smiled--then coughed,--and Wych
Hazel's laugh broke forth in a low but very defined 'Ha! ha!'

'Mr. Falkirk,' she said, 'please open your heart and give me a
biscuit.'

'Mr. Falkirk,' cried a cheerful voice, rather low, from the
other side of the road, 'what have you got on board?'

If Mr. Falkirk's inward reply had been spoken aloud and in a
past age, it might have cost poor Miss Hazel her life; as it
was, he only said, 'Can you cut a broom-stick, Rollo?' The
answer perhaps went into action, for the young man
disappeared.

Turning its wee head from side to side, as it munched the
biscuit, soothed by the soft touch of soft hands, the kitten
so far forgot herself as to break now and then into a loud
irregular purr; but her little mistress was absolutely silent
and still, though the light fingers never ceased their
caressing, until puss had finished the biscuit and purred
herself to sleep. By this time the coach jogged along in
absolute darkness, except for what help the stars gave. The
plashing of a stream over its rough bed far down below, gave
token sometimes that the wheels of the coach were near an
abyss; the flutter of leaves told that the forest was all
around them always. The irregular traveller had re-entered the
coach and sat among his shawls as still as the rest of the
party; who perhaps were all slumbering as well as the kitten.
It appeared so; for when that small individual started to
consciousness and consequent alarm again, and was making an
excursion among the feet of the gentlemen on the coach floor,
its aroused mistress was only aroused in time to hear a
consolatory whisper from one of her companions--'Poor little
Kathleen Mavourneen, by what misfortune did you get in here?
There--be still and go to sleep.' And as no more was heard, on
either side, it seemed probable the advice had been followed.
At any rate no more was seen of the kitten, not even when the
stage coach swept round the level on which the house stands,
and drew up at the door, where the light of lamps gave
opportunity for observation. Wych Hazel only saw that her
neighbour flung a shawl demurely enough over one shoulder and
arm, where the cat might have been, and letting himself out,
proceeded to do the same office with full dexterity though
with one hand for the little cat's mistress.

Ensconcing herself even closer than ever in mantle and veil,
Wych Hazel passed on through the gay groups to the foot of the
stairs, there paused.

'Mr. Falkirk,' she said softly, 'I want my tea up stairs,
please,'--and passed on after the maid.

'So,' said one of the loiterers in the hall approaching Mr.
Falkirk, 'so my dear sir, you've brought Miss Kennedy! At
last!--Now for candidates. If the face match the hand and foot,
the supply will be heavy.'


CHAPTER V.

IN THE FOG.


There was mist everywhere. On the winding bed of the river,
lying piled like a gray eider-down coverlet; folding itself
over the forest trees; floating up to the Mountain House, and
hanging about the rocks. But overhead the sky looked bright,
and Sirius waved his torch which the vapour had filled with
coloured lights. As yet sunrise was not.

In front of the house, where a grey rock started from the very
edge of the bank, spreading a platform above the precipice,
sat Wych Hazel; her feet so nearly over the rock that they
seemed resting on the mist itself; her white scarf falling
back from her head like a wreath of lighted coloured vapour.
Perhaps there were no other strangers to the Mountain House
within its walls; perhaps the morning was too chill; perhaps
all of the 'candidates' were on the other side; for she sat
alone. Until the flaming torch of Sirius paled, until the dawn
began to shimmer and gleam among the fleeces of mist,--until
they parted here and there before the arrows of light, showing
spires and houses and a bit of the river in the far distance.
So fair, unfeatured, misty and sparkling at once, lay life
before the young gazer. Mr. Falkirk might have moralized thus,
standing close behind her as he was, still and silent; but it
is not likely he did; useless moralizing was never in Mr.
Falkirk's way.

'How do you like your fortune, Miss Hazel, as you find it at
present?' he said.

'Very undefined, sir. Good morning, Mr. Falkirk--what made you
get up?'

'My knowledge of your character.'

'So attractive, sir?' She glanced up at him, then looked away
over the mist, with her arms crossed over her bosom and a
grave look of thought settling down upon her young face; as if
womanhood were dawning upon her, with its mysterious
opalescent light.

'Evangeline saw her way all clear when she reached the
mountain-top,' she said musingly; 'but mine looks misty
enough. Mr. Falkirk, will this fog clear away before sunset?'

'Or settle down into rain.'

But while he spoke, the sun mounting higher, shot through the
very heart of the mist; and the broken clouds began to roll
away in golden vapour, or were furled and drawn up with bands
of light. And now came voices from the piazza.

'You knew it last night, Mr. Kingsland? and never told me!'
said an oldish lady. 'And there is the sweet creature this
minute, on the rock!'

Wych Hazel sprang to her feet. 'Mr. Falkirk,' she said, 'you
are inquired for;'--and darting past him she vanished round the
house. Mr. Falkirk, as in duty bound, followed, but when a
needful point of view was attained, his charge was nowhere
within sight, and he returned to the house to be in readiness
to meet her when the bell should ring for breakfast.

But a couple of hours later, when the bell rang, Miss Hazel
was not forthcoming. The guests gathered to the breakfast-
room. Mr. Falkirk remained in the empty hall, pacing up and
down from door to door, then went to see if Wych Hazel were by
chance in her room. Mrs. Saddler was in consternation, having
heard nothing of her. Mr. Falkirk returned to his walk in the
hall, chaffing a little now with something that was not
patience. Presently Rollo came down the stairs.

'Good morning.'

'Good morning.'

'Exercise before breakfast?--Or after?'

'Not after,' said Mr. Falkirk; 'but you are late as it is.'

'Better late, if you can't be early. You have a better chance.
I will wait with you, if you are waiting.'

'Don't wait for me,' said Mr. Falkirk, shortly. 'I have no
idea when I shall be ready.'

'I had no idea, a little while ago, when I should. By the way,
I hope Miss Kennedy is well, this morning?'

'I hope so.'

'She is not down yet?'

'She has been down, and I have not heard of her going up
again.'

'In the breakfast-room, perhaps,' said the young man. And
passing on, he made his way thither, while Mr. Falkirk stood
at the hall door. No, Miss Kennedy was not in the breakfast-
room; and instead of sitting down Mr. Rollo went out by
another way, picking up a roll from the table as he passed,
and wrapping it in a napkin. He took a straight course to the
woods, over the grass, where no uninstructed eye could see
that the dew had been brushed away by a lighter foot than his.
But if lighter, hardly so swift as the springy stride and leap
which carried him over yards of the rough way at a bound, and
cleared obstacles that would have hindered, at least slightly,
most other people. The mountain was quickly won in this style,
and Rollo gained a high ledge where the ground lay more level.
He went deliberately here, and used a pair of eyes as quick as
might match the feet, though not to notice how the dew
sparkled on the moss or how the colours changed in the valley.
He was far above the Mountain House, on the wild hillside. The
sun had scattered the fog from the lower country, which lay a
wide dreamland to tempt the eye, and nearer by the lesser
charms of rock and tree, moss and lichen, light and shadow,
played with each other in wildering combinations. But Rollo
did not look at valley of hill; his eyes were seeking a gleam
of colour which they had seen that morning once before; and
seeking it with the spy of an eagle. No grass here gave sign
of a footstep. Soft lichen and unbending ferns kept the
secret, if they had one; the evergreens were noisy with birds,
but otherwise mute; the fog still settled down in the ravines
and hid whatever they held.

Thither Mr. Rollo at last took his way, after a moment's
observation: down the woody, craggy sides of a wild dell; the
thick vapour into which he plunged sufficiently bewildering
even to his practised eyes. Partridges whirred away from
before him, squirrels chattered over his head, but his
particular quarry Mr. Rollo could nowhere find. Through that
ravine and up the next ledge, with the sun rising hotter and
hotter, and breakfast long over at the Mountain House.

He found her at last so suddenly that he stopped short. She
was tired probably, for she had dropped herself down on the
moss, her cheek on her hands, and had dropped her eyelids too,
in something very like slumber; the clear brown cheek bearing
it usual pink tinges but faintly. The figure curled down upon
the moss was rather tall, of a slight build; the features were
not just regular; the hair of invisible brown lay in very
wayward silky curls; and the eyes, as soon could be seen, were
to match, both as to colour and waywardness. The mouth was a
very woman's mouth, though the girlish arch lines had hardly
yet learned their own powers whether of feeling or persuasion.
Very womanish, too, was the sweep of the arm outline, and the
hand and foot were dainty in the extreme. Neither hand or foot
stirred for other feet approaching, the pretty gypsy having
probably tired herself into something like unconsciousness;
and the first sound of which she was thoroughly sensible was
her own name. The speaker was standing near her when she
looked up, with his hat in his hand, and an air of grave
deference. He expressed a fear that she was fatigued.

She had half-dreamily opened her eyes and looked up at first,
but there was nothing 'fatigued' in the way the eyes went down
again, nor in the quick skill with which the scarf was caught
up and flung round her, fold after fold, until she was muffled
and turbaned like an Egyptian. Then she rose demurely to her
feet.

'I thank you, sir, for arousing me. Is Mr. Falkirk here?'

'No--I am alone. But you are at a distance from home. Can you
go back without some refreshment?' The words and the speaker
were quiet enough, but Wych Hazel's colour stirred uneasily.

'Yes. Don't let me detain you, sir,' she said, putting herself
in quick motion across the moss. He met her on the other side
of a big boulder and stayed her, though with the quietest
manner of interference.

'I beg your pardon--but if you wish to go home--'

'Yes,' she answered, with a half laugh, glancing up at the
sun; 'I know. I am only going round this way.'

He stayed her still. 'I can guide you this way,' he said;
'but--it is not the way to the House.'

Another glance at the sun. 'Which is the way?'

'I will show it to you. Do you care most for speed or smooth
going? You are tired?'

Wych Hazel knit her brows into the most abortive attempt at a
frown. What right had he to suppose that she was tired!

'If you will just show me the way, sir--the shortest; I mean,
point out the direction.'

He was standing and waiting her pleasure with contented
gravity. 'The direction is not to be followed in a straight
line,' said he. 'I can only show you by going before. Is that
your meaning?'

'I should like to get home the shortest way,' said she
hesitating.

He went on without more words, and maintaining the polished
gravity of his first address; but Wych Hazel had reason to
remember her walk of that morning. It was a shorter way than
he had come, that by which her conductor took her, and in
parts easy enough; but in other parts requiring his skill as
well as hers to get her over them. He said not a word further;
he served her in silence: the vexatious thing was, that he was
able to serve her so much. Many a time she had to accept his
hand to get past a rude place; often both hands were needed to
swing her over a watercourse or leap her down from a rock. She
was agile and light of foot; she did what woman could; it was
only by sheer necessity that she yielded the mortifying tacit
confession to man's superior strength, and gave so often
opportunity to a pair of good eyes to see what she was like
near at hand. Wych Hazel's own eyes made few discoveries. She
could _feel_ every now and then that her conductor's hand and
foot were as firm and reliable as the mountain itself. This
course of travelling brought them, however, soon to the level
of the Mountain House and to plain going. There Mr. Rollo fell
behind, allowing the young lady to take her own pace in
crossing the lawn and the hall, only attending her like her
shadow to the foot of the stairs. With the first reaching of
level ground, he had had a full look and gesture of
acknowledgment; what became of him afterwards Miss Hazel
seemed not to know. _He_ knew that she ran up the first flight
of stairs, and that once out of sight her steps drooped
instantly.

'So!' said Mr. Kingsland, advancing. 'Really! Rollo my dear
fellow, how are we to understand this?'

'Give us an introduction after lunch, will you?' said another.

'But, Mr. Rollo, how extraordinary!' said one of the dowagers.

'Madame!' said Mr. Rollo, waiting upon the last speaker, hat
in hand.

'Let him alone, my dear lady!' said Mr. Kingsland; 'he's got
to prepare for coffee and pistols with Mr. Falkirk. And coffee
I fancy he's ready for--eh, Dane? Go get your breakfast, and
I'll break matters gently to the guardian.'

'Will you do that, my dear fellow?'

'Can you doubt me?'

'I wish you would, for I am hungry,' said Dane, drawing his
hand over his face. 'Mr. Falkirk is going off toward the
cataract--just run after him and tell him that his ward is come
home;--has he had breakfast?'

'Run, I guess I--won't' said Mr. Kingsland. 'But to be the
first bearer of _welcome_ news'--And Mr. Falkirk roaming among
trees and rocks was presently accosted by two gentlemen.

'Allow me, my dear sir, to congratulate you,' said the
foremost. 'Miss Kennedy is safe. Our friend Rollo has with his
usual sagacity gone straight to the mark, and without a
moment's thought of his own breakfast or strength has found
the young lady and followed her home.'

'She is at home, then?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'She is at home, sir; the Mountain House is made radiant by
her presence. And now, permit me--Dr. Maryland,--son of your
friend at Chickaree. Only your neighbour upon Christian
principles here, sir, but bona fide neighbour at Chickaree,
and most anxious to be acquainted with the fair owner
thereof.'

Too honest-hearted to feel the inuendo of Mr. Kingsland's last
words, their undeniable truth flushed Dr. Maryland somewhat as
he shook hands with Mr. Falkirk. He was a well looking young
man, with a clear blue eye which said the world's
sophistications would find no Parley the porter to admit them;
and Mr. Falkirk would certainly have begun to like his young
neighbour on the spot, if he had not been on a sudden summoned
to the house.

Miss Hazel, speeding up-stairs in the manner before related,
reached her room safely; but there proceeding to answer or
evade Mrs. Saddler's questions, also to indulge herself in
sundry musings, did not indeed forget to despatch a peremptory
order for breakfast; but as that refreshment was somewhat
delayed, the young lady in an impatient fit of time-saving
began to change her dress, and fainted away charmingly during
the process. At which moment the maid and breakfast entered
the room, and the former promptly set down her tray, and ran
off to summon the only doctor then at the Mountain House.

Little did Dr. Maryland guess the meaning of those mysterious
words--'a lady wants you!' Still less, what lady. And as by the
time he reached the room, Miss Hazel opened her eyes for his
express benefit, the doctor stopped short in the middle of the
room, his ideas more unsettled than ever. But Mr. Falkirk, who
had accompanied the doctor, though not expecting to find their
paths all the way identical, pressed forward with a face of
great concern.

'Miss Hazel!--is it you? What is the matter?'

'Do I look like somebody else, sir?'

Like nobody else! thought Dr. Maryland; while, learning the
whole of Mrs. Saddler's explanations from the first five
words, he went on to apply such remedies as were strongest and
nearest at hand. In a medical point of view it was not perhaps
needful that he should hold the coffee-cup himself all the
time, but if this were not really his 'first case,' it bid
fair to be so marked in his memory. Perhaps he forgot the
coffee-cup, till Mr. Falkirk gently relieved him of it with a
word of dismission, and the doctor modestly withdrew; then
sending Mrs. Saddler for some bottled ale, Mr. Falkirk went
on, 'Wych, where have you been?'

'Following the steps of my great predecessor, King Alfred,
sir.'

'In what line?'

'Retiring from the enemy, sir, and being obliged to meet the
Dane'--said Miss Hazel, innocently closing her eyes.

'Where?' said Mr. Falkirk, shortly.

'I don't know, sir. In some of the wild places favoured by
such outlaws. Don't you know, he has just come over the sea?'

There was a pause of some seconds.

'Wych,' said her guardian kindly, 'do you know it is not nice
for little girls to make themselves so conspicuous as your
morning walk has made you to-day?'

Some feeling of her own brought the blood to her cheek and
brow, vividly.

'I don't know what you call conspicuous, sir; only one person
found me. And if you think I lost myself in the fog on
purpose, Mr. Falkirk, you think me a much smaller girl than I
am!'

Mr. Falkirk smiled--a little, passing his hand very lightly
over the brow which did look certainly as if it had belonged
to a little girl not very long ago; but he said no more,
except to advise the young lady to eat a good breakfast.

Not to be conspicuous, however, from this day was beyond
little Miss Hazel's power, to whatever degree it might have
been within her wish. The house was at this time not yet
filled; but of all its indwellers, old and young, male and
female, higher and lower in the scale of society, every eye
and tongue was at her service; so far as being occupied with
her made it so. Every hand was at her service more literally.
Did not the very serving-men at table watch her eye? Was not
he the best fellow who could recommend the hottest omelet and
bring the freshest cakes to her hand? The young heiress, the
young mistress of fabulous acres, and 'such a beautiful old
place;' the new beauty, who bid fair to bewitch all the world
with hand and foot and gypsy eyes,--nay, the current all set
one way. Even old dowagers looked to praise, and even their
daughters to admire; while of the men, all were at her feet.
Attentions, civil, kind, and recommendatory, showered on Miss
Hazel from all sides. Would that little head stand it, with
its wayward curls and some slight indication of waywardness
within? How would it keep its position over such a crowd of
servants self-made in her honour? Some of them were very
devoted servants indeed, and seemed willing to proclaim their
devotion. Among these was Mr. Kingsland, who constituted
himself her right-hand man in general; but Dr. Maryland was
not far off, if less presuming. Miss Hazel could not walk or
ride or come into a room without some sort of homage from one
or all of these.

'Dear little thing! pretty little thing!' exclaimed a lady, an
old acquaintance of Mr. Falkirk's, one evening. 'Charming
little creature! How will she bear it?'

Mr. Falkirk was standing near by.

'She wants a better guardian,' the lady went on whispering.

'I wish she had a mother,' he said.

'Or a husband!'

Mr. Falkirk was silent; then he said, 'It is too soon for
that.'

'Yes--too soon,' said the lady meditatively as she looked at
Wych Hazel's curls,--'but what will she do? Somebody will
deceive her into thinking he is the right man, while it is _too_
soon.'

'Nobody shall deceive her,' said Mr. Falkirk between his
teeth.

It must be mentioned that an exception, in some sort, to all
this adulation, was furnished by the friend of Miss Hazel's
morning walk. Mr. Rollo, if the truth must be told, seemed to
live more for his own pleasure than anybody else's. Why he had
taken that morning's scramble unless on motives of unwonted
benevolence, remained known only to himself. Since then he had
not exerted himself in her or anybody's service. Pleasant and
gay he was when anybody saw him; but nobody's servant. By day
Mr. Rollo roamed the woods, for he was said to be a great
hunter--or he lay on the grass in the shade with a book--or he
found out for himself some delectable place or pleasure
unknown previously to others, though as soon as known sure to
be approved and adopted; and at evening the rich scents of his
cigar floated in the air where the moonlight lay brightest or
shadows played daintiest. But he did not seem to share the
universal attraction towards the daintiest thing of all at the
Mountain. He saw her, certainly; he was sometimes seen looking
at her; but then he would leave the place where her presence
held everybody, and the perfume of his cigar would come as
aforesaid; or the distant notes of a song said that Mr. Rollo
and the rocks were congenial society. If he met the little
Queen of the company indeed anywhere, he would lift his hat
and stand by to let her pass with the most courtier-like
deference; he would lift his hat to her shadow; but he never
testified any inclination to follow it. The more notable this
was, because Rollo was a pet of the world himself; one of
those whom every society welcomes, and who for that very
reason perhaps are a little nonchalant towards society.

It was a proof now gayly and sweetly she took the popular
vote, that she bore so easily his defalcation. Vanity was not
one of her pet follies; and besides, that morning's work had
brought on Miss Hazel an unwonted fit of grave propriety; she
was a little inclined to keep herself in the background. Amuse
her the admiration did, however. It was funny to see Mr.
Kingsland forsake billiards and come to quote Tennyson to her;
Dr. Maryland's shy, distant homage was more comical yet; and
the tender little mouth began to find out its lines and
dimples and power of concealment. But the young heart had a
good share of timidity, and that stirred very often; making
the colour flit to and fro 'like the rosy light upon the sky'--
Mr. Kingsland originally observed; while Dr. Maryland looked
at the evening star and was silent. Compliments!--how they
rained down upon her; how gayly she shook them off. And as to
Mr. Rollo, if there was anything Miss Hazel disliked it was to
submit to guidance; and she had been obliged to follow him out
of the woods: and if he had presumed to admire her in the same
style in which he had guided her, she felt quite sure there
would have been a sparring match. Besides--but 'besides' is a
feminine postscript; it would be a breach of confidence to
translate it.


CHAPTER VI.

THE RED SQUIRREL


One brilliant night, Mr. Falkirk pacing up and down the
piazza, Wych Hazel came and joined him; clasping both hands on
his arm.

'Mr. Falkirk,' she said softly, 'when are we going to
Chickaree?'

'I have no information, Miss Hazel.'

'Then I can tell you, sir. We take the "owl" stage day after
to-morrow morning,--and we tell _nobody_ of our intention.' And
Wych Hazel's finger made an impressive little dent in Mr.
Falkirk's arm.

'Why that precaution?' he inquired.

'Pity to break up the party, sir,--they seem to be enjoying
themselves,'--And a soft laugh of mischief and fun rang out
into the moonlight.

'Is this arrangement expected to be carried into effect?'

'Certainly, sir. If my guardian approves,' said Miss Hazel,
submissively.

'What's become of her other guardian?' said an old lady,
possessing herself of Mr. Falkirk's left arm.

'My other guardian!' said the young lady, expressively.

'She has no other,' said Mr. Falkirk, very distinctly.

'Have you broken the will?'

'No madam,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'As it often happens in this
world, something has reached your ears in a mistaken form.'

'What something was it?' said Wych Hazel.

'A false report, my dear,' Mr. Falkirk says. Which did not
quite satisfy the questioner at the time, but was soon
forgotten in the rush of other things.

The next day was devoted to a musical pic-nic at the Falls. It
was musical, in as much as a band had been fetched up to play
on the rocks, while the company filled the house and balcony,
and an occasional song or duet, which ladies asked for 'just
to see how they would sound there,' kept up the delusion. By
what rule it was a pic-nic it might be difficult to discover,
except that it had been so styled. Eatables and drinkables
were, to be sure, a prominent portion of the entertainment,
and they were discussed with more informality and a good deal
less convenience than if in their regular place. But, however,
the rocks and the wildness lent them a charm, perhaps of
novelty, and the whole affair seemed to be voted a success.

Success fell so largely to Miss Hazel's share, that she by
times was a little weary of it, or of its consequences; and
this day finding herself in a most inevitable crowd, do what
she could, she fairly ran away for a breath of air with no
musk in it. Making one or two the honoured confidants of her
intention, that she might secure their staying where they were
and keeping others, and promising to return soon, she slipped
away down the stairs by the Fall. All the party had been there
that morning, as in duty bound, and had gone where it was the
rule to go. Now Wych Hazel sprang along by herself, to take
the wildness and the beauty in silence and at her own
pleasure. At the upper basin of the Fall she turned off, and
coasted the narrow path under the rock, around the basin. At
the other side, where the company had been contented to turn
about, Wych Hazel passed on; till she found herself a seat on
a projecting rock, from which a wild, wooded ravine of the
hills stretched out before her eyes. The sides were so bold,
the sweep of them so extended, the woods so luxuriantly rich,
the scene so desolate in its loneliness and wildness, that she
sat down to dream in a trance of enjoyment. Not a sound now
but the plash of the water, the scream of a wild bird, and the
rustle of leaves. Not a human creature in sight, or the trace
of one. Wych might imagine the times when red Indians roved
among those hillsides--the place looked like them; but rare
were the white hunters that broke their solitudes. It was
delicious. The very air that fanned her face had come straight
from a wilderness, a wilderness where it blew only over sweet
things. It refreshed her, after those people up on the
balcony. She had promised to be back soon: but now a rosy
flower, or spike of flowers, of tempting elegance, caught her
eye. It was down below her, a little way, not far; a very
rough and steep way, but no matter, she must have the flower,
and deftly and daintily she clambered down: the flower looked
lovelier the nearer she got to it, and very rare and exquisite
she found it to be, as soon as she had it in her hands. It was
not till she had examined and rejoiced over it, that
addressing herself to go back, Wych Hazel found her retreat
cut off. Not by any sudden avalanche or obstacle, animate or
inanimate; as peacefully as before the wind waved the ferns on
the great stepping stones of cliff and boulder by which she
had come; but--the agility by which with help of vines and
twigs she had let herself down these declivities, was not the
strength that would mount them again. It was impossible. Wych
Hazel saw that it was impossible, and certainly she would
never have yielded the conviction but to dire necessity. She
stood considering one particular jump down which she had
made,--nothing but desperation could have taken her back again.

Desperate, however, Wych Hazel did not feel. There was nothing
to do at present but to wait till her friends should find her;
for to go further down would but add to her trouble and lessen
her chance of being soon set free, and indeed, from her
present position even to go down (voluntarily) was no trifle.
So Wych Hazel sat down to wait, amusing herself with thoughts
of the sensation on the cliff, and wondering what sort of
scaling ladders could be improvised in a hurry. They would be
sure to come after her presently. Some one would find her. And
it was a lovely place to wait.

How it happened must remain like other mysteries, unexplained
till the mystery is over, that the person who did find her
again happened to be Mr. Rollo. Yet she had hardly seen him
all day before that. Wych Hazel had half forgotten her
situation in enjoying its beauties and musing in accordance
with them; and then suddenly looking up to the great piece of
rock nearest her, she saw him standing there, looking down at
her with the calm face and handsome gray eyes which she had
noticed before. The girl had been singing half to herself a
wild little Scottish ballad, chiming it in with water and wind
and bird music, taking first one part and then another;
looping together a long chain of pine needles the while,--then
throwing back her sleeve, and laying the frail work across her
arm, above the tiny hair chain, the broad band of gems and the
string of acorns, which banded it; in short, disporting
herself generally. But not the "lullaby, baby, and all," of
the old rhyme, ever had a more sudden and complete downfall.
The first line of


"O wha wad buy a silken goun
Wi' a puir broken heart?"


was left as a mere abstract proposition; and Wych Hazel would
assuredly have 'slipped from her moorings,' but for the
certain fear of tearing her dress, or spraining her ankle, or
doing some other bad thing which should call for immediate
assistance. So she sat still and gazed at the prospect.

Her discoverer presently dropped down by her side and stood
there uncovered, as usual, but this time he did not withdraw
his eyes from her face. And when he spoke it was in a new
tone, very pleasant, though laying aside a certain distance
and form with which he had hitherto addressed her.

'Do you know,' he said, 'I begin to think I have known you in
a former state of existence?'

'What sort of a person were you in a former state, Mr. Rollo?'

'I see the knowledge was not mutual. I am sorry.--This is a
pleasant place!'

'This identical grey rock?'

'Don't you think so?'--in a tone which assumed the proposition.

'Very,' said Wych Hazel with a demure face;--'I do not know
which abound most--the pleasures of Hope, Memory, or
Imagination. But I thought perhaps you meant the mountain.'

'The pleasures of the Present, then, you do not perceive?'
said Mr. Rollo, peering about very busily among the trees and
rocks in his vicinity.

'Poor Hope and Imagination!' said Miss Hazel,--'must they be
banished to the "former state?" Memory does hold a sort of
middle ground.'

'There isn't much of that sort of ground here,' said Mr.
Rollo; 'we are on a pretty steep pitch of the hill. Don't you
like this wilderness? You want a gun though--or a pencil--to
give you the sense that you have something to do in the
wilderness.'

'Yes!' said Miss Hazel--'so Englishmen say: "What a nice day it
is!--let's go out and kill something." '

There was a good deal of amusement and keenness in his sideway
glance, as he demurely asked her 'if she didn't know how to
shoot?' But Wych Hazel, with a slight gesture of her silky
curls, merely remarked that she had pencils in her pocket--if
he wanted one.

'Thank you--have you paper too?'

'Plenty.'

'That I may not seem intolerably rude,' said he, extending his
hand for the paper,--'will you make one sketch while I make
another? We will limit the time, as they did at the London
Sketch Club.'

'O, I shall not think it even tolerably rude. But all my paper
is in this book.'

'To secure the conditions, I must tear a leaf out.--How will
that do?'

'Very well,' she said with a wee flitting of colour,--'if you
will secure my conditions too.'

'What are they?' As he spoke he tore the leaf out and
proceeded to accommodate himself with a pamphlet for a drawing
board.

'You had no right to the leaf till you heard them!' she cried
jumping up. 'I shall take care how I bargain with you again,
Mr. Rollo.'

'Not safe?' said he smiling. 'But you are, this time, for I
accepted the conditions, you know. And besides--you have the
pencils yet.' There was a certain gay simplicity about his
manner that was disarming.

'Did you?' said Hazel looking down at him. 'Then you are
injudicious to accept them unheard. One of them is very hard.
The first is easy--you are to restore the leaf when the sketch
is done.'

'It is the decree of the strongest! And the other?'

'You are to confess my sketch to be the best. Now what is the
subject to be?'

'Stop a bit!' said he, turning over the book which Wych Hazel
had given him wrong side first--'I should like to see what I am
to swear to, before we begin.' And the bits of her drawing
which were found there received a short but keen
consideration. 'The subject?--is this grey rock where we are--
with what is on and around it.'

'You are lawless. And your subject is--unmanageable!'

'Do you think so?'

'You want what is "around" this grey rock,' she said with a
light twirl on the tips of her toes. 'If your views on most
subjects are as comprehensive!'--

'They can be met, nevertheless,' said he, laughing, 'if you
take one part of the subject and I the other--and if you'll
give me a pencil! We must be done in a quarter of an hour.'

'There it is,' said Wych Hazel,--'then you can take half of the
rock'--and she walked away to a position as far behind Mr.
Rollo as sweetbriars and sumach would permit. That gentleman
turned about and faced her gravely; also withdrew a step,
looked at his match, and throwing on his hat which had lain
till now on the moss, went to work. It was work in earnest,
for minutes were limited.

'Mr. Rollo?' said Wych Hazel, 'I cannot draw a thing if you
sit there watching me. Just take your first position, please.'

'I should lose my point of view--you would not ask me to do
that? Besides, you are safe--I am wholly occupied with myself.'

'No doubt! But if you presume to put _me_ in your sketch I'll
turn you into a red squirrel'--with which fierce threat Miss
Hazel drooped her head till her 'point of view' must have been
at least merged in the brim of her flat hat, and went at her
drawing. That she had merged herself as well in the interest
of the game, was soon plain,--shyness and everything else went
to the winds: only when (according to habit) some scrap of a
song broke from her lips, then did she rebuke herself with an
impatient gesture or exclamation, while the hat drooped lower
than ever. It was pretty to see and to hear her,--those very
outbreaks were so free and girlish and wayward, and at the
same time so sweet. Several minutes of the prescribed time
slipped away.

'How soon do you go to Chickaree?' said the gentleman, in a
pre-engaged tone, very busy with his pencil.

'How soon?' repeated the lady, surveying her own sketch--'why--
not too soon for anybody that wants me away, I suppose. Ask
Mr. Falkirk.'

'Is it long since you have seen the place?'

'I can hardly be said to have "seen" it at all. I think my
landscape eyes were not open at that remote period of which
you speak.'

'I was a red squirrel then, in the "former state" to which I
referred a while ago. So you see your late threat has no
terrors for me. Is it in process of execution?'

'O were you?' said Miss Hazel, absorbed in her drawing. 'Yes--
but the expression is very difficult!--Did you think you knew
me as a field mouse?'

He laughed a little.

'Then, I suppose you have not the pleasure of knowing your
neighbours, the Marylands?--except the specimen lately on
hand?'

'No, I have heard an account of them,' said Miss Kennedy. 'For
shame, Mr. Rollo, Dr. Maryland isn't a "specimen." He's good.
I like him.'

The gentleman made no remark upon this, but confined his
attention to his work for a few minutes; then looked at his
watch.

'Is that sketch ready to show?--Time's up.'

'And the squirrel is down. But not much else.'

Not much!--the squirrel sat contemplatively gazing into Mr.
Rollo's hat, which lay on the rock before him, quite
undisturbed by a remarkable looking witch who rose up at the
other end. The gentleman surveyed them attentively.

'Do you consider these true portraits?'

'I do not think the hat would be a tight fit,' said she,
smothering a laugh.

'Well!' said he comically, 'it is said that no man knows
himself--how it may be with women I can't say!' And he made
over the sketch in his hand and went to his former work; which
had been cutting a stick.

There was more in this second sketch. The handling was
effective as it had been swift. Considering that fifteen
minutes and a lead pencil were all, there had been a great
deal done, in a style that proved use and cultivation as well
as talent. The rocks, upper and lower, were truly given; the
artist had chosen a different state of light from the actual
hour of the day, and had thus thrown a great mass into fine
relief. Round it the ferns and mosses and creepers with a
light hand were beautifully indicated. But in the nook where
Wych Hazel had stationed herself, there was no pretty little
figure with her book on her lap; in its place, sharply and
accurately given, was a scraggy, irregular shaped bush, with a
few large leaves and knobby excrescences which looked like
acorns, but an oak it was not, still less a tree. The topmost
branch was crowned with Miss Kennedy's nodding hat, and upon
another branch lay her open drawing book. Miss Kennedy shook
her head.

'I cannot deny the relationship!--Your style of handling is
perhaps a trifle dry. That is not what you call an "ideal
woman," is it, Mr. Rollo?'

'I might fairly retort upon that. What do you say to our
moving from this ground, before the band up there gets into
Minor?'

Retaking of a sudden her demureness, slipping away to her
first position on the rock, with hands busy about the pink
flowers, Wych Hazel answered, as once before--

'Do not let me detain you--do not wait for me, Mr. Rollo.'

'Shall I consider myself dismissed? and send some more
fortunate friend to help you out of your difficulty?'

'I am not in any difficulty, thank you.'

'Only you don't know your way,' he said, with perhaps a little
amusement, though it hardly appeared. 'Is it true that you
will not give me the honour of guiding you?'

'In the first place,' said Miss Hazel, wreathing her pink
flowers with quick fingers, 'I know the way by which I came,
perfectly. In the second place, I never submit voluntarily to
anybody's guidance.'

'Will you excuse me for correcting myself. I meant, in "not
knowing your way," merely the way in which you are to _go_.'

'Do you know it?'

'If you suffer my guidance--undoubtedly.'

'Ah!--if. In that case so do I. But I "suffered" so much on the
last occasion--and Dr. Maryland has left the Mountain.'

'I would not for the world be importunate! Perhaps you will
direct me if I shall inform any one of your hiding place--or do
you desire to have it remain such?'

'Thank you,' said Miss Hazel, framing the landscape in her
pink wreath and gazing at it intently, 'I suppose there is not
much danger. But if you see Mr. Falkirk you may reveal to him
my distressed condition. He needs stimulus occasionally.'

Rollo lifted his hat with his usual Spanish courtesy; then
disappeared, but not indeed by the way he had come. He threw
himself upon an outstanding oak branch, from which, lightly
and lithely, as if he had been the red squirrel himself, he
dropped to some place out of sight. One or two bounds,
rustling amid leaves and branches, and he had gone from
hearing as well as from view.

Wych Hazel had time to meditate. Doubtless she once more
scanned the rocks by which inexplicably she had let herself
down to her present position; but in vain, no strength or
agility of hers, unaided, could avail to get up them again.
Indeed it was not easy to see how aid could mend the matter.
Miss Hazel left considering the question. It was a wild place
she was in, and wild things suited it; the very birds,
unaccustomed to disturbance, hopped near her and eyed her out
of their bright eyes. If they could have given somewhat of
their practical sageness to the human creature they were
watching! Wych Hazel had very little of it, and just then, in
truth, would have chosen their wings instead. She did not,
even now, in their innocent, busy manners, read how much else
they had that she lacked; though she looked at them and at all
the other wild things. The tree branches that stretched as
they listed, no axe coming ever upon their freedom; the moss
and lichens that flourished in luxuriant beds and pastures,
not breathed on by even a naturalist's breath; the rocks that
they had clothed for ages, no one disturbing. The very cloud
shadows that now and then swept over the ravine and the
hillside, meeting nothing less free than themselves, scarce
anything less noiseless, seemed to assert the whole scene as
Nature's own. Since the days of the red men nothing but cloud
shadows had travelled there; the nineteenth century had made
no entrance, no wood-cutter had lifted his axe in the forest;
the mountain streams, that you might hear soft rushing in the
distance, did not work but their own in their citadel of the
hills. Wych Hazel had time to consider it all, and to watch
more than one shadow walk slowly from end to end of the long
stretch of the mountain valley, before she heard anything else
than the wild noise of leaf and water and bird. At last there
came something more definite, in the sounds of leaves and
branches over her head; and then with certainly a little
difficulty, Mr. Falkirk let himself down to her standing
place. To say that Mr. Falkirk looked in a gratified state of
mind would be to strain the truth; though his thick eyebrows
were unruffled.

'How did you get here, Wych?' was his undoubtedly serious
inquiry.

'Oh!' she said, jumping up, and checking her own wild murmurs
of song,--'My dear Mr. Falkirk, how did you? What is the last
news from civilization?' She looked wild wood enough, with the
pink wreath round her hat and her curls twisted round the
wind's fingers.

'But what did you come here for?'

'It's a pleasant place, sir--Mr. Rollo says. I was going to
propose that you and I should have a joint summer house here,
with strawberries and cream. Mr. Falkirk, haven't you a bun in
your pocket?'

At this moment, and in the most matter-of-fact manner,
presented himself her red squirrel friend, arriving from
nobody knew where; and bringing not only himself but a little
basket in which appeared--precisely--biscuits and strawberries.
Silently all this presented itself. Wych Hazel's cheeks
rivalled the strawberries for about a minute, but whether from
stirred vanity or vexation it was hard to tell.

'Mr. Falkirk!' she cried, 'are all the rest of the staff
coming? Here is the Commissary--is the Quarter-master behind,
in the bushes?'

'I have no doubt we shall find him,' said Mr. Falkirk, dryly.
'How did you get into this bird's nest, child?'

'She was drawn here, sir,--by a red squirrel.'

'I was not drawn!--Mr. Falkirk, what are they about up there,
besides lamenting my absence.'

Mr. Falkirk seemed uneasy. He only looked at the little
speaker, busy with her strawberries, and spoke not, but Rollo
answered instead.

'They are looking over the rocks and endeavouring to compute
the depth to the bottom, with a reference to your probable
safety.' There was a shimmer of light in the speaker's eye.

'If they are taking mathematical views of the subject, they
are in a dangerous way! Mr. Falkirk, it is imperatively
necessary that I should at once rejoin the rest of society,--
will you let yourself be torn from this rock, like a sea
anemone?'

Mr. Falkirk had been for a few minutes taking a minute and
business-like survey of the place.

'I see no way of getting you out, Wych,' he said despondingly,
'without a rope. I must go back for one, I believe, and you
and society must wait.'

'How will _you_ get out, sir?'

'I don't know. If I cannot, I'll send Rollo.'

'Pray send him, sir,--by all means.'

'I can get you out without a rope,' said that gentleman, very
dispassionately.

'Pray do, then,' said the other.

'There is a step or two here of roughness, but it is
practicable; and with your help we can reach smooth going in a
very few minutes. A little below there is a path. Let me see
you safe down first, Mr. Falkirk. Can you manage that oak
branch?--stop when you get to the bottom--Stand there, now.'

With the aid of his younger friend's hand and eyes Mr. Falkirk
made an abrupt descent to the place indicated--a ledge not very
far but very sheer below them. From a position which looked
like a squirrel's, mid way on the rock with one foot on the
oak, Rollo then stretched out his hand to Wych Hazel.

'Am I to stop when I get to the bottom?--most people like to do
it before,' she said.

'You must. Come a little lower down, if you please. Take Mr.
Falkirk's hand as soon as you reach footing.'

It was no place for ceremony, neither could she help it. As
she spoke, he took the young lady in both hands as if she had
been a parcel, and swung her lightly and firmly, though it
must have been with the exercise of great strength, down to a
rocky cleft which her feet could reach and from which Mr.
Falkirk's hand could reach her. Only then did Mr. Rollo's hand
release her; and then he bounded down himself like a cat. Once
more, very nearly the same operation had to be gone through;
then a few plunging and scrambling steps placed them in a
clear path, and the sound of the waters of the fall told them
which way to take. With that, Rollo lifted his hat again
gravely and fell back behind the others. Wrapping herself in
her mood as if it had been a veil, Wych Hazel likewise bent
her head--it might have been to both gentlemen; but then she
sped forward at a rate which she knew one could not and the
other would not follow, and disappeared among the leaves like
a frightened partridge.

What was she like when they reached the party on the height?
With no token of her adventures but the pink wreath round her
hat and the pink flush under it, Miss Hazel sat there _à la
reine_; Mr. Kingsland at her feet, a circle of standing
admirers on all sides; her own immediate attention
concentrated on a thorn in one of her wee fingers. Less
speedily Mr. Falkirk had followed her and now stood at the
back of the group, silent and undemonstrative. Rollo had gone
another way and was not any longer of the party.


CHAPTER VII.

SMOKE.


To Chickaree by the stage was a two-days' journey. The first
day presented nothing remarkable. Rollo was their only fellow
traveller whom they knew; and he did nothing to lighten the
tedium of the way, beyond the ordinary courtesies. And after
the first few hours the scenery had little to attract. The
country became an ordinary farming district, with no
distinctive features. Not that there be not sweet things to
interest in such a landscape, for a mind free enough and eyes
unspoiled. There are tints of colouring in a flat pasture
field, to feed the eye that can find them; there are forms and
shadows in a rolling arable country, sweet and changing and
satisfying. There are effects in tufts of spared woodland, and
colours in wild vegetation, and in the upturned brown and
umber of fields of ploughed earth, and in the grey lichened
rocks and the clear tints of their broken edges. There are the
associations and indications of human life, too; tokens of
thrift and of poverty, of weary toil and of well-to-do
activity. Where the ploughs go, and the ploughmen; where the
cattle are driven afield; where the farmyards tell how they
are housed and kept; where the women sit with their milking
pails or make journeys to the spring; where flowers trim the
house-fronts, or where the little yard-gate says that
everything, like itself, hangs by one hinge. A good deal of
life stories may be read by the way in a stage coach; but not
until life has unfolded to us, perhaps, its characters; and so
Wych Hazel did not read much and thought the ride tedious and
long. When she turned to her companions, Mr. Falkirk was
thoughtful and silent, Mr. Rollo silent and seemingly self-
absorbed, and if she looked at the other occupants of the
coach--Wych Hazel immediately looked out again.

The second day began under new auspices. None of their former
fellow travellers remained with them; save only Rollo and the
servants; and the empty places were taken by a couple of
country women, one young and rustic, the other elderly and
ditto. That was all that Wych Hazel saw of them. The fact that
one of the women presently fell to eating gingerbread and the
other molasses candy, effectually turned all Miss Kennedy's
attention out of doors.

The cleared country was left behind; and the coach entered a
region of undisturbed forest, through which it had many miles
to travel before reaching civilization again. The view was
shut in. The trees waved overhead and stretched along the road
endlessly, too thick for the eye to penetrate far. The coach
rumbled on monotonously. The smell of pines and other green
things came sweet and odorous, but the day was hot, and
everything was dry; the dust rose and the sunbeams poured
down. Wych Hazel languished for a change. Only a red squirrel
now and then reminded her what a lively life she led a day or
two ago. And Mr. Falkirk seemed too indifferent to mind the
weather, and Rollo seemed to like it! She was very weary.
Taking off her hat and leaning one hand on her guardian's
shoulder, she rested her head there, too--looking out with a
sort of fascinated intentness into the hazy atmosphere, which
grew every moment thicker and bluer and more intensely hazy.
It almost seemed to take shape, to her eye, and to curl and
wave like some animated thing among the still pines. The
countrywomen were dozing now; Mr. Rollo and Mr. Falkirk mused,
or possibly dozed too; it made her restless only to look at
them. Softly moving off to her own corner, Wych Hazel leaned
out of the window. Dark and still and blue--veiled as ever, the
pines rose up in endless succession by the roadside; a yellow
carpet of dead leaves at their feet, the woodpeckers busy, the
squirrels at play over their work. How free they all were!--
with what a sweet freedom. No danger that the brown rabbit
darting away from his form, would ever transgress pretty
limits!--no fear that vanity or folly or ill-humour would ever
touch the grace of those grey squirrels. As for the red ones!--
Miss Hazel brought her attention to the inside of the coach
for a minute, but the sight gave only colour and no check to
her musings. How strange of that particular red squirrel to
follow her steps as he had done the other day--to follow her
steps now, as she more than half suspected. What did he mean?
And what did she mean by her own deportment? Nothing, she
declared to herself:--but that red squirrels will bite
occasionally. There swept over her, sighing from among the
pine trees, the breath of a vague sorrow. In all the
emergencies that might come, in all that future progress, also
dim with its own blue haze, what was she to do? Mr. Falkirk
could take care of her property,--who could take care of _her?_
Deep was the look of her brown eyes, close and controlling the
pressure of her lips: the wrist where the three bracelets lay
felt the light grasp of her other hand.

The coach rolled on, through thickening air and darkening sky,
air thick also with a smell of smoke which it was odd no one
took note of; until the horses trotted round a sudden turn of
the road into the very cause of it all. The blue was spotted
now with faint red fire; with dull streaks as of beds of
coals, and little sharp points of flame. On both sides of the
road, creeping among the pines and leaping up into them, the
fire was raging. A low sound from Wych Hazel, a sound rather
of horror than fear, yet curiously pitiful and heart-stirring,
roused both her friends in an instant. Almost at the same
instant the coach came to a standstill, and Rollo jumped out.

'What's the matter, Rollo?'

'Fire in the woods, sir. We must turn about; that's all.'

The elder of the two women, who had just waked up, asked with
a terrified face, 'if there was any danger?' but nobody
answered her. Rollo took his seat again; at the same time the
horses' heads came about.

'What are you going to do?' she demanded.

'We are going back a little way. There is fire along the road
ahead of us; and the horses might set their feet upon some hot
ashes, which wouldn't be good for them.'

'But we're goin' back'ards!--where we come from! Calry, we're
goin' back hum!'

'We shall turn again presently,' said Rollo. 'Have patience a
few minutes.'

He spoke so calmly, the women were quieted. Mr. Falkirk,
however, leaned back no more. He watched the hazy smoke by the
roadside; he watched generally; and now and then his eye
furtively turned to Wych Hazel. For some little time they
travelled back hopefully on their way, though the smoky
atmosphere was too thick to let any one forget the obstacle
which had turned them. It grew stifling, breathed so long, and
it did not clear away; but though every one noticed this, no
one spoke of it to his neighbour. Then at last it began to
weigh down more heavily upon the forest, and visible puffs and
curls in the dense blue suggested that its substance was
becoming more palpable.

'Rollo--', said Mr. Falkirk in an undertone.

'Yes!' said the other, just as the coach again came to a
sudden stop and a volley of exclamations, smothered and not
smothered, sounded from the coach box. Both gentlemen sprang
out.

'Good patience!' said the older of the two women, 'it's the
fire again! it's all round us! O I wisht I hadn't a'come! I
wisht I was to hum!'--and she showed the earnestness of the
wish by beginning to cry. Her companion sat still and turned
very pale. Paler yet, but with every nerve braced, Wych Hazel
stood in the road to see for herself. The gentlemen were
consulting.

The fire had closed in upon the road they had passed over an
hour or two before. There it was, smoking, and breathing
along, gathering strength every minute; while a low, murmuring
roar told of its out-of-sight progress. What was to be done?
The driver declared, on being pressed, that a branch road, the
Lupin road it was called, was to his knowledge but a little
distance before them; a quarter of an hour would reach it.

'Drive on, then,'--said Rollo, turning to put Wych Hazel into
the coach.

The man mumbled, that he did not know whether his horses would
go through the fire.

'_I_ know. They will. We will go straight on. You are not
afraid,' he said, meeting Hazel's eyes for a moment. It was
not more than half a second, but nature's telegraph works well
at such instants. Wych Hazel saw an eye steady and clear,
which seemed to brave danger and not know confusion. He saw a
wistful face, with the society mask thrown by, and only the
girl's own childish self remaining.

'Afraid to go on? no,' she said; and then felt a scarcely
defined smile that warmed his eyes and brow as he answered,
'There is no need'--and put her into the coach. In both touch
and tone there lay a promise; but she had no time to think of
it. The coach was moving on again; the women were very
frightened, and cried and moaned by way of relieving their
feelings at the expense of other people's. Mrs. Saddler, who
has hitherto used only her eyes, now clasped her fingers
together and fell to the muttering of short prayers over and
over under her breath, the urgency of which redoubled when the
coach had gone a little further and the fire and smoke began
to wreathe thicker on both sides of the road.

'There is no occasion, Mrs. Saddler,' said Mr. Falkirk
somewhat sternly. 'Be quiet, and try to show an example of
sense to your neighbours.'

'Did you never say your prayers before?' said Rollo turning
towards her; they sat on the same seat. He spoke half kindly,
half amused, but with that mingled--though ever so slightly--an
expression of meaning more pungent; all together overcame Mrs.
Saddler. She burst into a fit of tears, which nervousness made
uncontrollable.

'What have I done?' said the young man as the weeping became
general at his end of the coach. 'It is dangerous to meddle
with edge tools! Come, cheer up! we shall leave all this smoke
behind us in a few minutes. You'll see clear directly.'

His tone was so calm the women took courage from it, and
ventured to use their eyes again. The stage-coach had left the
burning road; they were going across the woods in another
direction; the air was soon visibly more free of smoke. The
driver was hopeful, and sending his horses along at a good
pace. The shower withinside dried up; and Rollo throwing
himself back upon the seat gazed steadfastly out of the
window. Wych Hazel had gazed at him while he spoke to the
others, with a sort of examining curiosity in her brown eyes
that was even amused; but now she became as intent as himself
on affairs outside of the coach.

For a while all was quiet. Mrs. Saddler sat in brown
stupefaction after having received such rebukes, and no more
apples were brought forward on the front seat. The women
whispered together and watched their fellow-travellers--Rollo
especially. But at length it became evident to the keener
observers of the party that the air was thickening again; the
smell of burning woods which filled the air was growing more
pungent, the air more warm; those visible waves of the blue
atmosphere began to appear again. Once Mr. Falkirk leaned
forward as if to address Rollo; he thought better of it and
fell back without speaking. And on they went. The smell of
burning and the thick stifling smoke became very oppressive.

'There is a large tract on fire, Rollo,' Mr. Falkirk remarked
at length.

'Probably.'

In another minute the coach halted. Rollo put his head out of
the window to speak to the coachman, and the cool tone in
which he asked, 'What is it?' Wych Hazel felt at the time and
remembered afterwards. The driver's answer was unheard by all
but one. Rollo threw himself out.

'Stay where you are,' he said to Mr. Falkirk as he shut the
door. 'You keep order and I'll make order.'

He went forward. The coach stood still, with that fearful
wreathing of the blue vapour thicker and nearer around it. The
smell became so strong that the thought forced itself upon
every one, they must have come upon the fire again. The woman
wanted to get out. Mr. Falkirk dissuaded them. Wych Hazel kept
absolutely still. In a moment or two Rollo appeared at Mr.
Falkirk's side of the coach, and spoke rather low. 'I am going
to make explorations. Keep all as you are.'

Mr. Falkirk spoke lower still. 'Is the fire ahead?'

The answer was not in English or French. Looking from her
window as far as she could, Wych Hazel now saw Rollo cross the
road and make for a tall pine which stood at a little
distance. She saw him throw his coat and hat on the ground;
then catching one of the long lithe branches he was in a
moment off the ground and in the tree; yes, and making
determinately for the top of it. The 'red squirrel' had not
learnt climbing for nothing; agile, steady, quick, he mounted
and mounted. She grew dizzy with looking. Mr. Falkirk had not
the same view.

'What's he doing? what are we waiting for? Can you see?' he
asked impatiently.

'Yes--they are trying to find out which way to go, sir.'

Mr. Falkirk made a movement as if to get out himself; then
checked it, seeing the helpless bevy of women who were
dependent on him and now in the utmost perturbation. Standing
still tried their nerves. To keep order withinside the coach
was as much as he could attend to. Cries and moans and
questions of involved incoherency, poured upon him. Would they
ever get home? would the fire catch the coach? would it
frighten the horses? what were they stopping for?--were some of
the simplest inquiries that Mr. Falkirk had to hear and
answer; in the midst of which one of the ladies assured
herself and him that if 'Isaiah had come along with them they
would never have got into such a fix.' Mrs. Saddler Mr.
Falkirk peremptorily silenced; the others he soothed as best
he might; and all the while Wych Hazel watched the signs
without, and followed the climber in the pine tree, following
him in his venturesome ascent and descent, which were both
made with no lack of daring. He was on the ground at last,
swinging himself from the end of a pine branch which he had
compelled into his service; he came straight to Mr. Falkirk,
heated, but mentally as cool as ever.

'I see our way,' he said, 'I am going on the box myself. Don't
be concerned. I have driven a post-coach in England.'

He looked across to Wych Hazel, as he spoke, and his eye
carried the promise again. Wych Hazel met his look, though
with no answer in her own; fear, or self-control, or something
back of both, made the very lines of her face still; only a
sort of shiver of feeling passed over them as he said, 'Don't
be concerned.' All this passes in a second; then Rollo is on
the box with the stage driver and the stage is in motion
again. But it is motion straight on to where Wych Hazel has
seen that the smoke is thickest. The horses go fast; they know
that another hand has the reins; the ground is swiftly
travelled over. Now the puffs of smoke roll out round and
defined from the burning woodland; and then, above the rattle
of wheels and tread of hoofs, is heard another sound,--a
spiteful snapping and crackling, faint but increasing. Can the
air be borne?--it is hard to breathe; and flame, yes, flame is
leaping from the dried leaves and curling out here and there
from a tree. Mrs. Saddler put her head out of the coach.

'Oh, sir!' she shrieked, 'he is taking us right into it! O
stop him! we'll be burned, sure! it's all fire--it's all fire!'

The chorus of shrieks became now almost a worse storm within
than the tempest of fire which was raging without. The women
were wild. It was an awful moment for everybody. The fire had
full possession on both sides of the road, viciously sparkling
and crackling and throwing out jets of flames and volumes of
smoke, threatening to dispute the way with the stage coach;
yet through it lay the only way to safety. It could not be
borne long; the horses, urged by a hand that knew how to apply
all means of stimulus and spared none, drew the coach along at
a furious speed. The speed alone was distracting to the poor
women, who had never known the like; the coach seemed to them,
doubtless, hastening to destruction. Their shrieks were
uncontrollable; and indeed no topics of comfort could be
urged, when manifestly they were fleeing for their lives from
the fire, and the fire on every side, before and behind them
was threatening with fearful assertion of power that they
should not escape. How swiftly thoughts careered through the
mind of the one silent member of the company--thoughts like
those quick flashed of flame, those dark curls of smoke. The
questions she had been debating two hours before--were they all
to have one short, sharp answer?--And what would become of her
then? Were such days as the one before yesterday forever
ended? How would it feel to be caught and wreathed about like
one of those pines--how would Mr. Rollo feel to see it--and what
if all the rest should be dead, there in the fire, and she
only half dead; together with a strange impatience to know the
worst and endure the worst. She had drawn back a little from
the window, driven in by the scorching air, but looked out
still with both hands up to shield her eyes. She did not know
into what pitiful lines her mouth had shaped itself, nor what
faintness and sickness were creeping over her with every
breath of that smoke. The time was, after all, not long; but
in the thickest of the fire, when the smoke literally choked
up the way before the horses' eyes, the animals suddenly
stopped; from a furious speed, the coach came to a blank
stand-still. A voice was heard from the coach-box cheering the
horses--but the dead pause continued. And now when the rattle
of the wheels ceased, the sweep of the fiery storm could be
heard and felt. A wind had risen, or more likely was created
by the great draught of the fire; and its rush through the
woods, driving the flames before it, and catching up the
clouds of smoke to pile them upon the faces and throats of the
travellers was with a hiss and a fury and a blinding which
came like the malice of a spiteful thing. It was almost
impossible to breathe; and yet the coach stood still! A half-
minute seemed the growth of a year. The women became frantic;
Mr. Falkirk kept them in the coach by the sheer exertion of
force. Wych Hazel in vain strained her eyes to see through the
smoke what the detaining cause was.

The horses had been scared at last by the fire crackling and
snapping in their faces, and confounded by the clouds of
smoke. Bewildered, they had stopped short; and voice and whip
were powerless against fear. That was a moment never to be
forgotten, at least by those withinside the stage-coach, who
could do nothing but wait and scream.

'Hush! the horses are frightened: that is all,' said Mr.
Falkirk. 'He's----what's he doing, Wych?--yes, he's blinding the
leaders; that's it. There!'

The intense anxiety which was smothered in every one of these
words, Wych Hazel long remembered. They saw, as he spoke, they
could see Rollo at the horses' heads, going from one to the
other; they saw him dimly through the smoke; they caught the
light of something white in his hand. Mr. Falkirk had guessed
right. Then they saw Rollo throw himself postillion-wise upon
one of the leaders. In another moment the coach moved,
doubtfully; then amid the rush and roar they could hear the
cheer of their charioteer's voice, and the frightened animals
plunged on again. Presently, encouraged perhaps by a little
opening in the smoke, they dashed forward as heartily as ever,
and--yes--the smoke was less thick and the air less dark, and
momentarily brightening. The worst was over. Surely the worst
was over, but the travellers drew breath if freer yet
fearfully, till the lessening cloud and disappearing fire and
stillness in the woods, said that had left the danger behind.
Black charred stems and branches began to show what had been
where they now were; little puffs of grey smoke from half
consumed tufts of moss and old stumps of great trees were all
that was left of the army of fire that had marched that way.

The horses were brought back to a moderate going. A quieting
of the storm within accompanied the passing away of the storm
without. Fairly overcome now, dizzy besides with the almost
flaming current which had blown full against her in that last
charge through the fire, Wych Hazel drooped her head lower and
lower till it rested on the sill of the window; but no one
marked just then. The women were drying their eyes and
uttering little jets of excited or thankful exclamation. Mr.
Falkirk watched from his window what was to be done next.

'We'll have to put up, if it be onconvenient,' said the
driver. 'Can't ask a team to do _more'n_ that at a time, sir.
'Tain't no tavern, neither--but there's Siah Sullivan's; he's
got fodder, and food, allays, for a friend in need.'

'How far is Lupin?' called out Mr. Falkirk. 'Aren't we on the
Lupin road?'

'Na--it's a good bit 'tother side o' that 'ere flamin'
pandemony, sir, Lupin's.'

'No it isn't! I mean Lupin, where Braddock's mill used to be--
old John Braddock's.'

' 'Taint called Lupin now,' observed the driver,--'that ere's
West Lupinus. Wal--John Braddock's there now; it's four or five
mile straight ahead.'

'We can go there,' said Rollo. 'That will give us the best
chance.'

Gently they took those three or four miles. The open country
to which they soon came, getting out of the woods, looked very
lovely and peaceful to them; the fire had not been there, and
quiet sunshine lay along the fields. In the last mile or two
the fields gave place again to broken country; a brawling
stream was heard and seen by intervals, black and chafing over
a rocky bed. Then the road descended sharply, among thick
leafage, fresh and fair, not pine needles; and finally at the
bottom of the descent the stage stopped.


CHAPTER VIII.

THE MILL FLOOR.


The place was a dell in the woods, the bottom filled with a
dark, clear little lake. At the lower end of it stood the
mill; picturesque enough under the trees, with its great doors
opening upon the lake. On the floor within could be seen the
bags of flour and grain piled about, and the miller passing to
and fro. It was deeply still; the light came cool and green
through the oaks and maples and ashes; the trickling of water
was heard. Dark slept the little lake, overshadowed by the
leafy banks which shut it in; the only chief spot of light was
the miller's open door, where the sunbeams lit up his bags and
him; the mill-stream brawled away somewhere below, and beyond
the mill the road curled away out of sight to mount the hill
again. This was Braddock's mill.


Mr. Falkirk got out, and then Mr. Rollo helped out the women
and Mrs. Saddler, who was confused out of all her proprieties,
for she pushed before her young lady; finally Wych Hazel.

'How do you do?' said he, scanning her.

Apparently the dizziness had not gone off, for she raised her
head and came out of the coach in the slowest and most
mechanical way, lifting her hand and pushing back her hair
with a weary sort of gesture as he spoke. So weary her face
was, so utterly subdued, it might have touched anybody to see
it. It never seemed to occur to her that the question needed
an answer.

'Your best chance is the mill,' said he; 'I think you can rest
there. At any rate, it is your chance.'

He put her hand upon his arm and led her down the few steps of
rocky way to the mill door. Mr. Falkirk followed. The women
had paired off to seek the miller's house, out of sight above
on the bank. Only Mrs. Saddler came after Mr. Falkirk.

The mill floor was large, cool and clean; that is, in the
shade, and with the exception of the dust of flour on
everything. Mr. Falkirk entered into explanations with the
miller; while Rollo, after a brief word of leave-asking,
proceeded to arrange a pile of grain bags so as to form an
extempore divan. Harder might be; and over it he spread the
gentlemen's linen dusters and all the travelling shawls of the
party; and upon it then softly placed Wych Hazel. Poor child!
she was used to cushions, and in need of them, from the way
she dropped down among these. She had thrown off her hat, and
Mr. Falkirk stopped and unfastened her mantle, and softly
began to pull off one of her gloves; the miller's daughter, a
fair, plump, yellow-haired damsel, coming out from among the
grain bins, began upon the other.

'What's happened here?' said she, pityingly.

'Have you anything this lady could eat?' was the counter-
question. 'She is exhausted; fire in the woods drove us out of
the way.'

'Do tell! I heard say the woods was all afire. Why there's
enough in the house, but it ain't here. We live up the hill a
ways. I'll start and fetch something--only say what. O here's
this, if she's fainted.'--And producing a very amulet-looking
bottle of salts, suspended round her neck by a blue ribband,
she at once administered a pretty powerful whiff. With great
suddenness Wych Hazel laid hold of the little smelling bottle,
opening her brown eyes to their fullest extent and exclaiming:

'What in the world are you all about!'

'Ah!' said Mr. Falkirk. 'Get what you can my good girl; only
don't stand about it. Can you give her a glass of milk? or a
cup of tea?'

The girl left them and sprang away up the path at a rate that
showed her good will, followed by Rollo. Arrived at the
miller's house, which proved a poor little affair, the cup of
tea was hastily brewed; and Rollo having contrived to find out
pretty well the resources of the family in that as well as in
other lines of accommodation, and having despatched along with
the tea whatever he thought might stand least chance of being
refused, left the miller's daughter to convey it, and betook
himself to his own amusements.

The meal was not much. But when it was over Wych Hazel found a
better refreshment and one even more needed just then. Mrs.
Saddler at a little distance nodded and dreamed; Mr. Falkirk
also had moved off and at least made believe rest. Then did
his ward take the comfort, a rare one to her, of pouring out a
mindful to somebody of her own sex and age. It was only to the
little miller's daughter; yet the true honest face and rapt
attention made amends for all want of conventionalities.

'What did you get that salts for?' she began.

'He said you was faint.'

'Who is "he"?'

'The gentleman--I mean the young one.'

'Ah--Well, but I was holding you down by the blue ribband for
ever so long.'

'Yes--because--I had promised not to take it off,' said the
girl, blushing.

'What a promise?'

'O, but you know, ma'am--I mean, it was give to me, and so I
promised. When folks give you things they always expect you
never to take 'em off.'

'Do they?' said Wych Hazel. But then she launched forth into
the account of all the day's distress, electrifying her
listener with some of the fear and excitement so long pent up.
Yet the mill girl's comment was peculiar.

'It does make a person feel very solemn to be so near to
death.'

'Solemn!' cried Wych Hazel. 'Is _that_ all you would feel,
Phoebe?'

'I'm not much afraid of pain, you know, ma'am--and if the fire
took it couldn't last long.'

'But Phoebe;--' she sat straight up on her floury cushions,
looking at the girl's quiet face. 'What do you mean, Phoebe?'--
She could not have told what checked the expression of her
growing wonder.

'O lie down, ma'am, please! Why I only mean,' said Phoebe
speaking with perfect simplicity--'You know God calls us all to
die somehow--and if he called me to die so, it wouldn't make
much difference. I shouldn't think of it when I'd got to
heaven.'

Again some undefined feeling sealed Wych Hazel's lips. She lay
down as she was desired, and with her hand over her eyes
thought, and wondered, and fell asleep.

For some hours thereafter the sunbeams were hardly quieter
than the party they lighted on the miller's floor. Wych Hazel
slept; Mrs. Saddler was even more profoundly wrapped in
forgetfulness; Mr. Falkirk sat by keeping guard. The miller's
daughter had run up the hill to her home for a space. As to
Rollo, he had not been seen. His gun was his companion, and
with that it was usual for him to be in the woods much of the
time. He came back from his wanderings however as the day
began to fall, and now sat on a stone outside the mill door,
very busy. The little lake at his feet still and dark, with
the side of the woody glen doubled in its mirror, and the
sunlight in the tops of the trees reflected in golden glitter
from the middle of the pool, was a picture to tempt the eye:
but Rollo's eye, if it glanced, came back again. He was
picking the feathers from a bird he had shot, and doing it
deftly. Sauntering leisurely up the miller approached him.

'Now that's what I like,' he remarked; 'up to anything, eh?
You don't seem so much used up as the rest on 'em. Even the
little one talked herself to sleep at last!'

'Have you got a match, Mr. Miller?'

'No--I haven't,' said the man of flour--'I always light my pipe
with a burning glass. Won't that serve your turn? So there she
sits, asleep, and my Phoebe sits and looks at her.'

'I've something else that will serve my turn,' said the hunter
applying to his gun. 'But stay--I do not care to see any more
fire to-day than is necessary.'--And drawing his work off to a
safe place, he went on to kindle tinder and make a nice little
fire.--'Haven't you learned how to make bread yet, Mr. Miller?'

'Not a bit!' said he laughing. 'And when you've got a wife and
four daughters you won't do much fancy cookig neither, I
guess. But there's Phoebe--'

'A mistake, Mr. Miller,' said the fancy cook. 'Best always to
be independent of your wife--and of everything else.'

And impaling his bird on a sharp splinter he stuck it up
before the fire, to the great interest and amusement of the
miller. Another spectator also wandered out there, and she was
presently sent back to the mill.

'Miss Hazel,' said Mrs. Saddler, coming to the 'divan' where
the young lady and her guardian were both sitting,--'Mr. Rollo
says, ma'am, are you ready for him to come in?'

'I am awake, if that is what he means.'

'What do you mean, Mrs. Saddler?'

'If you please, sir, I am sure I don't know what I mean,--but
that's a very strange gentleman, Miss Kennedy. There he's gone
and shot a robin--at least, I suppose it was him for I don't
know who else should have done it-- and his gun's standing by--
and then he's gone and picked it ma'am--picked the feathers
off, and they 're lyin' all round; and then he washed it in
the lake, and he was hard to suit, for he walked a good way up
the lake before he found a place where he _would_ wash it; and
now he's made a fire and stuck up the bird and roasted it; and
why he didn't get me or Miss Miller to do it I don't
comprehend. And he's got plates and things, ma'am, and salt,
ma'am, and bread; and that's what _he_ means, sir; and he want's
to know if you're ready. The bird's all done.'

Wych Hazel looked anything but ready. She was very young in
the world's ways, very new to her own popularity, and somehow
Mrs. Saddler's story touched her sensitiveness. The shy,
shrinking colour and look told of what at six years old would
have made her hide her face under her mother's apron. No such
refuge being at hand, however, and she obliged to face the
world for herself, as soon as she had despatched a very
dignified message to Mr. Rollo, the young lady's feeling
sought relief in irritation.

'I suppose _I_ am not to blame this time, for making myself
conspicuous, sir! Have you given me up as a bad bargain, Mr.
Falkirk?'

'It can't be helped, my dear,'--said her guardian somewhat
dryly, and soberly too. 'I think however it is rather somebody
else who is making himself conspicuous at this time.'

He became conspicuous to their vision a minute after,
appearing in the mill door-way with a little dish in his hand
and attended by Phoebe with other appliances; but nothing
mortal could less justify Wych Hazel's sensation of shyness.
With the coolness of a traveller, the readiness of a hunter,
and the business attention of a cook or a courier, both which
offices he had been filling, he went about his arrangements.
The single chair that was in the mill was taken from Mr.
Falkirk and brought up to do duty as a table, with a board
laid upon it. On this board was set the bird, hot and savoury,
on its blue-edged dish; another plate with bread and salt, and
a glass of water; together with a very original knife and
fork, that were probably introduced soon after the savages
'left.' Mrs. Saddler's eyes grew big as she looked; but Rollo
and the miller's girl understood each other perfectly and
wanted none of her help. Well----

'Girls blush sometimes because they are alive'--but seeing it
could not be helped, as Mr. Falkirk had said, Wych Hazel
rallied whatever of her was grown up, and tried to do justice
to both the cooking and the compliment. The extreme gravity
and propriety of her demeanour were a little suspicious to one
who knew her well, and there could be no sort of question as
to the prettiest possible curl which now and then betrayed
itself at the corners of her mouth; but Miss Kennedy had
herself remarkably in hand, and talked as demurely from behind
the breast-bone of her robin as if it had been a small
mountain ridge. Mr. Falkirk looked on.

'Where did you find that, Rollo?'

'Somewhere within a mile of circuit, sir,' said Rollo, who had
taken a position of ease in the mill doorway, half lying on
the floor, and looking out on the lake.

'You are a good provider.'

'Might have had fish--if my tackle had not been out of reach. I
did manage to pick up a second course, though----Miss Phoebe, I
think it is time for the second course----'

His action, at least, Phoebe understood, if not his words; for
as he sprang up and cleared the board of the relics of the
robin, the miller's daughter, looking as if the whole thing
was a play, brought out from some crib a large platter of wild
strawberries bordered with vine leaves; along with some bowls
of very good looking milk.

'Upon my word, Rollo!'--said the other gentleman.

'Ah, that touches you, Mr. Falkirk! You don't deserve it--but
you may have some. And I will be generous--Mr. Falkirk, here is
a wing of the robin.'

'No, thank you,' said the other, laughing. 'Why these are
fine!'

'Is the air fine out of doors, Mr. Rollo?' asked the young
lady.

'Nothing can be finer.'

'What you call "strong," sir?'

'Strong as a rose--or as a lark's whistle--or as June sunlight;
strong in a gentle way; I don't admire things that are _too_
strong.'

'Things that you think ought to be weak. But I was trying to
find out whether your private collation of air could have
taken away your appetite.'

'I think not--I haven't inquired after it, but now that you
speak of the matter, I think it must have been bread and
cheese.'

'And I suppose you tried the strawberries--just to see if they
were ripe.'

'No, I didn't, but I will now.' And coming to Wych Hazel's
side he proceeded to help her carefully and to put a bowl of
milk in suggestive proximity to her right hand; then taking a
handful himself he stood up and went on talking to Mr.
Falkirk.

'What is your plan of proceeding, sir?'

'I don't know,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'I am puzzled. The coach
goes back to-morrow morning to the foot of the mountain; there
is no object in our making such a circuit, if we could get on
from here,--besides the fact that none of us want to go over
the ground again; but to get on from here seems out of the
question.

'It seems to me, to stay here is out of the question,'
observed Rollo.

'I don't see how to help it--for one night. The only sole
vehicle here is Mr. Miller's little wagon, and that will hold
but two.'

'So I understand.--Those strawberries are not bad,' he said,
appealing to Wych Hazel.

'A very mild form of praise, Mr. Rollo. Harmless and
inoffensive--to berries. What will you do, then, Mr. Falkirk?
seeing there are five of us.'

'I am in a strait. Could you spend the night here in any
tolerable comfort, Wych, do you suppose?'

'I am at a loss to understand your system of arithmetic,'
observed Rollo.

'Simple addition. I suppose, sir, I could spend the night here
where other human creatures can. And as I shall take Phoebe
with me when I go, will you please arrange with her father? I
told her she could have what wages she liked.'

'What shall I arrange with her father, Miss Hazel?'

'Why--anything he wants arranged, sir. What the wages shall
be.'

'Your scheme of travel may be continued to any extent, Miss
Hazel, if you continue to do business on an equally logical
plan.'

She laughed, a good, honest, merry little laugh, but further
direct reply made none.

'That puff of displeasure blows me fairly away!' she said,
jumping up and floating off to the mill door like any thistle
down, on the tips of her toes.

'Is it possible to make any comfortable arrangement for her at
the miller's house?' Mr. Falkirk asked in a low tone.

'Not if she be "true princess," ' said Rollo with a smile.
'There would be more than a few vegetables between Miss
Kennedy and comfort.'----He hesitated, and then suddenly asked
Wych if she were tired? Certainly her face told of some
fatigue, but the busy spirit was unconquered, and she said,
'No--not very much.'

'I am going on to Dr. Maryland's myself--with the miller's
horse and wagon, which I engaged provisionally. If Miss
Kennedy will trust herself to me--perhaps it would be less
wearisome than to stay here; and it would make a jubilee at
Dr. Maryland's as you know, sir. I will send the wagon back
for you to-morrow, in that case.'

'It is for her to say!' Mr. Falkirk answered, rather gloomily.
'It is a day of adventures, Wych--will you go to meet them, or
will you wait for them? There's no escape either way.' He
smiled a little at his ward as he spoke. But her eyes spoke
back only amazement.

'I shall stay with you, sir, of course.' Clearly Miss Kennedy
thought her guardian had taken leave of his senses.

'What if you take the wagon to Dr. Maryland's then, sir; Miss
Kennedy can hardly spend the night here. Even a twenty-five
mile drive is better.'

But Mr. Falkirk had reasons of his own for negativing that
plan, and negatived it accordingly.

'Go with me, then,' said Rollo, turning to Wych Hazel. 'I will
take care of you!' And he said it with something of the warm
smile which had met her before, power and promise together.

'Why, I'm not afraid,' she said, half laughing, yet half shyly
too; thinking with herself how strange the day had been. Since
until yesterday Mr. Rollo had scarcely paid her ordinary
attention; since until then Mr. Falkirk had always been the
one to care for her so carefully. She felt oddly alone,
standing there by them both, looking out with her great brown
eyes steadily into the setting sunshine; and a wistful air of
thought-taking replaced the smile. Rollo remarked that there
was but one unoccupied bed in the miller's house, and that
one, he knew, was laid upon butternuts.

Mr. Falkirk had been watching his ward. He drew near, and put
her hand upon his arm, looking and speaking with grave
tenderness.

'You shall do as you list, my dear; I cannot advise you, for I
do not know which would be worse, the fatigue of going or the
fatigue of staying. You must judge. Dr. Maryland will receive
you as his own child, if you go;--and I will keep you as my own
child if you stay,' he added after a second's hesitation.

'Yes, sir--I know--I think I shall stay. I don't think I can go,
Mr. Rollo; and as for the butternuts,' she added, recovering
her spirits the moment the decision was made, 'any one who
likes to sleep on them may! I shall play mouse among the meal
bags.'

'Then I will do what I can to get you out of your difficulties
to-morrow. I hope the play will not include sleeplessness,
which is my idea of a mouse.'

He offered his hand, clasped hers, lifted his hat, and was
gone.


CHAPTER IX.

CATS.


With the departure of the more stirring member of the company,
Miss Wych had subsided; and in that state could feel that she
was tired. She sat in the doorway of the mill. It was after
sundown; still, bright, sweet, and fair, as after sundown in
June can be. The sky all aglow still with cooler lights; in
the depth of the hollow the morsel of a lake had a dark
shining of its own, like a black diamond, or a green jasper,
with the light off. Mrs. Saddler was gone up the hill with
Phoebe, to get her share of hospitality. Mr. Falkirk had
supped on the remains of the strawberries and milk, and would
have nothing more. Guardian and ward were alone. The stillness
of Summer air floated down from the tree-tops, and did not
stir the lake.

'Wych, how do you like seeking your fortune? I am curious to
be informed?'

'Thank you, sir. The finding to-day has gone so far beyond my
expectations, that I am willing to rest the pursuit till to-
morrow.'

'Fortune and you clasp hands rather roughly at first setting
out! But what do you think of the train she has brought with
her in these seven days?'

'What train, sir?'

'I asked you what you thought of it. Answer straight like a
good child.'

'It's a wonderful train, if it has made a good child of me,'
she answered, with a half laugh. 'Do you mean of people, or
events, sir?'

'The events are left behind, child; the people follow.'

'Will they?' said Wych Hazel. 'Dr. Maryland and all? Mr.
Kingsland might stay behind. Nobody will ever want him.'

'All the rest have your good leave!' said Mr. Falkirk, with an
expression--Wych could not tell what sort of an expression, it
was so complicated. 'Do you think it is an easy office I have
to fill?' he went on.

'Maybe not, sir. I thought you seemed very ready to give it
up. I have felt like stray baggage to-day.'

'How do you suppose I am to guard you from so many enemies?'

'Ready to send me round the country, with the first knight-
errant that starts up?' said the girl, in an aggrieved voice.
'And if _I_ had proposed such a thing!'

'My dear,' said Mr. Falkirk, 'you would have been perfectly
safe at Dr. Maryland's. And much better off than in this old
mill. I am not sure but I ought to have made you go.'

'What do you mean by "enemies," just now, Mr. Falkirk?'

'There's an old proverb,' said Mr. Falkirk with a quirl of his
lips, 'that "a cat may look at a king." And no doubt it is a
queen's liability. But how am I to guard you from the teeth
and the claws?'

'My dear sir, very few cats are dangerous. I am not much
afraid of being scratched.'

'Have you any idea how many of your grimalkins are coming to
Chickaree this Summer?'

'No, sir. The more the better; for then they will have full
occupation for their claws without me.'

'Ah, my dear,' said Mr. Falkirk, 'don't you know that the cat
gets within springing distance before the claws are shown?'

'Yes, sir; but you are presupposing a stationary mouse. Pray,
how many fierce, soft-pawed, sharp-clawed monsters preside
over your ideas at present?'

'Six or seven,' said Mr. Falkirk with the utmost gravity.
'Fortune has come upon you suddenly, Wych.'

It was very pretty, the way she laughed and flushed.

'They are not all troubled with whiskers, sir--my kind medical
friend, for instance.'

'You think so! Pray, in your judgment, what is he, then?'

'Not a cat, sir, and yet no lion. Mr. Rollo calls him a
"specimen." '

'Of what?' (dryly enough.)

'I rebuked him for the expression, sir, but did not inquire
its meaning.'

'Do you suppose that the English traveller, Mr. Shenstone,
will come to Chickaree this Summer for the purpose of
inspecting the Morton manufactories?'

'Let us 'ope not, sir. Mr. Morton will, for his home is just
there. He told me so.'

'And young Nightingale has it in his mind to spend a good deal
of the Summer at his aunt's, Mrs. Lasalle's; for he told me
so. I saw him in town.'

'Mr. Falkirk, you are not a bit like yourself to-day. Are all
men cats, sir?' (very gravely.)

'My dear,' said Mr. Falkirk, 'most men are, when they see a
Chickaree mouse in their path!'

'Poor little me!' said Wych Hazel, laughing. She was silent a
minute, then went cheerfully on. 'I know, Mr. Falkirk, I shall
depend upon you! We're in a fairy tale, you remember, sir, and
you must be the three dogs.'

'Will you trust me, Wych, when I take such a shape to your
eyes?'

'Do you remember?' said she, not heeding. 'The first one with
eyes like saucers, looking--so! And the next with eyes like
mill wheels--so! And the next, with eyes like the full moon!--'
At which point Miss Hazel's own eyes were worth looking at.

'You do not answer me, I observe. Never mind. A woman's
understanding, I have frequently observed, develops like a
prophecy.'

The night in the mill was better, on the whole, than it
promised. No sound awoke Wych Hazel, till little messengers of
light came stealing through every crack and knot hole of the
mill, and a many-toed Dorking near by had six times proclaimed
himself the first cock in creation, let the other be who he
would!

To open her eyes was to be awake, with Wych Hazel; and softly
she stepped along the floor and out on the dewy path to the
lake side; and there stood splashing her hands in the water
and the water over her face, with intense satisfaction. The
lake was perfectly still, disturbed only by the dip of a king-
fisher or the spring of a trout. She stood there musing over
the last day and the last week, starting various profound
questions, but not stopping to run them down,--then went
meandering back to the mill again. On her way she came to a
spot in the grass where there was a sprinkling of robin's
feathers. Wych Hazel stopped short looking at them, smiling to
herself, then suddenly stopped and chose out three or four;
and went back with quick steps to the mill.

Bread and tea were had in the open air, with the seasoning of
the June morning. The stage coach rumbled off by the road it
had come, bearing with it the two countrywomen, and leaving a
pile of baggage for Chickaree. The miller came down and set
his mill agoing, excusing himself to his guests by saying that
there was a good lot of corn to be ground and the people would
be along for it. So the mill became no longer a place of rest,
and Miss Hazel and her guardian were driven out into the woods
by the rumble and dust and jar of machinery. Do what they
would, it was a long morning to twelve o'clock; when the mill
ceased its rumble and the miller went home to his dinner, and
the weary and warm loiterers came back to the shade of the
mill floor. Then the sound of wheels was heard at last; the
first that had broken the solitude that day; and presently at
the mill door Rollo presented himself, looking as if sunshine
agreed with him. He shook hands with Mr. Falkirk, but gave
Wych Hazel his old stately salutation.

'I could not come sooner,' he said. 'I did my best; but it is
thirty miles instead of twenty-five. How was the night?'

'Sadly oblivious and uneventful!'

'Mine wasn't! for I was getting dinner for you in my dreams
all night long. Being dependent on other people's resources,
you see--However, I had a good little friend to help me!'

'What carriage have you brought for us, Rollo?'

'Dr. Maryland's rockaway, sir; and the miller's wagon for the
trunks. To get anything else would have made much more delay.
Is my friend Phoebe here?'

'She will be soon. It is dinner-time in the mill. What do you
want, Mr. Rollo?'

'Three words and a little assistance.'

He went off, and in a little while was back again, accompanied
by Phoebe and plates and glasses; and the two went on to set
forth the dinner, which he drew from a great basket that had
come in the rockaway. All this was done, and order given at
the same time to other matters, with the light-handed
promptitude and readiness of the bird-roasting of yesterday;
Rollo assuring Wych Hazel between whiles that travelling was a
very good thing, if you took enough of it.

'Thirty miles this morning, and thirty last night; and how
many yesterday morning?--A hundred, I should say, by my
measurement.'

'Rollo!--What a dinner you have brought us!' said Mr. Falkirk,
who maintained a quiet and passive behaviour.

'You cannot set off for some hours yet, sir--the horses must
have rest. I believe--but am not sure--that somebody got up very
early this morning to make that pie. I told them I had left
some friends in distress; and Primrose and I--did what we
could. I realized this morning what must be the position of a
Commissary General on a rapid march.'

The provision on the board called for no excuses. Rollo served
everybody, even Mrs. Saddler, and afterwards dispensed
strawberries of much larger growth than those of the day
before. He was the impersonation of gay activity as long as
there was anything to do; and then he subsided into ease-
taking. The smoke of a cigar did not indeed offend Miss
Kennedy's mill-door; but in a luxurious position under a tree
at some distance the sometime smoker settled himself with his
sketch-book, and seemed to be comfortably busy at play, till
it was time for moving.

Wych Hazel had been in an altogether quiet mood since the
arrival of the rockaway. In that mood she had watched the
unpacking of the basket, in that mood she had eaten her
dinner. It was strange, even to herself, the sort of quietus
Mr. Rollo was to her. Not feeling free to play with him, by no
means disposed to play before him, she had ventured to offer
her services no further than by asking him what he wanted;
then left him to himself; oddly conscious all the while, that
if it had been any other one of her new feline friends, she
would have put her little hand into the business and the
basket with pleasant effect. So she sat still and watched
him,--giving a bit of a smile now and then indeed to his direct
remarks, but as often only a fuller look of the brown eyes.
Since the gentleman had been under the tree she had been idly
busy with her own thoughts, having sketched herself tired in
the morning. "Prim" she recognized at once--Dr. Maryland's
sister,--she had heard him speak of her. Would she be a friend?
any one to whom these many thoughts might come out? So Wych
Hazel sat, gazing out upon the lengthening shadows, leaning
her head somewhat wearily in her hand, wishing the journey
over and herself on her own vantage ground at Chickaree. It
would be such a help to be mistress of the house!--for these
last two days she had been nothing but a brown parcel, marked
"fragile"--"with care."


CHAPTER X.

CHICKAREE.


Rollo had driven the rockaway down and was going to drive
back. He put Wych Hazel into the carriage, recommending to her
to lean back in the corner and go to sleep. Phoebe was given
the place beside her; Mr. Falkirk mounted to the front seat;
and off they drove.

It was about four o'clock of a fine June day, and the air was
good to breathe; but the way was nothing extraordinary. A
pleasant country, nothing more; easy roads for an hour, then
heavier travelling.

The afternoon wore on; the miles were plodded over; as the sun
was dipping towards the western horizon they came into scenery
of a new quality. At once more wild and more dressed; the
ground bolder and more rocky in parts, but between filled with
gentler indications. The rockaway drew up. The driver looked
back into the carriage, while the other gentleman got down.

'Miss Kennedy, if you will change places with Mr. Falkirk now
you will be rewarded. I have something here a great deal
better than that book.'

'I have not been reading--I have been watching for landmarks
for some time,' she said, as she made the change; 'but I think
I can never have gone to Chickaree by this road.'

The change was great. However fair it had looked from
withinside, as soon as she got out on the front seat Wych
Hazel found that a flood of bright, slant sunbeams were
searching out all the beauty there was in the land, and
winning it into view. It was one of those illuminated hours,
that are to the common day as an old painted and jewelled
missal to an ordinary black letter.

'Is it better than your book?' said the charioteer, whose
reins were clearly only play to him, and who was much more
occupied with his companion. She glanced round at him, with
the very June evening in her eyes, dews and sunbeams and all.

'Better than most of the books that ever were written, I
suppose. But the book was not bad, Mr. Rollo.'

'What book was it? to be mentioned in the connection.'

' "I Promessi Sposi." '

'Unknown to me. Give me an idea of it--while we are getting up
this hill--there'll be something else to talk of afterwards.'

'Two people are betrothed, and proceed to get into all manner
of difficulties. That is the principal idea so far. I haven't
come to the turn of the story, which takes the thread out of
its tangle.'

'A very stupid idea! Yet you said the book was not a bad
book?' he said, looking gravely round upon her.

'No, indeed. And the idea is not stupid, in the book I mean,
because the people could not help themselves, and so you get
interested for them.'

'Do you get interested in people who cannot help themselves?'

'Yes, I think so--always,--people who _cannot_ in the impossible
sense. Not those who don't know or wont try. But my words did
not mean just that. I should have said, help _it_--help being in
difficulties.'

'I believe people can get out of difficulties,' said Rollo.
'What was the matter with these?'

'O the difficulties were piled on their heads by other people.
Lucia was a peasant, but she was "si bella" that one of the
grandees wanted to get her away from Renzo.'

'I don't see the difficulties yet. What next?'

'No, of course you don't!' said Wych, warming in defense of
her book. 'But if some Don Rodrigo forbade somebody to marry
_you_--and then sent a party to run away with your bride--so that
she had to go into a convent and you wander round the world in
ill humour--I daresay your clearness of vision would improve.'

'I dare say it would,' said Rollo, passing a hand over his
eyes,--'I think it would have to grow worse before all those
events could happen! But on the highest round of that ladder
of impossibilities, I think I should see my way into the
convent,--and escape the ill humour.'

'But Lucia would not be shut up from you, but from the
grandee. It would only make matters worse to bring her out.'

'Not for me,' said Rollo. 'It might for the book, because, as
you say, then the interest would be gone. Do you think the
people in a book are real people?--while you are reading it?'

'Not quite--they might have been real. I don't feel just as if
I should if I knew they were.'

'In that case the interest would be less?' he said, with a
laughing look.

'Yes--or at least different. There are so many things to
qualify your interest in real living people.'

'Yes. For instance in real life the people who cannot help
being in difficulties never interest me as much as the people
who get out of them; and so I think most novels are stupid,
because the men and women are all real to me. There!' he said,
pulling up as they reached the top of an ascent, 'there are no
difficulties in your way here. What do you think of that?'

The hill-top gave a wide view over a rich, cultivated,
inhabited country; its beauty was in the wide, generous eye-
view and the painter's colours that decked it; for which,
broken ground in front and distant low hills gave play to the
slant sunbeams. Warm, rich, inviting, looked every inch of
those wide-spread square miles.

'Do you know where you are?' said he in an enjoying tone.

'I suppose near home,--but it's not familiar yet.'

'No, you are some miles from home. Over there to the west,
lies Dr. Maryland's--but you can't see it in this light. It's
two miles away. Do you see, further to the north, standing
high on a hill, a white house-front that catches the sun?'

'Yes.'

'Mme. Lasalle's, Moscheloo. It's a pretty place--nothing like
Chickaree. When we reach the next turning you will catch a
glimpse of Crocus in the other direction--do you know what
Crocus is?'

'O yes, the village. Our house was brown, I remember that,--and
as you go up the hill Mr. Falkirk's cottage is just by the
roadside. Did you tell them to leave Mrs. Saddler there?'

'She will tell them herself, I fancy. Crocus is the place
where you will be expected to buy sugar and spice. It is some
four miles from Chickaree on that side, and we are about five
miles from it on this;' and as he spoke he set the horses in
motion. 'I sent on a rescript to Mrs. Bywank, bidding her on
her peril to be in order to receive you this evening. Mrs.
Bywank and I are old acquaintances,' he said, looking at Wych
Hazel.

'Dear Mrs. Bywank! how good she used to be. I haven't seen her
but once since I left home. I'm sure you have a great many
worse acquaintances, Mr. Rollo.'

'I am at a loss to understand how you can be sure of that. But
I have some better.--Miss Kennedy, I want you to give me a
boon. Say you will do it.'

'I'll hear it first.'

'Will you? that's fair, I suppose; but if we were better
friends, I should not be satisfied without a blank check put
into my hands for me to fill up. However,--as I am not to have
that honour on the present occasion I will explain. Let me be
the one to introduce you, some day, to one of your neighbours,
whom you do not remember, because she came here since you went
away. Will you?'

'Why yes, of course, if you wish it--only I will not be
responsible for any accidental introduction that may take
place first.'

'I will,' said Rollo. 'Then it is a bargain? I shall ask half
a day's excursion for it.'

'That is as much of a supplement as a woman's postscript, Mr.
Rollo. However, I suppose it is safe to let you ask what you
like.'

'You give it to me?'

'Maybe.'

'Then it is a bargain,' said he, smiling. 'Here is my hand
upon it.'

She laughed, looked round at him rather wonderingly, but gave
her hand, remarking:

'But you know I have the right to change my mind three times.'

There is a curious language in the touch of hands, saying
often inexplicably what the coarser medium of words would be
powerless to say; revealing things not meant to be discovered;
and also conveying sweeter, finer, more intimate touches of
feeling and mood than tongue could tell if it tried. Wych
Hazel remembered this clasp of her hand, and felt it as often
as she remembered it. There was nothing sentimental; it was
only a frank clasp, in which her hand for a moment was not her
own; and though the clasp did not linger, for that second's
continuance it gave her an indescribable impression, she could
hardly have told of what. It was not merely the gentleness;
she could not separate from that the notion of possession, and
of both as being in the mind, to which the hand was an index.
But such a thought passes as it comes. Something else in those
five minutes brought the colour flitting about her face,
coming and going as if ashamed of itself; but with it all she
was intensely amused; _she_ was not sentimental, nor even
serious, and the girlish light heart danced a _pas seul_ to such
a medley of tunes that it was a wonder how she could keep step
with them all.

'What do you expect to see at Chickaree?'

'Birds, trees, and horses, and--Mr. Falkirk, didn't you say
there would be cats?'

'Let him alone--he is deep in your book,' said Rollo, as Mr.
Falkirk made some astonished response. "I meant, what do you
remember of the place? we are almost at the gate.'

'I'll tell you--nothing yet. Ah!'--

Through some lapse in the dense woodland there gleamed upon
them as they swept on, the top of an old tower where the
sunbeams lay at rest; and from the top, its white staff
glittering with light, floated the heavy folds of a deep blue
flag, not at rest there, but curling and waving and shaking
out their white device, which was however too far off to be
distinguished. She had said she would tell him, but she never
spoke; after that one little cry, so full of tears and
laughter, he heard nothing but one or two sobs, low and choked
down. Now the lodge, nestling like an acorn under a great oak
tree, came in sight first, then the massive piers of the gate.
The gate was wide open, but while the little undergrowth of
children started up and took possession of window and door and
roadside, the gate was held by the head of the house, a
sturdy, middle aged American. Wych Hazel had leaned out,
watching the children; but as the carriage turned through the
gateway, and she saw this man, standing there uncovered,
caught the working of his brown weatherbeaten face, she bowed
her head indeed, in answer to his low salutation, but then
dropped her face in her hands in a perfect passion of weeping.
It came and went like a Summer storm, and again she was
looking intently. Now past Mr. Falkirk's white domicile, where
her glittering eyes flashed round upon him the "welcome home"
which her lips spoke but unsteadily,--then on, on, up the hill,
the thick trees hiding the sunset and brushing the carriage
with leafy hands,--it seemed to Mr. Rollo that still as the
very fingers of his companion were, he could almost feel the
bound of her spirit. Then out on a little platform of the
road--and there, he did not know why she leaned forward so
eagerly, till he saw across the dell the shining of white
marble.

He watched her, but drove on without making the least call
upon her attention. The views opened and softened as they drew
near the house; the trees here had been more thinned out, and
were by consequence larger; the carriage passed from one great
shadow to another, with the thrushes ringing out their clear
music and the wild roses breathing upon the evening air. From
out the forest came wafts of dark dewy coolness, overhead the
clouds revelled in splendour. Up still the horses went, ever
ascending, but slowly, for the ascent was steep. The delay,
the length of the drive tired her,--she sat up again--she had
been quietly leaning back; once or twice her hand went up with
a quick movement to drive back the feeling that was passing
limits; then gaining level ground once more, the horses sprang
forward, and in the failing twilight they swept round before
the house. Except the tower, it was but two stories high, the
front stretching along, with wide low steps running from end
to end. In unmatched glee Dingee stood on the carriage way
showing his teeth,--on the steps, striving in vain to clear her
eyes so that she might see, was Mrs. Bywank; her kindly
figure, which each succeeding year had gently developed, robed
in her state dress of black silk.

Taking advantage of her outside position,--regardless of steps
as of wheels,--Wych Hazel vanished from the carriage, it was
hard to say how. As difficult as it would have been to guess
by what witchcraft a person or Mr. Bywank's proportions could
be spirited through the doorway--out of sight--in a twinkling of
time; yet it was done, and the steps were empty.

The hill at Chickaree was steepest on the side towards the
west, and down that slope an opening had been cut through the
trees--a sort of pathway for the sunbeams. The direct rays were
gone, and only the warm sky glow brightened the hall door,
when the young mistress of the place once more appeared. She
stood still a moment and went back again; and then came
Dingee.

'Miss Hazel say, sar, room's ready and supper won't be long.
Whar Mass Rollo?'

'I suppose he'll be here directly.'

Mr. Falkirk did not go into the house immediately; he stood
with folded arms waiting, or watching the fading red glow of
the western sky. In about ten minutes the tramp of a horse's
feet heralded the coming of Mr. Rollo, who appeared from the
corner or the house, mounted on an old grey cob, who switched
his tail and moved his ears as if he thought going out at that
time of day a peculiar proceeding. Dingee staid the rider with
the delivery of his young lady's message.

'I am afraid supper's more than ready somewhere else. I can't
stay, my friend--my thanks to the lady.' And letting fall on
the little dark figure who stood at his stirrup, a gold piece
and a smile, Rollo passed him, bent a moment to speak to Mr.
Falkirk, and brought the grey cob's ideas to a head by
stepping him off at a good pace.

The room was large, opening by glass doors upon a wilderness
of grass, trees and flowers. At every corner glass cupboards
showed a stock of rare old china; a long sideboard was
brilliant and splendid with old silver. Dark cabinet ware
furnished but not encumbered the room; in the centre a table
looked all of hospitality and welcome that a table can. There
was a great store of old fashioned elegance and comfort in
Wych Hazel's home; no doubt of it; of old-fashioned state too,
and old-time respectability; to which numberless old-time
witnesses stood testifying on every hand, from the teapot, the
fashion of which was a hundred years ancient, to the uncouth
brass andirons in the fireplace. Mr. Falkirk came in as one to
whom it was all very wonted and well known. The candles were
not lit; a soft, ruddy light from the west reddened the great
mirror over the fireplace and gave back the silver sideboard
in it. Not till the clear notes of a bugle, the Chickaree tea-
bell, had wound about the old house awakening sweet echoes,
did Wych Hazel make her appearance.

'Supper mos' as good hot as de weather,' remarked Dingee. 'Mas
Rollo, he say he break his heart dat his profess'nal duties
tears him 'way.'

'Dingee, go down stairs,' said Miss Hazel turning upon him,--
'and when you tell stories about Mr. Rollo tell them to
himself, and not to me. Will you come to tea, sir?'


CHAPTER XI.

VIXEN.


The birds were taken by surprise next morning. Long before Mr.
Falkirk was up, before the house was fairly astir with
servants, there was a new voice in their concert; one almost
as busy and musical as their own. Reo Hartshorne--the sturdy
gardener and lodge-keeper--thought so, listening with wonder to
hear what a change it made. Wych Hazel had found him out
planting flowers for her, and with his hand taken in both hers
had finished the half-begun recognition of last night. Now she
stood watching him as he plied his spade, refreshing his
labour with a very streamlet of talk, flitting round him and
plucking flowers like a humming-bird supplied with fingers.
The servants passing to and fro about their work smiled to
each other; Mrs. Bywank came by turns to the door to catch a
look or a word; Reo himself lifted his brown hand and made
believe it was to brush away the perspiration. Another
observer who had come upon the scene, observed it very
passively--a girl, a small girl, in the dress of the poor, and
with the dull eyes of observance which often mark the children
of the poor. They expressed nothing, but that they looked.

'Good morning, child,' said Miss Hazel. 'Do you want me to
give you a bunch of flowers?'

'No.'

'What then?'

'Mammy sent me to see if the lady was come.'

'Who is mammy? and what does _she_ want?' said Wych Hazel,
cutting more rosebuds and dropping them into her apron.

'Mammy wants to see the lady.'

'Well, is she coming to see me?'

'She can't come.'

'Why not?'--a quick shower of laughter and dew-drops, called
down by a fruitless spring after a spray of white roses.

'She lays abed,' said the child, after the shower was over.

'O, is she sick?' with a sudden gravity. 'Then I will come and
see her. Where does she live?'

The child went away as soon as sure arrangements were made for
the fulfilment of the promise. Wych Hazel's first visitor! one
of the two classes sure to find her out with no delay. And
Miss Kennedy was about as well versed in the one as in the
other.

The summons came to her to attend the breakfast room. Mr.
Falkirk was there, fixed in an easy chair and pamphlet; the
morning stir had not reached him.

'How long do we remain at Chickaree?' he asked, as he buttered
his muffin.

'Why, dear Mr. Falkirk, you might as well ask me how long
gentlemen will wear their present becoming style of head-
dress! I don't know.'

'I gather that it would not be safe to order post-horses for
departure. The question remains: would it be safe to order
other horses for the stable at home? One or the other thing it
is absolutely necessary to do.'

'The other horses, sir, by all means. And especially my pony
carriage.'

'I shall have to have one built to order,' remarked Mr.
Falkirk, after the pause of half an egg.

'And have it lined with blue--to set me off.'

'With a dickey behind--to set me on.'

'No, indeed! I'll have Dingee for an outrider, and then we'll
be a complete set of Brownies. You must order quick-footed
horses for me, Mr. Falkirk--I may be reduced to the fate of the
Calmuck girls.'

A single dark flash was in Mr. Falkirk's glance; but he only
said: 'Who is to have the first race, my dear?'

'Mr. Falkirk, you should rather be anxious as to who will have
the last. But get me a fast horse, sir, and let me practise'--
and flitting away from the table and about the room Miss Hazel
sang--


' "The lady stude on the castle wa',
"Beheld baith date and down;
"Then she was ware of a host of men
"Came ryding towards the town.
"O see ye not, my merry men a',
"O see ye not what I see?
"Methinks I see a host of men:
"I marvel wha' they be." '


And thereupon, finding she had suddenly come rather close to
the subject, Miss Hazel dashed out of the room.

The day proved warm. The air, losing its morning dew and
freshness, moved listlessly about among the leaves; the sky
looked glassy; the cattle stood panting in the shade, or
mused, ankle deep, in the brooks; only the birds were
stirring.

With thought and action as elastic as theirs, the young
mistress of Chickaree prepared for her visit to the poor
woman; afraid neither of the hot sunbeams nor of certain white
undulations of cloud that just broke the line of the western
horizon. Mr. Falkirk had walked down to his cottage; there was
no one to counsel or hinder. And over the horses there was
small consultation needed; the only two nags found being a
young vixen of a black colt, and an intensely sedate horse of
no particular colour which Mrs. Bywank was accustomed to drive
to church. Relinquishing this respectable creature to Dingee,
Wych Hazel perched herself upon Vixen and set forth; walking
the colt now to keep by her little guide, but promising
herself a good trot on the way home.

The child had come to show her the way, and went in a
shuffling amble by the side of the colt's black legs. For a
good while they kept the road which had been travelled
yesterday; at last turned off to another which presently
became pleasantly shady. Woods closed it in, made it rather
lonely in fact, but nobody thought now of anything but the
grateful change. There were clouds which might hide the sun by
and by, but just now he was powerful and they were only
lifting their white heads stealthily in the west. At a rough
stile, beyond which a foot track led deeper into the wood, the
girl stopped.

'It's in here,' she said.

It was very clear that Vixen could not cross the stile. So her
young rider dismounted and looping up the heavy folds of her
riding skirt as best she might, disappeared from the eyes of
Dingee among the trees. Her dress was a pretty enough dress
after all, for though the skirts were dark and heavy, the
white dimity jacket was all airiness and ruffles; and once
fairly in the shade of the trees, Wych Hazel let her riding
hat fall back and rest on her shoulders in very childish
fashion indeed. Her little guide trotted on before her; till
they saw the house they had come for.

It was a place of shiftless poverty; of need, no doubt, but
not of industry; Wych Hazel was humbly begged to supply
deficiencies which ought not to have been. Inexperienced as
she was, she scarcely understood it. Nevertheless she was glad
when the visit was over and she could step out of the door
again. The clouds had not hid the sun yet, and she went
lightly on through the trees, singing to herself according to
custom, till she was near the stile; then she was 'ware' of
somebody approaching and the singing ceased. The glance which
showed her a stranger revealed also what made her glance again
as they drew nearer; it was a person of uncommonly good
exterior and fine bearing. A third glance would not have been
given, but that, as they came close, Wych Hazel received the
homage of a very profound and courteous salutation, and the
gentleman, presenting a branch of white roses, said with
sufficient deference,

'Earth, must offer tribute!--and cannot, without hands--'

And then passed swiftly on. Amused, startled, Wych Hazel also
quickened her step; wondering to herself what sort of country
she had fallen upon. It was ridiculously like a fairy tale,
this whole afternoon's work. The little barefooted guide, the
sick woman with her 'young goodness' and 'your ladyship,' now
this upstarting knight. There were the roses in her hand, too,
as much like the famed spray gathered by the merchant in
'Beauty and the Beast,' as mortal roses could be! But the
adventure was not over. As she reached the stile she heard the
same voice beside her again. The stranger held her riding
whip, which Wych Hazel had left behind her at the cottage; the
little girl had met him, bringing it, he said. And then he
went on--'It is impossible not to know that I am speaking to
Miss Kennedy. I am a stranger in the country, but my aunt,
Mme. Lasalle, is well known to Mr. Falkirk. Will Miss Kennedy
allow me to assist her in remounting?'

It was gracefully said, with quietly modulated tones that
belong only to a high grade of society, and the speaker had a
handsome face and good presence. Nevertheless, Wych Hazel had
no mind to be 'remounted' by any one, and was very near saying
as much; for in her, 'temperament' retarded the progress of
conventionalism sadly. As it was, she gave him a hesitating
assent, and received his proffered assistance. Then lifting
his hat, he stood while she passed on.

It was time to ride, for the sky was dark with clouds, the air
breathless, and sharp growls of thunder spoke in the distance,
at every one of which Vixen made an uneasy motion of ears and
head, to show what she would do when they came nearer.

'We must ride for it, Dingee,'--Miss Hazel said to her dark
attendant.

'Reckon we'll get it, too, Miss Hazel,' was Dingee's reply,
and a heavy drop or two said 'yes, it is coming.' Wych Hazel
laughed at him, cantering along on her black pony like a brown
sprite, the rising wind making free with her hair and hat
ribbands, the rose spray made fast for her buttonhole. But as
she dashed out of the woods upon a tract of open country, the
distance before her was one sheet of grey rain and mist, and a
near peal of thunder that almost took Vixen off her feet,
showed what it would be to face such a storm, so mounted. And
now the raindrops began to patter near at hand.

But where to go? She had passed no place of refuge in the
woodland, and before her the storm hid every thing from sight.
So, after a second's thought, Wych Hazel turned and flew down
a side road a half a mile to the very door of a low stone
house, the first she had seen, sprang off her frightened pony,
and darted into the open hall door, leaving Dingee to find
shelter for himself and his charge. Then she began to wonder
where she was, and what the people would say to her; at first
she had been only glad to get off Vixen's back, the pony had
jumped and reared at such a rate for the last five minutes.

In the hall, which at a glance she saw was square and wide,
and felt was flagged with stone, stood a large packing case;
and about it and so busy with it that for a second they did
not observe her, were a girl and young man, the latter
knocking off boards and drawing out nails with his hammer,
while the other hovered over the work and watched it
absorbedly. In a moment more they both looked up. The hammer
went down and with a face of illumination Rollo came forward.

'Why here she is!' he exclaimed gayly, 'dropped into our
hands! and as wet as if she had fallen from the clouds
literally. Here Rosy, carry off this lady to your domains.
This is Primrose Maryland, Miss Kennedy.'

A primrose she evidently was, sweet and good and fresh like
one, with something of a flower's gravity, too. That could be
seen at a glance; also that she was rather a little person,
though full and plump in figure, and hardly pretty, at least
in contrast with her brilliant neighbour. Wych Hazel's first
words were of unbounded surprise.

'From what possible part of the clouds did you fall, Mr.
Rollo!'--then with a blush and a look of apology to Miss
Maryland, 'I ought to excuse myself; I didn't know where I was
coming. And my horse quite refused to stand upon more than two
feet at once, I found the storm uncomfortable--and so jumped
off and ran in. It's the fault of your door for being open,
Miss Maryland!'

'I am very glad,' said Primrose simply. 'The door stood open
because it was so hot. We were going to see you this afternoon
but the storm hindered us. Now, will you come up-stairs and
get on something dry?'


CHAPTER XII.

AT DR. MARYLAND'S.


They went up a low staircase and along a gallery to Primrose's
room. Large and low, as nice as wax, and as plain. How unlike
any room at Chickaree, Wych Hazel could not help feeling,
while its little mistress was opening cupboards and drawers,
and getting out the neatest and whitest of cambric jackets and
ruffles and petticoats, and bringing forth all accommodations
of combs and brushes. Meanwhile Wych Hazel could not help
seeing some of the tokens about the place that told what kind
of life was lived there. Its spotlessly neat and orderly
condition was one token; but there were signs of business.
Work-baskets, with what seemed fulness of work, were about the
room; books, not in great numbers, but lying in little
business piles, with business covers and the marks of use.
Papers were on one table by the window, with pen and ink and
pencil and cards. And everywhere a simplicity that showed no
atom of needless expenditure. Very unlike Chickaree?

Primrose the while was neat-handedly helping to array her
guest in fresh apparel. She had pretty little hands, and they
were quick and skilful; and as she stooped to try on a slipper
or manage a fastening, Wych Hazel had a view of a beautiful
head of fair brown hair, in quiet arrangement that did not
show all its beauty; and when from time to time the eyes were
lifted, she saw that they were very good eyes; as reposeful as
a mountain tarn, and as deep too, where lay thought shadows as
well as sunshine. They were shining eyes now, with secret
admiration and pleasure and good will and eager interest.

'Are you come to stay a good while at Chickaree? I hope you
will.'

'Maybe--perhaps. O my boots are not wet, Miss Maryland,--and I
don't think I caught enough raindrops to hurt. How kind you
are!--And how well your brother describes you.'

'Arthur?--I wish he would not describe me. Chickaree is such a
beautiful place, I should think one might like to stay there.
I have been hoping about it, ever since I heard you were
coming. Father knows Mr. Falkirk, and used to know your father
and mother, so well, that I have almost felt as if I knew
you,--till I saw you.'

'And you don't feel so now?' with a shade of disappointment.

'No,' said Primrose laughing. 'But I am sure I shall very
soon, if you will let me. I have wished for it so much! There,
won't that do? It is lucky I had some of Prue's things here--
mine are too short. Prue is my sister. It looks very nice, I
think.'

'O yes,' her guest answered, taking up her bunch of roses,
fresh with the rain. 'Thank you very much! But why do you say
that about your brother?'

'Arthur?--O--descriptions never tell the truth.'

'I am sure he did,' said Wych Hazel. 'And I know I would give
anything to have anybody to talk so about me.'

Primrose returned a somewhat earnest and wondering look at her
new friend; then took her hand to lead her down stairs.

In the hall they found Mr. Rollo; not by his packing case
exactly, for he had taken that to pieces, and the contents
stood fair to view; a very handsome new sewing machine.
Surrounded with bits of board and litter, he stood examining
the works and removing dust and bits of paper and string. Over
the litter sprang to his side Primrose and laid her hand
silently in his, and with downcast eyes stood still looking at
the machine. The bright eyes under their lids spoke as much
joy as Rosy's face often showed; yet she was perfectly still.

'Well?' said Rollo, squeezing the little hand and looking
laughingly down at her.

'You are so good!'

'You don't think it,' said he. 'You know better; and as you
always speak perfect truth, I am surprised to hear you.'

'You are good to me,' said Primrose in a low tone.

'I should be a pleasant fellow if I wasn't,' said he stooping
to kiss her, at which the flush of pleasure on Rosy's cheek
deepened; 'but in the meantime it is proper we should look
after the comfort of our prisoner.' Then stepping across the
litter to where Wych Hazel stood, he went on--'You know, of
course, that you stand in that relation to us, Miss Kennedy?
Primrose is turnkey, and I am governor. Would you like to see
the inside of the jail?'

The 'prisoner' had stood still in grave wonderment at people
and things generally; especially at the footing Mr. Rollo
seemed to have in this house.

'Governor to a steam engine is an easier post,' she said,
throwing off her thoughts.

'I have been that'--he said, as he led her into a room on the
right of the hall.

This room took in the whole depth of the house, having windows
on three sides; low, deep windows, looking green, for the
blinds were drawn together. The ceiling was low, too; and from
floor to ceiling, everywhere except where a door or window
broke the space, the walls were lined with books. There was
here no more than up stairs evidence of needless money outlay;
the furniture was chintz covered, the table-covers were plain.
But easy chairs were plenty; the tables bore writing-materials
and drawing-materials and sewing-materials; and books lay
about, open from late handling; and a portfolio of engravings
stood in a corner. Rollo put his charge in an easy chair, and
then went from window to window throwing open the blinds. The
windows opened upon green things, trees and flowers and vines;
the air came in fresher; the rain was softly falling fast and
thick, and yet the pale light cheered up the whole place
wonderfully.

'Your windows are all shut, Rosy!' said Rollo as he went from
one to the other--'is that the way you live? You must keep them
open now I am come home!'

'It was so hot,'--said the voice of Rosy from the hall.

'Hot? that is the very reason. What are you about? Rosy!--'

He went to the door, and then from where she sat Wych Hazel
could see the prompt handling which Rosy's endeavours to put
away the disorder received. She was taken off from picking up
nails, and dismissed into the library; while Rollo himself set
diligently about gathering together his boards and rubbish.
Primrose came in smiling.

'It is better with the windows open,' she said; 'but I was so
busy this morning I believe I forgot. And father never comes
into this room till evening. How it rains! I am so glad!'

And taking a piece of work from a basket, she placed herself
near Wych Hazel and began to sew. It was a pretty home
picture, such as Wych Hazel--in her school life and ward life--
had seen few. Just why it made her feel quiet she could not
have told. Yet the brown eyes went somewhat gravely from
Primrose at her work to the hall where Rollo felt so much at
home--then round the room and towards the window, watching the
rain.

'Won't you give me some work?' she asked suddenly.

'O talk!' said Primrose, looking up. 'Don't work.'

'It takes more than work to stop my mouth,' said Wych Hazel,
'Ah, I can work, though you don't believe it, Miss Rosy; do
please give me that ruffle--or a handkerchief,--don't you want
some marked? I can embroider like any German.'

Primrose doubted her powers of sewing and talking both at
once; but finally supplied her with an immense white cravat to
hem, destined for the comfort of Dr. Maryland's throat; and
working and chatting did go on very steadily for some time
thereafter, both girls being intent on each other at least, if
not on the hemming, till Rollo came back. He interrupted the
course of things.

'Now,' said Rollo, 'I am going to ask you first, Primrose--are
you setting about to make Miss Kennedy as busy as yourself?'

'I wish I could, you know,' said Primrose, half smiling, half
wistfully.

'And I want to know from you, Miss Kennedy, where Mr. Falkirk
is this afternoon?'

'In the depths of a nap, I suppose. Is the rain slackening,
Mr. Rollo?'

'What do you think?'--as with a fresher puff of wind the rush
of the raindrops to the earth seemed to be more hurried and
furious. Wych Hazel listened, but did not speak her thoughts.
Rollo considered her a little, and then drew up the portfolio
stand and began to undo the fastenings of the portfolio.

'Do you like this sort of thing?'

'Very much. O I don't care a great deal about them as
engravings, I suppose; but I like to study the faces and
puzzle over the lives.'

'This collection is nothing remarkable as a collection--but it
may serve your purpose, perhaps.' He set up a large, rather
coarse print of Fortitude, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The figure
stands erect, armed with a helmet and plume, one hand on her
hip, the other touching just the tip of one finger to a broken
column by her side. At her feet a couchant lion.

'Looking at that, not as an engraving, which wouldn't be
profitable, what do you see?'

'I was trying to think whether she was Mr. Falkirk's ideal,'
said Wych Hazel, after a somewhat prolonged study of the
engraving. 'She is not mine.'

'Why not?'

'Yes, she isn't mine,' said Primrose. 'Why not, Miss Kennedy?'

'Mr. Falkirk always says, "My dear, be a woman and be brave!"--
But I think she fails on both points.'

'I don't understand,' said Primrose, while Rollo's smile grew
amused. 'I don't quite understand you, Miss Kennedy. She looks
brave to me.'

'No, she don't,' said Wych Hazel decidedly; 'anybody can stick
on a helmet. What is that half asleep lion for, Mr. Rollo?'

'He isn't half asleep!' said Primrose. 'He looks very grimly
enduring. But I agree with Miss Kennedy, that Fortitude should
not wear a helmet, with a plume in it, too! She is quite as
apt to be found under a sun-bonnet, I think.'

'Bravo, Prim!' said Rollo.

'And she ought to have her hands crossed.'

'Crossed?' said Wych Hazel.

'Yes, I think so.'

'This fashion?' said the girl folding her tiny hands across
her breast. 'They would not stay there two seconds, if _I_ was
enduring anything.'

Rosy crossed her own hands after another fashion, and was
silent.

'How do you generally hold your hands when you are enduring
anything?' Rollo asked the other speaker demurely.

'Ah, now you are laughing at me!' she said. 'But I don't think
I quite understand passive, inactive fortitude. I like Niobe's
arms, all wrapped about her child,--do you remember?'

'I remember. But you don't call _that_ fortitude, do you?'

'Yes,' said Wych Hazel. 'She was dying by inches,--and yet her
arms look, so strong! I am sure she didn't know whether they
were crossed or uncrossed.'

'Do you think that lion there in the corner looks like Mr.
Falkirk?'

'No, indeed! Mr. Falkirk would take a good deal more notice of
me, if _I_ was balancing myself on one finger,' said Wych Hazel.

'What _is_ that one finger for?' said Primrose.

'Do you ask that, Rosy? To show that she has nothing earthly
to lean upon. She just touches the pillar, as much as to say
it is broken and of no use to her. Perhaps her confidence is
in that slumbering lion,--Is that another representation of
fortitude?'

He had hid Sir Joshua's picture with an engraving of
Delaroche's Marie Antoinette leaving the Tribunal.

'She knew what it meant, I should think, if anybody did. But
most fortitude--real fortitude--be always unhappy?' said Hazel
looking perplexedly at the picture.

Rollo turned back to the Reynolds. 'You were both wrong about
this,' said he; 'at least I think so. Real fortitude _does_
figuratively, go helmeted and plumed. She endures so perfectly
that she does not seem to endure. In this representation the
lion shows you the mental condition which lies hid behind that
fair, stern front. Now is Marie Antoinette like that?' He
turned the pictures again.

'I cannot tell!' said Wych Hazel. 'One minute her fortitude
looks just like pride,--and then when you remember all she had
to bear, it's not strange if she called up pride to help her.
But it is not my ideal yet.'

'I think it _is_ pride,' said Rollo. 'So it looks to me. Pride
and grief facing down death and humiliation. Marie Theresa's
daughter and Louis Capet's queen acknowledging no degradation
before her enemies--giving them no triumph that she could help.
But that is not my ideal either.'

He brought out another print.

'I always like that,' said Primrose.

'I do not know it,' said Wych Hazel.

'Don't you? it is very common. It is the eve of St.
Bartholomew. This Catholic girl wants to tie a white favour
round he lover's arm, to save him from the massacre soon to
begin. She has had the misfortune to love a Huguenot. White
favours, you remember, were the mark by which the Catholics
were to know each other in the confusion.'

'And he will not let her. Was it a misfortune, I wonder?'

'What?' said Primrose.

'To love somebody so much nobler than herself. How gentle he
is in his earnestness!'

'Don't be hard upon her,' said Rollo. 'Are you sure you
wouldn't do so in her place?'

'No,--' she said, looking gravely up at him.

'She knew it was death to go without that white handkerchief.'

'But,' said Primrose softly, 'wouldn't you rather have him die
true, than live dishonoured?'

'I think I should have tried,' said Wych Hazel,--'knowing I
should fail. And then I should have thrown away my own favour,
and gone with him wherever he went.'

'He wouldn't have let you do that either,' said Rollo.

'Then he would not have loved me as I loved him,' said the
girl, very decidedly.

'He'd have been a pretty fellow!' said Rollo, as he turned the
next print. It was a contrast to the St. Bartholomew; a
Madonna and child, from Fra Bartholomeo, at which they were
all content to look silently. Rollo began to talk, then,
instead of asking questions, and made himself very
interesting. So much he knew of art matters, so many a story
and legend he could tell about the masters, and so well he
could help the less initiated to enjoy and understand the
work. So letting himself out in a sort of play-fashion, the
portfolio proved the nucleus of a delightful hour's
entertainment. At the end of that time a turn was given to
things by the coming in of an old black woman with a very
high, coloured turban on her head and a teakettle and a
chafing dish of coals in her hands. Rollo shut up his
portfolio.

'What is your view, practically, of things at present, Miss
Kennedy?'

'Mr. Falkirk says I never took a practical view of things in
my life, Mr. Rollo. The impracticable view seems to be, that
it is tea time and I ought to go home.'

'What do you think of the plan of letting Mr. Falkirk know
where you are?'

'Yes, I ought to do that,' said his ward, 'Where is Dingee?--I
will send him right off.'

'Will you write, or shall I?' said Rollo, drawing out paper
and pen ready on one of the tables.

She glanced at him as if in momentary wonder that he should
offer to write her despatch, then ran off the most summary
little note, twisted it into a knot of complications, and
again asked for Dingee. Rollo gently but saucily put his own
fingers upon the twisted note and bore it away.

The business of the tea-making and preparing was going on; and
both Primrose and her old assistant bustled about the tea
table, getting things ready and Dr. Maryland's chair in its
right place. A quiet bustle, very pleasant in the eyes of Wych
Hazel, with all its homely and sweet meanings. The light had
softened a little, and still came through a grey veil of rain;
odours of rose and sweet-briar and evening primroses floated
in on the warm, moist air, and mingled with the steam of the
tea-kettle and the fume in the chafing-dish; and the patter,
patter of rain drops, and the dash of wet leaves against each
other, were a foil to the tea-kettle's song. Wych Hazel looked
on, musingly, till Rollo came back and took her round the room
looking at books. Then offering her his arm, he somewhat
suddenly brought her face to face with some one just entering
by the door.

An old gentleman; Wych Hazel knew at once who it must be.
Middle-sized, stout, with rather thin locks of white hair, and
a face not otherwise remarkable than for its look of habitual
high thought and pure goodness. It took but a moment to see so
much of him. She stopped short, and then came close up to him.

'Is this your charge, Dane? Is this little Wych Hazel?' he
went on more tenderly, and folding her in his arms. 'My dear,'
he said, kissing her brow, 'I hope you will be as good a woman
as your mother was! I am very glad to see you!--very glad
indeed!'

She did not answer at first, looking up into his face with a
wistful, searching look that was a little eager; standing
quite still, as if the enclosing arms were very pleasant to
her.

'Yes sir,' she said, 'I am Wych Hazel. But why are you glad to
see me?'

'My dear, I knew your mother and father; and I have a great
interest in you. I am told you will be queen of a large court
up yonder at Chickaree.'

She laughed a little, and coloured, looking down, then back
into his face again.

'Will you like me, sir, all you can?'

'All you will give me a chance for. So you must let us see you
a great deal; for affection must grow, you know; it cannot be
commanded. Sit down, my dear, sit down; Primrose is ready for
us.'

It was a right pleasant meal! There was no servant waiting;
the little informalities of helping themselves suited well
with the quiet home ease and the song of the tea-kettle.
Primrose made toast for her father, and Rollo blew the coals
to a red heat to hasten the operation. Dr. Maryland sometimes
talked and sometimes was silent; and his talk was of an
absolute simplicity that neither knew in his own nor imagined
in other people's minds any reserves of dark corners. Primrose
talked little, but was lovingly watchful not only of her
father, but of Wych Hazel, and Rollo too; who on his part was
watchful enough over everybody.

'And my dear,' said Dr. Maryland, 'why did you not bring Mr.
Falkirk with you?'

'Well, sir, to begin--I did not know I was coming myself! I was
out riding, and the rain came--and I jumped off into the first
open door I could see. And then Miss Maryland let me stay.'

'But Mr. Falkirk, my dear--where's he?'

'Safe at home, sir. We have been seeking our fortune together,
but to-night we got separated.'

'Mr. Falkirk went back and left you?' said Dr. Maryland,
looking surprised.

'No, sir, I went ahead and left him. That is,' she added,
smothering a laugh, 'he did not set out at all.'

'I thought--I thought, you said you were together?'

'Only in a general way, sir. On all special occasions we
divide.'

'What did you say you were doing? seeking your fortune?'

'I set out to seek mine,' said Wych Hazel, 'and of course poor
Mr. Falkirk has to go along to look on. He doesn't help me one
bit.'

'To seek your fortune, my dear?' said Dr. Maryland, looking
benignly curious; 'What sort of a fortune are you looking
for?'

'Why I don't know, sir. If I knew,--it would be half found
already, wouldn't it?' said the girl.

'But my dear--did Mr. Falkirk never tell you that fortunes are
never found ready made?'

'He objected, because he said mine was ready made--but that
made no difference from my point of view. And then he said he
thought our road would "end in a squirrel track, and run up a
tree." And do you know, sir,' said Wych Hazel, the hidden
merriment flashing out all over her face, 'that was what it
really did!'

'Did what, my dear?'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' she said, trying to steady her voice
and bring out words instead of a burst of laughter,--'but--that
is a wild Western expression, which Mr. Falkirk used to
signify that we should get into difficulties.'

'Why did Mr. Falkirk think you would get into difficulties?'--
Dr. Maryland had not found the scent yet.

'I don't think he has much opinion of my prudence, sir,--and
believes firmly that every one who goes off the highway finds
rough ground. Now I like a jolt now and then--it wakes one up.'

'Do you want to find rough ground, my dear?'

'I don't mean really rough, sir, in one sense, but uneven--
varied, and stirring, and uncommonplace. It seems to me that I
have a whole set of energies that never come into play upon
ordinary occasions. I should weary to death of the lives some
people lead--three meals a day, and a cigar, and a newspaper. I
think I should fast once a week, for variety--and smoke my
cigar wrong end first--if there are two ends to it.'

'I heard a lady say the other day, that there was no end to
them,'--observed Rollo.

Dr. Maryland looked at her on his part, smiling, and quite
awake now to the matter in hand. Yet he was silent a minute
before speaking.

'Have you laid your plan, my dear? I should very much like to
know what it is!'

'No, sir,' she said, shaking her head with a deprecatory
little laugh. 'Of course I have not! People in fairy tales
never do.'

'Life is not a fairy tale, Hazel,' said Dr. Maryland, shaking
his head a little. 'My dear, you are a real woman. Did you
ever think what you would try to do in the world?--what you
would try to do with your life, I mean?'

'Do with it?' the girl repeated, her brown eyes on the
Doctor's face as if looking for his meaning. 'I think, I
should like to enjoy it, if I could. And it has been very
commonplace, lately, sir. Mr. Falkirk don't pet me and play
with me as he used to--and he won't let me play with him; not
much.'

The smile which quivered on Dr. Maryland's face changed and
passed into a sort of sweet gravity.

'There is one capital way to get out of commonplace,' he said;
'but it isn't play, my dear. If you set about doing what God
would have you to do with yourself, there will be no dullness
in your life, and no lack of enjoyment, either.'

She looked at him again--then down; but made no answer.

'Somebody has written an essay, that I read lately,' Dr.
Maryland went on--'an essay on the monotony of piety. Poor man!
he did not know what he was talking about. The glorious
liberty of the children of God!--that was something beyond his
experience;--and the joy of their service. It is what redeems
everything else from monotony. It glorifies what is
insignificant, and dignifies what is mean, and lifts what is
low, and turns the poor little business steps of every day
into rounds of Heaven's golden ladder. I verily think I could
have hanged myself long ago, for the very monotony of all
things else, if it had not been for the life and glory of
religion!'

'Why papa!' said Primrose.

'I would, my dear, I do think.' He was silent a moment; then
subsiding from the excited fire with which he had spoken, he
turned to Wych Hazel and went on gently,--

'What else do you want to do, my dear, that is not to be done
in that track? you want adventures?'

'Yes, sir,' she answered, without looking up, half hesitating,
a little grave. 'I think I do. And more people about,--people
to love me, and that I can love. Of course I love Mr.
Falkirk,' she added, correcting herself, 'very much; but that
is different. And there's nobody else but the servants.'

'O do come here!' cried Primrose; 'and love us.'

'I do not wonder Mr. Falkirk gives no help,' said Rollo, a
little quizzically.

'Will you try Primrose's expedient, my dear?' said Dr.
Maryland, very benignly. 'Half your requisition you will
certainly find. Whether you can love us, I don't know; but
there's no knowing without trying.'

She gave one of her sweet childish looks of answer to both the
first and last speaker; but Mr. Rollo was favoured with a
small reproof.

'You must not speak so of Mr. Falkirk,' she said. 'He has been
the kindest possible friend to me. And I think he loves me
wonderfully, considering how I have tried his patience. Just
think what it is for a grave, quiet, grown-up, sensible man,
to have the plague of a girl like me! Very few men would stand
it at all, Mr. Roll; but Mr. Falkirk never said a rough word
to me in his life.'

She was so grave, so innocent, so ignorant in it all, the
effect was indescribably funny.

'I should think very few men would stand it,' said Rollo,
composedly; but Primrose and her father smiled.

'Mr. Falkirk is an admirable man,' said Dr. Maryland. 'You are
a good witness for him, Hazel.'

'If I would only do all he wants me to!' she said with a
slight shake of the head. 'But I cannot, and he says I don't
know what I want. But Dr. Maryland--all the nice, proper people
I have ever seen, live on such a dead level--it would kill me.
They think dancing is wrong, and Italian a loss of time, and
"it's a pity to waste my young years upon German." And they
can't talk of a book, but some life of a missionary who was
eaten by cannibals,--I was very sorry he went there, to be
sure, but that didn't make me want to hear about it, nor to go
myself. They are just like peach trees trimmed up and nailed
to a wall, and I'd rather be wild Wych Hazel in the woods,
though it's of no sort of use, and nobody cares for it!' Dr.
Maryland might guess from this frank out-pouring, how seldom
it was that the stream of young thoughts found such an exit,
how complete was the trust which called it forth. She had
quite forgotten her tea. And the doctor forgot his; and bent
his gray head towards her brown one.

'But suppose, my dear,' (how different this from Mr. Falkirk's
'my dear,')--'suppose the bush were a conscious thing; and
suppose that while it remained in the woods and remained
entirely itself, it could yet by being submitted to some sweet
influence be made so fragrant that its influence should be
known all through the forest; and its nuts, instead of being
wild, useless things, should every one of them bring a gift of
healing or of life to the hands that should gather them? I
would rather it should stay in the woods;--and I never think
anything trained against a wall is as good as that which has
the sun all round it.'

Wych Hazel looked at him with no sort of doubt in her eyes
that he had been "submitted to some sweet influence." And
perhaps it was the image he had drawn, that brought a little
tremour round her lips, as she answered:

'I do not want to be a wild, bitter, useless thing,--maybe that
is what Mr. Falkirk is afraid of, too.'

'I believe,' said Dr. Maryland, 'that He who made all the
varieties in the world, and made men as various, never meant
that one should take the form or place of another. If it fills
its own, and fills it perfectly, it glorifies Him; and does
just what it was meant to do.'

'Not to mention the fact,' said Rollo, 'that Wych Hazel could
not conveniently personate a pine tree or Primrose a
blackthorn.'

But at the entrance of this gentleman as Privy Counsellor,
Wych Hazel withdrew her affairs from public notice; however
much inclined to vindicate her power of personating what she
liked, especially pine trees. She dropped the subject and took
up her bread and butter. And so did Dr. Maryland, for a while;
but he eat thoughtfully. There was a pause, during which
Primrose was affectionately solicitous over Wych Hazel's cup
of tea, and Rollo piled strawberries upon her plate. Tea had
been rather neglected.

'And what have you been doing, Hazel, all these past twelve
years?' said the doctor, breaking out afresh. 'Twelve years!--
it is twelve years. What have you done with them, my dear?'

'I was at school, you know, sir, for a while, and then I had
no end of tutors and teachers at home.' She drew a long
breath.

'And what are you going to do with the next twelve years?--if
you should live so long. What are you going to try to do with
them, I mean?'

'I want to try to have a good time, sir.'

'And you will be a queen, and hold your court at Chickaree?'

She laughed--her pretty, free laugh of pleasure.

'So Mr. Falkirk says. Only he does not call me a queen--he
calls me a mouse!'

Dr. Maryland laughed too, at her or with her, a rare thing for
him, but returned to his grave tenderness of look and tone.
'Ah, little Hazel,' he said, 'you are in a dangerous place, my
child, with your court up there. Do you know, that when you
and the world you want to see, come together,--either you will
change it, or it will change you?--that is why I asked you what
you were going to do with the next twelve years. That was a
great word of Paul, when his years were almost over,--"I have
fought a good fight; I have kept the faith. Henceforth there
is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
the righteous Judge shall give me at that day!" '

He was silent, but so grave, so sweet, so rapt, had been the
tone of the last words, that they all kept silence likewise.
Dr. Maryland's head fell, he seemed to be seeing something not
before him; presently he went on speaking to himself.

' "And not to me only,--but to all them that love his
appearing."--My dear,' suddenly to Wych Hazel,--'will you love
his appearing, when it comes?'

She?--how could she tell? to whom not only the question but
almost the very thought were new. He did not pursue that
subject. Presently he left the table and stood up, or walked
up and down behind it; while under the sense of his talk and
his thought and his presence, they were all quiet; finishing
their supper as docilely as so many children. And a reflection
from him was on all their faces, making each one more pure and
bright than its own wont.

He stayed with the young people after tea, instead of going to
his study; and the evening was full of grave interest, which
also no one wished less grave. He talked much, sometimes with
Wych Hazel, sometimes with Rollo; and Rollo was very amusing
and interesting in meeting his inquiries and remarks about
German universities and university life. The talk flowed on to
other people and things abroad, where Rollo had for some years
lately been. The doctor grew animated and drew him out, and
every now and then drew Wych Hazel in, giving her much of his
attention and perhaps scrutiny also, though that was veiled.

The talk kept them up late. As they were about separating for
the night Rollo asked Wych Hazel if she had found any cats at
Chickaree?

'What do you mean?' she said quickly. 'O--I remember'--and the
light danced over her face. 'I haven't had much time to find
anything. What did you do with my poor kitten up on the
mountain, Mr. Rollo?'

'I was going to ask you whether you would like to see an old
friend.'

'Yes, to be sure. You do not mean that my little pussy is
here?'

'You shall have her to-morrow.'


CHAPTER XIII.

THE GREY COB.


Morning has come, and the Queen of Chickaree must return to
hold her court. Little guesses the Queen what a court is
gathering for her. While she is quietly eating her breakfast
at Dr. Maryland's, Mme. Lasalle is ordering her horses, to
make a call upon her in the course of the morning, and Mr.
Kingsland is thinking in what cravat he shall adorn himself
when he goes to do the same thing in the afternoon. For Mr.
Kingsland has arrived at home, where he and his old father
keep a bachelor sort of household in a decayed old house at
one extremity of Crocus. They have a respectable name, folks
say, but not wealth to set it off; and the household is small.
The same little boy who rubs down Mr. Kingsland's horse waits
upon table, and there is nobody else but a housekeeper. But
Mr. Morton is thinking he will call too; and Mr. Morton is a
man of means; he owns a large part of Mill Hollow, called also
Morton Hollow. He occupies a great old brick house in the
neighbourhood of the Hollow, and keeps it in excellent repair,
and the grass of the lawn is well shaven. Mr. Morton is well
off and has servants enough, but he has years enough too; Mr.
Morton must be forty. Nevertheless he thinks he will call.

Then there is Mrs. ex-Governor Powder also; she lives in a
very good house, and in an irreproachable manner, at a fine
place called Valley Garden, ten miles off. Mrs. Powder is an
excellent woman, a stately lady, knows what is what, and has
been a beauty, and held a court of her own. Indeed she is of a
proud old family, and married a little beneath her when she
married the man who afterwards became Governor Powder. But
what would you have? Women must be married. Mrs. Powder will
come to see Miss Kennedy; she is thinking about it; but
probably she will not come till to-morrow or the day after;
she is not in a hurry. Mme. Lasalle is; and so is the
gentleman of the roses, her nephew. Meanwhile Miss Kennedy
knows nothing of all this, nor how furthermore the Lawyer's
wife and the Doctor's mother (for there is another doctor at
Crocus) are meditating how soon they may ask Miss Kennedy to
dinner or to supper, and how soon it will do to go and ask
her. They are afraid of seeming in a hurry. Meanwhile Miss
Kennedy eats her breakfast.

Breakfast is had in the stone hall, with the doors open front
and rear and the Summer day looking in at them. It is very
pleasant, and the old black woman, Portia, comes and goes
without interfering with the talk at table. The sewing machine
stands at one side of the hall still.

'What new affair have you got there, my daughter?' says the
doctor.

'It's a sewing machine, papa, which Duke has brought me.'

'A sewing machine! What are you going to do with it?'

'Put her work in her pocket, I hope, sir. I am tired of seeing
it in her hand.'

'It is very good of you, Duke; but can she manage it?'

'Not yet, sir. Neither of us can. We are going to find out.'

'Well, what's the advantage of it?'

'I brought it up, sir, in the hope and persuasion that it
would undertake the clothing of all the poor people at Crocus,
and give Rosy time to read philosophy.'

'Why papa,' said Rosy, 'it will do fifteen hundred stitches a
minute!'

'You don't want to do more than that in a day, do you, my
dear?' said the doctor, with an expression of such innocent
amazement, not without some dismay, that they all burst out
laughing; and Dr. Maryland but half enlightened, went off to
his study.

Much before Primrose wished it, the horses came to the door.
Rollo had had his own saddle put upon Vixen, and the grey cob
stood charged with the paraphernalia which should accompany
the mistress of Chickaree. She had gone up to prepare for her
ride, and now came to the front in habit and gauntlets and
whip, the rose branch at her button-hole.

'O,' she said in tones so like a bird that the groom might
have been pardoned for looking up into the maple boughs over
his head to find her; 'you have made a mistake! The other
horse is the one I ride. Will you change the saddles, please?--
I am sorry to give you the trouble!'

The groom would have been in great bewilderment, but that
luckily his master stood there too. The man's look of appeal
was comical, going from one to another. Rollo was looking at
girths and buckles, and did not seem to hear. Wych Hazel
waited--a slight growing doubt on the subject of his deafness
not increasing the pliability of her mood. Then he came
towards her, and asked if she was ready?

'I am--but my horse is not.'

'What is the matter with him?'

'I am very sorry to make any delay, Mr. Rollo, but the saddles
will have to be changed. I can't ride that grey horse!' And
she slipped her hat back and sat down on the doorstep, to
await the process.

'There is no mistake,' said Rollo. 'The horses were saddled by
my order. I told him to give you the grey. You will forgive
me, I hope!'

'Without asking me!' she said, giving him a rather wide-open
look of her eyes, and then in a tone as cool as his own--

'I shall ride Vixen, Mr. Rollo, if I ride at all.'

'I hope you will reconsider that.'

'Mr. Rollo,' she said in her gravest manner, 'you and I seem
fated to see something of each other--so it will save trouble
for you to know at once, that when I say a thing seriously, I
mean it.'

He lifted his hat with the old stately air. But then he smiled
at her.

'Allow me to believe that you have said nothing seriously this
morning?'

Now if Wych Hazel's mood was not pliable, his was the sort of
look to make it so. A calmly good-humoured brow, with a clear
keen eye, and in both all that character of firm strength to
which a woman's temper is apt to give way. If it had been a
question of temper in the ordinary sense. But the lady of
Chickaree had nothing of the sort belonging to her that was
not as sweet as a rose.

'Allow me!' she said, just a little bit mockingly. 'Well--it's
not true, if you do believe it. I shall ride Vixen, or walk.'

'That would be very serious,' said Rollo, 'for it is going to
be very hot. What is the matter with the grey cob?'

'I don't like him--and I do like Vixen.'

'Have you ever ridden him?'

'No. And nothing in his appearance predicts that I ever
shall.'

'I do not think that Vixen is fit for you to mount. I am going
to find out. If she is you shall have her.'

'You can study her as much as you please, with me on her. Why,
what nonsense!--as if I didn't ride her all yesterday
afternoon!'

'And gave us, if you recollect, afterwards,' said Rollo,
looking amused, 'the synopsis of her character.'

'And now you think I am giving you the synopsis of mine,' said
Wych Hazel. 'Well, Mr. Rollo, of course your groom will not
mind me--will you order the saddles changed? or must I walk?'

'I shall not order the saddles changed. I am afraid. That is
no reason why you should be. Fear may be commendable in a man,
when it is not desirable in a woman.'

'But I cannot be bothered with anybody's fear but my own!'

He faced her with the same bright, grave face he had worn all
along. 'I owe it to Mr. Falkirk to carry you back safe and
sound.'

She laughed--her pretty mouth in a curl of fun.

'Ah,' she said, 'before you deal extensively with self-willed
women, you need to study the subject! I see the case is
hopeless. If you had presented it right end first, Mr. Rollo,
I cannot tell what I might have said, but as it is, I can only
walk.'

She turned quick about towards Primrose, pulling her hat back
into its place; which hat, being ill disposed, first caught on
her comb, and then, disengaged, carried the comb with it, and
down came Miss Hazel's hair about her shoulders. Not in 'wavy
tresses,' or 'rippling masses,' but in good, honest, wayward
curls, and plenty of them, and all her own. The hat had to
come off now, and gloves as well, for both hands had as much
as they could manage. Rollo took the gloves, and held the hat,
and waited upon her with grave punctiliousness, while Primrose
looked anxious and annoyed. When hair and hat were in order
again and he had delivered the gloves, Rollo requested to be
told by the peremptory little owner of them, 'what was the
matter with the right end of the subject, now she had got it?'

'I have not got it. The subject has only been gradually
turning round as I pushed, like a turnstile. Mr. Rollo, I
think it would do you a great deal of good to be thoroughly
thwarted and vexed two or three times--then you would learn how
to do things.'

'But, dear Miss Kennedy,' said Primrose's distressed voice,
'you are not going to try to walk through this heat?'

Wych Hazel turned and wrapped her arms about Primrose. 'Yes, I
am--but I don't think it's hot. And please don't call me "Miss
Kennedy"--your father does not.'

'But it's four or five miles.'

'I've walked more than that, often. Good-bye--will you let--'

Primrose kissed her for answer, but then gave her a troubled
whisper: 'I wish you wouldn't walk. Duke is so sure to be
right about the horses.'

'Sure to be right, is he?' said Miss Kennedy. 'Well, I am at
least as sure to be wrong. Good-bye!'

Primrose stood looking, doubtful and uncomfortable, and afraid
to say any more. Rollo smiled at her as he was leaving the
house, looked himself the reverse of uncomfortable, ordered
Byron to lead the horses, and set out by the side of Wych
Hazel. He was not just in the genial mood of last night and
the morning, but cool and gay, as it was his fashion to be;
though gravely and punctiliously attentive to his charge.
Cool, that is to say, as the day permitted; for the sun was
fervent, and pouring down his beams with an overwhelming
lavishness of bestowment.

On her part Wych Hazel went quietly on, not with the undue
energy which shows some hidden excitement but with a steady
step and thoughts most abstractedly busy. She made no sort of
remark, unless in answer to her companion, and then with very
quiet look and voice. Her changeful face had settled into a
depth of soberness. Perhaps it was because of noticing this
that his manner grew more gently careful of her; in trifles
shown, to be sure, but the touch of a hand and the tone of a
word will tell all that as well as much greater things.
Evidently he read her and was not angry with her; not even
though the way was long and hot, happily it was not dusty--the
shower had laid the dust. With undimmed faces and unsoiled
foot-gear they paced on, rood after rood, and Vixen, drooping
her head, followed at their heels. The groom had been sent
back with the cob, and Rollo walked with the bridle of Vixen
in his hands. Chickaree was reached at last.

'What do you expect to find here?' said he, as they entered
the gate and were going up the ascent.

'Mr. Falkirk.'

'There is much more awaiting you, then, than you expect. Take
care of that acacia branch! See, you must send Dingee, or
somebody--who is your factotum?--down here with pruning tools.
If I didn't know what to expect, I would try hard for a saw
and do it myself this morning. You have scratched your hand!'

'Never mind--yes, I should have kept on gloves, but it was so
warm. What do you expect, Mr. Rollo, besides luncheon? You
will stay for that, won't you?' she said shyly, yet with a
pretty enacting of the hostess. The touch of her own ground
made her feel better.

'I should have to stay for so many other things,' he said,
looking on the ground as he walked. She glanced at him, not
quite sure whether his words covered a negative, and not
choosing to ask.

'All this while you don't know that there is company at
Chickaree.'

'Company?--how do you know?'

'I know by the signs. You will find, I think, Mme. Lasalle up
there, and probably a few of her family.'

'Mme. Lasalle!'

By what connection did not appear, but Miss Hazel's fingers
were immediately very busy disengaging the rose branch from
the button of her habit, where it had hung during the walk.

'I think that is the prospect. But I do not know that I am
under any obligation to meet her, so I think I shall prefer
the company of your vixenish little mare. Not to speak of the
chance of encountering Mr. Falkirk,' said Rollo, lifting his
eyebrows. 'I shouldn't like to stand Mr. Falkirk's shot this
morning!'

'It will hit nobody but me,' she said, rather soberly.

'Is he a good marksman?'

'Depends a little on what he aims at,' said the girl. 'It is
easier, sometimes--as, perhaps, you know--to hit people than
things.'

'Take care!' said Rollo, again, as another obstacle in the
path presented itself; 'I don't mean anything shall hit you
while I have the care of you.' Putting his hands for an
instant on the girl's shoulders, he removed her lightly from
one side of the walk to the other, and then attacked a
sweeping dogwood branch, which, very lovely but very
persevering, hung just too low. It cost a little trouble to
dispose of it.

They were not on the great carriage road, but following one of
the embowered paths which led through the woods. It went
winding up, under trees of great beauty, thickset, and now for
long default of mastership, overbearing and encroaching in
their growth. A wild beauty they made, now becoming fast
disorderly and in places rough. The road wound about so much
that their progress was slow.

'Chickaree has had no guardian for a good while,' said Rollo,
as they went on. 'Look at that elm! and the ashes beyond it.
But don't cut too much, when you cut here; nor let Mr.
Falkirk.'

'He shall not cut a branch, and I love the thickets too well
to meddle with them. Unless they actually come in my face.'

'Then you do not love the thickets well enough. Come here,'
said he, drawing her gently to one side,--'stand a little this
way--do you see how that white oak is crowding upon those two
ashes? They are suffering already; and in another year it
would be in the way of that beautiful spruce fir. And the
white oak itself is not worth all that.'

'But if you cut it down there will be a great blank space. The
crowding is much prettier than that!'

'The blank space in two years' time will be filled again.'

'So soon?' she said doubtfully. Then with one of her half
laughs,--'You see I do not believe pruning and thinning out and
reducing to order agrees with everything; and naturally enough
my sympathies are the other way. I like to see the stiff
leaves and the soft leaves all mixed up together; they show
best so. Not standing off in open space--like Mr. Falkirk and
me.'

He took her up in the same tone; and for a little more of the
way there was a delicious bit of talk. Delicious, because Wych
Hazel had eyes and capacities; and her companion's eyes and
capacities were trained and accomplished. He was at home in
the subject; he brought forward his reading and his seeing for
her behoof; recommended Ruskin, and gave her some
disquisitions of his own that Ruskin need not have been
ashamed of. For those ten or fifteen minutes he was a
different man from what Wych Hazel had ever seen him. Then the
house came in sight, and a new subject claimed their
attention. For the mare, whether scenting her stable or
finding her spirits raised by getting nearer home, abandoned
her quiet manner of going, and after a little dancing and
pulling her bridle, testified her disapprobation of all sorts
of restraint by flinging her heels into the air, and being
obliged to follow her leader, she repeated the amusement
continuously.

'Do your drawing-room windows look on the front?' said Rollo.

'Some of them. Why?'

'Then, by your leave, as I do not care to act the Merry Andrew
for half a dozen pair of eyes, I will go to the rear to
mount.' But instead of his more stately salutation, he held
out his hand to Wych Hazel with a smile.

'Good bye,' she said. 'I am sorry you have had such a hot
walk. But why don't you mount here?'

'I like to choose my audience when I exhibit.'

He clasped Wych Hazel's hand after the fashion of the other
day; then disappeared one way as she went the other.

Passing swiftly on, holding up her long riding skirt so that
it seemed no encumbrance, musing to herself on past events and
present expectations; and not without a certain flutter of
pleasure and amusement and timidity at the part she had to
fill, Wych Hazel reached the low, broad steps and went in.

A slender little person, as airy and independent as the bush
she was named for; one of those figures that never by any
chance fall into any attitude or take any pose that is not
lovely. Hair--as to arrangement--decidedly the worse for the
walk; cheeks a little warmed up with the sun, and perhaps
other things; grave eyes, where the woman was but beginning to
supplant the child; a mouth as sweet as it could be, in all
its changes; and a hand and foot that were fabulous. So the
mistress of Chickaree went in to receive her first instalment
of visitors.


CHAPTER XIV.

HOLDING COURT.


She was scarcely within the door when Mr. Falkirk met her, put
her arm within his and led her into the drawing-room. For a
few minutes there the impression was merely of a flutter of
gauzes, a shifting scene of French bonnets, a show of
delicately gloved hands, and a general breeze of compliments
and gratulations, in those soft and indeterminate tones that
stir nothing. Mme. Lasalle it was, with a bevy of ladies,
older and younger, among whom it was impossible at first to
distinguish one from the other. So similar was in every case
the display of French flowers, gloves and embroidery; so
accordant the make of every dress and the modulation of every
tone. Mme. Lasalle herself was, however, prominent, having a
pair of black eyes which once fairly seen were for ever after
easily recognizable. Fine eyes, too; bright and merry, which
made themselves quite at home in your face in half a minute.
She was overflowing with graciousness. Her nephew, the
gentleman of the roses, the only cavalier of the party, kept
himself in a modest background.

'I have been longing to see you at home, my dear,' said Mme.
Lasalle. 'All in good time; but I always am impatient for what
I want. And then we have all wanted you; the places of social
comfort in the neighbourhood are so few that we cannot afford
to have Chickaree shut up. This beautiful old house! I am so
delighted to be in it again. But I hope you have met with no
accident this morning? You have not?'

'Accident?--O no!'

'You have surely not been thrown,' said another lady.

'No, ma'am.' The demure face was getting all alight with
secret fun.

'But how was it?' pursued Mme. Lasalle, with an air of
interest. 'We saw you walk up to the door--what had become of
your horse?'

'He walked to another door.'

'And you have really been taking foot exercise this morning,'
said the lady, in whose eyes and the lines of her face might
be seen a slight shadow. Miss Kennedy then had been on foot of
choice, and so accompanied! And Wych Hazel was too
inexperienced to notice--but her guardian was not--that Mr.
Nightingale, to whom he had been talking, paused in his
attention and turned to catch the answer.

'I have been finding out that my woods need attention,' said
Miss Kennedy, who never chose to be catechised if she could
help it. 'It is astonishing that they can have grown so much
in these years when I have grown so little!'

'You have got to make acquaintance with a great many other
things here besides your trees. Do you know any of your
neighbours? or is it all unbroken ground?'

'I do not even know how much there is to break.'

'How delicious!' remarked a languid lady. 'Think of coming
into a region where all is new! Things get so tiresome when
you know them too well.'

'People and all!' said Mr. Falkirk.

'Well, yes--don't you think they do? When there is nothing more
to be found out about them.'

'I don't agree with you,' said another lady. 'I think it's so
tiresome to find them out. When you once know them, then you
give up being disappointed.'

'My dear Clara!' said Mme. Lasalle, 'what a misanthropical
sentiment! Miss Kennedy, I know by her face, will never agree
with you. Were you ever disappointed, my dear, in your life?
There! I know you were not.'

'Not often, I think.' What were they talking about,--these
people who looked so gay and spoke so languidly? Miss Kennedy
rang for refreshments, hoping to revive them a little.

'But, my dear, how far have you walked in this hot sun? You
see, you quite dismay us country people. Do tell us! How far
have you walked?'

'The miles are as unknown to me as the inhabitants,' she said
gayly. 'But we brown people are never afraid of the sun.'

'Miles!' said Mme. Lasalle looking round her. 'Imagine it!'
Then as the lady took a piece of cake, she remarked casually:

'I think I saw an old acquaintance of mine with you--Dane
Rollo, was it not?'

'Mr. Rollo? Yes.'

'He has not been to see me since he came home--I shall quarrel
with him. I wonder if he has been to Mrs. Powder's. Mr.
Falkirk, don't you think Dane had a great penchant for one of
Mrs. Powder's beautiful daughters before he went abroad?'

'I am not in the confidence of either party, madam,' replied
Mr. Falkirk.

'If he had he would have taken her with him,' said another of
the party.

'O that don't follow, you know. Maybe her mother thought she
was too young--or _he_, perhaps. She is a beautiful girl.'

'Not my style of beauty,' said the languid lady with an air of
repulsion.

'What has he been doing in Europe all this time?' pursued Mme.
Lasalle. 'Been to Norway, hasn't he?'

'I believe he went there.'

'He has relations there, Dr. Maryland told me.'

'Dr. Maryland knows,' said Mr. Falkirk.

'Perhaps he will settle in Norway.'

'Perhaps he will.'

'But how dreadful for his wife! Mrs. Powder would not like
that. He's a great favourite of mine, Dane is; but I am afraid
he has rather a reputation for breaking ladies' hearts. What
do you think, Mr. Falkirk? He is welcome everywhere. Maybe
it's Norwegian fashion; but I think Dr. Maryland is very
imprudent to let him come into his house again--if he does. Do
you know the Marylands, my dear?' turning to Wych Hazel again.

'They knew me, long ago,' she said. 'I have been here but two
days now.'

'The daughter--this daughter--is a singular girl, is she not?'

'I do not know--I like her,' said Wych Hazel.

'Oh she's very queer,' said another young lady.

'I have no doubt she is _good_,' Mme. Lasalle went on; 'no doubt
at all. But I have heard she lives in a strange way--among
children and poor people--going about preaching and making
clothes. A little of that is all very well; I suppose we might
all do more of it, and not hurt ourselves; but is not Miss
Maryland quite an enthusiast?'

Wych Hazel was getting very much amused.

'She was not enthusiastic over me,' she said, 'and I have not
seen her tried with anything else. Where does she preach?'

'You will find her out. Wait till you know her a little
better. She will preach to you, I have no doubt. Prudentia,
Mrs. Coles, is very different. She is really a charming woman.
But my dear Miss Kennedy, we have been here a length of time
that it will not do to talk about. We have had no mercy upon
Mr. Falkirk, for we were determined to see you. Now you must
come and spend the day with me to-morrow, and I'll tell you
everything. We are going on a fishing expedition up the Arrow;
and we want you. And you must come early; for we must take the
cool of the morning to go and the cool of the afternoon to
come back. I'll see you home safe. Come! say yes.'

'I will if Mr. Falkirk does, ma'am, very gladly.'

'Let her go!' whispered another member of the party, who had
been using her eyes more than her tongue.

'Give her a loose rein now, Mr. Falkirk, and hold her in when
Kitty Fisher comes.'

'Pshaw! she isn't under guardianship at that rate,' said Mme.
Lasalle. 'Mr. Falkirk, isn't this lady free yet?'

'I am afraid she never will be, madam.'

'What do you mean by that? But does she have to ask your leave
for everything she does?'

'No one acquainted with the wisdom of Miss Kennedy's general
proceedings would do me so much honour as to think the wisdom
all came from me!' said Mr. Falkirk dryly.

'Well, you'll let her come to Moscheloo?'

'Certainly.'

The lady looked at Wych Hazel. The laughing eyes had grown
suddenly quiet. It was with a very dignified bend of the head
that she repeated Mr. Falkirk's assent.

'I shall not ask _you_,' said the lady to Miss Kennedy's
guardian; 'it is a young party entirely, and must mot have too
much wisdom, you understand. I'll bring her home.'

'I am no sportsman, madam,' said Mr. Falkirk with a smile;
'and my wisdom will probably be busy to-morrow in Miss
Kennedy's plantations.'

With that, the train of ladies swept away, with renewed soft
words of pleasure and hope and congratulation. They rustled
softly through the hall, gently spoke ecstasies at the hall
door, mounted upon their horses and got into their carriages,
and departed. Mr. Falkirk came back to his ward in the hall.

'Now that to-morrow is provided for,' he said, 'I should be
glad to hear, Miss Hazel, the history of yesterday. It is
quite impossible to know a story from Dingee's telling of it.
And do you think you could give me some luncheon?'

'Certainly, sir.' She was just disposing of hat and whip upon
a particular pair of chamois horns on the wall. They hung a
little high for her, and she was springing to reach them like
any airiest creature that ever made a spring. 'Perhaps you
will be so kind as to be seated, Mr. Falkirk?--in the dining
room--for a moment. Dingee!'--her voice rang softly out clear as
an oriole. 'Luncheon at once--do you hear, Dingee? Don't keep
Mr. Falkirk waiting.'

Mr. Falkirk stood still looking at all this, and waiting with
an unmoved face.

'Will you excuse my habit, sir? as you are in haste. And am I
to give you the "history" here, all standing?'

'Go! but come,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'We have met only one
division of the enemy yet, my dear.'

She glanced at him, and went off, and was back; all fresh and
dainty and fragrant with the sweet briar at her belt. Then
silently made herself busy with the luncheon; creamed Mr.
Falkirk's chocolate; then suddenly exclaimed:

'Could you make nothing of _my_ version, sir?'

'Not much. Where were you going?'

'I was coming home.'

'From Dr. Maryland's?'

'Not at all, sir. I should have said, I was on my way home,--
and the storm began, and I took a cross road to expedite
matters--and then I grew desperate, and ran into an unknown,
open door, and so found myself at Dr. Maryland's.'

'Very intelligible. My question looked to the beginning of
your expedition.'

'Well, sir--I would rather--but it does not signify. There came
a small Bohemian here in the morning to get help for her sick
mother; and I went. That is all.'

'Who is the mother, Miss Hazel? Where does she live?'

'I don't know her name. And her habitation only when I see it.
All places are alike to me here yet, you know.'

'My dear,' said Mr. Falkirk gravely, 'you must see that, being
so ignorant of people and things in this region, you had
better not make sudden expeditions without taking me into your
confidence. Dingee said you rode the little black mare?'

'True, sir.'

'You did not like her well enough to ride her home?'

'Quite well enough, sir.'

'You did not do it?'

'No,' said Wych Hazel--'that Norwegian pirate took her for his
own use, and I walked.'

'Wouldn't let you ride her, eh?' and a curious gleam came into
Mr. Falkirk's eyes.

' "Wanted to try her first"--and was "bound to be afraid,
though I was not"--and "couldn't answer it to you"--and so forth
and so forth. A man can generally find words enough.'

'Depend upon it, my dear, he generally borrows them of a
woman.' Mr. Falkirk's face relaxed slightly, and he took a
turn across the room; then stood still. 'Why didn't you ride
the cob home?--he is there still, isn't he?'

'I did not choose, sir. I should, if I had been asked
properly.'

'Were you not asked?'

'No, except by having my saddle put on that horse and then not
taking it off.'

'You made the demand?'

'Of course. That is, I told the groom to do it.'

Mr. Falkirk smiled and then laughed, or came as near to
laughing as he often did.

'So you wouldn't ask him into the house? But did you see
anybody else in your yesterday's expedition, my dear?'

She glanced up at him, evidently growing restive under this
cross-questioning.

'I saw Mr. Nightingale.'

'Nightingale!' echoed Mr. Falkirk. 'Where did you see Mr.
Nightingale, Miss Kennedy?'

'In the woods.'

'And what the----. My dear, what were you doing in the woods?'

'Won't you finish your first sentence first, sir? I like to
take things in order.'

Mr. Falkirk's brows drew together; he looked down and then
looked up, awaiting his answer.

'I was doing nothing in the woods, sir, but finding my way
home.'

'How came _he_ to be there? Did he speak to you?'

'Yes, sir, he spoke to me.'

'What did he say?' said Mr. Falkirk, looking very gravely
intent.

'Before we go any further, Mr. Falkirk,' said the girl,
steadily, though she coloured a good deal, 'is it to be your
pleasure in future to know every word that may be said to me?
Because in that case, it will be needful to engage a reporter.
You must see, sir, that I should never be equal to it.'

'My dear,' said Mr. Falkirk slowly, 'we are embarked on a
search after fortune;--which always embraced on my part an
earnest purpose to avoid misfortune.'

'You sit there,' she went on, scarce heeding him, 'and ask me
"where I was" and "where I was going" and "what I said"--as if
I would forget myself among strange people in this strange
place!--And then you take for granted that I would be rude to
one person whom I do know, just because he had vexed me! I _did_
ask him in, and he wouldn't come. I am unpractised--wild,
maybe--but am I so unwomanly, Mr. Falkirk? Do you think I am?'
It was almost pitiful, the way the young eyes scanned his
face. If Mr. Falkirk had not been a guardian! But he was
steel.

Yet even steel will give forth flashes, and one of those
flashes came from under Mr. Falkirk's brows now. His answer
was very quiet.

'My dear, I think you no more unwomanly than I think a rose
unlovely--but the rose has thorns which sometimes prick the
hands that would train it out of harm's way. And it might
occur even to your inexperience that when a gentleman who does
not know you presumes to address you, he can have nothing to
say which it would not be on several accounts proper for me to
hear.'

Again the colour bloomed up.

'You would know, if you were a woman, Mr. Falkirk, how it
feels to have a man sit and question you with such an air.
Ah,' she said, dashing off the tears which had gathered in her
eyes, 'if you really think I can take no better care of myself
than that, you should not have said I might go with those
people to-morrow!--A rose's thorns are for _protection_, sir!'--
And away she went, out of the room and up the stairs; and Mr.
Falkirk heard no more till Dingee entered with fruit and
biscuits.

'Missee Hazel hope you'll enjoy yours, sar,--she take her's
upstairs.'

Mr. Falkirk put on his hat and walked down to his house.

It was a slight fiction on the part of Dingee, to say that
Miss Hazel was taking her fruit upstairs; indeed the whole
message was freely translated from her--

'Dingee, attend to Mr. Falkirk's lunch, I don't want any.'

Presently now came Dingee to her with another message.

'Massa Morton--he 'most dyin' to see Miss Hazel--but he wait
till she done had her lunch.'

And she flashed down upon Mr. Morton's eyes, like a prism-
caught-sunbeam. By this time there were two pairs of eyes to
be dazzled. Mr. Dell had made his appearance on the stage.

Mr. Dell was a clergyman, of a different denomination, who
like Mr. Maryland had a church to take care of at Crocus. Mr.
Dell's was a little church at the opposite corner of the
village and society. He himself was a good-hearted, plain man,
with no savour of elegance about him, though with more than
the usual modicum of sense and shrewdness. Appearance
conformable to character. Mr. Morton was not very far from Mr.
Falkirk's range of years, though making more attempts to
conceal the fact. Rich, well educated, well mannered, a little
heavy, he had married very young; and now a widower of twenty
years standing, the sight of Wych Hazel had suggested to him
what a nice thing it would be to be married again. The estates
too suited each other, even touched at one point. With this
gentleman Wych Hazel had some slight acquaintance, and he
introduced Mr. Dell; thinking privately to himself how absurd
it was for such men to come visiting such women.

'I see with pleasure that you have quite recovered from the
fatigues of your journey, Miss Kennedy. A day's rest will
often do wonders.'

'Yes, sir. Especially if you spend a good piece of it on
horseback, as I did.'

'On horseback!' said Mr. Morton, looking doubtful--(he hoped
she was not going to turn out one of those riding damsels, who
went rough shod over all his ideas of propriety.) 'Did you go
out so soon to explore the country?'

'No, sir. I went out on business.'

'Ah!'--(how admirable in so young a person.)

'There is business enough in city or country,' said
straightforward Mr. Dell--'if you are disposed to take hold of
it. Even our little Crocus will give you plenty.'

'All the year round, sir?--or does Crocus go to sleep in the
winter like most other bulbs?'

'It is another species from any that you are acquainted with,
I am afraid,' said the clergyman, looking at her with mingled
curiosity and admiration. 'Bulbs when they go to sleep require
no attention, I believe; but our Crocus wants most of all in
the cold season. We want lady gardeners too,' said Mr. Dell,
following the figure.

'It is a most healthful exercise,' said Mr. Morton, 'and the
slight disadvantages of dress, etc., rather form a pleasant
foil, I think, to the perfection of attire at other times. Are
you fond of gardening, Miss Kennedy?'

'Very fond!' said Miss Kennedy, demurely. 'But that is one of
the times when I like to be particularly perfect in my attire,
Mr. Norton. Why, Mr. Dell, the bulbs must be kept from
freezing, you know, if they _are_ asleep. Isn't Miss Maryland
one of your successful gardeners?'

'Miss Maryland does all she can, madam,' said Mr. Dell,
earnestly. 'She has been the good angel of the village for
five years past.'

'That is just what she looks like,' said Wych, with a glow of
pleasure. 'And I'm going to help her all I can.'

'But do you not think,' said Mr. Morton, with the dubious look
again--'you are talking, I imagine, of Miss Maryland's visits
among the lower classes,--do not you think they make a young
lady too prominent--too public--Mr. Dell? They bring her among
very rough people, Miss Kennedy, I assure you.'

'But, sir, one would not lose the chance of being a good angel
for the fear of being prominent.'

'Or for the fear of anything else,' said Mr. Dell.

'Truly not,' said Mr. Morton. 'But we gentlemen think, Miss
Kennedy, that ladies of a certain stamp can scarcely fail of
so desirable a position.'

'Ah, but I want a pair of bona fide wings!' said Wych Hazel,
and she looked so comically innocent and witch-like that Mr.
Morton forgot all else in admiration; and Mr. Dell looked at
her with all his eyes as he remarked,--

'Not to fly away from the poor and needy--as many of Mr.
Morton's angels do.'

'Do they?' said Wych Hazel,--'where do they fly to? Mr. Morton,
what becomes of your angels?'

'My angels,' said Mr. Morton with some emphasis on the
pronoun, 'would never be in the majority. When I said "ladies
of a certain stamp," I by no means intended to say that the
class was a large one.'

'No, sir, of course not. If the class were large, I should
suppose the stamp would become very uncertain. Mr. Dell, what
does Crocus want most, just now?'

'I should say--angels,' said Mr. Dell. He spoke with a smile,
but with a shrewd and sensible eye withal. He was not a
beauty, but he had mettle in him.

'That's a bad want in the present state of the case, as set
forth by Mr. Morton. Are gold angels good for anything as a
substitute?'

'Good for very little. When I said angels, I spoke of what the
world most wants, as well as Crocus; angels in human form, I
mean, or rather, in their human state of initiation. There is
no substitute. Gold will do something; but nothing of what a
good man or a good woman will do--anywhere.'

'Miss Kennedy,' said Mr. Morton, rising, 'I regret much that a
business appointment calls me away. But if you will indulge
me, I will call again the day after to-morrow, in the
afternoon, and perhaps I may hope for your company on a drive.
You must make acquaintance with this fine region.'

'Thank you'--Wych Hazel hesitated, looking for some retreat,
finally took shelter behind her guardian. 'Thank you, sir, I
will ask Mr. Falkirk.'

'Miss Kennedy,' said Mr. Morton, extending his hand, 'you must
allow me to express my admiration! I wish other young ladies
were so thoughtful and prudent. But if they were, it would not
make your conduct less remarkable.' And Mr. Morton departed,
while Wych Hazel, turning a sharp pirouette on one toe,
dropped into her chair like a thistle down. But all that
appeared to the eyes of Mr. Dell was a somewhat extensive
flutter of muslin. He had no time to remark upon it nor upon
anything else, as there immediately succeeded a flutter of
muslin in another direction, just entering in by the door;
which secondary flutter was furnished by the furbelows of Mrs.
Fellows, the lawyer's wife, and the scarf of Mrs. Dell, the
mother of the clergyman himself. There was no more question
about angels.


CHAPTER XV.

TO MOSCHELOO.


The next morning Mr. Falkirk appeared in the breakfast-room,
as was his very frequent, though not invariable wont.

'I want your orders, Miss Hazel, about horses.'

Hazel--deep in a great wicker tray of flowers--looked up to
consider the question.

'Well, sir,--we want carriage horses of course,--and saddle
horses. And I want a pony carriage.'

'I don't think you need two carriages at present. The pony
carriage would have to have a pony.'

'Yes, sir. Pony carriages, I believe, generally do. I am not
well enough known in the neighbourhood yet to expect other
means of setting my wheels in motion. But if I have nothing
_but_ that, Mr. Falkirk, then you and I can never go together.'

'And if you do _not_ have that, then you could not go alone.'

'Precisely, sir. Mr. Falkirk, don't you want a rose--what shall
I say! --to--do something to your meditations?' And before Mr.
Falkirk had time to breathe, she was down on her knees at his
side, and fastening an exquisite "Duchess of Thuringia" in his
buttonhole.

'Yes, I look like it,' said he grimly, but suffering her
fingers to do their will nevertheless. 'Miss Hazel, if the
princess goes about in a pony carriage, I shall be in daily
expectation of its turning into a pumpkin, and leaving her on
the ground somewhere.'

'No, sir. Not the least fear of your turning into an amiable
godmother,--and you know that was essential.'

'Ponies are ugly things,' said Mr. Falkirk ruefully. 'However,
I'll ask Rollo; and if he can find one, that suits him----'

'Then do let him keep it!' interposed Miss Hazel, facing
round. 'What possible concern of Mr. Rollo's are my horses?'

'Simply that I am going to ask him to choose them. He knows
more about such things than any one else, and I dare say he
will give me his help. I wanted to know your fancy, though
very likely it can't be met, about the other horses; colour
and so forth.'

'Not white--and not black,' said Wych Hazel. 'And not sorrel--
nor cream.'

'That is lucid. You said saddle horses--Ah! what's this?'

It was a little combination of brisk sounds in the hall,
followed by the entrance of Rollo himself in a gray
fisherman's dress. Unless he was very hard to suit he might
have enjoyed the picture now opened before him. The pretty
room, with its garden outlook; the breakfast table, bright and
quaint together, with its old-time furnishings; and flowers
everywhere, arranged and un-arranged. As he came in, Wych
Hazel had just (quite surreptitiously) hung a garland of
pansies on the high carved peak of Mr. Falkirk's chair, and
then dropped into her own place; with a De Rohan rose in the
belt of her gray dress. Not in the least like Roll's gray, but
white with the edge taken off, like a pale cloud.

'So!' she said, looking up at him as he stood beside her,--
'have you come to confess?'

'Not this time. I have come to ask if I may catch some of your
trout--if I can.'

'_Not_ this time! If you wait for another the score will be
heavier.'

'May I have your trout?'

'Really, if they give their consent I will. Good morning, Mr.
Rollo!--will you sit down and let me give you some coffee?'

'As I came for that too, I will, thank you. Will you lend me
Vixen to-day?'

'Why yes--as I am going fishing myself, and so cannot use her,'
said Miss Hazel, giving critical attention to cream and sugar.
'But it is very good of me--after the way you have behaved.'

'It is very good of you. Is that thing all you have got to
ride, except the respectable cob?'

'Half broken, isn't she?' asked Mr. Falkirk.

'Half--hardly. She shies wickedly.'

'I am glad Hazel hears you. I hope she will not mount her
again after that.'

Rollo's eyes came over to Wych Hazel's with an expression she
could not quite read. It was not petitioning; it might be a
little inquisitive. But she chose rather to answer Mr.
Falkirk.

'I needed no help to find out that she shied, sir. Then I have
a little sympathy with that particular species of what Mr.
Rollo is pleased to call "wickedness." '

'It is very unfair, of course,' said Rollo, 'to speak of an
action from its results--but we all do it. Now a horse's shying
may break your neck. It is true a lady's shying may break your
heart; but that don't count.'

'We are just talking about horses, Rollo. I want your help.'

'I will give it with promptness--if Miss Kennedy command me.'

'Mr. Rollo's innocent way of talking about commands would
deceive anybody but me,' said Wych Hazel. 'But I am learning
to know him by slow and painful degrees.'

The only answer to this was a mischievous smile, which did not
embolden further charges. But whether boldly or not, Hazel
went on with a fair show at least of bravery.

'What was that I was told so impressively yesterday?' she
said. ' "There are circumstances where fear is highly
commendable in a woman, when it is yet not desirable in a
man." And after all that, did you not speed away like a very
poltroon, and leave me to face everything by myself? Confess,
Mr. Rollo!' The demure eyes were brimming with fun.

'How much did you have to face?' asked the gentleman taking
another roll.

'Ten people and two catechisms. And if Madame Lasalle says
true--Have you a sketching club here? and is she its
president?'

'We have no such club--and it has no such president--and whether
Madame Lasalle says true is a matter entirely unknown to me.
Do you say you are going fishing to-day, Miss Kennedy?'

'Mr. Falkirk told Madame Lasalle I might. And she is to "tell
me everything,"--fill up her sketches, I suppose; so the sport
may be extensive. Yesterday her pencil marks were delightfully
indistinct, and made the most charming confusion between cats
and dogs and canary birds. Miss Maryland was a preacher, her
father the personification of imprudence, and you--'

She had run on in a sort of gleeful play, not at all guessing
what the pencil marks really meant, and stopped short now only
for fear her play might chafe.

'What was I?' said Rollo, with a quietness that was evidently
careless.

'You,' said Wych Hazel impressively, 'were (in a general way)
a Norwegian, a Dane,--making your way everywhere and laying
waste the country.'

Something in Mr. Falkirk's face as she finished these words
made her instinct take alarm. The colour mounted suddenly.

'O, please do not speak to me again--anybody!' she said,
looking down. 'I was all alone yesterday afternoon, and had to
descend into the depths of Morton Hollow--and I believe I am a
little wild at getting back. And Mr. Morton, sir--O, you have
not asked what he said to me!' She checked her self again, too
late! Whatever should she do with her tongue to keep it still.
The Camille de Rohan at her belt was hardly deeper dyed than
she.

'What about Mr. Morton?' said Rollo. 'Forgive somebody for
speaking--but it was impossible to ask without!'

'O--nothing--only a compliment for Mr. Falkirk,' said the girl,
trying to rally. 'And Mr. Falkirk had said--And I have lived so
long alone with Mr. Falkirk that I have got into a very bad
habit of forgetting that anybody else can be present!'

It did not exactly help on the progress of self-control, that
at this point Dingee came in, bearing in both hands a lovely
basket of hot-house grapes and nectarines, themselves
specimens of perfection, with a long wreathing stem of
wonderful white orchids laid across its other treasures.
Dingee evidently enjoyed his share in the business, for his
white teeth were in a glitter.

'Mass' Morton, Miss Hazel. He done send 'em to my young
mistiss, wid his greatest 'spects. He say he done percolate de
Hollow and couldn't find nuffin more gorgeous, or he's send
_him_.'

'Dingee!' said his young mistress, flashing round upon him,
'do you venture to bring me a made-up message? Take the basket
to Mr. Falkirk!'

But she shrank back then, as they saw, with extreme shyness.
The little fingers trembled, trying to busy themselves among
spoons and cups; and one pitiful glance towards Mr. Falkirk
besought him to take the affair into his own hands, and send
whatever return message might be needful. O to be a child, and
put her head down under the table! And instead of that she
must keep her place--and she did, with the most ladylike
quietness. Mr. Falkirk had reason to be content with her for
once.

'Nobody waiting, is there, Dingee?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'Ye' sir.'

'Take him this, and send him off politely; but no message,
Dingee, if you want to wag your tongue in _this_ house!'

'Ye' sir. Got to be one somehow, sure!' said Dingee. ' 'Bout
sumfin Mass' Morton done say to Miss Hazel. Real stupid feller
he is dat come--can't make out what he says, nohow.'

'About a drive,' said Wych Hazel, looking over once more at
her guardian. 'I expect you to say no, sir.'

'What did _you_ say, my dear?'

'I said I would ask you, sir--the shortest way to a negative.'
Her lips were getting in a curl again.

Mr. Falkirk went out to speak to Mr. Morton's messenger, and
coming back again stood looking down at the basket of fruit
with the wreath of white orchids lying across it.

'I hope you are grateful to fortune, my dear,' he remarked
rather grimly.

'I hope you are, sir,--_I_ have nothing to do with that concern,'
said Wych Hazel with prompt decision.

'You don't know,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'It's an enchanted basket,
Miss Hazel. Looks innocent enough; but I know there are
several little shapes lurking in its depths--ants or flies or
what not--which a little conjuration from you would turn into
carriage horses, pony and all.'

'They are safe to eat grapes in the shape of ants and flies
for the term of their natural lives,' said Rollo contentedly.
He did not care for Mr. Morton. Indeed he looked as if it
would be difficult to disturb him, more than superficially,
about anything. And that, not for want of elements of
disturbance, but because of other elements of character, which
in their strength slumbered, and perhaps were scarcely self-
conscious. The last words moreover were a shield over Wych
Hazel's possible shyness. However it was, Mr. Falkirk looked
across from the orchids to him, and considered him somewhat
fixedly.

'If we are not to get them out of the basket--but that would be
very like a fairy tale--will you see to the matter of the
horses, Rollo?'

'If Miss Kennedy commands me,' he said, with a smile. But Miss
Kennedy was in a mood to keep her distance.

'I have told Mr. Falkirk,' she said. And now came up the
question of her engagement at Moscheloo; if she was going, she
ought to be off, and it appeared that there was no vehicle on
the place in fit order to take her. Mr. Falkirk proposed to
send to Crocus.

'Too far,' said Rollo. 'Suppose you put yourself in the
saddle, and let me convoy you over to Moscheloo? It's good for
a ride, this morning.'

'I thought you wanted Vixen?' said the girl, turning towards
him.

'_You_ don't.'

'Do you know what I do want, as well as what I do not, Mr.
Rollo?'

'The trouble is, it is not to be had to-day. But there is the
grey cob. Always take the best there is to be had. Put on your
habit, and I'll give you a very decent canter across the
country to Moscheloo. Come!' he said, with a look compounded
of sweetness and raillery. But raillery from Rollo's eyes was
a little keen.

She laughed with a pretty acknowledgment of the raillery, but
a first did not answer. It was a great temptation! The
breakfast had left her excited and restless, and to get away
from it all--to have a canter in the fresh wind! Then, she
hated the very name of the grey cob!--She looked over to Mr.
Falkirk. He was looking at her earnestly, but he did not
speak.

'Shall I do that, sir?'

'If you go, you cannot do better,' he said, in a tone which
certainly signified a want of satisfaction at something; but
that was not unprecedented in their discussions.

'But my habit!--O well, I can manage that. Then will you be
ready very soon, Mr. Rollo?'

Dane was ready, there was no doubt of that; but Mr. Falkirk
was on the verandah also, when the little mistress of
Chickaree come forth to be mounted; and for the occasion the
red squirrel went back to the old grave punctilio of manner he
could assume when he pleased.

That was all the surrounding pairs of eyes could see; a grave
deference, a skilful care in performance of his duties as Wych
Hazel's squire. But to her, out of ken of all but herself,
there was an expression of somewhat else; in every touch and
movement and look, an indescribable something, which even to
her inexperience said: 'Every bit of your little person, and
everything that concerns it, is precious to me.' Not one man
in many could have so shewn it to her, and hidden it from the
bystanders. It was a bit of cool generalship. Then he threw
himself on his own horse, like the red squirrel he was, and
they moved off slowly together.

Well, she was not a vain girl, having quite too much of a tide
in her fancies, notions and purposes to be stopping to think
of herself all the while. So, though Rollo's manner did make
her shy, it stirred up no self-consciousness. For
understanding may sleep, while instincts are awake. It was
very pleasant to be liked, and if she wondered a little why he
should like her--for Miss Kennedy was certainly not blind to
some of her own wayward imperfections--still, perhaps the
wonder made it all the pleasanter. She was not in the least
inclined to take people's attentions in any but the simplest
way (if only they were not flung at her by the basketful); and
in short had no loose tinder, as yet, lying round to catch
fire. Perhaps that says the whole. So she was about as grave
and as gay, as timid and as bold, by turns, as if she had been
seven years old.

'I promised you a canter,' said her companion, taking hold of
her bridle to draw the grey aside from a bad place in the
road. 'Next time you shall have a gallop--so soon as I can find
what will do for you. Never mind for to-day.'

'You think this most respectable horse could so far forget
himself as to canter?'

'Try.'

And away they went, with that elastic, flying spring through
the air which bids spirits bound as well, and leaves care
nowhere. For the old grey had paces, if his jollity was
somewhat abated; and Vixen went provokingly, minding her
business like one who thought she had better. Nevertheless it
was a good canter.

'You will be a good rider,' said Rollo, when at length they
subsided to a trot, stretching out his hand again and drawing
Wych Hazel's reins a little further through her fingers.
'There, that is quite enough for him, steady as he is. Do you
keep so free a rein in the household as you do in the saddle?'

'There has been no household--and no bridle, except for me.'

'Is Mr. Falkirk partial to a short rein?'

'What is "short?" ' she said with a laugh. 'That is an utterly
unsettled point. Are women never appointed guardians, Mr.
Rollo?'

'Certainly,' said Rollo, gravely. 'Always, when they marry.'

She glanced at him, doubting whether he might be laughing at
her.

'But I mean as Mr. Falkirk was.'

'Not often; but it occasionally happens. I congratulate you
that your case was not such.'

'Ah, you do not know!' she said quickly, with a sort of
outbreak of impatience.

'You don't know either,' said he.

'Yes I do. Not much about women to be sure--I have known very
few. But I do know Mr. Falkirk, and love him dearly, and think
a great deal more of him than you possibly can, Mr. Rollo.'

'I have thought a great deal about him,' said Rollo, in a sort
of dry, innocent manner. 'But I will tell you--a man's
guardianship leaves you a moral agent; a woman's changes you
into a hunted badger; and if you were of some sorts of nature
it would be a hunted fox. You know I have been under
guardianship too?'

'Yes, but I thought it was Dr. Maryland's?' she said looking
at him with astonished eyes. 'And you speak--Ah, you do not
know, as I said, after all. You never wanted anything that a
man could not give you.'

He laughed a little, his eye brightening and changing as he
looked at her with a very winning expression.

'I had all that a man could give me. Dr. Maryland was father
and mother in one, gentle and strong. But I have been in
wardship under a woman too, partially, and it was as I tell
you. Dr. Maryland would say: "Dane, don't go there," or "let
that alone," and I _did_, except when a very wicked fit got hold
of me. But _she_ would stick a cushion with pins, to keep me out
of it, and if she wanted to keep a cup from my lips she rubbed
gall where my lips would find it.'

'_Two_ guardians!' said Wych Hazel; 'so that queer woman at
Catskill thought _I_ had. But it is a great deal harder to have
a man find fault with you, nevertheless.'

'Why?' said Rollo, laughingly and seriously too.

'They are so quick in their judgments,' said the girl; 'so
sure about the evidence. The jury agree without retiring, and
sentence is passed before you are summoned to attend your own
trial. You are out of play; you suddenly find yourself
convicted of manslaughter in the fourth degree--or the
fiftieth; it makes no difference.' The words came out with her
usual quick emphasis, and then Miss Hazel remembered that one
or two of her words were suggestive. She flushed very much,
drooping her head.

'Coroner's inquest?' said Rollo, with a mixture of gentleness
and fun. But she made no answer, unless by the soft laugh
which hardly let itself be heard. He stretched out his hand
again, laying it this time lightly upon hers, altering its
bearing.

'Curb him in a little more,' said he, 'a little--so. Now touch
him gently on the shoulder. What is it you think you miss so
much in a man's guardianship?'

She looked round at him then--one of her girlish, searching
looks, resolving perhaps how far it was safe to be
confidential.

'A good many things, Mr. Rollo,' she answered, slowly. 'I do
not believe you could understand. But I would rather have
fourteen lectures from Mrs. Bywank than just to hear one of
Mr. Falkirk's stiff "Miss Hazels." '

'I cannot remember any lectures from Mrs. Bywank,' said Rollo,
looking as if his recollections in that quarter were pleasant--
'which were not as soft as swansdown. But here we are coming
to Moscheloo. How much do you know about fishing?'

'Rather less than I do about anything else. O, I remember Mrs.
Bywank said she used to know you.'

'Mrs. Bywank is an old friend. In the times when I had,
practically, two guardians--though only Dr. Maryland held the
position officially--when there was nobody at Chickaree, I used
to go nutting in your woods and fishing in the same brook
which will, I hope, give me some trout to-day; and when I was
thoroughly wetted with a souse in the water, or had torn my
clothes half off my back in climbing to the tops of the trees,
I used to carry my fish ad my difficulties to Mrs. Bywank. She
cooked the one and she mended the other; we eat the fish in
company, and parted with the promise to meet again. Seems to
me I ought to have had lectures, but I didn't get them from
her.'

'Well, that is just it,' said Hazel, with her earnest face.
'She understood.'

'Understood what?' said Rollo, smiling.

'Things,' said Hazel, 'and you.'

'There's a great deal in that. Now do you want another
canter?'

There was a mile of smooth way between them and the grounds of
Moscheloo; a level road bordered with Lollard poplars. The
grey went well, spite of his age and steadiness, and Vixen
behaved her prettiest; but she was not much of a steed after
all, and just now was shewing the transforming power of a good
rider. And the rider was good company. They came to the open
gate of Moscheloo, and began to ascend more slowly the
terraced road of the grand entrance. The house stood high; to
reach it the avenue made turn after turn, zig-zagging up the
hill between and under fine old trees that overshadowed its
course.

'Here we are, said Rollo, looking up toward the yet distant
house. 'How many people do you suppose there will be here that
know anything about fish!'

'Why, it is a fishing party!' said Wych Hazel. 'I suppose I am
the only one who does _not_ know.'

'I will tell you beforehand what to expect. There will be a
great deal of walking, a good deal of luncheon, a vast deal of
talk, and a number of fishing rods. I shouldn't be surprised
if you caught the first fish. The rest will be dinner.'

'And you will reverse that,' said Wych Hazel,--'little dinner
and much fish.'

'Depends,' said Rollo. 'I am going to look after Mr. Falkirk,
if he is in my neighbourhood.'

'Look after him!--Let him learn how it feels?' she said, with a
laugh.

'Not just in that sense,' said Rollo, smiling. 'Only keep him
from getting lost in the woods.'

'He has nothing to do in the woods till I come,' said Wych
Hazel. 'And I thought you said you were off for a day's
fishing?'

'I'll combine two pleasures--if I can.'

'What is the other?' she said, looking at him.

'Woodcraft.'

A tinge came up in her cheeks that might have been only
surprise. She looked away, and as it were tossed off the first
words that came. Then with very sedate deliberation:

'Mr. Rollo, I do not allow _anybody_ to practice woodcraft among
my trees without my special oversight. Not even Mr. Falkirk.'

'Suppose Mr. Falkirk takes a different view,' said Rollo, also
sedately, 'am I answerable? Because, if that is your meaning,
I will tell him he undergoes my challenge.'

'He is not to cut a tree nor a branch till I come home.'

'Suppose we arrange, then, for a time when you will come out
and give a day to the business. Shall we say to-morrow?'

'O yes, I agree to that.'

'There shall not be a tree cut, then, till to-morrow. And to-
morrow you shall have a lesson. Now here we are.'


CHAPTER XVI.

FISHING.


Several people were on the steps before the door, watching and
waiting for them. The house shewed large and stately; the
flight of steps imposing. Hot-house plants stood around in
boxes; the turf was well shaven; the gravelled road in order;
the overhanging trees magnificent. Moscheloo was a fine place.
As the riders approached the door, Mme. Lasalle came forward,
pouring forth welcomes, and invitations to Rollo. But after
dismounting Wych Hazel, and so disappointing the gentleman who
wanted to do it, Rollo excused himself and set off down the
hill again. Mme. Lasalle turned to Wych Hazel, and led her,
with flying introductions by the way, to the stairs and up to
a dressing-room.

'It is quite charming to see you, and to think that Chickaree
is inhabited and has a mistress--it makes Moscheloo, I assure
you, several degrees brighter. Now, my dear, what will you
have?--is it nothing but to take off this habit-skirt?--let me
undo it. What an odd mortal that is, that came with you!'

But to that Wych Hazel answered nothing. The light riding
skirt and jacket taken off, left her in green from head to
foot. A daring colour for a brunette. But her own tint was so
clear and the mossy shade of her dress was so well chosen,
that the effect was extremely good. She looked like a wood
nymph.

'Charming!--vraie Française'--said Madame, softly. 'That is a
coquettish colour, my dear--are you of that character!'

'I am not sure that I know my own character yet,' Hazel said,
laughing a little.

'Ah! that's dangerous. You don't know your own character?--then
do you read other people's? Rollo--do you know him well?'

Mme. Lasalle was somewhat officiously but with great attention
stroking into order one or two of Wych Hazel's curls which the
riding had tossed.

'O, I dare say I shall make new discoveries, Mme. Lasalle.'

'He's the best creature in the world, everybody likes him;
but--Oh dear! well I suppose all young men are so; they all
like power. Did you notice that Miss Powder down stairs, that
I introduced to you?'

'Hardly.'

'You had no time. She's a sweet creature. Oh, no, you hadn't
time; but I want you to see her do-day. I have a little plan
in my head.' And Mme. Lasalle left the curls and whispered
with a serious face. '_She's_ the young lady Rollo paid so much
devotion to before he went abroad. Everybody knew that; and I
know he liked her; but then, you see, he went off, and nothing
came of it; but it's a pity, for Mrs. Powder would have been
much pleased, I know, with her large family of daughters--to be
sure, she has married two of them now;--but what is worse,' (in
a lower whisper) 'Annabella would have been pleased too; and
she hasn't been pleased since. Now isn't it a shame?'

Wych Hazel considered the matter. With a curious feeling of
disbelief in her mind, which (without in the least knowing
where it came from) found its way to her face.

'I wonder she would tell of it!'

'My dear, she didn't; only one sees, one can't help it. One
sees a great many disagreeable things, but it's no use to
think about it. It was nothing very bad in Rollo, you know; he
has that way with him, of seeming to like people; but it don't
mean anything, _except_ that he does like them. O, I know that
he liked her--and I am going to make you accomplice in a little
plot of mine. I won't tell you now--by and by, when you have
seen Annabella a little more. I would have asked Dane to join
our party to-day, but I didn't dare--I was afraid he would
guess what I was at. Now, my dear, I won't keep you up here
any longer. Pardon me, you are charming! If Dane sees much of
you, I am afraid my fine scheming will do Annabella no good!'
And shaking her head gaily, the lady ran down stairs followed
by Wych Hazel.

There was a great muster then of fishing-rods and baskets; and
everybody being provided, the company was marshalled forth,
each lady being under the care of a gentleman, who carried her
basket and rod. Wych Hazel found herself without knowing how
or why, leading the march with Mr. Lasalle. He proved rather a
sober companion. A sensible man, but thoroughly devoted to
business, his French extraction seemed to have brought him no
inheritance of grace or liveliness--unless Mme. Lasalle had
acted as an absorbent and usurped it at all. He was polite,
and gave good host-like attention to his fair little
companion; but it was as well for her that the walk presently
sufficed of itself for her entertainment. They went first
across several fields, where the sun beat down freely on all
their heads, and divers fences gave play to the active and
useful qualities of the gentlemen. Suddenly from the last
field they went down a grassy descent--and found themselves at
the side of a brook.

Well, it was a good-sized brook, overhung with a fine
bordering of trees that shaded and sheltered it. The ladies
cried 'lovely!'--and so it was, after the sunshiny fields on a
warm June morning. But this was not the fishing ground. The
brook must be followed up to the woods whence it came. And
soon the banks became higher and broken, the ascent steeper,
the trees closer; no longer a mere fringe or veil to the
fostering waters. Fields were forgotten; the brook grew wild
and lively, and following its course became a matter of some
difficulty. Sometimes there was no edge of footing beside the
stream; they must take to the stones and rocks which broke its
way, or cross it by fallen trees, and recross again. The woods
made a thicket of wilderness and stillness and green beauty
and shady sweetness, invaded just now by an inroad of fashion
and society.

Like a sprite Wych Hazel led the van, making her way over
rocks and through vine tangles and across the water, after a
fashion attainable by no other feet. Mr. Lasalle had no
trouble but to follow; had not even the task of hearing
exclamations or being entertained; for Wych Hazel had by no
means acquired that amiable habit of society which is full
dress upon all occasions. To-day she was like a child out of
school in her gleeful enjoyment, only very quiet. So she
flitted on through the mazes of the wood and the brook, making
deep remarks to herself over its dark pools, perching herself
on a rock for a backward look at Miss Powder, and then darting
on. The party in the rear, struggling after, eyed her in the
distance with various feelings.


'The flower she trod on dipped and rose,
'And turned to look at her!--'


So quoted Metastasio Simms, who played the part of cavalier to
Mme. Lasalle, and of poet and troubadour in general.

'There steals over me, Madame,' said another cavalier, 'the
fairy tale remembrance of a marvellous bird with green
plumage--which flitting along before the traveller did thereby
allure him to his captivity. Are you pledge for Miss Kennedy's
good faith?'

'I am pledged for nothing. I advise you to take care of
yourself, Mr. May--I have no doubt she is dangerous. Haven't we
come far enough? Do run down the line, and tell them all to
stop where they are; we must not be too close upon one
another. And when you come back I will reward you with another
commission.'

While Mr. Simms was gone down the brook, however, Mme. Lasalle
permitted the pair next below to pass her and go up to stop
Mr. Lasalle and Wych Hazel from proceeding any further. So it
came to pass that the highest group on the stream was composed
of four instead of two; and the additional two were Stuart
Nightingale and Miss Annabella Powder. Now the fishing rods
were put into the ladies' hands; now the cavaliers attentively
supplied their hooks with what was supposed to be bait, and
performing afterwards the same office for their own, the brook
presently had the appearance, or would to a bird's-eye view,
of a brook in toils.

'What do we expect to catch, sir?' asked Miss Kennedy of Mr.
Lasalle, as she watched his motions and dropped her own line
in imitation.

'If I were a member of the firm, I should say, "all hearts,"
mademoiselle, without doubt.'

'For shame, Mr. Lasalle!' cried Miss Powder.

'Fish are made to be caught, mademoiselle,' said Mr. Lasalle,
throwing his own line again.

'For shame, Mr. Lasalle! How many hearts do you think one lady
wishes to catch?'

'No limit that I know'--said the gentleman serenely.

'Well, but--are there no other fish in this brook?' said Wych
Hazel.

'Miss Kennedy makes small account of the first kind,' said
Stuart, laughing. 'That sport is old already. There must be
difficulty to give interest, Lasalle, you know.'

'You gentlemen are complimentary,' said Miss Powder.

'Upon my word, I said what I thought,' replied the first
gentleman.

'Miss Kennedy,' called Stuart out from his post down the
brook; 'should compliments be true or false, to be
compliments? Miss Powder is too indignant to be judge in the
case.'

'I do not see how false ones can compliment,' said the lady in
green, much intent upon her line. 'There!--Mr. Lasalle--is that
what you call a bite?'

It was no bite.

'But people need not know they are false?' pursued Stuart.

'Well,' said Wych Hazel, looking down at him, 'you were
talking of what things _are_--not what they seem.'

'You may observe,' said Mr. Lasalle, 'that most people find it
amusing to get bites--if only they don't know there's no fish
at the end of them.' Mr. Lasalle spoke feelingly, for he had
just hooked and drawn up what proved to be a bunch of weeds.

'But where there is,' said Wych hazel. 'There! Mr. Lasalle, I
have got your fish!' and swung up a glittering trophy high
over the gentleman's head.

'The first fish caught, I'll wager!' cried Stuart; and he
looked at his watch. 'Twenty-seven minutes past twelve. Was
that skill or fortune, Miss Kennedy?'

'Neither, sir,' observed Mr. Simms, who had wandered that way
in search of a hook. 'There was no hope of Miss Kennedy's
descending to the bed of the brook--what could the fish do but
come to her? Happy trout!'

'I am afraid he feels very much like a fish out of water,
nevertheless,' said Wych Hazel, eyeing her prize and her line
with a demure face.

Alas! it was the beginning and ending of their good fortune
for some time. Mr. Simms went back to his place; Mr. Lasalle
disengaged the fish and rearranged the bait; and all four fell
to work, or to watching, with renewed animation; but in vain.
The rods kept their angle of suspension, unless when a tired
arm moved up or down; the fishers' eyes gazed at the lines;
the water went running by with a dance and a laugh; the fish
laughed too, perhaps; the anglers did not. There were spicy
wood smells, soft wood flutter and flap of leaves, stealing
and playing sunbeams among the leaves and the tree stems; but
there was too much Society around the brook, and nobody heeded
all these things.

'Well, what success?' said Mme. Lasalle coming up after a
while. 'What have you caught? One little fish! Poor little
thing! Is that all? Well, it's luncheon time. Lasalle, I wish
you'd go and see that everybody is happy at the lower end of
the line; and I'll do your fishing meanwhile. Oh, Simms has
almost killed me! Stuart! do take charge of that basket, will
you?'

Mr. Nightingale receiving the basket from the hands of a
servant, inquired of his aunt what he was to do with it.

'Mercy! open it and give us all something--I am as hungry as I
can be. What have you all been doing that you haven't caught
more fish? My dear,' (to Wych Hazel), 'that is all you will
get till we go home; we came out to work to-day.'

And Stuart coming up, relieved her of her fishing rod, found a
pleasant seat on a mossy stone, and opened his basket.

'As the fish won't bite--Miss Kennedy, will you?'

'If you please,' she said, taking a new view from her new
position. 'How beautiful everything is to-day! Certainly I
have learned something about brooks.'

'And something about fishing?'

'Not much.'

'The best thing about fishing,' said Stuart, after serving the
other ladies and coming back to her, 'is that it gives one an
appetite.'

'Oh, then you have not studied the brook.'

'Certainly not,' said he, laughing, 'or only as one studies a
dictionary--to see what one can get out of it. Please tell me,
what did you?'

'New thoughts,' she said. 'And new fancies. And shadows, and
colours. I forgot all about the fish sometimes.'

'You are a philosopher?' said Stuart, inquisitively.

'Probably. Don't I look like one?'

He laughed again, with an unequivocal compliment in his bright
eyes. He was a handsome fellow, and a gentleman from head to
foot. So far at least as manners can make it.

'I do not judge from appearances. Do you care to know what I
judge from?'

'Your judgment cannot have been worth much just now,' said
Wych Hazel, shaking her head. 'But I am willing to hear what
led it astray.'

'What led it,--not astray,--was your calm declining of all but
true words of service.'

'O, had you gone back _there?_' she said. 'I think it takes very
little philosophy to decline what one does not want.'

'Evidently. But how came you not to want what everybody else
wants? There is the philosophy, you see. If you bring all
things down to bare truth, you will be Diogenes in his tub
presently.'

' "Bare truth!" '--said the girl. 'How people say that, as if
truth were only a lay figure!'

'But think how disagreeable truth would often be, if it were
not draped! Could you stand it? I beg pardon! I mean, not you,
but other people!'

'I _have_ stood it pretty often,' said the girl with a grave
gesture of her head.

'Impossible! But did you believe that it was truth?'

'Too self-evident to be doubted!'

Stuart laughed, again with a very unfeigned tribute of
pleasure or admiration in his face. 'It is a disagreeable
truth,' said he, 'that that is not a good sandwich. Permit me
to supply its place with something else. Here is cake, and
nothing beside that I can see; will you have a piece of cake?
It is said to be a feminine taste.'

'No, not any cake,' said Wych Hazel, her eyes searching the
brook shadows. 'But I will have another sandwich, Mr.
Nightingale--if there is one. At least, if there is more than
one!'

'Ah,' said Stuart, 'you shall have it, and you shall not know
the state of the basket. Those two people have so much to talk
about, they have no time to eat!' And he took another sandwich
himself.

'Is that old woman in the cottage a friend of yours?'

'I never saw her before the other day.'

'She lost no time! A little garrulous, isn't she? I made
acquaintance there one day when I went in to light a cigar. I
have a mind to ask you to give me the distinction I am ready
to claim, of being your oldest acquaintance in these parts. I
think I shall claim it yet. Let me look at the state of your
hook.'

They dropped their lines in the brook again, but no fish were
caught, and fish might cleverly have run away with their bait
several times without being found out. The conversation was
lively for some time. Stuart had sense and was amusing, and
had roamed about the world enough to have a great deal to say.
The pair were not agreeably interrupted after half an hour by
Mme. Lasalle, who discovered that Wych Hazel was fishing where
she could get nothing, and brought her down the brook to the
close neighbourhood of Miss Powder, where Stuart's attentions
had to be divided. But so the two girls had a chance to see
something of each other; a chance which Miss Powder improved
with manifest satisfaction. She was a wax-Madonna sort of
beauty, with a sweet face, fair, pure, placid, but either
somewhat impassive or quite self-contained in its character.
Her figure was good, her few words showed her not wanting in
sense or breeding.

Wych Hazel was by this time far enough out of the reserve of
first meetings to let the exhilarating June air and sunshine
do their work, and her voice, never raised beyond a pretty
note, was ready with laugh and word and repartee. Now studying
her hook, now questioning Miss Powder, now answering Mr.
Nightingale, and then seriously devoted to her fishing,--she
shewed the absolute sport of her young joyous nature, a thing
charming in itself, even without so piquant a setting. It was
no great wonder that a gentleman now and then took ground on
the opposite side of the brook, and directed his eyes as if
the fish would only come from that point of the shore where
Miss Kennedy sat. This happened more and more, as by degrees
the line of fishers was broken and the unskilled or
unsuccessful, tired of watching the water, gave it up, and
strolled up the brook to see who had better luck. And so few
fish were the result of the day's sport, so many of the
company had nothing better to do than to look at what somebody
else was doing, that by degrees nearly the whole party were
gathered around that spot where Wych Hazel had caught the
first fish. They were relieved, perhaps, that the effort was
over; perhaps the prospect of going home to dinner was
encouraging; certainly the spirits of all the party were
greatly enlivened by something. Mme. Lasalle's ears heard the
pleasant sound of voices in full chorus of speech and laughter
all the way home.

It was rather late before Madame's carriage could be ordered
to take Miss Kennedy home. Mme. Lasalle herself attended her,
and would suffer the attendance of no one else. A young moon
was shedding a delicious light on the Lollard poplars past
which Wych Hazel had cantered in the morning. It was an hour
to be still an enjoy, and think; but did Mme. Lasalle ever
think? She ceased not to talk. And Wych Hazel, after her day
of caressing and petting and admiration, how was she? She had
caught the first fish; she had been queen of the feast; she
had given the first toast, she had received the first honours
of every eye and ear in the company. Her host and hostess had
lavished all kindness on her; ladies had smiled; and
gentlemen, yes, six gentlemen had come down the steps to put
her into the carriage. But if she wanted to think, Mme.
Lasalle gave her no chance.

'Where shall you go to church on Sunday, my dear?' she asked
on the way.

'Dr. Maryland's, of course, ma'am.'

'O, that's where we all go, of course; delightful creature
that he is. And yet he rebukes every single individual thing
that one does. Dear Dr. Maryland, he's so good, he don't see
what is going in his own family. Do you know, it makes me
unhappy when I think of it. But, my dear, that's the very
thing I wanted to talk to you about,--Miss Powder, you've seen
her, aren't you pleased with her?'

'She was very pleasant to me.'

'She is that to everybody, and her mother is a very fine
woman. Now, my dear, you will be at your pleasure, seeing your
friends at Chickaree--couldn't you contrive to bring Dane and
Annabella together again?'

'I?' said Wych Hazel, surprised. 'Why, I do not know how to
contrive things for myself.'

'O! I do not mean anything complicated--that never does well;
but you could quite naturally, you know, give them
opportunities of seeing each other pleasantly. I think if he
saw her he might come round again and take up his old fancy;
and you being a stranger, you know, might do it without the
least difficulty or gaucherie; they would meet quite on
neutral ground, for nobody would suspect that you were _au fait_
of our country complications. I dare not stir, you see; that
was the reason I could not invite Dane to our fishing to-day.
I knew it wouldn't do. This was my plot for you, that I told
you about--what do you think? It would be doing a kind thing,
and hurting nobody, at any rate.'

It did come to Miss Kennedy's mind that Mr. Rollo was quite
capable of 'contriving' his own situations; but she answered
only, 'Would it, ma'am?'

'It couldn't do any harm, you know. And you are the very
person to do it. And then, if your plan should succeed, it
would have another good effect, to put Primrose Maryland in
safety.'

If it had been daylight instead of moonlight, Mme. Lasalle
might have seen the young face at her side knit itself into a
very perplexed state indeed at these words; and the more Hazel
thought the deeper she got.

'It would be quite natural, you know,' Mme. Lasalle went on
after a pause, 'that a girl like her should be fascinated, and
Rollo, without meaning to do any harm, would give her cause
enough. He _is_ fascinating you know, but he is too cool by
half. Dr. Maryland, of course, never would see or understand
what was going on; and Primrose is so sweet and inexperienced.
I know her sister was very uneasy about it before Rollo went
away--so long ago. I fancy his going was partly thanks to her
care.'

Closer and closer came the dark brows together, until by
degrees her extremely fancy-free thoughts took a turn. 'What a
fuss! what was Mme. Lasalle talking about? "Fascinating,"
forsooth!--she should like to see anybody that could fascinate
her.' And so the whole thing grew ludicrous, and she laughed,
her soft ringing, girlish laugh.

'What a pirate he must be, Mme. Lasalle. A true Dane! Do many
of that sort live on shore?'

'Take care!' said the lady in a different tone--'dangers that
are slighted are the first to be run into.'

The carriage stopped at that moment, so Wych Hazel had no need
to reply. She watched Mme. Lasalle drive off, took a
comprehensive view of the moon for a minute, and then
pirouetting round on the tips of her toes she flashed into the
sitting room and favoured Mr. Falkirk with a courtesy profound
enough for her grandmother.


CHAPTER XVII.

ENCHANTED GROUND.


Mr. Falkirk was sitting with the paper in the tea-room at
Chickaree. A good lamplight gave him every temptation to lose
himself in its manifold pages, but somehow the temptation
failed. Mr. Falkirk had been walking the floor for part of the
evening; going then to one of the long windows and throwing it
open--there were no mosquitoes at Chickaree--to look out at the
moonlight, or perhaps to listen for the sound of wheels; but
the Summer stillness was only marked by the song of insects
and the light stir of leaves, and Mr. Falkirk went back to his
musings. His hand caressed his chin sometimes, in slow and
moody deliberation. No doubt the change was a serious one,
from the quiet, unquestioned care of a schoolgirl, to the
guardianship of a bright, full-winged butterfly of humanity.
That does not half express it. For to the airy uncertainty of
butterfly motions, his ward certainly added the intense
activities of a humming bird, and the jealous temper, without
the useful proclivities, of a honey bee. I think Mr. Falkirk
likened her to all these in his meditations; and his brows
knit themselves into a persistent frown as he walked. For all
that, when the wheels of Mme. Lasalle's carriage grated on the
gravel sweep, Mr. Falkirk sat down to the table and the
newspaper, and as Wych Hazel opened the door and walked in,
Mr. Falkirk looked up sedately. Then his face unbent, a very
little, but he waited for her to speak.

'Good evening, my dear Mr. Falkirk!' Mr. Falkirk was not
morose, but he made little answer beyond a smile.

'I perceive you have been pining for my return, sir,' said
Miss Hazel advancing airily; 'but why you do not revive when I
come, _that_ puzzles my small wits. Are you overjoyed to see me
safe home, Mr. Falkirk?'

'I wait to be certified of the fact, Miss Hazel.'

She came to a low seat before him, silently crossing her arms
on her lap.

'What are the developments of fortune, to-day, Miss Hazel?'
said her guardian with a relaxing face.

'A number of gentlemen, sir, and one fish. Which I caught.
There were some ladies, too, but they came less in my way.'

'Um! So I understand you catch all that come in your way?'

'Only the fish, sir. But you should have heard the people
thereupon! One cried, "Happy fish!"--and another, "Happy Miss
Kennedy!"--And yet I suppose we had both of us known more
ecstatic moments.'

'And what is your impression of fishing parties, judging from
this specimen?'

'O, I was amused, of course. But the brook was delicious. You
know, it was all new to me, Mr. Falkirk.'

'Like the fairy-tale you wanted?' said her guardian smiling.

She smiled, too, but her answer was only a sweet, 'Are you
glad to see me here, sir?'

'I am glad if you are glad, Miss Hazel. I did not suspect that
any genie or enchanter had got hold of you yet.'

'Only "if," ' she said to herself. 'I wonder how it feels to
have anybody care for one very much!' But no word of that came
out.

'Are _you_ glad to get home, Miss Hazel?'

'Yes, sir. The drive was rather stupid.'

'Did you come alone?'

'I had Madame in person, and with her all the unquiet ghosts
of the neighbourhood, I should judge,'--added Miss Hazel
thoughtfully slipping her bracelets up and down.

'Scandal, eh?' said Mr. Falkirk. 'And yet the drive was
stupid!'

'Incredible, sir, is it not? But you see, I had been ever so
long face to face with the brook!--'

'I do not know that I am fond of scandal,' said Mr. Falkirk;
'and yet I should like to know what particular variety of that
favourite dish Madame chose to serve you with. And in the mean
time, to relieve the dryness of the subject, Miss Hazel, will
you give me a cup of tea?'

She sprang up, and began to busy herself at once with her home
duties, but did not immediately answer his question. Until she
came round to his side, bringing the fragrant and steaming cup
of tea, and then apparently thoughts were too much for her,
and she broke forth:

'Why don't people marry each other if they want to, Mr.
Falkirk?' she said, standing still to put the question. 'And
if they _don't_ want to, why do not other people let them
alone?'

Mr. Falkirk shot one of his glances at the questioner from
under his dark brows, and sipped his tea.

'There might be a variety of answers given to your first
query, Miss Hazel. People that want to marry each other are
proverbially subject to hindrances--from the days of fairy
tales down to our own.'

'They always do it in fairy tales, however.'

'They very often do it in real life,' said Mr. Falkirk
gravely.

'Well, sir?--then why cannot they be left to take care of
themselves, either way? It is such fudge!' she said, walking
back to her place and energetically dropping sugar in her own
cup.

'Who is Mme. Lasalle trying to take care of?'

'Me, last, sir. Warning me that things laughed at become
dangerous. In which case I shall lead a tolerably risky life.'

'Who is Mme. Lasalle warning you against?' demanded Mr.
Falkirk hastily.

'My dear sir, how excited you are over poor Mme. Lasalle! I
presumed to laugh at some of her fancy sketches, and then of
course she rapped me over the knuckles. Or meant it!' said
Miss Hazel, slightly lifting her eyebrows.

'But I observe you do not answer me, my dear.'

'No, sir,--if you will allow me to use my own judgment, I think
I had better not. Let me have your cup, Mr. Falkirk please,
and I'll put more sugar in this time.'

Mr. Falkirk finished his tea and made no more observations. He
was silent and thoughtful,--moody, his ward might have fancied
him,--while the tea-things were cleared away, and afterwards
pored over the newspaper and did not read it. At last, when
silence had reigned some time, he lifted his head up and
turned round to where Wych Hazel sat.

'I have been considering a difficulty, Miss Hazel; will you
help me out?'

'Gladly, sir, if I can.' She had been sitting in musing
idleness, going over the day perhaps, for now and then her
lips curled and parted, with various expressions.

'We have come, you are aware, Miss Hazel, in the course of our
progress, to the Enchanted Region;--where things are not what
they seem; jewels lie hid in the soil for the finding, and
treasures are at the top of the hill; but the conditions of
success may be the stopping of the ears, you know; and lovely
ladies by the way may turn out to be deadly enchantresses.
How, in this time of dangers and possibilities, can my wisdom
avail for your inexperience? that is my question. Can you tell
me?'

'Truly sir,' she answered with laugh, 'to get yourself out of
a difficulty, you get me in! My inexperience is totally in the
dark as to what your wisdom means.'

'Precisely,' said Mr. Falkirk; 'so how shall we do? How shall
I take care of you?'

'You have always known how, sir,' she answered with a grateful
flash of her brown eyes.

'When I had only a little Wych Hazel to take care of, and the
care depended on myself,' Mr. Falkirk said, with just an
indication of a sigh stifled somewhere. 'Now I can't get along
without your coöperation, my dear.'

'Am I so much harder to manage than of old, sir? That speaks
ill for me.'

'My dear, I believe I remarked that we are upon Enchanted
ground. It does not speak ill for you, that you may not know a
bewitched pumpkin from a good honest piece of carriage maker's
work.'

'No, sir. Is it the pumpkin variety for which Mr. Rollo is to
find mice?'

'I have taken care of your affairs at least,' said Mr. Falkirk
gravely. 'There is nothing about _them_ that is not sound. I
wish other people did not know it so well!' he muttered.

'It is only poor little me,' said Wych Hazel. 'Never mind,
sir,--in fairy tales one always comes out somehow. But I am
sure I ought to be "sound" too, if care would do it.'

'Will you help me, Hazel?' said Mr. Falkirk, bending towards
her and speaking her name as in the old childish days.

'Gladly, sir,--if you will shew me how. And if it is not too
hard,' she said with a pretty look, well answering to her
words.

'I wish you had a mother!' said Mr. Falkirk abruptly. And he
turned back to the table, and for a little while that was all
the answer he made; while Wych Hazel sat waiting. But then he
began again.

'As I remarked before, Miss Hazel, we are come upon bewitched
ground in our search after fortune. You spoke of two classes
of people a while ago, if you remember--people that want to
marry each other and people that _don't_.'

'Yes sir. Which are the most of?'

'_Being_ upon bewitched ground, it might happen to you as to
others--mind, not this year, perhaps, nor next; but it might
happen--that you should find yourself in one of these two, as
you intimate, large classes. Suppose it; could you, having no
mother, put confidence in an old guardian?'

Very grave, very gentle Mr. Falkirk's manner and tone were;
considerate of her, and very humble concerning himself.

'Why, Sir!'--she looked at him, the roses waking up in her
cheeks as she caught his meaning more fully. Then her eyes
fell again, and she said softly--'How do you mean, Mr. Falkirk?
There is nobody in the world whom I trust as I do you.'

'I have never a doubt of that, my dear. But to make the trust
avail you or me, practically, could you let me know the state
of affairs?'

She moved restlessly in her chair, drawing a long breath or
two.

'You say such strange things, sir. I do assure you, Mr.
Falkirk, I am ensconced in the very middle of one of those
classes. And that not the dangerous one,' she added with a
laugh, though the flushes came very frankly. 'If _that_ is what
you are afraid of.'


'You are in about as dangerous a class as any I know,' said
Mr. Falkirk, dryly; 'the class of people that everybody wants
to marry. Miss Hazel, you are known to be the possessor of a
very large propriety.'

'Am I, sir? And is that what makes me so attractive? I thought
that there must be some explanation of so sweeping a
compliment from your lips.'

A provoked little smile came upon Mr. Falkirk's lips, but they
grew grave again.

'So, Miss Hazel, how are you to know the false magician from
the true knight?'

'He must be a poor knight who would leave the trouble on my
hands,' said the girl, with her young ideas strong upon her.
'If he does not prove himself, Mr. Falkirk, "I'll none of
him!" '

'How shall a man prove to you that he does not want Chickaree
and your money, my dear?'

'Instead of me. I think--I should know,' she answered slowly,
so much absorbed in the question that she almost forgot its
personal bearing. 'Mr. Falkirk, false and true cannot be just
alike?'

'Remember that in both cases so much is true. The desire to
win your favour, and therefore the effort to please, are
undoubted.'

'Mr. Falkirk, you must be the assayer! Suppose you tell me now
about all these people here, to begin with. I have not seen
much that reminded me of magic _yet_,' she said with a curl of
her lips.

'What people?' said Mr. Falkirk, hastily.

'What people? Oh, I forgot--you were not at Mme. Lasalle's to-
day. But I thought you knew everybody here before we came.'

'I shall not be with you everywhere,' Mr. Falkirk went on;
'that would suit neither me nor you. The safe plan, Miss
Hazel, would be, when you think anybody is seeking your good
graces, to ask me whether he has gained mine. I will conclude
nothing of _your_ views in the matter from any such confidence.
But I will ask you to trust me thus far,--and afterwards.'

'You mean, sir, whether--he has gained mine or not?'

Mr. Falkirk answered this with one of his rare smiles, shrewd
and sweet, benignant, and yet with a play of something like
mirth in the dark, overhung eyes. It was a look which
recognized all the difficulty of the situation and the
subject, for both parties.

'I am afraid the thing is unmanageable, my dear,' he said at
last. 'You will rush up the hill without stopping your ears,
after some fancied "golden water" at the top; and I shall come
after and find you turned into some stone or other. And then
you will object very much to being picked up and put in my
pocket. I see it all before me.'

She laughed a little, but shyly; not quite at ease upon the
subject even with him. Then rose up, gathering on her arm the
light wraps she had thrown down when she came in.

'I must have been always a great deal of trouble!' she said.
'But I do not want to give you more. Mr. Falkirk, wont you
kiss me and say good night to me, as you used to do in old
times? That is better than any number of fastenings to your
pocket, to keep me from jumping out.'

Once it had been his habit, as she said; now long disused. He
did not at once answer; he, too, was gathering up a paper or
two and a book from the table. But then he came where she
stood, and taking her hand stooped and kissed her forehead. He
did not then say good night; he kissed her and went. And the
barring and bolting and locking up for the night were done
with a more hurried step than usual.


CHAPTER XVIII.

COURT IN THE WOODS.


'Miss Wych--my dear--all in brown?' said Mrs. Bywank doubtfully,
as her young charge was arraying herself one morning for the
woodcraft. Some rain and some matters of business had delayed
the occasion, and it was a good week since the fishing party.

'Harmonious, isn't it?' said Hazel.

'But, my dear--it looks--so sombre!' said Mrs. Bywank.

'Sombre?' said the girl, facing round upon her with such
tinges of cheek and sparkles of eye that Mrs. Bywank laughed,
too, and gave in.

'If it puts Mr. Falkirk to sleep, I can wake him up,' said
Wych Hazel, busy with her loopings. 'And as for Mr. Rollo'--

'Mr. Rollo!--is he to be of the party?' said the housekeeper.

'I suppose,--really,--he is _the_ party,' said Wych Hazel. 'Mr.
Falkirk and I scarcely deserve so festive a name by
ourselves.'

'And what were you going to say to Mr. Rollo?'

'O nothing much. He may go to sleep if he chooses--and can,'
added Miss Wych, for the moment looking her name. But the old
housekeeper looked troubled.

'My dear,' she began--'I wouldn't play off any of my pranks
upon Mr. Rollo, if I were you.'

'What is the matter with Mr. Rollo, that his life must be
insured?' said Wych, gravely confronting her old friend with
such a face that Mrs. Bywank was again betrayed into an
unwilling laugh. But she returned to the charge.

'I wouldn't, Miss Wych! Gentlemen don't understand such
things.'

'I do not think Mr. Rollo seems dull,' said the girl, with a
face of grave reflection. 'Now, Byo--what are you afraid I
shall do?' she went on, suddenly changing her tone, and laying
both hands on her old friend's shoulders.

'Why, nothing, Miss Wych, dear!--I mean,'--Mrs. Bywank
hesitated.

'You mean a great deal, I see,' said Wych Hazel. 'But do not
you see, Byo, I cannot hang out false colours? There is no
sort of use in my pretending not to be wild, because I _am_.'

Mrs. Bywank looked up in the young face,--loving and anxious.

'Miss Wych,' she said, 'what men of sense disapprove, young
ladies in general had better not do.'

'O, I cannot follow you there,' said Wych Hazel. 'Suppose, for
instance, Mr. Rollo (I presume you mean him by "men of sense")
took a kink against my brown dress?'

Not very likely, Mrs. Bywank thought, as she looked at the
figure before her. If Hazel had been a wood nymph a week ago
she was surely the loveliest of brown fairies to-day. But
still the old housekeeper sighed.

'My dear, I know the world,' she began.

'And I don't,' said Hazel. 'I am so glad! Never fear, Byo, for
to-day at least I have got Mr. Falkirk between me and
mischief. And there he is this minute, wanting his breakfast.'

But to judge by the housekeeper's face as she looked after her
young mistress down the stairs, that barrier was not quite all
that could be wished. However, if impenetrability were enough
for a barrier, Mr. Falkirk could have met any inquisitions
that morning.

He came to breakfast as usual; but this morning breakfast
simply meant business. He ate his toast and read his
newspaper. With the ending of breakfast came Rollo. And the
party presently issued forth into the woods which were to be
the scene of the day's work.

The woods of Chickaree were old and fine. For many years
undressed and neglected, they had come at last to a rather
rampant state of anarchy and misrule. Feebler, though perhaps
not less promising members were oppressed by the overtopping
growth of the stronger; there was an upstart crowd of young
wood; and the best intentioned trees were hurting each other's
efforts, because of want of room. It was a lovely wilderness
into which the party plunged, and the June morning sat in the
tops of the trees and laughed down at them. Human nature could
hardly help laughing back in return, so utterly joyous were
sun and sky, birds and insects and trees altogether. They went
first to the wilderness through which Rollo and Wych Hazel had
made their way on foot one morning; lying near to the house
and in the immediate region of its owner's going and coming.
Herein were great white oaks lifting their heads into greater
silver pines. Here were superb hemlocks threatened by a
usurping growth of young deciduous trees. There were dogwoods
throwing themselves across everything; and groups of maples
and beeches struggling with each other. As yet the wild growth
was in many instances beautiful; the damage it was doing was
beyond the reach of any but an experienced eye. Here and there
a cross in white chalk upon the trunk of a tree was to be
seen.

The three walked slowly down through this leafy wild till they
were lost in it.

'Now,' said Rollo to the little lady in brown, 'what do you
think ought to be done here?'

'I should like to make ways through al this, if I could. True
wildwood ways, I mean,--that one must look for and hardly find;
with here and there a great clearance that should seem to have
made itself. What sort of a track would a hurricane make here,
for instance?'

'A hurricane!' said Mr. Falkirk, facing round upon his ward.

'Rather indiscriminate in its action,' observed Rollo.

'The clearance a hurricane makes in a forest,' Mr. Falkirk
went on, 'is generally in the tree tops. The ground is left a
wreck.'

'Any system of clearing that I know, brings the trees to the
ground,' said Wych Hazel. 'But I mean--I like the woods dearly
as they are, Mr. Falkirk; but _if_ I meddled with them, then I
would have something to shew for it. I would have thoughts
instead of the trees, and vistas full of visions. If anything
is cut here, it ought to be in a broad hurricane track right
down to the West, where


"The wind shall seek them vainly, and the sun
Gaze on the vacant space for centuries."


I do not like fussing with such woods.'

'What thought is expressed by a wide system of devastation?'
asked Rollo, facing her.

'Power. Do not you like power, Mr. Rollo?' she said with a
demure arch of her eyebrows.

Rollo bit his lips furtively but vigorously, and then demanded
to know if Napoleon was her favourite character in history.

'No,' said Wych Hazel--'he did not know what to do with his
power when he had it. A very common mistake, Mr. Rollo, you
will find.'

'Don't make it,' said he, smiling.

'What are you talking about?' said Mr. Falkirk, turning round
upon them. 'Miss Hazel, we are here in obedience to your
wishes. What do you propose to do, now we are here? Do you
know what needs doing?'

'What does, Mr. Falkirk?--in your opinion?' She came close to
him, linking her hands upon his arm. 'Tell me first, and then
I will tell you.'

'There must be a great many trees cut, Miss Hazel; they have
grown up to crowd upon each other very mischievously. And a
large quantity of saplings and underbrush must be cleared
away. You see where I have begun to mark trees for the axe.'

'Truly, sir, I do! Mr. Falkirk, that bent oak is a beauty.'

'It will never make a fine tree. And the oak beside it will.'

'Well--it is to be congratulated,' said Miss Hazel, pensively.
'But what is to become of my poor woods, at that rate? There
is an elm with a branch too many on one side; and a birch
keeping house lovingly with a hemlock. If "woodcraft" means
only such line-and-rule decimation, Mr. Falkirk--'

'I don't know what _you_ mean by woodcraft, my dear. I mean,
taking care of the woods.'

'And _that_ means,' added Rollo, 'an intimate knowledge of their
natures, and an affectionate care for their interests; a
sympathetic, loving, watchful insight and forecast.'

Wych Hazel gave him a little nod of approval.

'Don't you see, sir?' she went on eagerly. 'You _must_ have a
bent tree now and then, because it is twice as interesting as
the straight ones. And if you cut down all the bushes, Mr.
Falkirk, you will clear _me_ out,' she added, laughing up in his
face.

'You might grant her so much, Mr. Falkirk,' said the other
gentleman. 'A bent tree now and then; and all her namesakes.
Certainly they ought to stand.'

M. Falkirk's answer was to take a few steps to a large white
pine tree, and make a huge dash of white chalk upon its broad
bole. Then he stepped back to look again. Action was more in
his way than discussion to-day. Rollo began to get into the
spirit of the thing; and suggested and pointed out here and
there what ought to come down and what ought to be left, and
the reasons, with a quick, clear insight and decision to which
Mr. Falkirk invariably assented, and almost invariably in
silence. Deeper and deeper into the wood they worked their
way; where the shade lay dark upon the ferns and the air was
cool and spicy with fragrance, and then where the sunlight
came down and played at the trees' foot. For a while Wych
Hazel kept pace with their steps; advising, countermanding,
putting in her word generally. But by degrees she quitted the
marking work, and began to flit about by herself; plunging her
little fingers deep into moss beds, mimicking the squirrels,
and--after her old fashion--breaking out from time to time into
scraps of song. Now Mr. Falkirk's ears were delighted with the
ringing chorus:


'Wooed and married and a'--
'Wooed and married and a';
'Wasna she vera weel aff
'That was wooed, and married, and a'?


Then a complete hush seemed to betoken sudden recollection on
the singer's part; that was quite too private and confidential
a matter to be trilled out at the top of one's voice.
Presently again, slow and clear like the tinkle of a streamlet
down the rocks, came the words of Aileen Asthore:


'Even the way winds
'Come to my cave and sigh; they often bring
'Rose leaves upon their wing,
'To strew
'Over my earth, and leaves of violet blue;
'In sooth, leaves of all kinds.'


It was a very sweet kind of telegraphing; but the two
gentlemen, deep in the merits of a burly red oak, took no
notice how suddenly the song broke off, nor that none other
came after it. And when at last they bethought themselves of
the young lady truant, and stopped to listen where she might
be, they heard a murmur of tongues very different indeed from
the silvery tones of Wych Hazel. And somewhat hastily
retracing their steps, came presently into distant view if an
undoubted little court, holden easily in the woods.

Miss Kennedy, uplifted on a grey rock, was the centre thereof,
and around her some six or eight gentlemen paid their devoirs
in most courtier-like fashion. On the moss at her feet lay Mr.
Kingsland, with no less a companion than Mr. Simms--black
whiskers, white Venetian collar and all. Three or four others,
whom Mr. Falkirk did not know, were lounging and laughing and
paying attentions of unmistakable reality; while Stuart
Nightingale, who had come up on horseback, stood nearest of
all, leaning against the rock, his hat off, his horse's bridle
upon his arm.

The consequence of this revelation was a temporary suspension
of woodcraft, properly so called; another sort of craft, it
may possibly have occurred to the actors therein, coming into
requisition. Mr. Falkirk at once went forward and joined the
group around the rock. More slowly Rollo's movements also in
time brought him there. They could see, as they came nearer, a
fine example of the power of feminine adaptation. Was this the
girl to whom Mr. Falkirk had discoursed the other night? How
swiftly and easily she was taking her place! And though a
little downcast and blushing now and then, beneath the subtle
power of eyes and tongue, yet evidently all the while
gathering up the reins and learning to drive her four in hand.
Over the two at her feet she was openingly queening it
already; over the others--what did Wych Hazel see concerning
them, that curled her lips in their soft lines of mischief?
Some exquisite hot-house flowers lay in her lap, and a
delicate little basket by her side held strawberries--red,
white and black--such as the neglected Chickaree gardens had
never seen.

'Why, there is your venerable guardian, Miss Kennedy!' drawled
out Mr. Kingsland, as Mr. Falkirk came in sight. 'How
charming! Patriarchal. And who is that beyond?--Dane Rollo!--as
I am a Christian!'

'Evidently then, somebody else,' said Mr. May. 'Who is it,
Nightingale?'

But Mr. Nightingale knew his business better than to reply;
and Dane presently spoke for himself. It was the Dane of the
Mountain House, courteous and careless; no fellow of these
gentlemen, nor yet at all like Mr. Falkirk, a guard upon them.
Mr. Falkirk's brows had unmistakeably drawn together at sight
of the new comers; Rollo stood on the edge of the group,
indifferent and at ease, after his wonted fashion in general
society.

'You are making almost your first acquaintance with these
beautiful woods?' Stuart remarked, to the little mistress of
them, breaking the lull that Mr. Falkirk's arrival had
produced.

'How old is your own, sir?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'I--really, I don't know--I have shot here a little; before you
came, you know; when it was all waste ground.'

'I remember getting lost in them once, when I was a child,'
said Wych Hazel,--'I think that was my first acquaintance. It
was just before we went away. And Mr. Falkirk found me and
carried me home. Do you remember, sir?'

But Mr. Falkirk was oblivious of such passages of memory in
the present company. He gave no token of hearing. Instead, he
cruelly asked Mr. Kingsland how farming got on this summer?
And Mr. Kingsland, by way of returning good for evil, gave Mr.
Falkirk a shower of reports and statistics which might have
been true--they were so unhesitating. Through which rain of
facts Mr. Falkirk could just catch the sound of words from Mr.
May, the sense of which fell upon Miss Kennedy's ear alone.
Until Rollo at her side broke the course of things.

'I beg your pardon! Miss Kennedy,' (in an aside) 'I see
Primrose and her father coming. Shall I stop them?'

'Why, of course!' she said, springing to her feet, 'What a
question!'

The two recumbent gentlemen rose at once.

'Do you always wear wildwood tints, Miss Kennedy?' asked Mr.
Simms, looking up admiringly at the slim figure. 'I thought
the other day that green was matchless, but to-day--'

'Yes,' said Wych Hazel, 'but if you would just please stand
out of my way, and let me jump down. I want to see Dr.
Maryland.'

The gentleman laughed and retreated, and disregarding the half
dozen offered hands, Hazel sprang from her rock and stood out
a step or two, shading her eyes and looking down the woodland,
where Rollo had disappeared to meet the approaching carriage.
The thicket was so close just here that the carriage road
though not far off was invisible. Down below Rollo had caught
a glimpse of the well known little green buggy creeping up the
hill; and in another few minutes its occupants appeared coming
through the trees. Wych Hazel had hold of their hands almost
before they had sight of her.

'I thought you had given me up, Dr. Maryland,' she said, 'and
were never coming to see me at all!'

'Two days,' said the Doctor benignly, 'two fair days my dear,
since we took breakfast together. I have not been very
delinquent. Though it seems I am not the first here. Good
morning, Mr. Kingsland!--how do you do, Mr. Burr?--how do you
do, Mr. Sutphen?--Mr. May? Are you holding an assembly here, my
dear?' And by that time Dr. Maryland had worked round to Mr.
Falkirk; and the hands of the two gentlemen closed in an
earnest prolonged clasp; after the approved method gentlemen
have of expressing their estimation of each other.

'Miss Kennedy is pretty sure to "hold" whoever comes near her,
sir,' said Mr. Burr.

'I can certify that the "assembly" is quite powerless, Doctor--
if it will be any relief to your mind,' said Mr. Kingsland.
While Hazel, with Prim's hand in hers, was eagerly speaking
her pleasure.

'What are you doing?' said Primrose under her breath and
looking in some astonishment at the gathering.

'O, nothing--talking,--they wanted to know how I got home,' said
Wych, an amused look betraying itself. Then quitting Primrose,
she went forward a little to receive the farewell addresses of
several gentlemen who preferred to see Miss Kennedy alone. The
group began to clear away. Prim's eye watched her, in her
graceful, pretty self-possession, as she met and returned the
parting salutation; and then went over by some instinct to
where another eye was watching her too, with a contented
sparkle in its intentness. That was only a second, though.
Rollo had no mind to have all the world know what he was
thinking about; and even as her glance found him, his turned
away. The strangers being at last disposed of, those remaining
began a slow procession towards the house. But a parting word
of Mr. Nightingale's must be noted.

'Any chance for a ride to the wood to-morrow?' he said, with
tones so modulated that he thought his words safe. And she
answered:

'O, my horses have not come. There will be little riding for
me yet a while.'

'And these are the Chickaree woods?' said Dr. Maryland, as
they walked on. 'How beautiful they are! Are you very happy,
Hazel, in the hope of being the mistress of all this?'

'Why I thought--I call myself the mistress now, sir. Is it an
uncertainty dependent on my good behaviour?' she said with a
laugh.

'You know you are not of age, my dear; but I suppose Mr.
Falkirk gives you the essentials of dominion. Do you feel at
home yet?'

'Very much! You know, sir, I have just a little remembrance of
the old time--when mamma was here--to begin with. But how
heedless I am!' she said, abruptly putting the little basket
which had been swinging from her hand into the hands of Dr.
Maryland. 'There, sir,--will you take some refreshment by the
way?' Then turning to Primrose, Miss Kennedy laid the fragrant
weight of hot-house flowers upon her.

'Are these from your garden?' said Primrose, somewhat
bewildered. While Dr. Maryland, putting his fingers without
scruple in among the black and white strawberries, asked in an
approving tone of voice: 'Have you been picking these
yourself, my dear?'

'I--picked them up, sir,' said Hazel with the laugh in her
voice. 'Not off the vines, however. They are hothouse
flowers,' she answered to Primrose. 'When my houses are in
order you shall have them every day.'

'They are very good,' said Dr. Maryland gravely, eating away.
'Where did you get them, my dear?'

'Mr. May brought them, sir,' said the girl, looking down now,
and walking straight on.

'Mr. May!' echoed Dr. Maryland. 'How comes Mr. May to be
bringing you strawberries? And those flowers too?' glancing
over at Primrose's full hands.

'No, sir, Mr. Burr brought the flowers.'

'You are a fearful man for asking questions, sir,' said Rollo,
with a flash of fun in his face.

'Questions?' said the doctor, picking out the black
strawberries abstractedly,--'I've a right to ask her questions.
The strawberries are good!--but I wish Mr. May had not brought
them.'

'So would he, if he knew you were eating them, sir.'

'I've eaten enough of them,' said Dr. Maryland, seeming to
recollect himself. 'They are very good; they are the finest
strawberries I have seen.' And he handed the basket to Mr.
Falkirk, who immediately passed it over to Rollo. Rollo
balanced the basket on his fingers and carried it so, but put
never a finger inside.

'I am afraid your head will be turned, Hazel, my dear,' said
Dr. Maryland, 'if the adulation has begun so soon. What will
you do when you are a little better known?'

'Ah!' said Hazel, with an indescribable intonation, 'ask Mr.
Falkirk that, Dr. Maryland. Poor Mr. Falkirk! he is learning
every day of his life what it is to know me "a little better!" '

'I can imagine that,' said Dr. Maryland, quite gravely. 'My
dear, what a beautiful old house you have!'

The June day, however, was so alluring that they could not
make up their minds to go inside. On the basket chairs in the
low verandah they sat down, and looked and talked. Primrose
did not talk much--she was quiet; nor Mr. Falkirk--he was
taciturn; the burden of talk was chiefly borne by Wych Hazel
and the Doctor. In a genial, enjoying, sympathising mood, Dr.
Maryland came out in a way uncommon for him! asked questions
about the woods, the property, the old house; and delighted
himself in the beauty that was abroad in earth and sky.

'My dear,' he said at last to Wych Hazel, 'you have all that
this world can give you. What are you going to do with it?'

'Have I?' she said, rather wistfully. 'I thought I was looking
for something more. What could I do with it, sir? You know Mr.
Falkirk manages everything as well as can be, now.'

'Are you looking for something more?' said Dr. Maryland,
tenderly. 'What more are you looking for, Hazel?'

'Suppose I should tell you I do not quite know, myself, sir?'

'I should say, my dear, the best thing would be to find out.'

'I shall know when I find it,' said the girl. 'If I find it.'

' "To him that hath shall be given!" One of the best ways,
Hazel, to find more is to make the best use of what we have.'

The girl left her seat, and kneeling down by Dr. Maryland,
laid her hand on his shoulder.

'I mean,' she said, dropping her voice so that only the doctor
could hear, 'not more of what people call much; but something,
where I have nothing. To belong to somebody--to have somebody
belong to me.'

'Ah, my dear,' said the doctor, wistfully, 'I am afraid
Primrose wouldn't do.'

'I have wanted her ever since she took me in out of the rain,
and did not wonder how I got wet,' said Hazel laughing but
dropping her voice again.

'If you had her, my dear, you would then want something or
somebody else.'

'Maybe you do not understand me, sir,' she said, a little
eager to be understood, and pouring out confidences in a way
as rare with her as it was complimentary to her hearer. 'I am
not complaining of anybody. I know Mr. Falkirk is very fond of
me--but he likes to keep me off at a respectful distance. Only
a few nights ago, I was feeling particularly good, for me, and
rather lonely, and I just asked him to kiss me for good night--
and it made him so glum that he has hardly opened his lips to
me ever since!' said Wych Hazel in an aggrieved voice.

'Perhaps Mr. Falkirk has something upon his mind, my dear!'
said Dr. Maryland, with raised eyebrows and an uncommon
expression of _fun_ playing about the lines of his mouth. 'It is
not always safe to conclude that coincident facts have a
relation of cause and effect.'

'No--' said the girl, 'I suppose not. But I stood there all by
myself and heard him turn the keys and rattle the bolts--and
then I ran upstairs to find Mrs. Bywank,--and of course she
couldn't speak for a toothache. And then I felt as if there
was nobody in all the world--in all my world--but me!'

Dr. Maryland looked tenderly upon the young girl beside him,
yet uncomprehendingly. Probably his peculiar masculine nature
furnished him with no clue to her essentially feminine views
of things.

'I dare say, my dear,' he said,--'I dare say! The best cure for
such a state of feeling hat I know, would be to begin living
for other people. You will find the world grow populous very
soon. And one other cure,'--he added, his eye going away from
Wych Hazel into an abstracted gaze towards the outer world;--
'when you can say, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there
is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee." '

The little hand upon his shoulder stirred,--was lifted, and
laid down again. Somehow she comprehended him better than he
did her. Then with a sudden motion Hazel took off a luminous
bracelet--one of the three she always wore, and laid it across
Dr. Maryland's hand.

'Did mamma ever shew you that, sir?' she said. 'She had it
made just for me. And then my wrist was so small that it would
go twice round.'

It was a string of twelve stones, all different, all cut and
set alike; each long parallelogram fitting rather closely to
the next on either side; the hues--opaque, translucent,
clouded--flashed and gleamed with every imaginable variation of
colour and shade. The doctor looked at it in silence. Then
spoke.

'What did she mean by it, Hazel, my dear? I do not catch the
interpretation.'

She turned it a little in his hand, until the light fell on
the gold framing beneath the gems, and Dr. Maryland could read
the fine graven tracery:--"The first, a jasper."

'Ah!' he exclaimed with new interest, 'I see.' And he took up
the chain of stones and turned it over and over, rather passed
it through his fingers like a rosary, studying the stones and
murmuring the names of them.

' "The wall of the city had twelve foundations," ' he said at
last, giving the chain back, with a look of light and love
combined; ' "and in the wall were twelve gates, and each
several gate was one pearl; and the streets were gold, like
unto transparent glass, and nothing that defileth shall by any
means enter there, but those that are washed in the blood of
the Lamb." I like that, my dear.'

His look made all the application his words did not. Presently
he rose up and asked Wych Hazel if he might go into her
library? A book was there, he thought, that he wanted to look
at. Hazel guided him in, but then he dismissed her and she
went back to Primrose on the verandah. Slowly back,--softly
fingering her bright stones, soberly thinking to herself the
motto upon the clasp:--"In hope of eternal life."

'What were you talking to papa about?' said Primrose, putting
a loving hand into Wych Hazel's. The two other gentlemen were
speaking together at a little distance. 'I thought you looked
troubled; but I could not hear, for Duke was talking to me.'

'Dr. Maryland should have been the troubled one, part of the
time,' said Hazel, bringing her other hand upon Prim's, 'for I
asked him to give you to me.'

'What would become of him and Duke?' said Primrose smiling.

'Really, Mr. Rollo did not enter into my calculations!' said
Wych Hazel, coming back with a rebound into her everyday self.
'Does he require much time and care bestowed upon him?'

'Don't you think all men do?'

'I do not know all men,' said Wych Hazel. 'Mr. Falkirk does
not get it. But does Mr. Rollo _live_ at your house?'

'Why of course, when he's here. He always did, you know. And
O, Duke helps me. It is twice as easy to take care of papa,
when I have him in the house, too. But Hazel, I am going to
get _you_ to help me,--in another way--if I can.'

'What way?' said Hazel. 'Then if Mr. Rollo is so helpful, he
might take care of Dr. Maryland altogether, and you could come
to take care of me.'

Primrose laughed.

'O men cannot get along as women can--don't you know that?' she
said. 'No, I want you for my Sunday school. What's the
matter?'"

These last words were caused by a diversion of the speaker's
thoughts. For she had noticed, while speaking, that a man had
come in haste to the place where the two gentlemen were
standing; and that after a very few words Mr. Falkirk had
thrown on his hat and gone down the grassy slope with the
messenger; while Rollo had turned as suddenly and was coming
towards them.


CHAPTER XIX.

SELF-CONTROL.


Rollo came up with the grave, business look of one who has
serious matters on hand.

'A messenger has come,' he said, speaking to Wych Hazel, 'to
say that one of the men has met with an accident.'

He could see how the shock struck her, but she made no
exclamation, only her hands met in a tight clasp as they had
done in the woods' fire. She faced him silently, waiting more
words.

'I don't know yet how bad it is. I am going to see; and I will
come back to you by and by.'

'Where?--and who?' she asked.

'In the wood-cutting. It is Reo.' He spoke as a man who speaks
unwillingly.

Hazel gave a little cry at that, and turning suddenly flew
into the house. The next thing was the flutter of her light
foot outside among the trees. But, overtaken the next minute,
she was stopped by a hand on her arm and held fast. However
Dane spoke very gently.

'Miss Hazel!--you had better not go yourself.'

'I am going,' she said, struggling to disengage herself. 'Mr.
Rollo!--'

'Stop,' he said gently and steadily. 'Miss Hazel--I shall not
let you go.'

In her excitement she hardly took in more than the mere fact
of his words, and dropping everything she had in her hand,
Hazel took hold of his fingers and began to loosen them with
her own, which had a good deal of will in them, of they were
small. The immediate effect was to secure the imprisonment of
both her hands in a clasp that was stronger than her's. I
hardly think Rollo disliked it, for he smiled a little as he
spoke:

'Listen,' he said,--'Miss Hazel, I shall not let you go down
yonder. I will bring you news as soon as I can--but you must
stay here with Rosy. Don't you see?' he added very gently, as
he turned about and walked toward the house with her, putting
one little hand on his arm while other hand still held it
fast,--'don't you see, you could do nothing just yet? And I
take this upon myself--I shall not let you go. You must stay
here and take care of Rosy, till I can come back to you.'

'I will not,' she said, stopping short again. 'I will go! It
is my right! Where should a woman be? And--Oh!' she cried with
a change of tone, 'it is Reo!--And he will want things--and he
will want me!'

'Not yet,' said Rollo; 'it is not time for either yet. He
shall want nothing, I promise you, that he ought to have. But
you must be good and stay with Rosy.'

He spoke as a brother might speak to a little sister of whom
he was very fond, or--brothers do not often take just that
tone. Primrose, looking on, knew very well what it meant. Wych
Hazel was in far too much commotion of mind to discern
anything. She had yielded to superior strength,--which indeed
she could not gracefully resist; and then there came over her
heart such a flood of grief, that for the last few steps she
was quite passive; though giving no sign but the quiver that
touched her mouth, and went and came again. But at Rollo's
last words she drew herself up defiantly.

'Do you expect to stand here and hold me all day?' she said.

'No?' he said gravely, now meeting her look,--'I expect you to
have self-control and womanly patience, and to let me go and
do my part, until it is time for you to do yours. Will you?'

'I shall do what I think best. The question is none of yours,
Mr. Rollo. Self-control!--I have a little!' she said under her
breath.

'Do you mean to keep me here,' he said gravely and quietly,
'when I may be so much wanted elsewhere? You would be in the
way there, but I am needed. Still, you are my first care. Must
I stay here to take care of you? or will you promise me to be
good and wait quietly with Primrose, until I bring you word?'

His eye went to Primrose as he ended, in a mute appeal for
help. And Prim came near and laid her hand softly on Wych
Hazel's shoulder.

'Do, dear Hazel!' she said. 'Duke knows; you may trust him.'

It was indescribable the way she freed herself from them both,
as if to be touched, now, was beyond the bounds of endurance.
Prim's words Hazel utterly ignored, but something in the
other's claimed attention.

'Go! Go!'--she said hurriedly. 'Go and do your part!--If you had
been content with doing that at first, we should have had no
trouble.' She wrapped her arms round one of the light verandah
pillars, and leaning her head against it gave look nor word
more.

Rollo staid for none, but dashed away down the slope and was
lost in the woods. Primrose stood near Wych Hazel, very much
at a loss indeed; but too troubled to be still.

'Dear Hazel!' she ventured, in a very soft voice--'don't feel
so! What is the matter?'

'Did you not hear?'

'Yes; but Hazel dear, you know hardly anything yet; there may
be very little to be troubled about. The accident may be very
slight, for all you know. I always think it is best to wait
and see; and then have your strength ready to work with.'

'My strength has been extremely useful to-day.'

'What to you mean, dear?' said Primrose, softly endeavouring
to coax the hands and arms away from the verandah pillar.
'Look here--look up and be yourself again. Maybe there is very
little the matter. Wait and see.'

'Wait!'--Hazel repeated. 'People talk as if waiting was such
easy work!'

'I never said it was easy,' said Primrose gently. 'But some
people have to wait all their lives.' There was the very
essence of patience in the intonation.

'I should think their lives would be short.'

Primrose sighed a little and was silent. Perhaps she thought
that those who had little occasion to practise the grace were
unreasonable. But I think she only remembered that the one
near her was very unpractised.

'Forgive me--I do not mean to--be--' the girl faltered out, the
tremor coming back to her voice. 'But Reo!--' And with that,
pain and disappointment and chagrin joined forces; and
quitting her pillar, Hazel dropped down by one of the great
wicker chairs, and laying her head there burst into a passion
of weeping that almost made Primrose wish for the hard-edged
calm again.

So she stood passively by until the storm was spent; and Dr.
Maryland having satisfied his book quest, came out again,
awakening to the fact that it was time he and Primrose were
jogging homeward. Primrose took him aside and explained the
situation of affairs, after which Dr. Maryland, too, forthwith
betook himself down the slope in the direction where Mr.
Falkirk and Rollo had disappeared. After a little interval of
further suspense he was seen coming back again. He reported
that Reo was not much hurt; had been a good deal bruised, and
the accident had threatened to be serious; but after all no
great harm was done. Primrose nevertheless begged that her
father would go home without her; she could come with Duke,
she said.

Dr. Maryland's wagon had not been brought round, however, when
a very different vehicle appeared, climbing the steep; and
Primrose proclaimed that Mrs. Powder was at hand. The carriage
drew up before the verandah, and from it descended the ex-
Governor's lady, and two young ones--Miss Annabella and
another. Mrs. Powder was a stately lady, large and dignified;--
those two things do not always go together, but they did in
her case. She was extremely gracious to all the members of the
little group she found gathered to receive her. Then, as Dr.
Maryland was going, she sat down to talk to him about some
business which engaged her. So the two older persons were a
little removed from the rest. Miss Annabella did nothing but
look handsome and calm, after her wont; but her younger sister
was of different mettle.

'And so this is Chickaree?' she said, gazing up and down and
about, at the old house and its surroundings. 'What a
delightful old place! And are you the mistress of it, really--
without being married, you know? How splendid! I always think
that's the worst of being married--you lose your liberty, you
know, and there's always somebody to bother you; but to have a
grand place, and house, and all that, and to be mistress, and
_have no master!_--I declare,' Miss Josephine cried, throwing up
hands and eyes, 'it's as good as a fairy tale. And much
better, for it don't all vanish in smoke in a minute. Oh,
don't you feel like a fairy princess in the midst of all your
magnificence? You look like it, too!' added the young lady,
surveying the person of her hostess. 'Ain't you proud?'

Hazel's spent and past excitement had left her rather pale and
grave, so that she was doing the honours with an extra touch
of stateliness. Self-control was trying its best now, for she
had not the least mind that anybody should know it had ever
been shaken. So she ordered lunch to be served out there on
the verandah, and made Dr. Maryland wait for it, and talked to
Miss Annabella; and now gave Miss Josephine a cool 'Proud! Is
that what you call it?' which left nothing to be desired.

'I thought they said she was so brilliant?' remarked Miss
Annabella, in an aside to Primrose. 'But I suppose _that_ is
with gentlemen.'

'What do _you_ call it?' the younger Miss Powder went on. '_I_
should be proud--awfully--if I had such a house and all. I'd
take my time about being married. Wouldn't you? Don't you
think it is best to put off being married as long as you can?--
not till it's _too_ late, you know. The fun's all over then--
don't you think so?--except the house, and carriage, and
establishment, and giving entertainments, and all that. And
you have got it all already. Oh, I should think you would make
the men dance round?'

Wych Hazel had followed this rush of new ideas with a degree
of amazement, which, before she knew, culminated in a merry
laugh. But she was grave again immediately.

'Should you?' she said. 'How do you do it?'

'_Don't you know how?_' said the other girl, with an expression
of insinuation, fun and daring which it is difficult to give
on paper. She was a pretty, bright girl, too. The question
would have been impudent if it had not been comical. 'I know
you do!' she went on. 'You've a good battery. I'd like to see
you do it. I always do. It's such fun! All men are good for,'
she exclaimed next, with a curl on her lip, 'except to carry
one's parasol and things. Do you know Kitty Fisher?'

'Not even by name,' said Miss Kennedy, studying her guest as
an entirely new species.

'She's a splendid girl. She's coming to Moscheloo next week;
there'll be goings on then. People are so stupid here in the
country, they want somebody to wake them up. Kitty's awfully
jolly. Oh, what a lovely old house! Take me in and let me see
it, won't you? Oh, what a lovely hall! What a place for a
German! Oh, you'll give a German, won't you?'

'I do not know what I shall give, yet, Miss Powder.'

'I'm not Miss Powder! Annabella wouldn't thank you. She'd like
me to be Miss Powder, though. Tell me; don't you think people
could get along just as well if they weren't married? Now
there's my mother wants to marry us off as quick as she can;
and every other girl's mother is just the same. What do they
do it for? Oh, you've got a dreadful old guardian, haven't
you? Does he want you to get married? Ain't it hateful to have
a guardian? I should think it would be awfully poky.'

'Did you ever see Mr. Falkirk?' said Hazel gravely. Somehow
this girl's talk made her extremely reticent. But that made
little difference to Miss "Phinny." The next question was:

'Do you know Stephen Kingsland?'

'Yes.'

'Don't you admire him? Ain't he a catch, for somebody! But you
know Stuart Nightingale, don't you?'

Again Miss Kennedy said yes.

'Like him?'

'Do you?' said Hazel.

'I think he's splendid! He's so amusing; and he's a _splendid_
dancer. It's fun to dance with Stuart Nightingale. I don't
very often get him, though. But you didn't answer me--do you
like him?'

'I am not much in the habit of answering people,' said Hazel
frankly. 'You will find that out if you see enough of me.'

'Ain't you? Why?' asked the young lady ingenuously.

'Because I do not like to be questioned. You perceive no fault
can be found with my reasons,' she added with a smile.

'Then you do like him, I know. People are never afraid to tell
their dislikes. Why!--is that'--

A broken-off inquiry here was never finished, the answer to it
in fact being furnished by the coming near of Rollo whose
distant appearance had first suggested it. He came up on the
verandah, shook hands with Mrs. Powder, but gave the other
ladies one of what Wych Hazel used to know, as his Spanish
greetings; courteous and distant equally. Dr. Maryland had
before this finished his colloquy with the ex-Governor's lady
and departed. Rollo now took his place and talked to Mrs.
Powder, while for a few minutes Annabella used her eyes, as
much as she could, and Miss Phinny ceased to use her tongue.

Wych Hazel never knew by what instinct she worked her way
through that first bit of time. Eager for more tidings, sure
that her eagerness must not appear, she held her breath for
one minute--then rose up cool and quiet, the young mistress of
Chickaree.

'Yes,' she said, answering Phinny's half spoken words, 'it is
Mr. Rollo. And of course he has had no luncheon.'

She summoned Dingee with a blast of her silver whistle (there
were few bells at Chickaree), ordered up hot chocolate and
fresh tea and relays of fruit and cream; and herself stepped
forward to see them served.

'There are croquettes, Mr. Rollo,' she said,--'and Dingee will
bring you cold beef. And with what may I fill your cup?'

Primrose, through her scattering talk with Annabella, watched,
as she could, these two people who were so strange to her
simplicity. Here was Wych Hazel, a little while ago on the
floor in a passion of tears; now, calm, self-possessed, and
graceful. Primrose had been very uncertain how she would meet
Rollo the next time; with a kind of wonder she heard her
friendly offer of chocolate and observed Rollo's perfectly
cool and matter-of-course acceptance of it from her hands. It
was something beyond Primrose. She waited to see how it would
be when Mrs. Powder went away.

But a great many thoughts went in among the sugar that
Primrose never guessed. Wych Hazel was anxiously waiting to
have the good report about Reo confirmed, and would not shew
her anxiety. But what did Prim mean by people's waiting all
their lives? What did they wait for? Well, these two people
needn't wait any longer for a meeting--that was one thing. _That_
affair was well off her hands. Why hadn't Mr. Falkirk returned
too?--Staying with Reo, perhaps, until she came, and she could
not go, and could not ask. And now, of course, the Powders
would just stay on, supplementing their lunch to bear Mr.
Rollo company. Perhaps, though, it was just as well they were
here when he came. Because she knew she ought to be furiously
angry with him, and somehow that was never a _rôle_ she could
play. Before excitement reached that point, she always got
hurt, or troubled, or timid--and just now she was too tired. If
he told her to sit there and count her fingers, she should
hardly have spirit to resist. How ever had he dared to take
hold of said fingers as he had done!--and with that came a
sudden rush to Miss Kennedy's cheeks which made her wish she
could go for hot chocolate instead of Dingee. He had hindered
her by sheer force. Gentle force,--and gentlemanlike,--but none
the less true to its name. There was one of the peculiar
advantages of being a woman! Or a girl. She should be stronger
in full womanhood. But oh, she was woman enough to take care
of Reo!--and if Reo were dying, and Mr. Rollo did not want to
have her go, he would sit calmly there and want more
chocolate!--She glanced at him from under the long eyelashes,
and another flush (of impatience this time) tinged her cheeks.
But she did not stint him in sugar, nor make any mistakes with
the cream. Then her eyes went away over the long slope, where
birds and sunshine held their revels. Wait?--what did people
wait for, 'all their lives?' And why did Mr. Maryland's last
words come up to her again? And why did the aforesaid
eyelashes grow wet? She was all shaken out of herself by the
morning's work. She would send Dingee to inquire!--and not
wait. But then if this strange man should order _him_ back--and
Dingee could not be relied on to go silently. No, she could
not have a scene before all these people. And a wee bit of a
sigh, well kept in hand, went to the compounding of Miss
Phinny's third cup. 'Womanly patience?'--how was hers to be
grown, yet? And what did he know about it, any way? She should
like to see him thoroughly thwarted, for once, and see how
much manly patience he had on hand. And another swift glance
went his way; but with anxiety rousing up again, the glance
lingered, and was more inquiring than she meant it should be.

Luncheon was really over at last. The Governor's lady said
some gracious words of welcome to her young hostess, invited
her to a dinner-party a few days off, and having ordered up
her carriage, swept away with her daughters. What will be now?
thought Primrose.

Rollo had put the ladies into their carriage, and stood long
enough to let them get out of observation behind the woods;
then he came up on the verandah and going round the table sat
down beside Wych Hazel. Primrose saw--did the other?--the easy
motion which was universal with him, the fine figure, the
frank, bright face. Primrose did not mean to watch, but she
saw it all, and the look with which he sat down. It was not
that of a man about to make an apology, neither had it any
smile of attempted ingratiation. It was rather a sweet,
confidential look of inquiry, which, however, went down
through the depths of the brown eyes he was looking into, and
rifled them of all their secrets. It was a sort of look before
which a woman's eyes fall.

'Reo is not seriously hurt,' he said softly, when this point
had been reached.

She bowed her head. 'So Dr. Maryland brought word. At last the
_hope_.'

'He is only a good deal bruised. No bones broken, nor any
other harm done. It might have been worse; and so the
messenger who first came did not alarm us for nothing. One of
the woodcutters had felled a large tree without giving due
warning, or Reo had not heeded the warning; he was caught
under the tree. But he escaped very well. He is at his own
house, where he will have to keep his bed some days, I fancy.'

Another mute gesture. Perhaps the girl was not sure of herself
after all the morning's work, and had no mind to risk another
admonition about self-control.

'I am very glad,' she said gravely, after a minute.

'I am very glad. Mr. Falkirk has sprained his ankle,' he went
on a little lower.

'Mr. Falkirk!'--

Hazel sprang up,--then as instantly sat down again. There
should be no more strength used about her that day!

'Helping Reo?' she said.

'Not directly. He made a misstep, I think, among the confusion
of branches cut and uncut with which the ground was
encumbered; slipped off one of them, perhaps; somehow gave his
foot a twist,--and there he is. That was the cause of my long
delay.' He spoke, watching the little lady all the while.

'Why did he not come here?--it was nearer,' she said with some
accent of impatience.

'No,'--very gently--'we were nearer his cottage. I proposed
bringing him,--where I was sure you would wish for him,--here,
at once; but Mr. Falkirk laid his commands on me and on all
concerned so absolutely that there was no choice. We carried
him to his cottage; for he could not walk.'

'Just like Mr. Falkirk!'--then the impatience died away in a
soft tone of pity. 'Not able to walk!'--

'He will be a prisoner for some time, I am afraid.'

Hazel made no answer to that; thoughts were crowding in thick
and fast. What was she going to do, with Mr. Falkirk laid up?
Would she be a prisoner too? Was she to live here in this
great old house alone, by day as well as by night? They were
rather sober thoughts that came.

'That's very bad for Hazel,' said Primrose, coming near and
joining the group. Hazel held out her hand and got fast hold
of Prim's. She was ready for the sympathy this time.

'Does he suffer very much, Mr. Rollo?'

'I don't think he minds that part of it; no, I left him in
comparative comfort. I think his trouble is about you. And he
ought to have come here!--but people don't always know what
they ought to do. I am going down there again presently to
look after him and make sure that Gotham understands bandages.

'Gotham _thinks_ he understands everything.'

'I'll just make sure on that point. Have you any commands
before I go?'

'No, thank you,' she said, with just the lightest shade of
hesitation, 'I think not.'

'Reconsider that, and give me my orders.'

'No--truly!' Hazel answered, looking up at him. How busy the
thoughts were.

'I am going to Reo's first. Have you any commands there?' But
she shook her head.

'No, Mr. Rollo, not any.'

He went off; and there was an interval somewhat quiet and
untalkative between the two girls. Later, Rollo came back,
reported both patients doing well, and carried Prim home with
him.

'Did you think I was all ungrateful?' Hazel said, wrapping her
arms round Prim. 'Well, I was _not_.'


CHAPTER XX.

BOUQUETS.


Wych Hazel stood alone on her broad steps, watching the others
out of sight, and feeling alone, too. It must be nice to
belong to somebody,--to have brothers and friends! Just for the
moment, she forgot her now unwatched independence. But then
she came back to business, and flew off up stairs. The brown
dress could not stay on another minute,--was not the whole
morning tucked away in its folds? That was the first thing.
And the second thing was, that Miss Kennedy, in a cloud of
fresh muslin and laces, came out again upon the steps, and,
calling Dingee to follow her, began to speed away through the
old trees at a sort of flying pace. It was late afternoon now;
with lovely slant sunbeams and shadows falling across the
slope, and a tossing breeze, and the birds at their evening
concert. Fresh air, and action soon brought the girl up to
concert pitch herself; and she went on like a very sprite,
along a side wood path, avoiding the main approach, and so
gained the lodge by a side door; and in a minute more stood by
the bedside of her faithful old retainer. Hazel never knew at
what cost to himself Reo managed to put out one hand far
enough to receive her dainty fingers.

'My little lady!' he said fondly, 'I knew she would come.'

'O Reo--O Reo!--I am so sorry!' she said, her eyes growing wet.

'No need Miss Wych, dear,' said Reo, smiling at her, though
his own eyes moistened to see hers.

'And it was just cutting those trees that I did not want cut!'

'Aye,--but they do want cutting though, Miss Wych,' said Reo.
'Mr. Falkirk is right. And Mr. Rollo.'

How that name came up at every turn.

'Those trees are so big!' said Hazel with a shiver. 'I do not
see how you ever got out again, Reo.'

'Never should, my little lady,' said Reo, 'only that there was
somewhat between me and the tree.'

'Between you and the tree?' said Hazel. 'Do you mean another
tree, that kept it off?'

'No, little lady,' said Reo, 'I mean the Lord's hand. You see
He's quicker than we are, and before I could jump or turn, His
hand was there over me. And caught the tree, and let it touch
me but just so much.'

Hazel stood looking at him.

'Suppose he had not put his hand there, Reo?' she said.

'Then it would have been under me, Miss Wych--that's all the
difference,' said Reo, quietly. 'Only I should never have seen
my little lady again in this life.'

'Well, you have got to see her a great many times,' said the
girl, speaking fast because it was not easy to speak at all.
'I am coming to sing to you, and read to you, and to do all
sorts of things.' And with a smile like a stray sunbeam she
left the room, and after a minute with Mrs. Reo which
straightway made her over, 'as good as two,' Hazel flitted
away up the hill again, as far as to Mr. Falkirk's cottage;
walking in through the Summer-open doors upon his tea and
toast, without the slightest warning. There she was all right.
It was delightful to get the whip hand for once! And so,
privately enjoying Gotham's dismay at her unannounced
entrance, Wych Hazel stood by her guardian's side with a face
of grave reprehension.

'Mr. Falkirk, I am really very much surprised at you!'

'H'm!--Not more than I am at myself, Miss Hazel. You are not
ahead of me there.'

'Considering how much there is to do, sir; considering the
unsettled state of the neighbourhood, and my extremely
unprotected condition; that you should go dancing round among
loose branches without a partner, passes all my small wits.'

Mr. Falkirk glanced up at her, a glance of momentary fun and
recognition, though he was by no means in a sportive mood;
that was easy to see.

'Will you sit down, Miss Hazel? You must play guardian now.
Can your wits accomplish that?'

'Yes, sir, I thank you. Will you order me a cup and saucer,
Mr. Falkirk? I have had no dinner, and could eat no lunch. And
I know Gotham would see me starve before I had even a crust
without your permission.'

'I'm sure, Miss 'Azel!--Mr. Falkirk knows'--began Gotham.

'What have you got, Gotham?--anything in the house? Be off, and
get all there is--and be quick about it.'

'O, I do not want much, sir--just a slight supplement to the
pleasure of seeing you,' said Hazel, with her gay laugh. 'Mr.
Falkirk, don't you think it would be very nice to have Mrs.
Saddler dust up that little bit of a brown corner room for me?
And then I could stay here with you all the time, and we would
take splendid care of each other.'

'There's nothing there _but_ a little brown room, my dear.'

'I do not care, sir. Mrs. Saddler must have a spare blanker
among her stores. And I would leave word up yonder that I had
unexpectedly gone away for a time.--And it would be fun,' said
Miss Hazel, decidedly. 'Besides the other advantages.'

'What will happen to all the princes who are coming after the
princess?'

'They will learn--self-control,' said Miss Hazel. 'I have been
told lately that it is a good thing.'

'Not formerly?'

'The last time made the most impression, sir. As last times
are apt to do.'

'Miss Hazel, I have a request to make to you,' Mr. Falkirk
said, after allowing a minute or two of silence to succeed the
last remark.

'What, sir? That I will not sing so loud in the little brown
room as to disturb your repose? I can promise _that_.'

'You have not got your horses yet.'

'No, sir. I am sure I ought to know so much,' said the girl
with a sigh.

'Rollo will see to it. You forget, my dear, we have been but a
few days here. Miss Hazel, do you remember the story of the
enchanted horse in the Arabian Nights?'

'With great clearness, sir. In everything but his appearance
it was just the horse I should like.'

'Just the horse I am afraid of. The cavalier turned a screw
and the lady was gone. I request that you will mount nobody's
steed, not even your own, without consulting me first that I
may make sure all is safe. It is still more true than it was
the other night that I require your co-operation to discharge
my trust.'

'Why, of course I should consult you, sir!' she said, with
some surprise.

'That is all, Miss Hazel. Rollo will give his oversight to the
woods. Only don't engage yourself to anybody for a ride till
you _have_ consulted me. Do you agree to that form of
precaution-taking?'

'Certainly, sir. I am sure I referred Mr. Morton to you at
once,' said Miss Hazel, drinking her tea. And Mr. Falkirk, in
a silence that was meditative if not gloomy, lay and watched
her. It was a little book room where they were, perhaps the
largest on that floor, however; a man's room. The walls all
books and maps, with deer horns, a small telescope and pistols
for a few of its varieties. Yet it was cheerful too, and in
perfect order; and Mr. Falkirk was lying on a comfortable
chintz couch. Papers and writing materials and books had been
displaced from one end of the table for Hazel's tea. That
over, the young lady brought a foot-cushion to the side of Mr.
Falkirk's couch and established herself there, much refreshed.

'It is great fun to come to tea with you, sir! Now, may I go
on with business? or are you too tired?'

'Suppose I say I am too tired?' growled Mr. Falkirk, 'what
will you do?'

Hazel glanced up at him from under her eyelashes.

'Wait, sir. I am learning to wait, beautifully!' she answered
with great demureness. 'Then suppose I go and tell Mrs.
Saddler about my room?'

'Go along,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'Give your orders. You had
better send up to the house for some furniture. You'll make
Mrs. Saddler happy at any rate. I am not so sure about Gotham.
But Gotham has too easy a life in general.'

They had a lively time of it in the other part of the house
for the next half day. And so had Mr. Falkirk in his, for that
matter: the sweet voice and laugh and song, somehow,
penetrated to his study as grosser sounds might have failed to
do. It was towards tea-time again when Wych Hazel presented
herself in the study on the tips of her toes, and subsiding
once more to her cushion glanced up as before at Mr. Falkirk.

'Has the fatigue of yesterday gone off, sir?'

'No; but I see the business has come. Can you be comfortable
in your mousehole? Let us have the business, my dear. If it is
knotty perhaps it will make me forget my ankle.'

'Ah!' she said remorsefully, 'I was talking of fatigue, sir--
not of pain. Is the pain very bad?'

'No, my dear; but I was always inclined to the epicurian side
of philosophy, and partial to anodynes; or even counter-
irritants.'

'Whose bandage have you got on?' she said curiously.

'Whose? My own.'

'Dear sir, I do not mean as to the linen! Mr. Rollo was coming
down to teach Gotham, and I wondered which of them took a
lesson. That is all.'

'H'm! Ask Gotham,' said Mr. Falkirk.

'I wish I had been here to see,' said Wych Hazel. 'Never mind,
I will next time. By the way, sir, did you leave any orders
for me yesterday morning with anybody?'

'What do you mean, my dear?' said her guardian, rather opening
his eyes. It is to be noted that though he growled and frowned
as much as ever, there had come into Mr. Falkirk's mien an
undoubted softening of expression since yesterday.

'I merely asked, sir. But now for business. Mrs. Powder is to
have a grand explosion in the way of a dinner party next week.
And she wants me to come and help touch off the fireworks. May
I go?'

'What did you tell her?'

'That I would if you would, sir.'

'Is this the business?'

'Item the first, sir.'

'Well, my dear. Anything conditional upon my movements for
some time to come will probably have to be vetoed. But you
will have offers of a substitute.'

'The Marylands are going, sir.'

'Of course.'

'Well, Mr. Falkirk, suppose substitutes do offer,--what then?'

'Then you will follow your pleasure, Miss Hazel.'

'Thank you, sir. The next item seems to be a mild form of
this: a little evening party at Mrs. Gen. Merrick's. And Mrs.
Merrick hearing of your accident, sent a note to say that Miss
Bird would convey me to Merricksdale, safe and in good order.'

'Who is Miss Bird?'

'Don't you remember, sir? She came to see me the same morning
the Lasalle party came.'

'There are a great many Birds,' said Mr. Falkirk, grumpily,
'and they are not all pigeons.'

'But, my dear Mr. Falkirk, however important such natural
history facts may be, they do not exactly meet the case in
hand.'

'I don't know whether they meet it or no. Can't you go with
Miss Maryland?'

'Not invited, sir.'

'How would you get back?'

'Mrs. Merrick takes charge of that.'

'And didn't think it necessary to inform you how or when?'

'It is only a small party, sir. I should expect to be back
early.'

'That needs to be made certain, Miss Hazel, and stipulated
for.'

'Well, sir, you shall name the hour.'

'Name it yourself; but be home by half-past eleven. Miss
Hazel, I wish, till you have your own horses, you would not go
to such places.'

There was a shade of disappointment in her face, but she
answered steadily--

'I will not go, sir, if that is really your wish.'

'My dear, we must meet the enemy. In the progress of ladies
seeking their fortune that is always understood. What next?'

She hesitated a moment, carefully dressing the petals of a
carnation in her hand.

'The third item, sir, is--that if to-morrow afternoon I--will
consent to put--my little foot,' said Miss Hazel, evidently
mastering a laugh, 'inside the right phaeton--Mr. May will
consent to drive.'

'Mr. May! Confound his impudence!' was the by no means
doubtful utterance of Miss Hazel's guardian.

Hazel bit her lips and sat demurely waiting further
developments.

'Chickaree is in a very exposed situation, Miss Hazel!' Mr.
Falkirk remarked, with something a little like a sigh. While,
as if to give effect to his words, two well-mounted horsemen
at that moment went up the hill, exchanging greetings with the
occupants of a landau that was just then making the descent.
Wych Hazel looked and laughed.

'It is very comical!' she said. But her guardian was silent.
He knew the Enchanted ground had to be met and passed. Perhaps
he wished it were well over; but I think the present feeling
of discontent relieved itself not even so far.

'And on the whole your three answers are, sir?--' said Hazel,
after a pause.

'In your head,' Mr. Falkirk growled. 'You know what they are.'

'My dear sir! one would think they were in your foot!' But
then she was silent, and then she began to sing. One thing and
another, after her own fitful fashion, in the twilight; and
business did not come up again. Only as she went to sleep that
night, Miss Kennedy indulged in one profound reflection.

'No,' she said to herself, 'Dr. Maryland was right: Primrose
would never do. Get her in a corner, and the most she can say
is, "Duke knows." '

So drew on the night of Mrs. Merrick's party; and meantime a
rainy day or two saved Mr. Falkirk some trouble, and left the
cottage in comparative quiet. But as the night drew near, the
clouds cleared away and the sun shone out, and fairer weather
could not have been wished for, or wished away.

There had been a running fire of errands and messages between
the cottage and the house on the hill, all day. Miss Kennedy
was constantly finding out something more that she wanted for
the evening, and Dingee went back and forth with notes to Mrs.
Bywank and waterproof-covered baskets in return, till Gotham
at least lost patience.

'More duds for Miss 'Azel!' he said in displeasure, as Dingee
appeared just at nightfall with a final basket. 'It's clean
ridikerlous! One dress at a time ought to content any young
lady.'

'Now I jes' tell you what, Mas' Gotham,' said Dingee, 'you
ain't up to de situation. Pears like de whole countryside
after my young mistis!'

Gotham gave a grunt in unsuccessful imitation of his master's
growl.

'H'after'er,' he said. 'Looks more as if she was h'after them--
wanting fourteen dresses at once.'

Dingee shewed his teeth from ear to ear.

'You bery wise man, Mas' Gotham!' he said. ' 'Spect now you
can tell a feller all about dese yere.' And Dingee threw off
the white paper which covered what he carried this time, and
displayed to Gotham's astonished eyes a basket full of
bouquets.

' 'Spect now dese yere growed in Missee Hazel's own
greenhouse,' he said, tauntingly, 'seein' she ain't got none!
Shouldn't wonder if dey started up spontanous like, arter de
shower. How you tink, Mas' Gotham, hey?'

But Gotham was virtuously indignant.

'Miss 'Azel'll get her head worse turned than it h'is now,' he
said.

'Heads does turn, fact,' said Dingee, shaking his own. 'Jes'
you watch 'em when de horseback gen'lemen dey goes by, Mas'
Gotham, and you'll see de heads turn!'

But Gotham had watched enough already to know there was no
mistake about that.

'Well,' he said, 'since h'it's 'ere, h'it's 'ere, and 'll 'ave
to stay, no doubt. I'll take it to the library.'

'Cotch him first!' said Dingee, moving a little out of reach.
'Where Missee Hazel?'

'Prinking 'erself h'up,' answered Gotham severely.

'Gotham telling fibs!' said the young lady in question, coming
up behind him with her light tread. 'Perhaps he had better
take _himself_ to the library, and report to Mr. Falkirk. What
do you want of me, Dingee? I thought everything was here.'

Dingee had adroitly covered his basket again, but now he drew
near and displayed his treasure, adding messages of a somewhat
adorned nature, while Wych Hazel read the cards attached to
the bouquets. Gotham, standing a little off, looked on
indignant as before, and frowned at the flowers and the
flushing cheeks drooped over them, as if he had been Mr.
Falkirk himself. But when Hazel caught up the basket and ran
off to her little corner room, then Gotham did betake himself
to the library, though without quite the report suggested.

'Beg pardon, sir,' he said; 'Miss 'Azel 'ave just received a
bushel of flowers, sir,--if you choose to be h'aware, sir.'

'A _what_, Gotham?' said the astonished Mr. Falkirk.

'No person of discretion to detain them at the 'ouse, sir, and
so of course they followed Miss 'Azel down 'ere, sir. Boukets
enough to last a h'ordinary person all summer, sir. And cards.
And ribbands,'--concluded Gotham, beginning to clear the table
for tea.

'Look here, Gotham,'--said Mr. Falkirk, from his sofa, whence
his eyes followed his serving-man about.

'Yes, sir!' said Gotham, erect and motionless.

'Do you dare to speak of Miss Hazel as an ordinary person?'

'Why, no sir! By no means! Very h'extraordinary, I thought I
said, sir--or h'indicated,' replied Gotham, going back to his
leisurely motions about the table.

'Have the goodness to remember that it is proper her flowers
should be extraordinary.'

'O, you are clearing the table,' Hazel said, flitting in;
'just what I wanted--tea early.'

'Tea never h'is late, Miss 'Azel!' said Gotham in an aggrieved
voice.

'I didn't know but it might be to-night,' said the girl
provokingly. 'But dear Mr. Falkirk, do you really like to have
your books disturbed so often, just for me?'

'My dear,' said Mr. Falkirk rather lazily, brushing one hand
over his forehead, 'you have done that for my life generally.'

'My dear Mr. Falkirk!--evidently I have just come in time to
receive a shot meant for somebody else. I wonder you allow
yourself to fire at random, sir, in that way.'

'Who has been sending you flowers, Miss Hazel?' her guardian
asked, without change of tone.

She laughed.

'Shall I leave you the cards, sir--just to pass away the time
while I am gone?'

'I'll take them now, Miss Hazel, if you please.' Mr. Falkirk
stretched out his hand.

'They are not so precious as to be carried in my pocket, sir.
Do you want them before tea?'

'If you please, Miss Hazel!'

'I don't please a bit, sir. I am in a great hurry to go to my
dressing. And you know, Mr. Falkirk, you seldom try for "the
soul of wit" on such occasions.'

'Does that mean, you refuse me the sight of them?'

'No, sir!--"By no means!"--to quote Gotham,' said Wych Hazel,
jumping up. She came back and laid the cards in his hand--quite
a packet of them. Mr. Falkirk found names that he knew and
names that he did not. He turned them over, speaking some of
the names in an inexpressive sotto voce; and then began
doubling them up, one after the other, and letting them fall
on the floor beside him.

'Have you got a copy of the Arabian Nights in your library, my
dear?' he asked. 'I wish you would send for it. I am not
posted. I have an indistinct impression of a fight between two
rival powers, in which, after a variety of transformations,
the one of them in the shape of a kernel of corn was swallowed
by the other in some appropriate shape. I should like to study
the tactics, watch my opportunity, and make an end of these
gentry.' Mr. Falkirk dropped the last card as he spoke.

'Ha! ha!' laughed Wych Hazel in her soft notes. 'You will feel
better, sir, when you have had a cup of tea.' And she began
preparing it at once. Whether or not Mr. Falkirk felt better
he did not say.

The girl went off to her dressing. And just before the hour
when Miss Bird must arrive she came silently in again and
stood before her guardian. If Mr. Falkirk thought of humming-
birds then, it could only have been of the tropical species. A
dark dress, that shimmered and glittered and fell into shadows
with every motion, first caught his eye; but then Mr. Falkirk
saw that it was looped with bouquets. Now either Miss Hazel's
admirers had differing tastes, or a different image of her, or
else each sent what he could get; for the bouquets were
extremely diverse. A bunch of heath and myrtle held up the
dress here, a cluster of crimson roses held it back there;
another cluster of gold and buff, a trailing handful of
glowing fuchsias--there is no need to go through the list. But
she had arranged them with great skill to set each other off;
tied together by their own ribbands, catching up the shimmer
of her dress.

Mr. Falkirk looked, and the fact that his face expressed
nothing at all was rather significant. One glance at the
girl's face he gave, and turned away.

'Take care, my dear,' he said.

'Of what, sir?'

'How do _you_ know but those flowers are bewitched? You would
not be the first woman who had put on her own chains.'

She smiled--rather to herself than him--throwing her little
white cloak over her shoulders; and then, girl-like, went down
on one knee and kissed her guardian's hand.

'Good-night, sir,' she said. The carriage came, and she was
gone.


CHAPTER XXI.

MOONSHINE.


After the day of rain, and the afternoon of clearing wind and
clouds, the evening of Mrs. Merrick's party passed into one of
those strange, unearthly nights when the whole world seems
resolved into moonlight and a midsummer night's dream. So
while gas and hot-house flowers had it all their own way in
the house at Merricksdale, over the rest of the outside world
the wondrous moonlight reigned supreme. Not white and silvery,
but as it were gilded and mellowed with the summer warmth.
Step by step it invaded the opening ranks of forest trees; and
dark shadows wound noiselessly away from the close pursuit.
Not a wind whispered; not a moving thing was in sight along
the open road. Except indeed Mr. Rollo, who--not invited to
Mrs. Merrick's, and just returned from a short journey--was
getting over the ground that lay between the railway station
and home on foot. And his way took him along the highway that
stretched from Crocus to the gates of Chickaree.

Now moonlight is a very bewildering thing--and thoughts do
sometimes play the very will-o'-the-wisp with one. And when
somebody you know is at a party, there is a funny inclination
to go through the motions at least, and be up as late as
anybody else. So it was with a somewhat sudden recollection
that Mr. Rollo bethought him of what his watch might say. Just
then he was in a belt of shadow, where trees crowded out the
moon; but the next sharp turn of the road was all open and
flooded with the yellow light.

It would be quite too much to suppose that the gentleman in
question was particularly open to impressions--and it is
certain that his thoughts at that minute were well wrapped up
in their own affairs; and yet as he went round the turn,
passing out of the line of shadow into absolute moonshine
again, there came upon him a strange sense of some presence
there besides his own. But what the evidence was, whether it
had smote upon his eye or upon his ear, of that Mr. Rollo was
profoundly ignorant. Yet it is safe to say that he came out of
his musings and looked about him. Only a midsummer night's
dream still: the open road for a mile ahead in full view, the
dark line of trees on each side as motionless as if asleep.
But the utter hush was perhaps more suggestive than the stir
of a breezy night: it seemed as if everything was listening
and held its breath to hear.

The gentleman in question, however, was not one to let slip
such a suggestion to his nerves--or his senses. His nerves were
of the coolest and steadiest kind; he could depend on _them_ for
getting up no shams to puzzle him; and his senses had had
capital training. Eye and ear were keen almost as those of
some of the wild creatures whose dependence they are; and
Rollo had the craft and skill of a practised hunter. So
instead of dismissing the fancy that had struck him, as most
men would, he fell noiselessly into the shadow again, with
eyes and ears alive on the instant to take evidence that might
be relied on. But nothing stirred. Nothing shewed. Except as
before, the yellow moonlight and the dark trees. Rollo was a
hunter, and patient. He stood still. The shadowy edges of the
stream of light changed slowly, slightly, and still the
evidence he looked for did not come. Nothing seemed to change
but those dark fringes; only now some wave of the branches as
the wind began to rise, let in the moonlight for a moment upon
a small white speck across the road. He thought so: something
whiter than a wet stone or a bleached stick,--or it might be
fancy. Noiselessly and almost invisibly, for Dane could move
like an Indian, and with such quickness, he was over the road
and at the spot. There was no mistaking the token--it was a
little glove of Wych Hazel's. Evidently dropped in haste; for
one of her well-known jewelled fastenings lay glittering in
his hand. But--Mrs. Gen. Merrick lived quite in another quarter
of the world; and in no case did the direct road from
Merricksdale lead by here.

If Rollo's senses had been alive before, which was but their
ordinary and normal condition, he was now in the frame of mind
of a Sioux on the war-path, and in corresponding alertness and
acuteness of every faculty. The little glove was swiftly put
where it would furnish a spot of light to no one else; and in
breathless readiness for action, though that is rhetorical,
for Rollo's breath was as regular and as calm as cool nerves
could make it, he subsided again into the utter inaction which
is all eye and ear. And then in a few minutes, from across the
road again, and near where he was at first, came these soft
words:

'Mr. Rollo--will you give quarter if I surrender at discretion?
Just to save you trouble--and let me get home the quicker.'

In the next instant the gentleman stood by the lady's side.
Well for him that he was a hunter, and that habit is a great
thing; for he made no exclamations and showed no disturbance,
though Wych Hazel in the woods at that time of night, was a
thing to try most people's command of words at least. Only in
the spring which brought him across the road he had spoken the
one word "Hazel!" louder than an Indian would have done. Then
he stood beside her. Wych Hazel herself--bareheaded, without
gloves, her little white evening cloak not around her
shoulders, but rolled up into the smallest possible compass,
and held down by her side. She had been standing in the
deepest depth of shadow under a low drooping hemlock, and now
came out to meet him. But she seemed to have no more words to
give. That something had happened, was very clear. Rollo's
first move was to take the girl's hand, and the second to
inquire in a low voice how she came there. The hand-touch was
not in compliment, but such a taking-possession clasp as Hazel
had felt from it before; one that carried, as a hand-clasp
can, its guaranty of protection, guidance, defence.

Hazel did not answer at first--only there went a shiver over
her from head to foot; and her hand was as cold as ice.

'I am very glad to find you, Mr. Rollo,' she said in a sort of
measured voice; he could not tell what was in it.--'Will you
walk home with me?'

Rollo's answer was not in a hurry. He first took from Wych
Hazel her little bundle of the opera cloak, shook it out, and
put it around her shoulders, drawing the fastening button at
the throat; then taking the little cold hand in his clasp
again, and with the other arm lingering lightly round her
shoulders, he asked her "what had happened?"

People are different, as has been remarked. There was nobody
in the world that could have put the question to Wych Hazel as
he put it, and afterwards she could recognize that. Mr.
Falkirk's words would have been more anxious; Dr. Maryland's
would have been more astonished; and any one of Miss Hazel's
admirers would have made speeches of surprise and sympathy and
offered service. Rollo's was a business question, albeit in
its somewhat curt accentuation there lurked a certain
readiness for action; and there was besides, though
indefinably expressed, the assumption of a right to know and a
very intimate personal concern in the answer. How his eyes
were looking at her the moonlight did not serve to shew; they
were in shadow; yet even that was not quite hid from the
object of them; and the arm that was round her was there, not
in freedom-taking, but with the unmistakeable expression of
shelter. So he stood and asked her what had happened.

'Thank you,' she said in the same measured tone. 'I am not
cold--I think. But it is safe now. Will you walk home very
fast, please? I promised Mr. Falkirk that I would be home by
eleven!'--There was an accent of real distress then.

'Do you know what o'clock it is now?' said Rollo, drawing out
his watch.

'I hoped--a while ago--it was near morning.'

He did not say what time it was. He put the little hand on his
arm, guided Hazel into the road, and began his walk homeward,
but with a measured quiet pace, not 'very fast.'

'Why did you wish it was morning?' he asked in the same way in
which he had spoken before. No haste in it; calm business and
self-possession; along with the other indications above
mentioned. It was cool, but it was the coolness of a man
intensely alive to the work in hand; the intonation towards
Wych Hazel very gentle.

'I thought I had to walk home alone,' she said simply. 'And I
wanted the time to come.'

'Please tell me the meaning of all this. You went to
Merricksdale this evening--last evening?'

'Yes.' Words did not come readily.

Rollo added no more questions then. He went steadily on,
keeping a gentle pace that Wych Hazel could easily bear, until
they came to the long grey stone house where she had once run
in from the storm. At the gate Rollo paused and opened it,
leading his companion up to the door.

'I am going to take you in here for a little while,' he said.
'We will disturb nobody--don't fear; I have a key.'

'In here?' she said, rousing up then. 'O no!--I _must_ go home,
Mr. Rollo. Did you bring me _this_ way--I did not notice.'

'You shall go home just as soon as possible,' he said; 'but
come in here and I will tell you my reasons for stopping.'

The door opened noiselessly. The moonlight showed the way,
shining in through the fanlights, and Rollo pushed open the
door of the library and brought his charge in there. The next
thing was to strike a match and light two candles. The room
looked very peaceful, just as it had been deserted by the
family a few hours before; Rosy's work basket with the work
overflowing it, the books and papers on the table where the
gentleman had been sitting; the chairs standing where they had
been last used. Past the chairs Rollo brought Wych Hazel to
the chintz sofa and seated her there with a cushion at her
back; drew up a foot cushion, and unfastened her opera cloak.
All this was done with quiet movements and in silence. He left
her then for a few minutes. Coming back, presented her on a
little tray a glass of milk and a plate of rusks.

'I could get nothing else,' said he, 'without rousing the
people up to give me keys. But I know the way to Prim's dairy--
and I know which are the right pans to go to. Miss Prudentia
always objected to that in me.'

'But I cannot see anybody--nor speak to anybody--nor do
anything--till I have seen Mr. Falkirk,' said Hazel, looking up
at him with her tired eyes. 'Indeed I am not hungry.'

He stood before her and bade her 'drink a little milk--it was
good.'

Her brows drew together slightly, but--if that was the quickest
way she would take that--and so half emptied the tumbler and
set it down again.

'Now let us go.'

He at down before her then.

'Is there anything in what has happened to-night which makes
you wish to keep it from the rest of the world? except of
course Mr. Falkirk and me?'

If his object was to rouse her from the mechanical way in
which she had hitherto moved and spoken, success is rarely
more perfect. Crimson and scarlet and all shades of colour
went over her face and neck at the possible implications in
his words; but she drew herself up with a world of girlish
dignity, and then the brown eyes looked straight into his.

'It is nobody's business,' she answered. 'So far.--No further.'

He smiled. 'You mistake me,' he said, very pleasantly. 'That
is my awkwardness. It _is_ nobody's business--except Mr.
Falkirk's and mine. But you know very well that fact is no bar
to people's tongues. And sometimes one does not choose to give
them the material--and sometimes one does not care. My question
meant only, do you care in this instance? and was a practical
question.'

'What do _you_ mean?' she said, quickly. 'Say out all that is in
your mind. How can I judge of it by inches.'

'You have not enlightened me,' he said, 'and _I_ can judge of
nothing. Do you wish to get home without letting anybody know
you have been out? or may I call Primrose down and give you
into her hands to be taken care of? Surely you know my other
question referred not to anything but the impertinence of the
world generally.'

'O! I will go home!' she said, rising up. 'I cannot see
anybody. And Mr. Falkirk!--He might send for me!'

'Mr. Falkirk is fast asleep,' said Rollo. 'He will have
concluded that you were kept at Mrs. Merrick's. Sit down
again, and rest,' he said, gently putting her back on the
cushions, (he had risen when she rose)--'we are not ready to go
quite yet. You must take breath first. And we must not rouse
up Chickaree at this hour. If you were known to have staid
with Miss Maryland--would not that be the best way?'

'How is one to know the best, where all are bad?'--Hazel rested
her head in her hands and sat thinking.

'No,' said he quietly--'we'll try and not have that true. If
you could trust me with the story of the evening, I might be
able to judge and act better for you.'

'Did you bring me here that I might not get home at such an
hour?' she said suddenly, looking up.

'I promised to tell you my reasons. Yes, that was one of them.
The people at Chickaree must not know of your coming home in
the middle of the night, on foot. If I take you home at a fair
hour in the morning, it will be all right. Not on foot,' said
he, smiling. He was so composed and collected, that his manner
had everything in it to soothe and reassure her. Not the
composure of one who does not care, but of one who will take
care.

'And Mr. Falkirk would say the same,'--she spoke as if
reasoning the matter out with herself. 'Then I must wait. But
do not call anybody. Mayn't I sit here just quietly by
myself?'

'Suppose you take possession of one of Prim's spare rooms, and
astonish the family at breakfast? All you need say is that you
came after they were all gone to their rooms. Dr. Maryland
will never seek for a reason. And Prim will never ask for one.
But if you prefer it, I will take you home before they are
up.'

'Just as you please,' she answered wearily: indeed weariness
was fast getting the upper hand. '_You_ must want rest, I should
think. What were you doing there?' she asked with her former
suddenness. 'Were you looking for me? Did you know where I
was--not?'

'No,' he said, smiling again, 'I had been to Troy to look at
some horses, about which I had been in correspondence; and
wishing to be here to-morrow--that is, to-day!--it pleased me to
take a night train which set me down at Henderson; no nearer;
I was walking across country to get home. And I feel as if I
never should be "tired" again. Come--you can have some time of
rest at least; and I will carry you home before or after
breakfast, just as you please.'

Upstairs with noiseless footfalls--and Rollo reminding Wych
Hazel which was Primrose's room, indicated another close by,
within which he said he believed she would find what she
wanted. That room was always kept in order for strangers; and
no strangers were in the house now.

'Primrose will come to you in the morning,' he said, 'unless
you wish to go before that?'

Wych Hazel turned and held out her hand.

'Thank you!' she said. Then in answer to his last words--'I
shall be ready for either.'

Wherein, however, Miss Kennedy made a mistake. For having once
put herself down on the fresh white bed, sleep took undisputed
possession and held it straight on. Neither rousing bell nor
breakfast bell roused her; nor opening door--if any opened; nor
steps--if any came. Sleep so profound that she never turned nor
stirred nor raised her cheek from the hand where first she
laid it down. And the sun was getting a new view of the
western slopes of the Chickaree woods, before the young
mistress thereof sat up in her strange room and looked about
her.

'Well, you are awake at last!' cried Prim, bending to kiss
her. 'I _am_ glad! though I was glad to have you sleep, too. How
tired you were!'

Wych Hazel passed her hands over her face; but the newt move
was to put her arms round Prim's neck and for a moment her
head on Prim's shoulder. Then she sprang up and hurriedly
shook her dress into some sort of order.

'O! I have slept a great deal too long,' she said.

'Why? No, you have slept just enough. Now you would like to
change your dress. There is a valise full of things from home
for you. And when you are ready you shall have some breakfast,
or dinner, or tea, just which you like to call it.'

Primrose could not read the look and flush that greeted the
valise; and indeed she needed an entire new dictionary for her
friend this day. When Hazel made her appearance down stairs,
hat in hand, she had more things in her face than Prim had
ever met, even in dreams. Dr. Maryland was not there; the
table was spread in the library, where the afternoon light
poured in through its green veil of branches and leaves; and
Prim gave her guest a new greeting, as glad as if she had
given her none before.

'I'm sure of having you hungry, now, Hazel,' she exclaimed. 'I
didn't know what was best to give you; but Duke said coffee
would be sure to be right.'

'I wonder if you ever suggest anything which he does not think
is "sure to be right"?' said Wych Hazel. 'I wonder if anybody
down here ever makes a mistake of any sort?'

'Mistakes? oh! plenty,' said Primrose. 'I do; and I suppose
Duke does. I don't know about papa. Now, dear Hazel, sit down.
Duke will be here directly.'

And Primrose cut bread and poured out coffee and supplied her
guest, in a sort of passion of hospitality.

To say that the guest was as hungry as she should have been
after such a fast, would be perhaps too much; last night was
still too fresh for that; but seventeen has great restorative
powers at command, and Prim's coffee was undeniably good.
Hazel grew more like herself as the meal went on, though her
eyes kept their tired look, and her manner was a trifle
abstracted. But Prim asked no questions; only hovered about
her with all sorts of affectionate words and ways, till Rollo
came in. He sat down and began to make himself generally
useful, in his wonted manner.

'Duke,' said Primrose, 'Miss Kennedy has been asking me if we
ever make mistakes in this house!'

'What did you tell her?'

'Why you know what I told her. I am not sure about papa; but
the rest of us don't boast of infallible wisdom.'

'Do you mean that he does?' said Duke, drily. At which
Primrose laughed. 'Have you been asleep, Miss Hazel?'

'Beyond reach of all earthly things. Have you?'

Rollo remarked that he never got so far as that.

'No,' said Primrose, 'I never saw such a sleeper. He'll be
sound asleep, sound and fast; not dreaming nor stirring; and
if there comes the least little sound that there _oughtn't_ to
be, he's up and broad awake and in possession of all his
senses in a minute.'

'How do you know?' said the subject of this description.

'I know,' said Primrose. 'Thunder wouldn't waken him; and the
turning of a key in a lock would--suppose it was a time or
place when the lock ought not to be turned.'

'Very interesting details!' said Rollo. 'They may be useful in
the study of psychology--or physiology. Which is your favourite
study, Miss Hazel?'

'Whichever will throw the most light upon this; Prim, can he
also detect "the least little sound that oughtn't to be,' when
there is none at all?' said Hazel thinking of last night.

'No, he can't,' said Rollo, shaking his head. 'That's a
physiological question. But here is one in psychology: Can a
person be sensible of an unknown _presence_ when yet there is
none?'

'Ah!' she said, drawing a long breath and growing grave all at
once, 'I wish one might! It would have been a comfort.'

'Well,' said he, 'I think I can resolve that question.'

'Duke, what are you talking of? You have got out of philosophy
into metaphysics,' said Prim.

'_She_ is the philosopher of the family,' said Rollo, by way of
explanation to Hazel. 'But she has made a mistake. As she
confesses she does make them, I may remark that.'

'Why, you are talking of perceiving what does not exist!'
cried Prim.

'Is that what you call metaphysics? I should call it
nonsense.'

'I never supposed you were talking nonsense, Duke.'

'No,' said Duke. 'That _would_ be a mistake. No, I was speaking,
Prim, of the detection, by no visible or intelligible means,
of what we are not aware has existence.'

'By no intelligible means,' said Prim. 'You mean, knowing a
person is coming, that you have not heard is coming--and such
things?'

'And knowing a person is near, who you had thought was very
far off.'

'Yes,' said Prim thoughtfully; 'I know. It is very curious.'

'Witches, for instance?' said Hazel, with perfect gravity.

'No,' said Prim earnestly, 'I don't mean out-of-the-way people
at all; though it is something "uncanny"--as it seems;--queer; I
have heard of instances.'

'I have felt them,' said Rollo.

Primrose went into a brown study over the question.

'But do you think,' Rollo went on gravely addressing Wych
Hazel, 'that this sort of mental action can take place except
where there are strong sympathetic--or other--relations between
the parties?'

'So that the magnet finds out the iron, when it would pass by
the lead?--is that what you mean?'

A significant, quick, keen look; and then Rollo said, very
gravely,

'But it strikes me we have got the thing reversed. Is it not
rather the iron that finds the magnet?'

'The magnet must be conscious too,' said Hazel. 'And I think
it moves--where the iron is in sufficient quantity.'

'It would be a poor rule that wouldn't work both ways,' said
Rollo, with dry simplicity.

'What are you talking about?' said Primrose. 'Do give Hazel
some more raspberries. I am inclined to think this, Duke--'

'Well?'

'I am inclined to think that in those cases you have been
speaking of, there is testimony of the person's presence, only
it is in some such little slight things as were insufficient
to draw attention to themselves, and only, by natural
association of ideas, suggested the person.'

'What do you think, Miss Hazel?'

But she shook her head.

'If you go off to people--I should say, sometimes, that could
not be.'

'So should I,' said Rollo.

'Why?' said Primrose.

'I cannot find in my consciousness, or memory, any
corroboration of your theory.'

'I think I can in mine. Sometimes, at least.'

'Those are not my times,' said Rollo.

'And I don't know but you are right, too,' said Primrose,
musing. 'I remember, that day you were coming home, I had not
the least reason to think so, and yet you were in my mind all
day.'

'What is your explanation then?' said he, smiling at her.

Prim was not ready with it; and before she was ready to speak
again, Wych Hazel was informed that her escort was at her
service.

Dr. Maryland's little old chaise was at the door. Rollo put
Miss Kennedy in it and took the reins. It was late in the
sweet Summer afternoon; the door and the road and the fields
looked exceedingly unlike the same things seen in shadow and
moonlight last night. Rollo never referred to that, however;
he was just as usual; took care that Wych Hazel was
comfortably seated, and made careless little remarks, in his
wonted manner. Various people passed them; many were the
greetings, answered for the most part very sedately by the
young lady of Chickaree. But just as they entered the
outskirts of her own domain, Rollo felt his companion shrink
towards him with a sudden start. Then instantly she sat
upright in her place. Two or three horsemen were in sight, at
different distances; one, the nearest, was a stranger to
Rollo. A remarkably handsome man, splendidly mounted,
faultlessly dressed; riding his grey with the easy grace of a
true cavalier. He uncovered before he was near enough to do
more, and then bent even to his saddle-bow before Miss
Kennedy. And to him, turning full upon him, did Miss Kennedy
administer the most complete, cool, effectual cut that Mr.
Rollo had ever seen bestowed. The rider's face turned crimson
as he passed on.

Rollo made no sort of remark; drove gently, let the old horse
come to a walk; and at last, throwing himself back into the
corner of the chaise, so as to have a better look at his
companion, he said:

'Does daylight and rest make a difference, and are you
inclined to trust me with the explanation of what happened
last night? I should be grateful.'

He could see now with what extreme effort she had done her
work of execution--lip and chin were in a tremor.

'It was no want of trust, Mr. Rollo--I meant you should know.
But--I could not tell you first,' she said rather timidly. 'I
thought, perhaps, you would take the trouble to come in and
hear me tell Mr. Falkirk.'

'Thank you,' he said, 'I _am_ grateful.' And no more passed on
the subject until the chaise reached the cottage.


CHAPTER XXII.

A REPORT.


Just glancing round at her companion to make sure that he
followed, taking off her hat as she went, Hazel passed swiftly
into the cottage and into Mr. Falkirk's study, to the foot of
his couch--and there stood still. Very unlike the figure of
last evening,--in the simplest pale Summer dress, with no
adornment but her brown hair, and yet as Mr. Falkirk looked,
he thought he has never seen her look so lovely. She was
surely changing fast; the old girlish graces were taking to
themselves the richer and stronger graces of womanhood; and
like those evening flowers that open and unfold and gather
sweetness if you but turn aside for a moment, so she seemed to
have altered, even since her guardian's last look. The broad
gipsy hanging from her hand, her long eyelashes drooped,--so
she stood. Mr. Falkirk looked and took the effect of all this
in a glance two seconds long, during which, something held his
tongue. Then as his eye caught the figure that entered
following her, it darted towards him a look of sudden surprise
and suspicion. Than changed, however, almost as soon, and his
eyes came back to his ward. But there is no doubt Mr. Falkirk
scowled.

'So, Miss Hazel,' he began, in his usual manner, 'you found
you could not manage other people's carriages last night?'

'Not the right ones, sir. Will you ask Mr. Rollo to sit down,
Mr. Falkirk? It is due to me that he should hear all I have to
say.'

'It is not due to anybody that you should say it standing,'
said Rollo, wheeling up into convenient position the easiest
chair that the room contained. She made him a slight sign of
acknowledgement, but yielded only so far as to lay her hand on
the chair back. Probably it was pleasant to touch something.
Rollo stepped back to the mantlepiece and stood there, but not
touching it or anything.

'It appears to me, Miss Hazel,' said the recumbent master of
the house, 'that the invitation must come from you.'

'I have not been invited myself, sir, yet.'

'I do not recollect inviting you to be seated yesterday, my
dear; is to-day different from yesterday?'

'Unless I have forgotten the frown which welcomed me then,
sir. I suppose you have but a faint idea of the looming up of
your brows just now.'

'What?' said Mr. Falkirk. 'Don't you know, Miss Hazel, a man's
brows are not within his range of vision? and I deny that he
is responsible for them. Am I frowning now?'

'Not quite so portentously, sir.'

'Then you need not stand so particularly, need you? I wonder,
if I looked so fierce, how Rollo dared to offer you the
civility of a chair in my presence; but people are different.'

'But I cannot sit there,' she said, with a glance towards the
bringer of the chair, as she passed by its reposeful depths.
'Not now. If Mr. Rollo will make himself comfortable in his
own way, I will in mine.' And Hazel brought a foot cushion to
the couch and sat down there; a little turned away from the
third member of the party; who however did not change his
position.

'Is there business?' said Mr. Falkirk glancing from one to the
other.

The girl gave him a swift glance of wonder.

'You used to think it was business, sir, to know what had
become of me. Did you sleep well last night, Mr. Falkirk?'

'Why should I, any more than you?' said Mr. Falkirk in his old
fashion of growling. 'Day is the proper time for sleeping, in
the fashionable world.'

It made her restless--this keeping off the subject of which her
thoughts were full. Didn't he mean to ask any questions?

'Why should not I have slept, sir?--if you come to that. The
fashionable world was not to hold me beyond eleven.'

'So I understood, and endeavoured to stipulate,' said Mr.
Falkirk, 'but I am told you were so late in returning that you
would not come home, and preferred, somewhat inexplicably,
disturbing Miss Maryland to disturbing me.'

'Is that what you think?' she answered, simply. 'That I broke
my word? Mr. Falkirk, I began returning as you say, at a
quarter past eleven.'

'I never expected you to get off before that, my dear. Then
what was the matter?'

The girl hesitated a moment, and then one of her witch looks
flashed through in spite of everything.

'I fell into Charybdis, sir, that was all.'

'I do not remember any such place between here and
Merricksdale,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'Was it enchantment, my
dear?' But his face was less careless than his words. Hers
grew grave again at once; and, wasting no more time, Miss
Kennedy addressed herself to business.

'I had arranged it all with Miss Bird,' she said, 'on the way
there. She had a headache and was glad of an excuse to get
away early. It was "a small party," I found, when you were in
the house and the rest were out of doors, but otherwise
everybody was there--and nearly everybody else. The trees were
all lights and flowers; and supper tables stood ready from the
first; and you know what the moon was. So altogether,' said
Miss Hazel, 'it was hard to remember anything about time, and
especially to find out. I fancied that Mrs. Merrick had told
about my going early,--watches seemed so very uncertain, and so
many of them had stopped at nine o'clock. It was only by a
chance overhearing that I knew when it was half-past ten. I
lost just a few minutes then, manoeuvring,--for I did not want
"everybody" to see me to the carriage; but when I had vanished
into the house, and found Mrs. Merrick, Miss Bird was not
there. She had gone home an hour before, her head being worse,
they said.'

Mr. Falkirk said nothing, but his thick brows grew together
again.

'Mrs. Merrick said it was not the least matter; her coachman
unfortunately was sick, but fifty people would be only too
happy. I said everybody but me wished to stay late,--O, no, not
at all!--here was Mr. May, going in five minutes, with his
sister. They would be "delighted". I could not well tell her,
sir,' said Wych Hazel, with a look at her guardian, 'all that
occurred to me in the connection, but I suppose I negatived
Mr. May in my face, for Mrs. Merrick went on. "Mr. Morton,
then,--the most luxurious coach in the county." He too was
going at once--if I did. Or, if I did not mind the walk, her
brother-in-law would take charge of me at any moment with
pleasure.'

Certainly Mr. Falkirk outdid himself in scowling, at this
point.

'Well--I must get home somehow,' she said with another glance,--
'and the coach would never do, and the phaeton was tabooed.
But I knew Mrs. Merrick's sister was Mrs. Blake; and so,
thinking of the old doctor, I said at once that I would walk,
and ran upstairs for my cloak. And then I found out,' said
Wych Hazel slowly, 'that the are two sorts of brothers-in-
law.'

Nobody interrupted her, nor spoke when she paused. The little
room was very still, except from the movements the girl made
herself.

'This was the wrong one. No old doctor Blake at all, but a
younger brother of Gen. Merrick. What could I do?' she said,
with a half appealing look that went for a second further than
her guardian. 'Already my promise was in peril; and there was
Mr. Morton beseeching me into his coach--and I could not get up
a fuss.' It was very pretty and characteristic, the
unconscious way in which she brought in--and left out--the third
one in the room. Sometimes forgetting everybody but her
guardian, and giving him details that were plainly meant for
his ears alone; then, with a sudden blush and stop,
remembering that there was another listener standing by. On
such occasions she would generally turn her face a little more
away and out of sight, and then begin again, in a tone that
meant to keep clear of all further special confidences in that
direction. The third member of the party stood perfectly still
and made no remark whatever.

'Well?' said Mr. Falkirk, with rather a short breath, as the
girl paused.

'There was nothing left for me but the walk--unless a fuss, and
a half dozen more standing round. Then Mr. Morton said he
should walk, too, at least as far as the cross-road, and let
the carriage follow at a foot pace in case I should turn
weary. If he had been half as anxious about my weariness as he
professed,' said the girl, with a curl of her lips, 'he would
have tried how fast his horses could go for once, with him
behind them. But I could not tell him that any plainer than I
did.'

'You tried to make him drive and leave you?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'I tried to make him let me alone, sir,' said the girl
flushing. 'As to the way, I made no suggestions. So we walked
on, and Mr. Morton made himself exceedingly--disagreeable.'

'Too officious? Or too presumptuous? He's an ass!' said Mr.
Falkirk, who was plainly getting restive. 'Which, Hazel?'

'Unbearable I called it, sir. I was in no mood for nice
definitions. And I couldn't have been tired _then_ if we had
walked through the moonlight straight on to the moon! But--I
had been lectured so much about self-control' (an invisible
glance went here) 'that, somehow, he seemed to keep his
patience the better, the more I lost mine. I never remember
your telling me, sir, that my wilful moods were particularly
becoming, but I began to think it must be so; and actually
thought of trying a little complaisance.' Whereat, Miss Hazel
brought herself to a sudden stop.

'My dear!' said Mr. Falkirk. 'What was the other man about?'

'He was walking on the other side,' said Hazel, her voice
changing. 'But he left me to Mr. Morton, in effect, and
scarcely said three words all this time. I trusted his
thoughts were too busy with Miss Powder, to notice what went
on near by.'

'This is what comes of what you erroneously term dancing on
the branches of trees!' said Mr. Falkirk, in a great state of
disgust. 'But I have no idea I should have gone to that
woman's if I had been free. More comes of it than I reckoned
upon, or than six weeks will see me through. Well, you got rid
of him at last, I suppose; and walked all the way to Dr.
Maryland's in your slippers!'

'My dear Mr. Falkirk!--slippers at an out-door party! Yes, I
"got rid of him," as you say, when we reached the turning to
Morton Hollow,' Hazel went on, rather slowly, the shadow
coming into her tone again. 'And then, after that, I found out
why my other companion had been so silent.'

'Found out! He had not been taking too much?'

'I told you the supper tables stood ready all the evening,'
said the girl, sinking her voice; 'and--it was plain--now--what
he had found there.'

The silence now, rather than any words, bade her go on. She
caught her breath a little, mastering her excitement.

'I knew, presently, what I must do. And when. You have told
me, sir, sometimes, that I was too hasty to resolve and to
do,--I had to be both now.'

'What did you do?' said her guardian.

'I must get away. And on the instant. For, just beyond, the
woods ceased, and there was a long stretch of open road. I
thought, in that second, that my cloak might be caught. So,
with my free hand I unfastened it--I don't know how I ever did
it!' said the girl, excitedly, 'unless, as Byo says, mamma's
prayers were round me!--but I slipped the cloak from my
shoulders and tore away my other hand, and sprang into the
woods.'

They could almost hear her heart beat, as she sat there.

'Into the woods alone!' cried Mr. Falkirk. 'Then--Go on, my
dear,' he said, his voice falling into great gentleness.

'Things came so fast upon me then!' she said with a shiver. 'I
had said, in that moment, "I can but try,"--and now I felt that
if you try--some things--you must succeed. To fail, then, would
be just a game of hide-and-seek. That was the first thought. I
must keep ahead, if it killed me. And then--instantly--I knew
that to do that I must not run!'--

'What _did_ you do?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'I might not be the fastest; and, if I ran, I should maybe not
know just where--he--was,--nor when the pursuit was given up. I
must pass from shadow to shadow; moving only when he moved;
keeping close watch; until he got tired and went back.'

Hazel leaned her head on her hands, as if the mere
recollection were all she could bear.

'My dear!--exclaimed Mr. Falkirk. 'Did you keep up the game
long?'

'I do not know, sir,' she said, wearily; 'it seemed--' she
stopped short,--then went on:

'I knew my dress was dark enough to pass notice; and as softly
as I could I rolled up my white cloak and took off my gloves,
lest any chance light might fall on them. My steps were
steady--the others not: so far I had the advantage. Several
times I heard my name--I think the surprise must have sobered
him a little, for he called to me that that was not the road.
But how long it went on, I cannot tell.'

'Till he gave it up?'

'Yes. At last, I saw him go back to the road, and heard his
tread there, turning back the way we had come. Past me. And
again I had to wait. Only I crept to the edge of the trees,
where I could see far down the moonlight, and watch the one
moving shadow there, that it did not turn off again among the
shadows where I stood. And then I began to think I could not
go on towards home along that open stretch before me,--for at
least a mile there were only fields and fences on either hand.
I had noticed it when we drove along in the evening. I could
not go back towards Mrs. Merrick's. Then I remembered, in my
ride upon Vixen, finding a short cut from this road to one
from Dr. Maryland's. And I thought if I could once get to
that, I should find unbroken woodland, where I could pass
along unseen. For that, however, I must cross the road--in the
full, clear light. And what that was!--'

'But I went safe,' she began again, 'and reached the shadows
on the other side before there came sounds upon the road once
more, and the full stream of late people began to come
rattling down from Merricksdale.'

'Yes!'--Mr. Falkirk's word was rather breathless.

'At first, when I saw the first carriage, I thought I would
speak and claim protection. But that held only men. And then
came others on foot--and some that I knew. And it seemed to me,
that instead of speaking I almost shrank into a shadow myself.
And when there came a little interval, so that I dared move, I
sprang away again, and went through the woods as fast as I
could go, and go softly. The belt is not broad there, I
suppose,' she said after another pause; 'and I reached the
other road and went on while in the darkness, along the edge.
But I think by this time I must have been tired, I grew so
suddenly trembling and unsteady. And the night was so still,
and yet I seemed to hear steps everywhere. I could not bear it
any longer; and I thought I would just be quiet and wait for
the day. Only--so far my wits served me yet--I must once more
cross the road; for the moon was sinking westward now, and the
level rays came in about my feet.'

'I thought I could not do it at first,' she said, with a voice
that told more than the words,--'go out into that stream of
light; but then I did; and hid myself in the branches of a
great hemlock, and waited there.'

'And then I found Mr. Rollo,--and I knew that I might trust
him.'

With which most unconscious full-sized compliment, the girl
crossed her arms upon her lap, and laid her face down upon
them, and was still.

'How did she found you?' demanded Mr. Falkirk with
unceremonious energy. The answer was in an undertone:

'I found her.'

Mr. Falkirk was silent again.

'No,' said Wych Hazel, without raising her head, and again not
stopping to measure her words. 'You would have stood there
till this time, if I had not spoken!'

'Would I?' said Rollo.

'And how came you to be there at all at that time of night?'
said Mr. Falkirk.

'On my way from the cars.'

'Cars, where?'

'Henderson.'

'Walk from Henderson!' said Mr. Falkirk.

'Save time. I wanted to be here to-day.' The answers were all
short and grave, as a man speaks who has no words that he
wants to say.

'And Mr. Rollo thought', said Hazel, looking up, 'that it was
better for me to come home from Dr. Maryland's than from the
woods. And--when he spoke of it--I supposed you would say that
too, Mr. Falkirk.'

But Mr. Falkirk vouchsafed no corroboration of this opinion.

'Did I do well, sir?' she said a little eagerly, but meaning
now the whole night's work. 'Did I do ill? Was I a bit like
your old ideal--"a woman" and "brave"? Or was I only a girl,
and very foolish?' They were so silent, these men!--it tried
her. Did they, in their worldly wisdom, see any better way out
of her hard places, than her seventeen years' inexperience had
found, at such a cost? The brown eyes looked searchingly at
Mr. Falkirk, and again for an instant went beyond him to Mr.
Rollo.

'Answer, Mr. Falkirk!' said the younger man.

'My dear,' said Wych Hazel's guardian, 'if I had been a
quarter as much a man as you have proved yourself a woman,
your bravery never would have been so tried.'

'And the bravery was as much as the womanliness!' said the
other, in the short, terse way of all his words this
afternoon; no air of compliment whatever hanging about the
words.

She answered with only a deep flush of pleasure, and eyes that
went down now, and a smile just playing round the corners of
her mouth--the first that had been there that afternoon. It may
be remarked that there was no pleasure in either of the other
faces.


'Who knows about this?' said Mr. Falkirk, suddenly.

'Nobody,' said Rollo.

'Not Miss Maryland?'

'I could answer for her; but she knows nothing.'

Wych Hazel looked up, listening. It was interesting to hear
somebody else talk now. Talk was stayed, however. Both men
were thinking; their thoughts did not run easily into spoken
words. Or not while she was present; for after a sudden
excursion up stairs to see what notes and messages might need
attention, on returning she found the two deep in talk; Rollo
seated near the head of Mr. Falkirk's couch, and bending
towards him. He sprang up as Wych hazel came in and took
leave; shaking Mr. Falkirk's hand cordially and then clasping
Wych Hazel's. For the first time then a gleam of his usual gay
humour broke on his lips and in his eye, as he said softly:

'I should have made you speak before that!'


CHAPTER XXIII.

KITTY FISHER.


Nothing but the most superb propriety was to be expected at
Mrs. Powder's; nevertheless Wych Hazel went escorted by Prim
and Rollo in Dr; Maryland's rockaway. Dr. Maryland himself had
been persuaded to the dinner, and it was on his arm Miss
Kennedy made her entrance upon the company. Something unlike
anything the doctor had ever taken charge of before,--in a
dress of tea-rose colour this time, and with only tea-roses
for trimming.

It was not a large company assembled for dinner, though
everybody was expected in the evening. This was a different
affair from Merricksdale; on old proud family name in the
mistress of the mansion; old fashioned respectability and
modern fashion commingled in the house and entertainment; the
dinner party very strictly chosen. Beyond that fact, it was
not perhaps remarkable. After dinner Dr. Maryland went home;
and gayer and younger began to pour in. Following close upon
Mrs. Merrick's entertainment, this evening too had the
adornment of the full moon; and as this party also was an out-
door one, as much as people chose to have it so, the adornment
was material. A large pleasure ground around the house, half
garden, half shrubbery, was open to promenaders; and at
certain points there were lights and seats and music and
refreshments; the last two not necessarily together. On this
pleasure ground opened the windows of the drawing room and to
this led the steps of the piazza; and so it came to pass in
the course of the evening that the house was pretty well
deserted of all but the elderly part of the guests.

In this state of things, said elderly portion of the company
might as well be at home for all the care they are able to
bestow on the younger. Wandering in shadow and light, in and
out through the winding walks, blending in groups and
scattered in couples, the young friends of Mrs. Powder did
pretty much as they pleased. But one thing Wych Hazel had
cause to suspect as the evening wore on, that though her
guardian proper was fast at-home, she had an active actual
guardian much nearer to her, and in fact never very far off
for long at a time. Indeed he paraded no attentions, either
before Wych Hazel's eyes or the eyes of the public; but if she
wanted anything, Rollo found it out; if she needed anything,
he was at hand to give it. His care did not burden her, nor
make itself at all conspicuous to other people; nevertheless
she surely could not but be conscious of it. This by the way.

Dr. Maryland had not been gone long; the new arrivals were
just pouring in; when a seat beside Wych Hazel was taken by
Mr. Nightingale.

'You were at Merricksdale the other night?' he said after the
first compliments.

'Yes, for a while.'

'I knew you would be. I was in despair that I could not get
there;--but engagements--contretemps--held us fast. I see now how
much I lost.'

'Then you are released from imaginary evils,--that must be a
comfort.'

'Do you know,' said Stuart, 'I think the toilet is a fine
art?'

She did not answer, looking at two or three somewhat
remarkable specimens of the art that just then swept by.

'Who is Miss Fisher, Mr. Nightingale?' she asked suddenly.

'O don't you know Kitty? To be sure, she has just come.'

'No, I do not know her. May I know who she is?'

'Not to know her, argues--Well, it isn't so extreme a case as
that. Miss Fisher, for character, is the most amiable of
persons; for accomplishments, she can do everything; for
connections, (do you always want to know people's
connections?) she is a niece, I believe, of Dr. Maryland's.'

'Of Dr. Maryland's!--O that is good,' said Wych Hazel. 'Is she
like Primrose?'

'She is more--like--a purple snap dragon,' said Stuart,
reflectively. 'Do you read characters in flowers? and then
look out for their moral prototypes in the social world?'

'I do not believe I ever had the credit of "looking out" for
anything!--Good evening, Mr. Simms.'

' "It was the witching hour of night!" '--quoted Mr. Simms with
a deprecating gesture. 'Really, Miss Kennedy, I do not see why
the story books make it out such a misfortune for a man to be
turned to stone. I think, in some circumstances, it is surely
the best thing that can happen to him. There is Nightingale,
now--he would feel no end better for a slight infusion of
silica!'--and with another profound reverence, Mr. Simms moved
off.

'I should like to see the philosopher that would make an
infusion of silica!' muttered Stuart. '_He's_ never drunk it.
What is the use of poets in the world, Miss Kennedy?'

'To furnish people with quotations--as a general thing,' said
Wych Hazel.

'Precisely my idea. And that's stupid, for people don't want
them. It looks bright out among Mrs. Powder's bushes--shall we
go and try how it feels?'

It was pretty, and pleasant. Moonlight and lamps do make a
witching world of it; and under the various lights flitted
such a multitude of gay creatures that Mr. Falkirk's favourite
allusion to Enchanted ground would have been more than usually
appropriate. All the colours in the rainbow, gleaming by turns
in all possible alternations and degrees of light and shadow;
a moving kaleidoscope of humanity; the eye at least was
entertained. And Stuart endeavoured to find entertainment for
the ear of his companion. They wandered up and down, in and
out; not meeting many people; in the changing lights it was
easy to miss anybody at pleasure. In the course of the walk
Stuart begged for a ride with Miss Kennedy, again negatived on
the plea that Miss Kennedy's horses were not yet come. Stuart
immediately besought to be allowed to supply that want for the
occasion. His aunt had a nice little Canadian pony.

'I cannot tell,' said Wych Hazel, gaily. 'You know I must ask
Mr. Falkirk.'

'You do not mean that?' said Stuart.

'Why of course I mean it.'

'Is it possible you are in such bondage? But by the way, there
is going to be some singing presently, which I think you will
like. I have been counting upon it for you.'

'Is there?' she said,--'where? You are right in the fact, Mr.
Nightingale, but quite wrong as to terms. I mean, the terms
give a false impression of the fact. Where is the music to be,
Mr. Rollo?' For Rollo, prowling about in the shrubbery, had at
the moment joined them. He answered rather absently, that he
believed it was to be in the garden.

'Do you understand, Mr. Nightingale?'--Wych Hazel resumed,
turning to her other companion--'that is a mistake.'

'Can you prove it? But apropos, I am right in supposing that
you are fond of music? That is true, isn't it?'

'Very true!'--But she was thinking.--'Mr. Rollo, how can you
always say what you mean, without saying what you do not
mean?' she asked suddenly.

'Choose your audience,' said Rollo.

'I like to say what I mean to anybody!'

'It is a great luxury. But the corresponding luxury of being
understood, is not always at command. Have you been puzzling
Mr. Nightingale?' he asked in an amused voice.

'Only presenting my ideas wrong end first, as usual. Is Miss
Fisher here to-night?--and do you like her, Mr. Rollo?'

'Miss Fisher?--Kitty?--I have not seen her since I came home
from Europe. But there is Prim. I must go and take care of
her.'

He disappeared. The walk and talk of the two others was
prolonged, until faint sweet notes of wind instruments from
afar called them to join the rest of the world.

There was quite a little company gathered at this point, a
small clearing in the shrubbery around one side of which seats
were placed. Here the music lovers (and some others) were
ranged, in a tiny semi-circle, half in shadow, half in light,
as the lamps and moonbeams served. The light came clear upon
half the little spot of greensward; glittering on leaves and
branches beyond, glanced on the tops of trees higher up. A
lively chitter-chatter was going on, after the fashion of such
companies, when Wych Hazel came up, but a moment after the
first notes of the music struck their ears, and all was as
hushed as the moonlight itself. Only the notes of the harmony
floated in and out through the trees; nothing else moved.

Mrs. Powder had managed to secure some good musical talent,
for the performance was of excellent quality. Perhaps summer
air and moonbeams helped the effect. At any rate, the first
performance, a duet between a flute and a violin, was
undoubtedly listened to; and that is saying much. The
performers were out of sight. Then a fine soprano voice
followed, in a favourite opera air.

Wych Hazel was seated near one end of the semi-circle, with
Primrose just behind her; both of them in shadow. Rollo had
been standing in the full light just before them; but during
the singing he was beckoned away and the spot was clear. In
two minutes more Stuart Nightingale had brought a camp chair
to Wych Hazel's side. He was quiet till the song was over and
the little gratified buzz of voices began. Under this cover he
spoke low--

'Have you _two_ guardians, Miss Kennedy?'

'One has answered all my purposes hitherto,' she answered with
a laugh. 'Do I seem to need another?'

'Seem to _have_ another. Pardon me. Do you like to be taken care
of?' He spoke in her own tone.

'By myself--best! If I must speak the truth.'

'Ah, I thought so! who else can do it so well? A fine woman
needs no other control than her own. Am I to be disappointed
of that ride?' He was speaking very softly.

'Well, I will prefer my request,' said Hazel. 'I wish I could
say yes, at once. But how shall I let you now?'

Prim's hand touched her shoulder at this instant, for
delicious notes of two voices stole upon the air from the
hiding place of Mrs. Powder's troup. The lady's voice they had
heard before; it was one of great power and training, and it
came now mingling with a sweet full bass voice. There was no
more talking until the music ended. It was a fine bit from a
German opera.

'How do you like that?' Stuart asked.

Hazel drew a deep breath. 'Can you tell how you like things?'
she said.

'Yes!' said Stuart. 'After we get that ride I am talking of,
I'll tell you how I liked it. By the way, I will do myself the
honour to be the receiver of your answer concerning it. But
_this_ pleasure--no,--yes, I _do_ know why I enjoy it; but it is not
because the voices are fine or the music expressive. Can you
guess?'

'_Not_ for the music, and _not_ for the voices!' said the girl
looking at him.

'A puzzle, isn't it?' said Stuart. 'No; the music expresses
nothing to me--this sort of music; and voices are voices--but--I
care only for voices that I know.'

Another little word of warning from Prim behind her,--'O Hazel,
listen!'--prevented any reply; and Stuart's 'Yes, this is
something, now,'--made it unnecessary. And the singing would
have made it impossible. A man's voice alone; the same rich,
full, sweet bass; in the ballad of the "Three Fishers."
Whether Mr. Nightingale had divined that somebody was near who
knew Wych Hazel, or merely acted on general prudential
motives, he left his seat and stood a little apart while the
ballad was sung.

'Do you like that?' Primrose whispered.

'The voice--not the ballad.'

'Nor I either,' said Prim. 'I don't see what he sings it for.'

There was but a moment's interval, and then the same voice
began another strain, so noble, so deep, so thrilling, that
every breath was held till it had done. The power of the voice
came out in this strain; the notes were wild, pleading,
agonizing, yet with slow, sweet human melody. The air thrilled
with them; they seemed to float off and lose themselves
through the woods; sadly, grandly, the song breathed and fell
and ceased. Wych Hazel did not speak nor stir, nor look,
except on the ground, even when the last notes had died away.
Only her little hands held each other very close, her cheeks
resting on them.

'Yes, I know,' said Primrose softly. 'That is Handel.'

Stuart Nightingale presently slid back to his seat; and now
there came a stir; the music was discontinued. In a few
minutes Rollo came bringing refreshments; Mr. Nightingale
bestirred himself in the same cause; and presently they were
all eating ices and fruits. At which juncture Miss Josephine
joined herself to the party, with one or two of her sort,
while several gentlemen began to "fall in," behind Miss
Kennedy.

'Did you have a good time at Merricksdale?' Josephine asked.

'Not better than usual,' Hazel answered.

'Danced, didn't you? I wanted mamma to have dancing to-night,
and she wouldn't. She's so awfully slow! O Mr. Rollo, do you
like dancing?'

'On anything but my own feet,' said Rollo.

'Anything but your own feet? How _can_ you dance on anything but
your own feet?'

'My horse's feet? Or what do you think of a good yacht and a
good breeze?'

'Horrid! I never want to be in one. And _don't_ you like
dancing? O why? Don't you, Miss Kennedy? don't you, Mr.
Nightingale?'

'Depends on the dance,' said Stuart. 'And on my partner.'

'O it don't signify what partner you have. In fact, you dance
with everybody, you know. That is the best fun. Don't you like
the German, Miss Kennedy?'

'Not with everybody,' said Miss Kennedy, thinking of possible
partners.

'O but you must, you know, in the German--and that's the fun. I
don't think anything else _is_ fun. Of course the people are all
proper. Don't you like the German, Mr. Rollo?'

'I do not dance it.'

'_Not?_ Don't you? O why? You do dance, I know, for I've seen
you; you waltz like a German, a man, I mean. Why don't you
dance the German?'

'How does a German--a man, I mean--waltz, Miss Phinney? as
distinguished from other nationalities?' Stuart asked.

'O, different.'

'Wont you tell us in what way? This is interesting.'

'It wont help you,' said Josephine; 'and you dance well,
besides. A German waltzes slow and elegantly.'

'And other people?'--

'You may laugh, but it's true; I've noticed it. An Englishman
sways and a Frenchman spins, but a German floats. O it's just
delicious! Why dont you dance the German, Dane Rollo? You're
not pious.'

Rollo did not join in the general smile. He answered
composedly--

'What I would not let my sister do, Miss Josephine, I am bound
not to ask of another lady.'

'Why wouldn't you let your sister? You haven't got one, and
don't know. But that's being awfully strict. I had no idea you
were so strict. I thought you were jolly.'

'Could you hinder your sister?' Stuart asked with a slight
laugh. The answer was, however, unhesitating.

'Why would you hinder her?' repeated Josephine.

'Ask Kitty Fisher.'

'Kitty? Does _she_ know? And why shouldn't you tell us as well
as her?'

Rollo took Miss Kennedy's plate at the instant and went off
with it.

'That's all bosh,' said Josephine. 'I like people that are
jolly. The German is real jolly. Last week we danced it with
candles--it was splendid fun.'

'Not here?' said one of the gentlemen.

'Here? No. You bet. My mother is my mother, and nobody ever
charged her with being jolly, I suppose.'

'How could you dance with candles?' said Primrose's astonished
voice.

'Yes. Six of us had great long wax candles, lighted; and we
stood up on a chair.'

'Six of you on a chair!'

'The old question of the schoolmen!'--cried Nightingale,
bursting into a laugh.

'Of course on six chairs, I mean. Of course. Six of us on a
chair!'--

'But what did you get on chairs for?'

'Why!--then the gentlemen danced round us, and at the signal--
the leader gave the signal--the gentlemen jumped up as high as
they could and tried to blow out our lights; and they had to
keep step and jump; and if any gentleman could blow out the
candle nearest him he could dance with that lady. Didn't we
make them jump, though! We held our candles up so high, you
know, they could not get at them. Unless we liked somebody and
wanted him for a partner. O we had a royal time!'

'Did the gentlemen dance--and blow--indiscriminately?' inquired
Miss Kennedy with a curl of her lips.

'No, no!--how you do tell things, Josephine!' said Miss Burr.
'Two gentlemen for each chair,--and whichever of the two put
the candle out, he danced with the lady.'

'Kitty had four or five round her chair'--said Josephine.

'And couldn't the lady help herself?' inquired Primrose, in a
tone of voice which called forth a universal burst of
laughter.

'Why we _did_,' said Josephine. 'If you don't like a man, you
hold the candle up out of his reach.'

'You couldn't baffle everybody so,' remarked Mr. Kingsland.
Several gentlemen had come up during the talk, closing in
round Miss Kennedy.

'Mr. Rollo is right about one thing,' said Miss Burr; 'nobody
has seen the German who has not seen it led by Kitty Fisher.
You should see her dance it, Miss Kennedy.'

'Yes, you should,' echoed Mr. May, 'I had rather look on than
be in it, for my part.'

'What do you think she did at Catskill the other day?' said
Miss Burr. 'She took a piece of ice between her teeth, and
went round the piazza asking all the gentlemen to take a
bite.'

'Clever Kitty! She'll work that up into a new figure--see if
she dont,'--said Mr. Kingsland.

'To be called the _noli me tangere!_' said Mr. May. 'Partners
secured at the melting point.' The other gentlemen laughed.

'I see you and Kitty are at swords' points yet,' said Miss
Burr.

'No,' put in Rollo--'she likes a foil better than a rapier.'

'Certainly it does not sound as if she was like you,
Primrose,' observed Wych Hazel.

'Like Miss Maryland!--Hardly,' said Mr. May. 'Nor like any one
your thoughts could even imagine,' he added softly.

It was growing late now, and the moon gradually passing along
behind the trees, found a clear space at this point, and
looked down full at the little party to see what they were
about. Just then, from the distance, came a stir and a murmur
and sound of laughing voices.

'She's coming this minute!' said Mr. Kingsland. ' "Talk about
angels"!--Your curiosity will soon be fed, Miss Kennedy,--and
may, perchance, like other things, grow by what it feeds on.
Here comes the redoubtable Kitty herself!--Miss Fisher!--my poor
eyes have seen nothing since they last beheld you!'

'Don't see much in ordinary,' said a gay voice; and a young
lady,--too young, alas, for the part she was playing!--swept
into the circle. A very handsome girl, with a coronet of fair
hair, from which strayed braids and curls and crinkles and
puffs and bands and flowers and ribbands; her dress in the
extremest extremity of the fashion, very long, very low; with
puffs and poufs innumerable; the whole borne up by the highest
and minutest pair of heels that ever a beguiling shoemaker
sent forth. She nodded, laughing, and held out her hands right
and left.

'How d'ye do, Stephen?--Mr. Richard May!'--with a profound
reverence. 'And if there isn't our Norwegian back again! Glad
to see you, Mr. Rollo. Have you leaned how to spell your name
yet?'

But to this lady Rollo gave one of his Spanish salutations;
while Phinny Powder jumped up and exclaimed with pleasure, and
Primrose uttered from behind them her quiet 'how d'ye do
Kitty?' Wych Hazel on her part had risen too--drawing a little
back from the front, in the sudden desire for a distant view
first.

'I see,' Miss Fisher went on, speaking to Rollo.--'The e in the
middle as usual, and the i and the g to keep it there. Why,
Prim, my dear child!--you here? Among all these black coats of
unclerical order?--How do you do?'--with an embrace. 'And how is
my uncle?--But where is Miss Kennedy? I am dying to see Miss
Kennedy!--and they told me she was here.'

'The time to die is--_after_ you have seen Miss Kennedy,' said
Mr. Kingsland.

'To my face!' said Kitty. 'Well!--That is she, I know, behind
Mr. May. Introduce us Richard, please.'

Mr. May stepped aside, and with extreme formality presented
Miss Fisher to the lady of Chickaree. Kitty touched hands,--and
paused, forgetting to take her own away. The young 'unwonted'
face was certainly a novelty to her. And a surprise.

'We shall all be jealous of her for her little mouth,' was her
first remark. 'Don't everybody generally kiss you, child, that
comes near enough?'

Wych Hazel withdrew her hand, stepping back again in her
astonishment, and surveying Miss Fisher.

'People do not--generally--come near enough,' she said, as well
as it could be said.

There was a little round of applause from the gentlemen at
that. Kitty Fisher nodded, not at all displeased.

'She'll do,' she said. 'I was afraid she was nothing but a
milksop,--all strawberries and cream. I vow she's handsome!'

'Handsome is that handsome does,' said Rollo. 'Miss Kitty,
will you sit down and take things calmly?'--offering a chair.

'Yes, I'll take the chair; and Miss Kennedy and I'll divide
the civil speech between us,' said Kitty Fisher, placing
herself close by Hazel. 'It's awfully nice here. What are you
all about?'

'Just unable to get on for want of Miss Fisher,' said Stuart.
'Calling for you, in fact.'

'Echo answering "Where?" and all that,' said Kitty.

'Not at all. Echo said you were coming.'

'No dancing to-night?--awfully slow, isn't it? Beg pardon,
Phinny; but you think just so yourself. Go off and start up
the band into a waltz, and we'll have it out before the old
lady gets the idea into her head. Come?'

Phinny started off on the instant with such energy and
goodwill to her errand, that in a few minutes the burst of a
waltz air in the immediate neighbourhood of the parties
requiring it, said that Miss Josephine had been successful.
And she said it herself.

'There!' she exclaimed; 'we've got it. Mamma'll never care, if
she hears, nor know, if she sees. Come! Here are enough of
us.'

One and another couple sailed off from the group. Stuart
offered his hand to Wych Hazel. 'You waltz?' he said.

She gave hers readily. The music had put her on tiptoe. And
presently the little green was full of flying footsteps and
fluttering draperies. As many as there was room for took the
ground; but there was good room, and the waltz was spirited.
Some stood and looked on; some beat time with their feet. In a
shadow of the corner where they had been talking, stood Prim
and Rollo; _not_ beating time. Prim put her hand on his arm, but
neither spoke a word.

'Shall we take a tangent,--and finish our stroll?' whispered
Stuart, when they had whirled round the circle several times.

'If you like,--one is ready for anything in such a night,' said
Hazel gleefully. She had gone round much like a thistledown,
with a child's face and movement of pleasure. So, suddenly and
silently, as they were passing one of the alleys that led out
from the little green, Stuart and his partner disappeared from
the eyes of the spectators. It was certainly a pleasant night
for a stroll. The light made such new combinations of old
things, took and gave such new views; the pleasure of looking
for them and finding them was ensnaring. Then the air was very
sweet and soft, and--so was Stuart's conversation.

Gliding on from one thing to another, even as their footsteps
went,--mingling fun and fancy and common-place and flattery in
a very agreeable sort of _pot-pourri_,--so they followed down one
alley of the shrubbery and up another; winding about and
about, but keeping at a distance from other people. Until,
much too soon for Stuart's intent, they were suddenly and
quietly joined at a fork of the paths by Rollo, with Miss
Fisher on his arm.

As the waltz ceased, Rollo had secured without difficulty the
companionship of Miss Fisher for a walk; and Miss Fisher never
knew how peculiar a walk it was, nor imagined that her
cavalier was following a very fixed and definite purpose of
his own. Nothing seemed less purposeful than the course they
took; it was no course; from one path diverging into another,
changing from one direction to another; a hunted hare would
scarce make more doublings, or anything else, except the dog
in chase of the hare. Kitty only knew that she was very well
amused; her companion never left that doubtful, nor allowed
her much leisure to make inconvenient observations; and, in
short, Kitty did not care where they went!--and Rollo did care.
So it fell out, that quite suddenly, and as much to his
companion's surprise as anybody's, quite easily and naturally
they stepped out of one walk into another just as Wych Hazel
and her attendant came to the same spot.

'Your old proverbs are all stuff,' Kitty was saying to her
companion. 'I do think she's the prettiest thing I ever saw.
Only she don't know her tools. Just wait till I've had her in
training a while!'

'Miss Kennedy,' said Rollo, 'how would you like to be in
training?' They had somehow joined company with Stuart and
Wych Hazel, not by the former's good will, but he could not
manage to help it.

'I may as well reserve my views on that subject for somebody
who wants to try,' said the girl, with a laugh. She had not
heard Kitty Fisher.

'On what point just now do you think you need it?'

'I am in an extremely contented state of mind "just now,"
thank you, Mr. Rollo.'

'Miss Fisher would not think that proves anything.'

'Does Miss Kitty offer her services as trainer?' asked Stuart.

'Now just wait, both of you,' said Kitty Fisher, 'and let Miss
Kennedy get used to me a little. She's awfully shocked, to
begin with; and you're trying to make believe she'll never get
over it.'

A slight gesture of Miss Kennedy's head, unseen by Miss Kitty,
seemed to say that was extremely probable.

'You should let her get accustomed to you by degrees,' said
Stuart. 'Hover about in the middle distance, suppose, without
getting out of the range of vision--so that you may make your
approaches to her heart through her eyes. That is an excellent
way.'

'Is it?' said Kitty. 'You've tried all ways, I presume. But I
notice that just now you seem to prefer the ear as a medium.
Wouldn't she be splendid in the "Thread of Destiny," Stuart?'

'I should think so, if I were at the end of the thread!'

'You would not suppose it, Miss Kennedy,' said Rollo; 'but the
"Thread of Destiny" is a silk ribband. The destiny is not
therefore always silken.'

'Much you know about it!' said Kitty. 'I just wish I could see
you thoroughly wound up for once, with Bell Powder and two or
three other people.'

'Wych Hazel was growing rather weary of the talk. 'Who were
the singers to-night, Mr. Nightingale?' she said, pitching her
voice for his benefit alone.

'Really,' said he, in an answering tone, 'I am not musical
enough to be certain about it. Voices in common speech I can
understand and appreciate; but in this kind of manifestation--
Mrs. Powder knows her business. She had secured the right sort
of thing. The principal singer is a lady who has studied
abroad; they are all visitors or dwellers in the
neighbourhood. Did you like the performance?'

'Some of it; but the singing above all. You cannot understand
that?'

'If you and Miss Kennedy want to whisper,' said Kitty Fisher,
'fall back a little, can't you, Mr. Nightingale? or turn down
another path. It disturbs my own train of thought, this trying
to hear what other people say.'

'Nobody would suspect Miss Fisher,' said Rollo, dryly, 'of
being unwilling that anybody should hear what _she_ has to say.'

'Do you know,' said Kitty, turning upon him with an
emphasizing pressure of the arm she held, 'what my thoughts
really _are_ at work upon?'

'Yes.'

'Let's hear. Tell me, and I'll tell you.'

'I do not think,' said Rollo, slowly,--'it would be expedient.'

'Fudge! You know you couldn't. I have been trying to find out
what so extremely sedate a person was after when he undertook
to walk me round in the moonlight!'

And in defiance of everything, Wych Hazel's soft 'Ha! ha!'
responded,--a little as if the question had perplexed her too.

'Have you had a good time?' said Rollo coolly.

'Very!--which makes it the more puzzling. Did Mr. Rollo ever
walk with you in the moonlight, Miss Kennedy?'

'Yes.'

'Have a good time?' said Kitty.

The girl hesitated; but among her accomplishments the art of
pretty fibs had not been included. The truth had to come out
in some shape.

'So far as Mr. Rollo could make it,'--she said at last.

O how Kitty Fisher laughed! and the gentlemen both smiled.

'Why, that is capital!' she cried. 'I couldn't have done
better myself!' Wych Hazel blushed painfully; but Rollo's
answer was extremely unconcerned.

'I don't always give people a good time,' he said. 'You are
fortunate, Miss Kitty. I am impelled to ask, in this
connection, how long Mrs. Powder expects us to make our good
times this evening?'

Upon comparing watches in the moonlight, it was found that the
night was well on its way. There was nothing more to do but to
go home.

On the way home, a little bit of talk occurred in the
rockaway, which may be reported. Going along quietly in the
bright moonlit road, Rollo driving, Primrose suddenly asked a
question--

'Didn't you use to be a great waltzer, Duke?'

'A waltzer?--yes.'

'Then what made you not waltz to-night?'

Rollo leaned back against one side of the rockaway, and
answered, while the old horse walked leisurely on--,

'I have looked at the subject from a new point of view, Prim.'

'Have you?--From what point of view, Duke?' said Primrose, much
interested.

'I have made up my mind,' said Rollo slowly, 'I shall waltz no
more,--except with the lady who will be my wife. And when I
waltz with her,--she will waltz with nobody else!'

Prim sat back in her corner, and spoke not a word more.


CHAPTER XXIV.

THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS.


'And how do you like your new neighbour, Prim?' said the young
Dr. Maryland the first night of his return home. He had talked
all tea-time to the collective family without once mentioning
Miss Kennedy's name, and now put the question to his sister as
they sat alone together in the twilight.

'O Arthur, _very_ much.'

'You see a good deal of her?' was the next question, asked
after a pause.

'Y--es,' said Primrose, doubtfully, 'At least, when I am with
her I think I do; when I am away from her it seems little.'

'I must ride over there and call, to-morrow,' said Dr. Arthur.
'Will you go too?'

And so it fell out that Dingee was summoned to the door next
day to usher in the party.

'Yes'm, Miss Ma'land--Miss Hazel, she in, sure!--singin' to
herself in de red room,'-- and Dingee led the way.

It was a new room to most of the guests. A room that seemed
two sides woodland and one side sunshine. Walls with deep
crimson hangings, and carpets of the same hue; and quaint old
carved oak chairs and tables, and a bookcase or two, and oaken
shelves and brackets against the crimson of the walls. The
morning had been cool enough, there at Chickaree, for a wood
fire, though only the embers remained now; and in front of
where the fire had been, sat the young mistress of the house
half hid in a great arm-chair. Soft white folds fell all
around her, and two small blue velvet slippers took their ease
upon a footstool; with white laces giving their cobweb finish
here, there and everywhere. A book was in her hand, and on her
shoulder the grey kitten purred secure, in spite of the silky
curls which now and then made puss into a pillow. Now and
then. For while Miss Kennedy sometimes made believe to read,
an sometimes really sang--pouring out scraps of song like a
wild bird--yet in truth her attention was oftenest given to the
great picture which hung in one recess. And then her head went
down upon the grey kitten. Just now, when the visitors came
in, she was searching for the notes of that last song at Mrs.
Powder's; trying apparently, to catch it and bring it back;
her girl's voice endeavouring to represent that which her
girl's heart had never known.

The picture--I may describe it here--was that of a young man
bound to a tree and pierced with arrows. No human witnesses in
sight, except in the extreme distance; and over sky and earth
no sunlight, but instead the deepening shadows of night. But
the presence of the one was not noticed, nor the presence of
the other missed. Away from earth, and lifted above suffering,
the martyr's eyes looked to the opening clouds above his head,
where were light, and heavenly messengers, and the palm-
branch, and the crown. Something in the calm clear face
checked Miss Kennedy's bursts of song as often as she turned
that way--the high look so beyond her reach.

'What are you doing, Hazel?' said Prim's sweet voice.

'Puzzling,'--said Hazel, jumping up, and lifting one hand to
support the kitten. 'Dr. Maryland, I am very glad to see you!
O Prim, how happy you must be!'

'You didn't look in the least like a person in a puzzle,' said
Primrose, after the first compliments were passed. 'What could
you be puzzling about, dear?'

'That picture. It always puzzles me. And so when I get
befogged over other things, I often come here and add this to
the number.'

'You are hardly far enough on in your studies yet, Miss
Kennedy, to understand that picture,' said Dr. Arthur, who was
considering it very intently himself.

'My studies! Painting, do you mean? Or what do you mean?' said
Wych Hazel.

'What does the picture say to you, Miss Kennedy?'

'That is just what I cannot find out,' said Hazel, jumping up
again and coming to stand at his side. 'I cannot read it a
bit.'

'You have not learned the characters in which it is written,
yet,' said Dr. Arthur, with a glance at her.

'She had not learned much,' said Primrose, smiling.

'Can _you_ read it?' said Hazel, facing round.

'Why yes, Hazel.'

'Well,' said the girl, half impatiently, 'then how come I to
be such an ignoramus?'

'There are some things,' said Dr. Arthur, with another swift
look at his companion, 'which everybody can learn at once. But
there are others, Miss Kennedy, which sometimes must wait
until the Lord himself sets the lesson. I think this is one of
those.'

'I shall ask your father,' said Hazel, decidedly. 'He always
thinks I ought to know _everything_ at once.'

'Oh, Hazel, my dear, how can you say so?' cried Prim. 'Indeed,
papa is never so unreasonable. And there he is this minute,
and you can ask him.'

The long windows of the room looked upon a stretch of
greensward spotted with trees. Coming across this bit of the
grounds, Dr. Maryland and Rollo saw one of the windows open,
and caught sight also of the party within. Even as Dr.
Maryland's daughter spoke, they stepped upon the piazza and
came into the room.

'That is a picture of the loss of all things,' Dr. Arthur was
saying. 'How would you be able to understand?' But then he
stepped back, and left the explanation in other hands.

' "The loss of all things!" ' Hazel repeated, bewildered. 'How
do you do, Mr. Rollo?--Dr. Maryland, there is always some
special reason why I am especially glad to see you!'

'What is the reason now, my dear?' said the doctor, with a
very benign look on his face.

'These two people,' said Wych Hazel, with an airy gesture of
her head towards her other guests, 'find me in a puzzle and
push me further in. And I want to be pulled out.'

'In what direction shall I pull?' asked the doctor.

'Well, sir,--O Mr. Rollo, don't you want the cat?--I know you
like cats,' said Hazel, 'and she is in my way.--It is only
about my old picture here, Dr. Maryland, which they pretend to
understand. Dr. Arthur says it means "the loss of all
things,"--and that does not clear up my ideas in the least. Why
must I "wait" to know what it means?' she added, linking her
hands on the Doctor's arm, and raising her eager, vivid face
to his. 'Prim says I "don't know much"--but I do not see why
that should hinder my learning more.'

How strong the contrast with the martyr's face! how high and
still and calm the look of him who had overcome! How tender,
how open to sorrow, how susceptible of loss, that of the girl
on whom as yet the rough winds had not blown! Dr. Arthur's
eyes went soberly from one to the other. Rollo had taken the
little cat from its position on its mistress's shoulder, and
now stood with it established on his own, quietly and somewhat
gravely attending to what was going on.

'What do you want to learn, my dear?' said Dr. Maryland, on
his part gazing at the picture now.

'That picture always perplexes me,' said Hazel. 'What does it
mean? And why do I love it so much, not knowing what it
means?'

Standing and looking at the picture, Dr. Maryland answered in
the words of Paul: ' "What mean ye to weep and to break mine
heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at
Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." '

'But papa,' said Primrose, 'that doesn't tell her what it
means. Didn't Arthur say right--"The loss of all things"?'

'It means,' said Dr. Maryland,--'Human weakness and God's
strength. Human emptiness and God's fulness. Earthly defeat
and heavenly victory. How should you understand it, my dear,
who have not begun the fight yet?'

'But then, papa, why does she love it so much?'

Dr. Maryland hesitated, and it was Rollo who answered:

'Because the fight is _in her_.'

'That's a queer way of putting it,' said Dr. Maryland; 'but
perhaps it's true. I hope it is.'

The girl gave a swift look over her shoulder which it is to be
hoped Mr. Rollo liked, as it was meant for him. So sparkling
with the joy of being understood, so stirred with that sudden
new life and purpose which appreciation wakes up in some
natures. It was but an instant--then her eyes came back to Dr.
Maryland, and were all quiet again. _He_ did not think so,
evidently. Which was right? Of what did he doubt her capable?

'Weakness,' 'emptiness,' 'defeat,' she said, recalling his
words. 'Is _that_ what I am to find?'

'You do not think it possible,' said Dr. Maryland.

'How should she, papa?' said Primrose.

'Well, my dear, it is not possible she should. And yet, Hazel,
these are the only way to find strength, fulness, and victory.
It is a problem to you, my dear; only to be worked out.'

'Does _every one_ work it out, papa?'

'No, my dear; two thirds of men never do. And so they go on
forever saying, "Who will shew us any good?" '

'_He_ did not find defeat,' said Hazel, looking at the martyr's
face, and somehow forgetting the arrows and the cords.

'The story is,' said Dr. Maryland, 'that he was an officer,
high in trust and command, in the service of the Emperor
(Diocletian.). For owning himself a Christian, he was stripped
of power and place, delivered into the will of his enemies, to
be bound to a tree and shot to death with arrows. There is the
human defeat, my dear Hazel. What you see in the face there,
is the mental victory;--some of the struggle, too.'

' "Mental victory" '--she said half to herself, considering the
words. 'I ought to be equal to that. Did you mean "defeat,"
Dr. Arthur, by "the loss of all things?" '

'No,' said Dr. Arthur, 'I meant anything but that. I meant
nothing worse than the exchange of a handful of soiled paper
for both the hands full of solid gold.'

'Ah you all talk such riddles!' said the girl, knitting her
brows. 'What would it be to me, I mean? That I should lose
Chickaree?--but that is impossible.'

'It was said,' Dr. Maryland answered,--'and the Lord said it--
"Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath,
he cannot by my disciple." '

'Yes, sir, but--' she said quickly,--then checked herself.

'Well, my dear? My words will come best in answer to your
questions, for then they can meet the very point of your
difficulty.'

'You will not think me disrespectful, sir?--I was going to say,
_you_ do not do that'--said Hazel, hesitating over her words.
'None of you. You have Prim and Dr. Arthur,--and Dr. Arthur
comes home, and then Prim has her brother. And there is the
pretty house, and books, and engravings. I don't know anything
about Mr. Rollo, of course,' she said, correcting herself,
'but I mean the rest of you.'

'May we sit down?' said Dr. Maryland, 'Dane and I have walked
up from Mr. Falkirk's. Unless Dane likes to stand to
accommodate the cat!' said the doctor with a humourous glance
at the shoulder where pussy sat with shut eyes, purring
contentedly. 'It's a fair question, Hazel; and an easy
mistake. But my dear, so far as I know, Prim and Arthur and I
have not kept anything. For myself,' said Dr. Maryland,
lifting up a bright face, 'all that I have is my Master's. I
am not the owner even of myself. So long as his service bids
me use the things entrusted to me in the way I am doing, I
will use them so. And whenever his honour, or his work, calls
me to give up anything or everything of all these--my home, my
children, or my own life--I am ready; it is the Lord's now; he
shall do with them all what he will. Do you understand?'

'And Arthur and I would say the same,' added Primrose.

Her brother answered in the words so long age written, so many
times lived out. ' "Not a myself--but Christ; not a my will--but
Christ. Not a mine ease, or my profit, or my pleasure, but
Christ." '

The girl looked from one to the other, as each spoke, with a
flash of sympathy; even as thoughts stir and kindle at the
sound of a bugle call, while yet they know not what it says.
But then she turned suddenly round and looked at Rollo. An
expectant look, that waited for him to speak,--that gathered--or
he fancied so--a shade of disappointment as it turned away
again to the face on the wall. She sat silent, leaning her
chin upon her hands. His look had been perfectly grave,
thoughtful and quiet; but otherwise did not reveal itself.
There was a general silence. Then Dr. Maryland said,

'Do you understand the paradox, my dear?'

'I think I must be the paradox myself,' Hazel answered with a
half laugh. 'I could do that--I could bear the arrows: I think
I could. But you never saw anybody, sir, that liked giving up--
anything--less than I do.'

'You would rather bear the arrows than the cords,' said Dr.
Arthur Maryland. 'It is easier.'

'Depends on the people,' said Primrose.

' "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things," ' Dr.
Maryland added rather dreamily.

'I suppose,' said Rollo, with a moment's deep look into Wych
Hazel's eyes, 'the free spirit is beyond bonds.'

'That is it, my boy!' exclaimed Dr. Maryland. 'Think--when Paul
and Silas were in the dungeon at Philippi--a dreary place, most
likely; and they, beaten and bleeding and sore, stretched and
confined in the wooden frame which I suppose left them not one
moment's ease,--at midnight it was, they fell to such singing
and praising that the other prisoners waked up and listened to
hear the song.'

Hazel crossed her slender wrists and sat looking at them,
imagining the bonds.

'Do you think it is all _in me?_' she said, with another sudden
appeal to Rollo.

Rollo was not a man fond of wearing his heart upon his sleeve.
Another momentary glance went through her eyes, as it were,
and was withdrawn, before he gave a short, grave 'yes.' Hazel
went back to her musings without another word, and only the
least bit of a triumphant curl about the corners of her mouth.

'I wonder how it would feel?' she said, crossing and
uncrossing her hands.

'What?' said Primrose.

'Bonds--and chains,' said the girl, clasping her wrist tight.
'To have my hands tied!'

'You are not called upon to find out, my dear,' said Dr.
Maryland; 'that is not required of you. But remember, Hazel,
no bonds are heavy but love wears.'

'Depends upon how they get on, sir,' she said, quickly.

'What?' said the doctor, with a somewhat comic twinkle coming
into his eye. 'How is that?'

'I hate bonds, Dr. Maryland!--from the very bottom of my
heart.'

'You have never worn the sort I spoke of, my dear,' he said,
smiling. 'I never heard anybody complain of them.'

'What sort?' said Hazel. 'Bonds are bonds.'

'But love likes her bonds,' said the doctor.

The girl shook her head. 'She likes her way, sir! in my case.
When Mr. Falkirk forbids me to--well, no matter what,--to do
something,' she said, dropping her eyes, 'I do suppose I obey
better than if I didn't love him. But I hate it all the same.
It makes me feel--like my name,' she added with a laugh.

'Love likes her bonds,' the doctor repeated, shaking his head.

'And the arrow that is weighted flies freest against the
wind,' Rollo remarked.

'What do you mean by that?' said Primrose. 'Duke, you look
very funny with that cat upon your shoulder.'

'Pussy likes it,' said Rollo.

'Dane, have you finished your business with Hazel?' said Dr.
Maryland. 'I must be going presently.'

'Well, sir,--if Prim and Arthur will excuse me.'

He brought himself, pussy cat and all, to a chair by Wych
Hazel's side. The others drew off a little.

'I am going away,' he said. 'Business takes me to New York for
a week or two. Possibly to Chicago; but I hope not. I hope to
bring your horses back with me. Do you want to give me any
directions respecting them?'

'Directions?--I think not. O yes!' said Hazel, touching her
fingers to the cat's head and instantly withdrawing them,--'I
want my pony to be very fast. Because----' but there she
stopped.

'Well?' said he.

'That is all.'

'It is unfinished.'

'Cannot you do anything without knowing why?'

'Unbusinesslike. But I'll do my best.'

'Well,'--said Hazel, 'I told Mr. Falkirk.--Of course I like to
go fast, for its own sake,--and then if I ever had to ride for
my life!'--

It was spoken so demurely that only her cheeks betrayed her.
Over their treason the girl grew impatient.

'I just want a fast horse. Don't you know what that means,
without explanation?'

'Why no,' said he, probably enjoying his advantage though he
held it after his usual undemonstrative fashion. Excepting
that his eyes took a further advantage which none others ever
did. No flattery in them, nor conventional deference, and
nothing like Dr. Maryland's benign regard, or Mr. Falkirk's
watchful one. Those eyes went down into hers with a sort of
grave taking possession, or holding it; something more than
benignity, and coming much nearer than watchfulness. Rollo's
manner had often an indefinable tinge of the same expression.
'There are so many sorts of fast horses,' he went on. 'Do you
want to run for your life? or canter? or trot?'

'Trot in ordinary--run upon occasion.'

'Is trotting your favourite gait?'

'It is more like the wind,' said Wych Hazel. 'I remember one
good canter--but all the rest made one think of the snail that
went forward three feet and back two.'

'You must have had an experience! I'll try and secure both for
you; but I may not be able, just at first. Don't you want to
take pussy in safe keeping again? I am afraid she would not
approve of my further companionship.'

'Well--give her to me then,' she said, holding out her hands.
He smiled a little at that, dislodged pussy and placed her in
them, then rose up and offered his own.

A party of gentlemen came up the steps as Dr. Maryland and his
companions went down. Clearly, the thoughtful time of the
morning was at an end.


CHAPTER XXV.

IN THE GERMAN.


There come, sometimes, in certain lives, certain days and
weeks which seem to be all adrift and beyond legislation. The
people who might exercise control cannot; and the people will
not who can; and so the hours sweep on in a rushing stream of
events and consequences, which every now and then flings
somebody upon the rocks. Or it may be, in very happy cases,
only some _thing;_ but until this is made sure the lookers-on
feel anxious.

So felt Mr. Falkirk, a prisoner still with his lame ankle; so
felt (probably) Mr. Rollo, called suddenly away by business a
hundred miles off. So certainly felt Mrs. Bywank, watching her
young lady with motherly eyes. But the young lady herself felt
quite at ease, and as she had said, 'content.' Why not? With
flowers by day and serenade by night; with game from every bag
and trout from every hook; with cavaliers starting up out of
greensward and woodland whenever she went out; with carriages
and horsemen always at the door when she was at home. The
serenades indeed were shared impartially with Mr. Falkirk and
Gotham; for Wych Hazel still kept her room in the cottage, and
was there by night. But the days were often spent in the house
on the hill; and the distance between the two was often--to say
the least--not made alone. The new saddle-horses had not yet
arrived, and no others were countenanced by Mr. Falkirk; but
such walks had their facilities, even without the possible
indoor extensions which sometimes took place. And for evening
purposes an equipage had been arranged which relieved Miss
Kennedy of all dependence on her neighbours. Mr. Falkirk's
prostrate condition prevented her giving any entertainments as
yet; but she went everywhere, with Gotham--grim and trusty--upon
the box; and more and more the days, as they went on, brought
everybody to her feet. It was excellent fun! For it is really
delightful to be liked; and admiring looks you cannot quite
meet have yet their fascination, and the words you scarce hear
have their charm. Altogether there was a strong flavour of
enchantment abroad; and it seemed probable that the prince was
somewhere. The princess had not seen him yet, that she knew
of; but undoubtedly she was learning that some day she might.
Yet Hazel took the knowledge in a pretty way. Too innately
true to flirt, too warm-hearted to trifle, too real a woman to
follow in the steps of Kitty Fisher; and, it may be said,
thinking far too much of herself to descend from her vantage
ground of feminine reserve. Perhaps there was no one thing
which caught and _held_ her admirers like this: the real girlish
dignity which made them keep their proper distance. The most
unscrupulous of them all would as soon have dared anything as
to venture (to her) an unauthorized touch, or a word that
savoured of freedom. So far, she went safe through the fire.
If she could have known, poor child, what sort of a fire it
was; if her thoughts had even dimly imagined what men old in
the world may be; no kid glove nor silken tissue would have
been deemed thick enough to fend off the contact. But she knew
nothing of all that, except by the instinct which now and then
gave her a sudden sheer. As it was, she was intensely amused,
and half out of her wits with fun and frolic and utter light
heartedness; seeing no harm, imagining no evil; quite
regardless of Mrs. Bywank's wise maxim that what men of sense
disapprove, a woman--as a rule--had better not do. And for a
while there were not men of sense at hand to give her counsel.

Mr. Falkirk looked on from too great a distance to point his
strictures; Gotham's grumbles over the serenades and the
cavaliers only helped the excitement. And since Mr. Falkirk
would not let her fling her written thanks out of the window,
the _spoken_ thanks followed, as a matter of course, and
effected quite as much.

And yet, you will say, no harm came, and everything was as it
should be. Well, there are some who plunge through the mud
ankle-deep; and there are others that got but over shoe; and
here and there one that crosses on tiptoe; but you would
rather that they all chose a better road. And intoxication is
not a good thing, whatever may be the means thereto; and the
sweet, fresh years of which Dr. Maryland had spoken, were
quite too precious to be spun off to the music of Strauss, or
wilted down by late hours, or given up wholly to hearing that
Miss Kennedy was the one of all the world. Not so do natures
enlarge and characters develop to their fairest proportions;
not so do souls grow strong and noble for the coming work of
life.

Kitty Fisher was not exactly jealous of all this--or had too
much sense to shew it; but deep in her heart she did wish she
could dismount Wych Hazel from her pedestal, that comparisons
might be made on level ground. Kitty would not have been
timid, for the world; and yet the shy blushes which came as
freely as ever to Miss Kennedy's cheeks did somehow give her a
pang. And while nothing could have bought off her daring
speech and behaviour, she yet knew it _was_ a pretty thing to
have the deference which always approached the young lady of
Chickaree.

'I must get that out of her,' she said to herself. 'She's
bound to give it up. Wait till I get her fairly into the
German!'

And so far she succeeded. Miss Kennedy did get 'fairly in,'--
but as yet the rest of the plan had failed. Hazel danced, and
led, and followed, in the wildest gaiety, within certain
limits; beyond them she would not go; meeting all Kitty
Fisher's proposals with a look of incredulous disgust and
surprise that generally cut short the business for that time.
And gentlemen who stood by laughed and applauded; and if Hazel
had known just _why_ they clapped hands, and just what she was
avoiding, she would have wanted to stand no longer in their
neighbourhood just then.

Balls followed dinners, and one German came close on the heels
of another, with pic-nics, boating parties, croquet parties,
and open-air breakfasts; and everywhere the young queen held
her court; with beauty, and grace, and money, and a faultless
toilet.

Now in the selfishness of this self-seeking world, our
interest in a thing, our judgment of it, does very much depend
upon its connection with ourselves. Have we any shares in the
field for sale?--if not, why, manage it as you will, sunshine
and clouds are alike to us. But if we have, the interest of
the matter changes at once, and we are blind no more.

Following upon sundry other festivities came a brilliant
German at Mme. Lasalle's. Thither came everybody, in proper
time; thither, rather late, and fresh-returned from his
journey, came Mr. Rollo; and making his way easily along,
through rooms ablaze with light and almost faint with flowers,
he reached a point where 'The Thread of Destiny' was in full
progress, tangling itself up about Wych Hazel. It was
impossible not to make her the centre of the group, though six
ladies stood there together; and about them all, one end of a
long white ribband in his hand, danced Mr. Nightingale--not
saying, exactly--


'I wind, I wind,
Hoping my true love to find'--


but perhaps thinking it in his heart; for when coil after coil
had gone round the blooming prisoners, and the white sheen
came suddenly to an end at Wych Hazel, it was with very
evident satisfaction that Mr. Nightingale took her hand and
led her out--his partner by the thread of destiny.

Nothing could be prettier than she was through it all; neither
giggling nor smirking, nor making remarks like Miss Powder and
the rest; her lovely shoulders veiled beyond all reach of
criticism, her eyes intent upon the ribband, her thoughts
intent upon the game. So that when all came to a climax at
her, she laughed right out--the merriest laugh of glee and
satisfaction. Very pretty!--was it anything more? Do you (apart
from dancing) give your daintiest possessions into common
hands? Why, you will not let a servant even dust the china
shepherdess on your mantel-piece!--but any hands that you know--
and any that you don't know--may touch and clasp and support
the young daughters and sisters of your love, and whirl them
about the room, as you would not have your shepherdess treated
for all the world.

Cajolements did not avail that evening to induce Mr. Rollo to
dance; and they were tried. He was in what Wych Hazel might
have called a very Spanish mood. Not to her; indeed he never
approached her nor sought to interrupt the pretensions of
those who crowded round her, courting her favour and
worshipping her pleasure, and craving to be made ministers of
the same. She was in a throng, and he did not try to penetrate
it. Why he stayed so long was a mystery; for what is a German
if you do not dance? He was not a mere idle spectator, nor
idle at all, it is true; he made himself busy enough, taking
elderly ladies to supper and serving younger ones with beef-
tea; but those are not engrossing amusements. Mme. Lasalle
declared he was very useful; and watched to see what it meant;
but beyond that he could not be seen to look at anybody in
particular, she could resolve herself of nothing. Certainly he
took leave a little before Wych Hazel left the room; they were
not together, the lady was sure.


CHAPTER XXVI.

IN THE ROCKAWAY.


When, however, a little later, that young lady came forth to
her carriage, attended as usual by a retinue of servitors, a
single figure was standing by her carriage door. He stood
aside to let the devotees put Wych Hazel into the little
rockaway which was her sole present equipage; but when the
last words had been said and the last man stepped back, Rollo
stood at the door before Dingee had time to shut it.

'Will you give me a seat as far as Mr. Falkirk's?' he said,
looking in.

Now when you have not seen a person for six weeks or so, a
request for a seat in your carriage is not generally the
opening remark, and Wych Hazel paused in a sort of
astonishment. Then another thing made her hesitate.

'If you will answer it to Mr. Falkirk,' she said. 'You know I
am forbidden to give any one a seat in my carriage. Have you a
special permit, Mr. Rollo?'

'I never ask for what I cannot have,' he said, jumping in. And
then he offered her his hand. 'How do you do?'

'Very well. I should think that must make you an adept in
Prim's beloved art of waiting,' said Wych Haze.

'If the lesson must be learnt, I would rather wait before
asking. After that, I believe I do not know how to practise
it. How do you feel about waiting for your horses?'

'Feeling is dead, and impatience is all tired out with hard
work and want of sympathy. So it is pretty quiet just now.'

'Want of sympathy?' he said, inquiringly.

'Yes. I used to fume about it a little, but Mr. Falkirk only
said "My dear," and a few other things of a cooing nature.'

'I believe I have brought you what you will like.'

'O, have you?' said the girl, with her musical intonations,
and a degree of eagerness which spoke impatience in fair
condition. 'You are very good to take so much trouble, Mr.
Rollo! But I am more glad than you can imagine.'

'Then I am very glad,' said he. 'Will you trust me to drive
you the rest of the way, if I displace Mr. Gotham? I share
your infirmity of impatience sometimes.'

'An infirmity, you call it?--Well, displace anybody you like,
but me,' said Wych Hazel, arranging herself in a small luxury
of fatigue against the not too luxurious back of the rockaway.
Her companion was silent a few minutes until the carriage
passed out from the Moscheloo grounds and had gone a few rods;
then he tapped Mr. Falkirk's factotum on the shoulder.

'Mr. Gotham,' said he, in tones of pleasant authority, 'I
can't stand anybody's driving but my own to-night. Stop, if
you please. You and Dingee may take a place with my man; my
trap is just behind. Tell him to keep close and follow.'

'Sorry to do h'anything that looks un'ansome, sir,' said
Gotham, swallowing his surprise with the adroitness of long
practice, 'but I 'ave Miss 'Azel in charge, sir.'

'You _had_, my friend. I will relieve you. Come, jump out, and
don't keep your young lady waiting.' The voice was of calm
authority which most people understand and obey. And Wych
Hazel laughed.

'I'm sure I can't say what Mr. Falkirk will think, sir!' said
Gotham, in a displeased voice. ' 'Owever--I will h'assume it's
h'all right, sir.--Though why he couldn't drive his h'own team,
if he'd such an 'ankering for the ribbands,' he muttered to
Dingee as he got down, 'I'm sure is a perplexity.'

'Wanted to drive Missee Hazel,' said Dingee, climbing like a
cat into the other conveyance, and proceeding to drive Mr.
Rollo's man nearly out of his wits. 'You never does sound de
gen'lman, Mas' Gotham. Telled you so long ago.'

Having got his wish, Mr. Rollo drove regularly enough for a
mile or two; till all carriages going their way had passed
before or dropped behind or turned off, and they had the road
entirely to themselves. The moon was riding high, and though
an old moon, gave enough light to make driving a thing of no
difficulty. Thus far Rollo had driven in comparative silence,
with only a word or two occasionally to Wych Hazel. He had not
removed himself by any means out of her companionship, but
throwing himself sideways on the front seat of the carriage,
looked sometimes out and sometimes in. Now, when the road was
their own, and the old horse could find his way along with
very little guiding, and the moonlight seemed to illuminate
nothing so much as the stillness, Rollo turned his head and
spoke.

'Miss Kennedy, do you like to have people come suing to you
with petitions?'

'I think I might--if I could answer them myself,' she said,
thinking of some that had been preferred that night. 'But when
my yes or no depends on somebody else, it is rather stupid.
One tires of a perpetual referee at one's back.'

'This depends on nobody but you. But I am rushing into the
middle of things,' said Rollo, giving the old steed an
intimation that he need not absolutely fall back upon walking.
'Miss Kennedy, I am coming to you with a great petition to-
night--and I am too impatient to wait for it.'

'Mr. Rollo with a petition!' said Wych Hazel. 'And impatient!
Well--then why _does_ he wait?'

His voice told well enough why he waited, at least in part;
the earnestness of it was so blended with not a little anxiety
and not a little tenderness. He spoke slowly.

'Miss Hazel,' he said, 'you have neither father nor mother nor
brother nor sister. I am almost as much alone in the world.
May I speak to you as one who knows what it means?'

' "It?"--being alone?' she said.

'Just that. Having no one near enough to care or dear enough
to dare, what would be for your happiness. As it is so with
you, and I know it, may I for once step into the gap, without
being too severely punished by you for my venturing?'

'Why I thought you always ventured,--everything!' she said,
stirring up now in her surprise.

'Then shall I make my petition? I never dared so much in my
life as I am daring now.'

'Of course you may make it,' said Wych Hazel. 'As fast as you
like. I shall begin to be impatient too.'

'If you choose to question me for my reasons, I will have the
honour to give them. Or if you ask what right I have to move
in the matter, I will answer that, too.'

'Beforehand?'

'Certainly. If you wish.'

'No matter,' she said, with a slight laugh which was yet a
little disturbed. What was looming up behind this barricade of
preliminaries? 'I thought you based your right just now-- But
never mind. Go on, please.'

He was silent nevertheless a minute, while the old horse came
to an unchallenged slow walk. Then Rollo ungloved his right
hand and held it out.

'I cannot see your face,' said he. 'Give me your hand, so that
I may know, while I hold it, that you are not displeased.'

'Why, Mr. Rollo?' said Hazel, with the same half laugh, 'you
are very--extraordinary! It strikes me your one petition covers
a good many. Must I take the glove off?--if you are to be
indulged.'

'There!' said he, taking her hand in the same warm firm grasp
she had known before. 'I am going to ask you to promise me
something--that it will not be pleasant to promise. Miss
Hazel'--speaking low and slowly--'do not dance round dances any
more!'

The tone was low, also it was very earnest and very grave.

'What?' she said, in a sort of but half comprehending way.
'Why not? what is the matter with them? I am hardly the least
bit tired.'

'You don't know!' he said, with a slight pressure of the hand
he held. 'You don't know. This is why not, Miss Hazel--that I
would not see my sister in them. Do you understand?'

'O yes,' she answered. 'I have seen people before who did not
like dancing,--two or three, perhaps. But there is always
somebody to dislike everything, I think. You do not enjoy it
yourself, Mr. Rollo,--and so you do not know.'

'I have danced twenty dances where you have danced one. I know
what they are made of. You only know how they look.'

'Hardly that,' said Wych Hazel. 'I know a little how they
feel. I have never had an outside view, I believe.'

'Can you do me the great honour to take my view,--and my word
for it?'

'If you liked flying to music as well as I do, you would take
mine,' she said. 'Air is better than earth, when you can get
it.'

'Do you think I would wish to interfere with your pleasure, or
presume to interfere with your actions, without reasons so
strong that I can hardly express their significance? Believe
me, if you knew these round dances as well as I know them, you
would never be mixed up in one of them any more.'

'Mixed up?' said Wych Hazel. 'Do you suppose I do all the wild
things some people do, Mr. Rollo?'

'No,' he said; but he left his plea standing.

'Well then what is the matter? If ever you hear of my
"exchanging hospitalities," I will give you leave for a
lecture a mile long.'

'Your eyes are innocent eyes and do not see. Can you not trust
me far enough to act upon my knowledge, and distrust yours?'

'But trusting you does not make me distrust myself,' she said.
'And even Prim confessed to me once that you do occasionally
make mistakes.'

'I do not in this,' said he, very gravely. 'Yet there is no
particular reason why you should believe me. Miss Kennedy--you
cannot continue this pastime, and keep yourself.'

'What do you mean?' she said quickly.

'You cannot remain just what you are.'

'Mr. Falkirk thinks there is room for improvement,' said Wych
Hazel, with some coldness; 'but your words seem to point the
other way. Perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me at once
all that you think it needful I should hear in the connexion.'

'You need not take that tone,' he said; 'but perhaps I _must_
displease you. Miss Kennedy, I have always thought of you as
one who would never permit a liberty to be taken with her.'

'I am happy that we agree for once,' she said, with a lift of
the eyebrows and a voice to match. 'It is precisely the way in
which I have always thought of myself.'

'Follow that out!' said he half laughing, and at the same time
clasping a little closer the hand he held.

'Well--I have followed it out all my life. I never do, Mr.
Rollo.'

'Not knowingly. But-- How shall I tell you!' said he, in a sort
of despair. And the old horse found it was necessary for him
to move on.

'It must be said!' he broke out again, 'and there is no one
but me to do it. Miss Hazel, you allowed liberties to be taken
with you to-night.'

The little hand he was holding shrank perceptibly. Not
twitching itself away, but as it were withdrawing itself into
itself, and away from him. Otherwise she sat absolutely still.

'Unconsciously,' he went on. 'You did not know it. The
pleasure of the play kept you from knowing what it implied.'

'_Allowed_, did you say?'

'Look back and think,' said he, calmly.

'As if they could, without my knowing it!' she exclaimed. 'As
if they would!'--

'Look back and think,' he said.

'Well,' said Wych Hazel, 'look back and think! And I find the
most extreme deference, and--nothing else that touches the
question.'

He drew a sort of short, impatient sigh, and waited a moment.
Then leaned over towards her again and spoke slowly.

'Six weeks ago,' he said, 'two little hands would not come
near enough to my shoulder to take the kitten from it. And I
loved them for the distance they kept.'

The girl drew suddenly back, freeing her hand now with a
swiftness that told of a deep hurt somewhere. For a moment she
did not speak--then only a breathless--

'Well?'

'Is that displeasure?' he said.

'When have I shortened the distance?' But the words were
defiant with pain, not anger. And Rollo on his part remained
perfectly still and perfectly silent, not even seeming to know
how the old horse was going to please himself.

Nothing could have been more still, outwardly, than the white-
robed figure in the corner,--and nothing need be more inwardly
tumultuous.

'If it was an open wagon,' she thought to herself, 'I should
jump out--over the back or somewhere!' O this having men talk
to one! And what was he talking about? and what had she done?--
she who had done nothing! Except--'dance better than ever
anybody danced before!' 'For the distance they kept'--and when
did not her hands keep their distance from every one! How many
times that very evening had she been voted 'cruel,' for
refusing some favour which other girls granted freely? Mr.
Rollo, too!--who had praised her 'womanliness'--But with that
the womanish element prevailed, and there came a quiver of
lip, and for an instant her hands were folded across her eyes.
Then down again, to hold each other in order.

And yet her hand had been on twenty shoulders that evening,
and twenty arms had encircled her!

There was an interval of some length.

'Miss Hazel,' said Rollo at length, and his voice was clear
and manly, 'have I offended you?'

'No,'--under her breath. 'I--suppose not.'

'Do you want me to give, if I can, some justification of
myself?'

'There is none. Except that you did not mean to say what you
said.'

'I meant no justification of my words,' said he, gently but
steadily. 'If you want _that_, it is, that they were spoken to
save you from harm.'

'Ah!' she said with a half cry,--then checked herself. 'What
else does Mr. Rollo wish to justify?'

'Only my right to speak them;--if you did, as you might,--
question it.' He paused a little, and went on. 'I can give you
only half of my plea, but half will do. It is, that your
father and mother dearly loved mine.'

It was all Hazel could do to bear her mother's name just then.
Her hands took a sudden grip of each other, but no answer
came. Not for some time: then words low and softly spoken--

'I think I asked for no plea, Mr. Rollo.'

'Then if you are content with it,' said he, in a lighter tone,
'give me your hand once more, only for a moment this time.'

She hesitated--then held it out. He bent down and gave it a
swift, earnest kiss; after which he turned his attention to
his driving duties, for some time neglected, till Mr.
Falkirk's cottage was gained. As he took Wych Hazel out of the
carriage, he said,

'It's so late, if you don't forbid me, I am going up to my old
friend, Mrs. Bywank, to ask her to give me lodging to-night.'

Hazel bowed her head in token that he might do as he pleased,
giving no other reply. But it is safe to say that, by this
time, ideas and thoughts and feelings and pain, and--'other
things,' as she would have phrased it, were so inextricably
mixed up in the girl's head, that she hardly knew which was
which and which was not. She walked steadily in,--then gave
about two springs to her brown corner room, and locked the
door.


CHAPTER XXVII.

THE GERMAN AT OAK HILL.


Mr. Falkirk was not disturbed that night with being told
anything. But when the sun had risen fair and clear over the
green world of Chickaree, and Gotham moved silently about the
breakfast-table, Mr. Falkirk might notice from his sofa that
but one cup and saucer stood on the tray, and but one plate
near to bear it company. If Mr. Falkirk's nerves were not in
order, they might have been tried; for Gotham certainly seemed
to have borrowed the cat's shoes for the occasion.

'Why don't you set the table as usual?' came pretty
peremptorily from the sofa.

'Miss 'Azel 'ave sent word she was h'asleep, sir,' said
Gotham, with extra dignity.

'Then why don't you wait till she is awake, slowhead? as
usual. It is not eight o'clock yet.'

'H'also that she 'as no h'intentions of h'ever waking h'up,
sir.'

So Mr. Falkirk took his breakfast with a dissatisfied mind.
For it is safe to say, he was so accustomed by this time to
his gay little ward's company and ministrations, that coffee
was not coffee without her. Gotham did his duty in a more than
usually taciturn fashion, and Mr. Falkirk's breakfast was at
an end before the factotum unburdened his mind.

'Beg pardon, sir,' he said, drawing himself up behind his
master; 'but 'ow are your h'orders concerning Miss 'Azel to be
h'understood, sir?'

'Orders?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'You distinctly said and h'indicated, sir, that I was to drive
Mis 'Azel to and from, sir,--if my mind serves me,' said
Gotham.

'And if my mind serves me, you have driven her forty times.'

'Quite correct, sir,--and more,' said Gotham. 'The point h'is,
Mr. Falkirk, what's to be done when young gents come taking
the h'orders h'out of my very 'ands, sir?'

'Knock 'em down.'

'The first natural h'impulse, sir. But put a case that they're
in the knockin' down style too?--then I'm left in the road, and
Miss 'Azel without a protector.'

'Who's been knocking you down now, Gotham?'

'No one, sir;--I 'ope I know my business better,' said Gotham.
'I speak of the h'inevitable. And Mr. Rollo would drive Miss
'Azel 'ome last night, and she gave me no better h'assistance
than one of her laughs, sir.' Clearly it rang in his ears yet.

'You had better not meddle with what don't belong to you, my
friend. If Miss Hazel had desired _your_ assistance, it would
have been time enough to give it to her.'

'Very good, sir,--h'all settled, sir,'--and Gotham carried off
the tray with a face of mixed perplexity and wisdom that was
funny to see. But the sunshine crept on through the little
study, and it was well-nigh time to set the table again,
before the door opened softly and Wych hazel came in: two
exquisite roses in her cheeks, in her hand--by way of excuse--a
basket of wonderful hot-house grapes. How glad she had been to
take them from Dingee at the door.

'Well, my dear!' said Mr. Falkirk, with an accent of
unmistakeable pleasure, and something behind it, 'you have
slept long to-day. Were you home so late?'

'I suppose it was late, sir. I lost no time, and so took no
note. How do you do to-day, Mr. Falkirk?'

'Able to move, I think. I shall get about in a day or two
more.'

'Here are some grapes, sir, to hasten the cure.' She put the
basket in his hand, and passed on to a low seat at the head of
the sofa. Mr. Falkirk looked at them, and his tone changed to
the accustomed growl.

'Where are these from?'

'Major Seaton, I believe, is responsible,' said the girl
carelessly.

'How many several people are after you at this present, Miss
Hazel?'

'Difficult to say, sir, without more extensive inquiries than
I have made. Your words do not put an attractive face upon the
matter.'

'Is there any such thing in the lot?' asked Mr. Falkirk,
discontentedly.

'As an attractive face? O yes, sir, several. Quite a number, I
should say,' replied Miss Hazel, with a critical air.

'And all of them at Moscheloo?'

'All what, sir? Your English is hardly so pointed as usual--if
you will excuse me for saying it.'

'You were speaking of attractive faces, my dear. I should say
that your syntax wanted attention.'

'I did not know but you referred to "the lot," ' said Wych
Hazel. 'There was the usual mingling, I think, of attractive
and unattractive.'

Mr. Falkirk was silent till dinner was served, and then
attended to that.

'Mr. Falkirk,' Hazel began suddenly, when Gotham had retired,
'_I_ believe you could move now. Come!--go with me to Oak Hill
to-night,--will you, sir?'

'Oak Hill,' said her guardian. 'Mrs. Seaton's. What is to be
done there?'

'A promenade concert--nominally.'

'That sounds something to me like a dancing dinner. What does
it mean, my dear?'

'Just what I said, in the first place, sir. If Kitty Fisher
and the Powders are there, it may turn into something else.'

'And what does a promenade concert turn into, when it is
enchanted?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'A succession of dances--it might.'

'Well, my dear--what should I do in a succession of dances?'

She laughed,--just a little. Laughs were not ready to-night.
'Sit still, sir, and watch me.'

'It strikes me I do enough of that as it is, without going to
Oak Hill. Do you want more than you will have to watch you?'

The word jarred. She was silent a minute. Then earnestly--

'I wish you would, Mr. Falkirk.'

A new expression on Mr. Falkirk's face shewed that a new idea
had occurred to him.

'What does this mean?' he asked gently, bending on his ward
one of his keen looks from under the thick eyebrows.

She answered without looking at him,

'It means what is says, sir.'

'What is the matter, my dear?' came more sympathizingly than
Mr. Falkirk's wont. It was even a little low and tender.

'Why, Mr. Falkirk--it is such an unreasonable request, that you
should be so keen after reasons?'

'I do not know that it is unreasonable, but you know that it
is unwonted. You have not been apt to wish for more guarding
than you have had, Miss Hazel. Cannot you tell me what makes
you desire it now?'

Mr. Falkirk did not growl now, nor draw his brows together; he
was in patient earnest, seeing cause.

'I did not say to guard me, sir. Sometimes,' said Hazel,
choosing her words, 'sometimes it might be pleasant to have
somebody in the room to whom I was supposed to belong--just a
little bit. How do you like Major Seaton's grapes, Mr.
Falkirk?'

Mr. Falkirk drew his brows together now, and spite of his weak
ankle got up and paced across the floor thoughtfully. Then
came to a sudden stop in front of Wych Hazel.

'Has anybody annoyed you?' he asked.

'By "annoyed" you mean?--'

'Made you feel the want of a protector; or of somebody, as you
say, that you belong to.' Mr. Falkirk's brows were drawing
very thick together indeed.

'No, I think not,' she answered. 'Not intentionally. People
are very good to me; very respectful, I believe. But I must go
and see that my dress is in order. I shall wear blue to-night,
Mr. Falkirk--and you like blue.' She made him a profound little
courtesy, and danced off out of the room.

Mr. Falkirk's cogitations, to judge by his eyebrows, were also
profound, when his ward had left him alone. They did not issue
in any resolve to re-enter the gay world, however, which had
never been Mr. Falkirk's sphere; and Miss Kennedy went to Oak
Hill alone. Had she been made to 'feel her want of a
protector?'--On the contrary!--Or 'annoyed' in any other sense?--
that was far too soft a word. And so she stepped from her
carriage in company with many thoughts, and came out upon the
assembled light and colour as stately as if she had been the
only right line in the universe. A bevy of her friends were
round her directly.

'Hazel,' said Phinny Powder, 'we are going to run this concern
into a German as soon as it has run long enough in its own
name. I am so glad you are here; and in blue. Keep near me,
won't you, because it'll just set me off, and some dresses
kill me.'

'How can she keep near you, you giddy creature?' said Mme.
Lasalle. 'Hazel' (whispering), 'Stuart bade me engage you to
lead the German with him. May I tell him you will?'

'O Hazel,' cried Josephine again, 'we are going to have such
fun. Kitty is going to let us into some new figures, and they
are considerably jolly, I tell you!'

'Are they?' said Hazel. 'But the music comes first, Mme.
Lasalle, and I may not stay for the German. And I have
promised the first walk to Mr. May.'

'Not stay for the German!'--'_Not_ stay for the German?' was
echoed in so many various tones of despair that it had to be
answered again.

'I only said I might not,' said Wych Hazel. 'Good evening, Mr.
May.'--And Miss Kennedy swept off, to the opening burst of
music from the band.

Now there are other sounds besides music at a promenade
concert, and many things not strictly harmonious are said and
done under cover of its trombones and violins. Wych Hazel
indeed walked unremittingly,--it suited her mood that night;
but many sat and talked, very regardless of the music, and not
too mindful of other ears. And so after a while a group
gathered round Kitty Fisher, to discuss the coming German and
pick up a few hints touching the promised new figures. Wych
Hazel had just passed, escorted on either hand: her dark-blue
robe and white laces setting her off to perfection. For a
minute eyes alone were busy.

'That girl provokes me to death with her high dresses!' said
Kitty Fisher. 'Such ridiculous nonsense!'

'I'm not so sure as to that,' said Miss May. 'Dick raves about
it.'

'Dick raves about her altogether,' said Kitty,--'so of course
he has to include her dress.'

'Well, George said that other shoulders might as well retire
if her's ever came fairly out,' said little Molly Seaton, who
was taking her first sips of society, and looked up to Miss
Kennedy as the eighth and ninth wonder of the world combined.

'I don't care,' said Kitty Fisher, 'I'll have 'em out! I vow I
will. It's a fraud on society.'

'Society can afford to be a loser now and then,' said Mr.
Kingsland, softly insinuating himself among the ladies;--'it
gets so much more than its due between whiles!'

'It's prudish,' said Phinny, disregarding this sentiment,--
'that's what it is. Do you suppose it's that old wretch of a
guardian keeps her in leading strings? Now she talks of not
staying to the German.'

'The Sorceress is in one of her moods to-night,' said Mr.
Kingsland. 'Murky. Flashes coming so thick and fast, that I
declare I've been winking all the evening.'

'Stephen,' said Miss Kitty, 'if you'll help get up the
"Handkerchief" by and by, and get her into the thick of it
before she knows where she's going, I'll give you the first
pair of blue gloves I can spare.'

'Great offer,' said Mr. Kingsland; 'but to-night the Sorceress
prefers walking.'

'Stuff!--who cares what she prefers?'

'Some nine-tenths--and a fraction--of all the men here,--myself
included,' said Mr. Kingsland.

'You are the fraction, or you'd manage it,' retorted Kitty.
'It's doubtful if she _would_ dance with _you_.'

'She will not dance with anybody this night,' said Mr.
Kingsland.

'How do you know?'

'Said so. And what Miss Kennedy has said, she does.'

'Why, she _couldn't_ dance in that long train,' said Molly
Seaton.

'Little goose!' said Kitty Fisher, 'she would hang _that_ over
her partner's arm.'

'Would she!' said Mr. Kingsland, with a slight whistle. 'I
asked her to do it once: I think I shall not again.'

'She'd rather talk to six men than dance with one, I suppose,'
said Miss Fisher, eyeing the girl who stood now leaning
against a tree in the distance.

'And the post of the seventh looks so inviting!' said Mr.
Kingsland, rising and strolling off.

'Isn't it too much!' said Kitty Fisher. 'See here, girls and
boys, listen,'--and heads and voices too went down below
recognition.

A little later in the evening, Gotham from his seclusion in
the servants' quarters was summoned to speak to a lady. He
found awaiting him, not his mistress, but a wonderful pyramid
of white tarletan from which issued a voice.

'Miss Hazel is going to spend the night with Mrs. Seaton, and
she sends you word that you may go home and come back for her
at eight o'clock in the morning.'

'Ain't that clever?' said Phinny to the cavalier on whose arm
she leaned, as they retraced their way towards the lighted
portion of the grounds. 'Now I have disposed of one trouble.'

All unconscious of this machination Wych Hazel kept on her
walk--the only thing she could decide to do to-night. In fact
the girl hardly knew her own mood. Of course the strictures
that had been made were all unfounded, as touching her; but
the words had given such pain at the time, that the very idea
of dancing made her wince as if she heard them again. That
would wear off, of course, but for the present she would walk;
and had, as Molly guessed, put on her long train as a token.
But when the concert began to tend towards the German, another
fancy seized her: to stay and look on, and get that outside
view which was almost unknown. And so when the first set was
forming she released Major Seaton for his partner, and again
took Mr. May's arm and walked towards the dancers.

'My dear,' said Mme. Lasalle, coming up on the other side,
'are you not dancing?'

'As you see, Madame!' said Hazel, with a slight bend and
laugh.

'_You_ not dancing! What's the matter?'

'Well--you will find it is a freak, or I tired myself last
night, or I want to make a sensation--according to whom you
ask,' said Wych Hazel.

'You are not forbidden?' whispered the lady, in a lower tone.

'No, Madame.'

'You seem to have so many guardians,' the lady went on,--'and
guardians are selfish, my dear; horribly selfish. For that, I
think all men are, whether guardians or not.'

'Just now,' said Wych Hazel, 'I am the selfish one,--keeping
Mr. May from dancing.' Which supposed view of the case Mr.
May, like a wise man, did not try to answer--just then.

The German began. One or two ordinary figures first, but
watched by Wych Hazel with eager eyes.

'Yes, of course!' she said to herself, as Kitty Fisher went
round with her head on her partner's shoulder,--'if he thought
I did that.' _Could_ he think it?--the little white glove tips so
nearly withdrew themselves from the black coat-sleeve they
were touching, that Mr. May turned to ask if she was tired and
wished to sit down.

But motions that were pretty to look at followed: each couple
in turn passing through an avenue of little coloured flags,
which held out by the motionless couples on either side, met
and crossed over the heads of the dancers. Down came Stuart
Nightingale and Miss Fisher, and Mr. Burr and Phinny Powder,
and Major Seaton and Miss May,--Wych Hazel looked on, smiling,
and with a stir of her little right foot. How often she had
come down just so! Then began a figure that she did not know:
they were going to 'practise,' Kitty Fisher called out,
recommending her to come.

'You won't know how next time.'

'Thank you, I can learn by looking on.'

And so she stood still and watched. Watched to see the ladies,
armed with long reins and a whip, driving their partners
cheerfully from point to point, with appropriate gestures and
sounds and frolic. The little bells tinkled gleefully, the
many-coloured leading-strings mingled in a kaleidoscope
pattern.

'Symbolical,' Mr. Kingsland remarked, standing near. 'This is
the "Bridle" figure, Miss Kennedy.'

'Unbridled' would be a better name, Miss Kennedy thought, but
she said not a word; only her lips curled disdainfully. But,
'driving men is easy work,' as Phinney Powder said, and so
this 'practice' soon gave way to another still more striking.
The ladies ranged themselves, standing well apart from each
other, and among the gentlemen was a general flutter of white
handkerchiefs. What were they going to do? 'Bonds' was the
word that occurred to Hazel this time, as she stood leaning a
little forward in interested expectation. And so it proved,--
but not just as she had expected. To be tied by the hand would
be bad enough, but by the foot!--and yet,--yes, certainly Major
Seaton's handkerchief was round Kitty Fisher's pretty ankle--to
the discomfiture of several other handkerchiefs of like
intentions,--and Miss Powder had Stuart Nightingale at her
feet,--and Phinny--

But who did it for whom, Wych Hazel scarcely thought until
afterwards. She looked on for a minute at the scuffling,
laughing, romping; then drew back with a deep flush.

'Did they think they could do that with _me!_' she said, under
her breath. And what could her companion do but feel ashamed
of every man he had ever seen do 'that' for any woman?

The course of things was changed after a time by Mr.
Nightingale's coming up and asking her to walk. He had made
over the 'practice' to somebody else, professing that he knew
the figures already. Perhaps somewhat in his companion's
manner struck him, for he remarked, quite philosophically, as
they moved into the shadow of the shrubbery, that 'society is
a problem!'

'Is it?' said Hazel, to whom problems (out of books) were as
yet in a happy distance. 'What needs solution, Mr.
Nightingale?'

'Is it possible you do not see?'

'Not a bit. I did not know society was deep enough to be
called a problem.'

' "Glissez, mortels; n'appuyez pas." '

'Well, people do not,' said Wych Hazel.

'And had best not. Nothing is more graceful than the state of
bold and brave innocence.'

Hazel mused a little at that, half unconsciously getting up a
problem of her own. Was he talking of _her_ 'innocence?' did he,
too, see things which she did not? And was this another
warning? Yet no one more forward to draw her into round dances
than Stuart Nightingale. He began again in another tone.

'You are determined not to dance to-night?'

'Yes. Am I part of the problem?'

He laughed a little. 'You would not be a true woman if you
were not.'

'You may as well give up trying to understand _me_,' said Wych
Hazel, gaily. 'Mr. Falkirk and I have been at it for years,
and the puzzle is a puzzle yet.'

'Confess, you like to be a puzzle.'

'One may as well make the best of one's natural advantages,'
said Hazel with a laugh. 'I suppose if I were what people call
"limpid," and "transparent," I might like that too.' But the
clear girlish purity of the depths referred to was as
transparent as the Summer blue.

'Have you ever been told,' said Stuart, lowering his voice a
little, 'of your very remarkable resemblance to one of the
greatest puzzles of history?'

'No,' said Hazel. 'And you do not know me well enough to tell
what I resemble.'

'Pardon me--pardon me! Do you think I could not have told,
after that one first meeting in the wood?'

'If you could,' said Wych Hazel, with a lift of her eyebrows,
'I cannot imagine how society can be a problem to you, Mr.
Nightingale.'

'There never was but one woman, of those whose pictures have
come down to us, whose mouth could be at once so mischievous
and so sweet. You are aware the mouth is the index to the
character?'

Hazel answered with some reserve (direct compliments always
gave her a check)

'No--Yes. I have heard people say so.'

'And you know the woman I mean?'

'She is bound to be a witch!--but further than that--'

'The likeness is really remarkable,' said Stuart, seriously;
'you have the Mary Stuart brow exactly, and the mouth, as I
said; and I think, as far as difference of colour admits
similarity of effect, the eyes have the same trick of power. I
suppose you like power?'

'I suppose I should! Mr. Falkirk ties up all my power, and
labels it "Edge tools," ' said Wych Hazel.

'I suppose it cuts its way out, and so justifies him. Don't
you have your own way generally?'

'Well, between taking it, and coaxing it out, and refusing to
take any other, I do have it sometimes,' said Wych Hazel.

'Is Mr. Falkirk much of an ogre? I do not know him. Difficult
to manage?'

'He thinks I am,' said Wych Hazel. 'No, he is not an ogre at
all, except officially.'

'Does he pretend to exercise much supervision over your
doings?'

'Pretend?' she repeated. 'He has the right, Mr. Nightingale.
And did ever a man have a right and not give it an airing now
and then?'

Stuart laughed, and laughed again. 'Don't be hard on us!' he
pleaded.

'Truth is not slander.'

'But are not women as fond of power, and wont to exercise it
as ruthlessly, as ever men are?'

'It is not a strong power, if they do.'

'Take care,' said Stuart. 'Honour bright!--while Mr. Falkirk
thinks things go according to his will, don't they really go
by yours?'

'No,' said Wych Hazel, 'when he _thinks_ they do, they _do_,--when
they do not, he knows it.'

'Then you are _not_ free. That is hard!--hard upon you. A
mother's authority is one thing; a guardian's, I should think,
is something very different. Does he interfere with your
dancing?'

'No.'--Hazel herself hardly knew why words suddenly became
scarce.

'I thought you were very fond of it.'

'O, I am!'

'Then why will you not honour me and please yourself to-
night?'

' "Why" is safe, while "why" keeps hid. All women know that,'
said Wych Hazel.

'You best of all,' said Stuart. 'I dare say it is just to make
us miserable. But now I am coming to you with a more serious
request. Will you help us in some private theatricals?'

'I?--O, I could not. I know nothing about the matter. Never
went to a theatre in my life, to begin with.'

'So much the better. I know you will do it to perfection. In
the first place you are not vain; and in the second place you
are independent; and an actor should be free in both respects.
And of positive qualifications you are full. Say you will
try!'

'I am the worst person to make believe that ever you saw,'
said Wych Hazel. 'I doubt if I could counterfeit anybody else
for ten minutes.'

'Precisely!' said Stuart in a contented tone. 'You would not
counterfeit. Good acting is not counterfeiting--it is nature.
You will help us? Say you will!'

'O, if I can--certainly.'

Before Wych Hazel's lips had fairly got the words out, the two
found themselves suddenly flush with Mr. Rollo, standing by
the side of the way under a laburnum tree, which was hung with
lights instead of its natural gold pendants.

Swiftly as only thoughts can, they rushed through the girl's
mind on the instant. Then he was here! And of course he knew
she was not dancing,--and _of course_ he must think--There was
another figure beginning--she might go and join that. No!--not
with him to look on, making mental comments: that would be
simply unendurable. Then she must tell him it was not for what
he had said. And she could not tell him that, because it was!--
Only in a different way. And how was she to talk to him of
'ways,' or of anything else, after last night? The result of
all which lucubrations was, that she bent her head gravely--and
it may be said somewhat lower than usual--in silent
acknowledgment of Mr. Rollo's presence. She was desperately
afraid of him to-night. But though he stepped up and spoke to
her, it was in the indifferent tone of ordinary business.

'On my way here I got something that I think I ought to give
to you. By and by, when you are at leisure, will you command
my presence?'

'I can take it now.'

'No,' said he carelessly, 'I will not interrupt you. I should
have to explain. I will be on the lawn in front of the
concert-saloon when you want me.'

He bowed and fell back from them.

'Have you _two_ guardians?' said Stuart slyly.

'No.'

'Just a little more assurance than necessary, in his
communication.'

'What do you consider the proper amount?' said Wych Hazel,
retreating to carelessness in her turn.

'I should not dare offer any,' said Stuart. 'It is with
nothing of the kind that I venture to ask if you will ride
with me to-morrow.'

'Ah, I would if I could!' said the girl longingly. 'I would
give almost anything to be on horseback again. But my horses
have not come, and till then I must wait.'

'Let me offer one of my aunt's horses!' said Stuart eagerly.
But Hazel shook her head.

'I cannot take it--Mr. Falkirk will let me mount none but my
own.'

'Is it reasonable to yield obedience so far, and with so
little ground?'

'It is comfortable,' said Hazel with a laugh. 'O yes, I
suppose it is reasonable, too.'

The walk went on and the talk; each in its way wandering along
through moonlight and among flowers, and then Hazel bethought
her that what she had to do must be done before she went home.
So mustering up her courage, she seated herself on one of the
broad stone steps at the side door, and despatched her escort
to the front for Mr. Rollo. Presently he came, and sat down
beside her.

'At what hour did you order your carriage?' he asked in a low
tone.

'Gotham was to wait.'

'He has gone home. I met him as I came.'

'Gone home? O he is only driving around to keep his horse
awake. It is not a fiery turnout, by any means.'

'He has gone home,' Rollo repeated smiling, 'and I did not
know enough to order him about again. But I sent word to Mr.
Falkirk that I would take care of you.'

The girl's brows lifted, then drew slightly together.

'Thank you--,' she said, with rather stately hesitation,--'but
as Mr. Falkirk will send Gotham straight back, I had better
wait.'

'After my message, Mr. Falkirk will not do that,' said Rollo,
looking at his watch. 'It is half-past twelve o'clock.'

Hazel leaned her chin in her hand and looked off into the
moonshine. She did not feel like being 'taken care of,' a bit,
to-night.

'I am afraid circumstances are affecting Mr. Falkirk's mind,'
she said at last, with a tone just a trifle provoked; for
half-past twelve was a stubborn fact to deal with. 'Well, Mr.
Rollo--if I can by no means save you the trouble, at what hour
will it please you to take it?'

'As there are evidently plots against you, suppose you come to
the other side-door, and let us go off without speaking to
anybody?'

And so it came to pass that in a few minutes more they were
comfortably driving homewards, without supervision, the silent
groom behind them not counting one.

They were in a light phaeton, with a new horse in it which
could go; the old moon was just rising over the trees; the
road free, the pace good. The gentleman's tone when he spoke
was rather indicative of enjoyment.

'Who is plotting against you?'

'Plotting!--'

'And now disappointed?'

'O, it is just some of Gotham's stupidity,' said Wych Hazel,
with a voice not yet at rest: she had been oddly conscious of
wishing that no one should hear her whispered good-night to
Mrs. Seaton and follow to see with whom she went home. 'He and
I are always at cross purposes.'

'A lady in a white dress brought him the message, he says. But
to change the subject--What is your favourite pleasure?'

'Riding the wind.'

'Do you remember once--a great while ago--promising to give me
an afternoon some time?'

'Did I? it must have been a great while,' said Wych Hazel. 'O
yes, I do remember. Well?'

'Will you put to-morrow afternoon at my disposal?'

'If the thing to be done is within walking distance. Mr.
Falkirk will not let me ride.'

'I have brought home, I think, a nice little saddle horse,
which I should like to have you try,' Rollo went on, not
heeding this.

'Oh!' she said, with unmistakeable longing. 'But he has made
me refuse at least five-and-forty just such horses this
summer.'

'He will be amenable to reason to-morrow,' said Rollo
comfortably. 'Shall I tell you what I want to do with you
after I have got you on horseback?'

'Let me run--I hope,' said Wych Hazel.

'I am going to take you where you have never been yet; through
Morton Hollow and the mills, to see my old nurse, who lives a
little way beyond them.'

'I am not going through Morton Hollow,' said Hazel, decidedly.

'Why not?'

'You never heard of seven _women_ who could "render a reason,"
did you?' said the girl, with a laugh in her voice.

'My old nurse is a character,' Rollo went on. 'She is a Norse
woman. My mother, I must tell you, was also a Norse woman. My
father's business at one time kept him much in Denmark and at
St. Petersburg; and at Copenhagen he met my mother, who had
been sent there to school. And when my mother forsook her
country, the old nurse, not old then, left all to go with her.
She was my nurse in my earliest years, and remained our most
faithful friend while we were a family. She made afterwards a
not very happy marriage; and when her husband died just before
I went to Europe, she was left alone and poor. I arranged a
small house for her in the neighbourhood of the Hollow; and
there she lives--a kind of mysterious oracle to the people
about. And her greatest earthly pleasure, I suppose, is to
have me come and see her. Gyda Boërresen is her name.'

'I like to see people enjoy their greatest earthly happiness,'
said Hazel thoughtfully. 'I never did many times. Or at least
not many people.'

'I want you to know Gyda. I am not superstitious, like some of
the ignorant people who visit her; but yet'--he paused. 'If
ever you were in need of womanly counsel--if ever you wanted
sympathizing and wise help--to find your way out of
perplexities--I should say, go to Gyda. If any one could give
that sort of help, she would. And it is almost like going to a
pythoness', added Rollo thoughtfully; 'she is so cut off from
the world and its people.'

They were almost at Mr. Falkirk's cottage. Rollo was silent a
moment, then said, 'May I ask Mrs. Bywank to shew me
hospitality again to-night? I don't want to go home.'

'Mrs. Bywank will be only too glad,' said Wych Hazel. 'The
little tower room always goes by your name, Mr. Rollo.'

'She did not put me there the last time,' said he, laughing,
'I was lodged in state and splendour! Well, good night. I wish
you were coming to breakfast.'

She stood silent a minute, looking down. Could she? Might she?
Would it do? Run away from Mr. Falkirk for a private frolic on
the hill? It was a great temptation!

And only doing the honours of her own house, when all was
said. Would it be strange? Would he think it strange? That is,
not Mr. Falkirk, but Mr. Rollo. Was he a man of sense, she
wondered, who always disapproved of everything? And with that
a child's look of search and exploration sought his face.
There was a grave sparkle in the eyes she met looking down at
her.

'I see a question in your face,' said he. 'And I answer,--yes!'

'Very unsafe to answer anything in my face,' said the girl,
hastily withdrawing her eyes. 'There were _two_ questions in my
mind. Good night, Mr. Rollo, and thank you.'

'Think better of it!'--said Rollo, as he got into the carriage
again.


CHAPTER XXVIII.

BREAKFAST FOR THREE.


Mrs. Bywank, inspecting her breakfast table from time to time,
certainly had Mr. Rollo's wish in her heart, even though it
got no further. And setting on orange marmalade for him, she
pleased herself with also setting on honey for _her;_ even
though the portrait of a little child was all the sign of her
young lady the room could boast. But long habit had made it
second nature to watch that face, no matter what else she was
about. Mrs. Bywank looked and smiled and sighed, and bent down
to see if the honey was perfect. It was late in the morning
now: Mr. Rollo's slumbers had been allowed to extend
themselves somewhat indefinitely in the direction which most
men approve; and still breakfast waited, down stairs; and Mrs.
Bywank at the tower window gazed down the slope and over the
trees towards Wych Hazel's present abiding place. Not
expecting to see her, but watching over her in her heart. So
standing, she was hailed by a cheery 'good morning' behind
her.

'I suppose people who turn day into night have no right to
expect the day will keep its promises to them; but you are
better than my deserts, Mrs. Bywank. I see a breakfast table!'

'Always ready for you, Mr. Rollo! And you must be very ready
too, by this time,' she said, sounding her whistle down the
stairs. 'Was Miss Wych at Oak Hill last night, sir?'

'I had the pleasure of bringing her home.'

'O, did you, sir?' said Mrs. Bywank, with a quick look. 'She
told me she meant to go,--but her mind comes about wonderfully
sudden sometimes. Here is breakfast, Mr. Rollo. Will you take
your old seat?'

'I think it will always come about in the right place at
last,' said Rollo, as he complied with the invitation. The old
housekeeper drew a sigh, looking up at the little picture.

'My pretty one!' she said. Then applied herself to filling Mr.
Rollo's cup. 'Yes, sir, you're right,' she went on after a
pause. 'And she never would stop in a wrong one, not a minute,
but for just a few things.'

'Mrs. Bywank,' said the young man, 'those few things are all
around her.'

'You'd think so if you could hear the serenades I hear,' said
the housekeeper, 'and see the flowers--and hear the
compliments. She tells them to me sometimes, making fun. But
the trouble is with Miss Wych, she never will see the world
with any eyes but her own,--and who's to make her?'

A problem which Rollo considered in silence, and probably
swallowed instead of his coffee.

'Does she speak freely to you of her impressions, and of what
she is doing or going to do?'

'Free as a child, Mr. Rollo! Always tells me what dress she'll
wear--and then afterwards how people liked it. And what she
does, and what they want her to do. And why her head is not
turned,' said Mrs. Bywank, in conclusion, 'puzzles _my_ head,
I'm sure. Mere handling so many hearts might do it.'

Mr. Rollo pursued his breakfast rather thoughtfully and
nonchalantly for a time.

'Mrs. Bywank, Mrs. Coles is returned.'

'Surely!' said Mrs. Bywank, with a slight start. 'Then she'll
make mischief,--or it'll be the first chance she ever missed.'

'And--the world around her is not so simple as your young lady
believes.'

'No, no!' said Mrs. Bywank, earnestly. 'Well I know that! But
just there comes in another trouble I spoke of,--you can't make
her believe it, sir,--and so I'm not sure it's always wise to
try.' She paused, in a sort of hesitating way; glancing from
her teaspoon to her guest.

'It's not wise to try at all,' said he, smiling--a sort of warm
genial smile, which went over the table to his old friend. 'At
the same time,'--and his face grew sternly grave,--'it may be
desirable to have some other wisdom come in to her help. I
wish,--if you are in any doubt or perplexity about anything you
hear, and it may be only a little thing that may give you the
impression,--I wish you would call me in.'

'Well sir,--that just touches my thought,' said Mrs. Bywank.
'Or my thought that. For I couldn't do it, Mr. Rollo,
unless,'--and an unmistakeable look of anxious inquiry came
across the table. 'Unless, you know, sir,' she went on,
looking away again,--'unless--excuse my freedom--the conditions
of the will are to be carried out.' And the old housekeeper
called for hot waffles, and otherwise apologized for touching
the subject, by quitting it at once. As soon as all this
bustle was disposed of, her guest met her eye again with a
frank, bright smile.

'The conditions of the will are to be carried out, my friend.'

Mrs. Bywank brought her hands together with a sense of relief
and gladness that somehow went to her eyes too, and she was
silent a little.

'I did hope it, sir!--And I would far rather apply to you than
to Mr. Falkirk. _He_ frets me sometimes,' added the old
housekeeper: 'I may say that to you, sir. Now, she's been wild
to ride all summer,--and a dozen wild to have her; and Mr.
Falkirk has never let her go once. And so long as he _does_ let
her go and dance with the same people, I don't for my part see
why.'

'Perhaps he does,' said Rollo, rather dryly. 'But I have made
the requisite declarations in presence of Mr. Falkirk and Dr.
Maryland, and am legally qualified to act, Mrs. Bywank. _She_
does not know anything of this; and it is not best she should--
for the present.'

'No sir--by no means,' said Mrs. Bywank, earnestly. 'For if
there is anything miss Wych does hate, it is to have a
gentleman speak to her about her doings. When that happens she
thinks she's supposed to have done something dreadful; and it
hurts her more than you would guess, sir. Little child as she
was then, she would cry her eyes out over a word from Mr.
Kennedy, but her mother might say anything. And it has always
been just so with Mr. Falkirk. Only Miss Wych never cries for
_him_. At least nobody ever sees her.'

Now, instead of Mr. Rollo's being alarmed at this, as another
man might, it was answered by a certain humourous play of
face; a slight significance of lip and air, quite difficult to
characterize. It was not arrogant, nor arbitrary; I do not
know how to call it masterful; and yet certainly it expressed
no dismay and no apprehension. Perhaps it expressed that he
intended to be in a different category from other men. Perhaps
he thought Mrs. Bywank meant to read him a cautionary lesson.

'She is in rather a hard position,' he said, gravely. 'I am
glad she has got a good friend in you, Mrs. Bywank. And I am
glad _I_ have, too.'

'Yes, it is hard,' said the old housekeeper, with a glance at
him; 'though it is not to be expected, sir, that you should
quite understand it. But Miss Wych is the lovingest little
creature that ever lived, I believe, and as true as the sky.
Why, she could cheat Mr. Falkirk day in and day out if she
chose!--but if ever those young men _should_ get her to ride,
against his orders, she would go and tell him of it, the first
minute after she got home.'

Rollo did not ask whether they could do this, or had done it.
He went on quietly with his breakfast, only glancing up at
Mrs. Bywank to let her see that he was attending to her.

'So that's a great safeguard,' she began again, with a sigh.
'But I wish Mrs. Coles was back in Chicago! Miss Fisher was
bad enough. And what the two will do between them--'

'What does Miss Fisher do?'

'It is plain to me,' said Mrs. Bywank, 'that she wants to pull
my young lady down to her way of dress and behaviour; though
Miss Wych don't guess it a bit. _That_ she can never do, of
course. But it is just like Miss Fisher to push where she
can't pull. Do you understand me, sir?'

'Quite.'

'So that makes me anxious, sir. And there are hands enough to
help.'

Leaning somewhat towards her young guest, breakfast rather
forgotten on both sides, so they sat; when the door opened
softly and Wych Hazel came in. But if the first minute inside
the door could have been instantly exchanged for the last one
outside, it is probable that the young lady of Chickaree would
have disturbed no cabinet council over her that day. For with
the first sight of the very people she expected to find, there
rushed over her a horrible fear that Mr. Rollo would think she
had come to see _him!_--and that Mrs. Bywank would think so--and
(worst of all) that she thought so herself! But there was no
retreating now. So passing swiftly to the old housekeeper's
chair, and laying both hands on her shoulders to keep her in
it, Hazel stooped down to kiss her; and then straightening
herself up like a young arrow, she gave from behind Mrs.
Bywank a demure good-morning to Mr. Rollo.

That gentleman had not been so much engrossed with the
conversation as to have at all the air of being 'surprised,'
or he was too good a man of the world to shew it. He had
sprung up instantly as Wych Hazel came in, and now he came
round to where she stood to shake hands, looking very bright,
but as if her appearance was the simplest thing in the world.

'You have not had breakfast?' he said.

'I have had the opportunity. But you look altogether too
comfortable here, you and Mrs. Bywank!--As for me, I have been
breakfasting with two bears, and had nearly forgotten how
civilization acts.'

'My dear!' said Mrs. Bywank.--'Not "breakfasting"--when you were
coming here, Miss Wych?'

'Not much, Byo, to say the truth. I gave Mr. Falkirk _his_
coffee--hot and hot.'

'He didn't give you waffles,' said Rollo, making room for her
plate and cup upon the table. 'Mrs. Bywank, we must take care
of her. I shall never grumble at sending answers to
invitations after this.'

He was rendering little services and making himself variously
useful, with the air of a person more at home than she was:
drawing down a blind to keep the sun from her face, and
opening another window to let in the air and the view.

'Take care of me!' said Wych Hazel, with a look at the table
instead of at him, and then beginning to touch and mend things
generally to suit her fancy. 'It is very plain what _I_ have to
do! There is the jar of marmalade quite pushed out of reach.
And if you do not empty it, Mr. Rollo, Mrs. Bywank will think
you have not fulfilled the sweet promise of your earlier
years.'

'My dear!' remonstrated Mrs. Bywank, uneasily.

'I have satisfied her,' said Rollo, dryly. 'But there is a
little left for you. There wouldn't have been if the two bears
had known where it was.'

'Mr. Falkirk was fearfully growly this morning,' said Wych
Hazel. 'And every time he growled Gotham grumbled. So I had a
fusillade. Where is your fruit, Byo?'

'There was none brought in yesterday, Miss Wych, I'm sorry to
say.'

'None at all in the house?'

'There's a basket in your room, my dear; but of course'--

'Not "of course" at all,' said the girl, jumping up to go for
it. 'You know that is a sort of fruit I never eat.'

Which might have left it doubtful what sort she _did_ eat,--the
basket contained so many, in such splendid variety. Hazel sat
down in her place and began to pile up the beauties in a
majolica dish.

'Aren't you going to give me some?' said Rollo, looking on.

The answer tarried while Hazel's little fingers dived down
after peaches and plums of extra size with which to crown her
dish; but so doing, they suddenly brought up a white note,
suspiciously sealed with red wax. The girl dropped it, as if
it had been a wasp; and hastily setting the basket down on the
floor, pushed the unfinished dish to a position before Mr.
Rollo.

'There!' she said, 'will that do?'

'Do you mean that you give me all these?'

'Every bit.'

'Mrs. Bywank, might I make interest with you for a finger-
glass?'

Which being supplied, the gentleman proceeded to a leisurely
ablution of his fingers, and then looked at the dish of fruit
before him with grave consideration.

'Which is the best?' said he.

'They all look about alike, to me,' said Wych Hazel, raising
her eyebrows. 'I shall be happy to hear, when you have found
out.'

Exercising a great deal of deliberation, Rollo finally chose
out a bunch of Frontignac grapes and two Moorpark apricots,
and set them before Wych Hazel.

'Will you accept these from me?' he said, coolly. 'They are my
own property, and are offered to you. Taste and see if they
are as good as they ought to be.'

She looked up, and down, laughing.

'That is the way you come round people! Will you take the
responsibility? Suppose I am asked, some day, whether they--
were--what they ought to be?'

'You can puzzle him just as well after knowing the fact, as
before,' Rollo said, with perfect gravity.

'Well,' said Hazel, pulling a grape from the bunch. 'Perhaps
my misleading powers may be equal to that. This one is quite
good--and not at all sour,' she added, with a flash of her
eyes--which, however, went to Mrs. Bywank. 'What do you want,
Dingee?'

Dingee advanced and laid a card on the table.

'Say I am at breakfast. I cannot be expected to keep awake all
night and all day too.'

'Permit me to inquire,' said Rollo, as he also attacked the
grapes, but not looking at them, 'whether you did your share
of growling this morning? I am sure no one had more cause.'

'No,' said the girl, laughing. 'I feel that I have a great
reserve in store for somebody. Well, Dingee?'

A card with a written message this time. Hazel looked at it,
drew her brows together, and, seizing a pencil, wrote a
vigorous 'No,' across the lines.

'For somebody,' Rollo repeated. 'I am not sure that we got
hold of the right delinquent. After all, peaches are the best
thing after waffles and coffee. Try that.' And he placed a
fine one alongside of Wych Hazel's plate.

'The thing is,' said Hazel, 'that unless you can growl with
authority, nobody marks you.'

'General Merrick and Major Seaton, Missee Hazel, ma'am,' said
her dark retainer, coming back.

'I thought I told you I was at breakfast?' said Hazel, in a
tone of displeasure.

'Yes'm--but the Major he bound to know 'bout sumfin Missee
Hazel left onsartin last night. 'Spect he'd like a keep-sake,
too,' said Dingee, laying down another card. 'Mas' May put _his_
away mighty safe.'

If ever his little mistress was near being furious, I think it
was then. Eyes and cheeks were in a flame.

'I left nothing uncertain last night!' she said, turning upon
him. 'Major Seaton knows that, if he will take the trouble to
remember. And Dingee, if you bring me another message--of any
sort--before I whistle for you, I will put you out of service
for a month. Now go!'

'Is that the way you punish unlucky servitors?' said Rollo,
looking much amused.

She had come back to her grapes, giving them the closest
attention, feeling shy and nervous and disturbed to any point;
but now fun got the upper hand. So first she bit her lips, and
then--the laugh must come! Clear and ringing and mirthsome, as
if there was never a growl in all the world.

'That is one way,' she said.

'Sounds peaceable,' said Rollo demurely, though smiling; 'but
I don't know! I am afraid it might prove very severe. What is
the appeal from one of your sentences?'

'There is none. I am a Mede and a Persian combined. Byo, why
don't you give Mr. Rollo some cream with his peaches, and
postpone me till another time?'

'She'll have to postpone me, too,' said Rollo. 'I must go.
Shall I come for you at four o'clock? It will be too hot, I am
afraid, before; and we have a good way to go.'


CHAPTER XXIX.

JEANNIE DEANS.


It wanted some time of four o'clock yet, when Miss Kennedy
came quietly into Mr. Falkirk's study and sat down by the
window.

'Are you at leisure, sir?' she said, intertwining her fingers
in a careless sort of way among the vines that hung there.

'My dear, I have been at leisure so long that I wish I could
say I was busy. But I am not busy. What is it, Miss Hazel?'

'Only a few business questions, sir,' she said, attending to
the vines. 'Will you let me ride with Major Seaton on
Thursday?'

'Would you like to go with him?'

'I always like to ride, sir.'

'You have not a horse yet, my dear; that is a difficulty. I do
not know this Major Seaton's horses--nor himself.'

'Quite reliable, sir--according to him. Will you let me ride
with Mr. Rollo this afternoon?'

'I suppose there is no good reason to be assigned against
that,' said Mr. Falkirk, rather growingly, and after a pause.
It sounded a little as if he would have liked it if the fact
had been otherwise.

'You consider Wednesday a more safe day than Thursday, sir?'

'I am not superstitious, Miss Hazel. The only thing I ever was
in fear of is enchantment!'

'Well sir,--you have doubtless studied the case enough to know
which is the more "enchanting" of the two,' said Miss Hazel,
daringly. 'Shall I give Mr. May a ride on Friday?'

'Will you have a horse on Friday?'

'My horse seems to be a slow one, by the time it takes him to
come,' said Wych Hazel. 'Will he be here this afternoon, Mr.
Falkirk?'

'I suppose Rollo will see to that,' said Mr. Falkirk,
beginning to turn about some papers that were on the table.

'Yes, sir,' said his ward, with her small fingers still
playing among the vines; 'I suppose he will. It is rather Mr.
Rollo's style. But that makes it slightly awkward for me, Mr.
Falkirk.'

'In what respect, Miss Hazel?'

'Most of these other gentlemen think themselves qualified to
"see to" so small a consignment as myself; and not being
posted as to your scale of enchantment and danger, may feel it
the reverse of a compliment to meet me riding with Mr. Rollo,
on his horse.'

'Well, my dear, what do you wish me to do in the matter? You
are not obliged to go with Rollo, that I know of. Do you wish
to compliment these other small fry?'

'I want to ride, Mr. Falkirk, I believe I should go with Mr.
Simms--if he were the only chance; and that is saying a good
deal. However, I can throw all the responsibility on you, sir;
that is one comfort.'

'It won't break me,' said Mr. Falkirk; 'that is another. Why
do they all come for you so, this hot weather!'

But she laughed at that, and went off out of the room.

When she came down to the side entrance of Chickaree some hour
or two later, she found her side-saddle going on an Arab-
looking brown mare, and Rollo playing hostler. His own horse
standing by was clearly also a new comer; a light bay, nervous
and fidgety, for he did not keep still one minute; ears,
hoofs, eyes and head were constantly and restlessly shifting.
The brown mare stood still, only lifting her pretty head and
looking as Wych Hazel came out. She ran down the steps.

'I got leave!' she said, gleefully,--'did you?'--then stopped,
surveying operations. 'But was there nobody about the place to
do that but Mr. Rollo?

The quiet negative which answered this covered more ground
than the question. Rollo finished his work carefully, with one
or two looking on; mounted the little lady, and went to his
own horse. Before mounting, here, he seemed to hold some
conversation with the creature; caressed him; stood in front
and spoke to him, patting and stroking his head; then in
another moment was on his back.

There is a great difference in people's riding, as there is in
people's walking; and once in a while, among plenty of good
average walkers and riders, there is one whom it is a pleasure
to see. This man was such a one. He was a perfectly well-made
man, and had the ease and grace in all his movements which
such a build goes far to ensure; when on horseback it seemed
as if he had communicated these qualities to his horse, and
the two moved as one embodiment of ease and grace, with power
superadded. Stuart Nightingale on horseback was a fine
gentleman, perfectly got up, and riding well, but yet a fine
gentleman in the saddle. Major Seaton rode ruggedly, if I may
say so. Mr. May was more at home in his phaeton; others were
more or less stiff and uncertain. But the attitude and action
of Rollo were utter unconscious ease, whatever form of action
his horse might take. So it was now. For a few minutes his
restless animal moved in all sorts of eccentric ways; but
where most men would have been a little awkward and many very
miserable, his rider was simply unconcerned and seemed to be
taking his pleasure. To see such a rider is to be filled with
a great sense of harmony.

What a ride they had then, when the hill was descended and the
gates of Chickaree left behind! The road for some miles was
known to Wych Hazel; then they branched off into another where
all was new. The qualities of the brown mare had been coming
to her rider's knowledge by degrees; a beautiful mouth,
excellent paces, thorough training; knowing her business and
doing it. As they entered upon a long smooth stretch of road
without anybody in sight, Rollo proposed a run; and they had
it; and it was upon drawing bridle after this that he asked a
question.

'How do you like her?'

Now Miss Kennedy, in defiance of all-known laws, had never
been so smitten with the regulation beaver upon a man's head,
as to place it on her own. So instead of its stiff proportions
she wore a little round straw hat; utterly comfortable,
utterly graceful, and drooping down over her eyes à la Marie
Stuart, so as to keep those wayward things in deep seclusion
when she chose. Just now, however, she turned them full on her
companion, answering:

'O _very_ much!--I suspect she has only one fault.'

'What in the world is that? Have you discovered already what I
have sought for in vain?

'It is the reverse of my speciality,' said Wych Hazel--'so
perhaps that makes me sharpsighted. I am afraid she always
behaves well.'

'She knows her business,' said Rollo. 'I think what you want
her to do, she will do. Pardon me; do you wish her--it is
rather paradoxical--to _thwart_ you wishes!'

'No,' said the girl, laughing a little,--'I put it somewhat
differently: perhaps I might like, just occasionally, to
thwart hers!'

'She'll be an extraordinary animal if she does not some time
or other give you a chance. Now do you know what you are
coming to?'

The scenery was changing, had changed. The level, open road
they had been clearing on the gallop, had gradually drawn
within high banks, which as they went on grew higher and
broken, till the country assumed the character of a glen or
deep valley. Opening a little here and there, this valley
shewed ahead of them now a succession of high, long, dingy
buildings; and a large, rapid stream of water was seen to run
under the opposite bank. It had not been visible until now; so
it probably turned off near this point into an easier channel
than the course of their road would have afforded. The scene
was extremely picturesque; sunshine and shadow mingling on the
sides of the dell and on the roofs and gables of the buildings
in the bottom. These were both large and small; it was quite a
settlement; cottages, small and mean and dingy, standing all
along on the higher banks, as well as lower down near the
stream. Gradually the dell spread into a smooth, narrow
valley.

'The mills, I suppose? I have not been this way before. It
makes me half wild to get out again! So if I do any wild
things----How lovely the dell is!'

'This is Morton Hollow,' said Rollo, looking at her. 'Can I
help you do any wild things?'

'The houses are like him,' said Hazel, turning away, and her
colour deepening under the look. 'Such a place!'

She might say 'such a place.' As they went on the character of
it became visible more and more. There were dark, high, close
factories, whence the hum of machinery issued; poor, mean
dwellings, small and large, clustered here and there in the
intermediate spaces, from which if any sounds came, they were
less pleasant than the buzz of machines. Scarce any humanity
was abroad; what there was deepened the impression of the
dreariness of the place.

'Mr. Rollo,' said Hazel, at last. 'I hope your friend does not
live down here?'

'I don't think I have any friend here,' he answered, rather
thoughtfully. He had been riding slowly for the last few
minutes, looking intently at what he was passing. Now, at a
sudden turn of the road, where the valley made a sharp angle,
they came upon an open carriage standing still. Two ladies
were in it. Rollo lifted his hat, but the lady nearest them
leaned out and cried 'Stop, stop!'

A gentleman must obey such a behest. Rollo wheeled and stood
still.

'Where are you going?' said the lady. Probably Rollo did not
hear, for he looked at her calmly without answering.

'Is that the little lady?' said the speaker, stretching her
head out a little further to catch better sight of Wych Hazel.
'Aren't you going to introduce me, Dane? I must know her, you
know.'

It is quite impossible to describe on paper the flourish with
which Rollo's horse responded. Like a voluntary before the
piece begins, like the elegant and marvellous sweep of lines
with which a scribe surrounds his signature, the bay curvetted
and wheeled and danced before the proposed introduction. Very
elegant in its way, and to any one not in the secret
impossible to divine whether it was the beast or his rider at
play. Finally brought up on the other side of Wych Hazel, when
Rollo spoke.

'Miss Kennedy, I have the honour to present Mrs. Coles, who
wishes to be known to you.'

As Miss Kennedy bent her head, she had one glimpse of a long
pale face, surrounded with bandeaux of fair hair, which looked
towards her eagerly. Before she had well lifted her head again
her horse was moving, and the next instant dashing along at
full speed; the bay close alongside. The mills were almost
passed; a very few minutes brought them quite away from the
settlement, and they began to mount to higher ground by a
steep hilly path.

'Well!'--said Hazel, looking at her companion.

'Well?' said Rollo, innocently.

She laughed.

'As if I did not know better than that!'

'I wish I did,' said Rollo. 'Now, do you know what you are
coming to?'

'No, not a bit. I said I wouldn't come through that place--but
when you are in a strange land--and in charge of a--strange!--
cavalier--'

'You are coming to the house of my old nurse in the hills a
quarter of a mile further on. I did not understand you to mean
that you would not go through _that_ place.'

'Does the man keep another Hollow for himself?' said Wych
Hazel. 'I am glad we are going to the hills, if only to help
me forget the valley. How can people live so! And oh! how can
people let them!'

'This is a concomitant of great civilization. I saw no such
place when I was in Norway,' Dane observed.

'And was--what is her name?--living there when you came home?'

'Gyda? Down in the Hollow! O no. I had established her up here
in comfort before I left her.'

More and more lovely, wild and lonely, the scenery grew; the
road getting deeper among the hills and winding higher and
higher with the head of the valley. Then they came to the
cottage, the only one in sight; a low house of grey stone, set
with its back against the woods which covered the hill. A
little cleared and cultivated ground close to it, and in front
the road. Rollo dismounted, fastened his horse, and took Wych
Hazel down.

'Do you like to come to such places?' he asked as he was tying
the brown mare to the fence.

'I know very little about them,' she said. '_This_ looks like a
place to come to.'

'It is unique,' said Rollo, as he led the way in.

He opened the door softly. An utterance of joy Wych Hazel
heard, before she could see the person from whom it came.
Rollo turned and presented Miss Kennedy then. It was that. He
did not present old Gyda to _her_. And then Wych Hazel was
established in the best chair, and could look at her leisure,
for at first she was not the one attended to.

She saw a little person, with a brown face, much shrivelled;
which yet possessed two sparkling keen black eyes. There was
not a pretty feature in the old woman's face, for the eyes
were not beautiful now, in any sensuous meaning of beauty. And
yet, as Wych Hazel looked, presently the word 'lovely' was the
word that came up to her. That was of course due only to the
pervading expression; which was pure, loving and refined far
beyond what the young lady had often seen. She was dressed in
a short jacket of dark cloth, braided with bright braid, and
fastened at the throat with a large silver brooch. Her
petticoat was of the same cloth, drawn up plain over the bosom
in an ungraceful manner; her head was covered with a coloured
handkerchief, tied so that the ends hung down the back.

After seeing Wych Hazel seated, she for the moment paid her no
further attention. Rollo had sat down too; and the old woman
came close in front of him and stood looking silently, her
head reaching then only a little above his shoulders. She was
old, undeniably; however, it was an entirely vigorous and
hearty age. Her hand presently came to Rollo's face, pushing
back the thick and somewhat curly locks from his temples, and
then taking his head in both hands she kissed first one cheek
and then the other.

'Don't be partial, Gyda!' said he, smiling at her. And if
there was beauty of only one kind in the little black eyes
that looked at him, there was much of both kinds in the young
man's face. Gyda left him and went over to her other visitor.

And as far as minuteness of examination went, certainly she
was not 'partial.' It would have been a bit trying from
anybody else--the still, intent, searching look of the old
woman upon the young face. But the look was one of such utter
sweetness, so thoroughly loving and simple and kind, if it was
also keen, that there was after all in it more to soothe
nerves than to excite them. Her hand presently came to Wych
Hazel's face too, drawing down over the soft cheek and
handling the wavy ringlets, and tracing the delicate chin's
outline. Slowly and considerately.

'Is she good?' was the first word that Gyda spoke in this
connection, as naïvely as possible. It was rather directed to
Rollo. The girl's colour had stirred and mounted under the
scrutiny, until interest nearly put shyness out of sight; and
the winsome brown eyes now looked at Gyda more wistful than
afraid. They followed her question with a swift glance, but
then Miss Kennedy hastily took the matter into her own hands.

'Not generally!' she answered, the lips parting and curling in
sweet mirthful lines that at least did not speak of very deep
wrong-doing. Most gentlemen probably would have uttered a
protest, but Rollo was absolutely silent. Gyda looked from one
to the other.

'Why are ye no good?' she asked, with her hand on Wych Hazel's
shoulder. The expression of the words is very difficult to
describe. It was an inquiry, put with the simplest accent of
wondering and regretful desire. Hazel looked at her, studying
the question rather in the face than in the words.

'I suppose,' she said slowly, 'because I do not like it.'

'You must know, Gyda,' said Rollo, smiling, 'that Miss Hazel's
notion of goodness is, giving up her own will to somebody
else's.'

'And that's just what it is, Dane Olaf,' said the old woman,
looking round at him. 'Ye could not have expressed it better.
But that is not hard, nor uncomfortable, when ye love
somebody?' she added, her sweet eyes going back to Wych Hazel.
The girl shook her head.

'I never loved anybody, then. Unless mamma,' she answered.

'Lady, do ye know those words in your Bible--"He that dwelleth
in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the
shadow of the Almighty?" Giving up yourself to God will put ye
just there! And then--"He shall cover thee with his feathers,
and under His wings shalt thou trust." '

It is one thing to hear these words sonorously read in church,
or to run one's eye over them in a perfunctory manner. To see
Gyda speak them, with the accent and air of one undeniably
proving the truth of them, that was another thing.

'There may be yet a difficulty, Gyda,' said Rollo.

'What is't?'

'One may not know just how to get there, even after you have
shewed the way.'

Rollo was not speaking lightly; but Gyda as she went back to
her seat only answered,

'Ye can always ask.'

'Whom would you bid me ask, Gyda? I would about as lieve come
to you as anybody, if I wanted counsel.'

'Give yourself to God, lad, and ye'll know there's but One to
ask of. And there's but One before that, if ye want real
help.'

There was a minute's pause; and then Rollo asked what Gyda had
for him to do. 'Not yet,' she answered; and with that left the
room. Rollo brought his chair to Wych Hazel's side.

'She is going to get you some supper,' he said, with a smile.

'No, it will be all for you,--and you will give me part of it.
I should think you would come here very often, Mr. Rollo.'

'Do you?' said he, looking pleased. 'That shews I did right to
bring you here. Now you'll have a Norse supper--the first you
ever had. Gyda is Norse herself, I told you; she is a
Tellemarken woman. If we were in Norway now, there would be in
the further end of this room two huge cribs, which would be
the sleeping place for the whole family. Overhead would be
fishing nets hanging from the rafters, and a rack with a dozen
or more rifles and fowling-pieces. On the walls you would see
collars for reindeer, powder-horns and daggers. Gyda's
spinning-wheel _is_ here, you see; and her stove, besides the
fireplace for cooking. Her dairy is a separate building, after
Norway fashion, and so is her summer kitchen, where I know she
is this minute, making porridge. Can you eat porridge?'

'Truly I cannot say, Mr. Rollo. But I do not often "thwart"
myself--as you may have observed. Does the absence of Norse
blood make the fact doubtful?'

'Norse habit, say rather,' said Rollo, shaking his head;
'Norse habit, induced by Norse necessity. In many a Norwegian
homestead you would get little besides porridge, often. But
Gyda likes it, and so do I. At any rate, it is invariable for
a Norse meal, in this house. It is one of the things which can
be transplanted. Gyda would have enjoyed a row of reindeer's
horns bristling along the eaves of her cottage; but I told her
the boys of the Hollow would not leave them long if I set them
there.'

'But you are half Danish,' said Wych Hazel. 'And was it for
love of Denmark that you got your name?'

'Which name? If you please?'

'You know,' said Wych Hazel, with a shy blush, as if it were a
sort of freedom for her to know and speak it, 'they call you,
"Dane Rollo." '

'That's not my name, though,' said he, smiling. 'I am no
further a Dane than being born in Copenhagen makes me so. I am
half Norse, and a quarter German; Denmark has given me a
nickname,--that's all.'

'Then, if we were in Norway and this a considerable farmhouse,
we should have passed through an ante-room filled with all
sorts of things. Meal chests, and tools, and thongs of
leather, skins of animals and wild birds, snow shoes and casks
and little sledges. Do you know,' he went on, 'if this were
not the land of my father, I could find it in my heart to go
and live in the land of my mother. It is a noble land, and it
is a fine people. Feudal law never obtained footing there;
every landholder held under no superior; and so there is a
manly, genial independence in all the country-side, not found
everywhere else.'

He went on for some little time to give Wych Hazel pictures of
the scenery, unlike all she had ever known. He knew and loved
it well, and his sketches were given graphically. In the midst
of this Gyda came in again; and Rollo broke off, and asked
her, laughingly, if she had any 'fladbrod.'

'Fresh,' she said. 'Olaf, can't you get her some peaches?'

Rollo went off; and the old woman began to set her table with
bowls and plates and spoons; an oddly carved little tub of
butter, and a pile of thin brown cakes. Having done this, and
Rollo not returning, on the contrary seeming to have found
more than peach trees to detain him, for the sound of hammer
was heard at intervals, the old woman came and stood by Wych
Hazel again. The straw hat was off; and she eyed in a tender
kind of way, wistful too, the fair young face.

'Dear,' she said, in that same wistful way, laying her hand on
the girl's shoulder, 'does he love you?'

Hazel started in extreme surprise; looking up with wide-open
eyes; and more pale than red in her first astonishment.

'He? me?--No!' she said, as the blood came surging back. But
then recollections came too, and possibilities--and eyes and
head both drooped. And with the inevitable instinct of truth
the girl added, under her breath--

'Perhaps--how do I know? I cannot tell!'

By that time head and hands too were on the back of her chair,
and she had turned from Gyda, and her face was out of sight.
With a tender little smile, which she could not see, the old
Norse woman stood beside her, and with tender fingers which
she did feel, smoothed and stroked the hair on each side of
her head. For a few minutes.

'And, dear,' she said presently, in the same soft way, 'do you
love him?'

There are questions, confusing enough when merely propounded
by ourselves, in the solitude of our hearts; but which when
coming first from the lips of another, before they have been
fairly recognized as questions, become simply unbearable.
Hazel shrank away from the words, gentle as they were, with
one of her quick gestures.

'I do not know,' she cried. 'I have never thought! I have no
business to know!'

And lifting her head for a moment, with eyes all grave and
troubled and almost tearful, she looked into the face of the
old Norwegian, mutely beseeching her to be merciful, and not
push her advantage any further.

'I know!' said Gyda, softly. 'But it's only me.' And as if
recognizing a bond which Wych Hazel did not, she lifted one
little white hand in her two brown ones and kissed it.

'Everybody shews me their hearts,' she went on; 'but it's all
here,' touching her breast, and meaning probably that it went
no further. 'May I love my lad's lady a little bit?'

A strangely humble, wistful, sweet look she bent on Hazel as
she spoke, to which the girl herself, too dumbfounded and
shaken off her feet to quite know where she was, could find no
better answer than a full rush of bright drops to her eyes,
coming she knew not whence; and then a deep suffusion of
throat and cheeks and brow, but was much better recognized and
said it meant to stay. Her head went down again.

'Now, it's only me,' said the old woman, quietly again. But
Rollo's voice was heard from somewhere speaking her name, and
she hurried out. There was a little interval, and then she
came back bearing dishes to set on the table. Back and forth
she went several times, and very likely had found more things
to take up Rollo's attention; for he came not until she had
her board all ready and summoned him. It was a well spread
board when all was done. Shallow dishes of porridge, piles of
fladbrod, bowls of cream, peaches, and coffee. And when Gyda
with due care had made a cup for Wych Hazel and brought it to
her hand, the little lady was obliged to confess that it was
better than even Chickaree manufacture. And the porridge was
no brown farinaceous mass in a rough and crude state, but came
to table in thin, gelatinous cakes, sweet and excellent when
broken into the cream. But if Wych Hazel had been afterwards
put in the witness-box to tell what she had been eating, I
think she would have refused to be sworn. The sheer necessity
of the case had made her hold up her head--cool her cheeks she
could not; but she took what was given her, and talked of it
and praised it almost as steadily as if she had known what it
was. Only, as extreme timidity is with some people an
unnerving thing, there were moments when, do what she would,
her lips must be screened behind the cup, and words that she
said which were almost hoarse from the extreme difficulty with
which they were spoken. As for a laugh, she tried it once.

She was served and tended with, it is hard to say whether most
care or most pleasure, by both her companions. Midway of the
meal came a help to her shyness.

The door slowly opened and a girl stepped in. She might have
been fourteen or fifteen; she was tall enough for that; but
the little figure was like a rail. So slight, so thin, so
little relieved by any sufficiency of drapery in her poor
costume. But the face was above all thin, pale, worn; with
eyes that looked large and glassy from want and weariness. She
came in, but then stood still, looking at the party where she
had expected to find only the old Norwegian woman.

'Who is this?' said Rollo to Gyda.

'It is Trüdchen, of the Hollow. What is wanting, my child?'
said Gyda.

'Come seeking medicine for the mind or body?' said Rollo. But
after a second glance he rose up, went to the girl and offered
a chair. She looked at him without seeming to know his
meaning.

'Speak Deutsch, Olaf,' said Gyda; 'and ye'll get better
hearing. She can't speak yon.'

A few words in German made a change. The wan face waked up a
little and looked astonished at the speaker. Rollo seated her;
then poured out himself a cup of Gyda's coffee, creamed and
sugared it duly, and offered it to the girl with the
observance he would have given to a lady. Then he moved her
chair nearer to the table, and supplied porridge and then
peaches; talking and talking to her all the while. The answers
began to come at last; the girl's colour changed with the
coffee, and her eyes brightened with every spoonful of the
cream and porridge; and at last came a smile--what was it
like?--like the wintriest gleam of a cold sky upon a cold
world. Rollo got better than that, however, before he was
done.

He had come back to Wych Hazel and left the girl to finish her
supper in peace; when suddenly his attention was attracted by
some question addressed by the latter to Gyda. He looked up
and himself answered. The girl started from her seat with a
degree of animation she had given no symptom of till then,
said a few words very eagerly and hurriedly, and darted from
the door like a sprite.

'What now?' said Hazel, looking after the girl. 'What has Mr.
Rollo done?'

'Cut short somebody's supper, I'm afraid. But she finished her
porridge, didn't she? And has taken one peach with her! Do
they all look that, Gyda?'

Gyda answered that they were 'very bad;' she meant in their
way of life and their thriving on it.

'And how otherwise?'

There seemed to be not much to say 'otherwise.' They were very
good to her, Gyda remarked. Wych Hazel listened, but she
risked no more questions. The supper lingered a while longer;
Gyda and Rollo talking of various things and drawing in Wych
Hazel when they could; then Gyda fetched a book and opened it
and laid before Rollo. He left the table and came to Wych
Hazel's side.

'Gyda always, when she can, has prayers with her visitors,' he
said, 'and she makes them read for her. She, and I, would like
it if you do the reading to-night. Will you?'

How easily she started to-night!--Hazel answered without
looking up--

'She would rather have you.'

'No, she wouldn't. Excuse me! She asked me to ask you.'

The girl had not found her feet yet, nor got clear of her
bewilderment. And so, before she more than half knew what she
was about she had taken the book and was reading--absolutely
reading aloud to those two!--the ninety-first Psalm. Aloud, it
was; but only because the voice was so wonderfully clear and
sweet-toned could they have heard a word. As it was, neither
listener lost one.

They knelt then, and Gyda uttered a prayer sweet enough to
follow the Psalm. A little louder than Wych Hazel's low key,
but not less quiet in tone. It was not long; she took those
two, as it were, in the arms of her love, and presented them
as candidates for all the blessing of the Psalm; making her
plea for the two, somehow, a compound and homogeneous one.

The sun was down: it was time to get to horse--for the riders.
Gyda's farewells were very affectionate in feeling, though
also very quiet in manner.

'Will you come to see me again?' she asked of Wych Hazel,
while Rollo was gone out to see to the horses.

'Will you let me? I should like to come.'

'Then you'll come,' said Gyda. She had shaken hands with Rollo
before. But now when he came in for Wych Hazel he went up to
where Gyda was standing, bent down and kissed her.

'Miss Kennedy, have you said "Tak för maden?" '

'I? No. How should I?' said Wych Hazel; 'is it a spell?'

'Come here,' said he, laughing. 'You must shake hands with
Gyda and say, "Tak för maden;" that is, "Thanks for the meat."
That is Norwegian good manners, and you are in a Norwegian
house. Come and say it.'

She came shyly, trying to laugh too, and again held out her
hand; stammering a little over the unaccustomed syllables, but
rather because they were prescribed than because they were
difficult. Certainly if there was a spell in the air that
night Wych Hazel thought it had got hold of her.

'That's proper,' said Rollo, 'and now we'll go. It ought to
have been said when we rose from table; but better late than
never. That's your first lesson in Norse.'

Rollo had been in a sort of quiet, gay mood all the afternoon.
Out of the house and in the saddle this mood seemed to be
exchanged for a different one. He was silent, attending to his
business with only a word here and there, alert and grave. The
words to the ear, however, were free and pleasant as ever. At
the bottom of the hill, in the meadow, he came close to Wych
Hazel's side.

'Don't canter here,' said he. 'Trot. Not very fast, for the
people are out from their work now, many of them. But we'll go
as fast as we can.'

'Fast as you like,' she answered. 'I will follow your pace.'

'No,' said he, smiling; 'we might run over somebody.'

The people were out from their work, and many of them stood in
groups and parties along the sides of the street. It was an
irregular roadway, with here a mill and there a mill, on one
side and on the other, and cottages scattered all along
between and behind. It had been an empty way when they came;
it was populous now. Men and women were there, sometimes in
separate groups; and a fringe of children, boys and girls, on
both sides of the road. The general mill population seemed to
be abroad. They appeared to be doing nothing, all standing
gazing at the riders. The light was fading now, and the
wretchedness of their looks was not so plainly to be seen in
detail; and yet, somehow, the aggregate effect was quite in
keeping with that of Trüdchen's appearance alone at the house
above.

Through this scattering of humanity the riders went at a
gentle, even trot; the horses pacing almost in step, the
stirrups as near together as they could be. As they came to
the thickest of this crowd of spectators, Rollo courteously
raised his hat to them. There was at first no answer, then a
murmur, then two or three old hats were waved in the air.
Again Rollo saluted them, and in two minutes more the mills
were passed. The road lay empty and quiet between the high
banks, on which the soft twilight was beginning to settle
down.

'I like that,' said Wych Hazel, impulsively, forgetting her
shyness--she, too, had bowed as they rode by. 'Mr. Rollo, is it
a secret, what you said to that child? It looks to me as if
she had brought the people out to look at you.'

'Will you ride?' said he. 'Let us have a canter first.'

It was a pretty swift canter, and the two had flown over a
good deal of ground before Rollo drew bridle again on coming
out into the main road.

'Now,' he said, 'we can talk. There is no secret about
anything. The girl asked, at Gyda's, how soon we were going
away? I answered, in half an hour. Whereupon she begged very
urgently that we would delay and not get to the mills till _she_
had been there; and darted away as you saw.'

'Impressive power of peaches!' said Hazel, with a laugh.
'Commend my penetration. I wish all our waste baskets of fruit
could be emptied out in that Hollow, and so be of some use. It
would be fun to send Mr. Morton's own grapes'--but there she
stopped.

'I am afraid you are mistaken,' said Rollo, gravely. 'The
manner and accent of the girl made me apprehend danger of some
annoyance--which I think she went to prevent. The road being a
_cul de sac_, she knew, and they knew, we must come back that
way. Gyda will find out all about it; but she said it meant
mischief.'

'Mischief? To us?'

'Yes. They are very degraded, and I suppose embittered, by
their way of life; and do not like to see people taking their
pleasure as we are doing.'

'_That_ was what they were out for! Mr. Falkirk may well say my
eyes are ignorant,' said the girl, thoughtfully. 'But Mr.
Rollo--is this the only way to---- What do ordinary people call
your friend?'

'Gyda? The name is Boërresen--contracted by vulgar usage to
Borsen.'

'Well, is this the only way you can get to her cottage?'

'The only way; except by a scramble over the hills and fields
where no way is. I fancy you are mistaken again, however, in
your conclusions from what you have seen this evening. I do
not think they were out to do us mischief. Their attitude did
not strike me as like that. I think Trüdchen had been
beforehand with them.'

'And does Mrs. Boërresen like to have you come and go through
the Hollow, knowing the people?'

'I never heard of the least annoyance to any one there before.
I can only surmise that the sight of a lady, where no lady
ever comes, excited the spite of some children perhaps. And
they might have expressed their spite by throwing a few
stones. _That_ I half expected.'

'What would you have done then?' said Wych Hazel, with sudden
curiosity.

'Dodge the stones, of course!' Rollo answered quietly.

Hazel gleamed up at him from under her hat, her lips in a
curl.

'That is only what you would have _tried_ to do,' she said. But
then Miss Wych subsided and fell back into the closest rapt
attention to the beauties of the landscape and the evening
sky.

'The only time,' Rollo went on, 'when the least annoyance
would be possible, is after work hours, or just at noon when
they are out for dinner. At all other times the whole
population is shut up in the mills, and the street is empty.'

'Was it your peaches then after all?' said the girl suddenly.
'Or did she pray us through?'

Rollo gave her one of the bright, sweet smiles he sometimes
gave to his old nurse.

'How do I know?' he said. 'I think--peaches were sweet. And I
don't believe Gyda ever prays in vain.'

Of course, such an afternoon, everybody had been out; happily
the hour was so late that few were left on the road; but Wych
could not escape all encounters.

'Your days are numbered, Dane Rollo!' called out Mr. Kingsland
as he went by. 'Coffee and pistols at four to-morrow morning!--
And if my shot fails, there are ten more to follow. The strong
probability is that Miss Kennedy beholds us both for the last
time!' Which melancholy statement was honoured with a soft
irrepressible laugh that it was a pity Mr. Kingsland would not
wait to hear.

Then before Wych Hazel had brought her face into order, a
sharp racking trot came down a cross-road, and Kitty Fisher
reined up at her side.

'I vow!' she said,--'you look jolly here! The Viking must have
been exerting himself. So! you are the girl that never
flirts!'

'What of it?' said Wych Hazel, with cool gravity.

'O nothing,--nothing in the world!' said Miss Fisher. 'I've
come to get a lesson, that's all. For real instruction in the
art, commend me to your cream-faced people who never do it.'

'Nobody ever saw cream the colour of _my_ face,' said Wych Hazel
good-humouredly. 'It is yours, Kitty, that always deserves the
comparison.'

Here Rollo, who had been sheering about for a minute on his
springy bay, suddenly came up between the two girls and kept
the brown mare too far to the left to permit another flank
movement to out-general him.

'I should like somebody to explain to me,' he said, addressing
Kitty, 'what flirting is. I have never been able to come to a
clear understanding of what is meant by the term.'

'Very likely,' said Kitty, 'seeing it's a muddled-up thing.
Never did it yourself, I suppose?'

'That depends upon what "it" is,' insisted Rollo.

'Does it?' said Kitty. 'Well, if ever you try it with me,
you'll burn your fingers and find out.'

Again in spite of everything Wych Hazel laughed,--ever so
softly, but undeniably.

'Tell me what it is,--and I will promise never to try it with
you.' Kitty's handsome face darkened.

'Can you reason back from particular cases to general
principles?' she said.

'You always want a great many cases to form an induction,'
said Rollo, 'I thought you would shirk the question.'

'Shirk? not I?' said Miss Fisher. 'I was just going to give
you an instance. That girl, who has played coy all summer, and
wouldn't ride with a man here because she must have her own
horse, forsooth; suddenly waives her scruples in favour of
another man, and finds she can ride _his_ horse, without
difficulty.'

Wych Hazel drew up her graceful figure to its full height, but
she said not a word. Riding at ease, as usual, Rollo spoke in
a voice as clear as it was cold.

'Only a coward, Miss Fisher, strikes a man--or a woman--whose
hands are bound. Good evening.'

Lifting his hat with his most curt salutation, Rollo seized
the bridle of the brown mare and made her understand what was
expected of her, his own bay at the instant springing forward
with a bound. Miss Kitty was left in the distance. Neither was
she mounted well enough to follow if she had had the
inclination. The run this time was in good earnest, till they
drew rein again near the gate of Chickaree.

'I knew I could trust you to keep your seat,' said Rollo then
lightly to his companion, 'even if I was unceremonious.'

'And I--' That sentence was never finished. This last run had
rather shaken the colour out of cheeks than into them. But
Hazel had a good deal of real bravery about her; and in a
minute more she turned again to her companion.

'Thank you, Mr. Rollo,' she said, gravely. 'I think you are a
true knight.'

'You might as well talk reason to Vixen as to Kitty Fisher,'
muttered Rollo. But in another minute he changed his tone.

'Are you tired?'

'I hardly know. Which should prove that I am not.'

'I am afraid it don't prove that at all.'

He was silent till they came to the door where they had
mounted in the afternoon. Dismounting then, and coming to Wych
Hazel's side to do the same service for her, Mr. Rollo
lingered a little about the preliminaries; as if he liked
them.

'Mrs. Bywank tells me,' he said, 'that you have been eager all
summer for the riding you could not have. You must forgive
her,--she cannot help talking of you. Will you do me the honour
to let Jeannie Deans stand in your stable for the present, and
ride her with whomsoever you please to honour in that way.'

There was a little inarticulate cry of joy at that,--then
timidly,

'But, Mr. Rollo----'

'Well?' said he, softly.

'You might want her. And--if I rode with other people, they
might take me where you would not like her to go. Will you let
me ride her sometimes just by myself?' she said, glancing at
him and instantly away again.

'That is for your pleasure to say,' he returned lightly,
lifting her down. And then, detaining her slightly for just
half a second, he added, laughing,

'Please don't take Jeannie anywhere that I would not like her
to go!'


CHAPTER XXX.

THE WILL.


That night, and the next morning, Miss Kennedy had a fight
with herself, trying hard to regain her footing, which was
constantly swept away again by some new incoming tide of
thoughts. It looks an easy matter enough, to climb out once
more upon the ice through which you have broken; but when
piece after piece comes off in your hands, sousing you deeper
down than before, the thing begins to look serious. And in
this case the young lady began to get impatient.

'Such unmitigated nonsense!' she declared to herself, with her
cheeks on fire. But nevertheless said nonsense lifted its head
very cleverly from under all the negations she could pile upon
it; and indeed looked rather refreshed than otherwise by the
operation. How Mr. Falkirk had dimly hinted at such things,
long ago,--and how she had laughed at them! Was _this_ what he
had suggested her confiding to him?--Whereupon Miss Kennedy
brought herself up short.

'I should like to know what I have to confide!' she said. 'I
hope I am not quite a fool.' And with that she beat a retreat,
and rushed down-stairs, and gave Mr. Falkirk an extravaganza
of extra length and brilliancy for his breakfast; which,
however, it may be noted, did not include any particulars of
her ride. But when breakfast was over, Miss Kennedy for a
moment descended to business.

'By the way, sir, I should tell you, Mr. Rollo proposes to
leave one of his horses here, for me to use till my own come,--
if that extraordinary day ever arrives. Are you agreeable--or
otherwise--Mr. Falkirk?'

'I have never made any professions of being agreeable, Miss
Hazel; and it never was charges to me, that I know.'

'No, sir, certainly,--not when rides are in question. But may I
use this horse, which has the misfortune to belong to somebody
else?'

'I suppose he wouldn't give it to you if it was not fit for
you to use,' said Mr. Falkirk, rather growlingly it must be
confessed. 'Does he expect you to ride it with anybody but
him, my dear?'

'As he made no mention of expecting me to ride with him, sir,
the question presents itself somewhat differently to my mind,'
said Miss Kennedy, with some heightening of colour. It had not
been a 'pale' morning, altogether. 'Having a horse, Mr.
Falkirk, may I ride with whom I like?'

'If the giver of the horse has no objections, Miss Hazel, I
make none.'

'I am afraid, sir, your long seclusion has slightly unsettled
your mind,' said Wych Hazel, looking at him with grave
consideration, 'There is no "giver" of the horse in the first
place; and in the second, you know perfectly well that with
his first "objection" to my escorts, the horse would go back.
And you used to be so exact, Mr. Falkirk!' she added, in a
melancholy tone.

'Yes, my dear,' said her guardian, passing his hand over his
face; 'no doubt my mind is in the condition you suggest. I am
probably enchanted; which does not help me to guard you from
falling into the same awkward condition. But, Miss Hazel, I
have engaged a new groom for you. I desire that you will take
him with you instead of Dingee. Dingee is no more than a
monkey.'

It fell out, however, that Miss Kennedy in the next few days
refused several 'escorts,' on her own responsibility; saying
nothing about Jeannie Deans. Instead whereof, she went off in
the early morning hours and had delightful long trots by
herself, with only the new groom; who, she did not happen to
remark, developed a remarkable familiarity with the new horse.
Threading her way among the beautiful woods of Chickaree,
wherever a bridle-path offered, and sure to be at home long
before Mr. Falkirk's arrival to breakfast, so that he knew
nothing whatever about the matter. Just why this course of
action was in favour, perhaps the young lady herself could
scarcely have told, had she tried; but she did not try.
Whether other associations would break the harmony of some
already well established; whether she feared people's
questions about her horse; whether she liked the wild,
irregular roaming through the forest


' 'ith no one nigh to hender'--


as Lowell has it. This last was undeniably true.

Meantime Mr. Rollo himself was away again--gone for a few days
at first, and then by business kept on and on; and it suddenly
flashed into Wych Hazel's mind one day, that now, before he
got home, was the very time to go and have a good long talk
with Primrose and her father. Nobody there to come in even at
dinner time but Dr. Arthur; and him Wych Hazel liked so much
and minded so little, that Dr. Arthur was in some danger of
minding it a good deal. She would go early and ride Jeannie
Deans, and get home before the crowd of loungers got out for
their afternoon's play. At most it was but a little way from
Dr. Maryland's to the edge of her own woods; not more than
three miles perhaps; four to the gate.

Primrose was overjoyed to see her.

'What does make your visits so few and far between?' she cried
as her hand came to lift off Wych Hazel's hat.

'Well,--what does make yours?' said Hazel, gaily. 'I am come
for a little talk with you, and a lecture from Dr. Maryland,
and any other nice thing I can find.'

'Then we shall keep you to dinner, and I'll have your horse
put up. I do not see so much of you, Hazel, as I hoped I
should when you came. You are such a gay lady.'

It was difficult to deny this. However, the talk ran on to
other pleasanter topics, and was enjoyed by both parties for
about half an hour. Then came a hindrance in the shape of a
lady wearing the very face that had bowed to Wych Hazel so
impressively from the carriage in Morton Hollow. The very
same! the long pale features, the bandeaux of lustreless pale
hair enclosing them, and two of those lustreless eyes which
look as if they had not depth enough to be blue; eyes which
give, and often appropriately, the feeling of shallowness in
the character. But now and then a shallow lake of water has a
pit of awful depth somewhere.

Prim's face did not welcome the interruption.

'This is my sister, Prudentia--Mrs. Coles,' she said. 'It is
Miss Kennedy, Prudentia.'

A most gracious, not to say ingratiating, bend and smile of
Mrs. Coles answered this. She was a tall, thin figure, dressed
in black. It threw out the pale face and flaxen bandeaux and
light grey eyes into the more relief.

'I am delighted to see Miss Kennedy,' she said. 'It is quite a
hoped-for pleasure. But I have seen her before--just seen her.'

Wych Hazel bowed--remembering with some amusement Mr. Rollo's
caracole on the former occasion all about Mrs. Coles.
Privately she wished she had not promised to stay to dinner.

'I was frightened to death at your riding'--the lady went on.
'Did your horse start at anything?'

'My horse starts very often when I am on him,' said Wych Hazel
laughing.

'Does he! And do you think that is quite safe?'

'Why not?--if I start too. The chief danger in such cases is in
being left behind.'

Wych Hazel was getting her witch mood on fast. Mrs. Coles
looked a trifle puzzled.

'But my dear!' she said, 'the danger of _that_, I should think,
would be if the other horse started.'

'O no, ma'am,' said Hazel gravely. 'My escorts never even so
much as think of running away from me.'

At that point Primrose's gravity gave way, and she burst into
a laugh. Mrs. Coles changed the subject.

'I have been very impatient to see one I have heard so much
of,' she began again. 'In fact I have heard of you always. I
should have called at Chickaree, but I couldn't get any one to
take me. Arthur, he was busy--and Dr. Maryland never goes
anywhere but to visit his people--Prim goes everywhere, but it
is not where I want to go, for pleasure; and Dane I asked, and
he wouldn't.'

'He did not say he wouldn't, Prudentia,' remarked her sister.

'He didn't say he would,' returned Mrs. Coles, with a peculiar
laugh; 'and I knew what that meant. O, I should have got there
some time. I will yet.'

Miss Kennedy bowed--she believed the fault must be hers. But
she had not quite understood--or had confused things--in her
press of engagements.

Mrs. Coles graciously assumed that there had been no failure
in that quarter. And Dr. Maryland came in, and the dinner. A
nice little square party they were, for Dr. Arthur was not at
home; and yet somehow the conversation flowed in more barren
channels than was ever the wont at that table in Wych Hazel's
experience. A great deal of talk was about what people were
doing; a little about what they were wearing; an enormous
amount about what they were saying. Part of this seemed to be
religious talk too, and yet what was the matter with it? Or
was it with Wych Hazel that something was the matter? Primrose
and Dr. Maryland then shared the trouble, for whatever they
said was in attempted diversion or correction or emendation.
Certainly among them all the talk did not languish.

There came a pause for a short space after dinner, when Dr.
Maryland had gone back to his study. Then there was a demand
for Primrose; one of her Sunday school children wanted her.
Wych Hazel and Mrs. Coles were left alone. Mrs. Coles changed
her seat for one nearer the young lady.

'I have been really anxious to see you, my dear Miss Kennedy,'
she began, benignly.

'Some one of my escapades has reached her ears!' thought the
young lady to herself; 'now if I can give her a good,
harmless, mental shock,--just to bear it out!--I certainly
will.--That sounds very kind,' she said aloud.

'Yes,--you know I heard so much about you when you were a
child, and your connection with this house, and all;--and your
whole romantic story; and now when I learned that you were
grown up and here again, I really wanted to see you and see
how you looked. I must, you know,' she added, with her
peculiar smile.

There was so much in these words that was incomprehensible,
that Wych Hazel for the moment was at a loss for any answer at
all; and waited for what would come next, with eyes rather
larger than usual. Mrs. Coles went on, scanning her carefully
as she spoke, that same smile, half flattering, half assuming,
wreathing her lips.

'I did want very much to see you--I was curious, and I am. Do
tell me--how does it feel to have two guardians? I should
think, you know, that one would be enough for comfort; and the
other is sure to be a jealous guardian. Perhaps you don't mind
it,' added Mrs. Coles, with a face so amiable, that if Wych
Hazel had been a cat it would have certainly provoked a
spring.

The first thing that struck the girl in this speech, was a
certain sinister something, which by sheer instinct of self-
defence threw her into position at once. The outward
expression of it this time, seemed to be just one of the poor
jokes about Mr. Rollo. 'Have you two guardians?' Mr.
Nightingale had said.

'O sometimes I mind one, and sometimes I do not!' she
answered, with a laugh.

'Ah, but _which_ one do you mind?' said Mrs. Coles shrewdly. 'Or
do they both pull together? To be sure, that is to be hoped,
for your sake. It is a very peculiar position! And, I should
think, trying. It would be to me.'

'People say there are a good many trying situations in life,'
said Wych Hazel meekly, watching her antagonist. Why did the
lady seem to her such?

'Yes!' said Mrs. Coles with half a sigh. 'And to be young and
rich and gifted with beauty and loaded with admiration, isn't
the worst; if it _is_ trying to enjoy it all between two
guardians. Do they keep you very close, my dear?'

('I think she is a little crazy,' thought the girl. 'No
wonder--with such eyes.'--) 'A dozen could hardly do that,
ma'am, thank you. Makes a more difficult fence to leap, of
course--but when you are used to the exercise--'

Mrs. Coles laughed, a thin peculiar sort of laugh, not
enjoyable to the hearer, though seeming to be enjoyed by the
person from whom it proceeded. She had the air of being
amused.

'Well,' she said, 'I should like to see you leap over fences
of Dane's making. He used to do that for mine sometimes; it
would serve him right. Does he know you do it?'

Unmistakeably, by degrees, Hazel felt her pulses quickening.
There was more in this than mere banter; it was too connected
and full of purpose for insanity. What was it? what dread was
softly creeping towards her; and she could hear only a
breaking twig or a rushing leaf? She must be very wary!

'I have been riding in other directions,' she answered
carelessly. 'And not leaping much at all.'

The laugh just appeared again.

'Of course I do not know, but I fancy, his fences would not be
easy to get over; Dane's, I mean. He was a very difficult boy
to manage. Indeed I cannot say that I ever did manage him. He
would have his own way, and my father always take sides with
him. So everybody. So Primrose. O, Prim won't hear me say a
word against him. And I am not saying a word against him; only
I was very curious to know how he would fill his new office,
and how well you would like it, and how it would all work. It
is quite a romance, really.'

'And it is quite easy to make out a romance where none
exists,' said Miss Kennedy, in a frigid tone.

'My dear! you wouldn't say that your case is not a romance?'
said Mrs. Coles. 'I never knew one equal to it, out of books;
and in them one always thinks the situation is made up. And to
be sure, so is this; only Mr. Kennedy and Dane's father made
it up between them. Don't you call your case a romance?'

'What part of my own case?' said the girl defiantly. If people
had come to this, it was high time to stop them. 'Perhaps if
you will be kind enough to speak more in detail, I may be able
to put you right on several points.'

'My dear!' said Mrs. Coles, again with a surprised and
protecting air, through which the amusement nevertheless
shone. 'Don't you call the terms of the will romantic?'

'What will? and what terms?'--The defiance was in her eyes now.
'I cannot correct details if you keep to generals.'

'Your father's will, my dear; your father's and mother's I
should say, for she added her signature and confirmation. And
I'm sure _that_ was one remarkable thing. It is so uncertain how
boys will grow up.'

'And the romance?' said Wych Hazel. 'Will you tell me what
version of it you have heard?'

'Why, my dear, you know Dane is your guardian, don't you?'

The girl's heart gave a bound--but that could wait; just now
there was other business on hand.

'Well,' she said, 'is that the opening chapter? What comes
next? I cannot review in part.'

'But didn't you know that, my dear? Did they keep it from
you?'

Wych Hazel laughed,--Mrs. Coles was too much a stranger to her
to know how,--and took out her watch. 'I must go in ten
minutes,' she said,--'and I do want to hear this "romance,"
first. One's private affairs get such fresh little touches
from strange hands! Just see what a heading for your next
chapter, Mrs. Coles,--"_N.B._ The heroine did not know herself."
Will it take you more than ten minutes?' she added,
persuasively.

'If you didn't know, Primrose will be very angry with me,'
said the lady, not seeming terrified, by the way,--'and Dane
will be fit to take my head off. I had better go away before
he comes.'

'Why, he is not your guardian too, is he?' said the girl,
mockingly. 'That would prove him a man of more unbounded
resources than even I had reason to suppose.'

'No,' said Prudentia, 'it was the other way. I was his once,
practically. Not legally of course. That was my father. But do
tell me--_have_ I done something dreadful in telling you this?'

'I'll tell you things when you have told me,' said Wych Hazel.
'No cross-examination can go on from both sides at once. But I
have only nine minutes now; so your part of the fun, Mrs.
Coles, will be cut short, I foresee.'--Certainly Mrs. Coles
might well be puzzled. But Wych Hazel had met with her match.

'My dear,' the lady returned, 'what do you want me to say? If
you know about the will--that is what I was thinking of, I
don't want to say anything I should not say. I didn't know but
you knew.'

'And I didn't know but you _didn't_ know,' said Miss Kennedy,
feeling as nearly wild as anybody well could. 'If you do not,
and I do, it is just as well, I daresay.' And she rose up and
crossed the room to an open window from which she could speak
to her groom, Lewis, in the distance, ordering up her horse.
Mrs. Coles had a good view of her as she went and returned,
steady, erect, and swift.

'My dear,' said the lady with that same little laugh, 'I know
all about it, and did twelve years ago. You have nothing to
tell me--except how the plan works. About that, I confess, I
was curious.'

'O I shall not tell you that, Mrs. Coles, unless I hear
exactly what you suppose the plan to be. Exactness is very
important in such cases. And, by-the-by, you must be the lady
of whom Mr. Rollo has spoken to me several times,' said Wych
Hazel, with a sudden look.

'Has he? What did he say?'

'Several things. But my horse is coming. Do you think Mr.
Rollo would really object to our discussing the "romance"
together?'

Was it cunning or instinct in Wych Hazel? Mrs. Coles answered
with a significant chuckle, but added--'My dear, you know he
has money enough of his own.'

'Has he?' said Hazel, seeming to feel the lava crack under her
feet, and expecting every moment a hot sulphur bath.

'So of course he is not to be supposed to want any more.
Didn't you know he was rich?'

'Never thought about it, if I did.'

'No, I suppose not. But if you never thought about it, nor
about him,--I declare! it _is_ hard that he should have the
disposal of you and all you've got. Rich! his father was rich,
and his money has been growing and growing all these years. I
daresay he'll not be a bad master,--but yet, it's rather a hard
case, _if_ you never thought of him.'

Wych Hazel was silent a moment, as if thinking.

'What was the exact wording of the will, Mrs. Coles? Do you
remember?'

'Wording? I don't know about wording, the lawyers curl their
words round so, and plait them together; but the sense I know
well enough; the terms of the will. It made a great impression
upon me; and then seeing Dane for so many years, and knowing
all about it, I couldn't forget it. This was the way of it.
You know your father, and your mother, and Dane's father were
immense friends?'

She paused, but Wych Hazel gave her no help.

'So they struck up this plan between them, when Mr. Kennedy
knew he was ill and wouldn't ever be well again, and that his
wife would not long outlive him. You were put under that old
gentleman's guardianship,--I forget his name at this minute,
but you know it well enough,--Mr. Falkirk! that was it. You
were to be under Mr. Falkirk's guardianship, and Dane was to
be the ward of my father; and so it was, you know. But when he
arrived at the age of twenty-five, upon making certain
declarations formally, before the proper persons, Dane, the
will appointed, should be joint guardian with Mr. Falkirk, and
look after you himself.'

Mrs. Coles paused and surveyed her auditor; indeed she had
been doing that all along. And perhaps people of her sort are
moved from first to last by a feeling akin to that which
possessed the old Roman world, when men were put to painful
deaths at public and private shows to gratify a critical
curiosity which observed how they conquered pain or succumbed
under it. Mrs. Coles paused.

'But I haven't told you,' she went on with a look as sharp as
a needle, 'I haven't told you yet the substance of the
declaration Dane was to make, to enable him to take his
position. He was to declare, that it was his wish and purpose
to make you his wife. Upon that understanding, with the
approbation of Mr. Falkirk and my father, the thing was all to
be fixed, as I told you. Then you would be between two
guardians. And if you, up to the age of twenty-five, married
any one else, against their joint consent, your lands and
properties were to pass away from you to him, except a certain
provision settled upon you for life. And,' said Mrs. Coles,
with another chuckle, 'I wanted to know how it feels.'

Had an arrow or a bullet gone through her? or was it only the
hot iron burning in those words? Hazel did not know. The one
coherent thought in the girl's mind, was that a dying
standard-bearer will sometimes bring away his colours. She
brought off hers.

'I see but two mistakes,' she said, forcing herself to speak
slowly, clearly. 'But I daresay either Mr. Rollo or Mr.
Falkirk can point them out, any time. I must go. Good
afternoon.'

She was gone--Mrs. Coles hardly knew by which way. The next
minute Dr. Maryland's study door that looked on the garden
swung back, and Wych Hazel stood by his side. Outside were
Lewis and Jeannie Deans. Her eyes were in a glitter,--the
Doctor could see nothing else.

'Sir,' she said, laying her hand on his book in her
eagerness,--'excuse me,--Is this story that Mrs. Coles tells,
true?'

In utter astonishment, gentle, wondering, benignant, the
Doctor looked up at her.

'Hazel? What is the matter? Sit down, my dear, if you want to
speak to me.'

She moved a few steps off, as if afraid of being held. 'Is
this true, Dr. Maryland, that she says about me----and----Mr.
Rollo?' The words half choked her, but she got them out. 'The
will?--don't you know?--you must know! Is it true?'

'What are you talking of, Hazel? Sit down, my dear. Prudentia?
What has she been talking to you about? I hope--'

'My father's will,--does she know?' Hazel repeated.

'Your father's will?--Prudentia?--Has she been talking to you of
that! My dear, that was not necessary. It was not needful that
you should hear anything about it; not now. I am sorry.
Prudentia must have forgotten herself!' Dr. Maryland looked
seriously disturbed.

'You do not tell me!' cried the girl. 'Dr. Maryland, is it
true, what she says?'

'I do not know what she has said, my dear. But you need not be
troubled about it. It was a kind will, and I think on the
whole a wise one,--guarded on every side. What has Prudentia
said to you, Hazel?' The Doctor spoke with grave authority
now.

To which Miss Kennedy replied characteristically. She had
caught up the words as he went on,--'not needful she should
know,'--'she need not be troubled,'--then it was true! Everybody
knew it except herself; everybody was doubtless also wondering
how it felt! For a second she looked straight into her old
friend's face, trying vainly to find a negative there, and
then without a word she was off. And if Lewis had been called
upon to bear witness, he might have said that his young
mistress flew into the saddle, and then flew home.


CHAPTER XXXI.

WHOSE WILL?


A great new sorrow is a many-cornered thing; having its sharp
points that sting, and its jagged points that wound; with
others so dull and heavy and immoveable that one is ready to
wish they could pierce through and make an end. And it is
quite impossible to tell beforehand on which of them we may
happen to strike first.

Wych Hazel tried them all on her way home; but when that last
one came, it stayed; and through all the sharpness of the
others--through anger and mortification and the keen sense of
injury, and the fiery rebellion against control--the moveless
weight upon her breast was worse than all. What was it? What
laid it there? Not much to look at. A poor little plant, cut
down and fallen--that was all. Nobody knew when it started, and
no one could say that it would ever bloom: it had been
doubtful and shy of its own existence, and she herself had
never guessed it was there, till suddenly its fragrance was
all around. And even now, wilted and under foot, it was
sweeter than everything else; sweeter than even its own self
had ever been before. Yes; of all the bitter truths she had
heard that day, this that she said to herself was the one
supreme: Gyda's words of expectation would never be made good.

'Never,' she repeated. 'Never, never!'--and it seemed to Hazel
that in all her lonely life she had never before known what it
was to feel alone.

_This_ then explained all his wonderful care of her,--of course;
it was part of his legal duty. She should learn to hate him
now, she knew. Very likely he found it amusing as well! It
must be rather spicy work to a man loving power, to manage a
wild girl and her estate together--and with that Miss Kennedy's
resolution took a vehement turn. And _this_ was why Mr. Falkirk
had been so easy--and why--and why-- At which point thoughts and
breath got in an utter tangle, and she had to begin all over
again.

He could not wait to be guardian till she gave him
permission.--'Well for him!' said Miss Hazel, with a gesture of
her head. And then if she married anybody else without his
leave--and she would have to ask his leave!--Would she?--not
quite, the girl thought to herself. Neither in great things
nor in small would he be troubled _much_ in that way. Very
generous of him to declare his purpose--of--of-- And here
suddenly thoughts flew off to Gyda's soft-spoken title for
her,--words that bore yet their freight of shame and pleasure,
for Hazel's head went down. She brought herself back sharply.

_Very_ nice of him to tell other people what he meant to do!--of
course _her_ purposes in that line were of small moment, if she
had any. Things would run in this style now, she supposed:
'Thank you, Mr. May,--I will ask Mr. Falkirk; and if he
approves I will ask Mr. Rollo--if I can find him, for he is
generally away. And if _he_ says yes, I can go.'

No visitors saw her that day;--and Mr. Falkirk had his
breakfast alone, watched over by Mrs. Bywank. 'Miss Wych had a
headache,'--which was extremely likely, as she had cried all
night. But after that the world of Chickaree went on as usual,
to all outward appearance.

Some weeks had passed over since the ride to Morton Hollow,
when one afternoon Rollo's bay again walked up to the side
entrance of the Chickaree house. The few days of his intended
absence had been lengthened out by the wearisome delays of
business, so that that morning had seen the young gentleman
but just home. In the course of a private interview with Dr.
Maryland he had received some disagreeable information.

'By the way, Dane,' said Dr. Maryland relunctantly, 'I have
bad news for you.'

'What is it, sir?'

'At least it is not good. How bad it may be I can't tell.
Hazel has heard all about--what she shouldn't have heard!--the
terms of the will and the whole story.'

A flash of very disagreeable surprise crossed the young man's
face. He was silent.

'It seems Prudentia told her,' Dr. Maryland went on, uneasily.
'I don't understand how she could be so thoughtless; but so it
is. Hazel was very much excited by what she heard.'

'Naturally! You saw her?'

'For a minute. She came to me to know if it was true; but she
did not stay after that.'

No remark from the opposite party.

'I'm very sorry about it,' continued the old gentleman. 'I'm
afraid--I was afraid, it might make you trouble, Dane.
Prudentia is much to blame.'

Dane answered nothing. He wrung his late guardian's hand by
way of acknowledging his sympathy, and left the study.

'I had almost caught my bird!' was his thought, pretty
bitterly realized,--'and this woman has broken my snares. It
isn't the first time!'

He saw, he thought he saw, the whole character and extent of
the mischief that had been done. He knew Wych Hazel; he could
guess at the bound of revulsion her spirit would make at
several points in the narrative that had been told her. He
knew Prudentia; he could fancy that the details lost nothing
in the giving.

But the steadiness, not of feeling, but of nerves and
judgment, which was characteristic of him, kept his eyesight
clear even now. He did not fall into Wych Hazel's confusion of
thoughts and notions; nor did his hunter's instincts fail him.
His game was removed to a distance; _that_ he saw; it might be a
long distance,--and how much patient skill might be called for
before it would be within his grasp again it was impossible to
guess. There were odds of another hunter catching up the
coveted quarry; other snares might be set, of a less
legitimate nature; other weapons called into play than his
own. There are some natures who do not know how to fail, and
who never do fail in what they set themselves to accomplish.
In spite of disadvantages, Rollo had very much in his favour;
and this peculiar constitution of mind, among other things.

He would go up to Chickaree that same day. Before presenting
himself there, he and the bay horse travelled, I am afraid to
say how many miles in two hours. But nerves and senses were in
their usual condition of excellent soundness, and his temper
in its usual poise, when he turned in at the gate of
Chickaree, and mounted the hill.

Before he quite reached the house, however, Mr. Rollo, being
quick of eye, caught a signal from among the trees down
towards the garden: a woman's hand raised in the fashion of a
Sunday school scholar asking leave to speak. Drawing bridle,
to make sure that he saw right, or to find what this strange
sign might mean, he presently saw little Phoebe of the mill,
who, leaving her basket of muslins on the grass, now came
running towards him. Phoebe's regard for Mr. Rollo, it may be
said, was second only to her devotion to her mistress.

'I hope I'm not taking too much of a liberty, sir,' she began,
all out of breath with eagerness and running, 'but I said to
myself maybe Mr. Rollo would know what to do. For I'm sure
Miss Hazel must be very sick,--and nobody takes a bit of
notice.'

The inner pang with which this advice was received did not at
all appear. Rider and horse were motionless, and the answer
was a grave--

'Why do you think so, Phoebe?'

'May I tell you all about it, sir?' said the girl, earnestly.
Then without waiting for permission--'I never have told a
living soul, Mr. Rollo; for Mrs. Bywank she shuts me up with:
"Do your work Phoebe, and don't talk;" and so I have, sir,
always. It was one day after a ride--for she's had the
beautifullest horse, sir!--since you've been away, I guess; and
she'd ride every morning before breakfast, and come home
looking--Well I can't begin to tell!' said Phoebe,
enthusiastically. 'But Reo said it was the flush of the
morning going through his gate.'

The bay lifted up one foot and struck it impatiently on the
ground. His rider sat still, waiting upon Phoebe's words. The
reins were on the horse's neck, but the creature probably had
made up his mind that any volunteer extra steps were
unnecessary under his new master, for he stood like a rock,
that one foot excepted.

'So,' said Phoebe, taking up her broken thread, 'of course
Jeannie Deans (that's the horse, Mr. Rollo) began to love her,
might and main, right off--as everybody does; but even Mr.
Lewis allowed he never saw a horse learn so quick. And it
isn't often he allows anything,' said Phoebe, with the
slightest toss of her head. 'It wasn't for sugar,--sometimes
Miss Hazel would give her a lump, but generally not; only
she'd pat her and talk to her, and look in her face, and then
Jeannie'd look right at her, and begin to follow round if Miss
Hazel just held out her hand. Some days she'd come all the way
up from the lodge just so,--not holding the bridle nor
nothing,--the prettiest sight you ever saw, sir! She didn't
call her Jeannie, either,--it was some short, queer name that I
never did quite hear, she'd say it so softly. Most like a
bird's talk, of anything.' Phoebe paused, smiling at the
remembrance.

It was well her hearer's nerves were in training. He waited,
knowing that he should best get the whole by allowing the yarn
to reel off unbroken; so now he only gave utterance to an
attentive 'But what next, Phoebe?'

'O, sir,' said the girl, suddenly sober again, 'one day--I
didn't know where she'd been, Miss Hazel, I mean,--but it was
afternoon, and she was coming home. And I was out under the
trees like to-day, taking in. And Miss Hazel stopped and sent
Lewis back, and came on alone to the steps, sir,--came like the
wind!--and jumped off. And then she off with her glove--and you
know what Miss Hazel's hand is, sir,--and the little white
thing began to fondle Jeannie Deans. Patting her neck, and
stroking her face, and combing out her mane, and fingering her
ears; and Jeannie she held her head down, and sideways, as if
she meant to give all the help _she_ could. And I was looking
on, just among the bushes like, when all in a minute Miss
Hazel put both her arms right round the horse's neck and laid
her head close down--and there she stood.'--Phoebe paused to
take breath.

'Not ill _then_, Phoebe?' said her hearer, in a very low tone.

'O, I don't know, sir!' answered Phoebe, her honest eyes all
in a flush. 'I don't know! For just as I ran up to see, Mr.
Lewis he came back; and the minute Miss Hazel heard, she was
off and away up the steps and into he house, and didn't even
wait to see if Lewis had found her handkerchief. But, Mr.
Rollo, she's never been to ride since that day; not once. And
sometimes when she looks round sudden, her eyes'll shine till
they frighten you!' And Phoebe wiped her own eyes with the
corner of her apron, and looked up for aid and comfort.

'But Phoebe,'-- and Collingwood here made an impatient movement
rather suddenly and had to be brought back to his business--
'what is the evidence of the _illness_ you speak about?'

'Nothing else ever kept her from riding, Mr. Rollo. And she
don't eat--not three bits, sometimes,--only she 'lucinates Mr.
Falkirk so that he don't know. And when there's lots and lots
of grand company just gone, Miss Hazel will come walking up
stairs 'most like one step at a time. There's no flying up and
down in the house now, sir. And if you could only once see her
eyes, Mr. Rollo! And you know how she used to sing every five
minutes?--well, she don't do _that_,' said Phoebe, with closing
emphasis.

'Thank you, Phoebe,' said the gentleman at last, 'I am very
much obliged to you. I will see what is best to be done.' And
with a kind nod to the girl he left her. But Collingwood
walked every step of the way from there to the door of the
house. Dingee answered the first summons, also showing his
teeth with pleasure at sight of Mr. Rollo; and ushering him
in, darted away on his errand. But Dingee presently returned,
more thoroughly taken aback than often befel him.

'Can't make it out, 'xactly, sir,' he said, hesitating. 'Fact
is, it's drefful hard work to 'member messages,--sight easier
made 'em up! But Missee Hazel say, Mas Rollo--_thought_ she say--
please 'scuse her dis afternoon. 'Pears like dat ar' headache
done come back,' said Dingee, in his bewilderment. 'He been on
hand, powerful!'

'I daresay you delivered the message quite right, Dingee,'
said the gentleman, not at all surprised at its tenor; and
giving the boy something to justify the showing of his ivories
again, he went away And the bay walked every step of the road
down the hill through the woods to the gates of Chickaree; but
from there he went in a long straight gallop home.


CHAPTER XXXII.

CAPTAIN LANCASTER'S TEAM.


It was between eight and nine o'clock one evening, two or
three days later, when Mr. Rollo was informed that some one
wanted to speak to him. It was Reo Hartshorne.

'Very glad to see you home, sir,' said Reo earnestly; he was a
man of few words. 'I beg pardon--but are you going to the
Governor's to-night, Mr. Rollo?'

'Powder? No.'

'I have just come from taking Miss Wych,' said Reo, 'and met
Lewis, and heard you were home. Mr. Rollo,--do you know that a
four-in-hand party goes from Governor Powder's to-night at ten
o'clock?'

'I have but lately got home, Reo, and so have not heard quite
all the news. But I have nothing to do with the four-in-hand
club.'

'Miss Wych bade me come for her at eleven,' said Reo, going
straight to his point. 'And as she went in, Mr. Nightingale's
man laughed and said I'd better not lose my time. Eleven to-
morrow would be bearer the mark. And I might have told Mr.
Falkirk, sir,--but you were nearer by, and--a trifle quicker. So
I came. They're to stop at Greenbush for supper. And if some
of those young men come out as fit to drive as they went in,
it'll be something they never did before.'

'You came back this way,--with the carriage?'

'Yes, Mr. Rollo.'

'How do the horses go?'

'First-rate, sir. Want nothing but using.'

'Who is with you? Dingee or Lewis?'

'Lewis.'

'You are not fit to be up all night, Reo. I will take Lewis,
and drop you at Chickaree as we pass.'

'Fit to do anything for my little lady, Mr. Rollo. And I know
the horses.'

'Very well. Go into the kitchen and get some refreshment. Tell
Lewis Miss Maryland and I are going out in the carriage, and
we will leave him at Chickaree. I will be ready in fifteen
minutes.'

And in fifteen minutes Primrose had been apprized of the
service required of her, was ready, and the party set out.

To Greenbush, round by Chickaree, was a drive of twenty miles
or more; from Valley Garden it was something less. The road
was quiet enough at that hour, winding through a level part of
the country, lying white and still in the unclouded moonlight;
and Greenbush was reached in due time. The place was little
more now than one of those old taverns to be found on any
stage route, with its settlement of out-buildings; but the
present keeper of the house was an adept, and his suppers were
famous. The tavern, however, unlike most of its class, stood
in a patch of rather thick woodland, and boasted a high
surrounding fence and great gates at either entrance, having
been once a grand mansion. House and gateways were all alight
now, and the winding approach through the trees was hung with
swinging lamps. But the entrances were guarded.

'No carriage admitted till the four-in-hands come in!' said
the men on duty.

On foot, however, privately and humbly, the gentleman and lady
were allowed entrance. Rollo secured a comfortable room, with
some difficulty, and also ordered and obtained supper, not
without scruples and grumbles, all the strength of the house
being enlisted in the interests of the coming guests;
nevertheless money will do everything; and coffee, cold
chicken and bread and butter were served in tolerable style.
It availed only for outward circumstances of comfort, for poor
Rosy was extremely nervous and troubled in mind; very anxious
for Rollo, very discomfited on account of Wych Hazel, very
doubtful of the part she herself was to play. Rollo himself
was--the red squirrel.

Leaving Rosy with a kind admonition not to worry herself, and
to take some bread and chicken, he went out again to see that
the carriage was drawn up properly out of the way and Reo's
refreshment cared for; and then he took post himself in the
shadow of a clump of firs to wait for the expected revellers.

'Pity the lady hadn't stayed too, sir,' said one of the men.
'They'll be along just now. There's more of 'em down than
common, this year, they tell me, and it'll be a show.'

Other people thought so too, evidently, for vehicles of
various sorts, and people to match, began to gather along the
road, till all the space about the entrance-way was well
lined. An expectant, rather noisy, crowd, a good deal in the
interests of horseflesh but with a certain portion also of
interest in gay men and women.

'There they come!'--cried a boy high up in one of the trees;
but at first it was only a quiet coach with two horses,
Governor Powder's own, and at once admitted. Then there was
another pause--and at last down came the four-in-hands, with
flashing lamps, and harness that glittered all over in the
moonlight, and the fine in-time harmony of the horses' hoof-
beats. There was singing too, from some of the turn-outs,--
glees and choruses came in a faint wild mingling that rose and
fell and changed with the changes of the road.

'Captain Lancaster's ahead!' said one of the men.

'No--it's Richard May.'

'See for yourself, then,' said the other, as the first superb
four-in-hand came up; the horses shining almost like their own
harness, the drag in the newest style of finish, and with
every seat full. A young officer in undress uniform was on the
box, and by his side sat Wych Hazel. There was time for but a
look as the drag swept round the turn--just time to see who it
was, and that she wore no bonnet, but instead a sort of
Spanish drapery of black lace, and that his horses gave
Captain Lancaster so little concern that Miss Kennedy had
nearly all his attention,--then the vision was gone. Not
singing, these two, but the spectators heard her sweet laugh.
Flashing past, followed by another and another though not all
of equal style. The looker-on in the shade of the fir trees
just noticed that Kitty Fisher drove the second,--just caught
other familiar voices as they flew by.

There is no doubt but Miss Kennedy's younger guardian felt
there was a hard task upon him that night. Out of all the
glamour and glitter, the brilliance and beauty of such an
entertainment, he must be the one to take her, and substitute
an ignominious quiet progress home in her own carriage for the
fascination and excitement of Captain Lancaster's driving, and
Captain Lancaster's--and many others'--homage. And, worse yet,
the authority which he guessed well enough the little lady
rebelled against more than against any other point in the
arrangement that had displeased her, must here find in its
exercise. However, well as he knew the bad move it was for his
own game, Mr. Rollo was not a man to shirk difficult tasks.
Neither was he so unpractised a hunter as to conclude that any
move that _must_ be made, is a bad move. He knew better. So,
though he looked grave certainly as he walked back to the
house, he walked alertly, like a man ready for business.

He was not in a hurry. He gave time to the first confusion to
subside, and for people to get quiet in their places; in so
far, that is, as comparative quiet might be predicated of any
point of that gay evening. Evening indeed! The moon was riding
high in the zenith; it was between twelve and one o'clock.
Rollo walked the floor, and Primrose, miserable and anxious,
looked at him, and dared not say one word. Would Hazel break
friendship with her forever? and kindness with Rollo? And how
could Dane dare as he dared!

When supper was just about to be served, one of the attendants
entered the room where the party was gathered, asking if Miss
Kennedy was there. A lady and gentleman wanted to see Miss
Kennedy. The message in due course of time worked round to the
young lady.

'Have you got any friends in these parts?' said Josephine
Powder laughing. It was the way of the entertainment; nothing
was said without laughing.

'Must you go?' said Stuart Nightingale.

'Another trick of Kitty Fisher's,' said Wych Hazel. 'That
mysterious "lady and gentleman" again! You know they sent my
carriage away once. O yes, I will go and see what mischief is
on foot, and be back in a minute.'

The room where Rollo and Prim were waiting was down at one end
of the hall; and, dimly lighted as it was, in comparison with
the rest of the house, it seemed almost dark. They could see
her come down the hall, three or four gentlemen following; and
she sending them back with laughing words and glances thrown
over her shoulder.

'Now stop just where you are,' she said, turning round. 'I go
into the darkness alone, or the charm will be broken.'

And on she came with her airy tread, and was well in the room
before she saw anybody, and a servant had shut the door. Then
the change on her face was pitiful to see. In the excitement
of the drive and other things that night, she had evidently
forgotten for the time her new trouble. It came back now on
the instant, and for one quick moment she put up her hand to
her forehead as if with sudden pain. Then crossed both hands
upon her breast, and looked down, and stood still.

Rollo quitted the room. Primrose came to Wych Hazel's side and
threw her arms around her.

'It's only I, dear Hazel,' she said in tones of mingled
trouble and tenderness.

Miss Kennedy disengaged herself, not roughly but decidedly,
holding Primrose off, and looking at her.

'What is the matter?' she said. 'Is Mr. Falkirk ill?'

'No, dear.'

'Who then?' said Wych Hazel. 'Prim, never kill people by
degrees.'

'Nobody's ill--nobody! There is nothing the matter with
anybody, Hazel--except you. I've come to take care of you,
dear.'

'Did you?' said the girl. 'I think you want some one to take
care of you, by your looks. But I am rather too busy just now
to read essays on sentiment,--that can wait.' She moved towards
the door; but Primrose made a spring and caught her.

'Wait!--Hazel, you haven't heard what I wanted to say to you.
Don't be angry with me! O dear Hazel, do you know what sort of
times these four-in-hand people make down here?'

'I intend to find out.'

'But they are not fit for you, Hazel, indeed: it is not a fit
place for you to be. Hazel, they are often tipsy when they
drive home. Papa wouldn't let me be in such a place and ride
with them, for anything. How come you to be here?'

Hazel freed herself again with impatient haste.

'Let go of me!' she said. 'The man who drives _me_ home will be
sober. I will not hear any more.'

'Listen, Hazel, listen!' cried Prim, clinging to her. 'O do
not be angry with me! But you ought not be here; and Duke will
not let you stay, dear. We have brought the carriage to take
you home.'

Prim never could tell afterwards what sort of a look or what
sort of a sound answered that; what she did know was that Wych
Hazel was at the door and had it open in her hand. Prim's
gentleness, however, on this occasion was no bar to energetic
action; with another spring _she_ was at the door and had taken
it from Wych Hazel's hand, had shut it, and set her back
against it; all too suddenly and determinately to leave chance
for prevention.

'Hazel, dear, listen to me. You ought not be here, and Duke
will not let you. He has come to take you home, and he brought
me with him because he thought it would be nicer for you. And
he thought you would rather see me than him; but if you won't
listen to me, I must call him. He will not let you stay,
Hazel, and Duke always is right. But he thought you would like
better to go quietly off with me than to have any fuss made,
and all these people knowing about it and everybody talking.
Wouldn't it be nicer to go quietly without any one knowing why
you go?'

It was indescribable the way in which Miss Kennedy repeated
the word 'nice!' Then she spoke collectedly.

'Prim, I do not want to call in any of my friends--but I
declare I will, if you do not move away!'

'Must I call Duke?' said Prim, despairingly keeping her place.

'If you want him'--said Miss Kennedy, turning now towards the
bell. As the young lady faced about again, after pulling the
bell rope, she was confronted by her unwelcome guardian, just
before her.

It is almost proverbially known that the meeting of contrasts
is apt to have a powerful influence on one side or the other;
unless indeed the opposing forces are, what rarely happens, of
equal weight. What met Wych Hazel as she looked at him was
power--not of physical strength; the power of high breeding,
which is imposing as well as graceful; and also the power of a
perfectly unmoved self-possession. While there was at the same
time a winsome, gentle look, that she could hardly see in her
agitation, the spirit of which she could partly feel in the
voice that spoke to her. Neither cloud nor frown nor
discomposure of any sort was in it. He bowed, and then held
out his hand.

'Are you angry with me?' he said. 'With me, if anybody. Not
Prim.'

In the vagaries of human nature all things are possible. And
it is undoubted that in the first flash of eyes which greeted
Mr. Rollo there was mingled a certain gleam of fun. Whether
the prospect of a tilt had its excitements--whether she was
curious to see how he would carry his new office,--there it
was. But then the eye shadows grew deep and dark. She drew
back a little, not giving her hand; making instead a somewhat
formal courtesy.

'I was called here, it seems, to await your commands, Mr.
Rollo. May I have them, if they are ready?'

'They are not ready,' he answered, in a very low tone. 'Let
Miss Wych Hazel give commands to herself,--and be loyal and
true in her obedience to them.'

'I have given myself a good many since I have been in this
room,' said the girl, proudly. 'If I had not I should not be
here now.'

'Will you sit down?'

'Thank you--no. Unless we are to spend the rest of the night in
quiet conversation.'

'Then we will make the conversation short. Miss Hazel, the
company and the occasion you came to grace to-night are
unworthy of the honour.'

He paused for a reply, but, as none came, he went on:

'You do not know it now, but in the mean time I know it; and I
must act upon my knowledge. I have come to take you home.
Cannot you trust me, that I would not--for much--do anything so
displeasing to you, without good reason?'

'You men are so fond of being "trusted!" ' she said--quietly,
though there was some bitterness in the tone--'it is almost a
wonder it never occurs to you that a woman might like it too!
I know every one of the carriage party with whom I came. And
that I did not ask Mr. Falkirk's leave before I left home was
only because I did not know that I should need it.' But with
that came a quick painful blush, as suddenly remembering other
leave that must now be asked.

'I believe you may be trusted thoroughly, so far as your
knowledge goes,' he answered, gravely. Then waited a moment
and went on.

'You have had no supper. Will you take some refreshment before
we set out upon our return journey?'

She stood, leaning against the wall, not looking at anything
but the floor--and not seeing that;--as still as if she had not
heard him. Thinking--what was she thinking?--Then suddenly stood
up and answered.

'I can but obey. May I ask you to wait five minutes?--Stand
away, Prim, and let me pass.'

But he stayed her.

'It is better not to set people's tongues at work. I have sent
a message to the Miss Powders, to the effect that Miss Kennedy
had been suddenly summoned home, and making your excuses. As
from yourself. No name but yours appeared.'

If there was any one thing he had done which tried her almost
unbearably, it was that! There was a sort of quiet despair in
the way she turned from him and the door together, and took
the chair she had refused, and sat waiting. Rollo brought her
silently a cup of coffee and a plate with something to eat,
but both were refused.

'Are you ready, Prim?'

Primrose nervously put on her bonnet, which she had with
nervous unrest taken off; and Rollo offered his arm to Wych
Hazel.

'Let me go by myself,' she said--again not roughly, but as if
she could not help it. 'I am not going to run away.'

'In that case it is certainly not the arm of a jailor,' said
he, stooping down by her and smiling.

But the words, or the look, or something about them, very
nearly got the better of Wych Hazel's defences, and her eyes
flushed with tears.

'No--no,' she said under her breath. 'I will follow. Go on.'

'Certainly not _me_,' he answered. 'Go you with Prim, and I will
follow.'

One before and one behind!--thought the girl to herself,
comparing the manner of her entrance. She went on, not with
Prim, but swiftly ahead of her, and put herself in the
carriage, as she had brought herself out of the house. Prim
followed. Rollo mounted the box and took the reins, and,
having fresh horses from the inn, they drove off at a smart
pace. And Hazel, laying one hand on the sill of the open
window, leaned her head against the frame, and so, wrapped in
her black lace, sat looking out, with eyes that never seemed
to waver. Into the white moonshine,--which soon would give way
before the twilight 'which should be dawn and a to-morrow.'

For a long time Primrose bore this, thinking hard too on her
part. For she had much to think of, in connection with both
her companions. She was hurt for Rollo; she was grieved for
Wych Hazel; was there anything personal and private to herself
in her vexation at the needlessness of the trouble which was
affecting them? If there were, Primrose did not look at it
much. But it seemed very strange in her eyes that any one
should rebel against what was, to her, the honey sweetness of
Dane's authority. Strange that anything he disliked, should be
liked by anybody that had the happiness of his care. And
strange beyond strangeness, that this girl should slight such
words and looks as he bestowed upon her. Primrose knew how
deep the meaning of them was; she knew how great the grace of
them was; could it be possible Wych Hazel did not know? One
such word and look would have made her happy for days; upon a
few of them she could have lived a year. So it seemed to her.
She did not wish that they were hers; she did not repine that
they were another's; she only thought these things. But there
were other thoughts that came up, as a sigh dismissed the
foregoing.

'Hazel!--' she ventured gently, when half of the way was done.

Hazel's thoughts had been so far away that she started.

'What?' she said hastily.

'May I talk to you, just a little bit?'

'O yes,--certainly. Anybody may do anything to me.' But she
kept her position unchanged. 'I am listening, Prim.'

'Hazel, dear, are you quite sure you are doing right?'

'About what?'

'About-- Please don't take it ill of me, but it troubles me,
Hazel. About this sort of life you are leading.'

'This sort of life?' Hazel repeated, thinking over some of the
days last past. 'Much you know about it!'

'I do not suppose I do. I cannot know much about it,' said
Primrose meekly. 'All _my_ way of life has been so different.
But do you think, Hazel, really, that there is not something
better to do with one's self than what all these gay people
do?'

'I think you are a great deal better than I am--if that will
content you.'

'Why should it content me?' said Primrose, laughing a little.
'I do not see anything pleasant in it, even supposing it were
true.'

'There is some use in training you,' Hazel went on; 'but no
amount of pruning would ever bring me into shape.' And with
that, somehow, there came up the thought of a little sketch,
wherein her hat swung gayly from the top of a rough hazel
bush; and with the thought a pain so keen, that for the moment
her head went down upon her hands on the window-sill.

Primrose was silent a few moments, not knowing just how to
speak.

'But Hazel,' she began, slowly--'all these gay people you are
so much with, they live just for the pleasure of the minute;
and when the pleasure of the minute is over, what remains? I
cannot bear to have you forget that, and become like them.'

'Like them?' said Hazel. 'Am I growing like Kitty Fisher?'

'No, no, no!' cried Primrose. 'You are not a bit like her, not
a bit. I do not mean that; but I mean, dear,--aren't you just
living for the moment's pleasure, and forgetting something
better?'

'Forgetting a good many things, you think.'

'Aren't you, Hazel? And I cannot bear to have you.'

'What am I to remember?' said the girl in a sort of dreamy
tone, with her thoughts on the wing.

'Remember that you have something to do with your life and
with yourself, Hazel; something truly noble and happy and
worth while. I am sure dancing-parties are not enough to live
on. Are they?'

'No.'

Perhaps Primrose thought she had said enough; perhaps she did
not know how to choose further words to hit the girl's mood.
She was patiently silent. Suddenly Hazel sat up and turned
towards her.

'You poor little Prim!' she said, laying gentle hands on her
shoulders and a kiss on each cheek,--'whirled off from your
green leaves on a midnight chase after witches! This was one
of Mr. Rollo's few mistakes: he should have come alone.'

'Should he?' said Primrose, wondering. 'But it wouldn't have
been so good for you, dear, would it?'

'Prim'--somewhat irrelevantly--'did you ever have a thorn in
your finger?'

'What do you mean?' Primrose answered in just bewilderment.

'Well I have two in mine.' And Miss Kennedy went back to the
window and her world of moonlight. She did not wonder that the
Indians reckoned their time by 'moons;' she was beginning to
check off her own existence in the same way. In one moon she
had walked home from Merricksdale, in another driven back from
Mrs. Seaton's; and now in this--But then her head went down
upon the window-sill once more, nor was lifted again until the
carriage was before the steps of Chickaree.

'Dane,' said Primrose, as the two were parting in the dusky
hall at home, 'she will never get over this. Never, never,
never!'

He kissed her, laughing, and giving her hand a warm grasp.

'You are mistaken,' he said. 'She is a more sensible woman
than you giver her credit for.'


CHAPTER XXXIII.

HITS AT CROQUET.


The second day after the four-in-hand club affair, the
following note was brought to Miss Hazel:


'Will you ride with me this afternoon?
'M. O. R.'


And perhaps five words have seldom taken longer to write than
these which he received by return messenger:


'Not to-day. Please excuse me.
'Wych Hazel.'


It happened that invitations were out for a croquet party at
Chickaree; and the day of the party was appointed the third
succeeding these events. Thither of course al the best of the
neighbourhood were invited.

The house at Chickaree stood high on a hill; nevertheless
immediately about the house there was lawn-room enough and
smooth greensward for the purposes of the play. The very fine
old trees which bordered and overshadowed it lent beauty and
dignity to the little green; and the long, low, grey house,
with some of its windows open to the verandah, and the
verandah itself extending the whole length of the building,
with cane garden-chairs and Indian settees hospitably planted,
made a cheery, comfortable background. September was yet
young, and the weather abundantly warm; the sort of weather
when everybody wants to be out of doors. No house in the
country could show a prettier croquet-green than Chickaree
that afternoon.

Mr. Falkirk had mounted the hill in advance of other comers,
and stood surveying the prospect generally from the verandah.

'Who is to be here, Miss Hazel? I am like a bear newly come
out of his winter-quarters--only that my seclusion has been in
the other season of the year.'

'Pray let the resemblance go no further, sir! Who is to be
here?' said Miss Kennedy, drawing on her dainty gloves,--'all
the available people, I suppose. Unless they change their
minds.'

'Have the goodness to enlighten me. _Available people_--available
for what?'

'Croquet--and flirting.'

'If you please-- I understand, I believe, the first term; it
means, to stand on the green and roll balls about among each
other's feet; but what is comprehended in "flirting"?'

'Standing in the air and rolling balls there,' said Miss
Kennedy.

'Ah! Don't people get hit occasionally?'

'Very likely. But they do not tell.'

'Ah! My dear, has anybody hit you?'

'Thank you, sir,--I generally keep on the ground.'

Mr. Falkirk suspended his questions for the space of five
minutes.

'I have not heard of your taking any rides lately,' he began
again.

'No, sir.'

'How comes that?'

'It comes by my refusing to go.'

'Why, my dear?' said her guardian, looking her innocently in
the face.

'Aren't you glad, sir?--How do you do, Mr. Kingsland? Will you
be kind enough to explain to Mr. Falkirk the last code of
flirtation? while I go and give an order?'

'It is the only thing in which Miss Kennedy is not
unsurpassed,--to make my definition short,' said the gentleman,
taking a chair. 'I think she will never learn.'

Primrose Maryland was the immediate next arrival; and she sat
down on the other side of Mr. Falkirk, looking as innocent as
her name. Mr. Falkirk had always a particular favour for
Primrose.

'Did you come alone, my dear?' he incautiously asked; for Mr.
Kingsland was at his other elbow. And Prim knew no better than
to answer according to fact.

'Where is Rollo?'

'I don't know, sir. I suppose he is at home.'

'Doubtless thinking one guardian may suffice--as it is a mere
croquet party,' said Mr. Kingsland smoothly, but with a covert
glance of his eye at Mr. Falkirk. Both Primrose and Mr.
Falkirk glanced at him in return, but his words got no other
recognition, for people began to come upon the scene. And the
scene speedily became gay; everybody arriving by the side
entrance and passing through the broad hall to the front of
the house. Wych Hazel, returned from her errand, came now
slowly through the hall herself with the last arrival.

'I feared you were ill with fatigue,' said a pleasant man's
voice. 'Three times I have called to inquire, and three times
gone away in despair.'

'I was very tired.'

'But what was the matter?' said the gentleman, pausing in the
doorway. 'Some call of sudden illness? a demand upon your
sympathies?'

'Nothing of the kind.'

'How then?' said Captain Lancaster, with an appearance of
great interest. 'One does not lose a pleasure--and such a
pleasure--without at least begging to know why. If it is
permitted. We began to think that the witches must have got
hold of you in that dark room.'

'One did,' said the girl, so gravely that Captain Lancaster
was posed. She knew perfectly well what ears were listening;
but there was something in her nature which always disdained
to creep out of a difficulty; so she stood still, and answered
as he had spoken, aloud.

'O, Miss Kennedy,' cried Molly Seaton, 'that's a fib. Not a
real witch?'

'Pretty genuine, I think,' said Hazel, with her half laugh.

Now there is no way in the world to puzzle people like telling
them the truth. The gentleman and the lady were puzzled.
Stuart Nightingale and half a dozen more came up at the
instant; and the question of the game to be played, for the
time scattered all other questions.

For a while now the little green at Chickaree was a pretty
sight. Dotted with a moving crowd of figures, in gay-coloured
dresses, moving in graceful lines or standing in pretty
attitudes; the play, the shifting of places, the cries and the
laughter, all made a flashing, changing picture, full of life
and full of picturesque prettiness. The interests of the game
were at first absorbing. When a long match had been played,
however, and there was a pause for refreshments, there was
also a chance for rolling balls in the more airy manner Wych
Hazel had indicated.

'What was the matter the other night?' Stuart Nightingale
demanded softly, as he brought the little lady of the house an
ice.

'I could not stay.'

'Summoned home by no disaster?'--

'It was a sort of disaster to me to be obliged to go,' said
Wych Hazel, 'but I found neither earthquake nor volcano at
home.'

'Who came for you, Hazel?' said Phinny Powder, pushing into
the group which was forming. 'I said it was downright wicked
to let you go off so. How did we know but that something
dreadful had got hold of you? I thought they ought all of them
to go in a body and knock the doors down and find out. But
after your message they wouldn't. Who _did_ come for you,
Hazel?'

'Who did?' said Hazel. 'Do you think it could have been the
same parties who once sent away my carriage when I wanted it?'

'No,' said Phinny; 'I know it wasn't. But who _did_ come for
you, Hazel? Nobody knew where you were. And what made you go,
if there was no earthquake at home, as you said?'

'Were you _made_ to go, really?' asked Mme. Lasalle, slyly. 'Has
Josephine hit the mark with a stray arrow?'

'O, of course I was made to go,--or I shouldn't have gone,'
said Wych Hazel lightly. 'My own carriage came for me,
Josephine, and I came home in it. Do you feel any better?'

'No, I don't!' said that young lady boldly, while others who
were silent used their eyes. '_You_ didn't order it, and I just
want to know who did. O, Hazel, I want to ask you--' But she
lowered her voice and glanced round her suspiciously.

'Is it safe? Where is that old Mr.----? do you see him anywhere?
He has eyes, and I suppose he has ears. Hush! I guess it's
safe. Hazel, my dear, _have_ you got two guardians, you poor
creature?'

'Have you only just found that out?' said Hazel, drawing a
little back from the whisper and answering aloud. 'Prim, what
will you have? Mr. May, please bring another ice for Miss
Maryland.'

'Well, I've guessed it all summer,' said Kitty Fisher, putting
her word in now. 'I always knew that when Miss Kennedy turned
round, the Duke turned too, to see what she was looking at.'

If truth be no slander, it is sometimes full as hard to bear.
Wych Hazel eat her own ice for the next two minutes and
wondered what it was.

'Hazel, my dear, you had need to be a saint!' Mme. Lasalle
whispered. 'It is--absolutely--outrageous; something not to be
borne!'

'But the fun of it is,' broke in Kitty again, 'that we all
took it for granted it was mere lover-like devotion! And now,
behold, c'est tout au contraire!'

Since the day of the ride it had been war to the knife with
Kitty Fisher.

'Kitty! Kitty!' said Mr. Kingsland in soft deprecation.

'My dear,' Mme. Lasalle went on mockingly, 'perhaps he would
not approve of your eating so much ice. Hadn't you better take
care?'

'Must we ask him about everything now, before we can have
you?' cried Josephine, in great indignation, quite unfeigned,
though possibly springing from a double root. 'O, was it _he_
came for you to Greenbush?'

But with that Hazel roused herself.

'You had better ask him anything you want answered,' she said.
'I think he has quite a genius that way.'

'What way? O, you know, friends, perhaps, _she likes it_. What
way, Hazel?'

'Does he speak soft when he gives his orders?' said Kitty
Fisher. 'Or does he use his ordinary tone?'

'And oh, Miss Kennedy,' said little Molly Seaton, 'isn't it
_awfully_ nice to have such a handsome man tell you what to do?'

Now Hazel had been at her wits' end, feeling as if there was a
trap for her, whatever she said or did not say. Pain and
nervousness and almost fright had kept her still. But Molly's
question brought things to such a climax, that she burst into
an uncontrollable little laugh, and so answered everybody at
once in the best manner possible. The sound of her laugh
brought back the gentlemen too,--roaming off after their own
ices,--and that would make a diversion.

But it came up again and again. It was to some too tempting a
subject of fun; for others it had a deeper interest; it could
not be suffered to lie still. Wych Hazel's ears could hardly
get out of the sound of raillery, in all sorts of forms; from
the soft insinuation of mischief in a mosquito's song, to the
downright attacks of Kitty Fisher's teeth and Phinny Powder's
claws. The air was full of it at last, to Wych Hazel's fancy;
even the gentlemen, when they dared not speak openly, seemed
in manner or tone to be commiserating or laughing at her.

'The diplomacy of truth!' said Mr. Kingsland to Mr. Falkirk,
as Hazel passed near them with Mme. Lasalle. 'I must believe
in it as a fixed fact,--where it exists! I should judge, by
rough estimate, that Miss Kennedy had been asked about fifty-
five trying questions this day; and in not one case, to my
knowledge, has her answer even clipped the truth. She is a
ninth wonder,--and from that on to the twenty-ninth! With all
her innocence and ignorance--which would not comprehend nine-
tenths of what might be said to her, I do not know the man who
would dare say one word which she should not hear!'--With which
somewhat unusual expression of his feelings Mr. Kingsland took
himself away, leaving Prim and Mr. Falkirk alone on the
verandah.

But it was a rather weary-faced young hostess that wrapped
Prim up, after that, and the lips that kissed her were hot.

Mr. Falkirk went down to his cottage and came back to
breakfast the next morning, without having broached to his
ward several subjects which stirred his thoughts. Finding
himself in the fresh light of the new day, and in the security
of the early morning, seated opposite Miss Hazel at the
breakfast table, with the croquet confusion a thing of the
past, he opened his mind.

'You had no wine yesterday, my dear, I observed.'

'No, sir. As I intended.'

'That is not according to custom--of other people.'

'It is my custom--henceforth,' said Wych Hazel.

'Are the reasons too abstruse for my comprehension?'

The girl looked up at him, her eyes kindling.

'Mr. Falkirk,' she said, 'if ever again a man gets a glass of
wine from my hand, or in my house, I shall deserve to live
that July night all over!'

Mr. Falkirk did not at all attempt to combat this conclusion.
He ate his toast with an extremely thoughtful face for some
minute or two.'

'Suppose, by and by, there should be two words to that
bargain?'

'Then there will be several more, sir,--that is all,' she said
steadily, though her face glowed.

'You mean that you will fight for your position?'

'Inch by inch. Fight for it, and keep it.'

Mr. Falkirk's lips gave way a little, though with what
expression it was impossible to determine.

'To remark that your position will be remarked upon as
peculiar is, I am aware, to make a fruitless expenditure of
words in your hearing, Miss Hazel. But it will not make much
difference what you do, my dear. They will find the article,
in its varieties, at every other house that is open to them.'
Mr. Falkirk was thinking probably of young men.

'Well, sir--I, at least, will have no part in making any man
unfit to speak to a woman.'

Mr. Falkirk ruminated again, and then broke out:

'Why did not Rollo come with Miss Maryland yesterday?'

'I presume, because he did not want to come,--but perhaps you
had better ask him,' said Miss Hazel.

'Why should I ask him?' returned her guardian, looking up at
her. 'Has Mr. Rollo offended you, Miss Hazel?'

'I merely thought you wanted to know, sir. No,' she answered,
to his last question. 'He was invited--if that is what you
mean.'

'I fancied,' said Mr. Falkirk, looking puzzled, 'that in the
general buzz of tongues yesterday--which is fit to confuse
anything with more brains than a mosquito--I heard various
buzzings which seemed to have reference to him. Perhaps I was
wrong. I did not mean to listen, but if a fly gets into your
ear it is difficult not to know it. Was I right, or was I
wrong?'

'Right, I fancy, sir. Mr. Rollo's name is very often upon
people's tongues.'

'What did they mean? What was it about?'

She hesitated a little.

'I daresay your opinion was correct, Mr. Falkirk, as to the
meaning as well as the buzz. It is hardly worth bringing up
again.'

If Mr. Falkirk had any roughness in his manner or in his
composition, he had also and certainly a very gentle side of
it for his ward. He looked at her again and dropped the
subject. But he had got another. He waited a little before
bringing it up.

'Another thing I heard confused my ideas, Miss Hazel. You must
not wonder at me; you know, a bear _just_ out of winter quarters
might well be astonished at coming into a garden full of
crickets, and a little unable to distinguish one song from
another. But it seemed to me that I heard something said--or
alluded to--about your being unwillingly obliged to go home
from somewhere. Can you give me any explanation?'

The pause was longer this time, the colour unsteady. Then she
put both hands up to her forehead, pushing back the dark rings
of hair with an impatient touch, and began, speaking low and
rapidly, but straight to the point.

'I was invited to a garden party at Mrs. Powder's, and after I
got there, found out that the invitation included a four-in-
hand drive to Greenbush. And I went. And Mr. Rollo heard of my
going, and followed me there with Primrose and Reo and the
carriage, and made me come back.'--She had gone on, throwing in
details, as if to prevent their being called for. Now the
scarlet flush with which the last words were spoken faded
away, and she was silent and rather pale.

I suppose Mr. Falkirk had done his breakfast. If not, he lost
the last part of it. For as Wych Hazel stopped speaking he
rose from the table and began to take turns up and down the
room; scowling, it must be confessed, as if he would have
rather liked an excuse to 'pitch into' his co-guardian. He
said nothing for some minutes, and it was not necessary; his
eyebrows were eloquent.

'A four-in-hand party!' he said at last. 'Who got it up?'

'Some of the four-in-hand club.'

'Who are they, Miss Hazel?'

'Mr. May, Captain Lancaster, Dr. Singleton,'--Hazel named over
sundry names that were unknown to Mr. Falkirk.

'He's a bold man!' said Mr. Falkirk, probably not referring to
any member of the club aforesaid. 'I wonder at his impudence.
But, my dear!--a four-in-hand party, and Greenbush at night,--
that was no sort of place for you to be! Do you know how these
parties come home, who go out so bravely?'

'I knew pretty well, sir, how my party would,' said his ward.

'No you didn't. How should you know anything about it? The
young mouse in the fable thought the cat was a very fine
gentleman. Con--found him!' said Mr. Falkirk, stopping short,
'how did he know? Was he at the garden party at the
Governor's?'

'No, sir.'

'Then how did he know where you were?'

'Mr. Rollo seems to be a man who gives close attention to his
duties,'--rather dryly.

'I was the proper person to be applied to,' muttered Mr.
Falkirk. 'I should like to be informed how this came about?'

But Miss Hazel not giving--as indeed she was in no position to
give--any light on this point, Mr. Falkirk walked a little
more, and then brought up with:

'Don't go again, my dear.'

'I am not likely to go often anywhere, at such a risk!' said
Wych Hazel, the tide beginning to overflow again.--'Poor little
me!' she broke out, in a tone that was sorrowful as well as
impatient,--'always in charge of two policemen! Why, you could
almost keep a convict in order with that!' Then in a moment
she sprang up, and coming to her guardian's side laid her hand
on his arm. 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Falkirk! I did not mean it
in any way to hurt you.'

'No, my dear,' said her guardian, gently, laying his hand on
hers. 'I am not hurt. I understand, as I ought, having seen
you twitch yourself out of leading-strings ever since you were
old enough to go. It is rather hard upon you. But how came it
to your knowledge, Hazel?' And Mr. Falkirk looked grave.

'It came--through somebody telling Mrs. Coles what was none of
her business,' said the girl, with more energy than exactness
of wording.

'Who did that?'

'I am sure I don't know, sir. She talks as if she had known it
always.'

'Like enough. And she told you! The whole story, my dear?'
added Mr. Falkirk, gently and softly.

'I hope there is nothing more!' said Hazel, again donning her
scarlet in hot taste.

'Enough and too much!' muttered Mr. Falkirk. 'Poor child! So
the old guardian is better than the young one, my dear?'

'It used to be supposed,' said the girl, dancing off out of
the room, 'that twice one is two. But I am inclined to think
that twice one is six!'--Which was all the satisfaction Mr.
Falkirk got.


CHAPTER XXXIV.

FRIENDLY TONGUES.


Yes, it was very hard for her; much harder than any one knew
but herself. The joke was too striking to be passed by, even
in the case of an ordinary person; but when it was Miss
Kennedy,--heiress, beauty, and queen of favour,--all tongues
took it up. She could go nowhere, wear nothing, do nothing,
without meeting that one subject face to face. Many things
brought it forward. Kitty Fisher of course had exasperation in
her heart; but there were other (supposably) gentle breasts
where even less lovely feelings, of shorter names, found
lodgment. Hazel was condoled with, laughed at, twitted, by
turns; until even Mr. Rollo's name in the distance made her
shrink. Mrs. Coles had not (apparently) made known the
conditions upon which he had assumed his office; but Wych
Hazel was in daily terror lest she would; and as people often
graze the truth which yet they do not know, so hardest of all
to bear just now, were Kitty Fisher's two new names for her:
'the Duchess,' and 'Your Grace.' Most people indeed did not
know their point, ignorant of Prim's pet name for Mr. Rollo;
but Wych Hazel needed no telling; and her face was sometimes a
thing to see.

That was the worst of it!--it _was_ a thing to see. And so, while
now and then one of her special gentlemen friends would
interpose, and draw the strokes upon himself; yet her
delicate, womanly fencing was so pretty, so novel; it was such
sport to watch the little hands turn off and parry Kitty
Fisher's rude thrusts; that few masculine hearts were
unselfish enough to forego it. There were actual wagers out as
to how long 'the Duchess' could carry it on without losing her
temper or clipping the truth; and how soon 'the Fisher' would
get tired and give it up. And as for the tokens in Miss
Kennedy's face sometimes, who that had once seen them did not
watch to see them again? Other people began to take up the new
titles; and Mme. Lasalle made courtesies to 'the Duchess,' and
Stuart Nightingale and Mr. May bowed low before 'her Grace,'
entreating her hand for the quadrille or the promenade.

'And some night he will be standing by and hear them say it!'
thought Wych Hazel to herself. What should she do? Where
should she go?

Since the talk on the drive home from Mme. Lasalle's, the girl
had never set foot in one the round dances. Not that she gave
in to Mr. Rollo's strictures,--how could _she_ be mistaken?--but
because the talk had left an unbearable association about
everything that looked like a round dance. There was the
constant remembrance of the words he had spoken,--there was the
constant fear that he might stand by and think those thoughts
again. Then she had been extremely disgusted with Kitty
Fisher's new figures; and so, on the whole, in the face of
persuasions and charges of affectation, Miss Kennedy could be
had for nothing but reels, country dances, and quadrilles.
Miss Fisher and her set were furious, of course; for all the
gentlemen liked what Miss Kennedy liked: there was no use
talking about it.

If anybody had asked the girl in those weeks before the fancy
ball what she was doing--and why she wanted to do it,--she would
have found it hard to tell. Braving out people's tongues, was
one thing; and plunging into all sorts of escapades because
any day they might be forbidden, was another. A sort of wild
resolving that her young guardian should _not_ feel his power;
and endeavour to prove to him that anybody aspiring to that
office without her leave asked and obtained, was likely to
serve a short term.

'Is it only till you marry, my dear?--or is it for life?' Mme.
Lasalle said, meaningly. And Hazel laughed off an answer, and
set her little foot down (mentally) with tremendous force.
Wouldn't she marry whom she liked--_if_ she liked?

'He proposes to make you his wife'--Mrs. Coles had said. She
would like to know what his 'proposing' had to do with it?--
except, perhaps, as an initiatory step.

It was a new version of _Katharine and Petruchio_,--sneered Kitty
Fisher.

It was a striking instance of disinterested benevolence--in so
young a man! chimed in Mrs. Seaton,--until at last Hazel rushed
into anything that would put a black coat or whirl of white
muslin between her and her tormentors. If she was in truth
running away from herself as well, the confusion was too great
for her to know it just then. The very idea of stopping to
think what he meant and what she meant, frightened her; and
then she ran faster than ever.

Of all this Rollo was but slightly aware. Yet he did guess at
part of it. He had seen too much of both men and women not to
know in a measure what must be the natural effect of
circumstances. And he would have saved Miss Kennedy the worst
of it,--only he could not. He was sometimes at the
entertainments where she met so much exasperation, and saw
from a distance as it were the wild whirl of her gaiety.
Perhaps he guessed at the meaning of that too. But he was only
a man, and he could not be sure. He never asked her to dance
himself, and never joined a quadrille or reel when she was one
of the set. And that is nearly tantamount to saying he did not
dance at all. For reels and quadrilles were very much out of
favour, and rarely adopted except just for Miss Kennedy. And
in truth Mr. Rollo in this state of affairs chose to be only
now and then seen at evening entertainments. When there he was
rather Spanish in his manners, after the old Catskill fashion.
Very Spanish indeed Mrs. Coles found him at home; his lofty
courtesy kept her at the extreme distance permitted in the
grace of good manners.

Meanwhile, no _tête-à-tête_ conversation had been practicable
with Wych Hazel. He had sought it; but she refused his
invitations to ride, and while she was in that mood he did not
choose either to risk being turned away again from the
Chickaree door, or to encounter her in a drawing-room full of
company. However, when a good many days had come and gone in
this state of estrangement, Rollo began to feel that it was
getting unbearable. So he rode up to Chickaree one day just at
luncheon time.

Miss Kennedy was not at home. Not at home in the honest sense
of the words. Mr. Rollo asked for Mrs. Bywank, and marched
straight to the housekeeper's room. And Mrs. Bywank's greeting
made him feel that, for some reason, he had come at the right
time. She begged him to sit down, and ordered luncheon; asking
if he was in haste, or if they might wait a little for Miss
Wych?

'She walked down to Mr. Falkirk's a long time ago,' said the
housekeeper, 'but I am looking for her every minute. Unless
you cannot wait, Mr. Rollo?'

He would wait; and desired to have Mrs. Bywank's report
touching the health of her young mistress. Mrs. Bywank looked
perplexed.

'She's not herself, sir,' she answered slowly. 'And yet it
would be hard to explain that. I've been wanting to see you,
Mr. Rollo, more than I can say; and now you are here I hardly
know how to tell why.'

'That makes me wish very much you would find out.'

'Phoebe will have it she is sick,' said the housekeeper,
pondering,--'and sometimes I think so myself. I know she goes
out too much. And stays up too late. Why, the last time she
came from Governor Powder's I was frightened half to death.'

'That was two weeks ago?'

'Yes, Mr. Rollo. I expected her early, and then Lewis brought
word it would be late,--and so it was. Near morning, in fact.'

'Yes. Well?--She did not suffer from being out too late?'

'I'm sure I don't know, sir, what it was. She walked into the
hall just as strong and straight as ever, and then she dropped
right down on the first stair, and put her hands and face
against the balustrade, and I couldn't get one word from her--
nor one look,--any more than if she'd been part of the
staircase.

'For how long?' asked the gentleman after a short pause, and
in a lowered tone.

'It seemed a week to me,' said Mrs. Bywank,--'but I only know
nothing stirred her till she heard the servants begin to move
about the house. And then she got up, in a sort of slow way,
so that I thought she would fall. And I put my arm around her,
and she laid her head on my shoulder, and so we went upstairs.
But she only said she was "very, very tired," and didn't want
any breakfast. I couldn't get another word but that.'

'And since then?'--said her hearer, after another pause in
which he seemed to have forgotten himself.

'Since then,' said Mrs. Bywank, 'there have been balls and
picnics and dinners enough to take one's breath away. But it
don't seem to me she can enjoy them much--she comes home so
often with a sort of troubled look that I can't understand.
And when I ask if she's not well, she says, "Yes, very well."
So what is one to to?'

'I don't think you can do anything, Mrs. Bywank. Perhaps I
can. Is that all you have to tell me?'

'Not quite, sir,'--but the old housekeeper hesitated. 'I am not
sure about saying all I wanted to say.'

'Why?' said Rollo, smiling.

'It is a nice matter for one woman to talk about another
woman,' said Mrs. Bywank; and again she paused, evidently
considering where care ended and treason began. 'I am a little
uneasy, sir,--more than a little,--about some of these young men
that come here so often.'

'On what account?' said Rollo shortly and gravely, with a tone
that meant to get to the bottom of _that_ at least.

'Why,' said Mrs. Bywank, glancing at him, 'chiefly because I
think Miss Wych does not know in the least how often they
come. Which, if she thought twice about any one of them, she
would. And if I just hint it to her, she looks at me, and
says--"Often?--when was he here before? I don't remember." All
the same, _they_ don't understand that.'

'Well?' said Rollo. 'They are quite equal to taking care of
themselves. Tell me of any danger to _her_.'

'It lies just there, sir. That she might be drawn on--in her
innocence--to grant favours covering she knows not what. And
sometimes that works trouble. Not caring two snaps for the
men, it might never occur to her that they were favours--till
the cobwebs were all round her feet. You know that, sir?'

Her hearer's brows contracted a little, and the grey eyes
snapped; but he was silent.

'Now here's this fancy ball at Moscheloo,' said Mrs. Bywank,--
'with all sorts of charades that nobody ought to be in.'

'What is that? I have not heard of it.'

'I opine they have kept it rather close,' said the
housekeeper,--'the day after to-morrow it comes off; and not a
soul let in without a ticket. I hoped you might have one, Mr.
Rollo.'

'What about the charades?'

'I don't like them,' said Mrs. Bywank decidedly,--'and they
want Miss Wych in every one. So she's been getting her dresses
ready, with my help, and telling me the whole story. It's "Mr.
May and I are to do this,"--and "While I stand so, Captain
Lancaster stands so." The last of all is a wedding.'

'A wedding!' Rollo repeated. 'Is she to be in that too?'

'Of course,' said Mrs. Bywank. 'And she said she tried ever so
hard to get a ticket for me--that I might see her dressed up.
But Madame would not. So said I, "Miss Wych, I would rather
not see you in _that_ dress, till it's the real thing."

' "O--take what you can get," she said, running the needle into
her finger and making a great fuss about it.

' "My dear," I said, "marriage is much too sacred a thing, in
_my_ judgment, to be turned into a frolic."

' "Well I didn't want to do it," she said, a little sober;
"but Madame would not let me off." '

'Well?--' said Rollo, with a short breath, as the old lady
again paused.

' "But Miss Wych," I said, "are you to act that with Captain
Lancaster?"

'So she flamed out at that, and asked me if I thought she
would?

' "Well," said I, "for my part, I don't understand how any
young lady who expects to be married"--but she put her hand
right over my mouth.

' "Now Byo, stop!" she said. "You know you are talking of _me_--
not of other young ladies."

' "Who is to be the happy man in this case?" said I, when she
would let me speak. And she just looked at me, and wouldn't
answer a word. So I went on. "I suppose I may talk about men,
Miss Wych,--and I say I don't think the right sort of man, who
meant some day to marry the right sort of woman, would ever
want to go through the motions with everybody else."--She was
silent a while,--then she looked up.

' "I wish I had heard all this before, Byo,--but it's too late
now, for I've promised. And of course I never thought it all
out so. You know I've never even seen a wedding. But is only
Mr. Lasalle, in this case; and you know he has 'been though
the motions' "--Mr. Lasalle, truly!' Mrs. Bywank repeated in
great scorn. 'A likely thing!'

'Going through the motions!' Rollo repeated. 'Do you mean that
the wedding ceremony is to be performed?'

'It sounds so, to me,' said Mrs. Bywank. ' "Well, my dear,"
said I,--"then I say this. No man who has been through the
motions in earnest with one woman, ought to go them over in
play with another."

'She looked up again,--one of her pretty, grave looks; and said
slowly, as if she was thinking out her words: "Maybe you are
right, Byo. I never thought about it. And of course _that_ sort
of man never could."

' "What sort?" I said. "Then you _have_ thought about it, Miss
Wych?"--Well, she was like a little fury at that,' said Mrs.
Bywank, smiling at the recollection,--'as near as she can ever
come to it. And she caught up her hat and went off; and called
back to me that she meant to go through motions enough of some
sort, to be ready for her lunch when she got home.--But I wish
she was out of it, Mr. Rollo.'

Her hearer sat silent for a minute.

'Mrs. Bywank, can you find Miss Hazel's ticket for this ball?'

'I daresay, sir. Would you like to see it?--she shewed it to
me.'

'I would like to see it very much.'

The housekeeper went off, and presently brought back the
little perfumed card, with scrolls and signatures, and 'Admit--
--' and 'Not transferable.'

'She puts her own name in this place before she gives it in,'
said Mrs. Bywank.

The gentleman looked at the ticket attentively--then bestowed
it safely in his vest pocket; as if that subject was disposed
of.

'But Mr. Rollo!'--said the housekeeper in some consternation.

'What, Mrs. Bywank?' he returned innocently.

'Miss Wych will never forgive me, sir!'

'What?'

'Why--for stealing her ticket and giving it to you, sir.'

'You have not stolen it. And you never meant to give it to me.
And she is not to know anything about it.'

'It feels like high treason!' said Mrs. Bywank. 'And she is
certain to get another. But I'm sure I'd be glad there was
some one there to look after things; for if she once got into
that, and found young Nightingale or some of the rest with
her, she'd be fit to fly. And there she comes, this minute.'

As they looked, Wych Hazel came out from the deep shadow of
the trees that clothed this end of the garden approach;
faultlessly dressed as usual, and with her apron gathered up
full of flowers; and herself not alone. A young 'undress
uniform' was by her side.

'Captain Lancaster,'--said Mrs. Bywank.

They came slowly on, talking; then stopped where the road to
the main entrance branched off,--the young officer cap in hand,
extremely deferential. They could see his face now; handsome,
soldierly, and sunburnt; with a pleasant laugh which came
readily at her words. Her face they could not see, beneath the
broad garden-hat. The gentleman touched his ungloved hand to
Wych Hazel's little buff gauntlet; then apparently preferred
some request which was not immediately granted; so gestures
seemed to say. Finally he held out his hand again; and she
took from her apron a flower and placed in it; and it looked
as if fingers and flower were taken together for a second. It
was a pretty scene; and yet Mrs. Bywank sighed. Then with a
profound reverence the young officer moved away, and Wych
Hazel entered the side door. She came on along the passage
singing; trilling out the gay little lullaby by virtue of
which Mrs. Bywank had long ago earned her name.


'Byo, bye! baby bye!
Byo, bye, little baby!
Byo, byo, byo, byo'--


'Where are you, Byo dear?' she said, opening the door. Then
stopped short in undoubted surprise. 'Mr. Rollo!--You two!' she
said, looking from one to the other; adding mentally, 'And you
have been talking about me!'

It was not just a pleased flush that came; and it was with a
little needless straightening of herself up that Wych Hazel
crossed the floor, and untying her apron of flowers laid it
down on Mrs. Bywank's sofa. Then she was the lady of Chickaree
again, graceful and composed. She came back and held out her
hand.

'I hope your luncheon is ready, Byo?' she said; 'and that you
have something very good to reward Mr. Rollo for his long
waiting. I had no idea I was delaying any one but you, or I
should have made more haste. Mrs. Bywank spoils me, Mr. Rollo,
by giving me just the same welcome whether I come early or
late. But I am very sorry if I have hindered you.'

'You have not hindered me,' he said smiling, and giving her
hand the old sort of clasp,--'except from everything I have
tried to do, for some time past.'

But that idea Miss Wych did not see fit to take up.

'What have I done,' he went on audaciously, 'to be ignored in
this fashion?'

'Ignored!' she said, opening her eyes at him.

'Will you substitute another word?' said he, looking for it in
the orbs so revealed. Wych Hazel turned off.

'Will you come to luncheon, sir?' she said; so exactly as if
she were speaking to Mr. Falkirk, that Mrs. Bywank looked up
in mute amazement.

But lunch was not to have much attention, nevertheless. Dingee
began a raid on the housekeeper's room. It was:

'Mas' Nightingale, Missee Hazel.'

'Mas' May and--Miss May, ma'am.--'

'Mrs. Powder, Missee Hazel--and all de rest!' added Dingee. '
'Spect dere ain't a livin' soul _won't_ be there, time I get
back. Miss Fisher, she done ask for Mas' Rollo. But I'se
learnin' to tell the truf fustrate.'

'What is the truth about me, Dingee?' asked that gentleman. 'I
should be glad to hear it.'

'Well, sir,' said Dingee, standing attention, 'she 'quire
'bout you. So I say, "Mas' Rollo, he done come dis mornin',
sure,--but my young mistiss she out. So he done gone straight
away from de door, ma'am." Mighty glad she never ask which
way!' added Dingee with a chuckle. Wych Hazel held down her
head, laughing the sweet laugh which would come now and then,
in the worst of times.

'Run away,' she said, 'and say I am coming. I must go, Byo--if
Mr. Rollo will excuse me. And as he came to see you, I suppose
he will!'

But Mr. Rollo went away without his luncheon, after all.


CHAPTER XXXV.

FIGURES AND FAVOURS.


The very night after this affair of the ticket, came a
'German,' pure and simple, at one of the far-off houses of the
neighbourhood. The daughters here were of Miss Fisher's
persuasion; and among them they had arranged the whole affair.
This should be a 'German,' and nothing else. Kitty Fisher was
to lead, and neither quadrille nor country dance would be
tolerated for a moment. Miss Kennedy found on her arrival
that, for this night at least, round dances were paramount: it
was such, or none. Well, she thought she could stand it, at
first,--there were enough people always ready to promenade. But
this was not an outdoor party, the night was too cool to make
it even partially such; and to walk the whole evening in the
moonlight is one thing, and in the gaslight quite another.
Then Kitty Fisher was in a merciless mood,--and Hazel could not
head her off with flat denials; because, though not really
under orders, she well knew how much Mr. Rollo had to do with
what they termed 'her new kink about dancing.' And even worse
than the open charge that she was afraid to disobey, were the
covert insinuations that she was anxious to please.

Then (to tell the whole truth) she did very much long for
another flight among the gay flags and ribbands which made the
German so lively,--she could not see the harm! Only she could
never have done it with those grey eyes looking on and drawing
their own false conclusions about everybody and everything.
But to-night he was not on hand: the guests had all arrived
long ago, and no guardian in any shape among them. And so,
over persuaded by circumstances, and especially by Mr.
Nightingale, who made himself rather more than a circumstance,
Wych hazel gave him her hand and went forward to take her
place. Under pledge, however, that if any one of the new
figures came up she had leave to retire. A burst of applause
and congratulation hailed her appearance; and in a very few
minutes she had forgotten all but the music and the whirl of
intoxication. Even partners sank into insignificance, and
became only so many facilities for so much delight. Not so
easily could her partners forget her,--the girlish face,
sometimes grave with its own enjoyment, and then--'bright as a
constellation!'--declared Mr. Simms; the grace of manner which
kept its distance well; the diaphonous dress which floated
around her like a golden haze; the scarlet flowers in her
hair. Never had she danced, never looked, more thoroughly
herself.

There are times when we get a lesson from without,--there are
others when it must come from within; and Mr. Rollo, who had
given the first, was now to see his work finished by the
second. Wych Hazel was wrong, he was there; but he had come
late, and if any of the dancers saw him they kept it hush; so
that he looked on at his ward without her knowledge. But it
must be noted as an instance of the perversity of Mr. Rollo's
mind, that the more thoroughly he perceived the difference
between Wych Hazel and her companions, the less he liked to
have her among them; and every point in the dance where she
escaped without even a touch upon her modest bearing, as if
truly no one dared take liberties with her, made him half wild
to get her out of it altogether.

Thus thinking and watching, Mr. Rollo saw two strange things
take place. First came this:

A new figure was called, and the partners were to be sorted by
means of long streamers of different-coloured ribbands. Wych
Hazel, having already received hers, a green, stood drawing it
through her fingers and chatting with Josephine Powder, whose
ribband was blue. Suddenly Miss Kennedy caught away the blue
ribband and began to compare its length with that of her own;
measuring and re-measuring, tangling the long ends up
together; until as the gentlemen came up to match colours and
claim their partners, Wych Hazel hurriedly put the green
streamer in Josephine's hand, and went off with Captain
Lancaster. The green and blue were such convertible colours in
the gaslight that no one took any notice. But Rollo saw that
Wych Hazel drew a long breath as she moved away, and looked
down, and did not say much for several minutes. That figure
passed off with nothing unusual.

Then followed another, during which the couples were arranged
in a sort of haphazard way; the ladies and gentlemen drawing
up in two long opposite lines, each then to take his _vis-à-
vis_. But where a lady was in great demand, the gentleman _not_
strictly opposite would sometimes press down and forward,
trying to catch her eye, and prove himself her partner by mere
right of possession. The line of men stood with their backs
towards Mr. Rollo, so that he did not at first see who it was
that started forward so eagerly, taking a fair diagonal
towards Miss Kennedy. But he saw her change colour, with a
sort of frightened look, and then--most unlike her usual shy
bearing,--saw her turn the other way, and herself take a
diagonal towards what proved in this instance to be Mr. May.
With a great flush of crimson at first, and then growing and
remaining very pale, and dancing very languidly. And then, at
the foot of the room, her eyes met those of her young
guardian,--which about finished up the evening. For twice that
night Wych Hazel had been within a hair's breadth of having
her hand taken by the very man from whose presence she had
escaped that night in July. To get rid of him she had put
herself off on somebody else, and Mr. Rollo had seen it all!

'Put Molly Seaton in my place, Josephine,' she whispered, 'Mr.
May is going to excuse me.'

But they crowded round her and insisted upon 'just one more.'
She should not finish this figure if she disliked it,--they
would stop it short: anything to keep Miss Kennedy on the
floor! Would she dance 'Le Verre de Vin'?

'Never!'--with sudden energy.

'My gracious me!--how spiteful we are!' said Kitty Fisher. '_You_
wouldn't have to drink it. Well, then, "La Poursuite"?'

Miss Kennedy hated 'La Poursuite.'

'And--for Miss Kennedy--it is such breathless work,' said Mr.
Kingsland.

'And--for Mr. Kingsland--etcetera, etcetera--' said Kitty
mockingly. 'Stephen, when there is an opportunity for remarks,
I'll let you know. "La Poursuite" is just the thing. You see,
Hazel,' she whispered, 'the Viking can rush in and reclaim his
prize, and reconciliations take place in the final tour.'

'I shall not dance it, Kitty,' said Wych Hazel steadily,
though her cheeks glowed.

'No?' said Miss Fisher. 'Not to the tune of "The king shall
enjoy his own again"? Well--what of "Les Mains Mystérieuses"?'

'_I_ protest, now,' said Captain Lancaster. 'There cannot be
even a pretence of mystery about Miss Kennedy's hand. It is
the merest farce.'

'O, you'd like "Le Coussin," and a chance to go down on your
knees!' said Miss Fisher, slightly provoked.

'Pardon me!' said Captain Lancaster. 'When I go down on my
knees to Miss Kennedy, I shall want no cushion.'

'Good!' said Miss Burr.

'I vow,' said Kitty Fisher, 'you're a lover worth having. But
the pretty dear'll get spoiled among you. Come--what will she
choose? "Le Miroir!" Nothing to do but look at her own sweet
self. Run away, Duchess, and take your seat.'

'Rather stupid, I think,' said Wych Hazel, as she went
unwillingly forward,--but she was getting wild, standing there!
'I think I shall take the first one that comes, and save
trouble.'

She sat down in front of the long mirror, in which she could
see the whole room behind her: everybody in it, and every
motion of everybody. But she really saw but one person, and he
was motionless. Others, gazing in, had a marvellous pretty
picture of golden gauze and scarlet flowers, and a fair young
face from which the gaiety had suddenly died out. The breast
of her dress was covered with 'favours;' basket and ring, bell
and bouquet, a flag, a rosette, a pair of gloves,--Rollo could
not identify all the details of the harlequin crew; but it
looked as if Miss Kennedy had been chosen by everybody, every
time! She sat still enough now.

'Look up, child!' cried Miss Fisher. 'How do you expect to
know who's behind you, if you sit studying your pretty feet
upon the floor? You may flirt away an angel, and welcome some
gentleman in black who was not invited.'

There was a laugh at this sally; and as several gentlemen
sprang eagerly forward, Kitty began to hum--' "This is the
maiden all forlorn," '--but for once Hazel did not listen.

'Flirt somebody away!' she was thinking,--'I should like to see
myself doing it! I shall take the very first that comes.'

But alas for good intentions in a bad place! The room was
long, and some people were further off, and others close at
hand, and the very first that looked over her chair was Mr.
Morton! Hazel gave a toss of her handkerchief that half blew
him away. And the next--yes, the very next, was the man whom
she had been eluding all the evening. This time the hand moved
more languidly, and her eyes never looked up, and her cheeks
rivalled the scarlet flowers.

'She'll learn,--O, she'll learn!' cried Kitty Fisher. 'Never
saw it better done in my life. Such a discriminating touch!'

'Is there anybody else to escape?' thought poor Hazel, her
breath coming quick. And then she was so delighted to see
Captain Lancaster's pleasant face, that she shewed it in her
own; and the gentleman took an amount of encouragement
therefrom which by no means belonged to him. He waited upon
Miss Kennedy for the rest of that evening with a devotion
which everybody saw except herself. No such trifles as a man's
devotion got even a passing notice from her. For the girl was
feeling desperate. How many times that night had she been
betrayed into what she disliked and despised and had said she
never would do? If Rollo had not been there, perhaps she would
have felt only shame,--as it was, for the time it made her
reckless. 'Le miroir' gave place to other figures, and still
Miss Kennedy shewed no second wish to retire and join the
lookers-on. But every time the demands of the dance made _her_
choose a partner--when it was her woman's right to be chosen!--
every time she was passed rapidly from hand to hand without
even the poor power of choice, Wych Hazel avenged it on
herself by the sharpest silent comments; while to her
partners, she was proud, and reserved, and brilliant, and
generally 'touch-me-not;' until they too were desperate--with
admiration.

If Rollo was half wild in secret he had the power to keep it
to himself. His demeanour was composed, and _not_ abstracted;
his attentions to others, when occasion was, for he did not
seek it, as gracefully rendered as usual; he even talked;
though through it all it is safe to say he lost nothing of
what Wych Hazel was doing. Nobody would have guessed, not in
the secret, that he had any particular attention in that room,
or indeed anywhere! He did not approach Wych Hazel to oblige
her to notice him; he would not give her the additional
annoyance or himself the useless pain.

Yet, though severely tried that night, he was not unreasonably
discouraged. He partly read Wych Hazel; or he surmised what
was at the bottom of her wild gaiety; and he had great
tenderness for her. A tenderness that made him grave at heart
and somewhat grave outwardly; but he did not despair, and he
bided his time. He was not irritated that she had broken the
bonds of his words, amidst all his profound vexation. He had
heard enough of people's tongues, and also knew enough of her,
to understand pretty well how it was. He would not even look
another remonstrance that night; only, he resolved to stay out
the evening and at least see the girl safe in her carriage to
go home. He would not go with her either this time.

'Hazel,' whispered Miss Fisher, in one of the figure pauses,
'slip out quietly at the side door when the break-up begins,
and we'll have a lark. Stuart says he'll drive me home, if
I'll coax you to go along. You can stay with me to-night.
We'll go a little before everybody, you know,' she added
persuasively, for Hazel hesitated. 'And the Duke need never
know.'

Still Hazel was silent, balancing alternatives. Could she bear
a _tête-à-tête_ drive home with him? Could she escape it in any
other way?--She gave Kitty Fisher a little nod, and whirled off
in the hands of Mr. May.

But 'Duke' was nearer than they know, and specially observant
of Kitty Fisher's doings. He was not near enough to catch the
import of the question or proposal; but his quick hears heard
'side door'--and his eyes saw that Hazel's sign was of assent;
and his wits guessed at the meaning of both. A moment's
reflection made him certain of his conclusion.

Dane bit his lip at the first flash of this conclusion. He saw
before him again a task which he would have given a great deal
to be spared. Both from tenderness and from policy he was
exceeding unwilling to thwart Wych Hazel now, most of all in
this company, thereby subjecting her to renewed annoyance,
inevitable and galling. Yet he never hesitated; and his old
hunter's instinct abode with him, that no step which _must_ be
taken is on the whole a bad step. He left the room before the
dance was finished, and was in the lobby when the party he
waited for came down the broad staircase, ready for their
drive. He did not present himself, but when Wych Hazel had
followed Kitty Fisher out of the side door, before which
Stuart's equipage stood ready, she heard a very low voice at
her side, which low as it was she knew very well.

'Miss Hazel, your carriage is at the other door.'

But Kitty Fisher saw, if she did not hear.

'No room for you,' she said. 'Much as ever to get me in. Good
night, Sir Duke, and pleasant dreams. The pleasant realities
are all bespoke.'

'Miss Kennedy--' low at Wych Hazel's side.

'One of the aforesaid pleasant realities,' said Kitty, with
her hand on Wych Hazel's shoulder. 'Come, Duchess!'

Hazel's words had been all ready, but at this speech they died
away. It seemed to her as if her cheeks must light up the
darkness!

'Your carriage is in waiting,' Rollo went on, in a calm low
tone, which ignored Kitty and everybody else.

Still no word.

'Now come!' said Miss Fisher--'don't you play tyrant yet
awhile. She's going home with me. Poor little Duchess!--
daresn't say her soul's her own! What's the matter--didn't she
ask you pretty?'

There was no answer to this. Rollo did not honour her with any
attention. Hazel freed her shoulder from Miss Fisher's hand,
and turned short about.

'There is no use contesting things,' she said, speaking with
an effort which made the words sound hard-edged and abrupt. 'I
shall drive home by myself to Chickaree. Good-night.' And
without a look right or left, she went up the steps and across
the hall into the carriage at the other door.

Rollo saw her in without a word, and turned away.

And Miss Kennedy,--as if her spite against something or
somebody was not yet appeased,--began deliberately, one by one,
to take the 'favours' off her dress and drop them through the
open carriage window upon the road. But, let me say, she was
not (like Quickear) laying a clue for herself, by which to
find her way back to the 'German.' Never again.


CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE RUNAWAY.


The fancy ball at Moscheloo was a brilliant affair. More
brilliant perhaps than in the crush and mixed confusion of
city society could have been achieved. It is a great thing to
have room for display. There were people enough, not too many;
and almost all of them knew their business. So there was good
dressing and capital acting. The evening would have been a
success, even without the charades on which Mme. Lasalle laid
so much stress.

Dominoes were worn for the greater amusement; and of course
curiosity was busy; but more than curiosity. In the
incongruous fashion common to such entertainments, a handsome
Turkish janissary drew up to a figure draped in dark serge and
with her whole person enveloped in a shapeless mantle of the
same, which was drawn over her head and face.

'I have been puzzling myself for the last quarter of an hour,'
said he, 'to find out--not who--but _what_ you are.'

'Been successful?' said the witch.

'I confess, no. Of course you will not tell me _who_ you are;
but I beg, who do you pretend to be?'

'O, pretend!' said the witch. 'I am "a woman that hath a
familiar spirit!" '

'Where did you pick up your attendant?'

'Came at my call. I suppose you have heard of Endor?'

'Have I? En--dor? Where _have_ I heard that name? It is no place
about here. 'Pon my honour, I forget.'

'In the East?' suggested the witch.

'Stupid!--I know; you are the very person I want to see. But
first I wish you would resolve an old puzzle of mine--Did you
bring up Samuel, honestly?--or was it all smoke?'

'Smoke proves fire.'

'Samuel would not have been in the fire.'

'He would if it was necessary,' said the witch. 'Whom do you
want brought up, Mr. Nightingale?'

'Ha!' said the janissary. 'How do you know that? But perhaps
you are "familiar" with everybody. Bring up Miss Kennedy?'

'Very well,' said the witch, beginning to walk slowly round
him. 'But as it is not certain that Saul saw Samuel, I suppose
it will not matter whether you see her?'

'It matters the whole of it! I want to see her of course.
There is nobody else, in fact, whom I want to see; nor anybody
else worth seeing after her. The rarest, brightest, most
distracting vision that has ever been seen west of your
place.'

'If there is nobody worth seeing after, you had better see
everybody else first,' said the witch, pausing in her round.

'You have a familiar spirit. Tell me what she thinks about me;
will you?'

The witch threw up a handful of sweet pungent dust into the
air, and made another slow round about the janissary.

'Neither black nor white,'--she said oracularly, 'neither
yellow nor blue; neither pea-green nor delicate mouse grey.'

'I?' said Stuart. 'Or what?'

'Either. Both.'

The janissary laughed somewhat uneasily. Just then a knight,
extremely well got up in the habiliments of the 13th century,
stepped near and accosted the witch in a confidential tone.

'Everybody here, I suppose, is known to you. Pray who is that
very handsome, very _décolletée_, lady from the court of Charles
the Second? Upon my word! she does it well.'

'That is Miss Fisher.'

'Well, if women knew!'--said the knight slowly. It was evident
he thought himself speaking to safe ears, probably not
handsome enough to be displayed. 'If they knew!' he repeated.
'Does she not do it well?'

'Does she?' said the witch. 'I was not in England just then.'

'Don't you wish you had been! It's a very fair show,'--
continued the knight as he looked. 'We ought to be much
obliged to the lady. Really, she leaves--nothing--to be desired!
If you please, merely as a subject of curiosity, from what
part of the world and time does yonder figure come? the broad-
brimmed hat?'

The figure was a very fine one, by the way. His dress was a
quaintly-cut suit of dark blue cloth, the edges bound with
crimson, and fastened with silver buttons. White fine thread
stockings were tied at the knee with crimson riband, and
silver buckles were in his shoes.

'You must know,' said the witch, 'that there are several parts
of the world from which I have been banished.'

'In an aesthetic point of view, I should say the edict was
justified,' returned the knight, surveying the bale of brown
serge before him. He passed on, and the man in the blue cloth
presently took his place.

'They tell me you are a witch,' said he, speaking in rather a
low tone; 'and as you see, I am a countryman. Will you have
the goodness to explain to me--I suppose you understand it--what
all the these people are?'

'They are people who for the present find their happiness in
being other people,' said the witch, with a grave voice, in
which however a laugh was somewhat imperfectly muffled. 'Like
yourself, sir.'

'Like me? Quite the contrary. I was never more myself, I
assure you. For that very reason I find myself not at home.
Excuse my curiosity. Why, if you please, do they seek their
happiness out of themselves, as it were, in this way?'

'Well,' said the witch confidentially, 'to tell you the truth,
I don't know. You see I am in your predicament, and was never
more myself.'

'But I thought you had a familiar spirit? I have read so much
as that.'

'At your service'--said the witch.

'Then be so good as to enlighten me. I see a moving
kaleidoscope view of figures--it's very pretty--but why are they
all here?'

'Some because they were invited,' said the witch critically.
'And doubtless some because others were. And a good many for
fun--and a few for mischief.'

'Is it the custom in this country to make mischief one of the
pleasures of society?'

'Yes!' said the witch with some emphasis. 'And to tell you the
truth again, that is just one of the points in which society
might be improved.'

'But how do fun and mischief go along together?'

'Well, that depends,' said the witch. 'The wrong sort of
mischief spoils the right sort of fun.'

'And does that often happen, among such well-dressed people as
these?'

'O, where if her Grace?'--cried a gay voice in the distance.
'I've sworn to find her.'

The witch was silent a moment, then answered slowly, 'It
happens--quite often.'

'Can people find nothing pleasanter to do with their time,'
said the countryman, 'than to spend it in mischief? or in fun
which the mischief spoils? These things you tell me sound very
strange in my ears.'

'The right sort of mischief _is_ fun,--and the right sort of fun
is -not- mischief,' she said impatiently. 'And what people find
in the wrong sorts, I don't know!'

'By the way,' said the countryman, 'how come _you_ to be here?
How did you escape, when Saul killed all the rest of the
witches?'

'It is queer, isn't it?' she said. 'Wouldn't you have supposed
I should be the first one to fall?'

'And in this country, are you using your experience to make or
to mend mischief?'

'Make all I can! Are there any Sauls on hand, do you think?'

'Pray, what sort of man would you characterize by that name?'

'Well,' said she of Endor with again the hidden laugh in her
voice, 'some men have a hidden weakness for witches which
conflicts with their duty,--and some men don't!'

'I hope I am not a Saul, then,' said the countryman laughing,
though softly; 'but in any case you are safe to take my arm
for a walk round the rooms. I should like to see all that is
to be seen; and perhaps you could help me to understand.'

It was not a more incongruous pair than were to be seen in
many parts of the assembly. The beauty of Charles the Second's
court was flirting with Rob Roy; a lady in the wonderful ruff
of Elizabeth's time talked with a Roman toga; a Franciscan
monk with bare feet gesticulated in front of a Swiss maiden;
as the Witch of Endor sauntered through the rooms on the arm
of nobody knew exactly what countryman.

'Your prejudices must be very often shocked here,' said the
countryman with a smothered tone of laughter again. 'Or, I beg
pardon!--has a witch any prejudices, seeing she can have no
gravity?'

'What does prejudice mean in your country?'

'Much the same, I am afraid, that it does elsewhere. What are
we coming to?'

Passing slowly through the rooms, they had arrived at the
great saloon, at one end of which large folding doors opened
into another and smaller apartment. This smaller room was hung
with green baize; candelabra shed gentle light upon it from
within the doors, so placed as not to be seen from the
principal room; and over the folding doors was hung a hick red
curtain; rolled up now.

'What is all this?'

'O, if you wait a while,' said the witch, 'you will see
further transformations--that is all.'

'And what is _this_ for?' said the countryman, pointing to the
rolled-up rend curtain.

'To hide the transformed, till they are ready to be seen.'

'But it does not hide anything,' said the countryman obtusely.
'How do they get it down?'

He went examining about the door-posts, with undoubted
curiosity, till he found the mechanism attached to the curtain
and touched the spring. Down fell the red folds in an instant.
The man drew it up again, and let it fall again, and again
drew it up.

'Very good,' he said approvingly. 'Very good. We have no such
clever curtains in my country. That will do very well.'

As he spoke, a bell sounded through the house. Immediately the
witch escaped by a side door. Two or three others followed
her; and then the rest of the company began to pour in and
fill the saloon before the red curtain.

'Well, I never _was_ so stupid in all my life!' said the court
beauty. 'I might have _known_ no other girl would come as a roll
of serge!'

'And I might have known, that if I failed to recognize Miss
Kennedy's hand, it could be only because it was out of sight,'
said Mr. Kingsland, who by special favour wore only his own
face and dress.

'You'll get a mitten from her hand--and a slap in it, if you
don't look out,' said the lady.

'Better a mitten from that hand than a glove from any other,'
replied Mr. Kingsland with resignation.

'Easier for you to get,' the beauty retorted. 'But did you
hear of the fun we had the other night?--the best joke! We all
put Seaton up to it, and he carried it off well. Dick
wouldn't. Before the dancing began, he went up to Miss Kennedy
and asked her with his gravest face whether she felt
guardian's orders to be binding? And she coloured all up, like
a child as she is, and inquired who wanted to know? So Seaton
bowed down to the ground almost, and said he--

' "I had the honour of asking Mr. Rollo this afternoon,
concerning the drive we spoke of; and he gave me an emphatic
no. And now I am come to you to reverse the decision."

'Well, you should have seen her face!--and "_What_ did he say,
Major Seaton?" she asked. "As near as I can remember," said
Seaton with another bow, "he said, Sir I cannot possibly allow
Miss Kennedy to take any such drive as you propose!" '

'Well?--' said Mr. Kingsland,--'I have heavy wagers out on Miss
Kennedy's dignity.'

'I don't know what you call dignity,' said the beauty,--'I
didn't know at first but she would knock him down for his
information,--she did, with her eyes. And then my lady Duchess
drew herself up as grand as could be, and answered just as if
she didn't care a snap,--"Did Mr. Rollo say that, Major Seaton?
Then I certainly shall not go." '

Mr. Kingsland clapped his hands softly. 'Safe yet,' he said.
'But where did Kitty pick up that name for her?' he added,
turning to his next neighbour. 'You are in the way of such
titles.'

'Kitty won't tell,' the lady answered, an elaborate Queen
Elizabeth. 'Not at present. She found out nobody understood,
but Miss Kennedy does, so now she holds it over Miss Kennedy's
head that she _will_ tell. That is the way she got her before
the glass the other night.'

'The tenderness these gentle creatures have for each other!'
said Mr. Kingsland.

Meantime a bustling crowd had been pouring in and filling the
saloon, and there began to be a cry for silence. The curtain
was down; by whom dropped no one knew; but now it was raised
again by the proper attendants, and the sight of the cool
green little stage brought people to their good behaviour. The
silence of expectancy spread through the assembly.

Behind the scenes there was a trifle of delay.

'My dear child,' Mme. Lasalle whispered to the _ci-devant_ witch
of Endor, 'Mr. Lasalle is in no condition to act with you as
he promised. Ill; really ill, you know. We must take some one
else. Standing about with bare feet don't agree with his
constitution. It won't matter.'

'It matters very much!' said Wych Hazel. 'O, well--just leave
that charade out. There are enough more.'

'Indeed there are not!' exclaimed her hostess. 'We cannot
spare this. Indeed I doubt if any other will be worth
presenting after it. My dear, it makes no difference! and you
are ready, and Stuart is ready, and the people are waiting.
You must not fail me at the pinch, Hazel. Go on and do your
prettiest, for my sake.'

'Not with Mr. Nightingale. I will have little Jemmy Seaton,
then. He is tall enough.'

'He couldn't do it. Nonsense, my dear! you don't mean that
there is anything _serious_ in it? It is only a play, and a
short one too; and Stuart will be, privately, a great
improvement on Mr. Lasalle, who wouldn't have done it with
spirit enough; as why should he? Come, go on! Stuart is not
worse to play with than another, is he? Come! there's Mr.
Brandevin waiting for you. He's capital!'

There was no time to debate the matter; no time to make
further changes; everybody was waiting; Miss Kennedy had to
yield.

The first act was on this fashion. An old man in the blouse of
a Normandy peasant sat smoking his pipe. Enter to him his
daughter, a lovely peasant girl; Wych Hazel to wit. The father
spoke in French; the daughter mingled French and English in
her talk very prettily. There was some dumb show of serving
him; and then the old man got up to go out, charging his
daughter in the severest manner to admit no company in his
absence. Scarcely is he gone, when enter on the other side a
smart young man in the same peasant dress. Words here were not
audible. In dumb show the young man made protestations of
devotion, begged for his mistress's hand and kissed it with
great fervour; and appeared to be carrying on a lively suit to
the damsel. Now nothing could have been prettier than the
picture and the pantomime. Stuart kept his face away from the
audience; Wych Hazel was revealed, and in the coy, blushing
maidenly dignity and confusion which suited the character and
occasion, was a tableau worth looking at. Well looked at, and
in deep silence of the company; till suddenly the growling old
French father is heard coming back again. The peasant starts
to his feet, the girl sits down in terror.

'What shall I do?' he cries, and she echoes,--'What shall he
do? What shall he do?'

Then came confused answers from the spectators:--'Bolt, old
fellow!'--'Escape!'--'Fly!'--'Run!'--and the last word being taken
up and re-echoed, 'Run! run!'--he _did_ run; ran out and then ran
in and across the stage again; finally out of sight; and drop
the curtain. The burst of applause was tremendous.

'You'll have to go on, you know, if that keeps up,' said
Stuart behind the scenes; 'and I don't wonder. Here, Mr.
Brandevin, go in and stop them!'

The next scene was also very well done. The old French
gentleman was alone, and had it all to perform by himself. He
began with calling his daughter, in various discordant keys,
and with such a variety of impatient and exasperated
intonation, that the whole room was full of laughter. His
daughter not appearing nor answering, he next instituted a
make-believe search for her, feigning to go into the kitchen,
the buttery, her bedroom. Not finding her, and making a great
deal of amusement for the spectators by the way, he at last
comes back and asks in a deploring tone, 'Where is she?'

Cries of 'Off!'--'Gone!'--'Sloped!'--'Away!' were such a medley
that nobody professed to be able yet to make out the word. The
curtain fell again.

'You are very stupid,' said Mme. Lasalle. 'It is as plain as
possible.'

'It will be, when we see the rest,' said somebody. 'No, I
don't think it is, either.'

For as he spoke, the curtain rose upon an old clergyman, busy
with his books at a table with a lamp. He had a wig, and
looked very venerable indeed. Presently to him comes, after a
knock, his servant woman.

'Please, sir, here's a young couple wantin' to see ye. It's
the old story, I expect.'

'Let them come, Sarah--let them come in!' says the old
clergyman; 'the old story is the newest of all! Let them
come,--but first help me on with my gown. So!--now you may open
the door.'

Enter the old peasant's daughter and her lover. The latter
confers with the old clergyman, who wheezes and puffs and is
quite fussy; finally bids them stand before him in the proper
position. The proper position, of course, brings the two
people to face the audience, while the old clergyman's back
was a little turned to them, and no loss.

Now the dislike with which Miss Kennedy had received the
change of companions in this charade by no means lessened as
the play went on. The first scene had annoyed her, the minute
she had time to think it over during the solo of the second;
and now finding herself face to face with ideas as well as
people,--ideas that were not among her familiars,--was very
disagreeable; all the more that Mr. Nightingale had contrived
to infuse rather more spirit into his part of the performance
than was absolutely needful. Wych Hazel looked unmistakeably
disturbed, and her eyes never quitted the ground. The
audience, quite failing to catch her mood, only applauded.

'Capital!' said General Merrick. 'Positively capital! If it
was a real case, and she in momentary expectation of her
father, she might look just so.'

'Or if she had accidentally escaped with the wrong person,'
said Captain Lancaster, who would have rather preferred to be
in Mr. Nightingale's position himself.

'No,' said one of the ladies, 'she is not afraid,--what is
she?'

'She is Wych Hazel,' said Mr. Kingsland. 'Do you see what a
breath came then? Not complimentary to Nightingale--but he can
find somebody else to turn his head.'

Meanwhile, they all standing so, the old clergyman began his
office.

'Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?' he demanded
audibly enough. And Stuart's reply came clear--

'I will.'

'Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband?'

He had turned towards the pretty peasant girl who stood there
with her eyes cast down, and expectation was a-tiptoe. Before
the eyes were lifted, and before an answer could be returned,
another actor came upon the scene. The countryman who wore the
dark blue cloth bound with crimson, stepped into the group
from his place at the side of the curtain. He wore his broad-
brimmed hat, but removed his domino as he came upon the stage.
Yet he stood so that the audience were not in position to see
his face. They heard his voice.

'There is a mistake here,' he said with and excellent French
accent on his English. 'This lady is a--what you call--she has
no power to dispose of herself.'

The clergyman looked somewhat doubtful and astonished; he had
not been prepared for this turn of the play; but it was all in
keeping, the interruption came naturally, quietly; he had to
meet it accordingly. Stuart's face darkened; he knew better;
nevertheless for him too there was but one thing possible, to
go on and play the play. His face was all in keeping, too. The
anger of the one and the doubt of the other actor were all
proper to the action and only helped the effect.

'Diable! what do you want here?' the young peasant exclaimed.

'What is all this, sir? what is this?' said the old minister.
'What do you here, sir?'

'I come for the lady.'

'The lady don't want to see you, you fool!' exclaimed Stuart.
'You needn't think it.'

'What authority have you here, sir, to interfere with my
office?' demanded the clergyman.

'Monsieur'--said the countryman hesitating, 'Monsieur knows.
This young girl is young--I represent the guardians of her. She
is minor; she has no property, nor no power to marry herself;
she had nothing at all. She has run away. Monsieur sees. Come,
you runaway!' he went on, advancing lightly to where the young
girl stood. 'Come with me! She has run away; there is no
marriage to-day, sir,' he added with a touch of his hat to the
old clergyman. And then, taking Wych Hazel's hand and putting
it on his arm he walked her out of the room. It was not as it
was few evenings ago; her hand was taken in earnest now and
held, and she was obliged to go as she was led. In the little
apartment which served as a green-room there were one or two
attendants. Rollo walked past them with a steady, swift step
which never stayed nor allowed his companion to stop, until he
reached the ladies' dressing-room. It was entirely empty now.
The very servants had gathered where they could see the play.
Here Rollo released his charge.

The first thing she did was to seat herself on the nearest
chair and look at him. Her first words were peculiar.

'If I could give you the least idea, Mr. Rollo, how
exceedingly disagreeable it is to have my hand taken in that
way, it is possible--I am not sure--but it is _possible_, you
would not do it. Your hands are so strong!' she said, looking
down at the little soft things in her lap. 'And my strength is
not practised.'

He looked grave, but spoke very gently, bending towards her as
if also considering the little hands.

'Did I act so well?' said he. 'You see that was because there
was so much earnest in it.'

'What made you do it?--is everything forbidden unless I ask
leave?'

'Do you want to know why I did it?'

'I did not like the play, either,' she said,--'and I did not
expect--part of it. But I had promised, and straight through
was the quickest way out. It would have done--everybody--too
much honour to make a fuss.'

'I did nobody any honour, and I made no fuss,' said Rollo, in
his old quaint fashion. 'And my way was the very quickest way
out for you.'

She jumped up, with a queer little inarticulate answer, that
covered all his statements.

'There will be a fuss, if I do not find a quick way back among
those people,' she said, passing round him to the door. Then
paused with her hand on the knob, considering something.

'Why did you do it, Mr. Rollo?'

'I will try to explain, as soon as I get an opportunity. One
word,' he added, detaining her,--'Laugh it off as far as you
can, down stairs, as part of the play.'

'Easy to do,' said the girl with some emphasis. 'Unfortunately
I do not feel at all like laughing. If you had done _me_ a
little honour, sir, it would have been needless.'

She went first to the small dressing-room down stairs,
catching up her serge and muffling herself in it once more, so
that not a thread of her peasant's dress appeared; then went
silently in among the crowd, a very sober witch indeed. It was
a little while before she was molested. By and by, while
another charade was engaging people's interest, Mme. Lasalle
worked round to the muffled figure.

'My dear,' she whispered, 'who was that?'

'One of your dominoes, Madame. Acted with a good deal of
spirit, didn't you think so?'

'Magnifique! But that was none of _my_ dominoes. My dear, you
will never know how lovely your representation was. But, that
interruption was no part of our play, as we had planned it.
How came it? Who was it? Somebody who made play to suit
himself? How came it, Hazel?'

'Just what I have been trying to find out,' said the girl. 'I
shall not rest till I do.' But she moved off then, and kept
moving, and was soon too well taken possession of for many
questions to reach her. All of her audience but two or three,
took the interruption for part of the play, and were loud in
their praises. Hearing and not hearing, muffled in thoughts
yet more than in serge, as an actor or spectator the Witch of
Endor saw the charades through, and played with her supper,
and finally went out to her carriage and the dark world of
night. For there was no moon this time, and stars are
uncertain things.

As Stuart Nightingale came back from putting her into the
carriage, he encountered his aunt.

'Well!' he said in an impatient voice, smothered as it was,
'that job's all smoke.'

'Who was it?'

'That infernal meddler, of course.'

'Rollo?'

'Who else would have dared?'

'How did he get in?'

'That you ought to know better than I. It was no fault of
mine.'

'Rollo!' said Mme. Lasalle. 'And I thought I had cleverly kept
him out. The tickets were not transferable. Did she let him
in?'

'Not she. No doing of hers, nor liking, I promise you. I think
he has settled his own business, by the way. But we can't try
this on a second time, Aunt Victorine. Confound him!'


CHAPTER XXXVII.

IN A FOG.


Hazel was accompanied to her carriage of course, as usual. But
when she was shut in, she heard an unwelcome voice saying to
the coachman, 'Drive slowly, Reo; the night is very dark;' and
immediately the carriage door was opened again, and the
speaker took his seat beside her; without asking leave this
time. A passing glare from the lamps of another carriage
shewed her head and hands down on the window-sill, in the way
she had come from Greenbush. Neither head nor hands stirred
now.

Her companion was silent and let her be still, until the
carriage had moved out of the Moscheloo grounds and was
quietly making its way along the dark high road. Lamps flung
some light right and left from the coach box; but within the
darkness was deep. The reflection from trees and bushes, the
gleam of fence rails, the travelling spots of illumination in
the road, did not much help matters there.

'Miss Hazel,' said Rollo,--and he spoke, though very quietly,
with a sort of breath of patient impatience,--'I have come with
you to-night because I could not let you drive home alone such
a dark night, and because I have something to say to you which
will not bear to wait a half-hour longer. Can you listen to
me?'

'I am listening, sir,' she said, again in a sort of dull
passiveness. 'May I keep this position? I think I must be
tired.'

'Are you very angry with me?' he asked gently.

'No,' she said in the same tone. 'I believe not. I wish I
could be angry with people. It is the easiest way.'

'If you are not angry, give me your hand once more.'

'Are we to execute any further gyrations?'

'Give it to me, and we will see.'

Rather hesitatingly, one white glove came from the window-
sill, within his reach.

'You are a queer person!' she said. 'You will neither give
orders nor make me execute them, without having hold of my
hand! Are you keeping watch of my pulse, so as to stop in
time?'

He made no answer to that, nor spoke at all immediately. His
hand closed upon the little white glove, and keeping it so, he
presently said gravely,

'You and I ought to be good friends, Hazel, on several
accounts;--because your father and mother were good friends of
mine,--and because I love you very dearly.'

A slight motion of her part,--he could not tell whether she
started, or what it was,--changed instantly to a breathless
stillness. Only a timid stir of the hand, as if it meant to
slip away unnoticed. But it was held too firmly for that.

'I don't know whether you know yet,' he went on after a slight
pause, 'what it is to love anybody very dearly. I remember you
told Gyda one day that you had never loved any one so since
your mother. Certainly I have never had a right to flatter
myself that _I_ had been able to teach you what it means. If I
am mistaken,--tell me.'

'Easy work!'--she might have answered again,--to tell him what
she had never told herself. And particularly nice of him to
choose such a place for his inquiries, where there was no
possible way of exit (for her) but the coach window. What had
he never tried to teach her, except to mind? And of course she
never knew anything about--anything! But there Hazel shifted
her ground, and felt herself growing frightened, and certainly
wished her new guardian a hundred miles away. What did he
mean?--was he only sounding her, as Mr. Falkirk did sometimes?
If so, he might just find out for himself!--With which clear
view of the case, Wych Hazel set her foot (mentally) on all
troublesome possibilities, and sat listening to hear her hear
beat; and wondered how many statements of fact Mr. Rollo was
going to make, and at what point in the list truth would
oblige her to start up and confront him?

He had paused a little, to give room for the answer he did not
expect. Seeing it came not, with a slight hastily drawn breath
he went on again.

'In the mean time you have heard what you never ought to have
heard,--or not for a long time; and through the same good
agency other people have heard it too; and you are placed in a
position almost to hate the sight of me, and shrink from the
sound of my name; and you are looking upon your father's will
as binding you to a sort of slavery. I am not going to stand
this a minute longer.

'Hazel--unless you can love me dearly, my privileges as
guardian would be of no use to me. I would not take advantage
of them if I could. I would not have you on any other terms.
And I certainly am not going to be a clog upon your happiness.
I have made up my mind to keep my office, nominally, for one
year; practically I mean to leave you very much to Mr.
Falkirk. I will keep it for a year. At the end of the year,
you shall tell me whether I shall give it up or keep it
longer. But if longer, it will be for ever. And I warn you, if
you give it to me then, it will be a closer and sweeter
guardianship than you have had yet, Hazel. I will keep what I
love, so dearly and absolutely as I love her. But I shall not
speak to you again on this subject until the year's end. You
need not be afraid. I mean to see you and to let you see me;
but you will hear no more about this till the time comes.'

No answer, even then, only the trembling of the little hand.
Dark as it was, she turned her head yet more away, laying her
other cheek upon the window.

'Are we friends now?' he said somewhat lower.

'Mr. Rollo'--she began. But the tremor had found its way to the
girl's voice, and she broke off short.

'Well?' said he. 'That is one of the parties. I meant, Mr.
Rollo and Hazel.'

'Be quiet!' she said impatiently,--'and let me speak.' But what
Hazel wanted to say, did not immediately appear.

He answered by a clasp of her hand, and waited.

'I am quiet,'--he suggested at length.

The girl made a desperate effort, and lifted up her head, and
sat back in her place, to answer; but managing her voice very
much like spun glass, which might give way in the using; and
evidently choosing her words with great care, every now and
then just missing the wrong one.

'You go on making statements,' she said, catching her breath,
'and I--have taken up none of them, because I cannot,--because
if,--I mean, I have let them _all_ pass, Mr. Rollo.'--If truth
demanded a greater sacrifice just then, it could not be
because this one was small.

'I know,' he answered. 'Will you do better now? What mistake
has your silence led me into, or left me in?'

'I said nothing about mistakes. And I always do as well as I
can at first,' said Hazel, with a touch of the same
impatience.

'My statements did not call for an answer. But I am going to
say some other things to which I do want an answer. Shall I go
on?'

'You know what they are,' she said.

'I want you,' he went on, speaking slowly and deliberately,
'to give me your promise that you will not waltz any more
until the year is out that I spoke of.'

She answered presently, speaking in a measured sort of way,
'That is one thing. The other?'

'I want your promise to the first.'

'Suppose I am not ready to give it?'

'I ask for it, all the same.'

Again she sorted her words.

'Well then--I am not ready,--I mean, not willing. And do not you
see--at least, I mean, you do not see--how--unreasoning a request
it is?' The adjective gave her some trouble.

'Not unreasonable?'

'I said nothing about reasonable.'

'No. But I must have your promise. If you knew the world
better, it would not be necessary for me to make the request;
I know that; but the fact that you are--simple as a wild lily,--
does not make me willing to see the wild lily lose any of its
charm. Neither will I, Hazel, as long as I have the care of
it. So long as you are even in idea mine, no man shall--touch
you, again, as I saw it last night! You are precious to me
beyond such a possibility. Give me your promise.'

'You shall not talk to me so!' she cried, shrinking off in the
old fashion. 'I will not let you! You have done it before. And
I tell you that I never--touch anybody--except with the tip end
of my glove!'

'No more than the wild lily does. But, Hazel, no one shall
_touch the lily_, while I have care of it!' He spoke in the low
tone of determination. Hazel did not answer.

'Promise me!' he said again, when he found that she was
silent.

'By your own shewing it is hardly needed,' she said. 'I
suppose obedience will do as well.'

'Let it be a matter of grace, not of obligation.'

'There is some grace in obedience. Why do you want a promise?'

'To make the matter certain. Else you may be tempted, or
cajoled, into what--if you knew better--you would never do. You
will know better by and by. Meanwhile I stand in the way.
Come! give me the promise!'

There was a little bit of laugh at that, saying various
things.

'I shall not be cajoled,' she said. 'But I will not make
promises.'

'How then will you make me secure that what I do not wish
shall not be done?'

'It is not a matter about which I am anxious, sir,' said Miss
Wych coolly.

'I am not anxious,' he said very quietly, 'because one way or
another I will be secure. Do you think I can hold you in my
heart as I do, and suffer other men to approach you as I saw
it last night? Never again, Hazel!'

Dead silence on the lady's part; this 'mixed-up' style of
remark being, as she found, extremely hard to answer.

'What shall I do?' he said gently.

'About what, sir?'

'Making myself secure?'

'I do not know,' said Wych Hazel. 'No suggestion occurs to me
that would be worth your consideration.'

'I spoke to you once, some time ago, on the abstract grounds
of the question we have under discussion. These, being only a
wild lily, you did not comprehend. You do not love me, or you
would give me my promise fast enough on other grounds. You
leave me a very difficult way. You leave me no way but to take
measures to remove you from temptation. Is not that less
pleasant, Hazel, than to give me the promise?'

She was silent for several minutes; not pondering the
question, but fighting the pain. To be _forced_ into anything,--
to have _him_ take that tone with her!--

'How will you do it?' she said.

He hesitated and then answered gently,

'You need not ask me that. You will not make it necessary.'

'Not ask?' said Wych Hazel rousing up. 'Of course I ask! Do
you expect to frighten me off my feet with a mere impersonal
"it"?'--Then with a laugh which somehow told merely of pain,
she added: 'You might cut short my allowance, and stint me in
slippers,--only that unfortunately the allowance is a fixed
fact.'

'I did not mean to threaten,' he said in a voice that
certainly spoke of pain on his own part. 'Is it so much to
promise, Hazel?'

'You did do it, however,' said the girl,--'but we will pass
that. Everything is "much" to promise. And why I refuse, Mr.
Rollo, is not the question. But it seems to me, that while my
father might command me, on my allegiance, to give such a
promise, no delegated authority of his can reach so far. I may
find myself mistaken.'

'Do me justice,' he said. 'I did not command a promise; I sued
for it. The protection the promise was to throw around you, I
will secure in other ways if I must. But do not forget, Hazel,
why I do it.'

'I do not believe you know,' said the girl excitedly. ' "Wild
lilies?"--why, even wild elephants are not usually required to
tie their own knots. What comes next? I should like to have
the whole, if possible, before I get home--which seems likely
to be about breakfast time.'

'Reo is driving as fast as he ought to drive, such a night.
What do you mean by "what comes next"?'

'You said, I thought, you had several things to speak of.'

'I remember. I was going to ask you to go to see Gyda
sometimes.'

'That is already disposed of--if I am to be allowed to go
nowhere,' said Hazel, with a rush of pain which very nearly
got into her voice. 'The next, Mr. Rollo?'

'I think, nothing next. You know,' he went on, speaking half
lightly, and yet with a thread of tender persuasion in his
voice, 'you know that next year you can dispose of me. Seeing
that in the mean while you cannot help yourself, would it not
be better to give me the assurance that for this year you will
forego the waltz? and let things go on as they are? Field mice
always make the best of circumstances.'

'All summer,' she answered, 'you have not even taken the
trouble to forbid me! And now, forbidding will not do, but you
must use threats. They might at least wait until I had
disobeyed.'

'That is a very distant view of me indeed!' said Rollo.
'Details are lost. I will get you a lorgnette the next time I
go anywhere.'

'You had better,' said Hazel, not stopping to weigh her words
this time, 'for such distance does not lend enchantment.'--
After which the silence on her part became rather profound.

'No,' said Rollo dryly, 'I see it does not. What will you do
by and by, when you are sorry for having treated me so this
evening?'

'I daresay I shall find out when the time comes.'--

She leaned her head back against the carriage, wanting
dreadfully to get home, and put it down, and think. She could
not think with her hand held fast in that fashion,--and she
could not get it away, without making a fuss and so drawing
attention to the fact that it was not in her own keeping. One
or two slight efforts in that direction had been singularly
fruitless. So she sat still, puzzling over questions which
have perplexed older heads than hers. As, how you can have a
thing given you, and yet not seem to possess it,--and why
people cannot say words to give you pleasure, without at once
adding others to give you pain. What had she done? Mr. Falkirk
would have thought her a miracle of obedience these last two
nights; she even wondered at herself. How she had enjoyed her
home this summer! --it seemed to her that she loved every leaf
upon every tree. What could he mean by 'remove'? And here a
long, deep sigh so nearly escaped her lips, that she sat up
again in sudden haste, erect as before; but feeling
unmistakably lonely, and just a little bit forlorn.

Perhaps her companion's thoughts had come on one point near to
hers; for he gently put the little white glove back upon her
lap and left it there. His words went back to her last ones,
though after a minute's interval.

'It will come,' he said confidently. 'All the field mice of my
acquaintance are true and tender. _When_ it comes, Hazel, will
you do me justice?'

She stirred uneasily, and once or twice essayed to speak, and
did not make it out. This way of taking things for granted,
and on such made ground laying out railroads and running
trains, was very confusing. Hazel felt as if the air were full
of mistakes, and none of them within her reach. When at last
she did speak, plainly she had laid hold of the easiest. The
words came out abruptly, but in one of her sweet bird-like
tones.

'Mr. Rollo--I am not the least imaginable bit like a field
mouse!'

'In what respect?'

'These nice, tender people that you know'--she went on. 'I
believe I am true.'

It might have been some pressure of the latter fact, that made
her go on after a moments pause; catching her breath a little,
as if to go on was very disagreeable, speaking quick and low;
correcting herself here and there.

'I wish you would stop saying--all sorts of things, Mr. Rollo.
Because they are not true. Some of them. And--I do not
understand you. Sometimes. And I do not know what you mean by
my doing you justice. Because--I always did--I think,--and I have
not "treated you," at all, to-night.'

With which Hazel leaned head and hands down upon the window
again, and looked out into the dark night. Would they ever get
home?--But it was impossible to drive faster. A thick fog
filled the air, and it was intensely dark.

'I have been telling you that I love you. That you do not
quite understand. I am bound not to speak on the subject again
for a whole year. But supposing that in the meantime you
should come to the understanding of it,--and suppose you find
out that I have given field mice a just character;--will you do
me the justice to let me find it out? And in the meantime,--we
shall be at Chickaree presently,--perhaps you will give me, in
a day or two, the assurance I have begged of you, and not
drive me to extremities.'

'Very well!' she said, raising her head again,--'if you will
have it in that shape! But the worth of an insignificant thing
depends a little upon the setting, and the setting of my
refusal was much better than the setting of my compliance.
There is no grace whatever about this. And take notice, sir,
that if you had gone to "extremities," you would have driven
yourself. I always have obeyed, and always should. But I give
the promise!'--and her head went down again, and her eyes
looked straight out into the fog.

He said 'Thank you!' earnestly, and he said no more. There is
no doubt but he felt relieved; at the same time there is no
doubt but Mr. Rollo was a mystified man. That her compliance
had no grace about it was indeed manifest enough; the grace of
her refusal was further to seek. He deposited the little lady
of Chickaree at her own door with no more words than a 'good-
night;' and went the rest of his way in the fog alone. And if
Wych Hazel had suffered some annoyance that evening, her young
guardian was not without his share of pain. It was rather
sharp for a time, after he parted from her. Had the work of
these weeks, and of his revealed guardianship, and of his
exercise of office, driven her from him entirely? He looked
into the question, as he drove home through the fog.


CHAPTER XXXVIII.

DODGING.


It was no new thing for the young lady of Chickaree to come
home late, and dismiss her attendants, and put herself to bed;
neither was it uncommon for her to sleep over breakfast time
in such cases, and take her coffee afterwards in Mrs. Bywank's
room alone. But when the fog had cleared away, the morning
after Mme. Lasalle's ball, and the sun was riding high, and
still no signs of Miss Wych, then Mrs. Bywank went to her
room. And the good housekeeper was much taken aback to find
peasant dress and grey serge curled down together in a heap on
the floor, and Miss Wych among them, asleep with her head in a
chair. Perhaps that in itself was not so much; but the long
eyelashes lay wet and heavy upon her cheek,--and Mrs. Bywank
knew that token of old.

I am afraid some hard thoughts about Mr. Rollo disturbed her
mind, as she stood there looking. What use had he made of his
ticket to distress her darling?--she such a mere child, and he
with his mature twenty-five years? But Mrs. Bywank did not
dare to ask, even when the girl stirred and woke and rose up;
though the ready flush, and the unready eyes, and the grave
mouth, went to her very heart. She noted, too, that her young
lady went into no graphic descriptions of the ball, as was her
wont; but merely bade Phoebe take away the two fancy dresses,
and ensconced herself in a maze of soft white folds, and then
went and knelt down by the open window; leaning her elbows
there, and her chin on her hands. Mrs. Bywank waited.

'Miss Wych,' she began after a while,--'my dear, you have had
no breakfast.'

'I want none.'

'But you will have some lunch?'

'No.'

'My dear,--you must,' said Mrs. Bywank. 'You will be sick, Miss
Wych.'

'Don't _you_ say "must" to me, Byo!' said the girl impetuously.
But then she started up and flung her arms round Mrs. Bywank
and kissed her, and said, 'Come, let's have some lunch,
then!'--giving half-a-dozen orders to Phoebe as she went along.
But the minute lunch was over, Wych Hazel stepped into her
carriage and drove away. Not the landau this time, through the
September day was fair and soft; neither was the young lady
arrayed in any wise for paying visits; her white cloud of
morning muslin and lace, her broad gipsy hat, and gauntlets
caught up and carried in her hand, not put on,--so she bestowed
herself in the close carriage which generally she used only by
night. And the low-spoken orders to Reo were, to take her a
road she had never been, and drive till she told him to stop.
Then she threw herself back against the cushions, and buried
her face in hands, and tried to think.

If _that_ was to leave her 'practically to Mr. Falkirk,' her
knowledge of English was somewhat deficient. And if belonging
to somebody merely 'in idea' had such results!--but she was shy
of the 'idea,' blushing over it there all by herself as she
pushed it away. She was disappointed, there was no doubt about
that. Foiled of her plan, over which she had pleased herself;
for she had intended to give a 'no' instead of a 'yes' at the
right place in the charade, to the discomfiture of all
parties;--curbed by a strong hand, which she never could bear;
hurt and sorrowful that nobody would trust her with even the
care of her own womanhood.

'I wonder what there is about me?' she cried to herself, with
two or three indignant tears rushing up unbidden. 'As if I had
not had a sharper lesson the other night than any _he_ could
give!'--No, quite that; the sharpest dated further back; but
this would have been enough of itself. And what else was she
to do or not do?--she took down her hands, and crossed them,
and looked at them as she had done before the picture of the
'loss of all things.' These bonds did not feel like those; she
did not like them, none the less;--and--she wondered what was
his idea of _close_ guardianship? And had he made any
misstatements?--Reo drove on and on, till his practised eye saw
that to get home by tea-time was all that was left, and then
stopped and got permission to turn round.

But driving seemed to have become a sudden passion with Miss
Wych. She kept herself out, somewhere, somehow, day after day;
denied of course to all visitors, and of small avail to Mr.
Falkirk, except to pour out his coffee. Miss Kennedy was in
danger of creating a new excitement; being always out and yet
never visible; for one entertainment after another went by,
and brought only her excuses.

Either the driving fever cooled, however, or Wych Hazel found
out at last that even thoughts may be troublesome company; for
she began suddenly to surround herself with invited guests;
and one or two to breakfast, and three to dinner, and six to
tea, became the new order of things for Mr. Falkirk's
delectation. Some favoured young ladies even stayed over night
sometimes, and then they all went driving together. Mr.
Falkirk frowned, and Mrs. Bywank smiled; and cards accumulated
to a fearful extent in the hall basket at Chickaree.

Rollo among others had been discomfited, by finding the young
lady invisible, or, what was the same thing for his purpose,
visible to too many at once. This state of things lasted some
time, but in the nature of things could not last for ever.
There came a morning, when Mr. Falkirk was the only visitor at
the Chickaree breakfast table, and just as Mr. Falkirk's
coffee was poured out, Dingee announced his co-guardian.

Well--she knew it had to come; but she could have found in her
heart to execute summary justice on Dingee for the
announcement, nevertheless. Nobody saw her eyes,--and nobody
could help seeing her cheeks; but all else that transpired was
a very reserved:

'Good morning, Mr. Rollo. You are just in time to enliven Mr.
Falkirk's breakfast, over which he ran some risk of going to
sleep.'

Perhaps Mr. Rollo had a flashing question cross his mind,
whether he had not missed something through lack of a hunter's
patience the other night; but he was too much of a hunter to
do anything but make the best of circumstances. He shook hands
in precisely his usual manner; remarking that Mr. Falkirk had
not had a ride of four miles; took his breakfast like a man
who had; and only towards the close of breakfast suddenly
turned to his hostess and asked, 'How does Jeannie Deans
behave?'

Apparently Hazel's thoughts had not been held fast by the
politics under discussion, for she had gone into a deep grave
meditation.

'Jeannie Deans?' she said, with her face flushing all up
again. 'Why--very well. The last time I rode her.'

'When was that?'

'Monday, I think, was the day of the week; but I suppose she
would have behaved just as well if it had been Tuesday.'

'Then probably she would have no objection to Wednesday?'

'Other things being comfortable,' said Wych Hazel, still
keeping her eyes to herself.

'Do you mean, that you and she are in such sympathy, that if
she does not behave well you know the reason?'

'I never sympathize with anybody's ill-behaviour but my own,'
said Hazel, 'if that is what you mean.'

'I meant,' said Rollo with perfect gravity, 'that perhaps she
sympathized with _yours?_'

'It occurs to me in this connection--talking of behaviour,'--
said Miss Kennedy, 'that I had a question to ask of you two
gentlemen, which it may save time--and trouble-- to state while
you are both together. Are you attending to me, sir?' she
asked, looking straight over at her other guardian now,--'or
has your mind gone off to: "Grand Vizier certainly
strangled"?'

'My mind never goes off when you begin to state questions,
Miss Hazel; knowing that it will probably have work enough at
home.'

'This one is extremely simple, sir. Why, when you both agreed
that I should have neither saddle-horse nor pony for my own
individual use, did you not tell me so at once? Instead of
keeping me all summer in a state of hope deferred and
disappointment in hand?'

'Shall I take the burden of explanation on myself, sir?' asked
Rollo.

'If you like. It lies on you properly,' said Mr. Falkirk, in
anything but an amiable voice.

'Then may I order up Jeannie for you?' Rollo went on with a
smile, to Wych Hazel; 'and I will explain as we go along.'

'That is to say, there is no explanation, but just the one I
had made out for myself. Mr. Falkirk, did I ever practise any
underhand dealings with you?' she said.

'Don't begin to do it with me,' said Rollo. 'Suppose you put
on your habit, and in half an hour we'll have it all out on
the road.'

'Your respective ancestors must have been invaluable in the
old Salem times,' said the young lady, arching her brows a
little. 'In these days I think truth should win truth.' With
which expression of opinion Miss Wych whistled for a fresh
glass of water and dismissed the subject. Not without a
smothered sigh, however.

'I did not understand,' said Rollo, 'that expression of
respect for our ancestors.'

'Naturally. As I expressed none. But I remember--you belong
across the sea; where witchcraft probably is unknown, and so
is never dealt with.'

'What would you give as the best manner of dealing with it?'
Rollo inquired with admirable command of countenance.

'I suppose I should let them go their way. But then, being one
of the guild, I of course fail to see the danger; and cannot
appreciate the mild form of fear which has shadowed Mr.
Falkirk for ten years past, nor the sharper attack which has
suddenly seized Mr. Rollo.' She could keep her face too,
looking carelessly down and poising her teaspoon.

'What becomes of your kitten, when you are suddenly made aware
that there are strange dogs about?' said Rollo again, eyeing
her.

'My kitten, indeed!'--said Hazel, with just so much stir of her
composure as recognized the look which yet she did not see.
'Did you ever hear of a dog's cajoling a cat, Mr. Rollo?'

'Did _you_ never hear of puss in a corner?'

'Yes,' she said. 'You would not think it, but I am very good
at that.'

'You are very good at something else,' said he smiling. 'Will
you permit me to remind you, that I have not yet had the
honour of an answer to my inquiry whether your witchship will
ride this morning?'

If Mr. Falkirk had been away, it is not sure what she would
have answered; but Hazel had no mind to draw out even silent
comments from him. So she gave a hesitating answer that yet
granted the appeal. Then wished the next moment she had not
given it. Would she need most courage to take it back, or to
go on?

'If you will excuse me, then, I will go and see to the horses.
I leave you, Mr. Falkirk, to defend yourself! I have been
unable to decoy the enemy.'

With which he went off. Mr. Falkirk's brows were drawn pretty
close.

'Miss Hazel, I should like to be told, now that we are alone,
in what way I have failed to meet "truth with truth"?'

'My dear sir, how you do scowl at me!' said Miss Hazel,
retaking her easy manner, now that _her_ enemy was away. 'I only
used the word in a popular sense. If I never misled _you_, then
you had no right to mislead _me_.'

'How were you misled, Miss Hazel?'

'I supposed, being somewhat simple-minded, that the reason
horse, pony, and basket wagon did not appear, was that they
could not be found, sir. It shews how ignorant I am of the
world still, I must acknowledge.'

'I have no opinion of ponies and basket wagons,' said her
guardian. 'And I do not know how well you can drive. And you
are too young, Miss Hazel, and too--well, you are too young to
be allowed to drive round the world by yourself. When
Cinderella, no, when Quickear, sets off to seek her fortune,
she goes fast enough in all nature without a pony.'

'There are just two little faults in your statement, sir,
considered as an answer. I never was fast'--said Miss Hazel,--
'but trying to hoodwink me is not likely to make me slow,'--and
she went off to don her habit and gather herself up for the
ride.


CHAPTER XXXIX.

A COTTON MILL.


As she came to the side door, she saw Rollo just dismounting
from Jeannie Deans, and immediately preparing to remove his
saddle and substitute the side-saddle; which he did with the
care used on a former occasion. But Jeannie had raised her
head and given a whinny of undoubted pleasure.

'Let her go, Mr. Rollo,' whispered Lewis.

And so released, the little brown steed set off at once,
walking straight to the verandah steps, pausing there and
looking up to watch Hazel, renewing her greeting in lower
tones, as if _this_ were private and confidential. Hazel ran
down the steps, and made her fingers busy with bridle and
mane, giving furtive caresses. Only when she was mounted, and
Rollo had turned, his ear caught the sound of one or two
little soft whispers that were meant for Jeannie's ears alone.

Perhaps the gentleman wanted to give Wych Hazel's thoughts a
convenient diversion; perhaps he wished to get upon some safe
common ground of interest and intercourse; perhaps he purposed
to wear off any awkwardness that might embarrass their mutual
good understanding; for he prefaced the ride with a series of
instructions in horsemanship. Mr. Falkirk had never let his
ward practise leaping; Rollo knew that; but now, and with Mr.
Falkirk looking on, he ordered up the two grooms with a bar,
and gave Wych Hazel a lively time for half an hour. A good
solid riding lesson, too; and probably for that space of time
at least attained all his ends. But when he himself was
mounted, and they had set off upon a quiet descent of the
Chickaree hill, out of sight of Mr. Falkirk, all Wych Hazel's
shyness came back again; hiding itself behind reserve. Rollo
was in rather a gay mood.

'It is good practice,' he said. 'Did you ever go through a
cotton mill?'

'Never.'

'How would you like to go through one to-day?'

'Why--I do not know. Very well, I daresay.'

So with this slight and doubtful encouragement, Rollo again
took the way to Morton Hollow. It was early October now; the
maples and hickories showing red and yellow; the air a
wonderful compound of spicy sweetness and strength; the heaven
over their heads mottled with filmy stretches of cloud, which
seemed to float in the high ether quite at rest. A day for all
sorts of things; good for exertion, and equally inviting one
to be still and think.

'How happens it you have let Jeannie stand still so long?'
Rollo asked presently.

'I have not wanted to ride her,--that is all.'

'Would you like her better if she were your own?' he said
quite gently, though with a keen eye directed at Wych Hazel's
face.

'No. Not now.' The 'now' slipped out by mistake, and might
mean either of two things. Rollo did not feel sure what it
meant.

'Did you ever notice,' he said after a few minutes again, 'how
different the clouds of this season are from those of other
times of the year? Look at those high bands of vapour lying
along towards the south; they seem absolutely poised and
still. Clouds in spring and summer are drifting, or flying, or
dispersing, or gathering: earnest and purposeful; with work to
do, and hurrying to do it. Look at those yonder; they are at
rest, as if all the work of the year were done up. I think
they say it is.'

The fair grave face was lifted, shewing uncertainty through
the light veil; and she looked up intently at the sky, almost
wondering to herself if there _had_ been clouds in the spring
and early summer. She hardly seemed to remember them.

'Is that what they say to you?' she said dreamily. 'They look
to me as if they were just waiting,--waiting to see where the
wind will rise.'

'But the wind does not rise in October. They will lie there,
on the blessed blue, half the day. It looks to me like the
rest after work.'

She glanced at him.

'I do not know much about work,' she said. 'What I suppose you
would call work. It has not come into my hands.'

'It has not come into mine,' said Rollo. 'But can there be
rest without work going before it?'

'Such stillness?' she said, looking up at the white flecks
again. 'But according to that, we do not either of us know
rest.'

'Well,' said he smiling, 'I do not. Do you?'

'I used to think I did. What do you mean by rest, Mr. Rollo?'

'Look at those lines of cloud. They tell. The repose of
satisfied exertion; the happy looking back upon work done,
after the call for work is over.'

She looked up, and kept looking up; but she did not speak.
Somehow the new combinations of these last weeks had made her
sober; she did not get used to them. The little wayward scraps
of song had been silent, and the quick speeches did not come.

'But then,' Rollo went on again presently, 'then comes up
another question. What is work? I mean, what is work for such
people as you and I?'

'I suppose,' said Hazel, 'whatever we find to do.'

'I have not found anything. Have you? Those clouds somehow
seem to speak reproach to me. May be that is their business.'

'I have not been looking,' said Hazel. 'You know I have been
shut up until this summer. But I should think you might have
found plenty,--going among people as you do.'

'What sort?'

'Different sorts, I suppose. At least if you are as good at
making work for yourself in some cases as you are in others,'
she said with a queer little recollective gleam in her face.
'Did it never occur to you that you might set the world
straight--and persuade its orbit into being regular?'

'No,' said Rollo carelessly, 'I never undertake more than I
can manage. Here is a good place for a run.'

They had come into the long level lane which led to Morton
Hollow; and giving their horses the rein they swept through
the October air in a flight which scorned the ground. When the
banks of the lane began to grow higher and to close in upon
the narrowing roadway, which also became crooked and
irregular, they drew bridle again and returned to the earth.

'Don't you feel set straight now?' said Rollo.

'Thank you--no.'

'I am afraid you will give me some work to do, yet,' said he
audaciously, and putting his hand out upon Wych Hazel's. 'Do
not carry quite so loose a rein. Jeannie is sure, I believe,
and you are fearless; but you should always let her know you
are there.'


'Mr. Rollo--' said the girl hastily. Then she stopped.

'What?' said Rollo innocently, riding close alongside and
looking her hard in the face. 'I am here.'

'Nothing.'

Then he changed his tone and said gently, 'What was it, Miss
Hazel?'

'Something better unsaid.'

He was silent a minute, and went on gravely--

'You wanted to know why I interfered the other night as I did;
and I promised, I believe, to explain it to you when I had an
opportunity. I will, if you bid me; but I may do the people
injustice, and I would rather you took the view of an
unprejudiced person--Mr. Falkirk, for instance. But if you wish
it, I will tell you myself.'

'No,' she said; 'I do not wish it.'

Rollo was quite as willing to let the matter drop; and in a
few minutes more they were at the mill he had proposed to
visit. There they dismounted, the horses were sent on to the
bend in the valley, beyond the mills; and presenting a pass,
Rollo and Wych Hazel were admitted into the building, where
strangers rarely came. One of the men in authority was known
to Mr. Rollo; he presented himself now, and with much civility
ushered them through the works.

They made a slow progress of it; full of interest, because
full of intelligent appreciation. Perhaps, in the abstract,
one would not expect to find a gay young man of the world
versed in the intricacies of a cotton mill; but however it
were, Rollo had studied the subject, and was now bent on
making Wych hazel understand all the beautiful details of the
machinery and the curiosities of the manufacture. This was a
new view of him to his companion. He took endless pains to
make her familiar with the philosophy of the subject, as well
as its history. Patient and gentle and evidently not in the
least thinking of himself, his grey eyes were ever searching
in Wych Hazel's face to see whether she comprehended and how
she enjoyed what he was giving her. As to the relations
between them, his manner all the while, as well as during the
ride, was very much what it had been before the disclosure
made by Mrs. Coles had sent Wych Hazel off on a tangent of
alienation from him. Nothing could exceed the watch kept over
her, or the care taken of her; and neither could make less
demonstration. There was also the same quiet assumption of
her, which had been in his manner for so long; that also was
never officiously displayed, though never wanting when there
was occasion. And now, in the mill, all these went along with
that courtier-like deference of style, which paid her all the
honour that manner could; yet it was the deference of one very
near and not of one far off.

Wych Hazel for her part shewed abundant power of interest and
of understanding, in their progress through the mill; quick to
catch explanations, quick to see the beauty of some fine bit
of machinery; but very quiet. Her eyes hardly ever rose to the
level of his; her questions were a little more free to the
conductor than to him. Even her words and smiles to the mill
people seemed to wait for times when his back was turned, as
if she were shy of in any wise displaying herself before him.

Their progress through the mill was delayed further by Rollo's
interest in the operatives. A rather sad interest this had
need to be. The men, and the women, employed as hands in the
works, were lank and pale and haggard, or dark and coarse.
Their faces were reserved and gloomy; eyes would not light up,
even when spoken to; and Rollo tried the expedient pretty
often. Yet the children were the worst. Little things, and
others older, but all worn-looking, sadly pale, very hopeless,
going back and forth at their work like so many parts of the
inexorable machinery. Here Rollo now and then got a smile,
that gleamed out as a rare thing in that atmosphere. On the
whole, the outer air seemed strange and sweet to the two when
they came out into it, and not more sweet than strange. Where
they had been, surely the beauty, and the freedom, and the
promise, of the pure oxygen and the blue heaven, were all shut
out and denied and forgotten.

'There is work for somebody to do,' said Rollo thoughtfully,
when the mill door was shut behind them.

The girl looked at him gravely, then away.

'Do all mill people look so?' she said. 'Or is it just Morton
Hollow?'

'They do not all look so. At least I am told this is a very
uncommon case for this country. Yet no doubt there are others,
and it is not--"just Morton Hollow." Suppose, for the sake of
argument, that all mill people look so; what deduction would
you draw?'


'Well, that I should like to have the mills,' said Wych Hazel.

They walked slowly on through the Hollow. The place was still
and empty; all the hands being in the mills; the buzz of
machinery within, as they passed one, was almost the only
sound abroad. The cottages were forlorn looking places; set
anywhere, without reference to the consideration whether space
for a garden ground was to be had. No such thing as a real
garden could be seen. No flowers bloomed anywhere; no token of
life's comfort or pleasure hung about the poor dwellings.
Poverty and dirt and barrenness; those three facts struck the
visitor's eye and heart. A certain degree of neatness and
order indeed was enforced about the road and the outside of
the houses; nothing to give the feeling of the sweet reality
within. The only person they saw to speak to was a woman
sitting at an open door crying. It would not have occurred to
most people that she was one 'to speak to'; however, Rollo
stepped a little out of the road to open communication with
her. His companion followed, but the words were German.

'What is the matter?' she asked as they turned to go on their
way.

'Do you remember the girl that came to Gyda's that day you
were there? this is her mother. Trüdchen, she says, has been
sick for two weeks; very ill; she has just begun to sit up;
and her father has driven her to mill work again this morning.
The mother says she knows the girl will die.'

'Driven her to work!' said Hazel. 'What for?'

'Money. For her wages.'

'What nonsense!' said Hazel, knitting her brows. 'Why, I can
pay that! Tell her so, please, will you? And tell her to send
Trüdchen down to Chickaree for Mrs. Bywank and me to cure her
up. She will never get well here.'

Rollo gave a swift bright look at his companion, and then made
three leaps up the bank to the cottage door. He came down
again smiling, but there was a suspicious veiling of his sharp
eyes.

'She will cry no more to-day,' he remarked to Wych Hazel. 'And
now you have done some work.'

'Have I?'--with a half laugh. 'But instead of wanting to rest,
I feel like doing some more. So you have made a mistake
somewhere, Mr. Rollo.'

There came as she spoke, a buzz of other voices, issuing from
another mill just before them; voices trained in the higher
notes, and knowing little of the minor key. And forth from the
opening door came a gay knot of people,--feathers and flowers
and colours, with a black coat here and there; one of which
made a short way to Miss Kennedy's side.

'Where have you been?' said Captain Lancaster, after a
courteous recognition of Mr. Rollo. 'You have been driving us
all to despair?'

'People that are driven to despair never go,' said Wych Hazel;
'so you are all safe.'

'And you are all yourself. That is plain. Why were you not at
Fox Hill? But you are coming to Valley Garden to-morrow?'

'I think not. At least, I am sure not.'

'Then to the ball at Crocus?'

'No.'

'My dear Hazel!' and 'My dear Miss Kennedy!' now sounded from
so many female voices in different keys of surprise and
triumph, that for a minute or two the hum was
indistinguishable. Questions came on the heels of one another
incongruously. Then as the gentlemen fell together in a knot
to discuss their horses, the tongues of the women had a little
more liberty than was good for them.

'You have been riding, Hazel; where are your horses?'

'Where have you been?'

'O, you've been going over a mill! A _cotton_ mill? Horrid! What
is the fun of a cotton mill? what did you go there for?'

'What sort of a mill have you been over?' said Hazel.

'O, the silk mill. Such lovely colours, and cunning little
silk-winders,--it's so funny! But where have you been all this
age, Hazel? you have been nowhere.'

'I know what has happened,' said Josephine Powder, looking
half vexed and half curious,--'you needn't tell _me_ anything.
When a lady sees almost nobody and goes riding with the rest,
we know what _that_ means. It's transparent.'

'I wouldn't conclude upon it, Hazel,' said another lady. 'A
man that had got a habit of command by being one's guardian,
you know, wouldn't leave it off easy. Would he, Mrs. Powder?'

'Are we to congratulate you, my dear?' asked the ex-Governor's
lady, with a civil smile, and an eye to the answer.

'Really, ma'am, I see no present occasion?' said Hazel, with
more truth than coolness.

'She sees no occasion!' cried Josephine. 'Well, I shouldn't
either in her place.' (Which was a clear statement that grapes
were sour.) 'Poor child! Are you chained up for good, Hazel?'

'Hush, Josephine?' said her mother, who was a well-bred woman;
such women _can_ have such daughters now-a-days. And she went on
to invite Hazel to join a party that were going in the
afternoon to visit a famous look-out height, called Beacon
Hill. She begged Hazel to come for luncheon, and the excursion
afterwards.

'Do say yes, please!' said Captain Lancaster, turning from the
other group. 'You have said nothing but no for the last
month.'

'Well, if being a negative means that one is not also a
positive--' Hazel began.

'And then, oh Miss Kennedy,' broke in Molly Seaton, 'there's
this new Englishman!--'

'A new Englishman!--'

'Yes,' said Molly, unconscious why the rest laughed, 'and he's
seen you at church. And he has vowed he will not go home till
he has seen you in the German.'

'Has he?' said Hazel. 'I hope he likes America.'

They gathered round her at that, in a breeze of laughter and
entreaty, till her shy gravity gave way, and Mr. Rollo's ears
were saluted by such a musical laugh as he had not heard for
many a day.

'He'll be here presently,' said Molly. 'He's up in the mill
with Kitty Fisher. So you can ask him yourself, Miss Kennedy.'

Rollo heard, and purposely held himself a little back, and
continued a conversation he did not attend to; he would not be
more of a spoil-sport then he could help.

'You'll come, won't you, Hazel?' said Josephine. 'I will be
very good if you will come.'

Hazel balanced probabilities for one swift second.

'That is too large a promise, Phinny--I would not make it. But
I will come, thank you, Mrs. Powder. Only not to luncheon. I
will drive over this afternoon, and meet you at the hill.'

'Why, here is our dear Duchess!' cried Kitty Fisher, rushing
up. 'And where is the--ahem!--Mr. Rollo, I am delighted to see
you. Miss Kennedy, allow me to present Sir Henry Crafton.'

Wych Hazel bowed, and turning towards Mr. Rollo, remarked that
if she was to come back, she must go. Rollo was also invited
to Beacon Hill, but excused himself; and he and Wych Hazel
left the others, to go forward to find their horses.

On the ride home he made himself particularly pleasant;
talking about matters which he contrived to present in very
entertaining fashion; ignoring the people and the insinuations
they had left behind them in the Hollow, and drawing Wych
Hazel, so far as he could, into a free meeting of him on
neutral ground. They had another run through the lane; a good
trot over the highway; and when they had entered the gate of
Chickaree and were slowly mounting the hill, he spoke in
another tone.

'Miss Hazel, don't you think you have done enough for to-day?'

'Made a good beginning.'

'Twenty-four miles on horseback--and a cotton mill! That is
enough for one day, isn't it, for you?'

'Twenty-four, is it?' she said carelessly. 'Call it four, and
my feeling will not contradict you.'

'Very well. I want your feeling to remain in the same healthy
condition.'

'It always does.'

'Beacon Hill will not run away. Leave that for another time.
It is a good day's work for you, that alone. Suppose we go
there to-morrow?' said Rollo coolly, looking at his companion.

'Well--if I like it well enough to-day.'

Dane was silent, probably feeling that his duty as Miss
Kennedy's guardian was in the way of doing him very frequent
disservice. However he was not a man to be swayed by that
consideration. He came close alongside of Jeannie Deans and
looked hard in Wych Hazel's face as he spoke,

'Do you think Mr. Falkirk would be willing to have you go to-
day?'

'Why, of course!'

'I think he would not. And I think he ought not.'

'Mr. Falkirk never interferes with my strength or my fatigue!--'

'I shall not ask him. I take the matter on my own
responsibility.'

She had thrown her veil back for a minute, and leaving the
bridle on Jeannie's neck, both little hands were busy with
some wind-disturbed rings of hair. She put them down now and
looked round at him,--a look of great beauty; the girlish
questioning eyes too busy with him, for the moment, to be
afraid. Could he mean that? was he really trying to head her
off in every direction?

'Are you in earnest?' she said slowly.

His eyes went very deep into hers when they got the chance,
carrying their own message too. He answered with a half smile,

'Thorough earnest.'

She drew back instantly, eyes and all; letting fall her veil
and taking up her bridle. Except so, and by the sudden colour,
giving no reply. She was learning her lesson fast, she
thought, a little bitterly. Nevertheless, if people knew the
exquisite grace there can be in submission, whether to
authority or to circumstances it may be they would practise it
oftener.

Not another word said Rollo. What was the use? She would
understand him some day;--or she would not! in any case, words
would not make it clear. Only when he took her down from her
horse he asked, and that was with a smile too, and a good
inquisition of the grey eyes, 'if he should come to take her
to Beacon Hill to-morrow?'

'No,' she said quietly. 'I think not.'

'When will you have another riding lesson?'

'I do not know,' she said, with a tone that left the matter
very doubtful.

'Well,' said he, 'you may go to Beacon Hill without me. But
you must not try leaping. Remember that.'

He did not go in. He remounted and rode away.


CHAPTER XL.

SOMETHING NEW.


So Jeannie Deans went back into the stable, and carried her
light burden no more for some time. But Hazel did not go to
Beacon Hill, in any fashion nor on any day; and it is to be
hoped Jeannie Deans was less restless than she.

'Miss Wych--my dear!' said Mrs. Bywank in remonstrance; 'if you
cannot sit still, why don't you go out? You are just wearing
yourself pale in the house; and why, I do not see.'

'Nobody sees--' said the girl with a long breath. 'My wings are
clipped, Byo,--that is all.'

'My dear!' Mrs. Bywank said again. 'I think you shouldn't talk
so, Miss Wych.'

'Very likely not,' said Hazel. But if ever I am a real
runaway, Byo, it will be for the sake of choosing my own
ruler. So you can remember.'

'Miss Wych--' Mrs. Bywank began, gravely. Hazel came and flung
herself down on the floor, and laid her head on the old
housekeeper's lap.

'O, I know!' she said. 'Why did they ever call me so, Byo? I
think it hangs over me like a fate. Could they find no other
name for their little brown baby but that? I can no more help
being a witch, than I can help breathing.'

The old housekeeper stroked the young head tenderly, softly
parting and smoothing down the hair.

'They liked the name, my dear,' she said. 'And so would you,
if you could remember the tone in which Mrs. Kennedy used to
say: "My Wych!"--"My little Wych!"--'

Hazel sprang away as if the words had been a flight of arrows.

And so the fall went on; and since Miss Kennedy would stay at
home, perforce the world must come to see her there; and the
old house at least sounded gay enough. And then society began
slowly to steal away to winter quarters. The two young
officers went back to their posts, without even a hope (it was
said) that might make them ever return again to the
neighbourhood of Chickaree. And Mr. May sailed for Europe,
having a gentle dismissal from the little hands for which he
cared so much; and the Powders departed to ex-official duties;
and Mme. Lasalle to town. The leaves fell, having done their
sweet summer duty far better than these rational creatures;
and then Wych Hazel took to long early and late walks by
herself, threading the leafless woods, and keeping out of
roads and choosing by-paths; wandering and thinking--both--more
than was good for her; and enjoying just one thing, the being
alone.

Rollo all this while had kept the promise he made when he told
her that he would see her and meant she should see him. He
came very frequently; he rode with her if she would ride, and
talked with her when she would talk; or he talked to Mr.
Falkirk in her hearing. He sometimes gave her riding lessons.
Whatever her mood, he was just himself; free, pleasant and
watchful of her; sometimes a little Spanish in his treatment
of her. Her clouds did not seem to put him in shadow. And she
would not always refuse a lesson, or a ride, or a talk,--it was
not in her nature to be ungraceful or rough in any way; only
it could not be said that she took pleasure in them, as a
certain thing. They broke up the intolerable loneliness of her
life just then, but otherwise were not always a success.
Constantly now expecting to be drawn back, or ordered back, as
she phrased it; expecting forbidden things at every turn; she
did not want to be alone with Mr. Rollo, nor to go with other
people where he might come. In fact, she did not quite
understand herself; and she grew more and more restless and
eager to get away.

'Why should we not go on Monday?' she asked Mr. Falkirk.

'Go?' echoed her guardian. 'Are we to take up our travels
again, my dear?'

'Did you suppose yourself settled for the winter, sir? I
expect to go to town, like other people.'

'What are we to do when we get there?'

'Keep house, sir. You can take one-half the bricks, and I the
other. Or any proportions that may suit your views,' said Miss
Hazel compliantly.

Now Mr. Falkirk did not, it is true, understand the course
things had taken for the last few weeks; he was only a man;
and though Wych Hazel's guardian for many years might be
supposed to hold a clue to her moods, this was what Mr.
Falkirk failed to do in the present instance. But using his
wits as well as he was able, he had come to the conclusion,
not without some secret gratification, that Miss Hazel
preferred the society of her old guardian to that of her new
one. Certainly he was in no mind to cross her wish to go to
the city, if she had such a wish. However, mindful of his
duty, he mentioned her desire to Rollo, and asked if he had
any objection to it. Rollo was silent a minute, and then gave
a frank 'No.' And Mr. Falkirk wrote to make arrangements, and
even went himself to perfect them. And he lost no time; by the
end of October the change was made, and Wych Hazel established
in a snug little house in one of the best streets on Murray
Hill.

If Mr. Falkirk was misled before, his mind was not likely to
clear up as the weeks went on. Whatever had come over his
ward, she was unmistakably changed from her old self; as now,
living in the house with her again, Mr. Falkirk could not fail
to perceive. Quiet steps, a gentle voice that quite ignored
its old bursts of singing; brown eyes that looked softly
through things and people at something else; with a mood
docile because it did not care: but _that_ he did not know.
Apparently she had not come to town for stir,--her going out
was of the quietest kind. Sometimes a specially fine concert
would tempt her; once in a while she made one of her radiant
toilettes and went to a state dinner party, now and then to a
lunch or a kettle-drum; but balls and evening parties of every
sort were invariably declined. Instead, she plunged into
study,--went at German as if her life depended on it, took up
her Italian again, and began to perfect herself in French.
Read history, knit her brows over science, and sat and drew by
the hour.

Of course society could not quite be baffled so: mornings
brought carriage after carriage, and evenings a run upon the
door. Mr. Falkirk had little peace of his life, unless it were
a reposeful thing for him to sit by and see the play.

Between whiles this winter, Hazel did a great deal of
thinking: even German could not crowd it out. She knew, the
minute she had said she would come to town, that she wished
something could step in and keep her at Chickaree; or at least
she knew that she was leaving more there than she had counted
upon; and the knowledge chafed her. It was all very well to
like--somebody--(name of course unknown)--to a certain degree;
but when the liking made itself into bonds and ties and
hindrances, then Miss Wych rebelled. She brought up all sorts
of questions in the most unattractive shape, to find them
suited with answers that could find no reply. It was simply
unbearable, she urged upon herself, this being held in and
watched and restricted,--very unbearable! Only, somehow, the
person who did it all, was _not_. And the doubt whether life
would be worth having, in such guardianship, started a more
difficult point: what would it be worth without? And the
mental efforts to shake herself into clear order, just seemed,
as sometimes happens, to tie three knots where there was one
before.

'It will go after a while,' she said, twisting herself about
under the new form of loneliness and unrest which possessed
her when she got to town. And it did: deeper in.

Mr. Falkirk, blind bat that he was (for a sharp-sighted man),
was not discontented with his winter. He had Wych Hazel to
himself, and she gave him no more trouble than he liked by the
force of old associations. He watched the play in which she
was so prominent and so pretty a figure, and found it amusing.
It seemed safe play, so far; the fort that he was set to keep
seemed quite secure from any attacks that presently
threatened; and Mr. Falkirk had no suspicion that its safety
was owing to a garrison within the walls. The outside he knew
he watched well. It was a very quiet winter, indeed, except at
such times as Miss Kennedy's doors were open to all comers;
but Mr. Falkirk did not find fault with that. He had never
been garrulous in his ward's company or in any other.
Certainly he liked to hear _her_ talk; and he knew that she
talked far less than usual, when they were alone; but he
argued with himself that Wych Hazel was growing older, was
seriously engaging herself in study, after other than a
school-girl's fashion; and that all this winter's development
was but the sweet maturing of the fruit which in growing
mature was losing somewhat of its liveliness of flavour.

They were alone one evening, rather past the middle of the
winter. It was not one of Miss Kennedy's at-home nights; and
in a snug little drawing-room the two were seated on opposite
sides of the tea service. A fire of soft coal burning
luxuriously; thick curtains drawn; warm-coloured paperhangings
on the walls; silver bright in the gaslight, and Mr. Falkirk's
evening papers ready at his hand. To-night Mr. Falkirk rather
neglected them, and seemed to be in a meditative mood.

'Whereabouts are we in pursuit of our fortune, Miss Hazel?' he
asked as he tasted his cup of hot tea.

'Rather deep down in Schiller and Dante, Sir.'

'_Il Paradiso?_' asked Mr. Falkirk meaningly.

'Pray do you call that "deep down"?' demanded Miss Hazel.

'I am merely inquiring where you are, my dear. I have heard of
people's being over head and ears.'

'Only hearsay evidence, sir?' said Miss Hazel recklessly. But
then she was not going to stand up and be shot at!

'I should like to know, merely as a satisfaction to my own
mind, whether the quest is ended, Miss Hazel? Has Cinderella's
glass slipper been fitted on? or has Quickear seized the
singing bird and the golden water?'

'Princes are scarce!' said the girl derisively, but not
without a rising blush.

'The true one not found yet, my dear?' said Mr. Falkirk with
an amused glance across the table. 'What is to be our next
move in search of him?'

'That is one way of putting it,' said Wych Hazel. 'I should
think, sir, you had taken lessons of your devotee, Miss
Fisher.'

'I am glad _you_ don't,' said Mr. Falkirk earnestly. 'Miss
Hazel, I should prefer that when _such_ princesses are in the
parlour, Cinderella should keep to her kitchen. It is the
court end in such a case.'

Kitty Fisher's name brought up visions. Hazel was silent.

'Do you ever hear from Chickaree?' her guardian asked
presently.

'No one to write, sir, but Mrs. Bywank,--and she, you know, is
not a scribe. I understand that the kitten is well.'

'That is important,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'She hasn't told you
lately anything about your friend Rollo?'

'No, sir. Have you given up your share in his friendship?'
inquired Miss Hazel.

Mr. Falkirk made no answer to this query, and seemed to have
forgotten it presently in his musings. Hazel glanced at him
furtively, choosing her form of attack; for Mr. Falkirk's
manner seemed to say that he _had_ heard.

'You always played into each other's hands so delightfully,
sir,' she began, with a very _dégagé_ air,--'it is of course
natural that he should keep you posted as to his own important
proceedings. And a little ungrateful in you, Mr. Falkirk, I
must say, to fling him off in this fashion.'

'I've nothing on my conscience respecting him,' said Mr.
Falkirk, eating his toast with a contented air. 'I'm not _his_
guardian, nor ever was.'

'What a pity!' said Wych Hazel. 'Both of us together might
have made your life more lively than my unassisted efforts
could do.'

Mr. Falkirk grunted, and went on with his tea; and sent his
cup to be refilled.

Hazel pondered.

'You seem depressed, Mr. Falkirk,' she said. 'Shall I give you
an additional lump of sugar?'

Now Mr. Falkirk in truth seemed anything but depressed; and he
raised his head to look at his questioner.

'I am quite satisfied with things as they are, Miss Hazel.'

'Are you, sir? I am delighted!' said Hazel. 'But I never even
supposed such a thing possible. How are "things"--if I may be
allowed to inquire?'

Some things are new,' returned her guardian. 'And I should not
be satisfied with them, if they concerned me. Which I take for
granted they do not. I saw Dr. Arthur down town to-day; and he
told me some odd news about Rollo.' Mr. Falkirk was finishing
his tea in a leisurely way, evidently _not_ thinking that the
news, whatever it was, concerned either of them seriously.

'Why did you not bring Dr. Arthur home to tea?' inquired his
ward.

'I did not think of it, Miss Hazel. But he volunteered a visit
in the course of the evening.'

'That will be delightful,--I like Dr. Arthur,' said Hazel,
feeling that somehow or other she must get a glimpse of his
news before he came.

'Well, if what he said gave you so much pleasure, why don't
you repeat it to me, Mr. Falkirk,' she ventured.

'I do not remember that I said anything gave me pleasure,'
returned her guardian. 'This don't. By what he says, Rollo has
lost his wits. I thought him a shrewd man of business; and he
was that, when your affairs were in his hand last summer; but
if what Dr. Arthur tells me is true, and it must be, he has
done a very strange thing with his own fortune.'

'Dear me! I hope he did not hurt himself looking after mine!'
said Wych Hazel innocently. 'Are fortune and wits both in
peril, Mr. Falkirk?'

'Not yours, I hope,' said her guardian. 'I should be very
uneasy if I thought that. _I_ should have no power to interfere.
The will gives him absolute control, supposing that he had
control at all.'

Perhaps it was just as well that at this moment Dr. Arthur was
announced. Alas, not only Dr. Arthur, but Mrs. Coles! And
Hazel, giving greetings to one and welcome to the other;
insisting that they should come to the tea table, late as it
was; went on all the while looking after her own wits and
picking up her energies with all speed. She had need; for the
harmless-seeming eyes of Mrs. Coles were always to her
neighbours' interests. Very graciously now they watched Wych
Hazel.

There was a great deal to talk about, in Miss Kennedy's house
and winter and engagements; and in Dr. Maryland's house, and
Primrose, and her school. An endless succession of points of
talk, that ought to have been very interesting, to judge by
the spirit with which they were discussed. All the while, Wych
Hazel was watching for something else; and Prudentia, was she
keeping the best for the last? She was extremely affable; she
enjoyed her tea; she took off her bonnet and displayed the
pale bandeaux of hair which were inevitably associated in Miss
Kennedy's mind with one particular day and conversation; she
admired the furniture; she discoursed on the advantages of
city life. Dr. Maryland was, perforce, rather silent.

'Well, Arthur dear,' she said at last, taking her bonnet, 'we
must be going presently. What do you think of Dane, Mr.
Falkirk?'

Mr. Falkirk did not answer intelligibly, though the lady's
face was turned full upon him; he uttered an inexplicable sort
of grunt, and knotted his eyebrows. He didn't like Prudentia.

'I never saw anybody so changed in all my life,' pursued the
lady. 'Such sudden changes are doubtful things, I always
think;--come probably from some sudden cause, and may not last.
But it is very surprising while it _does_ last.'

'I am sorry to contradict you, Prudens,' said Dr. Arthur here;
'but Dane was never more himself. He only happens to stand
facing due north instead of north by east.'

'He was "north" enough before,' said his sister, a little,
just a little bitterly; 'a trifle more of southern direction
wouldn't have hurt him. But _I_ think, he's out of his head. Men
are, sometimes, you know,' she went on, looking full at Wych
Hazel now. 'I shall let Miss Kennedy be judge. Do you know
what Dane has been doing, Miss Kennedy?'

'Not waltzing?' said Hazel, opening her brown eyes with an
expression of mild dismay which was very nearly too much for
Dr. Arthur.

'Waltzing?' said Prudentia, mystified. 'I did not say anything
about waltzing. Why shouldn't he waltz? I think he used. Why
yes; he was a famous waltzer. Don't you waltz, Miss Kennedy?'

'But I was always known to be out of my head,' said Hazel. 'In
what other possible way could Mr. Rollo shew the state of
his?'

'I don't know what you mean,' said Prudentia, handling her
bonnet. 'Then you haven't heard my story already. You know
that old Mr. Morton has failed; did you hear of that?'

'Not the first time, is it?' said Miss Kennedy coolly. Dr.
Arthur bit his lips.

'Yes, my dear! it's the first and only time; he was always
supposed to be a very rich man. Well, Dane has taken his
fortune and thrown it into those mills!'

'I was afraid you were going to say the mill stream,' said
Wych Hazel, who was getting so nervous she didn't know what to
do with herself; 'but the mills seem a safe place.'

'I don't know but he's better done that of the two,' said
Prudentia. 'A safe place? Why, my dear, just think! he has
bought all of Mr. Morton's right and title there; with Mr.
Morton's three mills. Of course, it _must_ have taken very
nearly his whole fortune; it _must_.'

'I fancy there's a trifle left over,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'But I
can't conceive what possessed him. What does Rollo know of the
mill business?'

'Nothing at all, of course,' said Prudentia. 'Nor of any other
business. And he has shewed his ignorance--did Arthur tell you,
sir, how he has shewed it?'

'In buying three mills to begin with,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'A
modest man would have begun with one.'

'But my dear sir, _that_ isn't all. What _do_ you suppose, Miss
Kennedy, was his first move?'

'One is prepared for almost anything.'

'He will learn the business, before long,' said Dr. Arthur,
'if close attention can do it.'

'What should he learn the business for?' said his sister. 'He
has already all that the mill business could give him, without
any trouble. _I_ think he's troubled in his wits; I do indeed.
He was always a wild boy, and now he's a wilder man.'

'Troubled in his wits!' said Dr. Arthur, with such supreme
derision, that Wych Hazel laughed. To her own great relief, be
it said.

'But what is this that he has done?' Mr. Falkirk inquired, his
brows looking very much disgusted.

'My dear sir! Fancy it. Fancy it, Miss Kennedy. The first
thing he did was to _raise the wages of his hands!_'

Just one person caught the gleam from under Hazel's down-cast
eyes,--perhaps something made his own quick-sighted. Dr. Arthur
answered for her.

'They were not half paid before, Mr. Falkirk. That explains
it.'

'Weren't they paid as other mill hands are paid, Dr. Arthur?'

'The more need for a change, then,' said the young man, who
was a trifle Quixotic himself.

'But if the change is made by one man alone, he effects
nothing but his own ruin.'

'That is what Dane is about, I am firmly persuaded,' said Mrs.
Coles.

'No man ever yet went to ruin by doing right,' said Dr.
Maryland.

'Many a one!' said Mr. Falkirk,--'by doing what he _thought_
right; from John Brown up to John Huss, and from John Huss
back to the time when history is lost in a fog bank.'

'They'll get their reward, I suppose, in the other world,'
said Prudentia comfortably.

'How will his ruin affect the poor mill people?' said Wych
Hazel, so seriously, that perhaps only Mr. Falkirk--knowing
her-- knew what she was about.

'Why, my dear, it ruins them too in the end; that's it. When
he fails, of course his improvements fail, and everything goes
back where it was before. Only worse.'

'Precisely,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'You cannot lift the world out
of the grooves it runs in, by mere force; and he who tries,
will put his shoulder out of joint.'

'Then my picture of "the loss of all things," is the portrait
of a ruined man!' said Wych Hazel, with an expressive glance
at Dr. Maryland. He smiled.

'It partly depends, you know, Miss Kennedy, upon where the
race is supposed to end. But our friend is running well at
present, for both worlds.'

'Arthur, he is not!' said his sister emphatically. 'Paul and
John Charteris, the other mill-owners, hate him as hard as
they can hate him; and if they can ruin him, they will; that
you may depend upon.'

'And his own people love him as hard as they can,--so that,
even if you allow one rich mill-owner to be worth a hundred
poor employés, Dane can still strike a fair balance.'--Rather
more than that, Dr. Arthur thought, as his quick eye took
notice of the little screening hand that came suddenly up
about Wych Hazel's mouth and chin.

'That's all nonsense, Arthur; business is business, and not
sentiment. I never heard of a cotton mill yet that was run
upon sentiment; nor did you. And I tell you, it won't pay. I
am speaking of business _as_ business. Paul and John Charteris
will ruin Dane, if they can.'

'They probably can,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'They will make a
combination with other mill-owners and undersell him; and
paying less wages they can afford to do it, for a time. And a
certain time will settle Rollo's business.'

'I think he has lost his wits,' Prudentia repeated, for the
third or fourth utterance. 'Then another thing he has done--But
really, Arthur, my dear, we must go.'

'O tell us some more!' said Miss Kennedy. 'We have not heard
of any wits lost in this way, all winter; and it is quite
exciting. What next, Mrs. Coles?'

Prudentia laughed.

'How comes it he don't tell you himself? I thought you used to
be such friends--riding about everywhere. But indeed _we_ don't
see much of Dane now; he lives at his old nurse's ever so much
of the time; and comes scouring over the country on that bay
horse of his, to consult papa about something;--but _I_ never see
him, except through the window. Sometimes he rides your brown
horse, I think, Miss Kennedy. I suppose he is keeping it in
order for you.'

'Well, that certainly does sound erratic!' said Miss Kennedy,
drawing a long breath. 'I hope he will confine all new-fangled
notions to the bay.'

'He has taught that creature to stand still,' said Mrs. Coles,
looking at her.

'That must afford him immense satisfaction! Rather hard upon
the bay, though.'

'He stands as still as a mountain,' Prudentia went on,
carrying on meanwhile privately a mental speculation about
Wych Hazel;--'he stands like a glossy statue, without being
held, too; and comes when Dane snaps his fingers to him.'

'It only shews what unexpected docility exists in some
natures,' said Miss Kennedy with an unreadable face.

'Come, Prudens--tell your story and have done!' said Dr.
Arthur, speaking now. 'I have an appointment.'

'I am quite ready,' said Mrs. Coles starting up. 'Dear me! we
have stayed an unconscionable time, but Miss Kennedy will
forgive us, being country people and going back to the country
to-morrow. Prim says Dane is coming down before long.'

'Tell your story!'

'Miss Kennedy won't care for it, and it will ruin Dane with
Mr. Falkirk. He has introduced something like English penny
readings at Morton Hollow,' said Prudentia, putting on her
bonnet and turning towards Wych Hazel's guardian.

'What are penny readings?' said Mr. Falkirk.

'They had their origin in England, I believe; somebody set
them on foot for the benefice of the poorer classes, or work
people; and Dane has imported them. He receives the employés
of the mills,' said Prudentia, chuckling,--'whoever will come
and pay a penny; his own workmen and the others. The levee is
held on Saturday nights; and Dane lays himself out to amuse
them with reading to them and singing. Fancy it! Fancy Dane
reading all sorts of things to those audiences! and the
evenings are so interesting, I am told, that they do not
disperse till eleven o'clock. I believe he has it in
contemplation to add the more material refreshment of
sandwiches and coffee as soon as he gets his arrangements
perfected. And he is going to build, as soon as the spring
opens, O, I don't know what!'

'Fools build houses, and other people live in them,' said Mr.
Falkirk.

'O, it's not houses to live in--though I have a notion he is
going to do that too. He lives with old Gyda pretty much of
the time.'

'Well,' said Dr. Arthur, looking at Mr. Falkirk but speaking
to Wych Hazel, 'I need only add, that my father thoroughly
approves of all Rollo's work.'

'Work?--does he call it "work"?' said Wych Hazel, looking up.

'It is not exactly play, Miss Kennedy!'--

But the soft laugh that answered that, no one could define.

'He won't find it play by the by,' said Mr. Falkirk.


CHAPTER XLI.

A LESSON.


This visit and talk gave Hazel a great deal to ponder. The
work, and--the doer of it; and--did he ever think of her, she
questioned, in the doing? And did he expect to make _her_
'stand, as he had the bay'? and come, if he but 'snapped his
fingers'? On the whole, Miss Wych did not feel as if _she_ were
developing any hidden stores of docility at present!--not at
present; and one or two new questions, or old ones in a new
shape, began to fill her mind; inserting themselves between
the leaves of her Schiller, peeping cunningly out from behind
'reason' and 'instinct' and 'the wings of birds'; dancing and
glimmering and hiding in the firelight. Mr. Falkirk might have
noticed, about this time, that Miss Wych was never ready to
have the gas lit.

The gas was lit, however, and the tea-tray just brought in,
when one evening a few nights after the visit last recorded,
Rollo himself was announced. Notwithstanding all Mrs. Coles
had prognosticated, he seemed very much like himself both in
face and manner; he came in and talked and took his place at
the table, just as he had been used to do at Chickaree. Not
even more grave than he had often been there.

It was not the first time Wych Hazel had confessed to herself
that tea trays are a great institution; nor the first time she
had found shelter behind her occupation. Very demurely she
poured out the tea, and listened sedately to the talk between
the gentlemen; but it was with extra gravity that she at last
put her fingers in. She never could guess afterwards how she
had dared.

'Do you think he looks _much_ like a ruined man, Mr. Falkirk?'
she said, in one of the pauses of their talk.

A flash of lightning quickness and brightness came to her from
Rollo's eyes. Mr. Falkirk lifted his dumbly, not knowing how
to take the girl. He had not, so far in the talk, touched the
subject of Mrs. Coles' communications, though no doubt they
had not been out of his mind for one instant. But somehow, Mr.
Falkirk had lacked inclination to call his younger coadjutor
to account, and probably was hopeless of effecting any
supposable good by so doing. Now he stared wonderingly up at
Wych Hazel. She was looking straight at him, awaiting an
answer; but fully alive to the situation, and a little bit
frightened thereat, and with the fun and the confusion both
getting into her face in an irresistible way. Mr. Falkirk's
face went down again with a grunt, or a growl; it was rather
dubious in intent. Rollo's eyes did not waver from their
inquisition of Wych Hazel's face. It was getting to be hot
work!--Hazel touched her hand bell, and turned away to give
orders, and came back to her business; sending Mr. Falkirk a
cup of tea that was simply scalding. Her bravery was done for
that time.

'What have you been doing this winter?' Mr. Falkirk finally
concluded to ask.

'Investing in new stock,' Rollo answered carelessly.

'Don't pay, does it?'

'I think it will. Money is worth what you can get out of it,
you know.'

'Pray, if I may ask, what do you expect to get out of it in
this way?'

'Large returns'--said Rollo very calmly.

'I don't see it,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'I hope you do; but I
can't.'

'You have not the elements to make a perfect calculation.'

Rollo, it was plain, understood himself, and was in no
confusion on the subject. Mr. Falkirk, either in uncertainty
or in disgust, declined to pursue it. He finished his tea, and
then, perhaps, feeling that he had no right to keep watch over
his brother guardian, much to Wych Hazel's discomfiture, he
took up his book and marched away.

Rollo left the table and came round then to a seat by her
side.

'What have _you_ been doing this winter?' he asked, putting the
question with his eyes as well as with his words.

'Making old stock pay,'--said the girl, looking down at her
folded hands; she was not of the calm sisterhood who hide
themselves in crochet.

'Perhaps you will be so good as to enlarge upon that.'

Hazel sent back the first answer that came to her tongue, and
the next: it was no part of her plan to have herself in the
foreground.

'This is a fair average specimen of our tea-drinkings,' she
said. 'And the mornings are hardly more eventful. Just lately,
Mr. Falkirk has been a good deal disturbed about you. Or else
he was easy about you, and disturbed about your doings,--he has
such a confused way of putting things. But we heard you had
copied my "hurricane track," ' said Miss Wych, folding her
hands in a new position.

'And were you disturbed about my doings?'

'I? O no. I am never disturbed with what you do to anybody but
me.'

Rollo did not choose to pursue that subject. He plunged into
another.

'I should like to explain to you some of my doings; and I must
go a roundabout way to do it. Miss Hazel, do you read the
Bible much?'

'Much?' she said with a sudden look up. 'What do you call
"much?" '

He smiled at her. 'Are you in the habit of studying it?'

'As I study other things I do not know?--Not often. Sometimes,'
said Wych Hazel, thinking how often she had gone over that
same ninety-first Psalm.

'What is your notion of religion?--as to what it means?'

She glanced up at him again, almost wondering for a moment if
his wits were 'touched.' Then seeing his eyes were undoubtedly
sane and grave, set her own wits to work.

'It means,' she answered slowly after a pause, 'to me,
different things in different people. All sorts of
contradictions, I believe!--In mamma, as they tell of her, it
meant everything beautiful, and loving, and loveable, and
tender. And it puts Dr. Maryland away off--up in the sky, I
think. And it just blinds Prim, so that she cannot comprehend
common mortals. And it seems to open Gyda's eyes, so that she
_does_ understand--like mamma. And--I do not know what it means in
you, Mr. Rollo!'

'You never saw it in me.'

'No.'

'Let me give you a lesson to study,' said he. 'Something I
have been studying lately a good deal. I must take this minute
before we are interrupted. Have you got a Bible here?'

She sprang up and brought her own from the next room, with a
certain quick way as if she were excited; Rollo took it and
turned over the leaves, then placed it before her open.

'I have heard you read the Bible once. Read now those two
verses.'


"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus
judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that
he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth
live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and
rose again."--2 Cor. v. 14, 15.


Wych Hazel read the words slowly, softly,--then look[ed] up at
him again.

'Is _that_ what it means in you?' she said.

'What do the words imply, for anybody?' he said, with his eyes
going down into hers as they did sometimes, like as if they
would get at the yet unspoken thoughts. But hers fell again to
the book.

'I suppose, they should mean--what they say,' she answered in
the same slow fashion. 'But what that is,--or at least would
be,--I do not very well know.'

'If One died for me,--if it is because of his love and death
for me that I live at all,--to whom do I properly belong?
myself, or him?'

'Well, and then?' she said, passing the question as answered.

'_Then_ a good many things,' he said, smiling again. 'Suppose
that he, to whom I belong, has work that he wants done,--
suppose there are people he wants taken care of and helped,--if
I love him and if I belong to him, what shall I like to do?'

'What you are doing, I suppose,' said Hazel, with a little
undefined twinge that came much nearer jealousy than she
guessed.

'That is very plain, and perfectly simple, isn't it?'

'It sounds so.'--And glancing furtively at the bright, clear
face, she added to herself Dr. Maryland's old words: 'Love
likes her bonds!'--That was plain too.

'Then another question. If I belong to this One whom I love,
does not all that I have belong to him too?'

'But it was not _I_ who said you were ruining yourself,' said
the girl in her quick way. 'I liked it.'

'Did you?' said he, with one of his flashes of eye. 'But I am
giving you a lesson to study. I am not justifying myself.
Answer my question. Does not all I have belong to that One,
who loves me and whom I love?'

She bowed her head in assent. Somehow the words hurt her.

'So that, whatever I do, I cannot be said to _give_ him
anything? It is all his already. I am asking you a business
question. I want you to answer just as it appears to you.'

'How can it appear but in one way?' said Hazel. 'That must be
true, of course.'

'Very well. That is clear. Now suppose further that my Lord
has left me special directions about what he wants done to
these people I spoke of--am I not to take the directions
exactly as they stand, without clipping?'

'Yes.'

He put his hand upon the book which lay before her, and turned
back the leaves to the third chapter of Luke; there indicated
a verse and bade her read again.

' "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath
none." '

'What does that mean?' asked Rollo.

'What it says--if it means anything, I suppose.'

Again Rollo put his hand upon the leaves, turning further back
still till he reached the book of Isaiah. And then he gave
Wych Hazel these words to read:

'Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands
of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the
oppressed go free, and that ye break every joke? Is it not to
deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor
that are cast out to thine house? when thou seest the naked,
that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine
own flesh?'

'How are the commands to be met?' Rollo asked gravely when she
had done.

'Why, you have found out!' said Hazel. 'I knew you would go
off on a crusade after that October sky, Mr. Rollo.'

He seemed half to forget his subject, or to merge it, in a
deep, thoughtful gaze at her for a few moments, over which a
smile gradually broke.

'To come back to our lesson,' he said,--'are not these commands
to be taken _au pied de la lettre?_'

'They can hardly be the one exception among commands, I should
think,'--with a little arch of her eyebrows.

'Then I am bound, am I not, to undo every heavy burden that I
can reach? to loose every bond of wickedness, and to break
every yoke, and to remove oppression, in so far as it lies
with me to do it? Do you not think so?'

'Why, yes!' said Wych Hazel. 'Does anybody _like_ oppression?'

'Does anybody practise it?'

'I do not know, Mr. Rollo. O yes, of course, in some parts of
the world. But I mean here. Yes,--those people used to look as
if something kept them down,--and I used to think Mr. Morton
might help it, I remember.'

'You are not to suppose that oppression is liked for its own
sake. That is rarely the case, even in this world. It is for
the sake of what it will bring, like other wrong things. But a
question more. Can I do _all_ I can, without giving and using
all I have for it?'

'That is self-evident.'

'Then it only remains, how to use what I have to the best
advantage.'

'Well, even Mr. Falkirk admits you are a good business man,'
said Hazel, laughing a little.

'How are you for a business woman?'

'Nobody has ever found out. Of course I consider myself
capable of anything. But then business never does come into my
hands, you know.'

'This business does.'

'Does it? the business of caring for other people?--Last summer
Dr. Maryland read a terrible text about the "tears of the
oppressed, and they had no comforter." It haunted me for a
while. But I could do nothing. No,--one must have more right of
way than I have--yet.'

'I do not mean the business simply of caring for other people.
I mean the whole course of action, beginning from those first
words you read.'

'You know,' she said quietly, 'I have never tried.'

'Will you study the lesson I have set you?'

'The one you have been learning?'

'Yes. The one contained in these verses you have read. Shall I
do harm if I mark this book?'

'No.'--The word came quick, under breath.

He turned to the different places where she had been reading,
and carefully marked the passages; then sought out and
likewise marked several others. 'Will you study the lesson
out?' he asked as he was busy with the last marking.

'I will try--I think,' she answered slowly. 'As well as I know
how.'

'Do not fancy,' he said, smiling as he shut the book, 'that
the care of the needy, in any shape, is religion; nor think
that He who loves us will take _anything_ as a substitute for
our whole-hearted love to him. If we give him that, he will
let us know in what way we may shew it.'

She made no answer except by another swift look. This was
Chaldee to her! He let the silence last a little while.

'Now I have asked you so many questions,' he said, 'I should
like it if you would ask me a few.'

'What about?'

'All subjects are open to you!'

'How did you contrive to make the bay "stand"?'

The flash of Rollo's eye came first.

'How do you know I did?' he said laughing. 'But that is no
answer. Let me see. I believe, first I made him know that he
must mind me; and secondly, I persuaded him into loving me.
All that remained, was to let him understand that I wanted him
to be immovable when I was not on his back.'

'O, but!--' said Hazel hastily,--the sentence ending in crimson
cheeks, and the shyest veil of reserve dropped over her face.

'I might question here,' said Rollo in an amused tone, and
eyeing her inquisitively; 'but I have done it so often,--I
leave the ground to you. What next?'

'What next' seemed to have flown away.

'Does Collingwood engross all the thoughts that go back to
Chickaree?'

A sidelong glance of the brown eyes was all that Mr. Rollo got
by that venture.

How is Trüdchen?' she asked gravely.

'Flourishing. Asks after you whenever she gets a chance.'

'Mrs. Boërresen of course is well, as she has had you to look
after?'

'Gyda is happy. It is a comfort to her to have to make
fladbrod for two.'

'It must be a comfort to you to eat it!--How is poor Mr.
Morton? I felt for him when I heard you had turned his world
upside down.'

'What did you feel for him?' said Rollo quite innocently.

'You have asked all your questions. I think it would be proper
now,' said Wych Hazel, folding her hands and controlling the
curling lips, 'that you should go on and tell me all there is
to be told, and save me the trouble of asking any more.'

'I do not wish to save you the trouble.'

'It is good practice occasionally to do what you do not wish.
Instructive. And full of suggestion.'

'Suggestion of what?'

'Try, and you will know. I doubt if you ever did try,' said
Wych Hazel.

'I tried it last night and yesterday morning, when I was
turned away from your door with the announcement that you were
out.'

'But you did not leave your name!' said Hazel, looking up.

'I found it "suggestive" too,' Rollo went on. 'I do not know
whether you would like me to tell you all the things which it
suggested.'

'How is everybody else at home?' said Hazel, changing her
ground. 'I heard Miss May had been sick.'

The answer tarried, for Mr. Falkirk came in, and perhaps Rollo
forgot it, or knew that Wych Hazel had; for it was never
given. He entered into talk with Mr. Falkirk; and did his part
well through the rest of the evening. Then, Mr. Falkirk
expressing the surmise, it was hardly put in the form of a
hope, that they would see him to breakfast or dinner, Rollo
averred that he was going immediately home. He had done his
work in town, and could not tarry. No remark from the lady of
the house met that. Indeed she had been sitting in the
silentest of moods, letting the gentlemen talk; having enough
to think of and observe. For absence does change, even an
intimate friend, and both lifts and drops a veil. Old
characteristics stand out with new clearness; old graces of
mind or manner strike one afresh; but the old familiarity
which once in a sort took possession of all this, is now
withdrawn a little,--we stand off and look. And so, secretly,
modestly, shyly, Wych Hazel studied her young guardian that
night. But when he had risen to go, the faintest little touch
from one of her finger tips drew him a step aside.

'I said I would study that,' she began. 'But it seems to me
you explained it all as you went along. What is there left to
study?'

The grave penetrating eyes she met and had to meet once, gave
all the needed force to his answer.--'_Your part_, Miss Hazel.'
He stood looking at her a minute; and then he went away.

If when Rollo had entered he room where she was, that evening,
the instant feeling had been that he must come often: perhaps
the after feeling was that he could not stand much of this
doubtful and neutral intercourse. For he did as he had
promised; left her, practically, to Mr. Falkirk, and came not
to town again during all the rest of that winter.


CHAPTER XLII.

STUDY.


It seemed to Hazel, that in these days there was no end to the
thinking she had to do; and if Mr. Rollo had only known, she
remarked to herself, he need not have been at the trouble to
point out new lines of study. The mere sight of him for two
hours had put her head in a tangle that it would take her a
month to clear away. Some of the questions indeed had started
up under the conversation of Mrs. Coles; but with them now
came others, all wrapped round and twisted in; and instead of
dreamily watching the fire in her twilight musings, she began
now to spend them with her cheek on her book, or her head
dropped on her hands, an impatient little sigh now and then
bearing witness to the depth of the difficulties in which she
was plunged. What was foremost among the subjects of her
musings?--perhaps this strange new talk of Mr. Rollo's, with
the whole new world of work and interest and consecration
which had opened before him. It made her sober,--it brought
back the old lonely feelings which of late (since she knew
herself to belong to somebody 'in idea') had somewhat passed
out of sight. He was beginning a new, glad life; growing wiser
and better than she; making himself a blessing, whereas she
was only a care. What could she do for him any more?--would he
even want her any more? given up now to these new ways of
which she knew nothing, and in which somebody else might suit
him better--say Primrose? But at that, Miss Wych started up and
stirred the fire energetically, and then came back to her
musings.

What did she care, anyhow? She passed that question, turned it
round, and took it up in another shape. How would she bear to
be all her life under orders? in 'closer' guardianship?--and
there the word 'sweeter' flashed in, confusingly. But that was
not business. Did she--that is, could she--like him well enough
to like to give up her own way? Answer, a prompt negative.
Never!--Not if she liked him ten times more than--but it is
awkward dealing with unknown quantities: Hazel sheered off.
Suppose she _didn't_ like it--could she do it? do it so that he
would never find out what it cost her? do it to give him
pleasure? do it because it was his right? Waiving her own
pleasure, pushing aside her own will? Could she do it?--Well,
there was not the least hope that she would wish to do it. She
should always like her own best: no doubt of that.

Then could she (perhaps) learn such trust in his judgment, as
would turn her own will round?--As hopeless as the other.
Sometimes, of course, he might be right,--by a great stretch of
leniency Miss Wych allowed so far,--sometimes, it was certain,
she would. Well: could she give his judgment as well as his
will the right of way? For unless she could, Wych hazel felt
quite sure of one thing: she should never be happy a minute in
such guardianship. She had not dared to give herself a
possible reason for liking it in the old times,--could she do
it, now that she dared? Was she willing to give up, sometimes
or always, to just that one person in all the world?--turning
her bonds into bracelets, and wearing them royally? And there
her thoughts went down to the real bracelet on her arm, and
its motto, so suddenly become his:

'In hope of eternal life.'--Would he care for her any more?

O how thoughts tired themselves, toiling round these points!
and slowly uprising from them came yet another, which filled
the air. What was she to say at the year's end?--or, if _this_
were the year's end, what would she say now?--supposing Mr.
Rollo still cared what she said. But that last question must
be studied by and by. Mr. Rollo would have been amused, may
be, and may be a little touched, if he had known the ogre-like
shapes in which the girl conjured him up, just to see if she
could endure him _so:_ putting herself to superhuman tests. But
her imagination played tricks, after all; for every Afrite
came up with a face and voice before which she yielded,
perforce; and even her favourite scene of standing still as
the bay and having him snap his fingers for her, ended one day
in a laugh, as she thought what she would say if he ever _did_.
Then finding she had got very far beyond limits, Hazel
coloured furiously and ran away from her thoughts. But they
hindered her new study, and interrupted it; and the study
brought up the new pain; only slowly through it all, one thing
gradually grew clear, helped on by her pain perhaps as much as
anything: she would rather belong to somebody than not--if
somebody wanted her! And there was only one somebody in the
world, of whom that was true.

Whereupon, with characteristic waywardness, Miss Wych at once
gave up her recluse life; accepted invitations, and pulled Mr.
Falkirk into a round of outdoor gaiety that nearly turned his
head. Trying, perhaps, to test her discoveries, or to get rid
of her thoughts; or to prove to herself conclusively that she
did not wish for any more visits from Chickaree.

And so Wych Hazel knew her own secret.



Typographical errors silently corrected :


Contents : =favors= silently corrected as =favours=

Chapter 3 : =This is Haydn's Dam= silently corrected as =This is
Hadyn's Dam=

Chapter 4 : =in to, for the sun= silently corrected as =in too,
for the sun=

Chapter 4 : =Sometime before= silently corrected as =Some time
before=

Chapter 5 : =has made you to day= silently corrected as =has made
you to-day=

Chapter 5 : =then he said. 'It is too= silently corrected as
=then he said, 'It is too=

Chapter 6 : =said Mr Falkirk= silently corrected as =said Mr.
Falkirk=

Chapter 6 : =Mr Kingsland at her feet= silently corrected as =Mr.
Kingsland at her feet=

Chapter 7 : =folly or ill-humor= silently corrected as =folly or
ill-humour=

Chapter 7 : =Rollo at the horse's heads= silently corrected as
=Rollo at the horses' heads=

Chapter 8 : =lady could eat;= silently corrected as =lady could
eat?=

Chapter 12 : =that whitehandkerchief= silently corrected as =that
white handkerchief=

Chapter 13 : =just a litle bit= silently corrected as =just a
little bit=

Chapter 14 : =translated from her.= silently corrected as
=translated from her--=

Chapter 15 : =then you, and I can= silently corrected as =then
you and I can=

Chapter 15 : =What did you say, my dear.= silently corrected as
=What did you say, my dear?=

Chapter 16 : =his post down the brook;= silently corrected as
=his post down the brook,=

Chapter 16 : ='contriving;' his own= silently corrected as
='contriving' his own=

Chapter 17 : =It is the pumpkin= silently corrected as =Is it the
pumpkin=

Chapter 18 : =brown fairies to day= silently corrected as =brown
fairies to-day=

Chapter 18 : =when I was a child;= silently corrected as =when I
was a child,=

Chapter 18 : =Two fair days= silently corrected as =two fair days=

Chapter 18 : =of several gentleman= silently corrected as =of
several gentlemen=

Chapter 19 : =until I bring you word.= silently corrected as
=until I bring you word?=

Chapter 19 : =softly endeavoring= silently corrected as =softly
endeavouring=

Chapter 19 : =Chickaree) ordered up= silently corrected as
=Chickaree), ordered up=

Chapter 19 : =However had he dared= silently corrected as =How
ever had he dared=

Chapter 20 : =Miss' Azel'll get= silently corrected as =Miss
'Azel'll get=

Chapter 20 : =h'it's 'ere, h'it's'ere= silently corrected as
=h'it's 'ere, h'it's 'ere==

Chapter 22 : =disturbing Mrs. Maryland= silently corrected as
=disturbing Miss Maryland=

Chapter 22 : =disagreeable,= silently corrected as d=isagreeable.=

Chapter 22 : =the other man about.= silently corrected as =the
other man about?=

Chapter 23 : =He said after= silently corrected as =he said after=

Chapter 23 : =favorite opera air= silently corrected as
=favourite opera air=

Chapter 23 : =we had a royal time?= silently corrected as =we had
a royal time!=

Chapter 23 : =they last beheld you?= silently corrected as =they
last beheld you!=

Chapter 26 : a=nd her voice was clear= silently corrected as =and
his voice was clear=

Chapter 27 : =I shall wear blue to night= silently corrected as
=I shall wear blue to-night=

Chapter 27 : =What's the matter!= silently corrected as W=hat's
the matter?=

Chapter 27 : =hospitality again to night= silently corrected as
=hospitality again to-night=

Chapter 28 : =you know that is a sort= silently corrected as =You
know that is a sort=

Chapter 28 : =till another time.= silently corrected as =till
another time?=

Chapter 29 : C=hickaree left behind.= silently corrected as
=Chickaree left behind!=

Chapter 29 : =näively= silently corrected as =naïvely=

Chapter 29 : =Rollo siezed= silently corrected as =Rollo seized=

Chapter 30 : =grave consideration,= silently corrected as =grave
consideration.=

Chapter 30 : =added Mrs. Cole= silently corrected as =added Mrs.
Coles=

Chapter 30 : =for insanity;= silently corrected as =for insanity.=

Chapter 32 : =must must here= silently corrected as =must here=

Chapter 32 : =lady and gentlemen= silently corrected as =lady and
gentleman=

Chapter 33 : =best of the neighborhood= silently corrected as
=best of the neighbourhood=

Chapter 34 : =the worst of is= silently corrected as =the worst
of it=

Chapter 34 : =The gentlemen looked= silently corrected as =The
gentleman looked=

Chapter 35 : =vis-a-vis= silently corrected as =vis-à-vis=

Chapter 35 : =hair'sbreadth= silently corrected as =hair's
breadth=

Chapter 35 : =mysterieuses= silently corrected as =mystérieuses=

Chapter 36 : =decolletée= silently corrected as =décolletée=

Chapter 36 : =clergymen's back= silently corrected as
=clergyman's back=

Chapter 37 : =better by and by,= silently corrected as =better by
and by.=

Chapter 38 : =But Hazel= silently corrected as =but Hazel=

Chapter 39 : =in the the abstract= silently corrected as =in the
abstract=

Chapter 39 : =laid head= silently corrected as =laid her head=

Chapter 40 : =neighborhood of Chickaree= silently corrected as
=neighbourhood of Chickaree=

Chapter 40 : =No, Sir= silently corrected as =No, sir=

Chapter 40 : =degagé air= silently corrected as =dégagé air=

Chapter 41 : =plunged into another,= silently corrected as
=plunged into another.=

Chapter 41 : =quick way as she= silently corrected as =quick way
as if she=

Chapter 42 : =became his= silently corrected as =become his=





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